Microsoft Japan president eager for partnerships in key market

  • Business
  • Wednesday, 27 Jul 2005

TOKYO (AP) - The new president of Microsoft Japan said Wednesday its the U.S. software company will continue to invest heavily in the Japanese market and played down the contentious nature of the ongoing hearings with Japan's anti-monopoly watchdog. 

Darren Huston, a Canadian who took office as president of Microsoft Corp.'s Japanese subsidiary this month, said Microsoft was determined to continue to build partnerships with electronics companies here such as Fujitsu, Toshiba Corp. and NEC Corp. as well as with Japanese schools and the Japanese government. 

Microsoft, based in Redmond, Washington, dominates Japan's PC software market as it does in other nations, and it also boasts a relatively positive image in Japan. 

In branding research by this nation's top business daily Nihon Keizai Shimbun published Tuesday, Microsoft ranked No. 1, surpassing runner-up Toyota Motor Corp. and fourth-ranked Sony Corp. 

But Microsoft has suffered a setback in some areas with its relations with the government. 

Since last year, hearings have been going on with the Fair Trade Commission over a clause Microsoft has in contracts that the commission says may hurt fair competition and discourage Japanese manufacturers from innovating because they can't sue for damages over patent and copyright infringement. 

Microsoft says the clause, which has been dropped from new contracts, is legal and benefits consumers. The Fair Trade Commission is demanding the clause be dropped in contracts signed in the past, a demand Microsoft has rejected. 

Huston, who has worked in Japan with U.S. coffee chain Starbucks Coffee Co., played down the hearings, saying that even calling it "a fight'' wasn't accurate. 

"'Fighting' is a very strong word. It's not like that. It's a collegial conversation about a topic,'' he told reporters after a news conference at a Tokyo hotel. He refused to elaborate. 

Microsoft does not disclose yen or dollar figures for its Japan operations, but Huston said investments in Japan for corporate citizenship, such as working with schools and teaching the elderly about gadgets, will double this year from the previous year. Microsoft also has an agreement with the Japanese police to fight cybercrime. 

Microsoft will do its utmost to market in Japan its upcoming products such as the new version of Windows called Windows Vista and its video-game console upgrade Xbox 360, Huston said. 

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