A week in tech, October 24-30

A roundup of all the latest tech news.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming
Nintendo Co's group profit surged to Ñ132.42 billion ($1.1 billion) in its fiscal first half from Ñ54.3 billion a year earlier. The company said group sales increased to Ñ694.8 billion from Ñ298.8 billion, with 78% of sales booked overseas. Following the strong performance, Nintendo said it has upped its profit forecast for the year through March to Ñ275 billion ($2.4 billion) from the Ñ245 billion it predicted in July. The company projects 10% sales growth to Ñ1.5 trillion.

Softbank Corp plans spend about Ñ40 billion ($350.3 million) on its operations at a new data center in Southwestern Japan next year, according to media sources. The data centre in Fukuoka Prefecture is expected to carry more than 100,000 computer servers in an area of 140,000 square metres. Softbank is focusing its operations on Internet-based companies that typically operate server networks of several thousand units.

Yahoo Japan Corp. reported a 9.2% rise in its group net profit in the April-September fiscal first half to Ñ29.2 billion ($255.7 million) from a year earlier. The Internet service provider said its sales registered a 17.2% climb to Ñ117.7 billion and its advertisement division went up 27% to Ñ54 billion.

NTT DoCoMo has plans to form a joint venture with UFIDA in a bid to tap China's 3G market, according to media sources. In February this year, the two companies announced plans to set up a joint venture to develop an enterprise mobile service platform and applications. The JV, which industry sources say is called Yong You Da Kang, has a total investment of $13.4 million, with NTT DoCoMo holdiong one third. According to UFIDA, the company is the largest local management software supplier in the Asia-Pacific and ChinaÆs largest supplier of management software, ERP software, financial software, group management software, human resource management software and SMB management software.

Sony Corp. reported a rise in net profit to Ñ73.7 billion ($645.4 million) in the three months to September from Ñ1.7 billion ($14.9 million) a year earlier. The company said its revenue registered 12.3% growth to Ñ2 trillion. Sony ascribed the improvement to the surge in sales of digital cameras and laptop computers, which helped offset heavy losses from the PlayStation 3. The company also said it had swung to an operating profit of Ñ90.5 billion from a year earlier loss of Ñ20.8 billion even though losses at its game division more than doubled to Ñ96.7 billion. Sony upgraded its full-year outlook to a 527% rise in operating profit to Ñ450 billion, versus its previous target of Ñ440 billion.

Hitachi will discontinue development and production of home-use PCs because of intense competition and declining sales. The company said it has not developed PC models for the year-end shopping season and it has no plans to develop any future models at the moment. Hitachi was one of the pioneers of PC development in Japan.

Verizon Wireless, a leading wireless company in the US, and SkyZone Entertainment, a leading international mobile entertainment publisher, announced that SkyZone will provide Verizon Wireless customers with greater access to innovative game products in South Korea. Backed by the SK Group, South Korea's third largest conglomerate and a leader in mobile, technology and Internet services, SkyZone delivers premium-brand and original Made for Mobile(TM) gaming applications. Under the alliance, new titles from SK Telecom will be published under SkyZone and will be available to Verizon Wireless customers through the company's Get It Now service.

Nextreaming, the leading provider of embedded multimedia software solutions for handset manufacturers, announced that it has launched multimedia solutions and deployed handsets for the mass-phone market based on Texas Instruments LoCost family. Industry observers note that with the deployment, Nextreaming is expected to be one of the first providers of a camcording solution for the LoCosto platform. Nextreaming is headquartered in Seoul and maintains offices in China and Europe. The company said more than 76 handsets utilizing Nextreaming technology have been successfully released worldwide.

According to Seoul Central District Court, Digito is suing Microsoft in South Korea and the US, stating that Microsoft has breached the Fair Trade Act since 2000. South Korea's first instant messenger was created by Digito in 1998 under the name Soft Messenger. The complaint stems from the fact that MicrosoftÆs Windows operating system is pre-loaded with a media player and instant messaging service, a bundling that, according to Digito, significantly reduces its profits. Microsoft has earlier been ordered by South KoreaÆs Fair Trade Commission from breaking anti-trust laws by bundling its media player and messenger programs with Windows. The KFTC demanded that Microsoft should offer a version of its software without the pre-loaded applications.

According to media sources, Samsung is closing down two LCD monitor factories in Southern China to focus on its production base in Tianjin. Samsung did not give details about the plan. Industry sources have placed Samsung's LCD monitor output at 230,000 units in September, which represents a 14.8% decline from August. Rumours indicate that Samsung is focusing on middle and high end monitors that yield higher gross profits.

Following Philips ElectronicsÆ $2.2 billion stake earlier this month, LG.Philips disclosed that it is still searching for a strategic buyer. Industry analysts say Philips will unload its remaining 19.9% stake in the joint venture with LG Electronics Inc., the worldÆs second-biggest maker of large-size LCD displays. LG.Philips said it is looking at Japanese firms, noting their access to the worldwide market and the strong local brands.


Baidu.com has reported its unaudited financial results for the third quarter ended September 30, 2007. Total revenues show a 107.5% rise to Rmb496.5 million ($66.3 million) from the corresponding period in 2006. The company posted a 108.8% gain in its online revenues to Rmb496.1 million from the third quarter of 2006. Baidu ascribed the surge to growth in both the number of active online marketing customers and revenue per customer and said its online marketing clients increased sequentially in the third quarter by 11.6% to almost 143,000 active online marketing customers. The company registered a 120.5% climb in operating profit to Rmb168.1 million ($22.4 million) from the corresponding period in 2006. Net income rose 113.2% to Rmb181.7 million. As of September 30, 2007, Baidu had cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments of Rmb1.4 billion ($187 million).

Ctrip.com, a leading online travel service provider, has disclosed plans to work with search engine giant Baidu.com on matters related to hotel search services in China. Industry observers see this alliance as putting together Ctrip.com's wealth of travel information with the advanced search engine technology of Baidu.com, allowing clients to find the location of up to 5,000 member hotels of Ctrip.com. Clients will also be able to make direct online reservations and get information on more than 3,000 scenic spots and other useful travel data through Baidu's Map Channel.

PConline.cn, a Chinese Internet portal, is looking to raise $200 million to $300 in a Hong Kong IPO. The company runs four lifestyle-related specialist web sites, where users can exchange information on information technology, automobiles, games, fashion, and cooking and beauty tips. Its IT web site averages daily visitor traffic of over 22.4 million and its auto web site 6 million.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming
Donald Chan has joined Shanda as senior vice president, a post that will see him overseeing ShandaÆs entry into the in-game advertising business. Before this appointment, Chan served as the national managing director of China for Leo Burnett Shanghai Advertising Company. In a separate development, Shanda said it has three new online games under development. The games are Gui Chui Deng Online, Creation of the Gods and World Hegemony. All three are expected to commence beta testing in the first half of 2008.

China Mobile announced that for the first three quarters of 2007, the group's operating revenue climbed 21.5% to Rmb258.4 billion ($34.5 billion), compared with the same period last year. Profit rose 29.8% to Rmb59.8 billion. China Mobile said subscriber growth continued at a rapid pace, with the average monthly net additional subscribers for the first three quarters hitting nearly 5.4 million. Total subscribers amounted to 349.6 million as of September 30, 2007.

China Telecom has entered into an agreement with NavInfo and Cgogo to work on telecom yellow page data, digital map applications and mobile phone search. Industry analysts expect the agreement to result in the creation of the largest dynamic yellow page database in China. The three companies said their cooperation will target the application of new mobile phone products and service patterns under the 3G system.

According to its senior vice president and chairman, Best Buy China is planning to open its second store in Shanghai. The rumour is that the new store will be located in the Puxi business area of Shanghai. Best Buy remains the largest consumer electronics supplier in the country, but faces competition from Chinese electronics retailers Suning and Gome that are also expanding in the market.

Chinese electronics retailer Gome is entering the electrical appliance manufacturing arena. The company said it will have some of the Chinese mainland-made colour TV sets currently sold at its retailing venues produced by Taiwanese original design manufacturers. This marks the first time that Gome has joined the manufacturing of the upper range of the colour TV supply chain. Gome reportedly aims to capture 25% of China's total colour TV sales this year, with the company indicating that it will ask Taiwan manufactures like TPV Technology Group and Proview take over some of the manufacturing of colour TV sets that were previously handled by mainland manufacturers like Konka, Hisense, Changhong and Amoi.

According to media sources, Apple plans to set up a boutique retail store in Beijing next summer as part of the companyÆs global expansion. At present, Apple has some 187 boutique stores all over the world. The company said it looks to open 40 more stores next year. Apple reported a 42% rise in its income from boutique stores to $1.2 billion in the fourth quarter over the same period last year.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming
PCCW is going to set up a cable TV joint venture with Chunghwa Telecom, Taiwan's largest fixed line operator, to introduce PCCWÆs Now broadband TV platform to the Taiwan market by the end of this year, according to media sources. The reports indicate that Chunghwa has already made the necessary application to Taiwan's telecoms regulator for a license to offer the new service.

KKBOX, a digital music subsidiary of Skysoft, has entered into a strategic investment deal with Taiwan's Chunghwa Telecom (CHT) that will see CHT make an investment that will have it assume a 30% stake in KKBOX. Launched in 2005, KKBOX describes itself as different from other music download service providers because it offers services for millions of users to legitimately listen to music. It has one of the worldÆs largest collections of Chinese songs, with a database of more than 140 music labels and 1.5 million songs. CHT holds about 85% of Taiwan's consumer broadband Internet access market. It is also considered a leader with regard to 2.5G and 3G phone service subscribers.

E-ton Solar Tech and Lite-On Electronics jointly announced the forming an a-Si (thin-film) solar module joint venture, called Aruia. Under the agreement, E-ton and Lite-On will each secure 23.9% of the shares in the new company. Lite-On said the investment of NT$498 million ($15.3 million) in Aruia is the company's first venture into the solar industry. Equipment maker Hermes Epitek will own 12% of the stock in the joint venture, while MiTAC-Synnex Group will retain 6%. Aruia will be located in the Southern Taiwan Science Park. The initial capital of the company will be NT$1.4 billion ($43.1 million), which will be increased to NT$4 billion by 2008. The new company will focus on non-crystalline/micromorph cell production.

Asustek Computer will soon sign a licensing agreement with Qualcomm, according to industry sources. They note that Asustek has been extending its presence in 3G for several years, but it has not yet reached an agreement with Qualcomm regaring possible cross-licensing, as Asustek itself owns some 3G chip intellectual property (IP). According to the Technology Transfer Center (TTC) of Taiwan, the number of 3G patents that Asustek holds in Taiwan exceeds 130, a number surpassed only by Taiwan's Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI). At present, Asustek utilises 3G solutions from Marvell and Ericsson Mobile Platforms (EMP).

According to industry sources, m2m Corporation, a technology firm listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Hanoi-based VTC Wireless Broadband Company. The agreement is expected to allow access to a license to develop and market Internet, VoIP and Internet-related services in Vietnam. Through its wholly-owned Hong Kong subsidiary, Profit Way Technology, m2m will set up a 50-50 joint venture with VTCW. The JV will provide customer service and support and fund business operations, including sales and marketing.

South Korean firm Sabiclub Corp. is putting up more high-end Internet cafT branches in the Philippines to meet growing demand for online gaming in the country. Sabiclub owns the Station 168 Internet cafTs and the newly established i-Hooked Internet cafT in Manila. I-Hooked is the company's first Internet cafT network gaming branch to feature desktops running on Intel's latest Core 2 Quad processors. The company has installed more than 50 desktop PCs that are running on the powerful Intel processors.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming
WOWtv has become SingaporeÆs latest broadband services provider, offering viewers a personalised, unique media experience through a wide range of broadband streaming channels that can be accessed via four different platforms: web, set-top box, portable media player and 3G. The company said WOWtv is ôon-demand entertainmentö powered by a secure and efficient broadband platform that enables a premium interactive entertainment experience. WOWtv features over 50 channels of programming across all genres such as movie blockbusters, Asian dramas and variety shows, travel, lifestyle, fashion, edutainment, sports and more. Aside from programming, online games and e-commerce services are also available. All subscribers to WOWtv have instant access to over 25 channels of entertainment across genres. To date, WOWtv has more than 20,000 registered subscribers, achieved over an eight-week soft launch period.

Electronic Arts, the world's leading interactive entertainment software company, and Wmode, a provider of digital media distribution services under the ClearMode brand, have entered into an agreement to distribute EA Mobile games to customers across Malaysia via local mobile operators Digi and Maxis. Under the deal, Wmode will support EA Mobile marketing initiatives with DiGi and Maxis via their online channels. Wmode operates ClearMode, a digital media distribution service that provides for the recruitment, management, discovery, delivery and payment of digital content. Wmode is a privately held company with offices in Canada and Switzerland.

Information Technology
According to new market research by AMI-Partners, IT spending by small- and mid-size businesses (SMBs) in the Philippines is expected to grow by 19% this year. The study projects SMB IT spending in the country to go beyond $1.3 billion, with computing hardware and Internet-related investments accounting for 70% of the investment. AMI-Partners said the intense competition among IT vendors is resulting in a wider product selection. Declining offering prices have also made businesses more conscious of the value of IT investment. The study projects the SMB market for data security technology will register 30% growth this year.
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