In the United States, Japanese giant Panasonic is best known for its televisions, like the plasma TV sets that were popular a decade ago and the more recent 4K super high-definition sets.
But Panasonic is primarily an enterprise company. And starting this year at the Consumer Electronics Show, it’s going to start talking about it.
Peter Fannon, the company’s VP of corporate and government affairs, told Business Insider that 70% of the company’s revenue worldwide — and 80% of it in the United States — comes from selling products to businesses, rather than consumers.
For instance, Panasonic makes the battery technology used by nearly every major hybrid and electric car, including the Toyota Prius and all of Tesla’s vehicles, and it’s one of Tesla’s biggest partners in its forthcoming Gigafactory in Nevada. It makes huge-scale audio/video equipment for sports stadiums and arenas, and recently won a big contract to provide the gigantic scoreboard that will be in the new Atlanta Braves baseball stadium. It sells body cameras to police forces. It builds materials used in aeroplanes. It’s partnering with the city of Denver to create an entire new “smart city” — a mixed-use office park/residential city that will make extensive use of solar power. (It already has several up and running in Japan.)
And at CES, it’s announcing a new disc-based technology called FreezeRay, a successor to the Blu-ray technology Panasonic helped invent with Sony and a host of other companies, which will store 100GB per disc, and which Facebook will use to archive terabytes of data (the “Freeze” part refers to putting data in deep storage — it’s meant for data that does not need to be accessed quickly, unlike, say, the data stored in a database running in flash memory).
Overall, Panasonic intends to grow its revenue from about $65 billion a year today to more than $73 billion by March 2019, the fiscal year that will cap the company’s 100th anniversary. (Panasonic used to be known in Japan as Matsushita, but adopted the name of its American subsidiary in 2008.)
The only way it will get there, according to Fannon, is by focusing on its core enterprise business, then growing that business organically and through smart acquisitions.
That’s why the Panasonic booth at CES this year will be different than in past years. Instead of being packed primarily with TVs, camcorders, and stereo gear, this year’s booth will be arranged like a “physical rendition of a smart city,” Fannon told us. The biggest part of it will mimic a solar-powered smart home with connected devices, while other parts will feature mobile solutions like hybrid cars and the devices used in them, and the company’s professional A/V solutions for stadiums.
Fannon insists that Panasonic’s focus on the enterprise does not mean it’s getting out of the consumer electronics business, unlike companies like IBM (which sold its PC business to Lenovo a decade ago) or General Electric (which got rid of its appliance and TV businesses.)
The reason? Panasonic looks to its consumer business to inform its enterprise business.
“Those businesses are fundamental to Panasonic’s ability to understand what consumers want, where we think they’re going,” he says. “That helps us sell to businesses.”