Every move that SOFTBANK CORP. makes in the Internet-related field seems to pay off, often handsomely. However, this success has not extended to the world of PCs. Earlier in the year, Softbank announced plans to sell generic or no-name machines supplied by big electronics distributor INGRAM MICRO INC. of Santa Ana, California (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 354, March 1999, p. 16). What the firm never envisioned was that sellers of brand-name PCs, especially American vendors, would introduce well-equipped models for as little as $800 or so. Accordingly, Softbank is cutting its losses by ending its contract with Ingram Micro.
In what is being billed as the largest outsourcing agreement by a manufacturer in Japan, MAZDA MOTOR CORP. is handing over to IBM JAPAN LTD. responsibility for running most of its computer systems. The deal, which extends from December 1999 through March 2010, will cost the automotive maker an estimated $471.7 million, but the FORD MOTOR CO. subsidiary expects to save as much as $47.2 million of what it otherwise would have spent on information technology requirements. More importantly, the arrangement allows Mazda to focus on its core business. IBM Japan will be in charge of developing the vehicle builder's IT resources outside of the R&D area as well as operating and maintaining its current systems, which include a pair of supercomputers, three host computers and roughly 10,000 PCs, plus networking equipment. The computer maker will set up a wholly owned subsidiary in Hiroshima to service the contract. This company will be staffed initially by about 350 people, including employees of Mazda's soon-to-be- disbanded IT unit. IBM Japan has been quite successful in the last year or so in winning IT outsourcing contracts, but most of its business to date has come from firms in the financial sector.
IBM JAPAN LTD. has enlisted a key partner to support a related business thrust -- developing solutions for financial institutions that take advantage of the Internet. Before yearend, the computer giant expects to form a company with TOSHIBA CORP. to build systems around its RS/6000 Unix-based servers that will help merging banks achieve some of the promised efficiencies by handling back-office or administrative functions on-line. Toshiba, which will have a 51 percent stake in the joint venture, brings experience in this field to the partnership since it currently markets financial systems centered on SUN MICROSYSTEMS, INC. Unix servers. Both IBM Japan and Toshiba will transfer technical and sales personnel to the new company, which is projecting revenues as high as $47.2 million in the first year of operations.
In a marketing strategy aimed directly at price-sensitive buyers of computers for the home, GATEWAY 2000, INC.'s subsidiary is offering deep discounts to people who purchase its consumer desktop and portable machines if they sign up before yearend for two or three years of Gateway.net Internet access. The best deal is on the new-to-Japan Neo (Astro) PC, a low-price, easy-to-use, all-in-one system equipped with a 400-MHz Celeron processor, 64 MB of memory, a 4.3-GB hard drive, an integrated 40X CD-ROM drive and a 15-inch screen. It lists for $850, but buyers who purchase three years of Gateway.net service can get a Neo for just $375. Unlimited Internet access costs $28.30 per month.
A broader range of products soon will be available at COMPAQ COMPUTER CORP.'s on-line store in Japan. Compaq DirectPlus, opened in July, now carries an exclusive line of Prosignia servers, desktop systems and notebooks (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 359, August 1999, pp. 14-15). Certain models of the ProLiant PC server, Deskpro desktop, Armada corporate-use notebook and handheld Aero 8000 families will be added to this lineup, as will a wider variety of peripherals and software.
The latest UNISYS CORP. enterprise server designed for high-volume transaction processing is on the market at monthly lease rates of $157,600 and up. Like other members of this series, the ClearPath HMP IX6800 is what is called a heterogeneous multiprocessing system since it integrates system software for Unisys' 2200 mainframe platform with Intel-based servers running the Windows NT or the SCO UnixWare operating system. One innovation of the IX6800 is a new cache storage design that delivers a 60 percent performance improvement. Another is the use of 0.25-micron CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) technology.
With the EV67 implementation of its 64-bit Alpha 21264 processor now shipping, COMPAQ COMPUTER CORP. is claiming application performance gains of 30 percent to 40 percent for its Unix-based AlphaServer GS Series of enterprise-class servers. This jump, the company says, is the result of a combination of speed improvement and a larger cache. The new engine powers the latest version of the entry-level AlphaServer GS60E, which now can be equipped with as many as eight processors rather than the six Alpha 21264 (EV6) chips that were the outside option when the machine was introduced in Japan in August. Pricing of the more powerful model starts at $153,800. The pumped-up Alpha processor also is at the heart of the new-to-Japan AlphaServer GS140 system. This server can be configured with as many as 14 Alpha 21264s, and it is expandable to 28 GB of 64-bit Very Large Memory. The base, two-way AlphaServer GS140 lists for $584,300.
By yearend, IBM JAPAN LTD. thinks that it can sell 1,000 of the new AS/400e Dedicated Server for Domino to small and midsize customers. As its name suggests, this system is designed specifically to run Domino groupware applications. Obviously, that is possible with almost any PC server configuration. The beauty of its alternative, IBM Japan says, is that it allows businesses to run all their Domino applications on one machine rather than on multiple Domino servers due to the partitioning capabilities of the AS/400e. This makes operations not only easier and more affordable but also more reliable and secure, according to the company. Three versions of the AS/400e Dedicated Server for Domino are available. The middle one lists for $32,900, plus $9,400 for a 100-user Domino license.
A new systems architecture engineered specifically to boost both systems throughput and performance in 2D/3D graphics applications is the source of INTERGRAPH CORP.'s claim that its Zx10 ViZual Workstation is the fastest Windows NT workstation available. According to the Huntsville, Alabama firm, its Wahoo Technology with Streaming Multiport Architecture outperforms Windows NT architectures based on the Intel i840 chipset and the Intel BX chipset by supporting the latest Pentium III and Pentium III Xeon processors with their 133-MHz front-side buses, considerably more memory and better operation of that SDRAM, and much higher I/O bandwidths. Shipments of the Zx10 ViZual Workstation will start in late December. In the United States, pricing will begin at about $7,200 for a 733- MHz Pentium III processor, 256 MB of memory, an 18-MB hard drive, Wildcat 4110 VIO 3D graphics and Windows NT Workstation.
The performance advantages of the 600-MHz Pentium III processor are available in more companies' product lines. For instance, this engine powers the top model in IBM JAPAN LTD.'s entry-level IntelliStation E Pro workstation as well as its midrange IntelliStation M Pro, which can use one or two such chips. Both models also feature IBM Fire GL1 for 3D graphics capabilities rather than the Matrox Millennium 2D package standard on other products in the two series. Each of the base units has 128 MB of ECC (error checking and correcting) SDRAM. The IntelliStation E Pro, which starts at $3,800, offers 9.1 GB of storage, while its M Pro mate has 13.5 GB.
IBM JAPAN LTD. also made the 600-MHz Pentium III the new high-end option for those members of its broad Netfinity server series that are powered by this chip. Pricing of the new models starts at $7,700. At the same time, the company introduced the 550-MHz Pentium III Xeon in the rest of the Netfinity server line, which includes uniprocessor, two- way, four-way and eight-way models. The base configuration costs $16,000.
DELL COMPUTER CORP.'s subsidiary is one cycle ahead of its rivals. In a worldwide release, the direct marketer announced the PowerEdge 2400 as the latest addition to its family of workgroup servers. This machine features the 667-MHz version of the Pentium III processor with its 133-MHz front-side bus. The Power-Edge 2400 also is the first Dell workgroup server to offer hot swappable/redundant power supplies for enhanced availability. Embedded RAID (redundant array of independent disks) technology and a 64- bit PCI bus for higher data bandwidth are other selling points. The system memory of the PowerEdge 2400 scales up to 2 GB of SDRAM, and it can support as much as 144 GB of internal storage. Entry-level prices start at $3,600.
The 600-MHz Pentium III also now represents the state of the art in processor technology for corporate desktop systems. It is the power behind the high-end model in IBM JAPAN LTD.'s PC 300GL line, which is targeted at commercial customers looking for a combination of price and performance. The 6564-SKJ model has an estimated street price of $2,800. For buyers that are even more budget conscious, IBM Japan is offering a PC 300GL model (6288) that uses a 466-MHz Celeron processor for as little as $1,200. Among the eight new PC 300 systems that include these two machines is an additional member of the Japan-only PC 300PL Slim line of space-saving PCs. Equipped with a 500-MHz Pentium III chip, the newcomer starts at $1,900.
Business users who want the performance of Pentium III technology at an affordable price are the target market for DELL COMPUTER CORP.'s new OptiPlex GX110. Less than $1,200 buys a system with a 450-MHz Pentium III chip, 64 MB of SDRAM and a 4.3-GB hard drive. That price also includes the new Intel 810e chipset, which provides a higher level of component integration, such as of graphics and audio, but it does not include a monitor.
COMPAQ COMPUTER CORP. continues to cater to corporate purchasing managers that give priority to value in buying desktop machines. Its subsidiary released 28 models in the Deskpro line that start at less than $1,400. These PCs feature Celeron processors running at 466 MHz or 500 MHz. They also include the 810e chipset for optimized price/performance.
The Japan-only Aptiva E line of desktop PCs for the home that IBM JAPAN LTD. introduced in June has proved to be a hot seller in the ¥100,000 and under market. The company hopes to extend the success of the Aptiva 20J family with the 11-model Aptiva 24J series, which uses the 450-MHz version of the AMD-K6-2 processor rather than the 400-MHz release of its predecessor. The entry-level model costs just $940, but that price covers more than ample memory and storage, plus a monitor, a modem, LAN capabilities and a long list of family-oriented software titles.
Also going after the home desktop PC market, COMPAQ COMPUTER CORP.'s sales unit unveiled the four-model Presario 3500 series. This line offers a choice of Celeron processors with clock speeds of 433 MHz to 500 MHz, hard drives with a storage capacity of 8.4 GB to 10 GB, and a 32X CD-ROM or a 10X DVD-ROM drive. Internal memory is a uniform 64 MB of SDRAM. A 56-kbps modem and one-button Internet and e-mail access are standard. The entry-level 3500 model, the 3560, has an estimated street price of $945 without a monitor.
For individuals who want the flexibility that a notebook PC offers at an affordable price, COMPAQ COMPUTER CORP.'s subsidiary added the Presario 1246 model to its Presario 1200 line. It offers a 400-MHz AMD-K6-2 processor, 32 MB of SRAM, a 4.3- GB hard drive, a 24X CD-ROM drive, a 56-kbps modem and one-button Internet access for roughly $1,500. People willing to pay for more performance in a thin, lightweight design with a detachable wedge have two new choices in the Presario 1900 series. The Presario 1928 and the Presario 1929 share a 400-MHz Celeron processor, 64 MB of SDRAM and a 6.4-GB hard drive. They differ in the inclusion of a 24X CD-ROM drive or a DVD-ROM drive.
The revolutionary iMac home and classroom computer breathed some much-needed life into APPLE COMPUTER, INC.'s business in Japan as well as in the United States after it was introduced just over a year ago. The company now hopes to build on that success with a three-model line of iMacs completely redesigned to be faster, sleeker, quieter and more Internet friendly. The basic iMac, which lists for $1,100, sports a 350-MHz PowerPC G3 processor, 64 MB of SDRAM (expandable to 512 MB), a 6-GB Ultra ATA hard drive, a "slot-load" 24X CD-ROM drive, high-end graphics acceleration, a built-in V.90/56K modem, 10/100Base-T Ethernet and dual USB ports. It is engineered to operate without a fan and supports Apple AirPort wireless networking for fast Internet access from anywhere in the home or the classroom. The new iMac DV, short for digital video, uses a 400-MHz version of the PowerPC G3 processor and provides 10 GB of storage. What really distinguishes this $1,400 model from the basic iMac, though, are a 4X slot-load DVD-ROM drive with DVD video playback, two 400-megabit-per-second FireWire (IEEE 1394) ports and Apple's new iMovie software for creating professional-quality home and classroom movies. Rounding out the series is the iMac DV Special Edition. It has the same configuration as its namesake but comes with 128 MB of SDRAM and a 13-GB Ultra ATA hard drive for roughly $1,700.
Twelve years after PINNACLE SYSTEMS, INC. started marketing its video broadcast and production editing tools in Japan, the Mountain View, California firm opened a wholly owned subsidiary in Tokyo. At the same time, Pinnacle gained a new marketing partner: HITACHI ELECTRONICS, LTD. That company had been designing video server systems for broadcasters around equipment from HEWLETT-PACKARD CO., but in August, Pinnacle bought this part of HP's business. Hitachi Electronics is especially excited about Pinnacle's high-capacity video servers, which can store 1,000 hours of material and even more.
The new class of Fibre Channel solutions that start-up TROIKA NETWORKS, INC. introduced in September will be distributed by NISSHO ELECTRONICS CORP. The Westlake Village, California firm's equipment addresses the storage demands that e- commerce and e-business have placed on corporate IT systems. It does this by adding server cluster and Internet Protocol communications to Fibre Channel-based storage area networks, thereby creating a system area network. The resulting multifunctional network, which Troika Networks dubs SAN2 or SAN squared, provides a single-wire, fully open network infrastructure for building reliable, scalable and manageable IT systems. The first product that Nissho Electronics will resell is Troika Networks' SAN2 Controller 2000, a PCI- to-Fibre Channel adapter that enables network managers to support and administer storage and/or system area networks with a single device.
Answering the call of Solaris users for more storage capacity, increased throughput and faster response time for data warehouse applications, SUN MICROSYSTEMS, INC.'s subsidiary released new versions of the Sun StorEdge A5100 and Sun StorEdge A5200 arrays. The revamped A5100 marks Sun's introduction of 36.4-GB drives operating at 10,000 rotations per second. Fourteen drives fit in an enclosure. Six of these can be linked together to provide 3 terabytes of capacity. As much as 2.4 TB of storage in a 132-drive configuration is available with the upgraded A5200. This model uses 9.1-GB or 18.2-GB drives also operating at 10,000 rpm. Each subsystem has room for 22 drives. Pricing of the latest Sun StorEdge arrays starts at $66,000.
Seemingly helping a competitor, HEWLETT-PACKARD JAPAN LTD. has agreed to provide components and peripheral equipment for large-format ink-jet printers to GRAPHTEC CORP. Japan's largest maker of plotters and recorders plans to improve the speed and the printing definition of the HP products and sell the equipment under the Graphtec name to graphics companies. Graphtec, which had been selling San Diego, California ENCAD, INC.'s large-format printers, expects the tie-up with HP Japan to boost its annual revenues by $14.2 million in two or three years.
High-quality digital photos can be printed directly from a wide range of digital cameras with HEWLETT-PACKARD JAPAN LTD.'s HP PhotoSmart P1000 and HP PhotoSmart P1100 ink-jet printers. A PC is not necessary because these machines accept input directly from CompactFlash cards and SmartMedia cards. Both also function as desktop machines for everyday printing. The HP PhotoSmart P1000, which lists for $565, outputs up to 11 ppm in black and white with a 600-dpi resolution and 8.5 ppm in color with a 2400 x 1200 resolution. The faster HP PhotoSmart P1100 printer delivers 12 ppm in black and 10 ppm in color. It is expected to sell for $660. .....At the same time, HEWLETT-PACK-ARD JAPAN LTD. complemented the recently introduced HP DeskJet 970Cxi Professional Series with the HP DeskJet 955C. It provides photo-quality reproduction at speeds of 11 ppm in black and 8.5 ppm in color for $450.
EASTMAN KODAK CO. and SANYO ELECTRIC CO., LTD. have codeveloped the world's first commercially viable full-color, active-matrix organic electroluminescent display. The 2.5-inch (diagonal) demonstration product has a 190,000-pixel count. The breakthrough, the result of a development alliance forged earlier this year (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 354, March 1999, p. 17), is significant because OEL displays are easier to view than today's LCDs, plus they are much thinner, weigh less and consume considerably less power. Those characteristics mean that information-rich, user-friendly displays can be built into even more electronics products.
Now that it has a marketing subsidiary (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 361, October 1999, p. 19), RARITAN COMPUTER, INC. is bolstering its line of switches that allow multiple computers to be controlled through a single keyboard, monitor and mouse. Its latest product is the SwitchMan, a plug-and-play desktop product for operating two to four PCs. Pricing is open, but in the United States, the SW2 (two-channel SwitchMan) is $170, while the SW4 (the four-channel unit) costs $250.
In what INTERGRAPH CORP.'s Intense 3D unit considers a critical design win, FUJITSU, LTD. selected the new Wildcat 4110 graphics accelerator as the graphics subsystem for its next-generation FMV-PRO Workstation, a product used by many engineers and designers in Japan. According to the Huntsville, Alabama supplier, Wildcat 4110 delivers the industry's fastest graphics on any platform. It has double the performance of previous Wildcat products, but the pricing has remained basically the same.
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