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No. 357, June 1999

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Japanese Companies in the US


One key to conducting business over the Internet is the ability of a company's mainframes or servers to handle huge volumes of requests simultaneously. That is the job description for HITACHI DATA SYSTEMS CORP.'s P9 Pilot Series, a new generation of CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) enterprise servers. The 26 models in the line can be configured with one to 13 processors. When equipped with the maximum number, the P9 can process 1,700 MIPS (million instructions per second). That gives it the ability to handle more than 2 billion hits per day on an Internet site, the Santa Clara, California marketer says. The new servers also facilitate enterprise resource planning, server consolidation, data mining and mission-critical applications. The P9 borrows several features from Hitachi Data Systems' Skyline Trinium mainframe line. One is the Virtual Server Facility, which lets users partition the machine into separate servers. The load then can be dynamically shifted among processors when processing demand rises for a particular application.

Still doing battle in the cutthroat American personal computer server market, the Computer Systems Division of TOSHIBA AMERICA INFORMATION SYSTEMS, INC. unveiled the Magnia 3010 workgroup and Magnia 5010 departmental servers. Both lines offer support for up to two 500- MHz Pentium III processors and feature a 100-MHz front-side bus and INTEL CORP.'s 440GX+PCI (peripheral component interconnect) chipset. They also are designed for 18- gigabyte hard drives, with a maximum storage capacity of 72 GB for the Magnia 3010 and 216 GB for the Magnia 5010. The estimated street price of the workgroup server starts at $2,500 while that for the departmental system begins at $3,900.

One way that the CSD unit of TOSHIBA AMERICA INFORMATION SYSTEMS, INC. hopes to distinguish itself in the equally crowded American desktop PC market is by offering platform stability to corporate buyers of its Equium 7100 machines. That approach to technical change means that existing Equium customers can have state-of-the-art technology without the hassle and the cost of requalifying their PCs. The Equium 7100 series now supports 10 INTEL CORP. processors on a build-to-order basis. The latest addition is the new-to-the-market 550-MHz Pentium III processor. An Equium 7100 powered by this engine starts at $1,700.

TOSHIBA AMERICA INFORMATION SYSTEMS, INC.'s CSD also hopes to win business in the commercial desktop computer market by giving resellers an alternative to all the no-name machines showing up. To that end, the company introduced the low-cost, build-to-order 3200 desktop line. Resellers can put their name on the system alongside Toshiba's. They also can incorporate their own value-added services as well as third-party hardware and software. Perhaps most important, Toshiba gives resellers the ability to determine their own profit margins through unpublished estimated street prices. That allows them to go head-to-head on pricing with unbranded PCs. Any number of configuration options are available with the 3200 series, including 400-MHz Pentium II to 550-MHz Pentium III processors, 64 megabytes or 128 MB of memory, 6-GB to 12.9-GB hard drives, CD-ROM drives and a choice of MICROSOFT CORP. operating systems.

The performance-enhancing 550-MHz Pentium III processor also is available in the PowerMate series of desktop PCs from the NEC Computer Systems Division of PACKARD BELL NEC, INC. This line spans three groups of models: the PowerMate ES (Enterprise Solution) for networked environments, which uses a single, scalable motherboard across three form factors (slim desktop, desktop and minitower); the PowerMate VT (Value and Technology) 300 for cost- conscious corporate customers that also want mainstream performance and flexibility; and the PowerMate 8100, which is strong on manageability features for enterprise environments. Configured with a 550-MHz Pentium III chip, pricing starts at $1,800 for a PowerMate ES 5200, $1,700 for a PowerMate VT 300 and $2,100 for a PowerMate 8100.

Two additions to FUJITSU PC CORP.'s LifeBook C Series of all-in-one notebooks for the consumer market are the first such products available directly from the Milpitas, California company at its Web site. Five retailers also carry the LifeBook C352 and the LifeBook C360. The LifeBook C352 features the 333-MHz mobile Celeron processor, 32 MB of memory standard, a 4.3-GB hard drive and a 12.1-inch TFT (thin-film-transistor) LCD (liquid crystal display) screen with a SVGA (super video graphics array) resolution of 800 x 600 pixels for an estimated street price of $1,500. For its part, the LifeBook C360 runs off a 333-MHz mobile Pentium II engine and includes in the base price of $1,900 64 MB of memory, 4.3 GB of storage and a 13.3-inch TFT LCD display with XGA (extended graphics array) resolution (1024 x 768 pixels).

The third member of SHARP CORP.'s Actius line of lightweight notebooks is on the market at an estimated street price of $2,500. Measuring just 1 inch thick and weighing less than 3 pounds, the Actius A250 runs off a 300PE MHz mobile Pentium II processor. It comes with 64 MB of synchronous DRAM (dynamic random access memory) memory, a 6.4-MB hard drive and what is said to be the largest screen available in the 3-pound notebook class — a 11.3-inch TFT LCD display with SVGA resolution.

Handheld PCs or what in Japan are called personal digital assistants are becoming ever more sophisticated. A case in point is CASIO COMPUTER CO., LTD.'s Cassiopeia E-105, the company's second color product to support Windows CE for the Palm-size PC Version 2.1.1. It uses the identical 131-MHz VR4121 processor from NEC CORP. and offers the same advanced screen technology as the Cassiopeia E-100 released earlier this year. However, the E-105 is equipped with twice the memory at 32 MB. That enables the device to take better advantage of the included multimedia pack. The E-105 has a suggest retail price of $600 versus $500 for its predecessor.

In a coup for HITACHI, LTD. in the high-end, multiplatform storage system arena, HEWLETT- PACKARD CO. has turned to the Japanese conglomerate to bolster its position in the enterprise storage and storage area network markets. Hitachi and HP research and development teams will work together on the design and the development of a broad range of enterprise storage products that can be manufactured by either company. This collaboration, which builds on a nine-year relationship in the field of Unix mainframe and server hardware and software, already has led to the announcement of the SAN-ready HP SureStore E Disk Array MC256. Under a parallel three-year original equipment manufacturing arrangement, HP will resell Hitachi's high-end disk array products after adding to them its own firmware and Fibre Channel technology. Until now, EMC CORP., the world's top maker of high-end storage systems, has been HP's disk array supplier. That relationship will continue under a three-year pact renewed in January, but analysts think that Hitachi equipment increasingly will displace products built by Hopkinton, Massachusetts-based EMC. One reason, HP executives hinted, is that the combination of Hitachi and HP technology, such as represented by the MC256, can meet the American computer maker's promise to its enterprise customers of 100 percent data availability.

Meanwhile, HITACHI DATA SYSTEMS CORP. — which gained the right to resell in a number of countries the HP SureStore E Disk Array MC256 and other storage solutions built around the HP Equation SAN-based, intelligent storage architecture — announced two new disk drive options for its multiplatform Freedom Storage 7700E subsystem. This unit, which attaches to mainframes and open system servers located in data centers, now can be configured with 15-GB and 36-GB drives. These can be used on their own or intermixed with the 6-GB and 18-GB drives previously offered with the Freedom Storage 7700E. The 36-GB drive boosts maximum subsystem capacity to 6 terabytes of storage.

PC manufacturers as well as retailers have a new way to meet the demand for high-capacity rewritable, removable storage. The GF-1000 DVD-RAM (digital video disc-random access memory) drive from HITACHI AMERICA, LTD. provides virtually unlimited rewritable storage capacity. Moreover, it can read data recorded on all types of CDs and DVD-ROM (read-only memory) media. This drive is the ATAPI-interface counterpart of the GF-1050, a SCSI-2 interface DVD-RAM drive that has been on the market since 1997. The GF-1000 lists for about $750. DVD-RAM media costs roughly $40 for a double-sided, 5.2-GB disc and $25 for a single-sided, 2.6-GB disc.

An alternative to the DVD-RAM storage format will be available this fall from SONY CORP. Along with PHILIPS ELECTRONICS NV, it is promoting DVD-RW infinitely rewritable drives, which are based on the CD-ReWritable technology. Among other differences, the single-sided version of the DVD-RW disc will hold 3 GB of data. Although pricing has not been finalized, Sony expects its DVD-RW drive to list for roughly $700. MATSUSHITA ELECTRIC INDUSTRIAL CO., LTD. and TOSHIBA CORP. join HITACHI, LTD. in being the prime movers behind the DVD-RAM format.

In addition to strengthening the product planning and engineering capabilities of its U.S. data storage media business (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 354, March 1999, p. 6), HITACHI MAXELL, LTD. plans to double DVD-ROM capacity at its San Diego, California plant. Sometime this fall, MAXELL CORP. OF AMERICA should be able to turn out 600,000 pieces of media a month. Together with a doubling of its monthly DVD-RAM capacity in Japan to 200,000 units, Hitachi Maxell expects to spend $7.4 million on the expansion.

A year after SEIKO EPSON CORP. reorganized its main U.S. marketing subsidiary to better focus
sales of its diverse electronics product line (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 345, June 1998, pp. 3-4), EPSON AMERICA, INC., a seller of printers, scanners, digital cameras and the like, announced that it would relocate its corporate headquarters to Long Beach, California from Torrance, California. The move should be completed in October.

Users of APPLE COMPUTER, INC.'s iMac and Power Macintosh G3 computers can have a color- coordinated ink-jet printer. The EPSON Stylus Color 740i from SEIKO EPSON CORP.'s marketing arm shares the sleek, translucent case of the Apple products. A blueberry cover is standard, but covers are available in grape, lime, tangerine and strawberry. On the technical side, the EPSON Stylus Color 740i, which provides native universal serial bus connectivity, outputs five pages per minute in color and six in black with a resolution as high as 1440 x 720 dots per inch. It has an estimated street price of $280.

SEIKO EPSON CORP.'s printer line for professional and advanced amateur photographers now extends to the tabloid-format EPSON Stylus Photo 1200. This six-color system can print everything from wallet-sized photos to 13 x 44-inch pictures with the same 1440-dpi resolution as other models in the Stylus Color family, even on plain paper. Compatible out of the box with both PCs and Macintosh machines, the EPSON Stylus Photo 1200 is expected to sell for about $500.

Additions to the PointSource Ai line of network-ready digital copier/printer systems from MITA INDUSTRIAL CO., LTD.'s Fairfield, New Jersey marketing unit enable these products to serve the needs of users ranging from small businesses and workgroups to corporations. Models are on the market that operate at 15, 20, 30, 40, 50 and 55 ppm.

SMARTDISK CORP., the Naples, Florida developer of the Smarty smart card reader/writer, has attracted another Japanese investor. HITACHI SOFTWARE ENGINEERING CO., LTD. joins original investor TOSHIBA CORP. and NEC CORP., which signed on in January. It paid about $1.1 million to acquire a 2 percent stake in SmartDisk. In return, Hitachi Software Engineering has the right to sell Smarty worldwide. The floppy disk-sized smart card adapter, which is expected to cost $80, allows any PC with a floppy drive to read and write data to a smart card. Global sales of Smarty are projected at 50,000 units in FY 2000.

One use for Smarty is at banks and other organizations affiliated with the Mondex smart-card electronic-cash system. To help get Mondex off the ground in the United States, HITACHI, LTD. has created the Mondex Service Bureau in San Francisco. It is the first independent to offer Mondex electronic-cash transaction processing services. The bureau, Hitachi says, can support any level of Mondex electronic-purse implementation, everything from small pilot or campus projects to a full-scale rollout. Hitachi has a vested interest in the success of Mondex since it has spent a considerable amount of money on the integrated circuits, terminals and systems that support Mondex.

The Allendale, New Jersey marketing unit of PLUS CORP. has introduced a pair of digital projectors that set new standards for weight and compactness without compromising image quality, clarity and uniformity, according to the company. The PLUS U2-1080 XGA digital projector and the PLUS U2-870 SVGA model have a 2.28-inch profile and weigh 5.7 pounds at most.

An exchange rate of ¥122=$1.00 was used in this report.aaaaaa

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