Japan-US Business Report Logo

No. 351, December 1998

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American Companies in Japan


In a move that should drive down the now high cost of digital television receivers, SARNOFF CORP. is licensing a manufacturing reference design for customizable DTV sets through ITOCHU TECHNO-SCIENCE CORP. The design can be implemented in integrated receivers or set-top box converters. The Princeton, New Jersey developer believes that its design will help consumer electronics firms cut the cost of DTV sets to between $400 and $550 per receiver (excluding the display) by the 1999 Christmas selling season. The technology is aimed at the volume end of the market, including converters that allow consumers to receive DTV on their current analog sets, as well as at entry- level and midrange standard-definition DTV receivers. Sarnoff expects to have a version of its manufacturing reference design for high-definition TV displays available early in 1999.

The Rio PMP300 portable music player, which stores and plays back up to 60 minutes of digital-quality music, has arrived in Japan through the subsidiary of developer DIAMOND MULTIMEDIA SYSTEMS, INC. The product is a lighter, smaller counterpart to a Walkman or a MiniDisk player, but what really sets it apart is the inclusion of Jukebox MP3 compression software licensed from MUSICMATCH CORP. and XING TECHNOLOGY CORP. With this technology, people can create a customized mix of music playable on their Rio PMP300 or their PC from either their personal collection of music CDs or from digital music and audio content downloaded from the Web. San Jose, California-based Diamond Multimedia has priced the Rio PMP300, which uses flash memory for storage and playback, at $225.

A more affordable version of BOSE CORP.'s home theater system is on the market through the subsidiary of the Framingham, Massachusetts company. The $1,200- plus Bose Theater LS-8, sold in the United States as the Lifestyle 8 system, includes five Acoustimass cube speakers; a music center with a CD player, AM- FM tuner and outputs for additional speakers; a radio-frequency remote controller; and an Acoustimass module with built-in amplification and proprietary electronics.

An unnamed Japanese company, identified only as a leading consumer electronics manufacturer, is evaluating the zinc-air battery technology developed by AER ENERGY RESOURCES, INC. The Atlanta firm says that its battery technology provides the long, continuous run time sought for portable electronic products like camcorders, handheld computers, cellular telephones and lighting products.

According to METANETICS CORP., its IR-2000 handheld image reader ushers in a new generation of automatic identification products for barcode reading, verification and image acquisition. Unlike conventional laser-based scanners, the IR-2000 uses camera technology and has no moving parts. It automatically differentiates among all the major barcode symbologies. Other advantages of the imager, says the Fort Myers, Florida company, is that it can read a barcode from any direction and capture signatures and digital photographs. Moreover, the IR-2000 supports optical character recognition. Metanetics, a TELXON CORP. subsidiary, has named a Tokyo company to market the device.

AMERICAN POWER CONVERSION, the market leader in uninterruptible power supplies, has released a remote power switching device for network management. The MasterSwitch E515 gives a LAN administrator complete control over the power to network-connected equipment. From anywhere on the network, he or she can use a network management station or a Web browser to power, depower or reboot computers and internetworking equipment. Potential applications for the device, which costs around $1,000, include remotely located racks of servers or internetworking equipment or banks of modems that occasionally need to be rebooted. Each MasterSwitch E515 can manage eight independent power channels.

American companies repeatedly have criticized what they call the discriminatory procurement practices of Japan's electric power industry. With the help of distributor NIPPON KOUATSU ELECTRIC CO., LTD., however, G&W ELECTRIC CO., a manufacturer of gas load-break switchgear and fault interrupters, is doing business with CHUBU ELECTRIC POWER CO., INC. The Blue Island, Illinois company has supplied its Rotary Puffer-style, two-position (open/close) switch to Nippon Kouatsu, which modified the load-breaker and built it into a system that gives Chubu Electric extremely efficient, high-speed arc extinction capabilities. Japan's third-largest electric utility, which reportedly decided to buy the G&W-adapted product because it offered a 20 percent cost saving over anything available in Japan, will purchase 10 open/close switch systems from Nippon Kouatsu.

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

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