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S. Korean antitrust agency fines LCD makers $175m
by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) Oct 30, 2011

Seoul's antitrust agency said on Sunday it had fined 10 of the world's leading flat panel makers in South Korea and Taiwan a total of 194 billion won ($175 million) for price fixing.

Firms including Samsung Electronics and LG Display in South Korea and AU Optronics and Chimei Innolux from Taiwan colluded from 2001 to 2006 to control prices of panels for computers and televisions, the Fair Trade Commission said.

"They colluded on minimum prices of panels, pricing policies on each product type, timing of price increases and a ban on cash rebates," the FTC said in a statement.

The offenders also included Taiwanese and Japanese units of both Samsung Electronics and LG Display as well as Taiwan's Chunghwa Picture Tubes and HannStar Display, it said.

Officials from the firms involved held around 200 secret meetings over six years to agree on cutting or suspending production to prevent prices from falling and to exchange confidential information such as sales plans, it said.

"They were aware that such action was illegal and kept their gatherings and information secret," said the statement.

The firms have a combined 80 percent share in the global liquid crystal display (LCD) market, the FTC said, adding the cartel hurt consumers by increasing prices of computers, laptops and televisions.

Samsung Electronics, the world's top flat screen maker, and its overseas units were slapped with the heaviest fine of 97.2 billion won, followed by 65.5 billion won for LG Display and its foreign affiliates.

The fines by the FTC -- the largest it has ever imposed for a case of international price fixing -- came three years after several major Asian LCD makers, including LG, were fined after a similar US probe.

In December, the European Commission also fined six Asian makers of LCD screens a total of 649 million euros ($860 million at the time) for operating for almost five years as a cartel.

Samsung said it respected the regulator's decision and would abide by it.

LG Display however said it opposed the ruling and would appeal to the Seoul court to reduce the fine on the grounds that it had fully cooperated with the investigation.

-- Dow Jones Newswires contributed to this report --

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Google tunes Internet television offering
San Francisco (AFP) Oct 28, 2011 - Google on Friday set out to breathe new life into its moribund Internet television platform.

Second-generation Google TV software features simplified controls, improved search, slicker integration with video-sharing service YouTube and the option to add applications made by outside developers.

"In the grander scheme, it is another step on a long road," said Chris Dale of the Google TV team. "We are committed to the product and making it better."

Google is among technology firms betting that the future of home entertainment is films, television shows, and other video content streamed on-demand over the Internet.

The California Internet titan last year launched Google TV, which is powered by Android software and Chrome Web browser and can be accessed using Sony TVs or set-top boxes from Logitech that route Web content to existing television sets.

Sony and Logitech have both slashed prices on Google TV offerings in the face of disappointing sales.

Criticism of Google TV included that using it was relatively complicated, making it daunting to those who aren't technology savvy.

Updated Google TV software that will begin rolling out next week seeks to make it easier and more intuitive for viewers to find online video.

"The Internet marks a new chapter for television," Google vice president of product management said in a blog post.

"This chapter is not about replacing broadcast or cable TV; it's not about replicating what's on TV to the Web," he continued.

"It's about bringing millions of new channels to your TV from the next generation of creators, application developers, and networks."

Google declined to comment on deals it might be making with television or film studios, but did tell AFP that more electronics makers were signing on to embed its TV software into devices.


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Reversing course, Hewlett-Packard to keep PC unit
New York (AFP) Oct 27, 2011
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