Microsoft hikes prices across Asia

PLUS: Japan Moon landing scheduled; Mastercard's APAC pay-by-face trial; Scammers feast on restaurant QR code

Asia In Brief Microsoft last week announced price hikes for its software and services, with the biggest rises to be felt across Asia.

The increases are in line with Microsoft's stated practice of keeping local prices consistent with its US dollar charges.

Japanese customers will see an increase of 20 percent for both cloud and on-prem wares, effective April 1, 2024 – the highest rise in prices announced by the software giant.

Bills in India, South Korea, and Taiwan will rise on February 1. India's users will pay six percent more for all Microsoft wares, while Korean customers will pay eight percent more for cloudy services and ten percent more for on-prem wares. Taiwan was spared an on-prem increase, but users there will pay seven percent more for cloud services.

Chinese customers will get the same increase, from May 1 – a holiday for Labor Day.

The software giant will also squeeze more from Norwegian and Swedish users. Brazilian customers, on the other hand, will see their Azure bills shrink seven percent from February 1.

Microsoft pronounced it will "continue to assess pricing in local currency as part of a regular twice-a-year cadence."

India floods disrupt tech operators

Taiwanese electronics manufacturers – along with Apple and suppliers Pegatron and Foxconn – were among tech players that last week reportedly halted production in Chennai, India.

Heavy rains from Cyclone Michaung disrupted production schedules and infrastructure, even leaving some areas submerged. Heavy rains and storms also forced operations to halt at Chennai International Airport and across railways. Many component manufacturers, including Foxconn have looked to India as they seek to expand their supply chain outside of China.

Mastercard to trial pay-by-face

Mastercard and Japanese technology giant NEC will reportedly trial facial recognition to make payments in Indonesia and Singapore next year. Buyers will approach a device at the point of sale, gaze into it, and be authenticated to pay with their Mastercard.

"We hope to test and launch the service at scale in Southeast Asia – like Singapore and Indonesia – and bring our expertise back to Japan," NEC finance director Tetsuya Yukutake recently told Nikkei Asia. The publication reported that Thailand and the mostly cashless Australia are also planned. A November Memorandum of Understanding detailed that the Biometric Checkout Program is destined for eventual global expansion. A pilot of the program was launched in Brazil last year.

Japan's lunar landing scheduled

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) reported last Tuesday its Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) is scheduled to land on the lunar surface on January 20, 2024.

The mission's descent will begin around midnight Japan time and end with a landing approximately 20 minutes later. Should it miss its window, a slot will be scheduled around February 16. "SLIM aims to achieve a pinpoint landing with an accuracy of less than 100 meters," detailed JAXA, also noting that this marks an "unprecedentedly high-precision landing on a gravitational body such as the Moon." The mission is scheduled to first undergo lunar orbit insertion around Christmas Day.

Internet orders 9,990 portions of shrimp paste for WeChat user

A Chinese woman racked up $60,000 in illegitimate charges at a restaurant when she unintentionally posted a QR code for ordering food to social media, reported the South China Morning Post last week.

The custom code was linked to the woman's payment authorization at the restaurant – so when she posted the code, miscreants put food on her tab.

The order reportedly included 1,850 portions of fresh duck blood, 2,580 portions of squid and 9,990 portions of shrimp paste. However, the error was detected once the orders came rolling in and the woman was not held liable for the charges.

The woman claimed she posted the QR code by accident, having intended only to post photos of food on WeChat Moments.

In other news …

Last week's regional coverage in The Reg included news that the Middle Kingdom is planning to make propaganda fun by launching an online quiz testing citizens' knowledge of internet regulations and socialist values – honestly, what could be better?

Nvidia's CEO, Jense Huang, speaking at an event in Singapore, admitted that he's feeling the heat of emerging competition in the accelerator market from the likes of Intel and Huawei, and is urgently trying to hammer out deals to allow him to keep selling his wares in China despite US-led bans.

Speaking of bans, a Belgian man and his associates found themselves on the naughty list for allegedly sneaking tech into China and Russia in contravention of sanctions – so they can expect coal in their stockings.

Meanwhile US lawmakers are pushing to make it easier for themselves to place even tighter bans on exports of tech to China if they see it as necessary for national security.

Lenovo executives explained that – despite the fact that they're environmentally damaging and barely profitable – the Chinese PC manufacturing giant intends to keep making and selling Chromebooks.

In more aspirational news from China, the nation's space boffins have devised a plan to fly a quadcopter on Marsto collect samples and take them to a nearby lander. It's obviously inspired by NASA's Ingenuity copter, but the Chinese scientists believe their design is better – and NASA's plans to retrieve its samples and bring them to Earth are stalled.

The 21st century space race is turning out to be very interesting indeed, with Indian scientists adding an extra victory lap to the Chandrayaan-3 lunar mission by bringing one of the instruments back to Earth orbit. Just to demonstrate it could be done.

Meanwhile progress on harnessing the incredible power of nuclear fusion continues apace, with the opening of the world's biggest tokamak – a type of experimental fusion reactor – in Japan. It's a long way from actually generating usable amounts of electricity, but a big step.

Over in North Korea, the hermit kingdom announced that it had launched a spy satellite and taken photos of stuff, though of course it offered no proof of having done so. In response, South Korea also launched its own spy satellite.

And finally, Australia's top spies are building their own top secret cloud (though, how secret can it be if we know about it?) in order to facilitate secure exchange of sensitive information with their partners in the Five Eyes alliance: the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand. Reportedly, Japan's intelligence org is planning a similar secure cloud – which will please their neighbor to the west no end, we're sure. ®

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