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  1. Technology
August 23, 1998


By CBR Staff Writer

Vision Group Plc, the Scottish camera on a chip pioneer, is finalizing a deal with Siemens AG to market jointly the company’s CMOS complementary metal oxide sensors worldwide. Vision has been looking for a big semiconductor partner for some time and talks on a deal date back to March when Vision announced it was discussing commercial alliances which included the possibility of an offer for the company. It decided on a link-up with Siemens although the German giant is not taking an equity stake in Vision. The advantage for Siemens is that it can hit the ground running with CMOS while other major players are spending millions on R&D. According to the Wall Street Journal, Intel Corp has 250 engineers working on a CMOS chip in a bid to catch up with Motorola, which has had a big effort underway for some time. Poor Vision has only five years of uninterrupted losses to show for being ahead of the game. It is currently unveiling a top of the range 1.2 million pixel sensor while competitors are pushing against the 300,000 barrier. Vision’s big problem has been that the vast markets that were due to open up for CMOS, such as videoconferencing, have been slower to materialize than naive market pundits wanted us to believe. Still with Windows 98 containing embedded support for video conferencing there are hopes that growth could pick up. From Siemens’ point of view, Vision is a good partner since it makes complementary chips to CMOS and thus can offer a package to customers – the two companies are well advanced on a digital still camera chipset. Siemens is not guaranteed the CMOS production business as a result of the deal. Vision’s chips are made in a Taiwan foundry TSMC and, given the current state of the chip production business, Vision would only switch to Siemens if they come up with a better price. Despite the R&D effort of competitors, Vision welcomes new entrants into the CMOS on the basis that the more players there are, the faster the market is likely to grow. None of this impressed investors and shares, which topped 300 pence last year, eased back 6.4 percent to 36.5 pence on disappointment that a bid had not materialized.

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