The first automated system for handling the payment of bills by one business to another at bank branches is in operation in Japan. Built by NCR CORP. for SUMITOMO BANK, LTD., the $10.6-million image processing system has been installed at the nationwide commercial bank's processing centers in Tokyo and Osaka. It is expected to save the financial institution more than $709,200 a year, or 20 percent, compared with heretofore manual processing of the anywhere from 40,000 to 60,000 bills for payment issued by corporate Japan that move through Sumitomo Bank each day. The NCR system also will reduce inputting errors while better safeguarding company financial information.
COMPAQ COMPUTER CORP. has joined the select circle of foreign companies providing PCs to NIPPON TELEGRAPH AND TELEPHONE CORP. for resale by its affiliates. The world's leading manufacturer of PCs is supplying the Presario 2254-15, which is equipped with a digital switching unit for connection with NTT's ISDN (integrated services digital network) system. The machine, which costs around $2,200, carries both the Southern Cross PC 3301 and the Presario 2254-15 logos. Insider status does not mean big sales, though, since just 1,000 Compaq systems are expected to be sold. To date, NTT group companies have handled PCs made by INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES CORP. and DIGITAL EQUIPMENT CORP. for corporate customers and IBM home-use computers.
With the subsidiaries of COMPAQ COMPUTER CORP. and DIGITAL EQUIPMENT CORP. set to merge October 1, executives of the two organizations have accelerated the planning underway since Compaq acquired DEC in June. One decision already finalized is that, beginning next January, Compaq will start assembling all of the products it sells in Japan except Presario home PCs at DEC's suburban Tokyo plant. Built in 1991, the Tama facility recently was renovated (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 343, April 1998, p. 8). Like DEC, Compaq will operate on a build-to-order basis. At roughly the same time, Compaq will close its distribution facility in Atsugi, Kanagawa prefecture. The two subsidiaries plan to pare their combined work force by 500 people to roughly 3,000 employees by the merger date and to initiate other efficiency-enhancing moves. The new company, which will retain the Compaq name, will have annual sales in excess of $1.4 billion. That will rank it second only to INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES CORP. among foreign computer manufacturers operating in Japan.
Continuing to search for ways to make money in Japan's slumping PC market, IBM JAPAN LTD. has added a twist to the direct-sales policy it recently inaugurated for Aptiva home computers with a number of volume retailers (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 346, July 1998, p. 11). It now is building Aptivas to order for big electronics retailers with which it deals directly as well as for wholesalers that supply products to regional as well as to smaller retailers. The orders can be as small as a few hundred systems. IBM Japan's new marketing philosophy is that it will ship to dealers the products they want, when they want them and in the volume they specify. This flexibility is designed to prevent the buildup of excess inventory that could be returned to the company. By the end of July, the computer maker expected to be dealing directly with 15 retailers compared with five previously in an effort to ship 60 percent of the 270,000 or so Aptivas its sells annually through direct marketing channels.
IBM JAPAN LTD. has made two other strategic moves to boost revenues in Japan's recessionary climate. In partnership with New York City-based management consultant KURT SALMON ASSOCIATES, INC., it is marketing computer systems designed to help department stores and other retail chains better manage their businesses. The thrust of the MakoroMP system is to get retail executives to focus on profits rather than sales volume, the reflexive reaction of Japanese corporate managers when times are tough. The system also will help planners decide the products to be stocked, the timing of sales and the extent of price cuts. The new partners also will offer consulting services to customers.
Meanwhile, IBM JAPAN LTD. is adding sales and customer-support professionals to the in-house group responsible for marketing hardware, software and services to financial institutions. Banks and other financial services providers are investing heavily in information systems to support the new services they have introduced or plan to launch as a result of the Big Bang liberalization of the financial sector. To capitalize on this sales opportunity, IBM Japan expects to have a financial industry- focused department of 1,700 people by the end of September, up from 1,500. The transferees will assist in the development of information systems for such purposes as computer telephony integration and Internet banking.
The subsidiary of direct marketer DELL COMPUTER CORP. is offering corporate buyers of its PCs the option of leasing. The new sales arrangement is the result of a tie-up with ORIX CORP. Dell will write up the deals, while Japan's biggest leasing company will handle the actual transactions. Leasing for as little as two to three years is expected to appeal to companies worried about being stuck with old technology.
Users of UNISYS CORP.'s high-end 2200 Series systems can move up to the fully compatible ClearPath HMP (heterogeneous multiprocessing) IX5800 Series of servers, protecting their investments in software and peripherals while gaining more power and new, advanced features. Offering nonstop-class levels of operation, the IX5800 servers are suited for reservation systems, on-line transaction processing and other large- scale corporate operations. The company's subsidiary is leasing the machines for $123,400 a month. The Unisys unit also is offering customers a new line of small to midrange systems, the ClearPath HMP IX5600. An integrated, prepackaged suite of software, hardware, documentation and support services, these servers lease for $17,700 a month. Over the next two years, a total of 400 IX5800 and IX5600 servers are expected to be installed.
In a simultaneous addition to its ClearPath HMP family of enterprise- class servers, UNISYS CORP.'s affiliate released multiple models of the large-scale NX5800 Enterprise Server and the medium to large-scale NX5600 Super Server. The two lines of general-purpose servers integrate the traditional Master Control Program/Advanced Server operating system with the Windows NT environment, which yields HMP. Both the NX5800, which leases for $42,600 and up a month, and the NX5600, which starts at $10,600, include single-processor, single domain servers and multiprocesor, dual-domain models. Shipments of this pair also are projected at 400 units over two years.
What UNISYS CORP. considers the cornerstone of its announcement of a new generation of ClearPath HMP servers is the low to midrange LX5000. It runs the MCP/AS operating system, applications and data bases on Windows NT-based, industry-standard Pentium II or Xeon SMP (symmetric multiprocessing) hardware. Pricing of the LX5000 is aggressive, beginning at a monthly lease charge of $3,300. Believing that it has the right combination of performance and price, the Blue Bell, Pennsylvania manufacturer's subsidiary is predicting sales of 600 LX5000 over two years.
Like its parent, NCR CORP.'s subsidiary is offering buyers of certain Pentium-based servers the choice of running SUN MICROSYSTEMS, INC.'s Solaris operating system rather than the in-house version of Unix. This option is available with WorldMark 4300 SMP systems, which are one- to eight-processor, midrange departmental servers, as well as with the entry-level S20 and S26XLPII servers. A top-of-the-line WorldMark 4300 working in the Solaris operating environment costs around $36,800.
In a worldwide release, SUN MICROSYSTEMS, INC. broadened its industry- leading line of workgroup servers running the Solaris operating system with the introduction of a dual-processor model. The peripheral component interconnect-based Sun Enterprise 250 server can be equipped with one or two 300-megahertz UltraSPARC-II 64-bit RISC processors with up to 2 megabytes of cache each, as much as 2 gigabytes of memory, more than 100 gigabytes of internal storage and over 1 terabyte of external storage capacity. The affordability of enterprise-class features and functions in a dual-processor configuration is expected to be a major selling point of the Sun Enterprise 250. Sun's subsidiary has priced the entry-level model at $16,700 and the high-end one at $43,900.
Both IBM JAPAN LTD. and DIGITAL EQUIPMENT CORP.'s subsidiary continue to buttress their lines of products that combine the performance of Windows NT 4.0 workstations with the ease of use of PCs. New from IBM Japan is the IntelliStation E Pro series, which is available with either a 350-MHz Pentium II processor or a 400-MHz Pentium II engine. Both systems, which come standard with 64 MB of internal memory and 6.4 GB of fixed storage, are aggressively priced, listing for $3,300 and $3,700, respectively. DEC's latest pair of entries are powered by a 400-MHz Pentium II processor and come with the 440BX chipset. The DIGITAL Personal Workstation 400i Series, priced from $4,600, supports a complete range of three-dimensional graphics, including the new DIGITAL PowerStorm 4D51T-GFX graphics accelerator. For its part, the DIGITAL Creation Studio 400i has software bundled with it for graphics, illustration, video, speech and the Internet. The starting price of $5,000 includes a monitor.
The prolonged slump in both the corporate and the home PC markets basically has frozen product introductions, but it has not stopped companies from announcing new PC servers. Come September, for instance, COMPAQ COMPUTER CORP.'s subsidiary will ship the ProLiant 6000 and the ProLiant 7000 servers, the company's first products with production-quality 400-MHz Pentium II Xeon processors. In the meantime, it has added two products for workgroups and remote-office applications: the $4,300 ProLiant 800 server, which runs off a 350-MHz Pentium II, and the ProLiant 1600 server, which uses a 350-MHz or a 400-MHz version of the processor and costs $4,800 or $5,700, respectively. Both of the new ProLiants can handle two processors.
A PC server with similar specifications is on the market from MICRON ELECTRONICS, INC.'s local unit. The basic configuration of the NetFRAME 3100, which costs $4,600, has a 333-MHz Pentium II processor, the 440BX chipset, 64 MB of random access memory and a 4-GB hard drive. It, too, is dual processor-capable.
GATEWAY 2000, INC.'s subsidiary is taking a different approach. For SOHO (small office/home office) customers interested in networking their PCs, it has launched the Small Office Solution program. The first package includes a 266-MHz Pentium II-equipped NS-7000 entry-level server bundled with MICROSOFT CORP.'s BackOffice Small Business Server 4.0 operating system and five PCs. The $12,000 cost includes installation.
One of the few manufacturers willing to shoulder the expense of launching a new PC model in today's uncertain market environment is DELL COMPUTER CORP. Its target, however, is the value or sub-$1,000 segment a price point made possible by the use of a 300-MHz Celeron processor in the desktop OptiPlex E1300L.
Its brave-the-waters counterpart in the market for notebook computers is COMPAQ COMPUTER CORP. Affordability also is the sales strategy. The company tweaked its Armada line of portables by adding a new entry-level model, the 1592DT. Powered by a 233-MHz Pentium processor with MMX technology, it is priced at $2,500.
Meeting the continuous data access requirements of large networks quickly and efficiently is becoming increasing tough, but AUSPEX SYSTEMS, INC. believes it has the answer in the NetServer 7000/800 network file system. At its heart is the Santa Clara, California company's Functional Multiprocessing architecture, which distributes the NFS workload to multiple, dedicated processors individually optimized for network, file, storage and Unix system functions. Compared with traditional servers, Auspex says, this architecture delivers higher data availability, faster access to shared data and reduced administrative costs through data consolidation. FUJI XEROX CO., LTD. and NISSHO ELECTRONICS CORP. are handling sales (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 335, August 1997, p. 9).
The already crowded market for automated tape libraries has a new competitor, PHILIPS LASER MAGNETIC STORAGE INC. The Colorado Springs, Colorado manufacturer tapped MEMOREX TELEX JAPAN LTD. to distribute its BlackJack 21 system, which manages backup, restore and archival storage for most Unix platforms, networks and mainframes. The small-footprint product houses up to 21 tape cartridges in three removable magazines, plus an additional cartridge for cleaning or data. It supports digital linear tape, INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES CORP.-compatible 36-track and Philips LMS's new backward-compatible NCTP drive technologies. With a DLT 7000 drive, BlackJack 21 has 735 GB of capacity, while a NCTP drive gives it 440 GB of capacity. Memorex Telex priced the product (including drive) at $37,600 and the library itself at $28,400. It expects sales to total around $7.1 million this year.
Responding to the demand for faster access to data and higher data throughput generated by the increasing performance requirements of PC server applications, COMPAQ COMPUTER CORP.'s subsidiary is offering a new family of SCSI (small computer system interface) enterprise-class hard disk drives that rotate 10,000 times per minute. The company's second-generation of 10,000-rpm Wide-Ultra SCSI-3 products delivers significantly faster performance than the typical 7,200-rpm drive. Moreover, they contain a 3-inch disk, which needs less energy to spin. Drive capacities of 4.3 GB, 9.1 GB and 18.2 GB are available at prices of $3,300 and up.
Through a recently opened office in Tokyo, MYLEX CORP., the world's leading RAID (redundant array of independent disks) controller vendor, introduced a pair of new products. The Fremont, California company's eXtremeRAID 1100 controller is said to eliminate input/output bottlenecks in midrange and enterprise-class storage systems, thereby unleashing their full performance capabilities. Key to this feat is the controller's integration of a 233-MHz RISC processor with Mylex's enhanced intelligent firmware. The other product is the AcceleRAID 200 family of RAID adapters for servers and workstations. They add full hardware RAID fault tolerance at low prices to motherboards from INTEL CORP. that feature on-board SCSI. Both products are being sold on an OEM basis.
The complete solution to Web caching. That is NETWORK APPLIANCE, INC.'s bold claim for its NetCache appliance. The product helps carriers, Internet service providers and corporations boost Web access speeds now slowed by the huge volume of traffic while reducing their consequently soaring data transmission costs. NetCache appliances are said to provide up to 10 times the number of simultaneous connections possible with standard proxy servers and to maintain response times under 10 milliseconds even with peak loads. The Santa Clara, California manufacturer's distributor, ITOCHU TECHNO-SCIENCE CORP., has priced a NetCache appliance with 64 GB of capacity at $66,000, while a 113-GB version goes for $184,400.
IBM JAPAN LTD. has a mid-October shipment date for the InfoPrint 3000 printer just introduced worldwide by its parent. Designed for small to midsized production printing operations, the two models in the line produce documents at speeds of up to 112 impressions per minute or 224 ipm in one-up mode. Among other features, the InfoPrint 3000 automatically enhances 240-dot-per-inch and 300-dpi legacy applications and outputs them as 480-dpi or 600-dpi documents. Customers have a choice of 480-dpi or 600-dpi output support or, as an option, an operator- switchable 480/600-dpi feature. IBM Japan has priced the entry-level InfoPrint 3000 Model ES at $246,800 and the faster, more flexible InfoPrint 3000 Model ED at $558,200.
The industry's lowest-priced PostScript 3-capable laser printer is on the market from IBM JAPAN LTD. The InfoPrint 20, which turns out 20 pages per minute in networked environments, lists for $1,800.
CALCOMP TECHNOLOGY, INC. expects the versatility and the productivity of its ScanPlus III black-and-white scanners to appeal to organizations storing large volumes of documents via scanning. The various models making up the line can handle documents of any width up to 36 inches and any length and can adjust the resolution to match the level of detail. The ScanPlus III also is fast because of its one-pass scanning capability. For instance, an E/A0 size drawing can be captured in as little as 15 seconds. Among the ScanPlus III models available from the Anaheim, California company's subsidiary is the 800T, which offers selectable resolution levels up to 800 dpi. It is priced at $16,300.
Production of the world's thinnest (under 0.2 inch) color TFT (thin-film- transistor) LCD (liquid crystal display) module for notebook PCs has started at DISPLAY TECHNOLOGIES INC.'s plant in Nosu, Shiga prefecture. Developed by IBM JAPAN LTD., which owns DTI in equal partnership with TOSHIBA CORP., the ITSV53G features a 12.1-inch (diagonal) screen with a resolution of 800x600 pixels. It also is the lightest TFT LCD engineered by IBM Japan. Output initially is running at 20,000 units a month, but the ITSV53G is expected to increasingly displace other displays at the 100,000-unit-per-month factory. Whatever the volume, it will be split evenly between the two owners, as is production of other products made at DTI's original plant in Himeji, Hyogo prefecture and at the IBM Japan complex in Shiga prefecture.
Shipments have started in Japan of IOMEGA CORP.'s Buz multimedia producer for PCs. Designed for professionals and home users alike, the product combines video capture and compression, an output card, an Ultra SCSI controller and a software suite. The Roy, Utah maker describes Buz as one of the easiest ways to get video and audio from camcorders, videocassette recorders, DVD-ROMs and laser discs into a PC and then to turn out professional-quality productions.
MICROSOFT CORP.'s subsidiary is selling for $55 a version of the IntelliMouse for Windows 98. The USB (universal serial bus) input device puts the ability to scroll and zoom at the user's fingertips.
An exchange rate of ¥141=$1.00 was used in this report.