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Toshiba Corp., Sony Corp. and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. will create common specifications for next-generation television tuners for digital broadcasts and interactive programs, it was learned Friday.

Digital broadcasting via a broadcasting satellite will start later this year, while digital broadcasting via a communications satellite is expected to start in summer 2001.

By working together, the three companies hope to set specification standards for a tuner for next-generation TV sets to receive both types of digital broadcasts.

Under the proposed digital broadcasting format, users could shop, order music and participate in interactive programs, among other services, through their TVs.

When the joint project is completed, the three firms will propose the common specifications to the Association of Radio Industries and Businesses, an industrial association working on the standardization of the domestic broadcasting system.

If the industrial association adopts the proposed specifications, Toshiba hopes to introduce compliant products around summer 2001, a Toshiba spokesman said.

Although the three firms are jointly working on specifications, they will develop products separately, he added.

Inverter firms planned

Toshiba Corp. said Friday that it has agreed with Schneider Electric SA of France to establish four international joint-venture firms for the development and manufacture of general-purpose inverters.

The first of the new firms is expected to start operations in early 2001. They will deal with product marketing, development, design and production of various inverters, Toshiba said.

A Paris-based holding company and three regional facilities will be established in France, Japan and the United States with a goal of becoming the world’s leader in inverters amid the rapidly expanding demand for semiconductor technology.

The move is aimed at reducing the time it takes to develop new products such as power devices and microprocessors and deliver them efficiently to world markets.

The Japanese electronics giant and Schneider, one of the world’s largest electrical-engineering firms, established their first joint-venture company to manufacture electromagnetic contractors in 1991.