Sony announced that it will spin off its semiconductor operations, which include the image sensor business, as a way to keep this business competitive against its competitors such as Omnivision and Samsung.
Sony's sensors are used by many of the top smartphones right now, including Apple's iPhones, some of Samsung's flagships (Samsung has increasingly started to use its own ISOCELL sensors, though), HTC, and even the latest Nexus devices.
Sony's sensors often turn out to be the best in the smartphone market, although camera software quality also plays a major role in how good pictures will look. For instance, at least until recently with the Xperia Z5, Sony's flagships rarely even reached the top three in terms of how good their smartphone camera was. That's not because of the sensors, which should have been the best Sony could offer at the moment, but because of its lower quality software.
Sony seems to believe now that keeping the image sensor business integrated into the larger company may be slowing down its potential growth. The image sensor business has already shown healthy growth lately. Sony now wants to capitalize on that by giving the division its independence to pursue whatever it thinks would be best for it, to be able to create even better products than the competition.
The company also wants to expand into the automotive market, where image sensors will be increasingly necessary for self-driving cars or cars that have similar advanced features that require them to "see" nearby objects. Sony has already promised to invest 45 billion yen ($374 billion USD) into its image sensor business by the end of this fiscal year.
Sony also announced it will separate the battery and storage media divisions from the main companies, as well. In the battery business, Sony will mostly focus on improving manufacturing operations, increasing profit and taking advantage of new opportunities in the expanding battery market.
The business functions of the storage media division will be transferred to the manufacturing arm of Sony, and the company hopes this will help the division generate stable profit. Sony expects this transfer to complete in April 2016.