By Tom Forester. Blackwall; 230pp; £19.99.
Which of these views, both apocalytpic in tendency, is correct? First: 'Only in computers and software per se are the Japanese not yet dominant - but this may only be a matter of time, given Japan's growing stranglehold over key computer components and the merging of computers with consumer electronics, telecommunications and office equipment.' Second: 'The computer wars are a two-party contest between America and Japan ... the most competitive, swiftest-moving and hardest-fought industrial battle in history. With sound strategies, good execution, continued investment and wise public policy, it is also a battle that America can win.' The first view is that of Tom Forester, whose title (and, even more, whose subtitle) makes his uncompromising position perfectly clear. The second quotation, representing the opposite pole in a continuing and urgent debate, comes from Charles H Ferguson and Charles R Morris, authors of Computer Wars, (published in the US this year by Times Books). Their argument currently carries some weight, thanks largely to two companies: Intel and Microsoft.
Intel in microprocessors and Microsoft in PC operating systems both dominate the world in a style worthy (some would say unworthy) of IBM at its peak. The first has displaced the Japanese as the world's largest chipmaker by sales value, winning back a lost American lead: the second faces no worthwhile Japanese competition - and not much elsewhere. With these two seemingly impregnable fortresses, how can America lose?