The week promises to be eventful, at least one operator will update its entire line of tariffs. I have been studying new proposals all week, and I have two news. The good news is that unlimited limits are still in the same parameters, expensive, but still they are not completely abandoned. The bad news is that there are now more services at every price step for bundled tariffs. The old game, the operator does not formally raise prices, on the contrary – in terms of a unit of minutes, SMS, GB everything is getting cheaper. In fact, you are given more of these services, and you pay a little more. On the other hand, if your traffic needs have grown, then new offers will be beneficial. The statistics of all Russian operators unambiguously show that the average subscriber in a vacuum doubles traffic consumption year on year. It used to be 4 GB per month, but now it is about 8 GB. The figure seems high, but it does not take into account the fact that almost half of the subscribers do not transmit data at all, their threshold is about 100 MB at most. And by smearing these numbers on everyone, we do not get a real picture of the world. Don’t be in a hurry to wonder why this is so, almost half of the devices running on networks are push-button phones. It is clear that the situation is gradually changing, but it is unable to change dramatically, hence such a cut of package tariffs. For me, as a “heavy” subscriber, these offers are unambiguously beneficial. For those who consume little traffic, most likely not. But this is a given, and nothing new has happened over the past few years, the approach has remained exactly the same.
But from the lyrics, let’s move on to considering the events that captured my attention. Let’s start!
- US vs. Huawei – New Restrictions and Sanctions, Next Round
- How Foxconn let Apple down and ruined Tim Cook’s tale
- AI algorithms in the Sony camera module – why and for whom?
- A meaningful walk in the forest – how to explore plants and flowers
- Dyson’s canceled electric car
- The series Upload – a different outlook on life after death
US vs. Huawei – New Restrictions and Sanctions, Next Round
Watching the US fight against the world’s largest telecommunications company is fascinating. The scythe found it on the stone, for the first time the United States was unable to destroy the company on a swoop, which prevents the prospects of American companies from dominating the IT market, and America from exercising direct and unequivocal control over both its allies and enemies. By the beginning of 2020, it became clear that Huawei had managed to slow down, halt its unrestrained growth, but there was no talk of any destruction. In America, this led to a split, some politicians demand to increase pressure and destroy Huawei at any cost, others believe that it is necessary to start working with Huawei and at the same time build their own replacement for this company in order to gradually oust the Chinese from the sensitive telecom equipment market. There is no disagreement that Huawei should not be a strong player. On the whole, this is a sign of American politics: the goals are the same for everyone, and they do not cause discussion, the debate is only about the way to achieve them.
There are currently two approaches to the Huawei problem in the US. In the first, the forceful one proposes to destroy the company by erecting slingshots, restricting access to production and technologies. This is the prevailing opinion, which is reinforced by the fact that in big American politics, those who are to blame for the failure of the American health care system and the catastrophic consequences of the epidemic have already been found – of course, this is China! The trade war did not stop even at a time when the epidemic was gaining momentum, an exception was made only for the purchase of masks and other medical equipment, it was bought at airports when the goods had to go to the European allies. In fact, American companies took other people’s goods, overpaying for them several times. This is a bright enough touch to illustrate what is happening.
The forceful option of reprising Huawei looks like a priority, but it so happened that all the available US tools have already been used. Banned from working with Google, denied access to patents and technologies, such as chip development tools. In 2019, Huawei has shown miracles of ingenuity and responded to all sanctions. The infrastructure has completely its own chipsets and servers, a whole line of products with a red stripe, which means that they are completely free of technologies from the United States, they were called “America Free”.
HMS has been developed in smartphones, the replacement of services from Google, the system is still far from perfect, but it can already compete and is more or less applicable. This is a serious blow to Google’s leadership in smartphones, and it is difficult to underestimate the consequences of this step. We are not talking about any death of Huawei in smartphones, they slowed down development, but could not stop it. Moreover, it has awakened the strongest competitor to life, which is already beginning to crowd out Google in certain segments. Looking at the sales of smartphones in Russia without Google services, I can say that buyers are not afraid of their absence, the devices are gradually gaining market share. And this is just the beginning; by the end of the year, such smartphones may account for a little less than 10% of total sales. For a conventionally new system, these are staggering numbers that no other challenger had in the past. The share of HMS smartphones will exceed that of the iPhone, which is also an indicator. And at the same time, it is important to note that Huawei did not discount its devices, they are sold at exactly the same price as the company’s smartphones with Google services. The period is difficult, but we can already say that Huawei coped with the problem, smartphones did not go under the knife.
On Friday, May 15, the US Department of Commerce published new rules for dealing with Huawei. In particular, now for the supply of any chips to Huawei, as well as equipment for their production, software for design, a separate export license from the United States is required. The Commerce Department believes that Huawei used flaws in the system to gain access to American technologies, I think that this is about the fact that TSMC continues to work with the company, as well as the manufacturer HiSilicon Kirin. The new restrictions should force any manufacturer in the world to seek permission from US officials before delivering anything to Huawei. This is the perfect pressure tool, since formally Huawei cannot even sneeze without the permission of the United States, and in an ideal world, this means America’s final, unconditional victory.
Today, most of the equipment for the production and design of microcircuits is created by American companies, for example, KLA, Lam Research, Applied Materials. But they are not the only ones in the world, there are also European companies, many instrument companies in Japan. Globalization has led to the fact that it is impossible to create a modern chip on equipment only from the United States, the chain consists of different suppliers, including from Asia.
American politicians clearly believe that they have foreseen everything and this is a winning position. It seems to them that they are cutting Huawei off from suppliers, they have a club to beat on the hands of everyone who sees the need to work with this company. And this is not a virtual threat, the pressure on companies can be very real, unlike Huawei, they will not be able to resist.
In my opinion, this is a rake run and what happened in 2019 taught American politicians nothing. In theory, can Huawei create means of production, replace those created in the United States? There are funds for this, the company is able to hire engineers around the world, since it will offer them high rates. This is a matter of several years, after which Huawei will have its own creation and production facilities. In the United States, many continue to believe that China can only copy, is incapable of creating something new, and therefore will lose the trade war. Huawei’s experience seems like an anomaly in America that only proves the rule. This is a flawed approach that will hurt those who think so. Before our eyes, the story with Google is repeating itself, when American politicians convinced themselves that Huawei smartphones without Android with Google services would not be needed by anyone, in fact it turned out exactly differently. Moreover, in China, a gradual ousting of American technologies in the domestic market is beginning, this is a slow, almost imperceptible process. The Chinese government is pursuing a deliberate policy in this area, but does not want immediate results. For an outside observer, this will be explained by the superiority of the technologies of local companies, and not by some political steps. And this is a complete contradiction with what America is doing.
In the United States, they fear that Taiwan and the TSMC factories will become a means of pressure on American companies, since China can formally disrupt the supply chain. And if the political situation aggravates, it will not hesitate to do it. The US back-up plan looks interesting – TSMC will build a chip factory in Arizona, this will protect the US from any actions by China. Before us is a plan that looks quite sound from the point of view of politicians of the past, but not from those who understand the modern realities of production.
The number of patents owned by Huawei is such that it will have to be reckoned with. China is not only a huge market, but also the largest factory in the world. China is already suggesting that investigations into the largest American companies, including Apple, and possibly suspending the purchase of Boeing aircraft, will be launched. It is impossible to assume that China will simply eat up the new sanctions against Huawei and will not answer them in any way. For corporate America, this trade war in the face of a global recession will mean irreparable losses. It will be extremely difficult to play back what is happening, if in principle possible.
The US sanctions are now hampering the development of China and the same Huawei, slowing down this development, but cannot stop it. Moreover, it is an incentive to create their own technologies, to replace American ones. And this is a task that looks daunting, but in fact is solvable, albeit very difficult. Ultimately, all these sanctions strengthen Chinese manufacturers and take them to a new level in the medium term. At the same time, the United States is beginning to lose its advantage, moreover, it worsens the capabilities of American companies. The cost of engineers and programmers is growing, China is ready to outbid them. In the United States, it is necessary to locate production facilities that were previously in China, and this is a different cost and fundamentally different working conditions, which ultimately makes the product more expensive. The course America has taken looks like the destruction of the advantages of American business, it is friendly fire. But all this follows from a simple fact – the politicians who make decisions do not know how production works, what is possible and what is not. They operate with data from the past, do not even have a remote understanding of the present. And this will lead to devastating consequences, there is simply no other way.
How Foxconn let Apple down and ruined Tim Cook’s tale
You probably remember that Apple showed wonderful results in the first quarter, the company did not feel the impact of the pandemic, the closure of stores – Apple’s revenue did not fall, sales remained at a high level. Nothing bad has happened in the Apple world. Fabulous results that could not be explained in any way. Let’s take a look at the results of the first quarter for Foxconn, it is the manufacturer of the same iPhones, it practically did not work in the first quarter, and it remained a secret for me where Apple produces its smartphones in such quantities. The data from Foxconn is very accurate in describing the market situation, and it matches the reports of most companies.
In the first quarter, Foxconn saw profits fall 90% yoy to NT $ 2.1 billion ($ 70 million). These are the worst profit indicators since the first quarter of 2000, which is the first time this has happened in ten years. Revenue fell 12% to NT $ 929.13 billion. The company does not give any optimistic forecasts, saying that the accuracy in them may appear in the second half of 2020. In India, the factory of the company that makes the iPhone will return to normal operation only on May 17, in China most of the factories were closed in January and February, they are now back to work. It is known from third-party sources that the largest iPhone factories are working on a shorter schedule, they are not hiring additional workers. This is somewhat at odds with Apple’s excellent data, isn’t it?
On a call with analysts, the top management of Foxconn said that the growing segment for the company is the corporate market, computers, the growth of revenue by the end of the year will be at least 10%. In the second quarter, it will grow by 15%. The worst performers are in the consumer electronics division, which makes the very same iPhones. The decline in sales this year will be at least 15% (in the first quarter, this division was responsible for 42% of revenue!). The explanation lies in the area of the pandemic, Foxconn indicates that people stayed at home and demand naturally fell. Interestingly, it did not recover in the second quarter, its results will also be poor and clearly worse than the first quarter of 2020.
Foxconn’s quarterly report destroys Apple’s tale of miracles. You can see the reports of other market players, everyone was affected by the drop in sales, and there are simply no exceptions, except for Apple. It is still possible to imagine that Apple was able to figure out how to sell the most expensive smartphones during the crisis, but it is impossible to imagine how they were able to produce them when the factories were not working and this was reflected in the results of Foxconn. This is just a fairy tale and clever reporting, which is very different from reality.
For the first time before our eyes, a crisis of this magnitude is unfolding, and information that comes from different sides often contradicts logic, common sense and the facts that we see on the market. Which smartphone sold the most in the first quarter, iPhone Xr or iPhone 11? The question is interesting in terms of data from Canalys (these are supplies to channels, sell-in). According to the research company, iPhone production fell by only 8% year-on-year. We recall that China and India did not work de facto and it is not clear where they could produce such a large number of devices. But let’s say that somehow Foxconn was able to do it.
But then we look at the top 10 smartphones for supply to channels, this is already a report made by Canalys this May.
The first place is taken by the iPhone 11, delivered just over 18 million units. That is, according to Canalys’ own data, almost half of the 37.1 million iPhones shipped are iPhone 11, the youngest model in the line. It sounds beautiful, very much in line with Apple’s story that the company always sells the current line, and the old models are not in demand (this is not the case, and I don’t want to dive into this story again in detail, the old iPhones sell better).
The iPhone Xr has not been discontinued; it is being shipped to the market. You can look at Russian realities, this model is in demand and is sold approximately 1 to 1 in comparison with the usual iPhone 11. This happened in the first quarter, in the fourth quarter the picture was plus or minus the same. This model is simply not on the bestseller list, it turns out that it was not sold in significant volumes and in Russia we had an anomaly. It also originated in France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and many other countries. I have an assumption that Canalys combined the iPhone Xr and iPhone 11 into one model, only this can explain such a high result for the iPhone 11. But in principle, you can not believe this, but consider that Apple has invented factories that can work without workers, produce equipment. And Foxconn’s results are just an anomaly. As well as the results of the entire supply chain of components, which showed a synchronous drop.
I always have questions when the whole market is falling synchronously and strongly, and one player is showing excellent results. There are even more questions when these results are at odds with reality in small things, as seen in sales. And there are even more questions when the manufacturer of this product says that it could not produce and supply it due to the pandemic and its profits fell to a record low. But on the other hand, someone has to believe in fairy tales, and Tim Cook does well with them, as well as close work with research companies (Microsoft and their Windows Phone example showed how easy it is to manipulate sales data, that they did in due time).
AI algorithms in the Sony camera module – why and for whom?
Sony has announced the creation of the world’s first camera module that has built-in DSP for AI algorithms. The event is remarkable, but it does not bode well for revolution; rather, it is a way for Sony to grab a piece of the pie from a large market that is taking off. I am sure that the abbreviation AI has become so widespread that today it can be found in ordinary advertising on television, supposedly artificial intelligence picks up tariffs from the operator, improves the picture in photos and performs a hundred more feats. Unfortunately, in most situations, this is marketing, and anything can be hidden behind the AI abbreviation. In processors, AI algorithms are a whole class of calculations that can solve certain problems, for example, identify certain objects in pictures, improve photographs, sort them, and so on. The boom of AI computing in smartphones began several years ago, and today even budget devices have such capabilities, the quality of photos has increased in all devices, without exception, this has become possible due to computational photography.
Today Sony is the leader in the production of sensors for cameras, the company occupies about 60% of this market. But Sony’s position in computational photography is rather weak, since the main work falls on chipsets, and the development of algorithms is on the side of manufacturers. It turns out that AI algorithms inside Sony can be developed on a limited number of scenarios. Here the story is exactly the same as in its time in search or voice assistants – the more users you have, the more often they use your service, the more accurate and better it becomes. It is important for AI algorithms to be able to train them to work accurately. And today Sony simply does not have the ability to do this, and their leadership in sensors may disappear tomorrow, since it is not enough to have good hardware, you need to add the right software to it.
Sony is aware of this, not being able to receive data from the manufacturers of processors or end devices, the company has made an addition in the form of AI algorithms to the usual camera module. This is a strange hybrid that will be used in surveillance cameras, perhaps in security systems, but definitely not in smartphones, where it is simply not needed (there is already a processor that can do all the same and more, it’s just expensive for the manufacturer).
The IMX500 sensor is the first swallow, its computational capabilities will be enough to determine what is in the frame using simple templates. And in theory, this may interest someone. Reading the Sony press release, I caught myself thinking that Huawei and other companies have already shown something similar for several years, where such capabilities are implemented by separate DSPs, they are not built into the camera module. The fact that Sony did this indicates the need for the company to somehow be present in this market, hence the merging of the two technologies.
My first impression is that such a hybrid is of limited use, it will not be able to become popular. Here again the question of the need for advanced software, which Sony does not have, and third-party processors will train faster, they are massive and have been on the market for a long time. It is possible that the price of such solutions will not be the most optimal, but their performance will clearly be higher than that of a solution from Sony. And here the question of balance is whether Sony will be able to find it, what will it go to to promote such solutions on the mass market. I see this whole story as an attempt to jump on the bandwagon of a departing train. And it is impossible to assume that Sony can seriously change something in the AI computing market, too late, the company has too little computing power. Today, success in AI algorithms is not only hardware, not only programmers who can write them, but also access to data for processing, as well as supercomputers, which can calculate them in a short period of time. If you don’t have at least one component, then you will not be successful at it. Look at how slowly Alice from Yandex is developing, the reason is in the last two points, Yandex does not yet have them, and this imposes great restrictions on the speed of development.
A meaningful walk in the forest – how to explore plants and flowers
I remember how the first program appeared that described the starry sky, you could get out into nature with a laptop, enter your coordinates, and a picture of the sky appeared on the screen, where each star was signed. With the proliferation of smartphones, everything has become even easier: point your phone to the sky, and brief information about everything that you see immediately pops up. A fantastic thing, but only a few use it.
Insulation at the dacha is an opportunity to dig in a small garden, flower beds, go outside the outskirts into the forest and into the neighboring field. For me, such walks in the spring are rare, usually I spend all the time on trips. Nevertheless, whenever you come across something interesting from the plant kingdom, you want to know the name of a flower. I even wondered if people know how easy this can be done. I asked a question on Twitter about one of the flowers in my flower bed – the answers pleased me, most of them suggested using Google Lens or some kind of plant identification program.
I have PlantNet on my smartphone, I chose from a dozen programs for convenience, and it even more accurately identifies flowers, although there are mistakes here too. When this program goes wrong, you can launch Google Lens. But the advantage is that all your scans are saved, you can share your findings in your profile, in a word, lead an active life. I like the fact that links to the description of plants are immediately given, you can see photos of other users, compare your find with theirs.
The smartphone makes it possible to instantly find out what kind of plants surround you, even read the myths and legends associated with them. Therefore, a walk in the forest or field turns into a completely different adventure, as well as exploring the world around. Is it worth it? Definitely yes. Although, perhaps, this is exactly what I like to study what surrounds me and learn something new. On the other hand, I always see curiosity in the people around me, a desire to learn something about the world, which means that such a tool will also have to be used. In short, I recommend it.
Dyson’s canceled electric car
Throughout 2019, there were rumors, which were confirmed at Dyson, that an electric car of the same name was in development. There were no images of Project N526, and James Dyson remained silent. In an interview with The Times, he shared the details of this project for the first time and, most importantly, published photos of the prototype.
The development of the first and only car for the company cost about 500 million pounds, this is an investment made personally by Dyson (his fortune is estimated at 15-20 billion pounds, so he can afford various hobbies). The car was created as a top-end version of an SUV, I think that the source of inspiration in the contours of the body is easy to guess.
The technical characteristics of the prototype are not so important, they are secondary. The project was canceled due to exorbitant production costs, in the absence of a line of machines, the cost of components became fantastic. And in fact, the cost of the car should have been at least 150 thousand pounds. I found this example very interesting to illustrate that mass production is more important than ever in order to achieve a low cost price compared to competitors. The same Tesla has still not been able to reduce the cost of cars to the level of mass, gasoline cars and is forced to position itself differently, invent different stories around it. To me, in general, the opposition of electric cars and other cars seems far-fetched, for me both are primarily cars, and the method of charging / refueling them is, rather, a matter of ease of use. In California, the same Tesla can be very convenient due to the network of gas stations, in Moscow it is a senseless car for show-off.
The series Upload – a different outlook on life after death
I do not always have time to watch the series, which I have outlined according to someone else’s recommendations, I rarely trust what the applications advise. At Amazon, an automatic recommendation slipped me the Upload series, brushed off the page, and then decided to read the description and realized that I would watch this work. It seems that no one but pirates voiced the series in Russian, they watched it in the original, so they did not look for localization. I hate taking screenshots, and the security policy assumes that I cannot take screenshots from the player – some kind of denseness among the creators and distributors of content. I do not like her. Therefore, I still found the series on torrents, downloaded a couple of episodes to make screenshots for illustrations.
The title of the series is “Loading”, and it perfectly characterizes its meaning. This is a new reading of what may happen after our death, in the biblical sense it is a different, afterlife, and in the world of the near future – the ability to download consciousness into a computer. The topic is rich in discussions of how socialization will change, how much we will change. Will your copy, uploaded to the cloud, be considered you? Or will it be a pale shadow of who you were? How accurate will your memories be and can they be manipulated? I will not reveal the twists and turns of the plot, but I will dwell briefly on the structure of the world, it raises very interesting questions.
A person’s consciousness can be loaded into a computer, the program will “think”, and such a “person” will feel himself, experience emotions. For them, they create virtual worlds, in each you have the opportunity to save your loved one. There are expensive worlds not for everyone, where you are free to dispose of your time and lead a comfortable existence, there are simpler worlds. And there are social programs when you can keep a loved one at minimum wages, they are given limited traffic during the day, and such a thinking consciousness does not have access to the full range of entertainment. They have very simple avatars, there may be no detail, individual body parts. And entertainment is limited to books, in which they are given a few pages during the day, and then the traffic ends. It sounds more like prison and torture than life after death, doesn’t it? But for whom is this existence important, for the one who died, or for those who are left to live? Who has more trauma is an open question, the whole series is looking for an answer to it.
And how do you like the idea that you can freeze a copy of the deceased in such a virtual world? You are tired of communicating with your loved one, and you just turn it off for a while. You can also maintain relationships, have sex, for this it is enough to purchase a special suit. The world invented by the creators of “Download” raises many questions about what such a universe will be and how much it is possible. Somewhere it is drawn schematically, and this is not bad, since there is room for reasoning, somewhere it is extremely accurate in descriptions.
We can say that in Hollywood there were many films with a similar plot, and at least the same “Lawnmower”. On the other hand, the aspects of future technologies and issues that will arise in society because of this are well developed. The series turned out to be surprisingly interesting, especially if such moments and discussions about the impact of technology on our world are not alien to you. There is no cynicism of “Black Mirror”, and this is not a horror story, but rather a reasoning on the topic. They turned out to be very intricate, but extremely interesting. I got great pleasure from the series, the work deserves attention.
PS There is only a little left to sit in isolation, I think that in June we will already be able to go to work in Moscow and the region, and other cities / regions will begin to open. Be careful, take care of yourself and your loved ones. I want to wish you a good mood so that any troubles give you a reason not to be upset, but to become stronger and better. Everything in life is experienced if you keep your head on your shoulders. Have a good working week.
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