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Electronics News Digest
22 May 2002, News, Electronic News Digest

Southern Africa

Altech reported impressive financial results for the year ended 28 February 2002. This makes it Altech's sixth consecutive year of solid growth, highlighting its resilience during continuing economic uncertainties. Altech CEO Craig Venter said that growth for the full year was in line with its mid-year forecasts: "Given the on-going local and global economic climate, I am truly pleased to be in a position to report that Altech's headline earnings per share increased by 22% to 268,1 cents per share. However, excluding the effect of secondary tax on an exceptional dividend declared by a subsidiary, adjusted headline earnings would have increased by 25% to 276,4 cents per share." Venter said revenue remained at R3,6 bn while operating income had increased by 26% to R357m. Although the past financial year had seen worldwide recession in the industrial electronics market, with revenues from multinational suppliers down some 45%, he said component distributor Arrow Altech Distribution (AAD), had opposed the negative trend and actually gained market share over the difficult period.

The IST group is actively pursuing acquisitions as part of a growth strategy aimed at expanding its existing businesses, said chief executive Harry Coetzee in its just-published annual report. With IST's turnaround process now effectively complete, Coetzee said that management had started focusing the technology group on a new growth path. This was designed not to diversify the group but to strengthen the position of its established operations in their current markets and, where possible, to increase its hard-currency earnings.

The SA cellular industry has welcomed the initiative by the SABS to purchase equipment for the measurement of electromagnetic emissions from cellphones. Gert du Plessis, chairman of the SA Cellular Telecommunications Association (SACTA, www.sacta.co.za), said: "The health and safety of the public is of prime importance to our members. SACTA supports initiatives that will expand the body of scientific knowledge on an aspect of mobile communications that has been a subject of intensive study for more than half a century." In South Africa, the Department of Health follows the safety guidelines developed by the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) for all emissions throughout the electromagnetic spectrum.

Dimension Data is rolling out a new campus network solution to meet the University of Pretoria's growing data communication requirements. The Nortel Networks Gigabit Ethernet network will replace the university's ageing Marconi ATM network.

Microsoft South Africa has licensed Arrow Altech Distribution as its local Embedded Distributor for the distribution of Microsoft Embedded Product, such as Windows CE, Windows NT Embedded, Windows XP Embedded and the newly released Windows CE .NET.

Concilium Technologies has moved to: Building 3, Highgrove Office Park, 50 Tegel Avenue, Highveld Technopark, Centurion, 0157. Tel: 012 678 9200, fax: 012 665 4160.

Overseas

Business

Innoveda reported its financial results for the first quarter, ended 30 March, 2002. Revenue was $15,7m with an operating loss, before amortisation, of $2,2m. Net loss for the quarter was $3,1m. Innoveda said that the economic climate and the company's restructuring in August 2001 contributed to a decline in year-over-year results. For the same period last year, Innoveda reported revenue of $27,3m, operating income of $1,8m and a net loss of $2,1m.

Zarlink Semiconductor reported sequentially flat revenues of $52,1m in the company's fiscal fourth quarter, ended March 29, compared to $51,7m in the prior quarter. Revenues were 36,8% lower than $82,4m in the same quarter last year. The company said its adjusted net loss was better than expected at $9,8m compared to a loss of $24,7m in the fiscal quarter last year.

VIA Technologies, Taiwan, announced net sales for April 2002 of NT$ 2,04 bn ($ 58,8m approximately). On a sequential basis, this monthly sales revenue represents a 12,11% decline over March's figure of NT$ 2,32 bn ($66,9 million). VIA said that these first quarter 2002 financial results largely exceeded market expectations. In particular, the gross margin of 40,1% is the highest in five quarters, while the EPS of NT$1,13 was also higher than forecast. Net profits for the quarter stood at NT$ 1074m ($30,9m approx).

Companies

Two business days after legally closing its merger with Compaq Computer, Hewlett-Packard officially launched the new company with a focus on 'product and solutions offerings, go-to-market and brand plans'. Four core business groups comprise the new HP: Enterprise Systems Group; HP Services; Imaging and Printing Group; and Personal Systems Group. In addition, the new company's Worldwide Operations unit will provide support and strategic direction necessary to ensure the success of the product business groups for the new HP.

Leading electronic design automation company, Innoveda, has announced the divestiture of its system-level design (SLD) software unit to Divestiture Growth Capital. The SLD business unit will begin operations as a separate company, under the name Summit Design headquartered in Westlinn, Oregon.

VIA Technologies of Taiwan has signed an agreement with LSI Logic to acquire the company's CDMA standard products design centre located in San Diego, California. The centre specialises in the development of advanced CDMA-based integrated circuits for next generation wireless mobile voice and data applications.

TriQuint Semiconductor and Infineon Technologies have entered into a partnership to develop and produce highly integrated RF components and modules for customised wireless system solutions. TriQuint will acquire Infineon's gallium arsenide (GaAs) semiconductor business. With this acquisition, Infineon's market position will be strengthened for its GaAs product portfolio for customised solutions, while for TriQuint, the partnership provides access to Infineon's technologies and system solution platform, and will strengthen its European presence. TriQuint will not acquire the manufacturing operations, but rather enter into an interim supply agreement with Infineon while the process is being transferred to TriQuint's Oregon operation.

Matsushita Electric Industrial and Tensor Biosciences have signed a five-year agreement on the joint research and commercialisation of a drug testing technology, which will eventually help develop drugs for psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders. Since 1999, Matsushita says it has been developing the MED 64 System, a multielectrode neurophysiology instrument which stimulates and records the electrical activity of brain tissue samples at a multitude of locations in parallel, allowing for the real-time study of activity patterns in living brain tissues. Tensor has been using the MED 64 system to develop its unique 'Brain-on-a-Chip' drug-discovery software technology, which allows automated realtime analysis of electrical activity in the brain.

Toshiba and Samsung Electronics have agreed to adopt common interface specifications for certain DRAM chips. In a joint statement the companies said that they would separately manufacture and market network-specific DRAM chips, which are seeing an increase in demand from the proliferation of LANs and the Internet. Toshiba is already producing network memories based on the double-data rate (DDR) FCRAM specification and with 256 Mbit densities. Samsung said its new 256 Mbit Network-DRAM will be in mass production by Q3 and will be compatible with the FCRAM interface.

LSI Logic has announced that it will be the first to use ARM's new synthesisable 32-bit ARM1026EJ-S microprocessor core in system-on-chip designs for advanced communications, storage, and consumer electronics applications. LSI will also use ARM's Jazelle technology-enhanced ARM7EJ-S core in chip designs as part of the agreement. LSI Logic plans to implement these two RISC processor cores in its Gflx 0,11 µm process and next-generation 0,09 µm technologies, called G90.

Intel has announced it will supply TDMA chip sets to disposable cellular-phone maker Hop-On, claimed to be the world's first developer of disposable cellphones. Unlike traditional cellphones, these cellphones come with 60 minutes of prepaid calling time, no contracts, long-distance charges, or other fees. Initial target markets will be the USA and Latin America. Intel also offers GSM, and CDMA chip sets.

Infineon Technologies and Nanya Technology of Taiwan, have signed a non-binding MoU about a cooperation on standard memory chips (DRAMs). Under the terms, the two semiconductor manufacturers will co-develop advanced 0,09 µm and 0,07 µm production technologies for 300 mm wafers starting October 2002, sharing the development costs. The companies have also agreed to set up a 50:50 joint venture for the production of DRAM chips and to build a new joint 300 mm facility in Taiwan.

Industry

Worldwide semiconductor sales totalled $10,75 bn in March, a 7,2% increase from the $10,03 bn level reached in February, and the highest monthly sequential increase since April 1986, states the SIA's latest report. Led by strong DRAM sales, this record rise in first quarter growth is another sign that the industry is rebuilding from 2001, it says, with growth in all the major geographic regions except Japan, which was flat. SIA's outlook for the second quarter is for single digit sales growth followed by stronger growth rates in the second half of the year.

In a semiconductor industry forecast presentation delivered at the Embedded Processor Forum, In-Stat/MDR reported that, as predicted, 2002 will continue to be a corrective year for the industry. It said that 2002 worldwide semi sales are forecast to decline an additional 4-5% from 2001 despite sequential quarterly growth. However, in 2003, an optimal combination of inventory depletion, order rates and market dynamics will result in a 30,7% increase in worldwide semiconductor sales over the year prior.

Despite the current IC downturn, the semiconductor market for displays remains robust, especially for LCDs, digital TV, and related applications, according to a new report from iSuppli. LCD monitor controller revenues will grow from $216m in 2001 to more than $600m in 2006 as the flat-panel boom on the desktop continues, it says. Other growth areas include projector control electronics, while the market for advanced digital TV image processors and progressive scan converters are expected to increase from $20m in 2001 to more than $180m by 2006. iSuppli says that perhaps the biggest opportunity is in emerging display technologies such as OLED and plasma displays, where it expects this market to represent a $1,5 bn opportunity for driver electronics in 2006, up from $120m in 2001.

The number of Internet users surpassed 530 million in 2001 and will continue to grow strongly in the next five years. Most of the growth is coming from Asia, Latin America and parts of Europe. This is according to new market research by eTForecasts who examined Internet usage in over 50 countries. eTForecasts predicts that by year-end 2005 the number of worldwide Internet users will double to 1,12 bn. An increasing portion of these will be using wireless devices such as web-enabled cell phones and PDAs to go online, and these will be supplemental to PC Internet access for the majority of users in developed countries. The research group said that the wireless Internet was a disappointment in 1999 and 2000 due to unrealistic expectations in W. Europe and USA. However, the wireless Internet has lived up to expectations in Japan and Korea, and similar success is expected in other regions, but on a slower schedule.

Worldwide shipments of 'smart handheld devices' - such as palmtop pen-based computers - will increase by more than 13% in 2002 to about 16,5 million units from 14,6 million in 2001, according to a new report from IDC. The market research firm is now projecting an annual growth rate of 17% between 2001 and 2006, putting the estimated volume at 31,6 million units worldwide in four years. It says that the evolution of wireless networks, new device technologies, increased enterprise device adoption, and partnerships in pen-based handheld units are driving the growth. Nearly 63 million 'converged' handheld devices will be shipped worldwide in 2006, up from 3,5 million this year.

MasterCard International has published specifications for MasterCard Open Data Storage (MODS), an application programming interface (API) for storing and retrieving data, which provides its member financial institutions with the ability to offer cardholders more control over personal information and greater privacy.

In its lawsuit against Silicon Storage Technologies (SST), Atmel announced that a jury has found that an Atmel patent relating to a semiconductor memory device technology was willfully infringed on by SST. Atmel said SST had refused to legally license this patented technology for six years. Atmel was awarded $19 979 640 but said it intends to ask for tripling of the damages, interest and payment of its attorneys' fees.

A Japanese study has found that electromagnetic radiation levels inside trains can surpass international safety limits if about 20% of the passengers are using their phones. Tohuku University's Tsuyoshi Hondou claims that radiation emitted by cellphones inside a train has nowhere to go and simply bounces off the train's metal carriage, exceeded limits recommended by the International Committee for Non-Ionising Radiation.

EBV Elektronik, was named 'Distributor of the Year 2001', by Texas Instruments, as a recognition of its sales performance and its strong efforts in creating new opportunities for TI's advanced product portfolio. This recognition was all the more important, said EBV, as 2001 proved to be a difficult year for the semiconductor industry and its worldwide distribution partners.

Technology

Intersil and Silicon Wave have revealed the world's first dual-mode 802.11b and Bluetooth mini-PCI card reference design. At Networld+Interop 2002, Intersil showed a dual-mode mini-PCI card reference design incorporating Blue802 technology that provides simultaneous optimal operation of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi (802.11b) wireless functionality in a single device. This enables Bluetooth applications such as mouse, keyboard, printing, file transfer and portable device synchronisation to run at the same time the user is wirelessly connected to the network via Wi-Fi. Coexistence between Bluetooth and Wi-Fi has been a significant issue impacting the adoption of these two comple- mentary technologies, according to the companies. The reference design allows both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi radios to share the same PCB, host interface and antennas, saving integration and material costs.

RF Micro Devices has announced it will shortly begin manufacturing its first wafers based on a gallium-nitride (GaN) process. The GaN wafers are being produced at RF Nitro's 4-inch fab in Charlotte, N.C. In October RFMD acquired RF Nitro, whose product line covers three compound semiconductor technologies - InGaP HBT, GaAs PHEMT, and GaN HEMT.

PMC-Sierra has announced a new online tool to assist customers and partners in product evaluation. This web-based solution called Solution Advisor, is claimed to shave weeks off of the product evaluation cycle, guiding users through realtime design evaluation and providing recommended chip architectures for specified application requirements. See www.pmc-sierra.com/solutions.

Micron Technology is sampling two new low-power image sensors and camera-on-chip devices for mobile products that incorporate sophisticated camera functions and are programmable through a simple two-wire interface. The CMOS sensors have a resolution of (352-by-288) compatible with the common intermediate format (CIF). The products have a 3,6 mm optical format and up to 30-frames-per-second progressive scan for high-quality video. The sensors also have an on-chip 8-bit ADC.

On Semiconductor claims its NCP1205 pulse width modulator (PWM) current-mode controller for high-voltage and off-line power conversion applications offers breakthrough low standby power dissipation. Designed for high-efficiency and low-power standby applications in consumer electronics requiring quiet electromagnetic interference, a typical 30-watt SMPS built with this new device uses less than 150 mW at 240 V a.c. and no load, says On Semiconductor. The NCP1205 operates in true Quasi-Resonant valley switching mode and reduces switching frequency when the output power demand decreases.

Corning has introduced Optilock VR2e, a Raman pump laser that has an operating power up to 350 mW. The company claims this offers the highest power available in a standard 14-pin butterfly package.


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