Tag: China

Apple Tablet talk is just so tedious

I am so bored with the current Silicon Valley obsessions: Apple tablet and the Google phone versus Apple phone stories.

For me, the most interesting story around right now is Google v China. It’s great to see the boys finally finding a backbone, not to mention their balls.

And maybe this shows that the boys have grown up and won’t be needing adult supervision?

That’s what Eric Schmidt said he would do, ‘adult supervision,’ when he was brought in in 2001, as CEO to help prep the GOOG IPO. The founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, agreed to a triumvirate in which they would share control with Schmidt.

But now, nine years later, it’s got to be a bit embarrassing to still be under ‘adult supervision.’ These are seasoned executives by now.

Also, the ‘adult supervision’ doesn’t seem very effective.

Veteran Forbes reporter Elizabeth Corcoran, has written that Schmidt

…has defined his job not so much as leading Google but as running interference for it–placating the investment community, soothing nervous regulators and policymakers and doing whatever it takes to create a magical force field protecting Googleteers…

If that’s the case, Schmidt’s abilities to run interference appear to be on an extended leave of absence. Take a look at some of the jams Google has gotten itself into:

  • Despite Schmidt’s outspoken support for President Obama before the elections, he hasn’t managed to win much favor from the administration – he funded a lot of Republicans, take a look here – Google is under a ton of scrutiny for potential anti-trust activities.
  • Google has run into big problems internationally with its books scanning project and Mr Schmidt’s attempts to calm the waters have failed repeatedly with lawsuits from many countries.
  •  Despite Schmidt’s repeated attempts to reach out to newspapers and have them partner with Google, the opposite has happened. The newspaper industry sees Google as an adversary rather than an ally.
  • Google’s relationship with Apple has soured badly, Schmidt was forced to resign from Apple’s board.
  • He admitted in court that he persuaded Google to pay more than $1bn more than YouTube was worth. Google is still trying to figure out how make YouTube profitable.
  • He persuaded Google to hang up a principled stand against Internet censorship and enter China in 2006. It’s not working out. It’s looking like an Epic Fail.

Things ain’t cooking in Schmidt’s kitchen.

I predict we’ll see an end to adult supervision at Google fairly soon. It’s like coming out of beta — GMail finally did it, so can Page and Brin.

[Tom Foremski’s web site is Silicon Valley Watcher.]

China Mobile monitors texts for 'unhealthy content'

China is to start monitoring SMS messages for ‘illegal and unhealthy’ content in its crusade against all-things-porn, says the NY Times.

The government, in cahoots with network giant China Mobile,  will be scanning for key words provided by the police. It’s not known what the key words will be, and the criteria will stay undisclosed and at the heart of central government, with no plans to make clear exactly what ‘unhealthy content’ is.

SMS monitoring has been happening in China for a while now. However, the new checks will be wider and more intrusive. Kan Kaili at the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunication  told the New York Times: “They are checking anything and everything, even if it is between a husband and wife.”

Coppers will look at messages and, if they reckon they contain ‘unhealthy content,’ China Mobile will put a hold on the user’s text messaging capabilities.

Chinese bloggers aren’t put off, says Danwei.org, with a wave of users sending around rude texts on purpose with no negative reports yet.

China orders foreign firms to obey their laws

A representative for the Chinese foreign ministry said that foreign firms trading in the country have to obey its laws, in a rebuff to Google and others.

China disapproves of hacking, the representative told reporters at a regular press briefing, and had itself been hacked. Google  has to respect the local customs and traditions.

While the Indian government claims its systems had been hacked by China, the representative denied that too.

This might all come as rather a surprise to the government of the United States – several reports have emerged in the last few months alleging that the Chinese government was behind a number of cyberattacks on both military and commercial targets.

It’s quite hard finding out what Chinese “laws” are, anyway. Amnesty International tracks the death penalty in China. According to its site, in 2009, “the criminal justice system remained highly vulnerable to political interfence. The courts, the prosecuting organ and the police remained under the supervision of the Chinese Communist Party.”

China, according to Amnesty, uses broad provisions of the criminal law concerning state security to silence dissent. A miniumum of 7,000 death sentences were delivered in 2009.

Foreign journalists email hacked in China

At least two news bureaux in Beiing have had their foreign reporters’ gmail accounts hacked into, according to a member email sent by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China, according to PC World.

The announcement, Monday, says that the compromised Gmail accounts had been configured to forward all e-mails to a mystery address. “We remind all members that journalists in China have been particular targets of hacker attacks in the last 2 years,” said the group’s mass email to members. The Beijing news bureaux have not been named.

Google has assured the affected users that while accounts have been accessed, the content of email documents were not.

While the hacked accounts coincide with a large scale attack on Google’s accounts and servers, the company claims that these attacks are unrelated.

And according to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China, it’s nothing to be too surprised about: “We remind all members that journalists in China have been particular targets of hacker attacks in the last 2 years.”

While accounts have been compromised, it could be in the best interest of journalists to stay with Google’s possibly soon to be pulled Gmail, as Steve Ballmer said Microsoft leaving China was unlikely, whatever-the-weather.

Yahoo branded reckless over China crisis stance

Siding with Google over the Chinese government’s censorship plans has left Yahoo’s number one business partner behind the bamboo curtain with a red face.

Last week Yahoo said it was “aligned” with Google’s position that the violation of internet privacy was deeply disturbing and something that had to be opposed.
But a spokesman for Yahoo’s business partner in China,  the Alibaba Group, said over the weekend that it did not think this was a good idea.

Beijing has tried to play down Google’s threat to pull out of China because of attacks by hackers and censorship.

Yahoo pulled out of China several years ago when it sold much of its business there to the Alibaba Group, in which owns 39 per cent. Alibaba runs Taobao, China’s largest online retailer, as well as the country’s largest e-commerce site, Alibaba.com.

John Spelich, Alibaba Group said Yahoo was reckless when it made such statements and “communicated to Yahoo that Yahoo’s statement that it is ‘aligned’ with the position Google took last week was reckless given the lack of facts in evidence”.

Yahoo has not said if it is considering flogging its Alibaba shares.

Germany says "no" to Microsoft Internet Explorer

The Federal Office for Information Security in Germany has said that it would be wiser if users avoided Internet Exploder and used an alternative browser when smurfing the web.

That’s because a vulnerability in Internet Explorer has been linked to a wave of attacks on American sites including Adobe, Google and Yahoo.

According to the BBC, the German government reckons that following Microsoft’s advisory is insufficient to turn IE into a browser that’s safe to use.

Microsoft developers are working day and night to solve the problem, the BBC said.

However, no browser is safe to use, according to malware experts. If Microsoft decides this vulnerability is really a problem, it will repair it in its next scheduled fix, set to arrive in early February.

The BBC story is here.

Microsoft posts warning on IE Chinese hack bug

A bug that Chinese hackers appear to have used to attack dozens of US sites including Google and Adobe seems to not have been known to Microsoft.

Last night it posted an advisory bulletin for the vulnerability in Internet Explorer – that appears to affect every version of IE except version 5.

Microsoft said: “The vulnerability exists as an invalid pointer reference within Internet Explorer. It is possible under certain conditions for this invalid pointer to be accessed after an object is deleted.”

Microsoft added it was aware of limited attacks attempting to use the vulnerability and is monitoring the level of threat it poses.

Microsoft may include a security update to patch the bug in the future. You can read what its advice is, here.

Ballmer to China: Censor Bing anytime!

Delightfully understated Microsoft CEO Steve “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” Ballmer has shown that his hand is well and truly on the pulse of international sentiment by declaring that his outfit would love to continue trading with China.

While rivals Google are considering pulling out of China so that they can mention the Dalai Lama as being a good bloke without being fined, Ballmer has said to China that it is free to censor his Bing anytime.

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's CEOBallmer said his company intends to stay in business inside of China and obey the laws of that country even if it does mean turning over the names, addresses and emails of people that China does not think are very nice.  If this results in such people being executed in mobile execution trucks and their organs harvested at least they will never be using a rival search or browser.

After having a quiet lunch with  President Obama on ways the government can use technology to cut costs, Ballmer mimed that he had been quite clear that we are going to operate in China, and he was going to abide by the law.

Perhaps it is for this reason that Microsoft has not had its email system breached by Chinese hackers recently.

New-fangled democracy won't cut it in China

According to Winston Churchill – whose mother was American – democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.

And while America is the land of the free, and quite a liberty bearer generally, it’s not right to assume that what’s sauce for the US goose is sauce for the Chinese gander.

It’s the most ancient culture in the world, and the only way such a vast country could have been governed is through a centralised bureaucracy that certainly paid no heed to what the Greeks were up to with their curious ideas of democracy.

It’s curious, then, that multinationals like Google, Yahoo and for that matter Microsoft naively believed that because China opened itself up to commerce, a centralised government would just blithely gaze on while an opportunity existed for China’s communist government to exploit source code for its own military and cryptic ends.

But it’s also no surprise that the US government is standing back from the Google affair while it sees how the Chinese government reacts to the search engine’s threat.

Sir Winston ChurchillThat’s because there’s one other foundation on which America is built apart from liberty – and that’s capitalism.  The USA is in debt to the Chinese government to the tune of not short of a trillion dollars – while Google spouts about its security being breached – it’s not in America’s interests to rock the boat too wildly.

China has overweening ambitions and has the resources to put long term plans into action. For most of 2008, I was working in India, which has espoused democracy, and I would hear a familiar complaint from the business people I talked to all the time.

They wished that India wasn’t a democracy so that the essential infrastructure needed to transform the sub-continent into another Asian powerhouse could be pushed ahead without the will of the people getting in the way of the plans.

No doubt it’s a terrible nuisance to have to take into account the wishes of individuals or parties they form when you want to press ahead with plans that are going to put crores of rupees into your pocket.

China’s stance to foreign companies operating in its country is that they have to obey the laws. China is a dictatorship and its laws aren’t created by an indepedent parliament or congress and moderated by an unfettered judiciary. In such circumstances, the normal rules of British fair play and the principles enshrined in the US Constitution just don’t run.

Google, perhaps, should have thought of this before it put time and energy into the marketplace, and not after the fact.