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Apple struggles in Japan

Radius will offer clones amid a steep drop in Macintosh sales in the Japanese market, the second largest market for the Mac.

The Japanese subsidiary of Radius, the U.S.-based maker of graphics and video equipment, announced it will introduce a new Mac clone with Mac OS 8, as other Japanese Mac clone vendors fall by the wayside and Apple Japan sees a dramatic drop-off in sales.

Ironically, the news comes just after Pioneer Electronics of Japan stated that it is exiting the Mac market because it has been unable to sublicense the Mac OS. Umax is the only major clone vendor to have survived Apple's recent decision to restrict Mac OS licensing.

Radius's new systems are being introduced amidst a great deal of turmoil in both the Asian PC market as a whole, and the Mac market in particular. Apple (AAPL) said yesterday in its quarterly financial statement (see related story) that sales in Japan fell 48 percent over the previous quarter, in part due to a weak economy and a subsequent slump in PC sales over the last four months. Japan is the second largest market for Macintosh systems.

"It's a tough market there, but it's not that bad. Part of the reason is the bad news and public relations nightmare that's been after Apple in the U.S. is catching up in Japan," says Kevin Hause, an analyst with International Data Corporation.

Meanwhile, Umax Data Systems CEO Frank Huang addressed reporters in Taiwan about Apple's business decisions since the return of Apple cofounder Steve Jobs as Apple's interim chief executive. "We cannot have our future tied down and decided by Apple's whim," Reuters quoted Huang as saying.

Umax indicated it would deemphasize sales of Macintosh clones as a source of revenue to 20 percent of total sales in 1998, decrease of 5 percent, and attempt to double the percentage of Windows-based PC revenues to 30 percent.

Radius K.K. says the SuperMac C500/240 will ship with a 240-MHz PowerPC 603e microprocessor, 32MB of memory, a 1.2GB hard disk drive, and an 8X CD-ROM drive. The estimated retail price is about $1,405, according to a report in the online edition of Nikkei Business Publications. Radius does not sell Mac systems in the U.S.

Radius's SuperMac systems can offer preinstalled Mac OS 8 and free upgrades because the PCs are supplied on an OEM basis by the Japanese subsidiary of Umax Data Systems, the report says.

Radius says it will preinstall the Mac OS 8 in all other SuperMac series computers. Also, customers who purchased Radius machines after August 25 will get Mac OS 8 upgrades. The free upgrades will be offered to recent registered buyers of the SuperMac S900, S950, J700, and C500 Series systems, according to the report.