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TikTok’s quietly launched ‘Lite’ app has reached over 12 million downloads since August

Short-form video app TikTok has been growing in popularity across international markets, including in the U.S. where a merger with Musical.ly has seen the app topping the App Store charts. Facebook and Snapchat have been hastily trying to copy TikTok’s features as a result. A part of TikTok’s ambitious global expansion plan has been its more recent targeting of emerging markets — like India and Indonesia — where the company’s quietly launched “TikTok Lite” app has been gaining ground in the latter half of 2018.
TikTok hasn’t yet made much fuss over its Lite version, which actually consists of two separate apps.
The first was launched on August 6, 2018 in Thailand, but is now available across other primarily Asian markets, including Indonesia, where it’s most popular, as well as Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines.
This version of TikTok Lite has grown to 5 million installs since its August debut. (It’s actually written with a lowercase “l” in “Lite” in the Play store, which is how you can tell the difference between this and the other app.)
This version was also briefly live in India, Brazil and Russia, but now these countries are served by a separate Lite app (written as “Lite” with an uppercase “L”), which launched on November 1, 2018.
This second version of TikTok Lite has now become the larger of the two, thanks to India. It has around 7.1 million total downloads, according to Sensor Tower data.
It has also now been installed across 15 additional non-Asian countries, including Egypt, Brazil, Algeria, Tunisia, Russia, Ecuador, South Africa, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Kenya, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nigeria, Angola and Ghana.
Combined, the two TikTok Lite apps have gained more than 12 million downloads in around six months’ time, TechCrunch confirmed with Sensor Tower.
However, TikTok Lite is not being heavily promoted at this time — especially when compared with the outsize marketing that TikTok’s flagship app has been seeing as of late.
This advertising is courtesy of TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, which has had an infusion of billions in outside capital recently. The company is valued at $78 billion, as of October.
And it’s spending, apparently:
E.g.:

More expensive promotion of #TikTok, this time in #Dubai. That 3 billion from #Softbank won't last long at this rate #Bytedance pic.twitter.com/A12tUMBgHC
— Matthew Brennan (@mbrennanchina) January 1, 2019

Sensor Tower found that more than half of TikTok Lite’s downloads came over the past month, following TikTok Lite’s return to India. Combined, the two Lite apps’ downloads reached around 6.7 million in December, which was a 158 percent increase over November’s 2.6 million installs, it said.
Despite TikTok Lite’s growth, 12 million+ downloads is only a drop in the bucket when it comes to TikTok’s larger user base. This represents only 4.5 percent of TikTok’s downloads on Google Play since August 2018, and only about 3.6 percent of all TikTok downloads since then across both the iOS and Google Play app stores combined.
To date, TikTok’s main app has been downloaded more than 887 million times on Google Play. That doesn’t count the downloads from the Chinese version called Douyin, which is found on third-party Android app stores. That means TikTok’s true install base is even bigger.
ByteDance itself had publicly said last July the TikTok user base had grown to 500 million+ monthly active users — a way of counting who’s regularly using the app instead of just installing it on their phone.

Given that Facebook Lite grew to 200 million users in less than two years‘ time, it seems like a “Lite” version of TikTok, now one of the world’s biggest apps, could be doing a bit better than 12 million installs over a six-month period.
The problem seems to stem from a variety of factors, including how TikTok Lite is marketed in the Play Store. The app uses screenshots and a description that make it seem like it’s just another version of TikTok. But according to user reviews, people were disappointed to find it’s a consumption-only app. Many have left reviews complaining about how they can’t make videos. They call it “fake” and “bad” as a result.
TikTok would do better to clarify how its Lite version is different, to eliminate this confusion.

It’s common for major tech companies to offer a “lighter” version of their app for emerging markets where low bandwidth is a concern. These apps tend to be smaller in size, more performant and sometimes either have reduced capabilities or special features aimed at low-bandwidth users.
Google, for example, has a suite of light apps — the “Go” edition apps — like Gmail Go, YouTube Go, Files Go, Google Go, Google Maps Go and Google Assistant Go. Uber now offers Uber Lite. Facebook operates apps like Facebook Lite, Messenger Lite and Instagram Lite — the latter which launched just ahead of TikTok Lite, in fact.

Like most “Lite” apps, TikTok Lite clocks in at a smaller size — it’s only 10MB to 11MB (depending on the version) versus the much larger 71MB of TikTok’s main app.
A rep for TikTok confirmed the company is now offering a Lite version in some markets so users can choose a smaller app if they have concerns around data or the storage space on their phone. No other information about the Lite versions or strategy was provided.
So far, ByteDance’s efforts around TikTok Lite seem more experimental, given it hasn’t put up a proper description on Google Play, runs two separate Lite versions and had offered the app in some markets briefly, pulled out, then returned with another version. It will be interesting to see what TikTok Lite becomes when it gets the sort of attention that the main TikTok app is receiving today.

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Boom Supersonic nabs $100M to build its Mach 2.2 commercial airliner

One Denver-based startup’s long-shot bid to move today’s commercial jets beyond supersonic speeds just got a big injection of cash.
Boom Supersonic, which is building and designing what it calls the “world’s first economically viable supersonic airliner,” announced today that they’ve closed a $100 million Series B funding round led by Emerson Capital. Other investors include Y Combinator Continuity, Caffeinated Capital, SV Angel, Sam Altman, Paul Graham, Ron Conway, Michael Marks and Greg McAdoo.
The startup has raised around $140 million to date. The team has about 100 employees, and hopes to double that number this year with its new funding.
“Today, the time and cost of long-distance travel prevent us from connecting with far-off people and places,” said Boom CEO Blake Scholl in a statement. “Overture fares will be similar to today’s business class—widening horizons for tens of millions of travelers. Ultimately, our goal is to make high-speed flight affordable to all.”
Alongside the fundraise, Boom is further detailing its plans to begin testing its Mach 2.2 commercial airliner this year. The company is aiming to launch a 1:3 scale prototype of its planned Overture airliner this year, called the XB-1. The two-seater plane will serve to validate the technologies being built for the full-sized jet.
The startup’s supersonic Overture jet will hold 55 passengers, and the team hopes that the costs of flying more than double the speed of sound will be comparable to today’s business-class ticket prices. The company already has pre-orders from Virgin Group and Japan Airlines for 30 airliners.
Indeed, $100 million may seem like a lot of money, but the development costs for lengthy projects like these can quickly race toward the billions of dollars, suggesting that if they carry out their mission, they’re going to need a whole lot more.

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Marriott now says 5 million unencrypted passport numbers were stolen in Starwood hotel data breach

Starwood’s data breach just got both better and worse at the same time.
Marriott, which owns hotel chain giant Starwood, said it has revised the number of customers affected by its recently disclosed data breach from 500 million to “fewer than 383 million unique guests.” That doesn’t mean all those 383 million guests are affected, Marriott said, but the hotel giant still can’t yet give a more precise number of customers whose data was stolen.
The bad news is that the company confirmed that more than five million unencrypted passport numbers were stolen, on top of the more than 20 million encrypted passport numbers.
That might be a problem, given passport numbers can be used for identity theft and to commit fraud, but is the sort of data that remains highly valuable for spy agencies that can use the information to track down where government officials, diplomats and adversaries have stayed — giving insight into what would ordinarily be clandestine activities.
Marriott also said that 8.6 million unique payment card numbers were taken, but only 354,000 cards were active and unexpired at the time of the breach in September.
The hotel giant said it had “no evidence” to show that the hackers stole the keys needed to decrypt the data, but did not say how it came to that conclusion.
Starwood’s security lapse became the largest data breach last year, and remains one of the most damaging hacking incidents in recent memory. The company said the contents of the stolen data were from the Starwood guest reservation database, which it acquired when it bought Starwood and its 1,200 properties in 2016 for $13 billion.
Marriott said in its Friday update that it has “completed the phase out” of Starwood’s reservation database and now runs guest bookings through its Marriott database, which was not affected by the breach.

Marriott’s breach response is so bad, security experts are filling in the gaps — at their own expense

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HTC had a truly terrible 2018

If you think times are bad at Apple, spare a thought for HTC, the once king-of-the-hill phone maker that continues to struggle very badly.
The Taiwanese smartphone company, which offloaded a portion of its business to Google for $1.1 billion and is pivoting to VR, laid off yet more staff in 2018 and had its worst year of sales ever.
According to its own figures — and as noted by Bloomberg’s Tim Culpan — the company brought in just 23.74 billion TWD ($770 million) in revenue over the entire year. That’s the first time it has grossed less than $1 billion during a year as a public company.
That figure represents a massive 62 percent drop on HTC’s paltry revenue for 2017 — 62.12 billion TWD, around $2 billion — which was its poorest year since 2005. We don’t yet know the total loss for 2018, but its three previous quarterly reports combined amount to a total operating loss of 11.13 billion TWD, $361 million, with one more quarter to add.HTC’s 2018 total was so bad that it actually made more money during just one single month a few years ago. Its total revenue during May 2013, back when phones like the One M7, One Mini and One Max made it one of the best smartphone companies on the planet, came in at 29 billion TWD.
Those days of booming sales are, of course, long gone as these charts painfully illustrate.
The decision to sell a large chunk of the smartphone business to Google one year ago was the icing on the cake served at HTC’s smartphone wake. Yes, the company did announce the U12+ — with a squeezable side — in May and it is working on a blockchain phone that we kind of got a look at during our Shenzhen event last year, but these are peripheral plays that are tucked well away from where the mainstream players are dueling, a place where HTC used to be.Even VR, trumpeted as HTC’s great area of hope, is a long-term play.
The company doesn’t break down revenue — that’ll come later when it releases its next earnings report in February — so we don’t know how its Vive and other virtual reality plays are working out in terms of numbers. But the immediate future isn’t great.
Lucas Matney — TechCrunch’s resident virtual reality cyberpunk — noted just this week that 2019 is shaping up to be a very testing year for the entire VR and AR industry, HTC/Vive very much included.
“There are plenty of reasons to be long-term bullish on AR, but the time horizons some have espoused seems to be bogus and pitch decks organized around a near-term spike in phone-based or glasses-based users are going to have a tougher time being taken seriously in 2019,” Matney wrote.
If that proves true, HTC’s sickly sales may well contract further still.

HTC is gone

In many ways, it’s hard to not feel sorry for the company. Pivots this brutal are usually carried out by private startups who can keep the contents of their books to themselves, rather than 22-year-old public companies that must file financial statements. Unfortunately for HTC, information like monthly sales, losses and other revealing data will continue to be public information, ensuring that this painful transition continues to play out with full public scrutiny.
Despite an incredible downturn in success, co-founder, president and CEO Cher Wang continues to run the business with no calls for a change in leadership. Wang keeps a low profile and has said little of her plans to turn things around. Maybe 2019 is a good year for being more forthcoming, especially if the losses continue to mount, as seems inevitable.

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Amazon debuts Showroom, a visual shopping experience for home furnishings

Amazon just over a year ago launched its first in-home furniture brands, with private labels Rivet and Stone & Beam. This past fall, it began experimenting with a new, more visual way to shop for furniture and other merchandise with its Pinterest-like recommendation service Scout. Now, Amazon is venturing further into home furnishings with the debut of Amazon Showroom, a visual design tool that allows you to place furniture into a virtual living room, customize the décor, then shop the look.
The retailer didn’t formally announce the launch of Amazon Showroom, but a spokesperson confirmed it’s a recent test that’s now available on Amazon.com and in the Amazon mobile app.
You can access it from the “Accounts & Lists” drop-down on the web; the Home, Garden & Pets department on the web; or the Home & Kitchen department on the mobile app.
Currently, the new feature is focused on helping Amazon shoppers put together a living room. In a virtual setting, you can make adjustments to the wall color and the flooring, then swap out each item in the space with one of your own choosing — including the sofa, coffee table, chair, end table, lamp, rug and even the art on the wall.

To do so, click on the piece in question, then pick another from the right-side panel where a scrollable list of options are available, along with their prices. This selection can be filtered by a number of factors, as well, like price, style, color, material, brand and star rating.
Not surprisingly, Amazon’s own home furnishing brands are heavily featured here.
As you work on your project, you can save your room design to pull up later. And you can save more than one room design, if you’re trying to decide between different styles. When satisfied, an “Add to cart” button lets you place all into your cart for checkout with just one click.

Amazon Showroom — a name that’s almost a cruel reference to Amazon’s ability to turn brick-and-mortar stores into showrooms for online shoppers — isn’t the retailer’s first attempt at helping shoppers visualize items in their home ahead of purchase. The company also launched an AR shopping feature in its app in 2017, which allows you to place a virtual item in your camera view to see how it goes in your own room. That can be useful if shopping for a single item, but less so when designing a complete room.
Home furnishings is still an emerging category for online retail, not only because they’re hard to visualize, but also because heavy items are expensive to ship. However, major retailers see the potential in this growing market.
Walmart, for example, launched a new home shopping site for furniture and décor last year, which features its own in-house brands and more visual, editorial-style imagery. It has also snapped up other home furnishing and décor retailers, including Hayneedle and recently, Art.com, and is building its own visual search.
Amazon confirmed the launch of Showroom in a statement.
The retailer wouldn’t say when the feature debuted, exactly, but a Twitter account was tweeting links to a pre-production site earlier in December. Amazon confirmed that Amazon Showroom was built entirely in-house.
“Amazon Showroom is a new way for customers to visualize their home furnishing purchases when shopping online,” a spokesperson told TechCrunch. “Amazon Showroom presents customers with a virtual living room, where they can customize the décor and furniture selection providing the ability to visually compare to scale representations of furniture items together in a room to determine how an item will fit with the style of a room and work with other complimentary pieces. The result is a photorealistic rendering of a room that answers the question: ‘How will this all look together?’,” they said.
The feature is live for all customers on the web and in the Amazon app.
Update, 1/4/19, 1:50 PM ET with confirmation from Amazon that Showroom was built in-house.

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DiscountMugs.com says four months of customer credit cards stolen by hackers

DiscountMugs.com, a large online custom mug and apparel store, had a four-month-long data breach just before the busy Christmas holiday season.
The company said in a letter to state attorneys general that hackers siphoned off credit card numbers from customers who made orders through its site between August 5 and November 16, 2018 using code injected on the company’s payments page.
The malicious card skimming code was removed from the site after it was discovered.
According to the letter, the hackers stole credit card numbers, the security code and expiration date, as well as names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and ZIP codes — everything that someone might need to make fraudulent payments.
But the company didn’t say how many people were affected by the breach. It’s believed to be thousands of customers who made purchases through the site during the four-month period.
TechCrunch reached out to Sai Koppaka, chief executive of parent company Bel USA, who did not respond to a request for comment, nor did the company’s spokesperson. Emails sent to Comvest, a private equity firm and an investor in Bel USA, also went unreturned.
DiscountMugs.com might not be a household name, but it ranks in the top 10,000 sites in the U.S., according to Alexa, bringing in thousands of customers every day.
The company becomes the latest in a line of websites affected by credit card skimming code. The so-called Magecart group of hackers have targeted thousands of sites in the past few years, scraping credit card data when a customer enters their information at the checkout and silently sending it on to the hackers’ servers.
Other big-name companies were hit, including British Airways, Newegg and Ticketmaster.

Meet the Magecart hackers, a persistent credit card skimmer group of groups you’ve never heard of

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Hacker leaks data on Angela Merkel and hundreds of German lawmakers

A hacker has targeted and released private data on German chancellor Angela Merkel and other senior German lawmakers and officials.
The data was leaked from a Twitter account, since suspended, and included email addresses, phone numbers, photo IDs and other personal data on hundreds of senior political figures.
According to a government spokesperson, there was no “sensitive” data from the chancellor’s office, but other lawmakers had more personal data stolen. Other portions of the leaked data included Facebook and Twitter passwords. Some had their credit card information stolen, and chat logs and private letters published in the breach.
Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security said in a statement that it was “extensively investigating” the breach, but does not believe there was an attack on the government’s networks.
It’s been reported that the hacker may have obtained passwords to access social media accounts. Often, hackers do this by tricking a phone company into “porting out” a person’s phone number to another SIM card, allowing them to password reset accounts or obtain two-factor codes.
The hacker leaked data on senior lawmakers across the political spectrum, but noticeably absent were accounts for the country’s far-right Alternative for Germany party.
The hack is reminiscent of a data breach involving the Democratic National Committee in 2016, which targeted the Democrats in the U.S. in the months running up to the U.S. presidential election. The U.S. government later attributed the hack to Russia, which prosecutors say tried to influence the election to elect Donald Trump to the White House. The Justice Department brought charges against seven suspects earlier this year for being part of the so-called “Fancy Bear” group of hackers, working on behalf of the Russian government.
Little is known about who is behind the leak of German lawmakers’ data. The German government has not speculated about who — or if a nation state — may have been behind the attack. But the alleged hacker said in a statement linked from their Twitter account that they “operated alone and does not belong to any organization or similar on Twitter.”
According to security experts who’ve seen portions of the data, the hacker spread the stolen information across several sites and mirrors, making it “really hard to take down.”

This data leak has so much data squirrelled away to avoid take downs. It must have required many man hours of uploading.
– 70 mirrors of the download links
– 40 d/l links, each with 3-5 mirrors
– 161 mirrors of data files
Plus the tweets, blog posts, mirrors of mirror links.
— the grugq (@thegrugq) January 4, 2019

Germany’s minister for justice Katarina Barley called the breach a “serious attack,” one that aimed to “damage confidence in our democracy and institutions,” according to the BBC.
It’s not the first time that the German parliament has faced security issues. In 2015, attackers stole gigabytes of data on lawmakers, which Germany’s domestic spy agency later accused Russia of being behind the breach.
Russia has repeatedly denied launching cyberattacks.

Cybersecurity 101: Five simple security guides for protecting your privacy

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Trading app Robinhood is stealthily recruiting ahead of planned UK launch

Robinhood, the U.S.-based “zero-fee” stock-trading app and cryptocurrency exchange, is stealthily recruiting for a new London office ahead of plans to eventually launch in the U.K., TechCrunch has learned.
According to sources within London’s thriving fintech industry, Robinhood is hiring for multiple U.K. positions. These span recruitment, operations, marketing/PR and customer support. Notably, the company is also seeking people in compliance and product, including product design.
In other words, significant localisation and local product market fit appears to be the intention. Compliance is also an important part of Robinhood’s future U.K. regulatory requirements as it applies to local regulator the FCA for the appropriate licenses. Robinhood declined to comment on its U.K. plans.

Meanwhile, news that Robinhood is stealthily recruiting ahead of a planned U.K. launch is interesting in the context of local fintech startups that have launched or announced their own fee-free trading offerings.
Launched late last year, London-based Freetrade has built a bona-fide “challenger broker,” including obtaining the required license from the FCA, rather than simply partnering with an established broker. The app lets you invest in U.K. stocks and ETFs, but will soon add U.S. stocks, too. Trades are “fee-free” if you are happy for your buy or sell trades to execute at the close of business each day. If you want to execute immediately, the startup charges a low £1 per trade.
In June last year, Revolut, also headquartered in London, announced its intention to add commission-free trading to its banking app, in what was seen as a bid to compete with Robinhood. So far, no product has surfaced, although I’m told we should see trading added to Revolut in Q1 this year.
What’s intriguing about the Revolut-Robinhood comparisons is that the two companies share a number of investors, namely Index and DST. Both companies have incredibly high valuations, too, and, depending on respective burn rates, quite deep pockets.
Co-founded by Baiju Bhatt and Vlad Tenev (pictured above), Robinhood claims 6 million accounts and is valued at $5.6 billion, having raised a total to date of $539 million. It has around 300 employees across its HQ in Menlo Park, California and its regional HQ in Lake Mary, Florida.
Revolut claims 3.5 million users, and at its last funding round was valued at $1.7 billion. The fintech has raised a total of $340 million, and has a headcount of 600 in London and across its various regional offices.

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Moesif raises $3.5M seed round to provide insight into API usage

Today, many companies provide developer access to their services via APIs. Moesif, a San Francisco startup, wants to help these companies gain insight into their customer’s API usage patterns. Today, the company announced a $3.5 million seed round.
The investment was led by Merus Capital, with participation by Heavybit, Fresco Capital and Zach Coelius, whose investments include Cruise Automation, which was sold to GM in 2016 for $1 billion.
Moesif co-founder and CEO Derric Gilling says Moesif is akin to Mixpanel or Google Analytics, except instead of tracking web or mobile analytics, it looks at API usage. “As more and more companies are using and creating these APIs, there comes a point where you need to understand how your customers are using them, any problems they are running into and how do you actually decrease developer churn.”
Heat map showing API usage by region. Screenshot: Moesif
The company is aiming at two primary types of users. First of all, there are developers who can use the monitoring features to understand when there are issues with the API. These folks have access to the free tier.
Moesif also targets business units like product management, sales and marketing, which use the tool to understand who’s using the API, how often and, with machine learning, understand who is likely to stop using the product based on how they are using it. The tool can tie into other business systems like Mailchimp or a CRM tool to get a more complete picture of customers as they use the API.
The product was released last year, and Gilling says his company already has 2,000 customers, which includes both the free and paid tiers. He said they have had particular success with SaaS and fintech companies, both of which make heavy use of APIs. Customers include PowerSchool, Schwab and DHL.
While the company currently consists of two founders and one employee, flush with the seed investment, it intends to hire around 10 people in the next six months, including a VP of engineering, additional developers and sales and marketing folks.
Moesif was founded in late 2016, and the founders went through the Alchemist Accelerator last year.

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Huawei reportedly punishes staff for New Year’s Eve tweet sent from an iPhone

As predicted, Twitter’s subtle new feature showing from which clients tweets are sent is already embarrassing brands.
Following on from a Korean boy band sponsored by LG and Apple’s own Music staff, Huawei is the latest to be embarrassed after it sent a New Year’s Eve message using an iPhone.
A since-deleted message included the embarrassing tell-tale detail “Twitter for iPhone,” indicating that the Huawei account had tweeted from an iPhone. The tweet was replaced by another sent from Twitter Media Studio client, which is developed for brands and advertisers and isn’t a fierce rival’s smartphone, but the damage was done.
The internet being the internet, the gaffe was noticed and preserved by many keen people who were to point out the contradiction. The mistake also gained lots of attention on Chinese social network Weibo.

Thanks @Huawei for making iphone your device of choice. Even you guys dont like your own interface. pic.twitter.com/PqpGFjtw3K
— Asyraf HighTech (@exploreasyraf) January 1, 2019

Embarrassed by the episode, the Chinese smartphone firm has imposed a fine on those responsible.
That’s according to Reuters, which got its hands on an internal memo that reveals that two employees responsible have had their salaries reduced by 5,000 yuan (that’s around $730). In addition, one of the pair — reportedly Huawei’s digital marketing director — will have their income “frozen” for a year. While we don’t know their full salary packages and a $730 drop may be less than the cost of an iPhone, it is still bound to sting.
Worst of all, perhaps, it seems that they were not directly at fault for the mistake, which Huawei senior VP Chen Lifang said had “caused damage to the Huawei brand.”
The incident, Reuters reports, was due to an error by an agency hired by Huawei:
The mistake occurred when outsourced social media handler Sapient experienced “VPN problems” with a desktop computer so used an iPhone with a roaming SIM card in order to send the message on time at midnight, Huawei said in the memo.
The irony here is that Apple’s near-blanket ban on VPN apps means it would probably have been easier to get access to Twitter using an Android phone. Instead, the agency apparently went to the trouble of acquiring a Hong Kong-based SIM card in order to hop over the Great Firewall and send this ultimately ill-fated missive.
It’s fun to joke about consumer companies relying on their archrivals, but the incident comes at a particularly challenging time for Huawei.
The company’s CFO is currently on bail in Canada where she awaits extradition to the U.S. on charges of fraud that could see her jailed for up to 30 years. But its core business is also under pressure.
Huawei may be best-known for its smartphone business, which ranked second in Q3 2018 with 14.6 market share according to IDC, but its telecom equipment unit has always been its biggest seller, and now its future is uncertain. Intelligence leaders from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S. — the so-called “Five Eyes” — are reported to have agreed to a ban on all equipment from Huawei and fellow Chinese firm ZTE, and that’s something that allies such as Japan appear to be joining in on.

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Nexon founder hints at plan to sell his $9B majority share in gaming giant

The founder of Korea’s Nexon, one of the biggest gaming companies on the planet, today appeared to acknowledge his intention to sell his controlling interest for around $9 billion.
The divestment has been a hot rumor after a report from newspaper Korea Economic Daily this week [via Reuters] suggested that Jung-Ju Kim, who founded Nexon back in 1989, is moving to sell nearly all of his holdings in the firm, which is listed on the Tokyo stock exchange. Kim, the paper claimed, is tired of the ups and downs of the industry and, fresh from overturning a bribery charge last year, is ready to channel his energies into new areas.
In a statement released today, Kim said he is “contemplating various ways to back up Nexon in becoming a more globally competitive firm” while also assessing “new challenges, without growing complacent.” More information will be announced soon, Kim added.
Nexon provided TechCrunch with a copy of the statement in Korean — you can read it on Google Translate here — while the company also issued a relative “no comment” of its own.
There have been several media reports in connection with a potential transaction by NEXONCo., Ltd. (“NEXON”)’s major shareholder, NXC Corporation (“NXC”), or its shareholders.
None of these reports are based on any releases made by NEXON.
While it may be true that NXC or its shareholders are considering various options about theirasset management/transactions, nothing has been decided.
If a decision is made by NXC or any other relevant parties, NEXON will make a release ordisclosure in a timely manner.
Nexon went public in Tokyo in 2011, raising more than $1 billion in the year’s biggest listing. Kim’s holdings, which he shares with his wife, are in NXC, which is the biggest backer of Nexon.
Already, games giants Tencent and EA have been linked with a bid for the shareholding. Korean media reports suggest that Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley have been enlisted to manage the sale.
Nexon specializes in free-to-play games. Initially, its focus was on the PC but it has extended its reach into mobile in recent years. Some of its most popular titles include Maplestory, Vindictus and Dungeon and Fighter.
In its most recent financial report in November, Nexon made a net profit of 22.3 billion JPY ($206.5 million) on total revenue of 69.3 billion JPY ($641.7 million), that was up 14 percent and 15 percent year-on-year, respectively. Korea is the company’s biggest market by revenue, followed by North America, Japan and China.
The company is also active in areas outside of gaming, including crypto, where its subsidiaries have made acquisitions, and it is an investor, too. Its most recent deal was an uncharacteristic early investment in Embark Studios, an ambitious new gaming venture from former EA executive Patrick Söderlund.

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Qualcomm patent dispute forces Apple to pull iPhone 7 and 8 from its stores in Germany

In more bad news for Apple, the company’s iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 models are not currently on sale in its own retail stores in Germany.
This follows an injunction issued by a Munich court last month related to patent litigation brought by chipmaker Qualcomm that’s being enforced from today. The patent dispute concerns smartphone power management technology that’s used to extend battery life.
In December, the Munich court sided with Qualcomm, finding that Apple is infringing its patented power savings technology in the two models — granting a permanent injunction.
The court ordered Apple to cease the sale, offer for sale and importation for sale in Germany of infringing iPhones.
Apple has said it will appeal.
The Apple Germany website currently offers the newest models of the iPhone (the XS, XS Max and XR); and older models from 2014 (iPhone 6 and 6 Plus); 2015 (iPhone 6S and 6S Plus); and 2016 (iPhone SE). But buyers looking for 2016’s iPhone 7 or 2017’s iPhone 8 will be disappointed.
Yesterday Qualcomm announced it had posted security bonds totalling €1.34BN required by the court, enabling the injunction issued by the District Court of Munich on December 20 to be enforced.
The bonds are required to cover potential damages incurred by Apple should the judgment be overturned or amended on appeal. Qualcomm had said on December 20 that it would post the bonds “within a few days.”
In a statement yesterday the chipmaker also claimed the court had ordered Apple to recall infringing iPhones from third-party resellers in the market.
But at the time of writing, the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 models are still being offered by Apple resellers in Germany.
Amazon.de currently offers both handsets, for instance. Gravis, Germany’s biggest reseller of Apple products, also told Reuters it was still selling all Apple products, including the two models.
Qualcomm has also been pursing patent litigation against Apple in China and the U.S., and last month Apple appealed against a preliminary injunction banning the import and sales of old iPhone models in China.
In that case, the patents relate to editing photos and managing apps on smartphone touchscreens.
In the U.S., Qualcomm has most recently accused Intel engineers working with Apple of stealing trade secrets.
The feud dates back further, though. Two years ago the FTC filed charges against Qualcomm accusing it of anticompetitive tactics in an attempt to maintain a monopoly in its chip business — with Apple officially cited in the complaint.
Cupertino also filed a billion-dollar royalty lawsuit against the chipmaker at the same time, accusing it of charging for patents “they have nothing to do with.”
The legal battle between the pair shows no signs of fizzling out, and has led Apple to reduce its reliance on Qualcomm chips — with Intel the short-term beneficiary.
An Apple spokesperson declined to comment on the latest litigious development in Germany, but pointed to its statement from December 20 in which it takes a broad swipe at Qualcomm’s “tactics.”
In the statement, Apple also said resellers in the market would continue to stock all models.
It writes:

Qualcomm’s campaign is a desperate attempt to distract from the real issues between our companies. Their tactics, in the courts and in their everyday business, are harming innovation and harming consumers. Qualcomm insists on charging exorbitant fees based on work they didn’t do and they are being investigated by governments all around the world for their behavior.

We are of course disappointed by this verdict and we plan to appeal. All iPhone models remain available to customers through carriers and resellers in 4,300 locations across Germany. During the appeal process, iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 models will not be available at Apple’s 15 retail stores in Germany. iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR will remain available in all our stores.

The sideswipe at Qualcomm’s “tactics” is perhaps also a reference to the use of a controversial PR firm, Definers, which — as we reported in November — sent pitches slinging mud at Apple seemingly on Qualcomm’s behalf.
Late last year Facebook confirmed it had severed its own business relationship with the PR firm after it was revealed to have used anti-Semitic smear tactics to try to discredit Facebook critics.
We’ve asked Qualcomm for comment on its use of the PR firm.

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