| Japan's Home PC Penetration Lags U.S., AOL Exec. Says
May 1, 1998 (TOKYO) -- AOL Japan Inc. president Hidemaru Sato
said that the company's online membership is soon expected to
|At a press conference held to commemorate the first anniversary
of AOL's launch of services in Japan, Sato talked to reporters on
the characteristics of AOL members and the company's overall
The following are comments made by Sato at the press conference
and in his exclusive interview with BizTech.
Q: Are you satisfied with the projected figure of 100,000
Sato: Yes. I'm satisfied with that projection. A survey found
that 53 percent of AOL customers are new to using the Internet.
I'm proud that AOL has caught on with beginners, because the
finding is in line with our company's philosophy of providing
fun, easy-to-use and useful services.
Q: A total of 94 percent of AOL members are home personal
computer users. Why is this a characteristic of AOL Japan users?
Sato: It is true that many users access AOL at home for fun and
not for work. This is because PCs have caught on with households
in Japan. However, there are still barriers for PCs to further
expand in the home environment.
Q: Do PCs being used at home have an impact on the number of AOL
Sato: Because AOL Japan aims to provide easy-to-use services to
PC users at home, the home PC market has an impact on the number
of our members. However, I think AOL is doing very well
considering the restrictions on the market.
In Japan, most households have one computer. It's still a rare
case that each member of a family would have their own PC. Most
computers are for work, not for fun. Under such circumstances, it
is a major achievement that 94 percent of AOL's customers are
home PC users.
Recently, PC prices in Japan have fallen close to the 1994 price
levels in the United States. When Compaq Computer Corp., IBM
Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. started reducing computer prices in
the United States, it was a common sight that fathers took their
children when they bought PCs at stores. Japan today is close to
the United States of 1994.
However, high communications fees are the bottleneck hindering
rapid growth of home PCs in Japan. Users are concerned about high
communications fees when they utilize the Internet. The number of
users will not grow if communications charges remain high.
Q: Will Japanese consumers spend more free time on PCs if
conditions are improved?
Sato: That is a problem, too. PCs caught on with families and
schools after the hardware became cheaper and communications fees
were lowered in the United States. In Japan, it's hard to imagine
that given the same conditions, people will spend more money and
time on PCs. That is a basic difference between Japan and the
We must inform people about what a computer can do for them. The
home computer market will not expand if no action is taken. It's
important for the mass media, the academic community, research
institutions and the government to work together to promote the
use of personal computers in Japan.
Q: Is AOL a provider or an online service agent, and what is your
company's overall goal.
Sato: We consider AOL to be a mass media organization like a
magazine or newspaper. We hope that our users can enjoy AOL as a
new type of digital media. We are not moving toward the direction
of a mere provider or an online service provider. AOL Japan is a
mass media enterprise.
(Hi-Tech News Center)