Sony ventures into IT services sector

The broadcast, music and consumer goods giant Sony, traditionally a user and buyer of IT systems, plans to break convention and...

The broadcast, music and consumer goods giant Sony, traditionally a user and buyer of IT systems, plans to break convention and become a computer services supplier.

It aims to use IT to generate profits, rather than just being a cost to the business. The move comes as the company seeks new ways to attract income while margins are being squeezed in parts of its established businesses.

"It's a totally different project to what Sony is used to," said Roger Chapman, business solutions group manager for Sony Broadcast and Professional Europe, which supplies broadcasting products, including cameras costing up to £100,000 each.

"We have built studios and outside broadcast vehicles before but we haven't been involved in the IT domain."

Sony aims to provide a one-stop service to businesses which need to store and distribute large files such as video media across broadband networks.

The service could be offered, for example, to stores where plasma screens would play loops of promotional videos. Content could be stored digitally on a central system and transmitted over broadband networks to local servers, instead of distributing copies of video tapes around the UK.

Chapman's division is starting almost from scratch in building a system and service to sell to businesses. But to save time and development costs it is designing a system, developing the software, constructing a prototype and drawing up a business case for a specific first implementation simultaneously. Traditionally in IT project management, these steps are taken one at a time.

After only three months, the division is almost ready to take its business case and demonstration to the Sony board for approval, following joint developments with services giant Computer Sciences Corporation.

The service "won't be purchased by the [broadcast] engineers who are our traditional customers but by the IT people from our potential customers," says Chapman.

He said the project is being handled in a "bite-sized" way until Sony decides whether it wants to make a major commitment, but predicts return on investment in three years.

"We have almost come to the decision that we need to get this platform up and running and then get the customers on board rather than find the customers first and then build the platform. Once the platform is there, we are sure we will attract industries onto this common platform," he said.

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