Fujitsu aims for piece of video game marketTOKYO...

NEW PRODUCTS

February 22, 1993

Fujitsu aims for piece of video game market

TOKYO -- Japan's Fujitsu announced last week a keyboard-less personal computer that plugs into a television set, in an attempt to woo computer-shy users to multimedia gadgets and grab a piece of the booming video game market.

Half game machine and half computer, the "FM Towns MARTY" will run software recorded on compact discs.

The operator puts his hands on a molded rest, which has a button under each finger, instead of the traditional alphanumeric keyboard.

Fujitsu's multimedia strategy began with its pioneering FM Towns personal computer, launched in 1989. This has achieved modest success after a slow start, but PCs in Japan are still mainly confined to offices. With audio and video equipment also in a prolonged slump, computer and consumer companies have been hungrily eyeing the success of video game makers like Nintendo and Sega.

"We have learned that it is hard to get people to understand what multimedia is, and difficult to get it into households," Mikio Otsuki, Fujitsu executive vice president, told a news conference. "We hope this will make it easier," he added.

To reach a wider range of customers, Fujitsu will try to sell the machine through department stores and supermarkets as well as electronics and computer shops.

At just over $800, MARTY is expensive compared to the $585 needed to buy a Sega game machine plus compact disc drive. Fujitsu officials said, their machine is more powerful and sophisticated.

There are 250 programs, mainly entertainment and educational, available for use on MARTY, with 400 planned for the end of 1993. About 50 were written specially for the new device and 200 already available for FM Towns. MARTY will also be able to play music, graphics and dictionary CDs.

Fujitsu said it is aiming for sales of 200,000 units in the product' first year, compared with the 280,000 units of FM Towns it has sold since it was released four years ago.

Initially, MARTY will not be for sale outside Japan, but executives said they would consider this later, depending on the fate of new U.S. multimedia products from companies like General Magic. NEW YORK -- International Business Machines Corp. unveiled 14 new models for its Application System/400 midrange computer line last week, saying the most powerful is faster than a rival system from Hewlett-Packard Co.

The computer giant also said the AS/400 line, seen by some as a potential growth vehicle for the ailing giant, is gaining in profitability and market share despite an unexpected drop in revenues last year.

IBM brought the curtain up on the AS/400 F Series, which the company said provides 60 percent more computing power, supports a greater number of communications lines and operates with twice as much disk storage capacity.

Prices for the new AS/400 F models begin at $10,500 and range to just over $1 million. Operating systems will sell for $1,890 to $200,000.

Motorola unveils new device to store data

CHICAGO -- Motorola Inc. announced last week a credit card-sized wireless receiver that can store information and transfer it to the new generation of palm-sized computers and personal communicators.

The product, called NewsCard, incorporates a one-way modem and a 128-kilobyte memory. It automatically can receive and store information such as electronic mail, stock quotes, news updates and data files, Motorola said. A user transfers the information by inserting the card into an external slot on the miniature computers and personal communications devices that have been announced by several manufacturers including Apple Computer Inc. and American Telephone and Telegraph Co.

Motorola said it will begin shipping NewsCard in the second quarter, when the new portable computing devices become available. It will wholesale for $339.

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