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Sat, Oct 21, 2006 - Page 10 News List

Sony hit by new product rollout delay

MISSTEPS The change in the marketing date for the LocationFree TV Box comes on the heels of the delays in the rollout of the new Walkman and PlayStation3

AP , TOKYO

A Sony employee displays a prototype of the LocationFree portable broadband TV and its base station (LF-Box1) in Tokyo on Monday. The 12-inch wireless touch screen TV and its base station enable users to enjoy clear video images encoded in the MPEG4 AVC format over a Wi-Fi network or the Internet.

PHOTO: AFP

Sony Corp yesterday delayed the rollout of a product promised for next week to do more tests, in its latest embarrassment, a day after lowering its earnings forecast because of a massive battery recall and manufacturing delays.

Japan's trade minister said he was worried about Sony's technological capabilities, as Sony shares dipped in Tokyo, falling 0.8 percent to close at ¥4,750. The shares have lost about half their value in the last five years as Sony lost out in competition against rivals.

The latest woes are hitting the Tokyo-based electronics and entertainment company as it tries to turn around its electronics sector, trimming jobs and wiping out unprofitable operations.

Sony, which has already delayed the PlayStation 3 next-generation video game console for the European market by four months, said it was delaying the sales date of LocationFree TV Box LF-Box1, which streams TV shows wirelessly to other gadgets.

In Japan, shipping was postponed from Oct. 27 to Nov. 17, the company said in a statement.

In the US, a new shipping date has not been set, but it had been promised for sometime this month, Sony spokeswoman Natsuki Eto said.

She said more tests were needed to adapt its remote controller to more models of DVD recorders and other machines the product will connect with.

When asked about risks to its reputation by delaying a product, Eto said Sony decided a delay was better if the product would be compatible with more of the latest models.

Last month, Sony delayed the Japanese release of its new digital Walkman portable player by a week until Sept. 23 because of a malfunction of an unspecified part.

Akira Amari, minister of economy, trade and industry, told reporters he hoped Sony would recover its brand image soon.

"What has become of the Sony known for its technology?" asked Amari, a former Sony employee.

"I hope it will solve its problems soon to quickly recover its brand image reputed for technological prowess," he said in remarks confirmed by a ministry official.

On Thursday, Sony revised its group net profit for the fiscal year through March 2007 to ¥80 billion (US$675 million), down 38 percent from the ¥130 billion it had projected in July. The lowered projection is down 35 percent from the ¥123.6 billion profit marked the previous fiscal year.

In recent weeks, almost every major laptop maker in the world, including Dell Inc, Apple Computer Inc and Lenovo Group, has been recalling Sony batteries.

Sony said the number of battery packs being recalled worldwide would total 9.6 million, racking up an extra cost of ¥51 billion.

Such costs may grow because that estimate doesn't account for damage compensation that companies may demand. Toshiba has said it may demand compensation.

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