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No. 354, March 1999

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American Companies in Japan


Worried about the availability of next-generation Direct Rambus DRAM chips, INTEL CORP. has approached MITSUBISHI ELECTRIC CORP., NEC CORP. and TOSHIBA CORP. about possibly providing financing to help them ramp up production of this high-bandwidth part. Direct Rambus DRAMs, which transfer data twice as fast as today's synchronous DRAMS, are needed if PC users are to take full advantage of Intel's higher-speed processors. Toshiba seems to be the memory manufacturer in which Intel is most interested. MELCO turned down the offer. Intel already is assured of some Direct Rambus DRAM capacity through a $500 million investment in MICRON TECHNOLOGY INC. of Boise, Idaho and $100 million in funding for South Korea's SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS CO.

INTEL CORP.'s new Pentium III processor has an immediate rival in the AMD-K6-III processor with 3DNow! technology from ADVANCED MICRO DEVICES, INC.'s subsidiary. A part running at 400 MHz currently is available, while the 450-MHz implementation is sampling. Not only is the AMD-K6-III less expensive — the 400-MHz version costs about $290 and the 450-MHz part is priced around $490, both in quantities of 1,000 units — but, according to AMD, its product outperforms the Pentium III. The company attributes this feat in large part to its new TriLevel Cache design, an advanced cache memory architecture that boosts overall performance by providing the largest and fastest total system cache for Windows-compatible desktop PCs.

In a major endorsement of its technology, the government-funded Venture SystemLSI Assist Center has licensed for an undisclosed fee PATRIOT SCIENTIFIC CORP.'s PSC1000A Java processor core for its library of semiconductor cores. The arrangement will allow small and midsized Japanese electronics makers to design and build prototype ICs incorporating the San Diego, California firm's core without having to pay up-front licensing fees. Once companies working with VSAC launch volume production of parts based on the PSC1000A core, however, they will have to pay a license fee, plus a per-chip royalty. The 32-bit processor is targeted at cost-effective Java and Internet appliances as well as traditional embedded systems. The agreement with VSAC was worked out by Patriot in cooperation with its Yokohama distributor, REAL VISION INC. (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 349, October 1998, p. 19).

In the third quarter, TEXAS INSTRUMENTS INC.'s subsidiary will begin production of chipsets incorporating the company's new xStream DSP (digital signal processor) Technology. They will provide a complete system for controlling a color laser printer. Its xStream DSP Technology, TI claims, enables color laser printers to deliver complex color graphic and image outputs within seconds rather than the two minutes or more now required. It can do this because, unlike the RISC-based controllers found in today's color laser printers, TI's DSP chips excel at rendering, or converting digital graphics, text and images to color dots on a page.

In the meantime, the local unit of TEXAS INSTRUMENTS INC. is sampling the first three members of a family of low-dropout voltage regulators/supervisors that support the dual-supply voltage requirements of low-power DSPs. The TPS73HD301, HD318 and HD325 regulate 3.3 volts and a second fixed (1.8 volts or 2.5 volts) or programmable voltage in a single IC package. That capability eliminates three ICs from single-core DSP designs and even more from complex applications using multiple DSPs. Moreover, the design of the new parts is relatively simple, and the sample price is a low $3.15 per piece in quantities of 1,000 units. TI's new voltage regulators are aimed at components going into base stations for cellular phones as well as routers and other Internet-related network equipment.

The record-breaking ariel density, or amount of data per square inch on a hard drive platter, that HITACHI, LTD. achieved in its latest high-capacity 2.5-inch disk drives for notebook computers was due in part to the electronics giant's use of MARVELL SEMICONDUCTOR, INC.'s mixed-signal DSP. The Sunnyvale, California firm's 88C3100 PRML read channel family not only helped Hitachi push storage density to a new high but also was instrumental in gaining lower power dissipation, which is critical to the design of mobile computers.

Two current-gauge ICs for use in battery fuel monitors, motion control diagnostics and load current sensing of power sources are among the latest products introduced by NATIONAL SEMICONDUCTOR CORP.'s subsidiary. The LM3812, which senses current on the positive side of the load, and the LM3813, used for low-side current sensing, require no external sense elements because virtually no insertion losses occur. Moreover, they produce a direct digital output. The parts are priced at $2.75 each in lots of 100. .....NATIONAL SEMICONDUCTOR CORP.'s marketing unit also is sampling a high-speed operational amplifier for communications and video applications. In addition to the fact that the CLC5665 provides low harmonic distortion to enable high signal fidelity, the part's main selling point is that it is priced roughly 40 percent less than other products in its category. The sample price is $1.90 a piece in 1,000-unit quantities.

The latest step-and-scan deep-ultraviolet lithography system from SILICON VALLEY GROUP, INC. is on the market through its subsidiary. The Micrascan III+, designed for 200-mm (8-inch) wafers, offers a number of performance enhancements on the production-proven Micrascan III. Perhaps most importantly, it can handle 0.18-micron device processes and still process 90 or more wafers an hour. The 248-nanometer-wavelength krypton-fluoride excimer laser also has a larger maximum exposure area of 34 x 26-mm, with an increased alignment accuracy of 45 nanometers. The Micrascan III+ is priced between $6.8 million and $7.7 million. SVG is optimistic about its Japan sales prospects, forecasting orders for 20 units in FY 1999 and 40 to 50 systems a year starting in FY 2000.

In a deal that no doubt will help APPLIED MATERIALS, INC. retain its ranking as the world's top supplier of semiconductor production equipment, it is shipping multiple Ultima HDP-CVD (chemical vapor deposition) Centura systems to FUJITSU, LTD. To be installed in the IC maker's wafer fabrication facilities around the world, the equipment will be used to deposit critical dielectric films on state-of-the-art chips.

Extending its support for Direct Rambus DRAM products, HEWLETT- PACKARD JAPAN LTD. introduced an analysis probe that allows computer designers to analyze bus transactions between the host processor and the Direct Rambus memory subsystem at speeds up to 800 MHz. The HP FSI- 60033, which was codeveloped with FUTUREPLUS SYSTEMS CORP. of Colorado Springs, Colorado, can be used with the most advanced logic analyzers that HP Japan has on the market.

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

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