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No. 357, June 1999

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American Companies in Japan


In a deal that could add more than $1 billion to INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES CORP.'s revenues in coming years, the computer giant will design and manufacture the engine that powers NINTENDO CO., LTD.'s next home video game console. The 400-MHz processor, already in the advanced stages of development, features IBM's cutting-edge 0.18-micron process technology with copper interconnects. Dubbed the Gekko processor and designed to provide dramatically better graphics and more realistic action, it is based on the PowerPC architecture. However, IBM is incorporating enhancements specifically sought by Nintendo, including extra on-chip memory and more efficient data management between the processor and the game system's graphics chip. Nintendo expects to launch its code-named Dolphin console in time for the 2000 holiday season. The machine will pair the IBM processor with what is billed as a revolutionary graphics chip designed by ARTX INC. of Palo Alto, California. Today's popular Nintendo 64 game machine uses a processor and a graphics chip designed by MIPS TECHNOLOGIES INC. of Mountain View, California and manufactured by NEC CORP.

IMAGING TECHNOLOGIES CORP., designer and maker of a range of controllers that support printers, copiers, multifunction peripherals and other output devices, has signed a product development contract with an unnamed Japanese manufacturer for an embedded controller for a new generation of digital output devices. The development pact is worth $400,000. San Diego, California-based ITEC figures that the follow-on production agreement could bring in $5 million over two years. Shipments of the next-generation, lower-cost controller, which will be based on the forthcoming NEC V4300 processor, should start late in the fourth quarter of 1999 or in the first quarter of 2000.

The supplier of the hot Voodoo 3D graphics accelerator for PCs has opened a marketing subsidiary in Tokyo. 3DFX INTERACTIVE, INC.'s new unit will promote sales of its graphics accelerators through stores specializing in PCs. Its yearend sales goal is 70,000 units. The San Jose, California company's Voodoo has close to three-fourths of the U.S. market for PC graphics accelerators.

Start-up TENSILICA INC.'s first international subsidiary is located in Yokohama. Japan was an obvious choice for a foreign sales and support office. The Santa Clara, California company is involved in the emerging market for application-specific processor cores and software development tools used in high-volume, embedded systems. Tensilica's Xtensa architecture enables system-on-a-chip designers to develop a processor subsystem hardware design and a complete software development tool environment tailored to specific requirements in what is claimed to be just hours.

VLSI TECHNOLOGY, INC. sees in NTT MOBILE COMMUNICATIONS NETWORK, INC.'s scheduled 2001 rollout of the third-generation, wideband-CDMA (code-division multiple access) cellular telephone network an opportunity to expand its Japanese business. The San Jose, California company's subsidiary is pushing customizable system chips for both W-CDMA handsets and base stations that contain all the required basic communications functions but allow manufacturers of this equipment to add other functions. Chips for developers of CDMA cell phones are a primary VLSI marketing thrust in Japan (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 346, July 1998, p. 19).

Bedford, Massachusetts-based AWARE, INC., a big player in the high-speed data transmission xDSL (digital subscriber line) business, has licensed its G.992.2 standards-based G.Lite technology and software to NEC CORP. The semiconductor maker will incorporate the know-how in a chipset that will give customers both G.Lite and full-rate ADSL functionality. Starting in October, the part will be marketed worldwide to communications and networking system providers and to modem manufacturers. Aware's G.Lite technology delivers data transmission speeds of up to 1.5 megabits per second downstream and as fast as 512 kilobits per second upstream at distances up to 24,000 feet. The main advantage of DSL technology is that it enables broadband data transmission over existing telephone lines without interrupting regular phone service.

In a product release that should help move the concept of home networking in Japan beyond PC- to-PC connections, ADVANCED MICRO DEVICES, INC.'s subsidiary announced the HomePHY device. This first-of-its-kind single chip enables PC peripheral and information appliance manufacturers to integrate support for the Home Phoneline Networking Alliance's technology into their products. HomePHY supports physical layer functions for both HomePNA phoneline networking and the 802.3 standard for 10-Mbps Ethernet networking and automatically determines the appropriate network connection. AMD is sampling the part at $8.03 each in quantities of 10,000 units.

What ALTERA CORP. is billing as the programmable logic device industry's first system-on-a- programmable-chip solution is shipping. The San Jose, California firm's APEX 20K architecture gives developers increased performance but still allows them to change their design at any time. The first APEX 20K device is the 400,000-gate EP20K400, which can, for example, integrate all the components needed to build a 1-gigabit-per-second Ethernet 8-port switch. Other members of the family are expected to range in density from 100,000 gates to as many as 1 million gates.

The Bizworks 106 and Bizworks 706 multifunction peripherals recently released by RICOH CO., LTD. are the inaugural products to incorporate XIONICS DOCUMENT TECHNOLOGIES, INC.'s XipChip. The first system-on-a-chip for MFPs, the Burlington, Massachusetts firm's controller chip is designed to deliver high-performance scan, digital copy, fax and print functions to all-in-one systems without adding significantly to costs or time to market.

NATIONAL SEMICONDUCTOR CORP. says that it has established a new price point for low-power 8-bit analog/digital converters. The performance-oriented ADCO8831 single-channel A/D converter and the ADCO8832 dual-channel A/D converter, which are available in several small packages, cost $1.03 each in 1,000-unit quantities. They are designed for a variety of handheld battery-operated communications and industrial applications.

With the goal of eventually becoming a "fabless" semiconductor supplier, XICOR, INC. has lined up SANYO ELECTRIC CO., LTD. to fabricate wafers for it. This agreement supplements the Milpitas, California firm's foundry relationship with YAMAHA CORP. and a German company. Xicor, a supplier of nonvolatile EEPROMs (electrically erasable programmable read-only memories) and other products that retain information even when the system is turned off or power is lost, said that it tapped Sanyo Electric because of that company's experience in nonvolatile chip manufacturing and its volume production capabilities.

An exchange rate of ¥122=$1.00 was used in this report.aaaaaa

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