Interview With Stan Glasgow, COO/President Of Sony Electronics USA

Merely two hours after I got off a plane and arrived at CES 2010, I sat down in a private meeting room with Stan Glasgow, COO/President of Sony Electronics USA. The interview took place about a hour before the CES 2010 press conference. It was the first time I’d ever interviewed someone on this level, and while mainstream press enjoy such exclusives, these types of interactions are still relatively new for bloggers. It didn’t take long for Stan’s warm demeanor, infectious smile and cool personality to make things comfortable and soon enough we were laughing together during some of his answers – it had turned from an interview into a simple conversation. It became quickly apparent to me how this is one of the best businessmen and speakers I’d ever encountered, and why he is perfect for the title he currently holds. Read on and you’ll learn some interesting things about Stan’s path to his current position, his daily routine, predictions for 2010, his favorite Sony product, how the BRAVIA Internet Video Link service is coming to the PS3, and no new OLED in 2010.

SI: Why don’t you tell us how you got started at Sony, and eventually became the Chief Operating Officer and President today?

Stan: I had built a company, Capetronic Computer Products Holdings Ltd., a global display manufacturing company primarily centered in Asia with factories in Taiwan, China, Thailand, and in California. I started that company in the beginning of computers with the original Apple Macintosh, the original PS1, and worked with Steve Jobs, Rod Canion and other beginning people (in computing). I helped design and and build power supplies, deflection technology, and other products for them. Eventually I took Capetronic public when it was close to a billion dollars.

I had worked with Capetronic for close to 20 years, and was 46 at the time; I hadn’t spent much time with my family. I said, “Now is the time to truly retire.”

I got bored in about three months – the retirement lasted about two and a half years. I wasn’t good at retirement. I started doing some consulting work with several Asian companies, and said to myself, “At this point in my life, I am not motivated by money anymore, but I am motivated to work with great people, and to make a significant contribution that would excite me personally.”

With this in mind, I thought about all of the companies I had worked with in my career, and Sony came to the top of my list since they have great people. I had the fortune of having meetings with Akio Morita and other people on that level over the years. I called up people I knew inside Sony, and asked “Can I help you guys? Consulting? Anything?”

So they gave me a consulting deal in display marketing, and I did that for about six months and after that they wanted me to formally join, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to work again. I said, “Let me think about it,” and we negotiated for several months. The salary they offered was about a tenth of what I used to make. It wasn’t a money thing – so we negotiated a little more and I finally joined Sony and took over as VP of Display Marketing in June 2001; it was in the transition phase between CRT and LCD. I was very happy doing that.

I did that for about a year – meanwhile, Hideki (Dick) Komiyama (seen above accepting the Best Mobile Handset Award at the 2008 Global Mobile Awards) came over from Japan to take over the President and COO role at Sony Electronics USA. Dick and I worked together at my prior company; I bought products from Sony, and negotiated some deals with them. He took a look at me and I took a look at him, and it was like old friends of course.

He said, “What are you doing for the company?”

I said, “I am running display marketing for you.”

He responded, “That’s ALL your doing at this company?”

I said, “I don’t need a senior position anymore in my life.”

The next thing I knew I was SVP of Information Technology Division, running VAIO and several other products at the time. Less than a year after that, the move took place from Park Ridge, NJ to San Diego, CA and Dick asked me to take over consumer sales. It was typical – I get a call on a Friday, and on Monday I take over the new job. I got a call from Dick again on a Friday in 2006 and said he was, “leaving back to Japan and take another position, and everyone wants you to take over.”

I said to him, “Dick, I don’t really know this time if I really want that in my life right now.”

He said, “Just do it and help us out.” So I did, and that’s how it happened.

What is the average day for you like at Sony, from start to finish? I understand it varies greatly, but if you can, something detailed for our readers.

Every day is very different. I have a program – every night, I plan out what I want to accomplish the next day – it takes me ten minutes, and is not a huge exercise – I know the tasks, certain e-mails I haven’t responded to, or projects I need to check on and follow-up. I build all of that into it, and then I get interrupted constantly; emergencies, phone calls, and whatever else goes on – Sir Howard will call..

The day usually starts very early, I get up at five and take a walk; I used to run most of my life, but at my age I don’t run anymore – the knees don’t hold up to well, so I walk for about 45 minutes to a hour. At 6 o clock, I get ready, and I’m in the office from 7:00 to 7:15. I start my day – I originally try to get through e-mails very quickly (several hundred per day). Joan, my main assistant helps me as well as Debbie in Park Ridge, who starts earlier. They sort out the junk, and things they can take care of. I dig into my e-mails, and get that going – I speak to the East Coast initially, because no one is in our office that early. And then the office starts coming in at 8:30 to 9:00, people start rolling in.

Generally, meetings are heavily booked; 50% of my schedule is already in meetings. Some of that is due to SOX, and the new rules we have where I have to be involved on at least a monthly basis, in all major activities of the company. It has to be formal and documented and in meetings – every step of the way. I get the complaints about so many meetings, but a large portion of them today are not done because we want to do them, or because we think they’re 100% necessary..they’re done because there is compliance issues now. We’re going to be changing accounting systems in the future to a new worldwide system, rather than the US system we have today. That will also make us do some further changes. I think they’ll be better though – those changes.

So the day is interesting – it usually ends somewhere between 6 and 8 PM, half the nights I probably have dinner with somebody, such as guests in town, or some customers, or something. Then the phone calls from Japan will start – because they’re waking up. So that’s a typical kind of day.

How often do you travel to Japan for Sony in an average year? Tell us about your most recent trip there.

Because of the economic meltdown, it was more over the last year. About a year and a half ago they made me group executive of the Sony Corporation. That gets me involved in a little more activity in Japan than I was previously. I probably go about 6-7 times a year, for about a week to ten days. Maximum is two weeks. Usually in a week I can get everything accomplished.

Tell us about your most recent meeting with Sir Howard Stringer, or the Sony Board of Directors in Japan.

Let me tell you a funny thing that just happened – we had CES all programmed for this press conference, and there’s always timing issues of people, etc. We have Taylor Swift performing – she’s on a deadline because she has to get to LA tonight for the People’s Choice Awards. She was sorta at the end of the program, but the program was running long and we were trying to figure it out, so we had to turn the whole program on its ears. Sir Howard was working on it out there, and we ended up changing everything instantly – they’re all rewriting it right now. Poor Dave (Migdal, SVP of Corporate Communications), he’s going crazy.

Howard is very engaging, decisive – he really understands the world of entertainment, PR, and communications better than anybody I’ve ever seen or worked with in my life. It’s very cool. The interactions with the Senior Japanese Executives – they’re good. These are a whole different group than we’ve ever had before, they’re younger, they’re a lot more aggressive. Good backgrounds – it’s much more fun now than it was, quite honestly. They’re willing to try new things, and really be open to ideas. It’s a lot of fun.

The other thing I do that’s really interesting is we have an advisory council, where we look at the future of Sony. For some reason they’ve asked me to be a part of that, I don’t know why I was selected – I don’t ask questions anymore. I go to the meeting, and there’s some interesting people – Louis Gerstner (the Ex-CEO of IBM), Nobuyuki Idei (the past chairman of Sony), past chairman of IKEA, Peter Peterson and some of the outside directors of the board are on this advisory board – we look at future business opportunities, what major things we could do, we have people come in and present to us, and it’s fun being a part of that.

In November 2009, Sony held an investors/analyst meeting in Japan that outlined a new Sony Online Service, where any Internet connected Sony product could access a vast library of applications, music/video content, services and the ability to buy products. Sony labeled this as a new business model, and said that it would create TV’s that would “evolve even after point of sale.” Can you please tell us your thoughts on this evolution, and what your impressions were of it so far?

I think we’re making good progress – to date, I believe we have 33 million users of the Playstation Network. We’re beginning to port that network to other Sony products. We’re doing BRAVIA Internet Video Link – which is more of a streaming service than a downloading service. We’ve got that growing at a fantastic rate in our televisions right now, we added it to Blu-ray players, and we’re adding it to the PS3. We have two different delivery systems of content now ongoing. I think consumers will make the choice what’s easier for them, and then we have to also understand the business models of each of them and decided which is better for the company also. That is ongoing and going very well.

What does make.believe mean to you?

To me, it has a couple of meanings – the main meaning is that we have not had a worldwide project, a worldwide branding effort inside Sony in probably decades. Every region does its own advertising promotion, we’ve had a few things certain regions have done, other regions have not done. It was time to unite the company, from a branding perspective. Make.believe is an interesting way to do it because it gives our engineers the ability to look at creating consumer experiences that are very unique. It gives us the ability to rally our people around something new, a tag line that’s simple, yet very inspiring. The more we can personalize that for consumers in addition to our own people, I see that being a huge win for Sony around the world.

It’s got multifacets that people inside the company to rally together, getting our technical community a little more active – they’re a good community, and I’m not putting them down, but activating them because that’s a core resource of Sony.

What are your major consumer electronic predictions for the second half of 2010?

I think the adoption of 3D may be a surprise in the second half. I think the excitement of Avatar, it’s success, and the 13 other 3D films slated over the balance of the year. I believe that 3D is going to take off possibly more quickly than we’re all thinking. That could be a surprise. I think a product like Dash could be a surprise product. The Reader and our strategy of being totally open, and not having a proprietary type of software system and the fact that we’ve got a broad line moving forward positively being strong in the second half. I believe Blu-ray, now that it’s got a 3D spec, now that the prices have calmed down, I see that potentially surprising us in the second half. I like some of our digital imaging projects, I like Transfer Jet technology, I like being able to proximity – just by putting two cameras together and move pictures from one to another. And eventually move that technology to Televisions, VAIO’s, and other products.

There could be a hope that the US economy is a little better than we think in the second half.

How many 3D channels do you predict there will be by the end of 2010?

I’m aware of one network slated for 2011, one slated for 2010 – this is not easy stuff. This is complex, we don’t have it all figured out yet. I think ESPN’s going to be a pioneer in the world of sports in figuring out camera placement and what to do there. I think it’s going to take some time. I don’t think we’re going to have a lot of broadcasting of 3D in 2010; I think it will start heavily in 2011. We’ll have some that begins, but I don’t think it’s going to be pervasive.

The theatrical side is moving well, but now we’re working on the TV side of this, broadcasting, and the personalized content, getting camcorders that work in 3D, getting digital still cameras that can take a 3D picture. There’s a lot of work to be done there.

What is your favorite Sony product of all time (perhaps one you used when you were younger)?

I would have to say only because of my interest and engineering background in TV, I think the 55″ BRAVIA XBR8 that we introduced about 18-24 months ago was the best LCD TV in the world at that point, and remains the best LCD TV in the world. We did a very special type of back-lighting technology in that product that was super expensive – it was Triluminos, 3 color back-lights, directly into the back of the screen’s back-lighting. A lot of the LED back-lighting today, nearly all of it is Edge-lit, so you’re using LED’s, but you’re firing across the back of the screen and you’ve got some uniformity issues, hot spots, and cold spots. That 55″ XBR8 sits in my main family room, it’s the TV I watch most of the time, and I still gawk at how good that picture is. It was a strong seller; we’re running out of it right now, and we didn’t anticipate the final demand as well as should have because it’s a really expensive product.

Sony is releasing several 3D capable televisions featuring a new Monolithic design – what would you say to the consumer who is skeptical about this new line of 3D display products?

We’re offering consumers an option, I’m not sure how companies many are doing what we’re doing – we’re fully integrating 3D TV’s to 60″ that we’ll sell. We’re also selling a line of 3D capable TV’s, with basically no increase in price. You can add the emitter later on, and the glasses later on. So we give the consumer the option of buying a capable set that they can then make the investment later on to bring it up to full 3D.

Many television manufacturers added support for SkypeHD, and Toshiba promised some sort of video communication for its TV’s. Can we expect Sony to offer this capability as a BRAVIA add-on in 2010?

No comment.

Can we expect to see 3D Cameras (point and shoot or DSLR) from Sony in 2010?

I can’t answer that. You can see them, but when, I don’t know.

Can we expect any new OLED televisions from Sony in 2010?

We’re working on all sorts of prototypes, but I don’t see production of product in 2010. There’s a wonderful 3D OLED prototype here at CES; that’s the real way to do 3D and TV – because you’ve got direct transmission, rather than back lighting and all the other reflective ways of doing it. But getting it to be commercially reasonable in price, we’ve got a long way to go. That’s the whole problem in OLED, great technology, great feature set, but it’s really hard to get the costs down. Smaller form-factors are easy to do.

Thanks to COO/President Stan Glasgow for sitting down with us and entertaining our questions, and a special thanks to the Sony Corporate Communications team.

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