A week in tech, July 21 - July 27

A round-up of all the latest tech news.

ò IDC reported that computer sales in Asia Pacific ex-Japan, registered an 18% increase year-on-year to 11.6 million units. The report said Lenovo Group increased its lead over global rivals Dell and Hewlett-Packard in personal computer sales across the region in the second quarter, which the research group attributed to strong demand in China. Lenovo, the worldÆs third-largest computer maker, registered 27.9% growth in its shipments year-on-year in the second quarter, which increases its market share to 20% from 18.4% a year ago. HP reported 17.4% year-on-year growth in Asia-Pacific ex-Japan, to maintain its 12% market share as the region's No. 2 personal computer supplier. The two companies have posed a challenge to LenovoÆs major presence in the region by way of aggressive price-cutting and marketing in lower-tier cities across China.

ò According to In-Stat, the Asia Pacific region is leading the global revolution of IPTV with regard to infrastructure deployment, applications development, and subscriber adoption. The study said the region's broadband penetration and regulatory support has helped to foster the fastest-growing IPTV market in the world. The report also predicted that the subscriber base for IPTV in the region would hit 39 million, with revenues reaching US$8.1 billion by 2011.


ò Faith, a firm that provides digital content distribution solutions for mobile terminals, has entered into a partnership with InterVideo, a developer of DVD software. Under the alliance, the two companies will jointly develop cutting-edge solutions for distributing audio and visual data, as well as a new platform for entertainment, targeting mobile terminal manufacturers, PC makers, cell phone carriers, and content providers. The partnership will work on activities in Japan and Europe first, but plans a global expansion later on.

ò NTT DoCoMo has revealed it is developing a Sound Leaf bone conduction receiver microphone for use with mobile phones. With the product, the sound is communicated through vibrations that are transmitted from the skull to the cochlea in the inner ear. The new receiver microphone enables users to hear calls more clearly in noisy places, and works as an effective communications tool for the elderly and hearing impaired. The Sound Leaf enables a continuous talk time of 25 hours.

NTT DoCoMo, Japan's biggest mobile-phone operator, also said it is in talks to form alliances with Google Inc and Yahoo Japan Corp by October. It has closed agreements for search services provided by nine companies including Microsoft Corp, Japan's Livedoor Co and Rakuten Inc, which will be added to its mobile offerings. Analysts are saying that Yahoo JapanÆs alliances with Google will enable it to maintain its market lead over rivals KDDI Corp and Softbank Corp, two firms that are aiming to offer online services to mobile phone users.

ò According to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, the value of mobile phone-based commerce in Japan totaled Ñ722.4 billion ($6.2 billion) in 2005, up 39% from the previous year. The report said the growth reflected the popularity of ring tone downloads and Internet auctions among mobile phone users. The value of traded digital content, including ring tones, video games and video clips, increased by 21% to Ñ315 billion ($2.7 billion).

Ring tone transactions went up almost 3% to Ñ56.2 billion yen (US$483 million). Turnover of Internet auctions, hotel bookings, stock brokerage services and other transactions increased 57% to Ñ407.4 billion yen (US$3.5 billion). The ministry also said that by late 2005, the number of people accessing the Internet via cell phones and other mobile devices exceeded that of people connecting from personal computers.

ò Konami Digital Entertainment Inc is entering into an alliance with TOKYOPOP, which is considered the No. 1 manga (comic magazines) company in the US, to launch a series of mobile games starting with the popular manga East Coast Rising. The game is expected to be available soon. Konami Corp is a leading developer, publisher and manufacturer of digital entertainment properties, specializing in the home video game market. TOKYOPOP is a leading youth-oriented entertainment brand and an innovator of manga creation, with a revolutionary artistic vision that transcends a variety of platforms.

ò Neowiz Japan has acquired the publishing rights for MMORPG ôDekaronö in Japan. The company said the game will be offered through NeowizÆs Japan game portal, Gamechu. Industry observers note that Neowiz has been boosting its game line-up since it opened aa game portal about three months ago. The game has been offered in South Korea since April.

ò J-Stream, Japan's leading streaming service provider announced that it has initiated a service to help companies set up their own broadcasting sites on the web. The basic service program includes creating business plans, building a website, making promotional videos, providing net channels, creating program content, managing broadcasting services, and distributing programs over the Internet. J-Stream offers optional services including viewer system management and studio construction support.

ò Japan-based mobile operator E Mobile, has selected Chinese telecommunications equipment provider Huawei as a supplier for the roll out of its new 3G UMTS and high speed downlink packet access (HSDPA) network. Under the agreement, Huawei will deploy the countryÆs first all IP-based HSDPA radio access network, with initial coverage including several larger metropolitan areas such as Sendai and Sapporo. E Mobile is expected to roll out a nationwide UMTS/HSDPA network in the coming years.

ò Sources indicated that Toshiba Corp. has agreed to form a consortium with Marubeni Corp.and two other firms for its Ñ630 billlion ($5.4-billion) acquisition of US nuclear plant builder Westinghouse Electric Co. The two other firms are Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries Co. of Japan and engineering firm Shaw Group Inc. of the US. Of the total acquisition costs, Toshiba plans to pay Ñ360 billion ($3.1 billion), giving it a 57% stake. Marubeni and Shaw will each contribute Ñ125 billion ($1.1 billion), or 20%, while the remaining 20 billion yen (US$172 million) is to be paid by Ishikawajima-Harima.

Sources said that Toshiba earlier hoped to limit its stake to 51-53%. After talks with its partners, however, it decided to raise its investment by some Ñ30 billion yen ($257.8 million) and boost its stake to 57% stake. The consortium has to wait for approval from US and European antitrust authorities before it can complete the acquisition procedures by the end of September.

Information Technology
ò IBM Japan, in collaboration with Connect Technology, has developed an electronic clipping system which uses invisible 2D barcodes printed on paper to integrate information from paper and digital data such as information provided on Internet sites. The company said the new system adds an invisible digital layer to printed materials, enabling them to be used like a portable site.

Invisible 2D barcodes that store digital data, are printed on paper using invisible ink. The barcodes are then extracted from the paper by an image processing application. Since invisible ink is used, 2D barcodes can be printed over paper prints, not restricted by original print designs and layouts. Invisible barcodes can be printed on each magazine or paper article, allowing users to clip and buy articles instead of magazines and papers.Korea

ò FIFA Online, an online soccer game developed by mobile solution provider Neowiz and Canadian gaming company EA, has exceeded 180,000 concurrent users. Neowiz predicts the game will surpass 200,000, ascribing the expected growth to students entering their summer vacation and having more time to spend on the game. In a separate report, Neowiz announced that it would start closed beta service of the Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) driving game, ôRay Cityö. The game replicates a 100-kilometer stretch of major roads and some 5,000 buildings in Seoul.

ò NHN, the countryÆs top Internet and portal game company, announced that it has opened a localised online game portal site in the US. The move marks the first time that a South Korean firm has opened a game portal outside of Asia and is seen as part of the companyÆs globalisation plan. NHN has been offering similar services in China and Japan. The US remains the most rapidly growing market of PC-based online games.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming
ò The Korea Culture and Content Promotion Agency (KCCPA) will release up to W9 million ($9,500) for a comic book series developed for new media such as mobile, DMB, Wi-Bro, and IPTV. DMB-enabled cartoon series were launched in 2005, but the present program marks the first time that a government agency provides support for the adoption of comic books in areas of new media. KCCPA said that it plans to select five books, with the agency intending to evaluate candidates on marketability and appeal to the public, and well as their chances of success in conversion and planning.

ò There are signs of intense competition in the country as wireless operators rush to deploy new wireless Internet platforms designed for next-generation offerings. LG Telecom said it is considering adopting ôUI-1ö developed by Qualcomm, while KTF announced it has decided to renew its contract with Qualcomm for its ôBREWö platform. SK Telecom is working on its proprietary brand ôT-PEK.ö By next year, mobile phones installed with Linux OS are expected to be available in the market. Given this development, analysts are asking the government, which has been promoting the WIPI standard in order to ensure interoperability of content between operators, to consider some revision in its wireless Internet standard strategy.

ò Samsung announced the release of a smart phone, the SGH-1750, made for Middle Eastern consumers. The device enables users in the region to write text messages in Arabic on a touch screen with a handwriting function. The new model is Windows-based and is the first phone fitted with an English-to-Arabic translator function. It has also a built-in prayer clock, e-mega pixel camera and file viewer.

ò The Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC) confirmed it has stripped LG Telecom Ltd. of its 3G service license after the company abandoned its plans to offer the services. The ministry also indicated that the companyÆs chief executive will have to resign, as stipulated by the law. With the license removed, the countryÆs smallest cell-phone operator will have to pay up to W100 billion ($105.3 million) to the government. LG Telecom obtained the license in 2001 for W1.1 trillion ($1.1 billion) and has paid about W320 billion ($337.1 million) so far. The fee is expected to affect the company's earnings. LG Telecom released a statement expressing its regrets, claiming that the failure to pursue 3G services can be ascribed to slow technical development.

ò Mobile solution company Neowiz announced that ôXVMö, a wireless platform exclusively supplied by the company, has passed the TD-SCDMA commercial test. The total solution test of China's homegrown 3G standard was conducted by the four largest communication companies in China, including China Mobile and China Telecom. Neowiz expects that TD-SCDMA terminals with the XMV platform will be sold across China.

ò Hynix Semiconductor said its second quarter profit rose to W324.4 billion ($341.8 million), compared with W238.4 billion ($251.2 million) in the same period last year. The company manufactures DRAM chips used in personal computers as well as NAND flash memory chips used in digital music players and digital cameras. Sales grew 28% to W1.5 trillion ($1.5 billion). Hynix was almost dissipated in 2001 as it faced huge debts after chip prices plunged amid a severe downturn in the industry. Creditor banks bailed it out via several debt-for-equity swaps. In July last year, Hynix completed the debt-restructuring program ahead of schedule. Last month, the company and its creditors sold about $1.4 billion in shares. With that deal, the creditorsÆ stake decreased to 41% from 50.6%, while the number of creditors declined to nine from about 49.

ò SK Telecom will invest some W193.5 billion won ($202 million) in a fund that will be used to upgrade its cellular network. SKT said it will make the investment sometime between July and December. The company also revealed that it has increased its capital expenditure to W1.6 trillion won ($1.6 billion) this year from W1.5 trillion in 2005. Korean companies have to disclose investment plans that go beyond W100 billion.

In a separate development, SK Telecom launched a new brand for its mobile services, called ôTö. According to the company, the letter stands for Telco, Technology, Top and Trust. In the future, all of SK TelecomÆs major services will use the ôTö brand and other brands will eventually be merged into it.

ò Powercomm has officially changed its name to LG Powercomm, following approval from shareholders. The company, which will be using the LG symbol, said it hopes to attract 1.3 million subscribers by the end of this year and 2 million subscribers by next year. LG Powercomm said it aims to initiate a TPS (Triple Play Service) this year that will allow the convergence of voice calls, broadband and broadcasting. The company is targeting sales of W1 trillion (US$1 billion) in 2007.

ò The Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC) has approved a total of 103 broadcasting firms across the country, including 70 cable system operators (SOs), nine repeater operators (ROs) and 24 network operators (NOs) to provide backbone carrier services. MIC said it has given permission to broadcasting firms such as T-Broad, CNM Communication, HCN, CJ Cable, Curix and One Media to join existing broadband Internet backbone carriers like KT, Hanaro Telecom and Powercomm.

Under the agreement, the companies will not be allowed to bundle cable broadcasting and broadband Internet offerings. They must register policies on prices and discounts if they push for bundling. MIC said the companies must also keep separate bookkeeping for communications and broadcasting services and set consumer protection measures. Companies are to maintain mutual access between operators for seamless service.

ò The number of Chinese Internet users amounted to 123 million at the end of June, representing 19.4% growth over the same period last year, according to a report by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC). The report said that as the number of Chinese Internet users grew, the number of users with broadband Internet connections had also increased by 45.3% over last year. At the end of June, 77 million Internet users logged on with broadband Internet connections, CNNIC said. By comparison, CNNIC reported that just over half of Chinese Internet users had broadband access at the end of 2005.

ò Google has selected Fujian Wangshang Network Technology Industry Co. as an agent to sell Google AdWords services in the Fujian Quanzhou area. The move is a continuation of GoogleÆs practice of setting up low-cost and efficient network marketing and promotion systems for Chinese enterprises. These companies, especially the small and medium enterprises, have used GoogleÆs marketing system to promote their merchandise to Chinese and international customers. Observers see the move as an expansion of GoogleÆs reseller program.

ò Sports-Stuff.com Inc., a publisher and distributor of SMS alerts, mobile web sites, ring tones and mobile video games for the sports and entertainment industry, announced a distribution agreement for its Evelyn Ng ring tone and mobile web portal in China. The deal will focus on an Evelyn Ng ring tone produced by Sports-Stuff within a new poker video game being developed primarily for the mobile market in China. From the game, users will also be guided to purchase additional Evelyn Ng ring tones through Sports-Stuff's mobile web portal. Sports-Stuff will generate revenues primarily through advertising fees from the web portal.

ò China Mobile saw a 2.3% increase in its number of subscribers for the first six months compared with a year ago. The operator posted an additional 4.4 million subscribers last month for a total of 273.7 million subscribers, a growth it attributed to new local and long-distance promotional rates. A top company official said China Mobile contributed some 79.6% of last month's total new subscriptions nationwide even though June was its weakest month so far this year. The company saw an addition of 920,000 lines for a total of 218.7 million, which was below its monthly average of 1.4 million, a figure representing a 29% decline from the 1.3 million lines it added in May.

China Unicom, meanwhile, registered a total of 135.1 million customers in the first half. The company, which manages both a GSM and a CDMA network, reported an additional 838,000 GSM customers for the month, down 9.8% from May and gained 301,000 CDMA customers, down 3.5% from May.

ò China Mobile has also launched a wireless music club named M.Music, aimed at serving a one-stop music purchasing and entertainment platform. The offering is composed of services such as music downloads and sharing for the companyÆs registered mobile phone users. The company said income from its music-related services has contributed about one-third of the total income of its Monternet service. A top official of the company said the launch of the music club is part of a strategy to help promote the rapid development of the domestic wireless market.

ò Alcatel has been selected by the Shanghai government to deploy its advanced radio-based signaling system, the Seltrac radio communications-based train control (CBTC) solution, for the city's new metro line. The system, which includes a wireless data communication network, will enable Shanghai Metro to operate trains with greater frequency and provide passengers with safer and more efficient service. Shanghai Shentong awarded the contract to a consortium led by Alcatel Shanghai Bell, Alcatel's flagship Chinese company.

Media, Gaming and Entertainment
ò China.com is reportedly planning to spin off its gaming subsidiary 17game. However, company officials were quoted as saying there were no decisions yet, which was interpreted as playing down media reports saying it will list the unit abroad next year. Reports have stated that China.com would list 17game in the UK in February, a choice seen as strategic. Its rivals, Shanda Interactive Entertainment and The9 Ltd. are both NASDAQ-listed firms, which is seen to limit the amount of funds available should 17game opt to list there. 17game operates Yulgang, an online role-playing game developed by a South Korean company. The game is operated under a free-to-play model.

ò CDC Corporation, a leading provider of enterprise software solutions to medium and large enterprises, has increased its earnings estimates for full year 2006 to a range of $300 million to $305 million. Adjusted net income estimates have been revised up to a range of $31.6 million to $32.8 million.
In a separate development, Onyx Software released a statement saying its board of directors has made a decision to recommend shareholders to reject CDC's unsolicited offer to acquire all of the outstanding shares of Onyx for $5 per share in cash. Onyx cited uncertainties in the offer. CDC hasn't made any formal response to the statement.

ò Industry experts are saying that Chinese manufacturers will speed up production of flat-panel television sets this year and next in a bid to meet a nationwide demand created by the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. An expert from Fusion Consulting said there are signs that there will indeed be an increase in the production of plasma and liquid-crystal display (LCD) television products. Fusion Consulting said falling prices of plasma and LCD products had resulted in flat-panel television sales accounting for about 95% of the market in Hong Kong, Taiwan and the mainland, with Chinese brands Changhong, TCL, Konka, Skyworth, Hisense and Haier beeing the top six brands by volume sold.

Technology-sharing joint ventures are seen as aiding local makers to bring down production costs and enabling them to compete with leading foreign brands. Research company iSuppli has forecast that the mainland high definition TV market will remain smaller than that in the US but could surpass the Japanese market over the next few years. It is estimated that HDTV sets in the mainland would reach 5.5 million units this year, 10 million units next year and 15.2 million units in 2008.


ò Chunghwa Telecom disclosed a plan to invest between NT$8 billion ($244.6 million) and NT$10 billion ($305.8 million) in its 3G mobile phone business over the next two to three years. A top company official of Chunghwa said the investment will boost the number of base stations in order to better serve more subscribers, with the company aiming have between 6,000 and 7,000 3G base stations by the end of 2011. So far, the company has invested some NT$12 billion ($367 million) and currently operates 3,000 base stations. Chunghwa has 8.4 million mobile subscribers, including 440,000 for its 3G services. The company is targeting 800,000 3G subscribers by the end of this year. Nokia remains the sole provider of the companyÆs 3G networking facilities.

ò Online shopping web site oBuy will initiate a Taiwan shopping section on Sina.comÆs online shopping mall. The move will enable sellers from Taiwan to sell their goods and signals the entry one of TaiwanÆs largest online shopping web sites to the mainland market. The company said the web site sells about 100,000 kinds of products.

ò Advanced Semiconductor Engineering (ASE) and Powerchip Semiconductor has formed a joint venture that aims to raise $50 million to form Power ASE Technology in Taiwan. Under the deal, ASE and Powerchip said they would contribute $30 million and $20 million respectively to the JV. The newly established company will lease approximately 6,800 square meters of production space in ASE's Chungli Campus for future production. It will focus on memory IC-related package and testing services, with mass production set to begin at the end 2006.
Hong Kong

ò Pacific Century Regional Developments (PCRD), a Singapore-listed company 75%-owned by PCCW chairman Richard Li Tzar-kai, has denied in a statement that it was helping to fund Francis Leung Pak-to's planned acquisition of a 22.6% stake in Hong Kong's dominant fixed-line telephone operator for HK$9.1 billion ($1.1 billion). An earlier report was saying that the company would provide by way of a loan, some HK$6.4 billion (US$823 million) to Leung. PCRD said Leung would pay the HK$9.1 billion in three installments over an 18-month period at 6.5% interest. The sale of PCCWÆs core business assets would result in the company holding mainly property assets valued at $1 billion to $2 billion. Industry observers saw the statement as adding to the confusion in the market.

ò Lucent announced that it will provide its IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) platform to New World Telecommunications (NWT). The move will enable NWT World, Hong KongÆs first fixed-line operator to use an IMS platform, to implement new and innovative services over an internationally recognized standard.

ò Kingboard Chemical Holdings, the largest printed circuit board maker in China, saw its shares jump 5.1% after it revealed its first-half earnings will grow by 45% to 55% on soaring demand. Earlier, the company noted that the dynamic electronics industry would push sales of its core products, which include laminates, printed circuit boards and chemicals. According to a Thomson Financial poll involving 13 analysts, KingboardÆs net profit is expected to rise 22.1% year-on-year to HK$1.7 billion ($218.6 million) for the full year with UBS expecting an increase of as much as 28%.

IC Insights, a market research company, said the Chinese integrated circuit industry will increase from $19.2 billion in 2003 to $61.9 billion in 2008, representing a compound annual growth rate of 26.4%. Kingboard, which acquired its rival firm Elec & Eltek in 2004, also disclosed it is considering spinning off its laminates business for a separate listing. With the management still to make a final decision, analysts are saying that a spin-off could enable Kingboard to unlock value from this business.

ò Research In Motion (RIM), a leader in wireless communications, has expanded its Hong Kong office as part of a major push into the Asia-Pacific region. The company will add approximately 10 more carrier partners in the region by the end of this year. The Hong Kong office will serve as regional headquarters to assist RIM and its partners in markets such as Greater China, South Korea, Japan, India, Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia.


ò CellCity, which is considered to be the worldÆs first mobile superstore, recently enlisted Bango so that the online mobile store can utilize Bango's browse and buy technology. The alliance aims to promote and sell digital content directly to mobile phone users across all networks using the mobile Internet. Observers say that with Bango, clients can now access CellCity's online store via their mobile Internet and then pay for and download content directly to their phones. Items available in the store include full track music, games, ringtones and wallpapers, as well as business and productivity solutions and education, travel and health content.

With the aid of Bango's global platform, CellCity will provide on-bill payment in key countries in Asia, giving users the opportunity to use a PayPal account or, if preferred, a credit/debit card when making purchases with the store. CellCity is part of a mobile economy that gains five million users in China and four million users in India each month.

ò Malaysian wireless carrier Maxis has announced plans to spend between $110 million and $165 million on capital expenditure next year. A top company official said the investment would be used primarily to expand MaxisÆ 3G network coverage. At the end of June, the company disclosed that it has about 110,000 registered 3G subscribers, with some 40,000 new subscribers having signed up in June, driven primarily by services offered around the football World Cup. Reports said Maxis ended the first quarter with 8.2 million customers, which represented a 42.5% market share in the Malaysian market.

ò CitisecOnline.com, an online brokerage firm, has successfully listed on the Philippine Stock Exchange despite facing a trademark infringement case filed against it by Citigroup. CitisecOnline said it was able to raise proceeds of about 160 million pesos ($3 million) from the sale of 110 million common shares. The company said the money would be used as working capital to support new products and features, with the balance going towards the development of its technical infrastructure.

According to the company, the number of new accounts has surged since the improvement and re-launch of its web site. A company official said the average web site hits per month climbed from 2.3 million in 2005 to the present 4.6 million hits. It is projected that Internet users in the country will increase from 12 million to 22 million in 2008. Online trading is seen as benefiting directly from this growth.

ò In Singapore, Chartered Semiconductor reported a decline in its net profit to $9.9 million from $25.2 million in the three months to March. The figure was below both the company's own forecast of $11 million to $21 million and analysts porjections of $13.5 million to $20.1 million. The second quarter revenue went up by 88% year-on-year to $364.8 million, a jump the company ascribed to growth in the consumer sector. Chartered Semiconductor said its revenue for the six months to June climbed to $720.1 million from $375.4 million in the first half last year.

ò Excelcomindo Pratama (XL), a unit of Telekom Malaysia, announced enhancements to its virtual private network (VPN) services in preparation for its eventual rollout of 3G wireless services. XL said it has partnered with equipment maker Juniper Networks for the project. XL provides cellular mobile voice and data services as well as fixed-line offerings including VoIP services and wholesale Internet connectivity to local ISPs. Under the agreement, XL said Juniper Networks would deploy its M-series routers to support the VPN portfolio rollout.

ò Industry observers note that the APC Group has been looking for buyers of its Philippine Global Communications Inc. (Philcom) unit, but there have been no takers. In a statement, APC said it has decided to sell Philcom as it has been incurring huge losses since 1998. It added at a sale of Philcom would allow it to focus on its core businesses, which includes mining.
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