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OPPO abandons custom chip design ambitions

PLUS: India gets blood from a drone; Toshiba sets a date; Australia floats metaverse standards

Asia In Brief China's OPPO, the world's fourth mostprolific smartphone manufacturer, has abandoned plans to design its own silicon.

Middle Kingdom outlet China Star Market reported that Oppo's chip design limb, Zheku, last week closed and powered down all employment contracts.

Difficult economic conditions were cited as the reason for the closure.

Oppo founded Zheku in 2020 in hope of creating products that would reduce its dependence on US suppliers and therefore the potential impact of US sanctions. Custom silicon was also seen as a route to product differentiation.

If Zheku ever produced designs that Oppo found useful, neither outfit has seen fit to say so in public. With smartphone sales slumping, Oppo decided to pull the pin.

Doing so suggests it has few worries about sourcing components in future – because it can either evade sanctions, or secure supplies from within China.

Toshiba sets a date for sale

Toshiba last week set a date for the sale of its shares. A company statement gave "the last ten days of July 2023" as the target date for the tender of shares that will enable to $15 billion sale to Japan Industrial Partners, Inc. (JIP).

News that the deal is close to conclusion came on the same day that Toshiba revealed its FY22 results – featuring less than one percent revenue growth and moderate losses.

Australia starts work on metaverse standards

Standards Australia has published a "Metaverse and Standards Whitepaper" identifying the issues future standards should address.

Developed in association with the Responsible Metaverse Alliance, the document outlines four rights the authors believe should be respected by metaverse operators, namely:

  • The right to experiential authenticity so that users know when they're seeing promotional material;
  • The right to emotional privacy, meaning the chance to opt out from having emotional reactions – such as facial expressions, vocal inflections, or vital signs – recorded and analyzed;
  • The right to behavioral privacy, again allowing opt out of data collection of their metaverse activities;
  • The right to human agency, allowing users "to make their own decisions in the Metaverse and be protected from any system that takes their emotional and behavioral data in real time and, using an AI-powered feedback control system, alters the information to make it appealing to the user."

The full whitepaper can be found here [PDF].

Big changes at NTT Data

Japanese telecoms and IT services giant NTT has made major changes to its affairs that will see the global activities of NTT Data and NTT Ltd combined as NTT Data.

"This will allow for both companies to operate in a much more coordinated manner," the megacorp stated. "By leveraging the combination of NTT Data's capabilities such as consulting and application development and NTT Ltd's strength in high-value-added services such as datacenter, global networks, and managed infrastructure services, the NTT group will be able to provide clients with new value as a whole."

The change was accompanied by a restructure of the board, and came in the same week as the group announced full year revenue of $25.7 billion and net income of $1.1 billion – growth of 36.8 percent and 4.9 percent respectively.

The group also signalled plans to continue building datacenters around the world – it's quietly become one of the biggest players in the field – to satisfy demand from customers including hyperscalers.

India gets blood from a drone

India's Council of Medical Research and Health Ministry last week conducted a successful trial of blood bag delivery by a drone.

The inaugural trial flight carried ten units of whole blood samples. Authorities haven't said how far the drone traveled, stating only that the flight was a line-of-sight affair.

But the success of the test raised hopes that India can distribute blood, and blood products, more quickly over its infamously congested and rough roads – be they in cities or remote locations.

China launches blockchain brainbox

China last week launched a National Blockchain Technology Innovation Center. The facility aims to put the distributed ledger tech to work across the nation's massive economy, and to consolidate disparate research and implementation felt to have become unhelpfully diverse.

China sees great potential for blockchain in many industries – as you'd expect of a nation that likes to know what its citizens get up to. Cryptocurrency, however, is one blockchain application China will not tolerate.

In other news …

Our regional coverage from last week included LinkedIn shuttering its main app in China and shedding over 700 jobs.

Japan's government, and Fujitsu, apologized for a privacy breach that saw requests to print government documents produce material associated with the wrong people.

Chinese authorities raiding the offices of consultancy Capvision, alleging it had exposed secrets.

South Korean authorities expressed optimism that top chipmakers Samsung and SK hynix would continue to enjoy some relief from US sanctions on their operations in China.

Pakistan's government ordered extensive internet outages to quell protests, damaging its nascent digital economy.

India's government demanded WhatsApp explain a surge in spam calls, celebrated Cisco announcing it will make some products locally and called for mobile phones to include working FM radio receivers.

Also in India, bans on open source messaging services were strongly criticized.

Vietnam's government floated a plan to require social media users to register using verifiable personal information, and for filters to prevent unregistered accounts being available – even if those accounts are held by users from outside Vietnam. ®

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