A week in tech

A round-up of all the latest tech news.

Japan

Hardware

- Sony Corp. unveiled the prototype of its PSX digital-video disc recorder, the first in a line of gadgets key to reviving its stumbling consumer-electronics business. The PSX, which is expected to go on sale in Japan late this year and in the U.S. and Europe next year, will feature a television tuner, DVD recorder and hard-disk drive -- all powered by the ultrafast microchip at the core of Sony's PlayStation 2 game console. The company hopes the PSX will be the first in a series of consumer-electronics gadgets that do things now more commonly associated with personal computers or game consoles.

- Fujitsu Ltd. has won a contract to fabricate microprocessor units with finer circuit details for U.S. chipmaker Transmeta Corp. It will produce the 90-nanometer version of Transmeta's Efficeon processor using state-of-the-art ultra-fine processing technology. The processor will be installed in small personal computers and PDAs.

- FA System Engineering Co. has developed a tiny personal computer for use as a component in appliances and other electronics. The new computer measures 106.5 x 122.5 x 68mm, making it about half the size of similar computers available to date. The computer can use the Linux, Windows, Windows XP or Windows XP Embedded operating systems. FA System Engineering's computer does not have a hard disk or a keyboard, but does have two IEEE 1394 ports and a USB (Universal Serial Bus) 2.0 port. It could be used in a robot to control movement or to facilitate wireless external control of home appliances.

Semiconductors

- Japan's leading semiconductor firms will join forces to promote the standardization of design and manufacturing technologies for chips made to a 65-nanometer design rule. Companies such as Toshiba Corp., NEC Electronics Corp. and Renesas Technology Corp. are expected to join the venture. The idea is to form something along the lines of the Advanced SoC Platform Corp. (ASPLA), which was set up by a group of 10 chipmakers to develop standardized design and manufacturing technologies for system chip devices with a 90nm rule.

- Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Fuji Xerox Co. have agreed to jointly develop optical integrated circuit technology, which promises to greatly enhance the performance of optical communications. They plan to develop fabrication equipment that can construct three-dimensional structures of metal films whose thickness is measured in nanometers. The partners aim to have commercially viable crystal structures necessary for optical chips by 2006.

Software

- Software developer Tsubasa System Co. has created form production software that is compatible with printers made by all manufacturers and is designed to be used on open source operating systems. Currently, different form output software is necessary for printers made by different companies, representing one of the obstacles to the spread of open source systems. The software also enables one server to manage form output over the Internet.

Telecommunications

- Toyo Communication Equipment Co. will increase by 30% its output of beam splitters, glass components used in correcting light in DVD recorders. It plans to invest more than 200 million yen ($1.8 million) in its Miyazaki Prefecture plant to boost consolidated production of such components to 6.5 million units a month by next March 31. Queries from domestic makers of electrical equipment have been increasing for the beam splitters, part of the optical pickups used in DVD recorders. To make the beam splitters, the glass is coated with thin layers of silicon and titanium to adjust the reflectivity.

- KDDI Corp. revised upward its group earnings estimates for the fiscal year through March, citing stronger-than-expected growth in cell phone subscribers and an increase in cell phone user revenue. Japan's second-largest cellular operator now anticipates a group net profit of ¥95 billion ($875 million), exceeding ¥71 billion ($654 million) in its outlook in July. It projects sales of ¥2.8 trillion ($25.8 billion).

Korea

Hardware

- Samsung Electronics introduced a host of new information-technology products that focus on network connectivity and chic design in a bid to carve out a bigger share of the global IT product market. In a large-scale event, Samsung showed off 29 new items including computers, printers, monitors and other IT products. Notable is that Samsung incorporated networking functions into its new IT appliances, reflecting the growing importance of broadband connectivity and home networks. Samsung would stress mobility, convenience, network connectivity and audio-video entertainment for its IT products, in applying its network-oriented policy to domestic distribution and showroom displays.

Mobile / Wireless

- Korean handset manufacturers posted record sales for the third quarter, with the two industry leaders, Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics, together selling some 22 million units domestically and overseas. Samsung Electronics sold 15 million cell phones from July to September, increases of 25% from the second quarter and 28% from a year earlier. The nation's largest handset maker is expecting to sell 55 million mobile phones this year, exceeding its yearly target by 2.5 million units. LG Electronics estimated that their handset sales during the three months hit 7 million, 32% more than the previous quarter and 65% more than a year before.

China

Information Technology

- Navis Co. will begin annually supplying 100,000 automobile navigation systems to Shenzhen Hansheng Electronic Stock Co. next month. According to officials, the navigation-system model bound for China is equipped with the fastest route guidance and map scroll functions among all Korean-made products, while also supporting entertainment options like audio CD and MP3 playback.

Taiwan

Mobile / Wireless

- AT&T Wireless Services Inc. agreed to sell its 23% stake in Far EasTone Telecommunications Co. to affiliates of the Taiwan wireless carrier's majority shareholder, Far Eastern Group, for about $330 million. As planned, the deal will occur in two stages, with 76% of AT&T Wireless's interest in the company to be sold as part of a tender offer set to expire Oct. 20 and the remainder of its shares sold in a separate transaction it expects to close in the fourth quarter. The deal comes two days after Far EasTone, Taiwan's third-largest mobile operator, agreed to buy smaller rival KG Telecommunications Co. in a deal valued at $879 million.

- Far EasTone Telecommunications Co. merged with smaller rival KG Telecommunications Co., in a deal that may reshape Taiwan's overcrowded telecommunications landscape. The NT$30 billion deal ($889.5 million) deal -- Taiwan's largest telecom industry merger to date -- will enable Far EasTone to tie up with Japan's NTT DoCoMo Inc. and give it an advantage in the race to third-generation rollout.

Semiconductors

- The world's two largest contract chip makers, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and United Microelectronics Corp., reported strong revenue for the first nine months of the year. TSMC's September monthly revenue was up 48% to a record NT$18.9 billion ($560.6 million), boosting January-September revenue to NT$144.1 billion ($4.1 billion), up 20% from a year earlier. UMC also reported September revenue rose 25% to NT$7.5 billion ($216.1 million), propelling its revenue for the first nine months of the year to NT$61.1 billion ($1.8 billion), 23% higher from a year earlier.

- Taiwan's four largest makers of DRAM chips have decided to delay indefinitely any request for their government to take trade action against Hynix Semiconductor Inc. The companies had feared Hynix would sell a large portion of its output in Taiwan after U.S. and European trade regulators slapped tariffs on Hynix chips amid allegations their chip makers were being hurt by Hynix's unfairly subsidized exports.

Singapore / Malaysia

Telecommunications

- The US government allowed the sale of a majority stake in bankrupt Global Crossing Ltd. to Singapore Technologies Telemedia (STT). The Federal Communications Commission signed off on the transfer of licenses that allowed STT to buy a 61.5% stake in Global Crossing for $250 million.

- Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. seems likely to make a profitable exit from Europe when Belgacom SA heads to market next year. SingTel owns a 12.15% interest in Belgacom, which announced plans for an initial public offering of a 35% stake valued at as much as €3.5 billion (US$4.1 billion). In selling its Belgacom holdings, SingTel stands to record a gain of S$1.5 billion ($868.6 million) on its investment.

Hong Kong

Telecommunications

- Hong Kong's government would bid to host the prestigious International Telecommunication Union's ITU Telecom World conference in 2006. Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology, John Tsang, will lobby for support from the ITU and the industry for the city to host the event in three years when he arrives in Geneva on October 13 to attend ITU Telecom World 2003. ITU Telecom World is the most prestigious gathering in the global telecommunications industry, bringing together leading industry experts, heads of state, ministers, regulators and chief executives of multinational corporations.

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