Tag: korea

LG is the comeback kid

LG, which has had a pretty poor  couple of years, claims that it has turned the corner.

Spokesman Jeong Jung-wook. told the Korea Times that the LG Group is recovering with the group’s export-driven affiliates including LG Electronics, LG Display, LG Chem and LG Innotek leading the way.

Jeong admits that last year wasn’t good, but this year we have no doubt that the group will regain its power buoyed by the brighter performance of LG Group companies, he said.

The finance markets are tending to agree that LG Electronics has got its nadgers out fo the fire for now. It will be back into operating profit for the first three months of this year.

LG Innotek is also expected to see a turnaround in the current quarter, ending losses for the two previous quarters. LG Display will recover in the second quarter with its operating profit for the April-June period .

Part of the cunning plan to get it out of trouble has been to come up with new technology. In smartphones, for example, LG has been seen rolling out advanced smartphones using long-term evolution (LTE) wireless technology.

LG has managed to shift more than 2 million Optimus-branded LTE phones and 600,000 of them   during the first three months the phone was available.

It has pushed flat screen TVs using organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology and LG’s 3D TVs seem to be increasing. Its own film-patterned 3D technology is steadily gaining popularity, the Korea Times said. 

Job applicants flood to Samsung

Samsung is still drawing in applicants by the thousands, but over at Google, disgruntled ex employees are having a good moan.

In fact, according to the Korea Joongang Daily, Samsung’s reputation is so high that around 700 “foreigners” from 47 countries have applied for entry level jobs at the company.

The positions, based in Korea, have attracted nearly five times more than the 130 foreign applicants Samsung saw in 2009.

The CVs flocked in from 22 Asian countries, 11 European regions and six US states. A further six came from Africa and two in the continent of Oceania.

Of the 50,000 people who have applied, including 200 of Chinese nationality, only 4,500 will be hired by Samsung. It will only look at those with English speaking skills and university degrees.

Meanwhile, a former Google employer laid into the company telling anyone who would listen that it had become obsessed with advertising and stealing the social networking reigns from Facebook.

James Whittaker, who left Microsoft in 2009 and went over to Google as a software engineer wrote in a personal blog that under Eric Schmidt all seemed okay. However, when Larry Page got involved it all went to pot. 

He said at Google he was passionate about a technology company that empowered its employees to innovate. However, the Google he left was an advertising company with a “corporate-mandated focus.”

He said that this focus was to “conquer the online social networking realm,” ruled by Facebook. Because Google’s Buzz and Wave attempts had “stumbled”, Mr Whittaker explained that “Larry Page himself assumed command to right this wrong.”

“Social became state-owned, a corporate mandate called Google+,” he continued.

In fact, the company was so intent on becoming a big player in the social networking market it shut down Google Labs and raised App Engine fees. It also stopped a policy that allowed employees to spend 20 percent of their time thinking up unique ideas in a bid to push Google+ firmly into the social networking board. This didn’t work. 

“As it turned out, sharing was not broken,” Mr Whittaker said. “Sharing was working fine and dandy, Google just wasn’t a part of it. Google was the rich kid who, after having discovered he wasn’t invited to the party, built his own party in retaliation.

“The fact that no one came to Google’s party became the elephant in the room.”

Dodgy GPS smartphone stalker service cracked

Bunny boilers and suspicious spouses are having to revert back to wearing black coats and following their victims down the street after police busted a ring that developed a program to stalk people through their smartphone GPS services.

According to Korea Joongang Daily the ring, which made its money through selling the whereabouts of the victims to those who asked, was cracked by the Seoul Metropolitan police agency. The program is said to have worked in a similar way to SKT and KT Telecoms service -Find Friends. Through a similar database the accused were able to obtain locations, phone call and text information on people.

Of the those arrested one was a 41 year old broker, Mr Kim, who was accused of buying more than $89(100,000 won) of personal information. Another, Mr Yoon, was slapped with the cuffs for his part in selling the locations and other personal information of the two telecoms company’s customers.

A further five workers at SEO- a subcontractor of of the two telecoms companies- were arrested for their part in managing and developing the service. And it didn’t end there with 75 others also booked for their part in selling around 198000 location details and other pieces of information to suspicious other halves and dodgy debt agencies between August and November last year.

Of course SKT and KT claim they knew nothing of the wrong doings.

 

Samsung proposes iPhone 5 ban on home turf

Apple and Samsung continue to battle it out. We despair, as the long yawn of a story unfolds further in Korea.

Samsung is allegedly planning to put a block on selling the iPhone 5 in Korea, its own turf. The Korea Times reports that as soon as the iPhone 5 launches, whatever it is, Samsung will shout at the courts to put a ban on the product. It relates to wireless technology, said an unnamed Samsung executive. 

The anonymous source told the Korea Times that he and Samsung is “quite confident”.

Earlier today we told you how Samsung has filed for an appeal in the German courts to lift the blanket-ban of the new Galaxy Tabs, which has been a thorn in its side, placed with surgical precision by Apple lawyers. It countered by attacking Jobs’ Mob in Australia, too, and it is fighting on other fronts as well.

It feels a little bit like the Neverending Story, but the cast is less charming. The story in the courts goes like this: Samsung copies Apple copies Samsung copies Apple copies Samsung copies Samsung copies Apple ad infinitum until you find the man who pioneered the slightly rounded rectangle, who Apple would have you believe was Steve Jobs and Wozzers.

Yet again, it’s a case of going round in circles keeping the patent lawyers in shoes all the while.

Still, the court drama is important – if Apple pulls its ace cards and continues to get a leg over on Samsung, it sends a message to others who would defile or imitate the perfect image of Apple’s tablet. 

Korean online gaming curfew plans scuppered

Just when Korean authorities thought they had managed to curtail the epidemic of perceived anti-social gaming habits of its young citizens, an online games company threatens to scupper their plans.

A lengthy process resulted in the Legislation and Judiciary Committee in the Korean National Assembly unanimously passed a ruling that sought to enforce a curfew on the country’s inhabitants under the age of 16.

As previously mentioned by TechEye, one of the ills of Korean society is for the youth to indulge in playing online into the small hours in the morning, leading to the somewhat more militant of parents packing their kids off to gaming boot camps.

In a bid to curb these habits the government has sought to target habit forming in youngsters to stem the tide of gaming addiction prevalent throughout the country by enforcing a midnight to 6am curfew, due to start in October.

Unfortunately, despite much effort from the state it appears that one company has thrown a spanner in the works, dubbed the Cinderella Law, with Korea’s largest online games company NCsoft managing to simply sidestep registration rules.

It seems that one of the main ways the state was planning on enforcing the rules would be to rely on the private sector to implement the curfew.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, since kids represent a portion of their users, it turns out that games companies are reticent to block their own audiences.

NCsoft has changed its registration procedure for a number of games it deems to be for all ages, meaning that only an email address is needed and not the proof of age resident registration, effectively rendering the new legislation useless.

Although NCsoft has denied that it has simplified the registration process in order to beat the shutdown, stating instead that its aim is to stop unnecessary collection of data from customers, it is thought that other firms outraged at the plans are likely to follow suit.

The government has in the past sought a reduction in online businesses demanding resident registration numbers from customers, and is therefore in a rather difficult position.

Although an official at the Ministry Gender Equality and Family said that no methods of enforcing the curfew had been decided upon so far, it seems the most effective method has been taken from them, with other methods at their disposal such as throttling internet connection speeds likely to be more difficult to implement.

Korea passes gaming curfew law

There was bad news for PC game playing youngsters in Korean yesterday as the National Assembly finally passed a law to ban under fifteens from playing games into the wee hours of the night.

The legislation, dubbed the Cinderella Law, was passed unanimously to slap a curfew on kids playing video games between midnight and 6am in a bid to curb the wave of gaming addiction in the country.

In fact the problem of kids pulling all-nighters to play online in a country where top gamers are revered like rock stars is such that there have even been reports of gaming boot camps to ween young addicts away from their beloved games in a militant Korean version of the Priory.

Of course as TechEye staff know all too well it is not only the kiddiwinks who are likely to sneak off in the dead of night for a few hours of Call of Duty, so whether laws aimed at such young ages will have enough of an effect is being questioned, with only a small percentage of young players indulging at that time anyway.

Whether such a law can be successfully enforced by authorities is another potential problem.

There are varying reports of how exactly the forthcoming curfew will be enforced by the state, though it is thought game developers will be asked to monitor the ID numbers of gamers, with parents also able to access information about what time they have been playing until.

Another tactic put forward suggests the slowing of internet connection rates for those caught flouting the curfew.

It is also still being discussed as to what extent the gaming ban will be enforced, with the advent of high quality gaming available on, for example, smartphones meaning that there are a variety of ways to access games away from the PC.

There is an ongoing argument between the Family Ministry and Culture Ministry over whether a ban should include all platforms or merely online PC games.

South Korea says Android isn't open

Another day, and another bit of trouble for Google.

This time it’s come under the watch of South Korea’s Fair Trade Commission (FTC) after  HN, the owner of number one Korean search engine Navar and second place Daum Communications, made antitrust complaints against the American search engine.

The move comes after Microsoft filed a similar complaint with European Commission regulators last month.

The Korean search engine pair are claiming that smartphones using the Android operating system have Google’s search engine installed as a default navigation tool, which means that they “make it virtually impossible to switch to another option.”

They continue to claim that this blocks opportunities for companies offering similar services to compete on a level playing field as well as restricting consumers’ choices.

What’s more , it is said to discourage the growth of the mobile internet market. This is because telecoms operators and handset makers “will not be encouraged to offer differentiated products and services.”

Google is having none of it as usual, telling reporters at Dow Jones that Android is an open platform and its carriers are free to decide which apps they included on their Android devices.

However, IP expert Florian Mueller doesn’t agree, claiming it is “perfectly clear that Android is not open, and Google’s partners are not free to choose applications and services.”

He said that the antitrust complaints in Korea were just the cherry on the top of a very large and messy cake, and a clear example that Android isn’t as open as it seems.  

The Korean companies join a long list of complaints about Google. Most famously is Oracle vs Google – in its litigation with Google, Oracle threw in how it felt that the company limited the choice of Android device makers.

Skyhook has also had beef with Google, taking out two lawsuits against the company. The first related to Google’s restrictions on Android’s licensing rules, something that the two Korean lawsuits mention.

Mr Mueller says this shows that there is “no doubt that Google controls Android in a way that runs counter to its claims of openness.”

He says the business model is “all about lock-in, just like the business models of other dominant companies.”

He claims it disregarded other companies’ intellectual property rights to an unprecedented extent.

Boffins finally create a bendy battery

Boffins in Korea have found a way to make bendy batteries.

Unlike other bendy things in the world – Bojo’s bendy buses for example – it is thought that these will actually be helpful in the world and can be used for roll up displays and light emitting diodes.

We haven’t seen these in the past because scientists have struggled to find the right materials to get it right. In order to make these they needed to find a material that was flexible but with a strong electronic conductivity. In the past they tried to form this using polymers but they failed as these degraded at low temperatures.

Now however, it looks like there’s a way to do this with scientists at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in Daejon, coming up with a graphene based hybrid electrode. This is said to produce a flexible lithium rechargeable battery.

Combining this with a V2O5 cathode, which is grown on graphene paper and using pulsed laser deposition and graphene paper coated in lithium, they have also been able to form the anode.

Combined, these factors have given birth to a battery, which is lightweight and flexible enough to be twisted or rolled and is said by the boffins to be “promising”.

If the battery components work the flexible battery will also have a better cycle life.

Galaxy tablet continues to outsell iPad in Korea

It has been announced that Samsung’s Galaxy Tab sales figures are way ahead of the iPad in the Korean market.

The tablet from Samsung has reportedly sold 400,000 units in the two months since its launch, while Apple has only recorded 98,000 iPad sales in a similar time frame, an unusual situation for the all-conquering device to find itself. Sales in the West remain unaffected. Is it that Apple just doesn’t understand, or prioritise, its customers in East Asia? Does it care? Or is its closed-wall policy on launching in the territory shooting itself in the foot?  

Actually, one of the reasons for the Korean consumer forgoing the wizardry of Jobs’ mob is thought to be down to the availability of applications.  While the iPad has an impressive 350,000 apps, compared to a paltry 150,000 for the Galaxy, according to Chosun Ilbo, when it comes to Korean content the Samsung device wins hands down.

The Galaxy Tab released in Korea is equipped with a massive range of mainstream magazine content and book store applications, while Apple has a very small store of Korean e-books.

Similarly game content is an issue with Korean law, which states that only games approved by its Game Rating Board are allowed, so Apple has apparently blocked access for Korean users to its own game category section.

While this problem is certainly prohibitive enough to explain partly why the Galaxy Tab has so vastly outsold the iPad, surely in all its experience of dominating markets Apple would not be edged out by a competitor simply over lack of content, even in such an established market as Korea?

It is clear that Apple has not given the country necessary attention in its launch, with the iPad hitting shelves in Korea a full five months after it was available in other parts of the world.

Samsung is a Korean company., Samsung, that is being preferred over the US firm, with Korean consumers loyal to local tech.

For example. It was said recently that Hwang Chang-gyu, a well respected and highly placed technological advisor in charge of R&D for government, recently admitted to owning an iPhone as well as a Samsung handset.

His claim that he even preferred the Apple device as it was “more convenient” was met by outrage by the public, leading to Chang-gyu swiftly backtracking and hurriedly placing emphasis on the positive elements of the Samsung product.

According to Keith Howard, a sociologist at the School of Oriental and African Studies, this is symptomatic of how Korean consumers can often be keen to support the country’s own tech firms.

“There is a long-standing reluctance to go Apple in Korea, not helped by the way that Apple has underinvested in the market,” Howard told TechEye.

“This has been the story of the last 20 years or so, so with the iPad nothing is new, and the delayed release by Apple would not have been taken well by consumers, who historically have felt that Apple is not concerned with apps in Korean/han’gul.”

“In contrast, of course, Samsung is a local company that has a very high name and rating in the local market, and with products that have always been perceived to be designed for East Asian consumers.”

“The fact that Samsung products get high marks internationally only serves to strengthen the dominance in the local market.”

If Apple wants to take a hold in the Korean tablet market – set to be just as huge as elsewhere – it will take more than dangling it in front of the consumer. It has to go the whole hog and localise. But with such strong sales figures in Western markets, perhaps it isn’t interested anyway.

ISP internet policing resulting in corporate censorship – report

Internet service providers are increasingly being given policing powers that were traditionally within the jurisdiction of law enforcement agencies, degenerating to such an extent that widespread censorship has been employed, according to a new report by European Digital Rights.

The report, called The Slide From “Self-Regulation” To Corporate Censorship, reveals a stark online landscape with ISPs acting more like secret police than internet providers. It highlights the repercussions of voluntary self-regulation of the internet and its impact on free speech.

One of the primary findings was the term “self-regulation” itself is a bit of a misnomer and that it is being used to disguise a far more sinister code of practice, which employs monitoring, judgement and sanctioning of websites and consumers over “allegedly illegal” behaviour.

The report accuses a number of institutions, including the European Commission, of attempting to coerce the industry “to engage in a vigilante system of monitoring and sanctioning.”

Examples of such proposals include the 2010 EC suggestion of giving incentives to companies who seek out and block content deemed illegal; an attempt by the Council of Europe’s Assembly in 2010 to increase the legal obligations of intermediaries,such as ISPs, despite contradicting the 2003 Declaration on the freedom of communication on the internet; OECD attempts in 2010 to also increase intermediary responsibility; the ACTA draft, which forces ISPs to police their networks and enforce bans; and EU bilateral free trade agreements with India and Korea, which include provisions that also require additional intermediary liability.

The recent pulling of support for Wikileaks by Visa, MasterCard, PayPal and Everydns was cited as an example of how companies are being pressured to take action against allegedly illegal online activity without the matter being brought before the traditional legal system, which is better able to deal with the issue of legality and appropriate penalty.

The report highlighted the benefits of the openess of the internet, which it said has “enhanced democracy, has shaken dictatorships and has boosted economies.” The potential negative affect of supposed “self-regulation” on those freedoms and benefits could be catastrophic.