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No. 353, February 1999

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Japanese Companies in the US


To better position HITACHI DATA SYSTEMS CORP. as a solutions provider in the extremely competitive North American market, majority owner HITACHI, LTD. will buy out ELECTRONIC DATA SYSTEMS CORP.'s 16.2 percent stake in the Santa Clara, California company for an undisclosed amount. The two formed Hitachi Data Systems in 1989 and then took over NATIONAL ADVANCED SYSTEMS, INC., the company that had been marketing, selling and servicing Hitachi's mainframes and related storage products in the United States and elsewhere. Today, Hitachi Data Systems employs 2,300 people and operates in 30 countries. Its line of high-performance S/390-compatible enterprise servers includes the HDS Skyline Series and the HDS Pilot Series. It also handles Hitachi Freedom Storage subsystems, which provide multiplatform support across S/390, Unix and Windows NT environments. Right before a restructuring Hitachi announced the agreement to acquire EDS's share, Hitachi Data Systems disclosed plans to form an open systems unit to further its systems integration business in North America.

Japanese computer makers continue to keep pace with their American rivals in introducing products that capitalize on the performance enhancements of INTEL CORP.'s latest microprocessor technology. The release of the 450-megahertz Pentium II Xeon processor, for instance, was quickly followed by the announcement of new enterprise-class servers from HITACHI PC CORP., the NEC Computer Systems Division of PACKARD BELL NEC, INC. and the Computer Systems Division of TOSHIBA AMERICA INFORMATION SYSTEMS, INC. The Hitachi VisionBase 8460, the NEC Express5800 HX4500 line and Toshiba's Magnia 7000 series all can support up to four 450-MHz Xeon processors. These engines offer a larger and faster on-chip Level 2 cache, with the option of 512 kilobytes, 1 megabyte or 2 megabytes. A 100-MHz front-side bus and Intel's 450NX PCI (peripheral component interconnect) chipset also are common features. The Express5800 HX4500 starts at $11,600 for a single processor with 512 KB of L2 cache, 128 MB of ECC (error checking and correcting) DRAM (dynamic random access memory) and a 4-GB hard drive. The Magnia 7000, which comes standard with 256 MB of internal memory, is priced from $7,900. Hitachi PC did not release pricing for either the VisionBase 8460 or for the VisionBase 8880, which now can be powered by up to eight 450-MHz Xeon processors. Each of the companies' products can be configured to order.

The release of the 450-MHz Pentium II Xeon processor also marked the debut of the fourth member of HITACHI PC CORP.'s VisionBase server family. The midrange VisionBase 8450, like the 8460, is a four-way server that is available in either a tower or a rack-mounted configuration. It can support as much as 4 GB of main memory and features seven 32-bit PCI slots and six externally accessible hot-swap drive bays. Milpitas, California- based Hitachi PC has positioned the VisionBase 8450 for multiserver clustering environments. The base configuration has an estimated street price of $14,000.

The Computer Systems Division of TOSHIBA AMERICA INFORMATION SYSTEMS, INC., the U.S. market leader in portable personal computers, also unveiled machines that sport new, faster processors from INTEL CORP. for notebook PCs. The sleek, thin (1-inch thick) and lightweight (4.2 pounds) Portégé 7020CT for mobile professionals features the 366-MHz mobile Pentium II processor. The estimated street price of $3,700 also buys a 13.3-inch TFT (thin-film-transistor) LCD (liquid crystal display), a full-size keyboard, 64 MB of high-speed synchronous DRAM, a 6.4-GB Ultra DMA hard drive and other bells and whistles. The same processor also powers the latest models in the Tecra 8000 Series, a line known for all the configuration possibilities that are available. One option, expected to go for around $3,900, includes the 366-MHz mobile Pentium II chip, a 13.3-inch TFT LCD display, 64 MB of SDRAM memory, an 8.1-GB hard drive and a 24X CD-ROM drive. For budget-conscious buyers that want the performance of the 366-MHz mobile Pentium II processor, TAIS CSD introduced the Satellite 4080XCDT. Its price of $3,200 includes a 6.4-GB hard drive and a 14.1-inch display, the largest screen available to date in the Satellite line. The Irvine, California company also released its first notebook with the new 300-MHz mobile Celeron processor. Priced around $2,000, the Satellite 4030CDT offers 4.3 GB of storage and a 13.3-inch TFT LCD display.

Also vying for the business of the mobile professional, the NEC Computer Systems Division of PACKARD BELL NEC, INC. introduced the third generation of its Versa SX notebook PCs. Measuring 1.3 inches high and weighing 4.8 pounds, the new machine features the performance-enhancing 366-MHz mobile Pentium II processor as well as a 14.1-inch TFT LCD display, 64 MB of RAM and a 4-GB hard drive. Like other Versa notebooks, the new SXs also include the VersaBay III, which accepts seven different, hot- swappable storage and power tools. The standard configuration of the built-to-order Versa SX goes for around $3,600. For customers who find that price too stiff, Mountain View, California-based NEC CSD announced the second generation of its Versa Note notebook. It sports INTEL CORP.'s just- released 300PE-MHz mobile Pentium II processor as well as an all-in-one design that makes the CD-ROM drive, floppy drive and modem simultaneously available. These capabilities plus a 13.3-inch TFT LCD screen, 32 MB of internal memory and a 4-GB hard drive are priced at $2,200 or so.

HITACHI PC CORP.'s latest solution for the functionality, flexibility and pricing requirements of the corporate marketplace is the Hitachi VisionBook 800 Series. These notebooks offer the option of a 366- MHz mobile Pentium II processor, a 300PE-MHz mobile Pentium II chip or these processors at a slower clock speed as well as the choice of the size of the internal memory, hard drive and screen. Three standard configurations are available, all of which contain a built-in modem, 10/100Base-TX local area network card and a lithium-ion battery. A VisionBook 800 with a 366-MHz mobile Pentium II chip, a 14.1-inch TFT LCD display, 128 MB of RAM and a 10-GB hard drive is priced at $3,000. A combination of the 300PE-MHz processor, a 13.3-inch TFT LCD screen, 64 MB of internal memory and a 6.4-GB hard drive costs $2,900. The third configuration features the 266PE-MHz processor; it lists for $2,500.

Not to be outdone, SONY ELECTRONICS, INC. extended its VAIO line of notebook computers with the introduction of the PCG-F Series. The four all-in-one models in the line are among the first portable systems to offer full multimedia capabilities, yet they cost only between $1,700 and $3,300. The high-end VAIO PCG-F190, for instance, allows full digital video editing, a first for the industry. This capability comes in a package with a 366-MHz mobile Pentium II processor, a 14.1-inch TFT LCD display, 64 MB of SDRAM and a 6.4-GB hard drive. For the SOHO (small office/home office) user, there is the VAIO PCG-F150 with a 300-MHz mobile Pentium II chip. It allows digital video still editing using, like the other models, SONY CORP.'s iLINK (IEEE-1394) port. All four VAIO PCG-F Series systems measure less than 1.7 inches thick and weigh under 7 pounds.

For the mobile professional looking for ultraportability, SONY ELECTRONICS, INC. simultaneously released two additions to its sleek VAIO 505 SuperSlim notebook line. The VAIO PCG-505TX and the VAIO PCG-505TS weigh a mere 2.7 pounds and are less than 0.9 inch high. Powered alike by a 300-MHz Pentium processor with MMX technology, the two models include 64 MB of SDRAM, a 4.3-GB (505TS) or a 6.4-GB (505TX) hard drive, an iLINK port for digital video still editing and a 10.4-inch TFT LCD display. The high- end model, though, incorporates SONY CORP.'s XBRITE display technology, which delivers a resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels versus the standard SVGA (super video graphics array) resolution of 640 x 480 found in other notebook computers. The VAIO PCG-505TX has an estimated selling price of $2,500, while the VAIO PCG-505TS is expected to go for about $2,000.

These machines will be going up against HITACHI PC CORP.'s VisionBook Traveler 600 mininotebooks, which are 1-inch thick and weigh just 2.9 pounds. Claimed to be the industry's only ultraportable to offer a choice of a built-in modem or LAN, the line features a 266-MHz Pentium processor with MMX technology, a minimum of 32 MB of SDRAM expandable to 160 MB, a 3.2-GB or a 4.3-GB hard drive and a 10.4-inch TFT SVGA screen. The estimated retail prices of the four standard configurations of the VisionBook Traveler 600 run from $2,000 to $2,400.

Thinner, lighter form factors also are coming to the world of handheld PCs. The NEC Computer Systems Division of PACKARD BELL NEC, INC., for one, announced the MobilePro 770, which weighs 1.7 pounds and measures 9.6 x 5.2 x 1.1 inches. Powered by NEC ELECTRONICS, INC.'s VR4121 64-bit processor, the $800 device has an 8.1-inch, half-VGA display (a resolution of 640 x 240), three data-entry options and instant connectivity means. It comes bundled with Windows CE software from leading vendors and will support Windows CE Handheld PC Professional Edition when MICROSOFT CORP. releases that operating system. NEC CSD's line of MobilePro H/PCs now includes three models.

Handheld PCs are marketed as companions to desktop or notebook systems. FUJITSU PERSONAL SYSTEMS, INC. is pushing a replacement, at least for portable PCs. The Santa Clara, California company's Stylistic 2300 is a pen tablet. Running either Windows 98 or Windows NT off a 233-MHz Pentium processor with MMX technology, the machine has a ruggedized 4.1-GB hard drive, a built-in 56-kilobit-per-second modem, two Type 2 PC Cards and an 8.4-inch color Super VGA display that is optimized for both indoor and outdoor viewing.

As an option with its new line of Power Macintosh G3 desktop machines, APPLE COMPUTER, INC. is offering a rewritable digital video disk drive supplied on an original equipment manufacturer basis by MATSUSHITA ELECTRIC INDUSTRIAL CO., LTD. The LF-D101 DVD-RAM drive also can read disks written in other formats, including DVD-ROM (ready-only memory), CD- ROM and CD-R (recordable).

Subsidiaries of HITACHI, LTD. and TOSHIBA CORP. are shipping slim disk drives with a storage capacity of 10 GB to manufacturers of high- performance notebooks. Both companies overcame the capacity constraint imposed by ariel density, or the amount of data per square inch on a hard drive platter, by employing the giant magnetoresistive head technology pioneered by INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES CORP. Hitachi's 2.5-inch, three-platter DK229A-10 drive, for example, represents more than a 60 percent increase in data density compared with drives it introduced just last year. GMR heads also were used in Hitachi's simultaneously released 2.5-inch, two-platter DK-239A-65 drive, which has a capacity of 6.49 GB. Toshiba's corresponding drives, each of which provides 3.3 GB of storage per platter, are the 10-GB MK1011GAV and the 6.4-GB MK6411MAT.

Multifunction desktop devices are starting to crowd the shelves of computer stores. Among the new products is the CFX-L3500F from CANON INC.'s subsidiary. The $1,100 system makes laser prints at 6 pages per minute and allows 14.4-kbps plain paper faxing, PC faxing and scanning.

The M Series of departmental-level scanners from FUJITSU COMPUTER PRODUCTS OF AMERICA, INC. of San Jose, California has a new model that supports Irvine, California-based KOFAX IMAGE PRODUCTS' ScanRight Virtual ReScan software. This technology automatically adjusts the quality of the scanned image, thereby reducing time and labor costs. It also trims scanned file sizes up to 15 percent for more on-line storage. Fujitsu's M3097D with ScanRight VRS is designed for high-volume (up to 1,000 pages a day) users, such as scanning houses specializing in forms processing. It has a list price of $11,000.

SEIKO EPSON CORP.'s Torrance, California marketing unit has added two scanners to its lineup. The Expression 800 flatbed single-pass color scanner delivers a resolution of 800 x 3200 dots per inch thanks to the company's Micro Step Drive technology. It is available in three cross- platform software configurations: Executive ($700), Artist ($800) and Professional ($1,000). For home and SOHO consumers looking for a flatbed scanner that works with USB (universal serial bus) devices like the iMac, Epson has the Perfection 636U. It provides a resolution of 600 x 2400 dpi using the company's Micro Step Drive technology. Like other Epson scanners, it also features the built-in ColorTrue Imaging System. The estimated street price of the Perfection 636U, which will be available in March, is $230.

The Brisbane, California Computer Division of HITACHI, LTD.'s main U.S. subsidiary has released a second-generation multimedia appliance for use with the Macintosh platform. The M2 is billed as the world's first multimedia recording device capable of digitally capturing and storing up to 27 minutes of full-motion video (MPEG-1 format), 3,000 photographs (JPEG format), four hours of MPEG audio and combinations of all three formats. Priced at $1,500, it comes bundled with a full suite of Macintosh software to download images, cut and arrange video clips and replay MPEG movie files.

SMARTDISK CORP. — the Naples, Florida company TOSHIBA CORP. and FISCHER INTERNATIONAL SYSTEMS CORP. formed in March 1998 to make and market the Smarty smart card reader/writer (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 343, April 1998, p. 3) — has another Japanese partner, NEC CORP. The big industrial electronics maker will invest in SmartDisk as well as make and market Smarty worldwide. This adapter, which has the same dimensions as a 3.5-inch floppy disk, allows any PC with a floppy drive to read and write data to a smart card.

An exchange rate of ¥113=$1.00 was used in this report. aaaaaa

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