Japan-US Business Report Logo

No. 356, May 1999

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Japanese Companies in the US


ELECTRIC MACHINERY

In a deal that expanded its already broad line of programmable controls, sensors, vision systems, operator interfaces and other types of industrial automation control equipment, OMRON ELECTRONICS, INC. acquired IDM CONTROLS, INC. The Houston supplier brings to the OMRON CORP. subsidiary's business a full range of motion control products, including servo drives, motors, and large and small AC and DC inverters. The purchase also enables Schaumburg, Illinois-based Omron Electronics to increase its service offerings to span systems integration, custom control systems design and manufacturing, and repair and maintenance services. The 150- person IDM had sales of approximately $30 million in 1998. It will operate independently of its new parent but under the OMRON IDM CONTROLS, INC. name. The cost of the acquisition was not disclosed, but industry sources in Japan placed it at more than $8.3 million.

MATSUSHITA ELECTRIC INDUSTRIAL CO., LTD.'s principal North American subsidiary realigned two of its business units to link each more closely to specific markets and customers. PANASONIC COMMUNICATIONS & SYSTEMS CO. was split into three operations. PANASONIC DOCUMENT IMAGING CO. handles plain-paper copiers, fax machines, printers and other computer peripherals. PANASONIC PERSONAL COMPUTER CO. is responsible for Panasonic-brand notebook computers and accessories. And PANASONIC TELECOMMUNICATIONS SYSTEMS CO. is in charge of Panasonic-brand PBX (private branch exchange) business telephone systems, point-of-sale systems and wireless communications products. For its part, PANASONIC BROADCAST & TELEVISION SYSTEMS CO. was divided into a company that retains this name and markets broadcast professional audio/video equipment and Astrovision large-screen video displays and PANASONIC SECURITY & DIGITAL IMAGING CO., which focuses on security systems and medical and industrial video equipment.

The first DVD-format movie player for motor vehicles is available. Manufactured by MATSUSHITA COMMUNICATION INDUSTRIAL CO., LTD., the CX-DV1500 player, which measures 7 inches wide, 2 inches high and 6-5/8 inches deep, fits into the dashboard like a stereo system. A flat 7-inch LCD monitor, the CY-VM1500, is designed for rear passenger viewing. The vehicle's existing speakers can be used for audio playback or the buyer can install a customized digital surround sound system. The mobile DVD theater is available initially through CAR TOYS INC. of Bellevue, Washington, the largest independent mobile electronics retailer with stores in Washington, Oregon and Colorado.

What is said to be the world's smallest and lightest portable DVD player is on the market from PANASONIC CONSUMER ELECTRONICS CO. for a suggested $1,100. The size of a compact disc, the PalmTheater DVD-L50 weighs less than 2.2 pounds with its built-in 5-inch LCD monitor and battery pack. The player, which delivers a surround-sound effect, comes with a credit-card size remote control. Its new lithium-ion battery pack allows up to three hours of playback time.

The much-hyped Sega Dreamcast video game console will be on store shelves in early September at a suggested price of $199. That pricing — the first time that a next- generation video game machine will ship for less than $200 at launch —is just one reason that SEGA ENTERPRISES, LTD.'s U.S. marketing unit says that the hype is justified. The Sega Dreamcast also is the first game console to incorporate a 128-bit architecture and to offer Internet capability, among other breakthroughs on which MICROSOFT CORP. collaborated with Sega. It also is claimed to be 15 times more powerful than the 32-bit Sony PlayStation and 10 times more powerful than the 64-bit Nintendo 64. These two machines have made life very difficult for Sega in the United States, where it has not rolled out a new system in five years. Industry analysts estimate that the Sony PlayStation has 60 percent of the U.S. video game machine market, with the Nintendo 64 controlling more than 30 percent. Sega has less than 5 percent, they calculate. To help change this ranking, Sega has launched a $100 million U.S. marketing campaign for the Sega Dreamcast.

With U.S. sales of large-screen projection television sets increasing strongly, HITACHI, LTD. has announced plans to start marketing this year a 52-inch LCD model. Pricing has not been finalized, but the company expects the Big Slim 52 to cost less than the $4,800 charged for a comparable model in Japan. That reduction will be achieved by assembling the set in Mexico. Hitachi, which sells some 15,000 projection TV sets with 40-inch and larger screens in the United States each year, has set its sights on winning half of the American market for the new LCD projection TV sets.

The price of FUJITSU GENERAL LTD.'s 42-inch flat plasma display monitor has broken through the $10,000 barrier. First introduced in early 1997 at a cost of $14,000, the Plasmavision 42 is less than 6 inches deep, which means that it can be hung on a wall for business presentations, entertainment and public displays. The system can display with a theater-like 16:9 aspect ratio any type of graphical information and entertainment media regardless of source. Fujitsu General claims the title of the world leader in plasma display monitors.

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

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