Sony

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Template:Infobox Company Sony Corporation (Japanese katakana: ソニー) Template:Tyo, Template:Nyse is a global Japanese consumer electronics corporation based in Tokyo, Japan. It is currently one of the world's largest producers of consumer electronics and is one of the largest corporations in the world.

In America, its best-known product is the Sony Walkman, a portable cassette player small enough to clip onto a belt. The term walkman nearly became generic due to the flood of imitators (a "walkman-style" tape player).

Sony Corporation is traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange under number 6758 and on the NYSE as SNE through ADRs.

See also Sony Corporation shareholders and subsidiaries.

History

Sony was founded by Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita on May 7, 1946 as the Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering with about 20 employees. Their first consumer product, in the late 1940s, was a rice boiler. As it grew into a major international corporation, Sony acquired other companies with longer histories, including Columbia Records (the oldest continuously produced brand name in recorded sound, dating back to 1888). Today Norio Ohga is Honorary Chairman, Howard Stringer is Chairman and CEO, and Ryoji Chubachi is President and Electronics CEO.

Brand change

When Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo was looking for a romanized name to use to market themselves, they strongly considered using their initials, TTK. The primary reason they did not, is that the railway company Tokyo Kyuko was known as TKK.

The name "Sony" was chosen for the brand as a mix of the Latin word sonus, which is the root of sonic and sound, the English word "sunny", and from the word Sonny-boys which is Japanese slang for "whizz kids". However "Sonny" seemed not to be appropriate since it sounds too much like the Japanese soh-nee which means something like "business goes bad", Akio Morita pushed for a word that does not exist in any language so that they could claim the word "Sony" as their own (which paid off when they sued a candy producer who also used the name who claimed that "Sony" was just an existing word in some language).

At the time of the change, it was extremely unusual for a Japanese company to use Roman letters instead of Chinese characters to spell its name. The move was not without opposition: TTK's principal bank at the time, Mitsui, had strong feelings about the name. They pushed for a name such as Sony Electronic Industries, or Sony Teletech. Akio Morita was firm, however, as he did not want the company name tied to any particular industry. Eventually, both Ibuka and Mitsui Bank's chairman gave their approval.

File:Sony TR-72-1956.jpg
Sony TR-72 (1956)

In August 1955, Sony produced its first coat-pocket sized transistor radio they registered as the TR-55 model. In 1956, Sony reportedly manufactured about 40,000 of its Model TR-72 box-like portable transistor radios and exported some of this model to North America, the Netherlands and Germany.

File:SonyTR-63-1957.jpg
Sony TR-63 (1957)

That same year they made the TR-6, a coat pocket radio which was used by the company to create its "SONY boy" advertising character. The following year, 1957, Sony came out with the TR-63 model, the then smallest (112 x 71 x 32 mm) set in commercial production. and a great sales success worldwide. The TR-63 was a shirt pocket transistor radio that was exported all over the world.

On page 209 of the book The Portable Radio in American Life by University of Arizona professor Michael Brian Schiffer, Ph.D., he wrote: "Sony was not first, but its transistor radio was the most successful. The TR-63 of 1957 cracked open the U.S. market and launched the new industry of consumer microelectronics." By the mid 1950s, American teens had began buying portable transistor radios in huge numbers, helping to propel the fledgling industry from an estimated 100,000 units in 1955 to 5,000,000 units by the end of 1958. However, this huge growth in portable transistor radio sales, that saw Sony rise to be the dominant player in the consumer electronics field, [1] was not because of the consumers who had bought the earlier generation of tube radio consoles, but was driven by a distinctly new American phenomenon at the time called Rock and Roll.

Notable products and technologies

See also: List of Sony Trademarks

1950

File:Reel-to-reel recorder tc-630.jpg
A 1969 Sony TC-630 reel-to-reel recorder

1960

1970

1980

1990

2000 and beyond

File:Sony-walkman-srfs84s 0001.JPG
Sony Walkman SRF-S84 transistor radio (released 2001).

Question marks indicate products no longer sold as of 2005, but the year of withdrawal is unknown +

Management

On March 7 2005, Sony Corp. announced that Nobuyuki Idei will step down as Chairman and Group CEO and will be replaced by British Sir Howard Stringer, current Chairman and CEO of Sony Corporation of America, Corporate Executive Officer, Vice Chairman and COO Sony Entertainment Business Group. Sony's decision to replace Idei with Wales native Howard Stringer will mark the first time that a foreigner will run a major Japanese electronics firm. Sony Corp. also announced on the same date that current president, Kunitake Ando, will step down and be replaced by Ryoji Chubachi. [2]

Acquisitions

In 1988, Sony acquired CBS (Columbia) Records Group from CBS. It was renamed "Sony Music Entertainment".

In 1989, Sony acquired Columbia Pictures Entertainment from Coca Cola for US $3.4 billion. It was subsequently renamed "Sony Pictures Entertainment" in 1991.

In 2000, Sony had sales of US $63 billion and 189,700 employees. Sony acquired Aiwa Corporation in 2002.

Sony also owns television channels in India and channels aimed at Indian communities in Europe.

On July 20, 2004, the EU approved a 50-50 merger between Sony Music Entertainment and BMG. The new company will be called Sony BMG and will, together with RIAA partner Universal, control 60% of the world wide music market.

On September 13 2004 a Sony-led consortium finalised the deal to purchase famous film studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for about $5 Billion, including $2Bn in debts.

Legal

In 2002, Sony Computer Entertainment America, marketer of the popular PlayStation game consoles, was sued by Immersion Corp. of San Jose, California which claimed that Sony's PlayStation "Dual Shock" controllers infringed on Immersion's patents. In 2004 a federal jury agreed with Immersion, awarding the company US$82 million in damages. A U.S. district court judge ruled on the matter in March, 2005 and not only agreed with the federal jury's ruling but also added another US$8.7 million in damages. Washington Post: Pay Judgment Or Game Over, Sony Warned

In November of 2005, Sony was identified as distributing aggressive Digital Rights Management software that took on the disturbing characteristics of rootkits and spyware. In relation to the so-called Extended Copy Protection application, Sony is already being sued in [California and New York] in the United States, and similar legal inquiries are underway in [Italy].

Corporate governance

Current members of the board of directors of Sony are: Peter Bonfield, Ryoji Chubachi, Sakie Fukushima, Hirobumi Kawano, Yotaro Kobayashi, Göran Lindahl, Yoshihiko Miyauchi, Akishige Okada, Howard Stringer, Fueo Sumita, and Yoshiaki Yamauchi.

Proprietary formats

Sony has historically been notable for creating its own in-house standards for new recording and storage technologies instead of adopting those of other manufacturers and standards bodies. The most infamous of these was the videotape format war of the early 1980s, when Sony marketed its Betamax system for video cassette recorders against the VHS format developed by JVC. In the end, VHS gained critical mass in the marketplace and became the worldwide standard for consumer VCRs and Sony adopted the format. Since then, Sony has continued to introduce its own versions of storage technologies, with varying success. Examples include:

  • MiniDisc was created by Sony for use in portable music players. They were designed to share the market of Walkman products. Low consumer adoption has seen the product fail outside of the Japanese market.
  • Sony also makes heavy use of its Memory Stick flash memory cards for digital cameras and other portable devices, however, other manufacturers are also making use of this technology.
  • One successful attempt was the introduction of the 90mm micro floppy diskettes(better known as 3.5inch floppy discs), which Sony had developed at a time where there were 4" floppy discs and a lot of variations from different companies to replace the then on-going 5.25" floppy discs. Sony had great success and the format became dominant; 3.5" floppy discs were gradually became obsolete being repled by USB flash memory "drives" and memory cards, as well as cheaper CD-R/RW drives and media.
  • The DVD format currently being used in households world wide, were jointly developed by Philips and Sony to replace CD; the use of a shorter wavelength laser beam sees the higher storage capacity of 4.7-17+GB as opposed to 640-700MB on to a single disc.
  • Sony attempted to compete with the Iomega Zip drive and Imation SuperDisk with their HiFD, this proved a severe failure.
  • In 1993 Sony challenged the industry standard Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound format with its newer and more advanced proprietary motion picture digital audio format called SDDS (Sony Dynamic Digital Sound) This format employed eight channels (7.1) of audio opposed to just six used in Dolby Digital 5.1 at the time. Unlike Dolby Digital, SDDS utilized a method of backup by having mirrored arrays of bits on both sides of the film which acted as a measure of reliability in case the film was partially damaged. Ultimately SDDS has been vastly overshadowed by the preferred DTS (Digital Theatre System) and Dolby Digital standards in both the motion picture industry and home audio formats.
  • Since the introduction of the MiniDisc format, Sony has attempted to promote its own audio compression technologies under the ATRAC brand, against more widely-used formats like MP3 and Windows Media Audio. Until late 2004, Sony's Network Walkman line of digital portable music players did not support the MP3 de facto standard natively, although the software provided with them would convert MP3 files into the ATRAC or ATRAC3 formats.
  • Sony is currently pushing its Blu-Ray optical digital versatile disk format, which is likely to compete with Toshiba's HD-DVD. However, both formats have significant industry backing and it is unclear whether this will prove to be a mistake for Sony, or whether their format will win out.
  • The PSP (PlayStation Portable) handheld gaming system uses the proprietary Universal Media Disc (UMD) format on which games are distributed.
  • Sony and Philips introduced the high-fidelity audio system SACD in 1999, but it has since been entrenched in a format war with DVD-Audio. At present, neither has gained a major foothold on the general public, CDs being preferred by consumers with its large penetration in consumer devices.
  • OpenMG, a controversial digital rights management system.

Criticism

On the tenth anniversary of the Playstation, Sony Italy released an ad which outraged the Vatican. An ad showed a man, which seems to be Jesus, smiling towards the camera, wearing a Crown of Thorns made of the Playstation Button Symbols (Square, X, O, Triangle). At the bottom, it said (in Italian): "Ten Years of Passion." This outraged the Vatican. Many people of the Vatican said that Sony "Went too far," and throughout the internet, many headlines appeared such as, "Vatican excommunicates Sony" and "Sony gets a good slapping by the Pope". After the incident, Sony decided to take back all the ads and discontinue the printing.

In October 2005, it was revealed that Sony's music CD's had installed a rootkit on the user's computer as a DRM measure (called Extended Copy Protection by its creator, British company First 4 Internet), and made it extremely difficult to detect or remove. This constitutes a cybercrime in most countries, and poses a major security risk to affected users as well as a drain on system resources on their computers (albeit a small one). Worse is the fact that non-expert users trying to uninstall it may damage their system. The States of California and New York are already persuing legal action against Sony and a larger a class action lawsuit over this matter is in the works.Link

In November 2005, Sony released a software utility to remove Extended Copy Protection from affected Microsoft Windows computers. Link However, there is some question as to the effectivness of the program, as the file is far too big to simply be an uninstaller.[3] [4]

Documentaries about Sony Corporation

  • The story of Sony's foray into the American commercial market is documented in Terry Sanders' film The Japan Project: Made in Japan.

References

  • Made in Japan by Akio Morita and SONY, Harper Collins (1994)
  • SONY Radio, Sony Transistor Radio 35th Anniversary 1955-1990 - information booklet (1990)
  • The Portable Radio in American Life by University of Arizona Professor Michael Brian Schiffer, Ph.D. (The University of Arizona Press, 1991).

External links

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