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Electronics news digest

13 July 2005 News Electronic News Digest

Southern Africa

Altron (Allied Electronics) has reported robust performances by its operations. In his Chairman's Statement, Bill Venter said that the strong, cash-generating nature of Altron's businesses ensured that the group's cash balances at year end remained sound at R1,5 bn. He said that the growth outlook for the broader ICT, multimedia, and power electronics sectors remains positive and that Altron is encouraged by the opportunities emerging from the markets it serves. Referring to the South African economic environment, Venter said it remained favourable during the period under review, with low inflation, strong local demand and improving manufacturing activity supporting the brighter growth outlook. Consumer and retail confidence has surged, while business confidence has risen to a record peak, he said. However, the strength of the rand has put pressure on some of the group's export businesses.

The MTN Group has announced that it has entered into agreements to acquire significant GSM networks in Côte d'Ivoire and Zambia. MTN intends to acquire a 51% stake in Loteny Telecom, trading under the name Telecel Cote d'Ivoire. The operation has in excess of 800 000 subscribers and an estimated market share of 46%. MTN also intends to acquire Telecel Zambia, which currently has an estimated market share of 21%.

Technical Training Solutions (TTS) Africa has launched a new, state-of-the-art training facility in Centurion, Gauteng. TTS Africa, a Grintek business unit and Nortel Education Partner, was initiated to provide training for information communication and technology (ICT) professionals on Nortel products. The custom-built training centre with modern lecture theatres offers appropriately-equipped laboratories and workshops, with specialist equipment reflecting the live environments currently in use within the ICT sector.

Universal Service Agency, Africa Foundation and Phinda Private Game Reserve recently launched the Mduku DevCentre and Community Telecentre in the Mkhanyakude District of northern KwaZulu-Natal. With a population of 11 000, Mduku faces development problems typical to rural African communities: limited access to education, healthcare, income generating activities, skills training and technology. The Mduku Telecentre is the flagship model for Universal Service Agency, who has provided 10 computers with satellite Internet access, photocopier, fax, printer, scanner and six community phone lines. The DevCentre (Digital Eco Village Centre), provides computer courses, skills training and digital communications technology to approximately 50 000 in four local communities.

The Foxtel DxD 1000 (Digital Cable/Satellite Decoder) and the HotShot Electronic Initiating System were both winners at the recent SABS disa Design Excellence Awards function held at Gallagher Estate recently. They won in the Electronics and ICT category. The DxD 1000 is a high performance digital receiver/decoder whose main function is to receive cable or satellite DVB broadcasts and render audio, video and data services. The HotShot Electronic Initiating System is an auto-programmable initiating system used in surface mining operations. Electronic blasting is beneficial because the blast can be timed precisely; affording the user a more predictable blast result (compared to conventional, pyrotechnic-based blasting techniques). See www.designinstitute.org.za.

Coral-I has moved to: 508 Nupen Crescent, Halfway House, Gauteng. Postal: Box 3177, Halfway House, 1685. Contact details: +27 (0)11 315 5500; Fax +27 (0)11 315 3857.

Channels Measurement Services has moved to: Inala House, 557 Fifteenth Road, Randjespark, Midrand. Contact details: +27 (0)11 206 8360; Fax +27 (0)11 206 8361, e-mail: info@channels.co.za

Overseas

Companies

Semtech has announced plans to acquire Xemics, a fabless developer of ultra-low power analog, radio frequency and digital ICs, for $43m. Xemics will be known as the Wireless and Sensing Products business unit.

Tektronix has acquired TDA Systems, a supplier of interconnect analysis software tools. Tektronix said the acquisition will enable it to further leverage product and technology synergies to accelerate development and delivery of software solutions for high-speed serial data applications.

MicroMetrics, a manufacturer of semiconductor devices for commercial and military communications, has acquired Knox Semiconductor, allowing the company to expand its capabilities in ion-implanted tuning varactors.

E2open, a provider of software for distributed supply networks, has completed the acquisition of GetSilicon, an enterprise software company focused on execution applications for the semiconductor manufacturing industry.

Semiconductor inspection and metrology company, Rudolph Technologies, is acquiring inspection company, August Technology. Being classed as a merger, the combined company would be known as Rudolph Technologies.

Winbond Electronics has acquired serial flash maker, NexFlash Technology, for an undisclosed sum.

Chelton, the avionics division of Cobham, has acquired Vector Fields, a developer and supplier of commercial software products for the design of equipment that involves electromagnetic fields. It has two principal product ranges: Opera is a suite of programs for the design of electric and magnetic systems; and Concerto is a software environment for designing RF, microwave and optical components and systems.

Power supply manufacturer VXI, Power, has acquired the intellectual-property rights of Morven Electronics' complete range of products, which includes battery chargers, DC-DC converters, DC-AC inverters and switchmode and linear PSUs.

RedShift Systems, a pioneer in enabling low-cost, high-performance thermal imaging solutions for mass markets, has spun out as an independent company from Aegis Semiconductor, a supplier of wavelength monitoring and control solutions.

Elektrobit Group has combined its Testing and Automation Solutions business units. The new business unit will be divided into four business areas: Production Solutions, Integrated Test and Automation Products, System Test, and Network Test.

Hitachi has set up an operating company, Hitachi Patent Licensing, to manage the over 1000 plasma display panel (PDP) patents it owns. Many of the patents came through its recent acquisition of Fujitsu's plasma display activities.

The Near Field Communication (NFC) Forum has announced the setting up of four technical working groups, focusing on NFC Devices, Reference Applications, Security, and Testing. NFC, which operates over distances of a few centimetres, combines the functions of a contactless reader, a contactless card and peer-to-peer functionality on a single chip. It relies on inductive RF coupling for power from the device reader. NFC complies with different standards and operates in the globally compatible 13,56 MHz frequency range. 47 organisations are now members.

Innovative Micro Technology (IMT) is to work with MEMtronics on the second phase of a $3,69m three-year DARPA development contract on 'Robust, reliable RF MEMS capacitive switches'. The focus is to improve the environmental robustness and reliability of radio frequency microelectromechanical systems (RF MEMS) operating under extreme environmental conditions. Also working on this programme are Lehigh University and Exponent.

Freescale Semiconductor is one of the latest firms to join Nanocmos, an integrated project funded by the European Commission's Information Society Technologies Programme. Nanocmos is pioneering innovations in materials, processes, device architectures and interconnections to continue to push the limits of semiconductor performance and density.

Industry

Jack St Clair Kilby, retired Texas Instruments engineer and inventor of the integrated circuit, died on 20 June 2005 aged 81 following a brief battle with cancer. Kilby invented the first monolithic integrated circuit (IC), which laid the foundation for the field of modern microelectronics, moving the industry into a world of miniaturisation and integration that continues today. In 2000 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his role in the invention of the integrated circuit.

The world recognises China as a major manufacturing region and a heavyweight in the analog semiconductor market. China accounts for 57% of overall Asia Pacific analog revenue ($14 bn) and 25% of the global analog market ($31 bn). The recent Databeans study '2005 Analog' reveals that China is expected to grow shares of global analog revenue quickly, reaching close to 40% over the next five years, resulting in a $23 bn market. With the analog market growing around 12% average per year, China's analog revenue is expected to strongly outperform at 20%. Analog power products and application specific devices, mostly wireless, will drive growth in this country for analog. Application specific devices generate 42% of analog product revenue, followed by power management that generates 31%.

The electronics market in India, valued at $11,5 bn in 2004, will be the fastest-growing electronics market worldwide over the next several years, reports In-Stat. This market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 23% by 2010 to reach $40 bn. However, its total output will be far behind China's electronics market, worth $272 bn in 2004, compared with India's $11,5 bn for the same year. India's low manufacturing costs in skilled labour and raw materials, availability of engineering skills, and opportunity to meet demand in the populous Indian market, are driving its electronics market.

Shipments of organic-light-emitting-diode (OLED) displays grew sequentially by 31% to 9,9 million units the first quarter of 2005, despite a significant drop in subdisplay sales, according to market research firm DisplaySearch. Total OLED market revenue was $101,9m. DisplaySearch noted that small molecule OLED designs continue to drive volume, with monochrome polymer (P-OLED) and active-matrix OLED displays, remaining in low volume.

The worldwide market for independent memory intellectual property (IP) will reach $410,4m in 2009, a CAGR of 12,3% from 2004 to 2009, according to a new In-Stat report. Whether the IP is licensed from an independent provider, a design services company, or an independent device manufacturer (IDM), it now represents the foundation for virtually every IC being designed, it says.

European electronics analyst Future Horizons is maintaining its double digit growth prediction for the global semiconductor market in 2005. First quarter growth was seasonally weak but in line with expectations, it says. Future Horizons believes that the semiconductor market is on track for 15% growth over the year, and that Q2 will see mild growth followed by a strong second half rebound.

Royal Philips Electronics has announced an initiative to develop ultra low-cost mobile phones. The first product will be a sub-$5 system solution - an integrated hardware and software platform constituting all the electronics needed in a mobile phone - to drive handset costs to below $20, it said. Philips hopes handset costs for this market segment will go below $15 by 2008. Using the scalability and flexibility of its Nexperia system, sub-$5 system solution spearheading the initiative will be a black and white screen GSM device that can make calls, send SMS messages and be able to play polyphonic ringtones.

In today's market for low power solutions, silicon-on-insulator (SOI) should be crowned the 'technology heavyweight champion,' claims Semico Research. SOI is able to reduce leakage and power consumption because SOI circuits can operate at lower voltages with the same performance as bulk CMOS technology. Although SOI today represents only 3% of total wafer sales and even smaller in terms of production wafers, it believes the market is set to explode. Semico predicts SOI production wafer demand will grow at a CAGR of over 60% over the next five years.

2004 and 2005 have seen a sharp increase in telecom carriers' interest in cellular machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, according to a new study from ABI Research. M2M involves the use of cellular communications to connect remote sensing and monitoring devices to central networks wirelessly. It is often used for industrial process monitoring, usage metering and security applications.

Mobile-phone unit production will rise sequentially in the second quarter and for the remainder of 2005, according to market research firm iSuppli. Q2 production is projected to be 180,5 million units, up 4% from 173 million units in Q1, and up 7,1% from a year earlier. After rising 25% in 2004, production growth will taper off to 5% in 2005, reaching 750 million units in 2005 compared to 713 million in 2004. Mobile-phone shipments this year and in subsequent years will increasingly be driven by replacement or upgrade sales, it says.

AMD has filed an antitrust suit against Intel alleging that it has been operating an unlawful monopoly in the x86 microprocessor market and has coerced computer makers, distributors, small system builders and retailers from dealing with AMD. Intel responded with a statement saying 'we strongly disagree with AMD's complaints about the business practices of Intel and Intel's customers. Intel believes in competing fairly and believes consumers are benefiting from this vigorous competition.'

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has launched the 'Connect the World' initiative designed to bring access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) to the estimated one billion people worldwide for whom making a simple telephone call remains out of reach. The initiative is designed to encourage new projects and partnerships to bridge the digital divide. It comprises three key building blocks: Enabling Environment, Infrastructure and Readiness, and Applications and Services - which together constitute the primary areas that need to be addressed when developing concrete measures to accelerate ICT development.

The Mobile PC Extended Battery Life Working Group, an Intel initiative, has released its 'Fuel Cell Guidelines for Mobile PCs' covering electrical, mechanical, control, thermal, environmental and regulatory aspects of fuel cells for mobile PCs ( www.eblwg.org).

Agilent Technologies has presented its first annual Bill Hewlett Award to the inventors of four Agilent patents. Named after Hewlett-Packard co-founder Bill Hewlett, the employee award honours Hewlett's passion for invention and his unusual ability to translate breakthrough technologies into successful new products. The four patents that embody the patented technologies are: Film bulk acoustic resonator (FBAR) duplexer for mobile phones (Paul Bradley, John Larson, Richard Ruby); RF test set with concurrent measurement architecture (Kerwin Kanago, Dave Platt, Jim Summers, Rich Ryan); High-speed ADC with on-chip memory (Ken Poulton, Tom Kopley, Robert Neff); Optical mouse sensor (Jason Hartlove).

As of 1 July 2006, the RoHS Directive (Restrictions on Hazardous Substances) will be enforced within the 25 countries of the European Union. Electronics companies willing to enter the European market will have to redesign most of their products using compliant components. In an effort to clarify the complex RoHS issue and to provide the industry with the most up-to-date information, MVR International has established a website (www.mvr-green.com) entirely dedicated to the European RoHS Directive and other environmental laws emerging worldwide.

Munich Trade Fairs International will hold the first 'LASER: World of Photonics China' trade show in March 2006 at the Shanghai New International Expo Center. The new event presents the entire spectrum of photonics, and the organiser is expecting more than 100 exhibitors, two thirds of which will be international companies.

Technology

The latest edition of the TOP500 list of supercomputers has named an IBM supercomputing system as the world's most powerful supercomputer in the world. IBM's Blue Gene/L tops the list with a sustained performance of 136,8 Teraflops, or trillions of floating point calculations per second. The system developed with IBM's primary partner, the DoE's National Nuclear Security Administration, is being installed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories in California. IBM's new Watson Blue Gene system, installed at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in New York, debuts at number two with 91,29 Teraflops, as the world's most powerful privately-owned supercomputer. For the first time in history, a single vendor, IBM, has more than 51% of the total number of systems on the list.

Samsung Electronics plans to start sampling a CMOS image sensor (CIS) with 5 megapixel QSXGA resolution soon. Volume production of the device, targeted at mobile phones, digital cameras and camcorders, is expected to commence by the end of the year.

Capricorn Technologies has announced that it has reached a major milestone by completing the shipment of a full petabyte of PetaBox products to the Internet Archive. At today's leading-edge disk densities, one peta-byte comprises over 600 clustered storage computers with 2500 spinning disks. As such large-scale installations become more prevalent, greater emphasis must be focused on reducing operating costs. PetaBox consumes only 50 kW per Petabyte. The Internet Archive is a non-profit organisation seeking to provide universal access to all human knowledge. It is an online digital library with very large collections that include audio, video, texts, websites and software. The Archive has been archiving the Internet since 1996 and now offers over 20 000 live concerts and hosts over 40 billion web pages.

Freescale Semiconductor and its Chinese OEM partner, Haier, have announced the first product incorporating ultrawideband technology. At the Freescale Technology Forum in Orlando, the companies showed off a UWB-enabled LCD digital television and digital media server. By using UWB, high definition video and audio streams were broadcast wirelessly from a digital media server to Haier's 37" HDTV located across the stage. The UWB solution will give consumers the freedom to place the television anywhere in the room, without requiring a physical connection to a set-top box, digital video recorder or media server. Freescale's UWB technology can transfer multiple high definition or MPEG2 movie streams - up to 110 Mbps - at distances up to 20 metres.





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