Tech / Telecom news — 13 Jan 2017

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Mobile banking still a big opportunity in emerging markets, at least according to Bharti Airtel, which is using it as a key tool to fight market disruption (by super-aggressive Reliance Jio, which has captured 50m subs in 3 months!). They compare this (vs. traditional banking) with mobile telephony (vs. fixed) (Story)

SK Telecom will dedicate $9.2bn to innovation in next 3 years, with emphasis in partnerships (e.g. using their successful Korean maps app). They see recent CES event as a sign that operators need to focus on building ecosystems, and work with third parties in the new IoT world, which cannot be controlled by a single agent (Story)

Applications

Everyone is mentioning the decline in smartphone and PC sales, and many view an underlying trend that software is growing explosively while hardware is dying. But it would be more accurate to say that hardware and software are both changing fast, as this recent report on declining mobile app usage growth would suggest (Story)

Video

Streaming video is not an exception to the rule that firms need to adapt to local market conditions, at least in emerging markets like India, where Netflix premium / global positioning is “losing big” to Amazon Video (free with Prime at $15/year and full of local content) and Hotstar, the app from 21st C Fox’s local PayTV player (Story)

Apple could be thinking to make their own original video content (like Netflix or Amazon are doing), to differentiate Apple Music subscription service. This could be a very significant blow to much (financially) weaker competitor Spotify, but given Apple’s size, it could also create a large distortion in content markets (Story)

Components

Interesting (but not necessarily good) times in the chip industry, with falls in sales of PCs and smartphones triggering lots of innovation efforts to re-invent the market. Of course, AI / deep learning and cloud are the most promising opportunities, so many startups are looking to disrupt incumbents in those growing fields (Story)

Devices

Related with this, Gartner and IDC just published new numbers on global PC sales, and worldwide shipments are falling -6.2% yoy, affecting Taiwanese “generalist” vendors Asus and Acer the most (Asus falling -48% in 4Q16!), while Dell and HP behaving better due to positioning in the B2B and gaming segments (Story)

China’s Xiaomi, which reached a $45bn valuation in their good old days (2014) but suffered a severe market share hit the next year, now has a more prudent approach to growth, even if aiming for $14.5bn revenues this year. In particular, they’re suggesting that their globalisation strategy made them lose focus in China (Story)

NETWORK TECHNOLOGY

Alphabet continues making an effort (pushed by their “rational” CFO Ruth Porat) to rationalise its innovation portfolio, and this is of course affecting their network technology initiatives, where they seem to be killing their “Titan” project to build network access from drones, and prioritising Loon (balloons) for remote areas (Story)

BIG DATA & ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Silicon Valley’s Unicorn Palantir keeps growing in the private / commercial segment and has now sold a big data analytics project in Germany, to pharmaceutical firm Merck, aimed at predicting which patients will respond best to certain drugs. Merck is saying that this project is “part of their R&D” / drug discovery process (Story)