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Daum TV brings Web to living room

IT company should look beyond location, Daum CEO says of Jeju relocation


JEJU ISLAND ― Daum Communications, the nation’s second-most visited search engine, on Friday unveiled its new Daum TV platform in Jeju Island, where the company recently relocated its headquarters.

The first entry into the smart TV market as a local portal site is an effort for Daum to extend its dominance of computing and mobile services to television.

The company may also hope to up the ante in its ongoing tussle with rival Naver, the No. 1 search giant here.

“Amid lukewarm reviews of Google TV and Apple TV, we had long studied to identify different values we can offer consumers,” said Kim Jee-hyun, Daum’s corporate strategy director at a press conference.

“We have concluded that the killer service for smart TVs should be video streaming and that’s an area where Daum has spent years accumulating technology and experience.”

The company also rolled out Daum TV+, a set-top box powered by the Android Gingerbread operating system.

Like existing smart TVs and set-top boxes, the device allows users to Web search, play online games and download Android apps while watching TV programs.

The device has sleek remote control with a tiny keyboard on the back, which also reacts to the user’s voice. It supports a flick pad, just like in mobile phones or tablet PCs.

For the smart TV project, Daum last year set up a new affiliate Daum TV in partnership with set-top box developer Kaonmedia and Crucial Tech, a remote control maker for smart TVs.

Company officials said what differentiates its TV from others is not technical specifications but the content supported by Daum’s own video-sharing services like TV Pot.

Daum TV, in particular, offers some 2,500 animation programs for children, as many TV viewers are kids now. 
Daum’s corporate strategy director Kim Jee-hyun speaks during a press conference at the company’s new head office in Jeju on Friday. (Daum Communications)
Daum’s corporate strategy director Kim Jee-hyun speaks during a press conference at the company’s new head office in Jeju on Friday. (Daum Communications)

The device, priced at 199,000 won ($175), will sell from April 30 first through E-Mart, the nation’s biggest discount store chain and then via other online retailers.

For those who purchase it, the company plans to offer some exclusive Daum content free of charge.

Daum, however, is expected to face a bumpy road as the company must compete directly with TV makers like Samsung and LG and Internet-based service providers like KT, SK Broadband and LG Uplus.

“There would be a proliferation of market players as the technology is based on open source. But that also explains why the content is important,” Kim said, adding that the company is always open to partnerships with manufacturers or cable TV providers.

Daum is also pinning high hopes on the nation’s planned transition from terrestrial TV to digital signals by 2013.

“Compared to expensive TV sets, our cheaper set-top box would be a better bet for those just getting into Web TV,” he said.

Friday’s event came with the recent completion of Daum’s new headquarters building Space.1, which is situated on the 48,483-square-meter site in a science park in Jeju.

This month Daum became the first Korean firm to move its main office to the nation’s southernmost resort island.

The Jeju project started in 2003 with the belief that “the operation of an IT company should overcome space,” said Daum CEO Choi Sae-hoon.

“Starting from 16 employees in 2004, there are now some 400 workers in Jeju. Over the years, Daum has seen its market value grow fivefold and its sales more than double,” he said.

“We can reduce commuting time, while offering more welfare benefits to workers. It’s also important to contribute to the local economy here.”

Daum workers are allowed to choose whether they want to be dispatched to Jeju or continue to work in Seoul. For those hoping to settle in the island, the company plans to build facilities such as a residential building in the coming years.

The five-story building with one basement floor is filled with glass-walled offices, some 20 meeting rooms, all with a different theme, and other refreshment facilities for the creative thinking of employees.

By Lee Ji-yoon (jylee@heraldcorp.com)
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