(p. A1) When Xerox introduced its popular copying machines in 1959, their wizardry was considered as high tech as the iPhone when Steve Jobs presented it to the world almost 50 years later.
But just as Xerox made carbon paper obsolete, the iPhone, Google Docs and the cloud made Xerox a company of the past.
On Wednesday [January 31, 2018], Xerox said that, after 115 years as an independent business, it would combine operations with Fujifilm Holdings of Japan. The deal signaled the end of a company that was once an American corporate powerhouse.
“Xerox is the poster child for monopoly technology businesses that cannot make the transition to a new generation of technology,” said David B. Yoffie, a professor at the Harvard Business School.
The move offers a stark reminder that no matter how high a company may fly, it is still vulnerable to the next big breakthrough. Xerox joins once formidable tech companies like Kodak and BlackBerry that lost the innovation footrace.
Under the deal, Fujifilm will own just over 50 percent of the Xerox business. There are plans to cut $1.7 billion in costs in coming (p. A11) years. Fujifilm said its joint venture with Xerox would cut its payroll by 10,000 workers worldwide.
How Xerox fell so far is a case study in what management experts call the “competency trap” — an organization becomes so good at one thing, it can’t learn to do anything new.
Xerox traces its origins to the founding in 1903 of the M. H. Kuhn Company. But it was an invention dreamed up in a makeshift Queens lab in the 1930s — a forerunner of the Silicon Valley garages used by the likes of Mr. Jobs — that changed Xerox’s trajectory.
That invention, by Chester Carlson, a patent lawyer, led to the creation of the modern copy machine. He even came up with a term for the process: “xerography.” In 1959, Xerox, which had won the right to explore the technology, offered the office copier that went mainstream.
For the full story, see:
STEVE LOHR and CARLOS TEJADA, “Xerox, Tech Icon That Became a Verb, Is Suddenly Past Tense.” The New York Times (Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018): A1 & A11.
(Note: bracketed date added.)
(Note: the online version of the article has the date JAN. 31, 2018, and has the title “After Era That Made It a Verb, Xerox, in a Sale, Is Past Tense.” The online version says that the New York edition also had title “After Era That Made It a Verb, Xerox, in a Sale, Is Past Tense.” My copy was the “National Edition.”)