a-week-in-tech-june-410

A week in tech, June 4-10

A roundup of the latest technology news.
Japan

Media, Entertainment and Gaming
Capcom, the publisher of ôResident Evilö video games, said its net income will rise 10% to Ñ8.6 billion ($83 million) this fiscal year, helped by sales of titles for game machines made by Sony and Microsoft. Profit gained 33% to Ñ7.81 billion in the year ended March 31 this year, while sales advanced 12%.

Telecommunications
KDDI Corporation and Softbank Mobile Corporation have unveiled new mobile phone handsets, with the KDDI's models featuring functions to display movies and Softbank's boasting designs focused on female users. Including the introduction last week of new handset models by NTT DoCoMo, all three major Japanese mobile phone carriers have now unveiled their lineups of new cell phones ahead of the summer bonus season. KDDI is set to launch 12 new models from later this month, with eight of them equipped with its Lismo Video function that allows users to watch movies and TV dramas downloaded from a personal computer.

NTT DoCoMo and KT Freetel announced that they will jointly procure a 3G handset model from LG Electronics. The handset is LGÆs WINE model, which was selected by both companies as an ideal choice for users seeking a simple and easy-to-use, yet stylish, handset. NTT will sell the handset as the FOMA L706ie in Japan from August, while KTF plans to introduce the model in South Korea from September.

Sometime in July, telecom services venture Japan Communications (JCI) is expected to lease wireless spectrum from NTT DoCoMo for a new type of cell-phone service. The Tokyo company is likely to be the first operator in Japan to offer mobile handsets that can make calls on-the-go using voice-over-Internet protocol technology. JCI's service and other mobile VoIP services like it have the potential to change drastically the economics of cellular services. VoIP should mean lower rates for subscribers, especially for long-distance calls. This will be a major improvement for users in Japan, where basic monthly rates are among the highest in the world at an average of about $60.

Software
Nihon Unisys is planning its first foray into the systems market for newspaper publishers and other media companies through an exclusive sales agency agreement with Denmark's CCI Europe for the CCI NewsGate content management system. The two firms signed a memorandum of understanding in March and will ink the formal contract in July. Nihon Unisys will prepare a Japanese-language version of CCI NewsGate with the intention of beginning sales by September. CCI NewsGate is a fully integrated content management system that can be used by reporters and editors alike to post, edit and revise content, with a log maintained for all changes.

Semiconductors
Advantest Corporation may report lower earnings this fiscal year as semiconductor makers scale back investment in factories in response to the oversupply. Net income at the company slid 54% to Ñ16.6 billion ($158 million) in the prevoius fiscal year, while operating profit fell 60% to Ñ22.7 billion. Revenue dropped 22% to Ñ182.8 billion. Chipmakers including KoreaÆs Hynix Semiconductor have scaled back output plans as prices of benchmark computer chips stayed near record low levels after falling 85% in 2007. Hynix said it will cut spending by about W1 trillion ($1 billion) this year.

Hardware
Fujitsu will consider outsourcing and other partnerships to make its chip business profitable. Fujitsu, which competes with International Business Machines (IBM), and Electronic Data Systems within IT services, is weighed down by losses in its semiconductor operations and has pledged a return to profitable this year. Growth in Fujitsu's chip unit is essential, and the firm needs to come to a decision soon on partnerships. It has been a matter of pride to Fujitsu to keep production in-house, but it could cut costs on some small-lot orders for chips by contracting out part of the production.

Hoya Corporation. will sell its Pentax-brand portable printer business to Brother Industries, making it the first business it has sold since merging with Pentax Corporation. The sales price has not been made public. The business, which had revenues of about Ñ1.5 billion ($14.4 million) in fiscal 2007, includes both portable thermal printers and mobile scanners. Brother will take it over the portable printer business on July 31. Hoya merged with Pentax primarily to gain a hold on its endoscope business, as well as other medical equipment. Hoya decided to sell the printer business because it is small in scale and has little relation to the company's optical technologies.

NEC Corporation and NEC Electronics have developed a technology for suppressing power-source noise, which can cause system chips to malfunction. With the new technology, an element with a high dielectric constant is inserted into gaps in the wiring between transistors on a system chip to absorb the noise. The element is created by using a manufacturing technology known as plasma oxidation to form a thin film of tantalum oxide on copper wiring. Plasma oxidation is used in other semiconductor manufacturing procedures and therefore can be introduced easily and at low cost. This approach uses relatively low temperatures, thereby preventing damage to the copper wiring.

NEC has also signed a turnkey contract with Indosat in Indonesia for the supply of a submarine cable system to the "JAKABARE" project linking Indonesia and Singapore. In a statement, the Japanese company said the submarine backbone network will stretch over 1,300km and connect Jakarta, Pontianak, Batam Island and Changi. On its completion in the second quarter of 2009, the network will supply 160Gbps worth of capacity, with the potential to increase capacity to 640Gbps in the future to provide robust, high-bandwidth connectivity to the growing Indonesian market.

Sony and Sharp said sales in China may slow as the Sichuan earthquake dampens consumer spending. Sony's camera sales are running 20% below estimates and it has scaled back projections for Bravia TVs.

Ibiden., a Japanese electronics maker, said it plans to invest Ñ30 billion ($289.5 million) to set up a subsidiary in Malaysia to make circuit boards for handsets. Ibiden also said it will spend as much as Ñ10 billion to buy back up to 1.36% of its total shares between May 21 and June 13.

Victor Co. of Japan., a maker of JVC-brand electronics, said it will shut down a television-making subsidiary in Thailand in January next year.

Korea

Mobile/Wireless
Cell phone sales fell about 15% in May after recording all-time highs in March and April. The nation's three biggest mobile phone makers, Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics and Pantech, said their monthly cell phone sales dropped 15% to just under 2.3 million units. The industry attributed the decrease to customers delaying purchases while waiting for the big three cell phone makers to release new models. Samsung Electronics sold just under 1.2 million cell phones last month, capturing a 50.4% market share. LG Electronics took second place, selling 660,000 phones.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming
Large Korean companies with assets of up to W10 trillion ($10 billion) will be allowed to buy stakes in local broadcasting stations and local cable network operators will be allowed to snap up more of their industry peers with fewer restrictions, according to a regulatory road map put out by Korea's Broadcasting and Communications Commission. The plan is expected to spark a sea change in the rapidly changing local media and telecommunication markets, including a flurry of mergers and acquisitions, as eased regulations mean more and larger conglomerates will be allowed to gain a foothold in sectors from which they had previously been barred.

Telecommunications
SK Telecommunications said it attracted 881,976 new customers last month alone. The number of its 3G mobile service subscribers reached 644,479, lifting its entire subscription number to 5.3 million.

SK Telecom has filed a request with a local South Korean court to seize assets worth W127.8 billion ($125 million) from the former owners of recently-acquired Hanarotelecom over recent allegations that the latter was involved in selling user information. SK Telecom purchased a controlling stake in Hanarotelecom, a broadband operator, earlier this year for W1.09 trillion from a consortium led by Newbridge Capital. In late April, the police said the former management of Hanarotelecom is suspected of having sold private information of some 6 million users to telemarketing companies over the past two years.

Semiconductors
Hynix Semiconductor has developed a new cost-effective NAND flash memory that is 30% smaller than the chips currently in use. The 32-gigabyte memory, developed using the company's "triple-level-cell" technology, allows much higher data storage than the widely-used NAND flash memories of multi-level cells (MLCs), and is expected to cut the cost of production. NAND flash memory refers to chips used mostly in digital cameras, USB flash drives, cell phones and music players such as Apple's iPod.

Internet
The number of high-speed Internet service users in South Korea surpassed the 15 million-mark for the first time in April, according to the Broadcasting and Communications Commission. The number of broadband Internet service subscribers in the country stood at 15.03 million as at the end of April, up from 14.97 million in March. Top fixed line operator KT Corporation accounted for 44.2% of all subscriptions, followed by Hanarotelecom and LG Powercomm Corporation with 24% and 12.2% respectively. Figures for May are expected to drop, however, due to an expected exodus of users from Hanarotelecom following recent revelations that its former management sold user information over the past two years.

Hardware
Samsung Electronics may build a new LCD module plant in China to meet the increasing demand for TV sets in the world's fastest-growing major economy. The new plant will specialise in the installation of LCDs in TVs for US-listed brand Planar. Samsung is looking for an appropriate site for the plant. The Korean company has an LCD module plant in China that installs LCD screens in laptops and PCs.
China

Semiconductors
Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC) CEO Richard Chang said the company is talking to as many as four investors about a partnership. The unprofitable chip maker prefers to sell a stake to a strategic partner such as a customer, rather than a financial institution. SMIC said in March that it was in advanced talks with an unidentified investor after receiving proposals from private equity firms last year. Chang declined to identify the companies SMIC is talking with or say when he expects to reach an agreement.

Telecommunications
China Unicom will emerge as the biggest winner in ChinaÆs telecom industry overhaul, but China Mobile gets to keep its dominance of the wireless sector despite prospects of greater competition, analysts say. They note that Unicom stands to gain the most as it sheds its CDMA mobile operations, focuses its attention and resources on GSM and new third generation mobile business and emerges as the second largest fixed-line operator after China Telecom. All players will benefit from the restructuring, however.

China Telecom, which is in the process of buying China Unicom's CDMA business for $15.9 billion, says it's ditching CDMA in favour of Long Term Evolution (LTE). The plan by China Telecom to eschew Ultra Mobile Broadband (UMB), the presumptive 4G upgrade path for CDMA, has gone almost unnoticed, what with all the furore about the massive restructuring of China's telecom industry into three competing mega-companies. What China Telecom is doing mirrors what's happened at a string of CDMA carriers around the world, most notably at Verizon Wireless, resulting in what's emerging as a clean sweep for LTE in China.

China Telecom plans to introduce other telecom operators as strategic shareholders and is in talks with four to five large companies. China Telecom currently has over 50 million PHS (Personal Handy phone System) users and chairman and CEO Wang Xiaochu projects one-third of the PHS users will shift to CDMA services, while another one-third will stay as PHS clients. The remaining low-end customers will withdraw from China Telecom's service.

China Telecom Group may receive up to Rmb50 billion ($7.2 billion) in subsidies to compensate for the high price it is paying for China Unicom Group's CDMA mobile network, according to Sohu.com. The website quoted unnamed sources as saying that the National Development and Reform Commission could grant a Rmb30 billion to Rmb50 billion subsidy to the parent company of China Telecom Corporation to help develop its business.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming
DataDirect Networks, the data infrastructure provider for more than 400 broadcasters and post production companies worldwide, announced that China Central Television (CCTV) has selected its Silicon Storage Architecture (S2A) platforms to support broadcast production of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. The Olympics are expected to be watched by a record-setting 1.3 billion viewers in China this summer on CCTV's multiple channels which will also provide feeds to numerous foreign broadcasters creating significant new requirements for data bandwidth, throughput and scalability.

Shanda Interactive has delayed the launch of Changchun Online, its major game title this year, because of the Sichuan earthquake. But analysts say the firm may also need the time to adjust its pricing strategy. Changchun, licensed from Korean game developer Wemade, is one of the mainland's top 10 most anticipated games this year, according to an earlier survey by market research firm International Data Corporation. Shanda said it would move the start of the game's open beta testing from the second quarter to the third in the wake of the earthquake.

Software
NewMarket China has reported 36% growth in revenues in 2007 to $40 million and an 83% increase in net income. The company also announced its first contract for Latin America after launching a regional sales initiative in Brazil and Chile in April. NewMarket China has been engaged to localise a Chinese telecommunications software package for use throughout Latin America. The project is anticipated to contribute approximately $1 million to NewMarket China's 2008 revenue.

Hardware
Sales in China's digital photo frame market rose 80.4% last year to 175,000 units, according to IT researcher CCID Consulting. China's Aigo, South Korea's Samsung and ViewSonic of the US are the top three vendors in China with two-thirds of the market.

Dell aims to release more low-cost models on the mainland later this year to meet growing demand from consumers and small businesses. The US company said the strategy was in line with its efforts to establish a presence in 1,000 cities across the mainland. The No.4 personal computer supplier in the mainland, saw its first quarter sales performance boost revenues by 19% year-on-year in Asia-Pacific and Japan. India and China led the region with revenue increases of 52% and 30%, and unit shipment growth of 68% and 43% respectively.

Taiwan

Hardware
Asustek Computer has cut its 2008 shipment projection for the global market to 6.6 million units from an original 7 million units as high inflation pressure diminishes market demand for notebook PCs in Europe in the second quarter of this year. The new shipment goal represents a 53.5% increase from 4.3 million units in 2007.

Ritek Corporation recently announced the birth of the first Taiwan-made pre-recorded blu-ray optical disc (BD) for the movie Rambo IV. The company's CEO Gordon Yeh pointed out that the global market of pre-recorded BD discs would grow to 250 million discs, while the market for blank BD discs is expected to grow to about 40 million. After a group of big international companies announced their support for the BD format rather than the high-definition (HD) DVD, the BD market has been growing rapidly, but with higher capital-spending thresholds, only a few first-class international players have the capability to tap into this business.
Hong Kong/ Macau

Semiconductor
ò Solarflare Communications, a provider of 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) silicon, has opened locations in Hong Kong and Taiwan to provide local customer support for original design manufacturers (ODMs) and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in Asia. Solarflare designs and develops 10GbE controllers and 10GBASE-T transceivers.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming
ò A-Max Holdings announced that rolling chip volume generated by AMA International Limited, in which the Company has an indirect 80 percent interest, amounted to HK$43 billion (US$6 billion) in May 2008, the highest monthly volume achieved since A-Max entered the gaming promotion business in Macau through AMA. May represents the fifth consecutive month that the Company has exceeded HK$40 billion (US$5.1 billion) rolling chip volume. Late in 2007, A-Max entered the gaming promotion business in Macau through AMA.

ò Tom Group, the media arm of Li Ka-shing, announced that Tom's CETV had secured an agreement with KyLin TV in the U.S. to carry the CETV channel in North America through internet protocol television and the internet. The agreement could help CETV reach millions of Chinese-speaking families in the region. CETV is one of the four core businesses of Tom Group. However, due to lack of significant advertising revenue, the television and entertainment business made a segment loss of HK$10 million (US$1.3 million) at the end of last year, with revenue of HK$211 million (US$27 million).

Hardware
ò Hutchison Telecommunications announced that it had struck a deal with US consumer electronics maker Apple to bring the iPhone to Hong Kong and Macau. These will be the first Chinese cities to sell the popular touch-screen phone officially.

Singapore/Malaysia/Philippines/Indonesia/India

Semiconductor
ò Q-Cells AG plans to invest 1 billion euros (US$1.6 billion) at its plant in Malaysia and employ up to 2,000 people there. The foundation stone for the new plant in Malaysia was laid and the first phase of that facility which will produce multi-crystalline solar cells will start producing next year. In the first phase, 800-900 people will be hired and eventually a total of up to 2,000 will be employed there, the spokesman said.

Telecommunications
ò StarHub has said that its President, Mike Reynolds, will leave the company next month to take up the CEO role in a company outside of Singapore. When contacted, the telco declined to reveal which company Mr. Reynolds was heading to. However, in a statement, StarHub said Mr. Reynolds will remain with the telco until his departure to ensure a smooth transition. He joined StarHub in May 2001 as senior vice president of StarHub's Business Markets. Three years later, he headed the company's integrated products and marketing division, responsible for the product planning, development and management of StarHub's products and services.

ò Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel) launched a new mobile TV service that provides live TV channels with electronic program guide information and video-on-demand. SingTel is one of the first telecom companies in Singapore to launch a mobile TV client with the real TV feel on mobile phones. Subscribers who pay a flat monthly fee enjoy unlimited viewing of rich content both popular like local Channel 8 Prime Time and Channel NewsAsia to premium like Mei Ah Movies Channel. SingTel is offering a free service promotion for the first 90 days.

ò Spice Communications is open to all offers, including stake sale, and is currently waiting for a proposal from Telekom Malaysia before it takes a decision. Telekom Malaysia (TM) holds 39.2 percent in the Indian telecom services provider. Spice, which currently has operations in two of the 23 telecom circles, needs funds to expand. Spice is open to TM raising its stake to 74 percent or bringing in new partners. India has lured foreign firms like Vodafone Plc , which last year bought a controlling stake in the third-largest local cellular firm. SingTel, Southeast Asia's top phone firm, owns more than 30 percent of market leader Bharti Airtel .

ò Globalstar has signed an agreement with SingTel to commence operating a new gateway located at SingTelÆs Seletar Satellite earth station facility, as the operator set to launch Globalstar satellite services beginning later this summer. Globalstar said the company has recently installed a simple data applique at the new gateway in Singapore, which will provide Globalstar satellite coverage throughout Singapore, Malaysia, and significant portions of Indonesia, and much of the surrounding maritime region including the strategic Strait of Malacca. SingTel plans to offer Globalstar's entire suite of next-generation advanced satellite voice and data solutions following the launch of the Globalstar second-generation constellation which is expected to begin in the second half of 2009.

ò Thailand's AIS is suing the operator of the tiny Hutch mobile service for 45 billion baht (US$1.3 billion), claiming damage to its reputation from allegations that it was blocking calls from Hutch users. AIS president Wichian Mektrakarn said the Civil Court had accepted the case, which was filed three weeks ago against Hutchison CAT Wireless Multimedia and all of its directors. AIS has 24 million customers compared to Hutch's 800,000. The compensation was based on the recent AIS share price decline, business opportunity loss, potential revenue from interconnection charges (IC), marketing and advertising expenses to correct misleading media reports.

ò Alcatel-Lucent has signed a US$10 million GSM/EDGE expansion contract with Thai operator TrueMove. The upgrade will increase network capacity and coverage in Bangkok, central-west, south and north regions.

Hardware
ò Samsung Malaysia Electronics is looking to capture a larger share of the local refrigerator and washing machine market. The company's market share of the portal and automatic washing machines was about 22 percent and 15 percent respectively last year and this year it has gone up to 23 percent and 16 percent respectively.

ò Canon Marketing Malaysia is aiming to boost its share of the digital camera market to 35 percent by year end from the current 30 percent aided by its latest digital camera range, the Canon IXUS. Canon launched eight additions of the IXUS and has received an overwhelming demand for the digital cameras. Canon expects to sell about 15,000 units of the IXUS per month. Canon also has selected Taiwan's boy band 'Fahrenheit' as its brand ambassador to represent Canon in Malaysia and to promote its digital cameras in conjunction with its IXUS campaign to be launched soon.

ò Kolhberg Kravis Roberts & Co. agreed to pay S$785 million (US$575 million) to acquire Singapore's Unisteel Ltd., a maker of computer disk-drives parts. The buyout firm will pay S$1.95 (US$1.4) for each Unisteel share. That's 10.8 percent higher than the closing price of S$1.76 (US$1.3) on June 3 for Unisteel, whose stock was suspended from trading earlier this week pending the announcement. KKR can combine Unisteel, whose clients include Seagate Technology and Western Digital Corp., the world's biggest disk- drive makers, with an earlier acquisition to form a parts maker with greater scale.

Mobile/ Wireless
ò ThailandÆs Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA) will deploy a GSM/GPRS-based system to read electric meters remotely. The system, developed by local solutions provider Samart Telecoms, connects iWOWÆs iTegno GSM/GPRS modems using a RJ-45 interface EDMI Mk6N meters. The system enables data transmission between the metering device and the central reporting system, allowing customers to have real-time checks and retrieval of information from the meter. The project is aimed at reducing the time lag in data collection, and help customers streamline their business processes and system reporting.

ò Nokia Siemens Networks won an order to expand a 3G mobile telecom network of Celcom in Malaysia. The Malaysian carrier however did not give the value of the deal. Nokia Siemens Networks, a 50-50 joint venture of Nokia and Siemens, said the deal includes upgrading radio and core networks of the operator.

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