Japanese computer firms evolved from the electronic and telecommunications equipment industries, while US firms such as IBM and Sperry Rand evolved from the business machines industry. From the late 1950s to early 1960s, the Japanese computer industry lacked computer peripherals and software technology. Therefore, it needed to acquire the technology from US firms.
To do so, it needed to negotiate technological partnerships with IBM and Sperry Rand. This negotiation process greatly influenced the later competitive advantage of both the US and Japanese firms in the Japanese computer market. However, previous studies have not examined this influence in sufficient detail. Therefore, this paper focuses on the negotiation process between Sperry Rand and three Japanese parties (Nippon Remington Univac [NRU], Toshiba, and Ministry of International Trade and Industry), and uses Japanese archives to examine the negotiations' influence on Sperry Rand and Toshiba.
This paper elucidates two points. First, Sperry Rand did not benefit from negotiations compared with IBM. Because it fell behind in patent applications and publication of computer principles and related technologies in Japan, it fell behind in the Japanese market. Second, Toshiba's role in founding NRU and negotiating with Sperry Rand delayed the commercialization of its computers. Toshiba expected an earlier technology transfer from Sperry Rand, and planned its computer business on the premise that NRU would order many computers and peripherals, but the partnership did not come to fruition.
In the 1960s Japanese computer market, IBM gained a competitive advantage among foreign firms, while Fujitsu, Hitachi, and NEC did the same among Japanese firms. This situation was a consequence of Sperry Rand's and Toshiba's respective problems.
Although the German multinational enterprise Siemens dominated the global market of X-ray devices during the first half of the twentieth century, it was unable to maintain its advantage against Shimadzu in Japan, despite the technological superiority of its products. This article analyses hence the sources of Shimadzu's competitiveness.
Shimadzu is a family-firm founded in Kyoto in 1875 and specialized in the production of scientific instruments, medical devices, and various parts. It engaged actively in the development of radiological equipment, making the first X-ray image in Japan (1896), and developing a first X-ray device for medical purpose in 1908. Then, during the 1920s, Shimadzu established as the largest producer of X-ray devices in Japan. This success relied on three major points: the internalization of technological capabilities (recruitment of university graduate engineers, subcontracting of R&D activities); the co-development of equipment and devices with medical doctors (joint R&D); and an original communication policy towards the medical world (participation to academic activities, organization of conferences, opening of a training center for X-ray technicians).
Finally, this article demonstrates that Shimadzu was able to adapt foreign technology to the specificities of the Japanese medical market. Unlike Western countries, the Japanese hospital system consists in a large number of small private hospitals clustered in urban areas. Competition between them was a driving force for the diffusion of X-ray devices, but their limited budget, due to their small size, made it necessary to develop devices that were lighter, simpler, and cheaper than equipment manufactured by Siemens. Shimadzu understood this need and marketed X-ray devices suitable for the Japanese domestic market. However, it was difficult to export them to Western Europe and the US.