Business history is replete with examples of companies that had it all: the hard assets, the skills, the strong market positions – and yet still lost their way. Take Sony, the global leader in electronic entertainment through the 1990s. Sony’s music players, phones and computers were iconic; its movie studios and publishing companies were leaders in their fields. And yet Apple – 20 years ago a struggling niche computer maker with no presence in entertainment – has taken what many at Sony regarded as their rightful place. How so?
As Sony commentators describe it, instead of working together, the managers of the different businesses fought to keep their independence. Attempts to integrate and rival Apple’s iTunes flickered and faded.