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Tech Industry

Net TV firms target Japan

Fujitsu and WebTV Networks will form a joint venture to bring user-friendly Internet access to Japan with set-top boxes.

Hoping to pick up where the personal computer market left off, Fujitsu and WebTV Networks said they will form a joint venture to bring user-friendly Internet access to Japan with set-top boxes.

Manufacturers of such boxes see new opportunities in Japan, where they say consumers are eager for access to technology and the Internet. Sanyo Electric started selling Internet TVs in Japan in October.

"The home PC market never really boomed in Japan like it did here. To offer a low-cost Internet alternative to the PC is very likely to take off," said Bill Keating, WebTV's vice president of worldwide field operations.

These companies seem undeterred by the apparent lack of response toward Net TVs among consumers in the United States. (See related story)

"The population [in Japan] is half that of the U.S. It's a huge market with a huge disposable income," Keating said. Just as in the United States, he said, "We are targeting people who hate computers, the technophobic."

Fujitsu will build an operations center to provide network services, Internet access, and online content to the subscription-based WebTV Network service in Japan. WebTV will own 65 percent of the joint venture, and Fujitsu will own 35 percent.