Sony without electronics?

Sony, it is suggested, might be better off just selling insurance.

Or just making movies and music. But not electronics.

A new report from the investment banking firm Jefferies delivered a harsh assessment of Sony’s electronics business. “Electronics is its Achilles’ heel and, in our view, it is worth zero,” wrote Atul Goyal, consumer technology analyst for Jefferies, in the report, released this week.

“In our view, it needs to exit most electronics markets.”

 Ouch. As a kid who grew up jogging with a Walkman clutched in one hand (later a Discman, later a Sony Minidisc player) it's very strange to imagine Sony ever exiting the electronics business. Of all the Asian countries, Japan is the one I would've expected to make the leap to this new age most successfully given their strong design history. And of their companies, it would have been Sony I would have put in the pole position.

But it turned out to be China and Korea who have surged ahead, the spark coming from their ability to manufacture devices cheaply at scale. In particular, Korea, most notably Samsung, have accumulated market share at an astonishing rate.

Among strange things I did not know which I learned from this article: Sony's most financially lucrative business over the last decade (measured by operating profit) is selling insurance.

One problem for Sony is that electronics is a bloody war in which margins are low and moats are difficult to build. Their best chance, perhaps, was to shift from a pure hardware sales model to an ecosystem in which Sony's music label and movie studio interacted with Sony's hardware to become some type of closed network. 

Thankfully for consumers, perhaps, Sony's media or "software" groups never walled off their content that way. That those divisions are all housed under the same roof really doesn't seem to be benefiting Sony much.