Tencent

Google launches its first WeChat mini program as its China experiments continue

Google is continuing to test new strategies in China after the U.S. search giant released its first mini program for WeChat, the country’s hugely popular messaging app. WeChat is used by hundreds of millions of Chinese people daily for services that stretch beyond chat to include mobile payments, bill paying, food delivery and more. Tencent, the company that operates WeChat, added mini programs last year and they effectively operate like apps that are attached to the service. That means that users bypass Google Play or Apple’s App Store and install them from WeChat. Earlier this year, Tencent added support for games — “mini games” — and the Chinese firm recently said that over one million mini programs have been created to date. Engagement is high, with some 500 million WeChat users intera...

A new $124 million for Brazil’s Movile proves that investors still see promise in Latin American tech

Brazil’s macroeconomic picture may be gloomy, but technology investors still see hope in the nation’s burgeoning technology sector — and a recent $124 million financing for the mobile conglomerate Movile is the latest proof that that the pace of investment isn’t slowing down. Brazil was already the hottest spot for technology investment throughout Latin America — with Sao Paulo drawing in the majority of the record-breaking $1 billion in financing that the region’s startups attracted in 2017. And with this latest funding for Movile, led by Naspers, that trend looks likely to continue. Indeed, Naspers investments in Movile (supplemented by co-investors like Innova, which participated in the most recent round) have been one of the driving forces sustaining the Brazilian startup community. In...

Tencent becomes a Linux Foundation platinum member to increase its focus on open source

Tencent, the $500-billion Chinese internet giant, is increasing its focus on open source after it became a platinum member of the Linux Foundation. The company has long been associated with the foundation and Linux generally, it is a founding member of the Linux Foundation’s deep learning program that launched earlier this year, and now as a platinum member (the highest tier) it will take a board of directors seat and work more closely with the organization. That works two ways, with Tencent pledging to offer “further support and resources” to foundation projects and communities, while the Chinese firm itself will also tap into the foundation’s expertise and experience. Along those lines, the company said it will contribute its open source microservices project called TARS and an open sour...

Google makes $550M strategic investment in Chinese e-commerce firm JD.com

Google has been increasing its presence in China in recent times, and today it has continued that push by agreeing to a strategic partnership with e-commerce firm JD.com which will see Google purchase $550 million of shares in the Chinese firm. Google has made investments in China, released products there and opened up offices that include an AI hub, but now it is working with JD.com largely outside of China. In a joint release, the companies said they would “collaborate on a range of strategic initiatives, including joint development of retail solutions” in Europe, the U.S. and Southeast Asia. The goal here is to merge JD.com’s experience and technology in supply chain and logistics — in China, it has opened warehouses that use robots rather than workers — with Google’s customer reach, da...

Naspers is in talks to invest in Southeast Asia’s Carousell

Naspers, the South Africa-based firm that famously backed Chinese giant Tencent in its infancy, is in talks to invest in Singapore-based startup Carousell, according to two sources with knowledge of discussions. Carousell offers a mobile app that combines listings with peer-to-peer selling across Southeast Asia, Taiwan and Hong Kong. That makes it well-aligned with Naspers’ portfolio, which features some of the world’s largest classifieds services including OLX, which covers 45 countries, Letgo in the U.S. and Avito in Russia. TechCrunch understands that Naspers is pursuing a deal with Carousell with a view to making it the firm’s key play in Southeast Asia and other parts of the APAC region. Discussions are at a relatively early stage so it isn’t clear what percentage of the company that ...

J.J. Abrams and Tencent combine to form Bad Robot Games

Bad Robot, the media production company headed by famed nostalgia-lord J.J. Abrams, is expanding into the games industry with help from Chinese tech conglomerate Tencent. The company will lend its expertise in film to partner developers at both the indie and AAA level. “I’m a massive games fan, and increasingly envious of the amazing tools developers get to work with, and the worlds they get to play in,” explained Abrams in the partnership’s announcement. “Now we are doubling down on our commitment to the space with a unique co-development approach to game making that allows us to focus on what we do best, and hopefully be a meaningful multiplier to our developer partners.” Designers, visual artists and writers from Bad Robot will collaborate with developers, aiming at all game markets: PC...

Latin America’s Movile is quietly building a mobile empire

By 2020, Brazilian mobile giant, Movile, wants to improve the lives of more than one billion people through its apps. The company began its mission in 1998 selling gaming, news and SMS messaging services to mobile operators in Brazil. After receiving its first investment from South African-based global investor Naspers 10 years ago, Movile grew into one of the largest and most successful mobile companies in Latin America, with more than 150 million monthly active users of its apps and estimated revenues over $240 million. Movile’s app, PlayKids, propelled the company to the global stage. A platform that offers educational products and content for children, PlayKids in 2014 reached more than 6 million downloads within a year of launching, and 5 million active users per month. From there, Mo...

Google brings its ARCore technology to China in partnership with Xiaomi

Google is ramping up its efforts to return to China. Earlier this year, the search giant detailed plans to bring its ARCore technology — which enables augmented reality and virtual reality — to phones in China and this week that effort went live with its first partner, Xiaomi. Initially the technology will be available for Xiaomi’s Mix 2S devices via an app in the Xiaomi App Store, but Google has plans to add more partners in Mainland China over time. Huawei and Samsung are two confirmed names that have signed up to distribute ARCore apps on Chinese soil, Google said previously. Google’s core services remain blocked in China but ARCore apps are able to work there because the technology itself works on device without the cloud, which means that once apps are downloaded to a phone there’s no...

Go-Jek officially announces Southeast Asia expansion to fill void left by Uber’s exit

There’s good news for consumers in Southeast Asia who are feeling the void after Uber left the region. That’s because Go-Jek, the Indonesia-based ride-hailing company backed by Google, Tencent and others, has officially announced plans to move into four new markets. Go-Jek said today it will move into Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines initially offering ride-hailing but with plans to additional services, including on-demand shopping and services, over time. The company began offering a bike taxi service in Indonesia but has moved to taxis, private cars, mobile payments, food delivery and services like massages on-demand. The firm said it will invest $500 million on the expansion plans, which have been rumored for some months. In a slight twist to the likes of Uber and Grab, ...

Chinese robotics company UBTECH gets $820 million in funding

Shenzhen-based home robotics company UBTECH announced this week that it has closed a massive $820 million Series C. The round, led by Tencent and a whole slew of other investors, follows a $100 million Series B and $20 million Series C. The bipedal robotics maker certainly isn’t a household name here in the States — though the company’s taken a few baby steps over here, including a walking Stormtrooper robot released alongside The Last Jedi. It also debuted a “robotic butler” with a tablet face back at CES in January that seemed more proof of concept than shipping product — though UBTECH has promised a broad 2019 release date. CEO James Zhou has promised the company will use this huge backing to accelerate its vision of bringing robots into the home. “As technology evolves to include more ...

Report: Smartphone usage set to overtake time spent watching TV in China

2018 is the year that smartphone usage eclipses time spent watching TV in China and it’s all down to the growth of digital video platforms, according to a new report from eMarketer. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this had already happened in China, which happens to be the world’s largest smartphone market, but eMarketer forecasts that the momentous moment is about to arrive. According to the report, the average adult in China is set to spend 2 hours and 39 minutes per day on a mobile device this year, up 11.1 percent on 2017. Watching TV, meanwhile, is set to fall by two percent to reach 2 hours 32 minutes daily. eMarketer said that the growth of digital video services is “a key driver” in this change. The company forecasts that online video time per day will leap 26 percent year-on-y...

Is America’s national security Facebook and Google’s problem?

Jamie Metzl Contributor Jamie Metzl is a Senior Fellow for Technology and National Security at the Atlantic Council. More posts by this contributor Homo Sapiens 2.0? We need a species-wide conversation about the future of human genetic enhancement Eleonore Pauwels Contributor Eleonore Pauwels is Director of the Anticipatory Intelligence Lab at the Wilson Center, an international science policy expert specializing in the governance and democratization of converging technologies, and a former official of the European Commission’s Directorate on Science, Economy and Society. Outrage that Facebook made the private data of over 87 million of its U.S. users available to the Trump campaign has stoked fears of big US-based technology companies are tracking our every move and misusing our personal ...