China bans use of Microsoft’s Windows 8 on gov’t computers

LATEST SETBACK: China has banned government use of Windows 8, Microsoft Corp's latest operating system, a blow to a US technology company that has long struggled with sales in the country. — Reuters

LATEST SETBACK: China has banned government use of Windows 8, Microsoft Corp’s latest operating system, a blow to a US technology company that has long struggled with sales in the country. — Reuters

BEIJING: China has banned government use of Windows 8, Microsoft Corp’s latest operating system, a blow to a US technology company that has long struggled with sales in the country.

The Central Government Procurement Center issued the ban on installing Windows 8 on Chinese government computers as part of a notice on the use of energy-saving products, posted on its website last week.

The official Xinhua news agency said the ban was to ensure computer security after Microsoft ended support for its Windows XP operating system, which was widely used in China.

“We were surprised to learn about the reference to Windows 8 in this notice,” the company said in a statement. “Microsoft has been working proactively with the Central Government Procurement Center and other government agencies through the evaluation process to ensure that our products and services meet all government procurement requirements.”

 “We have been and will continue to provide Windows 7 to government customers. At the same time we are working on the Window 8 evaluation with relevant government agencies,” Microsoft said.

Neither the government nor Xinhua elaborated on how the ban supported the use of energy-saving products or how it ensured security.

China has long been a troublesome market for Microsoft. Former CEO Steve Ballmer reportedly told employees in 2011 that, because of piracy, Microsoft earned less revenue in China than in the Netherlands even though computer sales matched those of the United States.

Last month, Microsoft ended support for the 13-year-old Windows XP to encourage the adoption of newer, more secure versions of Windows. This has potentially left XP users vulnerable to viruses and hacking.

“China’s decision to ban Windows 8 from public procurement hampers Microsoft’s push of the OS to replace XP, which makes up 50% of China’s desktop market,” said data firm Canalys. — Reuters

eBay Accounts Hacked, Users Encouraged To Change Passwords Right NOW!

ebay Hacked!Internet auction site eBay has left users of its services, including PayPal, with reason to be concerned after posting a message up on the community page urging users to change their passwords. Since the original message popped up a short while ago, the company has stepped out and clarified the situation, noting that a hacker may have “compromised a database containing encrypted passwords,” although was also keen to stipulate that only “non-financial data” had been affected.

It’s always concerning when a major company with hundreds of millions of accounts – particularly one with links to finances – reveals that it may have been hacked, and the way eBay dealt with a potential breach today leaves much to be desired. Instead of being clear from the onset, an empty message popped up on its community page insisting that users should change passwords, although the actual body of the post was non-existent.

Panic naturally ensued, with users worried that their PayPal accounts could have been cleaned out, but in actual fact, it does appear that the issue is relatively low-key. Nevertheless, there has been a breach, and so if you’re an eBay user, it’s definitely worth changing your password if only for peace of mind.

Thankfully, large-scale security issues seem to be getting fewer and farther between as companies look to beef up on security, but even with the robust measures in place, human-made software will always inherently be imperfect. But while eBay and its own PayPal service can probably sweep this one under the rug, let’s hope that any future outbreaks or security lapses are dealt with in a more efficient manner than we’ve seen today.

After all, having users panicking about their personal info and financial data is something that, you hope, a company like eBay would want to avoid at all costs, and even though we’re very much relieved that accounts haven’t been hacked en masse, the company will probably want to have a quiet word with its PR team.

So, to sum up, if you’re an eBay or PayPal user, go ahead and change your password as soon as you can. The likelihood of you being hacked seems mightily slim anyway, but just to be on the safe side, don’t make it easy for a chancing hacker.

Source: Redmond Pie

Facebook has acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion


In a play to dominate messaging on phones and the Web, Facebook has acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion.

That’s a stunning sum for the five-year old company. But WhatsApp has been able to hold its weight against messaging heavyweights like Twitter (TWTR), Google(GOOGFortune 500) and Microsoft’s (MSFTFortune 500) Skype. WhatsApp has upwards of 450 million users, and it is adding an additional million users every day.

Referring to WhatsApp’s soaring growth, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on a conference call, “No one in the history of the world has done anything like that.”

WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app for smartphones, according to OnDevice Research.

Buying WhatsApp will only bolster Facebook’s already strong position in the crowded messaging world. Messenger, Facebook’s a standalone messaging app for mobile devices, is second only to WhatsApp in its share of the smartphone market.

Related: 5 key moments that changed Facebook

Similar to traditional text messaging, WhatsApp allows people to connect via their cellphone numbers. But instead of racking up texting fees, WhatsApp sends the actual messages over mobile broadband. That makes WhatsApp particularly cost effective for communicating with people overseas.

That kind of mobile messaging services have become wildly popular, with twice as many messages sent over the mobile Internet than via traditional texts, according to Deloitte. But most of the messaging industry’s revenue is still driven by text messaging.

On the conference call, Facebook said it is not looking to drive revenue from WhatsApp in the near term, instead focusing on growth. Zuckerberg said he doesn’t anticipate trying to aggressively grow WhatsApp’s revenue until the service reaches “billions” of users.

WhatsApp currently charges a dollar a year after giving customers their first year of use for free. WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum said on the conference call that WhatsApp’s business model is already successful.

That indicates Facebook bought WhatsApp to add value to its existing messaging services, as well as for the long-term potential of the company.

Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion in 2012 for similar reasons: As young social network users gravitated towards photo-sharing, Facebook wanted to scoop up what could have eventually become a big rival.

Like Instagram, WhatsApp will function as an autonomous unit within Facebook, with all the existing employees coming in as part of the deal.

Facebook (FBFortune 500) said it will pay WhatsApp $4 billion in cash and $12 billion in stock. WhatsApp’s founders and staff will be eligible for for another $3 billion in stock grants to be paid out if they remain employed by Facebook for four years. Koum will also join Facebook’s board of directors.

Source: CNNMoney

Coolest office in KL?

Central location: The office is conveniently located for foreign visitors.

Central location: The office is conveniently located for foreign visitors.

AFTER much speculation, Google Malaysia has announced its new home base in Kuala Lumpur. Since August, the tech giant’s office has occupied about 10,000 sq ft of space on Level 20 of the Quill 7 building, next to the western entrance of KL Sentral train station and the Sooka Sentral F&B complex.

In the building, Google Malaysia has neighbours such as Axiata Group Bhd (its logo takes pride of place on top of the building), BP Asia Pacific (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, Nokia Siemens Network and private equity firm Navis Capital.

Completed in 2009, the 32-storey Quill 7 was reportedly sold by developer Quill Realty Sdn Bhd (60% owned by the Quill Group and 40% by a fund sponsored by Singapore’s CapitaLand Group) to a company linked to the EPF. Today, the building is nearly fully occupied with published rental rates hovering at around RM7.50 per sq ft.

Multi-purpose: The office cafeteria also serves as a small amphitheatre for meetings.

Multi-purpose: The office cafeteria also serves as a small amphitheatre for meetings.

Airport to office in 30 minutes

Google first opened in Malaysia in January 2011, its second country in the region after Singapore in 2007.

“We very much were like a startup then because we were in a one-room windowless office at KLCC,” said Sajith Sivanandan, Google Malaysia’s country manager during a recent media visit.

“Then we moved to another very small serviced office in Menara Citibank where we kind of grew to the extent that we were literally sitting on one other.”

It then took them a few months of design, feedback and development to move into this full-fledged Google office.

“We chose this location because it’s very central, and if we get international visitors, they just need to take a train from the airport and then it’s a 3 minute 33 second walk here. We also wanted an office which had minimal interference in the core, like an open plan space, with a lot of natural light.”

Don’t expect brainy software engineers coding here furiously however. The Google Malaysia office is mainly a marketing and sales office devoted to efforts such as the Google Display Network, which places ads on a variety of news sites and blogs.

It would still be the first place in Malaysia to get wind of cutting-edge products coming out of Google headquarters, however. Examples include the driverless car which was recently shown to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak on his recent visit to Silicon Valley.

Play time: The Malaysian office’s recreation area has a Pacman arcade game console as well as an Xbox.

Play time: The Malaysian office’s recreation area has a Pacman arcade game console as well as an Xbox.

The wearable Google Glass computer, meanwhile, is not publicly available in the US or in Malaysia, but has been used by some Google KL staff.

“And before we can ever release it here, it would need to be approved by Sirim,” said Google Malaysia, Pakistan & Bangladesh head of communications & public affairs, Zeffri Yusof.

“It just makes it sound more like illicit commodity, and reminds me of the days when only those who had been invited by existing Gmailers could get a Gmail account.

Let’s go local

Another big part of the Malaysian office’s work is localising the Google platform. This includes populating Google Maps with real-time traffic data, as well as the highly anticipated Malaysian version of Streetview, which drills down Google Maps into 360 degree street-level perspectives–perfect for scoping out property.

We have yet to see Google StreetView cars on the road with their idiosyncratic roof-mounted cameras (which prompted outrage in privacy-concerned UK communities), but they are apparently coming to a street near you.

“We are currently in the midst of data collection, and we should see some streets coming out within three to four months, and for most of the network to go live within a year or so,” added Sajith.

Welcome to the playground

With movies and books which talk about and advise aspirants on getting work at Google, a job there is now considered as desirable as working in Vogue magazine or a top investment bank.

One thing intrinsically tied to the desirability of working there is its famously cool offices.

The KL office is no less brag-worthy. Previously the city’s coolest offices have been advertising agency offices, with their atmospheric interiors, pool tables and espresso bars.

And while Google KL may not have a slide from the upper floor to the ground floor as in Google’s Tel Aviv office, a meeting room populated by deck chairs as in Google London, or beach hammocks, as in Google Singapore, its Gerai Gugel cafe is beautifully decorated like a forest with swing chairs and colourfully upholstered kopitiam chairs. This is next to a mini amphitheatre with cushions for presentations, and a screen which shows what is trending real-time in terms of worldwide searches. “It feels like a playground,” described one journalist at the event.

Like the Singapore office where a few hundred employees occupy three floors in the Asia Square building near Marina Bay, there is a big push towards displaying local character. The moment you step in, a Google logo clad in batik greets you, while a cosy cave-like meeting room is modelled after Sarawak’s Niah caves. There’s also a putting green, massage chairs and a games room with free arcade games (offering retro favourite, PacMan), Sony XBox terminal and dartboard. The workstations are arranged in clusters within a pillar-free space without partitions, and surrounded by glass windows. “We wanted to be as open as possible and didn’t want too many cubicles or rooms,” said Sajith.

Free food and drinks!

The trump card, however, is a daily catered lunch buffet, with fresh fruit and salad on ice, open for free to all staff and their guests. It complements several fridges of free sandwiches, drinks and ice-cream too. For these, it’s not just Coke, Tiger, Cornetto and Pringles either. The company also stocks Vitagen, Belgian Hoegaarden beer, Magnum ice-cream and imported snacks such as kettle chips, which normally retail for RM13 a packet!

Cheerful: The Gerai Gugel cafeteria offers a catered lunch buffet daily for employees and their guests.

Cheerful: The Gerai Gugel cafeteria offers a catered lunch buffet daily for employees and their guests.

With such a merry and easy-to-access work environment, it’s no surprise that the company’s partners and clients are often happy to meet here, said Sajith. “This actually saves us money as it enables us to do more meetings in a day, and we don’t have charge it outside, which keeps the costs in.”

Sajith also emphasises less tangible benefits. Workers can come to work in casual clothes.

“You don’t need a suit to make a difference,” he said. New mothers get four months’ paid maternity leave, as opposed to the statutory two, while new fathers get one month, as opposed to the usual three days. Also, each “Googler” gets 20% of his or her work time to work on any pet project of interest. It’s called “a licence to pursue dreams”, said Sanjith, which is in fact how Gmail first came about.

There are also no hard and fast work hours. “Googlers are measured on their output, so if that means they leave the office at 3pm, that’s fine. Keep in mind though that we are a high- performance company,” he added.

The staff in the Malaysian office are predominantly young, aged between their early 20s to mid-30s, and local, except for three to four expats.

Originally from India, Sajith has been a Googler for nearly six years. “I worked in television in India, a consulting firm in Singapore, and a mobile startup in Singapore before I joined Google,” said Sanjith. “In Google I’ve done various things like, managing travel vertical ad sales for South-East Asia, with customers such as airlines and hotels who use our services.”

You can make money without being evil

Underpinning Google’s cool office and work culture, said Sajith, is its utopian philosophy. “You can make money without being evil” is the company’s almost child-like motto.

“We are a company that is very open, transparent, innovative and our workplace here hopefully represents that.”

Local elements: The company’s offices around the world try to include elements of culture from the countries where they are located.

Local elements: The company’s offices around the world try to include elements of culture from the countries where they are located.

Make money, it certainly has. The year’s second quarter alone saw the global company earning over US$14bil (RM45.18bil) in revenue, feeding over 40,000 staff in 129 offices within 57 countries. The company recorded US$3bil in net income.

Ironically, Sanjith was hesitant to share more local figures, such as the investment made into the local office, revenue targets and even current staff size. “I’d rather not get into the numbers,” he said.

What he emphasised however is that the establishment of the new office, with room to grow, indicates the importance Google places on Malaysia. Indeed, beyond the colourful interior design and an cost, the office will hopefully bring creativity and an alternative means of productivity to the country’s economic spaces. Make mine also one with free beer!

Source: The Star Online

Apple Passes Coca-Cola as Most Valuable Brand

Best Global Brands 2013

Source: Interbrand

APPLE is the new most valuable brand in the world, according to a closely followed annual report.

adco-articleInlineThe report, to be released on Monday, is from Interbrand, a corporate identity and brand consulting company owned by the Omnicom Group that has been compiling what it calls the Best Global Brands report since 2000. The previous No. 1 brand, Coca-Cola, fell to No. 3.

Not only has Apple replaced Coca-Cola as first among the 100 most valuable brands based on criteria that include financial performance, this is the first time that the soft drink known for slogans like “It’s the real thing” has not been No. 1.

Apple’s arrival in the top spot was perhaps “a matter of time,” Jez Frampton, global chief executive at Interbrand, said in a recent interview. Apple was No. 2 last year, climbing from No. 8 in the 2011 report.

“What is it they say, ‘Long live the king’?” Mr. Frampton asked. “This year, the king is Apple.”

The 2013 report begins: “Every so often, a company changes our lives, not just with its products, but with its ethos. This is why, following Coca-Cola’s 13-year run at the top of Best Global Brands, Interbrand has a new No. 1 — Apple.”

The report estimates the value of the Apple brand at $98.3 billion, up 28 percent from the 2012 report. The value of the Coca-Cola brand also rose, by 2 percent to $79.2 billion, but that was not sufficient to give Coca-Cola a 14th year as Interbrand’s most valuable brand.

Although “Coca-Cola is an efficient, outstanding brand marketer, no doubt about it,” Mr. Frampton said, Apple and other leading technology brands have become “very much the poster child of the marketing community.”

That is underscored by the brand in second place in the new report: Google, which rose from fourth place last year. In fact, of the top 10 Best Global Brands for 2013, five are in technology: Apple; Google; Microsoft, No. 5, unchanged from last year; Samsung, 8, compared with 9 last year; and Intel, 9, compared with 8 last year.

Samsung’s ascent followed the company’s adoption of a new brand strategy called the Brand Ideal, which includes “a greater focus on social purpose,” Sue Shim, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Samsung, said by e-mail. That reflected research indicating American consumers would switch brands to “one that was associated with improving people’s lives,” she added.

I.B.M. — No. 4 in 2013, down a notch from 2012 — is ranked as a business services brand. Otherwise, technology would account for six of the top 10.

“Brands like Apple and Google and Samsung are changing our behavior: how we buy, how we communicate with each other, even whether we speak with each other,” Mr. Frampton said. “They have literally changed the way we live our lives.”

Among other transformative technology brands that performed well in the new report was Facebook, which climbed to 52 from 69 last year, its first year on the list.

However, not all technology brands fared well. BlackBerry, which tumbled last year to 93 from 56 in 2011, has disappeared from the list. And Nokia, which dropped to 19 from 14 in 2011, finished this year in 57th place — “the biggest faller” among the 100, Mr. Frampton said.

Among nontechnology brands, a notable addition to the list was Chevrolet, at 89, the first General Motors brand to rank among the Best Global Brands.

“It feels good to hit the list for the first time,” Alan Batey, global head of Chevrolet at G.M., said in a telephone interview. “It’s a great first step, but we’ve got a long way to go. There are a lot of big brands in front of us.”

The milestone reflects how General Motors has been “making a conscious effort to globalize Chevrolet,” Mr. Batey said, selling the brand in 140 countries in ads that play up attributes like “value for money and designs that move hearts and minds.”

Commonwealth, the creative agency for Chevrolet, “played a key role” in helping the brand make the list, he added. Commonwealth is part of the McCann Worldgroup division of the Interpublic Group of Companies.

Last year, when Coca-Cola finished atop the Best Global Brands list for the 13th consecutive time, an executive at the Coca-Cola Company acknowledged the streak but noted that “nothing lasts forever.”

A year later, the executive, Joseph V. Tripodi, executive vice president and chief marketing and commercial leadership officer, had this reaction: “Of course, we would like to remain on top of the list forever. That said, we are honored to continue to be included among such an esteemed group of global brands, and we congratulate Apple and Google, both valued partners of ours.”

“We’ve seen the value of technology brands rise as they create new ways for people to stay connected virtually,” Mr. Tripodi said by e-mail. “We understand this, as the lasting power of our brand is built on the social moment of sharing a Coca-Cola with friends and family.”

“Creating these simple moments and delivering on our brand promise each and every day remains our focus,” he added, “as we continue to grow the value of brand Coca-Cola for decades to come.”

If it is consolation, Coca-Cola remains far ahead of Apple and Google in likes on Facebook fan pages. Coca-Cola has 73.2 million, compared with 9.8 million for Apple and 15.1 million for Google.

Source: The New York Times

Blackberry in $4.7bn takeover deal with Fairfax

On Friday, Blackberry announced 4,500 jobs cuts in a bid to stem huge financial losses.

Blackberry said in statement that Fairfax, its largest shareholder with about 10% of the stock, had offered $9 a share in cash to buy the company.

But Blackberry said it would continue to explore other options while negotiations with Fairfax continued.

On Friday, Blackberry announced 4,500 jobs cuts in a bid to stem losses.

The Canadian company said it expected to make a loss of up to $1bn after poor sales of its new handsets. In August, Blackberry said it was evaluating a possible sale.

On Monday, the company announced that it had “signed a letter of intent agreement under which a consortium to be led by Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited has offered to acquire the company subject to due diligence”.

The statement continued: “Diligence is expected to be complete by November 4, 2013. The parties’ intention is to negotiate and execute a definitive transaction agreement by such date.”

However, Blackberry said it was not in exclusive talks with Fairfax and would continue to “actively solicit, receive, evaluate and potentially enter into negotiations” with other potential buyers.

Canadian billionaire Prem Watsa, Fairfax’s chairman and chief executive, said: “We believe this transaction will open an exciting new private chapter for Blackberry, its customers, carriers and employees.

“We can deliver immediate value to shareholders, while we continue the execution of a long-term strategy in a private company with a focus on delivering superior and secure enterprise solutions to Blackberry customers around the world.”

‘End game’

Brian Colello, analyst at Morningstar, said that taking Blackberry private would allow the company to reorganise without being under the glare of Wall Street investors.

He said: “Based on the company’s disastrous earnings warning on Friday, I think a deal had to happen and the sooner the better. This is probably the only out for investors and the most likely outcome.

“The benefit to this sort of takeover is the ability for Blackberry and the consortium to reinvent the company without public scrutiny. It appears that the end game is going to be whether Blackberry can emerge as a niche supplier of highly-secured phones to enterprise customers and governments.”

Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight, also said that a deal with Fairfax would give Blackberry breathing space to assess its strategic options.

“Early indications suggest a retrenchment to the business market. Wider structural changes such as spinning off Blackberry Messenger and cutting back on hardware are also likely be carefully reviewed.”

Blackberry’s financial problems came to a head this year following disappointing sales of its new Z10 model smartphone.

Released in January – after many delays – the phone has failed to enthuse consumers.

Blackberry shares, which fell 17% on Friday after its jobs cut announcement, rose just over 1% on Monday.

Source: BBC News