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U.S. cuts into Japan PC market

IBM, Dell, and Gateway rank high with potential consumers in a survey conducted in Japan.

Three U.S. computer makers, IBM, Dell Computer, and Gateway 2000, ranked high with potential consumers in a survey conducted in Japan.

Potential PC buyers responding to the survey indicated that, among the U.S. companies, IBM was the most likely choice, with 27.8 percent, trailed by Dell with 23.5 percent, and Gateway 2000 with 18.8 percent.

The top two slots went to Japanese PC makers NEC and Fujitsu. Nevertheless, this survey makes it clear that some of the smaller U.S. vendors in Japan, such as Gateway 2000, are being recognized by Japanese buyers.

A total of 1,437 readers of Nikkei Best PC magazine were surveyed in a study of buying plans for the June-August period this year. The survey was conducted this May by Nikkei Market Access, a research group of Nikkei Business Publications.

Dell, Gateway 2000, and Micron have been active for years in Japan, where computers from IBM Japan and Apple Computer have been longtime favorites. But companies such as Compaq still face entrenched, nationalistic buying habits at large Japanese corporations that tend to buy Japanese brands exclusively.

Early introduction of low-priced Dell and Gateway machines running Pentium II processors was one of the reasons they ranked high among computer buyers, according to the study.

Japan's PC market until the early 1990s was a closed market dominated by NEC's PC 98 architecture, which is not fully compatible with the IBM PC market in the rest of the world. But IBM Japan's introduction of DOS V, a Japanese-language version of the DOS operating system, along with Compaq's dramatic entry into Japan in 1992 with low-cost computers, have served to open up the market there.

On the notebook PC front, IBM also ranked in the top-five choices for potential notebook buyers, trailing NEC, Fujitsu, Toshiba, and Sharp. Less than 1 percent separated Sharp and IBM in the rankings.

A preference for smaller notebooks in Japan can make it difficult for U.S. companies with full-sized laptops to compete. Many Japanese lean toward the subnotebook or mininotebook direction, while U.S. customers often choose larger systems with bigger screens and more built-in options.