Do they know what they want? Japan to ease Sony Playstation2 export controls

Japan’s Trade Ministry has simplified export procedures for Sony Corp’s flagship PlayStation 2 video game after earlier imposing controls amid concerns that parts could be used for military purposes. “It is, after all, a general-purpose product and we have simplified the procedures, ” Minister of Trade and Industry Takashi Fukaya was quoted by Kyodo news agency as saying on Tuesday as justification of the reversal of the incomprehensible move on the electronic’s giant.

The most profitable product of Sony Computer Entertainment, a subsidiary of electronic giant Sony, faced export restrictions because the machine and its eight-megabyte memory card were so sophisticated they could be used in missile guidance systems. The machine, which includes a DVD player and will eventually offer Internet access, is key to Sony’s profit outlook and the company said it had shipped 1.4 million in the month after the game’s March 4 launch.

Sony Computer Entertainment has said it aimed to ship four million “PlayStation 2” consoles in Japan and three million each in Europe and the United States in 2000/01. European and U.S. shipments are due to start later this year. The first version of the PlayStation generated approximately 40 percent of Sony’s group-based operating profits. Sony played down Monday the risk to its business from the export controls, and said it could not compromise its technology just to escape a government control when it needed to stay ahead in a highly competitive market. Analysts said the restriction had been unlikely to affect Sony’s planned exports of the hugely popular game console to Europe and the United States, given the strong demand. The company had already received permission from the trade ministry to export to the United States and Europe, officials said. Company officials said the restrictions amounted to little more than some additional paperwork.

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