Hello, Tosh, gotta Toshiba? There's a good chance you do….

Hello, Tosh, gotta Toshiba? There's a good chance you do….

Summary: Toshiba has published an infographic to celebrate sales of 10 million laptops in the UK and Ireland, so you may well own one, though perhaps it's one you no longer use. Now, with the decline of the PC market, the company is focusing more on growth markets such as healthcare and its nuclear power business.

TOPICS: Laptops, Hardware

Toshiba UK says it has now sold 10 million PCs in the UK and Ireland, which is almost one in seven of the population, and has published an infographic (below) to commemorate the event. However, the Japanese conglomerate has slipped out of the Top 5 global PC suppliers and its digital divisions -- computers and televisions -- are currently losing money.

Its new chief executive, Hisao Tanaka, says he isn't quitting these markets, but the company is increasing its focus on the rapidly-growing global healthcare market -- driven by aging populations in developed countries such as Japan -- and other areas, including nuclear power. (In the USA, Toshiba owns Westinghouse Electric.)

Toshiba T1100 Plus
Toshiba T1100 Plus Source: Toshiba UK

In the 1980s, Toshiba launched the first mass-market DOS-based laptop with the Toshiba T1100, which I remember well. Not only did I buy one for about £1,000, I still have it. It enabled me to run the XYwrite word processor, which was a PC version of the Atex minicomputer-based system used by many national newspapers, and save stories to a built in floppy drive. While it was heavy at 4.1kg, it was relatively light and compact for its time.

It helped Toshiba establish its place in the portable PC business, and it was the world's leading supplier of laptops from 1994 until early 2002, when it was overtaken by Dell.

Although best known for its Satellite consumer laptops, Toshiba also earned a strong following among what we used to call "road warriors" with its Portégé range. Like the IBM ThinkPad X laptops that were the market leaders, the Portégé's had trackpoint pointing devices and didn't have CD-ROM or DVD drives.

In the 1990s, Toshiba also made an impact with a pioneering subnotebook, the Libretto, which hasn't made the infographic. This provided a full Windows laptop in something about the size of a hardback novel (210 x 115 x 34mm), with a weight of 850-950g. Librettos sold for about a decade, and enabled geeks to carry a whole PC network in their manbags. However, the keyboards were too small to appeal to touch-typists like me.

Today, every major vendor has laptops that are much like the Portégé range -- they are now called Ultrabooks -- which has made the market tougher for Toshiba. And while it did make some very attractive netbooks, that market was killed off by the very limited specifications allowed by Microsoft and Intel, and the withdrawal of the ULCPC (Ultra Low Cost PC) version of Windows XP.

Toshiba has attempted to diversify, without much success. In 2010, it launched its first Google Android-based smartbook, the AC100, and the world's first dual-touchscreen laptop, the Libretto W100. (One touchscreen could be used as a full-sized keyboard, or you could use it like a tablet or a book.) It has also tried its hand at tablets, including the Folio 100, and mobile phones. More recently, it has launched the Kirabook premium range of laptops with 2560 x 1440 PixelPure displays.

As well as dominating the UK market for laptops, Toshiba had a strong position in TV sets and VCRs (videocassette recorders). Many will remember its 1980s TV advertisement, Hello Tosh, Gotta Toshiba, featuring Ian Drury. (It was based on a Top 20 hit song written by the comedian Alexei Sayle, "'Ullo John! Gotta New Motor?")

However, Japanese companies such as Toshiba, Sony and Panasonic have been hit hard by competition from Samsung and other Asian suppliers, and there is no longer a market for VCRs. Toshiba also faces competition from Samsung in other areas where it is strong, such as SSD and hybrid-drive production.

It's not all doom and gloom. In the financial quarter to June 2013, Toshiba's revenues rose by 9.6 percent to Y1.390 trillion ($14.2 billion/£9.2 billion), while operating profits more than doubled to Y24.35 billion. It made a net profit of Y5.30 billion ($54 million/£35 million) compared with a loss of Y12.11 billion in the same quarter last year. It expects to make sales worth Y6 trillion ($61 billion/£40 billion) this financial year.

Hisao Tanaka, who took over as CEO in June, clearly has a lot of re-organizing to do. However, Toshiba remains one of Japan's strongest brands: No 5, according to Brand Directory. A company with its name recognition and breadth of expertise should be able to exploit it, particularly in Asia, Africa and the BRIC countries -- Brazil, Russia, India, and China. That's where the growth is.

Toshiba UK 10 million PCs Infographic (600 x 1800)


Topics: Laptops, Hardware

Jack Schofield

About Jack Schofield

Jack Schofield spent the 1970s editing photography magazines before becoming editor of an early UK computer magazine, Practical Computing. In 1983, he started writing a weekly computer column for the Guardian, and joined the staff to launch the newspaper's weekly computer supplement in 1985. This section launched the Guardian’s first website and, in 2001, its first real blog. When the printed section was dropped after 25 years and a couple of reincarnations, he felt it was a time for a change....

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  • Over the course of time

    I think I've owned two. One may be in the basement somewhere.
  • We do.

    My wife calls it/him/her Toshi. It's been around for about four years and while it's fading into its glory now, it was a huge help for her for many years.
    David Gewirtz
  • Toshibas are fine

    I have had a Tosh notebook of one sort or another for years. (Part of) their Tecra range still has the trackpoint/Accupoint pointing device in the middle of teh keyboard, far better than faffing about with a fingerpad, with which you cannot drag the cursor right across the screen in one movement.
    Regrettably only Lenovo seems to have retained this feature in some of its machines.
  • Toshiba Quality

    Toshiba made the best laptops in the world. They made their own displays, DVD drives and Hard Drives alone with RAM chips and keyboards and what not. The "Made in Japan" Toshibas were the best in the world, easily beating Sony and almost Apple quality. This changed in the past decade. They first started using DVD Drives and HDDs from other suppliers. Then they moved production to China. The look and feel of their middle and lower end laptops reminds you of the bulky and unwieldily American cars of the mid 2010s (Buick, Chrysler's big cars to be more specific). I still have a couple of Toshiba laptops from the 1990s that work great, one runs Windows 95. The current ones are not inspiring and are plain ugly.
  • Toshiba made some of the earliest "tablets" too

    Way back in 2004, when I started working for my current employer, the first laptop they gave me was a Toshiba Portege series tablet PC. That was Bill Gates original concept of tablet PCs, with a stylus and a digitizer in the screen (but without capacitive touch) and handwriting recognition.

    It was a fantastic machine, the envy of most of my colleagues, and extremely tough... it survived many falls onto concrete with absolutely no problem.
  • Made the mistake of owning a couple

    I actually keep thinking Toshiba is a good company. I gave them a couple chances, buying Satellite laptops a couple times. My latest is a C855 series which I bought because it still had Windows 7 on it. But build quality is dismal and the keyboard flexes like a trampoline. Sound quality is abysmal and I exchanged one because the right trackpad button did not work. But should we judge any PC makers products on their cheaper line? I mean its easy to make a really solid $1500 computer. But way harder to decide what corners to cut to make a under $500 PC.
    I buy cheap laptops, just because I don't need a lot of CPU power or graphical power. Don't need 10 ports or retina screens. But I have noticed that cheap used to mean less features. Now it means a flimsy case, lousy keyboard and a customer service that means nothing.