Archive for February, 2014

China Buys Its Way Into Israel’s Tech Scene

Posted: February 28, 2014 by Khobaib Monawwar in Science, Technology

Israel’s technology scene has recently spawned several global sensations, and the Chinese are getting in on the action.

In an interview, Israeli Chief Scientist Avi Hasson said his office worked with China on dozens of joint technology projects last year. Three years ago, there were none. Chinese billionaire Li Ka-Shing — an investor in Waze before Google bought the Israel-rooted company for about $1 billion — is now the most active foreign investor in Israel, Hasson said.

“We are seeing more and more Chinese activity in Israeli high tech,” Hasson said. “Investment in venture capital by strategic and institutional Chinese investors, direct investments in companies and also acquisitions. This is very welcome.”

The latest collaboration between the tech nations comes from WBP Venture Partners, which will offer financing and business aid to Israeli companies in China. The firm is in the process of raising a $50 million fund for investing in Israeli tech startups that are looking to break into China.

WBP won’t just throw money at companies it likes. The firm is teaming up with the Wujin Economic Zone, an emerging tech center in China, to help startups plant roots in a country that’s notoriously daunting for foreign businesses.

Zvi Shalgo, a partner at the WBP fund, has experience helping outsiders from various industries gain a foothold in China. He’s also the head of the PTL Group in China, which helped the Israeli chemical company Makhteshim Agan Industries build a manufacturing plant in China. The WBP fund hopes to eventually take its portfolio companies public in Shanghai and on other exchanges, said David Fuchs, a managing partner. However, Chinese law currently prohibits foreign companies from listing.

“Rather than providing financing for companies, we are getting them started by giving them the infrastructure to succeed,” Fuchs said.

Israel’s population of about 8 million isn’t enough to sustain most lofty technology ventures. So the country’s entrepreneurs often find themselves shipping their inventions to other countries, especially the U.S. and Europe.

The economic slowdown in Europe and the U.S. has impacted Israeli exports, which make up about a third of Israel’s gross domestic product, spurring the country to look elsewhere for growth. With 1.4 billion residents, China is more than quadruple the size of the U.S. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited China last year, and Hasson said he was in Hong Kong last week to sign a funding agreement for Israeli and Chinese companies.

Han’s Laser Technology, a Chinese supplier to Apple, bought Israel’s Nextec Technologieslast year to expand in the market for laser measurement devices used in the auto and aircraft industries. Outside of the tech world, Bright Food Group, the dairy and consumer-products company backed by the Shanghai government, is working with Citigroup on a planned purchase of Israel’s Tnuva Food Industries, a person with knowledge of the matter said this month.

The increased interest from China is important beyond the financing because it helps Israeli executives learn how to do business there, Hasson said. “Today in Israeli board rooms, there aren’t any people who know the [Chinese] market intimately like they know Europe and the U.S.,” he said.

Hasson said one reason for the strengthening of Israel-China business ties is that the economies complement each other well, particularly in the tech industry.

“What China needs, we have to offer,” Hasson said. “We are good at innovation and technology transfer, and they can scale up manufacturing and beyond.”

Just six months after Samsung Electronics released its first smartwatch, the company will start selling three more.

Following up on the Android-based Galaxy Gear that came out in September, Samsung unveiled a trio of new watches this week at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The South Korean electronics giant seems to be flooding the zone in the hopes of running out the clock on Apple before it can release the much-anticipatediWatch.

Samsung’s Gear 2, which has a built-in camera, and Gear 2 Neo, which doesn’t, can wirelessly connect with smartphones and run apps designed for a relatively new operating system championed by Samsung called Tizen A third watch, the Gear Fit, has a curved screen, runs basic software and is positioned more as a health device to rival the Fitbit — though it does tell the time.

The smartwatch wave isn’t isolated to Samsung. Motorola Mobility, which Google is selling to China’s Lenovo Group, said in Barcelona that it plans to release a smartwatch this year, and CNETreports that LG Electronics is working on one, too.

Seriously, they might as well call it Mobile Watch Congress. HTC, the Taiwanese smartphone company that’s currently in the red, is expected to be demonstrating the first of three wearable devices behind closed doors in Barcelona, my colleague Tim Culpan reported. On the show floor, Sony is showing the SmartBand, and Huawei Technologies has the TalkBand.

“We think that wearables in the future can be a large market,” Colin Giles, an executive vice president at Shenzhen, China-based Huawei, told Bloomberg News in an interview this week at Mobile World Congress.

Not everyone is convinced. Despite a marketing blitz, Samsung’s original Galaxy Gear was met with a lukewarm reception. Research firm IHS estimates the market for wearable devices, which includes smartwatches, to be worth less than $20 billion a year until at least 2015. Apple alone sold more than that in iPhones last quarter.

Barclays analyst Ben Reitzes wrote in a note last week that a smartwatch isn’t going to move the needle for Apple’s business. A spokeswoman for Apple declined to comment.

Timing is everything. Apple isn’t always the first, but it’s shown a knack for putting together the right list of features in a well-designed package along with marketing that shows people why they need to have one. There were plenty of music players on the market before the iPod.

Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty estimates that an Apple watch could generate as much as $17.5 billion in its first year on the market. That would be just under what the iPad did in its first full year available.

Of course, the tech industry is very different from the days of the iPod. For one, Samsung is relentless. First impressions of the Gear Fit coming from Barcelona have been glowing. If Samsung keeps releasing a handful of new watches every six months, it might just find a winner.

Lucien’s Review: Thief

Posted: February 27, 2014 by Areeb Fazli in Games

Lucien Maverick's Blog

Thief Ah, Thief.  I haven’t played a game in this franchise in a LONG time.  This game came out of nowhere and I’m glad it’s here.  A lot has already been said about this game, so let me start off by saying that this game can be incredibly fun, but there are conditions that have to be met for it to be so.  However, once you do, being a thief has never felt so good.  I do enjoy this game, to the extreme, now let’s talk about why.

First things first – turn off waypoints.  For real, they are so unbelievably restrictive when it comes to exploring the world.  Especially when you are on the job.  When you are in the middle of a heist, nothing takes you out of the experience more than a waypoint telling you where to go and what to do.  This game has a lot of…

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