Microsoft to hike prices in Australia and New Zealand

ALSO: Google Cloud extends support in Korean and Mandarin; Cambodia lashes Meta; MSFT India boss bails; and more

Asia In Brief Microsoft last week announced its consistent global pricing policy means Australian and New Zealand customers will soon pay more for its wares.

As of September 1, Australians will be required to pay nine percent more for Microsoft's cloudy and on-prem products. Kiwis will cop a six percent increase in the cloud, but on-prem prices will remain the same. Probably because Kiwis are flightless.

The changes were made because Microsoft sets a US dollar price and then adjusts it into local currency. Fluctuating exchange rates therefore mean changing prices. That policy means Canadian customers will see prices rise by six percent, while Swiss customers will see their bills cut by nine percent.

– Simon Sharwood

Meta's Oversight Board barred from holidays in Cambodia

Cambodia's government has barred members of Meta's oversight board from entering the country, in retaliation for their recommendation to suspend prime minister Hun Sen's accounts for threatening violence.

Hun Sen used threatening language on his Facebook and Instagram accounts, but the social networks did not take down his posts after deciding they were newsworthy. In June, Meta's Oversight Board overrode that decision.

Cambodia's government last week criticized that decision and declared all members of the Board persona non grata within the nation’s borders, on grounds they oppose freedom of the press and intend to deny citizens access to useful prime ministerial pronouncements.

– Simon Sharwood

Microsoft India's president quits

The president of Microsoft India, Anant Maheshwari, has left "to explore other interests."

Chief operating officer Irina Ghose has been named managing director for India, and managing director Sashi Sreedharan has been elevated into a more senior role.

Country manager Ashutosh Gupta has retained his position.

Maheshwari is also chair of prominent and powerful tech lobby group NASSCOM.

Google Cloud boosts Chinese and Korean support services

Google Cloud last week announced it had added 24/7 assistance in Mandarin Chinese and Korean.

The service is available for premium and enhanced support customers – those spending upward of $500 monthly, up into thousands per month. Subscribers of standard support ($29+/monthly) will still have to converse in English and only eight hours a day, five days a week.

"We're eager to engage with an increasing number of our customers in these important Google Cloud regions, offering support and solutions in a language they're comfortable with," said Google.

The service was previously only available for premium and enhanced support customers in English and Japanese.

Australian carrier demos tethered mobile tower connected by StarLink

Australian carrier Vocus has cooked up something interesting: a tethered drone that connects to SpaceX's StarLink satellite internet service to provide a temporary mobile base station.

The rig was created as a way to provide mobile connectivity if terrestrial networks have been damaged, or in situations such as attempts to find a missing person who is known to have a phone with them but has moved beyond network coverage.

The drone's tether means it can stay aloft indefinitely, while the altitude it achieves means mobile coverage can stretch across 28 square kilometers.

The rig's been evaluated by emergency services outfits in Australia and Vocus will happily put it into production upon request.

– Simon Sharwood

New Zealand plan to merge CERT with spooks draws opposition

Last week Andrew Little, the minister responsible for New Zealand's signals intelligence agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), told local media he's considering moving the nation's Computer Emergency Response Team (NZ-CERT) into the spooky agency.

Rumors of the plan emerged earlier and drew protests such as this open letter opposing the move on grounds that NZ-CERT's advisory role is incompatible with GCSB's intelligence activities.

Little has countered with the argument that the move makes sense under a revised cyber security strategy under development.

– Simon Sharwood

Japan's NEC said it has created a "benchmark" Japanese language LLM

Japanese electronics MNC Nippon Electrical Corporation (NEC) announced it has developed its own generative AI Large Language Model (LLM).

The firm calls it a general purpose model and details that it uses multilingual data collected and processed independently. NEC claimed the model's proficiency in Japanese is "benchmark."

"This LLM, which achieves high performance while reducing the number of parameters to 13 billion through unique innovations, not only reduces power consumption, but also enables operation in cloud and on-premises environments due to its light weight and high speed,” said NEC.

NEC has already begun using the LLM in internal operations like document creation and coding support.

Thailand issues cryptocurrency regulations

Thailand's Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced it will require platform operators to disclose risks associated with cryptocurrency trading.

It also prohibited digital asset business operators from providing or supporting deposit taking and lending services.

In other news …

Our coverage last week included news that China planned to cut off supplies of gallium and germanium, necessary elements for semiconductor manufacture.

The world responded to that news with calm and composure. Just kidding – it was a mad panic actually.

The US, whether in response or as part of its ongoing clampdown on restricting Chinese access to advanced tech, told big cloud providers to prevent Chinese customers using cloud compute resources to train AI models.

Meanwhile the Middle Kingdom's new anti-spying laws are so broad that downloading pretty much anything from China could make you technically a spy.

Beijing also admitted that its local semiconductor industry isn't up to world standards, and must do better.

Meanwhile in Japan, people are hiring agents to help them quit jobs if they're too scared of the boss to do it themselves.

Also in Japan, the major port of Nagoya was taken down by a ransomware attack.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore told crypto operators it was time to grow up and start acting like proper responsible financial institutions.

In Korea, Samsung warned that its profits are about to take a big hit.

India, meanwhile, set out its ambitions for 6G, while at the same time making it easier for customers on ancient feature phones to get onto 4G.

And China's loss is India's gain, as HPE inked a deal with Delhi to manufacture servers on the subcontinent instead of the Middle Kingdom.

And more good news from India, as it prepares to become only the third nation to have landed a craft on the Moon.

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