Japan-US Business Report LogoJapan-U.S. Business Report

No. 340, January 1998

Issue Index

 American Companies in Japan


Japan is ready for an affordably priced fault-tolerant or continuously available family of computers, STRATUS COMPUTER, INC. has concluded. The Marlboro, Massachusetts firm's subsidiary is projecting sales of 300 Continuum Series 400 systems over the next two years. The Series 400 features a redundant hardware architecture along with self-checking and self-diagnosing logic packaged with the operating system, HEWLETT-PACKARD CO.'s HP-UX 10.20. This new generation of the Series 400 uses HP's 64-bit PA-RISC 8000 microprocessor, with both uniprocessor and symmetric multiprocessing versions available. A typical SMP model costs $248,100.

The local unit of the traditional leader in high-availability systems, TANDEM COMPUTERS INC., has released its first product designed specifically as a clustered system for the enterprise Windows NT Server market. The CS150 combines two independent two-way SMP Pentium Pro-based servers with fault-resilient architectures in a single, compact cabinet. Tandem, which is now owned by COMPAQ COMPUTER CORP., is marketing the CS150 for high-availability branch office and in- store processing as well as data marts, front-end and back-end processing, Web solutions and other distributed applications.

With the mainstream desktop PC market still in the doldrums, American manufacturers continue to limit their product introductions to the market's healthier high-end (personal workstations and PC servers) and mobile segments. For instance, DELL COMPUTER CORP.'s subsidiary moved into the PC-WS market with the release of the Dell WorkStation 400. Powered by single or dual 266-MHz or 300-MHz Pentium II processors and featuring an internal memory scalable up to 512 megabytes of ECC (error checking and correcting) EDO (extended data-out) RAM (random access memory), it is designed for data-intensive financial or graphics applications. Pricing starts at $2,700.

For their part, the subsidiaries of UNISYS CORP. and HEWLETT-PACKARD CO. are strengthening their PC server product lineups. Unisys introduced the Aquanta GPS (general-purpose server) line with single or dual 200-MHz Pentium Pro or 233-MHz, 266-MHz or 300-MHz Pentium II processors, 256 kilobytes or 512 kilobytes of Level 2 cache and up to 512 megabytes of ECC memory. The company is promoting the Aquanta GPS as providing a broad range of functionality at an affordable price. A system with a 200-MHz Pentium Pro lists for $6,500, while one built around a 266-MHz Pentium II costs around $7,200.

Meanwhile, HEWLETT-PACKARD JAPAN LTD.'s NetServer line now includes the LC II system, designed for small to medium-sized workgroups, and the LH II system, which is targeted at departments running mission-sensitive applications. Both offer a choice of single or dual 266-MHz or 300-MHz Pentium II processors. The NetServer LC II has 36 gigabytes of internal data storage, while the NetServer LH II has 109.2 gigabytes. HP TopTools, a new browser-based server management solution, is bundled with each system for easier remote administration and increased server availa- bility. A 266-MHz Pentium II version of the NetServer LC II goes for $3,900, while a NetServer LH II equipped with a 300-MHz Pentium II is priced close to $6,200.

The expanded NetServer line is one part of HEWLETT-PACKARD JAPAN LTD.'s strategy for boosting PC server sales 60 percent in the year through October 1998 to 25,000 units. More significantly, the company planned to cut PC server prices by 26 percent to 30 percent in January. HP Japan also hopes to double the number of secondary wholesalers handling its products to 3,000. HP Japan reportedly has only 6 percent of the local PC server market versus its parent's worldwide share of 18 percent.

FUJITSU, LTD.'s decision to move into the Windows NT PC server market with formal help from MICROSOFT CORP. could make life tougher for HEWLETT-PACKARD JAPAN LTD. The Japanese firm, which has specialized to date in Unix-based servers under a long-standing relationship with SUN MICROSYSTEMS, INC., hopes the new relationship with Microsoft will help it gain ground on NEC CORP., the leader in server sales with 30 percent of the market compared with Fujitsu's 20 percent cut. Fujitsu is projecting sales of 35,000 Windows NT machines in FY 1997 and 50,000 or more in FY 1998. It will continue to make Unix systems.

GATEWAY 2000 INC.'s latest response to the slump in the desktop PC market is to expand the high-end Solo 9100 line of portables. The multimedia-oriented Solo 9100 166 SE, 200 LS and 233 XL models use the indicated version of the Pentium processor with MMX technology. One of their biggest selling points is a 14.1-inch XGA (extended graphics array) AMLCD display. The 200 LS and the 233XL have a removable combination CD-ROM/3.5-inch diskette drive. Pricing runs from $3,000 (166 SE) to $3,500 (200 LS) to $4,200 (233 XL).

Like PC manufacturers, APPLE COMPUTER, INC. has become more selective in introducing products in Japan. It has high hopes, though, for the new Power Macintosh G3 Series. The Power Macintosh G3 desktop and minitower systems and the Macintosh PowerBook G3 notebook machines are based on the performance- enhancing third-generation PowerPC G3 processor from INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES CORP. and MOTOROLA INC. Available in speeds of 233 MHz or 266 MHz for the desktop/minitower configurations and 250 MHz for the laptop, the PowerPC G3 processor (also known as the PowerPC 750) is the first chip optimized for MacOS. It also incorporates a new approach to cache memory. Apple's subsidiary is aiming to sell 200,000 of the G3 Series in six months. That represents a big chunk of the 650,000 systems that the company expects to sell in the year through September 1998. .....Meanwhile, in a cost-cutting move, APPLE COMPUTER, INC. reportedly will transfer software-installation and inspection functions now performed at its Narashino, Chiba prefecture plant to its Singapore manufacturing base.

One of the pioneers in the field of wearable computers has opened a sales and production office in Tokyo. XYBERNAUT CORP.'s systems are speech-activated, with head-mounted displays for hands-free access to information. The new office already has signed purchasing agreements with name component suppliers and lined up a manufacturing partner. It also has delivered sample products to NIPPON TELEGRAPH AND TELEPHONE CORP. and MITSUBISHI HEAVY INDUSTRIES, LTD. to test potential market demand. Fairfax, Virginia-based Xybernaut sees applications for its machines in repair and maintenance, inventory control, instruction, production and medical tasks.

The Japanese unit of NCR CORP. has developed and introduced a compact, low-price OLE (object linking and embedding) point-of-sale system for retailers. The basic configuration of the WinPOS21-S is priced at $5,900. OLE-POS technology standardizes control procedures across PCs, peripherals and POS software, enabling retailers to build client-server systems. NCR is projecting sales of 50,000 of its new POS systems over three years. .....NCR CORP.'s subsidiary has gone into the POS systems integration business with HITACHI INFORMATION SYSTEMS, LTD. In 1998, the partners hope to sign up 100 clients in the distribution industry and other services fields for systems built around the WinPOS21 series and its derivatives.

In a deal expected to save $385 million or more over 10 years, DAIWA BANK, LTD. will outsource most of its information technology work to a company to be formed in April with IBM JAPAN LTD. The still-unnamed venture, to be located in Osaka, will be staffed by 260 to 270 people transferred from the big commercial bank's computer systems section, plus 40 or so IBM Japan employees. Daiwa Bank will own 65 percent of the firm, which is projecting first-year revenues of $192.3 million. The Osaka-based financial institution is the first major Japanese bank to entrust a significant part of its IT requirements to another company.

IBM JAPAN LTD. has extended its PC recycling business to Nagoya and Yokkaichi, Mie prefecture in partnership with EIDEN SAKAKIYA CO., LTD. and the Compmart outlets in those two cities. IBM Japan PCs manufactured after 1994 can be traded in for about $385. Refurbished machines, which are guaranteed to be operable, are available at the Compmart stores for $770 to $1,100-plus.

With the goal of cutting its PC parts inventory costs by at least two-thirds, IBM JAPAN LTD. built a centralized distribution facility in Fujisawa, Kanagawa prefecture. All the company's component suppliers now ship their products to the center, which is located at a NIPPON EXPRESS CO., LTD. facility. Parts then are sent daily to the IBM Japan assembly plant in Fujisawa and elsewhere. The computer maker also is ordering parts every few days rather than once a month to keep inventory costs down.

Companies struggling to consolidate massive amounts of data from disparate computer systems for improved business results have a new option. EMC CORP.'s Symmetrix Enterprise Storage system, a Fibre Channel-type disk array device, offers simultaneous connectivity for up to 32 of the most popular types of servers, including Unix, Windows NT, AS/400 and mainframes. It also allows implementation of advanced software for cross-platform information sharing, information protection and information management. Pulling together heterogenous storage this way is relatively inexpensive, with prices for the Hopkinton, Massachusetts firm's Symmetrix Enterprise Storage system starting at $37,700.

HEWLETT-PACKARD JAPAN LTD. now is selling the HP SureStore DAT24x6e DDS- 3 autoloader for automated backup of PC networks with DAT Pack backup software from SEAGATE SOFTWARE, INC. preinstalled. Using hardware data compression technology, the system can store 24 gigabytes of data on a single digital audio tape in just over three hours. Six 410-foot DDS-3 cartridges fit into each compact, removable magazine for a total capacity of 144 gigabytes of data. Pricing of the HP SureStore DAT24x6e DAT Pack starts at $5,100.

New on the market for business customers from the subsidiary of LEXMARK INTERNATIONAL, INC. is a family of medium- and high-speed laser printers that come equipped with MarkVision printer management software adaptable to a wide range of network environments. A system that prints 16 pages per minute on Japan-standard A4 paper is priced around $2,300, while one that turns out 24 A4-size copies a minute costs $3,200. Lexmark expects to sell 30,000 of the new printers.

T/R SYSTEMS, INC. named MITA INDUSTRIAL CO., LTD. to market, sell and support its MicroPress Cluster Printing System. The Norcross, Georgia company and the copier manufacturer tailored the scalable, short-run, on-demand, digital document printing system to local market requirements. Mita formed a new business unit to focus on the print-on-demand market with MicroPress as the centerpiece product. T/R Systems and its distributor also are evaluating Mita devices for connection to MicroPress.

Three ViviScan color digital scanners from VIVITAR CORP. are being sold by computer and electronics retailers. Priced from $229 to $385, including driver software and cables, the machines span 300 and 600 dot-per-inch flatbed types and a sheet- fed scanner. New-bury, California-based Vivitar is a subsidiary of PLAZA CREATE CO., LTD.

The leading worldwide supplier of touchpads, CIRQUE CORP., has enlisted a Japanese company to find a distributor for its recently introduced Cat series of touchpads, which the Salt Lake City, Utah firm claims not only outperforms a mouse but also offers features not possible with a mouse. All three Cat products allow users to do "right mouse clicks" directly on the pad. They also incorporate GlideExtend technology, which enables users to reposition the finger and continue to drag; that eliminates the traditional end-of-the-pad problem. Cirque is the developer of the GlidePoint Control found on about half of all laptops sold around the world.

A new line of HITACHI, LTD. personal workstations for professionals in Japan using three-dimensional computer-aided design and manufacturing, animation and visualization applications uses graphics subsystems from ACCELGRAPHICS, INC. of Milpitas, California. The AccelPRO MX subsystem provides high-end 3D graphics workstation-like performance and functionality, while the AccelSTAR II subsystem delivers an all-in-one 2D/3D graphics solution for professional users in the corporate and entry-level workstation markets.

INDIGITA CORP., the developer of removable multimedia and video tape storage products based on its proprietary DVDS storage technology, has tapped MITSUMI ELECTRIC CO., LTD. as the exclusive manufacturer of DVDS tape drives. Production was to start in January. Mitsumi Electric is an equity investor in the Irvine, California start-up.

An exchange rate of ¥130=$1.00 was used in this report.

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