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No. 353, February 1999

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Japanese Companies in the US


Strong U.S. demand for flat-screen computer and television displays has convinced SONY ELECTRONICS, INC. to convert two of the five cathode-ray tube production lines at its sprawling San Diego, California complex from conventional, curved picture tubes to FD Trinitron flat-screen picture tubes. The factory's 32-inch television picture tube line will be switched over in May, and the 19-inch computer display picture tube line will be changed in June at a combined cost of $10 million. Shipments of FD Trinitron picture tubes will start in late summer. They will be used in FD Trinitron Wega flat screen TV sets and FD Trinitron Multiscan computer displays assembled in the San Diego area. Sony Electronics introduced these products last August. Despite the conversion of the two lines, they still will be able to produce conventional picture tubes should demand swing back in that direction. The plant's other lines will continue to turn out 20-inch and 27-inch TV CRTs and 17-inch computer display CRTs. The five lines have a combined annual capacity in excess of 6 million TV and computer display picture tubes, part of which is exported. What Sony Electronics calls the Sony Technology Center-San Diego employs more than 4,000 people in the design, development and production of 30-plus products for the TV, computer and wireless communications industries. SONY CORP. has invested more than $1 billion in the complex since 1972.

TOSHIBA CORP. has extended its low-temperature polysilicon TFT LCD expertise to a wider range of high-resolution applications with the release of a 4-inch TFT LCD with a VGA resolution of 640 x 480 pixels. The company's low-temperature polysilicon technology is said to yield TFT LCDs that not only are more durable, thinner and brighter than typical amorphous-silicon TFT LCDs but also use less power and provide a higher resolution. Deerfield, Illinois-based TOSHIBA AMERICA ELECTRONIC COMPONENTS, INC. is sampling the 4-inch panel to makers of handheld and palm-size devices at $500 each. Last fall, TAEC introduced an 8.4-inch low-temperature polysilicon TFT LCD with SVGA resolution (800 x 600 pixels) and a 10.4-inch LTPS TFT LCD with XGA resolution (1024 x 768 pixels) for ultraportable computers.

Development and manufacturing partners MA-TSUSHITA ELECTRIC INDUSTRIAL CO., LTD., MATSUSHITA-KOTOBUKI ELECTRONICS INDUSTRIES, LTD. and QUANTUM CORP. have figured out how to marry digital storage technology with audio/video products, a pairing that will allow consumers to store selected entertainment and educational programming and immediately access the content. The key to this breakthrough is the Milpitas, California company's Quantum QuickView digital storage technology. Based on hard disk drives that can be installed in TV set-top boxes, TV sets or digital videocassette recorders, this know-how makes random access recording and high-speed, noise-free playback possible. The partners have demonstrated Quantum QuickView in a MEI high-definition TV set. However, the first commercial AVHDD-enabled product could be a home video editing console with unique image control functions. Down the line, MEI expects to offer a HDTV receiver with pause, instant replay, fast, noiseless searching and extended recording of satellite and other digital broadcasts.

For the second time in less than a year, HITACHI, LTD. reorganized HITACHI HOME ELECTRONICS (AMERICA), INC. (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 345, June 1998, p. 3). It made the San Diego, California-based importer, manufacturer and marketer of consumer electronics products a wholly owned subsidiary of HITACHI AMERICA, LTD. The move is designed to capitalize on the convergence of computing, communications and consumer electronics products, all of which now fall under the aegis of Brisbane, California-based Hitachi America. Ownership of Hitachi Home Electronics (America) previously had been split between Hitachi America (60 percent) and Hitachi (40 percent).

Within 1999, SEIKO EPSON CORP. expects to open a research and development facility on the East Coast. The firm currently is weighing sites in the Boston area and in South Carolina. The new center, which could have as many as 100 employees in time, will complement the work done by EPSON RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT, INC. of San Jose, California. Opened in 1997, it has roughly 200 people on staff.

Hoping to double North American sales in the near term, antenna maker YOKOWO CO., LTD. opened three marketing offices, including ones in San Diego, California and in suburban Detroit. Its Arlington Heights, Illinois subsidiary oversees the new operations. The Tokyo manufacturer had North American sales of nearly $8.3 million in the year through March 1998.

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