a-week-in-tech-july-1824

A week in tech, July 18-24

A round-up of all the latest tech news.
Japan

Media, Entertainment and Gaming
ò According to Enterbrain Inc, domestic sales of Nintendo's Wii videogame console have exceeded 3 million units since its launch in December 2006. By comparison, WiiÆs rival, Sony's PlayStation 3, has sold 1 million units since its debut in November 2006.

ò Recruit Co said it was taking a 0.4% equity stake in Fuji Television Network Inc. It bought 10,810 outstanding shares for 2.7 billion yen ($22.2 million). Market sources said the share purchase was carried out under a tie-up agreement between the two companies, which also includes Fuji TV's acquisition of a 0.5% stake in Recruit.

Internet

ò Industry sources said Yahoo Japan is taking a chance on making an investment in kizasi in a bid to increase its advertising revenue. The reports indicate that after kizasi increases its capital through an issuance of new shares, Yahoo Japan will buy 5% of them. The kizasi search engine ranks the most popular words on blogs. Under the agreement, Yahoo Japan and kizasi aim to develop a service that lists the hottest topics on Internet discussion boards, with the two partners then sharing revenue from advertising.

Mobile/Wireless
ò Canadian company Research in Motion announced that this month it would release a new Japanese language version of Blackberry in the Japanese wireless mobile market. The company said the Blackberry will be offered by NTT DoCoMo, Japan's largest cellphone operator. Research in Motion is the market leader for mobile e-mail devices with more than nine million users worldwide of its BlackBerry, a handheld device which can access corporate email and is able to roam almost anywhere in the world. In September last year, an English language version was introduced in Japan aimed at multinational companies. Observers note that in Japan, where cellphones are able to send e-mails through their handsets, Blackberry remain low in terms of brand recognition.

ò The market for online mobile-phone services is set to reach 1 trillion yen ($8.3 billion) by the end of the year, according to a study done by the countryÆs Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. A young, mobile-phone using consumer base, improved data transmission speeds and billing plans that charge flat rates for data communication transmissions are some factors that the surveys have identified as helping the growth of the industry. The study said that, at the end of 2006, the overall market value of online mobile phone services was 928.5 billion yen ($7.6 billion), a 28.5% increase over the previous year and more than triple the 298.6 billion yen ($2.4 billion) posted in 2002.

ò KDDI Corp said it would slash the monthly basic fee for its wireless service by half in a bid to counter cheaper plans offered by smaller rival Softbank Corp. KDDI said it would offer the deal in September to customers who sign up for a two-year contract.

Hardware
ò According to Tokyo-based market research firm BCN, Nikon sold more digital single-lens reflex cameras than rival Canon in the first half of 2007. In the first five months of the year, Nikon had a 47.5% share of the domestic market, while Canon had a 36.5% market share. The report said this marks the first time that Nikon has held the top spot over a half-year term. The company has topped the market before but on a monthly basis only.

Ventures/Investments
ò NextWave Wireless, a developer of broadband wireless infrastructure, said it would acquire a 69.2% stake in IPMobile, a Japanese company that is planning to install a network based on TD-CDMA technology from one of NextWave's divisions, IPWireless. NextWave, a US-based privately held company, was set up in 2005 and has since completed several acquisitions. Some of its purchases include ISV PacketVideo, an Israeli streaming media company acquired in a deal valued at $46.6 million and GO Networks, a WiFi developer, which it bought for $39 million.
Korea

Mobile/Wireless
ò Samsung Electronics said it developed a cellphone fitted with video editing and production functions to allow users to shoot, edit, and upload videos to Internet video sites without using a PC. The phone is one of the most recent devices to tap the popularity of user-generated content sites. Before Samsung, Casio Computer launched a digital still-camera with a dedicated mode for shooting YouTube videos and companion software that can upload the clips with just one mouse click. The Samsung device is a 3-megapixel model with auto focus and other features, which include reception of satellite mobile digital TV broadcasting. SK Telecom will sell the phone only in South Korea for 600,000 won ($655).

Media, Entertainment and Gaming
ò Mediaplex, an affiliate of the Orion Group, announced that it sold a controlling 53.1% stake in Megabox to Korea Multiplex Investment Corp (KMIC), a group led by the Australian banking group Macquarie Funds. The deal was valued at 145.5 billion won ($159 million). Under the agreement, Mediaplex will turn over management rights of Megabox to KMIC, but will continue to operate the cinema chain until July 2009 in return for some $10.8 million plus up to $32.4 million of other incentives. Mediaplex said the sale would allow it to increase its investment in making and distributing films. Megabox opened its first theatre in 2000 in Seoul and grew to 155 screens nationwide. Some sectors of the countryÆs film industry, however, expressed their concerns that this latest development is not good for the local film industry as it also indicates that a major entertainment business firm is leaving the country.

Software
ò ASAP Software, a leading provider of IT products and services, said it was entering into a partnership with SoftBank Commerce Korea, a leading provider of IT solutions and services in South Korea, to provide services for the acquisition and management of software, hardware, and IT services to global accounts. The report said the agreement will boost ASAP Software's reach in the region. From the early part of this year, ASAP Software has expanded its network of international partnerships. It has an agreement with Digital China, Ltd, a leading IT services company in China. Analysts see this network as allowing ASAP to offer software, hardware, and IT services locally to its enterprise customers with locations throughout Korea, North America, Europe, Australia, Japan, and China.

Hardware
ò LG Electronics said its second quarter earnings were 385 billion won ($420 million). The company ascribed the results to its strong sales of appliances and premium mobile phones. The company posted a net loss of 9.7 billion won ($10.6 million) in the same quarter a year earlier. LG Electronics said sales grew by 1.7% to 5.9 trillion won ($6.4 billion) from 5.8 trillion won ($6.3 billion) a year ago. Its handset sales posted a 27% climb to 2.7 trillion won ($2.9 billion) from the year before, with the company shipping some 19.1 million phones in the quarter for a total of 34.9 million in the first half. But its sales of digital displays, composed mostly of TVs and computer monitors, dropped by 2.1% from the previous year to 2.7 trillion won ($2.9 billion).

ò IOCELL, the contentsware specialist, announced the launching of its Castella T and the Castella S, described by the South Korea-based company as the worlds first USB computers. The Castella line provides a platform, which turns a mobile device, such as a USB flash drive or MP3 player, into a second computer whenever it is plugged into a PC. With the technology, users are also able to store frequently used software in the Castella device, a development that could do away with the notebook so long as one can find a compatible PC. IOCELL's Castella device line is available in capacities ranging from 1GB to 4GB. The company has not released details about the pricing of the device.

Semiconductors
ò Samsung Electronics announced the opening of its second semiconductor factory in Austin, Texas. The new facility is a 300-millimeter NAND flash memory wafer plant in the same location where the company set up a 200-millimeter chip factory in 1997. The $3.5 billion factory is expected to produce 16-gigabyte NAND flash chips using 50-nanometer technology. Samsung said the operations in the factory will begin next month, with its capacity seen as reaching 60,000 wafers a month by 2008.
China

Internet
ò 99Bill, a Chinese online payment service provider, announced that it has entered into a strategic agreement with China Merchants Bank to jointly promote the online payment and online banking services in China. The alliance sees 99Bill as able to expand its online payment services to tens of millions of China Merchant Bank's customers. Industry observers see the alliance as helping China Merchants Bank to secure more high-end customers, and boost the use of its online banking services. According to a survey by Nielsen, only one-fifth of China's Internet users use online banking services at least twice or three times per week, with 5% of those asked saying they use online banking each day. These figures contrast with the global rates of 32% and 14% respectively. According to the China Banking Regulatory Commission, the country's major commercial banks registered some 75 million online banking customers by the end of 2006, figures that represent an increase of 21 million from a year ago. Studies forecast that for 2007, the number of online banking users is expected to hit 117 million and online banking transaction volume is seen as going beyond 118 trillion Rmb ($1.5 trillion).

ò Alibaba announced the opening of a branch in Chongqing, a move that the company said indicates how important Southwest China is to them. Statistics from Alibaba show that for every 100 industrial enterprises engaging Alibaba's e-commerce platform, about 11 are from Chongqing.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming
ò CCTV.com said it selected Sohu.com as a strategic partner for its engagement in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. The general manager of CCTV.com presented the alliance as bringing together the strengths of their brands, operations and resources and producing better results for their clients. The report described CCTV.com as covering the most extensive TV audience in the country and Sohu.com as representing the development path of China's Internet business.

Mobile/Wireless
ò Global Music International, a music aggregator, and Warner Music China announced their plans to enter into a licensing agreement that will enable GMI to provide Warner's music audio content to Chinese mobile service providers. Warner Music China said it looks to the new agreement as complementing the other strategic partnerships it maintains with China Mobile and China Unicom. In a separate development, Global Music International recently announced an upcoming launch with China Unicom Newspace, the wholly owned subsidiary of China Unicom responsible for the carrier's wireless music services and rich mobile media content. Under this agreement, China Unicom will officially begin broadcasting Global Music International's music videos and audio content.

ò China TechFaith Wireless Communication Technology Ltd and Arasor International Group said they entered into a joint venture to expand the wireless handset opportunities in the world's emerging markets. Under the agreement, Arasor will provide the joint venture with funding for operations in exchange for a majority ownership interest in the joint venture. China TechFaith, which will own a minority interest in the joint venture, will provide product development engineers, working facilities, testing equipment, and intellectual property. The two companies said they will work jointly on handsets with specific functions and features to meet both cost and performance requirements for the world's emerging wireless handset markets, such as those found in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

Ventures/Investments
ò CDC Corporation said it filed plans with the Securities and Exchange Commission in the US for an initial public offering of its online games subsidiary. The company said the plans involve $200 million aggregate principal amount of Class A common shares of CDC Games Corp. One reason for the IPO: the company said it aims to come up with an investment vehicle for investors seeking to invest only in the online games portion of CDC Corp.

Telecommunications
ò UTStarcom, Inc, a global leader in IP-based, end-to-end networking solutions and services, announced that it has won a bid to deploy its RollingStream end-to-end IPTV solution with China Telecom (CTC) for a new commercial IPTV network in China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. With a total population of more than 5 million people, the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region is geographically located near the central northern edge of China and bordered by the Shaanxi (Shanxi) and Gansu provinces as well as the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The initial deployment, which has the capacity to support 10,000 subscribers, will offer 52 live broadcast television channels, 48-hour time-shifting capabilities, 3,000 hours of video-on-demand (VOD) content and valued-added services including karaoke, online gaming, TV-based SMS and other interactive applications. UTStarcom is providing the complete RollingStream solution, an end-to-end solution designed for telecommunications operators and broadband service providers to deliver broadcast quality TV and on-demand entertainment programming over IP networks.

ò Transit Telecom of Brazil announced that it has signed a cooperation agreement with China Telecom, enabling the latter to import the Personal Handyphone System (PHS) to Latin America. According to China Telecom's director of international marketing, the operations of China Telecom's PHS have brought great advantages to clients and the Chinese business community. Transit Telecom's move to acquire PHS started in 2006 when it entered a deal with ZTA, a Chinese telecoms equipment supplier based in Shenzhen, to launch the first network of the new technology in Brazil, expected to be operational in August. PHS was developed in Japan around 1990, with China introducing the system in 1999. The PHS system has registered more than 80 million subscribers in the world, about 60 million of them found in China.

ò Media sources said Datang Telecom has secured a credit line worth 20 billion yuan ($2.6 billion) from China Construction Bank. The line of credit is expected to enable Datang to receive as much as 50 billion yuan ($6.6 billion) in bank loans in the coming years. From 1998 to 2005, Datang received support from many different government departments including the Ministry of Information Industry, Ministry of Science and Technology, State Development and Reform Commission, Shanghai Municipal Government as well financial institutions like the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China Construction Bank and China Development Bank. In June this year, Datang Telecom signed a cooperation agreement with China Development Bank to receive a 30 billion (US$4 billion) loan for Datang to develop its TD-SCDMA service.
Taiwan

Media, Entertainment and Gaming
ò Hong Kong-based Artificial Life said it has entered into an alliance with PocketNet Technology, one of the largest aggregators in Taiwan, to distribute mobile games. Under the agreement, the Joybox WAP site that is embedded in various Nokia models will feature Artificial Life's latest mobile games. The same mobile games will be available for purchase online at the Joybox web site as well as the BBCity web site, the web portal of Taiwan's largest mobile chain store, Arcoa. Consumers in Taiwan can also buy the games in any of the 1,500 Hi-Life convenience store download kiosks. PocketNet provides mobile solutions to various branded handset companies such as Nokia, BenQ and SonyEricsson, and cooperates with the main telecom operators in Taiwan such as CHT, TWM, FET, and Vibo to distribute mobile games, themes, and wallpapers.

Semiconductors
ò Intel, STMicroelectronics, and Francisco Partners said they have given their new flash venture the company name of "Numonyx". The entity is being created from the key assets of businesses that generated in 2006 approximately $3.6 billion in combined annual revenue. The companies said the new entity will focus on supplying non-volatile memory solutions for a variety of consumer and industrial devices including cellular phones, MP3 players, digital cameras, computers and other high-tech equipment. Under the deal, STMicroelectronics sold its flash memory assets, including its NAND joint venture interest and other NOR resources, to the new company while Intel sold its NOR assets and resources. In return, Intel will receive a 45.1% equity ownership stake, with STMicroelectronics getting a 48.6% equity ownership stake. Francisco Partners receives a 6.3% ownership interest.

Hong Kong

Telecommunications
ò Moody's Investors Service affirmed the "Baa2" senior unsecured rating of PCCW-HKT Telephone. The rating has also upped the outlook from ôstableö to "positive.ö According to Moody, the shift in the outlook is due to the ongoing stability and improving EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation) margins of PCCW. The agency cited the contribution from Now-TV and the mobile business of the company as influencing the upgrade.

Mobile/Wireless
ò Artificial Life, a leading provider of award-winning mobile 3G technology, games and applications, announced that POPSTARS On Stage - Das Casting mobile game can be accessed live and available through several off-deck channels from Jamba, SevenOne Intermedia GmbH web site. The mobile game is based on the highly successful and widely popular reality TV talent competition relayed via the ProSieben network in central Europe. Artificial Life said that this is the first in a series of POPSTARS On Stage games that the company will launch in the coming months.


Singapore/Malaysia/Philippines/Indonesia

Media, Entertainment and Gaming
ò SingTel announced the launching of Mio TV, the country's first mass-market IPTV platform, with three new services from Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) and three new BBC channels. The platform also offers content from Voom HD, a US programmer. SingTel said the service will have 24 linear channels, nine on-demand channels and six categories of video-on-demand programming. From SPE will come a new English-language general entertainment channel, Sony Entertainment Television plus two on-demand channels, Pix and Pix Thriller. The report said that 20th Century Fox and Disney-ABC International Television Asia Pacific also have licensed video-on-demand content to Mio TV. Voom HD will supply three high-definition linear channels (Voom HD, Equator HD and Sling HD) to Mio and one on-demand channel, WorldSport HD. Mega Media, a Singapore production group, works with Sling HD, which is dedicated to action sports, computer gaming and youth culture.

Mobile/Wireless
ò The Indonesia electronics company Agis, IPTV and mobile TV systems integrator BNS and mobile TV pioneer Toshiba announced a partnership to jointly build a broadcast-based, nationwide mobile TV network in Indonesia. The service will be the first DMB-based mobile TV service outside South Korea and will be operated by Agis. Under the alliance, Agis will do the importation and distribution of the required mobile handsets and devices throughout Indonesia. Invented by Toshiba, DMB does not require the extensive telecommunications infrastructure necessary for cellular-based 3G streaming. Agis cites the youthful population of the country as a factor that makes Indonesia the ideal market for DMB. The service is going to be launched next year and Agis is in talks with mobile operators, content owners and others for possible partnerships.

ò Media sources said Indonesian mobile phone operator, PT Mobile-8 Telecom Tbk is filing a bond offering valued at $150 million. For the offering, the Indonesian mobile phone operator has named Lehman Brothers as sole bookrunner. Standard & Poor has given the company a B rating. Sources said investors presentations will begin next week in Hong Kong and move to Singapore July 25. From Asia, it will then move to London.

ò PLDT Global Corporation (PGC) announced its plans to focus on the Mobile Virtual Network Operation (MVNO) in a bid to tap the growing overseas Filipino workers communities in Asia, Europe, and the US. According to PGC officials, the company is moving away from the traditional retail services, such as phone cards and postpaid International Direct Dialing services as it makes its foray into its international mobile business. PLDT Global currently operates in five major areas of Hong Kong, Singapore, United Kingdom, the Middle East and the US.
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