Sony Corporation, Japanese electronics manufacturer, with headquarters in Tokyo. Sony designs, manufactures, and sells electronic equipment. It is a leader in the development of consumer electronics goods, such as videocassette recorders, cellular and cordless telephones, compact disc equipment, and television systems. Sony also manufactures computers and related devices. The company owns and operates Columbia TriStar Pictures and the Columbia and Epic record labels, and it owns a 50-percent stake in the Columbia House music and video club. Sony has affiliates and subsidiaries in North, Central, and South America; Europe; the Middle East; Asia; and Australia.
Sony actively encourages innovation by its employees. Design engineers are given budgets and time for innovation and experimentation. The company holds an annual contest in which engineers show off their prototypes; bonuses are awarded to those whose prototypes are selected for eventual manufacture and marketing. Sony continually makes and offers new products, most of which are tested in the Japanese market. Sony has been particularly successful in the United States market; however, it is outsold in Japan and elsewhere by Matsushita, another Japanese electronics giant.
The company was established in 1946 by founder Morita Akio as Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo Kabushiki Kaisha (Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation) and changed its name to Sony Corporation in 1958. In 1960 it established the Sony Corporation of America in New York City and Sony S.A. in Switzerland. In 1961 Sony became the first Japan-based company to offer its shares on the United States stock market.
In the late 1970s Sony introduced the Walkman, a portable headset stereo system, and later the Watchman, a television small enough to be worn as a wristwatch. Sony's Betamax, with the Beta videotape format, was the first home videotape recorder on the market, but the system was eventually replaced by the Video Home System (VHS) videotape format invented by the Victor Company of Japan (JVC); the VHS format became the industry standard for home video recording. Sony’s Betacam system is now the standard in commercial broadcasting equipment, however.
With the acquisition of CBS Records, Inc., in 1988 and Columbia Pictures Entertainment, Inc., in 1989, Sony became a major force in the recording, motion-picture, and television production industries. In 1994 the company released Sony PlayStation, a wildly successful computer game console that featured highly sophisticated graphics. In 2000 Sony debuted PlayStation 2, an advanced game console that also offered the ability to play audio compact discs (CDs) and digital video discs (DVDs). In 2006 Sony introduced PlayStation 3 with the ability to play Blu-ray discs that have five times the memory storage of a DVD. The high-end version of PlayStation 3 also featured built-in Wi-Fi and a 60-gigabyte hard drive.