During the 1950s, a Japanese typewriter manufacturer was acquired by the electronics giant Tokyo Shibaura Denki, better known as Toshiba. That subsidiary was then merged with another Toshiba arm that produced business computers in 1984. The following year that division released what Toshiba promotes as the “first mass-market laptop computer,” the T1100. Since then they have represented Japanese-produced laptops internationally. Over the decades however the Toshiba laptop brand has been steadily overshadowed by other names, increasingly falling into a market niche with nothing they made standing out. Ultimately that led to Toshiba giving majority stake of its laptop business to Sharp, with the latter coming to full ownership last week.
The Verge has it that Toshiba announced August 4 its full divestment of their laptop subsidiary, Dynabook Inc., to fellow Japanese electronics stalwart Sharp Corporation. This was the culmination of a deal from two years ago, when in 2018 Toshiba sold 4/5 of its ownership stake in Toshiba Client Solutions Co. Ltd. to Sharp Corp. for $36 million. That transaction led to the Toshiba laptop division to be renamed Dynabook Inc., after their laptop trademark.
The deal also gave Sharp an option to fully buy out Dynabook from Toshiba in the future, and back in June they finally exercised the right to do so for the remaining 1/5 Toshiba stake. In doing so, Dynabook has been a full Sharp Corp. subsidiary since last week. This marks the end of 35 years from which one of Japan’s oldest electronics brands has been involved in the portable computer market in addition to its claim of having manufactured the first truly commercial laptop. In the future, if more Dynabook laptops will come out it might carry the Sharp logo on its lid instead.
Toshiba’s tenure in the laptop business came about in the late 1970s when an executive from their Business Machines Company read a research paper on portable computing by computer scientist Alan C. Kay. That led to the 1985 Toshiba 1100, a laptop with rechargeable battery, 256K memory and a 3.5 floppy disk drive (no HDD). Priced at only $2,000 its success led to a succession of new models, eventually introducing the Toshiba Dynabook label in 1989. While still one of the market leaders during the 1990s and early 2000s, Toshiba’s basic design and lack of unique features compared to the newer laptop brands led to its gradual decline and irrelevance.
Interestingly, Sharp Corporation, despite being a long-running Japanese electronics brand, is itself currently under the majority ownership of new-generation electronics giant, Foxconn Group from Taiwan.
Image courtesy of Business Standard