A week in tech

A round-up of all the latest tech news.


Media, Entertainment and Gaming

- Digital radio broadcast service is slated to be launched in Tokyo and Osaka in fiscal 2006, with private broadcasting stations offering a total of about 20 channels. The new broadcast network includes three channels that will offer advanced services, such as fee-based music distribution, about 10 channels sending simple videos and text data and five to ten channels offering the same programs as their analog versions. With a limited amount of bandwidth allocation to digital radio stations by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, five Tokyo-based broadcasters revealed their plan to work on the setting up of a joint venture next spring. The five stations are Tokyo FM Broadcasting Co., TBS Radio and Communications, Inc., Nippon Cultural Broadcasting Inc., Nippon Broadcasting System Inc. and J-Wave Inc. The group is looking to the joint venture to manage the channels.


- NEC said it has developed Japanese-English interpretation software that can be used in small devices like mobile phones. The heavy power demand placed on central processing units has limited the design of software to personal computers and PDAs, and not in smaller devices. The software contains a total of 50,000 words and is able to transform Japanese speech into a synthesized English sounds and vice-versa. NEC said it intends to put the software to commercial use as soon as possible.


- Sharp Corp. announced that it has started negotiations with Quanta Display of Taiwan on the purchase of LCD panels from the company. The move is expected to bolster Sharp's panel exports to these markets after the company completes its new LCD plant by 2006. Sharp already buys LCD panels for personal computers from Quanta Display and has also supplied production technologies to the Taiwanese company. Sharp holds a stake in Quanta Display.



- Korean researchers, through the government-funded Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI), are reportedly in the final stage of developing an intelligent Korean-language search engine. According to ETRI, the new search engine goes beyond providing the user with related but unfiltered information based on a keyword. The search engine will give or two of or the number of answers that can only directly address a query. The ETRI said the technology would advance enough in three years so it can be applied to all Korean-language web documents. The research institute disclosed that it set to enter an agreement this year with Dongsuh Books for the use of its "Pascal" encyclopedia.

- South Korea's Ministry of Information and Communication said it would introduce new identification systems for signing onto internet sites in 2007 in an effort to protect online privacy. At present, most internet service companies in the country require new subscribers to submit their real names and "resident registration numbers" to confirm their identity, a system that people fear is prone to being abused. The new system will allow subscribers to create new identities authorized by a government agency.

- SK C&C, a firm that does IT outsourcing and system integration, said it has acquired a license of an online casual snow board game 'Crystal Boarder' from game developer WRG to publish it at home and abroad. The move marks the first system integration provider in South Korea to publish a game in the world market. The SK Group said it has been seeking to expand into online game business. Observers are looking to SK C&C to entering intro contracts for publishing one or two other online games by the end of the year. Already, the company said it is talking with a game developer for licensing right for publishing its online game 'Reel Online' in the world market.


- KT, the country's largest communication carrier and Internet service provider revealed its plans to construct WiBro infrastructure within the next six years. The plans would involve an investment of about W1.2 trillion ($1.2 billion) by 2011. Out of the fund, KT said it would earmark 49 percent for the setting up of base stations, and 33 percent for the purchase of new repeaters and upgrading of wire and wireless infrastructure (this would include internet backbone networks, optical cables and connection networks). The company said it would spend about 70 percent of funds next year and in 2007. Together with the investments, KT said it aims to develop a variety of communication equipment and components. In a separate report, KTF is said to be striving to boosting its revenue from global businesses five-fold to W100 billion ($95.9 million) by 2010, with the company looking to global roaming as the source of its revenues in time for the beginning of W-CDMA. To do this, the company has come up with a global business model including that includes the setting up of joint ventures or forging agreements with global partners to make joint investments. The move is reported spurred by a move of its rival SKT to announce its foreign expansion plans.


- Nextreaming, a leading provider of mobile multimedia solutions for operators and handset manufacturers, announced that its satellite DMB application, NexTV S-DMB, has been included in Pantech's first S-DMB phone, the PT-S130. The model is considered to be one of the most advanced Pantech handsets as it supports DMB and provides as well a number of other innovative multimedia features to accelerate the usage of "mobile broadcast TV", in Korea.

- Pandora TV announced its entering into a partnership with KTF and its initiating of Fimm Pandora TV video-on-demand (VOD) service. Through the offering, Pandora TV will enable customers the viewing of 70,000 internet VOD images on their handset. Users with Fimm phones can conduct real-time search on all of Pandora TV's channels and view VOD images on their phones or send them off to friends. The service will allow users to download images from Pandora's TV website.

- Industry observers are expecting a slow demand for mobile handsets in South Korea until next March, a situation brought about by the easing of restriction of handset subsidy making people wait for the right time to make the purchase. The country's Ministry of Information and Communication considers will allow a subsidy for those who are subscribers to mobile service for more than three years, or for users buying WiBro phones. SK Telecom, the largest mobile operator, stated that that even if more subsidies are allowed, service providers will tend not to compete strongly to lure in more customers. The numbers of subscribers to mobile service has reached 15.5 million already in July and is expected to hit 17 million in March in 2006.


- LG Electronics announced the launching of a new notebook that comes with a CDMA EV-DO receiver, the first of its kind in the market. Called the X Note Express LW20-EV series, the device enables a connection with the internet in any region where mobile phones are used. It adopts the Intel Sonoma platform, considered to be a power-efficient platform. The product was a joint undertaking of LG with KTF and Intel Korea. In a separate report, LG Telecom announced its revenue for the 3rd quarter reaching W883.9 billion ($842.2 million), operating profit at W97.2 billion ($92.6 million), and net profit at W1.5 billion ($1.4 million). LG ascribes the strong showing for the third quarter to its MusicOn revenue.



- With the company trying to revive its mobile messaging services business, Sina saw its third quarter sales and marketing expenses climbed 47 percent from the second quarter to $15.7 million. Sina ascribes the plunge in its profit to $9.1 million from $14.5 million in the year-earlier period to the increase in sales and marketing expenses. China's top web portal said its revenue went down 5 percent to $49.5 million from $52.5 million a year earlier. Amidst the decline, Sina forecasts its fourth-quarter revenue to rise slightly . The company is reported a trying to lessen its dependence on mobile messaging, a move that is shared by Sina with its rivals NetEase, Tom Online and Sohu.com.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming

- Focus Media Holding announced a significant growth in its sales revenue and net income than what was forecast, with the company attributing this to its network expansion in China's fast-growing media market. The Shanghai-based electronic billboard-advertising firm posted a 146 percent increase over the same period last year in revenue to $19.5 million, or 33.5 percent over the previous quarter. The company said its third-quarter net income went up to $7.1 million, compared to a net loss of $1 million in the third-quarter of last year and earnings of $4.3 million in the previous quarter. Focus Media forecasts fourth-quarter revenues of $22 million to $23 million and an estimated profit of $8.7 million to $9.1 million.


- TCL Communications Holding Technology Holdings said it is aiming to make the wholly owned TCL-Alcatel Mobile Phones (T&A) profitable, as it prepares to revamp the Alcatel mobile handset brand name internationally. The company said it would use to its advantage the low production cost in the mainland. For the first nine months of the year, TCL posted a net loss of HK$1.3 billion ($167.6 million). TCL said it is targeting the sale of 14 million handsets globally next year, with 10 million in overseas markets that would include South America's two largest mobile network operators.


- Lenovo Group disclosed its plans of speeding up the expansion of its product line and coverage of emerging markets, explaining the move as pushed by rising profits and steady market gains brought about after the company has integrated IBM's personal computing division. Data coming from IDC showed Lenovo as shipping about 4 million computers in the third quarter, with only Dell and Hewlett-Packard selling more units worldwide. Outside the mainland, Lenovo said it be expanding its distribution in Brazil, Mexico, Russia, the Middle East and India. The world's third-largest computer supplier reported a 22 percent growth year on year in its net profit in the quarter to September to HK$354 million ($45 million), on a 404 percent growth in its revenue to HK$28.5 billion ($3.6 billion).

- China's import and export of electromechanical products posted a 22.6 percent year-on-year increase in the first three quarters of 2005 to $547.5 billion. The exports of electromechanical products went up 32.9 percent to $299 billion, which account for a 54.7 percent of the total value of China exports; the imports rose 12.1 percent to $248.5 billion, contributing 52 percent of the total value of China's imports. The major five electromechanical products exported are: computer equipment and spare parts ($73.2 billion); household electrical appliances and electronic products ($37.9 billion); communications equipment and components ($32.3 billion); electronic components ($27.7 billion); and electric equipment ($18.3 billion). The major five electromechanical products imported are: electronics components ($93.8 billion); computer equipment and spare parts ($25.7 billion); electrical equipment ($19.3 billion); communications equipment and components ($12.3 billion); and automobiles and key spare parts ($9.5 billion).

- Chinese and Taiwanese manufacturers produced 94 million digital cameras in 2004, with 82 million of them exported, according to Global Sources, a China-based market research firm. Global Sources is expecting exports to grow between 10 and 20 percent in the current year. The report indicated that in flash memory, the manufacturers are shifting production to miniSD (mini Secure Digital) cards and Reduced-Size MultimediaCards (RS-MMC). The market research firm noted that Mainland China makers of flash memory cards are looking for a hundred percent growth this year, with flashcard exports expected to go beyond the $300 million mark this year. It sees the manufacture of PC topping $583 million this year, which represents a 97 percent growth over the previous year, with most of that number - $49 million - earmarked for export.

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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