Putting Sony on suicide watch8/6/2014
The parallels between tech companies and historical empires that have risen to soaring heights only to one day crumble to ruins is disturbingly similar. While Microsoft, Apple and IBM have somehow thrived for decades, they’ve marched by the graves of giants such as BlackBerry, Polaroid and Zenith. Similar to those fallen nations, the fall of those companies was a long, painful process that many saw coming. Such is the current story of Sony.
Few companies have squandered their multifaceted fortune such as Sony. From the 1970s to the 1990s Sony was one of the top dogs in home entertainment systems, audio and video recording, disk storage and more. Today the Japanese multinational conglomerate has expanded to include cinematic cameras, video game systems, computers and least well-known here in the States, insurance.
The problem with all of these separate endeavors is none of them own a respective market, and altogether, none of them turns a profit. In fact, out of Sony’s offerings its insurance side is its only profitable venture. So much so that over the last 10 years, all of its electronics combined have lost the corporation nearly $10 billion, whereas its insurance business has profited by that same mark. Things have gotten so dire that some of its most prominent stockholders have called for the company to sell off its electronics department wholesale.
Sadly, companies like Sony whose tech-relevance is on life support almost always refuse to own up to their issues and right the ship. In the mid-‘90s, the Sony Walkman was the handheld CD audio player and owned the market. Then in the early 2000s, the iPod debuted and made the Walkman irrelevant. Rather than bite the bullet and move on, Sony has continued the walkman brand, recently unveiling the $700 Walkman ZX1. A beautiful mp3 player, but that’s all it is.
Of course, not all fledgling companies fade into obscurity like Zenith or Polaroid. Maybe Sony will return to tech dominance and overtake Samsung in the coming years. Still, I’ll wager my life savings that a $700 Walkman won’t be the gadget to get them there. CV
Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.