Over at This is my next..., Paul Miller has issued a challenge to Sony: It’s time to start acting like Sony again.

The once-loved brand had slipped in the esteem of customers even before its latest data breach. Sony’s name was once synonymous with quality, and it needs to rebuild its brand to survive.

To do that, Miller assigned Sony three specific tasks — fix console jailbreak issues, rework the Walkman brand, and address shipping problems — that highlight a lot of what’s driven customers away from the once-loved brand.

On Wednesday, Sony confirmed that hackers had obtained personal and payment information from the PlayStation Network: user names, addresses, countries, e-mail addresses, birthdates, PlayStation Network/Qriocity passwords and logins, and handle/PSN online IDs.

The company said that users’ purchase histories, billing addresses and PlayStation Network/Qriocity password security answers may have also been released but that it has no proof that credit card data was stolen, though it is advising users to be on the lookout for mysterious charges.

The security breach only highlights a lack of communication between the company and its customers. When Sony killed the option of Linux on the PS3 last year, it provoked a public legal battle. The company has also gained a reputation for failing to meet its own shipping deadlines or for shipping products that don’t seem quite finished. Miller mentioned the Xperia Play as a prime example. The gaming phone has a great concept and good hardware, but its software has gotten a lukewarm reception.

His advice on the Walkman brand, once the most-recognized name in music players, gets to the heart of another problem with Sony — it makes too many things. Focusing the line on one spectacular gadget with solid hardware engineering, Miller said, would be the smartest move.

He’s not the only one who’s pointed out that Sony is overextended in the gadget business. Gizmodo said so in its “We Miss Sony” series last spring. In response to that series, Sony exec George Bailey told Gizmodo that the company is simply “never going to be as narrow as Apple.”

And, true to form, Sony continues to expand its product lines, in search of its next great success. On Thursday, it released a teaser video of the S1 and the S2, the company’s attempts to break into the tablet market:

Do you think Sony has lost its way? Can it mount a comeback?

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