From the Asahi Shimbun, this guide to the electronics industry highlights some of the developments expected to occur in 2006...


- Canon enters the flat-screen TV market with SED technology

Canon will enter the flat-screen TV market with its SED (surface-conduction electron-emitter display) technology, leading to the development of a three-way competition in the industry between plasma, liquid crystal, and SED technology. SED features low power consumption and high color reproducibility. However, it remains unclear whether or not SED will have an impact on the market, which has been shaped by LCD and plasma.
Canon will devote energy to its display business to obtain a share of the digital imaging output device market. Canon's policy is to enhance its display business, whether through SED, organic electro-luminescence (EL), or projection technology.

- Sony Computer Entertainment releases PLAYSTATION 3

- Two competing standards in next-generation DVD device market

Blu-ray disc (BD) or HD-DVD? It is becoming more likely that BD (Sony, Matsushita Electric, etc.) and HD-DVD (Toshiba, etc.) will coexist in the market. The situation appears to be a replay of the VHS vs. Beta scene that occurred with the VTR standard.
The BD camp is expected to announce its release schedule for movie titles and BD players at the International Consumer Electronics show held in Las Vegas at the beginning of the year. After Sony Computer Entertainment's PLAYSTATION 3 hits the market, many other companies will follow with their products. Toshiba will also enter the US HD-DVD market in the spring.
The BD camp has the advantage in terms of the number of electronics manufacturers. However, the HD-DVD camp is anchored by Intel and Microsoft, which have a strong influence on the personal computer market. And since companies such as Hewlett-Packard (BD camp) have begun to adopt a more flexible stance, the future appears less certain.


- Omron completes construction of its China factory (electronic components)


- Matsushita releases new products equipped with 65-nanometer LSI

In April 2006, Matsushita Electric Industrial is expected to release new products equipped with 65-nanometer system LSI. Matsushita has adopted cutting-edge manufacturing technology for LSI at the practical application level. Miniaturization of circuit line width leads to significant reductions in chip surface area and lower costs. With the cutting-edge chips installed, we can expect improved product performance and price competitiveness.
Production of 65-nanometer LSI began in October 2005 at the Uozu factory in Toyama prefecture. The factory, which is set up with 300-millimeter diameter wafer manufacturing equipment, aims to output 6,500 wafers per month. In addition to reduced costs, lower power consumption is another benefit of miniaturization. Compared to 90-nanometer chips, power is reduced by nearly 40%.
Products with 65-nanometer chips will not be regarded as cutting-edge for very long. The miniaturization war between semiconductor companies is super-hot. Matsushita is already engaged in developing 45-nanometer circuit line width technology.

- Fiscal year begins for power supply transformer energy conservation goals

Beginning April 1, high energy-saving performance will be required of most new power supply transformers for buildings or factories. The Law Concerning the Rational Use of Energy requires the achievement of certain energy consumption efficiency targets, and in 2006, the law will apply to oil-immersed transformers that contain insulation oil, which make up about 90% of power supply transformer demand. The new minimum standard will be defined by the leading transformers, which reduce energy costs by 30 to 40%.
Power supply transformer demand will rise, leading to increased activity in the factories of major transformer manufacturers. Factories will have to hurry to change their production equipment by April. Furthermore, beginning on April 1, 2007, the law will apply to resin-insulated mold transformers, forcing transformer manufacturers to continue upgrading the energy efficiency of their products.

- One Seg terrestrial digital broadcasting for cellphones begins

- Sanyo Electric undergoes corporate restructuring

If everything proceeds according to the financial restoration plan announced in November, the new Sanyo Electric will outgrow its role as general home appliance manufacturer in April 2006.
Sanyo's television, air conditioner, and refrigerator businesses will be tied up with other companies and scaled down. The semiconductor business will be spun off into a separate company. Its financial enterprises have been sold off.
By the end of March, in order to rearrange its financial base, the company will expand its capital by 300 billion yen through a third-party allotment of shares by the end of March.
Details of the partnerships, disposal, and capital expansion are described in the policy to be announced sometime this fiscal year. According to the policy, the company will be reborn as a leading manufacturer in environment and energy, with second-generation batteries and environmental business at its core.

- Hitachi Group forms a new company by integrating its social and manufacturing infrastructure businesses

On April 1, the Hitachi Group will consolidate its business related to industrial machinery and social infrastructure equipment to form Hitachi Plant Technology. The company aims to elicit the "comprehensive power of Hitachi" by starting up a company that integrates the business of developing and manufacturing plant equipment, total plant engineering, and post-delivery maintenance.
Some of Hitachi's industrial system business departments and social system business departments, along with Hitachi Kiden Kogyo and Hitachi Industries (Adachi ward, Tokyo), will merge. The company aims to achieve 350 billion yen in sales and 11.4 billion yen in operating profit in fiscal year 2006, and 400 billion yen in sales and 20 billion yen in operating profit in 2010.

- Sony, Matsushita and Samsung join with camera makers to manufacture digital SLR cameras

The popularity of digital single lens reflex (SLR) cameras is rising quickly. In spring, Sony, Matsushita and Samsung will each begin releasing their first digital SLR cameras in rapid succession. As electronics manufacturers, the companies do not manufacture interchangeable lenses, so Matsushita will team up with Olympus, Sony with Konica Minolta PhotoImaging, and Samsung with Pentax.
Since the film camera era, camera manufacturers have sold tens of millions of interchangeable lenses, thereby forming the sales infrastructure. Since photography is a popular post-retirement endeavor, the market is expected to expand as baby boomers begin to retire in larger numbers. The digital SLR appears poised to replace the compact digital as the "next camera" for individuals and families.

- Showa Electric Wire & Cable becomes a stock-owned company


- Sony marks its 60th anniversary

- NEC Infrontia becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of NEC, realigns corporate network business

- Major electronics manufacturers introduce flat-screen TVs with full HD panels before Soccer World Cup

Consumer electronics companies will release strategic products in May, before the June start of the Soccer World Cup in Germany. In the flat-screen TV market, Hitachi and Pioneer will follow Matsushita Electric's 2005 lead by releasing plasma TVs with full high-definition (HD) panels. Full HD panels feature 2.07 million pixels (1920 horizontal X 1080 vertical), providing an advantage in faithfully reproducing digital broadcast video. The LCD TV camp, led by Sharp, was expected to commercialize the technology first, but in November 2005, Matsushita began selling its 65-inch full HD plasma TV at the unexpectedly low price of 990,000 yen.
In December 2005, Hitachi introduced its 42-inch full HD plasma display panel, an indication that full HD appears to be spreading to the sub-50 inch market as well.


- Nitto Denko completes construction of its new factory


- The ban on home use of high-speed power line communication (PLC) is expected to be lifted


- Matsushita Electric Works completes construction of its China factory (PCB)


- Sharp's Kameyama Factory No. 2 goes online, using eighth-generation mother glass to accelerate LCD TV size increase

Sharp will begin operation of its LCD panel factory, which produces eighth-generation mother glass panels -- the world's largest at 2,160 mm x 2,460 mm. Because current demand for 30-inch and larger LCD TVs is expanding rapidly, LCD panel supply will be unable to keep up with demand. Consequently, Sharp would like to begin operations at the factory in the summer.
The substrates manufactured at Tateyama Factory No.1 are 1,500 mm x 1,800 mm. In other words, eight 32-inch panels can be made from each Factory No.1 substrate, compared to 15 from each Tateyama Factory No.2 substrate.


- Introduction of cellphone number portability may affect the cellphone market

Introduction of cellphone number portability, which allows cellphone users to keep their numbers when switching providers, is expected in November. Many believe portability may cause NTT Docomo, which has the leading market share, to lose customers to other providers such as KDDI (au).
A cooler view seems to prevail among cellphone manufacturers, who believe the carrier fee structure encourages long-term subscriptions by offering benefits to long-term customers. This view may suggest that carriers will not become engaged in a desperate competition for customers.


- Terrestrial digital broadcast area expands, covering all of Japan

In 2006, sales of TVs compatible with terrestrial digital broadcasting will increase across the entire nation of Japan. Terrestrial digital broadcasting service will spread to the Hokkaido, Chugoku, Shikoku, and Kyushu regions, and to some prefectures in the Chubu region. In December, service will begin in Okayama, Kagawa, Saga, Nagasaki, Oita, Kumamoto, Miyazaki, and Kagoshima prefectures, ultimately extending coverage to the entire nation.
Some areas will remain out of range due to a lack of relay station equipment, but by December 2006, about 37 million Japanese households (79% of the total number of households in Japan) will be able to receive terrestrial digital broadcasts (compared to 27 million, or 57%, in December 2005).


- 3G mobile phone service gets the green light in China

It appears that 3G mobile phone service will finally come to China, after speculation it would arrive in 2004 or 2005. China's own TD-SCDMA format will be available along with W-CDMA and CDMA 2000, making it a unique market with three available formats.
Japanese manufacturers, who delivered the infrastructure to NTT Docomo to create the world's first 3G (W-CDMA) commercial network, are focused on the world infrastructure market. Since China will be their first large market outside of Japan, they are placing much importance on succeeding there.

[Source: Asahi Shimbun]