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A spent technological force?

Japan: A spent technological force?

Walkman, compact disc, VCR, DVD, PlayStation; It reads like a roll call of the coolest gadgets of the last three decades, and Japan is responsible for making the bulk of them. From the Sony transistor radio in the 1950s to today’s global megahit, the Nintendo Wii, the technological prowess of Japan’s corporations has been a key engine of its economic success since its rise from the ashes of the Second World War.

But is the world’s second largest economy a spent technological force? This concern has been sharpened by the brutal balance-sheet realities of Japan’s once all-conquering consumer electronics sector. Hitachi leads the pack, filing a record annual loss of ┬óG5.3bn this month after announcing worldwide job cuts of 7,000 employees. Panasonic, the brand name of appliance giant Matsushita, has posted its first net loss in six years and will slash 15,000 jobs and shutter 40 factories. In the late 1980s, Matsushita was turning out two-thirds of the world’s video recorders, but now finds itself in a battle for market share with cheaper rivals.


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