A week in tech

A summary of all the major tech stories in Asia this week.

A week in Japan tech

Life Sciences

- Mitsubishi, Olympus Optical, JSR and Shin-Etsu Chemical join association to promote biotech venture investments and business collaborations. They hope the organization will help them find investment outlets and partners in technological development and marketing. The Cosmos Alliance was established in part under the initiative of Frank Young, former commissioner of the U.S. FDA.

Telecommunications

- The government is expected to boost interconnection fees paid by new carriers to access the networks of NTT’s two regional arms by about 5% in fiscal 2003. The hike, which would mark a reversal from the continued cuts since fiscal 1994, makes it all but certain that new entrants in phone services will be forced to raise their communications charges.

Internet

- Yahoo Japan group net profit for the third fiscal quarter through December surges 134% from the same period the year before to ¥3.55 billion ($30 million). The results underline the boost Yahoo's earnings are receiving from its online auction and broadband Internet services. Group revenue soared 86% to ¥16.33 billion from a year ago thanks to a surge in income from its online auction business.

- Softbank and E*Trade Japan KK opens talks for a possible merger to create a comprehensive financial services company. Once they agree on the merger they will request a special shareholders meeting held in late March to approve the move. E*Trade Japan is a local joint venture between E*Trade of the U.S. and Softbank. The U.S. online broker has a 36% stake in E*Trade Japan.

Software

- Hitachi and Veritas jointly develop software that allows their software products to be compatible. The software will make data management systems simpler to operate. The new JP1/Veritas NetBackup v4.5 Agent for HiRDB License is made to link Hitachi's HiRDB database products with the JP1/Veritas NetBackup products developed by Veritas that are sold by Hitachi.

Hardware

- Sales of PCs dropped 11% to less than 10.03 million last year mainly due to cutbacks in corporate IT investment. The decline was the largest since JEITA began keeping track of domestic sales in 1990. The yen value of PC shipments also fell 11% to below ¥1.68 trillion yen, also the biggest decline ever.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming

- Sony to enter the DVD video camera market, competing with industry pioneer Hitachi to capture growing demand. Sony will initially sell its DVD video cameras in the U.S. before expanding to Japan by the end of the year. Future marketing plans include Europe and the rest of Asia as well. Sony plans to market three models, with the least expensive selling for less than $1,000 in the U.S.

- Sony, Pioneer and two audiovisual manufacturers to develop a format for downloading music into audio equipment through the Internet. The format will include functions enabling audio equipment to be connected to the Internet without needing a personal computer and for preventing unauthorized copying of music.

A week in Korea tech

Telecommunications

- Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics poised to win a $426 million deal to supply next-generation wireless networks to SK IMT. Canada's Nortel Networks Corp. was a backup candidate. However, an SK Telecom spokesman indicated that the choice of Samsung and LG was all but official. The two South Korean companies beat out Nokia and Alcatel to win the contract.

- SK Telecom announces a share buy-back plan and said it might scale back a controversial investment program. However, signs of a possible flip-flop in its business strategy, just a day after South Korea's second-biggest issue fell by the daily limit of 15 per cent, caused shares to finish down 4 per cent at a two-year low of W178,000.

Mobile / Wireless

- The mobile payment market expected to grow to 450 billion won. Major players said they view the market in a positive way. The wireless transaction service market was valued at 210-270 billion won in 2002. Major mobile payment service providers are encouraging carriers to unveil related data to grasp the exact value of the so-called micro-payment transactions via mobile networks.

- SK fourth-quarter net profit falls 24% from a year earlier to 164 billion won ($140 million), mainly due to incurred losses from its equity swap with KT Corp. and a rise in nonoperating expenses. The company's nonoperating expenses during the fourth quarter rose to W424.5 billion from W186 billion a year earlier.

Hardware

- LG Electronics to invest a total $1.35 billion in R&D, fixed capital and marketing for its digital-television (DTV) operations through 2005. The company will channel $850 million for research and development to build a global production structure and develop technology for DRV production. $500 million will be spent on marketing. It plans to focus on North America, Europe and China.

A week in China tech

Telecommunications

- The government is to issue new regulations on telecommunications aimed at clarifying the handling of foreign investment and domestic market disputes. The planned new rules, announced by Su Jinsheng, director of the Telecommunication Administration Bureau of the Ministry of Information Industry, promise to address some pressing issues in China's huge and rapidly-changing telecom sector.

Mobile / Wireless

- ST Microelectronics NV to license TD-SCDMA technology to develop chip components for future phones using TD-SCDMA, or time division synchronous code division multiple access, technology. TD-SCDMA has the firm backing of China's government, which oversees the world's largest mobile-phone market.

- Samsung Electronics and Philips Electronics plan TD-SCDMA JV with the main TD-SCDMA developer, state-run Datang Mobile Communications Equipment Ltd. Dubbed T3G Technology Ltd., the new venture will produce chipsets, hardware and software to make it easier for manufacturers to introduce cellphones based on the Chinese home-grown technology.

Software

- AsiaInfo swings to a loss in the fourth quarter of 2002 and said its outlook for 2003 remains murky. Executives blamed the company's poor performance on the continuing turmoil among China's state-owned telecom operators, who are re-arranging their spending priorities after emerging from a government-ordered restructuring early last year.

Internet

- Sohu.com reports its first significant profit in the fourth quarter of 2002. The company said it would continue to be profitable in both the first quarter and full year of 2003. For the quarter ended December, Sohu said it earned net income of $1.9 million on revenue of $10.6 million. The largest and fastest-growing component was Sohu's consumer business, whose quadrupled on year to $6.3 million. Also, riding the wave of enthusiasm for basketball star Yao Ming, Sohu.com officially launches a Chinese-language site devoted to the National Basketball Association (NBA). The 2.26-metre Yao, from Shanghai, started playing last October for the Houston Rockets and has become a hero in his home country, helped by averaging 12.9 points and eight rebounds a game.

- A South Korean Internet company is suing NetEase.com for $1 million, alleging the Chinese website operator copied its cartoon images without permission. Mr K, a privately held Korean company, filed a lawsuit in Shanghai. The case is the first intellectual property lawsuit involving domestic and overseas companies in the internet industry since China joined the WTO in December 2001.

A week in Taiwan tech

Semiconductors

- United Microelectronics raises its stake in Silicon Integrated Systems to 15.8% of outstanding shares. UMC purchased 14 million of SiS' Global Depositary Receipts, or 10.48% of its GDR shares, for $103.8 million. The company has no set target on the amount of SiS shares it will purchase. UMC has spent $104.7 million on SiS shares since late December.

Venture Capital / Investments

- KMT places $719 million of its assets in a trust managed by Credit Suisse Group, furthering the Swiss bank's goal of expanding lending in Taiwan and China. The world's fourth-biggest money manager will oversee about 7% of the party's NT$350 billion of assets. The Swiss bank is chasing lending and advisory business in both Taiwan and China, who both joined the WTO within the past 18 months.

A week in Singapore / Malaysia tech

Semiconductors

- Electronics companies expected to report mixed results for last year in the wake of a global electronics slump. The bright spot was Venture, which is expected to record 29 per cent profit growth to $173.7 million. Chartered Semiconductor and ST Assembly Test Services are both expected to report losses, while soundcard-maker Creative Technology is forecast to return to profitability.

A week in Hong Kong tech

Telecommunications

- PCCW is pinning its wireless strategy on Wi-Fi technology, as it doubles the number of public installations for wireless local area networks (WLANs) in Hong Kong this year. More than 100 hot spots were installed last year across Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and Lantau. PCCW was ramping up public Wi-Fi coverage this year to 300 or more. PCCW is the only commercial Wi-Fi operator in Hong Kong.

Mobile / Wireless

- Peoples Telephone to deploy a 3G alternative that will deliver near-3G speeds at a fraction of that technology's cost. CEO Charles Henshaw said the network offered theoretical maximum speeds of 384 Kbps and the bandwidth to deliver advanced wireless applications for the next two to three years, before wideband code division mulitiple access (WCDMA) became affordable to the consumer.

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