SoftBank Charts New Direction Following WeWork Debacle

SoftBank Group founder Masayoshi Son and board director Rajeev Misra, who is also SoftBank Investment Advisers chief executive, are focused on saving the Vision Fund, whose bets on Uber Technologies and WeWork have been disastrous. Last week, SoftBank bailed out WeWork, whose value had dipped 80 percent below its peak, with $10 billion. The London-based private investment fund debuted two years ago, with the goal of raising $100 billion to invest in startups valued at $1+ billion, the so-called unicorns of Silicon Valley. Continue reading SoftBank Charts New Direction Following WeWork Debacle

Foreign Investment Law Does Not Deter Chinese Investing

The U.S. has yet to define the specifics of a 2018 law designed to limit foreign access to critical technologies. In the meantime, Chinese investors continue to put money in U.S. startups and venture capital funds. U.S. tech entrepreneurs also welcome a connection with China, and investment between the two countries remains significant. The tangle of investments in a single company can make it hard to determine provenance. Even so, successful Chinese AI startup SenseTime Group was blacklisted by the Trump administration. Continue reading Foreign Investment Law Does Not Deter Chinese Investing

Alibaba Dominates E-Tail in China But Fails to Thrive Abroad

In its last fiscal year, which ended in March, Alibaba Group’s 654 million customers bought $835 billion worth of goods, with revenues of $56.2 billion, cementing the company’s credentials as the world’s largest e-tailer. Put another way, the company handled more business than Amazon and eBay combined. Notably, 66 percent of Alibaba’s revenue — $36.9 billion — came from China. But translating that success to other countries has proven elusive — a mere 5 percent of the company’s revenue came from international locations. Continue reading Alibaba Dominates E-Tail in China But Fails to Thrive Abroad

Amazon Enables Tailored Recommendations via AI Service

Amazon is launching a new service called Amazon Personalize in select regions of the U.S., Asia and Europe, with additional locations to be added. The service, first revealed at last year’s re:Invent conference, aims to personalize the customer experience by helping developers build apps, websites, email marketing and content management systems that provide product recommendations and personalized search results. “We are excited to share with AWS customers the expertise we’ve developed during two decades of using machine learning to deliver great experiences on Amazon.com,” said Swami Sivasubramanian, VP of machine learning. Continue reading Amazon Enables Tailored Recommendations via AI Service

Facebook Opens New Command Post Ahead of EU Election

As part of a range of efforts to show that it has taken regulator and governmental concerns seriously, Facebook has set up an operations center in its European headquarters in Dublin, Ireland ahead of the upcoming European Union’s parliamentary election, which is scheduled for May 23-26 across 28 countries. Employees will monitor and clear Facebook of misinformation, fake accounts, and any signs of foreign meddling aimed at swaying election results. Facebook recently set up a similar post in Singapore for elections in India.

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Global Regulators Looking Into Facebook Privacy Practices

Regulators have reached a tipping point with Facebook after years of half-measures regarding the social media giant’s security-related missteps. Now, regulators across four continents are attempting to reign in Facebook’s behavior. In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission hasn’t come to a decisive conclusion regarding what constraints to implement, but the agency is looking to address a wide range of issues, including violations reported almost monthly, according to a source close to the investigation.

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FAA Approves Commercial Delivery For Alphabet’s Drones

Wing Aviation, a unit of Alphabet, received the Federal Aviation Administration’s first authorization to deliver consumer goods via drone. Being first is a coup for Google’s parent company and a harbinger that many other companies — Amazon among them — will soon launch drone delivery services. Not long ago, officials predicted that the FAA wouldn’t implement the first rules for unmanned aircraft delivery until 2020 or 2021. The current FAA permit for Wing Aviation only includes a rural area around Blacksburg, Virginia. Continue reading FAA Approves Commercial Delivery For Alphabet’s Drones

Verizon Media Tackles Production Tech With Global Studios

Verizon Media (formerly Oath) now has production studios located in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Hong Kong, London, New York, Paris, Singapore, Sunnyvale and Taiwan. In addition, it built a 5G Los Angeles studio with plans to help pioneer new formats and production tech enabled by advanced 5G wireless connectivity. The worldwide facilities are being used by Verizon Media brands such as AOL, HuffPost, TechCrunch and Yahoo. The L.A. space — led by Verizon Media’s immersive media arm RYOT — is outfitted with full motion capture and volumetric capture stages. Continue reading Verizon Media Tackles Production Tech With Global Studios

Facebook Unveils Tools to Prevent the Spread of Fake News

Facebook is unveiling new tools to prevent the spread of fake news and misinformation, including making more information available about political ads on its platform. The tools will first debut in India next month and then to the European Union in March. Facebook is also tweaking its moderation, announcing plans for an outside group or board to review its content decisions, giving it authority to reverse internal content decisions. The board will be comprised of 40 members worldwide chosen by Facebook. Continue reading Facebook Unveils Tools to Prevent the Spread of Fake News

CES Panel: How Blockchain, a Trust Technology, Is Evolving

CTA’s Tyler Suiters spoke with Phil Klein and Mark Mueller-Eberstein about their book, “The Trust Technology: How Blockchain Is Changing Your World.” “[Blockchain] has rapidly evolved,” said Klein. “The question is when it goes from bleeding edge to leading edge. I think we’re very close to that point. We’ve already crested past the hype cycle.” Mueller-Eberstein noted that blockchain and bitcoin first emerged as something transformational about four or five years ago. The academic research comes mainly from China. Continue reading CES Panel: How Blockchain, a Trust Technology, Is Evolving

Netflix Plans to Experiment With Lower Price in Asian Markets

Netflix revealed its plan to test a lower-priced tier of its subscription streaming service in certain areas as part of a strategy to boost sales, especially in emerging markets such as Asia. While the company has not committed to specific regions or a time frame, CEO Reed Hastings explained that Netflix is looking to experiment. The move would represent a shift for the company, which has consistently maintained or raised its prices while spending more on new content and local productions to attract new customers. Netflix is not expected to reduce the cost of its lowest tier, but rather introduce an alternate fourth tier with different features. Continue reading Netflix Plans to Experiment With Lower Price in Asian Markets

Facebook’s Plans for Innovation Hub in China Hits Roadblock

Facebook has been planning an “innovation hub” in Hangzhou, China — home to Chinese Internet leader Alibaba Group — to support that nation’s startups and developers as well as increase its own presence in the country. However, the approval that was briefly listed on a Chinese government database has now disappeared and, according to one source, the approval has been withdrawn. Facebook has been blocked in China since 2009, spurring the company to find other ways to position itself there. Earlier this year, it inked an agreement with Xiaomi to build a VR headset for the Chinese consumer market. The company planned to provide training and workshops through the proposed hub.

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Amazon Hits 100M Prime Subscribers, Inks Deal with Best Buy

For the first time, Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos revealed the number of Amazon Prime subscribers: 100 million people. In 2015, the company last hinted about the number, saying there were “tens of millions” of Prime members. With this revelation, Bezos is letting shareholders know that Prime is healthy, and that the large number of subscribers will allow the company to continue to invest in technology and thrive. Bezos also recently announced that Amazon is teaming with Best Buy to sell Amazon Fire TV-powered sets. Continue reading Amazon Hits 100M Prime Subscribers, Inks Deal with Best Buy

Broadcom’s Bid for Qualcomm Blocked Over Security Issues

Citing national security concerns, President Donald Trump has put the brakes on Singapore-based Broadcom’s attempt to acquire rival chipmaker Qualcomm. The companies were ordered to abandon the $117 billion acquisition bid and dismiss any proposals for Broadcom’s candidates to run for seats on Qualcomm’s board. Had it been approved, the purchase would have marked the largest tech deal of its kind. Broadcom says it “strongly disagrees that its proposed acquisition of Qualcomm raises any national security concerns.” Continue reading Broadcom’s Bid for Qualcomm Blocked Over Security Issues

U.S., China Grapple Over Dominance in Critical Technologies

The U.S. and China are locked in a battle over technology, which went public over Singapore-based Broadcom’s hostile bid to buy the U.S.-based Qualcomm. Should Broadcom succeed, it will make that company a major influence in computer chip development. But a U.S. Treasury official, in calling for a review of the deal, wrote that, “China would likely compete robustly to fill any void left by Qualcomm.” Under president Xi Jinping, China has made no secret of its plan to dominate tech industries including artificial intelligence and supercomputers. Continue reading U.S., China Grapple Over Dominance in Critical Technologies

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