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Electronics News Briefs

27 February 2002 News Electronic News Digest

Southern Africa

South African technology company Parsec Holdings, has attracted Treacle Venture Partners as a major investor. Treacle Venture Partners manages a technology venture capital fund. Parsec provides outsourced hardware and software design and development services to product development companies. The type of services Parsec provides includes customised embedded circuit boards for among others, the telecommunication and defence industries. Parsec was judged last year to be South Africa's most outstanding small or medium enterprise in 2001. In the information and communication technology sector, Parsec also received the President's Award for technology excellence. Announcing the Treacle investment, Parsec CEO Petrus Pelser said Treacle had acquired a 22,5% stake in the company: "We are delighted to have attracted an investor of the calibre of Treacle, which has a special focus on electronic commerce and technology. We welcome their growing involvement in our business." He said that Treacle believes that the key to the future of the local technology industry lies in South Africa's ability to use its technological skills base to develop and commercialise local products and services for global application.

ASIC Design Services has been added to Actel's VariCore Design Alliance. The Alliance is a worldwide program to train, certify and support independent application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) design services companies in the proficient use of Actel's VariCoreT embedded programmable gate array (EPGATM) intellectual property (IP) cores.

Dimension Data has announced that it has been awarded the new Cisco IP Telephony Specialisation certification by Cisco Systems. IP telephony technology allows for data, voice and video to be transmitted over a single, IP-based network infrastructure. It is rapidly becoming the communication platform of choice for enterprises around the world. Steve Midgley, director of Channels for Cisco in sub-Saharan Africa, says that the Cisco IP Telephony Specialisation recognises partners like Di-Data for their knowledge and expertise in selling, designing, installing and supporting a multiservice network solution.

PEM Technologies has added Blakell's range of production and test equipment to its portfolio. The Blakell range includes fully and semi automatic inserters, and light-guided inserters for through-hole assembly, as well as backplane and cable-testing systems.

Overseas

Business

Royal Philips Electronics reported semiconductor sales grew 5% sequentially in the fourth quarter to Euro 940m ($818m) compared to its chip revenues in the third quarter. Philips Semiconductor revenues were 44% lower than sales in Q4 of 2000. Philips said its semiconductor subsidiary's operating loss was Euro 292m in Q4 of 2001 vs a loss of Euro 408m in the same quarter a year ago. Restructuring and related charges for the closure of a wafer fab in France amounted to Euro 65m, said the company. Philips noted that its semiconductor, component and mainstream consumer electronics revenues were lowered by economic weakness worldwide. Net loss for the fourth quarter was Euro 1,1 bn, including special charges and other items that lowered earnings by ?959m.

Vishay Intertechnology has reported a net loss for the fourth quarter ended 31 December of $53,6m on sales of $381,1m. In the same period a year ago, Vishay earned $140,6m on sales of $643,6m. However, the company noted that bookings in the its semiconductor business, excluding recently-purchased General Semiconductor, rose 28% sequentially from the third quarter.

Vishay expects earnings to improve in the first fiscal quarter of 2002.

Analog Devices has announced revenues of $393m for the first quarter of fiscal 2002, down 49% from the same period a year ago. ADI posted a profit of $24,7m in the quarter, compared to a net of $190,4m, a year ago. For the prior quarter it reported a profit of $24,2m. "Inventory overhang and lacklustre end-market demand continued to have an adverse impact on our revenues during the first quarter," said Jerald G. Fishman, president and CEO. "Our analog revenues declined sequentially, while our DSP revenues showed a sequential increase for the first time in four quarters." He said that analog revenues comprised 77% of the first quarter's revenues. The company expects some improvement in the current quarter, and anticipates a 3 to 5% sequential revenue increase, with sequential growth in both its analog and DSP businesses.

VIA Technologies has announced that its net sales for January 2002 were NT$ 2,72 bn ($ 77,8m approximately). This monthly sales revenue represents a 18,53% rise over December's figure of NT$ 2,29 bn. Year-on-year January sales showed a 11,91% decrease, reflecting the downturn in the PC industry over 2001. However, accumulated sales revenue for the whole year 2001 totalled over NT$ 34,29 bn, representing a 10,86% increase in accumulated annual sales revenue for the year compared to net sales in 2000.

Zilog is hoping to exit from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection by the end of April after officially beginning the process of recapitalising its debt. In announcing its fourth quarter results, the chip company reported net sales of $41,4m for the fourth fiscal quarter ended December, 2001, a small decrease sequentially from its third quarter sales of $42,7m. It reported an operating loss of $49,7m - including $47,5m in special charges - on fourth quarter sales. The company is soliciting approvals of a prepackaged reorganisation plan from stakeholders to restructure debt. It has also initiated a number of cost-cutting measures, including immediate closure of a design center in Texas and the shutdown of its eight-inch wafer fab in Idaho.

Companies

Sunrise Telecom has announced the acquisition of the CaLan Cable TV Test business from Agilent Technologies. The acquisition is expected to close during the first quarter of 2002. The acquisition will result in a merger of the CaLan Cable TV Test business with the Sunrise Telecom Broadband family. When Agilent originally purchased CaLan, the CaLan brand name was retained, and Sunrise Telecom said it will continue to build upon the brand equity CaLan has established.

STMicroelectronics has announced it has acquired the DSL chip and intellectual-property (IP) technology from Tioga Technologies for $10m. The deal will expand ST's DSL chip efforts.

Royal Philips Electronics has announced a $25m investment in Ishoni Networks, a company that produces 'Gateway-on-a-Chip' solutions to allow manufacturers of home gateways and customer premise equipment to create advanced networking, management and security applications. This gives Philips a 51% majority stake in Ishoni. The two will work together to create complete silicon system solutions for broadband customer premise equipment. Future work will include fibre, fixed wireless and satellite applications, Philips said.

Infineon Technologies, PacketVideo, and sci-worx, a provider of intellectual property cores have announced a technology integration alliance to integrate multimedia technologies with Internet modem chips and application processors for next-generation handsets.

Under the agreement, PacketVideo's standards compliant mobilemedia software, pvPlayer, pvAuthor and pv2WAY respectively, as well as sci-worx video acceleration technology, will be tightly integrated into a number of Infineon's future mobile Internet modem and application processor solutions. This will provide wireless handset manufacturers with end-to-end solutions for mobile phones supporting full animation, moving pictures, and high-quality sound, said Infineon.

STMicroelectronics has announced it is looking to sell its PC graphics IC business. ST says that the sale of the graphics business was in line with its strategy to focus more attention on core areas in communications, automotive electronics, smartcards, computer peripherals, and digital consumer products.

Alcatel and STMicroelectronics have allied to co-develop future GSM/GPRS chip sets for mobile phones and other wireless connectivity applications. Under the agreement, French group Alcatel is transferring its team of mobile-phone IC designers to ST, Geneva, who will acquire access to 'know-how' and intellectual property developed by the group. The digital baseband chips to be developed are based on ST's ST100 DSP core.

Industry

Worldwide sales of semiconductors in Q4 2001 were unchanged from the Q3 at $30,5 bn, ending three quarters of double digit declines, according to the latest figures from SIA. Together, the Americas, Europe and Asia Pacific regions grew 3,7 % in the fourth quarter, sequentially. In Japan, recessionary pressures pulled semiconductor demand down 11,8% for the quarter, it said. "Product comparisons show a number of improving trends in the fourth quarter," said George Scalise, SIA president. "Key demand drivers, wireless handsets and personal computers, bottomed out in the third quarter and recorded double-digit increases in the fourth quarter. Semiconductors used in these products, including microprocessors, DSPs, and DRAMs, also registered double-digit gains. In addition, in a challenging environment, US companies were able to increase global market share from 50 to 51%." He added: "Increased sales in markets outside Japan indicate that demand for semiconductors in the major economies is pulling out of a downturn and began to grow in the fourth quarter. We expect flat to slightly up sales in the first quarter of 2002, another indicator of recovery since this is traditionally a seasonally flat to down quarter."

iSuppli says that a major shift from dual-conversion architectures to direct-conversion radios is shaking up the chip market serving cellphones and other wireless communications systems. In a new report the research group says that direct-conversion ICs are displacing superheterodyne (two-stage) transceivers, which have dominated radio receiver designs for more than 75 years, and predicts that, by 2005, direct conversion receivers will be used in 95% of all GSM cellular handsets, up from about 40% in 2001. Direct-conversion uses one mixer stage to convert the desired signal directly to and from the baseband without an intermediate-frequency (IF) stage or external SAW (surface acoustic wave) filters.

Sales of personal digital assistants (PDAs) rose 58% in the fourth quarter of 2001 from unit volumes in Q3, but the number of systems still fell 2% from Q4 of 2000, according to new Dataquest figures. Overall, 13,11 million PDAs were shipped worldwide in 2001, an 18% increase from 10,08 million in 2000. Palm's market share and unit shipments declined in 2001, from 5,58 million systems and 50,4% of the shipments in 2000 to 5,06 million and 38,6% share in 2001, said Dataquest. PDA supplier Handspring (no. 2), saw its market share grow in 2001 to 12,6%, while Compaq's market share rose 9,8%. The US market accounted for nearly half of worldwide PDA shipments in 2001.

iSuppli's Market Intelligence Service reports that unit volumes for CMOS sensors are projected to grow from 18 million devices worth $367m in 2001, to 72 million units worth more than $1 bn by 2005. Taking a significant share away from CCD devices, CMOS image sensors will represent about 47% of all such image sensor devices shipped by 2005, up from 23% in 2001.

Tektronix has been granted a US Patent on its Digital Phase Analysis (DPA) technology, a jitter analysis approach to test optical communications networks. Tektronix' DPA technology is integrated into its Optical Test System (OTS) Product Family. DPA time stamps every edge of a SONET/SDH data stream and removes the error sources and variables associated with phase lock loop (PLL) circuitry found in current analog alternatives. Jitter testing has now become crucial to testing higher data rates because bits are placed so closely together. Tektronix says that the ITU has developed global standards to ensure reliability and interoperability, conforming to international jitter standards becomes critical to ensuring error-free data transmission and reception over global communication networks.

Infineon Technologies has announced that Dr Peter Mihatsch has been appointed as the new Chairman of the Supervisory Board. Mihatsch is a member of the executive management of KirchHolding and in his new role succeeds Dr Volker Jung, the former Chairman.

Avnet has announced that Robert W. Mason will join the company as its new vice president and chief information officer, reporting to CEO Roy Vallee. He will be located at Avnet's headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona.

"The crystal timing market reached an unsustainable high point in 2000 due to build out of communications infrastructure and continued growth in traditional handset and PC markets. However, 2001 ushered in a series of firsts that changed that, including the first ever declines in handset and PC shipments and a sweeping financial crisis in telecommunications. The result was a decline in market value from $3,1 bn in 2000 to $2,5 bn in 2001." These comments are from Andy Fuertes, author of new ABI report on oscilllators world markets. It reveals that the steepest declines occurred in the telecoms market pushing down the market value of telecom-dependent VCXOs by 25%. VCXOs also endured encroachment by replacement technologies such as timing recovery modules which extract a timing reference from a data communications stream and eliminate the need for a VCXO. The report states that future of oscillator products, particularly high-value, VCXOs, TCXOs, and OCXOs is uncertain. Disruptive technologies such as silicon timing devices have put greater pressure on existing oscillators vendors to move up the functionality food chain and/or to partner or combine with existing silicon houses. Systems designers continue to target these devices for elimination from their designs and that oscillator vendors must respond by either staying on the cutting edge of new applications or by expanding their capabilities.

2001 was a year that bled red ink for the chip equipment industry. According to VLSI Research's new market report; few expected such a deep downturn right after the industry's best upturn. With the weak economy, a 33% drop in worldwide chip sales lowered fab capacity utilisation, which decreased demand for equipment. By the end of 2001, semiconductor equipment shipments had declined 38% over 2000 - the worst year in history. The combined shipments of the 2001 Top Ten companies were $20,3 bn, a drop of 31% from 2000. These companies were, ranked by sales: Applied Materials, Tokyo Electron, Nikon Corporation, KLA-Tencor, ASML, Canon, Dainippon Screen Mfg, Novellus Systems, Hitachi High-Technologies, Advantest.

Technology

Philips Semiconductors has announced development of a single-chip implementation of stereo radio for European, US, and Japanese FM bands. The technology will enable low-cost FM radio receivers to be embedded in a range of portable consumer products, such as mobile phones, MP3 players, CD players, toys, and inexpensive promotional 'giveaways', according to the company. The first adjustment-free monolithic single-chip embedded radios to be released will be the TEA5767 and the TEA5768.

Infineon Technologies is sampling 256-megabit reduced latency DRAMs which it says is closing the speed gap between DRAMs and fast SRAMs. These memories are based on double-data rate (DDR) synchronous DRAM architectures with enhancement to provide random access in row cycle times down to 25 ns versus 50 ns or more with standard DRAMs. The first 256-Mbit RLDRAMs are being offered in two organisations: 8-Mbit-by-32 and 16-Mbit-by-16, and operate at clock frequencies up to 300 MHz.

LogicVision and National Semiconductor have announced joint development of the industry's first IC supporting the new IEEE 1149.4 mixed-signal test bus, which can be used to extend the use of boundary-scan standards from digital to analog functions for high-fault coverage in PCBs. The companies said that the STA400 chip has been successfully tested by Lockheed Martin in a remote-controlled prototype test-and-fault isolation system. As boards have become denser, test access has become more difficult. The new mixed-signal test bus standard allows access to analog test points in boards and systems without the need for physically probing contact points.

A new silicon image sensor chip claimed to have a resolution equivalent to traditional film has been unveiled by US company Foveon. National Semiconductor will fabricate the sensor. The chip works by embedding red, blue and yellow layers in the silicon over the pixel array so each pixel captures all the primary colors, similar to normal film that records different colours of light penetrating to different layers of photosensitive material. Conventional CCD and CMOS image sensors can detect only one color at each pixel and they mathematically estimate the remaining two colors not detected. This limits the range and accuracy of the captured colour, says the company. Since each pixel in the Foveon sensor detects all primary colours, fewer pixels are needed, or conversely, a much higher resolution with greater number of pixels can be produced in the same area die, claims Foveon.

E Ink Corporation, the developer of electronic ink technology for paper-like displays, has introduced a new product platform for character and segmented display cells ( www.eink.com/cs) used in consumer electronics, portable equipment, signage, fashion accessories, and a range of commercial and industrial products. This display technology is an alternative for OEMs currently using traditional segmented LCDs, LEDs and vacuum fluorescent displays (VFDs). The development kit demonstrates how to directly drive low segment count electronic ink display cells, includes devices for basic product mock-ups; a user-programmable segmented module; and some basic technical documentation. E Ink is seeking OEMs and manufacturing partners interested in jointly developing solutions and licensing electronic ink for their applications.

Philips Semiconductors is sampling the first 'full-integrated' telematics processor, the SAF3100. This device combines a microcontroller core, 12-channel GPS baseband circuitry, dual 14-bit ADC, embedded RAM, CAN-bus controller, and high-speed UARTs for interfacing to a cellular phone. The SAF3100 is compatible with Philips' UAA1570 GPS front-end device.

Microsemi has introduced a new series of blue UltraBright LEDs based on GaN technology from Cree. The blue MegaBright UPBLED470B is uses Microsemi's patented Powermite package, which it has dubbed 'Optomite' for the new LEDs. Microsemi said it also plans 'breakthrough' white LEDs called 'LightChips' by July. According to the company its silicon-based GaN die prototypes use its proprietory chip-scale technology for white LEDs in UV-resistant glass packages that have no wire bonds.

SandCraft has announced it has begun production shipments of what it claims is the industry's highest performance MIPS64 64-bit processors, which operate at 600 MHz. The SR71000 and SR71010 microprocessors are based on a 64-bit RISC architecture from MIPS Technologies. The SR710X0 can issue and execute up to six instructions per clock cycle in a pipeline that uses out-of-order issue and dispatch and in-order retirement, said the company. Its highly efficient, two-way superscalar architecture incorporates dual instruction fetch, dual dispatch and dual commit, to maintain a throughput of two instructions per cycle. It has a two-way superscalar architecture incorporating dual-instruction fetch, dual dispatch and dual commit, which enables the processor to maintain a throughput of two instructions per cycle. The processor has a nine-stage superscalar pipeline for high clock frequency with a pipeline-bypass architecture optimized for minimizing instruction-independent stalls, SandCraft said.

Toshiba, its subsidiary ArTile, and Simplex Solutions have said that a 200 MHz RISC processor has become the first IC to be successfully laid out with diagonal interconnect lines as proposed under the 'X Architecture' initiative. In presenting a technical paper at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC), San Fransisco the companies said that X Architecture resulted in a 20% improvement in design performance and 10% savings in design area. X Architecture currently has 32 companies supporting the concept of diagonal interconnect lines instead of traditional wiring grids of right angles.

Obituary

It is with sadness that Technews announces the passing away of Jay Naicker, general manager, Mutronics-KZN.





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