A week in tech, January 30-February 5

A roundup of the latest tech news.

Parrot, a provider of wireless peripherals around the mobile phone, announced that it has opened a Tokyo liaison office dedicated to supporting its original equipment manufacturing (OEM) customers in Japan. The company provides automotive connectivity solutions including Bluetooth telephony, echo-cancellation and noise reduction, USB connectivity and voice recognition to major audio equipment manufacturers. The company's Tokyo office will provide local technical support in order to facilitate the integration of Parrot technology into new audio platforms being developed in Japan.

NTT DoCoMo has agreed to sell its entire stake in Telargo, a provider of location services in the US, to its majority owner ULTRA Doo of Slovenia. Under the deal, ULTRA Doo will acquire NTT DoCoMo's 49% stake, making Telargo a wholly-owned subsidiary. NTT DoCoMo bought the stake in Telargo in 2005 to expand its business overseas. The Japanese company failed to pursue the expansion plan, however, which is the reason for deciding to sell its stake.

ADSL broadband service provider eAccess is set to form a capital and business alliance with Japan-based fibre-optic communications provider USEN Corporation, according to media sources. Two sources said they expect the partnership will allow the companies to compete more effectively with JapanÆs leading broadband operator NTT. Under the proposed deal, eAccess will advise customers wishing to switch from ADSL to fibre-optic services to use USEN, the fourth largest player in this segment. USEN has a market share of 6.1%. If the transaction is completed, eAccess will become USENÆs third biggest shareholder, behind the investment fund Unison Capital and broadcast group USEN, both of which hold nearly 40% of USEN CorpÆs shares.

Square Enix, Japan's second largest game software publisher, plans to acquire companies either domestically or in countries such as India and China to accelerate profit growth. According to its president, acquisitions and alliances will be the ôcornerstone of Square EnixÆs growth strategy this year and the next.'' The company made its last acquisition in 2005 when it purchased Taito Corporation, a Japanese arcade game maker. It forecasts a 3.3% rise in net income to Ñ12 billion ($113 million) in the year ending March 31, and a 0.6% decline in sales to Ñ162.5 billion. It expects operating profit of the arcade business to hit Ñ350 billion this fiscal year, compared with a loss of Ñ351 million a year earlier. The arcade division is expected to account for half of the revenue and 17% of the operating profit. Game software, the company's biggest revenue earner, is expected to contribute 27% of sales and 43% of the operating profit.

Sharp Corporation has reported a 5.5% rise in its quarterly operating profit to a record high of Ñ51.9 billion ($487 million) from Ñ49.2 billion a year earlier. Net profit rose 3.8% to Ñ29.6 billion on sales of Ñ921.2 billion. The company kept its outlook for the full year to March unchanged, topping market expectations. Sharp forecasts an operating profit of Ñ190 billion this fiscal year, up from Ñ186.5 billion a year earlier. At present, Sharp is building the world's largest LCD panel factory in western Japan to boost efficiency and counter weather-related price declines.

KDDI Corporation has posted a 12.4% rise in net profit for the nine months to December to Ñ214.8 billion from the same period last year. Operating profit went up 17.4% to Ñ371 billion and revenues grew 7.2% to Ñ2.6 trillion. The telecom operator said it had registered almost 1.9 million new customers in the nine months to December and noted that 1.2 million additional subscribers signed up for its mainstay au cellphone service over the nine-month period, reaching a total of 29.2 million at the end of December. The company forecasts that its au subscriber base will reach 30 million by the end of March. KDDI now expects revenues of Ñ3.5 trillion. It also changed its operating profit forecast to Ñ414 billion for the year to March from Ñ390 billion previously.

NTT plans to set up an investment fund under the name of NTT Investment Partners Fund that will target start-ups both inside and outside Japan. The fund will begin operations in March. NTT aims to contribute 99.8% of the Ñ10 billion ($93.8 million) capital, while two other unidentified firms will contribute 0.1% each. Industry observers note that this is NTTÆs first foray into investing in start-ups. The fund will take stakes in privately-held firms with cutting-edge technologies and expertise in the information and communications fields. In addition to generating investment returns, the investments will serve as a conduit for expanding the NTT group's business operations and contributing to innovation.


Google has announced an overhaul of its Korean-language search engine in a bid to broaden its appeal in South Korea. According to the managing director of Google Korea, Google has adopted universal search for its Korean-language services. Universal search combines search-engine results from a broader array of potential sources as well as data created by the search engine itself.

NHN, which operates the nation's dominant portal and search engine service Naver, said it has started offering its TV-tailored Web search services for KT, the countryÆs largest telephone and broadband Internet company. Under the offering, the company said it will not ask for profit sharing from KT in the near future. NHN also described its partnership with KT as a way of exploring the uncharted territory of Internet-TV convergence. Separately, Daum is preparing to set up a joint venture with Microsoft and Celrun next month with an aim to launch its own IPTV brand, tentatively named "Open TV". The joint venture plans to start free service this summer and paid TV service around December. The company said it also looks forward to exporting its vast database abroad with help from the Microsoft's global network.

Orascom Telecom has secured the right to provide 3G wireless services to North Korea through its 75%-owned subsidiary CHEO Technology. The remaining 25% is owned by North Korea's state-run Korea Post and Telecommunications. According to Orascom, the license is valid for 25 years with an exclusive period of four years. The Egypt-based firm said it plans to invest up to $400 million in network infrastructure and license fees over the first three years with the aim of rapidly deploying a network and offer mobile phone services to North Koreans. According to media sources, North Korea launched a mobile phone service in November 2002, but banned the service for ordinary citizens a year and a half later.

MoCA and Korea Digital Cable Laboratories (KLabs) have entered into a formal liaison where both organisations will share information assuring ongoing compatibility within South Korea's cable environment. Under the agreement, both MoCA and KLabs will continue to develop specifications independently, and share published and draft specifications as well as proposed documentation. This information sharing arrangement is expected to ensure seamless integration of and interoperability with each other's technology as it is implemented by service providers. KLabs is a non-profit research institute set up by South Korea's cable industry for the development and advancement of digital cable. It is the leading authority on South Korea's cable standardisation and certification. The Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) is an open initiative promoting distribution of digital video and entertainment through existing coaxial cable in the home.

SK Telecom has reported a 76% decline in net profit in the fourth quarter to December 31, attributing the drop to marketing costs. The report also mentioned the effect of losses incurred by SK TelecomÆs affiliates such as US wireless joint venture Helio and mobile TV company TU Media. SK posted W66 billion ($65 million) in net profit in the fourth quarter, which was below the W259.6 billion profit forecast by Reuters Estimates and down from the W279.3 billion profit it has posted a year earlier. SK TelecomÆs revenue went up 6% to W2.9 trillion. At the end of December, SK registered an 8.4% rise in the number of subscribers to 21.9 million. Media sources indicated that the company has a 50.5% share of the mobile market.

Hanarotelecom has reported 8.4% revenue growth for its HanaTV service, voice services and corporate services in 2007. Hanaro posted total revenues of W1.8 trillion ($1.8 billion), compared to W1.7 trillion in 2006. The company said its operating profit surged 162% to W80.9 billion. Having posted a net loss of W86 billion in 2006, Hanaro bounced back with a net income of W7.2 billion last year.

China Finance Online (CFO) has formed an alliance with China Telecom to deliver a variety of financial information services to more than 40 million broadband users across China Telecom's internet platform and offline distribution network. Under the agreement, CFO and China Telecom will establish and maintain a co-branded financial channel on China Telecom's broadband portal Vnet, which also serves as the payment platform for China Telecom's broadband subscribers with regard to various internet value-added services. China Telecom will distribute CFO's products through the Vnet portal and via its over 10,000 business halls. The two companies said they will share revenues according to an agreed-upon scheme.

BritainÆs ROK Entertainment Group has signed a cooperation agreement with Beijing Fone Net Information & Technology to provide mobile TV content to China Mobile customers. Under the agreement, which was signed through ROKÆs China subsidiary, ROK New Net, it will provide video content to Beijing Fone Net, who is responsible for operating and implementing China Radio International's (CRI) mobile TV service. CRI is one of the nationwide mobile TV license holders in China and provides a streaming media mobile TV service to China Mobile customers.

BroadWebAsia (BWA) has presented a formal proposal to invest in Linktone, a Chinese wireless value-added services company. Under the proposal, BWAÆs Brad Greenspan, who is the founder of MySpace.com, BWA or its affiliates will buy at least 60% of Linktone's outstanding shares. The acquisition will be done through a combination of a tender offer for approximately 25% of LinktoneÆs total outstanding shares and a purchase of $10 million of its American depositary shares in the open market. An announcement said BWA has proposed to contribute certain if its media assets and strategic partnership arrangements to Linktone that it believes will diversify the Chinese firmÆs current business, boost revenue streams and generate incremental cash flow. Under the proposal, Brad Greenspan will serve as chairman of Linktone and BWA will appoint four additional directors to the Linktone Board.

Separately, LinktoneÆs shareholders have approved a plan to accept an investment from Indonesia's PT Media Nusantara Citra. The companyÆs CEO said the deal will allow the two companies to undertake advertising and WVAS cross-selling initiatives in China as well as in other Asian countries. Linktone has earlier said that the Indonesian firm will launch a partial tender offer in the US for up to 6 million of Linktone's outstanding ADSs.

Kyocera has decided to withdraw from the Chinese mobile market following a similar move by several Japanese mobile phone manufacturers, including Panasonic, Sony, Mitsubishi, Toshiba and NEC. Kyocera will terminate the agreement with its Chinese partner China Zhenhua Technology with whom it has a joint venture and transfer its stake in the venture to China Zhenhua Technology and a Hong Kong company free of charge in March. The decision will also see Kyocera give up its creditor's rights, valued at Rmb57.6 million ($8 million). The Japanese has has invested more than Rmb300 million in the JV, which was formed in 2001. After the withdrawal, Kyocera said it will concentrate on the North American market.

China Netcom (Hong Kong) Operations Limited, an affiliate of China Netcom, has revealed plans to launch an enterprise global network optimisation solution in Hong Kong. According to its CEO, the solution will include network upgrading, internet high-speed access, one-stop ICT outsourcing, software development, IDC and material backup. The company expects these services to contribute more to the companyÆs profit in 2009.

US-based security solutions firm Cloakware is entering into a partnership with China-based MobileTech to provide data safety services. Under the partnership, the security solutions firm will provide its Cloakware Server Password Manager (CSPM) to markets in the Greater China region. The CSPM allows enterprises to boost the protection of critical data and complete identity management and compliance programs. It also delivers automated, cost-effective and auditable management of privileged and application-to-application passwords. This enables organisations to comply with the standards and legislation which require all passwords be updated on a regular basis.

WJ Communications (WJCI), a supplier of radio frequency products and solutions for the wireless infrastructure and radio frequency identification reader markets, announced it will start shipping TD-SCDMA Multi Chip Module chipsets to China in the first quarter of 2008. The company said additional deliveries are anticipated later in 2008 to support China's TD-SCDMA roll-out. Time Division-Synchronous Code Division Multiple Access is a 3G mobile telecommunications developed in China.


Media, Entertainment and Gaming
Electronic Arts Inc., the world's leading developer and publisher of interactive entertainment, and GigaMedia, a provider of online entertainment software and services, have entered into an agreement to launch and operate Warhammer: Age of Reckoning (WAR) in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. Under the agreement, GigaMedia will provide marketing, community management, technical support, and customer service functions.

Gamania Digital Entertainment, an operator/developer of online games in Taiwan, said its gaming operation in Japan posted a loss of NT$20 million ($624,000) on revenues of NT$225 million in 2007. According to its CEO, Gamania may see its Japanese operations bring in profits by 2008. In Taiwan, Gamania plans to launch some 10-15 new online games in 2008, including three self-developed games. The rest will be introduced from Japan and China.

According to the companyÆs chairman, Compal Communications expects handset shipments to grow by 20%-25% sequentially to 60 million units in 2008. Market sources indicated that handset shipments registered a decline to 47.8 million in 2007 due to the diminishing performance of Motorola, which is a major customer of the Taiwanese company. Following an organisational reshuffle at Motorola, Compal's operations are expected to gradually rebound in the second half of this year as average selling prices (ASPs) are set to increase between the second and third quarters. With orders not coming in yet, Compal said it has not started operations at its new Chinese plant in Ningbo.

Chunghwa Telecom (CHT) will pay NT$70 million ($2.1 million) for a 33.4% stake in Kingwaytek Technology to obtain electronic maps (e-maps) for use in its GPS location-based service (LBS). CHT's investment is equivalent to a price of about NT$70 per share. Kingway Technology, a provider of electronic maps covering Taiwan, will hold the remaining 66.6% stake.

Acer disclosed that it spent Ç31 million ($46 million) in January to acquire a 75% stake in PB Holding, the mother company of Packard Bell. The company said this move officially completes its acquisition plan. Packard Bell is No. three in the European PC consumer market and is in the top three in the regionÆs main markets, including the UK, France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium. Packard Bell is also expanding into emerging markets, entering key countries in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America through a series of strategic partnerships with major local players.

According to industry sources, BenQ is planning to outsource production of its Joybook series notebook to Pegatron Technology. Pegatron is a recent spin-off from Asustek Computer. Under the alliance, the companies will be producing 13.3- and 14.1-inch notebook PCs for shipments in March. BenQÆs Joybook is reportedly doing well in countries like Thailand, Indonesia and Poland, while China has been identified as an important market for the companyÆs future growth.Hong Kong

According to the latest statistical information from Hong Kong's Office of the Telecommunications Authority, most wireless communication services have showed remarkable growth during 2007. These services include mobile, short messaging and public Wi-Fi services. From December 2006 to November 2007, the volume of short messages that Hong Kong people sent increased by 26% to a record high of 3.2 billion. In October 2007, the number of mobile subscribers, including both registered post-paid customers and pre-paid customers, rose above 10 million for the first time. It reached another record high of 10.6 million in November, which translated into a penetration rate of 152%t. The results represent one of the highest penetration rates in the world, well exceeding many advanced economies, such as the UK, the US, Japan and South Korea.

According to the Director-General of Telecommunications of Hong Kong, the new CDMA 2000-standard third-generation mobile service will be launched in Hong Kong in November. The official said the auction for spectrum in the 2.3GHz and 2.5GHz bands for the provision of Broadband Wireless Access services is scheduled for the fourth quarter. He also spoke of other important regulatory initiatives this year, like the creation of a Unified Carrier License as a common licensing vehicle for the development of fixed-mobile convergence.

Lenovo Group will sell its loss-making mobile-phone business for $100 million to a group of private equity firms in a bid to enhance profitability. In a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange, the PC maker said it will focus on its core PC business. LenovoÆs mobile handset business registered a decline of 31% in the past quarter. Hony Capital Fund, a private equity firm partly owned by Legend Holdings, the parent of Lenovo Group, will acquire 60% of the handset arm through its subsidiaries Ample Growth and Jade Ahead, while private companies LEV Ventures and Super Pioneer will take the rest. LenovoÆs net profit climbed to $172.6 million in its fiscal third quarter from $57 million in the year-ago period and $105.3 million in the second quarter. According to Lenovo, its third quarter PC shipments increased by 22% from the same period a year earlier.


Nokia Siemens Networks and Indonesian media and telecommunications group Global Mediacom have entered into an agreement to jointly launch a commercial broadcast mobile TV service based on DVB-H technology. The service is to be launched in Indonesia in the first half of 2008. Under the agreement, Nokia Siemens Networks Indonesia will be responsible for the systems and services, including consulting, implementation of the entire broadcasting service and network, systems integration and the relevant business applications. Global Mediacom said it is in talks with Nokia for it to provide DVB-H integrated devices such as the Nokia N77. It is also looking to working with Nokia Siemens Networks on joint marketing activities to ensure the service is adopted by Indonesian consumers.

The Western Union Company, Globe Telecom and its wholly owned subsidiary, G-Xchange, have entered into an agreement to work together to introduce a cross-border mobile money transfer service supporting low-principal, high-frequency remittances. Under the agreement, Philippine-based Globe Telecom will offer its GCASH service with an ôelectronic walletö feature that allows users to send and receive cash and make payments, including bill payments, donations and online purchases via texting. Globe Telecom had more than 19 million subscribers as of the end of September 2007 and close to half a million active GCASH users.

According to the Singapore High Court, those who download copyrighted online material cannot claim a right to privacy. In a statement, the court ordered internet service provider Pacific Internet (PacNet) to turn in the names of those who allegedly downloaded Japanese animated cartoons to the six studios behind these works. The studios are: Sunrise, Kadokawa Pictures, TV Tokyo Medianet, GDH K.K., Yomiuri Telecasting and Showgate. The court said that the studios, being copyright owners of anime works, have a right to get hold of these names and to sue these individuals for infringing their copyright. The ruling was made at the same time the court rejected the Singapore-based anime distributor Odex's appeal for PacNet to release the name list to it. The judge clarified that Odex was not the rightful party to petition for the names. Odex appealed against the court decision, and subsequently asked the judge to allow it to add the six Japanese anime studios as co-plaintiffs, which the court allowed.

According to industry sources, Malaysian broadband provider Packet One Networks (P1), a subsidiary of Green Packet, has chosen Alcatel-Lucent to deploy and manage one of the world's first large WiMAX networks in the 2.3 GHz spectrum band. The contract is estimated to be worth $71 million for Phase 1 of the deployment. Under the deal, Alcatel-Lucent will provide P1 with base stations, wireless access controllers and an operation and maintenance centre. Alcatel-Lucent will also design, supply, build, install, test, commission, integrate, optimise and maintain P1's WiMAX network. Roll-out of the project has already started in Klang Valley, Penang and Johor and will rapidly cover West Malaysia. P1 intends to provide WiMAX coverage for 25% of the Malaysian population, which corresponds to some 6.5 million people, by the end of 2008, and for 40% of the population by the end of 2010.

Local internet search engine Yehey! Corporation of the Philippines is reportedly getting ready to list its shares through an introduction. The process of listing by way of introduction involves the direct listing and trading of a companyÆs shares without going through an initial public offering or selling any new shares. According to industry sources, Yehey!Æs parent iVantage has already received a certificate from the countryÆs Bureau of Internal Revenue, which would allow the transfer of 84.7 million Yehey! shares to stockholders as of May 2007.

Information Technology
According to Access Markets International Partners (AMI), small and medium businesses (SMBs, or companies with up to 999 employees) from Indonesia are set to spend $7.2 billion on information communications technology this year. The figure represents an 11.2% increase over 2007, which is ascribed to a boom in the overall economy and a rise in the number of small businesses. The report said high growth possibilities are making SMBs consider increasing their branch locations. The AMI survey found that more than 25% of SMBs are planning to add 1-2 branches this year, which makes connectivity between branch offices and remote locations a top priority for IT decision makers in 2008.

PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia Internasional (TII), a subsidiary of state-owned telecom operator PT Telkom, has acquired a 6.8% stake in Scicom Technologies through the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange. The company said the acquisition is in line with Telkom's goal of developing ôunorganic businesses and strengthening corporate businessesö. Malaysia-based Scicom is a provider of outsourcing services within product development, software support and maintenance, project services and technology consulting for scientific, engineering and enterprise data integration application areas.
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