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Asia makes great headways in electronics

Posted: 01 Jan 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:electronics? dvd? pdp? lcd? television?

The digital consumer marketplace is experiencing a big change today. In electronics stores in Japan, PDP and LCD TVs are lined up in the front window, while DVD players and recorders are crowding out the old VCR. Digital consumer appliances are said to be the hallmark of Japanese manufacturers, but manufacturers in China, Taiwan and Korea are also making great headway. This spectacle is also being witnessed in Europe and the United States.

The market for STBs in digital broadcasting has been dominated by U.S. and European STB manufacturers. However, with the worldwide expansion of the satellite broadcasting and the success of the European free-to-air (FTA) digital terrestrial broadcasting, Asian STB manufacturers are making serious inroads into the market. The digital broadcasting STB market looks set to continue growing this year and beyond in China, India and other Asian countries. In Japan and the United States, the picture quality of TV will be greatly boosted by the coming of high-definition (HD) digital terrestrial broadcasts. NEC Electronics has just commercialized a single-chip source decoder system LSI for HD broadcasts, of which we expect to gradually reduce the costs so that its deployment will be further accelerated.

DVD recorders have also reached the market, thanks to the price reduction of MPEG encoder LSI and the larger optical disks and HDD in the PC field. With the convenience of disks in space-saving and random access features, DVD recorders are already outselling VCRs in Japan. Currently, three Japanese and one European manufacturer produce the majority of sets, but other major players are now entering the market. In the low-end field, Chinese makers are expected to emerge as big contenders.

While in the past, manufacturers tended to procure PC parts for the drive block of DVD recorders, many companies are now using their own original drive block. Chinese manufacturers, however, seem to be still purchasing parts externally for the drive unit (loader). Meanwhile, Japanese and Korean manufacturers will try to counter Chinese makers through advanced mechatronics, product diversity and value-added technology. Without a doubt, many companies will be developing and commercializing system LSIs for sophisticated, low-cost DVD recorders. With the advent of HD digital broadcasting, the standardization of blue laser disks is being promoted. However, it is commonly felt that full-scale use of high-capacity blue laser optical disks will not occur until 2005.

DVD and digital broadcasting have raised the picture quality of contents seen in the home. At the same time, there is a rapid increase in sales of new flat-panel TVs such as LCD and PDP TVs - Japanese makers are leading this field. While PDP is the current mainstream for large screens, LCDs are rapidly getting bigger, creating the competition and driving the price decrease and higher picture quality.

Korean and Taiwan manufacturers have already started entering the LCD TV field. Most of their TVs are destined for Europe and the United States; hence, LSIs that support all the major signal formats are required. Manufacturers in China are still mainly producing CRT-based TVs, but this market has been saturated and is shifting toward high picture quality. LCD TVs are also being exported from China, although in small numbers. Looking at PDP TVs, Japanese manufacturers will continue to dominate the global market this year, but heavy investment by Korean players in production lines may cause gradual changes in the industry's power relationships.

The surge of new technologies in the digital home appliance segment is also witnessed everywhere - game machines with built-in DVD recording functions, digital video camera and digital still cameras with MPEG functions, wireless video transfer of MPEG compression and the network-connected home appliances. Calls for higher functionality and lower cost continue to increase. These conflicting demands can only be satisfied by accelerating development of system LSIs with the IPs required for digital home appliances and system software. It will therefore be vital to provide common platforms that enable design assets to be inherited and shared.

- Yuichi Kawakami

VP, Solutions Operations Unit

NEC Electronics Corp.

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