Japanese Technology from the Future Friday!
This week it’s Sony's, Hitachi's, and Toshiba's once-failing, leftover screen-making divisions coagulated into an actual business ready for IPO, Canon reminds us that it's not all DSLRs and gigantic copiers, and Rakuten, one of Japan's only standout international tech players, throws down cash for Viber!
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Welcome to Japanese Technology from the Future Friday!
It’s already Friday west of the international dateline – here in Japan, it’s totally the future. The weekly JTFF is our somewhat Technosnarky coverage of 2-5 particularly important, specifically Japan-related tech stories. Get yourself hip to the micro & macro that went down while North America was sleeping – check in with Akihabara News every Friday morning and BOOM! Ahead of the game, you win.
:: JTFF – February 14, 2014 ::
• Japan Display Aiming for $4 Billion IPO
There’s a warm satisfaction that comes when the JTFF loops around to kinda Ouroborus itself. We covered this way back when the JTFF was still an Anthrobotic.com affair (two years ago). Then, though in the midst of a Sony bashing fit, it seemed a risky, yet still good idea for them, Hitachi, and Toshiba to spin-off their respective display-making units into one single entity: Japan Display. What with your South Koreas and your Chinas creeping into display manufacturing, it was by no means a sure thing. But, seems to have turned out okay. Interesting, too - if Sony had 33.33% of that $4 billion, they might’ve broken even in fiscal 2013. Yes, we know that doesn’t mean anything. But still.
[JAPAN DISPLAY GOING PUBLIC BIG TIME - WSJ]
• Canon Buys American Molecular Stuff Maker, Spins-Off But Still Owns Molecular Stuff Maker
This news isn’t all that interesting, more of a reminder. Everyone knows Canon for its cameras, copiers, printers, and a few other mundane pieces of technology. We should remember, however, that Canon, as a technology company, also likes to get their hands on things named “semiconductor imprint lithography equipment business.” Like many vertically integrated Japanese companies, Canon’s got a whole lot more than going on that meets the eyepiece. Heh! Shameless and cheesy, we know. But still.
[CANON AQUIRES AMERICAN PARTNER - AUSTIN BUSINESS JOURNAL]
• Rakuten Bought a Vibrator Company! Oh Wait - No, a Company Called “Viber”
Wow, it takes almost zero anything to reveal the JTFF’s Cro-Magnon, mid-pubescent sense of humor. Anyway, as many know, or if you don’t, Rakuten is Japan’s answer to Amazon.com. Sure, there’s Amazon.jp, and it does very well, but Rakuten has that oh-so-special homegrown ability to be just the right mix of innovative, yet still sufficiently Japanesey. For example, about 4 years ago, Rakuten’s CEO decreed that all employees must learn English - and not just study it, but that over time they all must adapt to the company’s internal communications gradually migrating to an English-only affair. Now, English education is compulsory for 6 years of Japanese secondary school, yet the system is - and this is being kind - a massive, ongoing, developmentally disabled disaster. If you ever meet a Japanese person who can comfortably hold an English conversation, it has everything to do with the individual, and less than nothing to do with their English education regimen. So anyway, it was a bold move. And in another bold move, Rakuten has just thrown down $900 million for Viber, an increasingly popular messaging and VOiP service. Imagine if… Amazon.com bought Skype. Or Line. Or Facebook from five years ago. It’s that big. The JTFF has to give Rakuten some serious props: they support startups, they innovate, and they’ve shuffled off the isolationist blinders welded to the perspective of nearly all Japan’s tech giants. Fly, Rakuten - fly!
[RAKUTEN ACQUIRES VIBER - BUSINESS WIRE]
That was the JTFF, and live from the future – that is all.
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Tokyo at Night via PhotoEverywhere.