A week in tech, June 24-30

A roundup of all the latest tech news.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming
ò According to a study done by Nikkei newspaper, Namco/Bandai, Sega and Capcom are all throwing their support behind Nintendo by increasing the number of distinct titles as well as the number of units ordered for games on Nintendo systems. Under the alliance, Namco/Bandai is reportedly coming up with some 115 games for the DS and Wii in 2007. The report also indicated that Sony could expect a 30 to 40 percent drop in orders from the Namco/Bandai, Sega and Capcom.
ò Nintendo announced its move to open its Wii game system to independent video-game developers. The company said it will allow hobbyists and game studios to create and sell downloadable Wii games with a tool called WiiWare. Gamers will be able to purchase the games through the console's Wii Shop channel starting in early 2008. Industry observers note that Nintendo may be adopting the strategy of Microsoft Corp., which deployed its XNA Game Studio tools that allow developers to design video games for its Xbox 360 console.
ò An independent committee tasked by the Japanese government to introduce major changes in the countryÆs mobile sector disclosed that it looks to an increase in competition that would allow consumers to keep the same handset even if they change carrier. The head of the committee said that introducing handset portability immediately would be technically impossible given the differences in the technological systems of the carriers. The committee, however, indicated that it would be done in two or three years. Analysts are saying that the move, which is expected to be accepted by the authorities, would underscore the governmentÆs aim to effect a radical change in the mobile market.

ò SK Telecom announced its decision to have internet portal unit SK Communications combine with affiliate Empas Corp in a bid to boost its web and e-commerce businesses. The integration of SK Communications with Empas is expected to enable SK Communications to list its shares without an IPO. Empas is listed on the KOSDAQ. Under the arrangement, SK Telecom will own 64 percent of the new entity as top shareholder. SK Communications aims to improve its web searching and build commerce services on the back of its 20 million Cyworld user base. The plan is also in line with parent SK Telecom's ambition to expand in e-commerce, bringing together mobile and internet users in an online industry. With the announcement, SK Telecom said it has no intention to acquire hanarotelecom, a fixed-line and broadband company.
ò According to a survey conducted by Career, an online recruitment portal site, jobseekers in South Korea favor Google Korea as the most wanted foreign employer by jobseekers. Of those surveyed, 11.5 percent said they preferred Google Korea as their future employer among overseas-based enterprises. The study placed at the top Google Korea, followed by IBM Korea with 9.8 percent in second place. P&G Korea came in at No. 3 with 6.8 percent, trailed by 3M Korea with 6.1 percent and Renault Samsung Motors with 5.8 percent. Of those surveyed, 38 percent singled out Google for its positive corporate image as their reason for wanting to work there. Other reasons included the potential of the corporation, which accounted for 27.6 percent of the responses. Annual salary as a factor came in at 18.9 percent. Microsoft Korea, L`Oreal Korea, HSBC, GM Daewoo and Samsung Tesco completed the top ten.
ò Pandora.TV, a South Korean online video portal, revealed its overseas expansion plan in a bid to be the "YouTube of Asia." The company currently attracts about half of all South Korean internet users to its site monthly. Pandora TV said it is aiming to offer longer and higher-quality video than those available through other sites. The company is close to breaking even. According to its top official, the company sells advertising on the site and as pre-roll and post-roll embedded into the video stream. It also offers users a slice of the advertising revenue made from their personal content. In addition to the web-based service, Pandora.TV also offers users a mini player that resides in the windows system tray and pops up when new videos are posted to favorite channels. The company has also entered into a number of agreements to get selected content on mobile phones and on public display screens in the Seoul subway, as well as on trains and in hospitals. The company said it has about 15 million unique users per month and 70 million page views per day, and serves up 6.5 million video streams. At present, the site uses Windows Media even as it has announced that the international versions will use Flash video.
ò SK Telecom (SKT) announced its decision to forge service tie-ups with several cable service providers next month, a move that will allow the company to offer subscribers bundling discounts on internet services. According to its CEO, SK Telecom has already reached agreements with three MSO (Multiple System Operators) companies. With the deal, SKT disclosed that subscribers to its T-Login wireless internet services can get a 10 percent discount on cable broadband services, and vice versa. Industry sources said about 50 percent, which stands for 14 million of all Internet users, now use services from the top three MSO companies: T-Broad, C&M and CJ Cablenet. SKT also disclosed its plan to deploy a similar bundling scheme with fixed and mobile television services by the third quarter of the year, with the choices not limited only to those companies in which it maintains or holds shares.
ò Samsung Electronics announced its development of a multi-standard mobile TV tuner chipset that supports the multiple digital mobile TV standards around the world. Mobile TV is a service that allows you to watch television on the move, such as Korea's DMB. Samsung's new tuner chipset will enable users to watch mobile TV in Asia, Europe and other parts of the world on the same device. As early as 2005, Samsung has been developing its mobile broadcasting technology, which includes the development of a European Mobile Broadcasting (DVB-H) decoder. According to Strategic Analytics, the mobile TV market is expected to grow at a compounded annual rate of 67 percent, from 12 million units in 2007 to 130 million units by 2011.
Information Technology
ò Industry observers noted that shares of Samsung Card Co., KoreaÆs third-largest credit card issuer, have surged 27.5 percent at one point to 61,200 won ($66.5) from its initial sale price of 48,000 won ($52). Samsung Card had previously tried going public in 2002, but stalled following the household credit card crisis in 2003 and 2004. In 2003, Samsung was able to generate 800 billion won ($867.4 million) from the debt market through issuances of 5-year convertible bonds. In 2006, the company posted its first full-year profit, reporting 271.9 billion won ($294.8 million) in net income for the year. Samsung Card said it will use IPO proceeds to repay debts. Samsung Card, an affiliate of Samsung Group, owns 25.6 percent of Samsung Everland Inc. Samsung Group affiliates still own 79.05 percent of Samsung Card, with Samsung Life Insurance Co. holding 30.8 percent and Samsung Electronics Co. owning 41.2 percent

ò After experiencing setbacks in China, eBay disclosed that it will make a re-entry into the countryÆs online auction business. The company set its comeback this summer and announced it will work through a third party escrow service of Tom eBay, a joint venture company it set up with Tom Online in 2006. Before this, eBay carried out business in China through eBay Eachnet, which saw declining market share with the rise of local auction website Taobao.com. Responding to this, eBay went on to form Tom eBay. Industry sources said Tom eBay will use an escrow service, where payments will be held until buyers are satisfied with their purchases.
ò Analysys reported that, for the first quarter of 2007, payment conducted through mobile phones and telephones hit 321 million yuan ($42.1 million) and 740,000 yuan ($97,000), respectively. Analysys noted that online payments remained the main means of payment of the third-party payment market, with Alipay accounting for 50.3 percent of the total market shares. Chinapay and Tenpay completed the top three third-party payment firms.
ò Linktone, a mobile value-added service company, announced its forming of a joint venture with Greatdreams Cartoon Industry to provide animated cartoon wireless value-added services. The "Greatdreams Cartoon Club" program is aired for 22 minutes everyday across 500 television stations in China. The CEO of Linktone described the joint venture as an example of the companyÆs cross media strategy. The company said it is aiming at the development of new and traditional media channels while using core wireless platform to reach a broader audience. The joint venture will focus exclusively on cartoon content and channel resources to develop and operate wireless value added services. Greatdreams Cartoon Industry Limited Company is a large, professional high-tech company that focuses on the research on computer animation software, the production of cartoon programs, and development of cartoon derivative products. It was formed in June 2004 with registered capital of 60 million yuan ($7.8 million), which was increased to 300 million yuan (US$39.4 million) in just one year.
ò Oracle announced that operations have been initiated in its Global Support Centre and subsidiary in Dalian Software Park. The Dalian Global Support Centre is expected to work closely with the Dalian government and local clients and partners to build relationships. As one of the 18 Global Support Centers of Oracle, it is also seen as providing Oracle's relevant products and high-end technical services to clients in East Asia in the local language.
ò Following Best BuyÆs expressed agreement to acquire a majority interest in Jiangsu Five Star, media sources are saying that Best Buy may be on the way to fully taking over the fourth-largest appliance and consumer electronics retailer in China. The CEO of Best Buy was quoted as saying that there will not be any change in the name and logo of the over 140 Five Star stores across China. As a stakeholder of Five Star, Best Buy said it would maintain double brand operation pattern. As one of the largest home appliance retailers in the world, Best Buy owns more than 1150 stores around the globe. Best Buy also disclosed its plans to open two more stores in Shanghai before March 2008, with the decision to increase its number of stores in the coming 18 months.
ò Industry sources announced the full linking up of the enterprise resource planning system of Gome and Yongle, a development that marks the successful completion of the business integration between the two sides after their merger. According to the CEO of Gome, the parties' ERP integration is fast, efficient and ensures that the integration can reach its maximum scale. Gome acquired Yongle in July 2006.

ò iPass Inc., a global provider of services that unify the management of enterprise mobility, and Chunghwa Telecom Co., Ltd., Taiwan's largest telecommunications company, announced the launching of AsiaÆs first regional flat-rate pricing for unlimited Wi-Fi, wired broadband and dial-up access across the region. The jointly developed service will allow Chunghwa Telecom's user base to benefit from predictable mobility costs and consistent, reliable connectivity when traveling pan-Asia. The new Chunghwa Enterprise flat-rate pricing plan offers business professionals an integrated service with unlimited redundant dial-up and nearly 23,000 Wi-Fi hotspot locations across the region, which includes Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Fiji Islands, Guam, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, N. Mariana Island/Saipan, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. With iPass software and services, customers can create easy-to-use broadband solutions for their mobile workers, home offices, and branch and retail locations, complete with device management, security validation, and unified billing. Hundreds of Global 2000 companies rely on iPass services, including General Motors, Nokia, and Reuters. Founded in 1996, iPass is headquartered in California with offices throughout North America, Europe and Asia. Chunghwa Telecom provides fixed-line, mobile and Internet and data services to residential and business customers in Taiwan.
ò Panasia Media Corporation (PMC), a subsidiary of Japan-based SoftBank in Taiwan, announced it will launch 3G communication services for Taiwan tourists in Japan in cooperation with Lion Travel Service, a travel agency in Taiwan. Under the arrangement, the 3G services will be available to people from Taiwan visiting Japan, with the handsets assigned to them free of charge upon their arrival in Japan. The 3G services will consist of various value-added services, including free intra-network voice communications in Japan for 19 hours a day and Chinese-language voice information queries. PMC is responsible for marketing such tourist-based 3G services in the Asia region, with Taiwan as the initial market, and with services to be introduced in South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and China. Outside of 3G services, PMC has been promoting SoftBank's Internet-based multimedia value-added services to many markets in Asia through cooperation with providers of digital content or local telecom carriers.
ò Amidst speculations that it intends to acquire Techview International Technology, an LCD monitor joint venture between Quanta Computer and the Pou Chen Group, TPV Technology, the world's large LCD monitor maker, denied the rumors and said that the company has no such plan. According to TVP, it is unlikely that TVP will merge with Techview, as the companies share customers in the LCD monitor market. Industry sources indicate, however, that the Pou Chen Group still hopes to team up with TPV. Founded in 2003, Techview is focusing on the LCD monitor and LCD TV ODM/OEM business, with Acer as its largest customer at present.

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