Interview with Nobuyuki Idei -- "We have to believe that we'll be out of the darkness some day"

Interview with Nobuyuki Idei

Apr 9, 2001

Nobuyuki Idei
Chairman and CEO of Sony Corporation


Idei joined Sony in 1960 after graduating from Waseda University with a bachelor's degree in politics and economics. In his third year at Sony, he went to Geneva to study at his own cost, spending nine years thereafter in Europe during which time he engaged himself in the incorporation of Sony France. In 1989, Idei was appointed to the Sony Board of Directors. He was made in charge of overseeing the company's merchandizing strategy and public relations. In April 1995, he was made President ahead of fourteen more likely candidates. With slogans such as "rebirth" or "re-generation," Idei pushed forward with the company-in-company system as well as operating officer system. Idei became Chairman & CEO of Sony in June 2000. In July that year, he was asked by the then Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi to chair his IT Strategy Council. Idei is often introduced in the press for his radical remarks like "I will review the conventional business structure of making something and selling it" or "If NTT cannot change on its own, we should create a structure that will force it to change through competition." Idei was born on November 22, 1937.

Sony appears to be leading the network age with confidence. I think the fact that you were chosen the number one in the reader questionnaire survey of Nikkei Electronics shows how people are anticipating highly in Sony. How do you plan to explore this age?

Nobuyuki Idei: In the 21st century, Sony will have to continue proposing its original technologies. Our challenge is to come up with new technologies that change the world in the broadband age. One can only say that a company has changed essentially only if it challenges introduction of new technologies. As we are, people may remember Sony as a company that developed transistor radio. But I am worried that people may not remember Sony as a company that contributed in the network age. Sony started off as the leader of applied transistor products. From there, we transformed ourselves into a company in the information equipment field and now we're headed towards the network field. But offering access to the network isn't the same as offering solution. More important is what we can create out of network access. Just like we introduced "Walkman" and CD players, there is a need for us to propose things that people will find convenient in the network age. Honestly speaking, Sony has not yet found the solution in the network age and I think we will be experiencing a tough time for the next five years. In fact, I would even say that we would be in complete darkness for the next five years. As use of the network spreads, pressure on Sony will increase to present its solutions. But neither Microsoft nor Sony has found a solution. We have to believe that working hard will one day bring a solution.