Media, Entertainment and Gaming
According to media sources, Sony Corp has plans to create an Internet phone function for its PlayStation Portable (PSP) game player in cooperation with eBay unit Skype. SonyÆs PSP has been trailing NintendoÆs DS handheld gear in sales since the devices were launched. Under the offering, clients can download Skype's software, which is expected to become available as early as this month. The software will enable PSP users to make free web-based phone calls to other PSP users and to users of PCs equipped with Skype software.
According to Dentsu, the Japanese online advertising market was projected to be worth $3.4 billion in 2007 compared to the $4.1 billion projected by PricewaterhouseCoopers. By 2011, Dentsu estimates that Japan's online ad market value will be $6.8 billion. In the same period, PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that the countryÆs online market will be slightly above $7 billion. Dentsu notes that search spending accounted for 27% of Japan's online ad marketing in 2007, compared to 40% in the US and 60% in the UK. The Dentsu Group tracks online advertising in three areas: search ads, mobile ads and fixed Internet ads such as banner, e-mail, rich media and text advertisements.
NTT DoCoMo Inc. has decided to terminate its personal handy-phone system (PHS) service, following a continued decline of subscriptions during the past decade. Subscriptions to DoCoMoÆs PHS service dropped to about 155,000 as of December compared from 2.1 million registered subscribers during its peak in 1997. With DoCoMo leaving the market, Willcom Inc. will be the sole provider of PHS services. In a separate development, Willcom disclosed a plan to introduce new PHS technology that is expected to make available higher communication speeds in 2009.
Oki Electric Industry Company Limited and Fujitsu Limited announced their collaboration in developing next-generation ATM (Automated Teller Machine) software. The two companies said they have finished the development of a prototype of the software using web-based architecture. The product will be released in Japan at the beginning of April 2008. Oki Electric and Fujitsu said their goal is to create a new industry standard for ATM application software in which services can be rolled out industry-wide at low cost, replacing the conventional system in which each financial institution developed application software separately. A key feature of the next-generation ATM software is its fee structure, which charges per transaction. In addition, it will be managed on a central server, thus enabling financial institutions to easily change and add software as well as enhance internal controls and security by managing transaction data centrally.
The Seoul Central District Court has ordered LG Electronics to pay W700,000 ($750) in damages to each of 31 job applicants whose personal data were disclosed from the company's recruitment web site, media sources say. According to the court, a total of 290 people filed a collective lawsuit against the company. Sources said hacking was done by a man who applied to the company in 2006 and created a computer program that enabled its users to view the resumes of all LG job applicants.
Yahoo Korea has entered into an alliance with mobile carrier KTF Corp. to provide cell phone users with directions to restaurants and shops. Based on the mobile RFID technology, the service will allow subscribers of KTF to get information about 2,000 restaurants and shops through registering to Yahoo's regional service Gugi via their cell phones. Through Gugi, which is developed by Yahoo Korea, users can save reviews and information about restaurants, shops and other places on the map and share them with other users.
South Korea registered 43.4 million mobile subscribers at the end of 2007 compared to 40.1 million at the end of 2006, according to industry sources. The reports indicated that penetration was 89.8%. KT Freetel recorded net adds of 89,000 during December, a significant increase from the past five months when net monthly adds only reached a high of 51,000 in September. KTF has a total customer base of 13.72 million. At the end of 2007, SKT had 21.9 million mobile customers after adding 152,000 new subscribers during the year. In the same period, LG Telecom secured 61,000 new subscribers to bring its total to 7.8 million.
LG Electronics has announced a new product: a Mobile Pedestrian Handheld (MPH) system for over-the-air broadcasts in North America. Industry observers see the device as a way for the company to speed up its entry into mobile digital TV. The upgraded technology system is the result of an investment valued at some W7 billion ($7.4 million) and equivalent to two years of research. The MPH system provides a high-quality viewing image even in a vehicle moving at speeds of 90 kilometres per hour and does not need additional frequencies. Industry places the value of mobile TV market in the North American region at $4.1 billion in 2010, up from $200 million in 2006, a surge attributed to the US government shifting to digital television.
Netflix Inc, a DVD-rental service company, and LG Electronics Inc have disclosed a plan to market an LG-branded device that will allow movies to be delivered over the Internet. The movies can be viewed on TV screens. The two companies did not reveal details about the device, but sources indicate that the product will also play Blu-ray and HD DVD discs, the rival formats for showing high-definition movies on televisions. Financial terms of the agreement were not desclosed.
LG Electronics has developed a mobile TV technology for the US, Canadian and Mexican markets. The company said it has invested W7 billion won ($7.4 million) in developing the technology. LG said it has conducted dozens of field tests for the technology in North America. Industry observes noted that the newly developed technology is different form existing mobile TV services like KoreaÆs DMB, EuropeÆs DVB-H and North AmericaÆs Medio FLO.
Auvitek and Dasan has announced that Korea Telecom's (KT) Megapass FTTH service is being widely deployed utilising Dasan's IPTV set-top box that incorporates Auvitek's demodulator. KTÆs Megapass TV service provides broadband services at data rates of up to 50Mb/s. Megapass TV uses FTTH as the WAN connection and enables a range of services, including real time broadcast of HDTV programming, video-on-demand and a host of interactive services. KT a expects high penetration level with high volume deployments of Megapass TV within one year of launch. Dasan is the largest broadband equipment manufacturer in South Korea. Following Siemens' acquisition of Dasan, the company has received expanded resources to target a global expansion in the broadband equipment market. Auvitek is a leading fabless semiconductor company focused on developing ICs for the worldwide digital television and multimedia convergence markets. The US-based Auvitek has development, sales and support offices in Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Taipei.
SK Group, the parent of oil refiner SK Corp and top mobile operator SK Telecom, has announced that it will invest W8 trillion ($8.5 billion) in 2008, up from W7 trillion ($7.4 billion) in 2007. SK Group also disclosed in a statement that it is targeting W82 trillion ($87.1 billion) in sales revenue in 2008, up from last year's W78 trillion won ($82.8 billion). Of its total investment, it is setting aside W6.9 trillion ($7.3 billion) for capital expenditures to cover network upgrades and overseas investments in the telecommunications area, along with overseas resource development and productivity enhancements in the energy sector. SK Group indicated that the remaining W1.1 trillion ($1.1 billion) will be allocated to research and development.
Netease has begun construction of an R&D Center in Hangzhou. The construction followed more than a year of planning and, according to the company, involved some Rmb300 million ($41.1 million) of investments. Netease said its R&D Center in Hangzhou will mainly focus on the development of Internet technologies for computer games and blogging services as well as the operation of new products. The centre is predicted to become the largest one for the company.
Alibaba Group revealed a decision to combine the group's human and material resources in the coming three to five years as it begins a strategy focusing on talent. The company said it is also forming a team to respond to the changing e-commerce market. Media sources appear to validate this move as they report that four executives from Alibaba, including Chief Operating Officer Li Qi, CTO Wu Jiong, Executive Vice President Sun Tongyu and Senior Vice President Li Xuhui, will collectively resign from their current positions and spend time studying. Alibaba also disclosed that it will call back Zeng Ming, president of Yahoo China, to work as chief of staff for the group, transfer Senior Vice President Lu Zhaoxi to work as president of Taobao.com. Senior Vice President Jin Jianhang will become president of Yahoo China, while Vice President Shao Xiaofeng will become executive president of Alipay. The company, however, has not said anything about who will be its candidates for the positions of COO and CTO.
Media, Entertainment and Gaming
Broadcasting in English and Japanese with Chinese captions, the International Channel Shanghai (ICS) has become the first foreign-language TV channel in China that is not operated by China Central Television (CCTV), the state TV system. According to its spokesman, the channel, run by the Shanghai Media Group (SMG), will serve the 2010 World Expo to be held in Shanghai. The metropolis has 150,000 foreign residents and gets 6 million foreign tourist arrivals every year. The World Expo in 2010 expects visitors to top 70 million.
US-based Spreadtrum Communications Inc. and China-based companies Amoi Electronics Co. Ltd. and Beijing Kuro Times Tech Co. Ltd. have announced what industry observers believe to be China's first solution for music phones offering copyrighted music. The solution is specifically designed for the growing mobile music market as it brings high quality copyright protected music to Chinese mobile handset users. The solution also ushers in the convergence of the so-called 4Cs (i.e. communication, chip, content and copyright) in music phones. Kuro is a music service provider legally authorised by most record companies for millions of online copyrighted songs that provides high quality music download services. Through the cooperation, Spreadtrum will embed Kuro's services into its chipset platform, so that the mobile phones equipped with Spreadtrum's chips can enable the functions of a multimedia player and online music download services.
Focus Media has completed its acquisition of CGEN Technology Company Limited. Following the share purchase agreement in December 2007, Focus Media made a cash payment of $168.4 million to CGEN shareholders for 100% of the equity interest in CGEN. Focus Media is one of China's leading multi-platform digital media companies. It operates the largest out-of-home advertising network in China, using audiovisual digital displays, based on the number of locations and number of flat-panel television displays in our network. The company is also a leading provider of mobile handset advertising and Internet marketing solutions in China.
The Bank of China Macao Branch and the Macao Telecommunication Company (CTM) have launched New iT's Mobile Banking Services in Macao. The offering is seen to boost the number of local 3G mobile phone users as well allowing consumers to enjoy banking transactions and investment activities through CTM's WeWap mobile Internet portal (2G or 3G) at any time.
KongZhong, a wireless value-added services firm, has signed a strategic alliance agreement with China Sports Industry Group Company (CSIG) to put sports information on mobile devices. Under the agreement, KongZhong and CSIG will become strategic partners and jointly explore business opportunities for developing sports-related content for mobile phones, including wireless value-added services and wireless Internet sites. CSIG is China's largest public company in the sports industry and is listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. CSIG also has the General Administration of Sports of China as its dominant shareholder. CSIG's business activities include organising commercial sports tournaments, operating sports arenas and fitness centers, and selling sports apparatus and goods.
ChinaÆs State Council Information Office and China Mobile announced that they will jointly promote the establishment of a national mobile e-commerce demonstrative area in western China's Chongqing. Under a memorandum of understanding signed between China Mobile and the Chongqing Municipality Government, the demonstrative area will be designed to make information access more convenient and make new breakthroughs in the high-tech sector. China Mobile says that the Chongqing company's mission is to create a national centralised platform to realise scaled growth of users and drive the development of the local economy to promote the development of the smart terminal, information service and system integration industries.
Lenovo announced that it is releasing a new line of consumer notebook and desktop PCs in China and in other places in Asia. The company launched what it described as new consumer-oriented IdeaPad notebooks and IdeaCentre desktops. The new PCs will be on offer in several countries including the US, France, Russia, South Africa, India, Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, China, the Philippines and Singapore.
Suning, the Chinese electronics retailer, has terminated its franchise business model. Under the plan, Suning said it has invested some Rmb300 million ($41.2 million) to refurbish its 120 chain stores for direct-owned operations. The company also said that it held consultations with each franchisee in October 2007 about the ending of the franchise. In December Suning said it had signed agreements with all 19 enterprises on the termination of the franchise relationship, with the company shelling out Rmb13.7 million ($1.8 million) to the enterprises whose franchise terms had not expired by the end of 2007. Including the 120 chain stores, Suning owns more than 700 stores in Greater China.
Digital China, an IT distribution service provider, has reached a memorandum of understanding with Suzhou Ventures Group (SVG). Under the agreement, Digital China and SVG twill set up two joint ventures, including an investment management company. The MOU states that one of the joint venture companies will work on IT value-added services and IT solutions, with Digital China providing part of its IT service and SVG its cash investment. The respective investment from the twp companies have not been disclosed.
Asia Pacific Broadband Telecom (APBT), a Taiwan-based fixed-line telecommunication service operator, announced its plans to introduce CDMA technology and solutions from Sprint Nextel through a three-year consulting contract valued at US$3.7 million. APBT said it also plans to introduce handsets from Japan-based KDDI. For its planned capital expansion of NT$20 billion (US$616.5 million), the company said it has collected already NT$42 million (US$1.2 billion) as a 5 percent down payment for subscription by its personal shareholders and employees worth NT$840 million (US$25.8 million), which also stands for 4.2 percent of the target amount. According to APBT, the 95.8 percent of the planned additional capital will be raised from existing and new corporate shareholders, with the latter to include foreign investors.
Ways Technical Corp. Ltd. of Taiwan announced that it had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with an investment arm under Foxconn International Holdings. Ways Technical, a company that specializes in plastic surface coatings and treatments, said the move is part of its expansion plan. Ways Technical maintains factories in China and Taiwan, which treat home appliances, devices and other products. Foxconn International is a unit of Hon Hai Precision Industry in Taiwan. It makes iPhones for Apple as well as mobile phones for Nokia and Motorola.
Chi Mei Optoelectronics (CMO) and TPV Technology Limited and TV ODM, announced their decision to take minority ownership stakes in Himax Media Solutions, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Himax Technologies, Inc. In October last year, Himax Technologies, Inc. announced plans to spin off its LCD TV and monitor chipset operation into Himax Media Solutions, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary. After the transaction, Himax retained a controlling stake in Himax Media Solutions, with Chi Mei Optoelectronics and TPV taking ownership stakes of approximately 6.6 percent and 4.4 percent, respectively. CMO headquarters are located in southern Taiwan and operate international divisions in Japan, U.S., Holland, England, Germany and Singapore. TPV is listed on both Hong Kong and Singapore stock exchanges in 1999. Himax Technologies, Inc. designs, develops and markets semiconductors that are critical components of flat panel displays. Based in Tainan, Taiwan, the company has regional offices in Taiwan, China, Japan, South Korea, and the U.S.
Pixnet Digital Media, operator of the Pixnet blogging/photo community web site in Taiwan, announced that it has added Google's AdSense keyword-search advertising service for use by its members. Under the offering, users of blogs on Pixnet can place Google AdSense ads on their blogs. The company said that the number of users of Pixnet went up from 400,000 to 800,000 when Cite Publishers acquired a 90 percent stake in Pixnet Digital Media in late March 2007. Pixnet said it aims to expand the number of its members by 50 percent and increase monthly revenues to NT$4 million (US$123,308) in 2008.
Media, Entertainment and Gaming
Artificial Life, Inc., a leading provider of award-winning mobile 3G technology and applications, announced the completion of a private placement of common stock and warrants to several investors, with the company raising gross proceeds of approximately US$6.5 million. Artificial Life said it has sold approximately 3.8 million shares at US$1.7 per share and issued warrants for the purchase of up to 1.8 million additional shares of common stock at US$1.5 per share. Oppenheimer & Co. Inc. acted as the placement agent for Artificial Life, Inc. on this transaction. Artificial Life, Inc. is listed on the OTC markets in the U.S. and headquartered in Hong Kong with offices in Berlin and Tokyo.
Avnet Inc. announced its acquisition of YEL Electronics Hong Kong Ltd., a distributor of interconnect, passive, electromechanical (IP&E) and limited semiconductor components in the Asia region. YEL raised US$200 million in revenue in the 12 months ended December 2007 with over 80 percent of the revenue coming from IP&E products. The acquisition provides Avnet with over 2,000 customers in eight countries across the Asia-Pacific region. Avnet describes the acquisition as helping the company widen its IP&E business in Asia by more than 50 percent, making it the largest IP&E distributor in the region. Under the deal, Avnet YEL will operate as a specialist division to maintain its focus on IP&E profitable growth.
Media, Entertainment and Gaming
According to industry sources, the National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University and Nanyang Polytechnic have received a total of US$22 million in funding from the National Research Fund (NRF) to aid research in interactive digital media (IDM). The 14 IDM research projects were selected from 50 proposals after an open grant call by the IDM R&D Programme Office. The projects are all part of an initiative called i.Rock (IDM Research Oriented Centres of Knowledge), and are considered the first public call for digital media research projects to be funded by the NRF. The research is expected to involve about 400 students and over 100 faculty members of the three tertiary institutions. The activity is expected to boost Singapore's research and development capability in the digital media sector.
Globe Telecom Inc, the Philippines' second-largest mobile phone operator, reported what it called a "healthy" increase in its mobile phone subscriber base in the last quarter of 2007. By the end of September in 2007, Globe had 19.2 million cellular phone subscribers, compared to 28.3 million of Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT), its rival. PLDT said its wholly-owned mobile phone unit Smart Communications Inc registered more than 30 million subscribers by the end of 2007. Digital Telecommunications Philippines Inc (Digitel), the countryÆs third mobile phone operator, said its subscriber base more than doubled to 5.5 million by early December from a year earlier, which went beyond its target of over 4 million subscribers by the end of 2007.
According to media sources, Ananda Krishnan, reputedly Malaysia's second- richest man after sugar tycoon Robert Kuok, borrowed US$1.2 billion to help fund the buyout of Maxis Communications Bhd. Reports show that Binariang GSM Sdn., Krishnan's special purpose company, decided not to exercise an option to increase the loan to US$1.5 billion after the firm has secured enough funds from a 12 billion ringgit (US$3.6 billion) bond sale in December 2007. Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd., DBS Group Holdings Ltd., Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp., HSBC Holdings Plc, ABN Amro Holding NV, Standard Chartered Plc underwrote the loan, with Oversea- Chinese Banking Corp., ING Groep NV, Mizuho Corporate Bank Ltd., WestLB AG and Calyon joining the financing later. As of March, Maxis had 8.5 million subscribers in Malaysia.