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No. 351, December 1998

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Japanese Companies in the US


Matching new enterprise-class servers from PACKARD BELL NEC, INC.'s NEC Computer Systems Division and HITACHI PC CORP. (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 350, November 1998, p. 3), the Computer Systems Division of TOSHIBA AMERICA INFORMATION SYSTEMS, INC. announced shipments of the Magnia 7000 series. The line, which rounds out TAIS's current workgroup and departmental server families, supports up to four 400-MHz Pentium II Xeon processors. Magnia 7000 servers come standard with 256-megabyte ECC (error checking and correcting) EDO (extended data-out) DRAM (dynamic random access memory), expandable to 4 gigabytes, plus six hot-swappable drive bays and two hot- pluggable power supplies for high availability and reliability. The machines now are compatible with Windows NT and NetWare, but TAIS reportedly will extend operating system support to Unix. Pricing of a Magnia 7000 with a single 400-MHz processor starts at just under $8,000.

Both the NEC Computer Systems Division of PACKARD BELL NEC, INC. and HITACHI PC CORP. have announced Windows 2000 Ready desktop and notebook computers -- machines that run the Windows NT Workstation 4.0 operating system and meet the system requirements for easy migration to the forthcoming Windows 2000 Professional operating system. For Sacramento, California-based NEC CSD, the relevant products are the Versa SX and the Versa LX notebook computers and the PowerMate 8100 series of desktop computers. The comparable Windows 2000 Ready machines from Milpitas, California-headquartered Hitachi PC are the VisionBook 7700 and the just-announced VisionBook 800 and VisionBook Traveler 600 notebook lines, plus the new VisionDesk 1330, 2200 and 3400 desktop computers.

HITACHI PC CORP. introduced a new line of VisionDesk desktop computers designed to address the application-specific requirements of a range of corporate environments. The refreshed series starts with the all-in-one, 7.5- inch-deep VisionDesk 1330. Equipped with a 333-MHz Pentium II processor, this $2,600 system features HITACHI, LTD.'s 14.1-inch SuperTFT (thin-film- transistor) LCD (liquid crystal display) screen, which delivers high resolution, reduces eye strain and provides a 160-degree viewing angle. The small-footprint VisionDesk 2200 microtower, which also uses a 333-MHz Pentium II processor, offers an alternative to the VisionDesk 1330 for space- constrained environments. It starts at $1,300. At the high end of the line is the VisionDesk 3400 minitower. Running off a 450-MHz Pentium II processor, it comes with 64 MB of main memory (expandable to 256 MB), a 6.4-GB hard drive, integrated 10/100 Base-TX local area network capability, plus two open drive bays and an equal number of open PCI (peripheral component interconnect) and ISA (integrated standard architecture) slots. Available in January, it costs $2,000.

In a companion release, HITACHI PC CORP. introduced the VisionBook 800 desktop replacement and the VisionBook Traveler 600, touting for both their built-in connectivity features to distinguish them from the competition. Corporate buyers of the VisionBook 800 have a choice of a 266-MHz or a 300-MHz Pentium II processor and a 13.3-inch or a 14.1-inch TFT display, plus 128 MB of base synchronous DRAM (expandable to 256 MB), up to 8 GB of hard drive capacity and a combination 20X CD-ROM/floppy drive. The mininotebook Traveler 600 weighs just 2.9 pounds, including the battery, and measures only 1.2 inches thick, yet it has a 10.4-inch TFT display and a keyboard sized at 90 percent of a normal notebook keyboard. Performance features include a 266-MHz Pentium processor with MMX technology, 32 MB of RAM and a 3.2-GB hard drive. A docking bar for connecting to external devices is among the system's convenience pluses. Pricing begins at $2,000. The VisionBook 800, which will be available in January, as well as the VisionDesk 2200 and the VisionDesk 3400 will be built to order. In time, Hitachi PC will extend its custom-configuration program to other desktop and portable machines. FUJITSU PC CORP. and TOSHIBA AMERICA INFORMATION SYSTEMS, INC. already have similar programs in place.

Going after cost-conscious small and midsized businesses, the Computer Systems Division of TOSHIBA AMERICA INFORMATION SYSTEMS, INC. introduced three notebook products priced below $2,000. In fact, its new Satellite 2515CDS lists for just $1,400. That price buys a 266-MHz Pentium processor with MMX technology, 32 MB of EDO DRAM, a 4.3-GB hard drive, a 12.1-inch color dual- scan display and a built-in 56-kilobit-per-second modem packaged in a 1.7- inch-thick, sleek, curvy case. The leader in portables also introduced the Portégé 3010CT/3015CT. This duo, with their distinctive magnesium-alloy dark gray chassis and silver metallic lid, measures a mere 0.75-inch thick and weighs 2.9 pounds. The $2,000 machines have the same processor, memory, hard drive and modem specifications as the Satellite 2525CDS but come with a 10.4- inch TFT display and a fast graphics accelerator. At the same time, TAIS beefed up its mininotebook line with the release of the Libretto 110CT, a 2- pound product with a 233-MHz Pentium processor with MMX technology, a 4.3-GB hard drive and a 7.1-inch TFT display that lists for $1,800. Value-conscious notebook buyers, particularly in the government, education, corporate and SOHO (small office/home office) markets as well as first-time customers, also are the targets for the Versa Note from PACKARD BELL NEC, INC.'s NEC CSD. Pricing starts at $1,700 for a system with a 266-MHz Pentium processor with MMX technology, 32 MB of internal memory, a 3.2-GB hard drive and a 12.1-inch TFT display. A similarly configured computer with a 233-MHz Pentium II is $1,900. The Versa Note's all-in-one design means that the CD-ROM drive, floppy drive, modem and battery are integrated and available simultaneously.

The price-sensitive home market also has a new notebook option from PACKARD BELL NEC, INC.'s NEC CSD: the sub-$1,000 NEC Ready 120LT. The company is billing the system as the first full-featured, small, Windows 98 notebook computer at that price point. Weighing only 3.6 pounds despite its 8-inch color TFT display and full-sized keyboard, the NEC Ready 120LT sports a 200- MHz MMX-Enhanced MediaGX processor, 32 MB of SyncDRAM, a 2.1-GB hard drive, an external 3.5-inch floppy drive, an external 24X CD-ROM drive, a 56-kbps- capable modem and multimedia-enhancing features.

FUJITSU PC CORP. is shipping its slimmest (1.1 inch) and lightest (under 4.5 pounds) LifeBook notebook to date for mobile professionals and corporate executives. The LifeBook L440 is powered by a 266-MHz Pentium II processor and features 32 MB of RAM standard (expandable to 160 MB), a 4-GB hard drive, a 13.3-inch TFT display and a 56-kbps internal modem. Two configurations are available. One, with an estimated street price of $2,700, has an external floppy drive; the other, which lists for $2,900, comes with a detachable multifunction bay, allowing users to travel with only the components they need.

In a major boost to CANDESCENT TECHNOLOGIES CORP.'s efforts to make field emission display technology the format for the next generation of thin, flat panel computer displays, SONY CORP. agreed to work with the San Jose, California company to develop high-voltage FED technology. Color displays incorporating this technology deliver a level of brightness and provide a viewing angle and a response speed similar to the cathode ray tubes found in most of today's desktop monitors. FED displays also can achieve the same thin, lightweight design characteristic of LCD displays. Moreover, compared with low-voltage FEDs, the high-voltage counterpart offers longer life, reduced power consumption and better color quality. Sony and Candescent expect to jointly commercialize 14-inch and larger full-color, high-voltage FEDs within the next two years. That time frame coincides with the start of volume output at a $400 million factory that Candescent has under construction in San Jose for the production of its ThinCRT flat panel displays. Sources value Sony's development deal with Candescent at $100 million.

A new display option is available to buyers of XYBERNAUT CORP.'s "wearable" Mobile Assistant IV PC (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 349, October 1998, p. 13). JAPAN AVIATION ELECTRONICS INDUSTRY, LTD. is supplying a 6.5-inch color VGA (video graphics array) FPD with integrated digitizer to the Fairfax, Virginia company on an original equipment manufacturer basis. Unlike Xybernaut's existing head-mounted display, the one-pound JAE product is designed to be worn on the forearm or in a sleeve on the same belt or vest holding the MA IV. The new display, which has 16 built-in function keys and provides a resolution of 640 x 480, can be operated by touch or by using a built-in stylus.


SHARP CORP.'s Mahwah, New Jersey subsidiary is marketing a second-generation 15-inch TFT LCD multimedia monitor optimized for high-end workstations. The LL-T152A, which delivers XGA (extended graphic array) resolution (1024 x 768), has a display area equivalent to a 17-inch CRT monitor, yet takes up just one- fourth the desk space and uses only 40 percent of the power of that monitor. It lists for about $1,500. Sharp's U.S. unit also has added to its LCD monitor lineup a product with a viewing area of 12.1 inches measured diagonally. The 15-inch Sharp product is up against a similarly sized TFT LCD display from FUJITSU, LTD. Its FUJITSU MICROELECTRONICS, INC. unit claims that the XGA- resolution display, which is designed for high-end multimedia applications and desktop monitors, offers the widest viewing angle (more than 160 degrees both vertically and horizontally) and the fastest response time of any product in its class.

The PanaSync monitor line from PANASONIC COMPUTER PERIPHERAL CO. will gain a new member in February. The 19-inch PanaSync SL90 has an 18-inch viewing area measured diagonally and delivers a resolution of 1600 x 1280. The Secaucus, New Jersey affiliate of MATSUSHITA ELECTRIC INDUSTRIAL CO., LTD. has priced the monitor at $680.

Formalizing a two-year working relationship, MI-TSUBISHI CHEMICAL CORP. and QUINTA CORP. have teamed up to develop and commercialize technology that overcomes the potential capacity limitations of the magnetic recording media used in the disk drives of today. This constraint involves ariel density, or the amount of data per square inch on a hard drive platter. The focus of the collaboration is recording media for Quinta's optically assisted Winchester architecture, which incorporates thermally assisted magnetic recording and vertical recording techniques to get around the so-called superparmagnetic effect. Mitsubishi Chemical brings to the job its expertise in hard disk and magneto-optical media. OAW products draw on techniques used in both technologies. The partners' immediate goal is to put 30 GB of capacity on a platter. San Jose, California-based Quinta is the optical storage development subsidiary of SEAGATE TECHNOLOGY, INC.

The next generation of disk drives -- devices with capacities up to 20 GB -- has arrived. Along with at least two American companies, FUJITSU COMPUTER PRODUCTS OF AMERICA, INC. introduced a number of hard drives for servers, desktop PCs and notebook computers that fall into the higher storage range. And, like its competitors, the FUJITSU, LTD. unit expanded disk capacity by increasing ariel density. It did this by adopting a more sensitive disk drive head technology pioneered by INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES CORP. called GMR, short for giant magnetoresistive. For desktop machines, San Jose, California-based Fujitsu Computer Products will offer capacities of 17.3 GB, 12.9 GB, 10.8 GB, 8.4 GB, 6.4 GB and 4.3 GB. It also will start shipping in February three slim but higher-capacity notebook drives.

Continuing its push into the printer field from its stronghold in the copier market (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 348, September 1998, p. 5), CANON INC.'s Lake Success, New York subsidiary introduced two additions to its color laser printing line. The CLBP 460PS for workgroups outputs four pages per minute in color and 16 ppm in monochrome with a resolution of 600 dots per inch. The $3,000 system incorporates a new print engine derived from San Mateo, California-based ELECTRONICS FOR IMAGING, INC.'s Fiery X2e embedded color controller. Canon also announced for March shipment the imageClass 2100, a 6-ppm network color laser printer that has walk-up copying capabilities. It will be priced at $10,000. Moreover, sometime in 1999's second quarter, the company will begin selling the CLCZ, an 11-ppm color laser copier with printing capabilities.

KONICA CORP.'s Windsor, Connecticut business products subsidiary is making the same move. Its color laser printer line has two new additions: the KL-3015N Force Color and the KL-3015N+ Force Color. Both machines print 3 ppm in color and 15 ppm in monochrome and can be managed remotely over the Web. They, too, include ELECTRONICS FOR IMAGING, INC.'s Fiery X2e controller. The main difference between the two color lasers, which cost $4,500 and $5,000, respectively, is how much memory they have.

Multifunction systems are going mainstream. Recent product introductions from Japanese competitors include the Bizworks 406DF, a color laser printer/digital copier for the SOHO market from RICOH CO., LTD.'s West Caldwell, New Jersey marketing subsidiary. The $800 unit prints 6 ppm with a 600-dpi resolution. On the copier side, it has a document feeder and scan-once, copy-many capabilities. Then there is the Panafax DX-1000 from PANASONIC COMMUNICATIONS & SYSTEMS CO., a networked fax machine that doubles as a scanner and a networked printer. One novel feature is that users can fax documents over a corporate intranet or the Internet to either a fax machine or an e-mail address. The DX-1000 will be available early in 1999 at a price of $3,000. For its part, KONICA CORP.'s U.S. unit is marketing for $3,000 the high-volume Fax 9825. Designed for midsized workgroups, the system functions not only as a fax machine but as a printer, a scanner and a copier as well. Companies not sure that they want these added capabilities now can buy the midvolume Fax 9820 and later invest in a low-cost upgrade kit. TOSHIBA AMERICA INFORMATION SYSTEMS, INC. also plans to break into the multifunction systems market in 1999. Its starting point will be the DP2460 networked copier. This machine will allow users to copy, print, fax and scan directly from an office PC or from a networked computer.

Multifunction printers for another type of business -- banks' teller stations -- are being pushed by SEIKO EPSON CORP.'s Torrance, California marketing unit. Its small-footprint, faster TM-U675 printer is an integrated receipt, validation and document transaction printer designed to consolidate numerous branch jobs into one device. The system costs $865.

An exchange rate of ¥121=$1.00 was used in this report.

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