Toshiba-made Semiconductors are among the Worldwide Top 20 Semiconductor Sales Leaders. Toshiba is the world's fifth largest personal computer manufacturer, after Hewlett-Packard and Dell of the U.S., Acer of Taiwan and Lenovo of China.
One, Tanaka Seizosho (Tanaka Engineering Works), was Japan's first manufacturer of telegraph equipment and was established by Hisashige Tanaka in 1875. In 1904, its name was changed to Shibaura Seisakusho (Shibaura Engineering Works). Through the first part of the 20th century Shibaura Engineering Works became a major manufacturer of heavy electrical machinery as Japan modernized during the Meiji Era and became a world industrial power.
The second company, Hakunetsusha, was established in 1890 and was Japan's first producer of incandescent electric lamps. It diversified into the manufacture of other consumer products and in 1899 was renamed Tokyo Denki (Tokyo Electric).
The merger in 1939 of Shibaura Seisakusho and Tokyo Denki created a new company called Tokyo Shibaura Denki(東京芝浦電気). It was soon nicknamed Toshiba, but it wasn't until 1978 that the company was officially renamed Toshiba Corporation.
The group expanded strongly, both by internal growth and by acquisitions, buying heavy engineering and primary industry firms in the 1940s and 1950s and then spinning off subsidiaries in the 1970s and beyond. Groups created include Toshiba EMI (1960), Toshiba International Corporation (1970's) Toshiba Electrical Equipment (1974), Toshiba Chemical (1974), Toshiba Lighting and Technology (1989), Toshiba America Information Systems (1989) and Toshiba Carrier Corporation (1999).
Toshiba was responsible for a number of Japanese firsts, including radar (1942), the TAC digital computer (1954), transistor television and microwave oven (1959), color video phone (1971), Japanese word processor (1978), MRI system (1982), laptop personal computer (1986), NAND EEPROM (1991), DVD (1995), the Libretto sub-notebook personal computer (1996) and HD DVD (2005).
In 1977, Toshiba merged with the brazilian company Semp (Sociedade Eletromercantil Paulista), forming Semp Toshiba
In 1987, Toshiba Machine, the subsidiary of Toshiba, was accused of illegally selling CNC milling machines used to produce very quiet submarine propellers to the Soviet Union in violation of the CoCom agreement, an international embargo on Western exports to East Bloc countries. The Toshiba-Kongsberg scandal involved a subsidiary of Toshiba and the Norwegian company Kongsberg Vaapenfabrikk. The incident strained relations between the United States and Japan, and resulted in the arrest and prosecution of two senior executives, as well as the imposition of sanctions on the company by both countries. The US had always relied on the fact that the Soviets had noisy boats, so technology that would make the USSR's submarines harder to detect created a significant threat to America's security. Senator John Heinz of Pennsylvania said "What Toshiba and Kongsberg did was ransom the security of the United States for $517 million."
In 2001, Toshiba signed a contract with Orion Electric, one of the world's largest OEM consumer video electronic makers and suppliers, to manufacture and supply finished consumer TV and video products for Toshiba to meet the increasing demand for the North American market.
In December 2004, Toshiba quietly announced it would discontinue manufacturing traditional cathode ray tube (CRT) televisions. In 2006, Toshiba terminated production of plasma TVs. Toshiba quickly switched to Orion as the supplier and maker of Toshiba-branded CRT-based TVs and plasma TVs. However, to ensure its future competitiveness in the flat-panel digital television and display market, Toshiba has made a considerable investment in a new kind of display technology called SED.
Before World War II, Toshiba was a member of the Mitsui Group zaibatsu. Today Toshiba is a member of the Mitsui keiretsu (a set of companies with interlocking business relationships and shareholdings), and still has preferential arrangements with Mitsui Bank and the other members of the keiretsu. Membership in a keiretsu traditionally meant loyalty, both corporate and private, to other members of the keiretsu or allied keiretsu. This loyalty could extend as far as the beer that workers would consume, which in Toshiba's case was Asahi.
In July 2005, BNFL confirmed it planned to sell Westinghouse Electric Company, then estimated to be worth $1.8bn (£1bn). However the bid attracted interest from several companies including Toshiba, General Electric and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and when the Financial Times reported on January 23, 2006 that Toshiba had won the bid, it valued the company's offer at $5bn (£2.8bn). The bid surprised many industry experts who questioned the wisdom of selling one of the world's largest producers of nuclear reactors shortly before the market for nuclear power is expected to grow substantially; China, the United States and the United Kingdom are all expected to invest heavily in nuclear power. The acquisition of Westinghouse for $5.4bn was completed on October 17, 2006, with Toshiba obtaining a 77% share, and partners The Shaw Group a 20% share and Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries Co. Ltd. a 3% share
As a chip maker, Toshiba Semiconductors is a major player. During the eighties, it was one the two largest semiconductor companies (with NEC). During the nineties and up to now, Toshiba Semiconductors was almost always among the Top 5. In 2007, Toshiba Semiconductors is number 3, behind Intel and Samsung.
Also, in late 2007, Toshiba's logo replaced the former Discover Card logo on one of the screens atop One Times Square. It displays the iconic New Year's countdown on its screen, as well as messages, greetings, and advertisements for the company.
Toshiba is believed to prepare (together with the Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry) the small (30MW) nuclear plant Toshiba 4S for installation at Galena, Alaska and ever smaller (200KW) plants for Japan and Europe; but the information about such plants does not appear on Toshiba's homepage Toshiba Worldwide
Toshiba occupies good position in the worldwide marker of semiconductors, see Worldwide Top 20 Semiconductor Market Share Ranking Year by Year.
The HD DVD format had suffered as major US film studios backed the Blu-ray format, which is being developed by electronics firm Sony and partners. Toshiba's President, Atsutoshi Nishida, announced "We concluded that a swift decision would be best [and] if we had continued, that would have created problems for consumers, and we simply had no chance to win".
Toshiba continued to supply retailers with machines until the end of March 2008. Toshiba then continued to provide technical support to the estimated one million people worldwide who owned HD DVD players and recorders.
Toshiba's president has stated that the company has no intention to begin manufacturing Blu-ray disc players and he also said that Toshiba will "think about its role in online video-downloading more seriously". The press release stated the following; "Toshiba also intends to maintain collaborative relations with the companies who joined with Toshiba in working to build up the HD DVD market, including Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures, and DreamWorks Animation and major Japanese and European content providers on the entertainment side, as well as leaders in the IT industry, including Microsoft, Intel, and HP. Toshiba will study possible collaboration with these companies for future business opportunities, utilizing the many assets generated through the development of HD DVD."
The HD DVD versus Blu-ray battle has been likened to the VHS versus Betamax war of the 1980s. See also "Decline of HD DVD ".