- Microsoft Unveils New Surface Pro Device
Microsoft Corp. unveiled a new version of its Surface Pro tablet and laptop combination device with more powerful chips and better battery life, updating an aging product with declining sales that hurt financial results last quarter.
The Redmond, Washington-based company introduced the fifth version of the Surface Pro at an event in Shanghai, the first time it’s held the launch of a major product outside the U.S. Microsoft also announced a version of Windows 10 for use by the Chinese government and state-owned enterprises, ending a standoff over the operating system by meeting the government’s requests for increased security and data control.
Surface Pro is the workhorse of the company’s computer hardware line. It’s the biggest seller among the Surface devices, a category that Microsoft created — the two-in-one, or a tablet with a removable keyboard. Yet Microsoft’s Pro 3 and 4 are aging, and partners like Lenovo Group Ltd. and HP Inc. have come out with their own Windows-based versions, that give Microsoft software revenue but take away hardware sales. Meanwhile Apple’s take on the category, the iPad Pro, has been stealing market share.
Those factors contributed to a 26 percent drop in Surface sales last quarter. The new version should turn that around, said Yusuf Mehdi, who oversees marketing for devices and Windows. The device has 13.5 hours of battery life, a 50 percent improvement over the previous version, and runs Intel Corp.’s faster seventh generation Core chips.
“We have shown it to corporate accounts already and the reaction has been very positive,” he said. “We are optimistic this will get a good start out of the gate.”
The Pro will be available for pre-orders Tuesday starting at $799 and goes on sale June 15, the same day as the Surface Laptop Microsoft announced earlier this month. The device has a new kickstand that lets it fold almost flat to resemble a drafting table, similar to the pricier Surface Studio computer, and the Pro can now be controlled on screen by the Surface Dial device that Microsoft introduced with the Studio.
Microsoft also announced customers for the Chinese government version of Windows 10, including the Chinese customs agency and the city government of Shanghai. This version of Windows 10 lets the government use its own encryption on its computers. A joint venture in China manages all the system updates and telemetry so no data leaves China, Terry Myerson, Microsoft’s Windows and Devices chief, said in an interview.
The government can also remove features it doesn’t want like the OneDrive file-sharing service, or certain entertainment apps. The software is available only for government use and won’t be sold to any other Chinese customers, Microsoft said.
Operating in China has been something of a minefield for U.S. technology companies. Some are blocked, Microsoft is facing an antimonopoly investigation and in January a law took effect that requires telecommunications and internet companies operating in China to provide law enforcement with technical assistance, including decryption of sensitive user data, in any probe meant “to avert and investigate terrorist activities.”
Myerson said the custom version of Windows fully complies with the company’s values.
“We are aware this could be perceived as a sensitive issue but it’s quite appropriate for a sovereign country, within its own computer system and its own employees to have its own encryption systems,” Myerson said.
The product is the result of two years of work by the company and the Chinese government to resolve an impasse in which the government, citing security concerns, has refused to use either Windows 8 or Windows 10, blocking a key source of Chinese revenue for Microsoft.
Microsoft also announced that it’s bringing its full lineup of Surface hardware to the Chinese market. Currently, it only sells the Pro models and the Surface Book laptop in the country.
The company will also show a new Office app that lets a team of users create a digital whiteboard that they can all draw on simultaneously on different machines.
Global Investments into Fintech Companies Plunged by Almost 40% amid Pandemic
The year 2020 was a challenging year for many fintechs. The global slowdown in funding caused by the COVID-19 led to a significant drop in the number of venture capital deals and brought uncertainty for many companies operating in this market.
According to data presented by AksjeBloggen.com, global investments into fintech companies hit $105.3bn in 2020, almost a 40% plunge amid pandemic.
US Fintechs Raised 75% of Total Investments
Fintech companies apply modern tech solutions in the financial services industry to offer digitally enhanced products and allow widespread access to financial products at a lower cost than traditional players. Over the years, these innovative startups transformed how people and businesses spend, invest, save, or borrow money.
Even before the pandemic, many fintechs found it difficult to access funding, as investors focused on established companies instead of early-stage businesses. Nevertheless, the total value of investments into fintech companies increased dramatically in the last decade.
In 2010, fintechs raised $9bn in funding, revealed the KPMG’s 2020 Pulse of Fintech report. By 2015, this figure grew more than seven times to $67.1bn. In 2018, the total investment value jumped to $145.9bn and continued rising to $168bn in 2019, as the record year for fintech investments.
After the COVID-19 pandemic brought many deals to a halt in the first half of 2020, H2’20 reversed the trend as investors and fintechs learned to do business in a new normal. Nevertheless, statistics show that last year witnessed 2,861 deals worth $105.3bn, almost $63bn less than before the pandemic.
The Americas were the region attracting the most investments in the sector, accounting for 75% of the total, or $79.2bn. Fintechs from the EMEA region raised $14.4bn last year. Asian fintechs followed with $11.2bn worth of investments.
The Number of Fintech Startups Doubled Since 2019
Although the COVID-19 affected the investment activity in the fintech sector, it also triggered a surge in the use of fintech solutions, creating a huge space for new companies.
The BCG data revealed the number of fintech startups worldwide more than doubled since the pandemic struck, rising from over 12,200 in 2019 to almost 26,500 this month.
As of April 2021, there were 10,738 fintech startups in North America as the leading region, up from 5,800 in 2019.
However, statistics show Europe, the Middle East, and Africa have witnessed even more impressive growth in the number of fintechs. In 2019, almost 3,600 companies were operating in this sector. Since then, the number of fintech startups in the EMEA region surged by 160% to more than 9,300.
Asia and the Pacific ranked third with nearly 6,200 fintech startups as of April, up from 2,850 in 2019.
WeChat Brand Worth $68B, More than Three Major Chinese Banks
As the leading social networking app in China and the fifth most widely used globally, WeChat saw impressive growth amid the COVID-19 pandemic, both in revenue and the number of users. The brand value of Tencent Holding’s mobile messaging app also surged in the last year, launching WeChat among the strongest brands globally.
According to data presented by StockApps.com, WeChat brand value hit almost $68bn in 2021, more than three major Chinese banks.
The World’s Strongest Brand
WeChat or also called China’s “app for everything,” offers services from messaging and banking to taxi services and online shopping. During the pandemic, the app also helped keep track of those traveling or in quarantine, providing access to real-time data on COVID-19, online consultations, and self-diagnosis services powered by artificial intelligence to more than 300 million users.
This diversity of services offered to its users, especially amid the pandemic, helped the WeChat brand value surge by 25% YoY, revealed the 2021 Brand Finance’s Global 500 survey. With a valuation of $67.8bn, WeChat jumped nine spots on the ranking to enter the top 10 for the first time, behind giants like Apple, Amazon, Google, Walmart, or Facebook.
Also, the popular app ranked higher than the three major banks in China. In comparison, China Construction Bank hit a $59.6bn brand value this year, $8.3bn less than WeChat. Agricultural Bank of China and Bank of China also ranked below the popular messaging app, with $53.1bn and $48.6bn value, respectively.
The Brand Finance survey also revealed WeChat overtook Ferrari to become the world’s strongest brand with a top score of 95.4 out of 100 and an AAA+ brand strength rating. The relative strength of brands is measured through a balanced scorecard of metrics evaluating marketing investment, stakeholder equity and business performance.
Statistics show the Chinese mobile app is one of merely 11 brands in the ranking to have been awarded the elite AAA+ brand strength rating.
More than Hit 1.2 Billion Active Monthly Users
WeChat has lots of popular messaging app features, including Moments. A majority of WeChat users access WeChat Moments every time they open the app. Voice and text messaging, group messaging, payment and games are other examples of WeChat services.
Tencent’s 2020 financial results revealed the number of WeChat active accounts has been multiplying over the past years.
Between 2011 and 2015, the number of monthly active accounts surged from 2.8 million to nearly 700 million. In the first quarter of 2018, WeChat`s user base hit the one-billion benchmark, and the number just kept rising.
Statistics show the popular social networking app had over 1.2 billion monthly active users in the last quarter of 2020, ranking as the fifth most widely used social networking app globally.
Migration to IPv6 Will Enhance Digital Economy, Says Pantami
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami, has stressed the need for Nigerians to migrate from the use of Internet Protocol version four (IPv4) address system to Internet Protocol version six (IPv6), in order to diversify Nigeria’s economy and prepare it for a digital economy transformation.
The Minister who spoke as a special guest of honour at a recent webinar on the state of IPv6 deployment in Nigeria, organised by the IPv6 Council Nigeria, in collaboration with the Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), said there was need for migration from IPv4 to IPv6, saying IPv4 was fast depleting in numbers, while the population of internet users in Nigeria is on the rise.
Internet Protocol (IP) addresses are assigned numbers on the internet, which are part of the underlying infrastructure of the internet. The former IP version four, which Nigerians are connected to, is fast depleting and the world is fast migrating to a newer version known as version six (IPv6).
The Minister who was represented by the Managing Director of Galaxy Backbone, Prof. Muhammed Abubakar, said the conference on IPv6 came at a right time, when the federal government was focusing on economic diversification to drive the country’s national digital economy policy for a digital Nigeria and the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP 2020-2025).
“IPv6 is an important ingredient of our National Digital Economy Policy and the Nigerian National Broadband Plan.
“The current Internet Protocol that Nigeria has, which is driving the use of internet, is the IPv4, which has a combined capacity of about four billion addresses, and it is already reaching its capacity limit, which calls for the need to migrate to IPv6, with larger capacities.
“The increase in the adoption rate of IPv6 will require the creation of policies and regulatory instrument that will encourage and drive its adoption.
“So the federal government is putting regulatory instrument in place in line with the developmental regulation pillar of the National Digital Economy Policy. This will serve as a guide for both the public and private sectors to drive adoption of IPv6,” Pantami said.
One of the keynote speakers, CEO, MainOne Broadband Company, Ms. Funke Opeke, said Nigeria’s presence on the internet had been low even in the days of IPv4, adding that it calls for growth and increased access to the internet, being a critical foundation of Nigeria’s broadband plan.
“One of the key ways to achieve Nigeria’s broadband target is to leverage IPv6. It is not possible to connect Nigeria ‘s large population of over 206 million people without IPv6 adoption. With IPv6, we can connect people, networks and devices.,” Opeke said.
President of ATCON, Ikechukwu Nnamani, in his welcome speech, said with the projection that by 2030, more than125 billion devices would be connected using Internet of Things (IoTs), which would put about 15 connected devices into the hands of each consumer, all the devices would therefore need a unique IP address to function efficiently.
“The world has run out of IPV4, the initial IP addressing system. AFRINIC the only regional body in Africa that still has some IPV4 for allocation, recently indicated it has less than 1.8 million IPV4 available. The migration to IPV6 is therefore not optional at this point.
“ATCON being a very proactive Association saw the need to train network engineers in Nigeria in order to be able to migrate from IPV4 to IPV6 several years ago and this led ATCON hosting international training on IPv6 with the support of some of its members. This training was done in conjunction with AFRINIC,” Nnamani said.
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