Just as Wall Street analysts had reached a near consensus that everything that could go wrong for IBM already had, figures from Japan come to put a hobnail boot into that comfortable assumption. The worrying news for IBM is that for the first time in a decade, Hitachi and Fujitsu seem to be making inroads into IBM’s core customer base rather than simply enabling their long-term customers to live in an IBM world with the assurance that if anything goes wrong with their supplier, they can always migrate to the Real Thing. According to the Nippon Kezai Shimbun, IBM Japan has found that some of its firm orders for 3090s have turned out to be not so firm after all, and customers have either cancelled altogether or asked for delivery to be postponed. IBM Japan attributes this to the fact that the soaraway Yen has severely hurt manufacturers, who are having to postpone investment decisions. But figures from Hitachi and Fujitsu tell a different story. Hitachi says that it has received orders for 212 of its M680 answer to the IBM Sierra, 119 from Japan, 93 from its resellers in the US and Europe, since the machine was introduced in the spring of 1985. Giving significance to those figures, it says that the order level at this point into the cycle is double what it was at the same point in its previous generation, the M280, which was Hitachi’s answer to the IBM 308X line. Fujitsu announced its M780 Sierrakiller over a year after Hitachi, and already has 79 orders in the bag. Japan is the only major market where IBM has less than a 50% share in top-end mainframes – it splits half of the market almost evenly with Fujitsu.
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