Remember When Japanese Electronics Firms Were Dominant? Now They're Apple Suppliers

By Alexis C. Madrigal

It was a very bad year for the country's gadget makers.

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Glory days! You could have played that Springsteen tape in here, too (flickr/rockheim).

From Neojaponisme, we find this pretty bleak assessment of the electronics scene in that country. Dominant throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Sony, Sharp, and all the rest have fallen on hard times. And with Apple swallowing up a vast chunk of all the profit made from the sale of gadgets, the conglomerates that defined my childhood have been reduced to making parts for Apple's glitzy products.

2012 was one of the most disastrous years for the bloated electronics industry since its inception. Sharp, Panasonic, and Sony started the year off with bad news but thoughtful hopes -- selling off factories to Chinese investors, realigning product foci, and even looking to create new product lines! -- but ended up reporting losses totaling to ¥1.23 trillion ($15.3 billion). The massive investments failed to pay off, and now Sharp, the most cash strapped of the once-mighty giant manufacturers, looks increasingly likely to end up mostly a parts supplier for Apple. With Sharp supplying iPhone and iPad panels, Sony making the camera sensors, and a small army of smaller manufacturers making many other components, the Japanese electronics industry as a whole seems fated to lack compelling products of its own, forcing it to occupy the less glamorous and less profitable role as the world's ultra high-tech parts maker.

Via Charlie Cheever

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/12/remember-when-japanese-electronics-firms-were-dominant-now-theyre-apple-suppliers/266697/