TEXAS INSTRUMENTS INC.'s decision to exit the volatile DRAM business and sell this part of its semiconductor operations to MICRON TECHNOLOGY INC. has collateral repercussions for KTI SEMICONDUCTOR, LTD., the eight-year-old Nishiwaki, Hyogo prefecture joint venture between KOBE STEEL, LTD. and TI. Boise, Idaho-based Micron Technology is taking over TI's 25 percent stake in the company, which lost $92.9 million in FY 1996 and $136.4 million in FY 1997. The new American partner and Kobe Steel expect to spend roughly $285.7 million over the next two years to convert the wafer fabrication facility to Micron Technology's production processes and to start making 64-megabit DRAM wafers next spring. Close to $430 million already has been invested in KTI, most recently in 1996 to expand capacity, switch to 8-inch wafers and launch current production of 16-megabit DRAM. All of the plant's wafers will go to Micron Technology, just as they did when TI was a part owner. KTI hopes to return to profitability in FY 1999, but analysts are divided on whether that is possible without a strong rebound in DRAM pricing.
Hoping that beating INTEL CORP. to the market will provide a windfall, ADVANCED MICRO DEVICES, INC. has released an alternative to the microprocessor king's delayed Pentium II processor with MMX2 technology. AMD's subsidiary is shipping three speeds of its competing K6-2 processor with 3D Now! technology. In quantities of 1,000, the 333-MHz version costs $395, while a 300-MHz processor lists for $300 and a 266-MHz K6-2 goes for $200. If history is any guide, these prices are likely to undercut those for the Pentium II with MMX2 technology by about 25 percent. The three versions of the K6-2 with 3DNow! technology are targeted at the low end of the desktop PC market as well as at what in the United States is called the sub-$1,000 market. The Intel part is expected to ship in 1999.
The first embedded processor is available at 300 MHz for networking and embedded customers that require high-speed capabilities from a low-cost, low-power engine. MOTOROLA INC.'s subsidiary is marketing the 300-MHz EC603e at a suggested price of $106 in quantities of 10,000 units. The EC603e, which also comes in 266-, 233-, 200-, 166-, 133- and 100-MHz versions, is a 32-bit implementation of the PowerPC RISC architecture. At 300 MHz, it performs 423 million instructions per second while drawing just 4 watts of power.
OKI ELECTRIC INDUSTRY CO., LTD. has joined a number of other Japanese semiconductor manufacturers in licensing DSP GROUP INC.'s second-generation core-based digital signal processor. The Santa Clara, California company's OakDSPCore is a 16-bit general-purpose, low-power, low-voltage, high-speed DSP core that can be used to develop custom multimedia and communications applications.
A process developed by PACIFIC MICROSONICS INC. of Berkeley, California that delivers superior sound playback from CDs has been licensed to SANYO ELECTRIC CO., LTD. It plans to produce in volume a chip that integrates all three functions necessary for High Definition Compatible Digital playback. By holding down production costs, Sanyo Electric hopes to make the HDCD chip standard on CD players.
In the fourth quarter, the semiconductor systems unit of ROCKWELL INTERNATIONAL CORP.'s subsidiary will begin sampling a chipset for ADSL (asymmetrical digital subscriber line) equipment at $68 per unit in lots of 10,000. Volume production is scheduled for early 1999. ADSL technology enables fast Internet connections over existing copper telephone lines. Rockwell's chipset gives ADSL equipment the ability to transmit as much as 8 megabits of data per second downstream and 1 megabit per second upstream. It also conforms to what is expected to become the international standard for ADSL equipment power consumption, a low 1.9 watts during transmission.
As part of a worldwide launch, VLSI TECHNOLOGY, INC.'s local operation is shipping to companies developing mobile phones based on the CDMA digital platform samples of a single-chip CDMA dual-core baseband solution. Claimed to be the market's most highly integrated CDMA product, the San Jose, California company's CDMA+ package includes the low-cost, low-power-consumption CDMA+ Processor 100 chip, software and debug tools. CDMA+ is the third product built on VLSI's ViA Standard Communications Platform. Volume production of the part is expected in the first quarter of 1999.
In a pair of deals that could lead to a significant increase in sales, INTEGRATED SENSOR SOLUTIONS, INC. is shipping ASICs (application-specific integrated circuits) to NAGANO KEIKI CO., LTD., a supplier of sensor and data acquisition systems. One contract covers a low-power, signal-conditioning ASIC developed for the Tokyo company, which has been selected by major gas meter manufacturers to provide sensor subassemblies for next-generation residential propane gas meters. Nagano Keiki is using the ASIC in a pressure sensor designed to monitor line pressure as well as to detect fine gas leaks. ISS's other contract involves its SCA2095, a single-chip, signal-conditioning ASIC. The Japanese customer is integrating this part with resistive bridge sensors for gasoline direct-injection engines that MITSUBISHI MOTORS CORP. is developing (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 345, June 1998, pp. 7-8).
BURR-BROWN CORP.'s subsidiary has added two sampling analog-to-digital converters to its product lineup. Its ADS7841 is a four-channel, 12-bit product with a synchronous serial interface. With its low power, high speed (a sampling rate of 200 kilohertz) and on-board multiplexer, the ADS7841 is targeted at such applications as industrial process control, remote data acquisition, test and measurement, medical instrumentation and battery-operated systems like personal digital assistants. It is priced from $7.70 in quantities of 100. The Tucson, Arizona company's ADS7818 is said to be the industry's fastest 12-bit ADC. It also has a very low power dissipation and comes in a small package. High-speed applications where board space and power consumption are at a premium are the target uses, including battery-operated systems and wireless communications devices. The pricing of the ADS7818 begins at $8.90, also in 100-unit lots.
What is said to be the first application-specific power chipset to exceed INTEL CORP.'s Mobile Power Guideline 1999 standard for notebook PC power supplies is available on a sampling basis from INTERNATIONAL RECTIFIER CORP.'s subsidiary. The El Segundo, California manufacturer's low-voltage HEXFET power MOSFETs (metal- oxide semiconductor field-effect transistors), sold as the IRF7805 and the IRF7807, reportedly reduce losses by 20 percent in Pentium II processor DC/DC converters and improve overall notebook power supply efficiency to 92 percent. Volume production of both chipsets is expected in August. They are priced at just over $1.00 each.
Manufacturers of traffic signal heads now have a power-saving alternative to conventional incandescent lamps. HEWLETT-PACKARD JAPAN LTD. is marketing its parent's new line of high-intensity, high-efficiency bluish-green LED (light-emitting diode) lamps. HEWLETT-PACKARD CO. already is the world's biggest supplier of high-brightness red and yellow LED lamps for traffic signals. The "traffic-signal green" lamps, marketed as the HLMP-CExx, are available in a range of luminous intensities and in two different viewing angles. HP Japan also is offering the HLMP-CMxx line, which consists of "pure green" and blue lamps, for general applications, including outdoor signs. Sample prices of both families start at $1.00 each in quantity. HP Japan expects to sell 2 million of all the new lamps monthly.
With wafer yield improvement a constant challenge in semiconductor production as device geometries become smaller and smaller, APPLIED MATERIALS, INC. believes that it will find a strong market in Japan for its recently introduced high-speed defect- review scanning electronic microscope system. The $2.3 million SEMVision DR-SEM is described as the first fully automated defect review and classification SEM specifically designed for in-line operation on state-of-the-art production lines. It is said to be five to 10 times faster than existing off-line, manual SEMs, providing defect classification at a throughput of up to 300 defects an hour.
An exchange rate of ¥140=$1.00 was used in this report.