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Japanese Computer Chip Makers Unveil Joint Venture - 2002-03-22


Two big names in the computer chip world unveil a joint venture and a new humanoid robot is about to make its debut. VOA's Amy Bickers in Tokyo has those stories and more from the Japanese business world.

Hitachi and Mitsubishi Electric, both giants in the global electronics industry, have announced they will integrate their semiconductor businesses early next year. The move aims to reduce research and development costs for chips commonly used in home appliances such as microwaves and refrigerators.

Hitachi's President Etsuhiko Shoyama told reporters in Tokyo the two firms decided to combine their chip operations because of high costs. He says the tie-up will create the world's third largest chipmaker after Intel and Toshiba. He said he hopes it will eventually win the top spot.

Separately, Hitachi and Mitsubishi, along with three other electronic giants, said they may pool their resources to form a joint microchip development center. The deal, partly financed by the government, is reminiscent of the earlier days of heavy government involvement in helping favored industries.

Japanese business newspaper Nihon Keizai reports that carmaker Honda could earn record profits for the next two years. The firm is projected to earn $4.7 billion in the current business year and $5 billion for 2003.

Stronger domestic auto sales and new models released in the United States are likely to help the company's bottom line. Honda also anticipates stronger growth in its two-wheeled vehicle business in Asia. It sells low-priced motorcycles and scooters in China, Japan and elsewhere. A new singing humanoid robot will be available to Japanese consumers later this year. Entertainment company Sony is now previewing SDR-4X, a walking, talking robot with a vocabulary of up to 60,000 words. Sony says it can also recognize colors and faces. The robot is intended for use in people's homes and will cost about as much as a luxury car.

Entertainment robots are popular consumer items in Japan and other companies, such as Honda and Mitsubishi, have also developed their own models.

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