Although the Japanese economy faces an uncertain future, the craze for consumer electronics is still strongly in evidence in the run up to Christmas.
DVD products are particularly popular, but a new ?personal theatre? offering has just hit the streets.
Users wear a pair of futuristic specs with earpieces hanging off the ends, to give them a stereo image of a screen on which they can watch movies and listen to surround sound.
PC technology also seems to be gaining ground over games consoles. A multitude of USB devices have appeared in the shops, some with the latest 9.1 Gb drives costing only #300.
Mini-disk systems, however, are being heavily discounted, suggesting that sales are not as good as manufacturers had hoped, while miniaturised radios and TVs are gaining a lot of interest. One Sony system, weighing only a couple of ounces even with batteries, provided stereo FM/AM reception with Mega Bass and a built in clock, for about #30.
Mobile phones are also big business in Japan. Thirty per cent of the population own one and the number is still on the increase. While sales of PHS (Personal Handyset) systems are flattening out at six million this year, cellular phone sales have continued to rise to 40 million.
One Kyocera handset is light enough to float in water, while another enables a rudimentary type of video conferencing.
The PS-801, a PHS system, weighs 79 grams and measures 112 x 40 x 18 mm, while a cellular model, the PDC, weighs 69 grams and measures 125 x 40 x 19 mm respectively.
The size reductions have been made possible by the use of a lithium battery, circuit integration, noise reduction, the use of a .7 mm glass multi-layer board and a three rather than the traditional five volt system. Power consumption is around 35 per cent less than conventional devices.
But whether these designs will ever materialise in Europe is doubtful because according to Kyocera engineers, European hands are too big for the buttons.
Kyocera described another PDC handset, the DataScope for Docomo, as a data communications terminal on which electronic mail can be sent and received. It weighs about 190 grams and flips open to reveal a keyboard.
Users can remove the shield around the keyboard and insert the whole unit into a PCMCIA slot in a notebook PC. Another Kyocera model includes voice recognition software, while the company said that its Visual Phone, which is currently only available in monochrome, will appear next year with a full colour display.
Kyocera is also a partner of Motorola on the Iridium project and claims that two handsets and a pager based on the satellite technology will be introduced on 1 January next year. While the Iridium project has suffered some delays, tests show that the Kyocera handset can already connect to London from Toba.
The single mode Iridium handset will weigh 430 grams, support 18 languages, provide talk time of about 100 minutes and standby time of 24 hours. The dual mode system will be introduced first with a GSM handset, but PDC, CDMA and AMPS handsets will follow, with more compact handsets due within 18 months.
Phil Murphy, general manager of Kyocera Electronics UK, confirmed the subsidiary would distribute the offerings.
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