For the record, I did not write this blog, I actually just read it on another forum I visit, but I thought it was very interesting and enjoyed it very much that I thought I'd share it with all of you. The blogger who wrote this goes by Jaybone073 Hope you all find this as interesting as I did.
I first want to warn everyone that this is going to be a rather lengthy story. I have something similar to this posted in the PSU forums so you may have already seen this. I only thought of placing it here because many people liked it and I thought as a new GAP mamber you guys would enjoy it also. I created this story for people to gain a better understanding of Sony as a whole and help shed some light on why the company may do things the way they do them. This story will be as fact filled as possible but will contain some of my personal views also.
First, I would like to say that I'm very excited to now be a GAP member, my experience here for these few short hours has been very enjoyable. I hope you enjoy the following story and please feel free to let me know your opinions as well.
Historian and philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. This phrase has stuck with me for more than two decades since I was in middle school. I often times forget that as a rather impatient American gamer that you have to understand a company so that you can understand its product. I wish to start with a brief history of Sony and finish with what I hope to be helpful answers to most often debated topics.
Brief History of Sony
Just after World War II in 1945 a man named Masaru Ibuka started a small radio shop in an old bombed-out building in Tokyo, Japan. Shortly afterwards, he was joined by friend and colleague Akio Morita. They founded the company Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo.
In the early 1950’s Ibuka found himself fascinated by the transistor invented by Bell Labs. Curious to use it for communication purposes, Ibuka traveled to the United States and after much convincing obtained a license to use it. In the mid 1950’s Ibuka and Morita had built the first commercially successful transistor radio. It was not the first transistor radio. Regency and Texas Instruments were already given the credit of being the first.
Shortly after in 1955 the company released the TR-55. It was Japan’s first commercially produced radio. Quickly following came the TR-6, a slimmer version (funny how history repeats itself isn’t it) and with it the cartoon character “Atchan”. Atchan went on to represent the company in many ads for a wide range of products.
It was around this time, in the mid 1950’s, that Ibuka and Morita had a small problem as to what to name the company for global purposes. Since getting involved in the American market due to the rise of Rock and Roll music, they had to find a name that would work. First, came the thought to use the initials of the company, but TKK was taken by a Japanese railroad company at the time. Next, came the name “Totsuko”. It was well received, but the American public had a difficult time pronouncing it. Morita thought of the Atchan character and came up with the name Sony. A mix of the Latin word meaning son and sonny (little boy) the company officially changed the name to Sony in January of 1958. Morita also decided to use roman lettering on the building in Tokyo rather than the popular kanji. At this time, the use of such lettering was almost unheard of. This showed a forward thinking of the company and how strong the company’s future would be in the American market.
While not always being the first to create something, Sony was always successful at making some of the best products in electronics. Many of the products that did come first were almost all “in-house” creations. The most famous of these creations spawned one the most memorable format wars in recent history. Sony’s creation – Betamax went up against JVC’s VHS format. Over time, Sony lost the format war to JVC and VHS became the household standard. Despite the loss, the format was superior to VHS and for nearly a quarter century television and motion picture companies utilized the Betacam and Betamax for taping shows and films. Many of the television shows you grew up with were done on Betamax. Recently a Supreme Court ruling decided that all broadcast signals and shows were to be done digitally by 2009, thus killing the Betamax format for good.
Betamax was not the first pioneer effort by Sony. 1982 saw Philips and Sony team up to produce the Compact Disc (CD). A year later, Sony introduced 90mm diskettes, which are now more commonly known as 3.5 floppy disks. After a few losses elsewhere, 3.5 floppy made the company extremely successful again. The format did become dominant, but was eventually rendered obsolete a few years later to more current formats.
In 1984, Sony released the Walkman. While the Walkman was a superior product, there were dozens of companies who adopted the style and eventually “Walkman” became more of a household name for any portable radio.
The 1990’s spawned another format war, this time between Sony’s MultiMedia Compact Disc (MMCD) and Toshiba’s Super Density Disc (SD). Sony eventually had to call it quits and agree to Toshiba’s format if one exception was made, the disc was to incorporate the viz EFMPlus feature. The unified disc became know as – can you guess it – DVD in 1997.
In 1993 Sony jumped on the sound wagon again and challenged audio giant Dolby. Sony had created an eight channel (7.1) audio format. This opposed the six channel (5.1) Dolby Digital. The eight-channel format called Sony Dynamic Digital Sound (SDDS) also included a backup system of mirrored arrays in the event of film damage. Once again, Sony would have to back down as Dolby overpowered the industry. Dolby still remains to this day the motion picture standard for all audio.
In 1994, Sony decided to roll out a new product and join in an already new type of war, the console war. Taking on a new market for them, Sony introduced the PlayStation. The console became extremely successful and was later succeeded by the PlayStation 2 in 2000 then the PlayStation 3 in 2006. Sony’s first venture in the gaming market was a resounding success and propelled the company to the forefront of the industry. The PlayStation brand extended itself to the portable gaming market with the release of the PlayStation Portable (PSP) in 2005 and began to push the new format of Universal Media Disc (UMD) as a format for movies. The idea didn’t catch on and major motion picture companies stopped support in early 2006.
Sony joined forces with eight other companies (Matsushita, LG, Pioneer, Philips, Thomson, Samsung, Sharp and Hitachi) in May of 2002 to create and begin to find a way to market Blu-ray Disc (BD). Until February 19, 2008, it was locked in a format war with rival Toshiba and its HD-DVD format. Toshiba announced on that day that it would no longer produce the HD-DVD format and Blu-ray became victorious.
Over the years, consumers have seen the following formats come and go, come and stay, or even come and fail.
So why the history lesson and what does it serve? I wanted everyone to see that Sony is a company that takes chances and risks. They are creative and bold and don’t always finish out on top. However, they have always made a superior product and bring the customer, as well as the electronics industry, to the cutting edge. If you study the history of something you are more likely to understand why it is in your home, or if you don’t have it, why you should or shouldn’t purchase it. It also helps to study a company track record so that one may understand their marketing and development strategies. This also helps answer some of the questions and rumors that people often say are facts. Here are a few examples:
Does Sony lose money with the PS3?
At first, Sony was losing a lot of money. Televisions and cameras were always a great business for them, but the gaming industry was evolving at such a more rapid rate than others in the electronics field. Sony teamed up with IBM and Toshiba (imagine that) to create the Cell Broadband Engine, which is the processing core of the PS3. This, along with the chipsets and diodes for the expensive Blu-ray format player, and research and development costs (undisclosed), made the PS3 more expensive to manufacture than to sell with the $600 price tag that accompanied the launch model 60GB. Since the parts were created and not mass-produced this caused a hefty expense to Sony.
Sony delays everything good and then gives it to the Japanese first, why?
The answer to this is as plain as the nose on your face. Sony is a Japanese based company. It stands to reason that products Sony makes will be available for the Japanese first. Think of it this way; the Japanese are the “beta-testers” of the world. Take that statement figuratively as we all know there are beta testers all over the world. If something has problems it would be easier to fix it from the home base. I, being an American gamer, can easily say that we, as American gamers, are among the most spoiled, impatient people on the planet. Sony realizes this but utilizes the Japanese market simply due to proximity. Japan is the geographical stronghold and it’s just something you will have to get used to.
As far as delays go, the history lesson proves this hands down. Sony was NOT the first company to build the transistor radio, but was the first to have a highly successful one. Sony was NOT the first to create recording devices for film, but had the best format for recording for three decades with Betamax. Sony was NOT the first company to develop a 32 bit gaming system, but obliterated the competition with the PlayStation. Sony was NOT the first to create a motion-sensing controller (the first, surprisingly, was created in 1995), but has the most technologically advanced motion controller to date. And lastly, Sony is NOT the first company to have an online gaming community, but will probably have the best there is for years to come when Home is released. Sony has been, and most likely will be, behind creators as far as timeline, but will be miles ahead of them with the end product. These things take time for a reason; so you can own the best there is.
I’m not getting a PS3 until there is another price cut.
This is ridiculous. Price cuts only hurt the company and lower the influx of revenue to research and development for future products. It’s because of the U.S. market and phrases like this that prompted Sony to have two launch models and now have four models since the inception of the PS3. Americans want the best for the cheapest price. To get that price Sony has to modify things and give you a product that is “missing” something. Sony, in its history, has never made a faulty or “quick-build” of any product. Screaming about the price is the reason the 60GB model was canned. Cry all you want, but it was the consumer who had Sony throw away the perfect build.
We want games in 1080p. Sony has Blu-ray so why are there so little 1080p games?
Again, you have to look at the consumer household as a whole to get this answer. How many people really own a high-definition big screen with a 1080p native resolution? I can assure you the number is quite small. Sony doesn’t sit on its hands, it uses the best there is, but to put all games in 1080p format is very challenging from the development angle. To get images that sharp often require a loss of colors available in the pallette, thus making the game look "too animated". Although Blu-ray is the winner of the format war, it is still in its early stages and developers are more interested right now in harnessing the processing power of the PS3. Once again, you have to use patience in this area. Plus more people are going to get on the HD bandwagon soon. It’s all just boiling down to time.
All in all, what I want to conclude with is this. The next time before you bash someone who said the PS3 is lame, for complaining about the system cost, or for saying something negative, pick up your PS3 controller and look at your PS3 console for a moment. Hold it, realizing you have control of the best gaming machine on the planet. Take the time to understand that you have come a long way from Space Invaders and Pong to games like Call of Duty 4 and Uncharted. Take the time to realize that only you and others who were smart like you can engage in a video chat conference via the PSEye. Take the time to recognize the company that started out in a bombed-out building in post-war Japan took great strides and cost to give you and everyone else the right to complain. Take the time to see that you have one of the only Blu-ray players that can reach its full potential through firmware updates. Take the time to realize that you are not just holding a controller, but that you are holding and being part of history in the making.
Take the time to Play Beyond – and be thankful you can!
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