A week in tech, April 9-15

A roundup of the latest tech news.

ò Telecommunications carrier KDDI Corp has lowered its group pre-tax profit projection by 3.3% to Ñ406 billion ($58 billion) for 2007, citing an increase in sales promotion costs from an unexpected boost in its mobile phone subscriptions. Marketing costs increased after the number of contracts to KDDI's ''au'' mobile phone service climbed to 30.1 million as of March 31, due to new offers like free calls between family members. The number of subscriptions beat an earlier forecast of 30 million.

ò Softbank Mobile said a system glitch in its facilities disrupted communications for its third-generation mobile phones possibly affecting up to 870,000 subscribers to the service. The company noticed the problem when an alarm went off at a network centre in Tokyo. The glitch appeared to have developed in a part of the switching systems but the company has not yet determined where. The problem mostly affected Softbank Mobile's 3G series of phones and those made and sold by a Japanese unit of Britain's Vodafone, which was bought by the Softbank group in 2006.

Mobile/ Wireless
ò RCC Broadcasting will team with video delivery technology developer Aquacast Corp to stream live broadcasts of Hiroshima Toyo Carp baseball games to cell phones. Unlike One-Seg digital terrestrial broadcasts, these streaming feeds over the Internet will show the entire game, even when the broadcast ends early. And viewers can watch the game from anywhere, whereas the One-Seg broadcasts are only regional in scope. RCC Broadcasting plans to stream around 20 home games this way. The games will be shown in their entirety except when games are shown on TV, in which case the stream to phones will only commence if the broadcast is cut off before the game ends.

ò The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi and mobile phone services provider KDDI Corp will name the cellphone-based Internet bank they plan to establish jointly, ''jibun ginko'' , or self bank. The two firms will seek to obtain a banking license for the internet bank from the Financial Services Agency, possibly in June, with an eye to start operations in July. Jibun ginko will enable subscribers of KDDI's ''au'' mobile services to pay for goods and services they purchase with their mobile handsets, in addition to offering other banking services.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming
ò NHK is going global with its NHK World English news and information channel, which provide English-language news from a Japanese perspective. NHK already has very successful Japanese news channels on air but these are premium services target at Japanese expatriates. NHK World English has just secured carriage space on Arabsat, and is now seeking European and African coverage.


ò IBM Korea announced the launch of its new IBM Power System, which integrates its existing unix server products and integrated operation server products. Power System is a single server system based on IBM's Power 6 processor. It supports the unix, the linux as well as the IBM's application. The existing integrated operating system, i5/OS, is also renamed as i. Those existing customers who bought p and i series products can customise the components for OS, which would be either AIX or the Linux OS. IBM Korea rolled out the first package products of Power System, i Edition Express for Blade Center S, Power 250 Express and Power 550 Express.


ò LG Display earned 717 billion won ($735 million) in the three months ending March 31, compared with a loss of 169 billion won ($174 million) in the same period last year. According to the company, panel prices stabilised and cost-cutting efforts were partly behind the handsome result. The $42 billion LCD industry, led by LG Display and its bigger rival Samsung Electronics, is enjoying strong demand for the slimmer televisions ahead of the Beijing Olympics this summer, analysts say. Together with the strong demand, the South Korean LCD makers are benefiting from the Korean currency's fall against the US dollar.

ò Vivendi, Sony and Warner Music Group are seeking record damages from Baidu.com on claims the operator infringed copyright by offering web links to pirated music. The $9 million in damages sought from Baidu and $7.5 million from Sohu.com are the most asked for by record companies in China. Baidu, which controls 60% of the mainland search market, was the biggest roadblock to creating a market for legal digital music on the mainland. More than 99% of online music on the mainland is pirated.

ò More than two-thirds of consumers in China are aware of Apple's iPhone even though the product is not on sale there. China Mobile has discussed a local launch of the iPhone with its developer, Apple, but the two companies have so far failed to reach agreement. However, despite this, iPhones are readily available in stores in the country's major cities. The phones are purchased in the US and imported to China. Their internal software is hacked to unlock the phones so they can work with local mobile networks. The high price tag of $500 or more was the most mentioned reason for disinterest in purchasing an iPhone in China along with AppleÆs inexperience in mobile phones. However, iPhoneÆs high profile has spawned Chinese copycats that duplicate iPhoneÆs features at a fraction of the price, retailing for $200 to $300.

ò Baidu.com has partnered with China Netcom to jointly develop a 3G mobile search engine. Market observers noted that the partnership between China Netcom and Baidu would on the one hand improve China NetcomÆs competitiveness in the upcoming 3G era and on the other hand help Baidu to tap ChinaÆs mobile search market.

ò The mainland's homegrown TD-SCDMA 3G mobile service was launched but faces many of the same technical and service-related problems that beset Hong Kong operators four years ago. China Mobile has launched commercial trials in eight cities with about 60,000 mobile phones and 15,000 3G data cards made available to the public. Ten sales representatives were on hand during the launch to explain and demonstrate 3G services.

ò Jiangsu Telecom, China Telecom's branch in Jiangsu Province now offers 8,000 Wi-Fi hotspots in Jiangsu and expects to expand Wi-Fi hotspots to cover the entire province within three years as part of a government initiative. Jiangsu Telecom hopes to receive funding from the provincial government for the project. Jiangsu Telecom now offers 8,000 Wi-Fi hotspots in Jiangsu, with coverage of over 4.22 million square meters, including 436 hotels, 41 schools, 265 office buildings and 503 shops and entertainment venues. The entire downtown area of Nanjing will have Wi-Fi coverage within the year, and next year coverage will expand to the city's outskirts.

ò China Voice Holding (CHVC) has entered into a partnership and revenue sharing agreement with China Netcom. The amended agreement now includes the use of allocated funds originally targeted for Candidsoft Software licenses to be used to provide connectivity, network expansion, installation, billing, collection and on-going support of CHVC s government contracts.

ò China Communications Services Corp. a Chinese telecommunications outsourcing service provider, plans to expand into overseas markets including Africa and the Middle East in the next two years. The subsidiary of China Telecom Group has earmarked $14.3 million to $29 million from the $214 million raised in a share placement for overseas growth for this project.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming
ò The Walt Disney Co.'s videogame arm has agreed to buy a Chinese game developer as the company seeks to expand its presence in China. Disney Interactive Studios plans to buy Chinese company Gamestar. Terms of the deal were kept confidential. Founded in 2002, Gamestar employs more than 90 staff members and runs offices in the Chinese cities of Shanghai and Wuhan.

ò CDC Games has commercially launched ôYulgang 2.0ö, its massive multiplayer online role-playing game in China. This is the latest new content update for Yulgang that provides gamers with approximately 30% more content. ôYulgangö is CDC Games' original free-to-play online game and highest revenue generator to date. CDC Games has launched a marketing campaign that includes advertisements on 17173.com, a China games portal, in internet cafes and through ground advertisements.

ò Beijing Perfect World announced on April 9th the introduction of the new version of its Rewu Paidui online game, which is free of charge. This is the first time that Perfect World introduces a free online game; however the company has not specified how it plans to make a profit from it.

ò Chinese media and advertising group Asian Union New Media has signed an agreement to acquire the entire share capital of advertising agency Blower Investments. Under the agreement, the consideration for the acquisition shall be issued at HK$0.20 per share, and the acquisition will be for no more than HK$420 million. The acquisition will be completed over a three year period. Asian Union will expand in both traditional satellites TV as well as digital TV this year, and develop new media channels in China, including mobile TV and Internet TV. The company also operates "Travel Channel", the only satellite TV travel channel in China.

ò Intel Capital will invest $500 million into technology start-up companies in China and Hong Kong over the next three-to-five years as international demand grows for a stake in China's increasingly lucrative technology sector. Intel Capital, the venture capital arm of Intel Corp, will target companies engaged in software development, chip design, gaming, and wireless broadband and digital health. The new fund will make its first investments in Holdfast Online Technology, a Shanghai-based start-up that makes technology for online gaming, and Beijing's Newauto Video Technology, which provides network solutions and digital editing for mainland television stations. Intel Capital launched a $200 million China-focused technology fund, which it has fully invested in around 30 local companies, far more rapidly than the company had anticipated.

ò CDC Software has completed its acquisition of a 51% stake in Integrated Solutions, a Hong Kong-based vendor of ERP systems designed for small and medium-sized manufacturers in China. With this investment, the company expects itself positioned to fully exploit the significant opportunities in China. The company plans to leverage ISL's track record of successful deployments in southern China as it expands its market presence. The popular Ross Enterprise applications for process manufacturers and the addition of ISL's applications for discrete manufacturers complete the solutions for the entire industry.

Information Technology
ò EMC, an international data storage giant, announced on April 8th that it will establish a branch in Fuzhou City in a bid to enter the market of Fujian Province and better meet the demand from local customers. Taiwan

ò UTStarcom and First International Telecom (Fitel) says it is working with Motorola to deploy a WiMAX network as part of Fitel's commitment to the M-Taiwan project, a government initiative. Fitel, which provides mobile communications services through its PHS network to more than 1m subscribers, aims to complete and begin testing the WiMAX base stations in Taipei's downtown area by the first half of this year. The next generation personal wireless broadband service will allow rich media entertainment and high-speed data applications to be delivered to its customers and expand its service offerings.

ò Taiwan's Advanced Semiconductor Engineering Inc (ASE) said its net profit increased 17% for the first quarter of this year to NT$24.7 billion ($815 million) thanks to surging demand. The company will invest an additional $90 million in its packaging and testing plant in Shanghai, and expand its business on memory chip packaging on the mainland. Its revenue climbed to record $3 billion in 2007.

Hong Kong

ò Online marketing in Hong Kong is becoming more popular with big brands such as PCCW and McDonald's developing applications that can be downloaded by users of social networks such as Facebook and Xanga. PCCW has developed a small program to promote its online music subscription service MOOV on Facebook. Users download the application and put it on their Facebook personal profile pages. Other Facebook users will then be able to listen to the new hit songs being promoted by MOOV. The increase in popularity of social networks such as Facebook and Friendster in Asia has prompted advertisers to take a look at how to capitalise on this growing trend to create loyal brand followers through the deployment of branded applications, official profiles and pages and through advertising.

ò TPV Technology expects sales of liquid crystal display (LCD) monitors to jump more than 25% this year as global demand for flat-screen products remains strong. TPV also plans to cut shipments of its bulky cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors to two to three million units this year as most customers prefer flat monitors. Global LCD monitor shipments will increase 10.5% to 181.5 million units this year, while CRT monitor shipments will drop 30.7% to 12.4 million units. Its LCD television sales increased 62% to 3.83 million units last year from 2.36 million units in 2006, lifting its global ranking to fifth from sixth with a 4.8% market share. Capital expenditures are expected to rise to $165 million this year from $120 million last year.

ò Epson Philippines has hired a former executive of Sun Microsystems Philippines (SunPhil) to fill one of the positions left vacant after a number of its top officials left almost simultaneously last year. Ed Bonoan, the former channels manager of SunPhil, officially took up the post as general manager at Epson Philippines. Bonoan will assume the post last occupied by Epson veteran Jino Alvarez, who is now the head for IT products at rival firm Samsung Philippines.

ò Dell is targeting the huge but still untapped Small Medium Businesses (SMB) in the Philippines with its new Vostro brand of notebook and desktop computers. SMBs firms employing from one to 499 people comprise the backbone of the economy. However, 75% of the sector is unable to expand their information technology resources due to budget constraints. When these companies invest, products that are easy to use drive the decision followed by data management and security.

ò Australia could be a step closer to building a high-speed broadband network after the government canceled a deal for a rural system that would have overlapped with the one planned nationwide. The scrapping of the rural network plan, which was to cost A$958 million ($890 million), came as the government planned to invite bids for a national network as early as next week. It is offering $4.7 billion in financing, which it wants the winning business to match. Australia has slower and more expensive internet access than many other developed countries, and though usage rates are on a par, officials and experts have warned that Australia may fall behind in competitiveness without faster, nationwide coverage.

ò Indonesian internet companies blocked access to YouTube and MySpace, heeding a government order aimed at stopping people from watching an anti-Islam film by a Dutch lawmaker. Anti-immigration politician Geert Wilders posted the 15-minute film on the internet on March 27. It has since been widely available on blogs and file-sharing sites. Indonesia's main Internet service providers all said they had temporarily blocked YouTube, MySpace, Google Video and other file-sharing Web sites.

ò A regional study of countries involved in BPO has indicated that the Philippines is in danger of not being able to sustain its growth in the sector due to an insufficient labour pool. IT labor pool in the Philippines grew by an average of 10% in the last five years and is forecast to grow by another 3% in the next couple of years. However, the study pointed out that this projected labour growth will not be enough to sustain the total ICT growth in the Philippines which is projected to grow by 30% to 35% year-on-year through 2010.

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