In an about-face, the NEC Computer Systems Division of PACKARD BELL NEC, INC. resigned TECH DATA CORP., one the largest wholesale distributors of technology products, to distribute Versa notebook computers, PowerMate desktop personal computers, Express5800 servers and MobilePro handheld PCs to resellers across the country. In June 1997, NEC CSD ended all distribution agreements in favor of direct sales to corporate customers -- one of the struggling Sacramento, California firm's many attempts in recent years to get its sales back on an expansion track. It discovered, however, that some business buyers preferred to work with resellers. They now have that option.
HITACHI PC CORP., which never went the direct-sales route, expanded its distribution agreements with INGRAM MICRO INC. and TECH DATA CORP. to include the Hitachi VisionBase server line. Santa Ana, California- headquartered Ingram Micro, the world's top wholesale distributor of technology products, and Tech Data of Clearwater, Florida previously handled Hitachi PC notebooks and desktop machines. They now will carry the two-way Pentium II-based VisionBase 8240 server, the four-way Pentium II Xeon- based 8460 and the 8880, an eight-way enterprise server (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 350, November 1998, p. 3). Hitachi PC's full line also is available to value-added resellers through SENECA DATA DISTRIBUTORS INC. of East Syracuse, New York and JONES BUSINESS SYSTEMS INC. of Richardson, Texas.
Like the competition, the Computer Systems Division of TOSHIBA AMERICA INFORMATION SYSTEMS, INC. is giving buyers of enterprise-class and departmental servers the option of rack-mountable systems. The Magnia 7000R can support as many as four 450-MHz Pentium II Xeon processors with either 512 kilobytes or 1 megabyte of Level 2 cache. It also features a 100-MHz front-side bus and an improved memory architecture that helps to boost performance. The Magnia 5000R departmental server comes with a single 350-MHz, 400-MHz or 450-MHz Pentium II processor. It, too, has a 100-MHz front-side bus and high-speed ECC (error checking and correcting) memory. The enterprise-class 7000R starts at $8,500, while the 5000R begins at $4,500. TAIS also is marketing the companion 6142 rack for $2,000 and up.
CLARION CO., LTD.'s U.S. marketing subsidiary had a January ship date for the multifunctional Clarion Auto PC for vehicles. The $1,300 machine, which uses a version of the Windows CE 2.0 operating system, integrates audio, navigation, wireless communications and computing functions, all of which can be activated by voice command. Given its speech synthesis capability, a driver, for example, can retrieve and listen to e-mail without taking his or her eyes off the road. Clarion hopes to sell 30,000 Auto PCs in 1999.
Companies interested in building a storage area network have another option in HITACHI DATA SYSTEMS CORP.'s Freedom Storage 5800 with its high- speed Fibre Channel interconnects. The storage subsystem comes with as many as four Fibre Channel connections to the host processor. It also can be configured with up to eight Ultra SCSI (small computer system interface) or Ultra2 SCSI connections for eight concurrent input/output paths among clustered Windows NT, NetWare and Unix servers. The Freedom Storage 5800, which ranges in price from $45,000 to $140,000, has a maximum accessible capacity of more than 1 terabyte in a single rack using 18- gigabyte disk drives. .....Meanwhile, Santa Clara, California-headquartered HITACHI DATA SYSTEMS CORP. agreed to distribute in the United States the Scimitar/Virtual Tape Server line of neighbor SUTMYN STORAGE CORP. This product employs a SCSI attachment that allows storage subsystems like the Freedom Storage family, which includes the 7700E and the 5700E in addition to the new 5800, to store tape-formatted data on disks. That capability gives companies cost-effective access to their legacy data stored on tape. The Scimitar/VTS provides more than 1.6 terabytes of capacity.
A rewritable digital video disk drive is shipping from PANASONIC INDUSTRIAL CO.'s Milpitas, California-based computer components group. It can read and write data to 5.2-GB double-sided DVD disks or to 2.6-GB single-sided ones. The drive also can read other formats, including DVD-ROM (read-only memory), DVD recordable, DVD video, CD audio, CD-ROM, CD-R and CD rewritable. The drive itself is $800, while the DVD disks cost either $25 (single-sided) or $40 (double-sided).
The AngleView line of displays from MITSUBISHI ELECTRONICS AMERICA, INC.'s electronic device group has two new members, both of which provide a 120- degree viewing angle as well as greater luminance than traditional CRT (cathode-ray tube) displays. The 12.1-inch thin-film-transistor liquid crystal display model delivers a Super VGA (video graphics array) resolution of 800 pixels x 600 pixels and an 18-bit color depth to define 262,144 colors. Its 10.4-inch counterpart features VGA (640 x 480) resolution and the same 18-bit color depth of the bigger model. Each of the displays costs $800.
Despite all the interest in color printers and multifunctional machines, a big market still exists for low-priced monochrome printers. The Mount Laurel, New Jersey Okidata division of OKI AMERICA, INC. is trying to capitalize on that demand with a new line of Oki Page digital LED (light-emitting diode) printers. The OkiPage 8w, 10ex and 12i give small and midsize businesses a choice of speed -- 8 pages per minute, 10 ppm and 12 ppm, respectively, all with a 600-dot-per-inch resolution -- depending on how much they are willing to spend. The OkiPage 8w goes for $310, the 10ex lists at $520 and the high-end 12i costs $800.
The Torrance, California subsidiary of SEIKO INSTRUMENTS, INC. has introduced a cordless, handheld thermal printer for notebooks and other portable devices. The Windows CE-compliant DPU-3445 uses infrared technology. Including its 7.2-volt DC lithium-ion battery, the device weighs just 13 ounces. It is priced around $240.
Completing a strategic retreat from a business where it recently had been among the world's biggest players, KAO CORP. sold its North American and European storage media and software replication businesses to ZOMAX OPTICAL MEDIA, INC. for approximately $37.5 million. The big manufacturer of personal-care and household products signaled this outcome last spring when it downsized the operations of its 10-year-old KAO INFOSYSTEMS CO. subsidiary in Plymouth, Massachusetts (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 344, May 1998, p. 3). The U.S. facilities acquired by Plymouth, Minnesota-based Zomax include a 22-line CD and DVD manufacturing, packaging and distribution plant in Fremont, California and a call center in San Ramon, California. Other former Kao production locations bought by Zomax are in Ontario, Canada, Dublin, Ireland and Germany. These businesses had estimated revenues of $160 million in 1998.
BROTHER INTERNATIONAL CORP. has opened a $40 million-plus distribution center with 1.1 million square feet of space in Bartlett, Tennessee, where the BROTHER INDUSTRIES, LTD. subsidiary has had manufacturing operations since 1987. Inventories of printers, fax machines, multifunctional units, word processors, typewriters, labeling systems and sewing machines will be stocked there. Brother International, which had sales of $1.2 billion in 1997, already has announced plans to add 1 million square feet of warehouse space in Bartlett.
An exchange rate of ¥117=$1.00 was used in this report.aaaaaa