A week in tech

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A week in tech

A round-up of all the latest tech news.

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• Softbank Corp. announced that it will invest 250 billion yen ($2.1 billion) this fiscal year with the aim of increasing the number of base stations for its 3G services from 20,000 to 30,000. Softbank, which is expected to complete the acquisition of Vodafone KK by the end of this month, also plans to introduce handsets designed for Internet use this year. Reports show that the Japanese unit of Vodafone Group has fallen behind rivals NTT DoCoMo and KDDI in 3G services and development of competitive cell-phone models. Vodafone KK's capital spending amounted to 215 billion yen (US$1.8 billion) in fiscal 2005, which means that Softbank's outlays for the cell phone business for fiscal 2006 will exceed this by nearly 20 percent. It expects to generate sufficient cash flows from the mobile phone operations to make debt repayments. In a related development, Softbank revealed its partnership with Yahoo Japan to offer distinctive Internet services for mobile phone users. The company sees this shift to 3G technology as a means to enable the company to distribute more video content online.

• Yahoo Japan Corp. announced that its group net profit posted a 29-percent growth to a record 47 billion yen ($403 million) for the year ended March 31. The portal operator said its sales went up by 47 percent to 173.6 billion yen ($1.4 billion), while its operating profit registered a 36-percent climb to 82.1 billion yen (US$704 million). Yahoo Japan said its online advertising division registered a surge of 76 percent to 68.4 billion yen ($586.5 million). It revealed that demand for search-linked ads also posted a growth. They also reported growth at its Internet employment agency and initiated a partnership with Recruit Co., a job information magazine publisher.

• KDDI Corp. announced that it will start the distribution of music to subscribers' personal computers, a move that makes it the first mobile phone service provider to do so. Under the offering, members of the new service will be able to not only download songs to their PCs but also forward them to their cellular phones to listen to and use as ring tones. About 20,000 titles will be available initially, priced at around 300 yen ($2.5) apiece. The firm already has a similar service for wireless phones.

• Teaming up with 17 providers of cell phone content, Oricon Inc. announced that it will soon launch a free portal site that will enable visitors to find where they can go to download their favorite ring-tone melodies and other songs onto their mobile handsets. To do this, the company said it will work jointly with 17 providers of cell phone content. Under the partnership, Oricon said it will be paid a commission on each purchase and membership registration made via the site. It is targeting broker sales of 2 million songs a month after six months.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming
• Square Enix, which is No. 2 to Nintendo as Japan’s largest game publisher, reported that it cut its annual profit forecasts because of intense market competition. Square Enix is the video game developer behind the Final Fantasy hit series. The company said it forecast a 10-billion yen ($85.7 million) net profit for the year to March this year, well below its earlier estimate of 17.5 billion yen ($150 million). It also cut its operating profit estimate to 15 billion yen ($128.6 million) from 29 billion yen ($248.7 million), and its revenue forecast to 125 billion yen ($1 billion) from 136 billion yen ($1.1 billion). Square Enix also revealed a decision to look into releasing more light online game titles rather than continuing to develop complex role-playing games. Since the introduction of the first edition in 1987, Square Enix has sold more than 65 million copies of the Final Fantasy series worldwide, which has become hugely popular to game players.

• Sega Toys announced that it will enter into an alliance with a number of other firms for the development of a game and a related animated cartoon. With this offering, Sega said it is targeting a market of about 40 countries by fiscal 2009. Under the tie-up, Sega said it will work with anime producers TMS Entertainment Ltd. and Japan Vistec Inc., Canadian toymaker Spin Master Ltd., and Canadian cable television and radio broadcaster Corus Entertainment Inc. With Spin Master, Sega Toys will develop a combat game using ball-shaped characters and cards. The cartoon is based on this game and will be created by a production team that includes three other firms.
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