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Matsushita Prioritizes GaN With Blu-ray Set For July Launch

For Matsushita Electric Industrial, recordable DVD is set to be huge this year, while a next-generation DVD recorder based on a GaN laser is scheduled for July. Meanwhile, the company is refocusing its GaAs MMIC production on the global market. Bob Johnstone reports from company HQ in Kyoto.
Bob Johnstone: What is your current level of laser production?

Matsushita: We produce about 13 million units per month (650 and 780 nm). The main products are hologram units, which integrate a laser and a photodetector. About 25% of these are for use in recordable DVDs. We estimate that Matsushita s share of the semiconductor laser market is between 18 and 20%. We fabricate our own lasers at a factory in Okayama.

BJ: How would you describe the current demand in the DVD market?

M: Demand for lasers - especially for use in recordable DVD - is increasing rapidly, and supply cannot keep up. In 2004, we expect the market to be 60 million units. Matsushita will produce lasers in both hologram unit and single laser forms. Demand for units to be used in multidrive PCs - incorporating DVD and recordable CD - will be slightly greater than that for DVD-only.

BJ: What is Matsushita s position regarding next-generation DVD?

M: We studied the various formats and concluded that Blu-ray is superior.Technologically, Blu-ray is better in terms of capacity, ease of manufacture of the pick-up, and signal processing. Eventually, the consumer will decide, but we believe the difference in capacity will be the decisive factor. In DVD recorder strategy, the Blu-ray format will be positioned at the high end. Our development of the technology is almost complete. While the current DVD market is expanding, we are examining the timing for introducing Blu-ray. At the moment, the market is very young, and we are sampling lasers from Nichia.

BJ: What happened to Matsushita s frequency-conversion approach to making blue laser diodes?

M: The frequency-doubled approach was no good and has been abandoned. We are currently putting a lot of effort into blue laser research and development. Researchers from our laboratories and business divisions have combined to form a task force. Work has just started, but as a latecomer we have to work hard to catch up.

BJ: Do you plan to use sapphire, SiC or GaN wafer substrates for blue laser production?

M: It would be GaN, in order to obtain the highest performance.

BJ: What GaAs facilities do you have?

M: At the Uozu compound semiconductor factory, we use 6 inch wafers, and the resolution limit [of the photolithography equipment] is 0.135 µm. But now the factory is facing production problems, because of marketing. We re in a transition stage, shifting emphasis from Japan to the global market, so there s not much production of either GaAs power amplifiers or MMICs. The [potential] scale of our production is almost the same as that of RF Micro Devices, between $150 million and $200 million.

BJ: What was the cause of the production problems?

Matsushita s marketing problem stems from the company s policy to target Personal Digital Cellular (PDC), a Japan-only standard, rather than global standards such as GSM. For many years Matsushita was the top [supplier in] PDC, but with the phasing out of the old standard, we have lost market share, and we are trying to focus on worldwide standards such as 3G and GSM.

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