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Electronics News Digest
14 May 2008, News, Electronic News Digest

South Africa

PHD Powerhouse has moved premises. The company's new physical address is Unit 11, Olympia Gardens, corner of Olympia Street and South Way, Sandton Eastgate Ext. 6. The company's telephone number has also changed to +27(0)11 444 0005/6/7.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has to deal with significant hurdles in regulating the telecommunications sector due to the convergence of technologies. However, the regulatory environment for the provision of broadband services in South Africa needs to be clarified to enable smoother operations for market players. New analysis from Frost & Sullivan shows that the South African broadband market earned revenues of at least $195 million in 2006. Despite the regulatory difficulties, the broadband market is performing well and growing at a pace that is likely to remain consistently high until 2013 due to increased use of the Internet. Fixed line broadband services are growing steadily, while mobile and wireless services are experiencing high levels of uptake.

Overseas

Business

Ampro has debuted new Linux support for its line of board-level embedded computers. Derived from Ubuntu packages, Ampro Embedded Linux is a free, open-source, reduced-footprint operating system enhanced with device-oriented features such as its default touch-enabled Hildon graphical user interface, plus other selected technologies from the Ubuntu Mobile & Embedded (UME) project. Ampro Embedded Linux targets developers using the company's single-board computers (SBCs), computer-on-modules (COMs), and system-level products into a wide range of applications in industries such as medical, defence, industrial control, retail point-of-sales/service, avionics and wired/wireless communications.

RF Micro Devices (RFMD) has announced that it will consolidate its production test facilities for high volume cellular products to reduce cycle time, better serve its customer base and improve overall profitability. The consolidation represents the final phase of a production test transfer to RFMD's primary production test facility located in Beijing, China. High volume cellular products currently tested in RFMD's Greensboro, North Carolina, production test facility will be tested at the company's primary production test facility. The company anticipates that the employment of approximately 80 of the 2000 employees at its North Carolina production test facility will be affected.

Osram recently held an opening ceremony for the new Asia regional headquarters of its subsidiary, Osram Opto Semiconductors, a specialist in semiconductor technology for lighting, sensor and visualisation applications. The company selected Hong Kong for its regional headquarters to be nearer to customers and partners in Asia, especially Greater China, Korea and Japan.

Following recent allegations of bribery and an indictment over tax violations, Samsung's chairman Lee Kun-hee has resigned his post at the South Korean company. He is taking full responsibility for the scandal which has rocked the entire nation, despite the fact that other Samsung executives have also been named. According to Reuters, he was quoted as saying "I deeply apologise for causing concern to the nation and will take full responsibility for that."

Infineon Technologies has reported results for the second quarter of the 2008 fiscal year, ended 31 March, 2008. Revenues in the latest quarter were 1,049 billion Euros, down 4% sequentially and up 7% year-over-year. EBIT was 36 million Euros, down from 65 million Euros in the prior quarter. EBIT in the second quarter included net charges of 8 million Euros, mainly in connection with restructuring, and 5 million Euros for the amortisation of acquisition-related intangible assets related mainly to the business acquired from LSI. EBIT in the first quarter included a net gain of 11 million Euros, and 9 million Euros of such amortisation expenses. Net income from continuing operations for the second quarter was 19 million Euros, translating into basic and diluted earnings per share of 0,03 Euro. For the first quarter, net income from continuing operations was 45 million Euro, basic and diluted earnings per share were 0,06 Euro.

Freescale has announced financial results for its first fiscal 2008 quarter ended 28 March, 2008. Net sales were $1,41 billion, compared to $1,54 billion in the fourth quarter of 2007 and $1,36 billion in the first quarter of 2007. Operating and net losses for the first quarter of 2008 were $152 million and $245 million, respectively. This compares to operating earnings of $149 million and EBITDA of $300 million in the first quarter of 2007. In terms of product revenues, net sales for all product categories declined compared to the fourth quarter of 2007.

Sharp has made a total capital investment of approximately 72 billion yen to build a thin-film solar cell plant in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture in Japan, which is capable of boosting annual production up to a scale of 1 GW per year. Production will begin by March 2010 with a 480 MW initial production capacity.

Companies

Lattice Semiconductor and Aldec announced a new OEM agreement that is expected to deliver the only OEM FPGA mixed language simulator. Active-HDL Lattice Edition will be bundled with Lattice's ispLEVER design tool suite, providing mixed language simulation (VHDL, Verilog and SystemVerilog), co-simulation with Simulink from The MathWorks and simulation support for Lattice encrypted IP Cores.

Micron Technology and Nanya Technology have signed an agreement to create MeiYa Technology Corporation, a new DRAM joint venture. The partnership will leverage both Micron's and Nanya's manufacturing technology, strengths and experience. As part of the joint venture, a 200 mm Nanya manufacturing facility in Taiwan will be upgraded to industry-leading 300 mm technology starting this year, with the facility coming online for production in 2009. In addition to MeiYa, the parties will jointly develop and share future technology. Both parent companies will own 50% of the joint venture initially, and each will contribute $550 million in cash by the end of 2009. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approval in Taiwan, and is expected to close within the next few months.

Avnet announced that it plans to acquire Horizon Technology Group in an all cash offer for 1,18 Euros per share, which equates to an equity value of approximately 98,5 million Euros and a transaction value of 94,4 million Euros assuming a net cash position for Horizon of 4,1 million Euros as of 31 December, 2007. Horizon is a technical integrator and distributor of information technology products in the UK and Ireland. The transaction, which is subject to, among other things, the completion of a tender offer under the Irish Takeover Rules and EU merger control clearance, is expected to close by the end of June 2008.

Renesas Technology has entered into a strategic research collaboration with IMEC, Europe's leading independent research centre in the field of nanoelectronics, to perform research on 45 nm RF transceivers targeting Gbps cognitive radios. To this end, Renesas has joined IMEC's software-defined radio (SDR) front-end programme. This research programme includes reconfigurable RF solutions, high-speed/low-power analog-to-digital converters (ADCs) and new approaches to digitise future RF architectures. Researchers from Renesas will reside at IMEC to closely collaborate with IMEC's research team. In this way, they will build a fundamental understanding and develop robust solutions for Renesas future mobile electronics products.

Synplicity, a supplier of IC design and verification solutions, and Lattice Semiconductor, a supplier of FPGAs, announced an expansion to the companies' existing OEM agreement. Under the terms of the new agreement, Synplicity will be Lattice Semiconductor's exclusive synthesis partner, and Lattice will broaden its synthesis offering in its ispLEVER design tool suite to include the Synplify Pro logic synthesis software for higher-level designs. As of May 2008, Lattice will distribute only the Synplify and Synplify Pro synthesis products with its FPGA and CPLD devices. The companies will also work to deliver expanded support of the Synplify DSP solution to algorithmic designers who seek to accelerate their DSP designs using Lattice FPGAs.

Industry

The 1394 Trade Association has announced that more than one billion FireWire ports have now shipped since the introduction of the first 1394-equipped products in 1995. The billion ports provide more than 600 million consumer and computer products worldwide with the highly versatile high-speed connection interface. Leading providers of 1394/FireWire silicon include Texas Instruments, LSI and Oxford Semiconductor, with new companies such as Symwave now joining the market with advanced 1394 connectivity ICs. Among the leading 1394-enabled products worldwide are more than 100 million notebook computers and 25 million set-top boxes. The Association further estimates that the worldwide total of 1394-equipped devices in several important categories will grow by 15% or more in 2008. Categories include PCs, hard drives and other peripherals, digital TVs, and television set-top boxes. Growth is expected to reach or exceed similar percentages into 2009 and 2010.

MEMS (Micro Electro-Mechanical Systems) accelerometers have hit the limelight in the past year, although most consumers are probably quite unaware that they make the Nintendo Wii's motion-sensing remote control and the Apple iPhone's self-orienting display possible. But according to an analyst at ABI Research, these popular products are only the high-profile advance wave of what will be a rising tide of new and innovative uses for the tiny motion sensors. These devices are already widely used in automotive airbag systems; they can measure vibration in industrial machinery; they are used in exercise step-counters, and their use is expected in growing numbers of other phones and PDAs. Recently, in an effort to improve shock-reducing designs, researchers in the United States even fitted accelerometers to football helmets in order to measure the impact when players collide. A relative handful of manufacturers share this high-potential market. A 'big three' - Analog Devices, Freescale, and STMicroelectronics - are joined by just a few others, including OKI Semiconductor and Hitachi Metals America.

Kontron has published the complete specification and design guidelines for the nano Computer-on-Module format. This format is designed as an extension to the COM Express (COM.0) specification published by the PICMG to include credit card sized modules. The nano module format (84 x 55 mm) is designed as an extension to the PICMG COM Express specification that currently specifies the Basic (95 x 125 mm) and Extended (155 x 110 mm) form factors. The official standardisation of the nano format is expected to have an important market impact. The smaller and more highly integrated processors that are enabling ever smaller, energy saving system designs require an official Computer-on-Modules standard. This will safeguard against an array of Computer-on-Module designs based on these processors and therefore ensure maximum design security for integrators.

With safety and convenience ruling the design of modern vehicles, the automobile industry is increasingly leaning on optoelectronics for solutions. According to a report from Global Industry Analysts, the optoelectronics market is expected to be worth $600 billion by 2010. A wide range of optoelectronic devices are finding their way into automobiles to provide safety, convenience and ease to the driver. An apt example is optoelectronics-enabled adaptive cruise control, an intelligent technology designed to manipulate the speed of the vehicle by detecting approaching traffic, and its proximity. Optoelectronic devices are also utilised in HID headlamps, LCD for speedometers, tachometers, navigation, audio system and climate controls, and infrared sensors to automatically adjust seat position. Moreover LEDs are being utilised for interior and rear lighting in vehicles, and will eventually be used in headlamps.

Technology

Charles Babbage, a 19th century British mathematician, designed a mechanical digital calculator which he named the Difference Engine No. 2, an improvement on his earlier design. However, he did not live to see the calculator built. Now, Microsoft millionaire Nathan Myhrvold has commissioned and paid for a model of the design to be built at the Computer History Museum in California. It is expected to weigh in at 5 tons, and to be able to solve polynomial equations.

European researchers have succeeded in triggering lightning activity in thunderstorms using a high-power laser. The plasma filaments created by the laser pulses were able to conduct significant electricity within the clouds, but not enough to cause air-to-cloud lightning. This development is expected to aid in research into how lightning strikes are produced, as well as in the testing of lightning sensitive instruments. By ionising air molecules, pulsed laser beams trigger lightning by effectively turning the air into a plasma gas with properties similar to an electrical conductor.

A company called HYmini has developed a handheld, universal charger/adapter device that harnesses wind and solar power to charge mobile devices such as MP3 players, cellphones, PDAs and digital cameras. The HYmini does not power these devices directly, but rather stores the energy in its lithium ion polymer battery, which can then be used to charge the device of interest. The company claims that 20 minutes in a 30 kmph wind generates enough energy to power an iPod for 30 minutes, or a cellphone for 4 minutes. A few thousand of these around the house could obviate the need for Eskom altogether.

China is taking a high-tech approach to weather management for its roofless Beijing stadium - nicknamed the Bird's Nest - for the upcoming Olympic Games. The first step of their three-step approach uses satellites, radar, planes and an IBM p575 supercomputer to model a 44 000 square kilometre area accurately enough to generate hourly forecasts for each kilometre. The second step uses aircraft to fire dry ice and silver iodide into on-coming clouds to flush the rain from them before they reach the stadium. The third step is to shoot chemicals into any rain-heavy clouds that do enter the vicinity of the Bird's Nest.


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