Apple Computer Inc’s strategy of playing the field when it comes to Japanese partners, most recently evidenced by its agreement with Toshiba Corp to develop a new Personal Digital Assistant CD-ROM multi-media player, are causing raised eyebrows in Tokyo. As well as major technology agreements with Sony Corp and Sharp Corp, the company has major […]
Apple Computer Inc’s strategy of playing the field when it comes to Japanese partners, most recently evidenced by its agreement with Toshiba Corp to develop a new Personal Digital Assistant CD-ROM multi-media player, are causing raised eyebrows in Tokyo. As well as major technology agreements with Sony Corp and Sharp Corp, the company has major distribution agreements for the Macintosh with a whole string of companies including Canon Inc, Mitsubishi Corp, Brother Industries Ltd and Fuji Xerox Co. A rather critical article on the front page of the Nikkei Industrial News last week asked Is the Apple really so sweet? Highlighting all the company’s agreements, the article by Yasuyuki Onishi claims that the Cupertino company is in breach of the (unwritten) Japanese rules of conduct by simultaneously conducting negotiations with several companies at once, leaving the fiercely competing electronics companies that are the objects of the company’s passing attentions wondering which of their number is really the Apple of its eye, and which ones are simply being cynically used. Apple promises joint operating system development, it says, but in fact all the agreements to date have used the Japanese manufacturers as manufacturing subcontractors, taking advantage of their expertise in miniaturisation and production technology. Japanese observers are said to doubt whether what in local eyes is still an upstart company – Sony Corp is the youngest and all its partners have been in business decades longer than Apple – can really simultaneously progress major partnerships with blue chip companies like IBM Corp, Sony, Sharp and Toshiba. Anyway, the new product to be developed by Toshiba and Apple will come in two types, a portable model with an LCD display and a fireside model for connection to a television set. Time Warner Inc is now involved in discussions with Toshiba about supplying a list of multimedia titles. Toshiba’s announcement emphasised the broad scope of its agreement with Apple, covering licensing of multimedia technology, development and manufacturing of multimedia products, and manufacturing of the hardware – Toshiba is to make the new product which will be sold under both the Apple and Toshiba brand names. Toshiba will be licensing the operating system being developed by the IBM-Apple Kaleida Inc joint venture, technology which will be combined with Toshiba CD-ROM, semiconductor and consumer electronics expertise. Target date for release is the middle of 1993. President of Apple Japan Mr Takeuchi has good contacts with Toshiba, having been the vice-president of Toshiba Europe and launched the parent company’s laptops during his tenure there.