Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Japan: A spent technological force? - Features, Gadgets & Tech - The Independent

Look beyond the eye-catching market for gadgetry, says Fingleton, and Japan is still the world's leading technological player behind the scenes. Toshiba, for example, manufacturers the mini hard drive that powers the iPod, Japanese companies monopolize the production of semiconductor-grade silicon, and make much of the optical fiber and laser diodes that form the backbone of the internet; Nikon and Canon supply many of the optical machines that print lines on computer chips, and so on."

Anyone who thinks Japan is out of the game should look at trade statistics," advises Fingleton. "Japan's current account surplus last year totaled $211bn. That was nearly four times the total in 1989, the last year of the great Japanese boom. Japan has achieved this despite rapid growth by other East Asian nations." So down, but not out seems to be the message. Still, the country's corporations have no room for complacency. Falling profits will affect their ability to invest in R&D, and competition, especially from South Korea, is likely to intensify; Samsung has already stolen much of Sony's thunder. China, with about 10 times Japan's population, is an economic behemoth that will easily outpace its rival in the long term, outspending it in research and in trained scientists and engineers. "There is still an awful lot of stuff that Japan is doing technologically very well," says Allum. "But people are catching up."
Japan: A spent technological force? - Features, Gadgets & Tech - The Independent
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