Japan's iPad Frenzy Signals a Sea Change

The debut of Apple Inc.’s (AAPL) iPad tablet computer in Japan is generating a level of hype and excitement rarely seen these days for a new electronics product in this gadget-loving nation, underscoring the paucity of buzz-worthy, homegrown devices.

The steady decline of Japan’s electronics industry, once considered the birthplace for must-have gadgets, has accelerated in recent years as consumer electronics newcomers such as Apple, Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) and Vizio Inc. have moved in on the turf with more innovative or cheaper versions of products first developed in Japan.

All the while, Japanese electronics firms have been beaten at their own game by deep-pocketed South Korean conglomerate Samsung Electronics Co. Hindered by weakened finances and averse to risk-taking, Japanese companies have relied on impressive but largely incremental improvements–thinner, brighter, smaller–to existing products.

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