• Kyodo

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Hit by steeply falling prices of flat-panel televisions, struggling Japanese electronics companies appear hopeful that Microsoft Corp.’s just-launched Windows 8 operating software will boost demand for personal computers.

But they face a tough road ahead, as public interest in the new operating system is apparently waning with consumers’ attention shifting toward portable devices, such as smartphones and tablet computers, which are also very competitively priced.

The Windows 8 software is compatible for both personal computers and tablet devices, a feature some analysts believe to be epoch-making.

“Windows 8 is a revolution of an interface,” said Sakae Takatsuka, president of NEC Personal Computers Ltd., comparing the software’s launch with the radical switch Windows 95 brought about 17 years ago to a simpler graphical interface.

“Personal computers will enter the new world created by tablet computers and smartphones,” Takatsuka said at an event in October to introduce new products.

The latest Windows software represents a departure from older versions largely operable via a mouse, allowing users to operate a PC through a touch panel like they would a smartphone.

Starting Friday, manufacturers including Fujitsu Ltd., Sony Corp. and Panasonic Corp. will release notebook computers with detachable screens that can be used like tablet computers.

Japan’s five major electronics makers, which sank into the red in the April-June quarter this year due mostly to slumping TV sales, are pinning hopes on PCs installed with the new Windows to lift earnings.

But the Windows 8 launch lacked the global fanfare seen in 1995, with customers increasingly preferring smartphones and tablet computers for surfing the Internet and sending emails.

“For email writing and other tasks, a smartphone or a tablet device will suffice,” a 20-year-old college student said.

The PC’s reign over corporate clients seems to be eroding as well, with a succession of companies having adopted Apple Inc.’s iPad for business use recently.

In addition, many corporate clients appear to be in wait-and-see mode faced with Windows 8’s totally new look and usability.

The makers also face steep price competition. While Google Inc. in September launched its Nexus 7 tablet at a price of ¥19,800, the tabletlike notebooks to be launched by Sony Corp. and Toshiba Corp. are estimated to be around ¥150,000 each.

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