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Tributes flow as Creative CEO Sim Wong Hoo - the mind behind Sound Blaster - passes aged 68

PLUS Tesla China price cuts spark protests; Japan boosts cyber-defences; Google can’t overturn Indian fine

Asia In Brief Singapore's tech community is in mourning – along with many around the world – after the sudden passing of Creative Technology co-founder and CEO Sim Wong Hoo. The brand was behind the popular "Sound Blaster" range of PC sound cards and a significant force in the digital media revolution.

The company started as a manufacturer of memory modules for the IBM PC, before expanding into sound cards for PCs in the late 1980s. Those products – marketed as the "Creative Music System" and "Game Blaster" before the debut of the global hit "Sound Blaster" – were the de facto standards for sound on early PCs. Software developers that wanted to be taken seriously by customers had little choice but to ensure compatibility with Sound Blaster hardware for much of the 1980s and 1990s.

Even Microsoft acknowledged the Singaporean company's dominance by making its own sound standards align with Sound Blaster's capabilities.

The success of the products saw Creative Technology become the first Singaporean entity to list on the tech-centric NASDAQ stock exchange – a feat it achieved in 1992.

The company was revered across Asia's tech industry for building a market in an industry largely dominated by US businesses, and Sim Wong Hoo was lauded as an entrepreneur of unusual vision and achievement.

Singapore's deputy prime minister Heng Swee Keat praised Mr Sim on Facebook, writing "Sim Wong Hoo made it in an era when Singapore was not known for innovation or entrepreneurship. He dedicated his life to pushing new frontiers and developing innovative products. His success served as inspiration for Singapore start-ups that followed."

While sound support eventually became a feature baked into all PCs, Creative Technology continued to innovate and was one of the vendors that pushed MP3 players into the mainstream – and by doing so kick-started the digital media revolution. Creative still sells music players today under the Zen brand.

Mr Sim continued to work on the company's products. A company announcement [PDF] described his passing as "sad and sudden" but also peaceful.

Mr Sim was sixty-eight.

Chinese Tesla owners protest after company slashes prices

Protests erupted at Tesla stores across China over the weekend after the company cut its prices for the second time in three months last Friday.

The protestors – mainly Tesla owners who paid higher prices – demanded credit or rebates so the sums they paid match current discounts. Many had purchased their electric vehicles in a rush at the end of 2022 in order to receive a government subsidy that was set to expire.

The price cuts lowered the cost of a Model 3 by up to $5,300, to a range between $33,600 and $48,200. The Model Y was cut by as much as $7,000, making the car cost a record low $38,000 to $52,600.

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Tesla global vice president Grace Tao reportedly explained in a company statement: "The price cuts in China reflected engineering innovation and answered Beijing's call to encourage economic development and consumption."

The Elon Musk-led vehicle company also reportedly cut its prices in Japan, South Korea and Australia.

Last week, Tesla's head of China, Tom Zhu, was promoted to a more global role that put him second in command under Musk, running sales operations in North America and Europe, as well as the company's US assembly plants. That same week, Tesla China's regional general manager Kong Yanshuang said the company had a milestone year in 2022 and would spread "Made in China" across the world.

Japan details cyber defence strategy

Japan wants to expand its cyber defence capability by adding personnel and tools to its armory as part of its revised [PDF] National Security Strategy.

The nation said it seeks to strengthen its cyber security to "equal to or surpassing the level of leading Western countries."

The action is partly out of concern over existing and potential Chinese, Russian and North Korean threats.

The plan includes investments in long-range counterstrike capabilities and an increase of defence spending to two percent of gross domestic product. The increase breaks down to $7 billion in cyber warfare, $7 billion for space and $6 billion to develop a multi-country next-generation fighter aircraft. The plan also includes a headcount boost to its cyber defence unit – to around 4,000 members from the current 890.

Indian tribunal rejects Google's request to throw out ruling

An Indian tribunal rejected a request from Google to change an antitrust ruling that fined the company $161 million and ordered it to change its behavior.

As part of the appeal, Google claimed the ruling contained over 50 instances of copy pasting from a previous European ruling. It suggested this was proof the ruling commission had failed to conduct an appropriate investigation.

Google appears to have filed paperwork required to appeal the matter.

In other news …

Our regional coverage from last week included a controversial announcement from Indian government-owned telecom company, RailTel, detailing efforts to monetize existing free railway Wi-Fi in partnership with a private company.

Foxconn signed an agreement with Nvidia that will see the acceleration biz provide chips and sensors for the Taiwanese company's autonomous vehicle platforms.

India released draft rules on its gaming industry that include "know your customer" procedures and a self-regulating system for registered select companies.

An outage at Manila's international airport left 65,000 stranded. The outage occurred after two UPSes failed and techies sent 380V into the air traffic system.

Dell is reportedly planning to stop using chips from China in its products by 2024 as part of an effort to shift its supply chains, amid US/China tensions.

A former General Electric engineer was sentenced to two-year imprisonment for charges related to stealing the company's turbine technology for China.

Japan is struggling to revive its nuclear power industry amid a shortage of skilled personnel. Its nuclear equipment engineer talent pool has declined by 45 percent since it shut down the infamous plant at Fukushima in 2011.

Beijing is reportedly reassessing its chip strategy as it continues to face US sanctions.

Taiwanese OEM Gigabyte has spun off its enterprise solutions biz as a separate unit from its core business, manufacturing consumer motherboards and other technology.

NASA administrator Bill Nelson warned that China could control territory and resources on the Moon in the future if it erects critical infrastructure before the US.

HPE still plans to sell its remaining interest in Chinese joint venture H3C.

South Korea will offer semiconductor manufacturers and related ventures significant tax breaks as it seeks to boost the industry. ®

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