Unisys minds its business

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 February, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 February, 1995, 12:00am

THERE is something uplifting, as well as ironic, about the forecast from Unisys that this year will see double-digit growth from its operations in China, coming as it does shortly after the group decided to make Beijing its centre of activity.

For Unisys is the biggest non-PC and non-Apple computer operating system in the world, with a strong hold on the mammoth-computing power applications on which the mainland is going to be so dependent as it upgrades its infrastructure.

In other words, its property is more intellectual than most, yet, as China and the United States continue to breathe fire over copyright and piracy, particularly of software, the Unisys experience shows that behind the bluster, the real world continues to function.

In this instance, it is clear that both sides really do need each other. Unlike many US entities in China, the company is not using it as a source of cheap labour for goods which will be exported to high margin markets; Unisys' future in the country is very much in serving China's own needs.

As China and the US were rushing to the brink last month, a Unisys-based system for computerising a postal savings network was being set up in Shanghai.

This US$1.6 million system will connect 110 post offices, which may be a small beginning, but is expected to lead to much larger contracts for the group. The Unisys system could play a major role in helping in the essential mobilisation of savings in China.

In another major nation-wide project, Unisys last year signed a memorandum of understanding with the China Meteorological Administration for the development of a sophisticated weather forecasting radar system.

This, too, represents a significant contribution to China's infrastructure, given the role that air travel will play in the future. (Not to mention the comfort it will bring to travellers who have had to deal with the country's severe weather.) Forecasting the weather might prove easier than forecasting profits in China, but the fact that Unisys' management is prepared to look beyond the disagreements and pin its faith on commerce, adds valuable perspective to the affair.