• Google Inc. (GOOG) announced that it is opening the Japanese-language version of its email service to anyone who wants to sign up. With the deal, Japan becomes the third market after Australia and New Zealand in which the U.S. Internet conglomerate has allowed open access to GMail, which it offers in more than 40 different languages. In other markets, signups are limited to those who receive email invitations from existing users or access it via mobile phones. GMail generates revenue for Google as an automated system displays advertisements linked to the details of emails sent and received. Google, however, does not disclose the number of Gmail accounts, a free service it launched in 2004.
• NTT DoCoMo Inc. (DCM) announced that it will launch a new mobile phone that lets customers download music and video clips about ten times faster than existing models. The company said the country’s first HSDPA high-speed downlink packet, and handset made by NEC Corp. (NIPNY), will be available, making it the first operator in the country to offer the faster wireless network. DoCoMo will first offer HSDPA connection in major cities and aims for nationwide coverage by March 2008. NTT DoCoMo joins companies such U.S.-based Cingular Wireless and Britain's Vodafone Group Plc (VOD), which also are rolling out HSDPA in their markets. These carriers use the globally dominant WCDMA wireless standard. KDDI Corp., which uses a different standard called CDMA 2000, which is popular in the United States and parts of Asia, said last week it also plans to upgrade its network starting in December.
• Excite Japan announced the signing of an agreement with Ozura Mobile to distribute Excite’s mobile games through its partners in the UK, Australia, China, India, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and the Phillippines. A top company official of Ozura Mobile noted the strength of Excite is found in its technology and “superior gaming platform”. Ozura said it is targeting US$20 million in global sales within three years.
• KDDI Corp. announced its plan to invest some 200 billion yen (US$1.7 billion) over the next three years to upgrade its wireless network. The company said it plans to deploy a CDMA EVDO Rev.A network in December, which is an upgrade to its existing mobile phone infrastructure that could offer calls over the Internet and faster video downloads. Industry observers see the move as an attempt on the part of KDDI to get some of NTT DoCoMo's 56 percent market share in Japan's 93 million mobile phone subscriber market with faster networks and services such as music downloading and a search engine from Google Inc. (GOOG) EV-DO is based on CDMA and U.S. mobile operators Sprint (S) Nextel Corp. and Verizon Wireless (VZ) are using the high-speed technology to deliver mobile video and music.
Media, Entertainment and Gaming
• Nintendo (OTCPK:NTDOY) announced the release of two new Wii titles -- Mario Strikers Charged and Battalion Wars II -- at the 2006 Games Convention in Germany. Mario Strikers Charged is the follow-up to Mario Smash Football for the Gamecube, and utilizes Wii remote to win the ball from the opponent. Nintendo also unveiled the new Battalion Wars II game for Wii and gave a demonstration of Wii showing how the innovative control mechanism allows people of all ages and experience levels to play together. With the company having drawn in gamers and some 44 percent of Germany’s DS owners, Nintendo said it is planning to boost its sales by going into “non-gamers”.
• Microsoft Inc. (MSFT) confirmed the reports that it has chosen Toshiba (OTCPK:TOSBF) to produce the forthcoming Zune music player, a product designed by the company to take on Apple Computer's (AAPL) iPod. The confirmation followed reports of a regulatory filing Toshiba made to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission [FCC] that mentions the device and its features. In addition to the name "Zune," the device is also referred to in Toshiba's filing by the code name "Pyxis." According to the Zune user's manual included in the filing, the player will include 30 gigabytes of storage, wireless capabilities, and an FM radio tuner. The wireless capabilities will allow users to search for other Zune devices within range and share music, photos, playlists, and other media content with those devices, according to Microsoft. Toshiba has a long partnership using Microsoft's software in its products, with the alliance going back to its first laptop in 1980s.
The following is excerpted from IRG's weekly stock report: