Sony considers plant purchase to ramp up smartphone sensor production

Sony considers smartphone sensors one of the ways the electronics maker can revive -- but needs the facilities to develop them.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer on

Sony is considering the purchase of a Japanese factory to boost production of imaging sensors for mobile devices in response to rises in demand by smartphone manufacturers.

As reported by Reuters, talks between Sony and chipmaker Renesas Electronics Corp are underway to negotiate a potential sale. However, no agreement has yet been reached.

Sony dominates the complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) image sensor market, which traditionally use little power and are therefore suitable for mobile devices including smartphones and tablets.

According to MarketsandMarkets, the global CMOS market will grow between 2013 and 2018 by 3.9 percent, as demand for the technology to be used in mobile phone cameras, tablets, point-and-shoot cameras, CCTVs and surveillance products increases.

Sony's CEO, Kazuo Hirai, believes that producing CMOS image sensors could be an important facet of the firm's future financial stability. Having invested $2.15 billion in the production of sensors in the past three years, the firm hopes to increase capacity by a further 20 percent in the future.

Sony's CMOS sensors are used in Apple's iPhone product line and Samsung's Galaxy smartphones. However, Hirai hopes to lure additional customers to use the technology, which will in turn boost the firm's profit line.

Hirai, who took over from Howard Stringer as president and CEO on Apr. 1 this year, said that "hard, painful decisions" had to be made to prevent the company from sinking.

It appears to be working. In May, the tech giant reported net profit of $458 million in the 2012 fiscal year in comparison to a loss of $5.7 billion in 2011. The firm has cut sales targets for digital cameras, smartphones and tablets by 13-17 percent for the year ending March 2015, but the chief executive says there are "encouraging" signs of recovery.

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