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No. 353, February 1999

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Japanese Companies in the US


Privately owned Internet companies that need to raise money to expand operations are finding that SOFTBANK CORP. is not the only Japanese company interested in getting on the electronic business bandwagon. For example, HIKARI TSUSHIN, INC., a marketer of long-distance, cellular and Internet services, committed funds to two Internet businesses within the space of a month. It put up $14 million of the $16 million raised by TUMBLEWEED SOFTWARE CORP. in its latest round of venture funding. The Redwood City, California company is a supplier of secure, on-line file and document delivery solutions through its Posta software. Hikari Tsushin plans to broaden its business by providing Posta-based secure messaging services to its customers. The Tumbleweed software already is used by NIPPON TELEGRAPH AND TELEPHONE CORP. (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 343, September 1998, p. 16).

HIKARI TSUSHIN, INC. also participated along with ITOCHU CORP. and ITOCHU TECHNO-SCIENCE CORP. in a new round of financing for UNWIRED PLANET, INC. that raised $18 million. Although the amount that Hikari Tsushin invested was not disclosed, it reportedly now has a 3 percent stake in the Redwood City, California company, the provider of an open software platform that delivers secure, scalable and live interactive applications and information services to wireless handsets. Previous Japanese investors in Unwired Planet include DDI CORP., KYOCERA CORP. and MITSUBISHI CORP. DDI and fellow cellular services provider NIPPON IDOU TSUSHIN CORP. already use the UP.Link Platform to deliver wireless Internet and electronic mail services to their customers (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 345, June 1998, p. 21).

Another major player in the secure delivery of data over the Internet, E- PARCEL, LLC, also has tighten its Japan ties. TOYOTA TSUSHO CORP. invested an undisclosed amount in the Newton, Massachusetts- headquartered company. The two are not strangers. The trader is the main distributor of the e-Parcel Service in Japan and already has spent several million dollars on market research and business development (see Japan- U.S. Business Report No. 344, May 1998, p. 19). e-Parcel, which started off in June 1996 as a MITSUBISHI ELECTRIC CORP. company but which has been independent since April 1998, counts more than 20,000 corporations around the world as customers.

JAFCO CO., LTD., Japan's largest venture capital firm, and NIPPON INVESTMENT & FINANCE CO., LTD. participated in a second round of funding for ENCOMMERCE, INC. The Santa Clara, California developer of the getAccess secure Web access solution raised more than $5.9 million in private equity investment this time around. The two Japanese companies were among the initial outside investors in enCommerce. A localized version of getAccess is on the market in Japan through several distributors (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 352, January 1999, p. 20).

The first electronic commerce system has been deployed that prices American-developed software titles in local currencies rather than in dollars and that directly bills the credit cards of buyers in their own currency. Originated by Santa Clara, California-based ONE GALAXY SOLUTION, INC., a start-up wholly owned by MITSUBISHI CORP., in conjunction with WELLS FARGO & CO., an early Internet merchant banker, One Galaxy Solution also enables software publishers to sell their products globally without going through the hassle of establishing complex and expensive e-commerce operations for individual countries. The multicurrency pricing and credit-card processing system initially is targeted at consumers in Japan and the United Kingdom, but it reportedly will be extended later this year to Germany and Australia.

All functions of the Glovia enterprise resource planning system now can be deployed across intranets or extranets via industry-standard Web browsers, GLOVIA INTERNATIONAL LLC announced. The El Segundo, California company is a partnership between FUJITSU, LTD. (30.5 percent) and MCDONNELL INFORMATION SYSTEMS GROUP PLC (69.5 percent) that was formed in July 1997. The new capabilities are based on the rapid development environment and Proiv JavaSuite technology of PROIV TECHNOLOGY INC., a wholly owned British subsidiary of MDIS. Glovia, which has more than 750 customer sites around the world, specializes in ERP software solutions for the automotive, capital equipment, electronics and telecommunications industries.

A year after Interstage was introduced in Japan, developer FUJITSU, LTD. released the enterprise application middleware in the United States and elsewhere around the world. Available here through FUJITSU SOFTWARE CORP. of San Jose, California, Interstage gives enterprises a distributed object environment based on the CORBA (common object request broker architecture) standard as well as a transaction environment within the network through on-line transaction processing componentware. The package also delivers a distributed object server system that can be linked with a Web browser and Enterprise Java Beans technology, which helps developers create, deploy and manage cross-platform, component- based server applications.

The just released Fujitsu COBOL v4.2 for Windows 95/98/NT continues FUJITSU SOFTWARE CORP.'s practice of adding features and performance enhancements to this product on close to an annual basis. Among other changes, the new version incorporates improvements to the PowerCOBOL graphical user interface development environment, including toolbars, pop-up menus, tool tips and better ActiveX control support. Fujitsu COBOL v4.2 also provides increased compatibility with Micro Focus COBOL. The 3.0 version of the product, the first U.S. release, appeared in 1997.

FUJITSU, LTD. and FUJITSU SOFTWARE CORP. are working with INTEL CORP. to develop 64-bit COBOL compiler products for the future IA-64 family of processors. The initial implementation of the compiler will be optimized for the Merced processor, the first Intel engine based on the IA-64 architecture. The forthcoming Fujitsu products will be available for MICROSOFT CORP.'s Windows 64 operating system and for SUN MICROSYSTEMS, INC.'s Solaris for Merced platform. The Japanese company promises an easy transition to the IA-64 COBOL development environment for software developers now using its COBOL compiler and tools for 32- bit applications.

Help is on the way for a printed circuit board industry confronted by the design challenges of shrinking vias, the pathways that carry a signal from one board layer to another. With input from MATSUSHITA ELECTRIC INDUSTRIAL CO., LTD. and MATSUSHITA ELECTRONIC COMPONENTS CO., LTD., a solution will be available from CADENCE DESIGN SYSTEMS, INC. The trio will develop an add-on for the SPECCTRA expert, which is part of the electronic design automation leader's Intrica family of PCB and IC packaging design products, that supports MEI's Any-Layer Interstitial Via Hole technology. ALIVH is an advanced substrate technology that specifically targets microvias. The SPECCTRA option, Cadence says, will produce a dramatic improvement in autorouting for high-density PCBs used in such products as cellular telephones and handheld electronic devices. The ALIVH microvia option, scheduled for second-quarter availability, will cost $5,000.

Although INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES CORP. still is refining its "pervasive computing" strategy — which, in simple terms, involves tying together a wide variety of mobile computing and embedded devices — it already has agreed to work with SHARP CORP. Their initial goal is modest: adapting a client for the Notes groupware/Domino server software of IBM subsidiary LOTUS DEVELOPMENT CORP. to run on Sharp's popular Zaurus personal digital assistant. Down the road, however, Sharp and IBM hope to promote the computer giant's goal of enabling people to transparently access a network and exchange data, with the network taking over functions now performed at the client level. This vision shares some characteristics with the narrower objective of bringing about the convergence of PCs (broadly defined) with consumer electronics products and appliances. A number of other big Japanese electronics companies are seeking that marriage through alliances with MICROSOFT CORP. and/or SUN MICROSYSTEMS, INC.

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

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