A week in Japan tech
- NTT-ME is to begin sales of SS8 Networks communications equipment that establishes connectivity between IP telephone services with noncompatible signaling protocols. NTT-ME plans to market the device, as well as systems configured with the unit, to communications carriers and businesses using IP phone systems. NTT-ME targets sales of 1 billion yen by March 2004.
- Only 33% of Internet service providers are profitable, according to a survey by Nihon Keizai Shimbun and the Japan Internet Providers Association. Some 23.6% of the respondents said they are operating at a loss, up 4 points from last year's survey, and 36.1% are breaking even, up 4.1 points. Of small and midsize providers, 21.3% are operating at a profit and 29.3% are operating at a loss.
- NEC and Toshiba agree to develop next-generation memory chips that reduce power consumption in a bid to compete with overseas rivals. The deal will involve the development of magnetic random access memory (MRAM) chips that substantially increase the length of time notebook personal computers and mobile phones can operate on a single battery charge.
- Toshiba is to increase outsourcing of system chips to allow its domestic factories to focus on the production of high-value goods. As demand increases, it will outsource work to South Korea's Dongbu Electronics and Israel's Tower Semiconductor. It also plans to accelerate outsourcing of downstream operations to overseas subsidiaries in countries such as China and Thailand.
- Major Chinese chip foundry is to establish a wholly owned subsidiary in Japan capitalized at Y10 million to lure more orders from local comprehensive chipmakers. Toshiba and Fujitsu are currently the only Japanese comprehensive chipmakers that do business with Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC), the first full-fledged foundry in China.
Media, Entertainment and Gaming
- Sega has jointly developed with Microsoft a computer graphics substrate which makes it easier to convert software for home-use game consoles into software for commercial game machines and vice versa. Sega has already started producing the substrate, a core component in game machines, and is set to begin marketing it to game machine makers by the end of this year.
- Japanese software developers are positioning for a new battle over the next frontier of videogame play. Analysts say online games, in which users go head-to-head over Internet connections, could hold the key to success in boosting their war chests over the long term. Nomura Research Institute has estimated the online game market in Japan will grow nearly eight times to Y271 billion in 2006 from Y35 billion in 2001, fueled by the advent of Web-enable console systems. In the short term, price wars among the three large console manufacturers -- Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft -- are expected to spur demand for both hardware and software. This will help to offset the rising cost of developing software, which must run on increasingly sophisticated consoles that offer faster games and more dazzling graphics.
- Nintendo sells its entire 25% stake in Left Field Productions, a U.S.-based game designer for the Japanese company's GameCube console. The sale comes as Nintendo shifts its relationship with game designers to strengthen the lineup of titles for its GameCube console, which fell short of the company's sales targets last fiscal year.
A week in Korea tech
- KEPCO unveils privatization plan for KOSEP, one of its five thermoelectric power generation plant subsidiaries. KEPCO will first transfer management control of the subsidiary to the successful bidder at an international auction by next January. KEPCO will then sell 16-25% of KOSEP shares through the Korea Stock Exchange.
Mobile / Wireless
- Wireless phones are eventually to act more like electronic wallets and purses. Three mobile phone carriers - SK Telecom, KTF and LG Telecom - are offering customers special mobile phones equipped with infrared transmitter / receivers. Instead of carrying money, customers will be able to buy groceries or remit their deposits from banks by punching a payment button on their mobile phones.
- Samsung Electronics to see an even stronger turnover in the third quarter of this year, compensating for some losses in profitability. More specifically, the demand for double data rate chips will increase by around 15% over the second quarter. Samsung is also about one year ahead of its competition in nano-technology.
- HP Korea wages uphill battle in handheld device market, according to IDC. HP's Korean unit ranked at the top place in the nation's low-end PDA market. On the high-end front, Jtel placed first with its flagship product Cellvic XG. Overall, the handheld device market contracted by 28% year-on-year, as most local vendors have moved into the wireless converged device market.
- Six South Korean companies have invested W10 billion in IT projects in North Korea. The Ministry of Communication and Information said Samsung Electronics, KT, Hyundai Syscomm, Hanabiz.com and Hoonnet have been investing in plants in the North to manufacture telephones, personal computer components and high-speed Internet equipment since 1998.
- Korea to rank as one of world's top 10 IT economies by 2006. According to the Ministry of Communication and Information, surging internet usage will mean some 90% of the entire population will have access to the Internet over the next five years. By 2006, one of every five students in all schools will have Internet access on personal computers in their classrooms.
- Information and Communication Minister to create an IT fund worth Wone trillion within this year to boost investment in the information-technology industry. Lee Sang-chul said the fund would be raised by ôcollectingö money from mobile carriers such as SK Telecom, KTF and LG Telecom.
A week in China tech
- China United Telecommunications kicks off $1.4 billion domestic IPO that analysts said will be oversubscribed, despite its huge size. The company will issue five billion Class A shares at Rmb2.3 each. Ownership of Class A shares is restricted to residents of China. It marks the first offering that gives domestic investors access to shares in one of the country's big telecom operators.
Mobile / Wireless
- The world's first portable wireless ATM was unveiled at the Beijing Banking Exhibition by global technology company NCR. Using GPRS wireless connectivity, the small, battery-operated ATM would be ideal for temporary deployment at events such as the Olympic Games, to be held in Beijing in 2008. With revenues last year of $5.9 billion, Ohio-based NCR is the world's biggest manufacturer of ATMs.
Venture Capital / Investments
- Venture capitalists still face many challenges in the mainland. At a venture capital and private-equity conference in Hong Kong, investors said they faced difficulties in China getting the right projects due to the quality and structure of mainland firms. The delay in establishing a second board in Shenzhen was limiting investors' chances of exiting their start-up investments.
- Shanghai Pudong Development Bank wins shareholder approval to sell shares, although about 100 investors protested against a sale that may depress one of China's worst performing bank stocks. The bank is waiting for government approval for the sale, which would raise Rmb3.6 billion at current prices.
Media, Entertainment and Gaming
- Fuji Television Network is to export TV programs to China, in a bid to tap into a market whose broadcast infrastructure is being rapidly improved ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. The broadcaster will initially sell two series intended for young viewers through a tie-up with a wholly owned subsidiary of China's Ministry of Radio, Film and Television.
- Ubi Soft Entertainment to bring Sony's giant EverQuest multiplayer game to China. EverQuest is the biggest of the MMO (massively multiplayer online) gaming genre, in which tens of thousands of players take part in online virtual worlds. In order to reach mainland gamers, the game must first be localised, requiring the translation of more than 1.5 million words into Chinese. The translation and local hosting for the game will be handled by Ubi Soft, which employs about 230 staff in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou.
- Bank of China to push for a nationwide deployment of business intelligence systems. Brio Software Greater China confirmed discussions were ongoing with BOC about the expansion program. Preliminary plans for the wider deployment of Brio's business intelligence tools included implementation in Shanghai and select branches in 20 other provinces.
A week in Singapore / Malaysia tech
- The parent of I-Comm Technology launches an offer to take it private. The move will cost IDT International, an electronics manufacturer listed in Hong Kong, around $23 million. I-Comm, which is 75% owned by IDT Int'l, was listed on the main board in early 2000 at 85 cents a share. IDT Int'l also controls Singapore-listed liquid crystal display company IDT Holdings (Singapore).
Mobile / Wireless
- Maxis Communications is to buy the cellular unit of its smallest rival Time dotCom for between $342-$421 million. The deal marks another shakeout in Malaysia's crowded mobile market that will ultimately cut the number of mobile players to just three. The merged company will have 3.45 million users or 45% of a local mobile market worth around $2.4 billion in annual sales.
A week in Hong Kong tech
- PCCW has no plans to increase capital expenditure on its core fixed-line network under the existing regulatory environment. PCCW had been asked whether it should invest more in its network after it was jammed by callers last week following an announcement by the Hong Kong Observatory that the No. 8 signal for typhoons would be hoisted.
Mobile / Wireless
- Motorola investing $10 million a year in Hong Kong to transform its Silicon Harbour Centre in Tai Po into a worldwide design facility focused on Global System for Mobile (GSM) mobile devices. The company planned to hire 30 more design engineers in Hong Kong, complementing its staff of 100 engineers assigned to the GSM platform integration center at Tai Po Industrial Estate.
- PCCW Internet portal Now.com.hk doubles its subscribers to 130,000 after this year's relaunch as a subscription-based service. With 90 per cent of users paying a monthly subscription of HK$30, the content arm is one of the top local portals in terms of revenue, despite making losses. Now.com had been adding almost 10,000 subscribers a month since the beginning of the year.
- TCL International Holdings to buy a German television maker for $8 million in a push to develop the European market. Hong Kong-listed TCL, whose products include TV sets, mobile phones and computers, said its purchase of insolvent Schneider Electronics in Tuerkheim, Germany, would accelerate its entry to a market where it has little presence.
Media, Entertainment and Gaming
- PCCW to exit the pay-TV business. The roughly 5,000 iTV customers will be given the option of subscribing to now.com.hk with a waiver of the monthly HK$30 fee until August next year. The closure of iTV will leave Britain's Yes TV and Taiwan-backed Pacific Digital Media battling in the shadows as the only competition for dominant pay TV carrier i-Cable Communications.
- Tom.com to pay about $37.6 million for a 49% stake in a JV with a Popular Computer Week Publishing House. The venture will engage in distribution and advertising in China and abroad. Popular Computer Group will inject into the venture the advertising and distribution operations of its publications. However, the joint venture would have no influence over the editorial stance or content.
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