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No. 365, February 2000

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American Companies in Japan


For whatever reason, contracts awarded to SILICON GRAPHICS, INC. for government- financed supercomputers or the equivalent have been few and far between of late. That made an order from a Ministry of Education organization all the sweeter. Its Institute of Statistical Mathematics has on order SGI's top-of-the-line Unix server, the SGI Origin 2800. The system, described as the largest shared-memory ccNUMA (nonuniform memory access) server in the world, will be equipped with the minimum 64 processors. It will have 48 GB of shared memory, accessible by every processor. That is four times the capacity of ISM's current system. Included in the contract price of $3.8 million are such add-ons as data storage devices and a tape library. SGI's subsidiary hopes to use this order to win clients among the companies with which ISM works.

IBM JAPAN LTD. made a smart move when it decided to devote resources to winning contracts from other companies, particularly financial services providers, to run their information technology systems. In what is described as the biggest outsourcing agreement in Japan's insurance industry, MEIJI MUTUAL LIFE INSURANCE CO. has a 10-year, $533 arrangement with IBM Japan to manage its host computer and backup equipment. The outsourcing deal, the insurer calculates, not only will ensure that its complex computing setup operates reliably and efficiently but also will save the company an estimated $133.3 million over the contract's term.

IBM JAPAN LTD. and DAIWA BANK, LTD. will develop a system to automate more of the labor-intensive back-office functions that bank branches perform. The system will be geared toward regional bank administrative centers on the theory that big banks can improve efficiency even more if they transfer back-office work from branch offices to several locations around the country. D&I INFORMATION SYSTEMS, INC., an existing IBM Japan-Daiwa Bank venture, will be responsible for building the support system, which should be operational by April 2001. In the months that follow, Daiwa Bank expects to spend some $190.5 million to switch all its branches over to the new technology.

In an alliance that creates a potent force in the areas of e-business and networking, the subsidiaries of INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES CORP. and CISCO SYSTEMS, INC. have tied up to develop solutions for corporate customers moving business to the Internet. The partnership, which is the local implementation of a relationship established by the parents in August 1999, draws on IBM's strengths in servers, software, services and technology for e-business and Cisco Systems' leadership position in networking technology. A dedicated team of 60 people located at IBM JAPAN LTD.'s Tokyo headquarters will backstop the collaborative effort. They will offer a full range of services, including support for Cisco Systems products from IBM Global Services as well as jointly developed solutions.

Copying a page from competitors like HEWLETT-PACKARD JAPAN LTD. and IBM JAPAN LTD. (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 361, October 1999, p. 15), the marketing unit of SUN MICROSYSTEMS, INC. hopes to make e-business start-ups lifetime Sun customers by helping them lower their initial investment costs. The program is open to venture businesses like application service providers and content developers that have 75 or fewer employees and have been operational for less than four years. They are eligible for discounts of a half or more on purchases of hardware and software totaling up to $95,200 a year.

Always on the prowl for new ways to increase sales, COMPAQ COMPUTER CORP.'s subsidiary has identified universities and particularly their research operations as a potentially fertile source of new business. The company plans to add to its Compaq DirectPlus Internet sales site, which now is geared to serving the requirements of the corporate world, workstations that provide the processing power for the types of applications researchers are likely to run. Compaq also will set up a help desk at its call center specifically for educational institutions.

Direct marketer GATEWAY, INC. has put increasing emphasis in recent months on sales to corporate customers (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 364, January 2000, p. 14). It now has quantified this drive, saying that it wants to boost revenues from business buyers to 50 percent of the total in 2000 from 40 percent. Much of the projected growth is expected to come from the SOHO market, which now generates just 10 percent of sales. To better tap this part of the business as well as the broader corporate market, Gateway plans to expand its lineup of PC servers and workstations. Perhaps more significantly, it will launch Gateway @Work, a full menu of services that includes on-site technical support for up to three years and staff training as well as Web hosting.

With the PC market starting to boom again in Japan, HEWLETT-PACKARD JAPAN LTD. has set the ambitious goal of doubling PC sales to 350,000 units in 2000. Two targets of this drive are small companies and the SOHO market. To better reach these potential customers, HP Japan reportedly will launch an on-line site. It will feature some of the same models available in stores, but the prices will be discounted fairly deeply.

The success that some of its American rivals have enjoyed with Japan-only, all-in-one desktop systems has persuaded DELL COMPUTER CORP. to devote resources to a competing line. These products could be on the market as soon as this summer. Dell's marketing strategy is to beat the competition on price. Most of the integrated desktop systems now available cost $1,900 and up. The new top seller of PCs in the United States will work to get its pricing below this point.

HEWLETT-PACKARD JAPAN LTD. has a late March ship date for the new HP VISUALIZE X-Class Personal Workstation. Designed to handle large, complex Windows NT-based mechanical design automation and digital content creation applications, the system draws on the power of one or two 733-MHz Pentium III processors, a 133-MHz front-side bus and the Intel 840 chipset. It also is distinguished by the SDRAM-based HP VISUALIZE Memory Architecture, which the company says reduces processor idle time and makes applications performance more efficient. The HP VISUALIZE X-Class Personal Workstation can be equipped with as much as 8 GB of internal memory and up to 54 GB of mass storage. As with other members of the line, VISUALIZE-fx is the graphics engine. Pricing of the HP VISUALIZE X-Class Personal Workstation starts at $12,000.

Redefining the high end of its Vectra line of PCs for business users, HEWLETT- PACKARD JAPAN LTD. is putting on the market the HP Vectra VL600. Available in both desktop and minitower packages, the new line offers several options in Pentium III processors (533EB MHz, 600EB MHz, 667 MHz or 733 MHz) with a 133-MHz front-side bus, 256 KB of Level-2 cache, the Intel 820 chipset, 128 MB of RDRAM and a choice of hard-disk technologies with capacities ranging from 9.1 GB to 30 GB. A midrange HP Vectra VL600 model running the Windows NT Workstation 4.0 operating system will go for about $3,200.

The combination of a 733-MHz Pentium III with the performance-enhancing 820 chipset and RDRAM memory also is available in COMPAQ COMPUTER CORP.'s Deskpro EN Series of PCs. This model, priced at $3,800, is one of 10 additions to the company's Deskpro family.

Regardless of what factors corporate IT managers weigh in buying desktop PCs, recent introductions by DELL COMPUTER CORP.'s subsidiary probably fit the bill. For those interested in the latest in performance, the company has new versions of the Dimension XPS B and the Dimension XPS T. The Dimension XPS B runs off an 800-MHz Pentium III. It can be customized with anywhere from 128 MB to 512 MB of RDRAM system memory and up to a 37.5-GB hard drive. Other features includes 4X AGP (accelerated graphics port) graphics, a 133-MHz front-side bus and an 820 chipset. Only slightly down the performance scale is the Dimension XPS T. It is powered by a 750-MHz implementation of the Pentium III processor. Internal memory can be expanded to 768 MB of SDRAM. And, like its mate, the system can support 37.5 GB of disk storage.

If a space-saving design and affordability are the criteria, DELL COMPUTER CORP.'s marketing unit has the Dimension L433cx. Called a microtower, this machine occupies just half the real estate of a minitower system, yet it is expandable. The price is also small at only $900 without a monitor. That buys a PC with a 433-MHz Celeron processor, 32 MB of SDRAM internal memory, a 4.3-GB hard drive and a 48X CD-ROM drive.

In between these new products are two more DELL COMPUTER CORP. desktop PCs, both powered by a 533-MHz Celeron chip and likewise priced around $1,100. The space-saving Dimension C533c comes standard with 64 MB of internal memory and 4.3 GB of hard-drive capacity, while the Optiplex GX100 C533, which is being marketed as a terminal for use in large networks, features 32 MB of RAM, a 4.3-GB hard drive and a 48X CD-ROM drive.

The powerful Athlon processor with Enhanced 3DNOW! technology from ADVANCED MICRO DEVICES, INC. is at the heart of a new family of performance-oriented yet value- priced desktop PCs from GATEWAY, INC.'s subsidiary. The Select 800 uses a 800- MHz version of the chip. It comes standard with 128 MB of 100-MHz SDRAM memory, a 27.3-GB hard drive and a 19-inch color monitor. Its partner, the Select 700, features, as its name suggests, a 700-MHz Athlon processor. The base configuration also has 128 MB of 100-MHz SRAM memory, but hard-drive capacity is 20 GB and the monitor is a 17-inch color unit. In the United States, the Select 700 starts at $1,700, while the Select 800 costs $2,400 and up.

In one of its more inspired moves, IBM JAPAN LTD. introduced to almost instant success last year the Japan-only Aptiva 20J line of under-$1,000 desktop PCs. To ensure the continued popularity of the current-gen-eration Aptiva 27J, the company upgraded performance while keeping the price below the critical $1,000 point. The new model features a 500-MHz version of the AMD-K6-2 processor. It also is equipped with 64 MB of system memory, a 10-GB hard drive, a 40X CD-ROM drive and a 15-inch CRT monitor. That package costs $950. Eliminating the monitor drops the cost to only $760.

In what apparently is the first design win for the mobile AMD-K6-2-P processor with 3DNOW! technology in Japan, NEC CORP. is using the 400-MHz version of the ADVANCED MICRO DEVICES, INC. engine to power a new family of notebook PCs for the commercial market, the VersaPro R, as well as the LaVie U line for the Japanese consumer market. Both series incorporate a 12.1-inch TFT LCD display and such ease-of- use features as a one-touch button for Internet and e-mail use. By going with the AMD processor, NEC was able to list the LaVie U notebook at less than $1,700, a pricing first for Japan's PC leader. .....The two new lines of NEC CORP. notebook computers also incorporate the CyberBLADE i7 integrated three-dimensional graphics solution from TRIDENT MICROSYSTEMS, INC. This design win makes NEC the first OEM customer in Japan for the San Diego, California firm's cost-effective graphics product.

Many of the PowerVault products that DELL COMPUTER CORP.'s subsidiary introduced in the first year after the line's release targeted the low end of the enterprise storage market. Now, it is going after the high end with the PowerVault 650F and the PowerVault 630F. These products, which support the Fibre Channel standard throughout for improved performance, availability and configuration flexibility, are equipped with 36-GB drives. The PowerVault 630F subsystem holds up to 10 drives for a theoretical capacity of 360 GB. As many as 11 of these subsystems can be linked to a PowerVault 650F, thereby enabling data centers to incrementally increase capacity as the need arises. At the same time, a single Dell server can access up to three PowerVault 650F systems, further multiplying storage possibilities. A fully configured PowerVault 630F goes for $20,800.

In the year through April 2000, network file server supplier NETWORK APPLIANCE, INC. hopes to lift sales in Japan to 10 percent of revenues from 7 percent. To this end, the Santa Clara, California company's subsidiary is negotiating with various companies to expand its distribution channels. Since late 1998, NetApp has had an OEM deal with FUJITSU, LTD. to sell and support its network-attached storage systems. Staffing at the marketing unit also will be doubled to 12 people by the spring and to 15 by the fall. In addition, NetApp will set up a Japanese-language home page.

Systems like NetApp's are designed for enterprise storage environments. However, the marketing unit of Irvine, California-based LINKSYS has introduced a network-attached storage device for smaller offices. Its 20-GB GigaDrive can be connected directly to a PC via a 10Base-T or 100Base-T Ethernet cable and a Fast Ethernet network card. Another useful feature is the inclusion of a print server that supports Windows 95/98/NT/2000 clients and any enabled TCP/IP (transmission control protocol/Internet protocol) printers and clients. In addition, the GigaDrive, which costs about $760, has an indicator on the case that shows how much of the 20-GB drive is filled.

The HP SureStore DAT40, the latest backup device from HEWLETT-PACKARD CO. based on the DDS-4 (digital data storage) format, transfers 40 GB of data in less than two hours (assuming 2:1 compression) onto a tape. That speed plus a price of $5,300 for an internal model and $5,600 for an external one prompted HEWLETT-PACKARD JAPAN LTD. to project sales of 5,000 HP SureStore DAT40 units in the first year.

The decision by TEKTRONIX, INC. to sell its color printing and imaging division to XEROX CORP. was quickly followed by the announcement that FUJI XEROX CO., LTD. would acquire the Asian Pacific color printer business of equally owned SONY TEKTRONIX CORP. Industry sources put the purchase price at $71.4 million. In Japan, the operations will be reestablished as PHASER PRINTING JAPAN CO., LTD., a wholly owned Fuji Xerox subsidiary. Sales are expected to start in the spring. Some 70 people who work in Sony Tek's color printer unit will move over to Phaser Printing. Fuji Xerox expects Asian Pacific sales of the former Sony Tek business to total $57.1 million in the first year. In Japan, the Tek-made systems account for less than 10 percent of color printer sales. However, in countries like Australia, Singapore and Taiwan, they are second in market share only to HEWLETT-PACKARD CO. color printers.

EASTMAN KODAK CO.'s subsidiary has on the market the KODAK PROFESSIONAL 8660 Thermal Printer. Attractively priced at $8,500, the raster-based printer is touted as delivering color prints that are equal in quality and durability to traditional photographic prints. Moreover, the copies, printed on Kodak thermal media, can be sized from 5 x 7 inches up to 8.5 x 11, 12 or 14 inches.

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

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