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Asian technology firms bet on a 3D future

Japan's Softbank sees deluge of iPhone pre-orders
Tokyo (AFP) June 16, 2010 - Japanese mobile phone carrier Softbank said Wednesday it has faced a deluge of pre-orders for Apple's latest iPhone, with queues snaking around outlets and its online store overwhelmed by demand. Hundreds queued in Tokyo in soupy humidity and heavy downpours to place their order for the fourth generation of Apple's smartphone, due to launch on June 24, weeks after the release of the iPad triggered similar scenes. Softbank said it started accepting pre-orders Tuesday at 5pm local time (0800 GMT) and said more than 270 people queued outside its store in Tokyo's upscale Omotesando area.

The firm's online store has been overwhelmed, a spokesman said, and accessibility to the site was limited Wednesday. Softbank president Masayoshi Son posted a message on social networking site Twitter to apologise for the technical problems. "We are receiving reservations for iPhone 4, much larger than the company had expected," he said. Heavy demand for the gadget in the United States also overwhelmed carrier AT&T's server network Tuesday to the frustration of potential customers. Ahead of its Japan launch in 2008, many thought the iPhone would underwhelm a country long accustomed to using ultra-advanced handsets to send emails and watch live television.

But a recent survey by Tokyo-based MM Research Institute Ltd (MMRI) said the iPhone accounted for 72 percent of all smartphones sold in Japan in the fiscal year ended March, representing about five percent of all mobiles sold. The iPhone 4, which features video chat and a crisper screen, launches next Thursday in Britain, France, Germany, Japan and the United States, where it will cost 199 dollars for the 16 gigabyte model and 299 dollars for a 32GB model. The touchscreen smartphone, which comes in black and white versions, will be available in 18 other countries in July and 24 more in August. The iPhone 4 has more than 100 new features including a front-facing video camera to allow for video-conferencing between users and an improved camera and battery. The iPhone 4 can also shoot and edit HD video.
by Staff Writers
Hong Kong (AFP) June 16, 2010
The Asian technology industry believes the future is not only bright but it's in three dimensions, as a string of manufacturers bring 3D products onto the market.

Most of Asia's big brand names from Panasonic to Samsung via Sharp, Mitsubishi and Toshiba will have 3D televisions out this year with some even offering 3D desktop computers and laptops.

Sony has launched eight 3D TVs in Japan starting at 200,000 yen (2,200 dollars) for a 40-inch (100-centimetre) screen, and is also planning 3D titles for its PlayStation 3 games console.

Akira Shimazu, Sony's senior general manager in charge of 3D projects, believes 2010 is the year that the immersive viewing experience will finally come of age.

"In terms of technology, it was impossible for television sets and video players at consumers' houses to play back 3D content appropriately," he told AFP.

But that has changed with a new high-speed LCD panel that allows 3D with full high definition, he says, and Blu-ray discs can store full-length HD-quality movies in 3D.

The quality of the content has also vastly improved with processors able to adjust 3D images digitally in post-production, tools that were not available in the past when most movies were made on film.

"Recently I saw a couple of very early 3D films created by Columbia Pictures in the 1950s," Shimazu said.

"The difference is apparent if you have seen a recent 3D film -- 3D is now being used as a strong tool of story-telling and being created to look natural and real."

James Cameron's blockbuster "Avatar" started a 3D wave in the movie industry -- followed by "Alice In Wonderland" and "Clash of the Titans", among others.

But as in the early days of cable and satellite TV, sport could determine 3D's success or failure in the home entertainment market.

The football World Cup now being played in South Africa is the first to be filmed and broadcast -- by Sony -- in 3D to fans at six FIFA viewing sites in cities around the world.

"Live broadcast of sport is one of the most promising genres of 3D content," Shimazu said.

Sports giant ESPN launched a new 3D network last Friday by airing the tournament's first game, hosts South Africa's 1-1 draw with Mexico, in 3D.

But the technology's glaring problem has not changed much since the 1950s "golden era" of 3D movies -- viewers still have to wear special glasses.

"Most analysts and commentators agree the glasses are a problem for mass adoption," said Paul O'Donovan, an analyst for global IT research company Gartner.

Glasses designed for permanent use in the home vary in price from 75 to 150 dollars, "which is not cheap -- especially if you sit on them", he said.

"Also there are issues with how many pairs are bundled with the 3D TV. Samsung offer two pairs but if you want some friends to come around to watch a movie or sports event with you, then who supplies the extra glasses?

"And you can't watch the TV without the glasses, as that will give you a definite headache."

Shimazu says that Sony, which reckons 10 percent of the TVs it sells this year will be 3D-compatible, is working on technology that does not require glasses. But he is not certain when such technology will be on the market.

O'Donovan does not believe there is a huge market -- people may buy a state-of-the-art plasma TV that happens to be 3D-compatible, not necessarily because they are keen on the 3D element.

"There is a 3D market, but it's small and is made up of early adopters keen to show off to their neighbours," he said. "I think it is a fad.

"Hollywood would love to extend the cinema success of 3D into the home market, but there is a real risk that successes like 'Avatar' will be few and far between, so even 3D in the cinema will be smaller than traditional 2D.

"The transition to the home market is definitely going to be a bumpy ride, if it ever takes off."

Ichiro Michikoshi, an analyst at Japanese research firm BCN, was marginally more hopeful.

"I think there is a market," he said. "But I think 3D TVs will not sell remarkably until it becomes usual to watch 3D without special glasses."

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Nintendo unveils 3-D handheld DS videogame device
Los Angeles (AFP) June 15, 2010
Nintendo on Tuesday unveiled a new generation DS handheld videogame system that lets people play in 3-D without using special glasses. "I can't wait for you to try this," Nintendo chief executive Satoru Iwata said as he held a 3DS above his head at a press conference in the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles on the opening day of the Electronic Entertainment Expo. "It will show you full 3-D gr ... read more

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