Apple's squeeze hits phone companies, competitors

By Peter Svensson

Associated Press

Published: Monday, April 23 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Last month, Japanese financial newspaper Nikkei ranked Apple the top consumer brand in the country, up from 64th place three years ago.

The top Japanese electronics brand, Panasonic, moved down from a No. 3 spot last year to No. 7. Sony and Nintendo didn't even make the top ten in their home country.

Sony has taken a particularly hard beating, since it competes with Apple on many fronts: music players, digital music sales, phones, portable gaming devices and PCs. It doesn't compete with Apple in TVs, but that's a terrible business in its own right, and a big money-loser.

Sony is projecting a massive loss for the fiscal year that ended three weeks ago. It's been in the red the last three years as well. Last week, it said it would cut 10,000 jobs, or 6 percent of its workforce.

U.S. PC makers like Hewlett-Packard Co. and Dell Inc. aren't doing as badly as Sony, but Apple's success is coming out of their pockets too.

Sales of Windows PC are holding up well globally, as households and businesses in the developing world are getting their first computers. But they're shrinking in the U.S., as customers turn to Macs and, to a lesser extent, iPads instead.

HP, the world's largest maker of PCs, said last year that it would get rid of its PC division, but later backtracked. In its most recent report, it said sales were down 15 percent from a year ago.

PC makers have been trying to replicate Apple's success with the iPad, but have so far failed. They're now waiting for a new version of Microsoft's Windows to give them another shot. Windows 8, due this fall, is geared toward touch-sensitive screens.

Peter Svensson can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/petersvenssson