This effort is rethinking it from a different direction.
TV maker Vizio just announced it was getting into the PC market, with desktop, laptop, and ultrabook models. (See http://goo.gl/kDwXW for the desktop.) They're looking to leverage the name recognition of their TV line to enter a new market.
What Vizio is up to may prove quite disruptive because of the manner in which they are doing it.
Vizio is a small company, with just over 400 employees. As you mentioned, they design, and outsource manufacturing.
Here they're taking that a step farher. When they decided to get into the PC business, they spent time talking to Intel about how to do the hardware, and Microsoft about how to do the software. They are allowing considerable input from their OEMs on the design process, and instead of handing OEMs designs and saying "Build this", they appear to be saying "This is what we want to accomplish, and this is the price point we want to match. How do you recommend we do it?" Vizio is serving as the general contractor in a joint venture with the participating firms, and allowing the partner's expertise to shape the final product.
In addition, they are *not* taking the money from software houses to install "crapware", and are "insourcing" tech support, which will be handled from a US based call center in SD.
Finally, they are taking a leaf fron Apple's book, and recognizing the importance of good product design. Instead of the plastic housings used by other PC vendors, they will use the same sort of robot-cut brushed aluminum casings they use for their TV products.
They believe that if they make the customer happy, they'll succeed.
Apple's forthcoming "Apple TV" can be expected to rethink what TV is, though it's not clear what form that will take. Vizio is doing a different sort of rethinking, not only about TV and PCs, but about the way you design and build them.
The implications for monolithic outfits like HP or Sony are profound if this succeeds.
Abandoning TV business was unthinkable in Japan -- as far as I remember.
But the point of this story is that the profitability of TV business has gotten so slim (actually all the Japanese TV manufacturers are losing money) that the TV business at any Japanese consumer electronics company is no longer a sacred cow.
This is the era of fashion more than reliability. Japan loose out as slow to catch up fashion, features and pricing interact on volume sales. I still prefer Japanese products are much reliable than Korean ones are fashionable and more features.
Wasn't Sony slow to get into LCDs? As I recall, they were, and they actually offered some CRT-based HDTVs early on. And yet, it should have been oh so obvious that LCDs would eat everyone's lunch, including plasma's.
Sorry, Junko, but I have a different take on this. Whether or not Japan Inc. should look to "save" the TV business, it seems to me that there is still plenty of demand for large screen, HD displays in homes. All we need is a name change, at most, to get at what the future should bring. The new TVs should be IP-connected devices, fully flexible, capable of showing anything available on PCs, tablets, or even smart phones.
The fact that TV manufacturers only seem capable of building sorry excuses for actual "connected" TVs is what baffles me. I have no evidence, but the APPEARANCE is that they are in cahoots with the cable and satellite networks, deliberately making TVs that continue to make the customer overly dependent on these walled garden distribution systems.
Me? I've ignored their limitations and created my own. With an actual PC operating as "set top box." Networked into my home WiFi system.
Innovation and vision from management is the key word. Perhaps, Japanese big three become to some extent laggard and they lost the race. Sharp has taken good step and Sony and Panasonic should become more nimble. They should not abandon TV products.
Great insight. Rethink TV, indeed. The TV broadcast industry is also going through revolutions...but perhaps not fast enough. Consumers' TV viewing habits have also changed over the last few years. TV as a big box to watch broadcast TV won't cut it any more.
That's the problem with *being* the first mover and innovator. It's splendid for a while, but sooner or later (and probably *sooner*, in consumer electronics), competitors can duplicate what you do, and probably do it faster and cheaper.
The Japanese manufacturers are experiencing that. Being first to market is one thing. Staying there is another. And the pace of innovation is increasing, so that you don't stay there as long as you once did.
Remember when 3Com's Palm division created the Palm Pilot organizer, and created a whole new market? 3Com spun off Palm, who couldn't make PDAs fast enough to meet the demand. Execs from Palm formed Handspring, as a sort of budget line alternative. Sony jumped in with their Clie line, and other manufacturers dipped their toes as well. Pretty soon the market was saturated and PDAs became commodities with commodity pricing and margins. Sony dropped out. Palm bought Handspring to get the Treo, and limped along on it as the smartphone cannibalized the PDA market. Palm no longer exists.
The PDA phenomenon recapitulated what happened with the IBM PC, as PCs became commodities competing on proce, but an order of magnitude faster.
The same thing appears to be occurring in TV, and while the big three Japanese manufacturers were probably aware it might happen, I don't think they grasped how quickly it could occur.
If I were a consumer electronics manufacturer these days, I'd try to keep that in mind. I'd want to innovate, and be first to market with the Next Big Thing, but I'd be aware it was transitory, that competitors would duplicate it and probably make and sell it cheaper than I could, and that that would happen sooner rather than later. So I'd be watching the indicators, and actively planning for how I would *exit* the market when I could no longer make money in it, *before* I racked up billions in losses trying unsuccessfully to compete.
Japanese TV makers have stopped innovating. One area prime for a remake is the display itself. If the Japanese big three were first to come out with affordable, large (40 inch and above,) OLED displays for instance, they would have a competitive advantage due to the superior viewing quality of an OLED display versus any current LCD displays which are used in the majority of TVs sold today. When all of the parts of a modern flat screen TV are commodities you get commodity pricing of the entire TV as a result. Sony, Panasonic, and Sharp must find a way to compete on better technology and features - not price.
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