Japan-US Business Report Logo

No. 352, January 1999

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Japanese Companies in the US


The first of several NEC CORP. candidate technologies to provide the next generation of dynamic random access memories for PCs, servers and workstations will go into volume production in April at NEC ELECTRONICS, INC.'s big semiconductor complex in Roseville, California. NEC says that its 256-megabit synchronous DRAM chip, which currently is sampling, can hold more than four times the data of today's 64-megabit DRAM. That makes it ideal for the most demanding workstation and server applications. To be fabricated using a 0.20-micron process technology, the part will be priced at $250 in 100,000-unit quantities.

To further its development of highly integrated mass storage chips, NEC CORP. spent $15 million to acquire a 20 percent stake in DATAPATH SYSTEMS INC. This Santa Clara, California start-up designs and develops complex analog/digital chips for signal processing and communications applications. The two companies are not strangers. Since 1994, NEC has provided technical and financial assistance to DataPath in the hope of someday coming up with a true single-chip disk drive.

Three transpacific alliances have released chips for specialized applications. Under a January 1997 agreement, HITACHI, LTD. and EQUATOR TECHNOLOGIES, INC. are sampling in the United States a programmable media processor platform that can be used to build a variety of digital media and imaging products, including set-top boxes, high-definition and standard- definition TVs, printers/copiers and video editors. The architecture underlying the MAP1000 is designed to replace hard-wired multimedia engines as well as microprocessors by integrating high-performance imaging into an advanced very-long-instruction-word central processing unit. The MAP1000 media engine comes with a complete suite of development tools and reference applications. Production quantities will be available sometime in 1999. Hitachi, along with CANON INC. and several Japanese venture capital funds, is an investor in Campbell, California-based Equator, which was formed in 1996.

KENWOOD CORP. and LSI LOGIC CORP. have come up with a chip that integrates all the functions, including decoding and tuner control, to receive satellite-broadcast digital TV programming. Samples of the L64744 system on a chip will be available during the first quarter at $170 or so, with commercial shipments to follow in the spring. LSI Logic, the manufacturer, will sell the system chip directly to makers of set-top boxes or TVs with built-in receivers, while Kenwood will incorporate the L64744 into receivers or chip boards for supply to other companies on an OEM basis. Already available in the United States, digital satellite TV broadcasting will start in Japan in late 2000.

A digital camera chipset developed by FUJIFILM MICRODEVICES CO., LTD. in partnership with KOPIN CORP. should broaden the market for the Taunton, Massachusetts company's color CyberDisplay among digital still camera manufacturers. The flat panel display is a 0.24-inch (diagonal) transmissive active-matrix LCD imaging device that enables digital cameras as well as other portable communications devices and personal information products to display information from a variety of data or video sources. The chipset, which is available now from Fuji Microdevices, combines a CCD (charge- coupled device) imager, analog and digital signal processors, a display controller and CyberDisplay.

The primary U.S. subsidiary of MITSUI & CO., LTD. was one of four venture capitalists and strategic investors to participate in a $14 million round of financing for ECLIPSE INTERNATIONAL, INC. The Mountain View, California firm makes chipsets and single-board computers preloaded with the operating system for the embedded Windoes CE systems market. Mitsui and various affiliates have invested in more than 50 portfolio companies in the United States.

An exchange rate of ¥117=$1.00 was used in this report.aaaaaa

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