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Morita, architect of Sony, dies

Marketing genius who helped build postwar Japan

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Sony co-founder Akio Morita died yesterday, aged 78. Aside from building Sony, which started up in the ruins of Tokyo at the end of World War II, Morita was a (arguably the) major force in the construction of the Japanese consumer electronics industry, and in changing the image of Japanese products from cheap trash into the IT-savvy, 'zero defect' picture of today. Under Morita Sony became by design one of the most Western-facing of Japanese companies, willing to take risks and go it alone with new product lines and initiatives, and - largely - reaping the benefits. Transistor radios, VCRs, CDs and the Walkman all came out of Sony. On the debit side the company's Betamax tape format famously didn't make it as the standard, and its forays into film and audio have been hugely expensive. But the overall balance sheet clearly remains massively in Sony's favour, and although Morita hasn't been active in the company since a stroke six years ago, he was the man primarily responsible for building the giant we see today. ®

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