Sony’s move to the high-end is a sign that Japan is becoming like Europe in the 1970s

Article

Sony steps into high-end home audio, marks move away from mass market – PC World Australia

My Comments

After I read this article about Sony focusing on the high-end audio and video market and reading the press about Sharp suffering deep losses, I have noticed that what is happening with Japan is very similar to what has happened with consumer electronics in Europe and, to some extent, America through the 1970s and 1980s.

Initially during the 1960s, Europe was replete with many consumer-electronics brands that were started off within that area like Blaupunkt, Grundig, Bang & Olufsen, Nordmende, as well as Philips. These brands had product ranges that, in some cases, covered the whole market share. This was happening as Japan and the rest of South East Asia was cutting in to the consumer electronics and photography market through that decade. There was a popular consensus about Japanese products being of inferior quality to these European-sourced products during that period.

But during those 1970s and 1980s, the Japanese names were busily yielding equipment that was able to do the job very capably for a cheaper price compared to the European names. As well most of the Japanese manufacturers were busily innovating while turning out products that appealed across the market share. So, while some European names walked out of the consumer electronics scene, most of the Europeans took steps to focus on the high-end aspirational market, thus keeping their space in that market reserved with these names being considered special.

What is now about to happen with Sony and some other Japanese brands is that they will end up like the European brands where they possess a rarified status. Here, they turn out premium equipment at a premium price; while leaving the loss-leading popular equipment ranges out of their lineup. Most likely, I would suspect that the equipment will be like some of the British names such as Wharfedale where the emphasis will be on the quality of the experience. As well, some of these companies would be working towards innovation and, in some cases, component building where they supply components to other electronics names.

The article made references to Korean companies targeting the mass market but I would reckon that LG & Samsung would focus on the high-value end of this market and work towards the good-quality equipment. This could be in some ways, drifting towards the high-end market. Similarly, the pressure by Chinese workers to see their labour valued properly could migrate China towards better-quality goods.

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