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No. 361, October 1999

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Japanese Companies in the US


To accelerate attainment of a leadership position in the system-on-a-chip market while continuing its success in memories and other commodity electronics products, NEC ELECTRONICS, INC. set up separate organizational structures for these businesses at its Santa Clara, California headquarters. The new System LSI Division offers SOC solutions ranging from standard products to fully customized ASICs (application-specific ICs). The unit's focus also has been expanded to include the automotive and Windows CE markets as well the existing areas of communications equipment, consumer products, PCs and PC peripherals. In another initiative to support SOC development, NEC Electronics established a U.S. Technology Center to centralize R&D on advanced processors, including parent NEC CORP.'s VR Series of RISC (reduced instruction-set computing) processors as well as on mixed-signal products and processor cores. The new operation is the counterpart to NEC's Japan Technology Center and its European Technology Center. NEC Electronics has made DRAMs and other ICs in Roseville, California since 1984.

At a cost of $25 million, TDK SEMICONDUCTOR CORP. acquired a 25 percent interest in VERTEX NETWORKS INC., a fabless Irvine, California provider of chips for Layer 3 Internet Protocol routing switches. In addition, TDK Semiconductor — a Tustin, California company that specializes in parts for high-speed networking and other data transmission market segments — and Vertex Networks entered into a development partnership. The goal of the alliance is a new generation of highly integrated, low-power Fast Ethernet (10/100 megabits per second) switch and PHY (physical layer) single-chip devices for the local area network and wide area network markets. The first products from the tie-up, which will draw on TDK Semiconductor's experience in low-power PHY technologies, are expected in the next few months. TDK CORP. formed TDK Semiconductor in mid-1996 from what had been the communications products division of SILICON SYSTEMS INC. after selling the rest of that company's chip business to TEXAS INSTRUMENTS INC.

The San Jose, California semiconductor subsidiary of HITACHI, LTD. is collaborating with SILICON WAVE, INC. on a Bluetooth hardware/software solution. Bluetooth is a low-cost, short- range radio interface that connects mobile electronic devices without cables or the line-of-sight and distance limitations of infrared communications. Realizing this capability involves embedding inexpensive short-range transceivers in mobile devices or adapter devices like PC Cards. The Hitachi-Silicon Wave Bluetooth interface will represent the marriage of the Japanese company's 16-bit CISC (complex instruction-set computing) H8S/2238 baseband controller — its first Bluetooth-targeted product — with the San Diego, California venture's RMC (radio modem controller) family. Start-up Silicon Wave will provide the Bluetooth firmware for the H8S baseband controller.

In their latest semiconductor packaging tie-up, SHARP CORP. and AMKOR TECHNOLOGY, INC. have agreed to share their stacked-die chip-scale packaging assembly technologies. The Osaka manufacturer licensed its tape-based stacked-chip packaging know-how to Chandler, Arizona- based Amkor, the world's largest independent IC packaging and test contractor, to make stacked ICs for Sharp and other manufacturers. In turn, Sharp has the right to use Amkor's laminate- based ChipArray technology to package any of its products. The two companies also will work together to enhance stacked CSP technologies and cut the cost of this packaging method. Stacked- chip CSP technology combines flash and static RAM memory devices on top of each other in a package that is not much bigger than the chips themselves. Stacking is key to small cellular phone handsets and other portable wireless devices.

ADVANTEST CORP., the world leader in automatic test equipment for the semiconductor industry, is extremely optimistic about its U.S. market prospects. It is projecting revenues of $463 million in FY 2000 versus sales of some $278 million in FY 1998. To backstop this expansion, Advantest increased its ranks of engineers to 60 from 25. It also formed ADVANTEST TEST ENGINEERING CORP. in Santa Clara, California, which already was home to marketer ADVANTEST AMERICA, INC. and to ADVANTEST AMERICA R&D CENTER, INC. The company sees high-end logic testers as a primary means to bigger sales over the near term, particularly the just-introduced 500-MHz T6672 Logic Test System for high-volume production testing and the companion T6682 VLSI Test System for 1,024-pin testing of system-level ASICs and high- speed processors at data rates of 500 MHz to 1 GHz. Since 1987, Advantest America has had an ATE plant in Buffalo Grove, Illinois.

An exchange rate of ¥108=$1.00 was used in this report.

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