LANDSHUT, Germany Hitachi Semiconductor Europe is on target in its drive to switch to non-DRAM production here, with smart cards predicted to constitute half of its semiconductor sales by the third quarter.
Where DRAMs accounted for 86 percent of Hitachi's European sales in the third quarter of 1998, by the third quarter of this year non-DRAM sales (including smart-card chips) will account for 76 percent.
The company plans to further expand its largely German-based operation for non-DRAM markets. News of that expansion emerged as Hitachi launched its AE-Series of smart-card chips featuring a proprietary security device for use in high-end GSM and financial applications.
Since 1999, the company has been the continent's No. 3 silicon supplier, with 13 percent of the total available market. Hitachi holds a 30 percent market share in Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) SIM cards in Europe. Core-business sales in 1999 rose 70 percent over 1998's total.
Over the last year, Hitachi Semiconductor Europe has increased total manpower by 13 percent at its main site here, which currently employs 650. The company now aims to improve its position by recruiting more staff and upping capacity. "There is an ongoing recruitment drive at Landshut for both highly skilled technical staff and operatives," a spokesman said. "We are expecting to recruit a further 50 engineers by the end of the year."
The first AE chip is the AE460, featuring 64 kbytes of on-chip memory and a 16-bit CPU core, allowing GSM SIM cards and Java cards to achieve greater functionality in handling multiple applications.
The 16-bit CPU implementation overcomes the 64-kbyte address limitation of current smart cards, because it has a 16-Mbyte linear address space, said product manager Christopher Koch. That allows access to the complete on-chip memory and registers, he said.
The instruction set of the AE-4 Series also allows it to operate on data ranging from 1 bit to a maximum of 32 bits, ensuring fast data processing.
The AE-3, AE-4 and AE-5 devices are 8-, 16- and 32-bit CPUs that are compatible across the product family, so a software module designed for the 8-bit AE-3 core is able to execute on the 16-bit AE-4 without modification.
The series also features the company's proprietary integrated-security concept, which includes a DES engine, firewall management unit and a phase-locked loop to speed the internal frequency of the chip to adapt to application requirements. This scheme "presents security not as an add-on feature . . . but built in from the beginning," said Koch.
Stephanie Gordon is a reporter for Electronics Times, EE Times' sister publication in the United Kingdom.