A Sharper Focus

It's easy for Katsuhiko Machida, the president of Sharp Corp., to look back and laugh now, given that he's running Japan's hottest electronics company. But for years he was despondent, wondering if Sharp would forever be overshadowed by giants like Sony, Matsushita and Samsung. When he ran Sharp's television business in the 1980s, Machida says the firm had trouble competing because it didn't manufacture the most important TV component, the cathode-ray tube. Forced to cobble together parts bought from competitors, Sharp was essentially an assembler, cranking out televisions that were always a little too expensive and too poorly engineered to attract...

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