a-week-in-tech

A week in tech

A round-up of all the latest tech news.
Japan

Mobile/Wireless
ò JapanÆs domestic shipments of mobile phones in fiscal 2005 hit 46.2 million units, with Sharp's posting a total of 7.5 million handsets, according to MM Research Institute. With 16.3-percent share of the market, Sharp represented the top market share. The research firm said overall shipments saw a 5.2-percent rise on the year, and projected a 10.5-percent growth for fiscal 2006 to 51.1 million units. Sharp posted a 20.2-percent increase in shipments, which was brought about by its deal to supply a popular line to Vodafone KK, in addition to NTT DoCoMo, Panasonic Mobile Communications, a subsidiary of Matsushita Electric Industrial, came in second place with a market share of 16.1 percent. NEC, the market leader for four years, saw its shipments decline by 10.6 percent to 7.3 million units, coming in third in terms of market share. No. 4 was Toshiba, with its share rising 5.4 percent on the year.

Semiconductors
ò Mitsubishi Electric announced that it has begun manufacturing power chips for white goods in China, a move that is in preparation for a surge in demand. The chips are designed to control power and reduce energy use by such products as air conditioners, and a wide range of home appliances in Japan. Mitsubishi Electric believes that demand for the chips in China will grow sharply because power shortages are becoming a serious problem in that country. The company said production began in January in Shanghai with subcontractor using equipment exported from Mitsubishi Electric's factory in Fukuoka Prefecture. The company aims to raise power chip output gradually in Shanghai to 300,000 units a month. Mitsubishi Electric disclosed that its power chip sales went beyond Ñ80 billion ($697.6 million) in fiscal 2005.

Hardware
ò Sony disclosed an increase in its net loss in January-March even as its electronics segment picked up. Ascribing the loss to heavier restructuring costs; Sony said it posted a group net loss of Ñ66.5 billion ($580 million) in the three months leading to March, along with a year-earlier loss of Ñ56.4 billion ($492 million). Sony said its loss on an operating basis narrowed to Ñ62.2 billion ($542.6 million) from Ñ77.4 billion ($675.1 million). The company said its group sales registered an 8.7-percent rise to Ñ1.8 trillion ($15.6 billion) up from Ñ1.6 trillion ($14 billion). Observers note that favourable exchange rates could have helped Sony's earnings. Despite the loss, SonyÆs sales of its "Bravia" liquid crystal display televisions, "VAIO" personal computers and other products in its electronics division increased. For the current fiscal year through March 2007, Sony forecasted a group net profit of Ñ130 billion ($1.1 billion)).

ò NOF, a diversified chemical manufacturer, said it has initiated the production of non-reflective film for LCDs for South Korean and Taiwanese polarizing plate manufacturers, in a bid to expand the applications for its films. The company makes products that reduce light reflectivity to 1 percent and are designed for PC monitors. The company said it also aims to supply film for LCD televisions in the future. NOF disclosed that it is investing some Ñ2 billion ($17.4 million) to double production capacity at its Japan-based facility to 10 million sq. meters within the year, helping it to keep pace with increasing production by plasma TV manufacturers. The company said it would also introduce high-end products that will reduce reflectivity to 0.1 percent and feature anti-static properties preventing dust from building up on the screen. NOF plans to roll out five such products this summer and supply them to Japanese manufacturers as well. By introducing products for LCD TVs, the company seeks to boost LCD-related film sales to Ñ2 billion ($17.4 million) in fiscal 2008.

ò Canon said its net profit rose 16 percent in the first quarter to a record Ñ108.3 billion ($951.3 million), a performance it ascribed to huge sales of digital cameras and color copiers. The company said group sales for the period posted a 9.5-percent rise to Ñ923.3 billion ($8.1 billion), with sales of digital cameras and camcorders registering a big 84.9 percent growth from a year ago to Ñ192.1 billion ($1.6 billion). Canon said sales of copy machines, computer peripherals and other office equipment increased by 6.3- percent to Ñ631.2 billion ($5.5 billion). The company disclosed that it has plans to expand its business by going into the TV market later this year by way of a flat-panel technology it is working on with Toshiba.

ò Sharp announced a 15.4-percent rise in its full-year net profit to Ñ88.7 billion ($779.1 million). The company attributed the growth to the fast-growing sales of its flat-screen televisions and mobile phones. Sharp said its revenue posted a 10.1-percent increase to Ñ2.8 trillion ($24.5 billion), a rise brought about by brisk sales of LCDs and other products. For the year to March next year, Sharp forecasts another record net profit of Ñ100 billion ($878.4 million) on sales of Ñ3 trillion ($26.3 billion). Sharp disclosed its plans to invest Ñ275 billion ($2.4 billion) in the coming year in its factories to compete with rivals like Matsushita.

Telecommunications
ò Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp.'s group operating profit for fiscal 2005 is expected to hit nearly Ñ1.2 trillion ($10.4 billion), a slight decline from a year earlier but topping its earlier projection of Ñ1.1 trillion ($9.5 billion). The company said its NTT East's and NTT West's B fibre-optic internet access service doubled the number of subscribers to roughly 3.4 million as of March 31. Korea

Internet
ò SK Telecom said it is ready to launch EVDO network-based wireless Internet service in Vietnam in the second half of this year. ItÆs also looking domestically and globally into its wireless Internet and content platform. SK Telecom said it has decided to install WiPi in the mobile handsets it would produce in Vietnam via a local joint venture with S-Phone. The company said it plans to invest $280 million dollars in building a nationwide network in Vietnam across major cities, aiming to boost the customer base from some 300,000 to 1 million by the end of this year. The company said it is now optimizing WiPi standard for service in Vietnam, and is talking with content providers including real-time video and game firms for different offerings. Content developers are upbeat about the adoption of WiPi for service in Vietnam, which came after the earlier arrangement with U.S.-based MVNO Helio. SK Telecom also plans to outsource HLR and AC equipment among domestic gear makers, and it may spend up to W10 billion ($10.6 million) on equipment depending on expansion of EVDO networks. EVDO or Evolution Data Only, Evolution Data Optimized is a fast wireless broadband access (3G) without needing a WiFi hotspot.

Mobile/Wireless
ò KTF said it is making some strong investments in a bid to launch next-generation mobile phone services earlier than what it originally disclosed. The company sees WCDMA as making the playing field even for companies. KTF originally planned to establish a high- speed network in 45 cities nationwide by June. This was increased to 84 cities by the end of this year; a move the company said increased costs from W510 billion ($541 million) to W780 billion ($827.4 million). A top official of KTF said the company is taking such aggressive action because it expects that W-CDMA will occupy more than 90 percent of the market in the future. In December, KTF and DoCoMo signed a deal to cooperate in network expansion, global roaming, research and development, and content sharing. DoCoMo has a 10-percent stake in KTF.

ò Mobile game firms are reportedly rushing to form partnerships with local publishing companies, wireless operators and content providers in key overseas markets, expecting shipments to increase by twofold or even more this year. Com2us said it recently registered a Chinese joint venture Yangkwang Mobile as service provider. Moai Technology formed a consortium with Daum Communication and Japanese game firm Segasami in a move to expand into the Chinese market. Web ENG Korea formed a China-based Internet service provider SinoVoice to provide content. Gamevil said it has signed a deal with a wireless operator in the U.S. The company plans to introduce its own brand in overseas markets.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming
ò KT announced that it is setting up a fund worth W25 billion ($26.5 million) after it took over Sidus, a movie contents maker, in 2005. Industry observers are saying this fund is going to have an impact on KT's influence over the existing infra digital cinema business of movie distribution contents. It is expected that KT affiliates, including Sidus, will jointly invest in the fund, with the KT group assuming a 60-percent stake of the fund. With the founding of the fund, KT is also seen working with multiplex chain operators to take the leading position in the entire process, from content production and distribution.

Telecommunications
ò LGT remains the only mobile carrier in Korea that lives on 2G services. Despite this, LGT announced that it has achieved the overall customer quality improvement on the basis of the proportion of its basic rate in sales revenue, and of its sales structure being back on track. The company said that for the first quarter, its sales revenue in service hit W722.4 billion ($763.4 million), and net income of W105.2 billion ($111.1 million). Sales revenue was up 14.9 percent year on year and up 1.5 percent quarter on quarter.
China

Internet
ò Sohu.com announced a 5-percent rise in its net profits to $6 million from $5.7 million in the first quarter last year. In a separate report, Sohu said it has entered into a cooperation agreement with Sony BMG, the official music copyright owner of the FIFA World Cup 2006 Germany. Under the agreement, Sohu has the wireless and Internet Premier Digital Release rights for the official music of the 2006 FIFA World Cup from Sony BMG. During the six-month Premier Digital Release period, Sohu.com will be able to exclusively offer a full range of music and video products of World Cup official music via Ring-Back Tone (RBT), Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and Multimedia Messaging Services (MMS) to Chinese wireless users.

ò Shin Satellite of Thailand announced that it has signed an agreement to provide broadband Internet services to China through the company's iPSTAR satellite. ShinSat, is owned by Thai telecom giant Shin Corp and provides telephone, internet, television and other communication services. The company said it has already set up a satellite gateway in Beijing that will begin providing Internet services to clients in May. Two more gateways are planned in Shanghai and Guangzhou. The service cost about $1,000 a year in China and would bring in revenues of $1 billion a year if the company met its target. At present, ShinSat already offers broadband satellite services in Southeast Asia, as well as Australia and New Zealand, with the services in Vietnam set to be launched soon.

Mobile/Wireless
ò China Unicom announced a 31-percent increase in its first-quarter profit to Rmb1.4 billion ($174.6 million) due to an increase in subscribers. With about 74.4 percent of its subscribers using the GSM network, China Unicom provides services using both the global system for mobile communications (GSM) and CDMA standards. The company had 97.9 million GSM subscribers and 33.6 million CDMA customers.

ò With a forecast that it will post a growth of 4300 percent, China's mobile phone cartoons market size went beyond Rmb720,000 ($90,000) in 2005, according to Analysys International. The report said the number of registered users hit 120,000. The internet-based provider of business information about technology, media and telecom industries in China said the growth in the market will be hitting $4 million) in 2006. This market size is seen reaching $77.8 million) in 2010. Analysys International says the mobile cartoon market in China is currently in the initial stage and that there are some market inhibitors to be solved. These inhibitors include the low penetration rate of high-end mobile handsets that support multimedia applications and the small number of mobile phone users using mobile phone cartoons. The market is expected to show fast growth in 2006 and 2007.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming

ò Sun Media Investment Holdings announced the development of the first dedicated home shopping channel for luxury goods on the mainland. The company said it has entered into an agreement with Europe's Luxe.TV, the operator of a soon to be launched global digital television network geared for high-end consumer goods, to create an interactive platform for mainland viewers to buy goods over the Internet. The joint venture, Luxe.TV Interactive, will launch its Internet protocol television channel towards the end of the year. Financial terms were not disclosed. A top official of Sun Media said the Chinese market is ready for the Luxe TV concept. A study made by Ernst & Young indicate that demand for luxury goods on the mainland has reached an average of $2 billion in annual sales and is expect to reach $11.5 billion by 2015 when the country would account for 29 percent of all luxury goods purchases worldwide. Sun Media runs Asia Multi-Media Technology Services Holdings, which owns a 34,880-km national IP fiber optic network servicing 440 mainland cities. Other Sun Media investments include television and multimedia production enterprises and more than 10 cable and satellite television channels on the mainland and in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand and North America. Sun Media Investment Holdings is one of China's largest investment groups.

Hardware
ò Samsung (China) announced its plan to reduce production costs by increasing the scale of purchase in China, with the amount expected to reach $18.5 billion in 2006. SamsungÆs International Purchase Centre in China reached a total of $15.3 billion in 2005. The company said it has moved its Hong Kong International Purchase Centre to Shanghai in December, a move seen as aimed at easing the increase in procurement volume in China. The company also announced the change in the name of the center to China International Purchase Center. With ten offices, the centre makes it purchases from Hong Kong, Shenzhen, and Tianjin.

ò Lenovo Group, Founder Group, Tsinghua Tongfang and TCL Corp. (TCL) announced that they will sign purchase orders worth $700 million with Microsoft. The agreement between the four PC producers will all be for three years. Lenovo and Founder will each sign the contracts by themselves as MicrosoftÆs strategic partners in the Asia-Pacific areas. Tsinghua Tongfang and TCL, together with China Mobile Communications Corp. (China Mobile) and China Construction Bank (CCB), will sign the contracts with Microsoft.

ò Telecommunications
ò Figures released by the countryÆs Ministry of Information Industry (MII) indicated that revenues from ChinaÆs postal and telecom sector reached Rmb169.2 billion ($21.1 billion) in the first quarter this year, a figure representing an 11.8-percent increase year on year. Taiwan

Hardware
ò Acer announced an 86-percent rise in its first-quarter profit to NT$4 billion ($125.4 million) from NT$2.1 billion ($65.8 million) a year ago and NT$2.1 billion ($65.8 million) in the previous quarter. The company ascribed the growth to strong demand from Asia and North America and beat forecast made by analysts. Acer looks to its net profit reaching NT$10 billion ($313.6 million) and its consolidated revenue posting NT$400 billion ($12.5 billion) this year.

Semiconductors
ò Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), announced that for the first quarter, its profit almost doubled to NT$32.6 billion ($1 billion) from NT$16.8 billion ($526.8 million). The world's biggest supplier of custom-made chips ascribed the growth to an increased demand for computers and mobile telephones. TSMC said its sales for the quarter increased by 39 percent to NT$77.2 billion ($2.4 billion). It forecasts its revenue to grow between NT$79 billion ($2.4 billion) and NT$81 billion ($2.5 billion) in the second quarter, from NT$58.5 billion ($1.8 billion) a year earlier. TSCM points to wireless communication and digital consumer electronics as the main drivers for the second quarter.


Singapore/Malaysia/Philippines/Indonesia

Mobile/Wireless
ò The Philippines mobile operator Smart Communications announced that it has changed its wireless broadband brand from 'Smart Wifi' to 'Smart Bro'. The company said its parent company Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT) would also be selling Smart Bro in place of its 'My DSL-W' wireless offering. Smart is currently upgrading its network facilities by deploying additional base stations and terminal equipment and installing upgraded routers. It is also expanding its network's core transmission backbone capacity to 10 Gbps. At the end of 2005, PLDT and Smart reported a combined 25,000 wireless broadband subscribers, 22 percent of their total broadband customer base. In a separate development, Smart Communications, a mobile operator in the Philippines, said it has expanded its 3G network to 60 cities in the country. Smart wants to expand its 3G network nationwide as quickly as possible. Smart said it has been expanding its 3G service offerings. The operator has recently added video streaming services such as real-time traffic monitoring and TV content. The company is currently in negotiations with broadcasters and content providers to syndicate further content.

Internet
ò Intel and Pacific Internet Limited (PacNet) announced their entering into a partnership for the deployment of a mobile WiMAX network in Singapore. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) executed by the two companies asks them to initially test the technologies to better understand market needs and behavior. According to PacNet, strategic partnerships with leading technology companies such as Intel, will allow them to offer differentiated services by combining strong regional knowledge and presence with next-generation products and solutions from these vendors. PacNet said the trial with Intel will begin in mid-2006 and will test performance of both nomadic and mobile access.
¬ Haymarket Media Limited. All rights reserved.