Sony’s Wiser about digital media future

Exec hopes to help sagging division

Sony Corp. of America has upped Phil Wiser to chief technology officer and put him atop two new divisions charged with coordinating company’s strategy in digital media, where it has so far been a surprising also-ran.

Wiser was formerly CTO of Sony Music, where he oversaw the division’s move into online distribution, ringtones and its anti-piracy strategy.

Exec’s new task is much more daunting. As head of Sony’s new Digital Entertainment Division and co-topper of its new Connect Company along with vet engineer Koichiro Tsujino, Wiser is charged with gaining ground in the digital music business, along with the emerging digital video space, against market leader Apple and other top competitors.

Given its expertise in electronics and significant content resources, many expected Sony to be a natural leader in digital media. But its line of digital music players and Connect musicstore launched a year after Apple’s iTunes and iPod and used a proprietary format that didn’t work with any other music formats or devices.

More recently, Sony began making its Walkman digital music players compliant with the widely used MP3 format, but it has still made little headway against the many other digital music players; Connect is virtually insigificant among musicstores.

Many have blamed that on a lack of communication between divisions, a perennial problem at Sony. The new Digital Entertainment Division Wiser is heading will coordinate the company’s electronics and media divisions to offer more competitive digital media offerings.

“The seamless integration of our hardware and content businesses is vital to Sony’s success,” Sony America CEO Howard Stringer said of Wiser’s appointment.

As co-head of Connect Company, Wiser will help develop Sony’s flailing online music business. Connect is expected to be the hub of Sony’s moves into offering online movies and other media as well.

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