A week in tech, November 14-20

A roundup of all the latest tech news.

Fibre to the home (FTTH) connections in Japan grew nearly 10% in the second quarter of 2007 to account for 36% of the country's broadband connections, according to Informa Telecoms & MediaÆs World Broadband Information Service (WBIS). The study indicates that FTTH is rapidly displacing DSL in Japan, with the total number of DSL subscriptions in the country going down by about 1.6%. Japan accounts for more than two-thirds of the global FTTH market and holds 48% of the combined FTTH and FTTP (Fibre to the premises) market, according to WBIS. The report notes that South Korea and Taiwan are the two other countries with large FTTP markets. At present, fibre is also rapidly being deployed in China, with the country having an FTTx capacity of 15 million lines, which can be extended to provide FTTH. In Europe, Italy remains the leading country with regard to FTTH, accounting for 3.4% of global FTTH connections.

According to its CEO, Softbank is in talks with Alibaba to set up a joint venture as early as next year. Industry observers say venture is an important for Alibaba following its $1.5 billion IPO. To be based in Japan, the joint venture will bring AlibabaÆs services to mobile customers, an area the company is reportedly interested in tapping. The deal is also important because Softbank holds a 33% stake in Alibaba group. Details about the size of the investment weren't disclosed.

GreenPeak Technologies, a leader in battery-free communication technology for wireless sense and control applications, announced that it has set up a sales office in Tokyo, Japan. GreenPeak said it has appointed of Yoshinori Furuno to head the new office as director of business development. Prior to joining GreenPeak, Furuno was a regional sales director and country manager with Airgo Networks, where he lead the team in developing and managing strategic customer and partner relationships in Japan. He has also held positions at Agere Systems and Lucent Technologies, where he was instrumental in bringing Wi-Fi to OEMs in Japan and the Asia Pacific region. Formed through the recent merger of Xanadu Wireless and Ubiwave, GreenPeak is based in Utrecht, The Netherlands and has offices in Belgium and Tokyo. GreenPeak is backed by venture capitalists DJF Esprit (UK), GIMV (Belgium), Motorola Ventures (U.S.) and Allegro Investment Fund (Belgium).

Sierra Wireless announced that a Fujitsu notebook computer to be AirCard Enabled with Sierra Wireless embedded modules is now certified and available for use on the NTT DoCoMo network in Japan. With the integrated Sierra Wireless MC8780 embedded module, the new notebook offers the latest in mobile broadband network technology to keep customers connected to the information they need from wherever their travels take them. This is the first AirCard Enabled notebook computer to be offered in Japan. Sierra Wireless, which is headquartered in British Columbia, Canada, posted revenues of $221 million in 2006.

Walt Disney Co will begin mobile phone services in Japan's $81 billion market under the name of Disney Mobile in the spring of next year, using Softbank Corp's network. The companies will also work together on handsets, services, content development and marketing.

NTT DoCoMo Inc is set to bid at least $1 billion for a stake in MobiFone, Vietnam's No.2 mobile phone carrier, according to an NTT DoCoMo official. NTT DoCoMo joins France Telecom and Singapore Telecommunications, which have also expressed an interest in MobiFone. JapanÆs biggest mobile phone operator is reportedly also interested in making investments in other Asian countries, including China, India, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. MobiFone plans an IPO in 2008 and has plans to sell a one-third stake as part of its move towards privatisation.

NEC Electronics Corp., Japan's third-biggest chip maker, has made an investment worth some Ñ10 billion ($90 million) to begin production of smaller chips for electronics, including Nintendo Co.'s Wii console and Sony Corp.'s Bravia TVs. The countryÆs No. 3 chip maker explained the spending as covering the purchase and installation of an ASML Holding NV lithography machine, a device that burns transistor patterns on silicon wafers.

Willcom Inc. of Japan and China Network Communications Group Corp., the second-largest fixed-line telecommunications firm in China, has formed an alliance in PHS (personal handyphone system) operations. Under the partnership, CNC is to receive technological guidance from Willcom with the aim of readying its data communications service for the Chinese market before the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. The two companies said they will also talk about an international roaming service in which a subscriber can access the partner firm's PHS network when traveling to another country. At present, there are about 93.3 million PHS subscribers in China. Willcom is a telecom company operating a PHS network covering almost all of Japan, and has the largest share of Japanese PHS market.

LG Telecom announced that its mobile phones will be fitted with Yahoo's Internet search window from around next summer following its signing of a memorandum of understanding with Yahoo Korea to develop the service. With the service, clients can look to a mobile Internet made easier and faster to use, with the offering to enable users to type search words on the initial screen before they connect to the mobile Internet site. LG Telecom, the smallest of three mobile service providers in South Korea, and Yahoo Korea, the No. 5 Internet portal in the country, have been in a close partnership in the mobile Internet business since this summer, when Yahoo's OneSearch service was selected as the basic search engine for LG Telecom phones. Two bigger mobile carriers, SK Telecom and KTF, let users select from among multiple search engines such as Naver, Daum and Yahoo. In a separate development, LG Telecom revealed its plans to introduce South Korea's first full-browsing Internet phone as early as next spring.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming
Webzen Inc., a leading global online entertainment company, has secured a licensing deal worth $5.8 million with GameOn, a Japanese publisher, for the epic fantasy MMORPG (massively multiplayer online roll-playing game) Soul of the Ultimate Nation. The game is scheduled for commercial distribution throughout Japan next year, and is expected to increase WebzenÆs 2008 fiscal results. The license agreement covers all development and installation expenses. The Soul of the Ultimate Nation licensing deal marks the second collaboration between Webzen and GameOn, and is seen as boosting WebzenÆs growing position in the Japanese gaming market. The two companies first partnered in 2003 on WebzenÆs first MMORPG, MU Online. Based in Seoul, South Korea, Webzen has developed some of the worldÆs top online game and client/server technologies. Game On Co. Ltd manages a Game information site as well as an online game publishing business.

Information Technology
According to media sources, Vietnam and South Korea are in talks to strengthen their cooperation in the field of IT. A meeting between the two countries included nine leading software companies from South Korea and 26 Vietnamese counterparts. The manager of the International Corporation Division of Korean IT Industry Promoting Association (KIPA) said the seminar will focus on two areas: E-government and upcoming projects between KIPA and the Vietnam Software Association (Vinasa).

Hynix Semiconductor, the worldÆs second-largest manufacturer of dynamic random access memory chips (DRAMs) by revenue, announced that it has developed the first one gigabit GDDR5 graphics DRAM. GDDR, or Graphics Double Data Rate, is considered the fastest and highest density graphics memory widely available in devices such as PCs and game consoles. The new graphics DRAM processes up to 20 gigabytes of data per second, or more than 20 hours of DVD quality video.

Samsung Electronics has indicated that it looks to more mergers and acquisitions in a bid to define and discover its next growth engines. According to its CEO, the company will pursue M&As at any time, if necessary, and sees no limit for M&As with any company Samsung targets. Industry sources said Samsung is close to finalising merger talks with two or three other overseas firms in the non-memory sector, while company officials said the results of the talks may come out by the end of the year.

Following rumours that Kookmin Bank is targeting it for a takeover, shares of South Korean online brokerage house E*Trade Financial Korea Co. surged, hitting the daily limit of 15%. Earlier, Kookmin Bank announced that it has agreed to buy a 95.8% stake in local securities firm Hannuri Investment & Securities for W266.3 billion ($290.1 million). The countryÆs top lender explained its plan as a bid to boost its investment banking business. The CEO of Kookmin was quoted as saying that once this deal is finalised, the bank will move to purchase another securities company. According to media sources, E*Trade officials have denied the rumors. Kookmin is the only lender among the country's four biggest banks that does not own a brokerage house.

SK Telecom has won the exclusive negotiating rights to buy a controlling stake in Hanarotelecom, according to Goldman Sachs which is arranging the sale. SK Telecom was selected as the preferred bidder for the shares held by a group of investors led by American International Group and Newbridge Capital LLC. The 39% stake is valued at W964 billion ($1.1 billion) and the acquisition would make SK Telecom the largest shareholder of Hanaro. The acquisition is also seen as giving SK Telecom access to HanaroÆs network, which is estimated to cover 25% of South KoreaÆs Internet users. Sector leader KT holds 45% of the market, while LG Powercom Corp. is ranked third with 11%. Details of the financial terms were not disclosed. Hanaro registered some 3.7 million broadband subscribers as of the end of September. SK Telecom does not currently provide fixed-line broadband services.

IDG Ventures, a network of venture capital funds, announced that it is initiating startup investments in South Korea. IDG Ventures said it has created a US$100 million venture capital fund based in Seoul. The VC firm said it will focus its investment on new media, mobile applications, online entertainment, health care and software for businesses. IDG, the venture capital arm of technology publishing and research firm International Data Group (IDG), is facilitating its entry into the country by choosing for its managing partner, Duk-Hwan Oh, a former managing director of IDC North Asia. IDC is the research arm of IDG. IDG Ventures currently has $1.8 billion under management in China and according to the IDG chairman, the VC firm is already planning a second Korea fund that is estimated to be worth $250 million.

Internet portal Sina reported a 15% rise in net revenues to $64.3 million for the quarter ended September 30, 2007. Advertising revenues, which accounted for more than 70% of total revenues, surged 40% from the same period last year to reach $45.8 million. Advertising revenues in China rose 41% year-on-year, or 11% quarter-on-quarter to $44.9 million in the third quarter of 2007. Sina said its non-advertising revenues fell 21% to $18.5 million from the same period last year and were flat over the previous quarter. Its MVAS (Mobile Value-Added services) revenues also posted a 24% decline to $16.6 million. Meanwhile, the company said operating expenses dropped by 3% to $24.7 million and net income improved by 60% to $17.2 million. As of September 30, 2007, Sina's cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments stood at $439.4 million, compared with $362.8 million as of December 31, 2006.

eLong.com reported an operating loss of Rmb9.3 million ($1.2 million) for the third quarter ended September 30, 2007, compared to an operating income of Rmb1.7 million (US$229,000) in the third quarter of 2006. The company announced a 12% increase in its travel revenues, which are composed of hotel, air and other travel product and service revenues, Rmb80.9 million in the third quarter 2007 compared with the prior year period. The Internet travel provider posted a net loss of Rmb7.4 million ($997,000) for the third quarter, compared with net income of Rmb2.7 million for the third quarter of 2006.

ò Industry sources indicate that Baidu.com is working with some of China's leading telephone network operators on the new mobile search applications for the launch of 3G mobile telecommunications services in China. Baidu is already working with China Mobile and China Netcom Group on new services for the launch of 3G in China next year. Industry observers believe Google is preparing to dominate this sector. At present, Baidu remains as more popular than Google in China. According to a report by China Intelli Consulting (CIC) in September, Baidu held 69.5 percent of the search market in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, up 7.6 percent over last year. The same source said Google's share dropped 1.1 percent to 23 percent.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming
ò The9 Limited, a leading online game operator in China, announced today its unaudited financial results for the third quarter ended September 30, 2007, with its net revenues for the third quarter of 2007 registering a 17 percent quarter-over-quarter and by 35 percent year-over-year to 316.0 million yuan (US$42.2 million). The company said its net revenues attributable to the operations of subscription-based games went up by 13 percent quarter- over-quarter and by 21 percent year-over-year to 278.9 million yuan (US$37.2 million) in the third quarter of 2007. Its net revenues attributable to the operations of item-sales based games, which included revenues from in-game item sales and installation package sales, increased by 97 percent quarter-over-quarter to 32 million yuan (US$4.3 million) in the third quarter of 2007. The9 posted a 25 percent decline in its net income for the third quarter of 2007 to 38.2 million yuan (US$5.1 million) from 50.6 million yuan (US$6.8 million) in the second quarter of 2007, and a 41 percent drop from 64.3 million yuan (US$8.6 million) in the third quarter of 2006.

ò Beijing Unicom announced the launching of a new service called Enterprise Almightiness for enterprise users. The company described the new offering as giving more convenience, efficiency and economical communications services for enterprise clients. Under the service, clients belonging to a particular company and using China Unicom's mobile phone or its CDMA or GSM services will be able to form a group by connecting their mobile phones with that of the company's fixed telephones.

ò Gome, an electronics retailer, announced that it has established its communications company through which it will enter the Chinese communications market. Gome said the new company is expected to integrate the companyÆs existing mobile phone channels together with the management of its mobile phone business in the stores of Gome and Yongle, which Gome acquired earlier. According to media sources, the Gome Communications Company is aiming to put up some 500 mobile phone outlets in cities all over the country in the coming year. The company said it aims to generate 19.8 million mobile phone sales in 2008. Gome said it has plans of setting up independent mobile phone selling sites, TV shopping, online shopping and mobile phone maintenance service.

ò According to the CEO of China Mobile, the company is in talks with Apple on bringing the computer maker's iPhone to the Chinese market. Sources indicate the introduction of the iPhone will happen in the early parts of next year. China Mobile said that at present, there are still threshing out issues about income distribution between the two companies. Industry observers are saying that China Mobile may attach the selling of iPhone with its own services once it becomes the agent for Apple. Earlier, Apple said it plans to launch the product in Asia next year, with the aim of generating a total sale of 10 million in the area in 2008. To achieve this target, Apple is also negotiating with other operators from Asia.

ò China Netcom disclosed its plans to make an investment of about 15 billion yuan (US$2 billion) for the upgrading of its fiber cable. The project involves a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) undertaking and is seen as being finished within five years. The company also said that by 2010, it aims to be the leading broadband communications and multi-media service provider in China by 2010. China Telecom has already begun testing FTTH on a trial basis in four Chinese cities of Beijing, Guangzhou, Wuhan and Shanghai.

ò China Telecom reported an update on its digital music service and its work with eight music companies, which include Warner, EMI Music, UMG, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Rock Music, Hurray!, Taihe Rye Music and Music Nation Group. China TelecomÆs digital music is a combination of different music services, including ringtones, online trial listening, online downloads and search, and music services. Under the alliance, China Telecom and the music companies announced the launch of a new music brand called Love Music. China Telecom says it has already successfully launched the service in 21 provinces in southern China.

ò According to the countryÆs Ministry of Information Industry Software and Integrated Circuit Promotion Center, it has signed an agreement with Xiyong Park to set up a branch in Chongqing. The ministry said this will be the first branch of MII ever set up in the middle and western parts of China. The announcement said the construction will begin soon and will include several features, including an intellectual property rights and patent declaration consulting services center. The center will also have a training center, a finance consulting center, as well as areas for software assessment and software outsourcing services.

ò Haier and Intel announced their entering into a joint marketing program in Qingdao, a move that follows their signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) covering a range of strategic cooperation. The agreement will see the two companies working together on joint promotions in which they will make marketing goals, strategies and designs. Industry observers see this agreement between Haier and Intel as bringing more flexibility in their cooperation in the terminal market.

Information Technology
ò EDS, a global IT outsourcing company, announced that it has set up a global service center in Wuhan, making it the companyÆs first in the country. EDS also has three global service centers in India, Argentina and Hungary. The company serves clients found in more than 60 countries and regions. In a related development, the general manager of EDS Greater China was quoted as saying EDS will get another city as a site for another global service center in 2008.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming
ò GigaMedia Limited announced that it has secured an exclusive license from Electronic Arts Inc. (EA), the world's leading developer and publisher of interactive entertainment, to offer and operate the new sports game NBA Street Online in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau for three years. NBA Street Online is an online version of EA's popular NBA games series, featuring fast-paced street basketball action with today's biggest NBA superstars, all in true-to-life detail. NBA Street Online was co-developed by EA Canada and Neowiz. NBA Street Online is expected to launch in 2008. GigaMedia Limited is a major provider of online entertainment software and services. GigaMedia develops and licenses software for online gaming. GigaMedia also operates online games businesses including FunTown, a leading Asian casual games portal and the world's largest online MahJong game site in terms of revenue, and T2CN, a leading online casual sports game operator in China. Electronic Arts Inc. (EA) develops, publishes, and distributes interactive software worldwide for video game systems, personal computers, cellular handsets and the Internet.

ò Chinesegamer International, a developer/operator of online games in Taiwan, disclosed that it has been developing sports lottery platforms leveraging its technological capabilities of developing online game software. The company said it looks to China, Hong Kong and Macao as the main markets for the new products. Chinesegamer said Taiwan is not part of its market as the Taiwan authorities have not issued yet operating licenses for sports lotteries. In a related development, Chinesegamer announced that it is developing a 3D MMORPG made for the China market, with the company already granting an exclusive operating license to catv.net for US$2 million, the company indicated. The game will enter closed beta testing in the first quarter of 2008.

ò Sinbon Electronics, a maker of connectors, revealed its plans to take up 6 million shares in Inpaq, a supplier of GPS antennas and modules and other components, for NT$292 million (US$9 million) through a private placement. The deal is seen as making Sinbon the second largest corporate shareholder of Inpaq as it will have a control of 6.4 percent stake in the antenna and module maker.

ò Spansion announced that it will enter into a partnership with Virident, an Internet data center solutions developer, to develop and market a new generation of memory solutions designed to reduce power consumption and provide proven system performance in Internet data centers. Spansion also announced it has made an equity investment in Virident. The partnership is seen as combining the Spansion MirrorBit Eclipse family with Virident platform technology to create a new generation of memory solutions.

ò MediaTek announced its plans to expand its GPS (Global Positioning System) business by cooperating with several Taiwan-based GPS makers including Transystem, Delta Electronics and Holux to provide handset platforms and GPS modules to China-based makers. The company was set to enter the GPS market in China, but with the China maker's first wave of products not passing certification from China telecommunication vendors, it delayed the shipment schedule. Media expects that the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games to boost handset demand in China leading to handset shipments possibly reaching 150 million units.
Hong Kong

Media, Entertainment and Gaming
ò China Finance Online Co., Limited, a leading Chinese online financial information, data, and analytics provider, announced that it has secured the approval by the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) of Hong Kong to become the substantial shareholder of Daily Growth Investment Company Limited, a Hong Kong-based securities brokerage firm. The transaction is expected to be completed by the middle of December of 2007, after completing customary closing conditions. China Finance Online Co. Limited is the market leader in providing online financial and listed company data, information and analytics in China. These features and functions are delivered through proprietary software available by download, through Internet or through mobile handsets. Through its subsidiary, Shenzhen Genius Information Technology Co. Ltd, the company provides financial information database and analytics to institutional customers including domestic securities and investment firms.

ò Network CN Inc., a Chinese media and travel network company, announced that it has secured the advertising rights to 98 rolling light boxes at Beijing International Airport. The company also disclosed that it has signed a US$5-million promissory note agreement with a private investor. Headquartered in Hong Kong, Network operates a Media Network, a Hotel Network and an e-Network. On the media side, Network CN is establishing a multi-media, multi-application advertising network in the key cities of China, focusing on outdoor advertising media. As of September 30, 2007, the Company had obtained rights to install and operate 653 roadside digital video panels, 6 mega-size digital video billboards and 24 rolling light boxes in the PRC. At present, Network CN is building a travel service platform to link up under one network all the hotel properties under its management. Network CN said it is looking to the development of an e-Network via the Internet.

Information Technology
ò WealthCraft Systems Limited, a leading IT solution provider for financial institutions in the Asia Pacific region, and Decillion Solutions Group, a NEC company focusing on advanced banking applications, announced that they have entered into a collaboration that is expected to provide operational scalability and trading efficiencies to local and regional banks. Under the partnership, the two companies will market WealthCraftÆs ATOMS On Demand for SWIFTNet Funds, a hosted transaction automated Software as a Service (SaaS) solution and ATOMS Enterprise for SWIFTNet Funds, a gateway application which acts as message concentrator or router for in-house unit trust applications. The Decillion Solutions Group is headquartered in Singapore with offices in Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Sydney, Shanghai and a representative office in Jakarta. Decillion is recognized as the official Business Partner and Service Partner of SWIFT for Southeast Asia and the South Pacific Region with an established record of more than 500 successful SWIFTAlliance and related installations and service provisions to more than 200 financial institutions. WealthCraft Systems Inc. headquartered in the Hong Kong, is the parent company of WealthCraft Systems Ltd, an IT company that designs, develops, markets and supports a flexible, scalable and secure technology platform for wealth management services to financial institutions.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming
ò CryptoLogic Limited , a leading software developer to the global Internet gaming industry and Mikoishi, leading online game developer and publisher, has announced CryptoLogicÆs strategic investment in Mikoishi. The investment is aimed at tapping the emerging Casual and Chance Gaming market in Asia. The investment is placed at US$8.5 million and is expected to boost MikoishiÆs position in the gaming industry and allow Mikoishi the chance to expand into new arenas, platforms and geographies with its own IP and to leverage on CryptoLogicÆs IP with premium brand partners. As part of the investment, CryptoLogic will have the option to increase ownership over time. MikoishiÆs products are powered by Theatre, the companyÆs online interactive entertainment technology that enables multi-platform and cross-platform playability coupled with online player communities, tournament play, prize play and game item purchase and trading. Theatre powered entertainment products can be found in over 40 countries across, including Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand. CryptoLogic Limited is a world-leading, blue-chip public developer and supplier of Internet gaming software. Mikoishi is an award-winning game development studio based in Singapore.

ò mTouche Technology Bhd disclosed that it is planning to run the first-of-its-kind M-Bit Network with at least one of the major telecommunications companies (telcos) by March. The company said it is still in talks with DiGi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd, Maxis Communications Bhd and Telekom Malaysia Bhd. and with four telecommunication firms in Japan. mTouche said it will have an M-Bit network trial run next month in Japan. M-Bit Network is considered the world's first peer-to-peer search and file super distribution network that allows the sharing of content files between mobile phones over wireless mobile networks. In a related development, mTouche, which also operates mTouche Interactive TV, would be launching two new TV programs with Astro All Asia Networks plc next month.
¬ Haymarket Media Limited. All rights reserved.