《经济学人》:日本武士走向没落
日期:2011-07-21 10:33

(单词翻译:单击)

Innovation in Japan
日本创新

Samurai go soft
日本武士走向没落

Japan’s preference for hardware over software is fading
相对于计算机软件而言,日本偏爱计算机硬件,但这种偏爱正在消退。

Jul 14th 2011 | TOKYO | from the print edition

“A SAMURAI would never write software!” barked a senior executive at one of Japan’s biggest electronics firms, as drinks flowed at a dinner party. His view is widely held in Japan. Monozukuri (making things) is macho. From sword-forging in feudal times to machines and microchips today, real men toil tirelessly to make things you can see. Services are for sissies.

“一个武士绝不会去编写软件!”一名任职于日本最大的电子企业的高级主管厉声说道,当时他正在一个晚宴上开怀畅饮。大部分日本人认同这个观点。人们普遍认为制造业才是真正的男子汉的行当。从铸剑的封建时期到机械和微芯片的今天,大丈夫不辞辛苦的在各种物质生产领域工作着。而服务业则是留给那些没出息的家伙们做的。

But like the traditional samurai hairstyle (shaved pate and topknot), such attitudes are looking increasingly out of date. Writing business software is now a growing business in Japan. The country’s large electronics companies are buying into the sector. Even foreign companies are coming to Japan in search of programming talent.

但是就像传统武士的发型(脑袋四周剃得精光,只有头顶留着一撮小辫子)一般,这种态度看起来越来越过时了。现在,在日本编写商业软件成了一个新兴的商业活动。这个国家大型的电子公司正在进入这个领域。甚至外国公司都跑到日本去寻找程序编制人才。

Software firms typically make fatter profit margins than hardware firms. The best ones easily hit 30%; electronics firms struggle to reach 5%. The software business needs fewer people and less capital; handy for a country with a shrinking population and tight-fisted banks. Jobs at big electronics firms are scarce, and the work is sometimes boring. Small wonder that Japan’s young, creative engineers are getting in touch with their inner sissy.

软件公司明显比硬件公司获得了更高的利润空间。最好的利润空间达到30%;而电子公司却挣扎在5%的边缘。软件行业需要更少的人和资金;适合于人口正在减少和银行资金严格控制的国家。大型电子公司的工作少,并且有时很无聊。难怪日本年轻富有创造力的工程师们变得女里女气。

Japan has long made popular video-game software—just ask the Mario Brothers. Yet its computer makers have done little to foster independent software businesses. On the contrary, by bundling programs free with machines, they taught customers that software was of little value, says Kazuyuki Motohashi of the University of Tokyo. They also locked customers in, making it costly and cumbersome to switch to rivals.

日本长期制造了流行视频游戏软件,看看马里奥兄弟就知道了。但是电脑制造商们却几乎没有开展独立的软件业务。东京大学的元桥一之教授说道,正相反的,通过程序捆绑机器,电脑制造商们让消费者认为软件没什么用处。他们也锁定了消费者,使得切换到其他竞争者的游戏是昂贵且不方便的。

The result is that Japan’s software industry is underdeveloped. Since 2008 Japanese software firms have lost 20% of their market value, even as software firms elsewhere grew by 15%. In software spending relative to GDP Japan ranks 35th, around the level of Saudi Arabia, according to INSEAD, a business school.

结果就是日本的软件行业未能发展起来。自从2008年,日本的软件公司损失掉了自身20%的市场价值,其他地方的软件公司却增加了15%的市场价值。根据一个商学院欧洲工商管理学院的说法,日本软件花费占GDP的比例排名35位,和沙特阿拉伯处于一个水平。

Japanese code has tended to be inferior, says William Saito, an entrepreneur who sold his software company to Microsoft years ago. This is because it mirrored the shortcomings of Japan’s business culture: it was written in a hierarchical way that outsiders would have trouble building on, when the trend in America and Europe was exactly the opposite.

几年前把自己的软件公司卖给微软的企业家威廉•齐藤说,日本人的编码水平趋于下降。这是因为这反映了日本商业文化的缺陷:日本以分层次的方式编码,外人在此基础上编制是有困难的,而美国和欧洲的编码趋势却恰恰与之相反。

A transition is under way, however. Firms such as Rakuten, an online shopping mall, and DeNA, a developer of games for mobile devices, have reached global prominence. So has Trend Micro, a big security software firm. Small companies are succeeding too, such as Cybozu, which makes collaboration software. And Japan has begun filing international software-related patents galore (see chart). Only America files more.

无论如何,正在进行转变。像网上购物中心Rakuten公司和开发移动设备游戏的DeNA公司,已经成了全球领航者。一个大的安全软件公司Trend Micro也是如此。小公司,例如开发协同软件的Cybozu公司也赶上来了。日本已经开始申请了大量与软件相关的专利,但是美国申请的更多。

An example of Japan’s shift to software is Ruby, a programming language that undergirds big websites such as those of Twitter and Groupon. It was created in Japan by Yukihiro Matsumoto, and counts 1m developers around the world. Marc Benioff, the boss of Salesforce.com, a large “cloud computing” firm in Silicon Valley, sees opportunities everywhere in Japan. Over the past year the company paid $212m for Heroku, which develops web services based on Ruby, and acquired stakes in Synergy Marketing, Uhuru and Netyear, three business-software firms.

日本向软件转变的一个例子是Ruby,它是一种加强像Twitter和Groupon这类大网站的程序编制语言。它被日本人松本行弘创制,是全世界1000名开发人员的成果。位于硅谷的大型云计算公司Salesforce.com的老板马克•贝尼奥夫,看到日本无处不在的商机。过去的几年,这个公司为Heroku花费了21.2万美元,Heroku基于Ruby开发网页服务,并且该公司获得了三个商业软件公司Marketing、Uhuru 和Netyear的风险投资。

Old hardware companies want a slice of the software sashimi. Most are looking abroad. On July 1st NTT, Japan’s incumbent telecoms operator, said it would acquire OpSource, a cloud-computing software firm in California, for $90m through its South African software subsidiary, Dimension Data, which NTT acquired last year for $3.3 billion. Hitachi and Toshiba are hunting for software firms, too. Fujitsu, a big hardware firm, already gets two-thirds of its revenue and nearly all its profits from software and services.

老的计算机软件公司想要分得软件行业的一杯羹。大部分公司正在放眼世界。7月1日日本电信运营商NTT宣布它将通过南非的软件子公司Dimension Data以9000万美元的价格收购一家位于加利福尼亚州的云计算软件公司OpSource,去年这个NTT的子公司赚了33亿美元。日立公司和东芝公司也正在搜寻软件公司。大型硬件生产企业富士,其营业额的2/3和几乎全部利润均来自于软件和服务业务。

Japan’s indigenous software industry faces several obstacles. The country lacks venture capital, a vibrant stockmarket and angel investors with technical knowledge to nurture start-ups. And its big, slow firms tend to suffocate the small fry, says Fujiyo Ishiguro, the founder of Netyear, an online-marketing software firm (and one of the few female bosses of a publicly-listed company in Japan).

日本本土软件产业面临着很多阻碍。日本缺乏扶植初期产业的风险投资、朝气蓬勃的证券市场以及具备技术知识的天使投资人。Netyear是一家从事网络营销的企业,其创始人Fujiyo Ishiguro认为,日本一些规模庞大但发展缓慢的企业往往会制约中小企业的发展。(Fujiyo Ishiguro是日本为数不多的上市公司的女掌门。)

For now, hardware is king. Newspapers cheered when Riken and Fujitsu unveiled the world’s fastest supercomputer in June. But the shift towards the intangible is inevitable, says Ms Ishiguro. Japan’s sissies are tougher than they look.

目前,硬件产业仍然是日本的龙头。今年六月份,理研和富士公司联合发布了世界最快的超级计算机,媒体都对此欢呼雀跃。但是,Ishiguro女士说,向软件产业转型已经是不可避免的趋势。日本的“懦夫们”并不像他们看似那样没用!

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重点单词
  • independentadj. 独立的,自主的,有主见的 n. 独立派人士,无
  • cumbersomeadj. 笨重的
  • transitionn. 过渡,转变
  • suffocatevt. 使窒息,使缺氧,阻碍 vi. 窒息,窒息而亡,阻
  • entrepreneurn. 企业家,主办者,承包商
  • inevitableadj. 不可避免的,必然(发生)的
  • securityn. 安全,防护措施,保证,抵押,债券,证券
  • preferencen. 偏爱,优先,喜爱物
  • traditionaladj. 传统的
  • innovationn. 创新,革新