Editor's Note: Sea Change, See Future

August 12, 2014

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In May, Sony posted a net loss of $1.26 billion in its 2014 fiscal year, as it continues its multiyear restructuring. Last week, the company announced it is exiting the e-reader market, following its departure of the PC business earlier this year. Once the consumer electronics king, Sony's struggle shows the price to be paid for not adapting to change.

The other day, feeling reminiscently, I went onto a Walkman fan site and spent some idle time perusing the chitchat among collectors of vintage personal cassette stereos and looking at photos of one of the greatest consumer products in history.

I did that shortly after getting news that Sony is exiting the e-reader business just like the PC business. Once an infallible titan, the company's retreat was a necessary ignominy as part of a multiyear restructuring to get back to profitability after years of letting its stranglehold on personal audio and brand pizzazz slip away to Apple and the iPod, before finally forfeiting its consumer electronics crown altogether. Getting out of the losing battle with Amazon’s Kindle was just another example of how innovation and technology leadership passed Sony by in just about every area where it competed because it was too confident or slow to adapt, as in the case of sticking with physical audio media when MP3 was taking over.

Sony’s struggle represents the high price to be paid when we don’t embrace and follow change -- though my personal and sentimental sides ache for the company's comeback as an idea-driven brand that can consistently deliver hit products again, like its PlayStation game console. I grew up in a Sony household, with my dad swearing by its TVs and products, and like everyone, I had a Walkman. It would be a real shame to keep looking at Sony with a sense of nostalgia instead of renewed excitement. William Ng, Editor-in-Chief, wng@thomasnet.com

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