Technology News the latest technology news, including new product releases, sales figures and tech industry performance information.en-usTue, 23 Jun 2020 02:00:31 +0000Apple modifies app review process, letting developers 'challenge' guidelines[email protected] (Thomson Reuters)Tue, 23 Jun 2020 02:00:31 +0000 Stephen Nellis

(Reuters) - Apple Inc on Monday said it would let software developers "challenge" the guidelines that govern its app review process and will end its practice of blocking routine bug fixes over minor violations.

Apple's App Store is the only way for developers to distribute their software to consumers' iPhones and iPads. Apple keeps between 15% and 30% of revenues generated by developers in the store, making it a key part of its growth strategy as the pace of iPhone upgrades has slowed.

To get into the store, apps undergo a review process governed by Apple guidelines. Some rules, such as requiring apps to offer an option to use Apple's in-app purchasing and split revenues with the iPhone maker, have become a flash point.

Software makers have long been able to appeal Apple's rulings, but several told Reuters they are frustrated by the fact Apple retains the final say.

AWeber, a Pennsylvania-based maker of email marketing software, went back and forth with Apple for months last year over whether it needed to remove account creation links from its app and add in-app purchasing.

“They’d flag something, we would make some modifications, and they would flag something different," Tom Kulzer, the company's chief executive, told Reuters.

In a news release, Apple said it will now provide a "mechanism" for developers to "challenge" the guidelines. A spokesman declined to elaborate.

Apple also said it will no longer delay routine bug fixes over App Store guideline violations unless they relate to "legal issues," instead requiring fixes at the next major release.

Developers said those delays angered customers.

"The fact you don't learn about it until you're trying to push a bug fix has a really negative impact on customers," said Andy Fowler, chief technology officer at Michigan-based sales software maker Nutshell.

(Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

Biden campaign asks Twitter, Facebook to remove Trump posts bashing mail-in voting[email protected] (Thomson Reuters)Tue, 23 Jun 2020 00:43:46 +0000 Trevor Hunnicutt and Sharon Bernstein

(Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's political campaign has asked social media giants Facebook and Twitter to remove posts by Republican President Donald Trump on Monday that it said made false claims aimed at discrediting mail-in voting.

Trump tweeted several times on Monday criticizing vote-by-mail plans that numerous states have implemented so that voters concerned about the coronavirus infection can submit their ballots from home.

"If people can go out and protest, riot, break into stores and create all sorts of havoc, they can also go out and VOTE - and keep our Election Honest," Trump wrote. "With millions of mail-in ballots being sent out, who knows where they are going, and to whom?"

Trump, who himself has submitted absentee ballots through the mail, has for weeks stoked fears among his supporters that Democrats will abuse the vote-by-mail process in November's election.

"Voter rolls are notorious for including people who no longer live at the address on file, or are even deceased," Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said in response to the Biden camp's claim. "It is a wide open invitation for fraud and an undermining of election integrity."

Biden's campaign said that Trump was forcing people to choose between protecting their health and exercising their right to vote.

"Today, he has unfurled tweet after tweet pushing baseless conspiracy theories meant to discredit vote-by-mail," campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon told Reuters in a statement.

"Our campaign has sent letters to Twitter and Facebook demanding that this disinformation, which seeks to undermine faith in our electoral process, gets taken down immediately."

A Facebook representative said Trump's message does not violate their policies and would not be removed. A Twitter spokesperson also said the posts did not violate its rules.

The social media companies are under pressure to try to police disinformation in political campaigns.

Trump told Politico in an interview published on Friday that expanded mail-in voting could cost him re-election.

In March, he told Fox News: "If you ever agreed to it you'd never have a Republican elected in this country again."

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt in New York. Additional reporting by Katie Paul in San Francisco and Elizabeth Culliford in Birmingham, England. Writing by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall and Richard Pullin)

Google faces employee petition to end tech sales to police[email protected] (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 23:12:36 +0000 Paresh Dave

OAKLAND, Calif. (Reuters) - More than 1,600 workers at Alphabet Inc are petitioning its Google unit to stop selling email and other services to police departments, a source familiar with the matter said on Monday.

The workers in a petition seen by Reuters expressed disappointment with Google not joining the "millions who want to defang and defund" police departments. Civil rights activists across the United States for years have called for scaling back traditional policing, and the efforts have gained momentum through protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody last month.

"We should not be in the business of profiting from racist policing," the Google petition said. It cited sales of the company's G Suite package, which includes tools for email, document editing and file storage, to the police department in Clarkstown, New York.

A Google spokesperson told Reuters in response, "We have longstanding terms of use for generally available computing platforms like Gmail, G Suite and Google Cloud Platform, and these products will remain available for governments and local authorities, including police departments, to use."

Clarkstown police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Google has faced internal criticism in the past over sales and partnerships involving the U.S. military, as well as foreign governments seen by human rights activists as authoritarian.

While the company has pulled back from some deals like facial recognition, it has responded to concerns by saying it remains committed to helping governments with cybersecurity and other issues.

"We're committed to work that makes a meaningful difference to combat systemic racism, and our employees have made over 500 product suggestions in recent weeks, which we are reviewing," the spokesperson added.

(Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

New Zealand seizes $90 million in assets of Russian cybercrime suspect[email protected] (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 22:06:00 +0000 (Reuters) - New Zealand police has seized assets worth NZ$140 million ($90.68 million) linked to a Russian man suspected of laundering billions of dollars in digital currency.

The police said it seized the assets because they were being held in a New Zealand company owned by Alexander Vinnik, who is accused of masterminding a bitcoin laundering ring and is wanted by both France and the United States.

This is the largest restraint of funds in New Zealand Police history, the department said in a statement late on Monday.

U.S. authorities accuse Vinnik of running BTC-e - a digital currency exchange used to trade bitcoin - to facilitate crimes ranging from computer hacking to drug trafficking since 2011.

Vinnik has denied the charges, saying he was a technical consultant to BTC-e and not its operator.

He was arrested on money laundering allegations in Greece in 2017 and has since been extradited to France where he remains in custody. He is also wanted in Russia on lesser charges.

New Zealand Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said the funds are likely to reflect profits gained from the victimisation

of thousands of people globally.

"However, this restraint demonstrates that New Zealand is not, and will not be, a safe haven for the illicit proceeds generated from crime in other parts of the world," he said.

New Zealand Police said it worked closely with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service on the case and has applied to the High Court seeking forfeiture of these funds.

($1 = 1.5439 New Zealand dollars)

(Reporting by Praveen Menon; editing by Grant McCool)

Palo Alto finance head Kathy Bonanno to step down[email protected] (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 20:55:00 +0000 - Palo Alto Networks Inc Chief Financial Officer Kathy Bonanno is stepping down to join Google's Cloud division, the cybersecurity firm said on Monday.

The company said it expects to find a replacement for Bonanno, who has been with Palo Alto for six years, by later this week.

Bonanno will, however, continue in her role through the end of the fiscal year to allow smooth transition of her responsibilities.

Before Palo Alto, Bonanno served at antivirus software maker Symantec Corp and American Airlines, according to her LinkedIn profile

(Reporting by Ayanti Bera in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)

Google extends fact-checking to image search[email protected] (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 20:11:59 +0000 Katie Paul

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Alphabet Inc's Google on Monday said it would start showing fact-checking labels on Google Images search results globally, as tech companies come under increasing pressure to combat the viral spread of misleading claims online.

Google will display the "fact check" labels underneath thumbnails that appear in image search results along with a summary of third-party fact-checkers' findings, as it already does on its general search engine and on Google News results.

The company started showing fact-checking labels to U.S. viewers on its video platform YouTube in April in a bid to curb coronavirus misinformation, which exploded on social media as the pandemic intensified. [nL3N2CG4M0]

Tech companies have been facing calls to police content more aggressively in recent years, after their hands-off approach allowed fake accounts and false claims to become rampant online.

YouTube has surfaced links to sources such as Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia to address common hoaxes since 2018, but said in its April announcement that it would start directing efforts toward more fast-moving news cycles.

Shortly after that, it purged the wildly viral "Plandemic" video, which promoted a conspiracy theory about the pandemic to millions of viewers within just a few days. [nL1N2CQ02Z]

Twitter and Facebook have also introduced fact-checking programs and warning labels for "manipulated media," although critics say the moves are too limited in scope.

(Reporting by Katie Paul; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

Trump suspends entry of certain foreign workers despite business opposition[email protected] (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 19:56:10 +0000 Ted Hesson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump suspended the entry into the United States of certain foreign workers on Monday, a move the White House said would help the coronavirus-battered economy, but which business groups strongly oppose.

Trump issued a presidential proclamation that temporarily blocks foreign workers entering on H-1B visas, which are for skilled employees, and L visas, for managers and specialized workers being transferred within a company. Trump also blocked those entering on H-2B seasonal worker visas, which are used by landscapers and other industries.

(Graphic: H-1B visa approvals -

The visa suspension, which runs to the end of the year, will open up 525,000 jobs for U.S. workers, a senior administration official said on a call with reporters. The official, who did not explain how the administration arrived at that figure, said the move was geared at "getting Americans back to work as quickly as possible."

But businesses including major tech companies and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the visa suspension would stifle the economic recovery after the damage done by the pandemic.

Critics of the measure say Trump is using the pandemic to enact his longstanding goal to limit immigration into the United States. The immediate effects of the proclamation will likely be limited, as U.S. consulates around the world remain closed for most routine visa processing.

The proclamation exempts those already in the United States, as well as valid visa holders overseas, but they must have an official travel document that permits entry into the United States. Immigration attorneys were working on Monday to determine what the order might mean for some clients currently overseas.

The measure also exempts food supply chain workers and people whose entry is deemed in the national interest. The suspension will include work-authorized J visas for cultural exchange opportunities, including camp counselors and au pairs, as well as visas for the spouses of H-1B workers.

Republican Trump is running for re-election on Nov. 3 and has made his tough immigration stance a central pitch to voters, although the coronavirus, faltering economy and nationwide protests over police brutality have overshadowed that issue. The president has faced pressure to restrict work visas from groups that seek lower levels of immigration, as well as some Republican lawmakers.

BSA, The Software Alliance, whose members include Microsoft and Slack, urged the administration in a statement to "refrain from restricting employment of highly-skilled foreign professionals," adding that "these restrictions will negatively impact the U.S. economy" and decrease job opportunities for Americans.

Doug Rand, co-founder of Boundless, a pro-migrant group that helps families navigate the U.S. immigration system, said the fact that H-2A visas used to bring in foreign farmworkers were exempt signals that "big agriculture interests are the only stakeholder with any sway over immigration policy in this administration."

H-2B visas, which were included in the suspension, have been used by Trump owned- or Trump-branded businesses, including his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida.

Many business groups were lobbying against a temporary visa ban before it was announced.

Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst with the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute, estimated that the new ruling would block 219,000 foreign workers through the rest of the year.

"This is introducing more chaos into an already chaotic situation for a lot of U.S. companies," she said. "The administration is making the assumption that these companies did not already look at the U.S. labor market, which most of them do before they get involved in a complicated process of trying to bring in foreign workers."

Mitch Wexler, a managing partner at law firm Fragomen, said the order would hurt his social media and wireless communications clients and other tech companies.

Employers "wouldn't pay a lot of money to file these applications and hire lawyers like me if they could hire an American for these positions," he said.

Trump also renewed an April proclamation that blocks some foreigners from permanent residence in the United States, extending that measure until the end of the year. The senior administration official said that proclamation freed up roughly 50,000 jobs for Americans, but did not provide details.

The visa suspension issued on Monday narrows an exemption for medical workers in Trump's April ruling to include only people working on coronavirus research and care.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said there were 15,269 petitions for H-1B visas in healthcare-related jobs across the United States in fiscal year 2019.

The Trump administration will make several other moves to tighten rules around temporary work visas.

The administration plans to rework the H-1B visa program so that the 85,000 visas available in the program each year go to the highest-paid applicants, instead of the current lottery system, the senior administration official said.

In addition, it plans to issue rules that make it harder for companies to use the H-1B visa program to train foreign workers to perform the same job in another country, the official said.

Both moves would likely require regulatory changes.

The Trump administration is also taking steps to limit work permits for people seeking asylum in the United States, finalizing a regulation on Monday that removes a requirement to process such permits within 30 days.

A separate asylum measure set to be finalized on Friday would greatly limit asylum seekers' access to work permits.

(Reporting by Ted Hesson and Steve Holland in Washington; Additional reporting by Raphael Satter in Washington and Mica Rosenberg in New York, Editing by Grant McCool and Rosalba O'Brien)

Microsoft to close Mixer live streaming service, tie up with Facebook Gaming[email protected] (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 19:03:45 +0000 - Microsoft Corp is closing down Mixer, its live streaming service for games, and shifting users to Facebook Gaming, the technology giant's Xbox division said on Monday.

Starting on July 22, all Mixer sites and applications will redirect users to Facebook Inc's gaming app, Xbox said in a blog post

Microsoft bought Mixer in 2016, hoping to rope in millions of paying subscribers looking to watch live streams of their favorite gamers competing in e-sports or playing popular video games such as Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto.

However, despite online streaming viewership booming under coronavirus lockdowns, Mixer has struggled to leave the shadow of market leader Twitch, owned by Inc.

Even booking popular video game streamer Tyler Blevins, who goes by the online moniker "Ninja", was not enough for Microsoft to close in on Twitch's lead.

"It became clear that the time needed to grow our own live streaming community to scale was out of measure with the vision and experiences we want to deliver to gamers now, so we've decided to close the operations side of Mixer," Xbox head Phil Spencer said.

Microsoft, whose latest generation Xbox console is slated for launch later this year, said it will now focus on developing its XCloud video game streaming service and integrating it with Facebook's gaming app.

(Reporting by Uday Sampath and Ayanti Bera in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath)

Chairman of Israeli telecom Bezeq resigns[email protected] (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 16:46:34 +0000 (Reuters) - The chairman of Israel's biggest telecom group, Bezeq, has resigned, the company said on Monday.

Shlomo Rodav stepped down after more than two years in the position. It was his second time serving as Bezeq's chairman after a stint between 2007-2010.

Bezeq said it would choose a temporary replacement in the coming days while beginning the process of finding a new, permanent chairman.

(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Steven Scheer)

Patagonia joins The North Face in Facebook ad boycott[email protected] (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 16:30:06 +0000 Elizabeth Culliford

(Reuters) - Outdoor apparel brand Patagonia Inc will pause its ads on Facebook Inc and Facebook's photo-sharing app, Instagram, making it the latest company to join a boycott campaign organized by U.S. civil rights groups.

"We will pull all ads on Facebook and Instagram, effective immediately, through at least the end of July, pending meaningful action from the social media giant," the company said in a series of tweets on Sunday attributed to its head of marketing, Cory Bayers.

The Stop Hate for Profit campaign was started last week by several U.S. civil rights groups who said the social network was doing too little to stop hate speech on its platforms.

Patagonia, which has been politically vocal in the past, joins companies including clothing maker VF Corp's outdoor brand The North Face, Recreational Equipment Inc, or REI, and recruiting company Upwork in pausing Facebook ads. A VF Corp spokesman told Reuters other brands in its portfolio were actively discussing whether to take the same action.

"From secure elections to a global pandemic to racial justice, the stakes are too high to sit back and let the company continue to be complicit in spreading disinformation and fomenting fear and hatred," said one of Patagonia's tweets.

The campaign follows the death of George Floyd, a U.S. Black man who died in police custody, which has triggered worldwide protests against racism and police brutality. Floyd died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes while detaining him on May 25.

Facebook's chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, was criticized after the company, unlike Twitter Inc , decided not to take action on an inflammatory post by U.S. President Donald Trump about the protests.

"We deeply respect any brand's decision, and remain focused on the important work of removing hate speech and providing critical voting information," Carolyn Everson, vice president of Facebook's global business group, said in a statement on Monday. "Our conversations with marketers and civil rights organizations are about how, together, we can be a force for good."

Facebook is the second-largest U.S. digital ad player after Alphabet Inc's Google, according to eMarketer. Patagonia and VF Corp did not immediately respond to Reuters questions about how much they spend on Facebook advertising.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford in Birmingham, England; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

Google's U.S. ad revenue to take a hit due to pandemic: report[email protected] (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 16:26:01 +0000 Sheila Dang

(Reuters) - Google Inc's U.S. advertising revenue will drop 5.3% as brands pare spending during the coronavirus pandemic, according to an eMarketer report on Monday, the first decline since 2008 when the research firm began estimating the Alphabet Inc unit's ad revenues.

The decline for the world's largest digital advertising company is primarily due to its heavy reliance on travel companies that advertise in Google searches, which has been the hardest-hit industry during the pandemic, eMarketer said.

The forecast shows how the health crisis has hurt even the largest advertising platforms, as ad spending typically follows economic conditions and demand from consumers.

Google had been expected to grow its U.S. ad revenue by almost 13%, according to eMarketer's first-quarter forecast which did not account for the pandemic.

Facebook Inc , the second-largest digital ad company, is expected to increase its U.S. ad revenue by nearly 5% this year, far less than the 26% growth in 2019, the research firm said.

(Reporting by Sheila Dang; Editing by Richard Chang)

Fujitsu-backed supercomputer with Arm chips ranks as world's most powerful[email protected] (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 15:01:07 +0000 Stephen Nellis

(Reuters) - A Japanese supercomputer built with technology from Arm Ltd, whose chip designs power most of the world's smartphones, has taken the top spot among the world's most powerful systems, displacing one powered by International Business Machines Corp chips.

The Fugaku supercomputer, a system jointly developed by Japanese research institute RIKEN and Fujitsu Ltd in Kobe, Japan, took the highest spot on the TOP500 list, a twice-yearly listing of the world's most powerful computers, its backers said on Monday. The chip technology comes from Arm, which is headquartered in the United Kingdom but owned by Japan's Softbank Group Corp.

The previous top-ranked system as of November 2019 was at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the United States with chips designed by IBM. Chips from IBM and Intel Corp had dominated the top 10 rankings, with the lone exception of a system at the National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi, China powered by Chinese-designed chip.

Governments use supercomputers to simulate nuclear blasts to perform virtual weapons testing. They are also used for modeling climate systems and biotechnology research. The Fugaku supercomputer will be used in such research as part of Japan's Society 5.0 technology program.

"I very much hope that Fugaku will show itself to be highly effective in real-world applications and will help to realize Society 5.0,” Naoki Shinjo, corporate executive officer of Fujitsu, said in a statement.

The Arm-based system in Japan in November had taken the highest spot on TOP500's list for power-efficient supercomputers. Arm said the system also took the top spot in a list designed to closely resemble real-world computing tasks known as the high-performance conjugate gradient benchmark.

(Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Dan Grebler)

Morocco used NSO's spyware to snoop on journalist, Amnesty says[email protected] (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 12:16:21 +0000 Tova Cohen

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Technology developed by Israeli cyber security company NSO Group was used by the Moroccan government to spy on journalist Omar Radi, a critic of Morocco's human rights record, Amnesty International said on Monday.

The organization found that Radi's phone was subjected to several attacks using a "sophisticated new technique" that silently installed NSO's Pegasus spyware.

"The attacks occurred over a period when Radi was being repeatedly harassed by the Moroccan authorities, with one attack taking place just days after NSO pledged to stop its products being used in human rights abuses and continued until at least January 2020," Amnesty said.

If NSO won't stop its technology from being used in such incidents, "then it should be banned from selling it to governments who are likely to use it for human rights abuses," said Danna Ingleton, deputy director of Amnesty Tech.

Several messages left with Moroccan government spokesperson Said Amzazi and human rights minister Mustapha Ramid were not immediately returned.

The findings show that "Moroccan authorities have been using their surveillance technologies to the detriment of privacy rights and this is a blatant human rights violation," Radi said. "We are afraid spying has become an instrument of governance for authorities."

An NSO spokesperson said the company has undertaken a human rights policy to comply with United Nations guiding principles and takes any claim of misuse seriously.

"We responded directly to Amnesty International after learning of their allegations ... and we shall immediately review the information provided and initiate an investigation if warranted," the spokesperson said.

NSO said due to state confidentiality it cannot disclose the identities of customers.

Last year Amnesty said two Moroccan human rights activists were hacked with the help of NSO tools.

Pegasus has been linked to political surveillance in Mexico, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, according to the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab, which researches digital surveillance. NSO has denied wrongdoing.

Facebook's WhatsApp sued NSO in October after finding evidence that the firm had abused a flaw in the chat program to remotely hijack hundreds of smartphones.

In March, Radi was handed a suspended four-month prison term for a tweet he posted in 2019 criticizing the trial of a group of activists.

(Additional reporting by Ahmed El Jechtimi in Rabat,; Editing by Steven Scheer, William Maclean)

Apple switches to its own chips for Mac computers as it adds features, privacy controls[email protected] (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 11:05:02 +0000 Stephen Nellis

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Apple Inc on Monday said it will switch to its own chips for its Mac computers, saying the first machines will ship this year and ending a nearly 15-year reliance on Intel Corp to supply processors for its flagship laptops and desktop.

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook said it marked the beginning of a major new era for a product line that powered the company's rise in the 1980s and its resurgence in the late 1990s.

“Silicon is at the heart of our hardware," Cook said during a virtual keynote address recorded at the company's Cupertino, California headquarters for its annual developer conference. "Having a world class silicon design team is a game changer.”

The silicon switch brings the Mac into line with the company's iPhone and iPads, which already use Apple-designed chips. Cook said that Apple expects the Mac transition to take about two years and that Apple still has some Intel-based computers in its pipeline that it will support for "many years."

But the move will give software developers for Apple's largest pool of third-party apps - those built for iPhones and iPads - new access to its laptops and desktop for the first time. Apple software chief Craig Federighi said that for those offerings, "most apps will just work, with no changes from the developer" on the new Macs. He also said the "vast majority" of existing apps for Intel-based machines can be modified to work in "just a few days."

But analysts said Intel would likely to continue to supply Apple with data center chips that power services such as iCloud. In a statement, Intel said Apple remained a customer "across several areas of business" and that it was still focused on the PC market.

"We believe Intel-powered PCs — like those based on our forthcoming Tiger Lake mobile platform — provide global customers the best experience in the areas they value most, as well as the most open platform for developers, both today and into the future," Intel said.

Ben Bajarin, an analyst with Creative Strategies, said Apple's two-year window at moving to its own chips was likely aimed at holding on to Mac sales to corporations, where Apple has double-digit market share.

"There are just standards there (in corporate software) that run on x86" chips from Intel, he said. Apple "cannot abandon that as quickly as they want if they want to maintain the enterprise and commercial share for Mac, which is one of their major segments."

As with previous Macs, the new Apple-chipped machines will remain able to download software from outside Apple's official app stores, in contrast to iPhones and iPads, which for the most part can only run software from Apple's stores.

Apple shares gained 2.7% to a record high, helping the Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> to a record close of its own.


Apple announced the moves at its Worldwide Developer Conference. The conference has gained new prominence since paid services sold through the App Store have become central to the company's revenue growth as consumers have slowed the growth of iPhone upgrades. Apple takes a 15% to 30% cut of the sales developers make through the App Store, which is the only way to distribute software onto Apple's mobile devices.

Those fees, and Apple's strict app review process, have come under antitrust scrutiny in the United States and Europe, where regulators last week unveiled a formal probe into the company. In what appeared to be an acknowledgement of some critics, Apple said it would let users select non-Apple apps as default apps for tasks like email and web browsing on iPhones and iPads.

Apple this year added privacy protections, saying it would let users only share their approximate location with app developers and would require those developers to seek permission before sharing user data with other apps and websites. Apple also said it would require a privacy and security label, akin to a food nutrition label, to be shown to users before they download apps.

(Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

Taiwan minister says TSMC has offset lost Huawei orders[email protected] (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 10:32:12 +0000 (Reuters) - Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) <2330.TW> has made up its order book with other customers now that it has lost China's Huawei Technologies Co Ltd [HWT.UL], which is subject to U.S. sales restrictions, a government minister said on Monday.

TSMC's clients include Huawei's chip division HiSilicon. However, the U.S. blacklisting of Huawei over security concerns and trade disputes with China has left the world's biggest contract chipmaker exposed to diplomatic developments between two countries where it also has production bases.

Last month, the company unveiled plans for a $12-billion plant in the United States just hours before the U.S. Commerce Department outlined a proposal to amend chip export rules - a move that would restrict TSMC's sales to Huawei.

The amendment would require licences for sales of semiconductors made abroad with U.S. technology to Huawei, the world's biggest supplier of telecoms equipment and its second-largest smartphone maker.

Kung Ming-hsin, the new head of Taiwan's economic planning agency, the National Development Council, said the United States was taking aim at a specific company, not Taiwan's economic relations with China, the island's largest trading partner.

"The United States has not asked Taiwan to cut off all ties with China. It's aimed at Huawei," Kung told reporters in Taipei.

The main reason the United States has targeted Huawei is because it was not transparent and had too close a relationship with the Chinese government, he added, charges the company has denied.

"As for TSMC, although their orders no longer have Huawei, they've quickly been filled up, as other people really need them," Kung said, without elaborating.

TSMC declined to comment, saying it did not comment on its customers.

The chairman of TSMC, a supplier to U.S. tech giants such as Apple Inc , said this month the firm could quickly fill any order gap should U.S. curbs prevent sales to Huawei.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Nokia to cut a third of jobs at French arm Alcatel-Lucent[email protected] (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 09:19:13 +0000 Mathieu Rosemain and Gwénaëlle Barzic

PARIS (Reuters) - Finnish telecoms equipment maker Nokia Oyj plans to cut 1,233 jobs at its French subsidiary Alcatel-Lucent International, equivalent to a third of the unit's workforce, the group said on Monday, confirming an earlier Reuters report.

The announcement, just as Europe prepares for the deployment of the next generation of mobile internet, or 5G, has political resonance in France because Nokia bought the unit five years ago on condition it would keep jobs.

Nokia, which competes with Ericsson and Huawei [HWT.UL] for 5G networks, said in a statement the staff reduction was needed because of significant cost pressures.

Nokia said in April it aimed to cut costs by 500 million euros ($560.30 million) by the end of this year compared with full-year 2018, with 350 million euros targeted to come from operating expenses and 150 million from sales costs.

When Nokia bought Alcatel-Lucent International, it pledged to preserve jobs in France for two years and to expand research and development teams in the country to create a resource within the group for 5G technology.

The French research and development teams are particularly affected by the job cuts.

"Nokia must improve this job cuts plan really significantly," an official at the French finance ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

Nokia became free from the commitments it made this month, a spokeswoman said, while the company's president in France said Nokia would still be a big source of jobs.

"Nokia will continue to be a major employer in France with a strong foothold in R&D, sales and services, which will enable us to develop and execute our customers' projects efficiently," Thierry Boisnon, president of Nokia in France, said in written comments.

Nokia employs 5,138 people in France, of which 3,640 work for Alcatel-Lucent International.

The entity was part of the Alcatel-Lucent group before Nokia bought it in 2015 in an all-share deal that valued the French business at 15.6 billion euros.

The merger was scrutinised by the French government and its then economy minister Emmanuel Macron, who is now president.

"It's just a low-cost strategy that is being implemented, contrary to all the commitments made by Nokia in France. Nokia is laughing at everyone, first and foremost the French government," the CFE-CGC union at Nokia said on its website.

(Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain and Gwenalle Barzic; additional reporting by Anne Kauranen in Helsinki; editing by Richard Lough, Mark Potter and Barbara Lewis)

Pandemic propels old-school bond traders towards an electronic future[email protected] (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 06:15:26 +0000 Dhara Ranasinghe and Saikat Chatterjee

LONDON (Reuters) - The mammoth bond market has long been the old-school bastion of the financial world, but the COVID-19 pandemic has cast a light on its future - and it looks electronic. Well, mainly.

At the height of the market panic in March, Seattle-based Brandon Rasmussen, a senior fixed-income trader at $300 billion asset manager Russell Investments, had a client order to sell $2.5 billion worth of U.S. Treasuries.

He found, though, that such a transaction was near-impossible in a highly volatile market that made no exceptions for even one of the world's most sought-after assets.

Dealers refused to quote prices by phone, adding to the stress of executing a large order without distorting the market.

The solution Rasmussen eventually settled on was to break the order up into smaller chunks and process them electronically - something he may not have considered a few weeks earlier.

"The feedback that we got from dealers was that they were not quoting on the phone. They couldn't do that, they couldn't keep up with that," he said. "I think what this crisis has shown is that really if you weren't trading electronically, you should be trading electronically."

His experience illustrates how the volatility caused by the crisis, along with a new remote mindset of working from home, has pushed more traders to go digital in a market that has historically lagged stocks and forex in electronification.

That trend is reflected in the business on electronic bond-trading platforms.

For example MarketAxess, one of the biggest players, enjoyed record trading volumes in March. At rival Tradeweb, average daily turnover hit a record aggregate $1 trillion in that month, a more than 41% year-on-year increase.

Meanwhile MTS, part of the London Stock Exchange Group, said it won several large asset managers in Europe as clients during the crisis.

Yet traders stress that dealers and clients speaking to one another will long remain a key component of the industry, especially at times of heightened volatility.

Even as Rasmussen went electronic to push through his trade, for example, he was also talking to buyers to agree "switches" - swapping one type of U.S. bond for another to share risk.

The jump in electronic trading activity coincided with both a rush into government bonds as the coronavirus sparked demand for safe-haven assets, and then a sharp selloff as investors sold their most liquid assets to make up for losses elsewhere.

Graphic: Electronic bond trading activity surges in March,


Electronic trading - where transactions are carried out using software on online platforms, rather than via dealer-client "voice" trades - can carry major benefits for the $100 trillion-plus world of government and corporate debt.

Regulations such as MiFID II in Europe to improve transparency have also boosted electronic trading.

For one, traders executing deals can quickly gauge market depth on their screens, freeing time for more complex trades. For another, it offers lower costs for investors; two dealers estimated it to be 10%-30% cheaper than traditional voice trades.

Nonetheless, while most bond industry players acknowledge that much of the future is digital, many have been reluctant to go fully electronic.

Around 45% of the European fixed-income market is electronically traded, versus 38% a year ago, consultancy Greenwich Associates estimates. In the $6.6 trillion-a-day currency market, 90% of spot trading is conducted digitally.

However the COVID-19 crisis is accelerating the electronification of the bond market, according to industry players.

Many such as Tony Rodriguez, U.S.-based head of fixed income strategy at Nuveen Asset Management, said a need for greater liquidity had boosted electronic trading activity.

"A lot of trades were pushed electronically because of greater liquidity and transparency - so the crisis pushed what was already in place," he said.

Andrew Falco, global head of FX and fixed income trading at Fidelity International in London credits electronic trading with allowing connectivity in a market suddenly dispersed by remote working.

This kind of technology enabled the transition from working in an office to working from kitchen tables, he told Reuters.

He said some lessons had been learned about this last year when Fidelity's Hong Kong team struggled to work in the office because of the unrest roiling the city.

"So for us in 2020, we finessed the e-trading home set-up and ensured it worked well, whether it was in HK, Shanghai, Dublin or the UK," he added.

Graphic: etrading impact on bond market liquidity - Greenwich,


For the banks who provide dealer and execution services, though, the electronic shift may be eating into fixed-income revenues; during the March quarter, earnings from bond trading at the world's biggest 12 banks remained below levels seen in 2014, research firm Coalition calculates.

But they too are accelerating the push to digital services, particularly for the automation that helps them when volatility spikes.

JP Morgan, for instance, uses an algorithm to help generate price quotes on its forward FX platform, which includes bonds, fielding "hundreds of thousands of enquiries" and transacting "thousands of trades a day" during the crisis, said Tom Prickett, co-head of EMEA rates at the bank.

Another big player, Goldman Sachs, said clients ramped up calls for the electronification and automation of companies' bond sales, until now a slow process conducted manually.

"The crisis revealed some of those shortcomings in bright lights," said David Wilkins, Goldman's head of FICC execution services in EMEA.

Investors and traders acknowledged that digital technology had been a saviour during the pandemic, a view expressed across a host of industries.

"Imagine something like this happening 25 years ago, when emails didn't exist, electronic communication was not really there," said Zoeb Sachee, head of euro linear rates trading at Citibank who oversees government bond trading in European markets.


But, for the foreseeable future at least, the bond market is likely to encompass the old and the new: technology as well as traditional trading models based on dealer-client relationships.

Traders of European investment-grade corporate bonds during the crisis often negotiated deals by phone before using a platform to settle, according to an International Capital Market Association (ICMA) report.

"Bond markets are very much relationship-driven and I don't see how that goes away," said report author Andy Hill.

This was echoed by Falco at Fidelity.

"The view that we felt as a team was that we would use technology where we had confidence in the price that we could see on the screen, and when we didn't have the confidence in the price, we would execute manually."

Graphic: Change in use of e-trading protocols during the crisis - ICMA,

(Reporting by Dhara Ranasinghe and Saikat Chatterjee; Graphic by Ritvik Carvalho; Editing by Sujata Rao and Pravin Char)

Musk says Tesla 'Battery Day', shareholder meet likely on Sept. 15[email protected] (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 03:47:26 +0000 - Tesla Inc Chief Executive Elon Musk has said Sept.15 is the tentative date for the company's shareholder meeting as well as "Battery Day", at which the electric-car maker is expected to reveal significant advances in battery technology.

The battery event, which Musk has touted as being "one of the most of exciting days in Tesla's history", was previously scheduled for May, while the shareholder meeting was due on July 7.

Tesla said in a regulatory filing on Monday it was postponing the shareholder meeting "due to continuing restrictions on in-person gatherings imposed by the relevant governmental authorities." (

The company did not confirm the Sept. 15 date in the filing, but attached an image of Musk's tweet from Sunday night and said it will announce details, including the date, location and format at a later date.

The Battery Day will include a tour of the company's cell production system, Musk tweeted, without elaborating. (

Tesla and China's Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd <300750.SZ> are jointly developing batteries designed to last a million miles of use and enable electric Teslas to sell profitably for the same price or less than a gasoline vehicle, people familiar with the plans have said.

With a global fleet of more than 1 million electric vehicles that are capable of connecting to and sharing power with the grid, Tesla's goal is to achieve the status of a power company, competing with such traditional energy providers as Pacific Gas & Electric and Tokyo Electric Power <9501.T>, those sources said.

(Reporting by Subrat Patnaik in Bengaluru and Hyunjoo Jin in Seoul; Editing by Anil D'Silva, Edwina Gibbs and Arun Koyyur)

'Total disaster': Phantom billions plunge Wirecard into chaos[email protected] (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 02:11:39 +0000 Patricia Uhlig, Karen Lema and John O'Donnell

FRANKFURT/MANILA (Reuters) - Wirecard said on Monday that 1.9 billion euros ($2.1 billion) it had booked in its accounts likely never existed, a black hole that threatens to engulf the payments company and tarnish the reputation of Germany's financial watchdog.

The one-time investor darling is holding emergency talks with its banks, which are owed roughly 1.75 billion euros, to avert a looming cash crunch triggered by the missing money.

The episode marks a dramatic turn in the fortunes of a homegrown tech firm that attracted some of the world's biggest investors before a whistleblower alleged that it owed its success in part to a web of sham transactions.

Wirecard said last week that auditor EY had refused to sign off its 2019 accounts as it was unable to confirm the existence of 1.9 billion euros in cash balances in trust accounts, about a quarter of its balance sheet.

On Monday, the company was frank.

"The Management Board of Wirecard assesses ... that there is a prevailing likelihood that the bank trust account balances in the amount of 1.9 billion EUR do not exist," it said.

State prosecutors in Munich investigating the case are now considering issuing arrest warrants for its former CEO, Markus Braun, and Jan Marsalek, a board member fired on Monday, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Braun and Marsalek could not be immediately reached for comment, and their lawyers declined to comment.

The furore has also damaged Germany's image.

Felix Hufeld, head of Germany's financial watchdog Bafin, described the crisis, which has seen around 11 billion euros wiped off Wirecard's market value in recent days, as a "total disaster", conceding his agency and others had made mistakes.

"It is a scandal that something like this could happen," Hufeld said.


Bafin's own record has come under fire as Wirecard's share price has imploded, hitting retail investors and some large money managers.

The regulator had focused on probing so-called short-sellers and journalists behind reports which questioned Wirecard's accounts, prompting criticism over its inaction against the company.

German lawmaker Fabio De Masi said that Bafin had failed in its duty over Wirecard, whose credit rating was ultimately withdrawn by agency Moody's.

Wirecard, which started out handling payments for adult entertainment and gambling websites and now processes payments for companies including Visa and Mastercard, has appointed investment bank Houlihan Lokey to help assess its options.

More than a dozen banks, including ABN Amro and Commerzbank, are forming a creditor committee and have hired law firm Allen & Overy, two people close to the talks said.

Houlihan Lokey, A&O and the banks declined to comment.

Wirecard also said it is looking at the sale or closure of parts of its business, but its creditor banks are not interested in a fire sale, especially as litigation risks may put off buyers, one person close to talks told Reuters.

The company, which has long been held up as a rare German technology success, also withdrew its financial statements for 2019 and said it was examining cost cuts.


EY had regularly approved Wirecard's accounts in recent years, and its refusal to sign off for 2019 confirmed failings found in an external investigation by KPMG in April, which in turn followed investigative reports by the Financial Times.

Wirecard's latest announcement follows the exit on Friday of former chief executive Braun, who was replaced by James Freis, an ex-compliance officer at Germany's stock exchange.

The company has been under scrutiny since the whistleblower alleged the web of sham transactions. This culminated in a search for the missing cash, which last week hit a dead end in the Philippines.

The Philippine central bank said none of the money appeared to have entered the country, after Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) and BDO Unibank said documents purporting to show Wirecard had deposited funds with them were false.

BPI Chief Executive Cezar Consing said a certificate purporting to be for a Wirecard deposit was "spurious".

Wirecard, which operates both as an issuer of real and 'virtual' payment cards, had marketed itself as a universal payments platform positioned to profit from the growth in digital payments. Its future is now uncertain.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh and Bhargav Acharya in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Douglas Busvine in Berlin, Joern Poltz in Munich and Arno Schuetze in Frankfurt; Writing by John O'Donnell; Editing by Christopher Cushing, Alexander Smith and Pravin Char)

Toshiba plans to sell down Kioxia stake, return much of proceeds to shareholders[email protected] (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 01:10:24 +0000 Makiko Yamazaki and Chang-Ran Kim

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's Toshiba Corp said on Monday it planned to sell down its 40.2% stake in flash memory chips firm Kioxia Holdings and will return a majority of the net proceeds to shareholders.

Shares in Toshiba jumped on the news and were up 5% in Monday afternoon trade.

It did not disclose details of the planned sale in its statement but sources familiar with the matter said on Saturday it wants to gradually unwind the stake, a process that would begin when the world's second-largest flash memory chip firm lists its shares later this year.

Japanese media have said Kioxia could be valued at some $32 billion when it lists. Toshiba sold the former flash memory chips unit to a consortium led by U.S. private equity firm Bain Capital for $18 billion in 2018 and bought the 40.2% stake as part of the deal.

Toshiba also said it has received two separate proposals for new board directors, both of which it opposes.

One from Effissimo Capital Management, its top shareholder with a 15% stake, calls for Toshiba to elect an Effissimo co-founder and two others as outside directors.

Effissimo, a Singapore-based fund established by former colleagues of activist investor Yoshiaki Murakami, cited fictitious cyclical transactions Toshiba revealed this year as an indication that Toshiba's governance has not significantly progressed since a major accounting scandal in 2015.

The other from 3D Opportunity Master Fund seeks the election of two candidates it is nominating.

In response to both proposals, Toshiba said the board it has nominated is comprised of people with deep knowledge of various areas and ensures appropriate diversity.

Toshiba has been under pressure from activist funds since it sold 600 billion yen ($5.6 billion) of stock to dozens of foreign hedge funds during a crisis stemming from the bankruptcy of its U.S. nuclear power unit in 2017. Nearly 70% of its shareholders are non-Japanese.

(Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki and Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)