Things left unsaid, in a recent interview with Sony's CEO

When Charlie Rose interviewed Sony CEO Sir Harold Stringer on Wednesday, a few excellent questions were posed -- but a few others should have been.

No American television host conducts long-form interviews like Charlie Rose -- especially when the interview subject has a lot of 'splainin' to do. Enter Sir Howard Stringer, chairman and CEO of Sony, who sat down for a marvelous show-long interview with Rose on Wednesday.

Stringer recounted the epic task of fixing Sony's byzantine, uncommunicative corporate culture, where different divisions would build two or three different versions of the same product without realizing that efforts were being duplicated. He was incredibly charming about Steve Jobs' impact on his thinking (and not just in music-player-related matters). And he has some very bright things to say about how our current economic crisis looks for an international man (born in Wales, head of a Japanese company -- but a US citizen and voter).

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Still, Rose didn't ask everything tech folk might have asked of the 66-year-old Vietnam veteran and classical-music fan. So, to encourage you to watch the interview, enclosed please find five excellent questions on which Sir Harold expounds beautifully -- and six unanswered questions that should encourage Charlie Rose to ask him back again soon. Your mileage may vary; the comments field awaits.


Video from Charlie Rose's recent PBS interview with Sony CEO Sir Howard Stringer.

Worth hearing:

  • The current economic "crash," or whatever you want to call it will eventually require the world to lean more heavily on the Chinese, who will be able to dictate many of their own terms since they own so much debt worldwide. Sony has done well so far during the downturn, since people crave entertainment to take their mind off the mayhem, but events are still unfolding.
  • The success of Blu-Ray was an effort requiring "six or seven" different parts of the company to act in concert in an effort Stringer branded, soccer, style, "Sony United." Describing the victory over the HD DVD format as one that placed it "in direct competition with something that has worked," he's relieved that the success of the standard means no one will carve "BETAMAX 2" on his tombstone.
  • Stringer thinks that Hollywood movies click with viewers like nothing else on earth ("no one can match US movies for global appeal"), and says Will Smith is the biggest movie star in the world, in large part because of his relentless work ethic when it's time to promote his films.
  • He loves the potential of OLEDs, and believes that once prices drop they'll change many of the ways in which we interact with data. It's likely to dovetail with his vision for integrating 'Sony experience' content over multiple platforms (TV, computer, PS3 -- in his words, "different screens").
  • He once sassed a man who held the fate of his US citizenship in his hands. As a young man -- before his war service -- he found himself waiting nine hours at an American embassy for certain paperwork. Near the end of the day, he ended up dealing with a cranky low-level bureaucrat who asked him why he thought he'd be able to get a job in America. He retorted, "Well, YOU did!"

Unasked:

  • If Stringer could go back and redo his company's then-co-owned music publisher's decision to use music CDs to install rootkits on customers' computers, how would he change it?
  • At what point was the Walkman irrevocably eclipsed by the iPod, and at what point could Sony have prevented that outcome? Also, was ATRAC a total failure?
  • How will Sony music and movie divisions have changed the way they do business five years from now?
  • Where does Stringer look for innovation, and what does he think of the quality of innovations coming from American designers and engineers?
  • Has he ever tried the Wii, and what did he think?

(And a bonus question you'll never hear from Charlie R.: Could he please bring back the Aibo? Some of us weren't done with that.)

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