Japan's Computer and Communications Industry: The Evolution of Industrial Giants and Global Competitiveness

By Martin Fransman | Go to book overview

4 The Evolution of the Japanese Computer Industry

CHAPTER OVERVIEW

What was the influence on the Japanese computer industry of the dominant company in the global computer industry, IBM? This chapter begins with an analysis of IBM's 'architecture of the mind', showing how IBM dominated not only global computer architectures, but also beliefs about what computing was all about. A major theme in the present chapter is the influence, until the early 1990s, of IBM's architecture of the mind on the shape of the Japanese computer industry.

What were the major factors that influenced the entry of Japanese companies into the computer industry in the 1950s? This is the next question examined, with particular attention being paid to the role of the telecommunications industry and the Japanese government. The fundamentally different factors motivating entry by the major Japanese computer companies is stressed.

How did the Japanese companies manage to survive IBM's Systems 360 and 370, which drove powerful companies such as General Electric and RCA to exit from the computer industry? This question is analysed in the following sections, with special emphasis on the responses of the Japanese companies themselves, of MITI, and of NTT. NTT's role in the Japanese computer industry is examined in detail, showing its special interests in this industry and the importance of the DIPS family of computers which it developed co-operatively with Fujitsu, NEC, and Hitachi. An explanation is also provided for the survival of these three companies in the mainframe market, while Toshiba, Mitsubishi Electric, and Oki exited. The contrasting case of RCA is compared.

Why, having devoted significant energy to helping Fujitsu, NEC, and Hitachi catch up with IBM, did NTT in 1988 decide to include both IBM and Digital Equipment (DEC) in its new multi-vendor computer architecture project? This question is considered, illustrating the new conditions that began emerging in the Japanese computer industry from around this time. How did the US companies adapt to the long-term, obligational relationships that characterize NTT's controlled competition with its suppliers? This question is answered through an examination of DEC's relationship with NTT.

Frustrated by IBM's continuing dominance, MITI officials, in consultation with the major Japanese computer companies, made several attempts through the 1980s to break out of the IBM mould. These included some well-known

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