In an interview with Japan's Nikkei BP, Fujio Noguchi, who supervises Sony's e-book business, stated that Sony is "aiming to acquire a share of 40% in the global electronic book market in fiscal 2012." More interestingly however, is what he had to say about Apple's iPad.
Sony's Take on the iPad as an e-Book
The Nikkei's Reporter's Yasushi Uchida and Takuya Otani who conducted the interview, wanted to know Mr. Noguchi's take on Apple's iPad. The question began by framing it with Apple having a great reputation for user interfaces.
Mr. Noguchi's reply: "The iPad is not a product developed only for e-books. What they are practically saying is that various applications are available to the iPad and e-book is just one of them. It is different from what we aim for.
The name of our e-book reader is "Reader," meaning that it is used exclusively for reading. It is not a multi-media player.
The Reader Daily Edition is our first e-book reader that is capable of 3G communication, and we employed the wonderful business model established by Amazon.com. In other words, users do not have to pay a monthly communication fee.
On the other hand, the users of the iPad have to pay a monthly fee for 3G communication. In that respect, I don't think the business model of the iPad is innovative."
Sony's Myopic View
It'll be interesting to see if Apple decides to challenge Sony's single advantageous sales point in 2011. Then again, we're only in the early days of the e-book revolution and many things are bound to shift back and forth between these competitors over the years.
At the end of the day, I find Mr. Noguchi's viewpoint of the iPad's business model a little myopic and self-serving to say the least. The days of a single purpose device are, for the most part, over. The Blackberry was king of a one purpose device for texting but the iPhone has now pressured RIM into performing summersaults to just stay in the game. Today, even general consumer cameras are being challenged by the likes of the iPhone and iPad. Of course Sony isn't even in the running in these arenas and so Sony's Noguchi's grasp at a single straw to stay relevant is seen for what it is: sad.
Perhaps Sony's Noguchi is living in a bubble within in his own country. Maybe he's never been in a mega mall where there's both an Apple and Sony Store. So let me fill you in Mr. Noguchi. In Calgary, Chinook Centre is a mega mall where these two fine stores reside in close proximity to each other and this is the reality: there are three times the customers just around the Apple Store's iPad table than there is in the entire Sony Store at any given time of day. And that's not taking into account the numbers walking out of the Apple Store with iPads in hand sporting gigantic smiles on their face.
On that note, may I say good luck with your 40 percent marketshare forecast Mr. Noguchi: You'll need it!