While you were bunting...

Here's a brief round-up of some of the tech stories you may have missed while you were trying to keep dry under your red, white and blue umbrella, keeping away from Jubilee overload, watching Fearne Cotton finding everything 'amazing', saving enough for a new pair of speakers by putting a pound in the tin every time anyone on the box said 'iconic' – or reeling back from the TV at the sight of a) more bunting, b) Emma Bunton or c) Adam Boulton's salmon-pink jacket...

Sony and Panasonic shares hit 30-year lows

On Monday, not helped by the ongoing strength of the Japanese yen, both Sony and Panasonic shares hit record lows on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

Sony stock went below Y1000 for the first time in 32 years – the last time its shares were this low was in 1980, just before it introduced the Walkman.

Meanwhile the proportion of its shares held by overseas investors has slipped from 50% to just 35%.

And Sony's market capitalisation fell below Y1tn (£8bn), or about 2.5% of that of Apple, and a little over 8% of Samsung's.

The fall meant the company was worth less than 6% of its 2000 value, and similar woes are affecting arch-rival – but prospective OEL display partner – Panasonic.

Panasonic also hit a 30-year low, its shares dipping below Y500 on Monday for the first time since 1980.

Both companies suffered from predictions of a US economic slowdown and the strength of the yen against the US dollar and the euro, and while the Japanese currency has weakened a bit since Monday, firming up Japanese stocks a little, things still look pretty shaky.

The yen was trading at around Y97/€ at the start of the week, and is now at around Y99, while the US dollar was at Y78/$, but is now above Y79/$. Sony shares are currently just above Y1050 after their scare earlier in the week, having peaked above Y1060 earlier today before sinking back, and Panasonic's are at Y525 after hitting Y535 briefly earlier.

Samsung clocks up 50m Galaxy sales

Samsung announced on Sunday that its Galaxy series smartphones have sold over 50m units worldwide. with the Galaxy S II (above) being the fastest-selling mobile phone the company has ever made.

The Galaxy S has sold 24m units in the two years since it was launched in June 2010, while the Galaxy SII is tearing ahead, clocking up 28m sales worldwide in just 13 months.

Meanwhile the Galaxy Note, launched late in October last year, has already shifted 7m units, says the company, clearly hoping that those sales figures are a good omen for its just-launched and much-in-demand Galaxy S III.

Overseas phone companies give Korea the swerve

Meanwhile an article in the Korean financial press wonders where all the imported phones are, as companies such as BlackBerry, Nokia, HTC and Sony seem to be giving the highly competitive South Korean phone mobile telecoms market the swerve.

The iPhone 4S was the last big 'import phone' launch there, and Apple is struggling with domestic giants LG and Samsung for Korean hearts, minds and contracts, but it looks like the next two big launches to hit fashion-conscsious phonistas in Korea will be the Samsung Galaxy S3 – due on sale there this month despite already being launched in other markets – and the much-rumoured forthcoming iPhone 4S successor/stablemate from Apple.

The article, in Korea's JoongAng Daily, notes that while Nokia's Lumia 900 Windows-based smartphone is available in a number of markets including the US, Nokia has no plans to launch it in Korea. A spokeswoman for Nokia Korea told the paper, 'We are watching the market at this moment before the big names arrive.'

Similarly Sony's Korean operation, which had said in March it was planning to launch the Xperia S (above) 'soon', is now quoted as saying that the launch 'has been tentatively delayed.'

Market research shows that three domestic manufacturers - Samsung, LG and Pantech – dominate the Korean market, with 97% of domestic sales in the first quarter of this year.

Less than 160,000 foreign-made handsets were sold in Korea in January-March, against 2.5m Samsung sales and 1.04m for LG.

Supply of TV panels changing, tightening

The ever-volatile market for TV display panels has shown signs of tightening in recent months, according to industry analyst DisplaySearch, and there could be shortages in some of the popular panel sizes, including 40/42in.

Manufacturers are looking at simpler, faster methods of panel fabrication, which is reducing efficiency as these new technologies are brought on-stream, while there's a shift of emphasis away from some once-popular sizes.

As previously reported, some manufacturers in Japan and Korea are either pulling out of making some panels, or switching over their production to more profitable tablet/smartphone-size displays. The Taiwanese panel companies, meanwhile, are concentrating on new sizes such as 29in, 39in and 50in, and moving away from 30in and 40/42in screen sizes.

Demand from 50in TVs is growing, putting pressure on supply, which is good news for manufacturers in a market where pricing fluctuates fairly readily.

However, the panel makers have been cautious about stepping up production, even though they have the capacity - not least because the competitive market still means some are actually selling panels below cost.

And finally…

Denon and Marantz parent D&M Holdings has rebranded itself as D+M Group, with a new slogan – 'Performance is Everything' – and plans for some 70 new products to be launched this year.

The new logo apparently has a 'Dimensional D' to signify the company's video products, and an 'M' formed from a series of sound waves.

Launching the new identity, CEO Jim Caudill said that 'This is our way to symbolically tell everyone in the organization that things are changing for the positive.

'We are transforming the company and embracing changes to re-invent ourselves. That's what great companies do. We are going to build D+M Group into a new products machine. Expect to see new products all the time.'

And he revealed 70 or so new products the company has on the way, including new receivers from both Marantz and Denon, the Denon Cocoon and Marantz Consolette docking station systems previewed at the High End 2012 show in Munich last month, and 11 new Denon headphone models, from the Urban Raver series for younger audiences to Music Maniac for audiophiles.

We've already had the announcement of new Denon receivers today – expect to see at least some of the other new products at the D+M European press launch next week...

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Andrew has written about audio and video products for the past 20+ years, and been a consumer journalist for more than 30 years, starting his career on camera magazines. Andrew has contributed to titles including What Hi-Fi?, GramophoneJazzwise and Hi-Fi CriticHi-Fi News & Record Review and Hi-Fi Choice. I’ve also written for a number of non-specialist and overseas magazines.