2013 has been an eventful year in the world of technology. With the disclosures by Edward Snowden beginning in May, the brief shutdown of Silk Road, and arrest of Ross Ulbricht, the focus on privacy and security has become more intense
than perhaps at any point in the history of the web. With Silk Road in the
headlines, the concept of Bitcoin gained widespread press coverage. This resulted in a Congressional
hearing on virtual currencies and an exchange rate of below $1000.00 (USD).
In the realm of Asian technology, however, the game-changing
events weren’t front-page news — at least, not in the English-language media.
Here are five important stories from 2013 in Asian
1. Japanese telecom Softbank acquires Sprint for $21.6 billion
Softbank’s bid for Sprint started in late 2012, but the
transaction didn’t closed until July 10, 2013. In a related transaction,
Sprint bought wireless telecommunications firm Clearwire at the same time
the Softbank takeover was pending. The end result of these acquisitions has
made Softbank Group tied for the third-largest mobile telecom in the world at $32
billion in revenue for the first half of 2013. (State-owned China Mobile
reported $43 billion, Verizon was in second at $37 billion, and AT&T tied for third at $32 million.)
Softbank’s CEO, Masayoshi Son, indicates that he is “preparing a secret weapon” to revive Sprint’s operations. He plans to focus on
fixing Sprint’s network, which has been lagging behind AT&T and Verizon for
several years. Softbank’s domestic wireless operations were purchased from
Vodafone in 2006. At the time of purchase, Vodafone’s Japanese operations were
flailing compared to competitors KDDI and NTT docomo. Since the purchase,
Softbank Mobile’s operating profit has more than doubled, due in part to
Softbank locking up the iPhone as an exclusive handset in Japan until the
release of the 4S.
2. Oppo N1 shipping with CyanogenMod
Oppo Electronics, a burgeoning Chinese electronics
manufacturer, has announced that its newest flagship phone — the N1 — scheduled to be released in
December, will have the option to ship with the CyanogenMod out-of-the-box.
This is a first for any phone and potentially the beginning of a new trend in
mobile computing. With the announcement of Cyanogen incorporating earlier this
year, the concept of Android ROMs distributed in a way similar to Linux distributions
could be the start of unprecedented user control over smartphones. Similarly,
Jolla has announced its intent to offer distributions of Sailfish OS for Android devices.
3. India bans use of free email providers for government business
In the wake of the disclosures by Edward Snowden, the Indian government banned the use of privately-owned email services — like Google’s
Gmail and Microsoft’s Outlook.com — for use in official government business.
Instead, government employees are expected to use official resources provided
by the National Informatics Centre, the internal-government IT services bureau.
4. PRC declares Bitcoin cannot be used as currency
The Chinese government has declared that Bitcoin, the
popular digital currency, cannot be exchanged for foreign currency or used to pay mortgages, legal
settlements, investments, or insurance. This action undermines
the ability for any digital currency to operate in an effective manner
competitive with official governmental currencies. This action was taken by the
PRC after an exchange abruptly went offline, taking millions of dollars in
users’ Bitcoins with it.
5. Acer posts massive losses, CEO and replacement resign
For Q3 2013, Acer posted an operating loss of NT $2.57 billion vs. an operating profit of NT $340 million, while facing an 11.8%
decrease in sales year-on-year. Acer’s performance has not been stellar since
the 2011 ousting of CEO Gianfranco Lanci, resulting in the resignation of his
successor, JT Wang. Shortly after that announcement, corporate president Jim
Wong — the man announced as Wang’s replacement — also resigned. In an effort to stop
the bleeding, the founder of Acer, Stan Shih, agreed to return as unpaid President, and the CEO position has been
Shih has 78 million shares vested in the company
he founded. With the troubling state of things for OEMs in the age of tablet
computing, reviving a flailing OEM is quite the undertaking. Shih has the
benefit of being asked to take over — in contrast to Michael Dell’s takeover and
privatization of the OEM that bears his name.
Weighing the big stories in Asian technology in 2013 is a
task that requires a lot of reflection. While these stories are undoubtedly
important to the overall industry landscape, they are far from an exhaustive
look at the challenges that will be faced in the upcoming year. What other stories in Asian technology from 2013 do you think are significant? Share your insights and opinions in the discussion thread below.