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August 26, 2012

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Interesting that you see that there might be two sides to opinions of Apple, and to what happened to Samsung, but not question that the US patent systems sucks. Correct, too!

Perhaps the only thing more nonsensical than today's patent system is the current state of copyright law. But it's a near thing.

you'd be surprised at the variety and the range of features, available only for the Japanese market.

Could you describe some of these features, especially in non-cell-phone products?

My guess is that cell phones really distort this sort of analysis because they are intimately tied to the capabilities of the national network and telecom regulatory structure. IIRC, Japan also seems a bit unique in that other developed countries have much higher prevalence of home PCs.


FWIW, I don't think that Apple is turning Japanese; I just don't see any evidence for that notion. Samsung is the only significantly profitable phone competitor and they want to lock them out of the market using whatever means necessary. There's nothing Japanese about this.

The last thing I want is more damn features on my TV.

Could you describe some of these features, especially in non-cell-phone products?

You separate out cell phones, but feature overload is not something that is restricted to cellphones in Japan. The idea that Japanese designers just decided to overload cellphones with features ab ovo is a bit strange.

And just like extra cell phone features, it's a bit difficult for me to describe the features, because some of the things, I don't really understand what they are particularly good for. However, when I go into my local equivalent to something like a Best Buy, there are at least 3 times the number of TVs, or cassette players or whatever. The one thing it is always difficult to find is a simple version with no bells and whistles.

Still, things like appliances with smartphone links, or this post about stoves and rice cookers, or the new features for televisions such as:

Using a variety of technological tweaks, manufacturers are achieving substantial power savings with no sacrifice in performance and picture quality. Sony, which entered the eco-TV market last year, developed a more efficient backlight for its new Bravia VE5 series that uses nearly 40% less energy than conventional LCD TVs. Further gains are made through additional features, including a sensor that can halve the energy the TV uses by turning off the screen when no motion is detected nearby. The sets are also equipped with a light sensor that adjusts the backlight to ambient room light and have an energy-saving switch that cuts all power to the set as if it were unplugged.

might cover your request. Because a lot of these features are often a scattershot attempt to try and find something that consumers will love, they become difficult to enumerate. As Jay points out, most American consumers (and me!) get overwhelmed by too many features. Of course, Japan offers a particular space and culture and there are a number of things that Japanese companies do that I could never imagine Apple doing. Hence the playful reference to the Vapors tune.

The idea that Japanese designers just decided to overload cellphones with features ab ovo is a bit strange.

That's not an idea that I have. My point is that cellphones are intimately bound to the carrier and regulatory environment, so if you see unusual cellphones in one place, the difference might better be explained by the carrier and regulatory environment than by technology culture per se.

However, when I go into my local equivalent to something like a Best Buy, there are at least 3 times the number of TVs, or cassette players or whatever.

Is that caused by greater population density? Different market structures?

And I thought your point was that Japanese products had more features, not that there was a greater number of competing products.

The one thing it is always difficult to find is a simple version with no bells and whistles.

Why do you think that is different from the US?

manufacturers are achieving substantial power savings with no sacrifice in performance and picture quality

I can buy a Bravia VE5 TV in the US right now. This is not actually unique to Japan. I mean, why would you think that this sort of technology wouldn't be sold in the US? It costs more to make multiple models than to make one model.

they become difficult to enumerate.

But that doesn't mean that there are more features than comparable products in the US or Europe.

The last thing I want is more damn features on my TV.

But what about your http://www.lifeyou.tv/super-hightech-japanese-toilet/>toilet?

So LJ--I assume all is well with your health. What did your hospital stay cost?

Turb, I presume you have to go online, you probably won't be able to get it at your local shop unless you live in a big city. As I noted in the OP, the ability to purchase things online changes things a bit. However, here is Panasonic's washer line-up, with the first 5 categories being home models, and there are over 70 listed. That seems to be a bit more than a comparable US company would have in their product line up and is roughly the same number as all of the washing machines available at Home Depot online.

And as I noted, the Japanese market is, or used to be, the test market, where things were tried out, and then the features that caught on the most were the ones adopted for export models. Because the Japanese companies could depend on higher profit margins in the domestic market, they could afford to spend more money making multiple models and then chose from the features that were most popular to push out, though that is changing. If you want to cast this as a greater number of competing products, sure, that covers it, but having 5 features in the US and simply adding one feature more in Japan means that you potentially have 6! products rather than 5! or 120 versus 720. And because product cycles are shorter here and Japanese consumers do not like to purchase used goods and more often replace appliances, you get a lot more churn though things are changing because of deflation and changing mores.

And speaking of pushing out, bobbyp's mention of toilets is a good example of the feature rich nature of Japanese appliances. Your typical Japanese Washlet has;

a heated seat, retractable cleaning wands, warm water massage, warm air drying, and a built in automatic deodorizer. A digital thermostat and an automatic opening and closing toilet seat are additional features.

While you can order an equivalent online, I don't think you are going to find them in the local Home Depot on the shelf.

bobbyp, things are going ok, but the lens prescription for my right eye doesn't match the glasses I have now, and I need to wait a week or two more before I can get new glasses, which gives me a bit of a headache by the evening. The hospital cost was ¥220,000, which is 30% of the total cost and the dollar is at 80 yen.

I'm also wondering which Japanese company trajectory Apple will end up following. Sony became so enamoured with what they did that they thought of themselves as sui generis and ended up taking for granted that they had the Japanese market sewn up no matter what they did.

This just harks back to the Beta debacle, I think. But maybe it's hard to see impending product doom until it's post-pending.

but having 5 features in the US and simply adding one feature more in Japan means that you potentially have 6! products rather than 5! or 120 versus 720.

Can you explain your reasoning here? My math says you have 64 possible products with 6 available features and 32 with 5.

On Japanese toilets: in my one visit to Japan on a student exchange in 1984, the wealthier family I stayed with had a toilet with several features that I have never seen, to this day, employed in any household or business in the United States (or anywhere else, FTM). Which is not to say you can't get them here, just that I've never seem them in use.

They also had many versions of handheld video games that you could not get in the states, IIRC.

Sorry, you are right hairshirt, I just thought it was going to be factorial and plugged it in to google. Teaches me to try and do math...

No biggie. The sixth feature still doubles the number of potential products (or feature sets).

...as would any additional feature beyond whatever number of features under consideration, mind you. Each feature has two states - it's either there or it's not, like bits being 1 or 0, so it 2^^n.

I just thought I'd mention, lj, that what you actually calculated were the number of different ways you could put 6 features (or 6 whatevers) into a particular order, as opposed to the same for 5 (if you hadn't already figured that out yourself, of course).

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