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No. 365, February 2000

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Japanese Companies in the US


The dismantling of ZIFF-DAVIS INC. is occurring almost as fast as its buildup into a diversified media company after SOFTBANK CORP. paid a reported $2.1 billion for the world's largest publisher of information technology magazines in early 1996 and then folded many related U.S. properties into it. In the latest move (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 364, January 2000, p. 13), Ziff-Davis will spin off its San Francisco-head- quartered ZDNet unit into an independent Internet company known as ZDNET INC. The technology-ori-ented ZDNet is one of the world's top 20 Web sites, a ranking attributable in part to its early start — 1994 — in the on-line business. Once Ziff-Davis completes the sale of its events-staging unit, its only remaining significant operation, the New York company will be merged into ZDNet and essentially cease to exist. Softbank, which now owns approximately 70 percent of Ziff-Davis, will be the largest shareholder in ZDNet with an interest of roughly 45 percent. These transactions are expected to be completed sometime in the spring. The breakup of Ziff-Davis is the result of Softbank's decision last year to focus its investments exclusively on companies that are Internet players.

SOFTBANK CORP. meanwhile joined four of the world's biggest electronics distributors and the parent of FEDERAL EXPRESS CORP. to launch what is described as the first electronic-business hub for the information technology industry. The goal of VIACORE, INC., based in Santa Ana, California, is to link IT supply chain partners, whether suppliers, distributors or resellers, within vertical markets through a transparent hub, enabling them to conduct business with each other quickly and cost-effectively. The Viacore PIP (partner interface process) hub will offer 24x7 global, real-time command and control of the supply chain process. Participants will have the flexibility to connect to or disconnect from partners and will receive comprehensive reporting and benchmarking. The company's initial service offerings are expected to be available on a pilot basis in March. The distributors backing Viacore are: ARROW ELECTRONICS, INC., AVNET, INC., INGRAM MICRO, INC. and TECH DATA CORP.

One indication of how determined HIKARI TSUSHIN, INC. is to become a major force in the Internet world is its decision to pay $100 million for a 1.34 percent stake in IDEALAB! The Pasadena, California incubator of Internet entrepreneurs, which analysts expect to go public fairly soon, was founded in March 1996. It has nurtured more than 30 start-ups, helping them with everything from capital to office space. idealab! currently has more than 20 businesses in various stages of development. Hikari Tsushin, a big distributor of cellular phones, apparently sees its involvement with idealab! as a way to get an inside track on promising Internet ventures.

In a move that builds on its core business, HIKARI TSUSHIN, INC. joined a number of other first-time investors as well as existing ones in putting up $33 million for SIGNALSOFT CORP. Founded in 1995, the Boulder, Colorado company provides voice and data wireless location-based services in the areas of safety, billing information and tracking. For example, it controls the majority of the wireless 911 market in the United States. SignalSoft says that it will use part of the money raised to expand into Japan and elsewhere in the Asian Pacific market — a strategy that should be facilitated by Hikari Tsushin's involvement.

Along with the Intel 64 Fund, the Bellevue, Washington subsidiary of TRANS COSMOS INC. invested in LUTRIS TECHNOLOGIES, a start-up bankrolled by affiliates of CHASE MANHATTAN CORP. The Santa Cruz, California company is the developer of the Enhydra open-source Java/XML application server software. Trans Cosmos believes that considerable opportunities exist in Japan for Lutris because of the growing acceptance of the Linux operating system there.

Subscribers to AMERICA ONLINE, INC.'s services soon will be able to access, send and receive their AOL e-mail on CASIO COMPUTER CO., LTD.'s CASSIOPEIA handheld computers. AOL will develop the software, which Casio will distribute with its products; AOL members also will be able to download the software. In the future, the two companies plan to explore how AOL interactive services can be integrated with forthcoming Casio personal multimedia devices.

Mainframe systems supplier AMDAHL CORP., a FUJITSU, LTD. company, has on the market UTS Release 4.4 for its Millennium, System 1000, and 5995M, 5995A and 5990M families of enterprise servers as well as for its competition's machines. UTS Release 4.4 supports a S/390-compatible, SVR4-based software environment, enabling high-performance, large-scale enterprise open systems computing. One of the beauties of the new operating system, Sunnyvale, California-head-quartered Amdahl says, is that it connects to and shares a common platform with legacy systems.

A joint development project undertaken by YOKOGAWA ELECTRIC CORP. and CADENCE DESIGN SYSTEMS, INC.'s Quickturn unit has yielded a system that enables extremely high-speed but accurate hardware/software coverification of complex SOC designs. The solution combines the Japanese company's recently developed CEEDS- QTS software kernel, which is based on its Virtual ICE HW/SW coverification tool, with Quickturn's Mercury verification system logic emulator. According to the partners, their system achieves a 50,000-times improvement in performance compared with software- based HDL (hardware description language) simulation solutions for multimillion-gate designs. The HW/SW coverification system lists for $150,000; the Mercury system is sold separately.

DAIFUKU CO., LTD. completed the sale of AUTO-SOFT CORP. and AUTOSIMULATIONS, INC. to BROOKS AUTOMATION, INC., making the Chelmsford, Massachusetts company the undisputed top supplier of automation software to the semiconductor industry (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 361, October 1999, p. 10). The transaction was valued at approximately $57 million. Daifuku, a major manufacturer of materials-handling equipment, and Brooks intend to collaborate on R&D and distribution of hardware and software products to better serve customers of both businesses. However, the details of the alliance still must be worked out.

Animators, game developers and other content creators have a more powerful software development tool available with the release by NICHIMEN GRAPHICS CORP. of Mirai 1.1. The original version was introduced in May 1999. Part of the NICHIMEN CORP. subsidiary's N-World suite of real-time content creation tools, Mirai 1.1 lists for $6,500.

The first Internet-enabled DVD authoring tool is shipping from DAIKIN U.S. COMTEC LABORATORIES of Novato, California. Version 1.0 of Scenarist Enhanced DVD Kit links the worlds of DVD-Video and the Web, allowing publishers, for example, to embed video playback within Web pages. It complements the wholly owned DAIKIN INDUSTRIES, LTD. subsidiary's other DVD tools: Scenarist, DVD Informer and ROM Formatter.

Canon Photo and Canon Photo Gold, priced at $35 and $55, respectively, are the first products in what will be a line of programs from the Canon Software Publishing division of CANON COMPUTER SYSTEMS INC. that are compatible with the Macintosh operating system. OfficeReady ($40) and OfficeReady Professional ($70), which enable SOHO (small office/home office) businesspeople to produce documents in Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, will be released in the second half of the year. Costa Mesa, California- based Canon Software Publishing was set up in 1998 to develop, publish and distribute software mainly in North and South America.

An exchange rate of ¥105=$1.00 was used in this report.aaaaaa

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