Whenever I travel I like to pick up a copy of the International New York Times — formerly the International Herald Tribune — to receive my daily digest of global news. While travelling by Bullet Train from Osaka to Tokyo in September 2010 to attend the launch of Panasonic’s masterbrand initiative to be the global environmental leader among technology and appliance companies, I read an article by John Noughton that began with the hook: “You have to feel sorry for Sony sometimes”.

The week before, Sony had launched the curiously confusing Qriocity streaming service (now called Music Unlimited) but had been totally gazumped by much more attractive hardware offerings from Apple and Samsung. Panasonic wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire with its gadgetry (it doesn’t even market consumer smartphones or tablets) but I was thoroughly impressed with its ‘Eco Ideas’ presentation and was convinced that, at the very least, it has a unique sense of purpose guiding its product roadmap.

In the 3.5 years since, Sony has struggled to find any momentum. Whenever it launched into a new category, it was always following: the Reader came years after the Kindle; its tablet range barely registers compared to the iPad; and its cornerstone category, the beautiful, lovingly engineered Bravia TVs, always seem to be one innovation behind the Korean brands.

In many ways, Sony Australia has battled manfully to hold its position in the market, considering it is just a sales and marketing company beholden to Japanese research and development. One former senior Sony marketer recently told me of a trip he made to Japan in 2009, in which he begged the product development team to change course. “I told them, ‘3D is going nowhere, focus on IPTV and content for Smart TVs’, but they didn’t listen,” he said.

Last month, Sony Australia made the tough decision to enact a ‘headcount reduction’, to borrow that stupid piece of corporate speak. It brought to a nadir a terrible six months for the Australian subsidiary, which has seen it whacked with a $53 million bill for back taxes and the exit of its CEO, CFO and head of marketing.

Sony Australia had a press conference scheduled for the day after it announced the restructure. This was when the company was to officially launch its 2014 range. The official line was that it was being postponed in order to make it “the best ever and to accommodate some new products coming to market”, but the suspicion is that, quite naturally, the company cancelled it so it didn’t have to answer any awkward questions.

The optimistic truth is that Sony does have some exciting new products. Its Xperia Z range of smartphones is outstanding, the new tablet range has some real points of difference (like being waterproof) and Alpha and NEX digital cameras have several best-in-class features.

As someone who grew up with Sony — my family loved our Trinitron rear-pro — and is now a paid-up customer (two exceptionally well-crafted voice recorders), I genuinely hope that Sony recovers. To do that, however, it must forge a new path and a new identity.