Ken Kutaragi's promotion was already understood as a plot to remove him from daily PlayStation business. Now, analysts believe that this restructuring is the fist sign of Sony abandoning the PlayStation hardware altogether.
The Financial Times reports:
Analysts said that Mr Hirai´s promotion to a global role at SCE could mark a critical shift in management thinking, with Sony changing its emphasis so that the current generation of games console will be its last as a hardware manufacturer.
"The appointment of Hirai could be the start of a shift from hardware to software," said Yuta Sakurai, an analyst at Nomura. "I cannot now imagine a PlayStation4."
Mr Sakurai said that Mr Hirai´s new global portfolio puts a predominantly software-focused manager in charge of the company, adding that SCE´s future would be shaped by Mr Hirai´s relationship with Phil Harrison, the president of SCE´s worldwide studios.
Analysts argue that while Mr Kutaragi, a brilliant engineer, was the right man to run SCE as a hardware powerhouse, Sony may now see better opportunities as a pure maker of games.
Now, I am sure we all agree that this view ("I cannot now imagine a PlayStation4") appears to be somewhat rash, even given the ´annus horibilis´ Sony has experienced with the PlayStation3. This may be one lone analyst´s interpretation of the SCE shakeup.
At the same time, bear in mind that this was part of an FT article and the newspaper is perhaps the most reputable business daily in Europe. And considering that Sony´s share price dropped further (while Nintendo gained a remarkable 4% the same day), it is certainly a theory worth considering.
EDIT After Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter called Sakurai´s suggestion "foolish" - while Sony´s US spokesperson Dave Karraker offered only a lacklustre rebuttal - SCEE´s Vice President of Technology, Paul Holman, has apparently gone all out on the issue.
Australian lifestyle and technology magazine Smarthouse quotes him as saying that there will be a PS4, but not until at least 2010. Further, and more immediately, Sony seems to toy with the idea of copying the Wiimote:
Sony will introduce a series of firmware upgrades that will give the PS3 more media centre capability while allowing for the introduction of third party applications and hardware "Such as interactive controllers" similar to the Nintendo Wii he said.
Source: The Financial Times