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

No. 348, September 1998

Issue Index

Japanese Companies in the US


To hold down costs in today's tight consumer spending environment, FAMILYMART CO., LTD. is replacing its expensive-to-maintain, nonstandardized computer systems with PC servers built by COMPAQ COMPUTER CORP. The third-largest operator of convenience stores in Japan ordered more than 5,000 ProLiant 1850R PC servers from Compaq's subsidiary in a deal worth roughly $41.4 million. Each FamilyMart outlet will get one of the just-introduced systems, which are powered by a 400- MHz Pentium II processor. The industry leader claims that the ProLiant 1850R is the first space-saving, full-featured, high-performance rack- mounted server. Installation of the FamilyMart machines should be completed by August 1999.

The performance of SILICON GRAPHICS, INC.'s Onyx2 supercomputer — a high-powered visualization platform designed to simultaneously process graphics, imaging and video data in real time — has been boosted with the release of a model incorporating the InfiniteReality2 graphics subsystem. An Onyx2 InfiniteReality2 system equipped with a pair of MIPS R10000 64-bit RISC processors begins at $232,800. At the same time, SGI's subsidiary cut the price of the Onyx2Reality, the Onyx2's current entry- level configuration, by 40 percent. With this system now starting at $97,700, the company claims that it is delivering the power of a visual supercomputer at a workstation price.

SILICON GRAPHICS, INC. also beefed up its Origin200 line of low-end, MIPS R10000-equipped Unix servers with the worldwide introduction of two additional products. The Origin200 225QC, targeted at the Internet market, uses a 225-MHz processor and a "matched-speed" cache subsystem to achieve industry-leading benchmark performance at a cost of just $22,500. For bandwidth-intensive applications, SGI has the Origin200 GIGAchannel workgroup server. Roughly $28,000 buys a system that the company says equals or even exceeds the peak bandwidth of many high-end enterprise servers that cost two to five times more than the Origin200 GIGAchannel.

Scalable data warehousing heavyweight NCR CORP. has replaced its Pentium Pro-based WorldMark 4300 server with the WorldMark 4400 system, which offers significantly increased performance through the use of up to four Pentium II Xeon processors running at either 400 MHz or 450 MHz. The new platform is designed for organizations that want to start off with a small (10-gigabyte range) data warehouse while having the flexibility to expand to more than 250 GB. Pricing of the Windows NT version of the WorldMark 4400 begins at $25,100. WorldMark 4400 systems running the Solaris operating system and NCR's version of Unix will be available in November. The company's subsidiary is forecasting sales of 500 WorldMark 4400 servers a year.

A competing product is on the market from UNISYS CORP., although it claims a performance advantage for the Aquanta QS/2. This stand-alone midrange server also can be configured with one to four 400-MHz Pentium II Xeon processors and with up to 8 GB of ECC (error checking and correcting) memory. The uniprocessor model goes for $28,200 and up.

With the corporate and home PC markets still stumbling along, American manufacturers continue to target new releases at the PC server market. For instance, HEWLETT-PACKARD JAPAN LTD. has a late October ship date for three additions to the HP NetServer L Series of enterprise, workgroup and departmental servers. It new top-of-the-line model is the rack- mounted, eight-way Pentium Pro HP NetServer LXr Pro8. This system costs $19,300 and up. Added to the middle of the line is a stand-alone or a rack- mounted departmental server, the HP NetServer LH 3, which is available with a 450-MHz Pentium II processor for a starting price of $9,000. For workgroups, HP Japan is offering the 450-MHz Pentium II-equipped HP NetServer LC 3 for $5,500. .....Going after the same market as the HP NetServer LC 3, DELL COMPUTER CORP.'s subsidiary released a version of its previously introduced PowerEdge 2300 workgroup server that also runs off a 450-MHz Pentium II chip. The basic configuration of the built-to- order, dual processor-capable system lists for $3,700.

The new 450-MHz Pentium II processor also is showing up in a PC workstation from DELL COMPUTER CORP., although the Precision Workstation 410 also can be ordered with either a 350-MHz or a 400-MHz part for as little as $2,400. The custom-configured system also has 2X AGP (accelerated graphics port) video and other features designed to appeal to power users.

COMPAQ COMPUTER CORP.'s local operation has added the second product to its Windows NT-based workstation line aimed at budget-conscious buyers that require high-performance features (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 346, July 1998, p. 12). The Professional Workstation AP200 offers a choice of a 350-MHz or a 400-MHz Pentium II processor. A system capable of two-dimensional graphics starts at $3,200 (the AP200 6350/2D+) or $3,600 (the AP200 6400/2D+), depending on the clock speed of the processor chosen.


Although recently introduced desktop and minitower PCs have failed to ignite demand in the corporate market, companies still are selectively releasing products in the hope that the new models will be the ones that pull sales out of their slump. For HEWLETT-PACKARD JAPAN LTD., the current candidate is the HP Vectra VE line with Pentium II processors running at various clock speeds and INTEL CORP.'s performance-enhancing 440BX AGPset chipset. A HP Vectra VE with a 266-MHz engine lists for $1,900, while one that uses a 400-MHz processor costs $3,100. HP Japan expects to sell 30,000 of the latest additions to the Vectra series.

By preinstalling the localized version of Windows 98 with its Pentium II- class DIGITAL PC 5510, DIGITAL EQUIPMENT CORP.'s subsidiary is trying to capitalize on the strong interest in Japan in the new operating system to lift sales. Power users can get a machine with a 333-MHz Pentium II for $2,700; a system with a 266-MHz chip goes for $2,000. Models also are available with a 233-MHz or a 300-MHz Pentium II.

Direct marketer DELL COMPUTER CORP. hopes that a price as low as $1,000 for a well-equipped desktop system will do the job. That is the list for the OptiPlex E1. Targeted at customers who run basic applications in single-tasking environments, it incorporates a 333-MHz version of the Celeron processor. .....MICRON ELECTRONICS, INC. also used this lower-cost engine to offer a Window NT 4.0-capable machine starting at just $1,200. The base model of the ClientPro CE Micro Tower runs off a 266-MHz Celeron processor with MMX technology. A model with a 300-MHz Celeron processor also is on the market.

Next year, DELL COMPUTER CORP. will go head-to-head with entrenched Japanese competitors in the market for thin, lightweight notebook computers. Although details have not been disclosed, the new product is expected to weigh less than four pounds. Portables, especially thin, lightweight ones, are much more popular in Japan than elsewhere, representing half or more of total PC sales. Dell's subsidiary is counting on the forthcoming line to boost notebooks from 20 percent or so of its total shipments to 25 percent or even 30 percent.

Notebook computer users who have large data storage requirements are the target customers for GATEWAY 2000, INC.'s new Solo 5150 line, which comes with a modular drive bay that supports an optional, low-cost DVD- ROM (digital video disc-read-only memory) drive. In the United States, the Solo 5150SE entry-level model, which features a 233-MHz Pentium II processor and a 14.1-inch TFT display, is priced at $2,300, plus $250 for the two-speed DVD-ROM drive. The high-end model, the Solo 5150XL, offers a 266-MHz Pentium II, more internal memory and extra hard drive storage for $3,300.

Manufacturers of PCs trying to find the next big seller no doubt are casting an envious eye on the sleek, all-in-one iMac from APPLE COMPUTER INC., which is proving to be as popular in Japan as it is in the United States. Slightly more than $1,200 buys a system with a 233-MHz PowerPC 750 processor, a 4 GB hard drive, 32 MB of memory, built-in networking, an internal modem and a CD-ROM drive. The iMac also has 512 kilobytes of performance-boosting secondary cache memory. In the hope of attracting new customers to Apple products, the company's subsidiary signed iMac deals with 20 or so nontraditional marketers in addition to selling the system through CANON SALES CO., INC. and its other usual channels.


The hype about the iMac overshadowed APPLE COMPUTER INC.'s release of its refreshed mainstay computer line, the Power Macintosh G3 Series, in Japan. A pair of desktop models are available with a choice of a 266-MHz or a 300-MHz PowerPC G3, as is a like number of minitower models running off a 300-MHz or a 333-MHz version of the Mac OS-optimized processor. All the new models feature speed enhancements and expanded video capabilities. They also are priced to move. Estimated street prices range from under $1,400 for the 266-MHz Power Macintosh G3 to $2,800 for the top-of-the-line 333-MHz minitower model. .....Simultaneously, APPLE COMPUTER INC.'s subsidiary introduced a Macintosh Server G3 powered by a 333-MHz PowerPC G3 processor for enhanced workgroup efficiency. It is selling for around $4,100.

Like PC suppliers, APPLE COMPUTER INC. is tightening controls on inventory to contain overhead costs in Japan's uncertain sales environment. Until now, the local operation has imported products every few weeks from the company's plant in Singapore and stored them in its own warehouse before shipment to retailers. Starting with the iMac, however, Apple is flying computers in daily to replace sold units. It also plans to go a step further and build an on-line network so that the company's major retailers can receive all of their Apple products directly from the factory on an as-needed basis. ADO ELECTRONIC INDUSTRIAL CO., LTD. and SHIMAMURA MUSIC CO., LTD. are expected to be the first retailers to participate in the new system.

MOTOROLA INC.'s subsidiary has expanded its lineup of single-board computers for industrial automation, data communications, telecommunications and similar low-end to midrange applications. The CPX2208 is an eight-slot CompactPCI (peripheral component interconnect) chassis. Available with either a Pentium processor with MMX technology, a mobile Pentium II engine or a PowerPC processor, the CPX2208 comes complete with central processing unit, memory, peripherals, power supply, Windows NT 4.0 and cables.

What SUN MICROSYSTEMS, INC. describes as the first board-level product that allows OEMs to design high-powered, scalable, embedded applications without having to retrofit servers built for business use is on the market. Costing just under $6,600, the SPARC-engine Ultra AXmp motherboard combines the power of four-way multiprocessing with the flexibility of standard 19-inch rack-mounted packaging. Typical applications for the board are high-end industrial control, Web hosting and carrier-class adjunct servers.

The Kodak Database System KD Series, a multimedia data management system that EASTMAN KODAK CO.'s subsidiary codeveloped with MATSUSHITA ELECTRIC INDUSTRIAL CO., LTD. for Japan, is on the market. The system uses the Internet to store and manage large volumes of images, video, audio and text. The data base can be accessed from any browser-equipped PC linked to a network, with fast downloads. Kodak's affiliate priced the base configuration at $36,200, but a more sophisticated version of the Kodak Database System KD Series can cost more than $206,900.

Companies with Windows NT systems have a new — but expensive — option for storing and backing up data bases and applications at speeds of up to hundreds of gigabytes per hour: the EMC Data Manager Symmetrix Path from EMC CORP. The Path software running on EDM and on a Windows NT server moves data directly from an EMC Symmetrix storage subsystem to an EDM tape backup system. The product is expected to appeal to businesses that want mainframe, Unix and Windows NT data on the same storage system or that have a Symmetrix storage system but do not have it attached to Windows NT servers. EDM pricing begins at $144,800, but that is on top of the substantial cost of a Symmetrix storage subsystem.

Among the 48 peripheral devices from 16 manufacturers initially announced for APPLE COMPUTER INC.'s iMac computer was the SDD-120USB Mac drive from IMATION CORP. Developed with help from MATSUSHITA ELECTRIC INDUSTRY CO., LTD., it comes with a Mac-formatted SuperDisk diskette from the Oakdale, Minnesota maker. The SuperDisk diskette provides 120 MB of storage. Standard 1.44 MB and 720 KB diskettes also can be used with the drive. Sold in the United as the SuperDisk USB Drive, the SDD-120USB Mac is priced around $230.

In another design win for DIAMOND MULTI-MEDIA SYSTEMS, INC., the company's Stealth II G460 was selected by FUJITSU, LTD. as the standard graphics accelerator for four of its FMV-Deskpower Pentium II desktop systems sold in Japan. The San Jose, California vendor's 8-MB product, which features INTEL CORP.'s 740 graphics controller, is a full 2X AGP accelerator for high-quality, superior-performance two- and three- dimensional graphics.

The three-year business relationship between EXTENDED SYSTEMS, INC., a developer and marketer of computer connectivity and mobile systems products, and distributor CF CO., INC. has evolved to the point that the two jointly set up a Tokyo liaison office for the Boise, Idaho-based company. A primary goal for the new operation is to expand sales of the JetEye PC infrared adapter, which allows wireless connectivity between Windows- based portable computing devices and desktop PCs (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 343, April 1998, p. 11).

An exchange rate of ¥145=$1.00 was used in this report.

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