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IBM heads Japan PC shakeup

Notebooks pass desktops in popularity among Japanese consumers, while NEC's hold on the market has slipped.

Notebook PCs seem to have passed desktops in popularity among Japanese consumers, while NEC's once-dominant hold on the market has all but disappeared in the eight months since it introduced industry-standard systems.

Portables accounted for 51 percent of planned consumer purchases, compared to 42 percent for desktop systems, according to a survey recently conducted by Nikkei Market Access and reported in the online edition of Nikkei Business Publications. In the same survey a year ago, desktop PCs led by 58 to 38.

IBM Japan topped the list of most-wanted notebooks, edging NEC by 42 percent to 38 percent. Sony and Toshiba tied for third with 32 percent each.

The survey asked consumers to name the three brands they would most likely purchase from a retail store.

Of those who planned desktop purchases, Fujitsu was named by 24 percent of respondents, followed by NEC (22 percent) and IBM (20 percent).

That too is a switch, as NEC had previously held sway over the Japanese market. Last year's survey showed NEC on 46 percent of all responses.

Over the past 15 years, NEC has marketed systems based on a proprietary platform that didn't interoperate with systems based on the Windows-Intel standard. In October, NEC relented, with the apparent result that its brand loyalty has weakened.

The Nikkei survey tallied 1,745 responses, with 1,294 of these expecting to make purchases between June and August. The market may be impacted, however, by the expected July 25 launch of the Japanese version of Windows 98.

In a separate Nikkei survey, based on actual sales, NEC claimed 29.5 percent of retail sales for Japan's 1997-98 fiscal year, which runs from April to March, while Fujitsu took second place with 25 percent. IBM finished third with 10.9 percent, while Apple Japan gained 10.5 percent.