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Electronics news digest

15 October 2008 News Electronic News Digest

Africa

Ericsson is joining forces with the United Nations’ Office for Partnerships to use telecommunications to bring mobile-health applications and services (m-health) and telemedicine to rural Africa. As a founding member of the UN's Digital Health Initiative, Ericsson is taking another step in its ongoing commitment to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which aim to reduce global extreme poverty. Ericsson has committed to bringing mobile connectivity to over half a million people in the Millennium Village sites in Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania, Senegal, Mali, Nigeria, Malawi and Ethiopia.

Overseas

Business

Lattice Semiconductor has initiated a restructuring plan to align operating expenses with near-term revenue expectations and to more efficiently implement its product strategy. In connection with this restructuring, headcount will be reduced by approximately 125 employees, representing approximately 14% of the company’s workforce. The restructuring is expected to result in a quarterly reduction in operating expenses of approximately $4,5 million, commencing in the fourth quarter of this year. The company expects to record a restructuring charge of severance and related costs, estimated to be in the range of approximately $3,3 million to $3,8 million in the third quarter of 2008 and approximately $0,4 million in the fourth quarter of 2008. The restructuring plan is expected to be substantially completed in the fourth quarter of 2008.

The board of directors of Tyco Electronics has approved an increase of the company's quarterly cash dividend from $0,14 to $0,16 per common share, an increase of 14%. The new dividend is payable on 4 November 2008, to shareholders of record as of 14 October 2008.

Hynix has announced that it will retire its 200 mm wafer fabrication – which is less efficient than its 300 mm fab – earlier than planned in order to improve its financial stability and focus on profitability. Hynix has a total of five 200 mm fabs situated around the globe. With this closure, the total production capacity will decrease 30% by the beginning of next year from that of the second quarter of this year. This will also result in a 20% reduction in DRAM and 40% in NAND Flash output.

Agilent Technologies announced an agreement with Lloyds TSB Bank to refinance the current $1,5 billion repurchase obligation of Agilent Technologies World Trade. Lloyds has agreed, subject to specified conditions, to purchase the preferred stock of an Agilent subsidiary with an aggregate liquidation preference of $1,5 billion from its current owner and to extend until 27 January 2011 the date on which Agilent is required to repurchase that preferred stock.

Texas Instruments announced that it plans to raise its quarterly cash dividend 10%. The company’s new quarterly dividend rate will be $0,11 per share, resulting in annual dividend payments of $0,44 per share. TI’s current quarterly dividend rate is $0,10 per share. The new quarterly dividend rate will be payable 17 November 2008, to stockholders on record on 31 October 2008, contingent upon formal declaration by the board of directors at its regular meeting in October. This marks the fifth consecutive year TI has increased its dividend rate. The company has paid dividends to its shareholders on an uninterrupted basis since 1 June 1962.

Companies

Freescale has signed an agreement to purchase Intoto, a provider of software platform products for networking and communications equipment manufacturers. Freescale intends to apply Intoto’s technology to create high-performance applications and software components optimised to improve system performance, streamline development and enhance software support for its QorIQ multicore communications platforms. QorIQ platforms are Freescale’s new brand of communications processors designed to take embedded multicore to new levels of adoption. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Samsung Electronics issued an unsolicited, non-binding proposal to acquire SanDisk for $26 per share in cash. After multiple meetings with Samsung since its original indication of interest in an acquisition, SanDisk's board of directors has deliberated on the proposal with advice from its financial and legal advisors, and decided that the proposal is inadequate in multiple respects and not in the best interests of SanDisk's stockholders. Samsung responded by reiterating its offer.

Alliance Memory has acquired from German company ZMD its complete SRAM product line. The acquisition involves the manufacturing rights, mask sets, IP and all remaining inventory. Alliance will continue to offer former ZMD's 64 K and 256 K low power SRAM's in commercial, industrial and automotive temperature ranges.

LG Electronics and Conergy, a photovoltaic (PV) solution provider, have signed a memorandum of understanding to form a joint venture in the solar module manufacturing business. Under the terms of the deal, LG would acquire a 75% stake in Conergy’s solar module plant in Germany and Conergy would retain 25%. The plant is currently in the ramp-up phase. The companies project that their partnership will get underway by the end of this year.

RF Micro Devices has captured design wins on more than 10 upcoming Samsung 3G handsets. Based upon current customer forecasts, RFMD anticipates volume shipments to commence in the December 2008 quarter and accelerate into calendar 2009. RFMD was selected by Samsung to supply Wideband CDMA/High Speed Packet Access (WCDMA/HSPA) power amplifiers (PAs) and EDGE PAs into a growing range of 3G handsets.

Hynix and Numonyx announced a five-year agreement to expand its joint development programmes for the NAND Flash memory segment. Under the new agreement, the companies will broaden the scope of their joint development efforts to deliver NAND memory technology and products and combine resources to accelerate the development of future NAND technologies and solutions. They will also collaborate on mobile DRAM used in multichip packages for mobile phones.

Osram and Philips have signed an LED patent licence agreement, under the terms of which customers of both companies will obtain relief from royalty payments. The special rights relate not only to patents held by Philips but also to patents held by Color Kinetics and TIR Systems, which were acquired by Philips last year. Osram’s compensatory payment – which both parties have agreed not to divulge – will be partially offset by Osram by selling rights to its own patents.

Industry

A group of leading technology vendors and users have formed the IP for Smart Objects (IPSO) Alliance, whose goal is promoting the Internet Protocol (IP) as the networking technology best suited for connecting sensor- and actuator-equipped or ‘smart’ objects and delivering information gathered by those objects. The group defines smart objects as objects in the physical world that – typically with the help of embedded devices – transmit information about their condition or environment (eg, temperature, light, motion, health status) to locations where the information can be analysed, correlated with other data and acted upon.

A new Strategy Analytics study predicts that the market for automotive sensors will reach $12,7 billion in 2008, a year-on-year growth of 6,5%. This analysis shows that planned vehicle safety, performance and feature enhancements will drive automotive sensor shipments to 3,9 billion units and be worth $18,1 billion in 2015. Light vehicle production is expected to grow at a CAAGR (compound annual adjusted growth rate) of 4,0% over the period 2006 to 2012. Over the same period, Strategy Analytics expects automotive sensor revenues to grow by 6,8% CAAGR, as carmakers respond to tightening environmental, fuel mileage and safety legislation, as well as consumer expectations, by introducing electronically controlled innovations for enhanced performance, comfort and convenience.

The Global Semiconductor Alliance (GSA), an organisation focused on accelerating the growth of the global semiconductor industry, and its Chinese counterpart, the China Semiconductor Industry Association, announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding for the purpose of establishing a mutually agreeable framework of cooperation. The collaboration teams global and regional efforts to further the development within the semiconductor industry, specifically in terms of exchanging industry data and research information, promoting international exhibitions and seminars, as well as assisting one another with trade delegations among their members.

The GSMA (GSM Association) recently launched the Green Power for Mobile programme, with the goal of helping the mobile industry use renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and sustainable biofuels, to power 118 000 new and existing off-grid base stations in developing countries by 2012. Achieving that target would save up to 2,5 billion litres of diesel per annum and cut annual carbon emissions by up to 6,2 million tons. The GSMA, the global trade body for the mobile industry, forecasts that by 2012 up to 50% of new off-grid base stations in the developing world could be powered by renewable energy. Backed by 25 mobile operators, the new programme will provide expertise to support the deployment of base stations that use renewable energy.

According to a new report from NanoMarkets, the OLED lighting market will reach almost $4,5 billion by 2013 and grow to $5,9 billion by 2015. The firm claims that in the past year the prospects for OLED lighting have made great leaps forward due to improvements in OLED performance and manufacturing. The report predicts that the unit costs of OLED lights are likely to remain higher than older general lighting technologies but that the extra costs will be offset by improved OLED lifetimes and efficiencies.

Technology

SRS Labs and CSR have entered into a joint engineering and marketing partnership to create PureSpeech, a new Bluetooth software solution that is said to deliver significant improvements to the audio clarity of Bluetooth mono headsets. PureSpeech combines SRS Labs’ VIP+ software, which improves audio quality at the near end (what the caller hears), with CSR’s clear voice capture (CVC) noise reduction software, which improves audio quality at the far end (what the recipient hears).

Achronix Semiconductor has unveiled a family of FPGAs that it is aiming at medium-sized applications requiring more speed than is possible with Xilinx or Altera FPGAs. Achronix’s 1,5 GHz Speedster chips employ asynchronous logic, but in a transparent manner, so that designers can use it as they would any other lookup table-based, SRAM-configured device. The FPGAs also boast advanced I/O capabilities.

IBM and Mentor Graphics have announced an agreement to jointly develop and distribute next-generation computational lithography software solutions to enhance the imaging capability of lithographic systems used in the manufacturing of integrated circuits at the 22 nanometer node and beyond. The agreement is part of IBM’s computation scaling initiative to create the industry’s first computationally-based process for production of 22 nanometer semiconductors.

Researchers at Penn State University in the US have developed a polymer which displays enhanced electrocaloric properties – ie, it changes temperature in response to a changing electric field, by rearranging its constituent atoms. By applying a voltage to the polymer and bringing it into contact with an object to be cooled, the polymer absorbs the object’s heat and passes it to a heatsink or radiates it into the atmosphere. The material demonstrated a 12°C cooling ability at 55°C, significantly lower than previously developed ceramics which operated at 220°C. This makes the new polymer suitable for cooling components in laptop and desktop computers, whose chips typically operate at 85°C. The next design challenge is to get the material to operate at voltages practical to computing applications, in the range of tens of volts or less, far below the currently achievable 120 volts.





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