Any suggestion of Sony’s imminent withdrawal from the smartphone industry would now appear to be nothing more than hot air, as the Japanese company has announced its first mobile factory in 20 years. The announcement comes a few months after the launch of the Xperia Z5, Z5 Compact, and Z5 Premium, the first Xperia phones in a long time to offer groundbreaking features.
The factory, based in Thailand’s Pathum Thani province, should be home to most of the Xperia manufacturing. Sony is reportedly investing “several billion yen” in the factory, equating to several tens of millions of dollars, though an exact amount has not been disclosed.
Initial output should be a few million units a year, starting in 2016. Sony fully owns the factory, unlike its last mobile factory venture in Beijing, China, where it co-owned the site with three other smaller manufacturers.
That should give Sony more room to change production and the design of the floor, unless the company plans to rent out some of the space. Xperia smartphones will be the main products manufactured, though wearables and tablets could be added on in the future.
This does reaffirm Sony’s position in the mobile industry, despite chief executive Kazuo Hirai claiming last month that if Sony doesn’t reach profitability in the mobile market by 2016 it may look at other options.
Sony is definitely swimming against the tide with the new move, as more manufacturers move away from factory ownership. Apple turned around its entire business by dropping its factories and using contracted manufacturers to build the iPod, iPhone, and iPad, one of Tim Cook’s smartest decisions back in the late 90s.
Other mobile vendors like HTC, Motorola, and Microsoft have also shut down factories in the past five years, though for different reasons. In HTC’s case, it needed to start saving money, Motorola was acquired by Lenovo and was forced to use Lenovo’s Chinese factories, and Microsoft shut down all of Nokia’s mobile factories in India and China after acquiring the Finnish mobile vendor in 2013.