A week in tech, July 25-31

A roundup of all the latest tech news.

ò Media sources said Softbank Corp is launching an Internet Protocol (IP) phone service using a fibre-optic network in August. The move is seen as a strategy to attract clients away from rivals Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. Under the offering, Softbank subscribers will be able to make calls for free after a small monthly charge. The subscribers will include the 5 million under its BB Phone IP phone service.

ò NTT DoCoMo announced that it has entered into an agreement with the wireless unit of AT&T to provide technical and financial support valued at $24 million for the deployment of AT&T's 3G mobile phone network in Hawaii. Under the agreement, AT&T will launch a 3G network based on W-CDMA technology on the island of Oahu by the end of this year, with the plans to widen coverage to the rest of Hawaii by early next year. The deal would also see NTT DoCoMo making arrangements to provide enhanced 3G services for customers traveling to Hawaii.

ò Media sources said Sanyo Electric Co is planning to sell its cell phone sales unit, Telecom Sanyo, in a deal estimated to be worth up to 10 billion yen ($85 million). Telecom Sanyo operates 60 stores in Japan and serves as a sales agent for NTT DoCoMo and other mobile operators. Industry observers note that Sanyo has been selling off businesses as part of its restructuring. The company is expected to hold an auction for the unit, with Telepark Corp, NEC Mobiling and Marubeni Telecom Co. identified as possible bidders. No comment could be secured from Sanyo about this development.

ò Toshiba announced its decision to recall about 10,000 laptop computer batteries released in Japan and other countries because the Sony-made batteries are likely to cause fire as a result of overheating. A Toshiba spokesperson announced that from September 2006 to June 2007, the Sony-made batteries have already caused three fire accidents. The company said the batteries to be recalled this time are different from those recalled in 2006.

ò Dell Inc. announced the expansion of its retail presence to Japan, a move that will enable it to sell different types of computers at Bic Camera stores. With the agreement, Dell said it will sell XPS M1330, Inspiron 1520 and 6400 notebooks as well as the Inspiron 530s desktop at 22 stores beginning in early August. The partnership is based on the business relationship the two companies have forged since 2000, when Dell began putting kiosks in Bic Camera stores and other retail outlets. The alliance allowed clients to order Dell products and have them shipped; it did not allow them to buy and take home units from the store. Industry observers note that until 2006, Dell dominated the PC business by selling systems directly to consumers and businesses over the Internet or telephone, at a savings accruing to customers.

ò Eastman Kodak Co, the worldÆs largest photography company, disclosed that it has filed a suit against Matsushita Electric Industrial, with the complaint filed in a federal court in Texas, stating that the Japanese company is using KodakÆs inventions without permission. Included in the complaint were Panasonic Corp, Victor Co, and JVC Americas Corp. Matsushita owns all of Panasonic and holds also a majority stake in Victor, which makes the JVC brand. The suit mentioned how Kodak has been ôdamaged by the infringementö and thus seeks a court order to stop the use of its technology.

ò Toshiba, Fujitsu and NEC Electronics announced that they entered an alliance to jointly develop advanced 32-nanometer chips in a bid to face strong competition in the market. Reports indicated that the three companies had been discussing sharing the estimated 100-200 billion yen ($830 million-$1.6 billion) development costs estimated to be needed to compete.


ò SK Telecom, South KoreaÆs leading wireless operator, revealed that it is looking to launch an Internet television service, indicating that it has formed a special group to review an IPTV unit. The group is expected to look into the feasibility of the business. Industry observers note that for a long time SK Telecom has been resistant to joining the Internet-based broadcasting sector. The reports said that Hanaro Telecom, which operates its own Internet TV business Hana TV, and other operators with cable Internet networks are possible targets for M&A. Hana TV signed up 540,000 subscribers as of the end of June. Korea Telecom began airing HD programming on its Internet TV service Mega TV. LG Dacom plans to launch an Internet TV service in September.

ò Strix Systems, the leader in high-performance wireless mesh networking, announced that KT Corp is deploying StrixÆs Access/One Network Outdoor Wireless Systems (OWS). The Strix wireless mesh network enables mobile access to KT's NESPOT Wi-Fi Internet service. NESPOT integrates fixed-line and wireless services, offering wireless Internet access to laptops, PDAs, and homes. This new generation of products is expected to provide the broadband mobility and reach to support voice, video, and data applications.

ò According to a recent IDC study, the high-speed uplink packet access (HSDPA) usage rate in South Korea is predicted to climb 14% in 2008, 20.5% in 2009, and 32.6% by 2011. The growth stands for about 14.9 million users by 2011. IDC said the sales of HSDPA devices are projected to rise to 38.8% by 2011.

ò EarthLink Inc, the Atlanta-based Internet service provider, reported a net loss of $16.3 million on $312.2 million in revenue, compared with net income of $16.6 million on $332.1 million in revenue in the second quarter of 2006. The report said the results include a $40.1 million equity loss from its Helio wireless venture with SK Telecom of Korea. Helio posted a loss of $83.3 million on $33.2 million in revenue in the period, the loss mainly attributed to the companyÆs spending on infrastructure, products and marketing.

ò The countryÆs top mobile carrier, SK Telecom, posted a 403.3 billion won ($441.4 million) net profit in the second quarter to June. The company posted 373.3 billion won ($404.5 million) profit a year earlier and 396.3 billion won ($429.4 million) in the previous quarter. SK Telecom said its revenue were up 8% to 2.8 trillion ($3 billion). SK Telecom controls 50.5% of the countryÆs mobile phone market. Analysts look to a further improvement in the earnings in the second half as they expect SK Telecom to be cautious about its marketing spending. Analysts also indicated that SK might be planning to acquire a small stake in Sprint Nextel.

ò KTF, South KoreaÆs No. 2 mobile operator, posted a 37% decline in quarterly profit, results that the company ascribed to higher marketing costs aimed at attracting subscribers for its high-speed mobile service. KTF posted a net profit of 51.1 billion won ($55.9 million) in the quarter to June. KTF holds about 32% of the countryÆs mobile market. The current result compares with an 80.6 billion won ($87.3 million) profit it posted a year earlier and 77.1 billion won ($83.5 million) earned in the previous quarter. The company said revenues were up 10% to 1.8 trillion won ($2 billion). KTF explained the 35% rise in its marketing costs to 412 billion won ($446.4 million) to 3G services. The company said its subscriber base went up 7% to hit 13.5 million from a year earlier.

ò China Post unveiled its third-party e-payment platform û the Wang Hui Tong card. Made to pay for online gaming, the card is being marketed at some 3,000 booths all over Beijing. The card is described as different from other e-payment platforms like those created by 99bill and Alipay because the Wang Hui Tong card can be used to add value at post offices in Beijing. An official of Wang Hui Tong says the service marks the entry of China Post into the online game market. The official said the company is looking for more alliances with game operators in the future.

ò Baidu.com posted a 109.4% surge in its total revenues for the second quarter ended June 30, 2007 to 401.3 million Rmb ($53 million) from the same period in 2006. The Internet search engine said its net income in the second quarter of 2007 has gone up 142.7% to 141.9 million Rmb ($18.7 million) from the same period in 2006. Baidu said traffic acquisition costs, which form part of the cost of revenues posted an 11.2% growth to 44.9 million Rmb ($6 million), compared to the 9.2% it has posted in the same period in 2006. The companyÆs operating profit went up 122.4% to129 million Rmb ($17 million) from the corresponding period in 2006.

ò China.com announced that it has entered into a strategic partnership with real estate web site SouFun. Under the agreement, SouFun will acquire exclusive rights for one year to sell advertisements on the real estate channel of China.com, a Hong Kong listed subsidiary of CDC Corporation. The agreement will allow Soufun to set up marketing events for advertisers across China. The agreement gives SouFun the option to extend the contract beyond the initial one-year term. SouFun is 51% owned by Telstra, Australia's leading telecommunications and information services company. SouFun.com boasts over 44 million user visits and 1.3 billion page views each month.

ò AsiaInfo announced that it has secured an agreement with China Mobile to service the deployment of its next-generation IP infrastructure. Under the contract, AsiaInfo will provide advanced professional services to the project, including making technical specifications, supervising integration, network design, network traffic analysis, as well as network performance evaluation and optimization.

ò Tom Online, an Internet portal and wireless value-added services firm, reported a 30.4% decline in its total revenues to $34.3 million for the second quarter ended June 30, 2007 from the same period last year and a decrease of 2.1% from the last quarter. The company said its net loss included a goodwill impairment charge of $6.8 million attributed to its wireless Internet business and losses ascribed to its share in the Tom Eachnet Joint Venture worth some $3.9 million. The results included a 5% quarterly decline its mobile revenue. Tom Online reported a net loss of $9.5 million compared to the net income of $11.7 million it posted in 2006. Its wireless Internet service revenues, which make up 87.9% of the companyÆs total quarterly revenues, was down 32.9% to $30.2 million. Online advertising revenues, contributing 9.8% of the companyÆs total quarterly revenues, saw a 13.2% rise to US$3.3 million, which represents also a 27% rise from the previous quarter.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming
ò Perfect World, a Chinese online game developer, announced its entry into share trading by way of the NASDAQ, with an IPO of 11.8 million American Depositary Shares at $16 per ADS. The offering is part of an IPO of 9 million ADSs by Perfect World and an additional offering of 2.8 million ADSs by certain shareholders of Perfect World as stated in the prospectus. Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse are the joint book runners for this offering and have the option to acquire an additional 1.7 million ADSs from existing shareholders of the company at the IPO price less the underwriting discounts and commissions.

ò CMC Magnetics announced that it is getting ready for an IPO following its establishment of Sun Well Technology, a subsidiary set up by the company for the production of thin-film solar cells. A company official said the offering is part of the planned growth of Sun Well. CMC said it aims to explore the mainstream silicon-based solar cell market together with thin-film sector.

ò Microvision announced that it has entered into an agreement with Motorola to develop pico projector display solutions for mobile applications using Microvision's ultra-miniature laser-based display engine, called PicoP. The company said the laser-based projectors are expected to enable a "big screen" viewing experience from mobile devices. By projecting content displayed on the device screen onto a wall, mobile users could share websites or multimedia applications.

ò Innolux Display announced a series of investments in preparation for its next-generation plant, with the investment funds coming from the securities market, bank loans, and existing funds. No details about the plan were disclosed. The company also announced that it would increase the size of the capital of its wholly owned subsidiary in Taiwan to NT$550 million ($16.6 million), even as it revealed its plans to set up a branch office in South Korea. Taiwan-based panel maker Innolux Display has denied a newspaper report that it had plans to merge with flat-panel display maker Amtran Technology through a stock-swap scheme.

ò Allied Material Technology Corporation (AMTC), a maker of color filer (CF) announced its decision to delist from Taiwan's over-the-counter (OTC) stock market in August. The trading of the company's shares has already been suspended for more than three months following the halt of the companyÆs operations. Industry sources said there are rumors that Sintek Photronik, a local CF competitor, has plans to merge with AMTC. Sintek denied the rumors.

ò Asustek Computer revealed its plans to enter into a strategic alliance with Ability Enterprise, globally the No. 3 OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) of digital still cameras. Under the plans, Asustek said it looks to purchase 13% of Ability's shares in a deal valued at NT$2.8 billion ($85.4 million). The acquisition is seen as putting Ability's future operations under Unihan Technology, which will be in charge of non-PC OEM and chassis molds after Asustek's spin-off. According to Asustek, the alliance will widen the companyÆs operations of its optical-related consumer product lines and could help the companyÆs development in the Japanese market.

Hong Kong

ò With second-hand TV sets and computer monitors exported from Japan to Hong Kong as one category of goods refused entry by Hong KongÆs Special Administrative Region (SAR), JapanÆs Ministry of the Environment issued a reminder to industry sectors and groups about the ban. The report also reiterated that the presence of harmful chemicals in those products is the reason for the ban. According to Greenpeace, the improper disposition of second-hand electrical appliances is apt to turn them into e-waste. The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal supported by many countries has prevented e-waste from being brought from developed countries into developing ones. Hong KongÆs status as a free harbour makes it a transfer station and appears to facilitate the movement of second-hand home appliances or e-waste in the territory. The decision of Hong Kong to put in place the ban is seen as helping reduce the flow of e-waste into other countries.

ò Media reports indicate that China Unicom may eventually secure a 3G license from Hong Kong's CDMA2000 as early as the end of this year. The reports note that China UnicomÆs entry comes with some incentives in the form of an annual minimum HK$30 million ($3.8 million) roaming fee income and the reduction of its outsourcing of equipment costs by half, which are expected to attract Hong Kong local operators to be its bidding partners for this license. China Unicom has invited Hutchison, Chengdian Group and Wharf T&T to submit a cooperation plan after the office of the Telecommunications Authority in Hong Kong formally issues a detailed rule on CDMA2000 license issuance. Industry observers said the CDMA2000 will be the fifth 3G license for Hong Kong. There are currently four holders of the existing 3G licenses of Hong Kong: GSL, PCCW, SmarTone and Hutchison.

ò Hong Kong-based Artificial Life, a leading provider of award-winning mobile 3G technology, games and applications, announced its entering into an agreement with Oxygen Media to develop The Bad Girls Club 3G mobile game. The game is based on the highest-rated reality TV show on the Oxygen network. The companies said the mobile game is set to be launched in late August, and marks the first 3G mobile game for the network. In addition to the 3G game, Oxygen and Artificial Life will also launch several other 2G games based on The Bad Girls Club in the coming months.


ò MediaQuest Holdings Inc., a subsidiary of the Philippine telecommunications giant Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT) announced its acquisition of GV Broadcasting Systems, the partner of another PLDT unit that launched the first mobile TV service in the country. The acquisition is seen as part of the companyÆs entry into mobile TV service. Under the deal, GV Broadcasting Systems has been renamed 360media Corp and will serve as the partner of PLDT's wireless subsidiary, Smart Communications, in myTV, which will broadcast TV shows on mobile phones. 360media has a legislative franchise to provide broadcast service via satellite.


ò Creative Technology revealed that it has postponed plans to delist from the NASDAQ stock exchange until August 31. The company explained the decision as giving investors more time to sell their shares. Earlier, Creative mentioned the difficulty it was having in complying with US securities as one reason for its move to delist. Creative also revealed that less than 10% of the trading volume in its shares takes place on NASDAQ, as most of the trading was done at the Singapore Exchange, where the company has a secondary listing.
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