TOKYO - The mobility revolution, which proved so successful for Korean and Taiwanese companies such as Samsung and HTC, is a focus of concern for Japanese companies exhibiting here at the CEATEC conference.
For years, Japan boasted an international reputation as a technology innovator, largely on the strength of its hardware. However, the game has changed: Now the combination of hardware and software into an integrated platform is what seizes the consumer imagination. Apple proved a pioneer in the latter with its iOS ecosystem, while Samsung and other companies have also followed this model.
Japanese companies aim to catch up. The CEATEC show floor is dotted with Android tablets from Sony and Toshiba, although their presence is still minimal, compared with what you see at a Consumer Electronics Show or CTIA event. Android smartphones from the likes of Sony and Sharp are also drifting around on the floor, again in relatively small numbers.
According to one executive, though, Japanese companies aim to grow that number of tablets and smartphones in coming quarters-as well as exploit the trend in super-light laptops. Intel-powered "ultrabooks" are a significant presence at CEATEC.
"Netbooks were an interesting product at a lower price-point," Kaz Yoshida, president of Intel Japan, told a media gathering during CEATEC. However, it didn't grow as much as expected...in Japan, they care about performance." A more robust machine powered by an Intel i5 or i7 processor, he added, is more in line with consumer interests here.
He also acknowledged that tablets are a growing market in which Intel will need to proceed aggressively, if it wants to overcome other companies' early lead in the space. "We need to catch up with that," he said. "We need to prepare the user base."
Yoshida feels that Japanese companies will eventually assert more of a presence in the tablet market, which is currently dominated by the likes of Samsung. "Our OEMs that manufacture PCs also manufacture cell phones for many years," he said. "We have the ability to minimize. The combination of that is going to give them a unique advantage."
With regard to the Japanese market, Intel is also focused on embedded processors in devices like vending machines. As with the rest of the globe, Japanese PC sales remain somewhat anemic, compared with mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones; in light of that, it makes sense to try and exploit more unconventional verticals.
However, the collective focus going forward could be more toward mobility, if only to keep abreast of a global trend.