Prospects for computer deals, advances look goodU.S...

COMPUTER NOTES

December 07, 1992

TOKYO — Prospects for computer deals, advances look good

U.S. computer firms boosting sales in Japan

TOKYO -- Fewer Japanese use personal computers than do Americans, but that seems to be changing.

Japanese consumers buy only 2 million personal computers a year. That's 20 percent of U.S. annual sales, despite an economy that's 60 percent as large.

One reason is the high cost. But computer companies -- led by Compaq, which unveiled a low-priced computer in October -- are beginning to bring prices down.

In addition, keyboarding is an arduous task in Japan. The written language is a mix of two 50-symbol phonetic alphabets and thousands of Chinese characters called kanji.

Compared to people typing in languages that use a single phonetic alphabet, even the most skilled Japanese keyboardists take two to three times longer to type the equivalent number of words.

But Apple Computer has increased sales because, it says, its computer can better handle the Japanese language. Apple sold 180,000 units this year, about a 7 percent market share. It sold an average of only 40,000 units a year for its first eight years in the market.

Company officials also credited an increased number of software programs and an expanded dealership network.

The conglomerates that dominate the computer industry also hampered its growth. The same companies that make mainframes make the personal computers, and have little interest in promoting the less costly technology.

As personal computers and workstations get more powerful and versatile, though, the economics of mainframe computing is collapsing in Japan as it did in the United States.

PC makers expecting hot holiday business

Personal-computer makers are expected to have one of their best Christmas seasons ever this year, with PCs selling at such bargain-basement prices that some hot items may be in short supply.

Analysts and some computer executives say that some of the key components in short supply include monitors, disk drives and memory chips. There is also increasing demand for the fastest version of Intel Corp.'s 486 25-megahertz chip.

Besides the ongoing price war, this year has also marked an unprecedented push by major, brand-name personal-computer makers into the consumer marketplace, with lines designed specifically for novice users, and home and small offices.

Analysts say that some of the more popular items, such as Apple Computer Inc.'s hot-selling Powerbook notebook computers, will move off the shelves most quickly. Earlier this year, Apple said that Powerbooks have reaped over $1 billion in sales since they were launched last fall.

"Compaq, Apple and Dell will be able to sell everything they are able to make," said Roger McNamee, an analyst with Integral Capital Partners in Palo Alto, Calif.

International Business Machines Corp., which unfurled three new lines this fall, said it expects a bumper season for its PCs.

Distrust of computers widespread in survey

Two-thirds of Americans believe computers are a threat to our privacy, a new study shows.

The survey also shows that almost 80 percent feel computers have improved the quality of their life and 89 percent think computers have made things more convenient.

The annual survey was conducted by New York-based Louis Harris and Associates Inc. and commissioned by Equifax, the nation's largest credit-reporting agency.

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