Hello everyone, this is Akito from Singapore.
About 20 years ago, when I was a young reporter, my work backpack was filled with Japanese electronics products. There was a Sony feature phone, which was on the cutting edge of design at the time, an Olympus voice recorder, a Toshiba music player and a Panasonic digital camera. For a while, I also had an NTT DoCoMo pager clipped to my belt so editors could get a hold of me whenever major news broke. The only non-Japanese brand equipment I used back then was an IBM laptop provided by Nikkei.
And now? The only things I carry around are an iPhone and a MacBook. Over the past two decades, Apple products have replaced almost all of the compact, high-quality electronic devices that Japanese companies once excelled at, squeezing them out of journalists’ backpacks and the global market alike.
But while Panasonic, Toshiba and others have faded almost completely from the consumer device arena, at least one Japanese player has found new ways to hang on.
Sony’s eye for Apple
Among Japanese electronics giants, only Sony Group has maintained a solid position in high-end smartphones — but not through its own Xperia brand. Instead, Sony is a leading supplier of high-performance image sensors that serve as the “eye” of Apple’s iPhone. The strategy of supplying advanced core components to its biggest rivals has paid off — selling image sensors to Apple has become one of Sony’s main sources of income.
Now, the Japanese company plans to supply Apple with its latest state of the art image sensor, with the component expected to feature in the next series of iPhones, writes Nikkei staff writer Keiichi Furukawa.
Sony’s new image sensor can capture more light and reduce over- or underexposure, making it easier to take better pictures even in challenging shooting environments.
Last year, Sony controlled a 44 per cent share of the global market for CMOS image sensors, with Samsung Electronics in second place at 18.5 per cent. However, Sony’s share has declined recently as the Japanese group lost business with one of its key clients, Chinese smartphone maker Huawei Technologies, due to tensions between the US and China.
For Sony, maintaining its strong relationship with Apple will be an essential strategy as the company aims for a 60 per cent market share in the world’s CMOS image sensor market by fiscal 2025.
Jack Ma in Tokyo
Jack Ma, the Alibaba founder and once the richest business leader in China, has been living in central Tokyo for nearly six months, amid Beijing’s ongoing crackdown on the country’s technology sector, write the Financial Times’ Kana Inagaki, Leo Lewis, Ryan McMorrow and Tom Mitchell.
Ma’s stay in Japan with his family has included stints at hot spring and ski resorts in the countryside outside Tokyo and regular trips to the US and Israel, according to people with direct knowledge of his whereabouts.
Since Ma criticised Chinese regulators and state banks two years ago, the billionaire has largely disappeared from public view, while both companies he founded, Ant and ecommerce group Alibaba, have faced a series of regulatory obstacles.
Ma has kept a low profile during his stay in Tokyo, bringing his personal chef and security with him and keeping his public activities to a minimum. His social activities centre around a small handful of private members’ clubs, with one based in the heart of Tokyo’s posh Ginza district and another in the Marunouchi financial district.
He has also used his time in Japan to expand his business interests beyond the ecommerce technologies of his two companies, and into fields of sustainability.
China has spent years and billions of dollars building up its semiconductor capabilities, but there was always one thing Beijing struggled to do: convince Chinese companies to buy Chinese chips.
Washington’s sanctions have changed all that, writes Nikkei Asia’s Cheng Ting-Fang. Huawei Technologies, one of the primary targets of the US crackdown, is quietly building up a domestic supply chain free of American technology. Meanwhile top Chinese chipmakers Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. and Hua Hong Semiconductor have enjoyed record demand from companies suddenly looking to source their components locally.
But healthy demand is only part of the story. Many of the chips made by Chinese companies are for low-end or midrange devices, and a significant portion are manufactured by foreign contract chipmakers. When it comes to the most advanced chips — the focus of American sanctions — China is still far from self-sufficient.
Zero-Covid, unlimited uncertainty
As protests against Beijing’s zero-COVID measures spread, suppliers in China serving Apple, Google and other global brands are bracing for further disruptions, write Nikkei Asia’s Cheng Ting-Fang and Cissy Zhou.
Foxconn factories in Shenzhen and Tianjin have warned employees that they will begin operating under “closed-loop” management this week, people briefed in the matter said, which means frontline workers will be required to live on-site to reduce the risk of outbreaks. Top chipmakers such as Yangtze Memory Technologies Co. in Wuhan and Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. facilities in Beijing entered closed-loop management last week.
But these measures are not the biggest concerns suppliers have. After all, as one Foxconn employee said, the company is “very used to closed-loop management”.
The trouble now is the political uncertainty that has emerged after demonstrations calling for an easing of Covid restrictions broke out across the country. “We are just worried whether authorities will launch massive lockdowns, as a political measure, should more protests pop up,” a manager at a display maker said.
Amid the growing worry and uncertainty, analysts say China’s zero-Covid strategy will remain a source of stress for China-based companies well into next year.
China enlists Alibaba and Tencent in fight against US chip sanctions (FT)
Ajinomoto stock hits record thanks to semiconductor material unit (Nikkei Asia)
Apple’s growth streak under threat as China’s zero-Covid backlash bites (FT)
South Korean prosecutors seek arrest of Terraform co-founder Shin (Nikkei Asia)
Kunio Nakamura, dead at 83, transformed Panasonic as president (Nikkei Asia)
Dutch chip toolmaker ASMI warns of escalating trade tensions (FT)
Blockchain group Animoca to form metaverse fund (Nikkei Asia)
Japanese chip company Ferrotec rejigs supply chains to access US and China (FT)
Singapore’s Temasek to review FTX crypto deal after $275mn hit (Nikkei Asia)
Chinese telecoms groups Huawei and ZTE barred from US sales (FT)
#techAsia is co-ordinated by Nikkei Asia’s Katherine Creel in Tokyo, with assistance from the FT tech desk in London.
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Sony’s Apple strategy and Jack Ma in Tokyo Republished from Source https://www.ft.com/content/9eae6dfd-012f-4793-99b6-01fd926c7178 via https://www.ft.com/companies/technology?format=rss