Japan-US Business Report Logo

No. 350, November 1998

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American Companies in Japan


SEMICONDUCTORS

Along with many other players in the semiconductor industry, the three-year slowdown in sales is forcing LSI LOGIC CORP. to retrench to lower costs. Its restructuring plan includes the closure of an 11-year-old wafer fabrication facility in Tsukuba, Ibaraki prefecture. The shutdown of that front end will account for most of the 30 percent or so reduction in wafer-fabrication capacity that the Milpitas, California company plans to make. The loss of the plant's roughly 900 jobs also will represent the majority of the 1,200 people that the system-on-a chip manufacturer will trim from its payroll to attain a 17 percent work force reduction. Unaffected by LSI's restructuring moves is its second Tsukuba wafer fab, which opened in 1993.

Despite the turmoil in the semiconductor market — or perhaps because of it — U.S. firms continue to score design wins in Japan. For instance, CYRIX CORP.'s MMX- enhanced MediaGX processor will power a Windows-based terminal that TAKAOKA ELECTRIC MANUFACTURING CO., LTD. will release before yearend. The Tokyo company will sell the system, Japan's first Windows-based terminal, to OEM customers worldwide as well as under the Takaoka WiNT name. Linked with a server via Windows NT Server 4.0 software, the terminal functions like a PC. Cyrix's MediaGX processor helped to pioneer the sub-$1,000 PC market in 1997.

Similarly, VICTOR CO. OF JAPAN, LTD. selected the AViA set-top decoder solution from C-CUBE MICROSYSTEMS INC. as the core digital video engine for receivers used by subscribers to SKYPERFECTV CORP.'s satellite-broadcast digital television programming. The set-top graphics performance of the Milpitas, California company's chipset supports multiple picture-in-graphics windows, thereby helping users to select from among SKYPerfecTV's 170 channels of programming by displaying 16 promotional channels or 20 programs from a selected area of interest. C-Cube also claims that its technology delivers one of the industry's most advanced electronic program guides.

DUET TECHNOLOGIES INC. of San Jose, California — one of a new breed of companies that provide semiconductor IP (intellectual property) infrastructure components, including integrated circuit physical libraries, and related services — now has a wholly owned subsidiary in Tokyo. The primary job of that organization is supporting current and future customers with comprehensive chip design services and a growing line of semiconductor IP products. It also will work to develop new markets. Duet's customers currently include FUJITSU, LTD., HITACHI, LTD., MITSUBISHI ELECTRIC CORP., NEC CORP., OKI ELECTRIC INDUSTRY CO., LTD., SONY CORP. and TOSHIBA CORP.

A second Japanese company has received a license in the form of intellectual property to IREADY CORP.'s Internet Tuner technology. SEIKO INSTRUMENTS, INC. will integrate the Santa Clara, California company's unique "Internet-on-a-chip" design with its low-power, high-function "chip-on-film" technology to produce Internet-enabled LCD modules. These modules allow Web browsing, e-mail and networking to be added easily and inexpensively to consumer devices. SII initially will introduce two LCD module lines. The Network-Ready LCD modules are designed for devices like cellular phones that require a simple network connection, while the Internet-Ready LCD modules are targeted at such devices as screen phones that require full Internet capabilities. In June 1997, iReady licensed its Internet Tuner technology to TOSHIBA CORP. for development as an ASIC core.

A fifth company now is distributing INTEL CORP.'s products to midsized and smaller manufacturers, supplementing direct sales by the processor giant to PC makers. Semiconductor trader INNOTECH CORP. is handling embedded Pentium II processors and i960 microcontrollers for use in consumer electronics products and industrial devices.

ZILOG, INC.'s subsidiary is marketing what it believes is the lowest-priced 8-bit OTP (one-time programmable) microcontroller ever put on the market. Selling for 66 cents each in quantities of 10,000 units, the Z8E000 is the latest member of the Campbell, California manufacturer's Z8Plus family of microcontrollers. Typical applications for the product are sensors, battery chargers, switches and motor control.

In a worldwide release, LATTICE SEMICONDUCTOR CORP. introduced the ispLSI 5000V SuperWIDE family of 3.3-volt in-system programmable logic devices. The SuperWIDE architecture provides support for the widest logic functions, including 64-bit bus systems. The line's initial three members have logic densities ranging from 256 macrocells to 512 macrocells. The Hillsboro, Oregon manufacturer's subsidiary priced the midrange part with 384 macrocells in a ball grid array package at close to $92 each in 1,000-unit quantities.

Two of the nine devices making up XILINX, INC.'s Virtex series of field-programmable gate arrays are sampling in Japan. The complete line ranges from 50,000 system gates (1,728 logic cells) to 1 million system gates (27,648 logic cells) operating at clock speeds up to 160 MHz. A 300,000-system-gate device costs $55 per unit in quantities of 100,000, while the densest Virtex part lists for $385 in volume.

Fellow FPGA supplier ACTEL CORP. signed TOMEN ELECTRONICS CORP. to distribute locally the 0.25-micron ProASIC family of nonvolatile reprogrammable logic products. The Sunnyvale, California firm said that it chose Tomen Electronics because that firm has experience distributing ProASIC products for developer GATEFIELD CORP. in Japan. In August, Fremont, California-based GateField gave Actel the right to sell the new 0.25-micron ProASIC line. The Actel devices are made by SIEMENS AG. At the same time, GateField licensed ROHM CO., LTD. to manufacture a broader range of ProASIC devices (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 348, September 1998, p. 15).

TEXAS INSTRUMENTS INC., which has made digital signal processors the driver of its semiconductor business, has announced that a new line of high-performance, energy-efficient DSP chips for cellular phones and other communications products will be available next spring in Japan. These parts will deliver more than twice the processing capability of today's DSPs. For example, the C5420 performs 200 million operations per second but consumes just 120 milliwatts of power. This device will cost $60. Similarly, TI's new C5402 DSP can handle 100 million operations per second while drawing only 58 milliwatts. It will list for around $5.50.

Companies with HEWLETT-PACKARD JAPAN LTD.'s Unix-based workstations and network servers that want to upgrade the internal memory of their machines now have a low-cost alternative to going back to HP Japan. ORIX LENTECH CORP. is marketing 128-MB and 256-MB memories supplied by DATARAM CORP., a Princeton, New Jersey manufacturer of large-capacity memory products for high-end computers. The 128-MB upgrade lists for $975, while the 256-MB memory goes for $2,000. These prices are said to undercut HP Japan's by 20 percent to 30 percent.

Samples are available of HEWLETT PACKARD CO.'s first isolated-collector silicon bipolar junction transistors for radio-frequency applications. The HBFP-0405 and the HBFP-0420 can be used as amplifiers in wireless communications systems and other products operating in the frequency band from 900 MHz to approximately 2.5 GHz and as oscillators in the range up to 9 GHz or 12 GHz. In bulk, the parts cost between 52 cents and 55 cents per unit.

HEWLETT-PACKARD JAPAN LTD. believes that it can sell 30 of the new HP Versatest V1300 Mixed Memory/Logic IC Test Systems a year. That projection is based in large part on its parent's success in simultaneously boosting throughput for flash and other nonvolatile memory device testing while reducing the cost per test. The HP V1300 can asynchronously test in parallel up to 16 high-density flash and other NVM devices with as many as 64 signal pins, or 32 lower-density NAND and NOR flash devices. Those volumes are said to be twice as high as other makers' test systems for wafer-sort applications. The U.S. list price for the standard configuration of the HP V1300 system is $840,000.

An exchange rate of ¥121=$1.00 was used in this report.
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