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  • The Democratic Debate Sent a Clear Message: More Taxes for Wealthy Investors 10/16/2019 11:01 AMThere were variations among the dozen Democratic presidential candidates at the debate but it was clear that the wealthiest who own the lion’s share of financial assets are being targeted.
  • Huawei Defies U.S. Ban With Strong Growth in Smartphone Sales 10/16/2019 07:36 AM(Bloomberg) -- Huawei Technologies Co.’s revenue jumped 24% in 2019’s first nine months, defying Trump administration sanctions to sustain growth in its pivotal smartphone business.China’s largest technology company reported revenue of 610.8 billion yuan ($86.1 billion) in the January to September period. Global smartphone shipments jumped 26% in the first three quarters to over 185 million units, helping safeguard its position as the world’s second largest name in mobile devices.China’s largest technology company managed to grow revenue despite curbs on the export of crucial American software and components, which executives had warned for months would severely crimp both its networking and smartphone businesses. Huawei has said it expects U.S. export restrictions to reduce annual revenue at its consumer devices business by about $10 billion, in part because Google can no longer supply Android updates and apps from Gmail to Maps for the Chinese company’s newest handsets.The company’s reported results -- which were unaudited -- suggest that those restrictions have yet to severely impair the business. Huawei, accused by Donald Trump’s administration of aiding Beijing in spying while spearheading China’s tech-superpower ambitions, is trying to claw back business and shore up trust in its products.Billionaire founder Ren Zhengfei has warned his tech empire faces a “live or die moment,” and mobilized thousands of staff to work around the clock devising alternatives to American technology. Some American giants, including Intel Corp. and Micron Technologies Inc., have said they’re found ways to resume supplying Huawei, a major boost for the Chinese company.Huawei Sales Growth Slumps as U.S. Sanctions Start to BiteIts phone shipments in 2019 suggest its lead in the Chinese market, the world’s largest, is offsetting weak sales abroad. Huawei shipped more than 206 million smartphones in 2018, according to research firm IDC. The company is betting on its home turf and upcoming holiday season to drive its smartphone sales for the rest of the year. It aims to take half of the smartphone market in China, Bloomberg News reported earlier.There are signs also that U.S. efforts to block Huawei from the development of 5G technology are flagging: Huawei said Wednesday it has signed more than 60 5G commercial contracts to date worldwide. A senior executive in India for the company said the government there had given “no negative feedback” on Huawei, while in Germany, one of the biggest European markets, the Merkel administration said Huawei’s equipment will not be excluded in future 5G procurement. Huawei’s biggest bet, however, remains in China, where state-owned carriers are ready to build their own 5G networks.It remains unclear whether prolonged sanctions will eventually rob Huawei of growth, something Ren himself has warned may happen. Huawei remains at the heart of U.S. tensions with China, a symbol of the Asian country’s rising technological might.Critics charge that intellectual property theft from the likes of Cisco Systems Inc. and Motorola Solutions Inc. helped Huawei vault into the upper echelons of telecommunications providers, though Ren and his executives credit years of investment and research. The wireless giant is now accelerating spending on artificial intelligence chips and mobile software. It’s mobilizing its employees to source or develop alternatives to American circuitry and software to keep its edge in smartphones and next-generation 5G wireless technology.To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Gao Yuan in Beijing at [email protected] contact the editors responsible for this story: Peter Elstrom at [email protected], Colum Murphy, Edwin ChanFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
  • Google’s Pixel Gets Unorthodox Zoom From AI 10/16/2019 06:03 AM(Bloomberg) -- Google’s latest smartphone demonstrates how artificial intelligence and software can enhance a camera’s capabilities, one of the most important selling points of any mobile device.The Pixel 4, the latest entrant in a phone line defined by its cameras, touts an upgraded ability to zoom in when shooting photos as its biggest upgrade. But the Alphabet Inc. company isn’t going about it the way that Samsung Electronics Co., Huawei Technologies Co. or Apple Inc. have done -- instead of adding multiple cameras with complicated optics, Google has opted for a single extra lens that relies on AI and processing to fill in the quality gap.In place of the usual spec barrage, Google prefers to talk about a “software-defined camera,” Isaac Reynolds, product manager on the company’s Pixel team, said in an interview. The device should be judged by the end-product, he argued, which Google claims is a 3x digital zoom that matches the quality of optical zoom from multi-lens arrays. The Pixel 4 has two lenses with a magnification factor between them that’s less than 2x, and the tech that extends that useful range is almost entirely software.The success of the Pixel’s camera is instrumental to Google’s broader ambitions: it drives Google Photos adoption, provides more fodder for Google’s image libraries, and helps create better experiences with augmented-reality applications -- such as this year’s new on-screen walking directions in Google Maps.Google’s IPhone Retort: More Cameras and AI in New Pixel PhonesSuper Res Zoom, a feature Google launched last year, uses the slight hand movements of a photographer when capturing a shot -- usually a hurdle to creating crisp images -- as an advantage in crafting an image that’s sharper than it otherwise would be. The camera shoots a burst of quick takes, each one from a slightly different position because of the camera shake, then combines them into a single image. It’s an algorithmic trick that lets Google collect more information from imaging hardware, and potentially also a moat against any rivals trying to copy Google -- because others can’t just buy the same imaging sensors and replicate the results.To augment its reliance on AI and machine-learning tasks, Google has designed and added its own Pixel Neural Core chip for the Pixel 4 lineup. It accelerates the machine-learning speed of the device and, again, is intended to differentiate Google’s offering from other Android smartphones on the market with a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor at its core.The other major tool in Google’s AI kit is called RAISR, or Rapid and Accurate Image Super Resolution, which trains AI on vast libraries of images so it can more effectively enhance the resolution of images. The system is taught to recognize particular patterns, edges and visual features, so that when it detects them in lower-quality shots, it knows how to improve them. That’s key to creating zoom with “a lot smoother quality degradation,” as Reynolds put it. With more than a billion Google Photos users, the U.S. company has a massive supply of images to train its software on.Among the other features that Google offers with the Pixel 4 is the ability to identify the faces of people that a user photographs most often and ensure that they’re prioritized when capturing new snapshots -- making sure the camera focuses on them and that their eyes aren’t closed, for instance. That use of software technology has defined Google’s devices to date and is also evident in the way Facebook Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Apple aim to employ their own AI systems.To contact the reporter on this story: Vlad Savov in Tokyo at [email protected] contact the editors responsible for this story: Edwin Chan at [email protected], Peter ElstromFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
  • Marijuana stocks, after declines of over 50%, are now only ludicrously overpriced 10/16/2019 05:02 AMThe pot bubble has burst, but many companies’ shares are still trading at unjustified levels, says Brian Livingston.
  • $30 Billion of Proof That India's Tech Scene Is Back 10/16/2019 04:45 AM(Bloomberg Opinion) -- India’s largest startup is ready to birth its own unicorn. That’d be unusual anywhere, but that it’s happening in India offers some hope for the country’s long-awaited tech renaissance. This is also  great news for Walmart Inc. The U.S. retail behemoth paid $16 billion for 77% of India e-commerce company Flipkart Group in May last year. That deal included payments unit PhonePe — an early pioneer in the digital-wallet business — which Flipkart had acquired two years earlier. Now Walmart is engineering a spinoff as part of a $1 billion funding round that could value payment unit at up to $10 billion and give the retailer an 82% stake in PhonePe and Flipkart, India’s Economic Times reported. From one $20.8 billion company 18 months ago, India will get two unicorns at a combined value of up to $30 billion.(1)There are already indications that PhonePe has shed its Flipkart training wheels. From 50% of its transactions three years ago, Flipkart now accounts for just 0.5%, Indian media outlet The Ken reported, citing PhonePe’s head of strategy and planning. During Flipkart’s annual Big Billion Days sale last month, PhonePe’s logo no longer had top billing on the e-commerce website, according to The Ken. Instead it was listed as just one of the many payment options available to online shoppers.  That PhonePe is preparing to fly solo is also a sign of India’s maturing digital sector. Not only is the company willing to directly tackle rivals such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google Pay and Facebook Inc.’s forthcoming WhatsApp payments, but it’s also managing to survive in the scary wilderness beyond the gates of Flipkart. (Survive, of course, is a relative term. It’s likely still burning cash and posting losses, though at least it can keep up with well-funded adversaries, a key measure of success at this point in the game.)More broadly, the PhonePe spinoff would strengthen the case that a homegrown hero can hold its own when foreign rivals enter. Paytm, another Indian startup, is on the verge of landing a $2 billion round of funding from investors including Ant Financial, SoftBank Group Corp. and Discovery Capital Management which could give it a $16 billion valuation, Bloomberg News reported this week.Hopefully the momentum at both PhonePe and Paytm will spur more Indian entrepreneurship, feeding a rebirth in India’s tech sector not seen since the IT-outsourcing boom two decades ago. While that gave us Tata Consultancy Services Ltd., Infosys Ltd., Wipro Ltd. and dozens more, most of those businesses focused on serving foreign needs. Now, a crop of stars is emerging to meet the needs of India’s 1.3 billion people. It’s not a big step from this spinoff to an actual IPO, a development that will put India back on the global technology map.(1) This assumes no reduced valuation for Flipkart.To contact the author of this story: Tim Culpan at [email protected] contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachel Rosenthal at [email protected] column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Tim Culpan is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering technology. He previously covered technology for Bloomberg News.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
  • Democrats Slam Big Tech in Call for Antitrust Crackdown 10/16/2019 03:30 AM(Bloomberg) -- Democratic presidential candidates vowed to rein in dominant tech companies through tougher antitrust enforcement, complaining that companies like Facebook Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. are too big and powerful.The candidates said Tuesday night at the Democratic presidential debate in Ohio that the U.S. suffers from monopoly power across the economy and they supported more vigorous enforcement of antitrust laws.“We have a massive crisis in our democracy with the way these tech companies are being used, not just in terms of anti-competitive practices but also to undermine our Democracy,” said Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey.The debate underscored that support for a tougher approach to dealing with big technology companies goes beyond Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who has called for breaking up Facebook, Google and Amazon.Warren called out Amazon specifically for running an online marketplace and competing with third-party sellers on the platform.“You get to be the umpire in the baseball game or you get to have a team, but you don’t get to do both at the same time,” Warren said. “We need to enforce our antitrust laws. Break up these giant companies that are dominating – big tech, big pharma, big oil. all of them.”Still, there were differences among them in approach. Andrew Yang said breaking up tech companies won’t revive main street businesses. Former Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke said tech companies should be treated like publishers instead of like utilities. He criticized Warren for targeting specific companies, something he said President Donald Trump has done.“We will be unafraid to break up big businesses if we have to do that,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s the role of a president or a candidate for the presidency to specifically call out which companies will be broken up.”Harris and O’Rourke criticized social media companies for unevenly enforcing their rules for political content. Their comments came days after Warren’s campaign bought Facebook ads claiming Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg had endorsed President Donald Trump -- a falsehood quickly corrected in the ad itself but used to showcase that politicians can lie on the platform.Tech companies are facing rising bipartisan pressure throughout the U.S., and the Trump administration, Congress and even the states have quickly ramped up pressure on the companies, particularly on the question of whether they use their size to squelch competition.Alphabet Inc.’s Google faces antitrust probes by the Justice Department, and a separate investigation by a group of 51 attorneys general led by Texas who have demanded documents on the company’s sprawling and lucrative digital ads business. The Federal Trade Commission is also speaking to third-party merchants who sell through Amazon, Bloomberg has reported.Both the FTC and Justice Department, which split antitrust jurisdiction, are also probing the technology sector general, as is a congressional committee led by Democratic Representative David Cicilline that issued extensive document requests to Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple Inc. in September.After years of hands-off approach by policy-makers, Washington’s concerns have followed a swift decrease in the public’s positive attitudes toward big tech. Just 50% of U.S. adults said technology companies have a positive impact on the country, down from 71% in four years earlier, according to Pew Research Center survey results released July 29. Pew has previously found that a majority of Americans think tech wields too much power.\--With assistance from Ben Brody.To contact the reporters on this story: David McLaughlin in Washington at [email protected];Naomi Nix in Washington at [email protected] contact the editor responsible for this story: Sara Forden at [email protected] more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
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