A week in tech; part 1

The latest tech news from Japan and Korea.

A week in Japan tech

Media, Entertainment and Gaming

- Sony Corp. plans to launch a hand-held videogame player. Sony said its "PSP" - short for PlayStation Portable - will begin selling toward the end of 2004 and will feature a 4.5-inch display screen and a high-performance microprocessor for running sophisticated games. Unlike many hand-held game players, the PSP is designed to be linked by wire to other PSPs as well as cellphones, personal computers or Sony's PlayStation 2 home videogame console.

Mobile / Wireless

- Japanese electronics firms' shipments of mobile phone handsets posted the highest year-on-year growth in two and a half years as customers shifted to more advanced digital and third-generation models. Domestic shipments amounted to 5 million handsets in March, up 58.4% from a year earlier, according to the Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association (JEITIA).

- Sanyo Electric Co., Kyocera Corp. and other electronics manufacturers are gearing up to market their cellular phones with built-in cameras in the U.S.. Sanyo doubled production of a new model released the previous month doubling output capacity from 150,000 units a month to 300,000 units. The company plans to continue increasing capacity for June and beyond. The firm began shipping phones with built-in cameras last April and they sell for $99, well below the current average of $300 for models with cameras.


- A giant chip-making joint venture between Japanese hi-tech leaders NEC and Hitachi plans to start mass-producing high-speed, next-generation DRAM chips this summer. The joint venture will manufacture a 512 megabit DRAM chip called DDR2, which has a data transfer speed of 533 megabits per second, making it suitable for use in high-performance computers and servers.


- NTT announced group sales for the fiscal year ended March 31st declined 1% on the year to ¥10.9 trillion ($93.7 billion), marking the first-ever decline in overall revenue since the firm's establishment in 1952. The firm attributes the slip to the fact that mobile phone service sales failed to offset a decline in revenues from fixed-line phone services. NTT's regional arms, NTT East Corp. and NTT West Corp., saw their sales -- primarily in areas like fixed-line phone services -- fall by ¥413 billion ($3.5 billion). In addition to the decline in voice call services, the use of fixed-line services for data transmission has fallen as well.

- NTT returned to profitability in the fiscal year ended March 31 on the back of aggressive cost-cutting, which will include an additional 3,900 layoffs. The nearly 2% job reduction comes on top of the 16,100 jobs trimmed during the last fiscal year, which brought the work force at NTT down by 7% to 207,400 people, from 223,500 the previous year. For the fiscal year just ended, NTT posted a net profit of ¥233 billion ($2 billion), a significant improvement from the ¥835 billion ($7.2 billion) loss for the prior fiscal year.

A week in Korea tech


— Internet Auction Co - Korea’s largest online auctioneer - posted W6.1 billion ($5.1 million) in net profit for the first quarter of 2003, helped by a steady increase in transactions, despite the gloom plaguing the overall dot-com sector. Its first-quarter earnings exceeded the total net income achieved in 2002. The figure also represented a 37% increase over the net profit of W4.5 billion ($4 million) posted in the previous quarter. The company reported a record W12.7 billion ($10.6 million) in revenues and W4.9 billion ($4.1 million) in operating income during the first quarter.

Information Technology

— Korea's plan to use the export of information technology products as a main tool to grapple with the economic downturn has hit a snag as the impact of the SARS is likely to affect the technology sector, as well. The Ministry of Information and Communication said that IT exports in April stood at $3.9 billion and imports reached $2.9 billion, leading to a trade surplus of $1 billion.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming

- D-Gate Co., South Korea's leading online and arcade game developer, has signed a deal with U.S. distributor Bromley to export $3 million worth of arcade ping-pong game machines. D-Gate invested 2 billion won ($1.7 million) to develop the game, which was nominated best multi-player game at the ETC2002 game exhibition held in England last year.

- Massively multiplayer online games (MMOG) have gripped Korea, making it a global pioneer in the nascent industry. NCsoft-- maker of the most popular game, Lineage--leads the market with 3.2 million users worldwide, 2.2 million in South Korea alone. Helped also by Lineage's popularity in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan, NCsoft's sales jumped from $436,000 in 1997 to $123 million last year. It dwarfed the popularity of online gaming in the United States, where a combined 700,000 people play the five most popular online MMOGs.


- Hynix Semiconductor reported a loss of W1 trillion ($872.7 million) in the first quarter, after a sharp rise in non-operating expenses. Hynix reported a net profit of W4 billion($3.3 million) in the year-earlier period, when memory-chip makers benefited from a rise in prices for dynamic random access chips. The world's third-largest memory-chip maker reported a 17% decline in sales to W682 billion ($570 million) from W823 billion ($685.9 million). It posted an operating loss of W241 billion ($202 million), reversing from operating profit of W118 billion ($98.6 million) in the prior year.


- Korea’s major telecom players are scrambling to stay ahead in the race for the new licenses for 2.3GHz Internet services and satellite digital multimedia broadcasting. KT Corp., SK Telecom, the LG Group and Hanaro Telecom Inc. are all interested in offering 2.3GHz services. Carriers are keen to grab the 2.3GHz spectrum on the assumption that the new technology will eliminate existing restrictions and open up new markets for value added services. Compared with other wireless Internet services, the 2.3GHz spectrum allows a wider coverage area, usually between 3 to 5 kilometers from base stations.

- SK Telecom is expected to take steps to establish a digital media center (DMC) on its own, signaling a possible clash with BSI-KDMC, a consortium formed by the LG Group. SK Telecom has been pushing its DMC business as it attempts to find fresh sources of income and ways to leverage its dominance in the mobile industry. The firm believes conventional services like voice and data through mobile phones are not growing enough and therefore are looking to DMC - a field where telecommunications and broadcasting overlap - as an opportunity to create and develop a new market.

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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