A week in tech

A round up of the latest tech news.



- Sharp Corp. has developed a small LCD (liquid crystal display) module that has a wide viewing angle like that of a conventional television. With LCDs to date, the contrasts of images become inverted when viewed from an angle. But with Sharp's new module, images retain their proper appearance from any angle. The module will also display clear images regardless of ambient light. Sharp, which will begin sample shipments in December, expects the small module to be used in mobile phones and hand-held TVs.

- Toshiba Corp. plans to launch a personal organizer in late October that will be able to make low-cost phone calls via the Internet. The organizer will be able to relay a telephone call over a high-speed Internet connection using a short-range wireless technology, known as Wi-Fi. When a call is carried via the Internet, the user can circumvent the high call charges telephone companies typically levy on long-distance and international calls. Instead, they simply have to pay for the cost of the Internet connection and sometimes a small fee to a specialist service provider.

- A group of about 100 home electronics and telecommunications firms will team up to draft a wireless communications protocol that will enable the operation of multiple digital home appliances via a single remote control. The project, which uses high-speed wireless Internet technology, will be led by the Communications Research Laboratory. Corporate participants include such domestic firms as Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Sharp Corp., NEC Corp. and Sanyo Electric Co. Foreign-affiliated firms like Microsoft Co. and IBM Japan Ltd. will participate as well.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming

- Nintendo Co. expects to post a net loss for the fiscal first half due to the strong yen. The videogame maker also said it is cutting the price of its GameCube console in Japan and Europe, following price cuts last week in the U.S., in a continuing effort to revive sales of the videogame machine. Nintendo will book ¥40 billion ($361 million) of foreign-exchange losses for the first half, which ended Sept. 30. As a result, it expects to report a first-half net loss of ¥3 billion ($27.1 million), compared to earlier expectations of a profit of ¥15 billion ($135.3 million). The company also cut its earnings outlook for the current fiscal year by 7.7%, saying it now expects to report net profit of ¥60 billion ($540.1 million) for the year through March 2004, down from its earlier forecast of ¥65 billion ($586 million). For the prior fiscal year, Nintendo posted a group net profit of ¥67.3 billion ($606.7 million) on sales of ¥504.1 billion ($4.5 billion).

Mobile / Wireless

- Pia Corp. will start offering an electronic ticketing service that uses mobile phones in the greater Tokyo area. The service enables customers who have registered at Pia's website to download ticket data they purchased online into their cellular phones and use the phones as tickets to various events. Pia will set up data-reading devices at 40 locations, including the New National Theatre in Tokyo and the Tokyo Dome. It plans to expand the service area to 300 sites within two years. Initially, only NTT DoCoMo Inc. handsets with infrared data functions will be compatible with the service. But eventually, customers will be able to use other firms' handsets and smart cards.


- Hitachi Ltd. is teaming up with Paltiosoft Inc. to offer software with a built-in meter so users pay only for the features they need and the time they actually use the application. Paltiosoft has developed digital rights management technology that functions like a "software battery" to meter use of the application. The user pays ahead of time for access to certain features of the application for a certain length of time, and can then use the application until this software battery runs out.



- John Koo, a member of LG Group's founding family, quit as chairman and chief executive of South Korea's LG Electronics Inc. and is expected to take a position at another company in which the family owns a stake. It was unclear why Mr. Koo resigned. Mr. Koo, 56, a nephew of the group's late founder, had been with LG Electronics since 1987 and was named chairman last year. LG Electronics has named Vice Chairman Kim Ssang Su as chief executive.

- Samsung Electronics Co.'s memory division expects the third-quarter operating margin from its operations to be much higher than the second quarter. The company attributed the better outlook to an increase in demand for flash memory chips. Samsung does not disclose the operating margin for its memory division alone. However, the operating-profit margin from its semiconductor business, which includes memory chips, thin-film transistor liquid-crystal displays and system large-scale integrated circuits, was 15% for the second quarter.

Information Technology

— The Ministry of Information and Communication unveiled a plan to help small enterprises purchase computers and digital infrastructure, a move aimed at helping them better utilize the country's high-speed internet and e-commerce facilities. The ministry said corporate productivity has been improving thanks to the government-led programs to help small- and medium-sized enterprises exploit the Internet and digital infrastructure. The country's e-commerce transactions were worth W177 trillion won ($154 billion) in 2002, helped by the trend in favour of electronic business.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming

- NeoWiz has boosted its stance in the online game portal industry with its new website http://www.pmang.com, disturbing the market dominance of HanGame, a unit of NHN Corp., and Netmarble Inc. NeoWiz first gained popularity by introducing paid online services such as avatar design and hosting. The company launched its own online game portal site in mid-August. NeoWiz's pmang secured the top position in the week ended Sept. 27 in terms of the number of visitors per hour, outpacing both Netmarble and HanGame. Rankey.com, a web ranking agency, said it was the first defeat for HanGame and Netmarble, which had been trading off the No. 1 and 2 positions, since October of 2001.

Mobile / Wireless

- SK Telecom has successfully completed a wireless data roaming test between Korea and China, marking a major step forward in the company's efforts to enter the Chinese mobile service market. The company said its subscribers will be able to use all mobile data services from China before the end of October. Voice phone roaming service in China is already available for SK Telecom subscribers. The Korea-China data roaming service has been made possible through SK Telecom's partnership with China Unicom. The Chinese carrier runs a cdma2000 1x network, which in turn authenticates the roaming handsets before linking them with SK Telecom's wireless Internet portal, Nate.com.

- Korean handset maker Telson Electronics received an order from Verizon Wireless to supply 150,000 CDMA phones worth $27.45 million in November. The company would sign a formal contract with the U.S. wireless carrier to expand the shipments beginning from early December. The deal follows on the heels of Telson's announcement of a US$36.5 million contract to ship CDMA handsets to U.S. distributor Brightstar Corp.

- SK Telecom is increasing its lead in the mobile telecommunications field, while KTF and LG Telecom are seeing their number of subscribers decline. SK Telecom recorded 18 million members at the end of last month, a 62,868 increase from the previous month. In the meantime, KTF and LG Telecom saw their memberships decline by 2,053 people and 7,541 people, respectively.

- KT Corp. has launched Wi-Fi hotspots in Incheon International Airport, the main gateway to the country. To encourage foreign visitors to sign up for the service, KT said it has operated an English-language homepage since June and simplified payment by accepting credit cards.


- The Korean government is set to launch an aggressive nationwide campaign against software piracy beginning Oct. 19, according to the Ministry of Information and Communication. Under the new regulations, the anti-piracy campaign will allow the ministry's officials to conduct independent investigations and issue warrants. Until now, ministry officials have not been allowed to investigate piracy suspects without police or prosecution input.


- Hanaro Telecom Inc. is now staging a campaign to receive proxy votes from minority shareholders, a move that might put a new spin on the ongoing battle for ownership for Hanaro. The battle pits a foreign consortium led by Newbridge Capital and AIG against LG Group-- who is Hanaro's largest shareholder with an 18% stake, but opposes the transaction.



- Cisco Systems Inc. and China's Huawei Technologies Co. agreed to suspend a copyright lawsuit in which Cisco accused Huawei of copying key portions of the software for its routers that direct traffic over the Internet. In a joint statement, the companies had asked an outside expert to review changes that Huawei made in some of its Internet gear, including portions of the software, the commands used to control the equipment, the user manuals and online help files. The companies agreed to suspend the lawsuit for as much as six months for that review, which the companies said they expect "will lead to the end of the lawsuit."

Mobile / Wireless

- China Unicom Group has bought one million CDMA mobile phones to be sold to new customers, a move it hopes will push down the market price for the phones and stimulate demand for the company's services. China's second-largest mobile-phone operator paid about 1,500 yuan (US$181) each for the handsets, which support high-speed CDMA technology and come equipped with color screens. In China, mobile-phone handsets are typically sold separately from the service itself. China Unicom Group has broken with that tradition by subsidizing phones for new CDMA subscribers if they sign up for a long-term service contract.

Singapore / Malaysia / Philippines / Indonesia

Mobile / Wireless

- Nokia won a contract to supply the third-generation (3G) network of Singapore mobile phone operator Starhub Mobile. Starhub declined to specify the exact value of the Nokia contract, but Starhub expected to invest some S$200 million ($115 million) to build and roll out its 3G network over the next five years. StarHub began its 3G network rollout early this year through the acquisition and preparation of transmission sites for its 3G base stations.

Hong Kong


- Tom.com has quickly jumped into a gap in the online chat services market that Microsoft vacated this week by acquiring a voice messaging company for up to $150 million. The company would buy Beijing Leitingwuji Network Technology from Chau Hoi-shuen, who has a 24.7% shareholding in Tom.com. The move comes just a day after Microsoft announced it would shut down its Internet chat rooms in Asia.

Mobile / Wireless

- Peoples Phone will raise about HK$1.25 billion ($160.3 million) on the stock market as early as March next year. The company had received three proposals from investment banks concerning its planned main-board listing in Hong Kong, with at least one valuing the firm at more than HK$5 billion ($641 million). Peoples, which is 54.4% held by China Resources Holdings, will appoint a sponsor when its board meets this week. The company wants to speed up the listing process with its new target set for as early as March.

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:

www.irg.bizIRG logo

Share our publication on social media
Share our publication on social media