The foundations of Philips were laid in 1891 when Anton and Gerard Philips established Philips & Co. in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. The company begun manufacturing carbon-filament lamps and by the turn of the century, had become one of the largest producers in Europe. By 1910, with 2,000 employees, Philips was the largest single employer in The Netherlands. The very first factory (now being turned into the Philips Museum) specialised in making lightbulbs and other electro-technical equipment until the 1920s, when the company expanded into vacuum tube manufacturing.
Stimulated by the industrial revolution in Europe, Philips’ first research laboratory was established in 1914 and the company started introducing its first innovations in the x-ray and radio technology. Over the years, the list of inventions has only been growing to include many breakthroughs that have continued to enrich people’s everyday lives.
Philips began by making carbon-filament lamps and, by the turn of the century, was one of the largest producers in Europe. As developments in new lighting technologies fueled a steady program of expansion, in 1914 it established a research laboratory to study physical and chemical phenomena and stimulate product innovation.
In 1918, Philips introduced a medical X-ray tube. This marked the beginning of the diversification of the company’s product range and the moment when it began to protect its innovations with patents in areas stretching from X-ray radiation to radio reception.
In 1925, Philips became involved in the first experiments in television and, in 1927, began producing radios. Also in 1927, the company began broadcasting over the radio to the Dutch East Indies. The station, originally called PCJ, became Radio Netherlands, which still airs to this day.
By 1932, Philips had sold one million of them and had become the world’s largest radio producer. A year later, it produced its 100-millionth radio valve and started production of medical X-ray equipment in the United States. By 1939, when it launched the first Philips electric shaver, the company employed 45,000 people worldwide.
Until 1940, the company was run entirely out of Eindhoven. However, that year the company's directors fled to the United States upon news of the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands, taking a large part of the company with them. The original production facility was bombed by the Allies during the liberation of the Netherlands, but the company continued to operate out of the U.S. throughout the war.
Following the end of the war, the company returned to Eindhoven, and the rest, as they say, is history. With inventions such as the cassette tape and the company's entrance into the music business with Philips Records, it became a global force in the electronics world, and continues to be so today.
Science and technology underwent tremendous development in the 1940s and 1950s, with Philips Research inventing the rotary heads that led to the development of the Philishave electric shaver, and laying down the basis for later ground-breaking work in transistors and integrated circuits. The company also made major contributions to the development of the recording, transmission and reproduction of television pictures. In 1963, it introduced the Compact Audio Cassette. In 1965, it produced its first integrated circuits.
The flow of exciting new products and ideas continued throughout the 1970s. Research in lighting contributed to the new PL and SL energy-saving lamps, while Philips Research made key breakthroughs in the processing, storage and transmission of images, sound and data. These led to the inventions of the LaserVision optical disc, the Compact Disc and optical telecommunication systems. In 1972, the company co-founded PolyGram (Philips 60% and Siemens 40%), the enormously successful music recording label. In 1974, it acquired Magnavox and in 1975, Signetic, both in the United States.
In 1983 Philips came with a technological landmark: the launch of the Compact Disc. Other milestones of the time included the production of Philips' 100-millionth TV set in 1984. The business expanded in the 1980s through the acquisitions of GTE Sylvania's television concern and Westinghouse's lamps business.
The 1990s was a decade of significant change for Philips. The company carried out a major restructuring program to return it to a healthy footing, simplifying its structure and reducing the number of business areas. Some of the businesses continued performing well and by 1995, Philips had sold 300 million Philishave electric shavers. Building on the success of its Compact Disc technology, in 1997 Philips cooperated with Sony to introduce another innovation that became the fastest growing home electronics product in history: the DVD.
In 1997, the company moved its global headquarters to Amsterdam. However, Philips Lighting, Philips Research, Philips Semiconductors and Philips Design continue to be based in Eindhoven.
Moving into the 21st century, Philips continued to change and grow. Long aware that for many people Philips was no more than a consumer electronics producer, the company started projecting a new image that better reflected its products in the areas of Healthcare, Lifestyle and Technology. In 2004 Philips unveiled its new brand promise of “sense and simplicity”. Underlined by a sizeable advertising campaign, the company confirmed its dedication to offering consumers products that are advanced, easy to use and designed to meet their needs.
In September 2006, Philips sold 80.1% of its Semiconductors business to a consortium of private equity partners. This laid the foundation for a strong and independent new semiconductors company, named NXP, which was founded on the heritage of over 50 years of innovation at the heart of Philips. The sale marked a further milestone in the shift from cyclical activities to building of an applications-focused company, centered around innovation and its brand promise of “sense and simplicity”.
In September 2007, Philips communicated its Vision 2010 strategic plan to further grow the company with increased profitability targets. As part of Vision 2010, the organizational structure was simplified per January 1, 2008 by forming three sectors: Healthcare, Lighting and Consumer Lifestyle. These steps further position Philips as a market-driven, people-centric company with a strategy and a structure that fully reflect the needs of its customer base. With this set of businesses, Philips aims to build the leading brand in Health and Well-being.