A week in tech

A round-up of all the latest tech news from the region.


Media, Entertainment and Gaming

- Nintendo Co. cut the suggested retail price on its GameCube console in the U.S. to $100, as it looks to revive sales of the videogame machine. The GameCube and Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox machines lag far behind Sony Corp.'s dominant PlayStation 2. Nintendo sold only 800,000 units globally of its GameCube game console during the quarter ended June. Poor sales of the consoles were largely expected, but the figures renewed concerns over the company's long-term strategy.

- Nintendo Co Ltd said it will start selling game consoles in China in mid-October. Nintendo, which created the popular Pokemon and Mario game series, has developed a special console for the Chinese market with a flash memory card to which users can download game software titles at stores. Nintendo believes this would curb pirating and help manage inventory. A local affiliate will handle marketing of the console, which is expected to sell for Rmb498 ($60).

Mobile / Wireless

- Nokia Corp. will launch a new model compatible with the Japanese language early next year as part of a move to strengthen its third-generation phone business in Japan. The new handset, shaped like a leaf, will be targeted mainly at young people. The Finnish company, which commands about 40% of the global mobile phone market, has suffered weak sales in Japan and hopes to boost local sales by focusing on 3G models.


- Oracle Corp. Japan reported pretax profit for its fiscal first quarter came to ¥5.4 billion ($47.9 million) on sales of ¥18.5 billion ($160.9 million). Software product sales fell 10% to ¥7.2 billion ($62.3 million), mostly because the year-earlier period included a number of large orders for business application software. Revenue from support and other service activities rose 9% to ¥11.4 billion ($99.1 million) amid a recovery in capital outlays by Japanese companies, strong revenue from support, trading and consulting services. For the fiscal year ending in May, Oracle expects its pretax profit to rise 1.4% to ¥26.2 billion ($227.8 million), despite a likely 3.3% drop in revenue to ¥83.4 billion ($72.2 million).


- Avaya Inc., a U.S. maker of telecommunications equipment, will begin marketing an IP (Internet Protocol) wireless telephone system in Japan through its local arm in November. With this system, companies can use their wireless LANs and Avaya's special hand-held terminals to build wireless IP telephony networks in factories, business offices and other such limited areas. The hand-held devices are around the same size as regular cellular phones, and up to six people can hold a shared conversation using them. In addition to communicating with one another, they can also access extension phone lines inside the companies and outside lines.


Information Technology

- The Korean Ministry of Information and Communication is now under pressure to streamline its sprawling IT promotion funds amid growing scepticism about its complicated budget allocation and corporate support programs. The Board of Audit and Inspection proposed that President Roh Moo-hyun's administration should terminate 24 funds, including the IT promotion funds offered by the Information Ministry. In the 2002 fiscal year, the IT promotion funds were given W3.59 trillion ($3.1 billion). The ministry now controls W2.5 trillion ($2.2 billion) for use by the IT promotion funds in 2003.


Mobile / Wireless

- China Mobile Hong Kong estimates it will cost Rmb60 billion ($7.2 billion) to build its next generation mobile network. However, China Mobile believes it would cost fixed-line operators - China Telecommunications Group and China Netcom Group - twice as much as mobile carriers to build their third-generation (3G) networks as they lacked a 2G network to build on.

- Lucent Technologies Inc. will supply CDMA 2000 equipment valued at more than $230 million to China United Telecommunications Corp. under a mobile-network expansion contract. The expansion is aimed at improving the capacity and coverage of China United's network. Under the contract, Lucent will provide the network-expansion service in six provinces served by China United and its Hong Kong- and U.S.-listed unit China Unicom Ltd. The provinces are Guangdong, Shanghai, Zhejiang, Liaoning, Shandong and Inner Mongolia.

- Itochu Corp. is due to begin in October a service to transmit content, including screensavers and ring tones, to cell phone users in China. The major Japanese trading house intends to expand its cell phone content business to China, with a view to generating revenues of ¥500 million ($4.5 million) in fiscal 2004 there. The new service is to be offered in an alliance with a start-up in Beijing to users of handsets with color displays sold by China Mobile. The content will be downloaded from China Mobile's Web site and the service will initially offer a total of 500 screensavers. Fees will be collected by China Mobile on behalf of Itochu.



- Advances in flat-panel technology are driving Taiwan's makers of notebook computers and monitors to move into the larger business of making televisions. About 15 Taiwanese manufacturers of computer screens are showing new flat-screen TVs at this week's Computex technology convention. The exhibits indicate that Taiwan's flat-screen industry is not far behind those in Japan and South Korea, which lead in production of liquid-crystal-display computer monitors and TVs as well as the electronic panels that are the base for both products. Five of the top 10 makers of LCD panels and several dozen manufacturers of finished monitors and TVs are based in Taiwan.

- AU Optronics launched its 46-inch LCD panel for high definition television (HDTV) and expects shipments to begin from the first quarter of 2004. The panel will be manufactured at a 'fifth-generation' technology plant. By 2005, the company would have two fifth-generation plants and one sixth-generation site to meet demand for liquid crystal display (LCD) TVs. Construction of the sixth-generation plant started at the end of July and it is scheduled to begin mass production in the second quarter of 2005 with an initial monthly capacity of 60,000 panels. AU Optronics's revenues in the six months to June amounted to NT$42.6 billion ($1.2 billion).


- Thousands of employees of Chunghwa Telecom demonstrated against the government's privatization plan for the company, which they claimed would only benefit big business groups. The demonstrators waved banners reading "Rescue national assets" and "Oppose rule by business groups" outside the parliament building as Premier Yu Shyi-kun was delivering a policy report to lawmakers. An estimated 5,000 Chunghwa employees and their families as well as some 700 supporters from other labor groups had joined the protest.

Singapore / Malaysia / Philippines / Indonesia

Mobile / Wireless

- Singapore Telecommunications announced it would introduce wireless surfing at broadband speeds of up to 512 kilobits per second in Singapore's 23 public libraries. Library patrons will be able to access the service using laptops or personal digital assistants (PDAs). In addition to wireless Internet access in libraries, SingTel customers are offered exclusive subscription packages to access the National Library Board's online digital library that houses more than 23,000 electronic books, magazines, journals and databases. SingTel has more than 200 wireless surf zones in Singapore, including a range of fast food and coffee shops, hotels, hospitals, and country and community clubs.

Hong Kong

Mobile / Wireless

- SmarTone Telecommunications Holdings rewarded its shareholders with a cash dividend payout of HK$2.2 billion ($282.1 million) as the mobile firm reported a 254% increase in profits last year. The 51 per cent-owned subsidiary of Sun Hung Kai Properties (SHKP) paid out a final dividend of HK$3.8 per share and returned more than half of its HK$3.9 billion (US$500 million) in cash to shareholders.


- The Hong Kong government granted a 12-year license to PCCW Ltd. to offer pay television broadcasting over its broadband network. PCCW started its pay-TV operation this month and has signed up 35,000 clients for the 23-channel service, prompting the company to boost its year-end goal to 100,000 subscribers from 60,000 previously. PCCW offered the service free of charge while it awaited the license. Starting next month, PCCW will let customers subscribe to channels individually rather than in the bundles common with other cable- and satellite-TV services. Pricing will vary between HK$9 and HK$21(US$1.2 and US$2.7) a month per channel.

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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