A San Francisco newspaper has examined the technological divide between Japan and America, and concluded that America is light-years behind the Far East because it isn't prepared to take risks with new gadgets – with the exception of Apple and the iPod.

Japan is the world's biggest exporter of consumer electronics There are a number of reasons why some gadgets never make it stateside. The main reason is the very different cultures in the two countries. Carnegie-Mellon University professor David J. Farber told SFGate: "In America, if you have a potential product, you do research, you try to figure out the size of the potential market. And if it’s a totally new, totally innovative thing, where no one has any idea of the size of the market, and there’s no guaranteed return on a large investment, well, forget it. No American company will touch it.

"In Japan, it’s usually quite the opposite: manufacturers know that the home market loves new stuff; they’ll take risks there, hoping that something will catch fire and take off. The only US company that’s doing that is Apple, and, honestly, I don’t think that even Steve Jobs, in all of his infinite wisdom, thought that the iPod was going to take off the way it has."

Style conscious

The report explains that Japanese consumers are intensely style and status conscious, willing to pay more for better and cooler features and motivated to upgrade their core electronic devices at least annually, and sometimes even every six months.

Dynamism CEO and founder Douglas Krone said: "In the US, corporate buying tends to drive innovation – technology goes where business wants it to go. In Japan, technology is largely driven by individual consumers. They save a lot, but when they spend, they buy the best. I mean, Louis Vuitton racks up over a third of its total global sales in Japan, and that's true for a lot of the luxury brands."

The report observes that America has its share of early adopters, but they tend to be the exception rather than the rule; the average US electronics consumer is driven more by cost and value than by features and technological sophistication.

Gadget e-zine I4U editor Manfred Lugmeyer said: "Consumer behaviour in Japan is totally driven by the teenagers. They're not just buying toys – they're buying electronics. They're competing in school to have the coolest stuff. American kids are into sneakers. Japanese kids are into technology."

Girl power

And, unlike in the United States, where consumer electronics is an overwhelmingly male-driven industry, key to the technology culture in Japan is its embrace by adolescent girls.

In Newsweek Japan's list of the 100 most influential Japanese people in history, along with ancient emperors, best-selling authors, inventors and scientists, they listed Japanese Schoolgirls.


There's another reason why Japan's youth are so much more prepared to spend their cash on the latest gadgets. According to the report, the high price of housing in Japan means that there is little chance of moving out of the family home, and therefore even thought they may still be living at home when they reach 30, the Japanese have a lot more disposable cash than their US counterparts who are paying around one-third of their wages on accommodation.