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Electronics News Digest

25 September 2002 News Electronic News Digest

Southern Africa

Global IT services company SchlumbergerSema has teamed up with database and systems development company InterSystems to develop CIMS (Consolidated Information Management System), an SMS tracing and statistical measurement application for cellular network providers. Developed in South Africa using InterSystems' Caché technology, the application is one of the first of its kind in the world and is already generating substantial international interest.

Specialist networking company, Olicom, has added Polycom's range of video-conferencing products to its networking offering and will distribute the solutions throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Olicom will sell directly to the public and act as sub-distributors to selected resellers.

The Botswana Telecommunications Authority (BTA) is 'one of the first in the African region to establish an independent and effective regulatory body and is one of the few regulatory bodies that enjoys complete freedom in licensing operators and in financing its operational budget,' said Yoshio Utsumi, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union at the opening of the new Botswana Telecommunications Authority Office in Gaborone. He added that BTA's level of independence and effectiveness may develop as a world model.

Keops Isis Industrial Information Systems (Keops Isis) has been awarded a contract exceeding R5 million for the implementation of Real Time Supervisory (RTS) systems at the Hillside Aluminium Smelter outside Richards Bay. The project has already commenced and is due for handover in August 2003.

Microsoft South Africa has announced the appointment of Jean-Philippe Curtois, President of Microsoft Europe Middle-East and Africa, to President Thabo Mbeki's International Advisory Council on Information Society and Development. In May 2002, Kader Asmal, Minister of Education, and Microsoft SA, signed an agreement to provide all 32 000 government schools perpetual free access to the use of selected Microsoft software. The agreement is estimated to save Government more than R100m per annum.

Sun Microsystems is urging African technology solution providers and resellers to promote the adoption of open standards in their country's education sectors. Addressing delegates at the recent Sun and cdpAFRICA Africa Partner Summit in Stellenbosch, Mike Eberhardt, SEAME business manager of education at Sun, stressed the importance of open standards for African education, 'Africa must keep up with global trends - the adoption of open standards and open source technologies is becoming increasingly prominent.' Sun has recently launched a global education initiative. One of its main elements is providing Sun's open standards office productivity suite, StarOffice, to educational institutions. And this, according to Eberhardt, should also be a key focus of African solution providers and resellers. Sun is also a big supporter of Linux - which it says can be 'purpose-built' for African education.

The Southern African-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry is increasing its activities in SA's provinces, broadening its present concentration on Gauteng and Western Cape. Dr Klaus Döring, the Chamber's President and the Chief Executive of Siemens SA, said that inevitably, South Africa will be a major catalyst in African trade initiatives, and that the Chamber was gearing its activities towards promoting the region. Currently, the membership base of the Chamber is around 700 companies, he said.

Overseas

Business

Royal Philips Electronics has outlined its strategy for a return to profitable growth of its Semiconductor division through an increased focus on customer partnership. The company emphasised that although the market remains weak with limited visibility, its portfolio has been strengthened and a new focus on customer intimacy has resulted in a series of important design wins. Philips said Q3 sales are expected to be approximately 12-14% above Q3 of 2001 in dollar terms, but will be impacted by unfavourable currency comparisons when translated to Euros. The company said that it had plans in place to further reduce the structural break-even point, including adjustments to bring capacity more in line with market demand and this could result in charges of approximately Euro 200-225m in the next six months.

Intel has announced that its sales for the third quarter will be slightly below its expectations and now expects Q3 revenue to be within a $6,3 to $6,7 bn range. Intel blamed microprocessor unit sales for the revision, which 'are trending toward the lower end of the normal seasonal pattern'.

On Semiconductor has downgraded its Q3 guidance and now expects revenue to be flat to slightly down. Previously On had said revenue would be flat to slightly up.

Companies

Intel has announced it will spin out its Software Products & Services Division (LAN software business) into a new and independent company. Intel will retain a minority equity position in the business.

Texas Instruments RFid Systems has announced an OEM agreement with Lenel Systems whereby it will resell Texas Instruments' new line of 13,56 MHz RFID vicinity cards and readers for access control applications under the Lenel brand name. Lenel will sell TI-RFid cards and readers as part of its Total Security Knowledge Management Solutions.

Intel is to sell a portion of its embedded communications platform division to Performance Technologies for approx $3,8m. As an additional part of the agreement, Intel will license certain PICMG 2.16-based products back from Performance Technologies. Products will be branded under the Ziatech name.

Samsung and Nokia have announced an agreement whereby Samsung will license Nokia's Series 60 platform for its next generation of smart phones. Series 60 is a comprehensive software platform for smart phones that Nokia licenses as a source code product to other mobile handset manufacturers.

Zarlink and Agilent Technologies have agreed to create a common standard for pluggable four-channel parallel optic transceiver modules for bandwidths of up to 10 Gbps. Known as POP4 (pluggable optics 4-channel), the companies will design standardised packaging, optical and electronic interfaces for their respective four-channel transceiver modules, currently under development, and encourage the POP4 specification as an industry standard.

Infineon Technologies announced at CeBIT Asia show in Shanghai that Huawei Technologies, a global supplier of telecom network equipment, would develop its next-generation VDSL access system based on Infineon's standards-compliant Packet over VDSL (PoVDSL) chipset.

Royal Philips Electronics and Sony have announced that they will jointly develop a new radio-frequency communication technology, called: 'Near Field Communication' (NFC) that enables short-range communication networks between consumer devices. The technology will operate on 13,56 MHz and allow for the transfer of any kind of data (up to 212 Kbps) between NFC-enabled devices such as mobile phones, digital cameras and PDAs as well as to PCs, laptops, and games, across a distance of up to 20 cm. The aim is to build a ubiquitous open infrastructure of NFC-compliant devices that effectively incorporate smart-key and smartcard reader functions, to make a convenient communication method for services such as payment, ticketing, and accessing online entertainment content.

Intel announced plans during the Intel Developer Forum to collaborate with Microsoft and Sony to jumpstart the home-networking market. The companies are working together to enable the 'Digital Home Network', a concept that involves various systems - such as the PC, TV, smart monitors, and others - connected over an 802.11-based wireless network and other technologies in the home.

VeriSign, a leading provider of digital trust services, and Intel, have announced that they will work together to improve wireless security for corporate notebooks based on Intel's upcoming Banias processor.

Industry

If there is any doubt that China is becoming a manufacturing powerhouse, US market researcher iSuppli has determined that Greater China-based PC motherboard manufacturers accounted for 84,4% of all worldwide shipments in 2001and is predicting that by 2006, over 92% of all merchant market motherboards. The firm says that China is so important that every OEM, EMS firm, ODM and component-supplier must have a solid [China] strategy - or face an uncertain future.

Semico Research has lowered its overall semiconductor forecast for 2002, but noted that the market will rebound and recover in 2003 and 2004. In May Semico predicted that chip sales would have 17% growth in 2002 but now expects it to grow by only 6% in 2002.

Worldwide microcontroller (MCU) shipments will experience an 11,32% CAGR from 2001 to 2006, according to In-Stat/MDR. The research firm reports that MCUs showed a modest increase in unit shipments even between 1999 and 2001 and have been hurt by less than 15% between 2000 and 2001. Max Baron, a principal analyst with In-Stat, said that progress made in recent years in high chip integration has damaged one of the microcontroller's main advantages, that of being able to deliver a plethora of peripherals at a very low price. New chips aimed at the consumer and communications markets, some of which may be classified as application specific standard products (ASSPs), are offering extensive sets of peripherals at reasonable costs. According to Baron, "To gain market share, microcontroller vendors must compete for their livelihood by tackling expensive intellectual property cores and data conversion while offering customers volume prices. All of this must be coupled with an ability to continue to offer commodity pricing of the MCU's original benefits: a vast array of peripherals and nonvolatile memory."

IDC has lowered its PC market forecasts for 2002 and 2003. Total worldwide PC shipments are now expected to reach 135,5 million units in 2002, a 1,1% growth rate over 2001. In 2001, PC shipments were 134,1 million units, down 4,2% over 2000, it said. In 2003, worldwide PC shipments are projected to hit 147 million units, an 8,4% growth rate over 2002.

As telecommunications providers move beyond traditional voice and data service to video, the deployment of IP and DSL Set Top Boxes (STBs) will continue to increase, says In-Stat/MDR. However, in order for the market to move beyond its current size (only 51 000 units in 2001), boxes will have to reach an average selling price below $200. According to the research firm, in most cases, the service provider buys the box and leases it to the subscriber, hence a lot of pressure from service providers on box vendors to reduce prices. With the average BOM on a single stream DSL box at $164 in 2002, InStat says that $200 is still a long way away. Volumes are not high, so economies of scale in manufacturing are not there, and vendors still need to recover the research and development expenses from the boxes' design. Since the box's components are already volume-produced, the necessary decline in price will have to come from the aforementioned economies of scale.

New trade data from the American Electronics Association (AeA) has revealed that US high-tech exports were down 20% for the first six months of the year, compared to the same period in 2001. The group said that the data shows that the tech industry is still struggling with the worldwide economic downturn of the last two years.

Silicon will be the driving engine that will bring new capabilities to the computing and communications industries, predicted Intel President Paul Otellini at the opening of the Fall 2002 Intel Developer Forum. Intel demonstrated a 64-bit microprocessor codenamed 'Madison' with 500 million transistors, but noted that the company was well into the development of a 1 billion-transistor chip. To illustrate the trend toward convergence, Intel demonstrated its new Banias platform, which represents its first microprocessor and platform designed from the ground up for mobile customers. Otellini also outlined LaGrande Technology (LT), which he said would be the core hardware technology that helps create a safer computing environment for e-Business, enabling protected execution, memory and storage. In terms of raw speed, a Pentium 4 running at 4,5 GHz was also demonstrated.

A new Pentagon office called the Transformational Communications Office has been formed to try to build a communications network for military, intelligence and space agencies based on a single architecture. According to the US Defense Department, the initiative will create a new National Space Program Architecture that would attempt to tie together space-based and ground networks. It would also seek to meet the US military's growing demand for bandwidth.

Managing to avoid the pitfalls of other portions of the technology sector, the market for semiconductor image sensors has continued to grow in the past year. In 2001, nearly 109 million image sensors shipped, for total revenue of over $1,2 bn, according to an In-Stat/MDR report. In the past year, the market for CMOS image sensors has continued to grow in markets such as PC cameras, toys and dual mode cameras and are beginning to make headway in the digital still camera market, a stronghold of rival CCD technology. CMOS sensors should also capture the majority of the next big market for image sensors: mobile phone cameras, says the research firm. However, CCDs continue to retain the majority of the image sensor market - especially where customers expect highest image quality. In-Stat predicts CMOS unit shipments to overtake CCD units in 2004, but that CCD revenue will continue to exceed CMOS revenue through 2006.

Two researchers from the EU Dotcom project have received prestigious awards for their work on quantum dot lasers. Prof. Dieter Bimberg at the Technical University of Berlin, along with Prof. Zhores Alferov at the Ioffe Institute in Russia and other co-workers received the State Prize of Science and Technology 2001 from the Russian Federation for their work on quantum dots and quantum dot lasers. The objective of DOTCOM - quantum dot laser for optoelectronic information communication - is the development of innovative quantum dot lasers and amplifiers based on gallium-arsenide quantum dot wafer technology.

Eastman Kodak has recalled around 75 000 heavy-duty digital cameras worldwide to repair a manufacturing defect that can result in users suffering an electrical shock, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission announced. Kodak's DC5000 Zoom Digital Camera is a rugged model geared to users in the field. It can shock users when changing the batteries, installing or removing the memory card, or connecting a computer cable, according to the agency.

Technology

Hewlett-Packard has unveiled what it terms a major breakthrough in molecular electronics research, claiming it is able to create the highest density electronically-addressable memory on record through its use of molecular grids. HP said it created a lab demonstration circuit using a system of manufacturing called 'nano-imprint lithography' (a combination of optical and electron beam lithography) that for the first time has combined both memory and logic on the circuit using rewritable, nonvolatile molecular-switch devices. The circuit, a 64-bit memory using molecular switches as active devices, is less than one square micron in size, and has a bit density more than 10 times greater than today's silicon memory chips, said HP. Molecular-scale chips are not only smaller, but are faster than current technology while being more energy-efficient and cheaper to produce.

German company Nanotron Technologies claims to have developed a completely new 'breakthrough' transmission technology for wireless communication. Nanotron's wireless network, called Nanonet, operates in the licence-free 2,4 GHz band. Its MDMA technology (multi dimensional multiple access) is said to overcome the most essential shortcomings of conventional transmission technologies. MDMA exploits the existing bandwidth optimally, has extreme noise immunity, reduces human exposure to radiation and is available at low prices, according to the company. Another development of Nanotron is MCP (Multi Choice Precoding), a technology it says, that prevents interference caused by radio echoes.

Intel plans to develop a new tri-gate transistor for advanced chips. At IDF the chipmaker said that it has shown the operation of the triple-gate structure but did not elaborate further.

Texas Intruments plans to deliver a single-chip cellphone with converged voice and multimedia by the end of 2004. CEO of TI, Tom Engibous, in announcing the plan at a New York tech industry conference, said that the company is stepping up its integration efforts. The planned single-chip cell phone solutions will include wireless software protocol stacks, the digital baseband, applications processing functionality, the analog baseband, power management, RF and embedded memory, revealed the company.





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