Tencent predicts big profits from lock-in to cloudy AI

PLUS: Lucasfilm quits Singapore ‘Sandcrawler’; China criticizes India’s tech push; Red Apple celebrates 30 years in China

Asia In Brief Tencent's chief strategy officer James Mitchell has told investors the Chinese web giant's hyperscale cloud operation is bullish on its AI-models-as-a-service (MaaS) business because customers will find migration away from it hard.

Speaking on the company's Q2 2023 earnings call, Mitchell was asked about the potential of the MaaS business and replied that he sees large enterprises as the early adopters, followed by small and medium businesses.

Those smaller buyers, he said, will want MaaS because they will want AI but probably won't want to train their own models.

He predicted that would mean "high margin and high recurring revenue is going to be true."

"Once the customers start using these services, right, it will be built into their interaction with their customers, which will be much more sticky than if it's in their back-end systems," he observed.

Tencent's Q2 revenue came in at $20.6 billion, up 11 percent year on year. The conglomerate does not break out separate revenue from its cloud services, but reported "modest growth."

Average monthly users of Tencent's WeChat and QQ social networks continued to grow, to 1.327 billion and 571 million respectively.

LucasFilm shutters Singapore studio

LucasFilm last week announced the closure of the Singapore outpost of its visual effects and animation studio, Industrial Light and Magic (ILM).

Parent company Disney reportedly cited "economic factors" as the reason for the closure.

Singapore's Economic Development Board (EDB) told The Register the decision was "in response to changes in the industry and business conditions" and that the global media industry is "facing disruption from rapid technological advancements, while studios are coping with challenges relating to talent and profitability."

ILM's Singapore digs were housed in a building known as the "Sandcrawler", as its design wa inspired by its Star Wars-affiliated namesake. The building was sold to the Blackstone Group in January 2021. – Laura Dobberstein

Chinese media lashes India's tech policies

A strongly worded article has appeared in mutiple Chinese state-owned media, accusing India of using its tax laws to make life hard for Chinese mobile phone brands. The article suggests actions such as the 2022 probe of Xiaomi's tax affairs may have been conducted as part of Indian efforts to grow its tech industries and take advantage of many organizations' desire to diversify their manufacturing operations in ways that reduce reliance on China.

The article labels India's activities as "more ruthless" than the US's actions against China, possibly "malicious," and also the sign of a certain immaturity.

The article concludes with quotes from Lin Minwang, deputy director of the Center for South Asian Studies at Fudan University, who suggested Chinese companies may not need India anyway, with Bangladesh and other south Asian markets offering a comparable growth opportunity.

Alipay targets inbound tourists

Alipay, the Alibaba-owned digital payment platform, last week updated the international edition of its service targeting tourists visiting China.

The update means users of the Alipay app outside China can attach local Visa, Mastercard, JCB, Discover, and Diners Club cards to their accounts, and use them to pay inside China.

Airline and hotel bookings are also possible with the enhanced service, which is offered in English alongside a translation service for speakers of other languages.

Red Apple celebrates 30 years in China

Apple last week celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of its presence in China.

A Chinese language press release summarized Apple's contribution to the local economy and society, environmental initiatives, and the role its products have played in Chinese lives.

"For 30 years, we've taken pride in serving local people – sharing the latest innovations with our customers and giving back to the communities where we live," said Apple CEO Tim Cook. "We'll continue to do our part. To enrich the lives of Chinese customers, help them connect and unleash their full creative potential, and do our best to make the world a better place."

Australia may not be master of its own domain

.au Domain Administration Limited (auDA), the administrator of Australia's .au domain space, has warned stakeholders that cyber criminals appear to have accessed its internal data.

In a Sunday update, the org said it was alerted to the incident on August 18, and that an entity claiming to be the attacker has since provided evidence of a small sample of data they say is in their possession.

That sample includes screenshots of a file list from a computer.

"Our investigation remains ongoing, including to verify the cyber criminal's claims and the provenance of this data," the update states. The org has not characterized the information that may have been accessed.

"In the interim, we encourage everyone to remain vigilant to potential malicious online activity such as phishing attempts and scams from persons or organizations requesting, or using, your personal details," the auDA notice states, before advising that the org will not ask for passwords or other sensitive information.

UPDATED at 3:45PM on August 21: auDA has issued an update in which it states its "comprehensive investigation indicates that there is no evidence that cyber criminals have accessed auDA systems or have auDA data."

The update explains that the screenshot mentioned above did not depict auDA files, and that the screenshot instead appears to have been sourced from a ransomware victim who holds and Australian domain name.

In other news …

Our Asia-Pacific coverage last week included word that Vietnam is running dangerously low on infosec professionals, and needs more in a hurry.

The good news for Vietnam is that it's on the list of territories into which mega-manufacturer Foxconn is planning to expand, as it pours billions into India.

Speaking of India, it has scored some big wins with its India Stack set of digital government services being deployed in nearly a dozen countries.

China's game of tit-for-tat against the United States continues, with dark hints that the US has been hacking into Chinese seismic detectors with nefarious intent.

Beijing's steep regulatory requirements and perhaps deliberately leisurely pace granting takeover approvals managed to put the kibosh on a multi-billion-dollar deal between Intel and Israeli foundry Tower Semiconductor. The deal needed approval from all the territories that would be affected. China's actions saw Chipzilla walk away.

Meanwhile, recently imposed requirements for export licenses are being blamed for a steep hike in the price of gallium, which chipmakers need and China has in abundance – though China claims it's just protecting its national interest.

That doesn't seem to be discouraging US automaker Tesla from building datacenters on Chinese territory to ensure data sovereignty for info gathered from its vehicles sold in the Middle Kingdom.

Germany is troubled, though, and has joined the ranks of nations pulling Huawei gear out of its networks on the basis of security concerns.

And finally, Singaporean regulators have laid out the rules stablecoins must follow to be used in the city-state – basically they have to act like normal money and issuers need to behave like banks. ®

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