a-week-in-tech-november-2127

A week in tech, November 21-27

A roundup of all the latest tech news.


Media, Entertainment and Gaming
Streaming21, a provider of broadcast-quality streaming solutions, and Cool.revo, an IPTV system integrator in Japan, have entered into a new system integration partnership to develop and market end-to-end IPTV and video-on-demand (VoD) solutions for providers of telecom, broadband and content services as well as hotel operators in Japan. The solutions will include streaming server, set-top box (STB), DRM, middleware and networking. Streaming21 provides interactive IPTV and digital home solutions over fixed-mobile-convergence (FMC) and open networks.

Internet
Skype Technologies has entered into a partnership with Excite Japan Co., an Internet portal operator, to offer co-branding software for personal computer-based phone calls. Under the agreement, registered users worldwide will be able to make free phone calls via their PCs by downloading software free of charge. The deal will also allow users to make calls to fixed-line and cellular phones at flat-rate charges. Skype said it has selected Excite Japan as the partner after its contract with Livedoor Co. has been terminated. With Excite Japan having 24 million users, Skype said it aims to increase its users in the country to 10 million from the more than 5 million at present.

Mobile/Wireless
NTT DoCoMo Inc has been asked to let Japan Communications Inc set mobile phone rates following a decision by the settlement panel of the communications ministry to allow the newcomer the use of NTT DoCoMo's cellphone network. The ruling is seen as encouraging more firms to enter the mobile phone business, stimulating competition and expanding the variety of services available. Japan Communications is the nation's first mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) offering wireless data communications services using Willcom Inc's personal handy-phone system (PHS) network. Earlier, the company said it is looking to work with NTT DoCoMo's network in order to expand its business.

Willcom, one of the largest Little Smart service operators in Japan, announced that it will work with China Netcom, a Chinese communications operator, on promoting the Personal Handset System (PHS) within China. Willcom said it has already signed an agreement that will enable the two companies to cooperate on research and technology of services. The agreement includes the introduction of data communications services in the Chinese market. Under the alliance, Willcom will provide technology support to China Netcom's Little Smart online data communications service and may also cooperate with China Netcom on the new generation of PHS. Originally from Japan, PHS is widely used in China and has up to 100 million users in the country.

Telecommunications
According to media sources, Sri LankaÆs Supreme Court has advised Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp to invite transparent bids if it is to go through with its plan to dispose of two-thirds of its 35.2% stake in Sri Lanka Telecom. According to a separate report, NTT was aiming to sell a 25.3% stake in SLT to Malaysia's Usha Tegas Group. This deal was stopped after a public interest case was filed, which alleged that NTT had arbitrarily handpicked the Malaysian buyer without issuing an invite for open bids.

Ventures/Investments
Sanyo Electric plans to undertake a major investment in its battery business. The decision is part of the companyÆs new business plan and will be made over three years from April 2008. Sanyo said it will spend Ñ100 billion to boost production. Sanyo remains the worldÆs top maker of lithium-ion batteries used in notebook computers and mobile phones.

Aeon Co, a major supermarket chain, plans to introduce electronic gift certificates at all of its outlets in Japan The company said it plans to make electronic gift cards available at about 23,000 outlets across Japan and has set a target to issue some 2.5 million cards in the first year. Aeon becomes the first company in Japan to offer the said type cards that can be used to buy different kinds of goods. The magnetic cards will be available in denominations of Ñ1,000 ($9.2) and will be worth up to Ñ100,000 yen each. The cards will come in 14 colors and be sold with special cases so that they can be used on ceremonial occasions, which is close to the Japanese tradition of gift-giving.

Information Technology
Aiphone Co. said it has developed a system to provide condominium residents with emergency earthquake information through intercoms. The system, which it aims to sell, installs a machine in a building that receives information from meteorological authorities on a possible quake via the Internet. The device then immediately calculates when and where it is likely to hit the site as well as its expected intensity. The machine is designed to inform residents in the building of calculated data through intercoms. It can also automatically bring elevators to the nearest floor to so that people will not be trapped in case of an earthquake.
Korea

Internet
According to media sources, the governments of South and North Korea, through their prime ministers, have agreed to set up Internet, wire and mobile phone services including mobile phones in the Gaeseong Industrial Complex in North Korea. Under the agreement, the two parties will allow the free movement of South Korean people and vehicles in the complex starting next month. The move is aimed at expanding inter-Korean economic cooperation. The agreement is also expected to enable exchanges of video calls starting next year and the completion of the construction of a family reunion centre at Mount Geumgang soon.

NCsoft announced the release of a series of social-networking services from Openmaru, an in-house software studio. The company said it will also increase its investment in the online services sector, which is dominated by big portal operators such as Naver, Daum and SK Communications. The four services launched by Openmaru are MyIDnet, Life Pod, Spring Note and Rolling List. The first two are personal data and schedule management programs, while the latter two are social-networking services where users can share a single notebook for business or personal purposes. NCsoft is South Korea's largest computer and video game producer in terms of revenue, with sales of W161 billion ($173 million) in the latest quarter.

Mobile/Wireless
Foxconn plan to spend $12.8 million to acquire 74,999 shares of Diabell, a South Korean mobile phone manufacturer. Foxconn said the investment is aimed at improving its own design and manufacturing capacity of key mobile phone components. DiabellÆs clients include Motorola, Samsung and LG. Foxconn is the trade name of TaiwanÆs Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. (Ltd.). The acquisition is expected to be completed before January 3, 2008.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming
NHN USA, the US subsidiary of South KoreaÆs largest Internet company, NHN, announced the premium service launch of Luminary: Rise of the GoonZu for PCs on its ijji.com site. Luminary: Rise of the GoonZu is a political and economic MMORPG (massively multi-player online roll-playing game) which allows players to choose their profession as a warrior, artisan, or politician. According to the CEO of NHN USA, the combination of politics and economics is a unique twist from traditional MMORPGs.

According to NIDA (National Internet Development Agency), GAMEVIL came out top among all game companies in South Korea in wireless portal rankings in the month of October this year. With 309,855 visits from January 2007 to August 2007, GAMEVIL ranked 7th overall among all mobile portals. Analysts say that the WINC address played a huge role in this. Industry observers note that GAMEVIL is using 555, which is convenient for the end user to remember since the number is in the centre of the keypad. WINC addresses are just like URLs or short codes that were adopted to enable easier access to a companyÆs wireless portals. The mobile portal with the largest amount of visits turned out to be the Bus Information Service in Daegu, with 2.1 million visits, followed by GyungGi Bus Information Service, with 973,031 hits. The most popular search engine company in the country, Naver, was ranked No. 3 with 640,592 visits during October. Daum, another popular search engine, was ranked 5th with 467,056 visits. Among game companies, Com2Us was ranked 9th, garnering 191,347 visits.

According to media sources, KT has enabled its MegaTV IPTV service to be accessible via the Sony PlayStation 3 (PS3), using the games console as a set-top box. Industry observers say this is the first time IPTV services will be delivered to a games console. Available in the country since June this year, the MegaTV service only requires subscribers to update their PS3 console to the latest V2.0 firmware version and click on the MegaTV icon which is created in the XMB (Cross media bar) after the upgrade is complete. Sony Computer Entertainment Korea (SCEK) has developed software called Broadcasting Engine to allow the PS3 to support the IPTV service. The software allows the user to connect to the Internet to surf the web while watching the TV service. Microsoft is also reportedly working with various tier one telecom operators worldwide, such as BT in the UK, to enable IPTV services using its Mediaroom platform to be delivered to its own Xbox 360 games console by the end of this year

Hardware
According to media sources, Prime View International (PVI), a Taiwanese maker of small display panels, is in negotiations to buy a 3G LCD plant from South Korea's Hydis. Prime ViewÆs move is seen as a way to get new supply sources to meet strong demands for the flexible displays for electronic books that it makes. Prime View and other companies are developing and producing a new generation of thin electronic displays, or e-paper, that need no added light source to read. e-paper is used in handheld e-books that allow several books to be downloaded onto them. Prime ViewÆs clients include Amazon and Sony Corp.

Semiconductors
Magnachip Semiconductor Ltd., a provider of analogue and mixed signal semiconductor products for high volume consumer applications, has initiated the marketing of a new line of power management solutions. The products are designed for applications such as mobile phones and LCD TVs. For mobile device applications, Magnachip's product design is focused on improving battery life. For LCD televisions, the company has focused its product design on controlling and reducing standby power consumption.
China

Internet
PayPal disclosed that it is cooperating with China International Travel Service (CITS) to offer a new payment service on CITS' web site. Under the partnership, CITS clients will be able to use their personal PayPal accounts, a debit card, a bank account or a credit card to pay for the services. PayPal provides payment services in 17 currencies in 190 countries and regions across the world.

Google announced the formal release of a new mobile phone short message search product in China. Google said the service can provide information to millions of Chinese. The product will enable mobile phone users to make inquiries about such information as stocks, weather forecasts, train schedules, language translation and contact details for restaurants and allows them to get a short message reply with the search result. Google said it will not charge any fee from mobile phone users for this service. The clients will only need to pay the regular SMS fee to the mobile service operators. Google indicated that it plans to add more search functions soon.

Qunar, a Chinese Internet travel search engine, has received a round of financing worth $10 million, according to media sources. The company has previously received funds from GSR Ventures and Mayfield and this time Lehman Brothers Private Equity Partners led the financing. The reports indicated that Qunar will be using the funds to attract more clients from all over China. Qunar operates as a meta-search engine that aggregates and provides Chinese-language search results of travel deals around China.

Alibaba.com announced the official launch of Alimama, an online advertising exchange designed to enable web publishers and advertisers to trade online advertising inventory. Alimama is a wholly owned subsidiary of Alibaba Group. Industry analysts see Alimama as a response to the needs of the countryÆs fragmented market for online advertising. Fresh from its 100-day beta period, Alimama is expected to be one of ChinaÆs largest online advertising exchange platforms.

Alipay, the largest electronic payment service in China, has decided to enter the Taiwan market through its partnership with Taiwan-based eDynamics. The move is part of AlipayÆs efforts to help users in China to do online shopping in Taiwan. Alipay is a member of ChinaÆs Alibaba Group. eDynamics provides e-commerce and online marketing services specifically for small enterprises and individuals in Taiwan.

China Telecom has decided to launch its own IM service following similar initiatives by China Mobile, China Unicom and China Netcom. China MobileÆs IM service is dubbed Fetion. Local media sources indicated that China Telecom is working on the research and development of the IM software.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming
Hurray! Holding Co, a China-based artist development and wireless music company, has decided to merge with Enlight Media, a China-based independent entertainment production company. Under the agreement, Enlight shareholders will receive the equivalent of 15.7 million American Depositary Shares, which will given them a 42% stake in Hurray!. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2008. The newly formed entity is called Hurray Enlight. Separately, Hurray! reported total revenues for the third quarter ended September 30, 2007 were $13.6 million, representing a 6.5% decrease from the preceding quarter, and a 23.9% decrease from the third quarter in 2006. Total wireless value-added services revenues were $11.4 million, a decline of 10.7% from the previous quarter and decline of 30.6% from the third quarter of 2006. Recorded music revenues were $2.2 million, an increase of 22.8% from the previous quarter and 47.8% from the third quarter of 2006. The net loss was $11.5 million and the net margin a negative 84.7%, compared with a positive margin of 1.3% in the second quarter and 9.0% for the third quarter of 2006.

Sohu has secured an advertising contract for ChinaÆs CCTV following a long intense bidding process against traditional industry competitors. According to reports, Sohu has spent more than Rmb20 million ($2.7 million) on the 7.5 seconds of advertising that is expected to be aired before the nightly half-hour news broadcast and before the weather forecast. Industry observers see CCTVÆs bidding for advertising space as a sign of increasing competition among portal web sites for the Beijing Olympics.

Giant Interactive, a Chinese online game developer reported a 164.2% surge in its net revenues for the third quarter of 2007 to Rmb405.2 million ($54.7 million) over the third quarter of 2006. The companyÆs net income increased 152.6% to Rmb290.2 million ($39.1 million).

Mobile/Wireless
China Academy of Telecommunication Technology (CATT) is selling a 13% stake of Datang Mobile, the leading Chinese 3G technology firm, for Rmb1 billion ($133 million) to cover a capital shortage. Media sources indicate that PICC is interested in acquiring a 15% stake for Rmb1.5 billion ($202.7 million). Other interested investors were said to include China Yangtze Power, China Life Insurance and Ping An Insurance, which are reportedly all aiming to shell out Rmb1 billion ($135.1 million) each. Datang Mobile, a subsidiary of Datang Telecom Technology and Industry Group, is a major proponent of China's TD-SCDMA standard.

According to media sources, China Mobile will start the bidding for the first batch of TD mobile phones in late December or early January 2008. The company said it plans to buy about 300,000 to 400,000 TD mobile phones to be used mainly for testing and optimising TD networks and testing the mobile phone performance of each TD maker. The testing is in preparation for the companyÆs large-scale outsourcing planned for 2008. The bidding will take place while the company is conducting a TD test in some eight cities across the country. China Mobile plans to spend a total of about Rmb3 billion ($504.4 million) to Rmb4 billion for 2 million to 3 million TD mobile phones.

Software
Longtop Financial Technologies Limited, a software provider, reported an 80.3% year-on-year rise in its total revenue to $20.2 million in the third quarter, compared to adjusted revenues for the quarter ended September 30, 2006. The company said its software development revenues went up 115.6% year-on-year to $18.2 million. According to its CFO, the strong revenue can be ascribed to its increasingly diversified customer base. The company had its IPO in October this year.

Hardware
According to the general manager of Lenovo Greater ChinaÆs Commercial Desktop Computer Marketing Department, the company is considering to recruit online agents for its PC products in a response to the significant sales generated online. In a related development, the company said it is in talks with Alibaba on a possible cooperation in selling its products to Alibaba-registered small and medium enterprises.

Intel has entered into an agreement with Digital Video Networks (DVN), a leading Chinese digital TV solutions provider, to work on a double module set-top box (STB) that can support interactive digital services. The agreement is seen as providing Intel an entry into the countryÆs set-top box market. According to the general manager of Intel's Digital Home Group, their new STB is based on Intel's CE2110 processor, which features functions such as high definition film play and PC applications, plus more interactive experiences. According to industry observers, Chinese STBs can be used only for signal conversion.

Semiconductors
Shanghai-based Spreadtrum Communications has agreed to pay an estimated $76 million for the acquisition of Quorum Systems, a company that designs CMOS radio frequency transceivers. Spreadtrum is a wireless chip designer. The acquisition is significant amidst speculations that China will soon issue 3G licenses.
Hong Kong

Media, Entertainment and Gaming
A total of 15 java mobile games based on popular teenage pop groups, Lollipop and Mei, have been launched in Taiwan and Hong Kong. The games, which are developed and distributed by Artificial Life, Inc., a provider of award-winning mobile 3G technology and applications, and STAR, Asia's leading media and entertainment company, are available for download on Artificial Life's m-commerce portal and via mobile game services of leading telecom operators in Hong Kong. Users in Taiwan can download the mobile games on dedicated Lollipop / Mei Mei web sites. The games will be made available soon as part of the mobile services of major Taiwan telecom operators. STAR is a wholly-owned subsidiary of News Corporation that broadcasts over 60 television services in 10 languages to more than 300 million viewers across 53 Asian countries. Artificial Life, Inc. is a public US corporation headquartered in Hong Kong and with offices in Berlin and Tokyo. It is a leading global provider of award winning mobile technology, content, games and applications.

Mobile/Wireless
Modelabs Group has launched the first Levi's mobile telephone in Hong Kong with the handset now available in around 40 points of sale in the city. Modelabs designs, develops and markets mobile phone handsets, accessories and services for mobile phone operators, retailers and brands. ModeLabs Group is listed on the Euronext-Paris Eurolist.

Taiwan

Information Technology
Taiwan-based Teco Electric & Machinery has agreed to establish a joint venture in Taiwan with Japan-based Intec and Nihon Technos. The latter two are providers of information/telecommunication technology solutions and IT services. The newly formed entity, tentatively named Tech Intec International, will undertake production of business-use software outsourced mainly from Japan. According to media sources, the joint venture will have an initial capital of NT$56 million ($1.7 million), with Teco holding 60% and Intec and Nihon Technos holding 20% each. The announcement indicated that Teco's Information Systems & Service business group will participate in the operation of the joint venture.

Ventures/Investments
Foxconn International Holdings (FIH), the electronic manufacturing services (EMS) company, said it will invest $500 million to build a new handset manufacturing base in Huizhou in ChinaÆs Guangdong Province. The company said it will put in an initial $100 million for the construction of the plant, which will start at the beginning of 2008. The new plant will require more than 10,000 employees. Huizhou and Guangdong are expected to become the two major bases for FIH in southern China. Currently, FIH has plants in Beijing, Hangzhou, and Hebei in China, in Mexico and in India. It is also planning to build a plant in Vietnam.

Walden International, a US-based venture capital company, plans to invest NT$10 billion ($309 million) in Taiwan over the next 20 years, targeting companies in the component, IC design, re-usable energy, medical and automotive industries. Over the past two decades, Walden in Taiwan has invested 40.2% in electronics and 34.4% in semiconductors. The venture capital firm has invested in 67 companies in the region, including D-Link, Elan Microelectronics, Everlight Electronics, Megic (acquired by International Semiconductor Technology in 2005), Powerchip Semiconductor Corporation (PSC) and Sigurd Microelectronics.

Hardware
BenQ, a producer of digital network devices and the DLP projector brand, has unveiled the MP511+ projector in the Indian market. The device has been described as suitable for home and office users, as well as for gaming, movies or corporate presentations.

Indonedia, Malaysia and Singapore

Mobile/Wireless
Indonesia's PT Excelcomindo Pratama plans to raise $950 million through the sale of bonds or borrowing to repay existing debt. The company said it aims to boost its wireless services amidst strong market competition. Having obtained approval from its shareholders, the countryÆs No. 3 mobile-phone operator said it will use about $350 million of the funds for expansion, while the rest will be used for debt reduction. Excelcomindo, a company controlled by Telkom Malaysia, is expanding outside the main island of Java to win more customers that may help it counter a decline in prices as competition increases. Excelcomindo is rated BB- by Standard & Poor's, three steps below investment grade. Rival operator PT Indosat also plans to spend $1.2 billion, while Hutchison TelecommunicationsÆ mobile-phone unit will invest HK$4 billion ($514 million) next year to build wireless phone towers and other infrastructure in Indonesia. Hutchison added 1.6 million users in its first six months of operating in Indonesia by offering voice call rates of as low as 150 rupiah (2 US cents) a minute, or half the amount charged by PT Telekomsel. Excelcom, which had 12.8 million subscribers as of September 30, is offering call rates as low as 60 rupiah a minute for bulk users.

Telcordia, a global player in number portability and the development of IP, wireless, and mobile telecommunication software and services, and Unified Communications, a provider of carrier-grade telecommunications products and customised solutions, are ready to bring their number portability solution to Malaysia, industry sources say. The solution, which will be implemented in the first half of 2008, will enable carriers to comply with the countryÆs timeline for the implementation of mobile number portability. In March this year, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) announced that a consortium composed of Talian Gerak Alih, Unified Communications, and Telcordia had been selected to build, operate and manage the Mobile Number Portability Clearinghouse in Malaysia.

Ventures/Investments
Singapore-based conglomerate ST Electronics has entered into an agreement to acquire Telematics, a 55% subsidiary of Israel-based Ituran Location and Control Ltd. The move is seen as a bid by ST Electronics to up its current offerings in the telematics solutions market. ST Electronics said it looks to enter the market for M2M application and wireless telemetry. Telematics develops radio frequency technology and wireless solutions for the Machine-to-Machine (M2M) industry. Under the agreement, Ituran will get royalties for the next five years on the revenues earned by Telematics' business in Korea and China. Telematics will continue to provide its location technology to Ituran and in return will receive consultation and knowledge-sharing from the company for the next 10 years.

Telecommunications
Singapore Technologies Telemedia (STT) has rejected a ruling by the Business Competition Supervisory Commission (KPPU) that Temasek Holdings is guilty of cross-share ownership in Indonesian telecommunications companies, PT Telkomsel and PT Indosat. According to STTÆs CEO, KPPU's ruling had triggered the question of whether foreign investors could be confident and secure about their investment in Indonesia.

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