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No. 353, February 1999

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Japanese Companies in the US


COMPUTERS AND PERIPHERALS

The first server vendor to announce an eight-processor system incorporating INTEL CORP.'s just released Pentium III Xeon chip was not one of the usual big U.S. computer manufacturers but the NEC Computer Systems Division of PACKARD BELL NEC, INC. It got the jump on the competition by utilizing its own eight-way multiprocessing architecture, the NEC Aqua II, for the Express5800 HV8600 instead of waiting for Intel's delayed Profusion chipset. The HV8600 comes with 128 megabytes of Level 3 cache, as much as 8 gigabytes of internal RAM (random access memory) and 12 hot-swappable disks. The base configuration starts at $36,800 for two 500-MHz Pentium III Xeon processors with 1 MB of Level 2 cache each and 256 MB of internal memory. NEC CSD officials, like industry analysts, say that the increased performance and scalability of eight-way systems using the Pentium III Xeon will allow companies to run large data-base applications that previously were reserved for RISC (reduced instruction-set computing) platforms because of performance constraints.

Companies that do not require an eight-way Pentium III Xeon server but want to take advantage of the new processor's enhanced multiprocessing capabilities, faster clock speed and other performance improvements have several options just from Japanese-affiliated computer makers. For instance, the NEC Computer Systems Division of PACKARD BELL NEC, INC. unveiled the Express5800 HX4600 and the Express5800 MH4500 along with the eight-processor HV8600. The four-way HX4600 is designed for on-line transaction processing and other applications that typically place heavy loads across a systems's processor, memory, disk and network bandwidth. Its pricing starts at $14,900 for two 500-MHz Pentium III Xeon processors with 512 kilobytes of L2 cache each and 256 MB of system RAM. The MH4500 is targeted at companies that want a powerful Pentium III Xeon processor-based four-way server at an affordable price. About $8,700 buys a system with one 450-MHz Pentium III Xeon with 512 KB of cache and 256 MB of internal memory. All of the NEC CSD products shipped in April.

The 500-MHz Pentium III Xeon processor will be incorporated as well in both of HITACHI PC CORP.'s four-way servers, the midrange VisionBase 8450 and the high-end VisionBase 8460. They were scheduled to be available in April. The Milpitas, California company, which soon will be folded into HITACHI DATA SYSTEMS CORP. (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 354, March 1999, p. 3), also announced that it would support the 500- MHz Pentium III Xeon processor in its enterprise-level VisionBase 8880 eight-way server line as soon as the Profusion chipset is released.

The Computer Systems Division of TOSHIBA AMERICA INFORMATION SYSTEMS, INC. opted for a different strategy. The 500-MHz Pentium III Xeon processor and its 550-MHz counterpart will show up in the company's departmental-class server line, the two-way-capable Magnia 5100, before they debut this summer in the four-processor Magnia 6000 family. The Magnia 5100 with dual 550-MHz chips will feature 512 KB of L2 cache, while systems with two 500-MHz processors will offer a choice of 1 MB or 2 MB of cache. Both machines will come standard with 256 MB of synchronous DRAM (dynamic random access memory), expandable to 2 GB.

Information technology managers interested in lowering the cost of managing personal computers are the target market of the PowerMate ES (enterprise solution) Series of desktop machines from the NEC Computer Systems Division of PACKARD BELL NEC, INC. The PowerMate ES 5200 uses the same motherboard in all three chassis forms — slim desktop, desktop and minitower. This approach reduces the costs not only of software development but of support, service, training and logistics as well. The PowerMate ES 5200 line starts at $850 when configured with a 333-MHz Celeron processor, 32 MB of internal RAM and a 4.3-GB hard drive. Models also are available with Pentium II and Pentium III chips. A system featuring a 500-MHz Pentium III processor, 64 MB of system memory and an 8.4-GB hard drive has an estimated street price of $1,850.

Simultaneously, PACKARD BELL NEC, INC.'s NEC CSD replaced its line of Direction desktop systems with the PowerMate VT (value and technology) Series. As the name suggests, this family is designed to bring the latest technology to corporate customers at prices as low as $800. That is the cost of the initial PowerMate VT 300 PC with a 333-MHz Celeron processor, 32 MB of RAM and 4.3 GB of storage. Buyers also have a choice of Pentium II and Pentium III chips. A system configured with a 500-MHz Pentium III, 64 MB of memory and an 8.4-GB hard drive goes for about $1,700.

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New product launches are a key part of struggling PACKARD BELL NEC, INC.'s strategy for returning to profitability (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 354, March 1999, p. 3). To that end, NEC CSD also introduced the third generation of its Versa LX series of notebook computers. Available with either a 333-MHz or a 366-MHz mobile Pentium II processor, the new line features the ATI Rage LT Pro video chipset with 8 MB of video RAM and AGP (advanced graphics port) capability for improved graphic performance. The Versa LX series also shares with other NEC CSD notebooks an all-in-one design with a built-in floppy or SuperDisk 120-MB drive, a hard drive and a modular VersaBay drive that can accept seven different, warm-swappable storage and power computing tools. Buyers have the choice of a 13.3-inch or a 14.1-inch TFT (thin-film-transistor) LCD (liquid crystal display) display with XGA (extended graphics array) resolution, internal memory expandable from 64 MB to 256 MB and hard- drive capacities of 4 GB, 6 GB and 10 GB. Pricing for typical build-to- order Versa LX models runs from $2,700 to $4,000.

The Computer Systems Division of TOSHIBA AMERICA INFORMATION SYSTEMS, INC. does not take its leadership position in portable computers for granted. On one day, it released additions to three different lines of notebook PCs. First, it broadened its line of value-priced models for the corporate market with the introduction of the Satellite 4060CDT. An estimated $2,700 buys a 333-MHz Pentium II processor, 64 MB of synchronous DRAM, a 4.3-GB hard drive, a 24X CD-ROM drive, a floppy drive and a 13.3-inch TFT display in a sleek, integrated package. Then, for the value-oriented SOHO (small office/home office) market and individual users, TAIS added the Satellite 2545 series. All three models use the 333-MHz mobile AMD-K6-2 processor with 3DNow! technology from ADVANCED MICRO DEVICES, INC., a first for the company, although TOSHIBA CORP. has used AMD processors for some of its Japan products. The Satellite 2545 notebooks also share a 4.3-GB hard drive and a 24X CD-ROM drive. However, the Satellite 2545XCDT has a 14.1-inch TFT display and 64 MB of high-speed memory for $1,900, while the Satellite 2545CDS and the Satellite 2540CDS come with a 13-inch display and 32 MB of internal memory for about $1,600. Finally, Irvine, California-based TAIS strengthened its line-up of ultraportable systems for mobile professionals. The Portégé 3020CT/3025CT offer the new 300-MHz Pentium processor with MMX technology, 32 MB of high-speed memory, a 6.4-GB hard drive and a 10.4-inch TFT display in an ultralight (2.9 pounds), ultrathin design for roughly $2,000.

One of the biggest names in rugged notebook PCs, PANASONIC PERSONAL COMPUTER CO., also has refreshed its lineup. The 2.6-pound Toughbook 33 is a full-performance Windows-based system. It runs off a 266-MHz Pentium processor with MMX technology and offers 32 MB of RAM, a 4.3-GB hard drive, a floppy disk, an 8.4-inch TFT display with touch-input capability and a full-size keyboard. However, the Toughbook 33 also has a magnesium-alloy case and a shock-dampened hard drive for field durability as well as antireflective coating on the screen for outdoor viewing. The system has a suggested retail price of $2,000.

For its part, the Dover, New Jersey subsidiary of CASIO COMPUTER CO., LTD. continues to make a name for itself in handheld devices powered by the Windows CE operating system. Its latest product is the $400 palm- sized CASSIOPEIA E-15, which runs off the Windows CE for the Palm-size PC Version 1.2 operating system. This 6.5-ounce machine is designed for one-hand access to data, viewable on a 16-scale monochrome, touch-sensitive LCD display. The CASSIOPEIA E-15, which has 16 MB of memory, uses NEC CORP.'s 69-MHz VR4111 processor.

Fast-expanding disk drive vendor FUJITSU COMPUTER PRODUCTS OF AMERICA, INC. is shipping a new line of 2.5-inch drives for notebook computers that operates at 4,200 revolutions per minute with an ATA-4 interface. All four models use giant magnetoresistive heads and other components developed and manufactured by FUJITSU, LTD. That technology source, its San Jose, California subsidiary says, has resulted in performance enhancements as well as increased ruggedness and reliability. The MHG2102AT provides 10 GB of storage in a 12.5- millimeter form factor, while the 9.5-mm MHH20XXAT is available in capacities of 3.2 GB, 4.8 GB and 6.4 GB.

In a first for audio equipment manufacturer KENWOOD CORP., it has an original equipment manufacturer contract. The deal covers CD-ROM drives for installation in COMPAQ COMPUTER CORP.'s Presario and Deskpro PCs. The Kenwood 52X TrueX drive is based on Cupertino, California- headquartered ZEN RESEARCH INC.'s TrueX technology, which improves optical disc drive performance. The Kenwood product is said to provide consistent high-performance data throughput across the entire disc rather than just on the outermost tracks like other advertised "max" CD-ROM drives. Production of the Kenwood 52X TrueX is expected to run initially at 10,000 units a month, but the company hopes to boost monthly output to 30,000 units by signing OEM contracts with other PC vendors. The drive also is available through major computer retail channels for $130.

Two Japanese companies have set their sights on gaining share in the U.S. market for ink-jet printers at the expense of HEWLETT-PACKARD CO., which controls more than half of this business. Through one of its Costa Mesa, California subsidiaries, CANON INC. introduced a fast but affordable color ink-jet printer for the SOHO and home-user market. The BJC-6000, which is expected to retail for about $250, outputs up to five pages per minute. It also comes bundled with software for customizing photographs and creating letterhead and cards. For its part, SEIKO EPSON CORP., which ranks second to HP in the U.S. ink-jet printer market with a roughly 20 percent share, sees the Stylus Color 900 as its latest strategic product. This machine, aimed squarely at corporate customers, can print as many as 12 ppm in monochrome and is said to turn out photorealistic color prints at a speed and a cost comparable to monochrome laser printers.

At the same time, SEIKO EPSON CORP., via its Torrance, California subsidiary, announced its first wide-format printing solution. Designed to handle various paper types up to 44 inches wide, the Stylus Pro 9000 is being marketed to corporate graphics departments, print-for-pay shops and professional photography studios. The system features Epson's Micro Piezo dual-density-droplet print technology, which delivers 1440 x 720 dots-per-inch resolution, a precise and consistent dot size and a six- color, high-capacity, quick-drying ink system. The basic Stylus Pro 9000 has an estimated street price of $8,000. Equipped with PostScript 3 bundled with Epson's RS-5100 Fiery X2 RIP (raster image processor), the printer runs bout $14,000.

Although its strength might be in ink-jet technology, SEIKO EPSON CORP. also has its eye on the corporate color laser printer market. Its Torrance, California marketing unit has unveiled the ColorPage 8000 for workgroups as well as for graphics professionals. The system delivers up to 4 ppm in color and 16 ppm in monochrome with a 600 x 600-dpi print resolution. The ColorPage 8000 also can turn out tabloid-size pages as fast as 2 ppm in color and 8 ppm in black and white. An external Fiery color server with PostScript 3 is standard.

Multifunction or all-in-one devices have not caught on as fast as initially projected, but suppliers like SHARP CORP. are undeterred. Within the space of four months, its Mahwah, New Jersey subsidiary announced two digital document systems for workgroup environments and small offices. The second, the AR-200 IMAGER, is a 20-ppm digital laser copier with scan- once/print-many capabilities and 600-dpi resolution. It has a suggested retail price of $3,600. Another $770 allows the AR-200 to perform as a 20-ppm network printer capable of 1200-dpi output. For an extra $1,450, the AR-200 can be upgraded to a high-speed facsimile machine.

The same customer groups are the target for MITA INDUSTRIAL CO., LTD.'s LDC-820 laser fax. This modular unit, priced around $1,700, can transmit documents at 6 seconds per page and make copies at a rate of 6 ppm. Adding a $300 printer board enables the LDC-820 to print as many as 6 ppm with a 600-dpi resolution. A $150 serial interface also allows users to scan documents and text directly into their PCs and to send and receive PC faxes.

The world's largest manufacturer of LCD projectors, SANYO ELECTRIC CO., LTD., certainly believes that when it comes to business presentations, the quality of the projector is just as important as the presentation. To that end, its Chatsworth, California marketing unit made two additions to its projector line. The PLC-SP10N, described as one of the smallest and most powerful multimedia LCD projectors in its class, produces brightness well above the average with its 1,250 lumens at the same time that it delivers a SVGA (super video graphics array) resolution of 800 x 600 pixels. For presenters seeking even greater brightness and resolution, the Sanyo subsidiary introduced the PLC-XP10N. Also compact, this model provides 1,400 lumens of brightness and XGA resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels. It carries a suggested retail price of $14,000.

An exchange rate of ¥120=$1.00 was used in this report.aaaaaa

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