Once one and only, Sony seeks to regain that status
Despite reporting a record ￥457 billion annual loss last year, Sony Corppioneer dvr-k17la
earlier this month said it would return to the black in fiscal 2012 with a ￥30 billion profit.
The Great East Japan Earthquake, Thai floods and strong yen have allpioneer dvrts08
been recent factors that hurt the struggling electronics giant — but does Sony finally see the light at the end of the tunnel?
Here are some questions and answers about the corporate icon and its history:
How did Sony get its start?
Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita started Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo in pioneer dvr-ts08pa
1946 with capital of ￥190,000. The company was originally set up to
research and manufacture measuring equipment and communications
appliances. It was renamed Sony in 1958.tsst ts-d633a dvd drive
The name derives from "sonus" (Latin for sound) and sonny — English slang for a young boy.
Ibuka was 38 and Morita 25 when they started business. Morita's family had become tsst ts-t633l dvd drive
a successful sake brewer in Aichi Prefecture and gave Sony financial support in its early years.
What were Sony's top products?
By 1955, Sony was producing Japan's firstdell vostro 1700 dvd drive
transistor radios. But the true game-changer that defined Sony's
innovative corporate image was the Walkman, a portable cassette player
that debuted in 1979.
According to Sony's website, Ibuka was a fan of fujitsu lifebook n7010 dvd drive
music and often brought a music player with him on business trips. But
the device, which came with a shoulder strap, weighed 1.7 kggateway ml6232 dvd drive
and was not very portable. Ibuka asked his team to create something handier for travel.
Morita's children were meanwhile in the habit of going straight
fujitsu lifebook s7210 dvd drive
to their stereos as soon as they got home from school. He believed
creating a portable music player would change the way the generation
interacted with music.
Sony unveiled the Walkman in July 1979 for ￥33,000. The high-end models gateway ml6725 dvd drive
Apple Inc.'s iPod Touch sell for similar prices today. But in 1979, new
college graduates were earning an average of ￥109,000 per month. Only
about 3,000 Walkmans werehp g62-225dx dvd drive
sold in the first month.
Sony then sent out employees equipped with Walkmans to ride trains on thehp pavilion dv2845se dvd drive
Yamanote Line for a day to give the product some exposure. The rest was history.
By the time Sony pulled the plug on cassette-tapehp pavilion dv2945se dvd drive
Walkmans in 2010, 220 million of them had been sold worldwide during
the 31-year run.
Less successful was the Betamax video cassette recorder, a home-use
product Sony developed in 1975. Although in many ways deemed technically
superior and more compact, it lost the VCR format war to the VHS camp.
In October 1982, Sony released the world's first home-use compact
hp pavilion dv4-1125nr dvd drive
player with Phillips. In 1994, it expanded into video games and came up
with the PlayStation console, selling 100 million units worldwide in 10
years and turning it into a core business. It also made TVs.
What was the secret to Sony's innovation?
Morita had said "the two important things are wisdom and speed"hp pavilion dv4-2045dx dvd drive
— Sony made decisions quickly and was willing to take on challenges.
The book "Tensai Kisai Ga Tobidasu Sony-no Fushigina Kenkyujo" hp pavilion dv5t-1000 cto dvd drive
Extraordinary Research Center Where Geniuses and Extraordinary Men Fly
Out"), written by Sony Computer Science Laboratory chief Mario Tokoro
and author Shinko Yuri, offers insights.
According to the authors, Sony, seeking to strengthen its computerhp pavilion dv6-1030us dvd drive
business, approached Tokoro in July 1987 while he was teaching at Keio University.
The company asked him to lead their new computer science lab so hp pavilion dv6707us dvd drive
firm could quickly catch up with its competitors.
Tokoro was at first reluctant to take the offer, but provided a 10-page
wish list to Sony on how the new lab should operate. By October all his
requests were granted and in Feburary 1988, merely seven months after
the first contact, SCSL was set up.
"At the time, I was working on research with companies leading the
information technology business, including Fujitsu Ltd., NEC Corp. and
Toshiba Corp. — but no company could make quick decisions at that
level," Tokoro wrote in the book.
Researchers who worked at SCSL later invented key technologies for some
of Sony's products, including the Aibo robot pet and the PlayStation 3.
Who has led Sony?
Morita is the first name up. The visionary was selected in 1998 as one
of Time magazine's list of 20 most influential businesspeople of the
20th century. He was the only non-American on the list, which also
included Walt Disney, Bill Gates and Henry Ford.
Morita was vocal about his political beliefs. In 1989 the business guru
teamed up with current Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara to write "The Japan
That Can Say No," where he claimed the country should become more than a
"yes man" to the United States. The book became a best-seller in Japan.
Meanwhile, Ibuka, who cofounded Sony with Morita, had taken a keen
interest in children's education. He authored "Yochien Dewa Ososugiru"
("Kindergarten is Too Late") in 1971, underscoring the importance of
child-rearing and education in the formative years.
Ibuka served as the president of Boy Scouts Nippon as well.
He was known for his eccentric side and played a key role in setting up
the Sony ESPER laboratory, which focused on research of biological,
mental, spiritual and other psychic powers.
How did the Sony group expand and how big did it get?
Over the years, Sony expanded into six major fields — electronics,
games, music, movies, financial services (such as life insurance and
banking) and pursuits linked to the Internet.
The expansion was rapid. Firms that Sony bought included Columbia
Pictures Entertainment Inc. and music giant Bertelsmann AG. By 2000,
Sony's market cap had surpassed ￥10 trillion, but it is only worth about
10 percent of that today.
What were some of the downsides in Sony's history?
In 2006 the firm started generating negative headlines after a Sony
battery in someone's laptop computer began spewing smoke and sparks at
Los Angeles International Airport. That led Sony to conduct a worldwide
recall of some 3.5 million battery packs used buy six computer makers,
including Toshiba, Fujitsu and Hitachi Ltd.
Sony was also hit hard in 2011 when someone hacked the PlayStation
network and leaked the credit card information of 77 million customers
online. The fallout prompted a U.S. House of Representatives panel to
request that Sony explain why the hacking went unnoticed.
Then there was the 2003 "Sony shock." That April, Sony announced an
operating profit of ￥185 billion, which was about ￥100 billion short of
what it had predicted previously. That sent Sony's and other electronics
manufacturers' shares plunging.
Why did Sony stumble?
Some say a lack of strong leadership was the cause of an arrogant
juggernaut's downfall. Following the Sony shock, Businessweek magazine
called then Sony chief Nobuyuki Idei one of the worst CEOs of the year.
"After announcing a bold restructuring program in 1999, he failed to
move far enough or fast enough. Profit margins on electronics products
have plunged to around 1 percent, down from 10 percent a decade ago,"
the magazine wrote. Morita had died the same year, of pneumonia.
Idei is known to have shifted Sony's priorities from electronics
manufacturing to creation and production of content, a move that didn't
The magazine Nikkei Business in December 2005 also named Idei the year's
Some say Sony's restructuring in the early 2000s also backfired and
resulted in the loss of top engineers amid workforce cuts that reached
into the thousands. Worldwide, Sony employed 182,000 in 2001, but its
ranks had fallen to 158,500 by March 2006. While recent moves have pared
its workforce to 168,200 today, the company has said it will cut about
10,000 more within the year.
Sony claims its restructuring program was intended to shift personnel
from unprofitable projects to core businesses, but trends show the plan
didn't work. Samsung Electronics Co. has taken a wide lead over Sony in
the global flat-TV market share, while Apple's iPod replaced the Walkman
as the top portable music player.
In a 2004 interview with Website Nikkeibp, former Sony President
Kunitake Ando pointed out that his company "used to be filled with
eccentric and odd employees," but has lost the edge after transforming
into a place with elite workers with high educations.
"There are many employees who take advantage of the Sony brand and
swagger around despite having made no contribution," he said.
What will it take for Sony to regain its momentum?
During a speech at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan last month,
Barclays Capital analyst Yuji Fujimori said it is crucial that Sony
come up with a game-changing product, but that "will not happen unless
the company sorts out its business process."
"It appears to me that the years Sony decided to (get) rid (of) its
audiovisual technologies research to slim down corporate spending is
when the decline began," he said.
Whether Sony has gotten the message remains to be seen.
Earlier this month, Sony Chief Financial Officer Masaru Kato said the
company will focus on reconstructing its electronics business in coming
years. Gaming consoles, mobile phones and digital imaging such as
cameras will be core projects, he said.
Afterward, media reports said Sony and Panasonic Corp. are considering
working together on TVs, an area in which both have struggled for
various reasons, particularly the rise of Samsung and other foreign