a-week-in-tech-september-511

A week in tech, September 5-11

A roundup of all the latest tech news.
Japan

Internet
ò Japan is setting up a project to counter what it perceives to be the global dominance of Google and other foreign Internet services. According to the director of the information service industry of the countryÆs ministry of trade, JapanÆs competitiveness can still be found in its core technology even as it needs to create a new value-added service. The Japanese project is comprised of 10 partnerships, each tasked with a specific next-generation search function. Under the alliance, the government has partnered NTT Data with Toyota InfoTechnology Center and Toyota Mapmaster to create an interactive, personalized car navigation system. The other alliances have put together NEC, Hitachi and Sony Computer Science Laboratories. For the project, the ministry of trade said it has allocated Ñ14 billion-Ñ15 billion ($123 million-$132 million).

Mobile/Wireless
ò Fujitsu has release a smartphone exclusively made for the Japan market in a move that marks the entry of the company into the smartphone market. The device called the F1100 is a traditional Windows Mobile slider phone with a 2.6-touch sensitive screen which is also used for fingerprint identification to unlock the keypad. The F1100 will be available on the NTT DoCoMo 3G FOMA network. Fujitsu said the device does not have GSM connectivity, which means that it cannot be used outside Japan. Industry sources say the company will be addressing that limitation in the future.

ò Softbank Corp, the Japanese mobile phone carrier, added a net 188,900 subscribers in August. The carrier described the figure as more than what its rivals have registered for the fourth straight month. KDDI Corp, occupying the number two slot, reported adding 158,500 users, while market sources indicated that NTT DoCoMo lost some 22,900 users.

Hardware
ò Bandai Co. and Buffalo Inc. are releasing a device that will make computers safe for kids. The device, jointly developed by the two companies, is a "key" to be inserted into a personal computer's USB port that will prevent young children from accessing pornographic or other objectionable web sites. The key also restricts what software the child can use and imposes a time limitation on the use of the computer. The key comes in two models, one featuring Mickey Mouse and the other Winnie the Pooh. The device is made for children aged six to nine and is scheduled to be on sale soon through major home electronics stores and other dealers for about Ñ3,480 ($30.60).

Information Technology
ò NTT DoCoMo has revived a plan to offer data centre services to Japanese companies based in Thailand through its wholly owned subsidiary NTT Communications Thailand. NTT DoCoMo previously offered data centre services through a joint venture with Shin Corp before that company was dissolved in 2001. According to an NTT Thailand official, there are about 300 Japanese companies in Thailand without data centre facilities, about 20% of which are expected to transfer to NTTÆs service once the system is in place.

Telecommunications
ò Flag Telecom, an international provider of bandwidth owned by Reliance Communications in India, has awarded a $1.5 billion contract to Fujitsu Ltd. for the construction of Flag's next generation network (NGN) submarine cable. Under the agreement, four new cable systems will be constructed across the Mediterranean, East Africa, Asia and the Pacific region. The project is set to be completed by March 2010. Reliance said the new IP (Internet Protocol) network over submarine cable will nearly double the length of the Flag global network to 115,000 kilometres from the current 65,000 km.

Korea

Internet
ò Industry sources say the move of major portals such as Naver and Daum to introduce a ôtemporary measureö to shut down blogs or community sites or to remove postings whenever there is a request from the person involved, has caused protests from users. The measure follows an instruction from the government. Naver, the dominant web portal site, said it was inevitable to institute the policy since current laws focusing on printed media cannot properly deal with online libel cases. Naver said it is still blocking the postings in order to keep cyber space clean from further problems.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming
ò NCsoft, Webzen and Gravity disclosed that they are utilizing Autodesk, Inc.'s 3D modeling, animation and rendering software to deliver some of the most-anticipated massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs). MMOGs enable millions of players to simultaneously interact in an online game. The announcement said characters, objects and entire worlds for the AION, Huxley and Ragnarok Online II upcoming MMOG titles are being shaped with Autodesk products. Established in 1997, NCsoft is a leading developer and publisher of online computer games, with offices in South Korea, the US, Japan, the UK, China, Taiwan and Thailand. Webzen is a global digital entertainment leader that developed MU Online, South Korea's first-ever online 3D game. Gravity is a global entertainment company that has fuelled the growth of the Korean online game industry with Ragnarok Online, the country's leading MMORPG (massively multiplayer online roll playing game).

ò NCsoft announced has finally set the release of its much-anticipated sci-fi computer game Tabula Rasa in North America and Europe for October. Tabula Rasa is a MMORPG developed by NCsoft's North American office, led by celebrity game designer Richard Garriott. The company said the game took six years to complete. Depicting galactic warfare between different species, the game is aimed at a Western audience.

Mobile/Wireless
ò Posdata has secured an agreement with KT and CJ Home Shopping to sell its Mobile WiMAX modems using the partners' sales networks. The mobile Internet receiver is the size of a matchbox and can be plugged into the USB port of desktop and laptop computers. Under the deal, the company said it plans to release various forms of the mobile communication devices later this year, including one in the shape of a memory card. The company also said that the products will be available in other countries.

Hardware
ò Samsung Electronics got the top position on the local PC market, with its sales totaling 336,000 units in the second quarter alone, according to Gartner. The figures are nearly double those of rival LG Electronics. The report said quarterly sales of LG Electronics reached 135,000 units and captured 12% of the market û well behind SamsungÆs 29.7%. Hewlett-Packard Korea was number three with a 10.1% market share, up 1.5 percentage points from the first quarter, and sales of 114,000 units. The rise in local PC sales in the second quarter is ascribed to steady demand from both the private and government sectors.

ò Industry observers note that LG Electronics, South Korea's leading manufacturer of digital media products, is experiencing intense competition in the European market for liquid crystal display (LCD) TVs and the company has said it is in talks to outsource its entire LCD TV production in Europe to Daewoo Electronics. If an agreement is sealed, Daewoo is likely to produce some 100,000 mid-sized LCD TVs at its plant in Poland for LG by the end of this year. LG disclosed that the company will also invest W500 billion ($530 million) in its LCD cluster there over the next four years in a bid to boost annualised production capacity of 37-, 42-, 47-, 52- and 55-inch LCD TVs to 10 million by 2010.
The company said it will purchase LCD panels from its rivals Samsung Electronics and Sharp as the competition intensifies in the over 50-inch segment in one of the world's biggest markets alongside North America. Industry sources say the European digital TV market is expected to reach between 33 million and 35 million units in 2008 from 26 million this year. According to DisplaySearch, global LCD TV sales grew 28% to $14.4 billion in the second quarter from a year ago, while plasma TV sales posted a decline of almost 30% to $3.4 billion.

Semiconductors
ò As part of plans to concentrate on the profitable NAND chip business, Hynix-STMicroelectronics N.V. has decided to sell its low-margin 200mm DRAM (8-inch) chip wafer line at its Wuxi plant to China Resources Holdings (CRH). The deal, which has been valued at around $400 million, has been described as a way for the company to reorganize and concentrate on its NAND chip business, which is considered more profitable. NAND flash memory chips are used in electronic gadgets such as MP3 players, mobile phones and digital cameras. No financial details of the deal were disclosed. Hynix, the worldÆs third-largest NAND supplier in terms of market share (14.6%) after Samsung Electronics (45.9%) and Toshiba (27.5%), has a joint venture in China with STMicroelectronics. CRH is the holding company of chip foundry CSMC Technologies Corp. CRH said it would invest $1.2 billion to expand its semiconductor production in Wuxi to produce higher valued 8-inch wafers.

ò Hynix Semiconductor, the worldÆs third-largest NAND supplier, announced that it has developed the industryÆs first multi-chip package (MCP). The company said the product boasts 24-stacked NAND flash memory chips that is only 1.4 millimetres thick. Hynix said the new technology greatly enhances memory capacity by enabling 16 gigabyte NAND flash to produce up to 384 Gb of storage in a single consumer electronics device, enough to hold up to 25 DVD movies or some 12,000 music files.
MCP is a combination of flash memory and SRAM in a single package and used for mobile handset applications.
Market observers note that the MCP market is one of the most delicate sectors in semiconductor technology, as it requires a combination of key processes such as wafer thinning, redistribution layer, chip sawing and wire bonding technologies. Hynix entered the MCP market in 2001, tapping on the synergies from its flash and SRAM products.

China

Internet
ò Tom Group announced the official delisting of its subsidiary Tom Online from the Hong Kong stock exchange. The company said that Tom Online's withdrawal from the local stock market had been approved on August 31 and that Tom Online is also withdrawing from NASDAQ.

ò Ninetowns has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire a 22% equity interest in Hangzhou Tophere Info-Tech, a Chinese business-to-business online food and beverage trade facilitator headquartered in Hangzhou. Tophere has built a professional food and beverage industry B2B Internet portal that offers domestic marketing services for food and beverage suppliers and manufacturers based in China. The company said it also started to provide integrated sourcing services for international buyers. Tophere maintains a B2B website at 21food.cn, where it has reportedly successfully conducted various trade transactions between domestic buyers and suppliers. The deal is valued at Rmb5 million ($663,305). Market sources note that Ninetowns has launched various B2B initiatives this year, including its B2B search and service platform, tootoo.com.

ò Chinese online bookstore Dangdang.com has revealed plans to enter into an agreement with publishing giant Wiley to sell books in the Mainland. According to Dangdang, it has an inventory of more than 2,000 books from Wiley in its warehouse, which can be delivered to consumers at the same speed as the company delivers Chinese books. Wiley is a leading publisher for scientific, technical, and medical communities worldwide.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming
ò CDC Corporation reported a net loss of $3.2 million for the second quarter to June 30, 2007, compared with a net income of $8.0 million in the same period last year. The company, however, announced a rise of 35% in its total revenue to $103.9 million, marking the first time in the company's history that quarterly revenues have gone beyond US$100 million and the sixth consecutive quarter with record revenues. The company said its China.com business, which includes the portal and MVAS (market value added services) business, reported a decline of 45.5% in its revenues to $6.3 million for the second quarter of 2007, from the same period of 2006. Total revenues from CDC Games went up 17.3% to $9 million.

ò The9 has launched the open beta for its latest massively multiplayer online roll-playing game (MMORPG) Granado Espada. The open beta is limited to selected players only. Although the game has not done well in the South, it has become a top game in both Singapore and Thailand. Having depended on World of Warcraft for its revenue stream, The9 said it is looking to diversify its portfolio and will commit significant resources in the marketing and operation of Granado Espada. The company has also launched World of Warcraft expansion pack, The Burning Crusade (TBC), ahead of schedule. The update adds new races, maps, dungeons and other content and increases the maximum level limit by 10 to 70. As a result of the intellectual property lawsuit by Founder Tech, The Burning Crusade has replaced all fonts under dispute.

ò Shanda has licensed South Korean casual game Free Jack, which is developed by Wise On. The casual game is about the newly emerged street ninja culture where players can choose to play in various scenarios including downtown, parks and residential areas. Shanda did not release a specific launch date in China, but said the title would be in open beta in the first half of 2008.

Mobile/Wireless
ò Jingwei International has entered into a new deal that will make it the exclusive provider of mobile advertising services to China Unicom. Under the deal, Jingwei will help to identify potential advertisers and the ideal target audience for the advertiser. The deal will see Jingwei conducting the SMS or Push WAP campaign on behalf of the advertiser and recognise revenue for each message sent or banner ad launched. Part of the deal will enable Jingwei to analyse the response data and help the advertiser to continually improve its media placement strategy.

ò China Mobile has reached a deal with China Radio International (CRI), the third group in China that has secured a mobile phone television business license from the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television. This agreement follows the deal that China Mobile has struck with Shanghai Media Group. Currently, China Mobile and China Unicom each has three partners for mobile phone television services. China Mobile's service is run on 2.75G EDGE network, while that of China Unicom is run on CDMA.

Software
ò Global Data Solutions, HP and Microsoft have entered into an agreement to jointly invest more than Rmb800 million ($106.1 million) to build a high availability data centre in Chengdu. When completed, the centre is expected to be the largest of its kind in China. The centre will include a disaster preparation centre, data processing for enterprises and personal information arrangement services. It is also designed to serve banking, securities, insurance and government institutions. Focusing on disaster recovery services, the centre is envisioned to be linked up with disaster recovery centres in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen to form a large network.

ò CDC Software, a subsidiary of CDC Corporation, has announced a plan to acquire US-based Catalyst International, a provider of supply chain execution solutions and services. CDC Software explained that Catalyst's software solutions and services are highly complementary to its IMI Supply Chain product line and the company's CDC Global Services operations. The IMI suite of supply chain solutions supports demand-driven fulfilment in multi-company, multi-site and multi-channel environments.

ò According to Changzhou National Hi-Tech District, UFIDA Software is setting up a new research and development base in the Changzhou Software Park in Jiangsu. This development marks the fourth R&D base established by UFIDA Software outside its headquarters. The company said the new base will develop the company's next generation of UFIDA Tong SMB management software, as one of its three strategic production lines. With more than half a million customers spread all over the world, UFIDA has grown into one of the largest corporate management software suppliers based in the Asia-Pacific Region.

Hardware
ò Haier will set up a joint venture company with Henan Zhongcheng Computer Company to produce computers for consumers in the countryside, according to the vice governor of Henan Province. Media sources say the new company is expected to produce more than 300,000 computers each year, a production that is seen as releasing some 1 million computers for rural residents in three and a half years. Sources indicate that Intel will provide significant assistance to Haier in the production of computers, the first batch of which is expected to be ready by October. Media sources has also reported that Haier has secured a contract with Macedonia's Education Department to sell 100,000 computers. The value of the deal has been placed at about Ç24 million ($33 million). The 100,000 computers will be used in 164 middle and primary schools across Macedonia.

ò Suning has reported a 60.5% increase in its total business revenue for the first half of 2007 to Rmb18.9 billion ($2.5 billion), compared with the same period of last year. The Chinese electronics retailer said its net profit went up 110.6% to Rmb578 million ($76.6 million) over the same period last year, with the company estimating a 70%-100% rise in its accumulated net profit in the first nine months of 2007. By the end of June 30 this year, Suning had set up a total of 413 franchise stores in more than 103 cities across China. The company said it has filed an application with the China Securities Regulatory Commission in a bid to further improve its franchise business and boost its scale through a non-public issue of stock.

Ventures/Investments
ò Industry sources say that Shanghai United Investment Co., Ltd (SUIC) has opted to withdraw from its MSN China joint venture company and is right now seeking a buyer for its 50% stake in the JV. MSN China was formed by Microsoft and SUIC in May 2005.

Telecommunications
ò ZTE announced that it has formally secured a GSM expansion contract with China Mobile's Pakistan holding company CMPAK. Under the deal, ZTE will use its new generation All-IP V3 hardware platform based equipment for the expansion which will cover 10 million DPI core network and more than 1400 base stations. According to a ZTE official, the presence of the two Chinese telecom companies' cooperation in a foreign country indicates the rapid progress that China has achieved in the telecom industry.

Information Technology
ò Hifn, a network and information security agency, has built a new office in Beijing to provide customer support, marketing and sales activities to local customers. The company has a presence in China and maintains big clients such as Huawei, ZTE and Galaxywind.
Taiwan

Telecommunications
ò FitelÆs board of directors has approved the issuance of 250 million new shares for sale to target investors at a tentative price of NT$12 apiece in a bid to raise NT$3 billion ($91 million) in capital. The company said it will use the funds to set up and operate a WiMAX network. The company is a WiMAX licensee for the northern region of Taiwan. The private placement plan, including the final price and possibly the list of target investors, is subject to approval by shareholders at a general meeting slated for November 2007. The company said the private placement will be carried out in two or three rounds over a period of one year following the approval According to is president, Fitel has been negotiating the private placement with three or four Taiwan-based IT system integration companies and communication hardware makers. Media sources say Motorola is interested in investing in Fitel through the placement.

Semiconductors
ò Advanced Semiconductor Engineering (ASE) has announced that it will purchase the remaining shares of its affiliate ASE Test at a cost of US$784 million. The company expects this move to make ASE Test a wholly-owned subsidiary of ASE. Under the deal, ASE will acquire 49% of the ASE Test shares at $14.70 per share. The acquisition will be completed by the end of December.

ò Usun Technology will list on Taiwan's over-the-counter (OTC) stock market in September with a trading price of NT$70 ($2.10). The Taiwan-based company boasts product services that include equipment replacement of fourth-generation (4G) and 5G plants. These services will help panel makers reduce manpower costs and rapidly increase capacity. The company is setting up a new logistics automatic equipment plant in Guangdong Province with the construction scheduled to be completed in the first quarter of 2008. Sources say the new plant will serve the LCM plant of Chi Mei Optoelectronics (CMO), which is also located in the same area. Usun is expected to have revenues of over NT$2.1 billion ($63.5 million) in 2007, with net profits of NT$347 million ($10.4 million).

Mobile/Wireless
ò Vibo Telecom, a 3G mobile service provider in Taiwan, has released its first mobile online game, Song Dynasty Heroes. The game is available for free to subscribers of mobile Internet-access services in cooperation with EzMoBo, a local provider of mobile value-added services. Song Dynasty Heroes was developed by a Chinese company and has about 100,000 member users in China with a concurrence level of over 10,000 players at present. EzMoBo has obtained a license to operate the online game in Taiwan and is responsible for managing it for Vibo.

Hardware
ò Acer has initiated a tender offer for all the outstanding shares of Gateway at a price of $1.90 per share. Earlier in August, Acer announced that it had signed a definitive agreement to acquire Gateway. In a separate development, Gateway disclosed that it has signed a definitive agreement to sell its Professional business segment to MPC Corporation. The acquisition of Gateway by Acer has been unanimously approved by the boards of directors of both Gateway and Acer.

Hong Kong

Internet
ò 6rooms.com, a Chinese online video-sharing web site, has entered into an agreement with Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV to broadcast PhoenixÆs TV programs on the website. Under the partnership, the two companies will share advertising revenues from the broadcasts. According to the CEO of 6rooms, the partnership is expected to strengthen the website, which does not currently offer high-quality, copyrighted content.

Mobile/Wireless
ò Hong Kong officially announced the auction for its fifth 3G mobile network operation license. Industry observers note that compared to the previous four licenses, the new license calls for the CDMA2000 standard. The starting price is set at HK$76 million ($9.7 million). Sources say China Unicom is set to bid for the license. As the only CDMA network operator in Mainland China and a licensed operator in Macau, China Unicom is looking to generate profit from roaming services for Mainland Chinese going to Hong Kong.

Singapore/Malaysia/Philippines/Indonesia

Telecommunications
ò NTT DoCoMo Inc announced in a regulatory filing that it has upped its stake in Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co (PLDT) to 17.8% following a series of purchases of PLDT common shares and American Depositary Receipts (ADR) in August. The Japanese company acquired an additional 2.1 million common shares and ADRs equivalent to a 1.1% stake in PLDT, the PhilippinesÆ biggest company by market value. DoCoMo and its affiliate NTT Communications Corp have an existing agreement with PLDT's controlling shareholder, Hong Kong-listed First Pacific, that it will not acquire more than 21% of common shares in PLDT. In July, PLDT Chairman Manuel Pangilinan said First Pacific was in talks to sell some of its shares in PLDT to DoCoMo.

Mobile/Wireless
ò Nokia has announced that Indosat, a leading telecommunications and information service provider in Indonesia, will offer Nokia Intellisync Wireless Email to its customers. The Nokia Intellisync software platform allows Indosat to address a growing and untapped market opportunity by focusing on the cost and ease of use of mobile e-mail and personal information management (PIM). Nokia said the service, an enhancement of an existing service is available immediately. Indosat Tbk provides cellular services (Mentari, Matrix and IM3), fixed telecommunications and fixed voice services.

Software
ò Media sources reported that Gurango Software Corp. (GSC), a Philippine-based software company that supports vendors of Microsoft business solutions, has acquired Absalom System, a Singapore-based human resources systems provider in a deal valued at $3 million. With the acquisition, GSC takes over AbsalomÆs proprietary products and services, particularly the Smart HR suite of applications and Employee Self-Service solutions. The acquisition instantly transforms GSC into a global company as it will take over Absalom's 300 clients around the world, including Japan's Mitsubishi, Australia's Stamford Hotels and Resorts, South Africa's Rand Merchant Bank and regional airline Jetstar Asia. These clients will add to GSC's 100 existing customers. GSC said it will continue to make software and provide service from its headquarters in the Philippines, while Absalom will provide sales and marketing support from Singapore, Australia and South Africa.
¬ Haymarket Media Limited. All rights reserved.

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