2013年7月1日 星期一

Japan's Fad-Loving Consumer Threatens to Derail Sony's Phone Ambitions

Japan's Fad-Loving Consumer Threatens to Derail Sony's Phone AmbitionsBy HIROKO TABUCHI July 01, 2013索尼推出新手機,美國尚未開售日本已過氣HIROKO TABUCHI 2013年07月01日
TOKYO — Sony's Xperia Z smartphone, which went on sale in February, has already sold almost a million units by some estimates. But NTT DoCoMo, Japan's largest mobile carrier, will soon stop selling it.

東京——索尼(Sony)的Xperia Z智能手機是2月開始發售的,有人估計已經售出了將近一百萬部。然而日本電信電話株式會社旗下的都科摩公司(NTT DoCoMo)作為日本最大的移動運營商,卻很快要停售這款手機了。
The Xperia Z has not even hit the United States market yet. But it is already a has-been in Japan. DoCoMo has turned its attention to a new phone, the Sony Xperia A — a model with fewer features that has not won the stellar praise showered on the Z.
Xperia Z甚至都還沒在美國開售。但在日本已經過氣了。 DoCoMo將注意力轉向了新款的索尼Xperia A——它比Z功能特點少,也沒有得到後者享受的熱情讚譽。
As Sony banks on smartphones to turn around its struggling electronics business, it faces an increasingly bothersome obstacle at home: the demands of Japan's powerful cellphone carriers, which remain obsessed with constant model updates.
正當索尼希望憑藉智能手機來扭轉其電子產品業務的頹勢之時,它在本國正面臨一道越來越煩人的障礙:日本強勢手機運營商的需求,這些公司對不斷地更新換代始終很著迷。索尼首席執行官平井一夫說,Xperia Z在日本的強勁銷售勢頭已經成為虧損連連的電子產品領域不多的亮點之一。
Steve Marcus/Reuters
索尼首席執行官平井一夫說,Xperia Z在日本的強勁銷售勢頭已經成為虧損連連的電子產品領域不多的亮點之一。
For years, Japan's three largest mobile network companies have pressed phone makers here to update their handsets every three or four months, providing Japanese consumers a dazzling array of newfangled phones and features each season. Phones with digital TV broadcast receivers were once all the rage; a phone without it was never going to sell. Then it was thumbprint scans; you'd be hard pressed to find those on many phones today. ​​The same is true of swiveling screens, and to a lesser extent, electronic wallets.
The fast-paced cycle is commonplace in Japanese marketing. Manufacturers deliver short runs of seasonal products to create buzz, analysts say. Pepsi Japan, for example, brings out limited-edition drinks each year: Salty Watermelon Pepsi or Pepsi Ice Cucumber. Nestle's KitKat candy bar has cycled through an eye-popping array of limited editions in Japan: green tea, pumpkin, strawberry cheesecake, wasabi and soybean to name only a few. Even Japan's best-selling pop group, AKB48, rotates through a cast of 67 members and on New Year's Day released 16 versions of new and repackaged records.
快節奏的周期變化是日本市場的常態。分析師們說,製造商會推出季節性的短期產品製造輿論。比如百事日本(Pepsi Japan)每年都會推出限量版飲料:百事咸西瓜或百事冰黃瓜。雀巢(Nestle)奇巧巧克力條在日本有過令人眼花繚亂的限量版口味:綠茶、南瓜、草莓芝士蛋糕、山葵和大豆等等。連日本最熱賣的流行組合AKB48都是在67名成員之間輪換的,在元旦推出了16個版本的新作和重新包裝唱片。
“This is the worst of Japanese companies' excessive obsession with the new,” said Yuichi Kogure, an associate professor ​​in information technology policy at Aomori Public University and the author of several books on Japan's cellphone industry. “But now the mobile phone makers are exha​​usted.”
青森公立大學(Aomori Public University)從事信息科技策略研究的副教授、以日本手機行業為題出版了多部著作的木暮祐一(Yuichi Kogure)說,“日本公司對追新的過度痴迷已經無以復加。但是現在移動電話生產商被耗乾了。”
The constant feature roulette has helped carriers lure customers away from rival networks. But it taxes the research and development resources of Japan's phone makers, who must meet the constant demands from carriers for new high-end features and frequent handset renewals.
Phone manufacturers here have found it impossible to achieve the economies of scale that would justify the high development costs and the slim profit margins. Because separate teams of designers at each handset maker race to build handsets from the ground up for each separate carrier, few phone makers have been able to develop a coherent global product strategy, analysts say.
The unique pace of the Japanese cellphone market largely cuts it off from the rest of the world, making it difficult for a single manufacturer to make and market phones for both the Japanese and global markets, said Kenji E. Kushida, an expert on Japan's information and communications technologies at Stanford.
斯坦福大學(Stanford)的日本信息和通訊技術專家櫛田健兒(Kenji E. Kushida)說,日本手機市場的特有節奏使它和外界隔絕了開來,一個製造商在進行手機推廣和營銷時很難兼顧日本和全球市場。
“The Japanese market became somewhat like the Galápagos Islands. It had great biodiversity, but was so weak to outside species,” Mr. Kushida said. The scattershot efforts by Japanese handset designers could not compete with a single blockbuster product like Apple's iPhone, Mr . Kushida said. It turned out that Japanese consumers didn't want a new phone each season after all, he said, but one very well-designed one.
Since its release in 2008, the iPhone has been a best seller in Japan, becoming the most popular handset here.
Sony's Xperia Z, which runs on the Android operating system, was shaping up to be Japan's greatest challenger to the iPhone as well as to another global blockbuster, Samsung's Galaxy series. The Xperia Z won rave reviews for its sleek aluminum case, sharp five- inch display, fast-capture camera and high-definition video.
使用Android操作系統的Xperia Z,本來正在對iPhone以及另一款全球熱銷的手機——三星(Samsung)Galaxy系列——構成威脅。 Xperia Z的光滑鋁製外殼、色彩銳利的5寸顯示屏、有快速捕捉能力的攝像頭以及高清視頻功能引來瞭如潮的好評。
The Xperia Z has topped sales charts, and Sony's chief executive, Kazuo Hirai, has repeatedly promoted the Xperia Z's strong sales in Japan as one of the few bright spots in its money-losing electronics sector.
Xperia Z一度高居銷量榜首位,索尼首席執行官平井一夫(Kazuo Hirai)多次指出,Xperia Z在日本的強勁銷售勢頭已經成為虧損連連的電子產品領域不多的亮點之一。
Still, production of the Xperia Z has ceased for the Japanese market, and the model will no longer be available in Japan once stock runs out at retail stores across the country, both Sony and NTT DoCoMo said. The big question is whether Sony can develop a coherent global smartphone strategy without being distracted by the ever-changing needs of its home market. A lot rides on Sony's gaining on its archrivals, Apple and Samsung, in the fast-growing smartphone market with the new Xperia A.
然而索尼和都科摩都表示,Xperia Z在日本市場已停產,等到各地零售店庫存賣完後,這款手機就會從該市場消失。現在,首要問題在於,索尼能否發展出一個連貫的全球智能手機戰略,不被千變幻化的本土市場需求干擾。索尼要想在高速發展的智能手機市場趕上主要競爭對手蘋果和三星,Xperia A的表現至關重要。
Sony is also starting to shift its focus beyond Japan's shores. On Tuesday in China it announced the Xperia Z Ultra, which Sony bills as the slimmest large-screen handset on the market. The company said it wasn't sure when that model might sell in Japan.
此外索尼還在把重心轉向海外。公司週二在中國發布了Xperia Z Ultra,索尼號稱這是市場上最輕薄的大屏手機。但公司表示,不確定該型號什麼時候在日本開售。
If Sony can score more successes overseas and gain market share there, it could start shifting the lopsided power dynamics between Japan's carriers and handset makers, analysts say. A wave of consolidation has shrunk the number of Japanese cellphone manufacturers to five, from 11 five years ago, bolstering the influence of the survivors.
“I think more people here are starting to realize that the way its mobile phone industry works is unsustainable,” Kogure said. “And manufacturers like Sony have long realized that they can't remain beholden to the whims of the Japanese market.”
“我認為越來越多的人開始意識到,移動電話產業的運轉是不具可持續性的,”木暮祐一說。 “像索尼這樣的廠家早就想明白了,不能總是遷就心血來潮的日本市場。”