Toshiba Is Officially out of the Laptop Business
The Company Sells its Remaining Shares of the PC Business to Sharp
On August 4, 2020, Toshiba announced that it has transferred the remaining 19.9% outstanding shares in Dynabook Inc. to Sharp Corporation. As a result, Dynabook has become a wholly owned subsidiary of Sharp. This step follows the initial transfer in October 2018 of 80.1% of Toshiba Client Solutions Co Ltd (TCS) to Sharp for a reported $36 million. In January 2019, TCS changed its name to Dynabook.
Why Is It Important?
This is the end of an era for Toshiba and yet another display of industry consolidation and Japanese companies saving each other. Toshiba made the first Laptop PC in 1985—pursuing (at that time) an innovative strategy that built on mobility, smaller size, and power saving. Many of the key components were developed in-house including semiconductors, a 3.5-inch floppy disk drive, and a large liquid crystal display. At the time, the T1100 weighed 4.1kg.
|The World’s First Laptop PC - the T1100
Source: Toshiba Science Museum
During the 1990s and the early 2000s, Toshiba was among the world’s top PC manufacturers. Overtime, the market became crowded with often lower-priced devices, and Toshiba’s uniqueness waned; only the very large contenders (Apple, Dell, Lenovo) remained. It comes as no surprise for those that understand Japanese culture that Sharp would step in to retain the technology.
What Does This Mean for Toshiba?
Sharp has a serious interest in expanding their own IT offerings to carve their way through the next decade as margins and new customer opportunities for placing office equipment continue to be squeezed. Having been bought out by Foxconn in 2016, the new owner provided financial stability for Sharp to realign and concentrate on its technology expertise. Since then, Sharp has expanded its coverage of document and display solutions to comprise large format display, video conferencing, collaboration solutions, cloud and IT services, as well as having built up their own protected direct channel through dealer acquisition.
What does this mean for the remaining business units at Toshiba and (in particular) for the business solutions group? An industry in transition is a moving target. With the shift to digital already taking content away from print, one needs to offer more than a fleet of MFPs to survive in the office equipment today. Toshiba has been focusing on the point of sale (POS) industry for a while now, contrary to other players expanding their scope within office technologies. As a minimum, workplace services need to be at the forefront of the portfolio—especially now as the current pandemic has forced people to work from home and driven PC sales up higher than ever imagined. (It has also driven central office printing devices down.)
There is also a lot to be said for the merging of forces in consolidating markets. We have seen several successful vendor mergers/acquisitions in this industry, such as Kyocera & Mita as well as Konica & Minolta. The Toshiba brand has so much strength and longevity in technology and innovation that I would hate to see go to waste.