A week in tech

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A round-up of all the latest tech news.

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• Mobikyo announced the launching of a Wireless-Watch Community, described as a dynamically updated website aggregating high-caliber news and commentary from mobile experts, industry watchers and publishers worldwide. The company said W-W.Com platform enables established and respected thought leaders to contribute their analysis and insight to a multi-market channel that is on track to become the most comprehensive resource of independent wireless related information on the Internet. W-W.Com is a unique platform that automatically aggregates news, articles, reports, blog posts, and other web content from community members into a 'portal of posts.' The W-W.Com site is the latest mobile-focused service from Mobikyo and joins its existing information and business promotion line-up which include managing Tokyo's Mobile Monday (MoMo) networking events, publishing the Wireless Watch Japan (WWJ) media site and operations guided Mobile Intelligence Japan (MIJ) missions to Tokyo. Based in Tokyo, Mobikyo K.K.'s core business is the production and dissemination of media content, market intelligence and business information aimed at those seeking to establish, expand or strengthen their partnerships and commercial relations with Japan's wireless and IT industries.

• Softbank disclosed that it will return a license it acquired to enter the mobile phone operation business, a widely expected move that followed its acquisition of Vodafone Group Japan business. The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications gave Softbank the license last November to launch mobile services this year. Softbank said it has adopted the more cost-effective measure of using the infrastructure set up by Vodafone K.K., Vodafone's Japan arm, rather than starting the business from scratch. The company said Vodafone intends to devise more competitive services and price scales in an effort to catch up with NTT DoCoMo and KDDI. The company’s top official said the company will discard the "Vodafone" brand name, with the new name to be finalized next month. The official said the company will start selling models under the new brand this fall, targeting November to begin the "portability service" that will allow subscribers to switch mobile phone operators without changing their phone numbers. The Softbank group also revealed its aims to strengthen Vodafone's online contents using Yahoo's know-how.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming
• Japan Broadcasting Corp (NHK) announced that it is considering using its digital terrestrial broadcasting system to encourage viewers into paying the public broadcaster's mandatory subscription fees. A top official said NHK will study a system that would put large message boxes on new TV screens that receive the terrestrial broadcasts requesting people to pay the fees. Such messages make viewing difficult, but are already in use for BS digital broadcasting programs. The digital terrestrial system, however, will cover all households nationwide from 2011. While details have yet to be worked out, it is expected the system will send a "reception confirmation message" asking viewers to contact an NHK affiliate. The messages would appear on new TV sets about a month after purchase. The message would remain until the owner contacts the affiliate, who will check to make sure the mandatory fees are being paid.

• Sumco Corp announced its plans to spend more than ¥100 billion ($888.2 million) by 2010 to construct another domestic factory for producing 300 millimeter-silicon wafers. The company said it will start building the plant in Saga in southern Japan as early as this summer, with operations expected to begin in March 2008. It said that Sumco plans to expand its monthly output capacity to 700,000 wafers by April 2008. The capacities at existing facilities will be raised to 600,000 units from the current level of 400,000, with the remaining wafers to be supplied by the new plant. The company report said it will gradually increase capacity as it installs more wafer-making equipment over the course of about three years through 2010. Sumco has a 50:50 joint venture between Sumitomo Metal Industries Ltd and Mitsubishi Materials Corp.


• NCSoft Corp announced that it is going to appeal a court verdict that found it responsible for the theft of several players' personal information. Although the total damages awarded was small, the company sees the case as dangerous because it could provide encouragement for other claimants who are demanding millions of dollars in another, much larger, identity theft case, an analyst said. In the most recent court verdict, NCSoft was ordered to pay about $500 each to five players of the game Lineage II. Due to a programming error, tens of thousands of players' usernames and passwords were accessible to all users of the game for several days in May 2005. The Korean court ruled that NCSoft failed to take adequate care of players' personal information. The second, larger ID theft case, appears however to have started outside NCSoft. The company is seen making an operating profit of about $64 million this year, on sales of $260 million, according to forecasts from Korea Investment & Securities.

• Leading mobile phone companies such as Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics and Pantech are rushing to introduce strategic handsets, aiming to win a larger chunk of the first-half market. Samsung Electronics is poised to introduce the country's first 3.5G-handset (HSDPA), and LG Electronics and Pantech are also unveiling an upgrade of the Chocolate phone and the Sky super slim phone, respectively. Samsung Electronics said it aims to maintain its market-leading position by introducing Anycall HSDPA handset, which it sees as proving its technological prowess. The company is also working on a major brand marketing to counter rival LG's Chocolate phone. LG Electronics and Pantech are reportedly making fast moves to roll out strategic models and build new partnerships. LG Electronics plans to launch an upgrade of terrestrial DMB phone and Black Label Series, follow-up versions of hit Chocolate phones.

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