Techno Companies losing their way.

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It’s possibly a major migraine for Sony shareholders but the losses posted over the last few years is more of a migraine for the consumer. Sony, once a leading brand plays second fiddle to Samsung and Apple. I’m a loyal Sony fan but over the years they seem to be getting quite good at losing ground. A technological company should have ground-breaking news every 6 months, I no longer see this. Not with a lot of other companies as well – companies meaning ICT, consumer electronics, industrial electronics and well, just automobiles. We add, subtract and rotate but things just seem to stay the same. I’d like to open a magazine and say “wow, this is something I’m going to buy.” Must the latest fad cost an arm and a leg?  The best in “Stuff” magazine mostly appears so. Granted, there’s some beautiful crafted equipment out there but mostly we just seem to be improving not being different. SAAB was different, maybe we should be speaking to their engineers. Apple IS different, that’s what makes them possibly better.


I have been reading up on our big techno companies – Sanyo goes the Panasonic way, Aiwa messed up by Sony (they were messed up in the first place but made good equipment). Sun Micro Systems lost the plot and I wonder if Microsoft is also going to lose the race. The race may be time or consumer tiredness. A lot of these companies lose a CEO and find themselves on the wrong side of the tracks. It wasn’t long ago that Apple wasn’t looking too pretty. Well done on getting Steve back. He may have been a difficult person but visionaries are seldom boring. In the recession we seem to losing a lot more than money, we seem to be losing our minds.

Top techno countries produce top results at a school level. Yet I’m not a believer of thinking that top students make brilliant visionaries. Far from it. I’m not a believer of top students being innovative either – I believe that in a situation where one needs to make a plan to find a solution it’s not always high IQ that wins. Is this a problem – are we hiring the best graduates for a job which can be done by someone of normal intellect. I do believe so. I do believe that top graduates have the engineering background to lend their knowledge out to improve on but not necessarily to invent. Because a man lives in the backwoods doesn’t make him an imbecile. far from it – he has to learn to adapt. Ever notice how so many of our bright sparks lack common sense?

Right now I’d like to know why inductance heaters or cookers have not been made cheaper for the consumer market? Why the inflation rate is always lower than what you calculate? Why we sit with a global energy crises yet we are more technologically advanced than ever before? Why there is still no cure for the common cold?  Why we are more technologically advanced but have less leisure time than ever before? Why there is more crime, why there is less money, why there is a recession in the first place?

Has Samsung really been that innovative or do they have a top class marketing team?  Years back Wang Laboratories lost the big race to Microsoft because they failed to see that a word processor would never be enough. Of course Visicalc grew on to be more famous than what they anticipated – it became Lotus 123, Microsoft Excel was derived from Apple’s Excel – see Brief History of Spreadheets and after IBM acquired Lotus, Microsoft Excel grew to be the juggernaut of modern times. Excel doesn’t have much opposition, especially in the corporate world. But being innovative means going one step further – why not incorporate Excel into Access? Now that would be clever wouldn’t it? From flat file database to a relational database.

Not that long ago silver was the colour to choose. Then black. Then white. Then black again. People pay a lot for these changes but it’s hardly innovative. Cars are produced front wheel drive or rear wheel drive – take your choice. Now AWD – at double the price. Cars are certainly safer than what they were years ago but has road accidents declined? To save yourself from being killed you shouldn’t have an accident in the first place. The motor industry, the Swedes are spectacular at this, spend vast sums of money to make your car safer AND faster. The speed limit is 120KM/Hr but your car can do Mach II. So what we spend on the roundabouts we lose on the swings. A jalopy in the hands of a skilled driver is better than an expensive supercar in the hands of an imbecile. Are we doing something wrong here? An impressive roadkill is normally because of high speeds – no matter how safe your car is you will be killed when you smash into a tree at 160Km/Hr.

Back to Sony. I hear that Sony should never have started the Bravia project – this has lead to their downfall. Yet Trinitron was a brilliant concept. Now that was innovative.  This was in the early to mid 70’s. Now we move forward to all those flat screen monitors that came out with visible horizontal stabiliser wires. Nice picture but definitely not so innovative. Any TV engineer could tell you this, high res or not. Now all our TV receivers use the same technology but again there is a race against time – as new technology comes out its expensive, the price drops as new technology comes in and the result is an endless loop. Doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. This may sound negative but I do agree, the HD picture is definitely better than TV pictures of 20 years ago. I don’t agree on the theory that Sony shouldn’t have gone that route – I used to fix TVs at one time and Sony made exceptional TV sets. But so did Panasonic and Phillips. I think Sony made a huge mistake by ditching Aiwa when they acquired it a few years back. Audio technology is not something you want to buy to make better.

On to Phillips. When last were they innovative?  The American juggernauts? The British? All sitting back and having their plans and dreams dashed by the Asians. I have no doubt that some of the top companies if not all employ British, American, Dutch and French engineers and scientists but once the day is over copyright is theirs, not the Brits.  Ever wondered whether these companies speak to their junior staff and ask them what they think?  Or their children? I doubt it because nobody has ever asked me what I’d like in a television receiver. Or computer. Or motor car. Or cooker. I’m sure the man on the street could tell these companies a lot of what they need to know without the company telling them what they should know. Cellphones and the over 80’s is a case in point.

As we seem to reach saturation point many techno companies are now going the green route which to my mind of thinking possibly is just another way to hook your buck. We still walk around with our eyes closed when it comes to harnessing the sun’s energy – do we use the heat or the light? Many years back we had the wind up radio – now that is clearly innovative. Is there no way we could use the bending motion of a tree, even in light wind to generate power. Think of each little leaf generating a minute current which can be fed into an accumulator. This way we’ll grow more trees and everyone wins. We move our computer mouse but we don’t use the mouse motion to charge the batteries inside. Chargers built inside our shoes? Emergency backup battery inside your cell phone – remember your car has an emergency fuel light which is really of no use once you are 5 or 7 liters out of range of the next fuel stop.

Companies should start making a concerted effort into finding out what people want – they have the R&D and in most cases their own or government money to make things happen.  Modern LED vehicle tail-lights often look hideous and can even make or break a deal. Roll up TV sets look great on the Discovery Channel but would you buy one?

Some great gadgets:

  • Safety Pin
  • The modern flush toilet system.
  • Television.
  • VCR.
  • CDs, DVDs and Blu-Ray.
  • Home computer.
  • Notebook.
  • Computer Mouse.
  • Inkjet Printer.
  • Internet.
  • Cell phone.
  • Washing line peg.
  • Velcro.
  • Electric drill.
  • Cordless drill.
  • Zipper.
  • Record Player.
  • Open Reel Tape Recorder.
  • Cassette Player.
  • Radio.
  • Walkman/Discman.
  • Helicopter.
  • Radar.
  • Sonar.
  • SCUBA/Aqualung.
  • Clock.
  • The wheel.
  • Internal Combusion.
  • Steam Engine.
  • Printing Press.

You will note that everything above changed our lives. Changing the colour of a television set or monitor doesn’t, neither does clapping your hands to switch a light on unless you are wheel chair bound. This list is absolutely endless – full of useless junk which dies a natural death when the next bit of market driven drivel appears in the media.

And maybe that’s it – we follow the market because we aren’t leaders.




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