A week in tech

A summary of all the major tech stories in Asia this week broken down by country and sector.

A week in Japan tech

Telecommunications

- Japan Telecom is to set up a fiber-optic relay network in the Tokyo metropolitan area to provide low-cost data communications services to corporate clients. Scheduled for completion by March 2003, the network will link the network management centre that serves as the Tokyo connector of its domestic trunk line network with some 30 relay stations around the city.

Mobile / Wireless

- Solnet is to market encryption systems to corporations for secure transmission of data over wireless LANs. The systems, which make use of the C4 TechnologyÆs proprietary Secure Wireless LAN encryption technology, consist of software that is installed on each LAN terminal and hardware that is attached between the LAN connection and the Internet line.

Software

- Trinity Security Systems is to begin marketing business software to encode documents and tables drawn up on personal computers. The Pirate Buster for Document software works with Microsoft business software, including Word and Excel. It prevents leaks and unauthorized usage of classified information by allowing only registrants to access the data.

- Mitsui obtains exclusive domestic marketing rights to ChannelWave partner relationship management (PRM) software that helps companies manage their networks of sales agencies over the Internet. ChannelWave will be the first PRM software product sold in Japan.

Internet

- NTT East and NTT West are to separately start a high-speed ADSL communications service with a maximum transmission speed of 12 megabits per second (compared with 8 megabits for conventional ADSL services). Monthly charges will be set at Y3,200, Y100 higher than the firmÆs 8-megabit service. Users will have to contract separately with an Internet provider.

Hardware

- NEC is to start developing and producing electronic equipment based on its own semiconductor technology, as a subcontractor to other companies. The firm will make products on order using its own system microchips. Finished products, along with the right to manufacture and market them, will then be sold to customers.

- Sony launches a digital TV that can learn its owner's tastes. CoCoon, a tuner about the size of a DVD player that connects digital TVs to the Internet by broadband, is set to go on sale in Japan in November for about Ñ130,000 ($1,080) and planned sometime later for overseas markets. CoCoon also has a browser to access some Web pages with the weather report, horoscope and the news.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming

- Sony and Namco will jointly develop voice response software for Aibo pet robots. With the new software, Aibo robots will be able for the first time to respond verbally, engaging in conversation. The software, sold as a Memory Stick, will be available for purchase from Nov. 2, and is for use with robots in the ERS-300 series.

A week in Korea tech

Telecommunications

- Subscribers slow to upgrade usage to cdma2000 1x EV-DO network. SK Telecom, the country's largest mobile carrier, and KTF, the No. 2 player, launched EV-DO in the first half of this year and tried to create a boom for the high-speed mobile Internet service, but local subscribers have been slow to embrace EV-DO.

- Hanaro plans to provide domestic long-distance and international call services by the end of 2003 after receiving government approval by end of this year. Hanaro outbid rivals Dacom and Onse Telecom last week for 30% of Powercomm, the nation's No. 2 high-speed data cable network. KT, Dacom and Onse operate long-distance and international calls in South Korea.

Mobile / Wireless

- Samsung Electronics wins a $400 million order to supply handsets to China United Telecommunications. Samsung Electronics will supply Unicom with 700,000 cell phones between October and the year-end. The order is for the latest version of phones using Qualcomm, CDMA2000 1X, which allows faster transmission of mobile data.

- Nextreaming to pioneer a variant of mobile Internet solutions ranging from multimedia messaging services to mobile office solutions. Nextreaming was spun off from Nextreaming currently offers a variety of mobile multimedia products such as streaming servers and players. Serome Technologies, a troubled Internet telephony operator. Serome still holds a 15% stake in Nextreaming.

Software

- Pimstech has agreed to merge Zamus, a subsidiary of Ahnlab. The merger will streamline the workforce and organizations, and Ahnlab, the country's leading anti-virus solutions developer, said it would emerge as the largest shareholder after a rights offering in October.

Internet

- Korea Electric Power picks a consortium led by Hanaro Telecom as the preferred buyer for a controlling stake in the fixed-line unit Powercomm. KEPCO said it would start negotiations with the Hanaro-led consortium next week and hopes to finalize the deal by the end of October at the latest. KEPCO also picked another consortium led by Dacom as the second preferred bidder for Powercomm.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming

- Xbox expected to be put on sale in Korea from the middle of December. The introduction of the Xbox is hoped by the distributors to open another front in the battle for the electronic gaming console market. The Xbox is likely to be priced at W256,000 ($199) before value-added tax, the same price as SonyÆs PlayStation 2.

A week in China tech

Telecommunications

- China United Telecommunications to sell up to 30% of its five billion A-share offering to strategic investors. China United's investment bankers are in talks with several domestic telecom equipment suppliers and handset manufacturers in a bid to woo them as strategic investors. The interested parties are awaiting the mainland securities watchdog's review on whether they will qualify as such investors.

Mobile / Wireless

- China Unicom Group teams up with a mobile handset maker for supplies of cut-price units. The chairman and chief executive of China Eastern Communications (Eastcom) said it had an agreement with China Unicom Group under which Eastcom's distribution arm would sell CDMA handsets to end-users at about a third of market prices if they signed up to Unicom's CDMA services.

Software

- Microsoft denies threat from official support for Linux in China. Microsoft China president Tang Jun said sales in China rose 20% in the past year. The Ministry of Information Industry recently established an Open Source Alliance to bolster its support for Linux-based systems. The media has also reported that government departments have been told to give priority to domestic products.

Internet

- Sohu.com expects SohuStock.com to become profitable by 2004. The Chinese-language Internet portal launched its joint venture, which started online trading two weeks ago, with Sohu-Guolian Information Technology in April. Guolian is a small brokerage firm based in Eastern Jiangsu province.

- Chinese authorities lift block on Google without explanation. Users in Shanghai and Beijing reported that they could once again view Google (www.google.com). The search engine is widely used by China's 30 million-plus Internet users because it has a powerful feature for finding Chinese-language material online.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming

- AOL Time Warner Chief Executive remains hopeful on Warner Music and EMI merger, but says that there are no talks at present and the regulatory climate remains uncertain. Mr. Parsons said such a merger, which was proposed three years ago but scuttled by European Union regulators, was a "brilliant transaction." He added, "It was a great idea" and "it's still a great concept. ... We live in hope."

A week in Taiwan tech

Semiconductors

- TSMC files an application to build an integrated-circuit fabrication facility in Shanghai. The world's largest dedicated chip foundry, said that it plans to invest a total of $898 million, in which $842 million will be used for the purchase, transportation and installation of machinery and equipment.

Hardware

- CMC Magnetics to build a $20 million plant in Shanghai to expand production and meet demand in China. CMC, which last month began production at its first plant in China, will build the second factory after the investment is approved by Taiwan's government. Taiwan's government restricts some investments in China for fear its economy may become dependent on its political foe.

A week in Singapore / Malaysia tech

Internet

- MediaRing.com posts narrower first-half loss of $9.7 million, while turnover jumped 74% to $16.5 million. Koh Boon Hwee came on board as an executive director in January. The company, in the midst of a revamp to sharpen its business focus, said the main contributor to its revenue growth was its PC-to-phone service.

Hardware

- IBM to invest $23 million in the IBM Open Computing Centre in Singapore. About half of that money will be spent this year and the rest over the next three years. The centre will focus on training engineers, and developing and then testing software. The emphasis will be on Linux, open source and IBM's WebSphere.

A wek in Hong Kong tech

Telecoms

- PCCW puts a price tag of about HK$700 million on its yellow pages unit, as the company speeds up its assets disposal program. The company said it had received expressions of interest in the unit but no decision had been made on whether to sell. An industry source said the company was asking for about 14 times its historic price-earnings ratio.

- Cisco Systems launches contest involving the design of advanced communications services based on IP techniques. The services competition provided a unique opportunity for students and IT professionals to help build these new services and raise public awareness on the benefits of IP telephony. The Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education helped Cisco launch the contest.

Software

- Hewlett-Packard forms an alliance with 19 locally based independent software vendors to assist development of mobile wireless solutions over its iPaq PDA. Alliance members will be offered hardware prototypes and demonstration units at discounted prices for testing and research, and have premier access to beta products and support from HP's technical teams.

Internet

- Government to offer free digital certificates for the first year, to drum up support for next year's introduction of smart identity cards. Hong Kong's smart ID cards contain an option to store the e-Cert digital certificates. Card holders can use them for e-banking and other activities requiring digital authentication.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming

- Tom.com forms JV with state-owned SDX Joint Publishing (Sanlian), marking its first move into the mainland publication business. The company has set up a Rmb40 million venture with Sanlian, which will have a 51% stake. Sanlian publishes four national magazines, including Sanlian Life Weekly, and has published more than 5,500 book titles in its 70-year history.

- Tom.com in talks to invest in Popular Computer Weekly, one of the mainland's biggest-selling computer magazines. The transaction, if realized, would be the group's second recent acquisition of a mainland print publication. A source familiar with the situation said a deal was expected soon, although he would not say how large a stake the Li Ka-shing media flagship was seeking.

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:

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