San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Toshiba Targets Latin American Market

TOUTING their slimmed-down laptopline and new marketing headquarters inMexico City, executives from Tokyo-basedglobal technology firm Toshiba visitedCosta Rica this week during the first phaseof its Latin American Road Show.The whirlwind tour – the team alsomade stops in Panama, Bogota and Quitothis week – is designed to show off notonly new products, but also to increase thecompany’s profile in the region, accordingto Edgar González, Director of ToshibaLatin America’s Computer SystemsDivision.“2004 was a year of spectaculargrowth” in Latin America, González saidat a presentation Monday at the Hotel RealIntercontinental in Escazú, a western SanJosé suburb. “2005 looks like a year of significantopportunities as well.”AS part of its strategy to up its share ofthe Latin American market, Toshibamoved its sales and marketing division toMexico City at the beginning of this year.Its production takes place in Asia and itsplanning and products management in theUnited States.The goal of the site move was to allowfor the development of differentiated LatinAmerican products particularly suited tothe needs of the region, according toGonzález.He said several factors make CostaRica and the rest of Latin America readyfor new technologies, particularly wirelessand mobile computers.The recuperation of the economiesand governments’ increased interest inproviding public schools with new technologiesare among the primary factors,he said.Also, the last time many computerswere replaced in the region was during theY2K scare in 1999, so “it’s time to replacethem again,” González added.THE new products Toshiba hopes willhelp it carve a niche in the Latin Americanmarket are wireless laptops of varioussizes, designed to suit anyone from thosewho work in a home office and want toreplace their desktops, to jet-setting executiveswho need a lightweight, easilyportable machine.The lightest, the “ultraportable”Portégé R100, weighs in at 1.0 kilograms.Another product unveiled is theQosmio, a laptop computer that also servesas a TV (cable or antenna), DVD playerand burner, and audio system. In theUnited States, the product retails for$2600-2999, depending on the screen size.“It’s our new baby,” González said.“No one else has anything like this.”He also described a more distantprospect: the DynaSheet, a thin, flexiblescreen that could be rolled up like a newspaperbut would offer all the functions of alaptop and handheld planner combined,including a wireless connection, videoconferencingand a stylus with handwritingrecognition.WHILE the Web site offers more information about theproducts and services offered in the region,it is not yet possible to place an order online.González said that although Internet salesaccount for approximately 20% of the company’ssales in the United States, Toshibawill not introduce such a service in Centralor South American anytime soon.The logistics, especially the mail systemsin various countries, are inefficient andexpensive, and in general, people are lesswilling to trust their credit card informationto Web sites in Latin America, he said.Toshiba, which will turn 130 this year,holds 28,600 patents around the world, had$53 billion last year in sales, and employs161,000 people.

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