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I’m a sucker for a fallen-idol turnaround story. The surprise record profits forecasted Tuesday by Sony counts as a comeback for the ages.
As Reuters explains, Sony (SNE) predicts its profits will mark a peak for the first time since 1998, when its PlayStation first appeared and when its film unit struck gold with Men in Black. Like much of corporate Japan generally, Sony, its home country’s global champion, went into a multi-year tailspin. Sony’s problems were many: brutal competition for its once-dominant television group; being bested by Apple’s (AAPL) iPod, a humiliation for the Walkman pioneer; high-cost manufacturing in Japan; a failure to seize the music-streaming initiative despite years of trying.
Yet like Microsoft (MSFT), Samsung, and IBM (IBM) before it, Sony had enough stalwart businesses to keep fighting. Now a hit mobile game, an in-demand mobile sensor for smartphones, and its still-popular PlayStation console have driven Sony’s return.
For all the (appropriate) emphasis on China’s growth and Silicon Valley’s innovation, it’s somehow reassuring to be reminded that Japan remains an economic powerhouse and that at least one of its marquee companies still has some tricks up its sleeve.