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Japanese Computer Makers Not Worried About Apple-IBM Accord With BC-Apple-IBM Prognosis

July 14, 1991

TOKYO (AP) _ Japanese computer makers are treating the alliance between former archrivals Apple Computer Inc. and International Business Machines Corp. as just another marketing tie-up, not much of a competitive or technological threat.

Analysts and officials at computer companies said the agreement, which would combine technology from both companies to create a standardized personal computer package for sale by both, was out of step with the industrywide move toward ″open,″ or universally compatible, systems.

″The concern in Japan is the effect that the agreement has on the consumer - whether we are moving to an open software standard such as Microsoft will sell to anybody, or a closed one such as Apple’s,″ said an official at Fujitsu Ltd., Japan’s largest computer maker, speaking on condition of anonymity.

″Fujitsu is firmly behind open systems. Such a tie-up will not be popular among users,″ he said.

IBM and Apple apparently hope their personal computer package will set a new industry standard and eventually dominate the market, squeezing out competitors. The current PC standard is centered around IBM’s PCs and Microsoft Corp.’s operating system software.

Several officials and analysts said that because the IBM-Apple package would not include much new technology, it would be just one more proprietary or ″closed″ system in a market already carved up by proprietary systems, and so would not win substantial shares of the Japanese market away from the current market leaders.

NEC Corp. now dominates, with about half of the Japanese personal computer market. NEC-compatible computers made by Seiko Corp. and sold under the Epson brand name hold 10 percent more. Foreign computers have less than 10 percent of the market and the rest is dominated by Fujitsu and Toshiba Corp.

″There probably will be some benefit to IBM and Apple. I can’t say exactly what those benefits will be until we see those results. But in Japan, considering we are very strong, we don’t think there’s going to be any effect on NEC,″ said an NEC official, who also requested anonymity.

IBM drew more attention in Japan when it recently introduced a notebook computer using Japanese-language programming, said Darrell Whitten, electronics analyst for Prudential-Bache Securities (Japan) Ltd.

English-only programs in foreign computers have limited their popularity in Japan, he said.

″If I were a Japanese company, I would be far more worried about Compaq setting up here,″ said Barry Dargan, senior technology analyst at James Capel Pacific.

Compaq Computer Corp., which makes high-quality IBM-compatible PCs at a relatively low price, is expected to begin an aggressive drive to sell personal computers in Japan, he said.

Some analysts said, however, that the threat from IBM and Apple in Japan might increase in the future if the companies manage the accord successfully.

End adv for Sunday, July 14