TOKYO (AP) — A prestigious Japanese university is giving away hundreds of iPhones, in part to use its Global Positioning System to nab students that skip class.
Truants in Japan often fake attendance by getting friends to answer roll-call or hand in signed attendance cards. That's verging on cheating since attendance is a key requirement for graduation here.
Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo is giving Apple Inc.'s iPhone 3G to 550 students in its School of Social Informatics, which studies the use of Internet and computer technology in society.
The gadget will work as a tool for studies, but it also comes with GPS, a satellite navigation system that automatically checks on its whereabouts. The university plans to use that as a way check attendance.
Students who skip class could still fake attendance by giving their iPhone to a friend who goes to class. But youngsters aren't likely to lend their mobile phones, which are packed with personal information and e-mail, according to the university.
U.S. universities use the iPhone for various, other purposes. At Stanford University, students have developed iPhone applications in a course. At Duke University, the gadget is used to get around the campus and find information about course listings and other events.
Aoyama Gakuin signed a deal earlier this month with Softbank Corp., the exclusive vendors of the iPhone in Japan.
The number of students using the iPhone is expected to reach 1,000 in the program — the first time the iPhone is being used on such a scale at a Japanese university.
The iPhone will be used to relay course materials, lecture videos and tests. The university hopes students will develop software applications and other lifestyle uses for the cell phone.
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Japan minister says government may help suppliers if GM files for bankruptcy
Toshihiro Nikai, minister of economy, trade and industry, said he was closely monitoring how Japanese manufacturers may be affected if General Motors collapses. He said the government "must consider measures," if there are any signs of serious trouble, according to a ministry official.
GM has business ties with more than 100 Japanese suppliers, many of them small companies vulnerable to cash shortages.
GM's woes have been scrutinized in Japan — home to the world's top automakers, including Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. The recent news about GM has been relatively calmly received here even as executives acknowledge the possibility of ripple-effects on the industry and American consumer sentiments.
Some Japanese companies, including Aisin Seiki, have applied for a part of the U.S. Treasury Department's $5 billion support program for suppliers.
But it's unclear whether they will get any of the money.
Nikai's comments appear aimed at allaying such fears by assuring the Japanese government will step in and help any cash-strapped manufacturers.
In the long run, a weakened GM is expected to be a growth opportunity for Japanese automakers with their strength in smaller fuel-efficient vehicles.
The U.S. Treasury has already loaned $19.4 billion to GM, which lost $6 billion in the first quarter, and will get 72.5 percent of the new company's stock. In bankruptcy protection, GM is expected to then close factories, cut jobs and try to return to profitability.