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No. 360, September 1999

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Japanese Companies in the US


Industrial automation products powerhouse GE FANUC AUTOMATION NORTH AMERICA, INC. is expanding its market reach again through an acquisition. The Charlottesville, Virginia joint venture between FANUC LTD. and GENERAL ELECTRIC CO. has agreed to buy WHEDCO, INC. for an undisclosed amount. That Ann Arbor, Michigan-based company designs, develops and markets servo and stepping motor control systems for industrial automation applications. GE Fanuc Automation found Whedco's networkable controller/amplifier packages especially attractive since they will bolster its PowerMotion family of motion control systems. Last year, GE Fanuc Automation bought TOTAL CONTROL PRODUCTS, INC. (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 351, December 1998, p. 5).

By breaking through the $200 price barrier and bringing portability to the MiniDisc format, SHARP CORP.'s Mahwah, New Jersey marketing unit hopes to find a broader audience for this play/record/edit device. Less than 2 inches thick and square in shape, the shock-resistant, digital MD-MT15 is rerecordable up to 1 million times. It also reproduces sound with the same clarity as the original. Moreover, users can move, erase, combine or divide tracks without rerecording the entire disc.

HITACHI, LTD. has moved into the American DVD player market with a product that it says gives the user total control over his or her viewing and listening experience. The $450 DVP250U offers such features as a fast-access disc navigation system, a digital zoom function, variable speed playback, a last play function, multiple angle viewing, still picture with frame advance and movie theater-like sound. HITACHI AMERICA, LTD. is marketing the DVD player as part of a home-theater system package.

For its part, PANASONIC CONSUMER ELECTRONICS CO. has announced MATSUSHITA ELECTRIC INDUSTRIAL CO., LTD.'s first progressive-scan DVD player for the U.S. market, the DVD-H1000. This capability, derived from digital television, duplicates the picture quality of the movie theater. However, like high-definition TV sets themselves, gaining a theater-like experience at home with a DVD player is expensive: a suggested $3,000.

Internet access for SEGA ENTERPRISES, LTD.'s much-hyped Dreamcast video game console (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 356, May 1999, p. 5) will be provided by AT&T CORP. Buyers of the first Internet-ca-pable gaming console, which appeared on store shelves this month, have a choice of three AT&T WorldNet plans. When the Sega Dreamcast Network on-line gaming site is launched sometime next year, players will be able to compete against each other on the Internet.

An exchange rate of ¥113=$1.00 was used in this report.aaaaaa

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