Fujitsu – Ready To Play In North America?

Fujitsu? Who? I recently attended Fujitsu’s global analyst conference in Boston, which gave me an opportunity to check in with the best kept secret in the North American market. Even Fujitsu execs admit that many people in this largest of IT markets think that Fujitsu has something to do with film, and few of us have ever seen a Fujitsu system installed in the US unless it was a POS system.

So what is the management of this global $50 Billion information and communications technology company, with a competitive portfolio of client, server and storage products and a global service and integration capability, going to do about its lack of presence in the world’s largest IT market? In a word, invest. Fujitsu’s management, judging from their history and what they have disclosed of their plans, intends to invest in the US over the next three to four years to consolidate their estimated $3 Billion in N. American business into a more manageable (simpler) set of operating companies, and to double down on hiring and selling into the N. American market. The fact that they have given themselves multiple years to do so is very indicative of what I have always thought of as Fujitsu’s greatest strength and one of their major weaknesses – they operate on Japanese time, so to speak. For an American company to undertake to build a presence over multiple years with seeming disregard for quarterly earnings would be almost unheard of, so Fujitsu’s management gets major kudos for that. On the other hand, years of observing them from a distance also leads me to believe that their approach to solving problems inherently lacks the sense of urgency of some of their competitors.

Fujitsu made a good case at the analyst conference that this time I might be wrong, and that they will execute energetically in N. America. The initial steps, primarily consisting of several new key management positions, have been made, including several senior people with extensive experience driving server and infrastructure sales from competitors.

If Fujitsu does invest in a major uptick in sales, marketing and brand awareness, can it compete? My overall impression is that they can compete effectively and could represent an interesting new force in the market. They have a competitive hardware product portfolio consisting of laptops, desktops, x86 rack, tower and blade servers, storage, and SPARC servers. They will remain as the primary developer of future high-end SPARC processors for at least the next five years, and will resell the resultant systems globally in competition with Oracle and others. They have a global reach, a strong position in some markets, and a solid reputation for quality and customer service. When they were actively selling SPARC systems in the US, their customers repeatedly commented to me that their systems were in fact more reliable than the equivalent Sun servers.

Time will tell if they execute well, but it looks like the US infrastructure market is about to get even more competitive with the increased presence of another global company with a strong product portfolio.

Would you consider Fujitsu for future purchases?