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In 2019, the Trump administration brokered a deal allowing T-Mobile to buy Sprint as long as it helped Dish Network stand up a new 5G network to keep the number of national wireless carriers at four and preserve competition in the mobile market. You can say a lot about that deal, but it happened. And now, in 2022, Dish’s network — which is called Project Genesis, that’s a real name — is slowly getting off the ground. And it’s built on a new kind of wireless technology called Open Radio Access Network, or ORAN. Dish’s network is only the third ORAN network in the entire world, and if ORAN works, it will radically change how the entire wireless industry operates.

I have wanted to know more about ORAN for a long time. So today, I’m talking to Tareq Amin, CEO of Rakuten Mobile. Rakuten Mobile is a new wireless carrier in Japan. It just launched in 2020. It’s also the world’s first ORAN network, and Tareq basically pushed this whole concept into existence.

Tareq’s big idea, an Open Radio Access Network, is to break apart the hardware and software and make it so that many more vendors can build radio access hardware that Rakuten Mobile can run its own software on. Think about it like a Mac versus a PC: a Mac is Apple hardware running Apple’s software, while a PC can come from anyone and run Windows just fine or run another operating system if you want.

That’s the promise of ORAN: that it will increase competition and lower costs for cellular base station hardware, allow for more software innovation, and generally make networks faster and more reliable because operators like Rakuten Mobile will be in tighter control of the software that runs the networks and move all that software from the hardware itself to cloud services like Amazon AWS.

Since Rakuten Mobile is making all this software that can run on open hardware, they can sell it to other people. So Tareq is also the CEO of Rakuten Symphony, which — you guessed it — is helping Dish run its network here along with another network called 1&1 in Germany.

I really wanted to know if ORAN is going to work, and how Tareq managed to make it happen in such a traditional industry. So we got into it — like, really into it.

Okay, Tareq Amin, CEO of Rakuten Mobile. Here we go.

Tareq Amin is the CEO of Rakuten Mobile and the CEO of Rakuten Symphony. Welcome to Decoder.

Thank you, Nilay. Pleasure being with you.

I am excited to talk to you. Rakuten Mobile is one of the leaders in this next generation of wireless networks being built and I am very curious about it. It is in Japan, but we have a largely US-based audience, so can you explain what Rakuten is? What kind of company is it, and what is its presence like in Japan?

The Rakuten Group as a whole is not a telecom company, but mostly an internet services company. It started as one of the earliest e-commerce technology companies in Japan. Today, it is one of the largest in e-commerce, fintech, banking, travel, et cetera. These significant internet services were primarily built around a massive ecosystem in Japan, and the only missing piece for Rakuten as a group was the mobile connectivity business. That is why I came to Japan, to help build and launch a disruptive architecture for its mobile 4G/5G network.

Let me make a really bad comparison here. This company has been a huge internet service provider for a while. This is kind of like if Yahoo was massively successful and started a wireless network.

Correct. I mean, think of Amazon. What would happen if Amazon launched a mobile network in the US? This is the best analogy I could give, because Rakuten operates at that scale in Japan. This company with a disruptive mindset, disruptive skill set, disruptive culture, and disruptive organization endorsed my super crazy idea of how we should build this next-generation mobile infrastructure. I think that is where I attribute most of the success. The company’s DNA and culture is just remarkably different.

So it’s huge. How is it structured overall? How is Rakuten Mobile a part of that structure?

Of all the entities today, I think the founder and chairman of the company, Mickey [Hiroshi “Mickey” Mikitani], is probably one of the most innovative leaders I have ever had the opportunity to work with. I cannot tell you how much I enjoy the interactions we have with him. He is down to earth and his leadership style is definitely hands-on; he doesn’t really operate at a high level.

The fundamental belief of Rakuten is around synergistic impact for its ecosystem. The company has 71 internet-facing services in Japan — we also operate globally, by the way — and you as a consumer have one membership ID that you benefit from. The points/membership/loyalty is the foundation of what this company works on. Regardless of which services you consume, they are all tied through this unique ID across all 71.

The companies and the organizations internally have subsidiaries and legal structures that would separate all of them, but synergistically, they are all connected through this membership/points/loyalty system. We think it is really critical to grow the synergistic impact of not just one service, but the collective services, to the end consumer.

Today, Rakuten Mobile is a subsidiary of the group, and Rakuten Symphony is more focused on our platform business. It focuses on the globalization of the technology and architecture we have done in Japan, by selling and promoting to global customers.

When you say Symphony, do you mean the wireless network technology or the technology of the whole company?

Symphony itself is much more than just wireless. Of course, it has Edge Cloud connectivity architecture, the wireless technology stack for 4G/5G, and life cycle management for automation operations. In August of last year we launched Rakuten Symphony as a formal entity to take all the technology we have now and promote it to a global customer base.

I think one of the reasons you and I are having this conversation is because Dish Network in the United States is a Symphony customer. They are launching a next-generation 5G network and I have been very curious about how that is going. It sounds like Symphony is a big piece of the puzzle there.

To supply you a bit of background, maybe we should start with the mobile business in Japan, because it is the foundation this idea initially started from. So, I would tell you, I have had a super crazy life. I am really blessed that I had the opportunity to work with amazing leaders and across three continents so far. My previous experiences before coming to Japan, which involved building another large greenfield network in India called Reliance Jio, have taught me quite a bit.

To be very frank with you, it taught me the value of the US dollar. When you go into a country where the economy of units — how much you could charge a consumer — is one to two US dollars, the idea of supply chain procurement and cost has to change. You have to find a way to build cost-efficient networks.

The launch of Reliance Jio was very successful and became a really good Cinderella story for the industry. I am extremely thankful for what Jio has taught me personally, and I have always wondered what I would do differently if I had a second opportunity to build a greenfield.

To supply everybody listening to this podcast some perspective, the mobile technology industry has been about nothing but hardware changes since the inception of the first 1G in 1981. You just take the old hardware and replace it with new hardware. Nothing has changed in the way we deploy networks when the Gs change, even now in 2022. It is still complex and expensive, and I don’t think the essence of AI and autonomy exist in the DNA of these networks. That is why when you look at the cost expenditures to build new technology like 5G, it is so cost-prohibitive.

It was by coincidence that I met the chairman and CEO of Rakuten group, Mickey Mikitani, and I loved everything that Rakuten is all about. Like most people, I didn’t necessarily know who Rakuten was at the time. I only knew of them because I love football (soccer) and they were a big sponsor of FC Barcelona.

When Mickey started explaining the company fabric to me, about its DNA and internet services, I thought about what a significant opportunity he would have if he adopted a different architecture in how these networks are deployed — one that moves away from proprietary hardware. What would happen if we remove the hardware completely and build the world’s first, and only, cloud-native software telco?

Let me be really honest with you, this was just in PPT at the time. I conceived the idea thinking about what I would do differently if I were granted another opportunity like Reliance Jio. One of the first key elements I wanted to change is adopting this unique cloud architecture, because nobody had really deployed an end-to-end horizontal cloud across any telco yet.

The second element — which you have probably heard of because the industry has been talking about it excitedly — is this thing called Open RAN, which is the idea of disaggregating hardware and software. The third element, my ultimate dream, is the enablement of a full autonomous network that is able to run itself, fix itself, and heal itself without human beings.

This is the journey of mobile, and I think this is what differentiates us so much. I can’t say I had a recipe that defined what success would look like, but I was obsessed. Obsessed with creating a world-class organization with a larger ecosystem, and getting everybody motivated about this concept that did not exist four years ago.

Now here we are, post commercial launch. The world is celebrating what we have done. They like and enjoy the ideas around this disaggregated network, and they love the concept of cloud-native architecture. What I love the most is that we opened up a healthy debate across the globe. We really encourage and support what Dish is doing in the United States by deploying Open RAN as an architecture. I think this is absolutely the right platform to build resilient, scalable, cost-effective mobile networks for the future.

That is the high-level story of how this journey started with a super crazy, ambitious idea that nobody thought would succeed. If you go back four years to some of the press releases that were published, I cannot tell you how many times I was told I’m crazy or that I’m going to fail. As I said, we became fanatic about this idea, and that is what drove us all to emotionally connect to the mission, the objective. I am very, very happy to see the results that the team has achieved.

I want to take that in stages. I definitely want to talk about Jio, because it is a really interesting foundational element of this whole story. I want to talk about what you have built with O-RAN, and how that works in the industry. I also want to talk about where it could go as a platform for the network providers. But I have to ask you the Decoder question first. You have described your ideas as super crazy like five times now. You are the CEO of a big wireless provider in Japan, and you are selling that stuff to other CEOs. I have to ask you the Decoder question. How do you make decisions?

I know this might sound a little controversial, but I have to tell you. In any project I have taken, even from my early days, we have always been taught that you have to have a Plan A and a Plan B. This has never worked for me. I have a concept I call, “No Plan B for me.”

I don’t go in thinking, “This project will fail, therefore I need to look at alternatives and options,” so I am absolutely not panic about making big, bold decisions. I live by a basic philosophy that it is okay to fail sometimes, but let’s fail fast so we can pick ourselves up and progress. I am not saying people shouldn’t have Option A and Option B. I just feel that, for me personally, Option B might supply my mind the opportunity to entertain that there is an escape clause. That may not necessarily be a good thing when working on ambitious projects. I think you need to be committed to your beliefs and ideas.

I have made some tough calls during my career, but for whatever reason, I have never really been panic about the consequences of failure. Sometimes we learn more from the mistakes we make and from having difficult experiences, whether they are personal or professional. I think my decision-making capability is one that is very bold, trying to make the team believe in the objectives that we are trying to accomplish and not worrying about failure. Sometimes you just need to be focused on the idea and the mission. Yes, the results are important, but that is not the only thing I am married to.

This is how I have operated all my life, and so far, I am really happy with some of the thinking I have adopted. I am not saying people should not have options in their lives, but this idea of “no Plan B” has its merits in certain projects. How can you adapt your leadership style when approaching projects, rather than thinking, “What is the other option?”

I think with deploying millions upon millions of dollars of mobile broadband equipment, it often feels like you have got to be committed. Let’s talk about that, starting with Jio. If the listeners don’t know, Reliance Jio is now the biggest carrier in India. It is extremely popular, but it launched as a pretty disruptive challenger against other carriers of 4G like Airtel. You just gave it away for free for like the first six months, and it has been lower-cost ever since. This is not the new idea though, right? It is not the open hardware-software disaggregated network that you are talking about now. How did you make Jio so cheap at the beginning?

I will tell you a one-minute prelude. I was sitting very comfortably in Newport Beach when I got a call from my friend. He asked me if I would be interested in going to India and being part of a leadership team to build this ambitious, audacious idea for a massive network at scale, in a country that has north of 1.3 billion people. My first reaction was, “What do I know about India? I have colleagues, but I have never really been there.”

It seemed like an interesting opportunity, and he encouraged me to go meet the executive leadership team of Reliance Jio. I remember flying to Dallas to have a conversation with three leaders that I didn’t really know at the time. One of them in particular, I have to tell you, the more he talked, the more I just wanted to listen. I was amazed by his ambition for what he wanted to achieve in the country.

What was his name?

Mukesh Ambani. I have learned quite a bit from him. India was ranked 154th in the world in mobile broadband penetration before Reliance Jio. The idea was, “Can we assemble an organization that brings ubiquitous connectivity anywhere and everywhere you go across the country? Can 1.3 billion people benefit from this massive transformation that offers cutting-edge services?”

At the time, LTE was the service that Jio launched with. I was really amazed by this ambition and how big it was. I said, “This is an opportunity I just cannot pass up.” It was much bigger than the financial reward; it was an opportunity of learning and understanding. I truly enjoy meeting different cultures. The more I interact with people from different parts of the world, the more it fuels the energy inside me.

So I picked myself up and I moved to India. I landed in the old Mumbai airport, and when I powered on my device, I saw a symbol I hadn’t seen in the US for a decade — 2G. I knew the opportunity Jio had if we did this right. I mean, think about it. 2G. What is really the definition of broadband? 256 kilobits per second? That’s not internet services. The foundation of Jio started with this.

I will tell you the big things that I have learned. Most people think the way you achieve the best pricing is through a process called request for proposals and reverse auctions, to bring vendors and partners to compete against each other. Sometimes there is a better way to do this. You find larger companies where the CEOs have emotion and connection to the idea that you are building, and are willing to work with you as a true partner.

One of the key, fundamental pillars I learned from Jio is that not everything is about status quo. How you run supplier selection, vendor selection, or requests for proposal, everything starts from the top leadership of partners you select. They need the ability to connect with the emotional journey — because it is an emotional journey after all — to do something at the scale of what Jio wanted to do. One of the biggest lessons I learned is the process of selecting suppliers who are uniquely different.

In terms of building a network at a relatively low cost, I will explain how this Open RAN idea came in. During my tenure at Jio, I really started thinking that in order to build a network at scale, regardless of how cheap your labor is, you need to fundamentally change your operating platforms for digitization. Jio would have north of 100,000 people a day working in the field, deploying sites. How do you manage them — supply them tasks, check on the quality of installation they do, and audit the work before you turn up any of the bay stations, sites, or radio units?

I have driven this entire digitization and the digital workflows associated with it to connect everybody in India, whether it is Jio employees, contractors, or distributed organizations. Up to 400,000 people at any instant of time would come to the systems that my team has built. That changed everything. It changed the mentality of how we drive cost efficiency and how we run the operations.

This is where I would tell you that big building blocks started formulating in my mind around automation and its impact to operational efficiency if you approach it with a completely fundamental point of view from the current legacy systems you find in other telcos. Because of the constraint of financial pressure on what we call the average revenue per user, the RPU, which is the measurement of how much you charge a mobile customer, I wanted to find a different way to deploy the network.

When you build a network like Jio that has to support 1.3 billion, it’s not just about these big, massive radio sites you deploy. We need things called small cells, which are products that look like Wi-Fi access points, but you deploy lots of them to achieve what we call a heterogeneous design, a design that has big and small sites to meet capacity and coverage requirements.

I prepared an amazing presentation about small cells to the leadership team of Jio and I thought I kicked it out of the park. But then I was asked a question I have never heard in my life. Imagine! I am a veteran in this industry and have been doing this for a very long time. Someone said, “Tareq, I love your strategy. Can you tell me who the chipset supplier is for the small cell product?” I’m like, “What are you talking about?” I have never been asked such a question by any operator that I have ever worked for outside of India.

I was told, “Look, Tareq, money doesn’t grow on trees in India. You need to know the cost. To know the cost, you must understand the component cost.” That was the first building block. I said, “Okay, next time I come to this meeting, I am not going to be uneducated anymore.”

I took on a small project which, at the time, did not seem audacious to me. I said, “Look, if I go to an electronics shop in the US, like a Best Buy, I could buy a Wi-Fi access point for $100. If I buy an enterprise access point from a large supplier, it costs $1,000.” I wanted to know what the difference is, so I hired five of the best university graduates one could ask for, and I asked them a trivial question. “Open both boxes, write the part numbers.” I had a really great friend at Qualcomm, and I remember this gentleman saying, “Tareq, you are becoming too dangerous.”

Right. You are the network operator. You’re their margin.

That is where everything started clicking for me. The chairman of Jio was not afraid to think the way I wanted to think, so I told him, “Look, I want to build our own Wi-Fi access point. If we buy an access point at $1,000, I am now convinced I could get you an access point at sub-$100.” A year later, the total cost of the Wi-Fi access point we built in Jio was $35.

This delta between $1,000 and $35 translates to a substantial amount of money saved, and it started by disaggregating everything. Jio enabled its cost structure, and it was able to offer it for free because it had an amazing partnership with suppliers that secured great business terms. Simplification of technology, LTE only, and an amazing process for network rollout all played huge factors in lowering the cost and economics for Jio.

Let me ask you more about that. Jio is a transformative network, and is now obviously the most popular in India. You were able to offer a much lower-cost product than the traditional cell providers with what sounds like very clever business moves. You went and negotiated new kinds of supplier agreements and you said, “We have to actually integrate our products, find lower chips at cost, and make our own products. We have to build a new, efficient way to deploy the network with our technicians.”

To your credit, those are excellent management moves. At their core though, they are not technology moves. Now that you are onto Rakuten and saying you are going to build O-RAN, that is a technology play. Broadly, it sounds like you are going to take the management playbook that made Jio work, and now you are lowering costs even further with the technology of O-RAN — or you are proving out a technology that will one day enable further lower costs.

There were two things I could not do in Jio, and it’s not really anybody’s fault, the timing just wasn’t right. If you look at building a mobile network, I think everybody now more or less understands that you need antennas, bay stations, radio access, and core network infrastructure. But unless you are in this industry, you don’t realize the complexity of the operation tools that one needs in order to run and manage this distributed massive infrastructure.

The first thing I wanted to change in Jio is the traditional architecture. This management layer is called OSS [operation subsystems], and it is archaic, to put it politely. If you work in an adjacent vertical industry such as hyperscalers, an internet-facing company, you will be scratching your head saying, “I cannot believe this is how networks are managed today.”

Despite the elegance of the Gs and changing from one to five, the process of managing a network is as archaic as you could ever imagine. The idea of a true customer experience management is aloof; it is still a dream that nobody has enabled. The first thing I wanted to do is to change the paradigm of having thousands of disaggregated toolsets to manage a network into a consolidated platform. It was an idea that I couldn’t drive in Jio. I will tell you why that is even more important than Open RAN. These building blocks are for new architecture, the next generation of OSS.

If we build these operation platforms on a new modern architecture that supports real-time telemetry, the idea is to get real-time information about every element and node that you have into your network. Being able to correlate them and apply AI machine learning on top of them requires modern-age platforms. It is so critical to my dream.

Our success will not be celebrated because of Open RAN, but the grander vision of having Rakuten talked about as a company that does what Tesla has done for the electric industry in terms of autonomy. Autonomy in mobile networks is an absolutely amazing opportunity to build a resilient and reliable network that has better security architecture and does not need the complexity of the way we run and manage networks today. That was the first building block.

The impact of these big building blocks is massive. Here is the second thing I couldn’t do in Reliance Jio at the time. If you look at a pie chart on the cost structure for mobile networks, you may say, “Where do we spend money?” Regardless of geography, regardless of country, 70 to 80 percent of your spending always goes into this thing called radio access. Radio access today has been a private club that is really meant for about four or five companies, and that’s it. There is no diversification of the supply chain. You have no option but to buy from Ericsson, Nokia, Huawei, or ZTE. Nobody else could sell you the products of radio access.

The radio access products are the base stations?

Correct. Those are the base stations.

Which are the components of the cell tower?

Yes, and they contribute to about 70 percent of the CapEx [capital expenditure]. They are the one area that no startup has ever embraced and said, “You know what? Why don’t we try to disaggregate this? Why don’t we start to move away from the traditional architecture for how these space stations are deployed? Instead of running on custom hardware, custom ASICs, let’s use true software that runs on commodity appliances equivalent to what you would find inside data centers.”

This concept has been talked about, but nobody was willing to take the risk in any startup. Maybe I was wrong that your job is secure if you pick a traditional vendor. That is what I was thinking through, four years ago.

This is like “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.”

Something like that.

Let me ask you this. Is it because the initial investment is so high? There are not many startup wireless networks in the world. When they do start, they need an enormous amount of capital just to buy the spectrum. Are the stakes too high to take that kind of risk?

I think as an industry, we make the mistake of not rewarding and supporting startups the way we should. Our ability to incubate and build a thriving ecosystem that is built on new innovations, ideas, and startups is still a dream. I do not think anyone in telecom would argue with that. The reality is that everybody wants to see it happening, but we are just not there yet.

It was complex to do what we did in Japan. It was not simple, nor was it easy. When you have a running network carrying massive amounts of traffic, of course there are risks that you are going to have to take. The risk in that case is ensuring that you don’t disrupt your running base with poor quality services. Maybe the fear in people’s minds is that this technology is not ready, or integrating it into their networks is too complex, or they don’t have the right skillset to go into a software-defined world where they will need to upscale or hire new organization.

You said that right now the four vendors are Ericsson, Nokia, Huawei, and ZTE. You have moved to Open RAN, open radio access, in Japan. Do you have more vendors than those four? Are you actually using the commodity hardware with the software to find network? Or is it still those four vendors but now you can run your code on them?

The foundation of success for Rakuten Mobile today started by Rakuten itself enabling and acquiring one of the most destructive companies in this Open RAN space. We bought a company in Boston called Altiostar, and I thought they had everything one could dream about, except nobody was willing to supply them a chance. I diversified my hardware supply chain and purchased hardware through 11 suppliers. I mandated where manufacturing can happen, in terms of product, security, and chipsets. Also, the era that we entered focused on heightened security, especially around 5G. I felt really good about our ability to control manufacturing and supply chain.

The software Altiostar provided was the radio software for this entire open access network in Japan. Altiostar software is now running over 290,000 radiating elements. I mean, this is massive; 98 percent of the population coverage of Japan is served there.

I supply huge credit to the large vendors. Nokia had a very big internal debate when I told them, “I want to buy your hardware, but not your software.” I know their board had to approve it, but this is the beauty of software disaggregation. Now, I buy one hardware aspect of the Nokia and Altiostar is running the radio software for that platform. We now have a diversified supply chain and we are no longer just counting on four hardware suppliers. We have a common software stack. The big building block, which is this OSS, has enabled our own platforms and tools.

Rakuten has purchased Altiostar from Boston. We have purchased an innovative cloud company in Silicon Valley called Robin.io for our Edge Cloud. We have purchased the OSS company called InnoEye and formulated this integrated technology stack that is now part of Rakuten Symphony.

You have described Rakuten’s network as being in the cloud several times. Very simply, what does it mean for a wireless network to be cloud-based?

To supply you an image, four years ago I was asked to do a keynote in Japan on my first day there. Thanks to my translator, I think people understood the concepts I was explaining to them. I said, “Here is an image of what we don’t want to build.”

If I show you how to deliver voice and video messaging, most of the telecom networks across the world, even today, are still running into boxes of hardware. Having a cloud network means that your workloads are now moved away from proprietary implementation, to a complete network function software components. These software components run with the beauty of what is called microservices for software, and run with the elegance of things that cloud inherently supports, like capacity management, auto-elasticity, scale in, and scale out.

This is basic terminology. I’m not telling you about things that have been invented by Rakuten Mobile. It is thanks to Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, who have innovated like crazy on the cloud. I have just benefited from the innovation that they have done to deliver on scalability, resiliency, reliability, and a cost efficiency that one could never have imagined.

When it comes to the cost, this is a hyper-operation structure. There are 279,000 radiating elements, and the operational hit count in Rakuten Mobile is still sitting below 250 people.

That’s crazy.

As the number increases, there is no direct proportionality between the number of units in the network versus the number of employees in the network. There is absolutely no direct correlation whatsoever anymore. To me, that is what cloud is all about. All the things on top of it are modules that you need to derive to the operational efficiency that we did in Japan.

From an end user perspective, you have now architected this network differently. You have created a small revolution in the wireless industry from the provider level, where you can buy any hardware from 11 suppliers and run your software on it. Does the end user see an appreciable difference in quality? Or does it just lower the cost?

There is a huge difference from the end user point of view. One of the key reasons that Rakuten was encouraged and supported was because we were determined to enter the mobile segment in Japan. We felt that competition was stagnant, and the cost per user is one of the most expensive in the world.

To benefit the end consumer, we took a chapter from Jio’s strategy on lowering the cost burden economically. We did something that was so simple. At the time, the average plan rate in Japan was sitting about $100 US per user. We dropped that cost to $27 US, unlimited, no caps. When you go inside our stores, we change everything. We said, “Look, you don’t need to think about the plans. There is only one plan. That’s it.”

From a choices point of view, we made life super simple. We bundled local, we bundled international, we bundled everything under one local plan, and we tied it synergistically to the larger ecosystem of Rakuten. You acquire points as you buy things on e-commerce, as you buy things on our travel website, as you buy things from Rakuten Energy, or as you subscribe to Rakuten Bank. You could then use these points to pay off your cellular bill. The $27 could effectively be zero, because of the synergistic impact of other services you consume in Rakuten and the points you acquire from all of them.

Would Rakuten Mobile be profitable at $27 a customer? Is it being subsidized by the larger Rakuten?

We have to be profitable. Spectrum here is not auctioned in Japan; we are allocated spectrum, but there are conditions to it. You cannot just run a business that is not profitable standalone. So we will break even in Rakuten Mobile and make it standalone.

The way I think about it, it is not subsidized by the ecosystem. If I acquire you as a mobile customer, because of the impact I could bring to that larger sales contribution of you potentially buying from e-commerce or travel, I am using connectivity to empower the purchases of these 70-plus internet services, so we are actually contributing to the larger group. As long as the total top line revenue is increased because of mobile contribution, the group as a whole is going to be in good shape.

Even with standalone mobile, we are committed to our break-even point. We need to make it a profitable standalone business. The group as a whole has remarkable synergistic impact in our business. That is the benefit in value.

Now there is another benefit on the network architecture. Today we talk about the essence of marketing with Edge. The definition is so simple. It is all about bringing content as close to your device as humanly possible, to bring content close to you. I would always argue, if you have nothing but virtual machines or network functions that are software, the ability for you to move these software components from large data centers and all the way to the Edge is trivial. Hardware reallocation becomes more complex.

When the Edge use cases in Rakuten Mobile get delivered, you are hopefully going to hear some very amazing news about the lowest latency in the world delivered over the 5G network. This is the beginning of what is possible for new use cases for the consumer.

Think of cloud gaming. It has never been successful, at least in wireless, because networks could not sustain the latency that it would require. Speed, in my opinion, is a stupid metric to talk about. We should talk about latency, latency, latency! How do you deliver sub-4-millisecond latency on a wireless network?

It hasn’t happened yet on licensed spectrum, but I think you are going to see it very soon. There is an advantage to this software architecture and the creation of new age applications for cloud gaming. Even as we talk, people are getting excited about the metaverse, which will need these use cases to come alive in the mobile fabric.

So you have talked about Open RAN, how you have built it, how you have architected the network for Rakuten Mobile, how you have new software layers, and how you have new hardware relationships. You are also the CEO of Rakuten Symphony, which is the company inside Rakuten that would then license all these components to other vendors. Dish Network in this country is one of those providers, and they are at the beginning stages of trying to build a brand new greenfield Open RAN 5G network. If you were going to build an Open RAN network in the United States, how would you do it?

My focus would probably be a lot different than many people would think. It is not about technology. I have never in my life approached a problem where I think technology is the issue. We do not supply ourselves enough credit for how creative we are as human beings and our ability to solve complex problems.

The first thing I would start with is structure, organization, and culture. What is the culture you need to have to do amazing, disruptive things? When I moved to Japan, I didn’t know anything about it. I always knew that I wanted to visit, but I didn’t know about the complexities and challenges I would have to face. I mean, imagine being in the heart of Tokyo, being largely driven and supported by an amazing leadership team that says, “The world is your canvas, hire from anywhere.”

I have brought in 17 nationalities — relocated, not as expats, as full-time employees in our office in Japan. Being this diversified, multicultural organization was the key. I did my own recruiting and handpicked my team. My focus was initially to find people with the spirits of warriors, that were willing to take on tough challenges and the bruises that came along with them, that would not get discouraged by people telling them something would not work.

Long story short, I would not build a network that has looked the same for 30 years. I would not build a network just because Rakuten has done it this way. I think networks of the future must have this essence of software and must have autonomy built into its DNA. This is not just about Open RAN, this is a holistic approach for fundamental transformation in the network architecture.

I ask this question a lot and the answers always surprise me. Most companies that I think of as hardware companies, once they make the investment in software, they end up with more software engineers than hardware engineers. Is that the case for you?

I have no hardware engineers at all. None. I think from the beginning, this was done by design. I knew that I could create an ecosystem in hardware, and I don’t want to be in the hardware business. From a fundamental business model, I had enough credible relationships in this industry to cultivate and create an ecosystem for people that just enjoy being in hardware design. But that is not us; it is not our fabric, not our DNA.

The more I look at the world, the more I see the success of companies that have invested heavily into the right skill sets, whether it is from data science, AI, ML, or the various software organizations that they have built. This is what I thought we needed.

If you go to Rakuten Symphony’s largest R&D center in India, we now have over 3,500 people that only do software. To me, that is an asset that is unprecedented in terms of the extent of capability, what we could build, what we could deliver, and the scale that we could deliver at. I don’t want to invest in hardware. I just think that it is not my business.

Our investment is all about platform. I really enjoy seeing the advancements that we have enabled, though we are still early in this journey. I have a lot of other things I want to accomplish before I say that Symphony has succeeded.

Symphony is a first-of-its-kind company, since it is going to sell a new kind of operating platform to other carriers. Do you have competitors? Do you see this being the next turn of the wireless industry? Are we going to see other platform integrators like Symphony show up and say to carriers, “Hey, we can do this part for you. You can focus on customer service or fighting with the FCC or whatever it is that carriers do”?

To be very honest with you, I love the idea of having more competitors in this space. It challenges my own team to stay on top of their toes, which is really good. At the same time, having more entrants come into the space would help me cultivate the hardware ecosystem today.

Symphony is uniquely positioned; there are not a whole lot of people that could provide the integrated stack that Symphony has. Symphony’s biggest advantage is that it has a running, live lab carrying a large commercial customer base called Rakuten Mobile. Nobody tells me, “Don’t do this or that on Rakuten Mobile.” I could do disruptive ideas or disruptive innovation, and test and validate new products and technologies before giving them to anybody else.

It’s good to be the CEO of both.

I know. This is one of the reasons I accepted and volunteered. I thought for the short term, it would be important to be able to control these two ecosystems, because Japan is a quality-sensitive market. If I build a high-quality network, nobody will doubt whether Symphony’s technology stack is credible, scalable, reliable, or secure. We are uniquely positioned because of our ability to deliver on a robust automation platform, Open RAN software technology architecture, and innovative Edge Cloud software.

I don’t see many in the industry that have the technology capabilities today that Symphony offers. People have bits and pieces of what we have, but when I look at the integrated stack, I’m really happy to see that we have some unique intellectual properties and IPs that are remarkably differentiated from the market today.

So Dish is obviously a client. We will see how their network goes. Are you talking to Telefónica, Verizon, and British Telecom? Are they thinking about O-RAN in this way?

Since it’s public in the US, I can talk about it. As I mentioned before, it is not just about the O-RAN discussion for me, it is about the whole story. We announced in the last Mobile World Congress that AT&T is working with Rakuten Symphony on a few disruptive applications around the digital workflow on the operation for wireless and wireline, the same as Telefónica in the UK and Telefónica in Germany. Our first big breakthrough was an integrated stack.

In the heart of Europe, in Germany, we are the supplier for a new greenfield operator called 1&1. I told the CEO of 1&1 that my dream is to build Rakuten 2.0 in Germany, so we are building the entire fabric of this network. It has been an amazing journey to take all the lessons learned from Japan and be able now to bring them to Germany. We are in the early stages, but I am really optimistic to see what the future will hold for Open RAN as a whole for Symphony.

Rakuten Mobile and Rakuten Symphony have opened a well-needed, healthy debate in the industry about radio access supplier alternatives and diversification that we need in order to move away into a software-driven network. We feel that is a big accomplishment for us.

As you build out the O-RAN networks, one thing that we know very well in the United States is that our handset vendors — Apple, Samsung, Google, Motorola — are very picky about qualifying their devices for networks.

Oh yes.

Is there a difference in the conversation between a traditional network and an O-RAN network, when you go and talk to the Apples and Samsungs of the world?

Yes. Before we were approved as a mobile company to be able to sell their devices, I have to tell you about the pleasure of working with the likes of Apple. I’m being really honest about this; I really liked it. Their burden to quality was really high, as was their ability to accept and certify a quality of network. I thought if we got the certification that we needed from them, that’s another third-party audit; I would have cleared a big quality hurdle.

The Apple engineering team is really strong. They really understood the technology, which was great. There are a lot of facets to do with it that are fascinating. No matter how great it is, I had to pass a set of KPIs and metrics for device certification. This was not trivial. I went through the same journey with Jio, so I kind of have some ideas about the burdens to acceptance from large device manufacturing companies. I also knew that this is a process of identifying issues, solving them, coming back to the device vendors, and continuing to reiterate in improving the quality.

I went through the same journey in mobile, but just slightly after our commercial launch, when we got our commercial certification on being able to sell Apple devices, that was a big relief for all of us. A big relief, because it means that we have reached a quality level that they deem is minimally acceptable to carry the device.

Of course we monitor the quality every day, so I’m really happy that we have done this. We have proven that the Open RAN network, especially the software that we have built in Japan, is running with amazing reliability. Rather than celebrating our courageous attempt to do something good for everybody, the early days of our journey were all about skepticism. Like, “This will not work. This will not work.”

Was Apple more skeptical of your network going into tests than others since the technology is different?

The device vendors were very supportive. The skepticism came from the fear, uncertainty, and doubt from traditional OEMs and vendors who wanted to tell everybody that this technology is horrible. It was to such an extent I ignored everything. I still do today. I say you cannot argue the benefit of cloud brought to IT and enterprise. There is an indisputable benefit to this. When it comes to telco, why would you argue the advantage and benefit of moving all your workloads to the cloud?

I think this debate is ending, and it is ending much quicker and in a better place for everybody. I have huge admiration for what Apple has done. It’s a really impressive company. The more that we continue to engage with them, the more we can tell that this company is obsessed with quality. I thought if we cleared the hurdle of getting their acceptance, then it shows another validation for us that we are running a high-quality network. They are a strategic, critical part of our supplier ecosystem today in Japan.

Let me flip this question around real quick. One of my favorite things about the Indian smartphone market is how wide open it is on the device side. This is something that happened after Jio rolled out, but I was friends with a former editor of Gadgets 360 in India, Kunal Dua, and he told me, “My team covers 12 to 15 Android phone launches a week.”

The device market is wide open, you can connect anything, there are dual SIMs, and the genuine consumer experience of picking a phone is of unlimited choice. That is not the case in the United States or in other countries. What do you think the benefits of that are? I am quite honestly jealous that there is that much choice in that market.

I think a couple of things in India really benefit the country quite a bit. When you have massive volume, people are intrigued to enter these economies that exist. Certain things have changed in Japan as well. The government policies are mandating the support for open device ecosystems.

In our case, we even told them that 100 percent of our device portfolio will support eSIM, which gives you the ability and flexibility to switch carriers within one second. You can just say, “Oh, I don’t like this. I like this.” The freedom of choices is just unparalleled. We, as Rakuten Mobile, changed the business model. We said, “Look, we will enable eSIM. There are no fees for termination of contracts. There are no fees for anything. If you don’t like us, you can leave. If you do like us, you are part of our family.”

We made it really simple, because it is a dream for us to build an open ecosystem. We are trying to see if it is relatively successful to open up a storefront for open device markets, since we own a very large e-commerce website. Come in, purchase, and acquire.

The difference between India and the US is that India does not subsidize the device. As a consumer in the US, you have been trained that you can buy an iPhone by signing a contract, and the iPhone will be subsidized by the carrier. A consumer could benefit from this open device ecosystem, but there would have to be a mentality change. Will a consumer accept the idea that they have to buy a device? From a carrier point of view, I still argue that if they don’t subsidize, maybe they could lower the cost of their tariffs.

It is still an evolution. For us in mobile, we have pretty much adopted what India has done. We said, “bring your own device,” and we promoted all these devices that you are talking about in India. We brought them into our e-commerce site. In Japanese, it is called Ichiba. So we brought them to the Ichiba website, gave them a storefront, let them advertise, and let them market. Our website has a massive amount of daily active users that come to it, and we do not necessarily benefit from selling their devices, but we don’t want to subsidize any device. That is subjective.

What is the biggest challenge of O-RAN? You have a long history in this industry. I’m sure many challenges are familiar to you in building a traditional network. What is the biggest, most surprising challenge of building it in this way?

Let me tell you the part that I was surprised about. Some parts were easier, some more difficult. If I take you to a traditional base station and we examine what is really there at this radio site, we will find that almost 95 percent of every deployment is the same. Basically, there is a big refrigerator cabinet, and inside this cabinet there is something called the base band. This is the brain of the base station. This base band was built on custom ASICs that large companies needed to constantly invest into this hardware development for.

The first thing that we have done is remove the software and move it into what is called cuts appliances, off-the-shelf appliances, like a traditional data center server. I recognize that the software only gets better; there are no issues with software. The difficult part was that the hardware components you need for the base station are really complex.

At every site, there is an antenna that has a transmitting unit, called either a remote radiohead, or massive MIMO in 5G. These products need to support a huge diversity of spectrum bands, because in every country there are different spectrum bands and different bandwidth. If you are a traditional supplier — say Nokia, Ericsson, Huawei, ZTE — these companies have invested in a large organization, with tens of thousands of people, whose entire job is to create this massive hardware that could support all these diversified spectrum bands.

My number-one challenge with Rakuten Mobile is to find these hardware suppliers, because there are not a whole lot of them for Open RAN. The hardware suppliers that could support diversified spectrum requirements — because country to country it will be different — turned out to be a really big challenge. The approach that we have taken in Japan is to go to middle-size companies and startups. I funded them and encourage them to build the hardware that we need.

My biggest challenge and my biggest headache is spending time trying to find a company that has capability and scale to become the hardware supplier for Open RAN at the right cost structure. The hardware you need for both 4G and 5G is not to be underestimated. I think it is easier to solve the issues around some of the RF units that one would need for these base stations. This is my personal challenge, and I know the industry as a whole needs to solve for this.

I know these are complicated products, but are these companies panic that it is a race to the bottom? Most PC vendors ship the same Intel Processor, the same basic parts, and they have to differentiate around the edges or do services for recurring revenue. We talk about this on Decoder all the time. The big four that you mentioned sell you the whole stack and then charge for service and support. That is a very high-margin business. If you commoditize the hardware and say, “I am going to run my own software,” do those companies worry it is just a race to the bottom?

Let’s differentiate between large companies and new entrants. I think new entrants in hardware are comfortable and content, understanding the value they provide by being commodity suppliers. Let me supply you an analogy. Let’s say Apple uses Foxconn to manufacture its devices. I am sure Foxconn will not tell you they are unhappy about this business model. It has built their entire strategy around high-value engineering, high-yield, and high-capacity manufacturing, because that is how they make revenue. They do not bundle support services.

I found that the new age manufacturing companies I was looking for were companies like Foxconn. Companies that understand the new business model that I want to create.

The most amazing thing that the US, and some companies are probably not aware of, is the elegance that we have in the United States around silicon companies. It is amazing how they genuinely are one of the most innovative in the world in terms of capability. It still exists in the US; we still control this. Today, Qualcomm, Intel, Nvidia, Broadcom, and many other companies, provide a lot of technology in a way that is needed for these products. We go and build reference designs directly with the silicon companies, and then I take that reference design, go to a contract manufacturer, and say, “Build this reference design.”

This new way of working seems like the future. Hopefully one day, for the hardware supply chain ecosystem, many companies like Foxconn will start to exist and will appreciate the value they need to build hardware for all suppliers. Maybe Ericsson or Nokia will one day have to look and evaluate a pivoting opportunity to go into a software world that may have a much better valuation.

Look at the stock price of traditional telecom companies today. Look at the stock price of ServiceNow, a digital workflow tool. Look at the difference between them. One is a complete SaaS model; one lives on a traditional business model. I don’t think the market appreciates and recognizes that this may be the right thing to do.

It seems like it is inevitable. It is just a matter of time for traditional vendors to start pivoting. I want this hardware to be commoditized. It is very important. The value you compete on has to be software, it cannot be hardware.

Rakuten Mobile is only a couple years old. It is the fourth carrier in Japan, and you have 5 million subscribers. Japan is a big country. KDDI has 10X the subscribers. Is the ambition to be the number one carrier, like Jio became the number one carrier in India? How would you get there?

I am really proud about what we have done in Japan. I think for many people that have been through this journey of building networks, they will know it is not a trivial process. We had two pragmatic challenges.

First, we had to prove to the world that a new technology actually works and delivers on cost, resiliency, and reliability. That’s a check mark; done. That is not just me telling you today, but audited by a third party. Look at the performance, quality and reliability we do. Second, if you are in the mobile business, I think you have one area that new technology cannot easily solve for you. You need to have ubiquitous coverage everywhere and anywhere you go.

I am not sure if you have ever visited Tokyo, Japan, but you should know this is a concrete jungle. It’s amazing. The density that exists in an area like Tokyo, the subways and the coverage you have to provide for them, and the amount of capacity you have to cater for, is not trivial. In two years, we have been able to build a network to cater for 96 percent of Japan coverage. I have never seen the speed that a network could be built at, at this scale.

So our ambition is not to be a fourth mobile operator in Japan. It is by far to be a highly disruptive ecosystem provider in which we want to take the number-one position in this country. The approach we take here is very simple. We need to ensure that ubiquitous, high-quality coverage is delivered anywhere you go in Japan. We are almost there.

I’m not just talking about the outdoors. High-rises, indoor, deep indoor, basements, subways. Anything and everywhere you go, an amazing network must be delivered. And second is the point/membership/loyalty that I talked to you about earlier. We think that’s a huge differentiator from the competitors, just to bring a much bigger value, and being obsessed about the customer experience and the services that we have offered.

From being an infant, to where we are today, I am really happy about what the team has accomplished, but we have a lot of work that we need to focus on to finish the last remaining 3 percent of our build. That percent is extremely important to achieve the quality of coverage that we need to really be at par and better.

I know my cost today is 40 percent cheaper in running my network than any competitor in Japan. I have an advantage that is virtually impossible for anybody in Japan to compete against today around network cost structure. So that gives me a leg up on what we could do, what business models we could experiment with, and the actions that we will take. You will see us very decisive in our approach, because we don’t want just to be another carrier in Japan. We want to be leading mobile operators in this country.

All right, Tareq. That was amazing. I feel like I could talk to you for another full hour about this. Thank you so much for being on Decoder.

Thank you.

Tue, 09 Aug 2022 03:35:00 -0500 en text/html https://www.theverge.com/23297756/5g-rakuten-mobile-ceo-oran-cloud-network-decoder
Killexams : Shop Apple Certified Refurbished deals for MacBooks and iPads up to 15% off

usatoday.com cannot provide a good user experience to your browser. To use this site and continue to benefit from our journalism and site features, please upgrade to the latest version of Chrome, Edge, Firefox or Safari.

Fri, 05 Aug 2022 02:30:00 -0500 en-US text/html https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/reviewed/2022/08/05/apple-certified-refurbished-deals/10238693002/
Killexams : Unions are forming at Starbucks, Apple and Google. Here's why workers are organizing now No result found, try new keyword!Labor unions have formed at more than 200 Starbucks, an Apple store, Google and elsewhere. Here's how it happened and why it's unusual in retail and tech. Fri, 05 Aug 2022 01:00:01 -0500 en-us text/html https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/companies/unions-are-forming-at-starbucks-apple-and-google-heres-why-workers-are-organizing-now/ar-AA10lduM Killexams : Why This Investor Thinks Airbnb's Stock Buyback Plan Is a "Horrible" Idea No result found, try new keyword!In this podcast, Motley Fool senior analyst Tim Beyers discusses: Airbnb's questionable decision to allocate $2 billion for a share buyback plan. Match Group shares hitting a new ... Tue, 09 Aug 2022 01:55:00 -0500 en-us text/html https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/companies/why-this-investor-thinks-airbnbs-stock-buyback-plan-is-a-horrible-idea/ar-AA10tPeu Killexams : 5 Keys to Developing an Innovation Mindset for Your Next New Initiative

In my experience with business leaders, real innovation thinking is rare compared to the urge to add just one more feature to an existing product or make a small tweak to an existing business model.

I call this linear thinking, and it's a sure way to be ultimately overrun by your competition. I'm convinced this doesn't have to happen if you are willing to adopt an innovation mindset.

For example, BlackBerry was really the first in the smart mobile phone market, but the company never thought beyond their tiny physical keyboard as they added new features. Meanwhile, Apple and Google came up with real innovation through touchscreen logic and a whole new user interface controlled by finger swipes and even voice and image recognition. BlackBerry was left behind.

For most of us, the longer we have done things a certain way, the harder it is to think outside the box and find more innovative ways to change. Yet I believe it is possible -- and even more fun -- to challenge your thinking and practices, to develop that innovative mindset that can keep you on the forefront of business. Here are a few key initiatives that I always recommend:

1. Look outside your normal scope for alternatives.

One way to do this is to nurture mentoring relationships with experts in other disciplines, as Bill Gates did with Warren Buffett. Plus you can challenge yourself to keep abreast of technology advancements in related industries, looking for a fit in your own. Always practice thinking outside the box.

For example, Elon Musk, who owns many battery patents, normally kept for a competitive edge, decided to open them all to any competitors in an effort to expand the market for his electric vehicles. The result is that Tesla is leading the industry in growth for all vehicles.

2. Challenge every "business-as-usual" addition you see.

Make clear to your team and everyone around you that the "normal" thinking pattern and culture is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. Generously reward your team for learning from innovative ideas, including failures. Keep a list of changes evaluated and tag each as linear or innovative.

In particular, new generations of customers, including Millennials, are often looking for something really innovative, as the fashion industry has found out many times. The linear change in year-to-year fashions that has served you well may soon be your downfall.

3. Develop a welcoming mindset for new trends and change.

You need to see these as opportunities for growth and a chance to get ahead of competition. Don't wait for a crisis to force change thinking. Promote change in team culture and provide support through smart hiring, attending industry conferences, and periodic training for all team members. 

It's easy to jump to the conclusion after some initial business success that you can relax and keep doing what you're doing without further pivots. My advice is never to fall into that trap and remember that change is the norm, so face reality. 

4. Develop strategic partnerships with key industry players.

This will allow you to take advantage of complementary strengths and new ways of thinking. It will also force you to look more broadly both in your industry and outside for innovative ways to combine new customer sets, resources, and ways to use existing assets to grow your business. 

With today's pervasive internet and a global economy, the opportunities are endless. There is some evidence that strategic pairing of wildly different companies has tremendous value for both and leads to some of the most innovative growth strategies. 

5. Initiate a regular program of customer experiments.

It's always good to ask customers what they want, but it's even better to supply them something new to evaluate before you roll it out in a big way. I recommend that you set targets -- like planning for a new experiment each month -- and then measure each for acceptance and return impact. 

Amazon has long been a leader in change experiments, and Jeff Bezos credits much of his growth and success to this initiative. He believes that if you double the number of experiments per year, you're going to double your ability to outpace the competition.

In all cases, even with the right mindset, it's important to remember that coming up with innovative ideas and implementing them requires more than a flash of inspiration and much perspiration. It requires a rigorous process, great leadership, and a committed team. If business success is important to you, I recommend that you start today on all the initiatives outlined here.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

Wed, 13 Jul 2022 06:35:00 -0500 en text/html https://www.inc.com/martin-zwilling/5-keys-to-developing-an-innovation-mindset-for-your-next-new-initiative.html
Killexams : A Definitive Guide To Every Kind Of Apple

"For just $45, you can bring home $10 worth of apples," Kate McKinnon said in a Saturday Night Live sketch poking fun at apple picking.

"Select from our varieties like huge soft," Aidy Bryant continued.

"Tiny hard," McKinnon said.

"Green."

"Orange."

"And apple," they both said together.

That's a pretty accurate representation of what apple picking can feel like. You come home with a ton of different types of apples and have no idea what to do with them. Should you make apple pie? Apple sauce? Apple cider? Apple crisp? And what types of apples work best for each recipe?

Worry no more. We put together this guide to all the common apple varieties with the help of two apple experts. Arnold Wilkerson founded Little Pie Company back in 1985. The New York City bakery is known for their Sour Cream Apple Walnut Pie, which is served all year long. "We had to source apples that would be available in New York year-round," Wilkerson said. "We were also looking for a nice firm texture and consistency with just the right amount of ripe apple flavor and bright acidity." They landed on Golden Delicious, a sweeter variety, and Granny Smith, a more tart variety. Mixing the tart and sweet apples is good practice when baking for a more complex flavor. But the two also have a firm texture that won't turn to mush in the oven.

We also reached out to James Rich, author of the cookbook Apple: Recipes from the Orchard. He is a big proponent of mixing apples when cooking. "The trick is to get the right mixture of varieties that will reduce to a sauce-like consistency and those that will keep their shape and texture for that all-important bite," he said. "For baking, you want something that will keep its shape. [For applesauce], the best varieties are those that break down and form a creamy, sweet sauce. My personal favorites for snacking on are varieties that are super crisp and tart."

Down below, you'll learn about 15 common types of apples and which applications they work best for—baking, snacking, sauce, cider, and more. Just remember, for the best-tasting dishes, use a combination of sweet and tart apples.

Sarah Ceniceros - Hearst Owned

Fri, 05 Aug 2022 06:47:00 -0500 en-US text/html https://news.yahoo.com/definitive-guide-every-kind-apple-184700835.html
Killexams : Apple: Let's All Pay Tribute To Jony Ive
Apple Debuts Latest Products

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News

Thesis

My last article on Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) was co-produced with Envision Research earlier this month. That article analyzed why AAPL is a good candidate for an inter-generational account. Shortly after that article, I read the news on July 13 that Jony Ive, AAPL's former Chief Design Officer, has officially ended his relationship with AAPL.

I have been thinking over and preparing this article since then. This new article is totally "new" in that it just wants to pay tribute to Jony Ive. In my mind, Jony Ive, together with Steve Jobs, transitioned (or more precisely, elevated) AAPL from a tech business to the most successful luxury brand (or fashion brand if you want to call it).

Tech caters to a pretty strong and eternal human need: the need to do things faster. But luxuries cater to an even stronger human need: the need to be different. And in my view, this is the key difference between AAPL and pretty all the other big tech names. This differentiation is the key to why I feel comfortable investing in AAPL not only for myself but also in our inter-generational account. Tim Cook's went a step further and make AAPL also the most efficiently run luxury brand.

With this, let's dive in and see Ive's legacy, together with Tim Cook's opportunities and challenges ahead, more closely.

Brief recap: Jony Ive and AAPL

Jony Ive's partnership with AAPL started about 30 years ago. Ive had either led or left his touch on the design of pretty much every AAPL device - both hardware and software - in the past 3 decades starting from its Newton (introduced back in 1993) all the way to the more latest AAPL watch and augmented reality headset.

In his earlier days with AAPL, it was an understatement to say that design was not the focus of the business, and Jony Ive planned to leave. However, everything changed when Steve Jobs came back to take over AAPL in 1997. Both of them share an almost paranoid pursuit of design (and also dyslexia).

The first-generation iMac short after Jobs' return serves as a good example as you can see from the photo below. The translucent shell may not seem the sleekest design today. But compared to the mainstream designs (e.g., the IBM models at the same time), it was an immediate hit and sold more than 800k units in the year of its release.

Graphical user interface, website Description automatically generated

Author

Elevation from mundane hardware to a luxury brand

As mentioned above, Tech caters to the eternal human need to do things faster. But luxuries cater to an even stronger human need: the need to be different. Thanks to Ive and Jobs' wicked talent for design and marketing, AAPL is the one tech company (the only one to my knowledge) that successfully completed the elevation from a tech business into a luxury brand. You can see that its margin is comparable to or even higher than top luxury brands such as LVMH Moët Hennessy - Louis Vuitton (OTCPK:LVMHF), both boasting EBITDA margins above 30%. In contrast, the most successful computer (or hardware in general) typically earns a fraction of the margin. Probably, the elevation is even more vivid when we descend from the forest level, and we look closer at some of AAPL's specific products in the next section.

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Seeking Alpha

The pricing power

Here I want to draw your attention to the following chart and use the Mac Pro as an example to showcase AAPL's pricing power and its fashion nature. It is a busy chart with quick a bit of information. But the gist just jumps out: the pricing is outlandish, but people are still flocking to buy.

Take the then-new Mac Pro 2019, for example. The base configuration cost $5,999, not only far above the most powerful Mac ever sold but also far above any other topline laptop even in today's market. Fast-forward to now, the trend continues. The newly released 2022 Mac Pro starts with a base price of $3,499. And once you pick some larger memory and hard drive, the price tag rises to $6,099 - even before any software or accessories. Yet, users are more than willing to pay such premier pricing - a hallmark of a successful luxury brand.

Chart, line chart Description automatically generated

Source: 512 Pixels

According to this Dediu report, with 7% of the global market shared, the Mac series captures almost 60% of all the profit in the global laptop market. And Apple keeps gaining market share, as Macs sales grow twice the rate of other PC brand names in Q4 2022.

As a result, in terms of bottom-line margin, AAPL is even more successful than the top luxury brand as you can see from the following chart. Its net profit margin consistently exceeds 20%, leading LVMH consistently by about a whopping 10% over the years. And the most successful computer businesses (or hardware in general) such as DELL again only earn a fraction of what AAPL earns.

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Seeking Alpha

Jony Ive's legacy and Tim Cook's challenges ahead

In his book entitled "After Steve," Tripp Mickle predicted that Jony Ive's departure would be enough to wipe out 10% percent of the company's stock price. This, of course, is not what has happened. And in a way, this is an even better demonstration of Ive's legacy. It signals that Ive and Jobs' design-first spirit has been institutionalized at APPL and has become part of its DNA.

Tim Cook went a step further and made AAPL also the most efficiently run luxury brand (and one of the most efficient tech businesses too). AAPL, thanks to Cook's unmatched operational prowess, outperforms both tech businesses and luxury brands in most of the operating metrics such as inventory turnover, asset turnover, days of inventory outstanding et al. As an example, you can see that AAPL's inventory turnover rates are currently about 17x higher than LVMHF and more than 3x higher than DELL.

Looking forward, globalization is suffering a setback in latest years (due to trade wars, pandemics, the Russian/Ukraine war, et al.). And AAPL will be facing a new set of challenges managing its global logistic chains, as detailed next.

Chart, line chart Description automatically generated

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Final thoughts and risks

I wish Jony Ive the best of luck with his post-Apple days. I will be keenly forward to seeing his new designs with his new LoveFrom clients (which include Airbnb and Ferrari).

At the same, I also wish AAPL the best in the post-Ive era. I see a very clear division of labor for Apple's design after Ive's departure. Its Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams will continue to oversee the design teams. Its industrial design will be led by Evans Hankey and software design by Alan Dye. As aforementioned, I feel Ive's legacy has been institutionalized at APPL and has become part of its DNA. And I trust the new team to keep coming out with designs to keep surprising and thrilling AAPL users.

In terms of other future challenges, Tim Cook is facing a post-globalization challenge. These challenges are articulated in the following question from Citigroup analyst Jim Suva during the last earnings report (slightly edited and emphases added by me). On the one hand, as Cook acknowledged, "in this business, you don't want to hold a ton of inventory". On the other hand, the rewind of globalization requires AAPL to work more strategically with cycle times and hold strategic inventory in places where you need the buffer. It will be a new set of challenges for Cook (or his successor) to find a new balance.

When we hopefully someday get past all of these (COVID, power outages, trade wars, shipping challenges), do you start to reconsider the way you do the supply chain albeit just-in-time ordering and outsourcing so much of your chips? Or do you actually consider like holding more buffer inventory internally?

Thu, 21 Jul 2022 03:58:00 -0500 en text/html https://seekingalpha.com/article/4524916-apple-lets-all-pay-tribute-to-jony-ive
Killexams : Ranking Recession Readiness: Apple's Debt And Receivables Are Key Weaknesses
Economy Crash

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In 2008, at the start of the Great Recession, the iPhone was in its infancy, with the first generation having only just been released in June 2007, while the MacBook series was also in its early days, launching in February 2006. These revolutionary products came out right before the largest financial crash the world had seen in a long time.

But despite the chaos of the world surrounding the firm, 2008 marked the beginning of some of the most numerous and innovative product releases in Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) history, constantly reinventing its product line and disrupting itself!

And with this backdrop in mind, Apple now faces a new era of challenges as the Fed battles rising inflation by hiking rates that may well drive the US into a recession, amid the Great Resignation with firms struggling to attract or retain talent, the war in Ukraine causing chaos in oil and food prices, and COVID. The world could really do with some more 2008 Apple right about now.

So let’s delve into Apple and review how the firm is placed to tackle a recession this time around.

Ranking Recession Readiness is a series of articles I’m authoring based on academic research along with advice from business leaders who took their firms through the Great Recession of 2008, to help investors identify which top 100 US firms are positioned to strive through a downturn, and which firms will stumble.

A full breakdown of the methodology and explanation behind the calculations is available in my introductory article, Ranking Recession Readiness: Is Google Prepared For The Recession?

(Data & prices correct as of pre-market 13th July, 2022)

(The Top 100 US Firms referred to can be found on this Seeking Alpha screener)

Want to skip the articles and dive right into the data? You can download my data and calculations here and see how the Top 100 US Firms compare on Recession Preparedness

Apple’s Base Financial Health

Starting with Apple’s overall financial health, we’ll take a peek under the hood to see how Apple is performing currently in today’s economic climate compared to the Top 100 US Firms.

Apple financial health

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We’re not off to a great start with Apple unfortunately, with a quick ratio well below its peers and a lot more debt than most blue-chip stocks. In the context of a prolonged and deep recession and compared to the peer group, I have to rate Apple’s quick-ratio and debt to equity ratios as downsizing risks to the firm.

Turning to profitability, there are no issues here, with margins leading the peer group.

Next we’ll look closely at Apple’s obligations structure.

Apple’s obligations structure

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A 7% ST Debt to LT Debt ratio is not significant in most cases, but as you’ll see above it’s significantly more than most firms in the top 100 list hold, so I will have to penalise Apple slightly here, though I don't hold any grave concerns about it.

Further, these debts are most certainly well serviced with a covered ratio of 43, keeping in mind the significant size, and a quick ratio of 0.93 shouldn’t keep us up at night.

Next is Apple’s dividend.

Apple dividend

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There’s not much to see here, given the dividends are well covered by both cash flow and earnings, there’s “no-comment” other than “no concern”.

Lastly, the future outlook for Apple.

Future outlook for Apple

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Again, some solid numbers here, with market leading revenue growth forecasts and a good average earnings improvement. Despite being considered a low margin improvement score for the peer group, I doubt I will have Seeking Alpha readers chase me with pitchforks if I call a 148% net margin improvement “not concerning”.

Lastly, we bring all the scores together, apply weights and see an overall picture for Apple.

Apple overall picture

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88.3% is a very respectable and passable score, though I note some risk areas including Apple’s quick ratio and debt to equity which significantly drag down the overall score. But on the whole, no concern in the current climate.

Now let’s dig a little deeper into how prepared Apple is for a recession based on the advice from the 2008 Great Recession.

Assessing Apple’s Recession Preparedness

Starting with an overview of the balance sheet, we look at the key metrics for addressing the debt and cash components of the advice from 2008.

Assessing Apple’s Recession Preparedness

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Straight off the bat we see our significant debt component, followed by a cash balance not sufficient to pay out the debt should the firm need to do so in a hurry.

There’s not much here to break down into too much detail, but seeing the quick ratio alongside a nearly $120B debt does make me pause to consider the gravity of a “worst case scenario”.

So let’s score those metrics relative to the peer group, weight them, and then see how things look.

Assessing Apple’s Recession Preparedness vs peer group

Author

As expected, the sizable debt on the balance sheet along with the poor performing quick ratio drags Apple’s Recession Readiness Score down significantly, and unfortunately the cash balance is not sufficient to Strengthen the score dramatically.

This leads to a recession readiness score of -19.23%, indicating that Apple is underprepared for a significant downturn compared to its peers, based on the advice post-2008 Great Recession.

But Apple is more than just a balance sheet. So let’s break down a more qualitative view of the firm and assess the recession narrative from other angles.

A Deeper Dive Into Apple’s Recession Readiness

From the main themes of advice from 2008, we’ve well and truly covered the discussion around debt levels and cash, so let's look at the more nuanced points of advice surrounding managing the firm on a detailed level.

A major concern for firms through a recession is selling products to customers who can’t afford to pay for them, and so as part of preparing for a recession, firms should minimise their accounts receivables.

Apple’s total receivables figure has grown largely in line with revenue growth, so while a growth story is generally considered a positive, here we see exposure to Apple’s customer’s financials.

At $45.4B, this sum represents 38.4% of total current assets, and 12.9% of total assets.

Apple total accounts receivable

AAPL total accounts receivable (Seeking Alpha)

The next piece of advice surrounds reducing inventory, as firms do not want to be holding excess stock due to the added costs, while sales revenue is lower.

Apple has a relatively modest inventory level, with $5.46B in inventory, representing 4.6% of total current assets and 1.5% of total assets.

Apple inventory

AAPL inventory (Seeking Alpha)

These two elements combined (receivables + inventory) equal 43% of total current assets, and 14.4% of total assets for Apple. This a little risky, and in the event of a serious and prolonged recession could be the source of lost equity for the firm.

The next piece of advice was centered around cutting operating costs aggressively, while avoiding layoffs of staff, due to the cost of hiring and training once the firm is ready to grow again.

For Apple, there’s very little risk here in my eyes, with 154,000 employees, the firm is generating $2,506,603 in revenue per employee, and $661,915 in profit per employee. I see no reason for Apple to consider the need for layoffs given the efficiency of its staffing numbers, save for a catastrophic recession scenario.

Apple total employees

AAPL Total Employees (Seeking Alpha)

The final piece of advice is difficult to find quantitative metrics for, but was nonetheless wise. A learning from 2008 was for firms to take the opportunity to invest heavily during a recession, due to the lower opportunity cost of capital while in a downturn.

While I can’t point to any meaningful or compelling data, I can use history as a guide, and review a pipeline of projects.

Firstly, although most people credit Steve Jobs for the success of Apple during this time, the 2008 Great Recession was a fantastic period for the business as a whole which created a marvelous list of innovative and successful products. Apple is a tech company which by its very nature is innovative, and I have no doubt that the firm has the resources and risk tolerance to invest in new projects during a downturn in order to come out stronger.

Perhaps they might scale up some exciting projects like new wearable tech, or even upscale investment into an Apple Car, to bring it to market faster.

But as far as general attitudes to investing in a recession, I have no doubts here around Apple being open to expanding CAPEX in tough times.

Closing Remarks

Unfortunately for Apple, I certainly cannot see the firm as a recommended safe haven for investors to place their capital if they were looking to park their money in safe companies headed into a recession.

For current holders assessing their portfolios and thinking about reallocating risk in the top 100 firms, I would say Apple is slightly more exposed to recession risks than most firms in the top 100, given the sizable debts, insufficient cash stockpile, oversized total receivables and inventory. There are safer opportunities than Apple heading into a recession, and so I supply the firm a weak sell recommendation.

If you’re looking for additional analysis, more focused on DCF modelling than mine, I found this great piece on Seeking Alpha worth looking at, that rated AAPL a HOLD. The author takes a view of Apple as a great dividend growth investment, a view which I would agree with, though we diverge on our opinions of the balance sheet.

If you have any questions or would like to see any particular Top 100 US Firms assessed for their recession readiness, please leave a comment and let me know (I always do my best to monitor and respond to genuine comments!).

Tue, 19 Jul 2022 22:17:00 -0500 en text/html https://seekingalpha.com/article/4524378-ranking-recession-readiness-apples-debt-and-receivables-are-key-weaknesses
Killexams : Anti-MFA phishing attacks are here to stay – businesses need to prepare

Phishing attacks devised to steal user log-on credentials are still very popular. According to the Anti-Phishing Working Group, in 1Q 2022, almost 59% of all email phishing attacks involved attempted credential theft, and the threat keeps growing. Because of this threat, a growing computer security recommendation (or requirement) has been for admins and users to implement and use multifactor authentication (MFA) instead of traditional log-on names and passwords.

Although far more log-ons still involve passwords, a growing percentage of organizations and users are using MFA to log-on at work or for other accounts. Today, the typical user has one or more MFA solutions, different ones for different sites and services, plus they still use passwords.

Many computer security organizations and vendors are trying hard to replace the remaining password instances with passwordless and MFA solutions. Apple, Google, and Microsoft have launched campaigns to get users to adopt passwordless or MFA. The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) also launched a global campaign to get more companies and people to move to MFA.

However, requiring MFA will not stop hackers from accessing our systems. There are many ways for attackers to attack and bypass MFA just like they did with systems protected by passwords. For each method a defender enables to stop an attacker, the attacker figures out a way to bypass a defense in a MFA-protected world.

Common MFA bypass trick

For example, a very common attacker ploy to hack MFA is to trick the user into typing their MFA-provided credentials (often known as one-time-passwords) into a fake web site, which are then captured and re-used by the attacker to log-on to the victim’s real web site. In this scenario, the potential victim somehow gets directed to a rogue web site, often through a phishing email. The user opens and interacts with the email thinking it’s a legitimate request from the real vendor, but really it contains a malicious link that takes the user to a bogus log-on session. The bogus log-on session can prompt the user for their MFA credentials just as easily as they could have prompted the user for their password in the past, and once captured, the attacker can use it to log-on to the victim’s web site or service.

Attackers manipulate noVNC to bypass MFA

In one example, a research article highlighted a browser-in-the-middle (BitM) attack tactic that used phishing and remote browser access via the popular noVNC/VNC program combination to bypass MFA. VNC, or Virtual Network Computing, has become a very popular, open source, remote control software program (similar to Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Protocol) that lets users remotely control a computer device. The newer BitM technique uses noVNC, a popular VNC server program, that can run in modern desktop and mobile browsers.

Attackers can set up a noVNC server on their computer and then open the log-on page of a targeted website or service on their browser. The browser must run in kiosk mode, so that the telltale signs of a browser running are hidden from the connecting user. The attacker can then send a phishing email with the VNC session link to the rogue web page disguised as the genuine log-on page.

If the victim clicks on the link, it will redirect the user’s browser to the attacker’s browser hosting the noVNC server program. Since the attacker’s browser runs in kiosk mode, the victim can only see the log-on webpage and not the taskbar, which can supply away that they are using another browser from within their browser.

If successfully tricked, the victim would authenticate himself on the attacker’s browser, where the attacker has full control of the legitimate log-on and log-on information. After the victim successfully authenticates, the attackers can then terminate the user’s originating remote session and misuse the victim’s privileges on the legitimate authenticated website or service. And if the attacker wants, they can even use the captured credentials and register their rogue device as an authorized device, so the server doesn’t require MFA in the future. The possibilities are endless.

Phishing-resistant MFA explained

Think of phishing-resistant MFA as MFA that’s more strongly immune to common social engineering attacks. Phishing-resistant MFA must not allow MitM or BitM proxy attacks easy success. MFA must stay resistant against stolen or brute-forced MFA credentials and prevent replay attacks.

The bad news: most of today's currently deployed MFA solutions are not phishing-resistant. However, businesses have many growing options for stronger phishing-resistant MFA, such as FIDO2 (Fast Identity Online) and Windows Hello for Business. Buyers and evaluators of MFA should ensure the MFA solutions they are thinking about using are phishing resistant and if what they are using today does not use phishing-resistant, look to moving to more resistant forms. Here’s a list of phishing-resistant MFA solutions.

Focus on employee education

No amount of authentication complexity or MFA solutions can better defend a company’s assets than human intelligence. Make employee security awareness training a big part of the company’s overall cybersecurity strategy. No matter how robust security defenses are, users are always only a single click away from getting breached. Security awareness training can help employees avoid that single click that takes them to a rogue site or service.

Educate all MFA stakeholders about their MFA solution, teach what the solution does and doesn’t protect against, and how to recognize and prevent common social engineering attacks against their form of MFA. Ongoing training and phishing simulations ensure that employees have first-hand experience of the latest phishing techniques and practical implementation of the security best practices everyone keeps talking about. This way, even if cybercriminals compromise advanced MFA at some point, the security team has empowered employees enough to thwart the phishing attacks, which are likely the first step of many credential theft attempts.

Stu Sjouwerman, founder and CEO, KnowBe4

Mon, 01 Aug 2022 22:00:00 -0500 en text/html https://www.scmagazine.com/perspective/security-awareness/anti-mfa-phishing-attacks-are-here-to-stay-businesses-need-to-prepare%ef%bf%bc
Killexams : This Week in Apps: French developers sue Apple, time spent in apps grows, Instagram adds NFTs

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.

Global app spending reached $65 billion in the first half of 2022, up only slightly from the $64.4 billion during the same period in 2021, as hypergrowth fueled by the pandemic has slowed down. But overall, the app economy is continuing to grow, having produced a record number of downloads and consumer spending across both the iOS and Google Play stores combined in 2021, according to the latest year-end reports. Global spending across iOS and Google Play last year was $133 billion, and consumers downloaded 143.6 billion apps.

This Week in Apps offers a way to keep up with this fast-moving industry in one place, with the latest from the world of apps, including news, updates, startup fundings, mergers and acquisitions, and much more.

Do you want This Week in Apps in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here: techcrunch.com/newsletters

Mobile users are spending 4-5 hours per day in apps

Image Credits: data.ai

Looks like we're all still addicted to our apps! A new report this week from data.ai (previously App Annie), found that consumers in more than a dozen worldwide markets are now spending four to five hours per day in apps. While the daily time spent in apps varies by country, there are now 13 markets where users are spending more than four hours per day using apps. These include Indonesia, Singapore, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, India, Japan, South Korea, Canada, Russia, Turkey, the U.S. and the U.K.

And, in three of those markets — Indonesia, Singapore and Brazil — mobile users are spending more than five hours per day in apps.

While the growth in app usage has slowed a bit from the second quarter in 2020, it’s worth noting that two years ago was the height of COVID lockdowns, which drove app usage to spike across all categories as users worked, shopped, banked, gamed and studied, and attended meetings, school and events from home. If anything, that means the slowdown in growth seen in a couple of the markets is only representative of a normalizing of trends, not a larger decline.

And some markets saw significant growth in app usage over the past two years. In the second quarter of 2020, Singapore users were spending 4.1 hours in apps. Now that’s grown to 5.7 hours. In Australia, users went from 3.6 hours to 4.9 hours from Q2 2020 to Q2 2022. Both represent a 40% rise in time spent.

French iOS developers sue Apple over App Store fees

Apple app store iOS

Image Credits: TechCrunch

Apple is facing another antitrust lawsuit over its App Store fees, this time filed by a group of French iOS app developers who are suing the tech giant in its home state of California. The plaintiffs are accusing Apple of anti-competitive practices in allowing only one App Store for iOS devices, which gives it a monopoly in iOS app distribution and the ability to force developers to pay high commissions on in-app purchases.

The complaint argues that these commissions, on top of Apple’s $99 annual developer program fees, cut into developers’ earnings and stifle innovation — and yet developers aren’t permitted to offer alternative payment methods per Apple’s App Store rules, nor can they distribute their apps to iOS users outside of the App Store, despite Apple allowing this on Mac computers.

The case is now one of several antitrust legal battles Apple is facing, including the high-profile lawsuit with Fortnite maker Epic Games, which is under appeal, and another by alternative app store Cydia.

Developers involved in the class action include Société du Figaro, the developer of the Figaro news app; L’Équipe 24/24, the developer of L’Équipe sports news and streaming app; and le GESTE, a French association comprised of France-based publishers of online content and services, including iOS app developers.

Of note, the case is being led by U.S.-based Hagens Berman law firm, which last year won a $100 million settlement against Apple over App Store policies and recently filed a $1 billion case against Apple over antitrust issues with Apple Pay. The lawyer involved also previously secured a $560 million settlement against Apple regarding e-book price-fixing and a $90 million settlement on behalf of Android developers. In France, Paris-based antitrust lawyer Fayrouze Masmi-Dazi is helping manage the claims.

New data on in-app subscriptions shows the first month is key

Subscription management service RevenueCat took a deep dive into more than 10,000 subscription apps across iOS and Android to see how subscription renewal rates stacked up. It found that monthly subscriptions had a median first renewal rate of 56%, which would increase over time. In other words, customers who didn't get value from the app would churn in the first month -- an indication of how important it is to convince users of that value in their first days using the service. In subsequent months, renewals were higher -- 75% or 81% for the second and third months, for instance.

The company analyzed its own customer base data for the analysis, but notes it's not showing all renewals on RevenueCat, as that would bias the data toward larger customers, like VSCO. Instead, it looked at the median of each individual app's renewal rates.

In addition, RevenueCat developer advocate David Barnard pointed out that a lower renewal rate may not necessarily be a bad thing, depending on the business. For instance, if the developer was acquiring users organically at a low cost, a lower rate could be better than a higher renewal rate with expensive customer acquisition costs.

Platforms: Apple

  • Apple is expanding its App Store ads. The company previously offered two ad slots, on the main Search tab and in the Search results. The new ad slots will be available on the App Store's Today tab and at the bottom of individual app pages in the "You Might Also Like" section.

  • Bloomberg reported that iPadOS 16 will be delayed about a month as Apple works on its multitasking features. The report says this would put the release in October, alongside macOS Ventura.

  • A new report indicates iOS has lost 4% of ad spend market share since the launch of ATT, which makes targeting advertising more difficult for iOS developers. Its share dropped from 34% in April, down 4% YoY according to Adjust.

  • Digiday reports Apple may be building its own demand-side platform, based on a job posting looking for a senior manager for a DSP in its ads platform business. Apple's DSP may be focused on serving ads on its own properties, like the App Store, but the company declined to confirm details.

Platforms: Google

  • Google revealed the finalists for the Indie Games Festival, which highlights some of the best games on Google Play. This year, the company is hosting the Festival in South Korea, Japan and Europe for local developers on September 3. At the European finals, Google will also reveal the 2022 class joining the Indie Games Accelerator, a program that provides indie game devs with training and mentorship.

  • Google offered a guide to Android developers as to how to support predictive back gestures, as it's making an early version of the UI available for testing with Android 13, Beta 4.

E-commerce

  • Facebook's live shopping feature is shutting down on October 1 to shift the company's focus to Reels. After this date, users will no longer be able to host new or scheduled live shopping events, but they'll still be able to use Facebook Live for other live events -- but won't be able to create product playlists or tag products in those streams.

Fintech

  • Coinbase partnered with BlackRock, which oversees $10 trillion in assets, to provide its institutional clients with access to cryptocurrency.

  • Starbucks Rewards, the coffee company's loyalty program that doles out perks for customers' purchases, will expand to include NFT rewards as part of a broader web3 push. The company said it's being advised by Starbucks Mobile Order & Pay architect Adam Brotman on the effort, where NFT rewards will translate into exclusive content and “one-of-a-kind” experiences.

  • The SEC is probing trading app Robinhood's compliance with short selling rules. The SEC has been investigating since October 2021 and requested additional info from the company in Q2 2022. Robinhood also announced headcount reductions of 23% after posting a $295 million quarterly loss. In addition, New York's State Dept. of Financial Services fined Robinhood's crypto unit $30 million for violating anti-money laundering and cybersecurity regulations.

  • An exploit in the Slope mobile wallet was possibly to blame for a major network attack that saw thousands of wallets drained of millions of dollars.

  • iOS 16 beta 4 added support for Apple Pay in non-Safari browser apps including Chrome, Firefox and Edge, likely in response to the EU's Digital Markets Act.

Social

instagram testing nfts

Image Credits: Instagram

  • Instagram expanded support for NFTs to more than 100 countries in Africa, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and the Americas after first launching a test of the new feature in May. Users will be able to connect their digital wallet, and share NFTs to the Feed, Stories or in messages. They can also automatically tag creators and collectors for attribution. The feature relies on Coinbase Wallet and Dapper integrations and the Flow blockchain.

  • Instagram head Adam Mosseri is temporarily moving to London to work from Meta's King Cross offices as the company rethinks how to shape its plan to take on TikTok with Reels.

  • TikTok is on track to overtake Facebook in influencer marketing spend in 2022, and will overtake YouTube by 2024, per an analyst report. However, Instagram this year will still capture 3x the influencer marketing dollars as TikTok, or $2.23 billion versus TikTok's $774.8 million.

  • The Washington Post reported video entertainment app Triller failed to make promised payments to a number of Black creators. Triller denied the claims.

  • Discord announced it will finally bring its Android app into parity with its iOS counterpart. The new Android app has been rebuilt with React Native, which will allow it to expedite new feature releases and bug fixes.

  • Pinterest missed on earnings and delivered zero user growth in its most latest quarter -- it's stuck at 433 million MAUs. The company cited a combination of factors for its issues, including the lingering impacts of the pandemic, reduced traffic from search engines, the rise of TikTok and — like many companies reliant on digital advertising, the broader economic environment. Still, the stock popped on the news (up 20% after hours) as revenue was close to expectations ($664.9 million) and the company was praised by new investor Elliott Investment Management.

  • Pinterest also began testing a new app, Shuffles, for collage-making and leaderboards. But the app, which includes image cut-out features and animation, requires an invite for the time being.

  • A top anonymous social app, NGL, which hit the top of the App Store earlier this summer, was forced to adjust its app to stop tricking users into thinking they had received messages from friends, when really a bot was delivering them. Both it and rival Sendit also changed their subscriptions to include more features than just "hints" about who was sending the messages.

Dating

  • Match Group said Tinder CEO Renate Nyborg is leaving after less than a year and it's reorganizing the app's management team after disappointing earnings. It also said it's not moving forward with plans for Tinder Coins, its virtual currency, nor its plans for a dating metaverse. The company wanted to characterize this stoppage as merely a pause, but did not offer any sense as to if or when it would revisit these ideas. Instead, the company spoke of plans to introduce shorter-term subscriptions on Tinder while it tries to figure out why it couldn't convince new people to try dating apps.

  • TikTok-style dating app Desti launched to match up users by fav date destinations, initially in its debut market of Austin.

Messaging

  • Kakao blamed Google's new payment policies for a decline in the number of emoji subscription purchases on the messaging app KakaoTalk. The figure dropped by a third over the year, the South Korean app maker said in its quarterly earnings call Thursday.

  • Google is merging its Meet and Duo apps. Duo is being rebranded as Meet (the mobile app will be updated with the new branding). This will include features from both of the apps. Meet will be called Google Meet (original) and will be eventually phased out in favor of the new Meet. Not confusing at all!

  • Brazilian prosecutors asked WhatsApp to delay the launch of the Communities feature in Brazil until January in order to avoid spreading misinformation about the October election.

Streaming & Entertainment

Image Credits: Spotify

  • Spotify updated its app to address a long-standing user complaint with music playback — but it’s asking customers to pay for the fix. The company announced it will introduce a separate Play Button and a Shuffle Button at the top of albums and playlists to make it easier to play the music the way you like. This replaces the combined button available before. However, the new button is only being offered to Spotify Premium subscribers, despite arguably being a UI/UX issue that should be available to all.

  • Clubhouse began beta testing a new feature, private communities called Houses, which allow a group of friends to hang out, catch up, hop from room to room and more. The Houses can be kept private and closed or users can each nominate a few friends to join.

  • Spotify's biggest playlist is getting its own video podcast. The company said Brandon "Jinx" Jenkins, the podcast host of "Mogul" and "No Skips," will host the new "RapCaviar Podcast." The new video podcast will explore the rap genre and include panels of guests.

  • SoundCloud announced it was laying off 20% of its global workforce due to the challenging economic environment. Staff in the U.S. and U.K. will be informed if they're impacted.

  • TikTok has been filing "TikTok Music" trademarks in global markets, suggesting the company is considering a launch of some sort of music streaming service similar to its existing service in select markets known as Resso.

Gaming

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

  • A new report indicates most mobile gaming genres saw revenue declines in the U.S. during the first part of the year. According to Sensor Tower, Arcade and Tabletop games were the only categories with revenue growth. Arcade was the fastest growing genre, with player spending up 14.8% year-over-year to approximately $176 million. Top games included Clawee, Gold & Goblins and Idle Mafia. Tabletop grew 1% YoY to $388.8 million. However, in terms of revenue, Puzzle was the largest with $2.3 billion, down 8.8% YoY. It was followed by Casino ($2.2 billion) and Strategy ($2 billion). Gaming downloads also declined 2.5% YoY to 2.4 billion.

  • Apple Arcade added a handful of new games to the service, including the popular Jetpack Joyride, as well as Amazing Bomberman, My Talking Tom+ and Love You to Bits+. The company also recently pulled 15 games from the subscription service.

  • Blizzard and NetEase scrapped plans for a World of Warcraft mobile game after a disagreement over financial terms for the title, Bloomberg reported. NetEase disbanded a team of more than 100 developers tasked with creating content for the game -- only some of whom were given internal transfers.

  • Amazon's cloud gaming service, Luna, which allows users to play on mobile, tablet, PC or Mac, now supports Samsung Gaming Hub on Samsung's smart TVs and monitors.

Transportation & Travel

  • Uber partnered with the Berlin-based travel service Omio in order to test train and bus bookings in its U.K. app. Omio's inventory includes more than 1,000 transport providers.

Utilities & Productivity

  • Google Maps and Search apps now allow merchants to label their businesses as "Asian-owned," following similar additions that allowed labeling businesses as Black-owned, Latino-owned, veteran-owned, women-owned or LGBTQ+-owned.

  • Microsoft launched a new Outlook Lite app for low-powered Android phones aimed at users in emerging markets.

Government & Policy

  • The European Commission is investigating Google Play's policies over possible antitrust issues, according to Politico. Specifically, the investigation is looking into billing terms and developer fees, the report said.

Security & Privacy

  • Security researchers found an error in more than 3,200 mobile apps, which would allow them to take full or partial control of Twitter accounts. The names of impacted apps have not yet been disclosed.

  • A ruling by European Union’s top court may have major implications for online platforms and apps that use background tracking and profiling to target users with behavioral ads or for personalizing content. It set a precedent that even this inferred data derived from things a company learned about a user could be considered personal data.

💰 Dating app Desti raised $1 million in early-stage funding in July at a $5 million valuation. The company also makes a related app for friends, Besti.

📉 Uber to sell stake its 7.8% stake in the food delivery app Zomato for $350 million+ after taking a $707 million loss on the deal in H2 2022.

💰 Locket, a popular app that lets you post photos to your friends’ homescreens, raised $12.5 million in seed funding from OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, Sugar Capital, Costanoa Ventures, along with Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger and Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo.

Banish

A new app for iPhone users can help you browse the web without being constantly bothered by pop-up panels that beg you to use the company’s app instead. The app, called Banish, is a Safari extension that helps remove the “open in app” banners from various websites and other popups that block content across a number of sites, like Reddit, TikTok, LinkedIn, Twitter, Quora, Medium, Yelp and some Google sites, to name a few.

While there are a number of similar Safari extensions for blocking cookie banners and ads, the scourge of the “Open in App” banners is often not addressed by existing solutions.

To use Banish, you’ll first install the app to your iPhone, then configure it in the Settings. This involves a few key steps for Banish to function properly. There are two places where Banish needs to be enabled, under Safari Extensions — you need to toggle on the switch next to Banish under “Allow These Content Blockers” and “Allow These Extensions.” Then you need to set the “Allow” permission to “All Websites” below. You can read more about Banish here on TechCrunch or download it from the App Store for $1.99.

Sat, 06 Aug 2022 06:30:00 -0500 en-CA text/html https://ca.news.yahoo.com/week-apps-french-developers-sue-183043517.html MAC-16A exam dump and training guide direct download
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