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No. 366, March 2000

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American Companies in Japan


Having already assigned the IBM JAPAN LTD. facility in Fujisawa, Kanagawa prefecture a greater role in the development and production of the company's hard disk drives, especially the Travelstar line of 2.5- inch drives for notebook computers, INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES CORP. is taking the next logical step. It will fund the construction of a pilot wafer-fabrication plant at IBM Japan's Nasu, Shiga prefecture complex for the manufacture of ASIC chips for 2.5-inch drives. These parts will feature a line geometry of 0.25 micron. Apparently, not all the project details have been finalized, such as the timing and the cost, although the investment is likely to fall within the range of $36.7 million to $45.9 million. The latest Travelstar drive holds an awesome 25.3 GB of data (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 360, September 1999, p. 16).

TEXAS INSTRUMENTS INC., which has tied its future in the semiconductor business to DSPs, especially for cell phones, previewed a new generation of record-breaking DSP cores. Its TMS320C64x DSP core for broadband communications infrastructure applications, including 3G wireless base stations and digital subscriber line equipment, features a clock speed of up to 1.1 gigahertz and performs nearly 9,000 million instructions per second. According to TI's calculations, this tops by 10 times the performance of the TMS320C62x, the current industry leader, in key applications. TI also announced the TMS320C55x DSP core, which, it says, extends the battery life of cell phones four times com-pared with the TMS320C54x now found in 70 percent of the world's cell phones. It does that by slashing power consumption to six times less than the already power-efficient C54x. Both DSP cores are software-compatible with previous generations of TI parts, thereby reducing development times for product manufacturers.

Right before this announcement, TEXAS INSTRUMENTS INC. indicated that as part of its plan to invest more money in its DSP business in fiscal 2000, DSP production capacity would be increased at its subsidiary's Miho, Ibaraki prefecture wafer fab. Although other details are sketchy, the expansion will require an outlay of anywhere from $367 million to $458.7 million.

In its second recent tie-up with a first-tier Japanese semiconductor manufacturer, TENSILICA INC. — a provider of application-specific processor cores and software development tools for high-volume embedded systems — licensed its Xtensa processor technology to NEC CORP. That company will use the Santa Clara, California firm's processor generator to develop embedded processors for a variety of advanced but otherwise unspecified communications products. What sold NEC on the Xtensa processor technology was the flexibility it offered to add instructions and functional units without an extensive knowledge of the processor's microarchitecture. FUJITSU, LTD. also has licensed Tensilica's know-how (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 363, December 1999, p. 27).

A number of big makers of computer printers in Japan have designed into their products controllers from PEERLESS SYSTEMS CORP. Now, the El Segundo, California supplier of software-based embedded imaging and networking systems for digital document products has decided to make its ASIC chips broadly available there. It enlisted MARUBUN CORP. to sell a pair of Quickprint graphics coprocessors, the QP1910 and the QP1940, to manufacturers of high-speed monochrome products and production-class color printers and digital copiers. The distributor also will provide several value-added services to customers, including just-in-time delivery and ordering and shipping management.

In a move that certainly was unusual if not unprecedented, LIGHTSURF TECHNOLOGIES, INC. established an office in Tokyo the same month that it was founded. The virtually simultaneous launches are understandable since the Santa Cruz, California business provides wireless Internet digital photography technology, infrastructure and intellectual property and Japan is on the cutting edge of Internet-enabled cell phone technology. LightSurf's actual business involves integrated wireless digital photography chipsets and system software. It also licenses to development partners its ePhoto wireless digital photography architecture and eCommerce infrastructure.

With contracts in hand from most of the big names in Japan's consumer electronics industry (see Japan- U.S. Business Report No. 365, February 2000, p. 23) and digital satellite broadcasting services scheduled to start in December 2000, TERALOGIC, INC., a developer of ICs and reference designs for advanced TVs, set-top boxes and PC-TV convergence products, has decided that the time is right to initiate a major marketing push. The Mountain View, California firm's subsidiary and distributor MARUBUN CORP. will focus on three products: the TL850, a single-chip, all-format video/graphics processor for digital TV sets; the TL750, a single-chip graphics processor for the new category of products called personal video recorders as well as DVD players, digital set-top boxes and Internet TV sets; and the Janus IC, a single-chip, all-format digital TV decoder designed for the PC platform. Teralogic believes that this effort can raise sales to $9.2 million in fiscal 2000 and to double or even triple that total the following year.

At the end of 1998, COMIT SYSTEMS, INC., a provider of turnkey contract engineering services for electronic product development, opened a design center in Japan. To reach a broader audience, the Santa Clara, California company now has teamed up with APOLLO GIKEN CORP. The Yokohama-based supplier of printed circuit board design and manufacturing services will market Comit's services in the areas of ASIC design and verification, FPGA (field-programmable gate array) design and embedded systems design to its own customers, which include members of the Matsushita Group and SONY CORP. The alliance also gives Comit access to Apollo Giken's PCB design and manufacturing capabilities, thereby enabling it to offer more services to its American and European customers.

By yearend, industry sources report, AGILENT TECHNOLOGIES, INC., a major maker of automatic test equipment, among other products, will begin to assemble testers for system-on-a-chip products at its factory in the Hachioji section of Tokyo. The company reportedly has earmarked $4.6 million to install a produc-tion line capable of turning out 20 units a month, primarily to test system chips for communications equipment and digital home appliances. Agilent, which is particularly strong in test systems for mixed- signal chips, will be going up against Boston's TERADYNE, INC., the world ATE leader for SOC parts, and number-two and Japan market leader ADVANTEST CORP.

In April 1998, fellow ATE manufacturers LTX CORP. and ANDO ELECTRIC CO., LTD. forged a wide- ranging alliance that included codeveloping versions of the Westwood, Massachusetts company's Fusion SOC test platform for marketing in Japan. Ando Electric has released the first two products to emerge from this relationship. The AL7275, which tests at 125 MHz, and the 150-MHz AL7292 draw on the broad, integrated capabilities of the Fusion system to test high-speed digital, DSP and other devices with the same degree of expertise as mixed-signal devices and vice versa. Ando Electric believes that it can sell 40 units of the two models in 2000 for revenues of $45.9 million.

An exchange rate of ¥109=$1.00 was used in this report.aaaaaa

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