Technologizer

The Sad State of Japan’s Consumer Electronics Giants

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Sony TVs and other products in a British store window in 1972.

The Washington Post‘s Chico Harlan has a sobering story on the dicey financial condition of big Japanese electronics companies such as Sony, Panasonic and Sharp. Once they were the gold standard in gadgets; now they’re struggling to catch up with companies located elsewhere — especially the U.S.’s Apple and South Korea’s Samsung, both of which have helped create the smartphone boom which has largely left Japan’s giants behind.

If you’d told me a couple of decades ago that Sony wouldn’t be able to command a never-ending stiff price premium for an array of products based on its unique combination of technological prowess and general status symbolism, it would have been startling. Same thing for the notion of Samsung becoming known as a reliable maker of quality products rather than as a cut-rate also ran.

The biggest challenge these companies face is that nobody is standing still: By the time they catch up with Apple and Samsung, the world may have moved on to something new. And once you’re no longer a leader, it’s hard to bounce back to the top. Just ask Zenith, RCA or any of the once-mighty U.S. consumer-electronics brands which Japan Inc. displaced a few decades ago.

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Hurricane 3D Animation
Hurricane 3D Animation

Even a few years ago it would have been hard to imagine that the Japanese giants would not even be viable participants in the gadget battles of the day

Hinako
Hinako

Japanese electronics companies claim that they struggles  because  yen is very high.

But this is just one element.There are many reasons and they have to correct them.

SHARP depended too much on liquid crystal display and costed a lot.After price of display declined  and TVs became cheaper they couldn't deal with it.SONY loses its identity (called SONY SPIRIT) ,they treat engineers badly.Their marketings became poor,so they can't sell products even if it was revolutionary product(for example CLIE,Airbord).Today,SONY became finance,music and pictures company. Electronics are debts now.On the other hand companies tried to change their battlefield stay in good position like TOSHIBA and HITACHI.But we can see good things for them. SHARP is still a major OEM maker and associates  with Foxconn. SONY's CEO had changed and make a capital tie-up with Olympus.Its medical equipment could become another core.Japanese companies should make new innovations not only in products but in management and its closed cultures.These are what their founders did.

Matthew González
Matthew González

I wonder how these companies (culture, management, and other internal systems) compare to the Japanese car giants. They seem to be adapting at a pace that the American manufactures have not. 

peter_principle
peter_principle

"And once you’re no longer a leader, it’s hard to bounce back to the top"

Yeah, just ask Apple . . .

I mean I know this just Time magazine, but c'mon.

harrymccracken
harrymccracken

Didn't say it was impossible; said it was hard. You think Apple's resurgence was a cakewalk?

Kris Lucas
Kris Lucas

Apple is a perfect vindication of the author's statement. Apple's return to the top was not easy, nor was it ever certain. When Steve Jobs returned to the helm, it was at a time when Apple's implosion and bankruptcy seemed all but inevitable. And that was in 1996-1997; it took a decade of hard, hard work and innovation after innovation to rebuild the Apple brand, and it was really starting in 2007 with the release of the iPhone that the company began to enjoy the monumental success it does today. iMac, iPod, iTunes - all big, big things, but the real transformation into a mainstream and universally "cool" brand, from being the 'sick man' of tech on the verge of collapse, only took place after 10 years of repeated successes - with a number of failures and painful transitions along the way. Not to mention this transformation was overseen by an extraordinarily gifted and charismatic CEO, a man who was perhaps the Edison or Ford of our time!

Nicholas Gatewood
Nicholas Gatewood

Comparing Jobs to Tesla is a slap to the face. Edison stole other peoples' work, so I guess that's an accurate comparison. Jobs was not a genius. Wozniak was a genius, but Jobs was a manipulator and a thief. Apple does not innovate, they steal and claim innovation. They're the Nintendo of the tech industry, with lesser products held up by mass-appeal advertising. Apple is horrible, Jobs is worse. He deserves zero respect from any of us, if anything he deserves disrespect for the horrible way he treated friends, family and co-workers. He was also a crybaby, for the record, when he didn't get his way. Don't buy the bullshit advertising, Jobs was a horrible man.

Marco Gomez
Marco Gomez

Like it or not (I don't like Apple, and I don't own anything by them), Steve Jobs was brilliant. Yes, on par with Edison (ahem!! Tesla) and Ford. Apple (Steve Jobs) essentially invented the pinch motion to zoom on phones. They brought smart phones to the foreground. They took a lot of excellent ideas (the Ipod was not the first mp3 player) and popularized (understatement) them. I'm a Google fan, but I know my own phone wouldn't exist as it is today without Steve Jobs. The world is worse off without him.

mike921
mike921

 thanks for saying 'perhaps'.....