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No. 365, February 2000

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American Companies in Japan


A second big Japanese consumer electronics manufacturer is using KOPIN CORP.'s CyberDisplay as the monochrome viewfinder in one of its camcorders. MATSUSHITA ELECTRIC INDUSTRIAL CO., LTD. has incorporated the 0.24-inch (diagonal) transmissive active-matrix LCD in the Panasonic NV-VZ-1 camcorder that is shipping to the European market. The Tauton, Massachusetts firm's lightweight and energy-efficient product replaces the bulky, high-voltage CRT traditionally used in camcorder viewfinders. MOTOROLA INC. is supplying the ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) chip that is the electronics interface between the CyberDisplay and the Panasonic camcorder. Kopin described the value of the MEI order as only in the multimillion-dollar range. Last July, VICTOR CO. OF JAPAN, LTD. began shipping its new CyberCam camcorder equipped with a CyberDisplay to the U.S. market.

Building on an existing marketing agreement (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 359, August 1999, p. 17), LCD module supplier THREE-FIVE SYSTEMS, INC. gave MITSUI & CO., LTD. exclusive sales and distribution rights in Japan to three advanced display products currently in or nearing production. They are the LCiD (liquid crystal intense display), the LCaD (liquid crystal active drive) and the thumbnail-size LCoS (liquid crystal on silicon) technology, which the Tempe, Arizona manufacturer says is capable of resolutions up to and including high-definition TV. Three-Five Systems expects its microdisplay to be used not only in HDTV sets but also in such products as computer monitors and mobile phones with video display linkages.

Forthcoming Panasonic-brand portable digital audio players from MATSUSHITA ELECTRIC INDUSTRIAL CO., LTD. will be optimized for use with AUDIBLE, INC.'s Internet audio service. The Wayne, New Jersey fir has more than 20,000 hours of spoken audio programming available at its Audible.com site, including selected content from leading newspapers and magazines and books from best-selling authors. The security features of the SD Memory Card that will be used in the envisioned AudibleReady portable devices will ensure copyright protection for the Audible.com material while providing the capacity needed for playback.

ZAYANTE, INC. — a major force behind the IEEE 1394 standard for easily and inexpensively interconnecting computing and consumer electronics products in the home — signed SUMISHO ELECTRONIC DEVICES CORP. to distribute and support its home networking silicon and software products and services. NIPPON TECHNO LAB, INC. will work with SED to help adapt Zayante's software to specific customer requirements. The Scotts Valley, California company's current focus in Japan is on such key 1394 markets as imaging and printing products and mass storage. Last summer, Zayante incorporated a Tokyo subsidiary in its effort to emerge as the top supplier of IEEE 1394 solutions (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 359, August 1999, p. 18).

The pioneering digital color-changing lighting products developed and manufactured by COLOR KINETICS INC. will be available in Japan through master distributor ALS, INC. At the heart of the Boston company's line is its Chromacore technology, which generates colored light using a processor chip to control the mixing of next-generation red, green and blue LEDs (light-emitting diodes). The IC controls both the color combinations — 16.7 million are possible — and the intensity of light to achieve various colored light effects. The upshot, Color Kinetics says, is that its products create a whole new range of lighting possibilities. Tokyo-based ALS, which does landscape and entertainment lighting, expects sales of the Color Kinetics line to reach at least $952,400 in the first year and perhaps even double that total.

The Power Commander motor controller made by POWER EFFICIENCY CORP. has gotten its foot in corporate Japan's door in a big way. Members of the Toyota Group are using the product, which delivers electricity to alternating-current motors only when and in the amounts needed, in the final stages of a testing program involving stamping machines, drilling presses, conveyors and other manufacturing equipment. The Hackensack, New Jersey supplier expects "substantial" follow-on orders from the Toyota Group in the second quarter of 2000. Distributor HANEDA & CO., LTD. (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 354, March 1999, p. 18) arranged this deal as well as one with HITACHI ELEVATOR CO., LTD. in Singapore.

Under a sublicensing agreement, BEI TECHNOLOGIES, INC. will allow TOYOTA MOTOR CORP. to make a micromachined quartz rotation-rate sensor for use in electronic stability-control systems in vehicles built by Japan's top automotive producer for sale at home. The San Francisco-headquartered company noted that the deal does not preclude AKEBONO BRAKE INDUSTRY CO., LTD., its marketing partner since the fall of 1998, from selling BEI quartz-rate sensors to other Japanese vehicle manufacturers. It also held out the possibility that Toyota might end up purchasing sensors through Akebono Brake. BEI Technologies is the world's leading manufacturer of solid-state gyroscopic rate sensors for a variety of stability-control applications.

Two products are being added to the output of AMP INC.'s factory in Oigawa, Shizuoka prefecture. One is a special connector that the TYCO ELECTRONICS CORP. subsidiary calls a New Card Bus Double Slot Assembly. This holding device enables the 32-bit PC Cards used in notebook computers to provide expanded functions while taking up a minimum of space. To meet different notebook design requirements, several board mounting options are available, while the eject button can be positioned on either the left or the right. AMP expects to produce 1 million double slots a year. The connector is priced at $14.30 each. The big connector maker also is projecting an annual production run of 7 million units for its 2.5-millimeter-pitch, space-saving battery connectors for mobile equipment. This family previously was available only as a 10-position connector. However, AMP introduced 4-, 5-, 6- and 7-position types to meet the varied requirements of such products as notebook computers and mobile phones.

An exchange rate of ¥105=$1.00 was used in this report.aaaaaa

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