Apple’s next big moneymaker is its biggest headache in China

Apple CEO Tim Cook attends the China Development Forum in Beijing, China, March 18, 2017.

For Apple, this summer is closing with good news and bad news.

On the one hand, its financials suggest that as iPhone sales plateau globally, it can count on software to spur growth. Revenue in Apple’s “Services” category—which includes sales in the App Store, as well as Apple Music subscriptions and other media—hit $7.27 billion for the three month-period ending July 1, making it the company’s second-largest business unit.

On the other hand, that growth is increasingly threatened in China, where Apple’s software ambitions face tough challenges as Beijing continues its efforts to wean the country off foreign technology.

The most recent incident came this week when Beijing-based law firm Dare & Sure announced it had filed a complaint (link in Chinese) to China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), which oversees antitrust issues, and the State Administration for Industry & Commerce (SAIC), alleging that Apple has been engaging in monopolistic behavior. Representing a group of 28 developers, the firm argues that Apple deletes apps without sufficient explanation, and that its standard 30% take on in-app purchases is unfair. In April, when the firm first announced it was looking for Chinese developers (link in Chinese) to potentially represent, it wrote:

“Some of Apple’s behavior when operating the App Store, when coupled with its absolute advantageous market position, will or already has produced a negative impact on market competition. If Apple cannot explain the reasoning behind this behavior, or cannot prove that this sort of behavior creates benefits in the market that make up for its negative impact, this sort of behavior ought to be subject to China’s anti-monopoly regulations.”

In response to the complaint, Apple said in a statement sent to Quartzthat the App Store “has published guidelines that apply equally to all developers in every country,” and added that it holds “workshops in China throughout the year” to help Chinese developers. It did not address the lawsuit directly.

The SAIC did not reply immediately to Quartz’s request for comment. The NDRC couldn’t be reached for comment.

It’s not clear if the complaint will turn into a case. It’s also not the first of its kind—in 2012, a group of iPhone owners filed a suit against Apple arguing that its 30% take from the App Store was anti-competitive, and the case has yet to close. But the suit marks one of several instances where Apple’s software business has come under pressure in China.

In late July, Apple removed dozens of VPN apps from China’s App Store due to government demands. While not a wholesale removal, the ban nevertheless follows the government’s wider crackdown on software that circumvents the so-called Great Firewall, which blocks access to websites like Google and Facebook.

In May, Chinese tech giant Tencent removed a button in its chat app WeChat that had allowed users to donate small sums of money to bloggers and media personalities. Apple argued that the button was in violation of its policy of taking 30% of from in-app purchases. It also came not long after WeChat launched an app store of its own, which, if it becomes successful, could compete against Apple’s.

Before those incidents, the government targeted other software offerings from Apple. In January it forced Apple to remove the New York Times app from the Chinese App Store. Last year, the government forced Apple to shut down its Chinese iBooks and iTunes movie stores.

Apple needs Service revenue from China just as much as from everywhere else, if not more. For its most recent earnings (and for the third quarter in a row), the Greater China region (which includes Taiwan and Hong Kong) remained the only part of the world where total revenues, which come overwhelmingly from iPhone sales, did not grow annually.

Apple has taken additional steps lately that might help smooth the course in China. Recently it announced it would open a data center in China, in swift compliance with the recently-implemented Cybersecurity Law. It also created a head of Greater China position, and appointed native Chinese-speaker and longtime Apple executive Isabel Ge Mahe to take on the role. As long as these incidents continue at the same pace, she’ll have her hands full.

 [Source”cnbc”]

SoftBank invests at least $2.5 bn in Flipkart; biggest ever investment in Indian internet space

Flipkart said the SoftBank investment, which is the biggest-ever private investment in an Indian technology company, will make the Vision Fund one of the largest shareholders in the online retailer. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

India’s largest Internet firm Flipkart Ltd has raised at least $2.5 billion from SoftBank Vision Fund, scaling up its firepower in the fight with arch rival Amazon India for dominance over India’s e-commerce market.

The latest round of funding takes Flipkart’s cash reserves to more than $4 billion. Flipkart didn’t disclose the amount, but said that the SoftBank investment comprises a mix of primary (investment in the company) and secondary capital (purchase of shares from existing shareholders).

SoftBank invested at least $2.5 billion in Flipkart, three people familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity. Mint and other publications had reported for months that SoftBank would invest more than $1.5 billion in Flipkart by putting in fresh capital and buying shares from Tiger Global Management, Flipkart’s largest shareholder.

Flipkart has now raised more than $6 billion in cash since starting out in 2007, by far the highest by any Indian start-up and among the highest by any start-up globally. Flipkartraised $1.4 billion from Tencent Holdings Ltd, eBay Inc. and Microsoft Corp. in April.

The SoftBank investment comes after Flipkart’s proposed takeover of Snapdeal, the Japanese investor’s portfolio company, collapsed last week.

“This is a monumental deal for Flipkart and India. Very few economies globally attract such overwhelming interest from top-tier investors. It is recognition of India’s unparalleled potential to become a leader in technology and e-commerce on a massive scale. SoftBank’s proven track record of partnering with transformative technology leaders has earned it the reputation of being a visionary investor,” Flipkart co-founders Binny Bansal and Sachin Bansal said in a joint statement.

The investment will likely make SoftBank the largest investor in Flipkart and reduce the influence of Tiger Global, whose representative Kalyan Krishnamurthy is Flipkart’s CEO.

In the space of four months, SoftBank has struck two deals that have changed the dynamics of India’s Internet business and made the Japanese investor the most powerful and influential entity in the start-up ecosystem. In May, SoftBank, which is also the largest shareholder in cab hailing firm Ola, invested $1.4 billion in digital payments firm Paytm.

Already, some analysts and investors are saying that SoftBank may orchestrate a mega-merger between Paytm and Flipkart at some point in the future.

The SoftBank investment in Flipkart is part of the company’s latest financing round;

“We want to support innovative companies that are clear winners in India because they are best positioned to leverage technology and help people lead better lives. As the pioneers in Indian e-commerce, Flipkart is doing that every day,” said Masayoshi Son, chairman and CEO of SoftBank Group Corp.

While expectations around the size of India’s e-commerce have significantly diminished from the heady estimates of 2015, it is still considered the last big e-commerce market left. Flipkart is the only local start-up that is seen as serious competition to Amazon India over the long term.

With its financing round in April and the latest SoftBank investment, Flipkart has settled the debate over its ability to take on Amazon. Its prospects have also lifted over the past nine months as it has seen a resurgence in sales

SDource:-livemint

Microsoft’s Bots could be its biggest contribution to computing since Windows

Microsoft's Bots could be its biggest contribution to computing since Windows

On stage at its annual Build conference keynote, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella painted a picture of our lives being made easier with bots, intelligent agents that live within apps and services. But, would that life be much better, or less connected than it already is – or both?

Nadella and team’s vision for conversational computing comes just a week after their first public experiment in the field, Tay, came crashing down in a spectacular display of human depravity. Not exactly the best argument for a world run by bots.

The newly-appointed executive addressed the Twitter chat bot experiment head on during the March 30 Build 2016 keynote with a three-fold plan for bots that he believes are the new apps.

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To Nadella, so long as bots and the digital assistants that use them are built with the intention to augment human ability and experience, with trustworthiness (privacy, transparency, security) and with inclusion and respectfulness in mind, we’ll be OK.

Or, at the very least, we’ll avoid another Tay scenario.

And, on paper, that generally checks out. Of course, the bots that Microsoft envisions aren’t necessarily accessible by the masses all at once, but individuals through specific communication programs or through assistants, like Cortana.

Still, Tay was demonstrative of the sheer power that such intelligent, semi-autonomous software can possess. But I’m worried about another facet of these bots’ power.

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Do we need another crutch to connect?

That’s my simple question to everyone: are the lay people of the world ready for such power, just as we’re learning empathy on the internet? But, I’ll follow that up with another one.

What will that power do to a society that’s more connected than ever yet whose people struggle to meaningfully connect with one another more than ever?

Take Microsoft’s demonstration of Cortana using bots to facilitate uniting with an old friend in Dublin, Ireland on an upcoming trip. Looking at it one way: Cortana and its squad of bots just helped someone connect with her old friend.

But, try and look at it this way: wouldn’t that person have remembered that old friend without Cortana’s help? Americans don’t visit Ireland every day, after all. Or, would she not have, for the effects of “connected” tech have already created a crutch for her to lean on to facilitate human interaction?

I like to call this “The Facebook Effect.” How many of your friends and family members’ birthdays do you actually remember now that Facebook reminds you? (I won’t even bother counting myself.)

What happens when we apply similar use cases to far more powerful pieces of technology? My guess is that it won’t be long before we rely on bots to remind us to connect with one another much less order a pizza.

At that point, I don’t know how much bots are helping so much as hindering our ability to meaningfully or earnestly connect with one another. In the above Dublin scenario, the woman didn’t even reach out to her friend on her own – Cortana did it for her.

bots

Bots for tedium, brains for relationships

Now, don’t mistake: I couldn’t be more excited for for bots to intelligently update my calendar and remind me that I’m on deadline for that laptop review. But, I’d rather handle communicating with other humans on my own, thanks.

Technology by its very definition makes life easier, we’d be nothing without it, but just how much do we want to lean on technology to foster human relationships?

As we enter this new phase of automation, we could do with asking ourselves that question more often.

 

[Source:- Techrader]

Fallout 4’s Far Harbor DLC is Larger Than Oblivion’s Biggest DLC

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Publisher Bethesda reveals that Fallout 4‘s forthcoming expansion pack known as Far Harbor is larger than the biggest DLC for The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion.

With Fallout 4‘s Automatron DLC having been recently released, fans of Bethesda’s popular post-apocalyptic RPG have now turned their attention to the title’s forthcoming add-ons. As it happens, one gamer took to Twitter to ask the studio’s Vice President of PR and Marketing, Pete Hines, about the magnitude of Fallout 4‘s Far Harbor content, which resulted in the executive saying “it’s bigger in size than Shivering Isles,” which was The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion‘s biggest DLC package.

For those unaware, Shivering Isles was the first expansion pack for Oblivion, and it brought loads of fresh materials, including a map about a quarter of the area of Cyrodiil, which is Elder Scrolls 4 main setting. Bearing that in mind, it makes sense as to why Bethesda’s intent to charge $25 for Fallout 4‘s Far Harbor as a standalone download.

Prior to Hines’ confirmation of Fallout 4‘s forthcoming expansion pack being bigger than Oblivion‘s most massive add-on, the post-apocalyptic RPG’s director, Todd Howard, had confirmed the Far Harbor DLC contains the largest landmass created by Bethesda yet, but revealed it actually has a little less playable content than Shivering Isles. Of course, even though Fallout 4‘s upcoming island adventure doesn’t include as much as Oblivion‘s giant expansion, it doesn’t mean that the quality is going to be poor. If anything, fans should expect a rollicking good time with the studio slightly paring down the content to include better faction quests, settlements, creatures, dungeons, as well as higher-level armor and weapons.

Before Fallout 4‘s Far Harbor expansion launches in May, however, fans of the game may be more excited to receive the title’s Survival Mode, which is receiving a PC beta build this week. While the add-on will surely provide plenty of new content, some Wastelanders may have a heavier hankering to ratchet up Fallout 4‘s difficulty.

fallout-4-far-harbor-dlc-size-oblivion-energy-weapon

While all of Fallout 4‘s DLC offerings for story and typical gameplay elements are certainly appealing, the April release date of Wasteland Workshop — that is, Bethesda’s extensive enlargement of the action-RPG’s crafting options — is arguably the most anticipated add-on yet. After all, giving fans a larger swathe of design options for settlements to create a more livable home and customize the title’s assets even more has sort of become an extremely time-consuming game in and of itself.

At any rate, all of the previously mentioned materials — Automatron, Wasteland Workshop, and Far Harbor — are set to provide Fallout 4 players with plenty more reasons to jump back into the Boston Commonwealth. In truth, the only decision fans have to make at this point is whether or not to pick up the DLC separately at individual prices, or to go all-in with the Season Pass for $50.

Fallout 4 is out now and is available for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

Source: Pete Hines – Twitter (via VG 24/7)

 

[Source:- Gamerant]