JAPAN AND ELECTRONICS PRODUCTS; DIGITAL CAMERAS, SMART PHONES AND LED LIGHTS

DIGITAL CAMERAS AND JAPAN

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cell phone fragrance system
Digital cameras are big sellers for Japanese electronic companies. As of 2006, Japanese companies produced 80 percent of the world’s digital cameras. Many manufacturers have suffered though as result of stiff competition and low prices.

The digital camera was invented in the 1970s by Steven Sasson, an electrical engineer at Eastman Kodak. Sasson later told the New York Times, “My prototype was big as a toaster but the technical people loved it, But it was filmless photography, so management’s reaction was, “that’s cute---but don’t tell anyone about it.”

In July 2008, a company called Plaza Create began selling a disposable digital camera with recyclable liquid crystal panels taken from old cell phones. The 27-exposure camera sell for about $12. A 50-exposure model, $14.

Cell Phones in Japan

Cell phones in Japan are arguably the most advanced found anywhere. They have high resolution screens that produce sharp images and third generation networkz that allow use to shift through pages quickly. The only problem is in many cases Japanese phones can not be used outside of Japan.

In 2000, cell phones showed rock concerts with no sound. Still images flashed quickly so they looked almost like a video. In 2001, Kyocera introduced mobile video phones with a small digital camera on the back that allowed people to send pictures of themselves to friends with the same kind of phone. Costing $335 when it was introduces, the phone was as small and compact as other cell phones. The images though were often jiggly.

Japanese initially didn't take to the Internet on personnel computers with same enthusiasm as Americans but they quickly took to the Internet on the cell phones in a big way. In 2000, there were more than 40,000 web sites specifically designed for cell phones.

In 2001, Japan introduced the "third generation" of cell phone technology with great clarity and the ability to transmit data and video on color screens. The 3G technology made cell phones into wallet-sized PCs and portable play stations and with that came ring that sounded like the roar of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, services that allowed users to check their Pachinko reaction times and security systems that allow them to eavesdrop on their pets or check their house for possible intruders.

In the mid 2000s, Sony-Ericsson introduced Walkman cell phones that were like a cross between a cell phone, an iPod and a high resolution digital camera. Casio introduced models that were shockproof and waterproof and could be worn in the shower or on a scuba dive. Models for children had GPS so parents could figure out where they were.

Increasingly cell phones were being used as credit cards or wallets with electronic money functions called osaifu-keitai that allow users to buy things from convenience stores and vending machines and pass through subway and train gates. As of 2005 about 9 million cell phones used had the money function and 28,0000 shops nationwide accepted them. Payments is done through scanners positioned next to the cashier.

See Cell Phones, Communications Under Culture and Media

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Cannon powershot digital cameras

Lack of Japanese Cell Phones Overseas

Japan's "Galapagos syndrome" is a phrase first coined to characterize the nation's highly evolved but globally incompatible cell phones. The term is now applied to other isolated industries, even to its people. In 2009, the global market share of Japanese cell phone makers combined was only three percent.

Hiroko Tabuchi wrote in the New York Times, “Because Japan’s phone industry remains highly fragmented, no company so far has been large or savvy enough to make a strong overseas push. Instead, handset makers have long been content to serve as suppliers to Japan’s three largest mobile networks, which command a market of more than 100 million users, most of them on advanced 3G networks.” [Source: Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times, March 1, 2011]

“And in their hardware fixation, Japanese manufacturers have tended to bog down their handsets with clunky software platforms and fenced-in Web services that do not emphasize downloads of third-party applications. That has put them at odds with the trend in much of the rest of the world, where attention has swung to devices like the iPhone, which runs software much as an ordinary computer does and lets users download apps from independent developers.” [Ibid]

“Japanese companies have been so pioneering in many fields, but they have failed to build a global business” of handsets, Gerhard Fasol told the New York Times. He is chief executive of Eurotechnology, a Tokyo firm that advises companies on global mobile and telecommunications strategy. “What you need is a global infrastructure,” Mr. Fasol said, “and Japanese handset makers have nothing.” The handset makers “need to stop worrying about the carriers and start thinking more globally,” said Shuichi Iizuka, a telecommunications analyst at the ISB Institute, based just south of Tokyo.

With the domestic market shrinking Japanese cell phone manufacturers are beginning to gear up for more for markets abroad with smartphones with several firms including Panasonic , NEC, Casio and Sharp offering products in early 2011. Many of the Japanese producers will use the Google Android system and thus not handicapped by system that using a system that only works in Japan.

Smartphones and Japanese Electronic Companies

Japan electronic companies have been largely absent from the smartphone phenomena. Hiroko Tabuchi wrote in the New York Times, “In fact, the success of the iPhone in Japan---together with Apple’s popular App Store, with hundreds of thousands of applications for download---has opened eyes.” [Source: Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times, March 1, 2011]

Now they are hoping to make up for lost time. Tabuchi wrote in March 2011: “NEC introduced what it said was the world’s thinnest smartphone. At 8 millimeters thick, equivalent to about four stacked nickels, its Medias N-04C runs on Android and also comes with an electronic wallet function, digital terrestrial television and a five-megapixel camera. Although the phone is for sale only in Japan for now, NEC is planning an overseas push, focusing first on Mexico and Australia. Another Japanese manufacturer, Kyocera, is planning soon for the United States release of an Android-based smartphone that comes with two screens, capable of running separate apps at once.” [Ibid]

Most global operators are preparing to use advanced LTE networks, which could make it easier for the Japanese phones to work on networks anywhere. Shigeru Kobayashi, an executives working on Sharp’s new smartphones, told the New York Times. “We don’t plan to keep on building the same kind of phones that we used to. Sharp’s latest smartphones, like its IS03 model, a sleek device with a high-resolution touch screen, have caught the attention of overseas gadget bloggers. Hoping to get a piece of the iPad market, Sharp has introduced a lineup of tablet computers running a version of Android. For now, with Smartphones, Sharp is focusing its attention on the fast-growing Chinese market, although officials say they also intend to bring phones to North America. [Ibid]

Smartphone shipments in Japan in fiscal year 2010-2011 (market share) : 1) Apple (37.8 percent); 2) Sharp (24.3 percent); 3) Sony-Ericcson (9.8 percent); 4) Samsung (9 percent); 5) Fujitsu (8.8 percent); 6) NEC Casio (3.2) percent ); and Others (7.1 percent). [Source: MM Research Institute).

In the fall of 2010 NTT Docomo, KDDI and SoftBank all began aggressive drives to push their smartphones. They all had new models of phones and new services and aps and promised plans to introduce super-fast service. Docomo began pushing waterpoof phones with e-money functions. Their Galaxy S smartphones were made by Samsung. As of May 2011, KDDI had launched six Android smartphones, including Sharp-produced Inforbar A01 and the Sony-Ericsson-produced Xperia. Softbank’s profits have surged on the popularity of its exclusive deal marketing Apple’s iPhones.

In May 2011. Docomo released a new line-up of smartphones, including new versions of the popular Samsung Galaxy, Harp introduced the Aquos phone, which allows users to see 3-D images iwthout glassesm and NEC-Casio launched the super-slim, waterproof Medias smartphone.

Japanese Smartphones and Android

Japanese electronics companies are hoping by adopting Google’s Android mobile operating system they can make up for lost time. “We have the technology to compete in the United States,” said Naoki Shiraishi told the New York Times. He had led software development for a new line of Android smartphones from Sharp, the largest Japanese cellphone maker. “It’s finally time for Sharp phones to go play in the Major Leagues,” he said. Sony Ericsson, NEC and Kyocera are among the other Japanese handset makers also hoping to Android will open up international markets for them. [Source: Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times, March 1, 2011]

Hiroko Tabuchi wrote in the New York Times, “While Android was initially overshadowed by the popular iPhone from Apple, its user numbers are now soaring. In 2010, global sales of Android phones reached 67.2 million units, ahead of iPhones, which sold 46 million units, according to the research company Gartner. Certainly the price is right: Google offers Android free to manufacturers. And Android has caught on since its introduction in 2007, as a growing community of software developers has written apps, sold via Google’s Android Market... Although Google earns no commission from any Android handsets sold, it takes a substantial cut---30 percent---of the apps sold in the Android Store.” [Ibid]

“It took a while, but Japanese handset makers are now rushing to introduce Android devices, each married with cutting-edge technology,: Tabuchi wrote. “That includes Sony Ericsson, which dabbled with other platforms like Symbian and Windows Mobile for its high-end Xperia smartphones, but has used Android for its latest models. Google itself, meantime, has urged more handset makers to use Android. “Japan has great hardware, great R.& D., great engineers,” John Lagerling, director of Android Global Partnerships at Google, told the New York Times. “Now they can also get the best software.” [Ibid]

Besides helping Japanese phone makers reduce their software development costs, the globally recognized Android standard could also help them achieve worldwide economies of scale that could further reduce overall costs. But Fasol of Eurotechnology warns that even with good Android phones, Japanese companies could cede some of the most lucrative parts of the business, selling apps, to Google.”Android gives the Japanese an opportunity, that’s for sure, but it places them at a relatively low position,” Fasol told the New York Times. “It makes them one of many soldiers in the Google army, with Google as king.” [Ibid]

“Google, in addition to retaining nearly a third of the applications revenue, has recently introduced other revenue-enhancing measures, like letting software developers accept payments within apps,” Tabuch wrote. “But phone makers would receive none of this income. And even as Android is helping Japanese phone makers lay their overseas plans, it has also opened the Japanese market to foreign competitors. Samsung, of South Korea, for example, has made inroads in Japan with its slick Android-based Galaxy smartphone.” [Ibid]

“For the Japanese phone makers, cashing in on Android’s popularity will mean learning some new skills, like marketing, while unlearning some old habits, like paying too much attention to the hardware and too little to the software,” tabucho wrote. “Japan’s phone makers may need to become nimbler, too. Their love for continual fine-tuning of their hardware has meant they have had trouble keeping up with Google’s frequent Android updates. Many of the smartphones released this season, like the Sharp IS03, still run on Android version 2.1, which was announced more than a year---and two updates---ago. Google is soon expected to release Android version 2.4.” [Ibid]

“Working with Android has meant an overhaul of Sharp’s tightly controlled development process. In one big change, Sharp has invited outside developers to its labs to test prototypes and develop apps---a rare move for a Japanese manufacturer. In 2010, Sharp hosted two “hackathons”---programming jamborees---to encourage more developers to make apps optimized for its smartphones. At one of these sessions a group of about two dozen outside developers worked on apps at Sharp’s usually top-secret research lab near Hiroshima. And in an unprecedented move, Sharp last year released a phone that was deliberately “jailbroken”---letting programmers freely tweak some of the phone’s core software controls.” [Ibid]

Japanese Smartphone Parts

Japan electronics manufacturers provide many key parts for smartphones: Toshiba makes flash-memory devices; Elpida makes DRAM chips and Renesas makes chips, microprocessors and micorcontrollers for smartphones and other next-generation devices. All of the of these companies are putting their factories into overdrive to keep up with demand. South Korean and Taiwanese manufacturers also make many of the same parts. Recently Apple has been turning more and more to Japanese electronics companies for parts as it other main supplier--- Samsung--- is using many of its parts to make products that rival those of Apple.

Mitsui Mining & Smelting Co. controls about 90 percent of the global market for ultrathin copper foils used in smart phones.

Japanese Smartphones Get Smarter

Tsuyoshi Ogura wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “SoftBank Mobile Corp. unveiled the world's first smartphone that can measure radiation levels."This phone can measure radiation levels as accurately as regular commercially available dosimeters with just the push of a button," SoftBank Mobile President Masayoshi Son said of the Pantone 5 smartphone. According to SoftBank, the Pantone 5 can automatically record the time, date and location on a map that radiation was detected. [Source: Tsuyoshi Ogura, Yomiuri Shimbun, May 31, 2012]

“Willcom Inc., a SoftBank-owned mobile phone provider, announced it will put a smartphone model coupled with functions of the personal handy-phone system (PHS) on the market in late June. NTT Docomo Inc. has announced it will release a smartphone model of its popular Raku-Raku Phone series targeted at elderly users. NTT Docomo said it has been inundated with inquiries from elderly customers who want to try a smartphone, but felt daunted by their seemingly complicated operation. The new phone seeks to cater to this market. [Ibid]

“As well as releasing flashy new models, mobile phone companies are also aggressively expanding services available to smartphone users, such as video content distribution. NTT Docomo has announced it will soon establish a joint venture with Kadokawa Shoten Publishing Co., and plans to start an anime distribution service in which users can watch as much content as they want for 420 yen per month. KDDI Corp. will begin a fixed-rate video and music distribution service, and SoftBank will start a fixed-rate service for sports videos. Apple Inc., the manufacturer and seller of iPhones, provides its users with video and music distribution services. Taking a leaf out of Apple's book, Japanese mobile phone providers aim to offer high-value added services on their new models in a bid to increase profits. [Ibid]

Smartphones Offer Opportunities But Put Pressure on Manufacturers of Other Electronic Products

Yu Toda wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “The rise of smartphones has brought both benefits and drawbacks for manufacturers. While domestic manufacturers of electronic parts are enjoying increased demand, thanks to the tremendous popularity of smartphones, companies manufacturing other digital items, such as digital cameras and portable games, have expressed concern the market will be taken over by makers of "multifunctional terminals." [Source: Yu Toda, Yomiuri Shimbun, October 15, 2011]

“According to the core private-sector machinery order survey, a key advance indicator of capital spending conducted by the Cabinet Office, machinery orders, excluding those for ships and electric utilities, jumped a seasonally adjusted 11 percent in August from the previous month for the first increase in two months. The figure is believed to be the result of investment demand in areas related to smartphones, such as semiconductors and liquid crystal displays. The electrical machinery sector jumped by 29.5 percent in August from July and in the information and communication electronics equipment sector by 74.6 percent. [Ibid]

“Toshiba Corp. constructed a new semiconductor production facility at its Yokkaichi plant in Mie Prefecture to increase the production capacity of flash memory chips. It began shipping from the facility in August. Murata Manufacturing Co., the world's No. 1 maker of capacitors for smartphones, plans to purchase Finnish electronic parts maker VTI Technologies for about 20 billion yen to strengthen its sensor business. [Ibid]

“However, the boom in smartphones has negatively affected other digital equipment manufacturers. The global market for compact digital cameras has shrunk by about 20 percent from last year. The quality of an iPhone 4S camera is comparable with high-end compact digital cameras and the new iPhone can take videos in full HD. In the portable gaming industry, Nintendo Co. slashed the price of its 3DS game device by 10,000 yen in August, following sluggish sales of the handheld console after its release in February. Meanwhile, the number of applications for the iPhone has increased to about 100,000. Manufacturers are also facing increasingly fierce competition over portable music players, car navigation systems, electronic dictionaries and IC recorders."More and more people think they don't need other gadgets as long as they have a smartphone," said Hideaki Yokota, head of MM Research. [Ibid]

Japanese Handset Companies

Internationally the shares of Japanese companies in the handset market is relatively low compared to Nokia of Finland, Motorola of the United States and Samsung of South Korea. Nokia and Motorola, the No. 1 and No. 2 cell phone makers in the world have a very small presence in Japan. Vodaphone tried, gave up, sold out and left. These companies have not succeeded in part because their products are not up to the quality of their Japanese counterparts. In 2008, Nokia announced it was withdrawing from Japan due to it inability to crack the market there.

Domestic mobile sales in fiscal 2009: 1) Sharp (25.6 percent ); 2) NEC Casio (15.2 percent ); 3) Panasonic (15.1 percent); 4) Fujitsu (12.5 percent); 5) Apple (7.8 percent); 6) Sony Ericsson (7 percent ); 8) Kyocera (5.6 percent); 9) Toshiba (4.7 percent ); 10) Others (6.5 percent). [Source: BCN Inc.]

Top cell phone makers in Japan in 2007: 1) NEC (17.1 percent); 2) Panasonic (14.1 percent); 3) Sharp (12.9 percent); 4) Sanyo (12.4 percent); 5) Fujitsu (10.9 percent); 6) Sony Ericsson (7.7 percent); 7) Toshiba (7.1 percent); 8) Mitsubishi (6.5 percent); 9) Casio (4.7 percent); 10) Kyocera (3.6 percent); 11) Others (2.7 percent).

The cell phone handset industry in Japan is very competitive. As of early 2008 there were about 10 handset manufacturers and the industry was ripe for a major shake up. Soon after the start of the year Mitsubishi Electric announced it was going to stop make handsets and Kyocera bought Sanyo’s handset division.

Disney introduced handsets in Japan with great expectations, with special designs aimed at girls and young women and special buttons that can be pushed to gain access to shopping sights.

Tablets and E-Books

A number of Japanese electronic firms introduced touch-screen tablet computers to compete with Apple’s iPad. In December 2010, Sharp launched the Galapagos e-book device to compete with Apple’s I-pad. Initially the 10.8-inch version sold for ¥ 54,800 and the 5.5-inch version for ¥39,000. Around the same time Sony introduced its Reader. Toshiba has launched a tablet-style PV called the Slate.”

Kanta Ishida wrote in the Daily Yomiuri, “I recently came across a rare and unexpected find while cleaning my room: Sony's LIBRIe e-reader. Debuting in 2004, it had a six-inch black-and-white liquid crystal display, essentially a smaller, lighter (190 grams) version of the modern-day Kindle. Intrigued, I wondered if it still worked. I put in four new AAA batteries and switched it on. The display came to life; its then state-of-the-art e-paper is still quite beautiful. It represented a milestone, proving that Japanese manufacturers had basically perfected the medium six years ago. [Source: Kanta Ishida, Daily Yomiuri, December 10, 2010]

“Three short years later, it was removed from the market. There were reports that only a few thousand were sold, mainly due to advances in cell phones that made them the device of choice for Japan's e-book readers. Surely the device was also brought to ruin by its price tag of 40,000 yen and accompanying restrictions on digital rental lengths due to copyright issues.” [Ibid]

“Almost immediately after Sony released its e-reader, Panasonic (then Matsushita Electric Industrial Co.) released its Sigma Book, a gatefold double LCD screen e-reader that looked remarkably like a larger version of the Nintendo DS. The media quickly heralded the advent of the “full-scale e-reader era" in Japan.” [Ibid]

“Today, Sony releases the Reader, essentially the “revenge of the LIBRIe,” as the design and display bear a striking resemblance to its failed forefather. Also like that device, the Reader has no communication ability. Sharp---which had its own foray into the e-reader game six years ago with its Personal Digital Assistant Zaurus---releases today its Galapagos. This time round, the boom is bigger, with the iPad and Samsung's Galaxy Tab already making headway in Japan's market.” [Ibid]

So how have things changed over the past six years? First, readers can now use 3G and Wi-Fi cloud-based networks to download books to their digital reader without connecting to a computer. Intuitive touch panel interfaces have become the norm, as have improved processing speeds and memory capacity that allow users to listen to music, play games and watch video. [Ibid]

Personal Computers and Cloud Computing

Between 2001 and 2009 the price of personal computers fell from ¥157,000 to ¥ 90,000 while sales have risen from 12.14 million units to 13.91 million units. [Source: MM Research Institute]

Global PC market share (percentage in 2009): 1) Hewlett Packard, U.S. (19.7 percent); 2) Dell, U.S. (12.6 percent); 3) Acer, Taiwan (12.6 percent); 4) Lenovo, China (8.2 percent); 5) Toshiba, Japan (5.2 percent); 6) Asus, Taiwan (4.1 percent); 7) Apple, U.S. (3.7 percent); 8) Samsung, South Korea (2.1 percent); 9) Sony, Japan (2.1 percent); 10) Fujitsu, Japan (1.8 percent); 11) Founder, China (1.2 percent); 12) NEC, Japan (0.9 percent); 13) Other (25.9 percent). [Source: IDV Japan Data]

Cloud-computing---Internet-based computing in which shared resources, software and other devices are on demand---is becoming a market issue in Japan. The process began with American giants such as Amazon and Google pushing their services in Japan with Japanese and electronic companies such as NEC and Fujitsu fighting back to stake their claim in the industry. Cloud computing appeals to clients because they can hire firms to provide a range of services online and they don’t to need to maintain their own servers and IT experts.

LED Lights, Video Camera and Lithium Batteries

There is a lot of competition, research and development in the lithium-ion batteries, which are widely seen as the power source in hybrids and electric cars in the future as well a range of other devices. They are smaller, lighter and have greater power-storage than the nickel hydride batteries now used in most hybrid vehicles. A number of top Japanese companies, including Hitachi, Toshiba, NEC and Sanyo and others, have produced or are planning to produce factories capable of producing lithium-ion batteries for cars.

Leaders in lithium battery market (percentage in 2008): 1) Sanyo (34 percent); 2) Sony (17 percent); 3) Samsung (15 percent); 4) Panasonic (9 percent); 5) BYD (9 percent); 6) Others (16 percent)

Global market share of lithium-ion battery shipments (percentage in April-June 20): 1) Sanyo Electric, Japan (20 percent); 2) Samsung SDI, South Korea (18 percent); 3) LG Chem, South Korea (15 percent); 4) Sony, Japan (12 percent); 5) Panasonic, Japan (7 percent); 6) BYD, China (6 percent). [Source: Techno Systems Research]

Electronic companies---particularly Panasonic and Toshiba, Japan’s leading light bulb makers---have profited from the shift from incandescent light bulbs to longer-lasting and more energy-efficient LED (light emitting diode) bulbs.

New video cameras introduced in 2010 included the $1,300 Panasonic HDC-TM7, capable of filming 41 hours in full high definition, $1,100 Canon Ivus Hf M31, with a device that corrects for shaking, and the $1,300 Victor-JVC Everio GZ-HM570 with wireless Bluetooth protocol that enables remote operation.

Organic El Lighting Sparks Race Against South Korean Rivals

Satoshi Ariizumi wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “Japanese firms are speeding up their development of lighting products using organic electroluminescence (EL) in a race with their South Korean rivals, which are leading Japan in commercializing organic EL displays for TV sets. Organic el, which is considered a next-generation key component of flat-type TV displays, among other products, uses organic substances that illuminate when electric voltage is applied to them. Because material using organic EL can be shaped into very thin sheets, various products using the technology are being developed, such as elastic posterlike displays and lighting equipment with sophisticated designs. [Source: Satoshi Ariizumi, Yomiuri Shimbun, March 27, 2012]

“Many major companies have begun developing products using the technology because the sheets are thin, lightweight and energy-efficient and provide illumination that is easy on the eyes. Some of the companies are working in close cooperation with universities. Sumitomo Chemical Co. will display illumination panels in 60 colors using organic EL in Germany next month at one of the world's largest illumination and architectural technology exhibitions. The company says that if the display is received well, it will consider commercializing it. [Ibid]

“Lighting panels using organic EL were first commercialized by Lumiotec Inc. in Yonezawa, Yamagata Prefecture. The company was launched in 2008 funded jointly by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd., Rohm Co., Toppan Printing Co., Mitsui & Co. and other firms. The company began selling the product in September last year mainly via the Internet. The panels come in square and rectangular shapes. One type measuring 14.5 centimeters by 14.5 centimeters, for example, is as thin as 2.3 millimeters and as light as 100 grams. [Ibid]

“Organic EL illumination panels for corporate use as components were put on sale by Mitsubishi Chemical Corp. and Pioneer Corp., respectively, in July last year, and also by a joint venture of Panasonic Corp. and Idemitsu Kosan Co. in September last year.As an energy-saving light source, light-emitting diodes preceded organic EL. Light-emitting diodes illuminate in the form of dots, but organic EL illuminates the entire surface of a display. It is said the latter is easier on the eyes. Prices of products using organic EL remain high because mass production technologies have yet to be established. A Lumiotec product for desktop use, for example, is priced at 55,000 yen. [Ibid]

“Companies developing organic EL products are working hard to improve production technologies and reduce production costs. Lumiotec, the first company in the world set up to exclusively manufacture lighting equipment using organic el, commercialized its products in coordination with Yamagata University's Faculty of Engineering, also in Yonezawa. The company's products were developed with the help of Prof. Junji Kido at the university, who developed the world's first white organic EL illumination.The central and Yamagata prefectural governments also supported the company's commercialization of its products. [Ibid]

“Japan's organic EL technology is considered to be highly developed. In 2007, Sony Corp. marketed TV sets equipped with 11-inch flat screens using organic EL, the first of their kind in the world. However, when the size of TV screens increased, the company was overtaken by Samsung electronics Co. and LG Electronics Inc. According to Kido, strengthening coordination among industry, academia and the government is a key to revival of Japan's manufacturing industry. "Coordination among the three sectors to promote research and development by exploiting regional characteristics is one of Japan's strong points," Kido said. "In the future, the industrial sector should make better use of universities, and universities should also be ready to work with industry.” [Ibid]

Next-Generation, Energy-Saving Semiconductors

Etsuo Kono wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “Major electronic IT manufacturers including Hitachi, Ltd., Fujitsu Ltd. and NEC Corp., plan to jointly develop next-generation semiconductors that will operate with one-tenth of the power consumed by present-day devices, it has been learned. Next-generation semiconductors will allow the transfer of greater amounts of data while at the same time enable a reduction in the size of IT-equipment and their power use. [Source: Etsuo Kono , Yomiuri Shimbun, January 3, 2012]

“The manufacturers hope to have the semiconductors available in fiscal 2019 and they anticipate the devices will be used widely at businesses including call centers that offer cloud computing services, as well as in products such as personal computers.These devices are expected to reduce the power consumption of servers at data centers by about 30 percent and should also minimize the power consumed by air-conditioning units as the semiconductors will suppress heat generation. [Ibid]

“The devices will use less power while providing extremely high data transfer speeds, enabling manufacturers to equip smartphones with the same central processing units typically found in personal computers. Experts say it will also be possible to create smartphones with battery lives that last twice as long as those available in the marketplace. [Ibid]

“Manufacturers are competing to make semiconductors smaller and more efficient. To reduce their size, the wiring of lines on the circuit boards of these devices must be narrowed. Experts agree that the width between these lines must be at least one millimeter. But a group of companies including Hitachi are attempting to reduce the width to 0.1 millimeter by replacing the circuit board lines with optical interconnectivity typically found in products such as digital cameras. Optical technology will enable manufacturers to produce semiconductors that are one hundred times smaller than their current size. [Ibid]

“Japan's power consumption from information technology products is expected to increase by about 5.2 times between 2006 and 2025 due to the expansion of cloud computing services through the Internet. Therefore, there is a growing need to develop next-generation semiconductors that will significantly reduce this power consumption. If next-generation semiconductors are developed, experts say they are expected to reduce power consumption by 130 billion kilowatts per hour in 2030. This is about 13 percent of the electricity generated by 10 Japanese power companies in fiscal 2009, which was about 1 trillion kilowatts per hour. [Ibid]

“There is increasing global competition between manufacturers developing optical technology as they believe it is key to producing next-generation semiconductors. IBM Corp. of the United States has announced it will have next-generation semiconductors in IT equipment in 2020. [Ibid] Japanese companies such as Hitachi plan to produce trial products by completing the required technological developments by fiscal 2019. They aim to utilize optical technology to revive the Japanese semiconductor industry, which has been faring badly against South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co. To support domestic research and development, the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry will offer subsidies of about 30 billion yen over 10 years starting in fiscal 2012. [Ibid]

Image Sources: 1) 2) Sony 3) NEC 4) 5) Fujitsu 6) Canon 7) xorsyst blog 8) Sharp 9) Panasonic 10) Sanyo

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2009 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated October 2012

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