Japan's CEATEC conference features intense discussion over how Japanese tech companies can lead in global innovation.
TOKYO - At
Japan's CEATEC conference, one theme echoes through the presentations and
keynote addresses: how the country's tech firms can reclaim the same spirit of
innovation that first established their names.
Japan is also
wrestling with an anemic economy and the aftereffects of a massive earthquake
and tsunami earlier this year. The companies at CEATEC seem publicly convinced
that technology can help the country navigate this trying period, although the
exact nature of the solution remains unclear. Intel's Japanese executives
advocate an increased focus on software and services; representatives from the
car companies are pushing electric vehicles and renewable energy; hardware
manufacturers are betting big on "ultrabooks" and powerful smartphones.
there's a general sense of a local IT industry still searching for solutions,
as opposed to moving with all due speed to enact a specific strategy.
"We need to
positively incorporate international standards," Kaz Yoshida, president of
Intel Japan, said through a translator during an Oct. 4 speech, "We have
hardware, but what we are thinking about is the global perspective."
keynote of Mitsubishi and Nissan executives, the main topics of discussion
included the best way to promote the use of electric cars, such as promoting
the use of California-style parking lots with priority slots for those
vehicles. But the talk soon expanded to encompass a deep drill-down into the
viability of renewable energy, government assistance to industry, and how to
best leverage certain advantages in battery technology and related areas into
more of a global market presence.
"We want to
drive the Japanese economy," one of those executives said.
moment, many of the Japanese tech companies at CEATEC appear intensely focused
on products that align with current global interests: tablets, phones and the
aforementioned ultra-slim notebooks that also remain popular in the United
States and Europe. In addition, Sony, Panasonic and others are promoting their
lines of televisions and projectors with ultra-high-resolution technology,
betting on long-held strengths in the audio-visual realm.
Even as these
companies promoted their own innovations, there was one large reminder of other
countries' firms' hold on the popular imagination: A number of journalists here
to cover CEATEC are setting their alarms for 2 a.m. Tokyo time in order to
cover Apple's expected announcement of the iPhone 5.
Follow Nicholas Kolakowski on Twitter