Why Japan can't compete with Apple and Samsung


I seem to recall that certain Android manufacturers are routinely lambasted for trying to customize the Android UI in the direction of stupid. But I’m an ios man so I don’t really know the details.

The thing about a DSLR is that it’s optimized for taking pictures. It fits your hand (not your pocket or your purse) and if you get a high end model, all the features for taking pictures are available with a single button press or a discrete dial, or an actual physical switch that you can trigger blindly. Once you go beyond the traditional, though, it’s very much

you are in a maze of twisty little menu options all alike.


I never use the software menus on my Nikon, just the physical controls, and after the frustration of trying to use the software on the first digital camera I bought (a Konika Minolta - whose software I think largely forms the basis of Sony’s, or did), I’m not buying a camera without physical controls.

I’d like an RX1, but a) I can’t afford it and b) it seems a lot of money for something without a viewfinder. I really don’t like using screens to frame photos.


I remember when there was a big push to get firewire onto settop boxes, so that you could record mpeg2 streams. I tried to set up a terrestrial box to do that, but it turned out that the tuner was too insensitive to deliver a stream worth recording.


I’d like an RX1, but a) I can’t afford it and b) it seems a lot of money for something without a viewfinder. I really don’t like using screens to frame photos.

From a review

As you can see from the top view, the Sony has achieved such a small body in part by omitting both a hotshoe and optical viewfinder. The RX100’s fixed LCD screen and lack of a hand grip has also kept keep the body nice and slim.

yeah, there are some real disadvantages to “nice and slim” unless

your best camera is the one you have with you

is the controlling factor on how and why you take pictures.

Also, if you take framing seriously, a 100 percent optical viewfinder is big, bulky, and expensive.


I’m actually quite happy to lug my D90 around with me, but something smaller would be nicer. I guess an Alpha 7 would be more sensible than the RX1…or perhaps a Fuji X100s…

My phone takes dreadful pictures (it’s a Nexus 5. Seriously, my Nokia N8 from 4 years ago was a million times better).


[wikipedia’s entry][1]

It’s interesting how none of the cameras could be described as top of the A7 range. They’re all carefully positioned with massive tradeoffs.

4k video, phase contrast focus, and magnesium case? No can do.
[1]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sony_Alpha_7


Actually MiniDisc was very popular here in Japan for quite a long time. The Clies sold pretty well here too and there were lots of interesting accessories for them like a camera and GPS receiver.

As for the VirtualBoy you ought to read up some more. The engineering lead on that was Gumpei Yokoi who developed the GameBoy and thus considered to be able to do no wrong. Though the form factor was “problematic” it was fairly impressive engineering for the price and manufacturing limitations of the time. The problem was more the complete inability to get any third party developers of note to sign on for it and it being released at an odd time in the economic cycle here.

While from a business viewpoint, the overall over engineering of Japanese consumer electronics is problematic, on the other hand it keeps lots of engineers employed and does in fact seem to satisfy Japanese consumer “needs”. The problem comes on reliance of an export driven business model. Its pretty hard to keep all those engineers employed when your overseas customers don’t in fact want all those features.


What is? Even the dystopia is shit. And, this summer, I can’t find a pair of mirrorshades to fit my giant goddamn head for love nor money. I feel so fucking cheated, man…


My 2c (not all specifically to fuzzy):

I’d contend that Sony has always made top-of-class android phones and tablets but, like their vaio line, none of them was cost efficient at all. Sony’s best xperia model has always been 100-200 bucks more than samsung’s best phone/tablet.

Japan’s “feature phones” were to be raved about IMO, partly because they commonly included features that we dreamed of in the west (sd slot, flash on the camera, TV reception, rotating/flipping screens, internet browsing and email as standard) but also because they were ahead in things like email on phones (you couldn’t get a phone without an email address as email addresses is how you’d communicate between networks), codified and uniform emoji that would work between networks and, most importantly: a limited range of charging plugs. When I lived there there was only 3 types - irrespective of manufacturer or model. You could also buy battery recharge packs from any convenience store.

IRT user interfaces: I’ll agree that some things are simply unusable junk created by a crazy person, but when it comes to the PS4 at least I think they’ve got it VERY right. Some things are entirely stupid still (why can’t I simply send a game invite to someone with one click, instead of inviting them, having to wait to edit the default message, which I never want to do, and then navigate to the send button?) but for the most part I think Sony has done a fantastic job with PS4 UI.


I’m pretty sure that describes just about every bloom [sic]. Anyone who “thinks different” suffers from born on third base syndrome.


i think part of the software smartphone problem is the result of the terrible phone companies in japan.
for instance: people are locked into plans which charge extra to call and sms to folks on other plans. ( most people dont text they use a form of email, because sms is too expensive. ) and, if you transfer provider you generally have to buy a new phone.
so, there’s been basically been no reason to innovate.
with voip, some newish data only plans, and pressure from foreign companies like apple, it’s maybe now starting to get a bit better.


From five years ago,

why Japan’s cell phones haven’t gone global


IIRC the big three mobile telcos here did not use mutually interoperable emoji for years (see the wikipedia article) and there were/are far more than 3 types of charger plugs. NTT DoCoMo alone had different ones for their FOMA and non FOMA handsets, their PHS handsets used another type and there was at least one more that I recall. AU and Vodaphone/Softbank were no better in this respect.


Well, I think this is referring to Rob’s commentary on the RX100 being a nightmare to use. I have a Nex 5T, and have to agree - the hardware is amazing, I love it in that respect… But the software? My god. What a disaster. But yeah, not so much a Japan-specific thing (since Canon and Nikon have it figured out, for the most part)… Very much a Sony-specific thing. Though my understanding is that the latest and greatest Sony cameras have a much improved menu system.

Edited to add: @beschizza seems to disagree with me, further down the thread, with regards to the software for Nikon and Canon cameras… But while things like Magic Lantern allow people people to beef up their existing cameras, I think the reasoning behind not adding those features into cameras is more along the lines of “Don’t cannibalize from our higher end products” than “we just don’t want to add that functionality in”. At least in some respects. I liked Magic Lantern, but found it to be a bit finicky and unstable at times.


Sony is worse, for sure, on the usability front.

Canon and Nikon might have the same “Japan” problems – the sprawling corporate structure, archaic user interfaces, the million useless support websites, conservative labor market, exchange rates – but both are more focused on imaging products and it shows in all sorts of ways.

They’re seem more protective of their professional segments than other companies, too. The studiously low-end character of Nikon and Canon consumer gear is why Sony managed to steal their buzz.

With Sony, though, it almost seems like an accident. Perhaps the company is just such a mess that the pro camera “division” simply can’t stop the consumer camera cybershot people from packing in new technology that threatens them.

Panasonic cameras seem to have quite nice user interfaces, and certainly a less maddening ecosystem, but overall seems to be in much the same place as sony: too big, too many problems.


Most likely this. Sony is notoriously silo’d in this respect and the lords of each silo seem to be perfectly happy to stick it to the next guy.


I used to buy Sony all the time. Now I have a PS3 and a TV, but that’s it.

The first problem was that Sony’s quality went to hell in the 90s. Samsung hardware was more reliable as well as cheaper, so I switched to Samsung for monitors. The original PS2 was a horrible piece of hardware compared to the GameCube.

The second problem was bad product design, crippling the products with “features” that the customer didn’t want but which would benefit Sony – like only supporting ATRAC audio compression, only supporting Memory Stick, and so on.

The third problem, yes, is the software. E-book readers and music players that required a Windows desktop, poorly kludged PalmOS variants, buggy digital TVs, and so on.

The PSP and PS Vita are a great example of Sony’s failures. If you want to sell a portable game system, you need to be able to go from “in pocket” to “playing game” in about 5 seconds. Nintendo understand this; Sony do not. The load times for some PSP games were agonizing. Nintendo let you use any old SD card; Sony require that you buy a proprietary memory card from them.

The one thing Sony did right is that they realized they couldn’t possibly compete at making lenses, and had Zeiss make their high end camera lenses.


I own this piece of Sony gear-- as an instance of industrial design it’s superb.

Despite the relatively small size of the display, (there’s no video out), the menu system is very easy to use-- twist a knob to change the menu item, press the knob to confirm.

Plus, the tray is so very solid. There’s no flopping around, no chance of misaligning something or breaking anything. There’s a black (non ES) version for plebeians.


The PSP has sold nearly 81 million units worldwide. I don’t think Sony considers that a failure. The Vita isn’t quite as successful, though.


I had one of those once. It simply stopped working one day, for no particular reason.