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Electronics News Digest

10 September 2002 News Electronic News Digest

Southern Africa

Eskom, the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) are engaging with a view to establishing an African energy and related services legacy fund. The Fund aims to develop the electricity interconnectors between individual African countries and will also be used for energy and related services investments. The two development finance institutions have expressed keen interest in the Fund and are finalising decision-making in this regard. Initial investments are anticipated by Eskom to be in excess of R1 billion. Private business has also indicated strong interest in participation, either in the Fund directly, or at a project level.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has launched the pilot of a program to address the severe lack of ICT skilled individuals in South Africa. The Department said it believes the skills shortage is severely detrimental to the current and future growth prospects of the ICT sector as well as other sectors of the economy that are reliant on ICT-trained staff. The extensive R12m Youth Internship Program (YIP) will give an opportunity to 120 young South Africans, with special emphasis on those that come from historically disadvantaged communities (including women), to be skilled for employment in the ICT Sector. The DTI is collaborating with the private sector by expanding existing internship programs with additional intakes. The DTI said the pilot program will comprise of at least 85% black people, 54% women and 4% disabled individuals which fulfils the spirit and intention of the Department of Labour Skills Development Act.

Telkom has officially launched ADSL high-speed Internet access and said it expected to get 400 000 subscribers within five years for the service, which offers an 'always on' Web connection. Telkom said that asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) services would be phased-in. The service has an uplink capacity of 256 Kbps and a download speed of 512 Kbps. As it is always on, there is no dial-up cost and SA residential users can expect to pay a flat fee of R680 a month while business users will pay R800 a month.

American Power Conversion (APC) has appointed Ikwezi Telecommunications, part of black empowerment ICT organisation, Ikwezi Group, as a 'High Powered Partner' (HPP) for its Direct Current range of products.

SourceCode Technology Holdings has been awarded the Microsoft Independent Software Vendor of the Year award, recognising the commercial and technical excellence of its K2.net workflow and process automation software as well as its commitment to the Microsoft.NET strategy. The award was made at the recent Microsoft Africa Partner Summit for all Microsoft partners in Johannesburg.

World Wide Worx has launched South Africa's first comprehensive survey on electronic bill presentation and payment, better known as e-billing. The purpose of the survey is to establish the current status and future potential of e-billing in South Africa - both from customers' and billers' perspective. "With major institutions beginning to send out statements by e-mail, it is clear that electronic billing and payments can transform the way invoices are processed," says Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx. The survey runs from the end of August to the end of September, and all contributors to the survey will receive an executive summary of the results in October. See www.statistics.co.za.

Microsoft has appointed Garry Hodgson as digital divide and community affairs regional director manager for the Middle East and Africa Region with immediate effect. Hodgson joined Microsoft SA in 1994 as the OEM account manager and has fulfilled many roles, including the management of the Internet and Developer Group.

Overseas

Business

Hewlett-Packard reported third-quarter revenue of $16,5 bn, down 9% from $18,2 bn on a combined company basis in the prior quarter. The combined company refers to HP's recent acquisition of Compaq. In Q3 2001, HP reported sales of $10,28 bn - not including Compaq. The combined company also reported a loss of $2 bn, compared to a loss of $116 m, in the previous quarter. HP alone posted a $123m profit, in the same period a year ago. The results included a $3 bn restructuring charge for merger and non-merger related events.

Agilent reported orders of $1,46 bn and revenue of $1,39 bn for the quarter ended 31 July, 2002. On an operating earnings-before-goodwill (EBG) basis, the company said it lost $143m. After $95m of non-cash goodwill and amortisation charges and $78m of restructuring expenses, the net third quarter loss was $228m. Agilent president and CEO Ned Barnholt said that Agilent 'went live' with its new company-wide ERP system and that disruptions associated with the new system were more extensive than expected. He said that during the quarter Agilent lost roughly a week's worth of normal production because of unexpected difficulties ramping the system, or roughly $105m in revenues and $70m in operating profits.

Companies

Royal Philips Electronics, has sold most of its contract manufacturing services to US-based giant Jabil Circuit for around Euro 235m. Philips Contract Manufacturing Services (PCMS) has grown from a specialist in printed circuit board assembly into one of the top 10 EMS providers addressing both the internal and external markets as a standalone Philips business. With the sale, a substantial part of Philips' manufacture of DVD and audio systems, storage and display products and set-top boxes will pass to Jabil. Jabil will take over the management of PCMS operations on three continents, including sites in Austria, Belgium, Brazil, China, Hungary, India, Poland and Singapore. From these locations, it will continue to provide components for making a range of Philips products under a separate four-year product-supply agreement worth Euro 4 bn.

Samsung Electronics and SanDisk have announced that they have signed cross license and supply agreements covering flash memory technology. Both companies have dismissed lawsuits that they had filed earlier against each other in California and Texas courts. A previous patent cross-licensing agreement between Samsung and SanDisk expired this month. Under the agreements, Samsung and SanDisk will be cross-licensed to the flash memory and card patents of both companies. Samsung will also supply SanDisk with flash memory products for the next seven years. Both the license and supply agreements cover MLC (multi-level cell) patents and products.

M-Systems and Toshiba have extended their collaboration in the development, marketing and supply of new products based on Toshiba's latest NAND technologies and M-Systems' DiskOnChip technology. The two companies have unveiled the advance achieved through their collaboration, the DiskOnChip Millennium Plus 16 MB. Both M-Systems and Toshiba will market this jointly developed DiskOnChip. The agreement also provides M-Systems with guaranteed fab capacity.

Actel and Infineon Technologies have entered into a cooperation to develop flash memory FPGA solutions for production in 0,13 µm chip processes. Building on Actel's flash-based ProASIC FPGA family and Infineon's process technology and manufacturing expertise, the development program will extend the capability of flash-based FPGA technology in both current and new ASIC alternative market segments, such as smart cards, automotive, industrial controls and mobile communications applications. With this agreement, Actel gains access to a defined wafer manufacturing capacity for high-performance flash FPGA products with Infineon's 0,13 µm embedded flash production process. Infineon, meanwhile, gains access to Actel's flash-based FPGA architectures for use in next-generation product applications, such as chip card IC products.

Infineon Technologies and LSI Logic have entered into a joint development agreement to share existing intellectual property to jointly develop new IP and to collaborate on the design of integrated circuits for hard disk drive (HDD) applications. The agreement, which allows each company to market System-on-Chip ICs developed individually or jointly, gives Infineon and LSI Logic access to all of the advanced functionality needed to meet requirements for desktop and mobile HDD products.

Industry

IC Insights remains with its 5% growth forecast for the worldwide IC industry in 2002, but said that the average selling prices (ASPs) for parts will continue to fall in what is considered a 'healing year' in the business. In total, the worldwide IC industry will grow from $118,5 bn in 2001, to $124,5 bn in 2002, a 5% growth rate, according to a new report from IC Insights. In 2001, the IC market fell by an astounding 33% over 2000, it said. The overall semiconductor market, including ICs and discrete parts, is expected to grow by 4% this year, from $139,9 bn in 2001, to $145,2 bn in 2002. Overall IC units are expected to grow 19% in 2002 over 2001. The IC Insights report also says that the worldwide IC industry is expected to hit $155,4 bn in 2003, a 25% growth rate over in 2002. The overall market, including ICs and discrete parts, is expected to hit $181 bn in 2003, a 24% growth rate over 2002.

New figures from the US-based Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI) trade association state that worldwide orders for semiconductor equipment hit $6,72 bn in the second quarter of 2002, a 57% increase from the same quarter a year ago and 62% above the first quarter of 2002. Billings for chip gear were $4,66 bn in the second quarter of 2002. The figure is 34% below the same quarter a year ago, but 15% above the billings figure for the first quarter of 2002, according to SEMI.

Chinese semiconductor output will more than double from under $4 bn in 2002 to more than $8 bn by 2005, according to iSuppli, a market research company. However, during the same time frame, the supply of Chinese chips will fall far short of local demand which will approach $25 bn, says iSuppli in its report titled 'Semiconductor wafer manufacturing in China - a panacea or a global investment trap?'

Over the next few years, the ubiquity of wireless LAN and cellular technologies will rapidly drive the demand for semiconductors supporting wireless access in portable devices. According to market researchers In-Stat/MDR, the market for these components will grow rapidly in both notebook computers and in PDAs and by 2006, the number of wireless modem chipsets for notebooks is forecast to exceed 33 million while the number for PDAs is forecast to exceed 6 million. In-Stat/MDR has also found that the number of wireless modem chipsets going into external PC cards will peak in 2004. After that year, the number of chipsets for these applications will taper-off, as more and more devices will be built with embedded modems, especially notebook PCs with embedded wireless LAN access. By 2006, the embedded miniPCI form factor will be the most popular for wireless LAN chipsets. For cellular wireless modem chipsets, the most popular form factor will be PCMCIA.

According to Gartner Dataquest there are signs that the mobile phone industry has reached a point of stability and is positioned for stronger growth in the second half of 2002 and particularly in the fourth quarter. Dataquest said that in the second quarter of 2002 worldwide mobile phone sales increased by 0,8% over the same quarter in the previous year, to total of 98,7 million units. It predicts mobile phone sales to reach 420 million units in 2002. Nokia, with 35,6% of the market, continued to dominate worldwide mobile phone sales during Q2. Motorola lies in second place with 15,7% while Samsung has come into third place after a major decline by Ericsson.

As worldwide economies remain sluggish, mobile device hardware vendors and service providers are searching for new ways to combat sagging device sales and increase subscriber revenues. New research from IDC reveals that the integration of digital imaging capabilities into handsets and PDAs may be just what the doctor ordered. Worldwide shipments of these devices will reach 151 million in 2006 reveals its report titled: 'Moving pictures: the future of mobile devices and imaging'. Chris Chute, a senior analyst at IDC says: 'The component technology of both handheld devices and mobile phones has now reached a point where embedded imaging is possible. Most device buyers will increase their investment for a product with imaging capabilities.'

Debt-ridden Marconi has revealed a restructuring plan that the company believes will let it avoid administration. Marconi has concluded non-binding indicative 'Heads of Terms', which sets out the principles for the financial restructuring. It said the Heads of Terms are the culmination of good faith negotiations between Marconi, the Co-ordination Committee of Syndicate Banks and an informal ad hoc committee of bondholders. "The financial restructuring will allow the Group to emerge with a balance sheet that we believe is robust and appropriate to the size of our business," stated Mike Parton, Chief Executive of Marconi. "This is very reassuring for customers, suppliers and employees and we are grateful for their continued support. We have worked hard to refocus the business and reduce costs in response to the severe market downturn experienced across the telecom equipment sector."

Contract electronics manufacturer Sanmina-SCI has called off its planned purchase of three manufacturing facilities from telecommunications giant Siemens because of adverse market conditions. Sanmina-SCI said the decision to cancel the acquisition of Siemens Information and Communication Networks (IC Networks) Group's final system assembly and test operations in Lake Mary, Florida as well as two European-based operations was due to adverse market conditions and under mutual agreement.

Intel is set to announce details of a cross-industry initiative on home networking at the Intel Developer Forum this month. The company is expected to promote the interoperability of various home networks utilising Microsoft's Universal Plug and Play technology and 802.11 wireless technology and wireline links such as 1394.

Technology

Texas Instruments and The MathWorks have announced two new software tools intended to simplify development and speed time to market for DSP-based systems: the MATLAB Link for Code Composer Studio Development Tools (CCStudio) and the Embedded Target for the C6000 DSP platform. The first tool offers a significant enhancement of software verification and testing for TI's TMS320 family of DSPs, while the second tool provides a new way of developing DSP code for the TI TMS320C6000 family.

Rockwell Scientific has introduced what it claims is the world's fastest 12-bit, digital-to-analog converter (DAC). The RDA012 is a gallium-arsenide (GaAs) device that enables direct-up conversion in a system - without the use of complex, expensive linear mixers, says the company. The device has a 1,2 V differential output swing and a guaranteed minimum word rate of 1 Gsps. It also has a 65 dBc spurious free dynamic range at 333 MHz with a 1 GHz clock.

Japanese firm DDI Pocket, a wireless division of Japan's KDDI intends to launch a Web-connecting device half the size of the smallest card terminals now available for personal digital assistants (PDAs). The 10 gram terminals can be plugged into digital cameras and other equipment compatible with the SD Memory Card standard. DDI Pocket hopes to garner demand for its PHS phones, which are losing market share to conventional mobile phones that offer better reception in moving vehicles, according to reports.





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