When Microsoft announced this week that it would end support for the Windows XP operating system, first released in 2001, most Americans barely noticed. But in Japan this news has created a stir in the business community. In Japan, 40% of the 25 million computers in Japan still use that antiquated operating system. Only 2% use Windows 8, the newest operating system from Microsoft.
For most people, the image of Japan is of a high-tech leader, always embracing the newest, most cutting edge technology. Among the citizenry, that image is often accurate. However, in the business community, Japan is surprisingly archaic. For example, although most American businesses have adopted email, scanners and cloud-based document sharing, Japanese businesses still rely on the fax machine as the primary form of communication and will not accept email communications as official communication. Government filings, product orders, and bank communications are still handled by fax machine. Government officials prefer faxes because they generate paperwork onto which bureaucrats can affix their stamps of approval, called hanko. Many companies say they still rely on faxes to create a paper trail of orders and shipments not left by e-mail. Banks rely on faxes because, they say, customers are worried about the safety of their personal information on the Internet.
At 114 Bank, a mid-sized Japanese bank, most small-business customers still prefer to do their banking by fax. To ease their concerns about theft of personal information, the bank introduced a high-security system that occupies an entire table in the center of its busy office. The setup includes a two-foot pole with a red light on top to warn of a transmission error. Every time a fax is sent to a new number, two employees must be on hand, one to type the number, the other to ensure that the number was correctly dialed. Even households rely on the fax machine, with roughly half of all families owning a fax machine.
One government poll shows that although 44% of Japanese use the internet at least once or twice a month, the rest responded that they use it "hardly at all" or "not at all".