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Electronics News Digest

23 October 2002 News Electronic News Digest

Southern Africa

IST Energy, the power engineering division of the IST Group, has concluded an agreement with GE Power Systems to assemble, integrate, distribute and support GE's substation control products in southern Africa. Under the agreement, IST Energy will phase out its own brand of remote terminal units (RTUs) in favour of GE products, which it will assemble and integrate in South Africa. However, IST said it will continue to supply and support its own RTUs where required under existing long-term contracts with customers.

Spescom has announced a reconstitution of its board of directors with effect from 1 October 2002. The new Spescom Limited main board will comprise two executive directors, Tony Farah, chairman and Hilton Isaacman, chief financial officer. Non-executive directors, Larry Kallmeyer, Lynne Ogilvy and Sipho Pityana, make up the remainder of the board. Whilst the following directors have resigned from the board, Spescom said they all remain in their current executive management capacity within the group: directors, Simon Blagden, Vernon Leas, Johann Leitner, Carl Mostert, Viv Crone, and Ken Baker. The move is in line with good corporate governance said the company.

Altech has entered into an agreement to purchase electronic funds transfer and bill payment processing services business, Prism TranSwitch Services (PTSS), from Prism Holdings. Subject to certain conditions, the sale of PTSS will become effective on 1 December 2002 and has been acquired by Altech for a consideration of R47 million.

KH Distributors has been appointed local agent for memory IC company, Malaysia Microelectronic Solutions (My-MS). My-MS develops and designs leading edge non-volatile memory products.

Overseas

Business

Micrel has warned that third-quarter revenue and earnings will fall below previous guidance and now expects revenues for Q3 to be $50m to $51m, compared with $45,1m recorded in the year ago period and $55,4m in Q2. It said the sequential decline in revenues resulted primarily from lower sales to the computer and networking end markets in Taiwan, combined with weaker sales through the North American distribution channel. Micrel also announced plans to consolidate its Santa Clara, California wafer fab into its San Jose, California facility in order to reduce costs and increase operating efficiencies. It expects to record a one-time charge of around $23m to $28m in the third quarter of 2002 for asset impairment and exit costs, it said.

Consumer-chip supplier Cirrus Logic has announced that it estimates revenues for its second fiscal quarter, ended 28 September 2002, to be between $72m and $73m, down approximately 4-5% from the first fiscal quarter and from the company's original guidance issued in July. The company said it expects pro forma gross margins to be in the range of 47-49% as originally guided. Cirrus said it continues to hold a leadership position in high-end audio components, and believes it is well-positioned to gain share in other investment areas, including DVD video controllers and video compression technology.

Companies

Hitachi and Mitsubishi Electric Corporation have reached a basic agreement to establish a new semiconductor company to be called Renesas Technology that will focus on system LSI operations. Hitachi and Mitsubishi will take advantage of the special provisions for corporate reorganisation under the Japanese Commercial Code to jointly establish the new company. They will move both companies' semiconductor operations to the new company, including microcomputer, logic, analogue and discrete devices and memory (flash memory, SRAM etc.) with the exception of DRAMs. According to the companies, the semiconductor business environment is now characterised by new-product release cycles that are becoming increasingly shorter, and there is a strong need to reduce the time required to move semiconductors from development to production.

Royal Philips Electronics has sold its speech processing and voice control business units to ScanSoft for $35,4m in cash and stock. Under the terms, ScanSoft has assumed control of the Philips Speech Processing Telephony and Voice Control business units. Some Philips employees that are located in Europe, North America and Asia will go over to ScanSoft. This partnership includes continued support and collaboration with Philips Research in speech technology.

Oak Technology has announced it has entered into an agreement to acquire TeraLogic, a developer of video/audio processing ICs and software for digital home entertainment platforms.

Nortel Networks, Canada, has announced it intends to sell two optical components businesses to UK optical component manufacturer Bookham Technology. Brian McFadden, president of Optical Networks, Nortel Networks, said that the transaction is an important step in its path to profitability and its strategy of focus on the delivery of high performance, cost-effective optical network solutions. Nortel will sell its transmitter and receiver business located in Paignton, UK, Ottawa, Canada, and Harlow, UK, and its pump laser and amplifiers business located in Paignton, UK, Zurich, Switzerland, and Poughkeepsie, New York.

Sipex has announced the sale of assets related to its Thin Film and Hybrid Assembly business to SatCon Electronics, a division of SatCon Technology.

AMD has signed a research and development joint venture agreement with China Basic Education Software (CBE) to address China's large and expanding IT education market. The new entity will be called the Beijing CBE AMD Information Technology Company, (ITC JV). AMD said the ITC JV will develop three types of hardware platforms: a 'Student PC, a Teacher PC and a Classroom Server'. The platforms are planned to contain AMD silicon crossing all three of AMD's product lines: x86 microprocessors, MIPS-based embedded processors, and Flash memory devices.

The European Commission has given its permission for the formation of a proposed joint venture company, StarCore LLC, between Agere, Infineon and Motorola. StarCore is being set up to develop and license digital signal processing architecture and cores on behalf of the three companies.

IBM has launched a design business called IBM Engineering & Technology Services which will market the firm's intellectual property (IP) portfolio and engineering resources to companies from the IT, telecoms, defence, automotive, aerospace and consumer electronics sectors.

Sipex has announced that Walid Maghribi has been appointed as President, in addition to his role of Chief Executive Officer of the company. Sipex also said the company is being reorganised into six functional groups that include marketing, design, operations, sales, business development and finance.

Nokia, NEC, LG Electronics and Samsung Electronics have formed the Open Base Station Architecture Initiative (OBSAI). The OBSAI is intended to create an open, competitive, mobile network element module industry. The founding companies have invited other infrastructure and subsystem suppliers to join OBSAI. According to the group, Open Base Station Architecture will lead to modular radio base stations featuring open internal interfaces. This will allow manufacturers to focus their research and development efforts on their core competencies and to buy selected radio base station modules from each other and from other module vendors. OBSAI is intended to complement existing standardisation organisations, such as 3GPP, and radio base stations developed using OBSAI would be fully compatible with standard radio interfaces, such as WCDMA, GSM/EDGE and CDMA.

Via Technologies has licensed Bluetooth intellectual property from Swedish telecommunications giant Ericsson, giving it access to Bluetooth radio and baseband cores. Via said it will apply this to PC and mobile applications.

Infineon Technologies has announced that is has cancelled its shareholder agreement with Mosel Vitelic on its ProMOS joint venture in Hsinchu, Taiwan, effective 1 January 2003. It said the reason was due to repeated material breach of contract by Mosel Vitelic despite prior warning in accordance with the terms of the shareholders agreement. Simultaneously, the product purchase agreement which establishes the rights of both partners to purchase products from ProMOS will terminate. Infineon said that ProMOS can currently only manufacture its products under a license agreement with Infineon and therefore it will negotiate a new supply agreement with ProMOS.

Industry

Global chip sales totalled $11,9 bn in August, a 2,2% sequential increase over the $11,7 bn level reach in July, the SIA has announced. On a year-to-year basis, chip sales in August were up 14% from August of 2001, the first double-digit increase from the industry's cyclical low in 2001. SIA president George Scalise said that the semiconductor industry is in the 'midst of a broadly-based upturn'. He said the wireless market continues to be the strongest end market, as reflected in brisk growth of chips used in handsets, as new subscribers continue to come on line in Asia and existing customers upgrade to newer technologies. Also, the PC market traditionally shows sequential third quarter growth as a result of 'back to school' purchases and anticipation of the consumer holiday buying season in the PC market. Digital consumer products continued to lead rapid growth in Asian markets. Japan's chip consumption was up 3,5% in August, reflecting Japan's continued strong export sales of popular consumer products. The Asia Pacific market registered 2,7% growth, led by strong demand for wireless handsets as more and more subscribers come on line in China, and Asian consumers migrate to 2,5G technology. Chip sales in the Americas declined 0,7%, reflecting the continuation of the equipment manufacturing outsourcing to Asian locations. In Europe, sales were up 2,8% primarily due to the wireless sector.

The EDA Consortium's Market Statistics Service (MSS) has announced that the Electronic Design Automation industry revenues for the second quarter of 2002 were down 10% when compared to the second quarter 2001. $876m in revenue was reported in Q2 of 2002, compared to $973m in Q2 2001. Revenue grew in IC Physical Design & Verification, Design for Test and IC Analysis, but was not enough to overcome decreases of over 40% in Services revenue (and modest decreases in CAE and PCB Layout), leading to an overall revenue decline in Q2. Through the first half of 2002, revenue as reported by the MSS totalled $1837m, 6% less than the first half total of $1960m in 2001.

Being led by the telecommunications sector, worldwide IT spending is projected to grow 3,4% to $2,3 trillion in 2002, although a recovery in the sector is not expected to take place until mid-2003, according to Dataquest. In 2003, worldwide IT spending will hit $2,46 trillion, a 7% jump over 2002 predicts the group.

Electronics industry analyst firm, iSuppli, offers 'good news' and 'bad news' in its latest electronic newsletter. The bad news - in 2002 the electronic equipment markets continue their revenue slump: total end equipment shows a 2,3% decline over 2001; wired communications exhibits the largest revenue decline; and PC revenue is down nearly 3%. The good news - in 2003 the electronic equipment market is poised to recover: total end equipment is forecasted for 8,2% revenue growth; wired communications will return to positive growth; and mobile communications will have the largest revenue increase.

Micro Linear has announced that it will cease development of its 802.11a products, resulting in a workforce reduction of about 39 employees and a fourth-quarter restructuring charge of about $500 000. The communications chip maker said the move will significantly reduce its breakeven point and help accelerate the return to an operating profit.

Intel will maintain its overwhelming lead in the desktop PC processor market in 2002, but could face tougher competition against Advanced Micro Devices in 2003, according to a new report from In-Stat/MDR. At the same time, In-Stat/MDR projects the worldwide PC market will grow only 1% in 2002, but will rebound to 13% in 2003.

Technology

Analog Devices is sampling a micro-electromechanical system (MEMS) gyroscope that it claims is the first commercial device to integrate both an angular rate sensor and signal-processing electronics onto a single piece of silicon. The company's iMEMS ADXRS gyro is mounted inside a small 7 x 7 x 3 mm ball grid array (BGA) package, and consumes only 5 mA of current at 5 V. It is claimed to deliver stable output in the presence of mechanical noise up to 2000 g over a wide frequency range. The ADXRS gyro is being offered in two versions: the ADXRS300 provides dynamic range of 300°/s, and the ADXRS150 provides dynamic range of 150°/s.

Motorola's Semiconductor Products Sector is rolling out a 'digital radio' chip set designed to improve tuning, filtering and audio processing of analog AM/FM broadcast signals. The company's Symphony Digital Radio Chipset is claimed to deliver a sound quality improvement comparable to that of moving from cassettes to CDs. Leveraging software algorithms on a 24-bit DSP-based baseband/audio processor with 1500 Mips of processing power, the company says that Symphony radio can 'offer consumers less static, fading, pops and hisses while allowing them to receive more AM/FM radio channels'. The three-piece chip set comprises an RF front-end chip capable of AM, FM and weather-band tuning, an IF analog interface chip that digitises the signal, and a 24-bit baseband audio DSP.

New 3-D graphics technology was presented at a Russian version of the Intel Developer Forum in Moscow. Researchers employed at the Intel Russia Research Center (IRRC) showed the latest release of the 'Open Source Light Field Mapping' tool kit or 'Open Light Fields' - free software for the composition of 3-D images from digital photos and code for playback of the LFM objects ( www.intel.com/research/mrl/research/lfm). Intel said that developers can use the code as is, or modify it for use in their applications.

Nixie tubes were a common form of numeric display for electronic equipment from the mid-'50s through the early '70s, when they were supplanted by 7-segment LED displays. Tagged with the name NIX-1, for Numeric Indicator Experimental-1 (subsequently nicknamed Nixie), they are basically neon bulbs with one anode and 10 cathodes in the shape of numbers. Jeff Thomas ( www.amug.org/~jthomas/watch.html) decided to build a nixie project as small as possible; using standardised components. His result: this 70x 38 x 29 mm Nixie tube digital wristwatch.





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