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Matsushita Forges Far-Ranging R&D Deal With Hitachi

TOKYO — Matsushita and Hitachi will join forces to develop networked home appliances and electronics, design and source a new generation of energy-efficient white goods, and possibly collaborate on a range of digital A/V devices under a sweeping strategic alliance announced here last week.

Though short on details, the partners said they would launch a joint venture later this year that will develop home networking systems based on the Energy Conservation and Homecare Network platform (ECHONET). They also plan to establish a joint R&D program for home networked appliances that supports the next-generation Ipv6 Internet addressing scheme, and will cooperate on devising networked business services based on integrated circuit cards.

The agreement also calls for the creation of environmentally friendly majaps that are more energy-efficient and recyclable than current white goods. The companies will source component parts and materials together globally, and will share in the production of finished goods that will be marketed under their respective brands.

According to Matsushita president Kirk Nakamura, the development deal is expected to yield its first networked home electronics by 2003 and its first energy-efficient majap components by 2004.

The pair said they will also consider teaming up in the digital A/V arena, but offered no details on the proposed pact. Matsushita already supplies Hitachi with digital broadcast satellite tuners.

The agreement follows several recently announced strategic alliances between Japanese electronics giants, including a semiconductor deal between Sony and Toshiba to develop power-saving chips for digital CE products, and a new liquid crystal display plant to be built jointly by Matsushita and Toshiba.