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Stop app | Technology News,The Indian Express

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Written by Pranav Mukul
, Karishma Mehrotra
, Aashish Aryan
, Sandeep Singh
|

Updated: July 5, 2020 7:12:27 am


TikTok ban, Chinese app, TikTokers complain, Mumbai news, Indian express news Last year, TikTok surpassed Facebook to reach 611 million downloads in India, according to Sensor Tower, a market analysis firm. (Representational)

Until recently, the most fascinating story about Valsad was its Freddie Mercury connection — the British rock musician traced his lineage to this South Gujarat town that’s now a chemical industry hub. But when the town shut down in response to the Covid pandemic, Sanjay Rathod, a 29-year old who washed cars for a living, found himself out of work. He filled his long, vacant hours practising his dances moves and recording them on his smartphone, one with a broken screen and an inexpensive data pack. Soon, his videos were up on TikTok — and a new star was born. In a little over three months, Rathod, who went by the screen name ‘Armaan’, had earned 7 million followers on the video sharing app.

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Last week, amidst a tense border standoff with China, the Centre banned the app along with 58 others for posing “emergent threats” to the country’s national security. While TikTok’s reach — with over 120 million active users in India — made it the most visible symbol of the government’s action against China, the other apps too had a deep presence in India. According to technology market research firm Counterpoint, almost one out of every three smartphone users in India had one or more of these apps on their devices.

Tailored for the first-time Indian Internet user, these apps are among hundreds that make up China’s digital presence in India, and which have been gradually edging out American competitors from the country’s top downloads since 2018.

In 2018, 44 of the 100 most downloaded Internet applications in India were made by Chinese companies, a huge jump from 18 such apps in 2017, according to a report in the Observer Research Foundation.

Last year, TikTok surpassed Facebook to reach 611 million downloads in India, according to Sensor Tower, a market analysis firm.

Tech as strategic goal

But this is more than just an app story. From hardware to software, Chinese companies have dominated the digital technologies space in India over the last few years, with more than a little push from the Chinese establishment.

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The Communist Party of China (CPC) has consistently viewed technology as the next frontier through which to establish its supremacy in the global market, with its ‘Digital Silk Road’ policy — announced in a white paper in 2015 — an attempt at expanding its digital footprints to 65 countries.

In 2016, the country’s National Cyber Security Strategy adopted the phrase “strong Internet power” as a strategic objective.

Numerous other strategies, such as the Internet Plus strategy of 2015 and the National Informatization Development Strategy of 2006-2020, explicitly call for the country’s largest companies such as Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent to push out products to international markets.

Read | Chinese apps banned, Govt calls homegrown ones to rise to challenge

In India, the ground for this aggressive push from Chinese companies was laid in July 2014, when Xiaomi, often called the ‘Apple of China’, made its entry, followed by a flurry of Chinese brands such as Oppo, Vivo, OnePlus, Realme etc. The influx of these Chinese companies peaked in 2016 when Reliance Jio launched its cheap data offerings, starting with its free Internet package that disrupted the telecom sector.

Latest data by the International Data Corporation shows that among the top five smartphone sellers in the country, four are Chinese with Xiaomi topping the charts with a market share of 31.2%, followed by Vivo at 21% (see box).

This rapid increase in imports of electronic goods worried the Central government, which in April 2017 notified a phased manufacturing plan to ramp up domestic production of smartphones.

“The import of electronic goods was of the order of $53 billion (approximately Rs 3,44,500 crore) in 2017-18. With the demand for electronics hardware expected to rise rapidly to about $400 billion (approximately Rs 26,00,000 crore) by 2025, India cannot afford to bear a huge foreign exchange outgo on import of electronics alone,” the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology detailed in its National Electronics Policy of 2017.

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The efforts to make India a manufacturing hub for electronics resulted in dozens of Chinese companies and their contract manufacturers setting up base in Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere.

Chinese equipment vendors such as Huawei and ZTE also have a significant presence in the telecom equipment space in India. India telecom companies have depended on technologies by these Chinese equipment makers to take on European giants such as Ericsson and Nokia, a partnership that has helped bring down costs.

Thus, while the smartphones were being assembled in the country, most of the high-value components such as printed circuit boards, memory devices, storage units, processors, were — and continue to be — imported, much of it from China.

This has been mainly because of the scale of Chinese manufacturing that has enabled companies to offer cheap, low-cost products. Most of the Chinese products would technologically follow premium brands such as Apple and Samsung, often resulting in a $100-device with functionalities and design of a $1000+ one.

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Even Indian brands such as Micromax had initially resorted to importing semi-knocked-down mobile phone units from China to assemble them locally and sell at a competitively lower price. The Gurugram-headquartered company, which is now struggling to maintain its ground, once led the Indian mobile phone market, beating global behemoths such as Samsung and Nokia. But this was before the entry of Chinese players, who together accounted for 114 million of the 158 million smartphones shipped to India in 2019.

Source: IDC Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, May 2020 *All except Samsung are Chinese brands

In addition to flooding the digital market with affordable products, the Chinese also pushed the purchase of these products through micro-financing. For example, smartphone brand Oppo has jumped onto the financial services bandwagon in India, launching Oppo Kash. Realme and Xiaomi are the other smartphone makers that offer credit, investment and other financial products through their apps PaySa and Mi Credit respectively. These players are also engaged in providing services such as smartphone screen insurance, personal loan, business loan, free credit report and even mutual fund investments.

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India’s financial technology sector hasn’t remained untouched either. Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is the largest investor in payment app Paytm. Zestmoney, which has raised Rs 236 crore till date in the form of equity, counts Xiaomi among its investors.

The software presence

Once they had flooded the hardware market, Chinese companies launched a blitzkrieg on the software side as well. The three Chinese giants, search engine Baidu, online marketplace Alibaba and WeChat developer Tencent — also known as the BAT trinity — have invested in a bunch of startups in India, including unicorns (startups worth at least $1 billion) such as Swiggy, Zomato, Ola, Snapdeal, BigBasket and Byju’s among several others.

Of the 30 unicorns in the country, more than half have major investments from Chinese firms. Twelve of these count marquee investors Alibaba and Tencent among their backers.

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Simultaneously, hundreds of utilities app were launched on Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play, and a concerted push from the Chinese companies led to some of these becoming the most popular ones in their respective categories. These included CamScanner, which was used even by senior officials in the Indian government to scan and share documents on their mobile phones. The app was among the 59 banned last week.

Dev Lewis is among those who have witnessed the early days of this Chinese “gold rush” for the Indian digital space. Keenly aware of their own saturated user bases, Chinese companies big and small were eager to harness India’s data revolution.

In 2016, with a fresh diploma in Chinese language and literature under his belt, Lewis had his first job interview in Beijing at a little-known company called NewsDog. NewsDog was one of the forerunners in Chinese apps built exclusively for India.

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Now a fellow with Digital Asia Hub, a Yenching scholar at Peking University and researcher of India-China technology relations, Lewis says, “I remember the founder said something on the lines of, ‘I know nothing about India, but I know it’s the only other market like China. I missed the bus in China; I want to go for India’. It was a new gold rush.”

Characterised as ultra-experimentative and iterative, Chinese companies apply the Shenzhen manufacturing model — quick-to-market and quick-to-fix — for its products. ByteDance, which owns TikTok, has been called an “app factory”, with at least 21 products since its founding in 2012.

Another Indian, who requested anonymity, recalls her time in 2017 working at ByteDance in Beijing, where she was tasked with looking at international products for the company (the company had no products in India then). In November that year, ByteDance bought another Chinese-company, Musical.ly, which had a growing Indian base. In August 2018, it merged the company with TikTok.

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“These companies consider themselves global, not Chinese. They believe that whatever success they have in China can be replicated in a lot of other markets,” says the product strategist.

Chinese developers working on apps such as TikTok or NewsDog were quick to comprehend India’s highly-stratified market with divisions of Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. “The themes of migration from smaller cities to bigger cities, from lower middle class to upper middle class — those are stories the Chinese can relate to.” Something worked and TikTok became a household name in India.

Given the app’s reach in India, global brands such as PepsiCo and Reckitt Benckiser, which makes Dettol, jumped on to the bandwagon, their video campaigns garnering views in billions on TikTok.

An expanding footprint

The increasing popularity of these apps also prompted the companies running them to invest heavily in their India operations. To begin with, to meet India’s data localisation norms, major companies with China links, including Tencent, Alibaba Group and ByteDance announced the setting up of data centres within India.

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Last year, ByteDance, which is based in Cayman Islands, announced an investment of $1 billion in India over a period of three years.

Through all this, there were concerns, much of those surrounding China’s far-reaching Internet laws, which experts interpret to mean that these apps and companies could be forced to give data to their government. They say that both the 2017 National Intelligence Law and the 2014 Counter-Espionage law can be leveraged by the Chinese government to seek data from companies that run out of India and other countries.

Despite these concerns, experts say China’s disproportionate presence in India’s app economy has allowed the Indian government a bargaining chip, albeit a low-hanging one, in these times of tension.

“This (ban) is just a stopgap measure… to convey that the Chinese should stop what they are doing, otherwise India has levers in other respects,” says Arun Mohan Sukumar, who is pursuing a PhD at Tufts University on international rule-making in cyberspace. “Whether they have the Digital Road or the BRI (Belt and Road Initiative), China just can’t ignore India. Half the population is still waiting to be connected to the Internet. No matter what our growth prospects, the digital economy will mature.”

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The bargaining chip may be pure signalling. To be sure, the Chinese-owned MiPay, MiCredit, and RealMe Paysa handle much more sensitive financial data, and have not been touched by this ban. Yet, the ban serves to highlight the growing diplomatic dimension of these digital routes into India.

“Data privacy has become the new national security. It’s natural that India would view Huawei differently from an Ericsson or a Nokia. Technology is not neutral. When you strip everything down, it’s a question of who do you trust more — the Chinese, the Americans, the Europeans,” said Lewis, the researcher of India-China technology relations.

While the Indian government has chosen to crack down on Chinese apps for now, the technology space offers plenty of fodder for diplomatic negotiations.

On the heels of the 2017 Doklam incident, the Defence Ministry asked armed forces personnel to uninstall 42 Chinese apps. More recently, Chinese tech company Huawei has been entangled in geopolitical concerns, as other members of the ‘Quad’ grouping (Japan, Australia, and US) have decided to ban the company from 5G infrastructure. India is yet to follow suit.

Speaking at the 2015 World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, Chinese President Xi Jinping was quoted in China Daily as saying, “Cyberspace should not become a battlefield for countries competing against one another.”

But now, it seems, a new front has opened. A virtual one.

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Former Google engineer gets 18 months in prison for stealing files

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A federal judge Tuesday sentenced former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski to 18 months in prison for stealing a trade secret from Google related to self-driving cars months before becoming the head of Uber’s rival unit.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco said Levandowski, who was convicted after a March plea agreement, could enter custody once the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided.

Alsup said a sentence short of imprisonment would have given “a green light to every future brilliant engineer to steal trade secrets,” comparing what Levandowski took to a “competitor’s game plan.”

The 75-year-old judge, who has been involved in Silicon Valley litigation for nearly five decades, described Levandowski’s conviction as the “biggest trade secret crime I have ever seen.”

“Billions [of dollars] in the future were at play, and when those kind of financial incentives are there good people will do terrible things, and that’s what happened here,” Alsup said.

Prosecutors sought a 27-month prison sentence.

Levandowski requested one-year confinement at his Marin County home, contending that bouts with pneumonia in recent years would make him susceptible to death from the novel coronavirus while in prison. His attorneys asked the judge to consider that investigators found no evidence that “Levandowski used any of Google’s trade secrets after leaving Google’s employment.”

Levandowski transferred more than 14,000 Google files including development schedules and product designs to his personal laptop before leaving the company and while negotiating a deal with Uber, where he briefly led its self-driving car unit.

Uber fired Levandowski in 2017 and then settled a lawsuit from Google parent Alphabet over the misuse of trade secrets, setting back the ride-hailing company’s self-driving project.

The dispute between the companies is ongoing. Levandowski filed for bankruptcy in March because he owes $179 million to Google for his actions before resigning in January 2016.

Google last week asked the bankruptcy judge to reject Uber’s argument that it is not responsible for paying the $179 million under his old employment agreement.

Levandowski, who now runs self-driving truck company Pronto, apologized to Google and said he plans to share his story of regret with others in the tech industry.

“Today marks the end of three and a half long years and the beginning of another long road ahead,” he said in a statement.

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Tech News | Google Play Music to Shut Shop by October

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California [US], Aug 4 (ANI): Tech giant Google is winding up Google Play Music in favour of YouTube Music. The music streaming service will no longer be available for users from September 2020 in New Zealand and South Africa, and from October 2020 in all other global markets.

According to Mashable, the news of Google ending support for Google Play Music as starting from Android 10, the company replaced Google Play Music with YouTube Music as the default music player on Android smartphones.

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In May, Google’s introduction of a transfer tool to help users transfer their Google Play Music library to YouTube Music only backed the fact that Google would soon be ending support for its older music streaming service.

Mashable reported that as per Google, from late August onwards users will not be able to pre-order music or upload/download music from Google Play Music through Music Manager.

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And it will also transfer the user’s playlists and existing purchases.If the user is interested in staying with Google’s new offering, YouTube Music, one can make use of the transfer tool that helps in transferring the existing Google Play Music library.

The transfer tool will transfer everything from one’s likes and dislikes from playlists to the user’s YouTube Music account.

Alternatively, one can also make use of Google Takeout that will help export and download all the music files and account-related data and store it in a preferred location.

A key feature of Google Play Music has also made its way to YouTube Music, just like GPM, the user can also upload his/her own music to the account. It can then be accessed via the cloud on any device on which the user can access YouTube Music. (ANI)

(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from Syndicated News feed, LatestLY Staff may not have modified or edited the content body)



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Google Bringing Cash, Nest to ADT | Home Tech

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By John P. Mello Jr.

Aug 4, 2020 4:00 AM PT

Google’s Nest line of smart home products will be combined with ADT’s security services in a partnership announced Monday by the two companies.

As part of the deal, Google will invest US$450 million into ADT to acquire a 6.6 percent interest in the security and smart home solutions provider.

The companies also agreed to each spend $150 million for co-marketing, product development, technology and employee training.

In a statement, the pair explained that the partnership will integrate Google’s hardware and services and ADT’s DIY and professionally installed smart home security solutions to innovate the residential and small business security industry.

The future ADT and Google home security solution is expected to advance smart home offerings and attract new consumers seeking premium technology, end-to-end smart home service and trusted security, they added.

Risky Bet

Home security is one of the most popular reasons households purchase smart home devices, observed Jessica Ekholm, a research vice president with Gartner.

She cited a 2018 survey by the firm that found 66 percent of U.S. responders said they were likely to use smart home devices for preventing access to the home while they were away, while 64 percent noted they were likely to use the devices for security when away from home for long stretches of time.

“Partnering with ADT will help Google reach potential new customers that are currently opting for managed security services, thus reaching beyond Google’s Nest usual clientele,” Ekholm told TechNewsWorld.

Frank E. Gillett, a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, though, sees the partnership as a risky move.

“This is a very big bet by Google on physical security being a big motivation for people adopting Google products,” he told TechNewsWorld. “I find that puzzling because I don’t think consumers want another $50 a month bill, unless Google can flip ADT’s value proposition and change it from an annoying monthly fee and occasional valuable service to a constantly valuable service for which you gladly pay for.”

Tapping Into Valuable Channel

However, Gillett acknowledged the deal could give Google an advantage over its rivals in the market. “It recruits a motivated partner to emphasize Google over Amazon or Apple as a smart home control system,” he said.

The deal also gives Google access to an important channel for its smart home products.

“Today, Nest products are, by and large, sold at retail,” explained Ross Rubin,
the principal analyst with Reticle Research.

“An important channel for home security and home automation is the professionally monitored service business where ADT is one of the most recognized brands,” he continued.

“In making Nest products available through ADT,” he told TechNewsWorld, “Google can expose them to customers who are specifically interested in this kind of functionality and are actively seeking that out by contacting a monitoring service provider.”

“Google will get better access to that customer base and for ADT,” he said, “they get access to products that are more sophisticated, have a broader ecosystem than products they have distributed in the past.”

Changing Dynamics

Adam Wright, smart home senior research analyst at IDC, observed that the Google-ADT deal illustrates the changing dynamics of the smart home market.

“For some time, the market has been categorized as one with clearly defined segments — do-it-yourself versus fully managed services,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“In the past 12 months or so, DIY vendors are finding added success in areas that have traditionally been exclusive to managed service providers,” he continued.

“Vendors like Nest, Ring, Samsung, and others have launched installation and professional monitoring services for their DIY home automation and security solutions, which essentially blurs the lines of differentiation between DIY vendors and managed service providers and may increase the appeal of adopting a DIY approach to smart home solutions,” Wright explained.

He argued that managed services providers need to respond to encroachments on their market by DIY outfits by pivoting their strategies to allow for a more agile, a la carte approach to their solutions and customer acquisition strategies.

That kind of strategy was behind ADT’s launch in January of Blue by ADT. The DIY smart home security offering allows customers to customize a smart home security system on their own terms, with no long-term contracts required.

“By offering DIY products alongside the full suite of managed services solutions, managed service providers will be better equipped to reach a broader range of consumers that might be at first reluctant to invest in a whole-home package,” Wright said.

“So,” he added, “for Google, this deal can provide a significant boost to its lineup of DIY smart home monitoring and security solutions by positioning it to compete more strongly against both other DIY competitors and also other fully managed service providers like Vivint, Brinks and others.”

Cash Welcomed

Google’s infusion of $450 million into ADT is more important to the home security company than to the search giant, maintained Mark N. Vena, a senior analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy.

“This cash infusion will allow ADT to operate as an ongoing entity without disrupting their current business,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“It will also help ADT design more bleeding edge products that integrate Google Assistant functionality at a more robust and intuitive level,” said Vena.

“For Google,” he added, “it helps them get into the residential and businesses services business. Google could probably do that without investing in ADT, but many customers might be wary of partnering with Google for security services due to Google’s somewhat compromised privacy and data protection reputation.”

“ADT is a trusted brand in this space and this would aid Google as they try to expand their brand and product line in the security services area,” Vena explained.

Slicker Hardware

ADT, in turn, can benefit from Google’s reputation.

“ADT, like most professional services security companies and cable companies, has ugly and badly designed equipment,” observed Forrester’s Gillett.

“If ADT uses the slicker hardware and better applications of Google, it will drive sales for Google and customer engagement for ADT,” he said.

“ADT wants to expand beyond the 20 percent of the market that pays for professionally monitored security because it and others in the industry have been under assault from cable TV and Internet service providers,” he added. “So for this partnership to be successful, ADT will need to grow its share of the market.”


John P. Mello Jr. has been an ECT News Network reporter
since 2003. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, IT issues, privacy, e-commerce, social media, artificial intelligence, big data and consumer electronics. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including the Boston Business Journal, the
Boston Phoenix, Megapixel.Net and Government
Security News
. Email John.



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