The Japanese computer maker had a long run. It made its first laptop in 1985. As Sharwood says:
Toshiba “…claims to have been the first to make a mass-market computer in the now-familiar clamshell form factor. By the 1990s the company was producing solid workhorses in the Satellite range and started to make meaningful stretches of mobile work possible with the small, thin and light Portégé range.”
It’s no accident that the first tiny, portable computers came from Japan. In the 1960s and 1970s country was ahead of the world when it came to miniaturisation. This is the culture that introduced the world to the Sony Walkman.
Space saving Toshiba
There’s another reason laptops took off early in Japan. They take up less room.
Japanese homes and offices have far less space than elsewhere in the world. Even senior managers would have small desks. A desktop computer, which in those days meant a large and heavy CRT display along with a hefty main box, wouldn’t leave much space for anything else.
Toshiba enjoyed an early success in New Zealand. For years it was one of the top five PC brands. In September, 1993 I interviewed an IDC analyst who told me Toshiba was a leading brand here because its products “allowed executives to take work home with them”. The NBR published this story.
In their day Toshiba laptops were great, but as Sharwood reminds us:
“As the 2000s rolled along Toshiba devices became bland in comparison to the always-impressive ThinkPad and the MacBook Air, while Dell and HP also improved. Toshiba also never really tried to capture consumers’ imaginations, which didn’t help growth.”
Toshiba’s fortunes waned. Japan’s followed. The country was never more than a bit player in the PC business after that. NEC faded from sight, at least in New Zealand. The last we heard of Toshiba was years ago. In 2014, it delivered a Chromebook to New Zealand.
Sharp picked up the Toshiba brand two years ago. By then Japan’s remaining visible laptop maker, as far as New Zealand is concerned, was Panasonic with its range of hardened Toughbook models.
Since this was written, the Toshiba brand has resurfaced in New Zealand with Dynabook models.