Interview: What Does Sony Xperia's 'Breakthrough Year' Really Mean For Consumers?

Sony has unveiled its latest flagship tablet, the Xperia Tablet Z, at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, promising a "breakthrough year" for the brand.

But what does that really mean?

With industry figures still showing Sony behind Samsung, Apple and even Huawei in global marketshare, it clearly has a way to go in terms of consumer penetration. And while its Xperia Z smartphone has won solid reviews ahead of its UK release this week, it's an open question whether the brand itself is resonating outside the MWC halls.

We caught up with Sony Mobile Communications marketing director Catherine Cherry at MWC to ask what 2013 really looks like for the brand - and whether it involves that mysterious object of desire, the PlayStation 4...

This is an edited version of a longer interview conducted in person at Mobile World Congress

What stands out about the Xperia Tablet Z?

The first thing you'll notice is thinness and lightness of the tablet. It's the thinnest 10-inch tablet in the world at just 6.9mm. Also it's extremely light - it weighs in at less than 500 grams. You can see around the edge we have this - what we call a skeleton structure made of polyamide material which is really strong, and is often used in manufacturing cars. Then we have on the back this piece which is made of glass fibre, which is very soft to the touch. That material is also very durable and light. Finally on the front we have this beautiful screen, which is covered with tempered glass and an anti-shatter film.

Above: the Xperia Tablet Z

Sony has a big year with gaming and other products, it feels like the pieces are starting to come together. Is that the case with Xperia in 2013 - that we're going to see how this fits together in a more consistent way?

That's the test, whether people externally see that... From our point of view, with what we're showing here it's exactly that happening across our line. You can now see our media applications across our mobile devices, and again with NFC that's at the heart of what our customers want to do. One of the behaviours that people want to do is connect their pieces together.

What about the PS4 - is Xperia going to have a role there?

All I can say for now is that gaming is really important, it's one of the three pillars of what Sony as a whole are focusing on, so mobile, digital imaging and gaming have been identified as the three core experiences that Sony really wants to focus on as the wider strategy. Of course that PlayStation Mobile logo on our Xperia gives you access to PS Mobile games across the tablet and the smartphone. It's a focus area. I can't really tell you much more than that for the moment.

Xperia Tablet Z

Xperia Tablet Z

At MWC this year Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai said that 2013 would be a 'breakthrough year' for Sony Xperia - what does that really mean, and how will you tell if it's worked?

It's now the one year anniversary of us becoming 'Sony Mobile' and we've been working on these products for a really, really long time. The Xperia Z smartphone has had massive traction with great consumer feedback and five-star reviews. We're expecting high demand on that and it's a fantastic smartphone.

This tablet is - of course - our next product and follows in that footsteps... We've been focusing on making sure you get the same UI experience and a benefit from having more than one... All that innovation is coming back into the Sony portfolio, and that's why we really think 2013 will be a breakthrough year.

What about the wider Sony heritage and history - is that still going to play a part?

The heritage and the experiences that Sony has offered in the past and continues to offer is really very important for us. You can see that today in the press conference we talked about 'Watch Create Listen Play', and those are the core experiences we're focus on. You can see those visualised in the core icons we have on the home screen - they reflect those ideas. That's why consumers come to Sony - for the best-in-class entertainment.