Back in the 1980s and 1990s, Japanese electronics and technology companies dominated the world’s consumer electronics marketplace. Today.. not so much.
Companies like Sony, Panasonic, and Sharp are losing market share in consumer electronics as faster, nimbler American companies like Apple take back the market. Sharp, for instance, has failed to really get going in the mobile platform market and has been cutting deep to scale itself back, announcing plans to eliminate nearly 1/5 of its total workforce – nearly all in consumer electronics divisions.
Panasonic has been cycling through executives and downsizing as well, focusing less on its consumer divisions and more and more on its support and supply instead. Most of the company’s income now comes from sales of parts, supplies, and components rather than products. The company has its hands in nearly everything but televisions nowadays, struggling to keep itself relevant.
Sony is in a similar boat with Panasonic, though of the three they are still the most consumer relevant. As the Washington Post says, “..the Japanese companies were simply too slow to turn cutting-edge technology into usable technology. Sony, for instance, was early to embrace e-book technology, but struggled to pair it with intuitive software or an easy-to-download selection of books. The companies also completely missed the rapid rise of smartphones, with Apple and South Korea’s Samsung grabbing the majority of the market.”
In all, Sony and Panasonic haven’t shown a profit in years (4 for Sony, 3 for Panasonic) and Sharp has watched its stock value plummet to all-time lows. Together, the three companies combined only make about 1/5 the value of Korea’s Samsung and 1/20 the value of Apple.
Sad days for Japanese electronics. If they don’t do some major re-thinking and restructuring soon, they may not last.