Tag: China

Western Digital buys SanDisk for $19 billion

Sandisk extreme SSDsHard disk drive maker Western Digital has agreed to buy SanDisk in a $19 billion deal which will see it in a strong position to make Flash drives for the known world.

The deal is pretty complex, which makes it less attractive to shareholders who think it will make them a quick buck.

Western Digital said the value of the transaction hinges on the closing of an investment in the company by Unisplendour which is a unit of Chinese government’s state-backed Tsinghua Holdings.

Unisplendour said it would buy 15 percent of Western Digital for $3.78 billion, a deal that is likely to face regulatory scrutiny amid national security concerns.

Western Digital Chief Executive Steve Milligan said in an interview that the SanDisk acquisition will ultimately dilute Unisplendor’s stake and that he was confident it would be approved by regulators.

“There’s always a risk and you’re not done until you’re done, but we were careful and consulted with US government experts,” he said.

Research firm Gartner said in October that worldwide semiconductor sales are expected to fall for the first time in three years in 2015, due partly to increasingly saturated market for smartphones.

Western Digital needs access to SanDisk’s NAND technology to better compete in the market for SSDs used in cloud computing, data centres, smartphones and laptops.

Western Digital said it had the support of SanDisk partner Toshiba which had some rights that could block a deal.

SanDisk has an intellectual property sharing joint venture with the Japanese company and uses its foundries to make chips.

Toshiba spokeswoman Midori Hara said in an email that the deal would not have a negative impact on that joint venture.


Apple brings solar power to Chinese suppliers


Solar farm in Arizona - Wikimedia CommonsFruity cargo cult Apple is planning to  build 200 megawatts of solar energy projects in China so that its local suppliers have more renewable energy.

Apple has been facing criticism that its local partners are heavy polluters and this will do a bit to sort them out.

In addition to bringing on an additional 200 MW in northern, eastern and southern China, the tech giant said it will launch an initiative to “drive its manufacturing partners to become more energy efficient and to use clean energy for their manufacturing operations”.

Apple said the 200 megawatts projects will produce the equivalent of the energy used by more by than 265,000 Chinese homes in a year.  We are not sure how much that is in terms of factory plants.  Chinese homes do not use as much energy as their Western counterparts.

Apple supplier Foxconn said it will build 400 MW of solar energy projects by 2018, starting in Henan province.

“These projects go beyond Apple’s operations in China to help our suppliers adopt clean renewable energy,” Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, said in a statement.

The announcement comes months after Apple said it would build its first major solar energy project in China, two 20 MW solar farms in Sichuan province, with solar developer SunPower.

The company now says its China operations are “carbon neutral” because the solar installations produce more energy than is used at its offices and retail stores throughout the country.

The move was praised by Greenpeace who said the outfit had  taken a “major step forward” in greening its supply chain.

“We hope that Samsung, Microsoft and other IT companies will follow their lead in manufacturing their cutting-edge devices with a 21st century energy supply,” said Gary Cook, IT policy analyst at Greenpeace.


Chinese cyber pact appears flimsy

spyThe US’s cyber pact against spying and hacking with China does not appear to be holding.

Hackers associated with the Chinese government have tried to penetrate at least seven US companies in the three weeks since Washington and Beijing agreed not to spy on each other for commercial reasons.

CrowdStrike said software it placed at five U.S. technology and two pharmaceutical companies had detected and stopped the attacks.

President Barack Obama said he and Chinese President Xi Jinping had agreed that neither government would knowingly support cyber theft of corporate secrets to support domestic businesses. The agreement stopped short of restricting spying to obtain government secrets, including those held by private contractors.

CrowdStrike Co-founder Dmitri Alperovitch said in an interview that he believed the hackers who attacked the seven companies were affiliated with the Chinese government based in part on the servers and software they used.

The software included a program known as Derusbi. Derusbi previously turned up in attacks on Virginia defence contractor VAE and health insurer Anthe. Alperovitch said the hackers came from a variety of groups including one that CrowdStrike had previously named Deep Panda.

The intrusion was to facilitate theft of intellectual property and trade secrets, rather than to conduct traditional, national-security-related intelligence collection,” CrowdStrike wrote in its bog.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest declined to comment on CrowdStrike’s findings but said that Obama had “made clear that the United States would judge China not based on its words, not based on any verbal commitments, but based on its actions.”

“You can rest assured that the relevant agencies in the United States government are closely monitoring China’s actions in this regard,” Earnest said on Monday.

Another U.S. cyber security company, FireEye said the state-sponsored Chinese hackers that it monitored were still active but it was too soon to say whether their aims had shifted.

AMD sells family silver after poor results

AMD Analyst Day '15AMD is selling most of its assembly and testing operations in China and Malaysia in a bid to save cash after poor results.

The chipmaker said it will sell 85 percent of its assembly, test, mark and pack operations in Suzhou, China and Penang, Malaysia to China’s NFME for $320 million.

The company also said it would create a joint venture with NFME as part of the deal, to which it will contribute 1,700 employees. It said it did not plan to cut any more jobs.

AMD earlier this month said it would cut five percent of its global workforce. It had 9,700 employees globally, according to its annual report in February.

The company reported its fifth straight fall in quarterly revenue and forecast current quarter revenue that fell short of analysts’ average expectations.

Chief Executive Lisa Su said that PC demand, particularly in the consumer market, continues to be somewhat muted.

AMD posted a net loss of $197 million in the third quarter ended September 26 compared with net income of $17 million a year earlier.  Revenue fell 25.8 percent to $1.06 billion.

Analysts on average had expected a revenue of $995.9 million.

AMD forecast current quarter revenue to fall 10 percent. The midpoint of the range translates to about $955 million, which was short of analysts’ estimate of $996.3 million.


Apple helps China censor its citizens

ChinaFruity cargo cult Apple is helping the Chinese keep their citizens under control by censoring its news and wiping tricky content from phones and tablets.

Apple has disabled its news app in China because it does not want to offend the government by telling Apple fanboys about what is going on in the world.

Greater China is now Apple’s second-largest source of revenue after the United States, with sales of more than $13 billion in the third quarter. There are fears that the Chinese are losing interest in the shiny cargo cult and Apple does not want a scrap with the authorities right now.

Beijing generally insists that companies are responsible for censoring content inside China. In Apple’s case, that would mean it would probably have to develop a censorship system to eliminate sensitive articles from feeds.

Since this means developing working software, Jobs’ Mob has placed this in the too hard basket and completely disabled the service for users in China.

The move is already troubling some users. Larry Salibra, an entrepreneur who founded Pay4Bugs, a software testing service, pointed out the issue last week on Twitter. Salibra said he found what Apple was doing “very disconcerting.”

He said Apple was censoring news content that he downloaded and stored on my device purchased in the USA.

“On device censorship is much different than having your server blocked by the Great Firewall or not enabling a feature for customers with certain country iTunes account. That Apple has little choice doesn’t make it any less creepy or outrageous.”

Shareholders flee Apple

rat treading waterShareholders are giving up on the fruity cargo cult Apple over fears that its days of meteoric growth are over.

Worries about slowing economic growth in China, an increasingly important market for Apple, have recently hurt the Cupertino, California company’s shares, sending them down about 19 percent from a record high in April.

On Thursday, Apple was down 2.2 percent at $107.83 on a report that chip suppliers were concerned the iPhone maker would cut chip orders for the fourth quarter. This would indicate that Jobs’ Mob does not think it will sell as many tablets and pink iPhones as it thought it would.

Apple has been doing its best to spin news about iPhone sales. It even launched the iPhone in China on the same day as the US to make it look like sales had increased. Shareholders did not buy that trick, well other than those who also owned Apple shares and believe everything the company tells them anyway.

Borrowing in Apple shares grew 32 percent through most of September, and then abruptly dropped 31 percent this week, according to lending data from SunGard’s Astec Analytics.

Apple’s stock has fallen almost six percent in the last week.

Brad Lamensdorf, who manages the AdvisorShares Ranger Equity Bear thinks there could be a lot of hurt for Apple coming. He suspects investors are overestimating iPhone sales in future quarters.

Cisco does deal with Chinese

the Cisco kidNetwork gear maker Cisco is forming a joint-venture with Chinese server maker Inspur to sell  networking and cloud computing products in China.

The Silicon Valley firm has been suffering behind the bamboo curtain because of political pressure and declining sales.

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

However this deal is typical of a growing number of tie-ups between Chinese and US technology firms which are part of a cunning plan to get government regulators off the backs of the big multi-nationals.

Microsoft is to partner with Baidu and Chinese state-owned private investment firm Tsinghua Unigroup on cloud technology. Dell announced last week it would invest $125 billion over five years in China. IBM pledged to help develop China’s advanced chip industry with a “Made with China” strategy.

Chipmakers Intel and Qualcomm 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.

Cisco’s market share has fallen in China, where its products have been labelled a cybersecurity threat by state media and government-affiliated experts.



China tells tech companies to swear allegiance

ChinaChina is demanding that some U.S. technology firms to directly pledge their commitment to contentious policies that could require them to turn user data and intellectual property over to the government.

Beijing has written to some US firms earlier this summer asking them to promise they would not harm China’s national security and would store Chinese user data within the country. It is not certain who China sent the note to.

The letter also asked the companies that their products be “secure and controllable” which means they need to build back doors that would allow Chinese spooks to enter at will.

The Cyberspace Administration of China denied that the government had sent the pledge documents to US firms, but said a document had been sent by a government body overseeing information security certification.

“As we understand, the so-called pledge documents were sent by the China Information Security Certification Center to foreign firms and were letters soliciting suggestions,” the cyberspace body said in emailed comments to Reuters, adding this was done according to Chinese law and international practice.

Chinese censors make console sales tricky

ChinaChina’s strict censorship rules are stuffing up Sony’s chances of flogging too many of its  PlayStation 4 consoles..

China lifted a ban on foreign gaming consoles last year, but the head of Sony’s gaming division Andrew House some of the rules made entry into the market difficult.

“We are still challenged somewhat with a censorship regime that we have to work with. This can be time-consuming,” he said.

Sony started selling PlayStation 4 consoles in China in March, hoping to capitaliise on the end of the 14-year ban. But Beijing’s tough censorship rules have limited the number of gaming titles.

House said he still saw “tremendous potential for gaming as an entertainment medium in China” but there had been no rocketship start.

Sony is slashing PlayStation 4 prices in Asia in an effort to boost sales.

PlayStation, along with camera sensors, have helped to offset a slump in sales of Sony’s traditional consumer electronics such as smartphones and TVs. The company expects operating profit to more than quadruple this fiscal year.

Sony has sold about 25 million PlayStation 4 game consoles since its late 2013 launch, almost double the sales of Microsoft Corp’s XBox One, according to market research firm VGChartz.


DoD wants tech start-ups hooked on its cash

il_340x270.527224222_ii4eThe US Department of Defense (sic) has a clever way to get tech companies to support its plans for backdoors and other snooping.

The cunning plan involves giving rapid seed funding to private companies as a way to encourage more work on technology projects with the commercial sector.

It sounds harmless enough, but it effectively means that tech startups who take the money will be forever beholding to the DoD.  Imagine what would have happened if the DoD had done that for Microsoft, Google or Apple.

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said that the push for greater cooperation with tech companies has been a big theme for the DOD in the last year as it faces a growing and unprecedented threat from private and state actors on the Internet and beyond.

Carter said that the DOD has to tap into all the streams of innovation and emerging technology and it has to do so much more quickly, Carter said.

He added that that Russia and China were modernising their militaries to try and close the gap and erode US superiority in every domain: air, land, sea, space and cyberspace

“And at the same time our reliance on satellites and the Internet has led to real vulnerabilities that out adversaries are eager to exploit. So to stay ahead of those challenges and stay the best, we’re investing aggressively in innovation,” he said.

He apparently was cheered when he said all this from the start-ups he had helped.  However, this is a complete turnaround from when President Obama convened a cyber security summit at Stanford University to call on business and tech leaders to work more closely with the government to identify security weaknesses and combat cybercrime.   That meeting was boycotted by CEOs from Google, Yahoo and Facebook.

Most of the older companies do not want to work with the government over fears of spying. About the only one that is keen is Apple Tim Cook spoke at the Stanford event, and the company is one of a handful that just announced participation in the DOD’s Flexible Hybrid Electronic Institute in Silicon Valley.

However, it seems that the DoD thinks that working with start-ups is a lot easier than trying to interest bigger stable companies and the lure of cash would be irresistible to them.