Japan-US Business Report Logo

No. 353, February 1999

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American Companies in Japan


In an attempt to boost its sales of DRAMs to $265.5 million in FY 1999 from just a fraction of that amount, MICRON TECHNOLOGY INC. gave KOBE STEEL, LTD. affiliate SHINSHO CORP. the right to market its computer memory chips in the huge Japanese market. The companies are no strangers. When the Boise, Idaho chipmaker bought TEXAS INSTRUMENTS INC.'s DRAM business last year, it also acquired TI's 25 percent stake in KTI SEMICONDUCTOR, LTD. (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 346, July 1998, pp. 18-19). Kobe Steel is the majority owner of that Nishiwaki, Hyogo prefecture DRAM wafer fabrication facility, all of whose output goes to Micron Technology. This spring, KTI will start to make 64-megabit DRAMs, using the American parent's product and process technologies.

Longtime MIPS TECHNOLOGIES INC. licensees NEC CORP. and TOSHIBA CORP. have signed new agreements covering a faster microprocessor technology than the Mountain View, California company's 64- bit RISC design. The arrangements are for parallel floating-point processors with clock speeds of up to 1 gigahertz. NEC and Toshiba expect to commercialize the new technology in the 2000 to 2001 time frame. MIPS is a SILICON GRAPHICS, INC. company.

Manufacturers of midrange and high-end servers and workstations using four or more processors now have available a 450-MHz version of INTEL CORP.'s Pentium II Xeon. Buyers have a choice of 512 KB, 1 MB or 2 MB of on-board Level 2 cache. Intel calculates that systems using the new processor with 2 MB of L2 cache deliver more than 10 percent greater performance than systems powered by a 400-MHz Pentium II Xeon processor with 1 MB of L2 cache. Intel's subsidiary priced the 450-MHz processor at $890 for 512 KB of L2 cache, $2,100 for 1 MB of L2 cache and $4,000 for 2 MB of L2 cache, all in quantities of 1,000. Japanese hardware vendors releasing four-way and bigger systems based on the 450-MHz Pentium II Xeon processor include FUJI-TSU, LTD., HITACHI, LTD., MITSUBISHI ELECTRIC CORP., NEC CORP. and TOSHIBA CORP.

The first two of what INTEL CORP. says will be many products for low-cost desktop PCs to be released in 1999 are on the market. The 400- MHz Celeron processor yields as much as a 20 percent performance improvement over the Celeron operating at 333 MHz, while the 366-MHz Celeron processor provides up to 10 percent more performance. These two parts, like the 333-MHz and 300A-MHz Celeron versions, have 128 KB of integrated L2 cache on the processor core. To further enhance the performance and the flexibility of low-cost PC systems, Intel's subsidiary simultaneously introduced the 440ZX AGPset. The subsidiaries of direct marketers DELL COMPUTER CORP. and GATEWAY 2000, INC. were the first PC manufacturers to put out products incorporating the new Celeron processors.

Suppliers of notebook computers have several new processor options that can help them lower price points while boosting performance. One is INTEL CORP.'s 300-MHz Pentium processor with MMX technology. Not only is it up to 12 percent faster than the previous top-of-the-line 266-MHz Pentium processor with MMX technology, but the new part enhances multimedia applications. In quantities of 1,000, the 300-MHz processor costs $155 each.

INTEL CORP.'s subsidiary also extended its line of mobile Pentium II processors for the mainstream notebook computer market with the release of 333-MHz and 366-MHz versions of this engine with 256 KB of integrated cache. At the same time, it announced the availability of the first mobile Celeron chips for low-cost notebooks. They run at 266 MHz and 300 MHz. All of these processors deliver better performance at prices that are no higher or even lower than the parts they replaced. EPSON DIRECT CORP., FUJITSU, LTD., HITACHI, LTD., IBM JAPAN LTD., MATSUSHITA ELECTRIC INDUSTRIAL CO., LTD., NEC CORP., SONY CORP. and TOSHIBA CORP. all launched new notebook computers powered by the faster processors.

These processors have direct competition in the value-priced notebook market from ADVANCED MICRO DEVICES, INC.'s low-power mobile AMD-K6-2 processor. With a top speed of 333 MHz, the family, which includes parts running at 300 MHz and 266 MHz, offers the highest clock- speed mobile processor. The new line also marks the first appearance of AMD's 3DNow! graphics-accelerating technology in processors for notebook computers. The processors are priced in 1,000-unit lots at $320 (333 MHz), $200 (300 MHz) and $150 (266 MHz). TOSHIBA CORP., the world's leading notebook manufacturer, is the first Japanese maker to chose the successor to the original mobile AMD-K6 line. It is using the 300-MHz mobile AMD-K6-2 in its Japan-only line of 11 DynaBook Satellite 2520 models. ADVANCED MICRO DEVICES, INC. has picked up another customer for its desktop AMD-K6-2 processor with 3DNow! technology. NEC CORP., Japan's top manufacturer of PCs, is using the 333-MHz version of this chip in NEC Mate NX-R Series models targeted at the small and midsized Japanese business market. For the home computing market, NEC has incorporated the 400-MHz and the 333-MHz AMD-K6-2 in the VALUESTAR NX-R Series. AMD's other Japanese customers for this part are FUJITSU, LTD. and TOSHIBA CORP.

American chipmakers reporting recent design wins also include ZORAN CORP. of Santa Clara, California. TOSHIBA CORP. chose its Vaddis DVD decoder chip to power the fourth generation of DVD players that the Japanese company plans to release in the first half of this year. Vaddis brings to DVD players such cutting-edge technologies as high-definition CD, 3D audio, karaoke and audio algorithms like Dolby Digital. Announced at the end of 1997, Vaddis is the result of an 11-year collaboration between Zoran and FUJIFILM MICRODEVICES CO., LTD.

All the hardware and software needed to control a DVD player's back-end decoding or playback functions, including host processing, have been integrated on a single chip. MEDIAMATICS CORP. is the developer of what parent NATIONAL SEMICONDUCTOR CORP. is calling the first DVD-On-A- Chip solution for DVD players. In Japan, National Semi's subsidiary is marketing the Pantera-DVD (NDV8401) for $265 to $355.

Under a nonexclusive license from COMPETITIVE TECHNOLOGIES, INC. of Fairfield, Connecticut, MI-TSUBISHI ELECTRIC CORP. has the right to use laser diode technology known as impurity induced layer disordering. In simplified terms, this technique converts layers of a semiconductor structure into an "alloy" that has important electronic properties. Laser diodes incorporating this technology exhibit enhanced performance and durability, making them ideal for DVD players and other optical storage equipment.

ANALOG DEVICES, INC.'s subsidiary is sampling a low-power, integrated triple 8-bit, 140-megasamples-per-second analog-to-digital converter designed specifically for demanding graphics processing, LCD monitor and projector, plasma display panel and scan-converter applications. The AD9884 graphics digitizer can support display resolutions up to 1280 x 1024 at a refresh rate of 75 Hz. It also has sufficient input bandwidth to accurately acquire and digitize each pixel for crisp image quality. The Norwood, Massachusetts company is launching commercial production of the AD9884 during the first quarter.

The local operation of NATIONAL SEMICONDUCTOR CORP. has combined on a single chip all the functions required for high-resolution color scanning. The low-power LM9830 is said to provide four times the scanning speed of conventional multiple chip parts. It also allows individual pixel resolution settings for better image quality since the horizontal and the vertical resolution range of 50 to 600 dots per inch can be set in increments of one dot per inch. The LM9830 costs $10.60 per chip in quantities of 1,000 units.

For about $42 per chipset, NATIONAL SEMICONDUCTOR CORP.'s subsidiary is offering three parts that perform the transceiver function in synchronous digital hierarchy systems at a data rate of 155 megabits per second. The cost-effective, space-saving chipset consists of the CLC005 cable driver, the CLC012 cable equalizer and the CLC016 data retiming phased locked loop. It is designed for such SDH interfaces as those found in add-drop multiplexers, digital cross-connects, SDH repeaters and digital cellular base stations.

If HEWLETT-PACKARD JAPAN LTD.'s projection is right, it will sell about 100,000 units a year of a pair of optical transceiver modules. The HFBR-5903 and the HFBR-5905, which are priced around $92 a part in small purchase orders, are designed for such telecommunications equipment as 100Base-FX Ethernet and ATM (asynchronous transfer mode) systems.

An unnamed company described only as a major semiconductor maker will soon take delivery of a Tegal 6500 Series etcher from TEGAL CORP. The Petaluma, California firm's system will be used to develop and produce nonvolatile ferroelectric RAMs.

Developers of flash memory test programs now have a time- slashing way to do their job. The Personal KALOS from automatic test equipment maker CREDENCE SYSTEMS CORP. allows engineers to develop a test program from their desktops. The finished product then can be automatically transferred to the Fremont, California company's high- throughput, volume production KALOS tester. Depending on the configuration, the Personal KALOS ranges in price from $100,000 to $150,000, although a typical system costs about $132,700. INNOTECH CREDENCE CORP., a business equally by Credence and semiconductor manufacturing equipment distributor INNOTECH CORP., expects to sell 30 Personal KALOS systems a year.

A sixth Japanese company has licensed TESSERA INC.'s Micro BGA (ball-grid array) chip-scale package technology. SHARP CORP. joins HITACHI CABLE CO., LTD., HITACHI, LTD., MITSUI HIGH-TEC, INC., SHINKO ELECTRIC INDUSTRIES CO., LTD. and SONY CORP. The San Jose, California manufacturer's package is only slightly larger than the integrated circuit itself, saving valuable space on increasingly crowded printed wiring boards. The Micro BGA technology is particularly well-suited for memory products, including flash memories, DRAMs and static RAMs.

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

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