News


Electronics News Digest

28 February 2001 News Electronic News Digest

Southern Africa

UK power semiconductor firm Power Integrations (PI) has extended its distribution agreement with Impact Memec to handle its high voltage, analogue power conversion ICs throughout Europe and South Africa. Impact already carries the UK firm's power ICs in Asia-Pacific and North and South America. Said Karl Elshuber, CEO of Impact: "With Power Integrations' highly integrated TOPSwitch AC to DC power conversion products on our line card we will be able to offer customers a proven, high performance but cost effective solution to a range of power applications". Suzanne Walker, Distribution Director for PI adds that customer design support is the key reason it believes that Impact Memec will succeed in growing its business in these regions.

A tertiary institution in Soshanguwe, Technikon Northern Gauteng, is benefiting from a donation of R2,5m worth of software from Dimension Data. The Department of Computer Studies offers diplomas in IT, Computer Systems and Financial Information Systems. Together with Software AG, the developers of Adabas/Natural, Dimension Data i-Commerce decided to donate 250 licences to the Technikon. The Business Integration Division will also run training courses for lecturers.

Local memory manufacturer Kalliba Technologies has reported a bumper sales month for January. The company makes three brands of memory: Kalliba, its top-of-the-range offering, for the server, workstation and notebook market; Alpica, the mainstream desktop option; and M3 for the value PC market. Kalliba Technologies has also boosted its complement of sales and marketing staff, with the appointments of Colin Nish as Sales and Marketing Manager, and Bruce Murphy as M3 and Alpica Brand Manager. Kalliba Technologies distributes through AXiZ, whose Rivonia head office and Pretoria branch have just been combined into a new office and warehouse facility in Midrand, Gauteng. The new telephone number is (011) 237 7000.

Components & System Design has been appointed to distribute Chipcon Components' range of components in South Africa. Chipcon Components AS ( www.chipcon.com) manufactures RF transceiver devices for short and mid-range, two-way wireless communication.

Nokia mobile phone distributor in South Africa, The RF Group has announced the opening of what it says is the the most advanced Nokia customer care and data support centre in the world. The PostHouse corporate support centre is offering a total support system to help the corporate customer to use and understand all the latest services available. The PostHouse is located at the corner of Main and Bruton Roads, Bryanston Extension 1, Gauteng.

Hypercom Corporation has been awarded Frost & Sullivan's 2000 Market Engineering Product Innovation Award for its leadership role in introducing the ePic ICE 6500. Local distributor Grintek Telecom says that this is the first standalone, point-of-sale payment terminal with a large colour touch graphics display screen and built-in web browser. Its services or applications include: browser-based electronic receipt capture (ERC), e-mail, e-commerce, on-screen point-of-sale advertising and couponing and other information-based support services in addition to traditional payment functions.

Tanzanian telecommunications authorities have declared the international phone service via Internet in the country illegal. The move is aimed to protect the foreign investment in the international call service of Tanzania Telecommunications.

The end of SUNSAT's functional life in orbit has been announced. The last communication with SUNSAT, the South African experimental satellite from the ground station at the Electronic Systems Lab at Stellenbosch University took place on 19 January 2001. It was announced that a catastrophic, probably physical, failure had occurred on the satellite and it was unlikely that any further contact with the satellite would be possible.

Overseas

Business

In its new sales report, the SIA announced that worldwide chip sales hit a record $204 bn in 2000 despite revenues slipping 2,1% to $17,89 bn in December compared to $18,27 bn in November. It also said the industry is now unlikely to reach the trade group's previous forecast of 22% sales growth in 2001 because of excess inventory at manufacturers and chip distributors. By region: Asia Pacific dropped 3,1% to $4,30 bn in December from $4,44 bn in November; Japan's revenues were down 2,7% to $4,31 bn from $4,43 bn in November, but its chip sales were up 31,5% from December 1999; Europe's semiconductor sales dropped 2,0% to $3,73 bn in December from $3,80 bn in November, but compared to December 1999 grew 19,8%; semiconductor sales in the Americas were down only 0,9% to $5,55 bn in December from $5,60 bn in November, and were up 22,8% compared to December 1999.

General Semiconductor reported sales for the fourth quarter of $119,9m, up 6,3% from $112,8m in the period a year ago but 8,1% less than $130,5m in the third quarter of 2000. The power management supplier said that based on current market conditions, it expects revenues in the first quarter of 2001 to decline 6 to 9% from Q4 of 2000. Although the company said it is planning layoffs through a combination of worldwide programs, Ronald Ostertag, Chairman and Chief Executive, said that he was very pleased with General Semiconductor's progress against its power management strategy and is confident that evolving its new product portfolio would fuel the company's continued long-term growth.

Mitel announced third quarter results ended 29 December. Revenue for the third quarter reached $171,1m, down from the record $194,3m of the second quarter of fiscal 2001 but up 5% from $163,4m for the same period last year. Year to date, revenue was $549,2m, up 28% from $427,9m last year. Adjusted net income for the quarter was $10,2m, compared with $14,0m in the third quarter of fiscal 2000, while for the year it was $63,5m, up significantly from $20,5m for the nine months ended last year. Mitel said that the results for Q3 were influenced by three factors: the first is an expected short-term industry-wide slow down in the growth of sales as customers and distribution channels cope with excessive inventory levels; the second is Mitel's continuing significant investment in research and development, principally in the areas of network and user access to develop and launch new products supporting broadband communications; while the third relates to steps underway in the company to establish a new business model based exclusively on its semiconductor operations, resulting in higher selling and administrative expenses during this transition.

Cable manufacturer Belden announced its fourth-quarter 2000 showed a 15% increase in earnings per share compared to the fourth quarter 1999. Net income rose 16% to $16,2m, up from $14,0m in the same period last year. Revenues for the fourth-quarter 2000 increased 20% to $309,9m compared with $258,3m for the same period last year. It said net income for the year ended 31 December 2000, increased $11,9m or 29%, to $52,9m, while revenues for the year were $1135,3m, a 39% increase compared with revenues of $818,6m in 1999. The Electronics segment posted a revenue increase of 8,4% to $212,2m, and the Communications segment reported revenues of $104,9m, up 53% from the fourth quarter of 1999, said the company.

Cirrus Logic has announced that it expects sales to be flat in the current quarter from $208m in its fiscal third quarter, ended 30 December. For the third fiscal quarter, Cirrus' revenues sequentially increased 10% to $208m from $189,5m in the prior quarter and increased 38% from $150,8m in the same period a year ago. Cirrus posted a net income of $22,4m in the just-ended quarter vs $3,3m in the period a year ago. Last year, Cirrus posted sales of $564m.

Lattice Semiconductor posted net income for the fourth quarter ended 31 December of $23,6m, up 195% from the $8m, reported in the same quarter a year ago. Profits rose about 4% from $22,7m, in Q3. Revenue for the quarter was $150,8m, an increase of 31% over the $115m reported in the same quarter a year ago but flat in comparison to the $151m reported last quarter. Lattice designs, develops and markets high performance programmable logic devices and related software. For the year 2000, revenue reached $567,8m and net income totalled $167,9m.

Companies

Nortel Networks has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire JDS Uniphase's Swiss-based subsidiary, as well as related assets in New York. The Swiss subsidiary designs and manufactures 980 nm pump-laser chips which are used in light amplification for fibre optics.

US energy services company Schlumberger has announced it is buying British IT services concern Sema Plc for $5,2 bn. The acquisition will help Schlumberger enlarge its systems-integration business, particularly in the development of smartcards or electronic-wallet devices.

Intel has announced a supply agreement to sell more than $2 bn worth of flash memory devices to Siemens AG which will use the chips in next-generation, Internet-ready cellular phones and wireless devices. The agreement is for a three-year period and will cover products based on its StrataFlash multibit cell memory technologies.

ARM has announced that it has purchased technologies and assets from privately-held Noral Micrologics, a UK company specialising in the design of tools for advanced embedded systems development and debug. A 10-person engineering team from Noral will form a new design centre in north west England, said ARM, that will focus on development of advanced tools for embedded RISC processors.

Intersil has launched a wireless LAN chip initiative for third-party development support for its Prism WLAN chips. Intersil's Prism Partners Initiative currently comprises: Celestica, Intelligraphics, L.S. Research, Neesus, Tecom and TriplePoint. Intersil will work with the developers and engineers to help customers implement IEEE-802.11-compliant WLAN systems in the shortest time possible.

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has named ITT Defence, a unit of ITT Industries, as the preferred supplier for the VHF radios of the Bowman Tactical Communications System. The MoD has awarded ITT a continuation contract for $36m to maintain the development of the VHF radio subsystem. This contract allows the work achieved to date by ITT and the MoD on the program to be made available under the new Bowman procurement. Together with any further VHF production contract awarded under the Bowman prime contract, the overall value is likely to be approximately $360m plus further support over the life of the program. The VHF radios for the Bowman Communications System will all be produced in the UK.

National Semiconductor has announced plans to purchase innoComm, a developer of wireless networking chipsets, for $130m to strengthen its position in wireless communications. innoComm was originally called Analog Circuit Technologies, and develops short-range networking applications, such as Bluetooth and HomeRF as well as local area networks based on the IEEE-802.11 standards.

US company International Paper has signed a licensing deal with an Israeli firm, Power Paper, for the development of new ultra-thin flexible batteries that can be 'printed' on packages like ink. The disposable batteries could be used in the packaging of consumer products. For example, in CD packages that play song samples when picked up, game cards, beauty products that glow and other special effects.

Kopin and Rockwell Science Center have announced an agreement to accelerate development of indium phosphide-based heterojunction bipolar transistors (HBTs) for wireless and fibre-optic telecoms. Targeted applications include InP-based HBT circuits for 40 Gbps fibre-optic links (OC-768) and power amplifiers new cellular phones. Under the R&D partnership, Kopin will develop InP-based HBT structures while the Rockwell Science Center will create process technologies for new circuits.

National Semiconductor and Motorola's Energy Systems Group have announced plans to jointly develop new methods of protecting and managing energy in lithium-ion and lithium-ion polymer batteries for portable electronics. The effort aims to reduce the part count and size of lithium energy systems.

Intel and Synopsys are investing about $8m into Canadian start-up Analog Design Automation. The start-up company is applying intelligent systems technology to synthesizing analog and mixed-signal IC designs. AMS Genius, its first major product, uses proprietary topological programming algorithms to achieve analog and mixed-signal synthesis. The algorithms automate the task of optimising circuit topology with transistor sizing and biasing. According to the company this frees up hard-to-find analog circuit experts to focus on development of new cells and enabling junior-level designers to handle a wider range of jobs in product development.

Hyundai Electronics and Infineon Technologies have announced a cross-licensing pact that settles a number of patent lawsuits pending in the US and Germany. The terms of the technology agreements were not released by the two companies.

Industry

Hewlett-Packard spin-off Agilent Technologies has announced it will invest up to $100m per year in startups worldwide to strengthen the company's position in optical and wireless communications. Agilent Ventures said it will inject $2m to $10m into each venture. It said it will provide start-ups with the opportunity to tap into Agilent's technological resources as well as actively partner with it to develop new technologies and products.

Atmel has announced that it has won a significant patent infringement dispute against Silicon Storage Technologies, Winbond and Sanyo Electric, as well as against Macronix. The International Trade Commission determined that Atmel's US Patent No. 4,451,903, is enforceable. The ITC's Limited Exclusion Order precludes from entry into the US all infringing SST, Winbond and Sanyo EPROMs, EEPROMs, flash memory and flash microcontroller semiconductor devices, as well as all circuit boards containing such semiconductor devices.

Motorola has announced it will cut 4000 chip jobs through attrition as well as voluntary and involuntary severance programs. Motorola Semiconductor Products Sector employs about 34 000 workers worldwide, at revenues of $8,0 bn for 2000 is the industry's sixth largest chip supplier. Motorola also lowered its forecast for industry chip growth to a range of 10-15% in 2001. The company said semiconductor orders fell 27% sequentially in the fourth quarter to $1,6 bn compared to third quarter of 2000.

The Reusable Application-Specific Intellectual Property Developers (RAPID) group has announced it is disbanding. The group was established in 1996 to help promote the concept of buying and selling third-party design cores. The RAPID organisation is turning over reusable IP industry activities to other organisations, such as the Virtual Socket Interface Alliance (VSIA) and the Internet-based Virtual Component Exchange (VCX) in Livingston, Scotland.

Atmel has launched a Design Logic 2001 Design Contest ( www.circuitcellar.com/DL2001) offering system designers the opportunity to design products utilising Atmel's new FPSLIC (field programmable system level IC), AT40K Series FPGAs and 8 bit RISC AVR microcontroller. There are three cash prizes available for a total of $20 000, and publication of the winning design in Circuit Cellar Magazine. In addition to the cash prizes the two runner-ups in each category will win a Handspring Visor PDA. Entries close 15 June 2001.

Microsoft has appointed Rick Belluzzo to replace Bob Herbold as its President and Chief Operating Officer. Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer said that Belluzzo's selection as President would free him to concentrate more on corporate strategy and work with Chairman and co-founder Bill Gates, and product team leaders. Belluzzo joined Microsoft in September 1999 and was Vice President for Internet and personal device efforts. He was previously the Chief Executive of Silicon Graphics.

Xilinx is expanding its semiconductor R&D and administration centre in Dublin at a cost of about $50m. It will create an extra 140 jobs taking the total number of employees at the Dublin site to 500. Product development includes two IC design groups that work on Spartan FPGAs and modules for Virtex-II devices, and two software units that focus on power estimation tools.

Sharp Microelectronics of Americas (SMA) has been designated as the company's main IC design centre for system-on-a-chip (SoC) and 8, 16 and 32 bit microcontroller products. Sharp, who previously developed all products in Japan, said it will make a significant investment in the IC design centre over the next five years in order to help develop new products in these segments.

In-Stat is conducting a unique research study aimed at measuring broadband deployment and implementation over the coming years against two groups: broadband service providers and business end-users. The study will cover broadband demand versus availability, user awareness and preferences, broadband alternatives and driving applications. It is looking for qualified study participants from the two groups to complete the study. Those involved in broadband implementation or broadband corporate buying decisions may participate in the study via an online survey at: www.intellisurvey.com/run/broadband%20.

Ulrich Hamann, a Senior Executive in Infineon's Security & Chip Card IC Business has been named as the recipient of the German SmartCard Award 2001 at the eleventh Smart Card Workshop, hosted by the Institute for Secure Telecooperation of the GMD National Research Center for Information Technology. The award was presented in recognition of his visionary work in the field of Chip Card technology and for his leadership in the ongoing development of Infineon chip card products, including the 'System-on-Card' concept.

3Com has announced that it has been awarded its 500th patent in the US - more than any data networking company. 3Com began with the industry's first Ethernet interface devices two decades ago.

Technology

Innoveda has launched a free web-based, streaming video service that show customers how to solve technical problems and use the company's tools effectively. Its new TecTips service initially includes more than 20 videos available at www.innoveda.com/support/</a>. According to Jim Meikle, Vice President of Corporate Services, "Innoveda's TecTips complements our virtual onsite support service and our knowledge base, and enables customers to solve problems with just a mouse click. This knowledge database is instantly available any time, anywhere. We plan to increase this virtual library as new subject matter is added each quarter."

Philips Semiconductors has introduced a single-chip radio for 802.11b wireless LANs. The SA2400 implements a zero-IF architecture, integrating a low-noise automatic gain control, receive and transmit mixers, a voltage-controlled oscillator, fractional-N synthesizer, and receive and transmit filters. Philips hopes the device will make the Ethernet LAN cost-competitive with Bluetooth wireless implementations. In the SA2400, a VCO and fractional-N synthesizer tune out the RF carrier with its out-of-phase replica. Fabricated in a 0,5 µm 30 GHz BiCMOS process (Philips' Qubic3), the chip merges a low-noise automatic gain control (AGC), a pre-driver, receive and transmit mixers, receive and transmit filters, I/O buffers, plus a VCO and a fractional-N synthesizer, into one chip.

Analog Devices claims its AD8302is the industry's first single-chip circuit that simultaneously detects the gain and phase difference between two independent signals up to 2,7 GHz. The chip will help engineers to build simple diagnostic and calibration circuits in their products to monitor system performance and diagnose signal purity. According to ADI, until now, the job of taking independent gain and phase measurements between two RF and IF input signals required a discrete multichip approach with many external components. The AD8302 measures the amplitude difference between the two input signals over 60 dB dynamic range, scaled to provide the user with a 30 mV/dB output.

Motorola has announced that it has completed qualification of a high-speed SiGe process technology. Motorola has developed what it calls a specialised silicon germanium carbon (SiGe:C) process technology, for developing chips in wireless and related applications. The company licensed the technology from a German research institute called Innovations for high performance microelectronics (IHP). Motorola has demonstrated its SiGe:C process in its RF chips, with performances from 45 and 90 GHz. Its first chips will be a line of low-noise amplifiers.

Compaq Computer claims its new 833 MHz, 64 bit Alpha RISC chip is the industry's most powerful microprocessor. The processor is being used in Compaq's AlphaServer ES40 computer which is aimed at scientific and commercial applications

Texas Instruments has rolled out three new chips based on it powerful TMS320C64x core, which TI says offers up to 10 times the performance of any other DSP for broadband infrastructure applications. TI plans to migrate the new DSP core from the current 400-600 MHz speeds to 1,1 GHz, by late 2002. The first three standard parts based on the C64x DSP core are: the general-purpose C6414; the C6415 targeted at packet-switching systems; and the C6416 aimed at 3G wireless infrastructure.

PMC-Sierra has launched what it claims are the world's most robust inverse multiplexer chips for ATM, DSL, E1/E3, T1/T3 and other networking applications. The chips also support various multi-service networking standards, such as the inverse multiplexer for ATM (IMA), Multilink-PPP and Multilink-frame relay, according to the company. Of the three new chips, the PM7341 S/UNI-IMA-84 device is the world's most dense inverse multiplexer chip, said the company, and can support 84 T1 or 63 E1 links in a single device. The PM7342 S/UNI-IMA-32 chip supports up to 32 links, and the PM7340 S/UNI-IMA-8 supports up to eight links.

Texas Instruments' new single-chip, direct-conversion RF transceiver is capable of triband GSM, digital cellular system (DCS) and personal communication services (PCS) operation. According to TI the TRF6150's direct conversion reduces component costs by a third, while shrinking board size requirements by more than 15%. TI said the chip is designed to interface seamlessly with its line of C54X DSPs.

Motorola's new 8 bit 68HC908SR12 microcontroller integrates current and temperature sensors on-chip for building smart batteries and chargers in a range of applications. The chip's temperature sensor has a range of -20 to +70°C. It also has a current flow sensing circuit and a two-stage programmable amplifier.

NEC researchers claim to have developed a prototype high-speed interface large-scale integrated circuit (LSI) that can transfer data between LSIs at a rate of 80 Gbps or the equivalent of approximately 2 DVD movies every second. It said the chip doubles the data transfer rate and cuts signal transfers to one-third the time taken by conventional devices.

Sony has developed a large-scale Active Matrix Organic Electroluminescence (OEL) display driven by thin film transistors (TFT). Claimed to be the world's largest full colour organic EL display the prototype is 33 cm diagonally with a resolution of 800 x 600 pixels. Sony achieved this through the utilisation of its proprietary top emission adaptive current drive (TAC) technology that realises high luminance and high resolution for large-scale displays. OEL displays driven by low-temperature polysilicon TFT have a self-luminous characteristic which offers wide viewing angle, high contrast ratio and precise colour reproduction, says Sony. Extremely thin they also respond quickly to moving pictures.

Toshiba has developed a white light emitting diode (LED) with a luminosity that targets incandescent lamp replacement. The new device was jointly developed with Toyoda Gosei and integrates Toshiba's phosphors and packaging with Toyoda's LED, achieving a short peak wavelength of approximately 380 nm and a luminous flux density of 4,5-5,0 lumen per watt at 20 mA.

Hewlett-Packard has revealed a new portfolio of Internet software for businesses. 25 new software products with key ingredients companies need to conduct business online, such as usage-based - not monthly - billing and data storage management. HP says users can buy individual pieces of software, designed to work with programs created by other companies.





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