Jul 05, 2018 10:29 AM

Thursday Tech Briefing: Baidu, ZTE, Xiaomi


1. Baidu Rolls Out 100th Autonomous Bus, Unveils AI Chip ‘Kunlun’

What: Baidu’s Fujian-based bus manufacturing partner King Long has produced 100 autonomous buses using the tech company’s technology, Baidu CEO Li Yanhong announced at the Baidu AI Developer Conference on Wednesday.

Baidu also launched its artificial intelligence (AI) chip, named “Kunlun,” which is similar to Google’s TPU and will run Baidu’s AI applications.

Why it’s important: The Baidu AI Developer Conference was first organized by former Baidu Chief Operating Officer Lu Qi in 2017. Lu Qi resigned in May, and successor Li Yanhong has since been under enormous pressure to set a new course for the company and deliver results using AI.

Big picture: China has for years struggled to make its domestic chip industry more competitive than those of the U.S. and Japan. AI chips represent an opportunity for China to break into the business of high-tech chip design, and have attracted investment from companies like Cambricon Technologies Corp. Ltd, Horizon Robotics and Alibaba. (Source: Caixin, link in Chinese)

2. Xiaomi to Continue Its U.S. Push Despite Trade Tension

What: Xiaomi Inc. still plans to enter the U.S. market next year and is hiring engineers to develop smartphones for U.S. telecom networks, Senior Vice President Wang Xiang said in an interview with Reuters. Wang Xiang said the U.S. market is “very attractive” and Xiaomi’s U.S. connections with Qualcomm and Google will help it avoid the political controversy surrounding its Chinese rivals.

Why it’s important: The comments come at a time when trade tension between China and the U.S. is at a historic high. Xiaomi’s shares will begin trading on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on July 9, and the company is still aiming for more expansion overseas.

Big picture: Huawei has run into several problems in its attempt to capture more of the U.S. smartphone market in recent months, including its phones being dropped by retail chain Best Buy in March. It remains to be seen whether Xiaomi will be treated differently by U.S. policymakers. (Source: Reuters)

3. ZTE Loses Italian Telecom Deal to Ericsson Thanks to U.S. Ban

What: Italian telecommunication company Wind Tre SpA. has selected Sweden’s Ericsson AB over China’s ZTE Corp. for a contract to supply wireless equipment worth 600 million euros ($700 million). According to people with knowledge of the matter, ZTE lost the contract because it’s barred from buying U.S. tech products.

Why it’s important: The deal shows how the Trump administration’s ban on ZTE has negatively affected the company’s business overseas. Earlier this week, ZTE was allowed to temporarily resume importing U.S.-made equipment to support its core operations. ZTE is still waiting for Washington to permanently lift the ban on the company. (Source: Bloomberg)

4. No End to Blockbuster Growth in China Box Office

What: China’s box office receipts expanded 18% year-on-year in the first six months of 2018, after surpassing North America in single-quarter takings for the first time ever. The nation collected a total of 32 billion yuan ($4.8 billion) in ticket receipts for the first half of this year, according to industry tracker Ent Group. Local titles performed particularly well, accounting for a total of 59% of takings, up from 39% last year.

Why it’s important: China overtook the U.S. as the largest movie market by quarterly rankings for the first time ever in the first quarter of the year, taking in 20 billion yuan in a period boosted by the week-long Lunar New Year holiday in February. Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., Baidu Inc. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. are riding the cinematic boom, each having stakes in the filmmaking industry. (Source: Caixin)


5. Shanghai To Host AI World 2018 in September

What: Shanghai will host the AI World 2018 conference in September, the Shanghai municipal government announced on Wednesday. The event will be supported by China’s National Development and Reform Commission, as well as government departments including the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

Why it’s important: Shanghai’s conference is similar to the annual World Internet Conference in neighboring Zhejiang Province, which has attracted top tech executives from Alibaba, Baidu, Apple and Google. With support from both local and central government departments, AI World 2018 is intended to be a platform for China to set the course for the global artificial intelligence industry.

Big picture: The announcement of the conference signals Shanghai’s ambition to lead the development of the AI industry in China. (Source: Shanghai government, link in Chinese)

6. Indonesia Bans Chinese Video App Tik Tok for ‘Inappropriate Content’

What: The Indonesian government says it has banned Chinese video app Tik Tok (known as Douyin in China) for containing “pornography, inappropriate content and blasphemy.” The ban is temporary and may be lifted once the app removes objectionable content, Indonesia’s Minister of Communications and Information said.

Why it’s important: The ban highlights the challenges Chinese internet companies are facing overseas. Douyin is a unit of ByteDance, which operates the popular Toutiao news aggregating app in China. Douyin recently announced that it has more than 150 million daily active users and more than 300 million monthly active users.

Big picture: The Indonesian ban is more bad news for Douyin, which recently came under fire in China because its ad was found by regulators to have insulted Qiu Shaoyun, a Chinese martyr killed during the Korean War. Beijing internet regulators ordered Douyin to carry out ‘rectifications’ for its advertisement businesses, and Douyin has temporarily ceased its advertising services. (Source: Reuters)

Compiled by Zhang Erchi and Zhang Yidi

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