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Toshiba Announces E-Biz Initiatives

Toshiba Corp., widely perceived as a laggard in the race among Japan's electronics giants to embrace the Internet, has finally announced that it will undertake a series of major initiatives to enhance its B2B and B2C Net capabilities.

Toshiba will invest a total of 250 billion yen (US$2.25 billion) over the next three years to realign its operations and develop its Internet content and e-commerce businesses into core activities.

Chief among the planned initiatives will be the establishment on April 1 of a new in-house business unit to spearhead development of Toshiba's business-to-consumer Internet operations.

The new unit, i-Value Creation Company, will initially have two divisions: a Webtop Service Division to support the growth of information provision and portal services, and a Media & Content Division to oversee planning and development of content businesses and promote new digital services.

A major role of i-Value Creation Company will be to lead the way in introducing consumer-oriented mobile Internet services, which Toshiba sees as a key driver of expanded Internet usage.

"We see the planned launch of next-generation mobile phone service as a great opportunity," said Toshiba President Taizo Nishimuro of the anticipated spring 2001 introduction of IMT2000 cellular phone services in Japan. "We will focus our resources to take full advantage of its potential."

As well as developing a wide range of new leisure, finance, travel, and music and video distribution services for mobile device users, i-Value Creation Company will work to strengthen Toshiba's current lineup of Internet-based services.

These include Eki-mae Tanken, a popular source for information on railway services and on entertainment in and around stations, the Fresheye search engine, and the subscriber-based News Watch electronic news clipping service.

Toshiba plans to take full advantage of existing alliances with global entertainment and content industry leaders -- in particular, a partnership with AOL-Time Warner. Toshiba said this week that it will start talks with America Online with an eye to beginning distribution of Time-Warner content, such as music, in Japan as early as April.

To boost its Internet-based business-to-business efforts, meanwhile, Toshiba will in April set up an e-Net Division within its Information & Industrial Systems and Services Company business unit.

The task of the e-Net Division will be to promote Toshiba's advances into high-growth areas of enterprise outsourcing services as well as its role as a corporate application service provider (ASP).

Toshiba expects its overall Internet-related business sales to reach 500 billion yen (US$4.50 billion) in 2003, up from approximately 100 billion yen (US$901 million) in 1999, with sales by the new i-Value Creation Co. accounting for about 30 percent of the projected amount.