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New, cheap Mac clone for Japan

Interest in the Mac platform remains strong in Asian markets. Marubeni responds with new low-priced systems.

While the number of U.S. companies making Macintosh clones has peaked, the number of Asian companies selling these machines continues to expand in a market where interest in the Mac platform remains strong.

Marubeni Corporation will be the latest entrant into the Japanese market and will sell low-priced systems through its affiliated wholesaler, Kanto Electronics, according to a report in the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Japan's largest business daily.

Marubeni joins Motorola Computer Group and Akia in Japan. Another clone vendor that recently entered the Asian market is Tatung.

"None of the clone vendors has yet had a significant impact in the Asia-Pacific market," said James Staten, an analyst with Dataquest.

Apple Computer has dropped out of the top ten vendors in the Asian market (excluding Japan), Staten said. In Japan, Apple is still the fifth largest vendor and a strong player in the market, he added, but its market share has dropped from 12.4 percent to 6.3 percent.

Since most of the clone vendors have been shipping systems for less than a year, it isn't clear yet whether they will be able to reverse the downward trend in Mac OS market share or whether they will take away Apple sales. Using the entrance of new vendors into the Asian market as evidence, though, there is indication of continued strong demand for Mac products.

Marubeni's entry-level system uses a Taiwanese-made motherboard that incorporates a 180-MHz PowerPC 603e processor, according to the Shimbun report. The system was reportedly developed jointly with a U.S. manufacturer and will be produced by the Japanese unit of Radius, a U.S. PC peripheral maker.

Marubeni hopes to sell 40,000 computers annually, the report added. The systems will be priced at roughly the equivalent of $1,500.