Bill Totten (Chairman and Representative Director)

Bill Totten is Chairman and Representative Director of K.K. Ashisuto, Japan's leading independent distributor of packaged computer software for large organizations.

He was born, raised and educated in Southern California. His education includes a doctoral degree (Ph.D.) in economics from the University of Southern California.

Dr. Totten worked on the Apollo program at Rockwell Corporation from 1963 to 1967 and on various projects at System Development Corporation from 1967 to 1971. SDC sent him to Tokyo in August 1969 to research the Japanese computer market, and he has lived here continuously since then. His market research convinced him of the great potential for packaged computer software in Japan. When SDC decided not to enter the software package business in Japan, Dr. Totten resigned and established K.K. Ashisuto in March 1972 to distribute computer software packages to corporations and other large organizations. Dr. Totten has been CEO of K.K. Ashisuto ever since. Under his leadership, the company has grown from a small staff in Tokyo providing a few localized software packages, to a highly-regarded nationwide enterprise employing 830 persons (as of January 2012) who produce 20 billion yen in annual revenue by distributing, supporting and providing consultative services for dozens of software packages to 5,300 leading Japanese corporations.

Dr. Totten has written a dozen books, speaks publicly throughout Japan and currently writes a weekly newspaper column addressing economic, social and political issues and the necessity of learning from and preserving traditional culture.

Throughout his business career, he has given top priority to customers and employees. He strives to provide an environment where employees can secure themselves lifelong, remunerative, enjoyable jobs that foster their growth as individuals while offering the satisfaction of contributing materially to society. He insists that the main requisite for accomplishing this is to consistently and honestly provide useful products and services to customers and believes that a company doing so will grow to its optimal or natural size. He rejects both growth for growth's sake and mining a business to enrich stockholders or executives.




Books

Yume o Jitsugen suru Chikara

Taichi Sakaiya, Supervising Editor

PHP, September 2011

Transforming Dreams into Reality

For this book, the "NPO Center for Produce Technology Development" interviewed seven individuals active in diverse fields: Taichi Sakaiya, Masayasu Kitagawa, Toshio Suzuki, Masao Horiba, Sakuji Yoshimura, Ryuichi Ishida, Bill Totten, Masatoshi Koshiba, and Yoshiro Kataoka. Those interviewed offer advice to college students and youth on making contributions to social development as they embark on their new life paths.



Shin Nihon-jin ni Kike

Interviewed by Yoshinori Kobayashi
(Bill Totten, Seki Hei, O Seonhwa, Pema Gyalpo, et al)

Asuka Shinsha, April 2011

Ask the New Japanese

Yoshinori Kobayashi interviewed several "new Japanese citizens," asking them why they chose to become nationalized Japanese citizens...
Please listen to what these new Japanese have to say in order to consider a path toward revitalization of Japan.



Anglo-Saxon Shihonshugi no Shotai
--100% Money de Nihonkeizai wa Fukkatsu suru

Toyo Keizai Shimpo sha, July 2010

The Truth of Anglo-Saxon Capitalism
--100% Money Can Revive Japan's Economy

Why is a world-wide bond crisis occuring?
Why does the Japanese government have to borrow money?
And why is economic growth always sought?

--The origin of these issues is the modern financial system. Instead of the government itself issuing money, the right to issue money has been turned over to private banks in the name "credit creation".



「Nenshu 6 wari demo Shukyu 4 ka」 toiu Ikikata

Shogakukan, October 2009

New Lifestyle: Sixty Percent Income for Three-Day Work Week

In 2008, I sent an email message to all of my employees to start preparing for the future, when it is expected that the Japanese economy will shrink by half. I wanted us to be ready for this change, not just as a company, but also as individuals. What you can do to prepare is to learn to do on your own all of the things you now pay others to do. Our great-grandparents grew their own food, sewed and repaired their own clothes, and did their own carpentry. Their lifestyles were more active than ours today, and they were healthier than we are because they were not addicted to consumerism like we are.

In Chapter II in the book, Mr Totten makes four proposals to the Japanese government:

  1.Revive the capital gains tax
  2.Sell US Treasury bonds and denominate loans to the US government in yen rather than
   US dollars
  3.Issue government money
  4.Make the government the employer of last resort



Aikokusha no Ryugi  -- Aoime no Nihonjin ga Anata ni Tsutaetai koto

PHP, March 2008

My Way of Patriotism: A Message from a New Japanese Citizen

"I cannot stand by and watch silently as American globalization causes Japan to collapse! This is a Japanese message--by a Japanese, for my fellow Japanese--on how to survive."

Japan is now at an important turning point both morally and economically. This is the first national crisis since the end of the war.
Mr. Totten conveys to Japanese readers how to live as patriotic Japanese citizens.



Nihon wa Ryakudatsu Kokka America o Suteyo

Business Sha, Janurary 2007

Japan, cast off America, the nation of plunderers
-- No need for globalization or shared illusions --

"I now hold neither affection nor goodwill toward the United States. Indeed, it could be said I've run out of patience, for now the only feeling that arises when I think of the country known as the United States is disappointment. I no longer feel any attachment. I don't even feel nostalgia."

This proposal is for the people of Japan by Mr Totten, who in 2006 was finally able to cast off his US citizenship and become a citizen of Japan.



Naze Nippon-jin wa Utsukushii Fushu o Suterunoka
Sin-nichika 8-nin Karano Atsuki Message.


Co-authored with Peter Frankl, Dario Ponnisi, et al., Meitaku Shuppan, February 2006

What's wrong with Japan? Messages from eight Japanophiles.



Nihon no Mono-Zukuri 58 no Ronten: Jizokuteki Hanei wo Kizuku Shisou

Co-authored with Karatsu Hajime, Nishibe Susume, et l., JIPM Solution, Dec. 2005

How Japan can become a sustainable society -- 58 esseys from 58 opinion makers.



Kaisha wa Kabunushi no Mono Dewa Nai

Co-authored with Iwai Katsuhito, Okumura Hiroshi, et al., Yousen-sha, November 2005

Who's an owner of a corporation?



GOODNESS -- Yoi Kaisha ni naru, Yoi Kaisha ni suru

Co-authored with Tasaka Hiroshi, et al., Nihon Plant Maintenance Association, March 2004.

What is required now as company policy is GOODNESS. Pursuing profit should not be the goal.



Internet no Kokateki Gakujutsu Riyo

Seibunsha, Co-authored with Sugita, et al., January 2004.

The internet manifests its greatest power as a repository of information, not as a means of broadcasting



Ginko wa Goto, Gaishi wa Hyena

Shogakukan Bunko, October 2002.

The Big Bang caused Japanese money to flow to US financial profiteers, who are now using it solely for their own gain.



Nihonjin e Saigo no Tuukoku

Co-Authored with Sarkisov Kostantin, Pema Gyalpo. Shogakukan Bunko , June 2001.

Japan's economic success after World War II was a miracle. What can or should Japan do now to help the people of the world?



Datsu-America ga Nihon o fukkatsu saseru

Tokuma Shoten, October 2000.

The American dream is over! Japan should not follow America's path. Learn the truth about America.



Anglo-Saxon wa Ningen wo Fukou ni suru

PHP Institute September 2000.

The mainstream media highly appraises 'global standards' (ie, American standards). But for its own good Japan should not blindly follow the worshippers of mammon.



Nouryoku naki mono wa sare de, Nihon wa hontou ni yomi gaeruka

Co-authored with Esaka Akira, Gendai Shorin, June 2000.

Merit system vs. seniority system. Is the merit system really the solution for companies to survive?



Shohi Fukyo, Koshite Toppasuru

PHP Kenkyujo, July 1999.

Private consumption accounts for 60% of Japan's GDP. To revive its economy, Japan should increase public consumption.



Rongo ni manabu "Hito no Michi"

Co-Authored with Funai Yukio, Business Sha, July 1999.

In the Edo period, the Shogun spent several hours weekly with his mentor studying The Analects of Confucius. We need such mentors in our companies today.



Nihongata Keiei wa Tadashii

Business Sha, April 1999.

Why has the US forced Japan to make so many deleterious changes? Who are the beneficiaries of Big Bang, deregulation, top-tier tax cuts?



Kanarazu Nihon wa yomigaeru

PHP Institute, December 1998. Goodbye to so-called global standards! Japan must choose its own path so it can rise again.



Amerika gata shakai wa Nihonjin wo fuko ni suru

Yamato Shobo, December 1998.

Instituting America's merit system will only bring unhappiness to Japanese. Japan need not copy the American jungle.



Nihon wa Nihon no Yarikata de ike

PHP Institute, May 1998.

Numerous things can be done to make citizens happier and the nation more prosperous. Becoming a 'great power' will not itself bring happiness to Japan.



Amerika wa Nihon wo sekai no koji ni suru

Goma Shobo, January 1998.

The Guidelines for US-Japan Defense Cooperation will be used as a trap to lure Japan into America's war!



Nihon wa Amerika no Zokkoku dewa nai

Goma Shobo, July 1997.

Japanese should realize the US government is exploiting over 6 trillion yen of Japanese taxpayer's money.



Me o samase Ohitoyoshi no Nippon

Goma Shobo, September 1995.

Japan has been conned into believing, following and financing the US. When will Japanese wake up?



Urotaeruna Nihon

Co-Authored with Omae Kenichi, Tawara Shoichiro, Tokuma Shoten, October 1994.

The US-Japan relationship from the Asian perspective. Why the bullying?



Nihonjin wa Amerika ni Damasareteiru

Goma Shobo, February 1994.

As long as Japan slavishly imitates America, the majority of Japanese will not find happiness.



Tenki ni Tatsu Nihon

Kobunsha, October 1992.

Japanese should not forget their work spirit. Now they should think about working to stay healthy and maintaining their current living standards.



Nihon wa Warukunai

Goma Shobo, June 1990.

The Japanese market is not closed or unique. The reason many American products do poorly is because they are simply not competitive.


Media Coverage


The CEO of software maker Ashisuto tells the Japanese to stop imitating Westeners.

More Japanese than the Japanese

By Alex Stewart


DR. BILL TOTTEN MUST rank as one of Japan's biggest paradoxes. He is the founder of Ashisuto, a large software business with over 700 employees and sales in 2001 of JPY16.6 billion, but he prefers the Japanese classics and tennis to building a business empire. He is possibly the only Westerner around espousing the benefits of lifetime employment, and he'd rather wear a kimono to work than a business suit. He calls himself a Japanese nationalist and even raises the Japanese flag outside his home in Kyoto on public holidays.

Totten's company celebrated its 30th birthday this year, which is already an achievement for a foreigner in Japan. Yet, what interests the 62-year-old Bill Totten is his management philosophy, which is at complete odds with the prevailing model of shareholder capitalism.

J@pan Inc readers enjoy the creative friction that occurs when East rubs up with West. In the case of Totten it produces someone more Japanese than the Japanese.

Japanese readers may know Totten-sensei from some of the dozen books he has written in Japanese on topics concerning the state of Japan's economy and cultural values. His forthright views, despite their strident criticisms, endear him to many voters fed up with the status quo. For foreign readers his views shed light on the idealized mind of the Japanese samurai businessman, which still prevailed when he came to Japan over 30 years ago. His views on life-time employment, treating customers as family, and his low regard for making money from money -- "money which breeds money is immoral" -- all belong to the same cast of mind.

Despite describing himself as an "extreme right wing communist," his company is not a totalitarian camp, or a pseudo-religious organization, like some companies in which charismatic founders impose their will. To his employees he is simply, "Bill-san." They are required to read, and if need be argue with him, over his Philosophy and Beliefs company manual. Failure to agree leads to dismissal, but not before a fair hearing, and one can hardly imagine it has ever happened. Despite his impressive height (195cm) and fierce views, he seems too kindly to terrorize staff to bend to his will.

The Company


From the Ashisuto company manual Philosophy and Beliefs:

"I hereby promise each and every member of Ashisuto all reasonable assistance in understanding this paper, every reasonable opportunity to have his questions about this paper answered, every reasonable opportunity to express and discuss his disagreements with this paper, and every reasonable opportunity to convince me to change this paper. And, I promise to change this paper in whatever way any Ashisuto member can convince me to change it."

Reasons for coming to Japan

I joined a company in the computer industry which wanted someone to go to Japan to survey the computer market. They sent me over here in August of 1969. That was just after the US government had created the US package software market by forcing IBM to charge separately for hardware and software. They didn't have any good software packages; we didn't know the Japanese language, Japanese society, or the market, and since Japanese wages were low and our wages were high -- the dollar was worth JPY360 -- we weren't going to get much business trying to figure out what kind of information systems people wanted and trying to build it for them.

As I went around people started asking me about packages. There were some other companies around which had good ones, so I tried to get the company to license other people's software packages and sell them here. I couldn't convince them to do that and about a year and a half into the assignment I went back to the office and said, "Look, if you're not going to support me, I'm going to quit and do it myself." My boss said, "Bill, it's a free world. There's the door. All you have to do is walk through it." It was just a bluff, but I had too much pride to go back, so I walked through the door.

I didn't know anything about starting a business, even in the United States, much less here, so I talked to a Japanese friend, Nagatsuma-san, and he hired me into his company to start the business. We looked at two products, chose one and introduced the other to one of his friends. He felt we'd led the other software company along, and if we couldn't take it we should introduce it to somebody else. I wanted to kill the product so we didn't have any competition, but that was not the Japanese idea of fair play, so we did it the fair way.

I started the business in his company in February of 1971. We used up a lot of the money, so his partners wanted to get rid of the business. Rather than stopping it, he and I volunteered to get our friends to put up some money and start it as a separate company. We started the new company on March 22, 1972. For the first several years Nagatsuma spent more time here than in his own company. He gave us four of his employees -- they were technical employees -- plus one secretary, which they hired for the project, so he's kind of the mother of the company.

We got to know each other because our company in the US was called SDC and his company in shorthand was called SDC, and our lawyers, unbeknownst to me, went after him to change his name, which he did, to SDI.

On private versus public company ownership

I own about 30 percent of the stock. An adviser to the company owns 12 percent, and right now the company owns the rest. My plan has always been when I leave the company to turn my stock over to the employees or the senior employees. I'd like to give it away, but you can't because the tax agency requires you to sell it at what the tax agency decides is the value. I've never had to answer to stockholders. I've always run the company for the customers and employees. That's the way it should be done. I don't believe in unearned income. The Bible, Aristotle, Plato, Confucius -- they all say that it is bad to breed money from money. It ruins society if you breed money from money. You should get money from contributing something concrete to society. I don't believe in contributing to somebody's unearned income.

I've always had the freedom to run the company my way, or my board and myself have, because we own the stock. What our advisers are saying is, if we don't pay dividends, which we don't, and there's no chance of selling the stock, then there's no advantage to the employees of owning the stock. But there is an advantage I tell them: You are keeping other people from owning it. They say, well, maybe the employees don't want it. So, I've decided, okay that's fair, if the employees don't want it, I'll sell it to the highest bidder. That bidder will demand dividends and they'll have to cut down bonuses to employees to pay those dividends. If they are that stupid, then I'll sell it, but I don't think, when it gets to crunch time, they'll be that stupid.

Softbank, and a lot of the public companies that have grown faster than us in the last 10 years, have grown faster because they've been able to use money as a tool. Our only tool really is our people, our reputation. When you open up the newspaper, you see two page advertisements -- one page costs up to JPY33 million. They are able to do stuff like that because they are public.

If we had outside capital we could buy products. I don't like the idea of developing software because it's so creative you don't know who's going to be able to come up with the best software. You know the nice thing about the book publishing business is book publishers don't pay people to write books, they pay people to read manuscripts and then they pay for the ones that they think are good. In this kind of business we can solicit software and pay for it and not have to pay royalties and so increase our margin. We can advertise more, promote more.

On being an employee

I think the company should be kept as an institution where people out of college come in and work for their lifetime, and as long as they are providing good services to our customers, then our customers will keep dealing with them. My generation is the first generation. The younger people are the next generation. [We're] just passing through. I've never taken a penny out of the company, except salary and bonus. I'm on the same scale as 700 employees. We're not communists. I earn more than most of the other employees. The other employees' income is based on what we consider their worth to the company. It's a scale system. Everyone's paid on fixed salaries plus bonuses that depend on how well we perform.

On the evils of stock options

I think using stock options is a scam because it gives incentives to just a few people at the top of the company. The bonus system gives an incentive to every employee. When you look at it, year in and year out, the people who do most of the work are the average employee. We have to sell our product. We have to support our customers. It's not the top executives who are doing that. It's 700 employees.

I think the important thing, though, is running the company for the customers and for the employees -- where the employees are not busting their asses to make money for the stockholders or Bill Totten, but having a good working environment for themselves. [The only way to do this] is for them to continue satisfying the customers. The relationship among the employees is family-like and the relationship between the employees and customers is family-like. I think of it like working in a small village. You have to work together to protect yourself from the hurricane. We're just a small community of ourselves and our customers.

On the problems of the lifetime employment system

Industries come and go. The steel industry rose very quickly and then kind of stagnated. If you are going to have lifetime employment, you have to educate your people so that when steel dies, and you have to go into plastics, or when automobiles die, and you have to go into rail cars, people can adapt too. One of the big problems at Japanese companies that are trying to get rid of people is that they really didn't train people to do anything except what was the hot business at that time. Now that business has changed, they need fewer people with the old talent, and they haven't educated people to be flexible, so that they can learn new things. They have to pay for labor they can't use.

That's one of the big headaches we have. We realize that the software packages business isn't going to last forever, and we have to educate our people so that they can move into something else. Finally I think we have a good plan for that. We're moving into a much less profitable business selling services related to our products. If you just sell the product, there is a better margin, but selling the services -- the lower margin business -- guys in their 50s, 60s or 70s can become really expert in computer information systems. If they develop professional talents, they can work until they die if they want to. The way to build that talent is to go out and build information systems for people, to build databases for people, so we're moving in that direction. Not to make a lot of money, but to improve the career paths of our employees.

On being different

I'm not a joiner...I don't belong to any political party. I don't belong to any club, except my tennis club. I started wearing Japanese clothes instead of suits for business but everyone at the company started complaining about it, so I quit. The Japanese have only been taught to believe in what everyone else is doing, so there was big resistance when I switched from long neckties to bow ties. They were up in arms. They said, you can't do that because no one else is doing that.

If I knew how to set up a religion I would, as a tax break. I own my own property in Kyoto (a large traditional residence next to the Kamogawa river). If I converted that into a shrine I wouldn't have to pay property tax. However, it's not easy to do.

THE ECONOMY


On overproduction and automation

If you take the GDP figures and divide them by the population, the output per citizen, taking 10 year averages, was 16 in the 1990s, eight in the 80s, four in the 70s, and it was one in the 60s. So Japanese are producing 16 times what they were 30 years ago. They've got to consume 99 percent of that [Totten argues that exports minus imports equals 1 percent of Japan's GDP]. That's why we've got deflation.

People don't work here any more, because there's no jobs for them. You don't need secretaries because you've got personal computers; you've got robots in the factory; banks have become vending machines; the ticket seller at the station is a vending machine; the ticket taker at the gate is a vending machine. If you don't have the right ticket when you get off, you go to a vending machine...mother machines are building the machines. They've automated so much that there's no work left, so people are trying to restructure.

The people who own the machines get all the revenue, and everybody else will be poor and can't consume. If you can't consume then you can't sell what you're making. We have to pay people a wage not to work. If you're Japanese you get JPY3 million a year, whether you work or not. If you don't want to work you can take care of your grandmother, take care of your children, play tennis, write novels or draw beautiful pictures. But basically we are going to tax the people who are producing enough to pay everyone a minimum wage. For those people who want more than the minimum wage there are enough jobs around. If you don't do this, then the economy will not recover.

Basically the idea today is that if you don't work, you don't have wages; if you don't have wages you don't consume. This [way of thinking] is only 200 years old and now we've outgrown it. If you go back to Athens, there was no technology and no economic writing of any significance. There was beautiful sculpture, great poetry, legal thinking, education, but nobody had any economic concept because 20 percent of the people were citizens and 80 percent were slaves. The slaves did all the work, so telling the slaves what to do was all the economic thinking you needed. We've reached the point where we can use machines as our slaves, but people are slow-witted and it will probably take 50 to 100 years to bring our social rules up to date..

People aren't looking at the data. The aging slope is very slight compared to the productivity slope. The people who are helping society most are the older people who are the ones the government thinks are hurting it most. They are willing to consume and not demanding to work, which is what we want. We want consumers.

POLITICS


On being a right-wing communist

I describe myself as an extreme right-wing communist.

The Japanese for person is ningen, which means people together. Their concept of person is a social person, not an individual person. The idea of business or economics is cooperation. Cooperation has the same root as the word for communist. I say I'm a communist with a small 'c.' I have good relationships with the Communist party and left wingers, but I also have good relationships with the right wingers. There are certain things that I'm very right wing on. For example, I'm a nationalist. I think the Japanese are throwing away their national identity, trying to kiss the American ass too much, rather than being themselves. In my neighborhood I'm the only one on national holidays who puts out the flag. On Article 9 I think they should change the Constitution. I want them to keep the part which says that they will not use violence for international disputes, but that's no reason to deprive them of an army, navy, or air force, because within their territorial waters, they need a military to protect themselves, at least until we get a true world government.

I think the right wingers in this country do more to protect the nation than anybody else. They do more to protect the citizens than anybody else, and the people in the middle are really sponging off society.

What you need in Japan are more citizens to care about what is going on. Basically so few people are aware of what's going on, so few people care, that it probably doesn't matter who's in the prime minister's job, he's not going to get much done.

On leadership

I would be very much against Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara (as prime minister) because I like him personally, and he'd wreck his health on a bad job. He'll have more fun doing another term as governor of Tokyo. There are so many dishonest people in the government and so many just working for themselves. Koizumi is a good example. He spends all his time working on his own popularity, and the people who are opposing him are mostly working for their popularity and their seats. There are very few people in government and politics who are sincerely trying to do something for the country. Some of those (who are) tend to be extreme right-wingers and some of them extreme left-wingers.

On the lack of Japanese cultural awareness

The people who have been in power have been trying to ruin the country for 150 years. They have been saying let's get out of Asia and become a Western society. They threw away Japanese clothes, they threw away Japanese teaching, basically everything, and all they do is kiss the white Caucasian ass. McArthur came in after the war and totally wiped out the teaching of Buddhism, Shintoism, Confucianism and the teaching of the Japanese classics. It was about the beginning of the Heisei period that the post-1945 generation came into power. They don't know anything about Japan. They have the same racial features as Japanese. Inside they don't know anything about Japan -- the culture, the values, anything, so you've got a bunch of hollowed-out Japanese. It's a product of the 'out-of-Asia-into-Europe' movement [which took place] right after Perry [Commander Perry whose arrival off Japan precipitated the opening up of Japan in the 19th century] came here. Now they express it in the color of their hair. You know, you've got dyed blonde Japanese.

On Japan's key values

The three Japanese values I like most are, first Confucianism. Confucius was a teacher of rulers. The basic thing he says is, "Why are you a ruler? Because you happen to be lucky." So have a little humility. Use the power for everybody. Don't use it selfishly. That's the kind of leader we need today. Not people who use their high government office, their high business office, for their own selfish interests, but people who use it as a trust for the good of everybody. Buddhism teaches basically to reduce your lust, to not want so much. The difference between the religions which came out of the Middle East -- Christianity, Judaism, Islam -- and Taoism or Shintoism is that they all say God made this world for man -- it's a present for man, and so man should take care of it, but also he is free to do whatever he wants with it. But Tao and Shinto say man is a part of the world, and you have to adjust your living to the world. With all the environmental problems we have these days that kind of teaching is more needed.


This story first appeared in J@pan Inc magazine.


Papers


What Went Wrong With Japan's Economy (January, 2012)


Open-source shift also occurring in our company (March 12, 2007)


According to press reports, the customs service of the government of Cuba is already using LINUX, the open-source operating system, and other Cuban government agencies also plan to shift to open-source software in the near future. The source code of open-source software is available to the public over the Internet and can be modified and re-distributed free of charge by anyone. In contrast, the source code of proprietary software typically is not open to the public and customers must pay a fee to use it.

Looking only at the actions of the Cuban government, one might think that the Cubans are simply making a choice that epitomizes the stance of an anti-American socialist country. The shift to open-source software, however, is not limited to Cuba. The governments of Norway, Sweden, Brazil, Venezuela, and China are also planning to wean PC users away from Microsoft's Windows toward open-source software. At the local government level, European cities such as Bristol, Amsterdam, and Munich have already started making the transition.

Open-source has also been making inroads in Japan's public institutions. And in France, the French Assembly will convert to LINUX operating systems in its PCs after June, and will install OpenOffice for spread-sheet and word-processing tasks. By making such changes, governments have been demonstrating that they no longer rely solely on the the products of one company, and that they can effectively use tax revenue to manage information technology.

In January of this year, the European Commission announced that according to results of a study it conducted, use of open-source software could cut costs. The report was based on a detailed analysis of open-source projects in six EU countries. Of course Microsoft contested the report, insisting that its Windows operating system was more straight-forward and cheaper to use than open-source.

Considering these trends, we at Ashisuto decided last year to switch the PC office software used in our company completely from Microsoft proprietary packages to open-source software. There was a certain irony in the timing of the deletion of all Microsoft office products from PCs in our company: the deadline for deletion was the day after Microsoft's much-anticipated announcement of VISTA, the newest version of its PC operating system. Of course we continued some Microsoft license agreements that we judged to be absolutely indispensable for responding to the needs of our customers, but on a company-wide basis, OpenOffice is now our office software standard. As a rule, our employees now use only freely-available open-source software for creating documents, spread-sheets, and presentation materials.

Interestingly, according to press reports issued in January, Microsoft acknowledged that the National Security Agency of the US government evaluated the product and gave Microsoft feedback concerning its security prior to the general public release of VISTA. With disclosure of this news, some experts worried that NSA may have used the opportunity to create back-door holes in VISTA. Indeed, there is no guarantee that the NSA did not in fact add secret features to the software.

When one considers the possibility that the National Security Agency can now possibly open up every Windows user's computer to intelligence gathering through access to Microsoft's proprietary source code, it is not surprising that countries like Cuba, Venezuela, and China are shying away from using Microsoft products. While it is conjecture whether or not Microsoft made its source code available for secret investigation, one thing is certain: such a relationship would be mutually beneficial primarily to the US government and Microsoft. In such a scenario, the US government could have provided free appraisal of the security status of a private company's products and its agent, the NSA, then would have future access to many kinds of users' information through a secret back-door.

It should be stated clearly that our company has not shifted to open source because we are anti-American or because we are anti-Microsoft. Rather, this shift has more to do with the issue of "intellectual property rights". I have always been opposed to the use of intellectual property rights by the powerful to monopolize profits for themselves. I also predicted that a sea change would occur related to this issue, and property monopolized by companies or individuals would eventually be made public and become common property. Moreover, I believed the value of such property would decrease generally, and in the software industry such a development would take the form of a trend toward wider adoption of open-source software. Thus, the shift by our company now is in expectation of further changes in this direction.

A few years ago it was reported that Microsoft chairman Bill Gates said of those advocating reform or elimination of the intellectual property concept: "There are some new modern-day sort of communists who want to get rid of the incentive for musicians and movie-makers and software makers under various guises."[1] Considering that the personal assets accumulated by Bill Gates through application of intellectual property protections by his company are now in excess of fifty billion dollars, I have no objection if others wish to label me an anti-Microsoft communist.


Company Management for Happiness of Japan's Citizens (January 2000)


I believe the goal of society is the happiness of citizens. The best society is one that achieves the greatest happiness for the largest number of citizens. The roles of businesses in society are to provide products and services contributing to the happiness of citizens, and to provide jobs. Pursuit of profit, revenues, or market share are not appropriate goals for businesses. A business should seek only enough profit to stay viable - that is, to cover the investments in research, development, plant and facilities necessary to enable it to continue providing products and services contributing to the happiness of customers, and to continue providing jobs for its employees.


A Computer on Every Lap (January 27, 1991)


Computers the size of a notebook are changing Japan's economy and the way its citizens work and live. These amazing little notebook computers soon will revolutionize the entire world's computer industry and the way all of us think about and use computers. They will impact the way we work and live more than the fax did, and faster.


Red Paper: Are We Abandoning Our Computer Industry to Japan? (May 6, 1990)


I call this a "red" paper because red is the color I most associate with danger. I believe that the United States is in danger of abandoning another vital industry to Japan. This is its computer industry, both computer hardware and computer software. Abandon. Surrender. Thrown away, not taken away. Not stolen. Not elbowed aside by artificial means, simply surrendered.


ページの先頭へ戻る