Unless present trends change, and fast, the Japanese electronics empire will soon dominate the world. After grabbing the sales lead in semiconductors, Japan's electronics giants are poised to eclipse their U. S. rivals in computers. That should happen in 1993, with Japan winning 42% of the worldwide computer hardware market vs. 41% for the U. S. And just one year later, the Japanese should take control of the total data processing business, which includes software and telecommunications.
Those are the sobering conclusions of a new study by the Semiconductor Industry Assn. The U. S. chipmakers' trade group knows from bitter experience how rapidly business can slip away. America's share of the chip market plummeted from 57% in 1980 to 35% in 1989. Today, warns the SIA, the U. S. is losing market share in computers almost twice as fast as in chips. Since the overall electronics sector is America's No. 1 manufacturing business--bigger even than the auto industry--this trend has grave long-term implications for the economy. And eventually, U. S. producers could find it tough to sustain the research investment necessary to stay at the leading edge of computer technology.