LANDSHUT, Germany ( ChipWire) --Hitachi Lt.'s semiconductor division in Europe said it is on target in its drive to switch to non-DRAM production here, with smart card ICs expected to constitute half of its chip sales by the third quarter.
Where DRAMs accounted for 86% 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%.
The Japanese company plans to further expand its largely German-based operation for non-DRAM markets. News of that expansion emerged as Hitachi Semiconductor Europe 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 Europe's No. 3 silicon supplier, with 13% of the total available market. Hitachi holds a 30% market share in chips serving Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) SIM cards in Europe. Core-business sales in 1999 rose 70% over 1998's total, according to the company.
Over the last year, Hitachi Semiconductor Europe has increased total manpower by 13% at its main site in Landshut, which currently employs 650 workers. 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 kilobytes of on-chip memory and a 16-bit processor core, allowing GSM SIM cards and Java cards to achieve greater functionality in handling multiple applications, according to Hitachi.
The 16-bit processor implementation overcomes the 64-kbyte address limitation of current smart cards, because it has a 16-megabyte 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," Koch said.
-- Stephanie Gordon is a reporter for Electronics Times, a sister publication of SBN based in the United Kingdom.