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December 10th, 1999

[Editorial] The Apple Japan FTC Probe Is Nothing Short Of American Bashing
by Himitsu

During the bubble economy in Japan, and the recession in the states, most criticism of Japan by the West was seen as "Japan Bashing." Now, I wonder if the tables have turned? Has Apple's success made it an easy target for the "import" haters of the Japanese business world?

Here is the scoop:

First of all the FTC in Japan is a joke. It is nothing like the court system in the US. This agency tries to stop certain activities in Japan, but they are more like the keystone cops in my mind (based on former court cases). In Japan, when someone is talking about being "anti-monopoly," they are probably talking about people who don't like the Parker Brother's game. It's just a different business world here than in the US.

Let's see, Apple is raided over setting prices for their dealers. Hmmm. In that case, the FTC must be preparing to raid 95% of the companies in Japan. The American Chamber of Commerce should be UP AND ARMS over this. In a nutshell here it is: American company plays by the rules of the Japanese distribution system (i.e. when in Rome do as the Romans do) and they are told, "I'm sorry, your market share has grown too much, so native computer companies are complaining. So sorry, but you can not play by the same rules, we must raid your offices."

That would be like Ford offering rebates for their cars, Nissan deciding to follow suit, and then Janet Reno sending in her army and saying "Sorry, only US companies can use rebates." I simplify, but if you understand the way Japanese distribution works (specifically. retail distribution) you would realize what a sham it is. This move was done for two reasons;

  1. Apple's share has risen TOO much. Which is bad for native companies.
  2. Every dealer (and now non-Apple dealers) is crying for Macs, so this action was "pushed" through by disgruntled dealers.

Its true that the prices are nearly ALL the same wherever you go. But the same holds true for almost anything sold in Japan including books, magazines, cars etc... So why should Apple be slapped around? For the reasons above.

Its too bad that our Trade Representatives have ALWAYS been so bad, and don't really know how things work here in Japan. Jobs should be calling some friends, who would then call some of their friends, who should call the US business community here and raise hell. Did you hear that US Chamber of Commerce?

In a side note, I must say that I lived here for a long time, and have been here in the days of the NEC PC domination. Did this EVER happen to NEC??? What do you think? Fujitsu??? Nope.

Do I think that every store having the same price is good? No! I want a good deal too! But Apple isn't doing anything different with their distribution model than the rest of the market in Japan. That is why industry people here are yawning at this story because they know it is iBS.

One thing I would like to say is this: I thought that Apple fixed their inventory forecasting problems?!?!? 3 weeks for iMac stock where I live???

Himitsu lives and works in Japan.


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