Microsoft to Set Up Fund for Malaysia’s Multimedia Corridor

by Julian Matthews

September 3, 1998 (KUALA LUMPUR) — Microsoft Corp. will set up a venture capital fund and a software developers’ resource center as part of its efforts in Malaysia’s Multimedia Super Corridor.

The moves are aimed at helping local start-ups develop an indigenous software industry in the MSC.

Microsoft Malaysia Sdn., Bhd. general manager Benedict Lee said the venture capital fund will kick off in 1999 with an initial outlay of 30 million ringgit (US$7.2 million). It will be funded by three parties: Microsoft, a local company and multinational information technology company.

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E-Purse to Debut at Commonwealth Games in Malaysia

By Julian Matthews

September 1, 1998 (KUALA LUMPUR) — Malaysia will introduce its first electronic purse in the form of a smart card at the 16th Commonwealth Games to be held in the capital city in September.

The stored value, chip-based card is the forerunner to the national multi-purpose card the government plans to roll out as part of its Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) project.

The electronic purse system is based on the Proton smart card technology developed by Banksys SA of Belgium, and currently used in 15 countries.

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Malaysia’s Digital Signature Law to Take Effect in October

By Julian Matthews

August 28, 1998 (KUALA LUMPUR) — Malaysia’s Digital Signature Act 1997 will be implemented on Oct. 1, paving the way for the use of digital certificates in various e-commerce applications in the country.

Energy, Telecommunications and Posts Minister Leo Moggie said that Certification Authority providers may apply for licenses from the Department of Posts as soon as the law goes into force.

Moggie said the director general of posts Nasaruddin Che Abu has been appointed as Controller of Certification Authorities, and will be responsible for regulating and authorizing licenses. Also, he will oversee the implementation of the act, formulate relevant guidelines and regulations, and maintain a publicly accessible database of disclosure records of each licensed Certification Authority.

The new law opens the doors for branded Certification Authority providers to sell their systems in the country if they satisfy prescribed requirements of the controller. Moggie added that the criteria for selecting Certification Authorities would be made public soon.

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Removable Drives to Replace Hard Disks, Says Industry Pioneer

By Julian Matthews

August 27, 1998 (PENANG, Malaysia) — Removable drives will replace hard disk drives eventually, said industry pioneer Syed Iftikar, president and CEO of Castlewood Systems Inc.

He made his comment in an interview with Asia BizTech on Aug. 13, when manufacturing for the company’s ORB 2.16GB magneto-resistive (MR) removable drive was launched by its first strategic partner, Trans Capital Holding Bhd., a local contract manufacturer.

Syed was the founder of SyQuest Technology Inc. and co-founder of Seagate Technology Inc., where he invented the 5.25-in. hard disk drive.

Castlewood Systems was founded in September 1996 and is a privately-held company based in Pleasanton, Calif.

Syed is pioneering the use of MR technology and Giant Magneto Resistive (GMR) technology licensed from IBM Corp. in removable drives.

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Internet Users Arrested for Spreading Riot Rumors

By Julian Matthews

August 17, 1998 (KUALA LUMPUR) — Malaysian police have arrested three people for allegedly spreading rumors of riots in the capital city via the Internet.

The three are being held under Section 73 (1) of the Internal Security Act (ISA) which allows them to be held for up to 60 days.

A special police team set up to investigate the rumors arrested a 37-year-old computer firm employee at his office and a 25-year-old woman at a construction firm on Aug. 11, and a bank employee in his 30s, on Aug. 12.

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Ericsson Aims to Produce 5M Handphones, Despite Crisis

By Julian Matthews

July 31, 1998 (KUALA LUMPUR) — Swedish telecommunications giant Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson aims to make 3-5 million units of mobile phones at its Malaysian plant by the year 2000.

Ericsson Mobile Communications (M) Sdn., Bhd. managing director Olle Ulvenholm said the company hopes to achieve the target when a new plant comes onstream by mid-1999.

Ulvenholm said the 500,000 sq. ft. plant, to be built and equipped at a cost of 100 million ringgit (about US$25 million), will be adjacent to the company’s existing plant in Shah Alam.

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British Telecom Buys Stake in Malaysian Telecom Firm

By Julian Matthews

July 28, 1998 (KUALA LUMPUR) — British Telecommunications Plc. has acquired a one-third stake in Binariang Bhd., a cash-strapped telecom company, for 1.8 billion ringgit (about US$450 million).

The deal is the single largest investment for BT in the Asia Pacific region, and the biggest by a foreign party in a Malaysian telecom company.

The July 24 announcement ended months of speculation in which Binariang had been linked with various foreign telecom firms including Britain’s Cable and Wireless Plc. as well as Singapore Telecommunications Ltd.

Richard Slogrove, BT’s managing director for Asia Pacific, said BT decided to invest in the company because it is confident of Binariang’s long- term prospects.

“Our investment in Binariang represents a total and long-term commitment of a foreign company in the local telecommunications industry as a whole and Binariang specifically,” he said.

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Read-Rite Closes Penang Plant, Lays Off 4,000 Workers

By Julian Matthews

July 21, 1998 (KUALA LUMPUR) — Read-Rite Corp., a maker of disk drive components, is closing its Malaysian operations and dismissing more than 4,000 staff.

“It is a difficult and painful decision, but we have to do it,” said Randall Hollis, vice president and managing director of Read-Rite Malaysia Sdn Bhd.

Hollis said “tremendous restructuring within the data storage industry” had forced the company to consolidate its Asian manufacturing facilities. He cited low product demand, low production volume and escalating costs as other factors for the move.

Read-Rite’s operations in Thailand and Philippines will take over the work of the Malaysian plant.

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Malaysia Ups PCB Exports; Praegitzer Opens Asian Outlet

By Julian Matthews

June 24, 1998 (KUALA LUMPUR) — Malaysian exports of printed circuit boards rose 42.1 percent last year to 3.093 billion ringgit (about US$793 million), compared to 2.190 billion ringgit in 1996.

International Trade and Industry Minister Rafidah Aziz said recently , that Singapore was the country’s largest export market, with 37 percent share, followed by Japan (13.7 percent), Hong Kong (11.6 percent), and the United States and Taiwan at 11.2 percent each.

Rafidah said that her ministry had approved a total 53 projects for the manufacture of printed circuit boards, of which 32 were already in operation.

“Twelve of the companies are producing double-sided printed circuit boards and seven others are producing multi-layered boards,” she said.

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Telekom Malaysia Signs Deal for MSC Infrastructure

By Julian Matthews

May 29, 1998 (KUALA LUMPUR) — Telekom Malaysia Bhd. signed a one billion ringgit (US$263 million) deal to provide state-of-the-art telecommunication infrastructure facilities for Putrajaya, the new federal government administrative center located within Malaysia’s Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC).

The telecom infrastructure will include fiber optic cables capable of supporting high bandwidth data transfers necessary for the MSC’s objective of becoming a global multimedia hub.

The MSC is a 750 square kilometer zone south of capital city Kuala Lumpur designated for the development and delivery of various multimedia products and services such as electronic government, smart card applications, telemedicine, distance learning, remote manufacturing and electronic commerce. It has been endorsed and supported by more than 136 companies, including Microsoft Corp., Intel Corp., Oracle Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc. and Motorola Inc.

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