Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, and Lenovo sign up for $42 billion scheme to make kit in India

PLUS: Tata orders staff to move cities; Singapore okays stablecoins; Australia trials CoPilot; and more

ASIA IN BRIEF India has revealed Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, and Lenovo as having signed up for its manufacturing incentive scheme designed to attract manufacturers of laptops, tablets, all-in-one PCs, servers and ultra-small form factor devices.

A Saturday announcement revealed that 27 companies have agreed to participate in the scheme, which will dispense around $2 billion over six years. To score the cash, participants must establish local manufacturing facilities and push product out the door at certain levels.

India's government estimated the scheme will see $42 billion of hardware produced locally, attract $360 million of inbound investment, and create 200,000 jobs.

Securing participation by the five builders mentioned above is a win for India and its strategy of attracting manufacturers with a pitch to diversify their facilities to India while also setting themselves up to serve a growing and parochial local market.

– Simon Sharwood

Tata relocates workers for unclear reasons

After summoning its employees back to the office, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has now reportedly decided that office will be farther away – at least for around 2000 employees required to report for work in an entirely different city, labor rights org Nascent Information Technology Employees Senate (NITES) told The Register last week.

According to NITES, TCS has been "systematically forcing" employees to transfer to different cities without proper notice or consultation, thus causing "immense hardship" to employees and their families. NITES has already received more than 180 complaints on the matter.

In a complaint to the Ministry of Labour & Employment seen by The Reg, NITES alleged that employees were also required to arrange and book their own travel tickets and accommodation, with promises of later reimbursement per company policy.

"The company has not provided any valid reason for the transfers, and it has not given employees a fair opportunity to object or provide alternative solutions," alleged NITES.

One email from HR to an employee viewed by Reg scribes outlined that communications of the relocation were originally sent on August 25 and 28. The recipient was instructed to select a new preferred work location by September 13, but failed to respond. Two days later, the employee was instructed they had been reassigned by the company to Mumbai. On November 13, they received advice of a 14-day relocation deadline.

"Kindly note any failure to comply to company's lawful directives will result in initiation of disciplinary action," read the email.

The Register reached out to TCS, multiple times, to further understand the mass relocations, but did not receive a response.

Singapore approves stablecoin trio

The Monetary Authority of Singapore issued in-principle approval for three entities to issue stablecoins in the city-state, announced managing director Ravi Menon last week.

One of the entities will issue the digital cash in Singapore dollars, the other two in US dollars.

"Stablecoins – if well regulated – can potentially play a useful role as digital money alongside CBDCs and tokenised bank liabilities," declared Menon.

According to the managing director, "well-regulated" stablecoins are among four contenders for the future of digital money. The other three include privately issued cryptocurrencies, central bank digital currencies (CBDCs), and tokenized bank liabilities.

Menon declared in his speech that "cryptocurrencies have failed the test of digital money."

He also stated that MAS will pilot the "live" issuance of wholesale central bank digital currencies to settle payments across commercial banks in real time. At the same event that day, the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Kirstalina Georgieva championed rapid adoption of CBDCs by governments worldwide.

Japan puts app stores on the hook for tax

App store operators, including Apple and Google, will soon be responsible for paying taxes on content sold by foreign developers in Japan, thanks to a legal change introduced last week by the Finance Ministry.

Foreign companies have been responsible for paying local taxes on monetizable apps since 2015, but some developers don't have a presence in Japan other than through their wares being sold on app stores.

Under the mooted regs, platform operators will pay taxes on any sales in Japan by foreign businesses.

China claims world's fastest backbone

China last week claimed to have launched the world's first ultra-high-speed internet backbone, which hums along at 1.2 terabits per second.

The transmission network includes 3,000km of optical fiber connecting Beijing, Wuhan and Guanzhou, according to state-sponsored media.

Australia's government trials Copilot

Australia and Microsoft have agreed for the government to conduct a six-month trial of Microsoft 365 Copilot from January to June of 2024.

The generative AI product leverages an OpenAI large language model (LLM) and existing enterprise data in Microsoft Graph to assist users in developing content.

"Australian Public Service (APS) staff will be able to trial new ways to innovate and enhance productivity, with a view to delivering better government services for the Australian people," explained a canned statement. In return, Microsoft will provide digital training to help Australian public servants develop AI literacy.

US links Indonesia to silicon supply chain

The US State Department announced last week it will partner with the Indonesian government to further diversify its semiconductor supply chain.

"This collaboration underscores the significant potential to expand this industry in Indonesia to the benefit of both the United States and Indonesia," explained a departmental note.

The first step of the partnership involves reviewing Indonesia's current semiconductor ecosystem, its regulations, workforce, and infrastructure. The State Department stated the results of the review will inform next steps.

In other news …

China's annual e-commerce sale season apparently broke records, though no-one seemed to want to back up that claim with actual figures.

As if US chipmaker Micron didn't have enough headaches with its China business right now, it's been slapped with a lawsuit by Chinese chip shop YTMC for alleged patent infringement.

Surveillance camera-maker Hikvision found itself yet again denying reports that it provided equipment with the capability to identify ethnic minorities, after a system was provided for a university in Fujian – and the tender for the contract called for exactly that feature.

In news that surprised few, if any, a review of the efficacy of US restrictions on exports of chipmaking equipment to China found that forbidden devices are indeed finding their way to the Middle Kingdom and the bans aren't working as planned.

The president of Tencent seemed to echo that sentiment, declaring on the corp's earnings call that it had enough pre-sanction GPUs on hand to keep developing its AI for several more generations, and plans in place for what comes after that.

(Incidentally, The Reg's own take on the matter agreed with that view.)

The bans are evidently having some effect, though, as Chinese web colossus Alibaba announced it was cancelling a planned spinoff of its cloud division, citing the impact of Washington's export restrictions.

Meanwhile the CEO of Cerebras, Andrew Feldman, took aim at rival accelerator-maker Nvidia for its efforts to build systems that go right up to the edge of what's allowed to ship to China while staying on the right side of legal.

A Swedish survey has found hundreds of websites have been cloned, with would-be users redirected to fake sites populated with ads for Chinese football gambling sites – linked to an organization that failed to meet its obligations to combat money laundering.

And finally, South Korea has started accepting applications from folks wishing to operate autonomous robots in the streets alongside human pedestrians – provided they don't go to fast and aren't too heavy. The robots, that is. ®

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