The US and China are embroiled in a trade war and the last few months have witnessed unprecedented escalation from both sides. Tensions between the two countries are ongoing and virtually two power blocs have been created. The conflict has also changed everyone’s outlook on technology forever.
US President Donald Trump banned American companies from working with Huawei, one of China’s largest technology companies. This meant Huawei could no longer use American technology, including Android. Thankfully, an interim resolution lets Huawei transact with American counterparts right now.
However, this was a blaring reminder for China. It depends too much on the US for technology and this needs to end. For two power blocs, interdependence isn’t an option. And the US played its trump card at the wrong time, in a wrong way.
Trade war affecting free flow of tech
Technology has been freely flowing since the inception of the Internet. Everyone has been connected to a neutral medium of communication except for a few countries. The flow of information has been so fast, yet transparent. Adding to this, open-source has been a boon for everyone since technology is never restricted and everyone gets a chance to experience it.
Even if a service or product is proprietary, companies have been quick to monetize it via licensing. There are apps that are built in one country and used by citizens of another country that’s thousands of miles away. In a nutshell, we’ve always imagined modern or digital technology to be easily transferable.
But, the US proved it can stop this flow of sanctions or bans, only to reverse the decision. We can call this saber-rattling. They wanted to serve a warning and the message has been received. However, China also realized one thing, it needs to become truly independent.
The Chinese internet is different from the rest of the world’s internet. It’s guarded by a nation-wide firewall and heavily censored by the state. A few services like Google and Facebook aren’t available. This has already made way for homegrown alternatives like Baidu, Weibo, and WeChat.
Now, Huawei is gearing up for the worst. It accelerated work on its own operating system, HarmonyOS. It’s expected to roll-out slowly in the coming quarters. In a bid to challenge Google Maps, they’re also planning to unveil a mapping service known as Map Kit.
Every Chinese company would be scrambling to create a backup plan, preparing for the worst. In the short term, they’ll suffer due to sudden shortcomings. But in the longer run, the US loses its leverage.
The ban is bad for progress
The US government’s ban on Huawei is ill-timed. The company is a leader in 5G deployment due to its patents and manufacturing ability. The world needs Huawei to effectively deploy the next standard of wireless communication. If the US wants its allies to avoid Huawei, alternatives need to be available, and that’s not the case.
Even US companies aren’t very fond of getting dragged in the trade war. Trump agreed that tariffs on China will hamper Apple’s ability to compete with Samsung. Not to forget all the revenue US companies lose after sanctions are applied or the Chinese develop their own alternative.
Other countries also have only two options — get in line with the US or develop its own cushion. A territorial divide has also prompted countries like India to lobby for data localization. In case relations turn sour tomorrow, how much control do you want to give others?
These questions and hypothetical scenarios are often considered to be an exaggeration. And I don’t blame them. But the US could’ve used this trump card later, actually benefiting from it.
Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings steps down as CEO
Names new successor
Netflix’s 2022 was rocky, to say the least. After dropping long-time subscribers for the first time in a while, the streaming platform has resorted to a variety of strategies to entice users to stay. While only a few of the new initiatives have resulted in positive change, the company is still on its uphill climb to regain its position atop other streaming giants. Now, Netflix is moving towards more drastic changes.
As revealed by the platform’s quarterly earnings, Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings has stepped down as co-CEO of the company. However, Hastings will not completely leave the company. Instead, the co-founder will assume the role of executive chairman, leaving Ted Sarandos and the newly appointed Greg Peters as co-CEOs.
Currently, neither Hastings nor Netflix has revealed why the former is stepping down from the position. Of note, the platform even posted a growth in subscriber count for the past quarter. Netflix added 7.7 million new subscribers, eclipsing a projected growth of only 4.5 million subscribers. At the very least, Hastings has confirmed that he wants to work on share value and philanthropy going forward.
Last year, Netflix added new ways for users to engage with the platform. Now, besides watching movies and series, subscribers can play a gallery of mobile games. Users can also avail themselves of cheaper subscription plans supported by ads.
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Apple is preparing to open its first stores in India
Based on new job listings
For one of the largest smartphone markets in the world, India is one of the rarer countries where Apple does not outright dominate. Undoubtedly, the company is trying to change that. Ongoing job listings in India are suggesting that Apple is ready to open its first brick-and-mortar store in the country.
First reported by Financial Times, Apple has posted job openings in India for several retail roles including for the iconic Genius Bar. Another clue even indicates that some spots have already been filled ahead of time. A few employees in the country have reportedly posted about their new jobs on LinkedIn.
Unfortunately, none of the job listings show how many stores are planned and where they will be. Narrowing things down by a bit, a few of the confirmed employees are from Mumbai and New Delhi. The report also does not indicate when the stores will open. However, since a few have already been hired, a grand opening might be coming soon.
Apple has a lot to gain by strengthening its foothold in India. The country is an important stronghold for smartphone companies. However, the company might find things harder as time goes by. The country recently dictated that brands must switch to USB-C if they want to sell their devices in India. All over the world, Apple remains the last stalwart against adopting the more universal standard.
Samsung hires Mercedes-Benz alum to head design team
Will handle Galaxy S, Galaxy Z, among others
Outside of the arms race of maximizing hardware, another important battle is the persistent evolution of design. A friendly and approachable design just adds the necessary pizzaz to make an otherwise bland device pop off the shelves. Pushing the next evolution of design for the brand, Samsung has hired a Mercedes-Benz alum to head its Mobile eXperience Design Team.
Today, Samsung has announced the hiring of Hubert H. Lee as the head of the MX team, which handles Samsung’s most popular designs. Formerly, Lee was the chief design officer of Mercedes-Benz China. During his tenure as the carmaker’s designer, Lee spearheaded several projects in both China and the United States. He also bagged awards at his former position.
Now, as part of the Samsung MX team, Lee is in charge of the designs of the Galaxy S, Galaxy Z, and Galaxy Watch series. Given the timing of Samsung’s usual product cycles, Lee’s contributions will likely affect the Galaxy S24 series, rather than the upcoming Galaxy S23 series. Samsung is already pegged to launch the next flagship series sometime in early February.
Still, a new design head sparks some optimism for the South Korean brand. The effect of brilliant design is remarkably palpable for tech companies. For example, Samsung’s primary rival Apple still relies heavily on the contributions of its former design chief, Jony Ive.
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