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No. 362, November 1999

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Japanese Companies in the US


The restructuring plan that NISSAN MOTOR CO., LTD. announced in October contained some far-flung prescriptions for returning the automotive maker to financial health. Near the top of the list for North America was the unexpected decision to hand over to INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES CORP. management of all of the company's information technology operations in the United States and Canada. The $1 billion contract, which will run for nine and a half years, covers the computer systems at Nissan's big manufacturing complex in Smyrna, Tennessee, its parts production affiliates, the firm's distribution/sales, finance, R&D and design units, and its Torrance, California- headquartered holding company, NISSAN NORTH AMERICA, INC. Beyond indicating that the deal would save Nissan a significant amount of money, neither the vehicle builder nor IBM assigned a hard number to the cost-cutting. Much of the savings will come from transferring roughly 240 Nissan North America IT employees to the computer giant, which has been very successful this year in expanding its services division both in the United States and in Japan. The personnel shift also will help Nissan North America reach the restructuring plan's goal of trimming employment in the United States and Canada by 1,400 people.

In a much more limited restructuring but one probably driven as much by cost considerations as by the stated goal of better serving its mobile computing customers, FUJITSU, LTD. combined its two U.S. personal computer companies. The merger folded FUJITSU PERSONAL SYSTEMS, INC., said to be the undisputed leader in the Windows pen-tablet market, into notebook computer supplier FUJITSU PC CORP. The new FPC is headquartered in Santa Clara, California rather than in Milpitas, California, although offices remain there. It also continues to operate a build-to-order/service center in Memphis, Tennessee.

The most powerful mainframe on the market is how HITACHI DATA SYSTEMS CORP. describes the just-released Hitachi Skyline Trinium. The Santa Clara, California supplier says that its flagship mainframe platform is the first such product to process more than 2 billion instructions per second and that the Trinium tops the competition in executing up to 320,000 simultaneous input/output operations per second. Both characteristics obviously help companies handle surges in trading volumes and electronic-business transactions. So does the Trinium's complete redundancy and dynamic failover on all critical components.

SONY ELECTRONICS, INC., one of the innovators behind thin, sleek desktop PCs, has added functionality to the newest member of the VAIO Slimtop LCD Computer series. The VAIO PCV-L620 is equipped with a 500-MHz Pentium III processor, 128 megabytes of synchronous dynamic random access memory, a 13-gigabyte hard drive, a DVD-ROM (digital video disc-read-only memory) drive and 8 MB of video memory. It also has a dedicated Memory Stick media slot for quick transfers of digital data, text, graphics, audio and video between digital camcorders, still cameras, desktop PC and portables, plus two iLINK (IEEE 1394) ports, a like number of USB (universal serial bus) ports, a pair of PCI (peripheral component interconnect) ports and a Type II PC Card Slot. The monitor is a 14.1-inch active-matrix TFT (thin-film-transistor) liquid crystal display with XGA (extended graphics array) resolution (1024 x 768 pixels) and integrated multimedia speakers. The VAIO PCV-L620 has an estimated street price of $2,500.

The new 650 MHz and 700 MHz Pentium III processors are options with the build-to-order Equium 7100 series of commercial desktops from TOSHIBA AMERICA INFORMATION SYSTEMS, INC.'s Computer Systems Group. The first desktop computing line to offer a standardized motherboard and components as well as a single software profile across multiple chassis styles -- full-size, minitower and slim line -- and feature sets, the Equium 7100 family is aimed at business customers interested in lowering the total cost of ownership while still obtaining solid performance. Pricing starts at $1,500 for a system with a 650-MHz Pentium III and at $1,700 for one equipped with a 700-MHz engine. Neither price includes a monitor.

Going after the corporate buyer that ranks a low purchase price and a reduced total cost of ownership as its first and second most important purchasing criteria, TOSHIBA AMERICA INFORMATION SYSTEMS, INC. CSG rolled out the Equium 7300 family of BTO full- size and slim-line commercial desktop machines. The base configuration costs as little as $750. That buys a 366-MHz Celeron chip as well as INTEL CORP.'s new i810 chipset. Celeron processors running at 400 MHz, 433 MHz, 466 MHz or 500 MHz also are available.

The NEC Computer Systems Division of PACKARD BELL NEC, INC. introduced a second line of PowerMate commercial slim desktop, desktop and minitower machines that share a common motherboard. PowerMate 5250 systems can be equipped with either Celeron or Pentium III processors with clock speeds ranging from 400 MHz to 600 MHz to complement their 440BX chipset. Hard-drive capacity extends from 4.3 GB to 18 GB, while up to 512 MB of internal memory is possible. A PowerMate 5250 costs as little as $800 or as much as $3,800.

Strong holiday season sales are critical to the future of money-losing PACKARD BELL NEC, INC. Its Consumer Division is counting on a new line of affordable, easy-to-use, full- featured home PCs to help turn the tide. The machines are powered by 400-MHz to 500- MHz AMD-K6-2 processors with 3DNow! technology. PC audio and three-dimensional AGP (accelerated graphics port) graphics complement the multimedia-oriented engine. Standard memory is 32 MB, expandable to 96 MB. A 40X compact disc-ROM drive and a hard drive holding as much as 10.2 GB of data provide ample storage space. The PCs come preloaded with such home-focused software as Microsoft Works, Microsoft Money, Intuit Quicken and MGI PhotoSuite. They also have one-button Internet access. Prices start as low as $450. Even the top-of-the-line model costs just $700. A mail-in rebate trims both prices by $50.

Nearly 22,700 configuration choices are possible with the Tecra 8000 notebook computer from TOSHIBA AMERICA INFORMATION SYSTEMS, INC. CSG. The latest options include the new, performance-boosting 500-MHz mobile Pentium III processor with 256 kilobytes of integrated Level-2 cache and a 100-MHz system bus. The Tecra 8000 also can be built with the latest high-speed PC100 memory, starting at 32 MB and going up to 256 MB. An 18-GB hard drive is available as well, as are capacities of 6.4 GB, 10.1 GB and 14.1 GB. The base Tecra 8000 model with a 500-MHz mobile Pentium III costs $3,500. For volume buyers, TAIS offers a system for $4,000 that includes the new processor, 64 MB of PC100 memory, a 10.1-GB hard drive, a 4X DVD-ROM drive, a 14.1-inch XGA active-matrix TFT display and Windows 98.

TOSHIBA AMERICA INFORMATION SYSTEMS, INC., the top seller of portable computers, also made several additions to its Satellite series of value-priced notebooks. One is the $2,000 Satellite 2615DVD, which includes a 433-MHz mobile Celeron processor, 64 MB of SDRAM, a 6-GB hard drive and a 12.1-inch active-matrix TFT display. Its companion, the Satellite 2665XDVD, lists for $2,400. This machine has the same memory and storage capacities as well as the identical integrated V.90/K56flex modem and one-touch Internet access button, but it provides the performance of a 466- MHz mobile Celeron and the easier viewing experience of a 14.1-inch active-matrix TFT display. TAIS also released Satellite models for more budget-conscious small businesses, students and families. The Satellite 1555CDS costs as little as $1,200 for a 380-MHz AMD mobile K6-2 processor and 32 MB of SDRAM. For more demanding computing requirements, the Satellite 2100/2105CDS notebooks use a 400-MHz AMD mobile K6-2 chip. The Satellite 2100CDS, which has 32 MB of internal memory, costs $1,300, while the Satellite 2105CDS with 64 MB of system memory goes for $100 more. A 12.1-inch Color Bright display, an all-in-one 4.3-GB hard drive/diskette drive/24X CD-ROM drive, an integrated V.90/K56flex modem and easy Internet access are common to all three of these models. For people willing to spend $1,700, the Satellite 2100CDT delivers a 400-MHz AMD mobile K6-2 processor, 64 MB of synchronous memory and a 12.1-inch active- matrix TFT display.

Giving mobile professionals desktop performance on the go is how SONY ELECTRONICS, INC. introduced the VAIO F Series of high-performance notebooks. The five-model line is headed by the VAIO PCG-F390, a $3,700 or so system that features a 500-MHz mobile Pentium III processor, 128 MB of SDRAM (expandable to 256 MB), a 12-GB hard drive and a 15-inch XGA active-matrix TFT display. Like its F Series counterparts, this notebook also has an all-in-one design that includes a fixed floppy drive, hard drive and CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive built in, dual battery capability, an iLINK digital interface, a complete suite of Sony digital video software and its PictureGear software for enhanced management of digital content. .....With some trade-offs, the high-end features of the stylish VAIO F Series are available in a sleek package that measures just 1.75 inches thick and weighs six pounds. SONY ELECTRONICS, INC.'s VAIO PCG-XG9 combines a 500-MHz mobile Pentium III processor with 128 MB of SDRAM, an 18.1-GB hard drive and a 13.3-inch XGA active-matrix TFT display. Its estimated selling price is $3,500.

The "new" FUJITSU PC CORP. marked its arrival with two new product lines in the LifeBook family of notebook computers, major redesigns of two others and a refreshment of a fifth. Its desktop replacement candidate is the new LifeBook X Series. Powered by a 500-MHz mobile Pentium III processor, these products can be configured with as much as 256 MB of system memory and up to 12 GB of hard-drive storage. Standard features are a 15.1-inch XGA active-matrix TFT display, 8 MB of video memory, a built-in floppy disk or SuperDisk 120 drive and a flexible bay that supports hot-swapping of CD-ROM, DVD or CD-Rewritable drives. Pricing of the LifeBook X Series starts at $3,400. The other new line is the thin, lightweight LifeBook S Series. A skinny 1.25 inches high and an easy-to- carry 3.74 pounds, these models run off a 400-MHz mobile Pentium III processor. They offer a choice of 64 MB or 128 MB of RAM and either a 6-GB or a 9-GB hard drive, plus a 12.1-inch active-matrix TFT display with a SVGA (super video graphics array) resolution of 800 x 600 pixels and an internal flexible bay for as little as $2,300.

FUJITSU PC CORP. also reengineered the LifeBook B Series to give business buyers even more configuration choices. The processor can be a 450-MHz or a 500-MHz mobile Pentium III, a 433-MHz Pentium II or a 433-MHz Celeron. Systems are available with either a 13.3-inch or a 14.1-inch XGA active-matrix TFT display, up to 256 MB of RAM, a 6.4-GB or a 10-GB removable hard drive and a modular CD-ROM, DVD or CD-RW drive. LifeBook E Series pricing starts at $1,700. The LifeBook E Series of mininotebooks also got a makeover with the addition of a larger 10.4-inch SVGA TFT display with touch screen and a bigger keyboard. The line, which currently runs off a 400-MHz mobile Celeron processor, offers as much as 192 MB of system memory and a 6-GB hard drive. A built-in 56K2 V.90 modem and integrated 10/100Base-T Ethernet local area network capabilities are included in the starting price of $1,800. Finally, Fujitsu PC brought the power of the 450- MHz and the 500-MHz mobile Pentium III processors to its line of multimedia notebooks, the LifeBook C Series. An AMD mobile K6-2 running at 450 MHz also is an option on these systems.

The line of ruggedized Windows-based notebooks from PANASONIC PERSONAL COMPUTER CO. has been shrunk to an ultraportable 3.8 pounds. The new, 1.7-inches- high Toughbook 17 and Toughbook 34 also are the first models to sport integrated wireless communications capabilities. Both use a 300-MHz mobile Celeron processor and offer 64 MB of RAM and a shock-insulated 4.3-GB hard drive. The screen is an 8.4-inch SVGA active-matrix TFT color display with touch capability and antireflective treatment. The two models, which lists for $3,240 and $3,190, respectively, differ only in the design of their magnesium case.

The first 10,000-rotations-per-second drives from HITACHI, LTD. for high-end workstation and server products and for storage systems will ship in the spring of 2000 after sampling in the first quarter. The 3.5-inch family includes a 1.6-inch-high drive providing 73.9 GB of storage, plus a pair of 1-inch packages with capacities of 36.9 GB and 18.4 GB. These boosts result from the application of high ariel density technologies that Hitachi incorporated in its 2.5-inch drives. All three drives are available with either a 100-MB-per-second Fibre Channel interface for storage area network and server farm installations or a 160-MB-per- second Ultra 160 SCSI (small computer system interface) data storage system interface.

FUJITSU, LTD., reportedly the world's fifth-largest supplier of hard drives, signed a cross- licensing agreement with its bigger rival, QUANTUM CORP. By giving each other access to its patented know-how, the two hope to remain competitive at a time when continuously falling PC prices are putting constant pressure on drive manufacturers.

To capitalize on the convergence of printers and scanners with such previously stand-alone products as copiers and facsimiles that digital technology is fostering, TOSHIBA CORP. created TOSHIBA AMERICA BUSINESS SOLUTIONS, INC. Irvine, California-head- quartered TABS, which has annual sales in excess of $500 million, combines three divisions that were parts of TOSHIBA AMERICA INFORMATION SYSTEMS, INC. These are the Electronic Imaging Division, which makes plain paper copiers and fax machines in Irvine and distributes these and imported products; the Toner Products Division, a producer/distributor of toner products with a plant in Mitchell, South Dakota; and the Document Solutions Engineering Division, a digital controller R&D organization. Also coming under TABS is a wholly owned subsidiary that runs a network of U.S. copier/fax dealers.

To extend its market share in the graphic arts, print and imaging fields, especially the print- on-demand part of the business, MINOLTA CO., LTD.'s Ramsey, New Jersey subsidiary signed LONDON LITHO to distribute, integrate and support its digital color printer/copier and printer products. Minolta's first value-added reseller for the POD market, the Lincolnwood, Illinois company will handle the Minolta MicroPress Cluster Printing System, a midvolume, short-run, on-demand, digital system for printing both black and white and color documents. Other products covered by the contract are the CF Series of color products, including the networkable CF910 digital color printer/copier and the CF911P and the CF911PE full-color laser printers.

The combination of MINOLTA CO., LTD.'s laser imaging technology and IMATION CORP.'s patented color management software has yielded what the partners calls a breakthrough digital color proofing system for creative and design professionals. The Minolta-Imation Matchprint Color Laser System, which should be available in the first quarter of 2000, will include Minolta's CF910 digital color printer/copier or CF911P networkable color laser printer, new Matchprint Color Laser Software from Oakdale, Minnesota-based Imation and 12 x 18-inch cobranded Minolta-Imation Matchprint Color Laser Paper. The software is expected to cost less than $2,500. Pricing of the paper will be decided later.

Mount Laurel, New Jersey-based OKI DATA AMERICAS, INC. introduced the OKICOLOR 8 Series to meet the stand-alone and workgroup color printing needs of small and midsize businesses. The line's two machines, which include a network-ready product, print eight color pages per minute. This speed is due in large part to the incorporation of OKI Single Pass Color technology, which features arrays of light-emitting diodes rather than lasers and four individual print stations. The paper moves along a straight path, picking up all four colors in a single pass instead of making four trips around the drum. The OKICOLOR 8 has a suggested price of $3,300, while the OKICOLOR 8/n lists for $3,800.

Small businesses can buy a six-ppm color or seven-ppm black text ink-jet printer for as little as $200 with a mail-in rebate. That is the price of SEIKO EPSON CORP.'s EPSON Stylus Color 760. Also priced to move at $270 is the new EPSON Stylus Color 860, which produces up to 7 ppm of color output and 9.5 ppm of black text. Both printers deliver a resolution of 1440 dots per inch, what is said to be the smallest droplet size in their classes and the company's Micro Piezo print technology. They also are equipped with built-in USB and parallel ports for compatibility with APPLE COMPUTER, INC.'s iMac and Power Macintosh G3 machines as well as Windows PCs. .....SEIKO EPSON CORP.'s Long Beach, California marketing unit also introduced the first laser printer designed to work with the iMac. The EPSON EPL-5700i, which costs $350 after a mail-in rebate, prints up to eight ppm with a resolution of 1200 dpi. Another major selling feature, Epson believes, is a low-cost, 6,000-page toner cartridge.

KYOCERA ELECTRONICS, INC., the Duluth, Georgia marketer of the Ecosys page printers, launched a family of products for printing checks, money orders, bank drafts and other financial documents. The three initial magnetic ink character recognition printers in the line incorporate a number of features to ensure the security of sensitive financial information. The entry-level model, which is designed for such applications as automatic teller machines with its 14-ppm speed, is priced at $2,000. The $4,500 top-of-the-line model outputs 28 ppm, making it suitable for high-volume check printing and MICR printing in a networked environment.

Ten months of development work by SHARP CORP. and OPENLCR.COM, INC. of Fort Collins, Colorado have yielded the first fax machines that automatically select the least- expensive carrier for each call, depending on the day of the week, the time of day and the area called. That capability is the result of openLCR technology, which also updates the long-distance carrier rate table embedded in Sharp openLCR-Ready fax machines every quarter. The first such products released by the company's Mahwah, New Jersey sales and marketing arm will be for personal and SOHO (small office/home office) use.

Volume shipments have begun of an input system for both PCs and Macintoshes that pairs a cordless scrolling mouse with a cordless pressure-sensitive pen. The $100 Graphire is manufactured by WACOM CO., LTD., the world's leading maker of computer graphics tablets and electronic pens, and marketed by its Vancouver, Washington subsidiary. The system is designed not only for more natural drawing and writing but also to add signatures to computer documents.

An exchange rate of ¥106=$1.00 was used in this report. aaaaa

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