Nine of the world’s largest tech firms ain’t anywhere near Silicon Valley


FoxConn data centers

China is now home to nine of the world’s largest public tech companies in terms of market value. They include Alibaba, Tencent, Ant Financial, Baidu, Xiaomi, Didi Chuxing, JD.com, Meituan-Dianping, and Toutiao.

With well over a billion citizens and an ever-growing market, China’s rise in the tech market is understandable. Compared to the United States, the Asian country is outpacing, in leaps and bounds, the number of degrees awarded in science and engineering. This highly skilled labor force is paying off in China’s tech world and its expansion.

Just five years ago the Asian giant had only two of the world’s biggest public tech companies in market value. The United States boasted nine of the largest.

I know all of the rationales Americans – more than any Westerners outside of the UK – roll out to disparage faster and more dynamic growth in Asian countries. I worked for American and British firms sourced significantly from Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China over a few decades. Some of the crap excuses worked for a few years; but, in every case, the reason those producers ran right past their Anglo-American counterparts was higher standards, a willingness to invest time and money in education, trained staff to accomplish product development and production more efficiently.

The single best example, nowadays, would be FoxConn – a Taiwan company mostly manufacturing in Mainland China. Ask anyone with knowledge of American manufacturing and assembly experience how long it takes to completely switchover a plant from one product line to another? You’ll get an answer measured in weeks. FoxConn takes hours, perhaps a couple of days. Because they will pay 1500 process engineers to takeover that plant floor and rollout a changeover in that time frame. I don’t know any American firms that can scrape together that many spare engineering staff – or would.

And I don’t know of any state in the GOUSA that’s capable of or concerned about educating engineers or researchers ready to develop similar systems here in the US – or in the UK. Yes, cultures are different in many ways. But, I’m just offering real reasons why we don’t compete.

The Electric Vehicle Takeover


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❝ Do you want the big thing or the new thing?…More importantly: Do you want to invest in the big thing or the new thing?

It’s a question that haunts any industry vulnerable to disruption, which is pretty much all of them these days.

❝ Take the automotive business. Bloomberg New Energy Finance just released its latest long-term outlook for electric vehicles. It posits, startlingly, that sales of all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles will overtake those using internal combustion engines within roughly two decades…

The late 2030s may sound like a long way away. But they aren’t when put in the context of an automotive industry that’s only been around for a century or so.

❝ Looked at differently, BNEF’s projection suggests electric vehicles account for all the growth in global vehicle sales within a decade from now…

Based on BNEF’s projections, global sales of vehicles will rise by 1.67 million in the year 2026. But sales of electric vehicles are forecast to rise by 2.06 million, while the number of vehicles using internal combustion engines will fall slightly, by around 400,000. To be clear, absolute sales of electric vehicles in that year are expected to be just over 10 million, versus almost 87 million for their traditional counterparts…

❝ And while it is tough for incumbents to pivot to a new business, it is not impossible…it was critical for Facebook that, even as it was launching its IPO in 2012, it was also overhauling its business to focus on smartphones rather than its desktop PC product — despite the latter accounting for 89 percent of the company’s advertising revenue that year…

Facebook’s desktop product dominated its advertising revenue in 2012 — but all the growth potential was in smartphones.

More examples dot the financial map. VW planning on investing $10 billion into electric vehicle manufacture – mostly in the United States for global distribution. The Brits announced, today, legislation to end registration of diesel or gasoline-powered motor vehicles in the UK by 2040.

Those drops of water appearing under your front door look like the beginning of a flood to me.

UK Parliament Speaker of the House bans Trump over racism and sexism

❝ U.S. President Donald Trump must not be allowed to address the U.K. Parliament during a state visit to Britain, House of Commons Speaker John Bercow said.

❝ Prime Minister Theresa May invited Trump to visit the U.K., but there have been calls by lawmakers not to give the president the honor of addressing both houses of Parliament after he introduced a ban on people from some majority-Muslim countries traveling to the U.S.

❝ “Before the imposition of the migrant ban I would myself have been strongly opposed to an address by President Trump in Westminster Hall; after the imposition of the migrant ban by President Trump I’m even more strongly opposed,” Bercow told lawmakers.

“I feel very strongly our opposition to racism and to sexism and our support for equality before the law and an independent judiciary are hugely important considerations in the House of Commons.”

❝ Bercow said he has a veto over a speech in Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the Houses of Parliament, and would block one. And it would be a breach with tradition if Trump spoke in the Royal Gallery behind the Lords without his name on the invitation, he said.

“An address by a foreign leader to both houses of Parliament is not an automatic right, it is an earned honor,” Bercow said. “There are many precedents for state visits to take place to our country that do not include an address to both houses of Parliament.”

Now, we just need to get Congress up to the same standard.

Brits’ new Surveillance Law will be a global model – for repression

Civil rights advocates are up in arms over a sweeping new digital surveillance law in the United Kingdom, and not just because they say it intrudes on the privacy of people in the U.K. Some worry that the law sets an example other democratic nations will be tempted to follow.

The legislation…is called the Investigatory Powers Act (or, by its critics, the “Snooper’s Charter”). It enshrines broad new authority for U.K. law enforcement and intelligence agencies to conduct online surveillance, hack into devices deemed relevant to investigations, and make technology companies provide access to data about their users — even by forcing them to change the design of products. It also gives investigators the authority to use these powers in “bulk,” meaning they can access large data sets that may include information about people not relevant to investigations. They can even hack into devices owned by people who are not suspects in a crime.

…The most high-profile fight is over a new authority for the government to compel Internet service providers to retain “Internet connection records”—including websites visited or mobile apps used, the times they were accessed, and the duration of use — for up to 12 months for all their customers. Investigators won’t need a warrant from a judge to access this data. “There is no state in the Western democratic world that has anything similar,” says Eric King…former deputy director of Don’t Spy on Us, a coalition of nongovernmental organizations that advocates for surveillance reform…

Brazil and Australia have also recently instituted data retention laws. The U.S. has not, but the U.S. Department of Justice has advocated for mandatory data retention before, as have members of Congress. After the Snowden revelations, President Obama issued a policy directive limiting bulk data collection by the federal government itself. But Donald Trump could rescind that or work with Congress to require Internet service providers to retain data so investigators could access it later—a step that would be modeled on the U.K. legislation. “If the Trump administration wants to expand its surveillance powers, or seek sanction for more aggressive use of its existing powers, it could unfortunately point to the U.K.’s new law as precedent,” says Camilla Graham Wood, Privacy International’s legal officer.

RTFA for a peek at the brave new world brought to us in part by fools who vote for phonies like Donald Trump. That doesn’t exempt the chickenshit Establishment of Democrats and Republicans who roll over and stick all four feet into the air every time some surveillance pimp prattles about fear.

First London-bound freight train departs China

The first freight train from China to London set off on Sunday on a journey that will cover a staggering 7,456 miles.

It departed from Yiwu West railway station in Zhejiang Province, China, and will arrive in Barking, London, having been trundling along for 18 days.

Its route will snake through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium, France and finally Britain.

The service is being run by the China Railway Corporation. Britain is the eighth country to be added to its list of destinations, with London its 15th city.

The new route is set to boost trade ties between the UK and China with goods such as clothing and bags delivered along the re-established Silk Road, connecting Europe and Asia, according to The Indian Express, which cited a report from Xinhua news agency.

The focus on strengthening trade by expanding China’s railway infrastructure and network is part of Chinese president Xi Jinping’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ strategy, announced in late 2013.

I don’t think anyone asked Donald Trump for planning permission. Or ever will.

Chris Porsz snapped photos in the 1970’s and 80’s – tracked folks down and recreated the originals


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Paramedic Chris Porsz spent hours walking around the city of Peterborough, Cambridgeshire (Great Britain) in the late 1970s and 80s, taking candid shots of punks and policemen, siblings and sweethearts, traders and teenagers. More than three decades later, Chris has reconstructed a handful of his favourite photos from his collection. He spent the last seven years tracking down the people in his pictures and persuading them to pose once again. His hard work paid off and he has now published his photos in a new book, “Reunions”.

Click through to the article and enjoy. Aside from the photographic journey, the snaps are a gas of a record of 40 years ago almost anywhere in workingclass England.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Arctic crossing planned for autonomous sub


Click to enlargeBritish Antarctic Survey

❝ The UK’s favourite new yellow submarine, Boaty McBoatface, is in training for a grand challenge…Scientists plan to send the long-range autonomous vehicle under the sea-ice of the Arctic – from one side of the ocean basin to the other.

It is a journey of at least 2,500km – and while nuclear subs might routinely do it, the prospect is a daunting one for a battery-operated research vehicle…The trip could happen in 2018 or 2019.

❝ “It represents one of the last great transects on Earth for an autonomous sub,” said Prof Russell Wynn, from the National Oceanography Centre, Boaty’s UK base…“Previously, such subs have gone perhaps 150km (horizontally) under the ice and then come back out out again. Boaty will have the endurance to go all the way across the Arctic.”…

❝ “One of the things we’re going to do is teach Boaty to read a map,” said Prof Wynn. “You give it a map of the seabed in its brain and then as it travels it uses sonar to collect data that it can compare with the stored map. This should tell it where it is. It’s a neat concept but it’s never been tested over thousands of km before.”…

❝ Schools will be able to apply for education packs centred on ocean and polar topics. And STEM ambassadors will also be working with children to bring these subjects alive.

Beaucoup information, anecdotes, discussion-worthy goodies in the article. No doubt there will be online tracking much like that following the recent solar round-the-globe adventure. Looking forward to Boaty’s travels.

Milestone: UK’s red telephone boxes to be replaced with wi-fi kiosks

❝ Many of the UK’s iconic red telephone booths may not be around for much longer. Starting next year, BT will start replacing London telephone booths with WiFi terminals. These sidewalk kiosks will allow people to charge their phones and access high-speed wireless internet for free. Intersection, the company behind the LinkNYC WiFi kiosks, is collaborating with BT and Primesight, a UK outdoor advertising company.

❝ Learning from the experience with New York’s terminals, BT has opted not to make it possible for users to browse the internet on the kiosk itself. After complaints that people were monopolizing the New York kiosks for long periods of time, whether listening to music or viewing pornography, the browsing feature was disabled…

❝ In addition to WiFi and charging capability, the kiosks will provide users with local maps and services, directions, and free phone calls. The devices will be funded by advertising revenue from the digital displays. 100 of the kiosks are expected to be installed next year, with 750 planned for the next few years.

Nostalgia freaks will snap up the old red boxes in a London minute. Cripes, I’d get one if I thought they might ever be affordable.

I spent a fair piece of time in the Highlands & Islands of Scotland in or near villages where one of those boxes was the only landline to the world outside.

Not always a bad thing.

Eight Things to Know About the U.K. Vote — by Barry Ritholtz

brexit
Hat tip to Ian Bremmer

Well, the Brits have really done it now. All the experts told us people in the U.K. were smart enough to see that voting to leave the European Union was a mistake — but not to worry because the referendum was going to lose…

1. London, Get Used to It

It was a back and forth between New York and London in the bidding to be the capital of capitalism. That race just ended. This may be good for New York and Hong Kong in some abstract way, but more likely the center of European financial gravity will shift to Geneva or Brussels or Frankfurt; or maybe no one city replaces London and financial power is scattered all over Europe.

London’s ambition to be the world’s most important city is now over. Expect it to become more like Colonial Williamsburg: A tourist trap that attempts to depict what life was like in the not-too-distant past.

Barry goes on from there. My favorite Recovering Republican, damned good economist and sufficiently cynical to function as a real financial analyst in a world full of phonies.

Please click the link and enjoy it all.