By Maury Wright, Editor-at-Large - November 1, 2004
Maury Wright: In North America, and throughout the world for that matter, we relied on the PC to drive the tech economy in the late 1980s and for most of the '90s. Now PC prices are so low that the effect isn't nearly so great, despite continuing high volumes. We're seeing other digital-media devices take over as tech drivers, especially as ecosystems sprout around products such as music players and PDAs. What are the hot products in your regions of the world? Oliver Xu:InChina, cell phones are the hottest market. Almost everybody in the industry is talking about cellular phones, but smartphones are still very high end. MP3 players have been popular for some time now, and still will see an increase in demand. DVD players are selling well, but low prices mean not much profit any more. Flat-panel TVs are emerging this year dramatically, with overseas and local brands competing with each other. Notebook computers are getting very popular now and replacing desktop computers in offices in big cities. Digital cameras are also among the major devices people use in big cities.Graham Prophet: First I'd observe that the premise that underlies the questions doesn't quite fit for Europe, in the sense that, for the most part, this is not a "gadget-centric" market that propels electronics, and certain "hot" products, to center-stage as a driver of the economy. Rather electronics is an instrument of the economy. Because a relatively small proportion of "hot" consumer products are actually manufactured in the European region, it might be misleading to refer to them as "driving" the economy. Consumer end-products with dynamic market activity include cell phones, DVD players (essentially no local content at all), digital cameras (ditto), portable audio, and the migration of the TV business to flat panels (LCD and plasma), which is happening with almost startling speed. In the European area, automotive systems continue to figure as growth areas in electronic systems as a vehicle (no pun intended) to bring sophisticated systems directly into the hands of consumers.
Tsuguyuki Watanabe: In Japan the so-called digital appliances are leading the market, and this is an area where Japan shows off its power. GPS navigation systems are one category that topped all others in the number produced and sales figures for the first half of 2004. Indeed, 1.73 million GPS units sold between January to June 2004 , up 28.1 percent from the same period of the previous year. In comparison, those GPS units with an internal hard disk showed the strongest growth, having 25 percent market share (up 1 25.3 percent from the same period of the previous year).
Plasma-display-panel (PDP) TVs are also doing very well. The January-June period saw sales of PDP TVs rise 98.6 percent over the same period of the previous year. Panel suppliers include FHP (Fujitsu-Hitachi Plasma display), Matsushita Plasma display, NEC Plasma display, and Pioneer (which will acquire NEC Plasma at the end of this year). TV-set suppliers include Matsushita, Sony, Hitachi , and Pioneer. In the first half of 2004 LCD TVs ramped up as well, up 65.7 percent. Major companies include Sharp, Sony, and Matsushita.
Other popular products include digital still cameras and DVD players/recorders.
In the case of the digital still camera, 26.47 million units were sold during the first half of 2004 (up 57.3 percent from the same period of the previous year). The most popular cameras are from Canon, Sony, and Olympus , all with pixel qualities ranging from 3.0 to 4.0 megapixels. DVD, especially recordable DVD, will be popular, although we have two groups with different standards—the Sony-Matsushita group and the Toshiba-NEC group. In the case of DVDs, 2.687 million units were sold in the first half (up 32.4 percent from the same period of the previous year). And strong growth is seen in the sales of DVD units with internal hard disks (up 1 47.8 percent).
As elsewhere, mobile phones have been big sellers, but we're seeing some slowing. From April 2003 to March 2004, 49.843 million mobile phones sold (up 15.7 percent from the same period of the previous year). Mobile-phone sales between January and May 2004 stood at 18 million, which was actually down 11 percent compared with the same period last year. The statistics from this year show the growth rate slowing. Despite that, newer technologies are being developed and when new products—such as those with the Felica IC for mobile payments and high-resolution megapixel cameras—are launched, a rapid rise in the need for such products may be expected. Mobile phones with video cameras are popular, coming from service providers such as "au" (formerly KDD and DDI) and NTT DoCoMo, and handset vendors Sanyo, Sony, Matsushita et al.
Energy concerns are also leading to white goods with inverter circuitry. Air conditioners and washing machines and refrigerators are now going to come equipped with inverter control circuits that save energy. And almost all air conditioners in Japan come with inverters.
Pradeep Chakraborty: GSM and CDMA cell phones, projection TV sets, DVD players, DVD/CD-RW combos, video cameras, and laptops/notebooks are popular in India.
Kirtimaya Varma: The hottest product driving the economy is the cell phone. Other products are digital cameras, combos and PCs.
Steven Keeping: Australia is buying 3G mobiles, plasma/LCD TVs and home-theater sound systems to go with them, MP3 players like Apple's iPod, and camcorders. Nokia's N-Gage units are also selling well, as are RIM's Blackberry devices.
Yong Wook Kwon: In Korea, the leaders are cellular phones, digital/HD TVs, PDP/LCD/DLP TVs, PC monitors, digital cameras, and MP3 players.
Mike Pan: The hot end products in Taiwan include notebook computers, mobile phones, and information appliances.
Svetlana Josifovska: There are several "hot" end products being sold in large volumes in the UK and Europe at present: mobile phones, digital TV sets and receivers, high-capacity portable-audio systems, and home-entertainment media centers.
One handheld device increasingly gathering pace in its popularity, especially among business users, is the BlackBerry. This email and calendar-enabled mobile phone uses an always-on GPRS connection to download appointments and email data from the office. Its always-on connection particuarly appeals to senior managers who flit between meetings and cities.
Other consumer products that are popular at the moment are widescreen TVs of all types (plasma, LCD or CRT) and projectors and home-cinema systems. MP3 players are still a hot consumer item, with Apple's iPod being branded as the latest must-have within the fashionable set.
Wright: When you look at these products, is there a characteristic that many share? For instance, I always point out that the transition to digital representation of all media types—music, still images, video, and others—has fueled the proliferation of interesting products. But what else do they share in terms of feature set, such as color displays, 802.11 support, or other features?
Chakraborty: Most hot consumer products come with color LCDs—video cameras, cell phones. Most support multimedia, such as cell phones that support MMS, video/still cameras, and DVD/CD-RW combos. Some mobile operators in India are offering live music and cricket over GPRS or CDMA-1x. Several PC makers have also launched notebooks that cost less than 50,000 rupees [about US$1,000] and are being bought by consumers.
Xu: It's hard to find common characteristics from this angle. What is common is that everything is going digital. Of course this is not new. Yes, a color LCD is now the mainstream display for cell phones, but not for MP3 or other devices. In China , WLAN is now used mainly in offices, not for home use. Digital-video applications are still in the early stage of deployment in China , except for the DV camcorders.
Josifovska: There are three key characteristics that consumers will go for, and most of these systems are heading that way: convenience (easy connectivity, portability and communication), usability (it has to offer the basic functions) and, above all, they have to be inexpensive. Over 90 percent of the mobile phone handsets sold on High Street have high-resolution color screens, high-energy-density batteries such as Lithium-ion, and are multimedia centric. All other consumer products are also geared toward connectivity, with digital-video systems and TV sets supporting high-definition video. As video begins to be delivered to mobile devices and digital-consumer receivers (set-top boxes, TV tuners, mobile-TV receivers) and DVD players, MPEG-4 ICs, both ASP [advanced simple profile] and H.264, are being deployed at an ever increasing rate.
Prophet: A noticeable trend is that, in any system that has any form of imaging, there is a rapid move to higher resolution and quality. This is as true of games as it is of cameras in cell phones. For now, wireless-connected consumer products still tend to be favored by the tech-savvy.
Varma: Wireless combo products are being favored by the consumer.
Keeping: The central theme seems to be entertainment. So people are buying electronics that allow them to enjoy media content in all forms—for example MP3 players and 3G phones, and TVs and home-theater systems. Australians are feature-savvy, so they will look for the item that gives them something extra, such as more memory in an MP3 player or a better screen on a 3G mobile.
Kwon: The trend for the cell-phone industry is the integration of higher-resolution cameras and more multimedia features like an MP3 player. Samsung Electronics recently rolled out 3-megapixel camera phones, and LG revealed new camera phones supporting MP3. The trends in the display industry are not only moving to larger panels, but also producing small-size panels for portable handsets.
Pan: All these hot products are multimedia-centric. Also, connectivity is considered one of the standard functions for all these products. More and more notebook computers have integrated WLAN support. And most information appliances are wired.
Watanabe: In some cases, the trend is naming products "Digital" in the market. But some of these products are not fully based on digital signal processing, and mixed-signal technology remains very important. We also see high-resolution color displays (especially LCDs), multifunctional products, and portables that are designed to use less energy.
Wright: Can you pinpoint specific reasons that your region of the world has adopted the products that are driving the economy?
Varma: Unlike in Europe and USA, the cell-phone market has not matured in Asia. Hence there is a colossal demand for the cell phone, especially in view of the fact that the cost of calls has gone down tremendously in the past few years. Both China and India have huge market potential for the cell phone. There is a good replacement market for PCs, which is contributing to growth in that market. In addition, the decreasing cost of PCs is enabling new consumers to enter the market.
Keeping: Australia is a leisure- and sport-oriented society, so entertainment products feature highly. Also, Australia's population generally has a high disposable income, meaning early adoption of "trendy" electronics devices and fast replacement of out-of-date devices. For example, 3G mobile sales are accelerating markedly because people see others with them and want to be seen with the latest devices. Also, Australian broadcast TV is fairly poor, so people are looking to pre-recorded DVDs for entertainment on home-theater systems. The US influence is very strong, so US consumer trend tends to be mirrored here.
Josifovska: Large-screen TV sets, whether LCD or plasma, are a typical example of how product demand is based on certain social patterns, such as the heavy promotion of key sporting matches.
Kwon: The EVSB transmission technology, developed by LG Electronics and Zenith, has recently been approved as the next-generation US DTV standard format by the ATSC [Advanced Television Systems Committee]. LG expects about $1 billion in royalties from other DTV companies.
Pan: Taiwan is a production base for all of these products we've been discussing. The shipments of them drive the island's economy. For example, Taiwan is the largest vendor of notebook computers worldwide. The driving force for the growth of Taiwan's IT industry relies on the condition of the worldwide economy.
Chakraborty: Cell phones are a craze, and camera phones supporting MMS are gaining momentum. Many consumers love buying and using video/still cameras and laptops as well. Most PCs today come with combo DVD/CD-RW drives. Now, with lots of cricket being played worldwide, rear-projection TV sets are being bought by some. These retail at close to $2,000 and are still a buy for the elite.
Xu: In China , a product has to be at a good balance between performance/features and price. If products are cheap with marginal feature sets they can become popular. In the case of the rich, and those who aspire to look rich, most of them buy things for show, not for necessity.
Prophet: Products that have seen rapid adoption—DVDs, MP3 players, flat-panel TVs—all have an aspect of improved convenience and performance over their predecessors. But it is impossible to ignore the role of adept marketing in turning these and other fast-moving consumer products into fashion items. The cell phone provides the paradigm. In a mature market, the basic features and functions (which in practice are all that most consumers use) have changed little in several generations of handsets. But good sales techniques keep a dynamic replacement market moving.
Watanabe: The Japanese love brand new items. Visual and audio qualities are vital decision factors when choosing an electronic product. And owing to the limited living space in Japan , smaller products are much preferred.
Wright: What are the most significant enabling technologies being used in hot consumer products in your region? For instance are DSPs being used in all of the hot products, or are ASSPs [application-specific standard products] more popular? I find it especially confusing trying to decipher why some products, such as MP3 players, use an ASIC specific to a single product from a single vendor while in other cases, such as DVD, dozens of manufactures use the same ASSP. In addition, I've already heard power management come up as a key attribute, and the dependence on mixed-signal technology. Are there other analog trends?
Prophet: There is indeed a lot of DSP expertise in this territory, much of it derived from traditional skills base in military/aerospace and other signal-processing spheres. One interesting factor is the number of products that use DSP or other processor cores but do not employ high-integration-level SOC [system on chip] designs. The solution space of ASIC/structured ASIC/ASSP/programmable logic continues to be interesting. We are starting to see real penetration of the consumer space by PLDs. In analog, the story would appear to be focused on ease-of-use—performance products that don't require black-magic design effort.
Varma: In Asia, ASIC popularity is falling while DSPs and FPGAs are becoming more popular. Wireless connectivity is becoming popular.
Watanabe: In Japan, the key enablers are high-definition and high-contrast display technologies, small but high-performance power-source control technologies, AD/DA converters, and RF technology.
PDP panels, LCD panels, image sensors, optical disks, and optical pick-up units are examples of technologies that are not really breakthrough technologies but more know-how-based technologies. Japanese companies have much know-how and are dedicated to long-term development of products.
Analog technology is moving forward to support high-frequency (digital) signals and high-power-handling circuits or devices. US semiconductor companies are the major providers of wireless or high-power technology.
Josifovska: One major trend in consumer devices is that ASICs, which used to dominate this field, now seem to be on their way out. In come the lower-cost ASSPs and low-cost, even domain-tailored, FPGAs and structured ASICs.
DSPs are moving out of the audio domain and into the video-decoding field. Any media-rich content processing requires DSP-like functions, so the use of DSPs and/or MPU cores with DSP instruction sets is on the increase. An array of microprocessor cores have been tailored to specialize in particular tasks for specific market segments. Analog components are making a big comeback as quality becomes a driving force for consumers, especially in audio and video interfaces, but also in power management. According to Ramtron, there is a lot of work going into the interface between the analog functions and memory inside programmable devices.
Power and battery management represent a key trend in all systems, whether consumer or industrial. Analog firms are, therefore, providing reference designs to offer complete solutions.
We are also seeing more analog and mixed-signal placed onto single-chip solutions. Even though in customer-specific, cell-based designs, the use of embedded 16-bit microprocessors is currently dominated by digital-only designs, this looks set to change as the mixed-signal segment continues to grow.
Another common thread among the consumer products on the market today, especially the portable ones, is the use of nonvolatile memory, particularly flash, including embedded flash and 32-bit embedded processors.
Softwarewise, in the multimedia and video chips world in particular, there's a lot of work going into developing algorithms that will extract the maximum from existing hardware and available technology. For example, in DVD players, instead of moving onto the blue laser—which offers more technological benefits but will ratchet up the end price for the consumer—vendors such as Microsoft are focusing on decoding alternatives to MPEG to derive the most from the older, red-laser based technology.
For portable devices, novel lighting solutions that power and control displays and keyboard backlighting, camera flash functions, and the "fashion" RGB LED are also increasingly being used. Typically, an RGB LED driver IC integrates three n-channel MOSFETs to control LED color and brightness by sequencing the red, green, and blue LEDs on and off in a PWM [pulse width modulation] mode.
Xu: In China , mobile processors, video/audio codecs, and processing ICs are key. Local system makers generally cannot afford to develop ASICs, although some TV makers have developed ICs for TV applications. More often, manufacturers choose the most appropriate ICs from overseas vendors. For the mass and cost-sensitive markets like MP3, ASICs are used for lower costs.
Chakraborty: GPRS/WCDMA stacks, VoIP stacks, and MMS clients are key Indian technologies.
Kwon: DSPs are used in most of the hot products. The use of SOCs has been increased to reduce costs. I think the trends in analog circuits are similar around the globe.
Pan: In Taiwan, Wi-Fi technologies, DSP technologies, power management, and LCD panels are very important.
Keeping: As most consumer products are imported from Asia-Pac sources, the enabling technologies are the same as those in Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, and to some extent China.
Wright: Pradeep, many of the enabling technologies that you mention are mobile-handset centric. Are things such as MMS and WAP clients being built around specific phone platforms? For instance does most of the development center on a platform such as Symbian or Qualcomm's BREW? Or does most of the development center on open standards such as Java?
Chakraborty: These are platform agnostic. Folks are developing for all phone platforms and technologies—whether 2.5G or 3G (GPRS/CDMA/WCDMA) or J2ME, Palm, Symbian.
Wright: Designers around the globe are just starting to transition into the mode of designing products for a worldwide consumer base and relying on a global set of resources for enabling technologies. Of the key enabling technologies that you've mentioned, which ones are primarily made and sold in your region and which ones come from other regions of the world?
Kwon: Many segments of the electronic industry in Korea, except for the memory and display businesses, have developed based on the following order: social change, end products, chips/ICs/boards, and R&D. In other areas such as North America, the electronics industry has followed a totally opposite order: R&D, chips/ICs/boards, end products, and social change. Still, high volumes of ICs and processors designed for cell phones have been imported from US and Japan companies.
Pan: Local vendors are the major sources for LCD panels. Many foreign companies as well as Taiwan vendors supply technologies such as Wi-Fi. For DSP and power management, the market is still dominated by foreign companies.
Xu:We have LCD panels manufactured in China by overseas investors. Most all processors currently come from overseas. Some local fabless companies have designed processors for mobile phones and WLAN, but they just getting started and don't yet see a big market share. Some local players are trying to develop some peripherals for mobile phones, such as the display inferface, video processing, and ringtones, to meet the specific needs of local consumers.
Watanabe: ICs, processors, displays and other electronic parts used in digital appliances are mainly developed right here in Japan . However, many of the original concepts were developed elsewhere, such as in the US and Europe . All key enabling technologies are made in Japan . Note that PCs, servers, and telecom equipment have a big market in Japan . Sales of these products are larger than that of audio-visual and white goods. Major players are Intel, Microsoft, Dell, HP, Cisco, and so on. But since these markets have already matured, they cannot be considered as the driving engine of economic growth now.
Chakraborty: Some Korean makers have set up plants in India for captive consumption of their consumer-electronic items. Texas Instruments and some other multinational companies are into processors and other chips that go into cell phones. With import duty virtually nil, it is easy to import the finished product into the country. Hence, nearly all cell phones are imported by the vendors. A lot of local players are into design and development work in VoIP products, GPRS/WCDMA stacks, and so on. India is emerging as the design hub of the region.
Varma: Processors generally come from other parts of the world. ICs and LCDs are generally made locally in the Asia-Pacific region.
Keeping: Virtually all products are imported from Asia-Pacific and Japan, which is hardly surprising as Australia sits in that geographical region. Australia has virtually no indigenous consumer-electronics production.
Prophet: Not much is indigenous to this region, mainly some semiconductor content—processors, memory, mixed-signal ICs.
Wright: To help designers worldwide learn about the regional suppliers of enabling technology, could you cite some specific examples of companies and the technologies that they offer?
Chakraborty: Sasken offers GPRS/WCDMA stacks. Epigon offers next-generation phone codecs. Encore offers WiMAX/VoIP stacks. Jataayu offers MMS and WAP clients. All are based in the Bangalore area.
Pan: For LCD panels, the leading local vendor is AOU. Realtek is one of the major Wi-Fi chip suppliers.
Xu: Huawei offers WCDMA and TD-SCDMA technology. ZTE offers GSM/GPRS and CDMA ICs. Vimicro offers imaging processors (video, 2D graphics) and audio-processing ICs for mobile devices. SpreadTrum is developing GSM/GPRS/TD-SCDMA baseband technology. Anyka offers application processors for mobile phones, and Actions Semiconductors has developed MP3 SOCs.
Varma: For LCDs, Korean, Taiwanese and Japanese companies provide leadership. For ICs, the foundries in Taiwan, Singapore, and Korea, and to an extent, China, provide leadership.
Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, Hynix, LG.Philips LCD, and Samsung SDI are leading companies in electronic sector in the areas of cell phones, digital-consumer products, displays, and PCs. Further, many small venture companies also have revealed unique technologies for PCBs, security devices, multimedia chips, and so on.
Prophet: Again, semi vendors are the most obvious, with names like STMicroelectronics and Infineon prominent.
Watanabe: In Japan, Sharp is a leader in large-size LCDs. Seiko Epson, Casio, Hitachi, and others supply small LCDs that are used for portables. Sony, Matsushita, Toshiba, and NEC play in the recordable-DVD market. And Renesas is a leader in microprocessors for GPS systems.
Wright: When I meet with the large multinational companies, they never fail to mention the efforts that they are making to support designers around the globe. Which global companies are leading vendors of enabling technologies in your region, and which products do local OEMs mostly buy from these global vendors?
Josifovska: In Europe, I'd make the following matches between technology and company: DSPs (Texas Instruments), analog components (Texas Instruments, Analog Devices), MPEG ICs (STMicroelectronics), embedded processor cores (ARM), wireless protocol software (TTPCom), Bluetooth chips (Cambridge Silicon Radio), T&M equipment (Tektronix), FPGAs (Xilinx, Altera), power semiconductors (Infineon Technology, International Rectifier), complete customized multimedia platforms (MIPS Technologies).
Xu: I believe all the leading companies are providing chips and solutions to China .
Prophet: The European industry sources freely from the world's suppliers.
Chakraborty: Texas Instruments, Intel, Cisco, Juniper, and others play in India. In fact, nearly all leading global players are present in India.
Pan: It is hard to say. For instance, in the mobile phone industry, foreign companies such as TI, Philips, and ADI provide ICs. But I know many mobile phone venders don't rely on a single source, so it is hard to tell which one is the leader.
Varma: For mobile phones, the enabling technologies come from Nokia and Motorola. Though local companies, especially in China, have shown remarkable success in coming out with cell phones, I don't think any of them has really used their own technologies. For LCDs, Korean, Taiwanese, and Japanese companies have evolved their own technologies.
Wright: How important are distributors in your regions? I've heard from companies such as Avnet, that they often must act almost as an IDM in some regions, providing design support, reference designs, and even linking system designers with contract manufacturers. Do most design engineers in your region rely on distributors? Do they primarily just buy products from distributors or do they depend on distributors for reference designs, design services, or as a link to contract manufacturers?
Keeping: Distributors are critical. Virtually all products are handled by distributors in Australia. There are a handful of principals here, but they focus their efforts on servicing a few large local defense or telecom contracts. There are branches of the large distributors: Avnet, Arrow, Future, Farnell InOne (Newark InOne), and lots of much smaller local concerns (with specific expertise) serving local hot spots such as defense in South Australia, telecoms in Queensland, and GPS equipment in New Zealand.
Chakraborty: Distributors have a significant presence, and also serve as the link to some contract manufacturers.
Varma: The trend to move to contract manufacturers is increasing. Distributors are expanding facilities, with reliance on them greatly increasing, not only for providing goods, but also for providing services.
Pan: I think the distributors play an important role as they claim they can provide a total solution to local makers, which means they can provide reference designs and design services.
Xu:Distributors are still important in China , because China is so big and particular in terms of customer relationships. Only some of the largest distributors such as MEMEC provide designs to customers. Most local makers still rely on the reference designs from chip providers.
Prophet: Because much of the European OEM industry is small-to-medium in scale, distribution is very important. The dominant use model is simple purchasing. Design expertise within distributors varies from negligible to very competent. Correspondingly, some designers do draw on distributors for design assistance. This is most often focused around the detailed application of a particular component, rather than complete reference designs—those more often come from manufacturers.
Watanabe: Most major companies purchase semiconductors and other electronic parts from distributors.
Concerning the support of design engineers, while there are cases where support comes from companies manufacturing the products, in most cases it comes from the distributor's technicians. In the case of extreme complex technology, support is offered by the manufacturer's technicians.
Still I feel the business style or functions of distributors are different in Japan relative to North America and perhaps other regions. Japanese companies are big companies. Engineers do not buy directly from vendors. Big companies have a purchase division that often works with distributors from the sales perspective while design engineers work with field-application engineers. For commodity products, engineers rely on distributors, in the case of medium and small companies. For semi-custom or custom products, engineers will directly contact vendors, this being the case of large companies.
Large companies in Japan prefer to make custom-made chips rather than using commodity chips. Custom chips allow Japanese companies to differentiate and add value in their products.
Wright: Let's close by discussing software. Software development was one of the first technical skills that North American companies first leveraged from offshore resources. In North America, we are certainly aware of software hotspots in India and Eastern Europe. Is software development prevalent in your region, or is software development more often outsourced? If there is significant local software development activity, are the developers part of the teams building end products, or are the developers working as contractors?
Pan: Local makers do some software development, but primarily they rely on third parties. For example, TI invited at least 10 software developers associated with its OMAP DSP platform to attend Computex 2004, as the company had noticed the requirement from Taiwan manufacturers. The government is also pushing the software industry to grow. Most software development here is done by the end-product makers. We don't see many independent software contractors.
Chakraborty: India is the world's software development hub. Software developers in India target more types of applications than we could begin to list here. According to the latest reports, Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys, Wipro, Satyam and HCL Technologies are the top five in software exports from India. Firms from other regions can contact them directly, which I believe they already do. Or, firms can approach NASSCOM (National Association of Software and Service Companies, www.nasscom.org), the apex body for software and services industry in India.
Varma: Software activities are rising phenomenally in the region. The developer part of the teams generally develop software for companies in the US and Europe. There is very little software that is built as end product.
Keeping: There is a fair bit of software development, because Australian developers are relatively inexpensive compared with the US and Europe, although not as inexpensive as India or China. There is a 50/50 split in end product teams.
Prophet: There is a great deal of software written in Europe, at both the embedded and application level. There is continuing discussion about the practicality of outsourcing software execution, but the extent to which it actually happens is, so far, limited. The usual concerns of project control, quality, and systems integration continue to apply. In most cases software development continues to be closely integrated in project teams.
Watanabe:Three kinds of software are prevalent in Japan . First is computer software originally developed by the US and localized in Japan (Japanese language). Second is embedded system software for microcontrollers or DSPs, which is either developed by manufacturers or outsourced. Outsourcing is shifting from Japan to China or India . Third is video-game software, which is primarily developed locally. The Japanese video-game software industry is worth almost $10 billion. Its business power and clout is similar to that of the US movie industry.
Josifovska: Companies are putting a lot of emphasis on software and middleware development. To speed up software development, they tend to go to contractors, even though hiring people for a very short period of time tends to complicate matters.
Nowadays, collaborative software development projects, such as open-source software development, as with Linux for example, are a fairly popular undertaking, which helps maximize the number of programmers working on a particular project. In response to such demand, a lot of Web-based electronic businesses have formed where contractors can be found.
But, there are companies who offer "teamwork" as part of their services. One such example is MIPS Technologies, with its customizable multimedia platforms. MIPS says that it tends to "create a team" with the developer until they've customized the solution to a specific application.