Sony takes full control of mobile business to better compete with Apple

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After paying $1.4 billion to take sole control of its mobile business, Sony has named a new head of its smartphone division, as the company hopes to better compete with rivals like Apple and Samsung.

Kunimasa Suzuki, responsible for planning and design of Sony's consumer products and services, has been tapped to become the president and chief executive of Sony Mobile Communications, according to The Wall Street Journal. The company paved the way for the move in buying out Swedish partner Ericsson, which had been a part of Sony's mobile business for a decade.

But it was that partnership with Ericsson, and the lack of complete control it gave Sony, that the company viewed as a major weakness. It bought out Ericsson for €1.05 billion, or $1.38 billion U.S., in an effort to take on Apple and its highly successful iPhone and iPad.

Sony is now pursuing a unified "four screens" strategy that will span across the company's smartphone, PC, television and tablet product lines. Suzuki is one of the top deputies of Sony Chief Executive Kazuo Harai, who took over the company earlier this year.

Harai became famous for his work with Sony's gaming business and the PlayStation brand. But in his new role as CEO, he looks to mimic Apple's strategy by tightly integrating hardware and software in Sony's products.

"Kuni has a vast experience in product planning and management in the information technology and mobile product business, as well as experience of cultivating business in emerging markets," Hirai said. "He is a strong leader and the right person to oversee Sony Mobile Communications as we establish a new business structure as 'One Sony' intended to reinforce and accelerate our overall business management."

The changes come as Sony has struggled to return to profitability. In the December quarter alone, the Japanese electronics maker reported an operating loss of $1.2 billion, on revenue of $23.4 billion.

The final year of operation for Sony Ericsson also saw a loss of €247 million as the company failed to gain significant market share. The latest data from Gartner gave Sony Ericsson a 1.8 percent share of mobile device sales in 2011, well behind Apple's 5 percent share and Samsung's 17.7 percent.