Another Japanese Company Flees The U.S. Workstation Market

When it comes to the U.S. workstation market, Japanese computer makers just can't seem to get a foothold. First NEC Corp. and then Sony Corp. tried and failed to crack the American market for the powerful machines used by engineers and Wall Street traders, among others. Both bet on the wrong microchip technology and used ineffective sales programs. But with sales growing at more than 25% annually, the $6 billion U.S. workstation market was too tempting to resist. And last May, Oki Electric Industry Co. created a workstation division in Marlboro, Mass.

But now, Oki also is in retreat. On May 4, the $5 billion electronics company quit the U.S. workstation market. The reason? It bet on Intel Corp.'s i860, a reduced instruction-set computing chip that few other companies use. With few i860-based machines, software designers didn't write programs for the Oki machine. Oki will continue to sell the workstation in Japan, but tough times could nix the idea of returning to the U.S. The company is expected to post a $76 million pretax loss in the half-year ending in September, according to the Japanese newspaper, Nihon Keizai Shimbun.

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