Archive for ‘Technology’

12/02/2016

How India Helped Prove Einstein Right on Ripples and Gravity – India Real Time – WSJ

The discovery of gravitational waves announced Thursday has given momentum to Indian scientists hoping to be the first outside of the U.S. to host the device that detected the signals from the collision of two black holes.

Indian scientists contributed significantly to the decades long hunt for evidence of gravitational waves and in identifying that they were produced by the cosmic clash of black holes a billion light- years ago.

The discovery verifies an unproven portion of Albert Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity and, because the waves are largely unimpeded by matter, offers a new way for astronomers to probe formerly hidden corners of the universe. Einstein first suggestedthe existence of gravitational waves in 1916.

Around 30 Indians were part of a 1,000-strong team of researchers from 15 countries led by scientists at the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, that made the discovery using detectors at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO.

“I am so grateful for the major contributions, by Indian scientists working in India and abroad, that helped make this discovery and future discoveries possible,” said Kip Thorne, a Caltech theoretical physicist and co-founder of the LIGO project,  in a statement.

Indian data analysts developed and implemented techniques to find gravitational-wave signals amid noise and the country’s theorists computed the shapes of the signals, he added.

On Thursday, a tweet from the verified account of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “immensely proud that Indian scientists played an important role in this challenging quest.”

Source: How India Helped Prove Einstein Right on Ripples and Gravity – India Real Time – WSJ

27/01/2016

With China weakening, Apple turns to India | Reuters

As China sales show signs of cooling, Apple Inc (AAPL.O) is touting India’s appetite for iPhones, betting that rising wages and an expanding middle class will pull consumers away from the cheap alternatives that currently dominate the market.

In an earnings call in which the company reported meager iPhone growth and forecast its first revenue drop in 13 years, the Indian market stood out as a rare bright spot for Apple.

Sales of the company’s flagship smartphone climbed 76 percent in India from the year-ago quarter, Apple Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri said.

According to data compiled by Counterpoint Technology Research, Apple sold an estimated 800,000 iPhones in India in the fourth-quarter, its highest ever amount but one that is a fraction of the 28 million smartphones sold during that period.

Growth in India is a tantalizing prospect as Apple grapples with the economic downturn in China, its second largest market. While revenue in Greater China rose 14 percent in the last quarter, Apple is beginning to see a shift in the economy, particularly in Hong Kong, Maestri told Reuters in an interview.

But with nearly 70 percent of smartphones selling for less than $150 in India, Apple’s high-end phones remain out of reach of most consumers. The basic iPhone 6S sells at just under $700 in India, or nearly half the average annual wage.

“In many ways India is very similar to what China was a few years ago, but the middle class here is still very small and it can be two to three years before Apple gets a similar level of success in India,” said Counterpoint Technology Research analyst Tarun Pathak.

Apple CEO Tim Cook struck a more optimistic note, saying the company was “increasingly putting more energy” into India, citing a largely youthful population with rising disposable income as more people join the workforce.

With faster 4G coverage expanding, Apple has already asked Indian government for a license to set up its own retail stores just as the market seems to be turning in its favor.

As in China, Apple products are a coveted status symbol in India, a market that analysts say is likely to overtake the United States next year to become the world’s second largest smartphone market. “The love for the iPhone is there,” said Carolina Milanesi, chief of research and head of U.S. business at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, a consumer research firm.

Source: With China weakening, Apple turns to India | Reuters

22/01/2016

Chips on their shoulders | The Economist

THE Chinese government has been trying, on and off, since the 1970s to build an indigenous semiconductor industry. But its ambitions have never been as high, nor its budgets so big, as they are now.

In an earlier big push, in the second half of the 1990s, the government spent less than $1 billion, reckons Morgan Stanley, an American bank. This time, under a grand plan announced in 2014, the government will muster $100 billion-$150 billion in public and private funds.

The aim is to catch up technologically with the world’s leading firms by 2030, in the design, fabrication and packaging of chips of all types, so as to cease being dependent on foreign supplies. In 2015 the government added a further target: within ten years it wants to be producing 70% of the chips consumed by Chinese industry.

It has a long way to go. Last year China’s manufacturers, both domestic and foreign-owned, consumed $145 billion-worth of microchips of all kinds (see chart). But the output of China’s domestic chip industry was only one-tenth of that value. And in some types of high-value semiconductor—the processor chips that are the brains of computers, and the rugged and durable chips that are embedded in cars—virtually all of China’s consumption is imported.

To help them achieve their dream, the authorities realise that they must buy as much foreign expertise as they can lay their hands on. In recent months, state-owned firms and various arms of government have been rushing to buy, invest in or do deals with overseas microchip firms. On January 17th the south-western province of Guizhou announced a joint venture with Qualcomm, an American chip designer, to invest around $280m in setting up a new maker of specialist chips for servers. The province’s investment fund will own 55% of the business. Two days earlier, shareholders in Powertech Technology, a Taiwanese firm that packages and tests chips, agreed to let Tsinghua Unigroup, a state-controlled firm from the mainland, buy a 25% stake for $600m.

Officials argue that developing a home-grown semiconductor industry is a strategic imperative, given the country’s excessive reliance on foreign technology. They can point to the taxpayers’ money that politicians in America, Europe and other parts of Asia have lavished on their domestic semiconductor industries over the years.

China’s microchip trade gap is, by some estimates, only around half of what the raw figures suggest, since a sizeable proportion of the imported chips that Chinese factories consume go into gadgets, such as Apple’s iPhones and Lenovo’s laptops, that are then exported. Even so, a policy of promoting semiconductors fits with the government’s broader policy of moving from labour-intensive manufacturing to higher-added-value, cleaner industries.

Morgan Stanley notes that profit margins for successful semiconductor firms are typically 40% or more, whereas the computers, gadgets and other hardware that they go into often have margins of less than 20%. So if Chinese firms designed and made more of the world’s chips, and one day controlled some of the underlying technical standards, as Intel does with personal-computer and server chips, China would enjoy a bigger share of the global electronics industry’s profits.

In the government’s earlier efforts to boost domestic manufacturing of solar panels and LED lamps, it spread its largesse among a lot of local firms, resulting in excess capacity and slumping prices. This time it seems to be concentrating its firepower on a more limited group of national champions. For instance, SMIC of Shanghai is set to be China’s champion “foundry” (bulk manufacturer of chips designed by others). And HiSilicon of Shenzhen (part of Huawei, a maker of telecoms equipment) will be one of a select few champions in chip design.

Most intriguing of all, Tsinghua Unigroup, a company spun out of Tsinghua University in Beijing, has emerged in the past year or so as the chosen champion among champions, a Chinese challenger to the mighty Intel. Zhao Weiguo, the firm’s boss, started out herding goats and pigs in Xinjiang, a remote province in north-western China, to where his parents had been exiled in the 1950s, having been labelled as dissidents. After moving to Beijing to study at the university, Mr Zhao made a fortune in electronics, property and natural resources, before becoming chairman and second-largest shareholder (after the university itself) at Tsinghua Unigroup.

The company’s emergence from obscurity began in 2013 when it spent $2.6 billion buying two Chinese chip-design firms, Spreadtrum and RDA Microelectronics. In 2014 Intel bought a 20% stake in its putative future rival, for $1.5 billion, as part of a plan for the two to work together on chips for mobile devices, an area in which Intel has lagged behind. In May last year Tsinghua spent $2.3 billion to buy a 51% stake in H3C, a Hong Kong subsidiary of Hewlett-Packard that makes data-networking equipment. And in November it announced a $13 billion share placement to finance the building of a giant memory-chip plant.

Source: Chips on their shoulders | The Economist

04/12/2015

China’s Tech Industry Is as Male-Dominated as Silicon Valley – China Real Time Report – WSJ

When Chinese President Xi Jinping met with top U.S. and Chinese technology executives in Seattle two months ago, they posed for a now-famous group photo. But one thing was missing: women from China.

As WSJ’s Li Yuan writes in her “China Circuit” column: This defies the conventional wisdom in China that compared with Silicon Valley, China’s tech industry has less of a gender-inequality problem. True, women accounted for nine out of 30 Alibaba partners when it went public in 2014. Both Alibaba and Baidu’s chief financial officers are women. Some of China’s most prominent venture capitalists are women, too.

But the group photo attests to what is really happening behind the success stories: China’s tech industry is as male-dominated as that of Silicon Valley. And unlike the debate and discussions taking place in Silicon Valley about gender inequality, China’s tech industry has yet to acknowledge the problem. With the​tech sector becoming the brightest spot in a sluggish economy, women risk losing out in the competition for the best-paying jobs and the best opportunities to start their own businesses.

Source: China’s Tech Industry Is as Male-Dominated as Silicon Valley – China Real Time Report – WSJ

02/12/2015

Hacking of U.S. government was criminal, not state-sponsored: China | Reuters

China’s official Xinhua news agency said on Wednesday that an investigation into a massive U.S. computer breach last year that affected more than 22 million federal workers found the hacking attack was criminal, not state-sponsored.

An illustration picture shows a projection of binary code on a man holding a laptop computer, in an office in Warsaw June 24, 2013. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

In an article about a meeting between top U.S. and Chinese officials on cyber security issues held in Washington, Xinhua said the breach at the United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM) was among the cases discussed.

The report did not give details of who conducted the investigation, or whether U.S. and Chinese officials both agreed with the conclusion.

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing referred Reuters to the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security in Washington for comment on the talks.

The Cyberspace Administration of China, the country’s Internet regulator, did not immediately reply to a Reuters request for comment.

OPM has been under scrutiny from lawmakers and the public ever since it disclosed earlier this year that it had fallen victim to two cyber attacks, which officials have privately linked to Chinese hackers.

The intrusions exposed sensitive personal information, including names, Social Security numbers and addresses of more than 22 million current and former federal employees and contractors, in addition to 5.6 million fingerprints.

Top U.S. and Chinese officials convened this week in Washington for the first round of cyber security talks following the signing of a bilateral anti-hacking accord in September.

The talks on Tuesday and Wednesday are seen as potentially significant in establishing acceptable norms for cyber espionage.

China and the U.S. reached a broad agreement on the joint fight against cyber crimes, and will set up a hotline for these issues, according to Xinhua and CCTV, China’s state-operated national broadcaster.

CCTV said a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security declined to comment on any agreement. The next meeting is scheduled for next June, Xinhua said.

Source: Hacking of U.S. government was criminal, not state-sponsored: China | Reuters

06/11/2015

Xiaomi’s Big Bet on Indian Internet Revolution Starts to Pay Off – China Real Time Report – WSJ

The sales are a significant rise compared with the three million phones the company said it sold in its first year of business in India.

Xiaomi aims to sell 80 to 100 million smartphones this year and has been valued by investors at $46 billion. But increasing competition at home, from companies who mimic Xiaomi’s business model of selling high-end phones at low prices, will make it tough to meet its sales target. So the five-year-old startup is setting its hopes on growth in India. Xiaomi found success in China by combining razor-thin profit margins on hardware with glitzy product launches that helped build its fanbase.

The closely-held company needs to prove that it can export its business model to other countries to continue to justify its high valuation.

Xiaomi introduced its first model, the Mi 4i, outside China, at a launch in New Delhi in April. In August, it said it would begin assembling its entry-level Redmi 2 Prime in India.

Xiaomi’s recent success in India shows that its model can work there, said the company’s Vice President Hugo Barra. Since January, sales in the South Asian country increased 45% quarter-over-quarter, on average.

The firm’s Indian office is tweaking Xiaomi’s model of Internet flash sales, designed to boost demand and cut costs. During the company’s sale for the Hindu holiday Diwali, items were sold for as little as a rupee. “Some people bought a Mi TV for one rupee,” Mr. Barra said. One rupee is equal to $0.02. The heavily discounted deals meant that Xiaomi spent nothing on marketing. “This is an idea the India team came up with that you will see reused in other markets,” he said. The company still faces challenges in India.

While Xiaomi says it sold three million phones in its first year in India, market leader Micromax Informatics Ltd. says it sells three million phones a month. While the Chinese company relies mostly on online sales to cut costs, the majority of Micromax’s sales are in brick-and-mortar retail outlets, where most Indians still shop.

It remains unclear how much India can help bolster Xiaomi’s balance sheet. While smartphone sales are booming in India, the market is still tiny.

Xiaomi’s Mr. Barra says the company will slowly add to its catalogue of products in India, which currently includes phones and a handful of accessories like headphones and a fitness tracker. In China, Xiaomi sells everything from water purifiers to power strips.

Next up could be the company’s line of Internet routers, Mr. Barra said, which includes a model with six terabytes of storage.

“We are looking at bringing the router family to India,” he said. But don’t expect the smart bathroom scale to show up in India right away, or even the company’s newest gadget: a cut-price Segway-like device. “We carefully select things that will sell in India in good volumes. We have to be thoughtful and plan carefully.”

Source: Xiaomi’s Big Bet on Indian Internet Revolution Starts to Pay Off – China Real Time Report – WSJ

01/11/2015

Gauging the strength of Chinese innovation | McKinsey & Company

The events of 2015 have shown that China is passing through a challenging transition: the labor-force expansion and surging investment that propelled three decades of growth are now weakening.

Gauging the strength of Chinese innovation

This is a natural stage in the country’s economic development. Yet it raises questions such as how drastically the expansion of GDP will slow down and whether the country can tap new sources of growth.

New research1 by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) suggests that to realize consensus growth forecasts—5.5 to 6.5 percent a year—during the coming decade, China must generate two to three percentage points of annual GDP growth through innovation, broadly defined. If it does, innovation could contribute much of the $3 trillion to $5 trillion a year to GDP by 2025.2 China will have evolved from an “innovation sponge,” absorbing and adapting existing technology and knowledge from around the world, into a global innovation leader. Our analysis suggests that this transformation is possible, though far from inevitable.

To date, when we have evaluated how well Chinese companies commercialize new ideas and use them to raise market share and profits and to compete around the world, the picture has been decidedly mixed. China has become a strong innovator in areas such as consumer electronics and construction equipment. Yet in others—creating new drugs or designing automobile engines, for example—the country still isn’t globally competitive. That’s true even though every year it spends more than $200 billion on research (second only to the United States), turns out close to 30,000 PhDs in science and engineering, and leads the world in patent applications (more than 820,000 in 2013). Video   McKinsey director Kevin Sneader discusses global innovation trends at a recent World Economic Forum event.

When we look ahead, though, we see broad swaths of opportunity. Our analysis suggests that by 2025, such new innovation opportunities could contribute $1.0 trillion to $2.2 trillion a year to the Chinese economy—or equivalent to up to 24 percent of total GDP growth. To achieve this goal, China must continue to transform the manufacturing sector, particularly through digitization, and the service sector, through rising connectivity and Internet enablement. Additional productivity gains would come from progress in science- and engineering-based innovation and improvements in the operations of companies as they adopt modern business methods.

To develop a clearer view of this potential, we identified four innovation archetypes: customer focused, efficiency driven, engineering based, and science based. We then compared the actual global revenues of individual industries with what we would expect them to generate given China’s share of global GDP (12 percent in 2013). As the exhibit shows, Chinese companies that rely on customer-focused and efficiency-driven innovation—in industries such as household appliances, Internet software and services, solar panels, and construction machinery—perform relatively well. Exhibit Enlarge However, Chinese companies are not yet global leaders in any of the science-based industries (such as branded pharmaceuticals) that we analyzed. In engineering-based industries, the results are inconsistent: China excels in high-speed trains but gets less than its GDP-based share from auto manufacturing. In this article, we’ll describe the state of play and the outlook in these four categories, starting with the two outperformers.

Source: Gauging the strength of Chinese innovation | McKinsey & Company

15/10/2015

Indian Startup Seclore Gains Traction Amid High Profile Hacks – India Real Time – WSJ

 

Bad news for corporate hacking victims can be good news for information security firms. Just ask Vishal Gupta, founder and chief executive of Mumbai, India-based Seclore.

Amid a string of high profile breaches like those that have hit Sony Pictures, health insurer Anthem  and infidelity website Ashley Madison, Mr. Gupta’s firm has been quietly gaining clients in the U.S. and elsewhere.  Among them  are U.K.-based drug maker AstraZeneca PLC, Japanese electronics giant Panasonic Corp., German automotive company Daimler AG and U.S. cable firm Comcast Corp.

The company, while not as prominent as cybersecurity firms like FireEye Inc. or Palo Alto Networks Inc., targets an important but sometimes overlooked niche: locking down sensitive documents even when they are emailed outside clients’ networks. Seclore’s tools ensure that sensitive information like financial statements and  payroll information cannot be altered or printed if they are shared with unauthorized users via email.

Seclore, which has about 200 staff and was founded in 2009,  still has a small annual revenue base of around $10 million but Mr. Gupta said his startup has become profitable in the last three quarters, helped by a growing number of clients in the U.S.. Seclore has received some $7 million of investments from the likes of India-focused venture capital firms Helion Venture Partners and Ventureast.

Mr. Gupta said that while companies like Microsoft Corp. offer competing products, he considers his biggest challenge to be finding and keeping top talent in order to keep up with rising demand.

“Information security has truly become a boardroom topic,” Mr. Gupta said.

Source: Indian Startup Seclore Gains Traction Amid High Profile Hacks – India Real Time – WSJ

29/09/2015

Cisco joins flurry of U.S.-China tech partnerships | Reuters

Cisco Systems Inc (CSCO.O) said Thursday it would form a joint-venture with Chinese server maker Inspur to sell networking and cloud computing products in China, where the Silicon Valley firm faces political pressure and declining sales.

Chuck Robbins, incoming CEO of Cisco, listens a question from media during a news conference in New Delhi, India, June 18, 2015. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Cisco and Inspur said they would invest $100 million in the project, although they offered few other details.

The partnership is one of a growing number of tie-ups between Chinese and U.S. technology firms announced during or ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the United States this week.

Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) said on Thursday it would partner with Baidu Inc (BIDU.O) and Chinese state-owned private investment firm Tsinghua Unigroup on cloud technology, while Dell Inc announced last week it would invest $125 billion over five years in China.

Earlier this year, IBM (IBM.N) pledged to help develop China’s advanced chip industry with a “Made with China” strategy, while chipmakers Intel Corp (INTC.O) and Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O) are developing chips with smaller Chinese companies.

Similar to its dealings with the foreign auto industry in decades past, Chinese officials have made clear to foreign technology firms that market access depends on their sharing technology and cooperating with Chinese industry.

Like many of its peers, Cisco’s market share has retreated in recent quarters in China, where its products have been labeled a cybersecurity threat by state media and government-affiliated experts.

U.S. business lobbies have said the Chinese allegations amount to protectionism, while China has pointed to the experience of Cisco’s Shenzhen-based rival Huawei Technologies Co Ltd [HWT.UL], which faced similar accusations from Capitol Hill when it sought to enter the United States.

Source: Cisco joins flurry of U.S.-China tech partnerships | Reuters

08/09/2015

From ‘Made in China’ to ‘Innovate in China’ – International Finance Magazine

In the West, people often opine that Chinese are not innovators but just copiers who can make a product at a cheaper rate. If somebody mentions inventions, like gunpowder and printing press which were invented by the Chinese, the argument often ends up with ‘they have not really followed through with their innovations and have since then made little progress in this department’.

From ‘Made in China’ to ‘Innovate in China’But the Chinese are ready to transform themselves from the factory of the world to the generator of innovation. Companies like Alibaba Group and Xiaomi among others are making a mark in the world.

“I understand that the China market is characterised by some significant weaknesses when compared to a highly mature Silicon Valley, but the investment power and determination of the Chinese government, along with its appetite to transition away from ‘Made in China’ to ‘Innovated in China’ leaves no doubt in my mind that China will become a leader when it comes to building ecosystems for growth of startups and other innovative organisations,” says Lars Lin Villebaek, co-founder of GrowthEnabler.com, a platform for startups. He has 10 years of personal entrepreneurship experience in China.

Last year, China gave birth to a massive 1.9 million new businesses (across all sectors) and saw some record breaking IPOs in the global market.

And unlike the US, which has Silicon Valley and the area around Boston which are known for their startup ecosystems, China has several dozen ‘Silicon Valleys’. “Most of these are in the embryonic stage. Silicon Valley has a long history of success while the Chinese ones are new. The oldest — Zhongquancun in Beijing district — dates back to the ’80s,” says Zhang Chia Hou, China & India analyst and a board member of GrowthEnabler.com and author of http://www.chindia-alert.org.

According to Wan Gang, China’s minister of science and technology, the district last year birthed 49 startups daily. As of March 2015, 129 high-tech zones had been approved by the State Council. These are designated areas in different cities where entrepreneurs are supported by different policies and benefits, such as fast Internet connections, government assistance in funding, and access to talented and educated human resources from nearby universities.

“Zhongquancun is also home to several universities like the prestigious Tsinghua University which churns out PhDs and computer scientists by the thousands. So there is no shortage of people who understand technology and the investment tap is flowing quite readily,” says Erik Roth, an entrepreneur, lecturer, serial innovator and lead for McKinsey & Company’s Global Innovation & Growth Practice.

Apart from Zhongquancun, Shanghai and Chengdu are also home to several startups.

According to Villebaek, there are several other factors which will help China achieve the ‘startup capital of the world’ status. There is ample access to funding even for high-risk projects. As long as projects replicate proven business models and products, the financing is usually done very quickly.

Additionally, successful companies like Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu have taken upon themselves to nurture the startup system in the country.

Says Alibaba Group spokeswoman: “Our founders started Alibaba Group to champion small businesses, in the belief that the Internet would level the playing field by enabling smallenterprises to leverage innovation and technology to grow and compete more effectively in the domestic and global economies. Alibaba supports innovative entrepreneurs who are able to create products and services that benefit the end user and society as a whole.”

Also, some Chinese are going for international exposure. “Most of the emerging class of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, including Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma, studied at leading US universities, and worked for great corporations and investment firms. Most Chinese who can afford it (foreign education) decide to have an experience abroad,” says Christoph Tutsch, founder and CEO of ONPEX, a company which provides white-label cloud-based payment technology.

Tutsch adds that China is going in the right direction and people are educating themselves to achieve their goals. “They are trying to think out of the box for solutions that will help the local problems. Even now, they are many successful tech companies in China that no one has heard of because they are kept in the local market, which is good for self-improvement. In the next few years, we will start hearing of more Alibabas who venture West,” says Tutsch.

Where they need to improve

Historically, the Chinese do not have a culture of risk taking. “In a long time, I have not noticed any disruptive business model from China,” remarks Roth. The educational system in the country will have to focus on research and offer education in entrepreneurship to address the needs of entrepreneurs.

“The young in general are following the old path of secure jobs in government or established industry. But with 1.3 billion people, there are enough youngsters interested in innovation and entrepreneurship for them to be a real force,” says Zhang.

Source: From ‘Made in China’ to ‘Innovate in China’-International Finance Magazine

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