Few recent announcements have raised so many eyebrows in the computer world as the news that SILICON GRAPHICS, INC. and NEC CORP. would sell each other's supercomputers in Japan. The surprise reflected the assumed animosity between the two resulting from the ultimately successful 1996-98 campaign waged by SGI's Cray unit, then an independent company, to prevent NEC from leasing a number-crunching computer to a partly government-funded U.S. climate research laboratory on what Washington agreed were unfair terms. Neither company said explicitly why they had decided to cooperate. One factor no doubt is the difficulty both have experienced selling high-perform-ance computers in Japan's current economic climate and with mainstream computers becoming ever more powerful. Moreover, for months, Silicon Graphics has been attempting to restructure its subsidiary's operations to make them more growth-oriented. Whatever the reason for the tie-up, it marries SGI's expertise in both traditional vector supercomputers (Cray SV1, Cray T3E and Cray T90) and scalar supercomputers (the SGI Origin 2000) with NEC's vector architecture.
New marketing partners SILICON GRAPHICS, INC. and NEC CORP. did not have to wait very long to receive their first contract. The Institute of Fluid Science at Tohoku University, a longtime Cray customer, ordered a massive high-performance computing solution that has at its core a 640-processor version of the scalar SGI Origin 2000 supercomputer as well as NEC's new SX-5 vector supercomputer with 16 central processors. The hybrid system will have a data-processing capacity unmatched in Japan. Including workstations and other peripherals, the contract is worth $44.3 million. .....Its new relationship with NEC CORP. also worked to SILICON GRAPHICS, INC.'s advantage when its partner received an order from the National Research Institute for Metals, part of the government's Science and Technology Agency, for a SX-5 system to replace the NEC supercomputer it has used since 1995. The system, slated to be operational in April 2000, will use SGI file and graphics servers. The SX-5 covered by the contract will be the biggest supercomputer NEC has ever built, featuring a top performance of 256 gigaflops (billion operations per second) and a 128-GB main memory.
IBM JAPAN LTD. sold MITSUI MARINE & FIRE INSURANCE CO., LTD. on the cost benefits of outsourcing its computer operations. The 10-year contract, worth an estimated $238.9 million, is expected to save the number-three property and casualty insurer some 10 percent of what it otherwise would have spent on information technology requirements. .....IBM JAPAN LTD. reportedly will be tapped to run an on- line banking service for regional banks. JUROKU BANK, LTD. of Gifu prefecture and SURUGA BANK, LTD., which does most of its business in Shizuoka and Kanagawa prefectures, are spearheading the project. They expect to enlist as many as 30 fellow regional banks across the country by fall 2000. The sign-up cost will be about $885,000 per bank, plus anywhere from $212,400 to $265,500 in annual fees. IBM Japan will install a server for each of the participating banks at one of its operations centers and link that machine to a bank's own data center.
By 2000, HEWLETT-PACKARD JAPAN LTD. forecasts, 80 percent of the PC servers that it sells will be assembled at the company's factory in the Hachioji section of Tokyo. That switch will give corporate customers the chance to tailor the systems to their specific requirements. HP Japan already has started to provide some HP NetServer workgroup and departmental servers on a build-to-order basis. Previously, all of its PC servers were produced in the Philippines.
HEWLETT-PACKARD JAPAN LTD. has unveiled two other initiatives designed to boost revenues. It has begun a program to directly lease its most powerful servers and other computer equipment to promising Internet start-ups. These venture businesses lack the financial track record to lease hardware from mainstream leasing companies. At least one company that plans to auction used cars over the Internet already has taken advantage of HP Japan's new service. It signed a three-year lease on a $354,000 Web server system. Under a companion program, HP Japan will tailor leases for Internet start-ups not only to hardware specifics but also to the number of users, hours of use and similar variables. In the year starting in November, HP Japan hopes to conclude direct lease contracts worth $442.5 million.
GATEWAY 2000, INC.'s subsidiary already has opened Gateway Country stores in Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Kobe, Hiroshima, Sendai and two other cities to complement its direct sales over the Internet or by phone. Now, it is experimenting with another retail concept. Gateway set up an in-store shop at a DAIEI, INC. outlet in Chiba prefecture in an attempt to piggyback on the business of mass merchandisers. The shop is staffed by Gateway personnel who can help consumers figure how out what kind of PC they want. If this experiment is successful, Gateway will consider extending the format to other locations.
A line of what are known as immersive-visualiza-tion graphics workstations is on the market from HEWLETT-PACKARD JAPAN LTD. with marketing support from NISSHO ELECTRONICS CORP. Equipped with ultra-high-resolution displays that measure up to 30 feet wide, the HP VISUALIZE Center allows entire project teams in the automotive, aerospace and related industries as well as in the scientific community to optimize product development and scientific visualization. Members can walk through an entire, full-size visual vehicle, airplane or building, interact with the data and resolve design problems in real time before physical prototypes are built. Integral to the solution are HP VISUALIZE Unix workstations and HP VISUALIZE fx6 3D graphics with texture-mapping acceleration. HP Japan priced the HP VISUALIZE Center from $672,600.
COMPAQ COMPUTER CORP. redefined the entry point to the high-end AlphaServer GS Series, a 64-bit computing line designed for the most demanding enterprise and technical-computing applications. The AlphaServer GS60E can support as many as six 525-MHz Alpha 21264 (EV6) processors and provides up to 12 GB of system memory. It also allows hardware partitioning and features 64-bit Very Large Memory capabilities. The base configuration of the AlphaServer GS60E, which has two processors and 1 GB of internal memory, costs roughly $144,200 for a machine running the Tru64 Unix operating system or $147,800 for one using OpenVMS.
Over the next two years, SUN MICROSYSTEMS, INC.'s subsidiary believes that it will be able to sell 20,000 units of the new Netra t1 Model 105 carrier-grade server to Internet services providers. Its optimism has several causes. For starters, the system is just 1.75 inches high, allowing 40 of them to be stacked in a 19-inch rack. That is two to four times more than is possible with competing systems. As a result, ISPs can more easily and cost-effectively dedicate separate systems to individual customers or to different infrastructure applications. Greater redundancy also can be built in. In addition, the Netra t1 incorporates several ease-of-management fea-tures, including remote monitoring and control. The clincher in Sun's opinion is the price. A Netra t1 Model 105 with a 360-MHz UltraSPARC IIi processor, 64 MB of system memory and a 9.1-GB hard drive is just $8,700.
Upgraded graphics accelerators now are standard on COMPAQ COMPUTER CORP.'s Windows NT-based line of Professional Workstation AP/SP models, which represent the big computer maker's attempt to balance the latest in processor technology and high-performance 2D and 3D graphics solutions with affordable pricing. For jobs that require entry-level 3D graphics using the Professional Workstations AP200 and AP400, the company switched its basic offering to ELSA Synergy II from ELSA GLoria Synergy. With the Professional Workstations AP500 and SP700, Compaq is shipping 3DLabs Oxygen GVX1. This controller is designed for technical professional users seeking a midrange 3D graphics capability.
The rollout of Windows NT-based workstations incorporating the latest in Pentium III Xeon processor technology continues. The 550-MHz version of this engine, which has a 100-MHz system bus and full-speed cache, now powers DELL COMPUTER CORP.'s dual-processor-capable Precision WorkStation 610. Pricing for this high-end product starts at just $3,200. .....DELL COMPUTER CORP.'s subsidiary also brought the performance-enhancing 550-MHz Pentium III Xeon processor to the PowerEdge 6300 server. Designed for the most demanding business applications, this system supports four-way multiprocessing. The base configuration is priced from $7,500.
In a further sign that American computer vendors believe that the Linux operating system could become just as popular in Japan as it is positioned to be in the United States, HEWLETT-PACKARD JAPAN LTD. is marketing its first PC server package with the freeware version of Unix preinstalled. The vehicle is the HP NetServer E 60, a machine touted as easy to set up, back up, troubleshoot and expand. HP Japan priced the renamed HP Linux E 60 at less than $4,400, including three years of support and service. A package without support services also is available. Some of the first products that COMPAQ COMPUTER CORP.'s subsidiary is offering through its new direct sales channel (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 359, August 1999, pp. 14-15) are the four models making up the network-targeted Prosignia Desktop 330 family. Equipped with the Windows NT 4.0 Workstation operating system, these built-to-order systems can be configured with either a 450- MHz or a 550-MHz Pentium III processor, 64 MB to 384 MB of internal memory and 8.4 GB to 37.7 GB of storage, plus a 52X CD-ROM drive. Pricing starts at a low $1,200- plus (excluding a monitor), which Compaq thinks will give it an edge on the competition.
The power of the 600-MHz Pentium III chip has been brought to DELL COMPUTER CORP.'s desktop line for demanding networks. The base model of the OptiPlex GX1 600S, which includes a 440BX chipset, comes with 64 MB of system memory and a 6.4-GB hard drive. It lists for $1,600. That is almost $600 less than the previous entry- level OptiPlex GX1, which was powered by a 550-MHz Pentium III. Perhaps even more than its American rivals, Dell has been slashing prices on new products as well as deeply discounting the models they replace. The cuts extend to PowerEdge servers, OptiPlex GX1p desktops and Latitude notebooks.
In a worldwide release, DELL COMPUTER CORP. introduced its least expensive desktop system to date for corporate users. In Japan, the OptiPlex GX100 starts at $870. That buys a small-form-factor machine with a 400-MHz Celeron processor together with the new 810 chipset, 4 MB of dedicated graphics memory, 32 MB of synchronous DRAM memory, a 4.3-GB hard drive, a 1.44-MB floppy drive, integrated 10/100 networking and a 15-inch monitor. .....DELL COMPUTER CORP.'s subsidiary soon outdid its parent. It released a Japan-only product, its first ever, that costs as little as $660 without a monitor and $840 packaged with a 15-inch display. Either price for the Dimension J400c, which is aimed at the SOHO (small office/home office) market, includes a 400-MHz Celeron processor along with the 810 chipset, 64 MB of SDRAM and 4.3 GB of storage.
Fellow direct marketer GATEWAY 2000, INC. quickly met this challenge. It, too, broke the ¥100,000 pricing barrier for desktops with the $885 GP6-400c. The specifications of this midtower machine parallel those of the Dimension J400c: a 400-MHz Celeron processor, a 440ZX chipset with AGP (accelerated graphics port) support, 64 MB of SRAM, a 4.3-GB hard drive and a 15-inch monitor. However, the price for the Gateway system also covers three months of Internet access.
GATEWAY 2000, INC.'s subsidiary also expanded its lineup of affordable, small-form- factor PCs for businesses with the release of a new E-1400 model. Priced from $850 without a monitor, this system comes with a 400-MHz Celeron processor that has 128 kilobytes of cache, 64 MB of internal memory and a 6.8-GB hard drive. It takes up less than half the space of traditional PCs. It is easy to service or upgrade because the motherboard, power supply and hard drive are removable. At the same time that it goes after corporate buyers of desktop machines, GATEWAY 2000, INC.'s marketing unit is putting more emphasis on the notebook market. It has doubled the number of people providing support for users of its portable computers and allocated more money for advertising its notebooks. These moves coincided with several model launches. One was a version of the Solo 9300 that can be used for digital video editing. This product, which starts at less than $2,700, offers a choice of a 400-MHz mobile Pentium II processor, a 366-MHz Celeron or its 400-MHz cousin. It features a 15-inch XGA active-matrix TFT color display and a high-speed IEEE 1394 serial bus. This Solo 9300 also can be equipped with a CD-rewritable drive. Gateway released as well three notebooks that include in their price one year of Internet access and some other free services a marketing strategy that it has used to sell certain desktop models. A Solo 3100 portable with a 266-MHz Celeron chip lists at less than $1,800, while the Solo 2500 Internet model, which uses a 333-MHz Celeron processor, goes for $1,900. The third model, priced at $2,500, is part of the Solo 9100 line. It uses a 333-MHz Pentium II processor.
The latest entry from DELL COMPUTER CORP. in the notebook sweepstakes is the Latitude CS-R400XT. A lightweight (4.3 pounds), thin (1.1 inches in height) system despite its 13.3-inch color display, this product is powered by a 400-MHz mobile Pentium II processor with AGP performance. The starting price of $2,400 includes 64 MB of SDRAM and a 4.8-GB hard drive.
In a significant win for INTERGRAPH CORP., its subsidiary teamed with MEDIA 100 INC. to deliver Finish content-creation video systems to two schools offering digital media training and certification courses. The deals with Japan Electronics College and Digital Contents Academy 3Dplus, also located in Tokyo, included the installation of 16 of the Huntsville, Alabama manufacturer's TDZ 2000 Video Workstations for the Windows NT operating environment. Between them, JEC and 3Dplus are said to have the largest number of professional nonlinear editing systems of any Japanese school. Their classes are aimed at aspiring digital media engineers and creators.
NCR JAPAN, LTD., which has built a substantial business for itself by catering to the hardware and software requirements of nationwide retailers, has introduced a state-of- the-art, Japan-only system for chains that takes advantage of the Web. For stores themselves, the RPRO FSP Solution consists of NCR 7452POS (point of sale) machines and the NCR 7401 Web Kiosk Terminal. Ten of the POS systems cost $132,700, while the terminal is priced from $10,600. This equipment is linked to a server at the retailer's headquarters that costs $79,600 and up. Over the next three years, NCR expects to sell 100 of the servers, plus 5,000 Web Kiosk Terminals and 30,000 POS machines.
IBM JAPAN LTD. signed an agreement with OMRON CORP. to supply it with automated teller machines on an original equipment manufacturer basis for sale in Asia outside Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. The computer giant will install its own software in the ATMs and also handle after-sale service. The five-year deal, which starts in October, could involve as many as 30,000 machines, giving a major boost to Omron's share of the world ATM market. IBM Japan anticipates strong demand for ATMs from financial institutions in the People's Republic of China and elsewhere in Asia in coming years.
The latest product from the marketing unit of enterprise storage systems world leader EMC CORP. is the Celerra File Server. This system combines Symmetrix Enterprise Storage technology with what the company says is a novel approach to software and hardware. In EMC's opinion, this marriage delivers unprecedented levels of availability, management, scalability (up to 37 terabytes) and performance to network file storage. Key to the performance claim is software optimized for moving data. Moreover, a single Celerra File Server can simultaneously support mixed Unix and Windows NT environments. Operable over local networks, including Gigabit Ethernet, and wide area networks like the Internet, the network file server's pricing starts at $765,500.
With two additions to the HP SureStore E on-line storage product family, HEWLETT- PACKARD JAPAN LTD. promises HP 9000 Enterprise Server customers that they can match their storage investments to the specific amount of disk space needed for a given application and add capacity as necessary. The HP SureStore E Disk Array FC60 is a native Fibre Channel RAID (redundant array of independent disks) array offering high availability, up to a terabyte of capacity and high-speed data transfer. Designed for large-scale, business-critical applications, it can be configured with four to 60 disks. The basic system costs $61,700. For small to midsize ISP and e- commerce applications and Unix file/print operations, HP Japan is marketing the HP SureStore E Disk System SC10. It can be built with four to 10 Ultra2 SCSI disks with a top capacity of 182 GB per enclosure. The standard SC10 model lists for $22,300. Between the two products, HP Japan expects to generate sales of $35.4 million in the first year.
HEWLETT-PACKARD JAPAN LTD. also figures that over the coming year, its customers will buy 1,000 of its latest DAT (digital audio tape) system for backing up midsize networks. The HP SureStore DAT24eU, which is compatible with leading Unix and Windows NT servers and workstations, has a compressed data capacity of 24 GB per DDS-3 (digital data storage) cartridge and a sustained transfer rate of 7.2 GB an hour, again with hardware data compression. This particular model, which lists for $2,100, comes with a SCSI cable and terminator as well as a power cable and a power supply.
ULTERA SYSTEMS INC., which bills itself as the leading manufacturer of RAID tape array controllers and subsystems for high-speed backup, archival and data acquisition applications, appointed MACNICA, INC. as its master distributor. The Laguna Hills, California company's product line, which is compatible with all industry-standard tape drives, tape libraries and storage management software, spans the name-indicative Striper, LibraryMaster, Imager and ShadowMaster Series.
Once again, INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES CORP. has managed to pack a record amount of capacity into a notebook PC hard drive. The Travelstar 25GS, designed for the premium end of the market, holds 25.3 GB of data, four times as much as the average portable hard drive. Moreover, at 5,400 revolutions per minute, the drive tops the speed of any competitor's, adding to performance. The Travelstar 25GS will be used in IBM JAPAN LTD.'s high-end ThinkPads as well as in notebooks from other manufacturers.
IMATION CORP.'s subsidiary is upbeat about prospects for its 120-MB SuperDisk USB external drive for both Macintosh machines and Windows PCs. It is forecasting sales of 5,000 SDD-120USB WM2Xs a month. The drive has an estimated street price of $300.
With the $175 HP JetDirect 170X, small businesses with Windows machines can connect printers regardless of make to their networks. The result, HEWLETT- PACKARD JAPAN LTD. says, is an output speed that is up to six times faster than with a file server or a shared PC connection. The company is projecting sales of 20,000 units a year.
Color LCDs developed by COLORADO MICRODISPLAY, INC. that measure less than a half inch diagonally will be distributed to OEMs by SUMITOMO CORP., backstopped by the Boulder, Colorado company's new Tokyo sales and support office. Target applications for CMD's microdisplays, which reportedly can be produced at about one- fourth the cost of conventional displays with equivalent image quality, include headsets for mobile computing, portable DVD players and wearable computers; viewfinders in digital cameras, camcorders and next-generation smart phones/Internet appliances; front and rear projection devices; and displays for a variety of industrial products. Sumitomo is so convinced that the microdisplays will find a broad market that it is projecting annual sales on the order of $35.4 million within two years.
A third Japanese electronics manufacturer has been licensed to use EASTMAN KODAK CO.'s innovative organic electroluminescence technology in passive monochrome and color flat-panel displays for a variety of applications. Like PIONEER CORP. and SANYO ELECTRIC CO., LTD., which also has an OEL development partnership with Kodak (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 354, March 1999, p. 17), TDK CORP. no doubt was attracted to the lower power consumption, faster response time, better brightness, unlimited viewing angle and thinner design of displays incorporating OEL technology compared with today's LCD displays. Kodak will collect royalties from TDK.
Three products from RARITAN COMPUTER INC., a manufacturer of switches that allow the control of multiple computers from a single keyboard, monitor and mouse, are now available in Japan. The Somerset, New Jersey company's entry-level line is the Compu-Switch, which can connect any combination of two, four or eight PCs, Macs and Suns using any operating system. For centrally running anywhere from two to 256 multiplatform computers, Raritan offers the MasterConsole II. Its MasterControl MX switch goes a step further, allowing up to four people to simultaneously control as many as 256 computers (PCs, Macs, Suns, Alphas, RS/6000s, HP 9000s and SGIs) each from one keyboard/monitor/mouse. Regardless of the product, a Raritan switch eliminates the cost and the clutter of multiple peripherals, reduces equipment space and helps to improve operational efficiency in such places as data centers, Web server farms and customer service operations. Pricing ranges from $480 to $11,100.
The ultimate in consumer desktop entertainment is how 3DFX INTERACTIVE, INC. describes the possibilities opened up by the new Voodoo3 3500 TV AGP card. It combines powerful 3D and 2D graphics with complete TV tuner and multimedia functionality. NISSHO ELECTRONICS CORP., the San Jose, California company's distributor since April, has priced the card at $335. It expects annual sales in excess of 20,000 units. 3dfx Interactive recently established a Tokyo marketing subsidiary (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 357, June 1999, p. 21).
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