Huawei Surprise goldfish in a bowl


Uncertain future: In this courtroom sketch, Meng sits beside a translator during a bail hearing in Vancouver. She
faces extradition to the US on charges of trying to evade US sanctions on Iran. – AP 
The arrest of Huawei ‘heiress’ has thrown a rare spotlight on the family of the reclusive smartphone giant founder, Ren Zhengfei.

WHEN Huawei CFO Sabrina Meng Wanzhou appeared on Wednesday in a Vancouver courtroom, clad in an unbranded green tracksuit, the moment was witnessed by a single reporter from the local Vancouver Sun newspaper who happened to notice her name on the hearings list that morning.

By the end of the day, Meng’s arrest in Canada at the request of Washington was the biggest story in the world.

And when her bail hearing resumed on Friday, Meng entered court to see about 100 reporters, craning to look at her through two layers of bulletproof glass.

Meng who faces extradition to the United States, was charged for helping Huawei allegedly cover up violations of US sanctions on Iran.

Like many top Chinese executives, Meng is a mysterious figure even in her home country, but the 46-year-old chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies had been widely tipped to one day take the helm of the tech giant her father founded.

That was until her shock arrest, a move that has entangled her in the protracted diplomatic tensions between Washington and Beijing.

Crucially, Meng is the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei – one of China’s leading businessmen, an ex-People’s Liberation Army officer and an elected member of the 12th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.

In other words, Meng is part of China’s elite.

Her father Ren moves in the highest government circles in China and founded Huawei in 1988, after he retired from the Chinese armed forces. Born into a rural family in a remote mountainous town in the southwestern province of Guizhou, Ren rose to the equivalent rank of a deputy regimental chief in the PLA and served until 1983, according to his official Huawei biography.

Officials in some governments, particularly the United States, have voiced concern that his company is close to the Chinese military and government. Huawei has repeatedly insisted Beijing has no influence over it.

Ren is one of the most watched entrepreneurs in China and was on Time magazine’s list of 100 most influential people in the world in 2005 and again in 2013.

But like his elder daughter, Ren has largely kept a low profile.

Ren has married three times. His first wife was Meng Jun, daughter of a former senior official in Sichuan province, Meng Dongbuo; she bore Ren two children: Sabrina Meng Wanzhou and a son, Meng Ping.

Meng’s current wife is Yao Ling, who gave him a younger daughter, Annabel Yao, 20. In a rare move, the three posed last month for a family photoshoot for French lifestyle magazine Paris Match. Annabel, a Harvard computer science student, became a sensation at last month’s Le Bal des Debutantes (or Crillon Ball) in Paris.

Ren’s third wife is Su Wei who, according to Chinese media reports, is a millennial who was formerly his secretary.

Interestingly, all his children opted not to take on their father’s surname – Meng adopted her mother’s surname after her parents divorced. According to Chinese news websites, Meng’s brother Ping, who also works for Huawei, followed her in taking their mother’s surname to “avoid unnecessary attention” – though the son was also known as Ren Ping in the past.

(This practice is not uncommon among the families of China’s elite. The co-founder of Chinese auction house China Guardian, Wang Yannan, opted not to take her father’s surname – she is the daughter of late Chinese premier Zhao Ziyang.)

Born in 1972, Meng joined the company in 1993, obtained a master’s degree from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in 1998, and rose up the ranks over the years, mostly holding financial roles.

In her first media appearance before the Chinese press in 2013, Meng said she had first joined the company as a secretary“whose job was just to take calls”.

In the interview with China’s 21st Century Business Herald, Meng said she began her first job at China Construction Bank after graduating with her first degree in 1992.

Arrested Meng: Like her father, the Huawei CFO had led a quiet life, out of the spotlight. – Reuters

Arrested Meng: Like her father, the Huawei CFO had led a quiet life, out of the spotlight. – Reuters

“I joined Huawei one year later because a branch closed its operations due to the business integration [of CCB],” said Meng, describing her early jobs in Huawei as “very trivial”.

Meng has served in various roles at the company since, until her latest role as the Hong Kong-based CFO of Huawei.

In 2003, Meng established Huawei’s globally unified finance organisation, with standardised structures, financial processes, financial systems, and IT platforms.

Since 2005, Meng has led the founding of five shared service centers around the world, and she was also the driver behind completion of a global payment center in Shenzhen, China. These centres have boosted Huawei’s accounting efficiency and monitoring quality, providing accounting services to sustain the company’s rapid overseas expansion.

Meng has also been in charge of the integrated financial services (IFS) transformation program, an eight-year partnership between Huawei and IBM since 2007. This has helped Huawei develop its data systems and rules for resource allocation, and improve operating efficiency and internal controls.

In recent years, Meng has focused on advancing detailed financial management at Huawei, working to align these efforts with the company’s long-term development plans.

Meng’s importance at Huawei became apparent in 2011, when she was first named as a board member. Company insiders describe her as capable and hardworking. Earlier this year, Huawei promoted Meng, to vice-chairwoman as part of a broader reshuffle. Meng is one of four executives who hold the vice-chair role, while retaining her CFO position. Despite assertions by Ren that none of his family members would succeed him in the top job, it is widely speculated that she was being groomed to take over the reins of the company eventually.

Married with a son and a daughter, Meng’s revelation that her husband did not work in the industry, dispelled the speculation she was married to a senior Huawei executive.

Meng did not conduct public interviews before 2013 and has seldom mentioned her personal life until recently, when she used her son to illustrate the importance of persistence.

“My son did not want to go swimming one day and he almost knelt on the ground and begged my husband so that he would not have to go. But he was rejected,” Meng said in a speech at Chongqing international school in 2016. “Now my son is proud to represent his school in swimming competitions.”

Meng recently made a speech at a Singapore academic conference in 2018, in which she talked of Huawei’s future role in technology development.

“Without universities, the world would be left in darkness. Without industry, science would be left in the ivory tower,” said Meng. “The fourth industrial revolution is on the horizon and artificial intelligence is one of its core enabling technologies. Huawei is lucky to be part of it.”

While her brother, Meng Ping, as well as her father’s younger brother and his current wife all work at Huawei and related companies, none has held such senior management roles.

“The other family members are in the back office, Sabrina is CFO and sits on the board,” a Huawei source said. “So she is viewed as the boss’s most likely successor.”

But her fate now is uncertain.

She faces up to 30 years’ jail for the alleged crime. Her lawyer in Canada, David Martin, had told the court that Meng posed no flight risk and should be granted bail. To flee would shame her in front of her father and all of China, said Martin.

“Her father would not recognise her. Her colleagues would hold her in contempt. She would be a pariah,” he said.

Meng leaned forward in her seat and dabbed at her eyes with a tissue.

When the hearing adjourned, she was led away with her head bowed, a goldfish in a bowl that is the biggest story in the world. – South China Morning Post

Younger Huawei daughter: ‘I’m just a normal girl’

Arresting Yao: ‘My daily life is actually pretty boring compared to this.’

JUST last month, the reclusive Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei made headlines by appearing in French lifestyle magazine Paris Match with his younger daughter and current wife.The daughter, Annabel Yao, 20, posed with a smile in front of a grand piano with her mother, identified by the magazine as Yao Ling, and Ren, who wore a blue shirt with his hand resting on her shoulder.

Suddenly, the whole family are making headlines again – even if for quite different reasons.

Few outsiders had previously heard of the younger daughter, a Harvard computer science student and ballerina. But Yao recently made a high-profile appearance at the exclusive Le Bal Debutante ball in Paris.

While Le Bal des Debutantes in Paris each year is a nod to the tradition of young society ladies entering the elite social scene of Europe, these days it courts modern debutantes, aged 16 to 21, who are chosen for their looks, brains and famous parents – prominent in business, entertainment and politics.

They parade in glamorous couture gowns, waltz with their cavaliers – young men who accompany the “debs” for the evening – and take part in photo shoots and interviews.

The schedule at the event, organised by Ophélie Renouard, is full of young women such as Baroness Ludmilla von Oppenheim, from Germany; Julia McCaw, daughter of AT&T founder Craig McCaw; and Yao – one of three debutantes chosen for the opening waltz this year.

“I definitely treated this as a debut to the world,” said Yao after the ball. “From now on, I’ll no longer be this girl living in her own world, I’ll be stepping into the adult world where I have to watch my own actions and have my actions be watched by others.”

Today’s Le Bal, is a diverse affair, a microcosm of the shifting tides of the global elite. Of the 19 debutantes of 2018, there were young ladies from India and America, Europeans from Portugal, France, Belgium and Germany, as well as Hong Kong’s Angel Lee, Kayla Uytengsu from the Philippines and China’s Yao.

Yao – who has lived in Britain, Hong Kong and Shanghai – was one of several Chinese debutantes in recent years. Hollywood offspring, such as the daughters of actors Forest Whitaker, Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone, have also become Le Bal regulars.

“All the girls were down-to-earth, easygoing, helpful and outgoing. No one was pretentious,” said Yao.

“All of them attended top universities or high schools like Stanford, Brown and Columbia, so it’s a group of girls who are privileged, but also work really hard.”

 

Diverse affair: Today’s ‘Le Bal’ is a microcosm of the shifting tides of the global elite like Yao (far right, front row).

 

As they swapped their jeans for tiaras and couture gowns and trade teenage antics for waltzing, the girls got to play fairytale princesses for three days and make their grand debut in high society.

They all arrived in Paris two days before the ball to meet, socialise with other girls and their cavaliers (Yao’s cavalier was the young Count Gaspard de Limburg-Stirum), rehearse and take part in portrait sessions.

Girls are given questionnaires about the fashion styles they like, and then choose from a selection. Yao donned a champagne gold J Mendel gown.

“An American designer with a very French style I wanted something modern,” she said. “I’m not super girlie inside, so I prefer something more chic and not so princessy It’s very elegant, and I’m not a fan of very [strongly] pigmented hues. I also loved the tulle texture of the dress, as it reminds me of a ballerina.”

“I definitely feel very honoured to be included, as there are only 19 girls in the world this year,” Yao added. “It means I have to work harder, try to accomplish great things in my life and be a role model for other girls.”

She said: “As people who have more privilege than others, it’s more important for us to help those with less opportunity. I want to get involved in philanthropy and charity I still consider myself a normal girl; it’s important for me to work hard and better myself every day.

“My daily life is actually pretty boring compared to this. I usually live like a normal student.”

Computer science is a heavy subject with a high workload, so she studies a lot. Her spare time is often taken up at the Harvard Ballet company (she’s been dancing since childhood). “I try to dance as much as possible,” she said.

A quick glance at the Ivy League student’s social media shows her jetting around the world wearing Dior, Louis Vuitton and Saint Laurent, but she’s quick to show her serious side. This summer, she did an internship at Microsoft “on a team focusing on machine learning and image recognition”.

However, she noted: “As much as I enjoy coding, I enjoy personal interactions a lot I have a passion for fashion, PR and entertainment.”

In the future, she sees herself working on the business side of technology. “I’ll try to integrate the tech knowledge I have,” she said. “I don’t think I’ll be a software engineer but maybe I’ll be more on the management side. I enjoy building connections.” – South China Morning Post

Growing stronger, opening wider key to resolving Huawei crisis

Huawei is now facing its most severe test since it became the world-renowned innovative tech company.

With executive’s arrest, US wants to stifle Huawei

The Chinese government should seriously go behind the US tendency to abuse legal procedures to suppress China’s high-tech enterprises. It should increase interaction with the US and exert pressure when necessary. China has been exercising restraint, but the US cannot act recklessly. US President Donald Trump should rein in the hostile activities of some Americans who may imperil Sino-US relations.

 

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In custody: A profile of Meng is displayed on a computer at a Huawei store in Beijing. The Chinese government, speaking
through its embassy in Canada, strenuously objected to the arrest, and  demanded Meng’s immediate release.  
AP

One phone to rule all; Fintech, the healthy disruptors of forex


Software rules: Less than 20 of the iPhone comprises hardware and labour costs. The real profit is in software, which is all about knowledge and mindsets. – Bloomberg

WHO dominates the phone dominates the Internet. The whole world of information is now available in your hand, replacing your own mind as a memory base for instant decision-making.

The reason why traditional bank shares are dropping like a stone is that mobile phone companies and financial technology (FinTech) platforms “get it”. Banks and conventional financial institutions are stuck with so much legacy hardware (branches and outdated mainframes) and complex regulation that their CEOs feel beseiged by bad news – cyberattacks, privacy leakages (like the recent Panama leak), capital requirements and huge fines.

No wonder top bank talent is leaving the industry. In Silicon Valley they get fat bonuses to become “cool” without regulations. Regulated bank CEOs are held personally responsible for everything that goes on in their bank, having to deal with soul-destroying staff and expenditure cuts, on top of their own pay cuts.

I was at the Singapore Forum this month moderating a panel on FinTech when the Alibaba strategist mentioned that the current battle for market share is all about “mindset and handset”. The mindset of the Internet age is that you do not need to own any assets – you simply share or rent them from those who have excess capacity. The mobile handset is where most of the world’s population is moving towards doing business, from dating to buying a house, phone, using your fingerprint and retina as digital signature.

Finance today is an information business and FinTech (see below) can deliver payment services at 1-2 cents per transaction compared with US$10-US$12 per paper-based payment. Increasingly, we spend more on apps and software than on the actual hardware.

Did you know that the fastest adopters of technology in the world are porn, gambling and politics, in that order?

The financial consultants Oliver Wyman have come up with a major report on “Modular Finance”, which argues that technology has transformed finance into modular parts – modular supply (provision of financial services by specialists); modular demand (buying new services from such specialists).

Oliver Wyman’s report begins with a cartoon about a customer buying a house, arranging a mortgage and insurance, selling stocks and wealth products for the downpayment and paying for all fees through a single mobile phone. Equipped with the latest encryption, digital signatures and right apps, the mobile phone has empowered the customer to everything what used to take several visits and weeks to the bank, the lawyer, real estate agent and even land registry to complete the transaction.

In short, the game of finance is being fought by one super-bank to rule them all (Goldmans?) or one phone to rule them all.

The global supermarket model (one brand to rule them all) is having a serious re-think about being labelled G-SIFIs (global systemically important financial regulations), requiring special regulatory attention and additional capital and liquidity requirements. Increasingly, these universal banks do not need to own and supply all services in-house – they simply outsource the back-office or even key services to trusted specialists.

On the other hand, FinTech aims to change our lifestyles through different types of technology. First, frictionless and seamless inter-operability integrates businesses like logistics with payments, such as Alibaba, making it easier to buy, pay and deliver in one pass.

Second, Big Data analytics, which Amazon uses suggest to you what to buy next and understand how customers are changing. Third, Blockchain and Distributed Ledger technology, which makes systems more secure. Fourth, artificial intelligence, such as robo-advisers on investments.

Fifth, data secrecy and unique identity codes that ensures privacy and confidentiality.

FinTech platforms have less staff, less legacy assets, less regulation and more flexible mindsets. These barbarians at the gate are only stopped by regulations that currently protect the banking franchise. This is not to say that they don’t have defects, such as lack of attention to anti-money laundering, terrorist funding and cyberattacks. When they reach super-scale, they are also Too Big to Fail.

The rapid evolution of FinTech means that Asia now has the money and the technology to transform our antiquated financial systems into the 21st century.

The Asian population is young, tech-savvy, mobile and willing to experiment with new services and equipment, which we are creating in Asia. The good news is that if our young startups get it right, the world is their market. The bad news is that if our regulatory and government support services don’t allow our startups to compete, our markets and jobs will be someone else’s lunch.

What is holding back this transformation to FinTech Asia is still mindsets. Look at how Jakarta taxi drivers are protesting against Uber. Regional banks are expanding their footprints by buying the franchises of retreating European and American banks in investment and private banking. But they and their regulators have not thought through how to use FinTech to cut back their legacy systems, many of which are obsolete and operating under-scale, because many regulators still insist on each bank owning and running their own hardware and branches. To be fair, not all regulators think that way.

Barriers to FinTech are sometimes regulatory mindsets. Asian regulators are more willing to accept the entry of financial institutions from outside the region than from their neighbours. Without regulatory concurrence, many banks and financial institutions do not dare to experiment with new technology.

We now have Asian customers moving to global service providers like Apple, Google and Amazon, if Asian financial service providers do not get their act together. Compe-tition is good – look at how Sri Lanka is negotiating with Google to provide balloon-suspended cheap high-speed wifi coverage.

Asian bankers and regulators need to think hard about what Asian customers really want to achieve global scale in terms of efficiency, stability and trust.

FinTech and mobile handsets are not the solution to all our problems, but they will change how the problems are resolved. The real problem is our mindset. Less than 20% of the iPhone comprises hardware and labour costs. The real profit is in software, which is all about knowledge and mindsets.

That belongs to the realm of politics and education, which is another story.

Andrew Sheng writes on global issues from an Asian perspective.

Image for the news result

Fintech, the healthy disruptors of forex

SINCE the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, investment banks have spent much of their time and energy on regulatory compliance, leaving them “on the back foot” innovation wise.

Faced with growing regulatory demands in recent years, investment in new technology has had to take a back seat. This does not come as a surprise given the lack of deals and flows as well as the broad-based decline in commodity prices. That little space innovation wise has been quickly filled by fintech firms.

There are traditional fintech firms that act as ‘facilitators’ (larger incumbent technology firms supporting the financial services sector) and there is emergent fintech firms who are “disruptors” (small, innovative firms disintermediating incumbent financial services firms with new technology).

The fintech space can be further broken down to four major sectors – payments, software, data and analytics and platforms.

In the foreign exchange market environment, a typical trading would include sourcing for the best price either via electronically or via the voice broker.

In Malaysia’s financial market landscape of foreign exchange trading, the wholesale price or in other words interbank market is dominated by investment banks facilitated by money brokers who source the best available price to match foreign exchange trades.

With the wholesale market dominated by firms with deep pockets and ample liquidity, customers are subject to a spread cost, whereby prices they receive naturally takes into account a spread from the screens and a spread from the interbank price as well as a spread that is subject to the credit profile of the customer.

Global fintech firms however are altering this process or at least are gradually making inroads.

These firms provide a platform that offers a comprehensive foreign exchange solutions, including live mid-market exchange rates updated in real-time, customised foreign exchange rate alerts, a fully automated transaction information dashboard, multi-user and multi-subsidiary control panel as well as on-demand forex reports.

The best part is, these firms charge a flat fee of which is detailed before each currency trade with absolutely no additional or hidden fees.

Until recently, SMEs have had little choice in terms of where to go, other than to the banks, but now it seems a different foreign exchange model is emerging in the fintech sector, giving banks a run for their money.

The crux of these business models by fintech firms in the foreign exchange business is service via the use of technology.

The automation of the process, eliminates the middlemen and therefore reducing cost, fintech has enabled companies to be more transparent with their pricing.

In the case of Malaysia, SME’s play a vital role in Malaysia’s economy, with foreign exchange risks increasingly being a volatile variable in their cost structure.

These form of fintech solutions are likely to witness exponential growth, but the cost would be, a gradual erosion of SMEs foreign exchange business that are currently held by our local investment banks.

Fintech firms’ foreign exchange model broadly encompasses four major steps, namely, the SME firm carries out their foreign exchange transaction by selecting the currency, the amount, delivery date and beneficiary account and confirm the exchange rate.

Once this is done, the next step is, the SME firm sends the fund to the fintech firm whereby the fund is segregated and held in a local bank.

Bear in mind these funds don’t form the part of the assets of the fintech firm and are held separately to ensure full client fund security at all times.

The third step is, the fintech firm’s matching engine will proceed to the exchange, matching the SME firm’s fund with another company or through the wholesale foreign exchange market.

Throughout the process, the SME firm is provided full transparency on prices, giving the SME firm the liberty to be fully in control.

Once the trade is matched, the funds are sent to the chosen beneficiary account of the SME firm, either its own, a subsidiary or directly to its supplier.

A four-step approach that uses the middle rate of the foreign exchange, removes the so called spread cost that is usually charged by banks to these SME firms and finally gives full transparency on the whole process itself.

With the clout and importance of these fintech firms, the Monetary Authority of Singapore recently announced the formation of a new FinTech & Innovation Group (FTIG) within its organisation structure.

FTIG will be responsible for regulatory policies and development strategies to facilitate the use of technology and innovation to better manage risks, enhance efficiency, and strengthen competitiveness in the financial sector. The upcoming Singapore FinTech Festival, to be held in Singapore from Nov 14 to Nov 18 will be an event to watch.

Organised in partnership with the Association of Banks in Singapore, the week-long event, which is the first of its kind in Asia will bring together a series of distinct, back-to-back fintech events.

Bottom-line, Malaysia’s financial sector, in particular its foreign exchange market needs vibrancy and fintech firms are likely to add spice to the local foreign exchange market, aside from creating value added business processes and technology intensive jobs, it would provide a healthy competition to the local investment banking scene.

Suresh Ramanathan believes gone are the days when foreign exchange trading was noisy, loud and unruly. It’s more about savvy technology driven trading. He can be contacted at skrasta70@hotmail.com

By Suresh Ramanathan Currency Insights.

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Exchange rates | Rightways

How WhatsApp founder made it big from rags-to-riches?


WhatsApp_Founder Jan Koum

Once a cleaner at a grocery store, Koum’s fortune changed the day he got the idea of an app that would allow people to send text messages via the Internet instead of sending SMS.

WhatsApp users worldwide received surprising news when Jan Koum, the founder of WhatsApp announced that Facebook was buying over WhatsApp for USD19 billion in cash and stock. It is by far the biggest acquisition made by the social networking giant to date. Prior to this, Facebook closed a deal with Instagram for USD1 billion in 2012.

WhatsApp Messenger is a successful cross-platform mobile messaging app that allows users to exchange messages without having to pay SMS bills. All it needs is an internet data plan. In addition to basic messaging WhatsApp users can also create groups, send each other unlimited images, video and audio media messages. WhatsApp currently has 600 million users worldwide.

Jan Koum, now a billionaire from the deal made with Facebook, was born in a small town outside Kiev, Ukraine. He was the only child of a housewife and construction manager and the family led an austere life. At the age of 16, he moved to Mountain View, California with his mother and grandmother. His father stayed behind with plans to follow on later.

To make ends meet every month, Koum worked as a cleaner at a grocery store and his mum worked as a babysitter. He even had to line up to collect food stamps during those tough times. His mother was diagnosed with cancer in 1997 and they lived off her disability allowance. It was in the same year that Koum’s father became ill and passed away. His mother too eventually succumbed to cancer and passed away in year 2000.

At the age of 18, Koum developed an interest toward computers. He taught himself computer programming by purchasing manuals from a used-book store and returning them after he was done. He then enrolled in San Jose State University and moonlighted for Ernst & Young as a security tester. After that he worked for search engine company, Yahoo! Inc.

Koum’s work involves inspecting Yahoo!’s advertising system, which led him to cross paths with Brian Acton (later co-founder of WhatsApp).

Over the next nine years, Koum and Acton were pulled in to help launch Yahoo!’s advertising platform. Koum recalled Acton’s words, “Dealing with ads is depressing. You don’t make anyone’s life better by making advertisements work better,” Koum was not happy with the situation as well.

In September 2007, Koum and Acton decided to resign from Yahoo!. After taking a one year break, Koum and Acton started looking for jobs. Both applied and got rejected by Facebook Inc. It was two years later in 2009 that Koum bought an iPhone and realised that the App Store would unlock future potentials. Koum had the idea of an app that would allow people to send text messages via the internet instead of sending SMSes. He named it WhatsApp that sounds like “What’s Up”.

It became an instant hit among iPhone users after the app was uploaded to the App Store. Koum insisted not to sell ads on the app after his bad experience dealing with ads at Yahoo! for years. WhatsApp was growing big worldwide and the founders decided to charge an annual rate of USD1 to its users. They were surprised to know that users are willing to pay to use the app.

WhatsApp gradually brought in USD5000 in revenue every month by 2010. Acton helped out Koum by investing USD250,000 in WhatsApp. As a result Acton was named co-founder of WhatsApp. By early 2011, the number of users are growing at an immense rate, and it is adding an additional million users everyday.

WhatsApp became one of the top 20 of all apps in the U.S App Store. Two years later, Sequoia invested another USD50 million. This resulted in WhatsApp being valued at USD1.5 billion.

In 2012, Koum received an email from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg was very interested at what Koum built and hinted to Koum at his interest in combining their two firms.

After two years, Koum and Acton signed and sealed the deal with Zuckerberg on the door of the welfare office where Koum used to collect food stamps.

Facebook bought WhatsApp for $19 billion in cash and stock in February 2014. Its by far the most lucrative engagement in tech history.

This deal seals Koum as tech’s new billionaire, pocketing USD6.8 billion after taxes. The agreement also appoints Koum as Facebook’s new board member – a rags-to-riches story that should inspire all nerds out there.

Source: JobStreet.com, the No.1 job site in Malaysia, thesundaily.com

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Apple’s shine starts to fade


iPad boom slows as tablets lose out to smarter phones 

Between the iPad and its rivals, the tablet computer has become one of the most successful consumer electronic products ever. Apple (AAPL) has sold more than 210 million iPads since the device’s 2010 debut, about double the rate of iPhone sales in its first four years. The boom has helped the electronics industry make up for the drop in sales of desktop and laptop PCs. Suddenly, though, the market is slowing down.

Apple reported that iPad sales dropped by one-sixth last quarter from the same period a year earlier, and Microsoft (MSFT) said revenue from its Surface tablet, not robust to begin with, dropped about 40 percent after the holiday season. Amazon.com (AMZN) doesn’t break out sales, but according to researcher Gartner, it hasn’t moved up the market-share charts. Global tablet sales rose 19 percent in the first quarter, propelled by purchases of cheap models in emerging markets, but that’s paltry compared with growth of 83 percent during the same period last year and more than 100 percent during that period in 2012 and 2011, according to researcher Strategy Analytics.

The tablet’s early success has resulted in unrealistic expectations for the long term, says Horace Dediu, the founder of research and consulting firm Asymco. He’s surprised growth is slowing, because only about 40 percent of the U.S. market currently owns a tablet. For hot consumer electronics of previous generations, like color TVs and microwaves, this kind of decline in sales growth doesn’t usually happen until at least half the market has the product, he says. Tablets, Dediu adds, may ultimately prove to be more like game consoles: a large, valuable market that nonetheless cannot match the ubiquity of mobile phones. “It’s a very compelling product,” he says, “but isn’t of the same utility as a phone.”

Story: Apple Sells More iPhones Than Expected, Fewer iPads

As smartphones get bigger and do more, there are fewer good reasons for people to pony up several hundred dollars for a tablet, says Benedict Evans, an analyst and investor with the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. Consumers are perfectly fine using their iPhone or Samsung Galaxy smartphone to browse the Web, play games, or scan e-mail while watching TV or lying in bed, Evans says, and that trend will likely continue as phone screens keep growing.

Demand is still growing for inexpensive tablets, notably some models from Samsung, Lenovo, and Asus, used mostly for watching video. Android tablet purchases grew 48 percent for the quarter, and grocery stores and retail chains, including Tesco (TSCO:LN) in the U.K. and Carrefour (CA:FP) in France, are selling their own branded tablets for less than $200. The gadgets, some as cheap as $50 in Asia, don’t have access to the range of apps or business software that an iPad does, but that’s not why people buy them. In Asia, Dediu says, the typical tablet user loads the device with TV shows, movies, and music: “The tablet is the TV of choice for Asia today.”

Tablets can’t easily replace PCs when it comes to crunching a lot of numbers, writing long reports, or making presentations. Jean-Louis Gassée, an Apple executive during the 1980s, says he’s frustrated by the limitations of the iPad, which doesn’t have a visible filing system that can organize and save documents. The simplicity that makes it easy for a wide audience to use, he says, limits its value for corporate customers or others who want such features. Along with many industry analysts, Gassée, now a general partner at venture capital firm Allegis Capital, says he expects Apple eventually to release an iPad that feels more like a PC.

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Like Amazon and Microsoft, Apple, which generated $7.6 billion in iPad sales last quarter, declined to comment for this story. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook, during an April 23 conference call with analysts, reiterated his belief that tablets will surpass PC sales in the next few years. He added: “Apple will be a major beneficiary of this trend.”

–  Contributed

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