A week in tech

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A round-up of all the latest tech news.

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Japan

Mobile/Wireless
• Japan’s 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
• 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 ¥80 billion ($697.6 million) in fiscal 2005.

Hardware
• 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 ¥66.5 billion ($580 million) in the three months leading to March, along with a year-earlier loss of ¥56.4 billion ($492 million). Sony said its loss on an operating basis narrowed to ¥62.2 billion ($542.6 million) from ¥77.4 billion ($675.1 million). The company said its group sales registered an 8.7-percent rise to ¥1.8 trillion ($15.6 billion) up from ¥1.6 trillion ($14 billion). Observers note that favourable exchange rates could have helped Sony's earnings. Despite the loss, Sony’s 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 ¥130 billion ($1.1 billion)).

• 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 ¥2 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 ¥2 billion ($17.4 million) in fiscal 2008.

• Canon said its net profit rose 16 percent in the first quarter to a record ¥108.3 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 ¥923.3 billion ($8.1 billion), with sales of digital cameras and camcorders registering a big 84.9 percent growth from a year ago to ¥192.1 billion ($1.6 billion). Canon said sales of copy machines, computer peripherals and other office equipment increased by 6.3- percent to ¥631.2 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.

• Sharp announced a 15.4-percent rise in its full-year net profit to ¥88.7 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 ¥2.8 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 ¥100 billion ($878.4 million) on sales of ¥3 trillion ($26.3 billion). Sharp disclosed its plans to invest ¥275 billion ($2.4 billion) in the coming year in its factories to compete with rivals like Matsushita.

Telecommunications
• Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp.'s group operating profit for fiscal 2005 is expected to hit nearly ¥1.2 trillion ($10.4 billion), a slight decline from a year earlier but topping its earlier projection of ¥1.1 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.
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