Carefully watch how people live, get an intuitive sense of what they might want
and then go with it. Don’t do market research.
— Akio Morita *
A FEW GENERATIONS AGO, SONY WAS WHAT APPLE IS TODAY.
Sony co-founder Akio Morita believed in finding problems consumers wanted to solve: like listen to music on the go; make home videos; and watch tv programs later.
Morita was a genius and a great businessman. He was even willing to sacrifice a profitable product and replace it with something better.
One day, Morita told his engineers to make their best-selling camcorder smaller. The engineers argued it was impossible.
He said, If I drop this in a bucket of water and bubbles come out, it can be made smaller.
The bucket arrived. He dropped the camera in. The engineers huddled around… and bubbles came out.
Morita turned and walked out of the room.
* Akio Morita (1921-1999) was trained to take over the family business in sake and soy sauce, but his calling was in math and physics.
In 1946, in a bombed-out building with $350, Morita and his partner founded Sony. Morita was 25.
Sony soon invented magnetic recording tape and the first tape recorder. In 1957, the company released the first pocket-sized transistor radio. When the radio proved too big for the shirt pockets of his employees, Morita made shirts with bigger pockets.
In 1973, Sony unveiled Trinitron technology followed by the first Betamax home video recorder, a year before VHS format came out. In 1979, the Walkman was introduced, making it the world's first portable music player. In 1984, Sony launched the Discman series which played CDs.
In 1994, Morita stepped down as Sony chairman and died in 1999 of pneumonia. The company struggled with new product development soon after Morita left and lost its prominence for innovation before the digital revolution in music.