Innovation is a tough thing. In the electronics market, it’s pretty unforgiving if you can’t do it. Just ask Sony, Panasonic, and Sharp, once kings of the U.S and Japanese markets. But today, things are different as Apple and Samsung continue to undercut each other in the court and the showroom.

As an example of the peril some of the consumer electronics are experiencing, Sharp recently reported plans to slash nearly one-fifth of its workforce. When all you make is wide-screen televisions and coffeemakers, it’s hard to compete with the big boys. But that’s not an entirely honest statement. Diversification of product lines did its job for these companies for many years; the problem now is innovation, and in a word, that means being able to turn cutting-edge technology into usable technology.

Sony, for instance, has gotten into the DSLR market but hasn’t achieved the success they would have liked. They haven’t made a profit in four years. Why? Because Korean companies are more effective at using the technology they either own through patent or, in some cases, steal from each other, to make their DSLR cameras better. In other words, more usable and cheap. Consumers don’t care about the market strength of Japanese companies, they want quality but not at a premium price. LG and Samsung, even Apple, have met market demand and done so in a beautiful fashion.

Said Michael Gartenberg, an industry analyst at Gartner, a technology research company:

“In the past there was a huge gap between the best of breed and second best. Now, maybe there’s still a small gap between a Sony high-definition screen and an LG screen, but most consumers can’t see it. And if most consumers can’t see it, it’s not there. Japanese companies have been too busy defending old business models that the world simply bypassed.”