Japan-US Business Report Logo

No. 356, May 1999

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Japanese Companies in the US


Like fellow Japanese manufacturers of personal computers competing in the American market, SONY CORP. now is giving buyers of its VAIO machines the option of customizing them. Using the Internet, people can select the features they want, including the size of the internal memory, the amount of hard drive storage and software. Where the SONY ELECTRONICS, INC. service differs from the build-to-order programs offered by other companies is that the work is done in Japan rather than in the United States. Nonetheless, the turnaround time is a week or less.

In what otherwise was an off month for product launches, FUJITSU PC CORP. announced the latest member of its LifeBook L Series of slim, lightweight notebook computers. The LifeBook L470 is just 1.1 inches thick and weighs less than 4.5 pounds. Its durable platinum magnesium-alloy casing houses the new 366-MHz mobile Pentium II processor with 256 kilobytes of on-die Level 2 cache, 64 megabytes of RAM (random access memory) standard, a 4.3-gigabyte SMART hard drive, an external floppy drive, a 13.3-inch TFT (thin-film-transistor) LCD (liquid crystal display) display with XGA (extended graphics array) resolution and a 56-kilobit-per-second v.90 internal modem. The ultraportable LifeBook L470 starts at $3,000.

For systems integrators looking for performance in portable embedded systems, one of SEIKO EPSON CORP.'s subsidiaries unveiled a pair of single-board PCs the size of credit cards. The SCE8700COx/SH-CARD integrates a 133-MHz SH-3 processor from HITACHI, LTD. with either 16 MB or 32 MB of synchronous dynamic RAM, an Epson video display controller, 2 MB of video memory and a CompactFlash connector on the board. A companion chip provides additional ports and controllers. The SH-CARD is designed for such Windows CE 2.11 applications as handheld computing devices and other portable equipment. For embedded applications running off Windows 98 and Windows NT 4.0 as well as Windows CE 2.11 that require a higher-performance video graphics controller and more internal memory and storage capacity, the Epson unit is offering the SCE86638xx/CARD-PC 686. It incorporates a 233-MHz AMD-K6 processor from ADVANCED MICRO DEVICES, INC., plus either 32 MB or 64 MB of DRAM and other features.

In a major commitment to storage area networks — a relatively new approach to controlling data storage across the enterprise that is server-independent — HITACHI, LTD. will invest $100 million over time in the Interoperability Lab that HITACHI DATA SYSTEMS CORP. just opened at its Santa Clara, California headquarters. This research and development facility was established to speed the delivery of Freedom Data Networks-based SAN solutions to a variety of end-users. HDS describes its FDN architecture as a flexible structure for implementing SANs and other networked data solutions that allows customers to access and manage their data using storage products from any vendor they choose. The I-Lab, as it is called, complements HDS's 10-year-old Enterprise Laboratory. .....In a parallel announcement, the Technical Services Group of HITACHI DATA SYSTEMS CORP. unveiled a suite of services to assist customers in planning, implementing and managing SAN-based environments. Six packages of support and expertise are available, spanning enterprise infrastructure assessment, configuration management, system design, project management, installation and business continuance.

The team of VICTOR CO. OF JAPAN, LTD. and SONIC SOLUTIONS has developed a DVD (digital video disc) system designed to help broadcasters, video producers, museums, libraries and universities encode, store and manage their video and audio assets for archival and distribution purposes. The system, which JVC plans to introduce this summer as a replacement for the tape storage now commonly used for archiving, combines an asset management system and a DVD library from the Japanese partner with the Novato, California partner's Sonic AutoDVD for video and audio encoding and writing to DVD-Rs. Users can search and play back content instantaneously through a networked search station that can be located anywhere on an intranet or the Internet.

The San Diego, California subsidiary of Nagoya's HAGIWARA SYS-COM CO., LTD. is marketing a USB (universal serial bus) device that it says can transfer data from SmartMedia to PCs up to 130 times faster than serial interface-based peripherals. The $100 FlashGate allows users of digital cameras and other SmartMedia-equipped devices to save time when moving captured images to either desktop or portable computers. FlashGate also has the advantage of being able to support as much as 128 MB of SmartMedia storage.

If selection has anything to do with winning market share, SEIKO EPSON CORP.'s Torrance, California marketing subsidiary should be able to make additional inroads in the U.S. ink-jet printer market (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 355, April 1999, p. 4). On the heels of introducing the EPSON Stylus Color 900, the company started shipping a network-ready version of what it claims is the world's fastest networked color ink-jet printer. The four-color printer outputs 10 pages per minute in color and 12 ppm in monochrome with a resolution as high as 1440 x 720 dots per inch. The $650 EPSON Stylus Color 900N also provides out-of-the-box LAN (local area network) connectivity for small workgroup environments.

For printer buyers mainly interested in photo-quality performance, SEIKO EPSON CORP.'s marketing arm introduced the EPSON Stylus Photo 750. This six-color system can print a 4 x 6-inch photo in approximately 1 minute and an 8 x 10-inch picture in just 2 minutes with the same 1440-dpi resolution as the Stylus Color 900, even on plain paper. Compatible with both PCs and Macintosh machines, the EPSON Stylus Photo 750 has an estimated street price of $300.

Nurturing its roots in the American printer market, the Torrance, California distribution unit of SEIKO EPSON CORP. announced the EPSON LQ-2080 letter-quality impact printer. This 24-pin, wide-carriage printer is 25 percent faster than its predecessor, printing up to 400 characters per second. Designed for such jobs as printing invoices, multipart forms, reports, checks, packing slips and labels, the EPSON LQ-2080 goes for about $370. Epson is the world's biggest maker of impact printers.

MITA INDUSTRIAL CO., LTD.'s Fairfield, New Jersey marketing subsidiary is touting the low operating cost — less than a penny a page — of its just-introduced Mita DP- 2800 Plus network laser printer. Company engineers abandoned the one-cartridge design championed by other manufacturers, which forces users to throw out expensive imaging drums and developer every time the toner is changed. Instead, the Mita DP- 2800 Plus features an amorphous silicon drum that lasts for 350,000 prints; thus, the only consumables cost is a new toner cartridge every 25,000 pages. The machine, which has a suggested retail price of around $3,200, prints 28 ppm with a 600 x 600- dpi resolution.

A network-ready digital copier/printer also is on the market from MITA INDUSTRIAL CO., LTD.'s American unit. The PointSource Ai4040 can be used as a stand-alone digital copier that outputs 40 copies per minute with a resolution of 600 x 600 dpi and that brings scan-once, print-many and electronic sorting capabilities to the desktop. That base unit costs $11,000. The addition of a $3,500 conversion kit turns the Ai4040 into a 40-ppm network printer able to do the same general things as the copier.

A flat panel display company owned by MITSUBISHI ELECTRIC CORP. and ASAHI GLASS CO., LTD. is shipping LCD panels to SILICON GRAPHICS, INC. for use in the workstation manufacturer's 17.3-inch displays. ADVANCED DISPLAY INC.'s TFT LCDs support Super XGA resolution (1280 x 1024 pixels). Shipments reportedly are running at several thousand units a month from ADI's Kumamoto prefecture plant.

Buyers of Equium desktop PCs from the Computer Systems Division of TOSHIBA AMERICA INFORMATION SYSTEMS, INC. have two new, value-priced CRT (cathode- ray tube) monitor options. The TekBright 510V 15-inch (13.9-inch viewable image) monitor has an estimated price of $180, while the TekBright 710V 17-inch (16-inch viewable image) monitor costs around $300.

The latest portable LCD projector from Brisbane, California-based HITACHI AMERICA, LTD. marks the company's move into the ultraportable projector field. The CP-X935W weighs 9.8 pounds and includes built-in speakers and a laser pointer as well as manual zoom and wireless remote control. The resolution is true XGA (1024 x 768 pixels). The CP-X935W is priced at $9,000.

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

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