A week in tech, August 15-21

A round-up of all the latest tech news.

ò Mixi Inc., a Japanese internet social networking service operator, said it has received approval to list on the Tokyo Stock Exchange's Mothers market. The company said a total of 6,600 shares will be offered to the public in its initial public offering. Of those, 4,500 are newly issued shares and 2,100 are shares currently held in private. The company is planning a public offering of an additional 500 new shares in the event of exceptional demand. The company announced it will offer all the shares through the book-building method. The company expects to net Ñ6.9 billion ($59.5 million) from the IPO. For the current fiscal year through March, the company forecasts a parent pretax profit of Ñ1.7 billion ($14.6 million), a net profit of Ñ986 million ($8.5 million), and revenue of Ñ4.7 billion ($40.5 million). Daiwa Securities SMBC is the lead underwriter of the offer.

ò KDDI disclosed its plans to offer mobile phones made by Sharp Corp. that would allow customers to watch digital television broadcasts. The device is seen as providing competition to a product already offered by Softbank Corp. The handset will adopt Sharp's AQUOS brand technology that is used for the consumer electronic maker's flat-panel televisions. Japanese operators have been moving to respond to strong demand for TV-capable handsets since the launch of wireless digital broadcasts in April. Such services are also offered in South Korea. Softbank, which earlier this year bought Vodafone Group Plc's Japan-unit, has been selling AQUOS phones since May.


ò SK Communications Co. said it has launched an internet community service in the US in a bid to secure a foothold in one of the world's largest cyber community markets. Opened in 2001, Cyworld has been a success in South Korea, with more than 10 million subscribers. The number stands for a significant portion of the nation's 48 million population. Cyworld's entry into the US came after SK Communications, a unit of South Korea's top mobile carrier SK Telecom Co., opened a local subsidiary in October last year and ran a test version of the service. The US social-networking market is regarded to have high growth potential as it has taken off only recently. At present, only a small number of companies, which includes the hugely popular MySpace.Com, are dominating the burgeoning market. Earlier in June, the company announced the signing of deal with a European Internet firm for the launching of the social-networking service. It plans to start operations in Taiwan later this month. It maintains presence in China and Japan.

ò Yahoo Korea announced that it will start to service YTN, a 24-hour cable news channel, on the internet portal soon even as the offering straddles the grey areas where regulations for broadcasting and showing of footage over the internet are not well defined. Industry sources said that Yahoo and other major portal sites are already servicing news clips of both cable and terrestrial TV stations, but the two companies claim it is the first time for a web portal to broadcast real-time news service. Yahoo said it will provide web boards where viewers can post their opinions on news stories real-time. It also plans to show the inside scene of YTN newsroom in a separate window. The integration of Yahoo and YTN is seen as the most recent move of internet firms in encroaching on traditional mediaÆs turf in South Korea. Currently, web portals are not subject to regulations under South KoreaÆs media law. The government is planning to revise related laws next month to include web portals in the category of news media, as the influence of the Internet media becomes bigger.

ò The number of operators providing ring-tones, coloring, and music was said to be considerably reduced as of 2006. According to industry source, there were more or less 200 CPs (content providers) in 2003 when the mobile music market was going through a boom, but this year its number indicated a sharp drop. Currently, there are only about 100 CPs. Industry sources said it only took three years for the CP number to be reduced to half. According to Korea Contents Industry & Business Association, the actual number of CP is as follows: 70 CPs for SK Telecom Mobile Music and approx. 10 to 20 CPs for KTF and LG Telecom (except for a overlapping operator with SKT). The market size has sustained revenues of over W50 billion won ($52.1 million) since 2003, but this year it is in a recession due to a sluggish wireless data market.

ò The Pantech Group said it will establish a local subsidiary in Argentina later this month to strengthen its operations in Central and South America. The group began business in Argentina in December of 2005 by providing models to CTI Movil, Argentina's No 2 telecom service company. Although Pantech was late to enter the market, its bar-type camera phone has been topping the CTI subscribers' sales list, above Nokia and Motorola. Pantech has also been actively marketing its phones in Uruguay. In Argentina, Pantech aims for a market share of 7 percent in the cell phone sector by the end of this year. For 2007, the group hopes its market share will climb above 10 percent. Earlier this month, Pantech began selling two models in Chile through Smartcomm. The company also sells phones in Brazil and Mexico.

ò SK Telecom said it has launched its mobile-exclusive messenger, M Messenger, based on a telephone list stored in cellular phones. The user interface is in the form of chat windows, web-like environment where emoticons and flashcons can be used. The company said no separate registration of contacts is necessary. The service is primarily aimed at young clients who are into SMS and looking for faster, more fluid way to communicate. The company explained that while text messaging is popular, it lacks instantaneity. Meanwhile, instant messaging lacks mobility. SK Telecom said its M Messenger is aimed at enabling use of instant messaging while on the move.

ò Samsung Electronics announced the launching of two Wibro notebook PC models as early as next month. The company said the notebook PCs would be the first in the world to have embedded Wibro functionalities. Currently Wibro users access the network through a PCMCIA card. The notebooks will have special software for VoIP and multimedia contents. Samsung said it will start with two models but plans to increase the product line in the future.

ò The countryÆs telecom regulator and broadcasting authorities û the Ministry of Information and Communication and the Korean Broadcasting Commission û announced an agreement on cooperation in facilitating the launch of IP-TV or Internet Protocol TV. The two bodies also said they have agreed to identify a consortium as early as next month that will lead the business. The disagreement was that according to the Information Ministry, IP-TV is a new medium that should be subject to communications regulations, while the broadcasting circles argue that it should be regulated by broadcasting laws. The agreement is expected to usher in an earlier introduction of the IP-TV service, one of the nation's future growth engines and a symbol of convergence between communications and broadcasting. In a related development, KT Corp., the nation's largest fixed-line and broadband operator, is preparing to launch IP-TV. Hanarotelecom Inc., the second-largest internet operator, opened a type of internet-based television service called Hana TV last month, providing video-on-demand multimedia content to customers. The full launch of the service, however, has been delayed for several years because the ministry and the commission have failed to reach a common point with regard to the technology.

ò KT, considered the countryÆs dominant telecom carrier, said it is seeking to continue its strong presence through a converged offering called a triple play service (TPS). TPS refers to packaged features combining high-speed internet access, fixed-line telephony services and broadcasting with a single broadband network. The full-fledged introduction of TPS is still on hold because of regulatory barriers on Internet protocol TV (IPTV) and what the industry described as ôbroadband network jitters.ö IPTV is web-enabled broadcasting with a limitless number of channels, which experts note will become the mainstream audio, visual platform for TPS.

ò NetEase.com, China's biggest online-game company, reported a 29 percent rise in its second-quarter profits to Rmb314.1 million ($39 million). The company said its sales rose by 38 percent to Rmb575.3 million ($72.1 million) from Rmb416.9 million. NetEase said it expected sales in the third quarter to post up to 29.6 percent growth. In the second quarter, NetEase said its online game sales went up by 41 percent to Rmb486 million.

ò Guangzhou announced that it will soon end a two-year moratorium on licensing new internet cafes, a move that is expected to double the number of legal internet bars in the city by next year. The decision to stop processing applications was prompted by an arson attack on an illegal Beijing internet cafe in 2002, which saw 25 people killed. A top official of Guangzhou's Bureau of Culture was quoted as saying the city planned to authorize 520 new internet bars before next year, of which 364 would be individually operated and 156 part of national or provincial chains. Industry sources said the new quotas would increase the number of legal internet cafes in the city to 1,212 from the current 692. Underground operators have filled the shortage of legal facilities. The municipal government said the city had more than 1,800 illegal cyber bars by 2003.

ò Under a business alliance considered to be the most comprehensive ever joined in by Google, its technology will be seen as providing power for China.comÆs online search engine. Under the agreement, the technology will be used for China.com searches for online content in English and traditional Chinese. China.com claims it was one of ChinaÆs first internet portals. Since its founding, the firm said it had launched a group of websites designed to help global businesses access increasingly affluent consumers in China. Under the partnership, China.com and Google will cooperate regarding branding, content and advertising, according to the companies.

ò China Mobile reported a 23.6 percent rise in its second-quarter net profit to Rmb15.8 billion ($2 billion) from Rmb12.7 billion. The results were in line with expectations, with the company ascribing the performance to customer growth and improved mobile data business. The company said its data business consisting of ring tones and short video clips registered a huge increase of 37.1 percent. The figure stands for about 22.6 percent of total revenues compared with 19.7 percent previously. China Mobile said it listed 273.7 million customers on its 2G network compared with 223.7 million a year earlier.

Media/Entertainment and Gaming
ò World of Warcraft has earned $32 million for The9, the game's licensee in China, during the past three months alone. There is however, some concern arising because of the news that Warcraft developer Blizzard Entertainment is apparently delaying an expansion pack agreement, while The9 upgrades servers to improve performance and user experience. About 99 percent of The9Æs revenue of $32.2 million revenue for the second quarter came from World of Warcraft, which has more than five million registered players in China. Analysts noted that the company has been very successful in its efforts to license new games that are likely to be popular. This makes The9's current reliance on Warcraft less worrying they say, despite the firm's continuing failure to finalise a deal with US-based Blizzard for the Burning Crusade expansion pack, according to observers.

ò CDC Games, a subsidiary of CDC Corporation's China.com Inc, announced the acquisition of the license to the Japanese online game Stone Age 2 from Japan's DigiPark. The game, which is expected to be launched at the beginning of 2007, will be free to play with the players paying for the virtual merchandise. A top officer of China.com said the firm is looking to the success of the new game, which is set in the prehistoric era. Stone Age 2 is built around a game that requires players to cooperate as they build villages, capture and raise dinosaurs and search for treasure.

ò Lenovo announced that David Miller, former president of Dell China, had joined as president of its Asia-Pacific operations. Miller, who is also senior vice-president of Lenovo, will be based in Singapore. In another development, Sotaro Amanoas, formerly corporate director of Dell's home and business sales division in Japan, has taken the post of president of Lenovo Japan. Amanoas was formerly corporate director of Dell's home and business sales division in Japan and managing director of Dell Miyazaki. Dell also announced its plan to boost its sales unit in China even as it disclosed its aim to form ties with software firms.


ò Intel, Carlyle Group, and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts are reportedly interested in bidding for a stake in TaiwanÆs First International Telecom. According to the top official of the Taiwanese mobile operator three foreign investors have contacted the company, although the firm gave no names. The official also stated that the big shareholders in First International Telecom have not yet decided whether to sell a whole or a partial stake. The news of IntelÆs interest in First International Telecom comes in the wake of a plan drawn up by TaiwanÆs National Communications Commission and published earlier this month to boost wireless broadband communications for Taiwanese businesses. An official of the Intel Innovation Center in Taiwan and general manager of Intel subsidiary Intel Innovation Technologies was reported to have hailed the plan as affording business opportunities for the development of Intel-backed wireless networking technology Wi-Max. Intel said it looks to the global development of Wi-Max as crucial to sales of its microchips, suitable for telecom devices that need high-speed Internet access.

ò Alcatel announced that it has signed a contract with Asia Pacific Telecom Group, a leading incumbent operator offering fixed and 3G mobile services, and cable TV services, to upgrade and expand its existing network in Taiwan with AlcatelÆs optical transport solution. The project will allow APTG to support new Ethernet-based applications for addressing the increased traffic requirements of research institutions, as well as to enhance mobile traffic backhaul capabilities. Under the agreement, Alcatel said it will deploy its optical multi-service and dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM) technologies, enabling APTG to significantly increase its network capacity, flexibility and performance. The Alcatel solution will be based on its 1626 Light Manager (LM) multi-reach DWDM system that maximizes the capacity of core optical networks, while lowering the overall transmission cost per bit.

Hong Kong

ò Hutchison Telecommunications reported for the first half of 2006, profit of HK$644 million ($82.8 million) compared to a loss of HK$220 million ($28.2 million) last year. The company ascribed the increase to the growth of the company in India, which contributed 45 percent of the groupÆs turnover. The company says it would retain its forecast of capital expenditures of HK$13.5 billion (US$1.7 billion) to HK$14.5 billion (US$1.8 billion) for the full year although there may be some lag in booking capital expenditures that may result in some of the planned capital expenditures flowing over into 2007.

ò HKC International said it has built a telephone switchboard system that can transfer a fixed-line call into a Wi-fi internet call. The technology enables a free local and overseas connections that pose competition to mobile operatorsÆ roaming revenues valued at some HK$2.5 billion ($321.5 million) a year. The company said it is selling a private bank exchange (PBX) and fixed-line telephone set that can forward calls destined for office extension numbers to mobile handsets in the field. Wi-fi allows wireless internet access by laptops and other mobile gadgets through short-range radio transmissions. HKC claims its technology has a head start over rival technologies because individual companies independent of operatorsÆ license concerns can use it. The company stated that it does not require an OFTA license from the Office of the Telecommunications Authority (OFTA) for its product as it sells only the hardware. HKC clarified that it is not a service provider. The clarification is important because the offering comes at the same time as Ofta is in the middle of talks with the industry on licenses for converged fixed and mobile telecommunications services. HKC began as a distributor for phones in Hong Kong with distribution rights from NEC and Nokia before it ventured into developing its phone trading and manufacturing businesses. The company later moved into network security software.

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