A week in tech; part 1

All the latest tech news from Japan and Korea.



- Fujitsu Ltd. has developed a high-precision color LCD monitor for PDAs that allows them to receive digital high-definition broadcasting, company sources. The new device has triple the number of pixels, as existing LCDs, improving the resolution of a PDA screen by 60-70%. The display employs a technology that quickly changes the color of backlights among the three primary colors of red, blue and green, while existing LCD screens consist of individual dots in one of the three colors. The pilot model of the 4-inch LCD has a resolution of 800 x 600 pixels, on par with that of personal computers screens. The improved resolution makes it capable of displaying the entire screen of a Web site, compared with existing monitors that can show only 25% of a site at one time. Last year, domestic shipments of PDAs were limited to 680,000 units because PCs and cellular phones were more popular as a mobile information device.


- Yahoo! Japan Corp. said it continued to earn a strong profit during the fiscal first quarter and that it plans to list on Japan's biggest stock market. The nation's largest Internet search-engine operator in terms of users said its group net profit more than doubled to ¥4.5 billion (US$38.4 million) during the quarter ended June 30 from ¥2.2 billion (US$18.5 million) a year earlier, boosted by brisk sales from its online-auction and broadband services. The strong performance followed a more than doubling of net profit during the year ended March 31. Yahoo! Japan, which is an affiliate of Yahoo! Inc. of the U.S. and is listed on Japan's Jasdaq market for start-ups, also said it has filed an application to list on the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange to expand its investor base.

Mobile / Wireless

- KDDI Corp. will seek out growth in Japan's mobile phone network by focusing on digital home appliance network services and high-speed mobile network services for corporate customers, KDDI President Tadashi Onodera said. Onodera said the mobile phone market for individual users, excluding corporate users, is close to saturation after the number of mobile phone subscribers has grown 100 times over the past 10 years to about 75 million as of the end of March 2003. But Onodera said the mobile phone market will be able to keep growing by expanding services beyond the current communications between mobile phone handsets, specifically mentioning the opportunity to connect home appliances that have digitalized communications functions, such as digital refrigerators, with mobile phone handsets.

- Demand is rapidly growing for services that offer songs as ring-tones in Japan. A number of music software companies have entered the market, making the service more readily available to cell phone users. Label Mobile, established by 17 major music companies, has become the biggest distributor of songs as call signals for mobile phones. The company offered as many as 5,500 songs for the ring-tone service as of the end of June and saw the number of downloads top 3 million in the month.

- Fujitsu Ltd. on started a marketing campaign for integrated circuit chips that would allow businesses to develop mobile phones with which users could converse continually for six hours without needing to recharge the handsets, Fujitsu said. The large-scale integrated circuit (LSI) chips feature the 'nanotechnology' that has allowed Fujitsu to cut the width of electronics circuits to as thin as 90 nanometers, it said. They would also enable corporate users to assemble mobile phones that provide a standby time of up to 1,000 hours, about 40 days, as well as enabling them to produce even smaller digital cameras, it said.

- Tokyo Electric Power Co. will this year start offering in the greater Tokyo area fiber-optic communications service using high-speed wireless communications for about the same fee as ADSL services. The firm will link its fiber-optic network laid on utility poles and elsewhere to customers' homes through wireless communications with transmission speeds of up to 25Mbps. Using wireless communications will spare the firm and users from having to run cables into homes. Tepco will use the 5GHz band offered by the government to private sector firms last autumn. It will set up small antennas at users' homes, which will be connected to its fiber-optic network through wireless communications devices installed on utility poles or set up on building roofs. The new fiber-optic service will initially be available to Tokyo residents and then gradually offered in other areas.

- Five companies, led by Hitachi Ltd. and Showa Electric Wire & Cable Co., will in November begin marketing a next-generation system that uses the steel framing of buildings and the bodies of railroad cars as antennas for high-speed wireless LANs. Instead of normal radio waves, the system uses so-called evanescent waves whose propagation can be limited to within a closed room. Signals are transmitted at frequencies of 20-40MHz. Evanescent waves are sent by using a device known as an exciter connected to a building's steel framing or a railroad car chassis, enabling high-speed communications at 50Mbps.


- The YRP Ubiquitous Networking Laboratory will begin developing a new type of chip for use with smart labels. The Ministry of Telecommunications has entrusted research and development to the lab, which is to devise a chip that is faster and has greater processing capacities than existing chips. The lab, which is playing a key role in the formulation of standards for smart labels in Japan, is to work on the development over a five-year period through fiscal 2007. The Ubiquitous Networking Laboratory is to develop a chip that is 1 sq. centimeter in size. The chip will be able to communicate from a distance of 5-10 meters, up from the roughly 1-meter distance to date. The communications speed will be raised to about 10Mbps, many times faster than current chips.


- NEC Corp. has established a division to promote the sale of software to outside firms, targeting domestic and overseas systems integrators and other businesses. At present, roughly 80% of NEC's commercial software is used internally, with only 20% sold to other companies. Annual sales to outside firms stand at only about 20 billion yen. NEC seeks to raise the ratio of software sold to outside companies to 50% by the end of fiscal 2006, hoping to see overseas customers account for 20% of these sales.


- Telecom minister Toranosuke Katayama said he will meet top officials of telecom carriers on who are planning to file a lawsuit over his ministry's approval of a hike in connection fees they pay to Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. (NTT). The five telecom carriers are expected to sue the Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications Ministry by Thursday seeking nullification of its approval for raising the fees NTT charges them for accessing its lines.



- Samsung Electronics Co. saw second-quarter net income fall 41% amid weak demand for its mainstay semiconductors and cell phones. But the company predicted a turnaround during the next six months. Samsung's second-quarter net was 1.1 trillion won (US$958.4 million), down from 1.9 trillion won (US$1.6 billion) a year earlier. Sales edged down to 9.8 trillion won (US$8.3 billion) from 9.9 trillion won (US$8.4 billion). Operating profit from semiconductors fell nearly 47% from a year earlier to 570 billion won (US$481.4 million), the company said, as a prolonged slump in memory-chip demand continued to squeeze results.

- Chip designer Doestek Corp. has recently signed a contract with NEC of Japan to provide key components for liquid crystal display panels. The firm said that it secured an order from the leading Japanese electronics maker for its timing-controller chip. The company did not reveal the value of the deal. It is the first time that a Korean firm has exported the cutting-edge LCD part, a market that is currently dominated by Japanese and U.S. companies. Doestek completed development of the controller chip in April last year after three years of research.

- Korean PDA makers shipped around 200,000 units in the first half of this year, marking solid growth despite lingering worries over the slowdown in the high-tech sector. The total shipment of PDAs last year was 185,000 units, suggesting that the performance in the first six months was far from disappointing. But it is too early to say that the PDA industry is enjoying a boom. In the first quarter, the total shipments numbered 120,000, but the second-quarter shipments slid to 80,000, hurt by the accounting fraud at SK Global Co. and the Korean government's hesitance to lift a ban on handset subsidies. The portion of PDAs with mobile connectivity, otherwise known as smart phones, is increasing. Local PDA manufacturers, however, argued that the trend is moving in the right direction, particularly as domestic broadband carriers like KT Corp. are promoting wireless LAN services that encourage customers to purchase high-powered PDAs.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming

- Humax Co., a major set-top box manufacturer, said that it would enter the digital-TV market, taking advantage of its technological edge in digital broadcasting solutions amid growing expectations of convergence in the next-generation display sector. Humax, widely known for its aggressive export drive of its digital set-top boxes to the European market, said it would roll out liquid crystal display TVs later this year - an item that it indicated would utilize its digital set-top-box technology.

Mobile / Wireless

- KTF said it would provide access to instant-messenger services from Microsoft Korea through its wireless network, marking a step forward in the convergence of telecom and Internet technologies. MSN provides the country's most popular real-time messenger software. The number of user on a daily basis exceeds 6.5 million in Korea. KTF said the first deployment of a rich client-based service for MSN Mobile Messenger would be on handsets customized for KTF. KTF is the first wireless mobile operator in Korea to offer the MSN Mobile Messenger service. The service is available to KTF consumers through downloadable MagicN Multipack or Messenger-enabled phones.

- Samsung Group said that it has come to an agreement with Nokia to boost cooperation in technology development and global marketing. Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee met with Nokia President and CEO Jorma Ollila at the Finnish mobile handset maker's headquarters. They agreed to beef up their collaboration in software and other high-tech businesses and concurred that there are wide-ranging business areas with potential for cooperation, Samsung officials reported.

- Samsung Electronics Co. outstripped Motorola Inc. in terms of mobile phone sales revenue for a second consecutive quarter. Samsung sold 2.8 trillion won (US$2.4 billion) worth of cellular phones between April and June. In the first quarter, Samsung's sales revenue reached 3.0 trillion won (US$2.5 billion) against Motorola's 2.9 trillion won (US$2.4 billion). However, Samsung still fell behind Motorola in terms of the number of phones sold. Motorola sold 15.8 million units while Samsung sold 11.97 million in the second quarter.

A week in tech is brought to you by FinanceAsia, and IRG, Asia's boutique investment bank to the telecoms, media and tech sectors. More can be found at:

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