In an effort to improve its competitive position in the market for servers running the forthcoming Windows NT 5.0 operating system, HITACHI, LTD. has forged a broad technological tie-up with MICROSOFT CORP. One thrust of their collaboration will be to develop more reliable products for mission-critical applications by drawing in part on Hitachi's mainframe expertise. To facilitate this and related work, the Japanese computer maker will send a team of systems engineers to Microsoft's Redmond, Washington headquarters. The two companies also will set up a joint technological support center. NEC CORP. has a similar arrangement with Microsoft on servers (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 336, September 1997, pp. 2-3).
Being a top player in the brutal American personal computer market is proving to be even harder and more expensive than NEC CORP. anticipated. Over the last three years, the company has committed $1.3 billion in cash and assets to affiliate PACKARD BELL NEC INC. (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 340, January 1998, p. 3). However, the Sacramento, California PC maker's shipments and market standing have continued to drop, adding to the pressure on the bottom line. To cut costs, Packard Bell NEC will close a plant in Fife, Washington that makes the NEC Versa line of notebook computers and transfer that output to its Sacramento campus. It also will relocate most of the people handling inside sales, customer service and technical support and engineering for the NEC Computer Systems division from Boxborough, Massachusetts to Sacramento. Expected to be completed by yearend, the consolidation will result in a net reduction of 400 employees from Packard Bell NEC's worldwide total of 8,000.
SONY CORP. also has learned how unforgiving the PC market can be. Its 1996 attempt to break into the market by using its strong consumer brand name to sell full- featured, expensive machines for the home went bust. The company is undeterred, however. Saying that it is in the computer business for the long haul, Sony shifted marketing gears and unveiled a sub-$1,000 PC. The PCV-E201 is a multimedia- oriented machine powered by INTEL CORP.'s new, low-cost Celeron microprocessor. It also introduced a high-end, Pentium-based model priced at $1,700. To get the right balance between price and performance, Sony is using 300-megahertz and 333-MHz processors in this machine rather than Intel's top-of-the-line 350-MHz and 400-MHz chips.
Thanks to SONY ELECTRONICS, INC.'s FunMail device, people with Windows-based desktop PCs will be able to send electronic mail messages heavy on video and audio without straining the recipient's memory capacity. The key to that capability is the $199 system's data compression technology, which can reduce a video e-mail message to 1/250th of its original size. The SONY CORP. subsidiary plans to adapt FunMail for notebook PCs and Macintosh machines.
SONY ELECTRONICS, INC. has an August ship date for what it claims is the flattest 21-inch high-resolution CRT (cathode-ray tube) display. The Trinitron-based GDM- F500, which has a viewable area of 19.8 inches, is said to be half the depth of conventional CRTs. It will cost around $1,900. .....Also targeting the high-performance market, SONY ELECTRONICS, INC. has in stores the $2,200 Multiscan L150, a thin- film-transistor LCD (liquid crystal display) monitor with a viewable area of 15 inches. It is just 6.5 inches deep.
Samples of one of the first 50-inch (diagonal) plasma display panels will be available later this year from marketer NEC ELECTRONICS, INC. The successor to the 42-inch PDP can support high-definition television signals as well as be used for such imaging applications as medical diagnostics. It accommodates resolutions ranging from 320x240 to 1280x1024 in 4-bit, 6-bit or 8-bit full color. Pricing has not been determined.
HITACHI, LTD.'s computer storage manufacturing facility in Norman, Oklahoma will build storage subsystems for ZITEL CORP. The arrangement will free up resources for the Fremont, California company while still allowing it to supply customers around the world. HITACHI COMPUTER PRODUCTS (AMERICA), INC. currently makes storage subsystems for mainframe supplier HITACHI DATA SYSTEMS CORP. of Santa Clara, California as well as companies unaffiliated with Hitachi.
In a first for the company, JAPAN COMPUTER INDUSTRY CO., LTD. has licensed CTG INC. of Dayton, Ohio to manufacture its palm-size external print server and market it in North and South America. Production of the JC Connect M1200, rechristened the JLP1200 for U.S. sale, has started in Taiwan. Computer cable maker CTG also is supplying the product to Osaka-based JCI for sale in Japan, where it is priced at $295, or 30 percent less than other external print servers.
An exchange rate of ¥135=$1.00 was used in this report.