Cisco Unveils LaunchPad Accelerator Under Startup India Initiative

Cisco Unveils LaunchPad Accelerator Under Startup India Initiative

In a fillip to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Startup India’ campaign, US-based global technology company Cisco on Wednesday unveiled ‘LaunchPad’, an open innovation initiative to accelerate startups and support growth among India’s young developer community.

‘LaunchPad’ will help startups, their authorised channel partners and developers scale their solutions, address new markets and build digital businesses in the world’s youngest startup nation and second biggest developer community.

“We have an unprecedented opportunity to digitise the next three billion people in one-third the time it took to connect the first three billion. Through ‘LaunchPad’, we want to unleash the next generation of disruptive ideas and help turn the entrepreneurs of today into the business leaders of tomorrow,” Amit Phadnis, President, Engineering and India Site Leader, told reporters at Cisco campus in Bengaluru.

“We would wish to take this initiative to state governments as before we digitise the next three billion, connecting the few millions in our country with our strong go to market capabilities is the first challenge,” Phadnis told IANS.

As pat of the project, Cisco teams will mentor startups and developers on how to help create digital solutions to enable enterprise customers, service providers and other enablers in the public and private sphere.

The move will help connect the people and 50 billion devices through digitisation, matching appealing ideas with business expertise and connecting engineering talent with investors and customers.

For this, Cisco will provide a space at its Bangalore campus with access to a suite of Cisco technologies and free grants to startups chosen to work at its campus.

“Innovation and investment are the key drivers of the Indian economy, leading to jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. India is a hotbed of entrepreneurial talent and Cisco LaunchPad will be a tremendous accelerator for startups to develop digital solutions that reach a global market,” added KS Vishwanathan, Vice President, Nasscom, Indian IT industry trade body.

India is the youngest startup and developer nation in the world and is projected to have the world’s largest number of developers by 2018.

Through ‘LaunchPad’, the startups will get an opportunity to work on solving business relevant problems by catering to use cases that are identified and validated by Cisco go-to-market teams.

The initiative will initially focus on manufacturing, retail, transportation, education and healthcare sector.

As part of the initiative, Cisco and Tech Mahindra Limited announced a collaboration to develop digital solutions for the Indian electric utilities.

They will work with select startups and developers to bring together Cisco technologies, startup Community and accelerate digitization of the power sector and transform the way electricity is delivered to and used by people, the company announced.

“Cisco LaunchPad is an excellent platform for Tech Mahindra to help solve some of the complex emerging market problems like the energy management, healthcare access and intelligent manufacturing,” noted L. Ravichandran, President and COO, Tech Mahindra.

The US networking major earlier this year announced a planned series of strategic investments in India that will total over $100 million (roughly Rs. 675 crores) including $40 million (roughly Rs. 270 crores) to fund early-stage and growth-stage companies in the country and train 250,000 students in India by 2020.

Cisco recently launched a Global Delivery Center in Pune which will lead to its headcount in the country getting doubled over the next two years.

With the new Pune centre, India will be the only country in the world where Cisco will have two global delivery centres, the other one being in Bangalore. The centre will help to proactively explore potential service growth opportunities, especially in Maharashtra

China Replaces Top Internet Regulator and Censor With Deputy

China Replaces Top Internet Regulator and Censor With DeputyChina has replaced its Internet regulator, Lu Wei, the hard-liner responsible for leading the government’s efforts to tighten control over domestic cyberspace and export the ruling Communist Party’s philosophy of web control.

Lu wielded expansive powers as head of the Central Leading Group for Cyberspace Affairs since 2014, dictating what 700 million Chinese Internet users may view online and acting as gatekeeper for technology companies wishing to do business in China.

His successor will be his deputy, former propaganda official Xu Lin, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Wednesday.

The departure of Lu, one of the Communist Party’s rising stars and an ambitious ally of President Xi Jinping, had been rumored for months and is not expected to alter the broad direction of China’s Internet policy. Xinhua did not mention a new post for Lu, who will keep his concurrent position as deputy head of the party’s propaganda department. He could be in line to lead the department or take over a provincial post, according to political analysts and speculation in Chinese media.

But the reshuffle likely means a new face will greet foreign executives like Apple’s Tim Cook and Microsoft’s Satya Nadella who have been dealing with thorny cyber-security and trade issues on their visits to Beijing.

Although the outspoken and gregarious Lu has visited tech companies in the US, where he has been pictured joking with the likes of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, he has also taken a hard line in demanding tough security checks on imported foreign tech products and keeping out social networks like Facebook in the name of preserving social stability.

Lu assumed his job at a time when China’s government was reeling from widespread online criticism, and promptly launched a massive social media crackdown – including detentions of online celebrities – that quickly chilled China’s once-freewheeling Weibo microblogging platform.

Under Lu’s watch, China has been codifying a series of cybersecurity and national security laws that gives the government greater legal powers to control online content and speech.

With his success taming China’s Internet, Lu has gone overseas to preach China’s vision of “Internet sovereignty,” a world order in which every government could dictate limits to its cyberspace and how its citizens access the web. Last week he delivered a speech on the subject in Moscow, where he told an audience that “freedom is not a right, but a responsibility” and warned that unlimited freedom could spawn terrorism.

Rogier Creemers, a China scholar at the University of Oxford, said Lu was likely being primed to take over a high-level provincial post or the propaganda department itself, the kind of positions that are springboards to the Politburo, China’s elite policymaking body.

“Lu’s most important achievement was that he took a government that was scared of the Internet and changed it into a government that was very much in control of the Internet,” Creemers said. “From the Chinese policy perspective, it was very innovative, very effective. He’s won, and the political cauldron that was Weibo is gone.”

It remains unclear how Xu’s ascent will affect China’s posture toward U.S. tech companies, a thorn in bilateral relations. But one former U.S. technology executive based in Beijing who met frequently with Chinese officials said Western companies are largely unfamiliar with Xu and would need to rebuild relationships as they had with Lu.

Still, observers believe that the general direction of Chinese technology policy will not change under the Xi administration, particularly given the close ties between the president and Xu, who served under him a decade ago in the Shanghai government.

In recent years China has pushed cybersecurity regulations aimed at limiting technology imported from the West, which Beijing officials say is necessary given Edward Snowden’s allegations of U.S. spying via “backdoors” inserted in exported U.S.-made hardware.

James Zimmerman, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, urged Beijing on Wednesday to rethink its Internet controls.

“One unfortunate consequence of over-broad Internet policies is to potentially isolate China technologically from the rest of the world, and the result of that may be to limit the country’s access to cutting-edge technology and global ideas,” he said.

Amazon ‘Prime Day’ Annual Sales Event Returns on July 12

Amazon 'Prime Day' Annual Sales Event Returns on July 12Amazon is renewing its “Prime Day” July sales gimmick as Wal-Mart also tries to go after online shoppers.

The e-commerce powerhouse launched the discounting event last year to commemorate its 20th anniversary and to advertise its $99 (roughly Rs. 6,685) annual Prime loyalty program, which offers free two-day shipping, during sleepy summer shopping months. It has said previously that Prime Day would be an annual event.

Now Wal-Mart is also advertising online shopping discounts in July as well as a 30-day free trial of a two-day unlimited shipping service. Other retailers may try something similar.

It remains to be seen whether Amazon’s event will be a hit or a bust. There was online grumbling last year that the deals were unimpressive, that deal items ran out too fast and were only available for a limited time.

Amazon said it was a success, with 18 percent more orders placed that day than the prior year’s Black Friday, the shopping day after Thanksgiving that’s typically the busiest day in retail. The company also said it got hundreds of thousands of new Prime signups.

(You have to have Prime to be eligible for deals. There’s a 30-day free trial.)

This year the Seattle retailer says it has stocked more of the deal items. Discounts will start at 3am E.T. and new ones will be introduced every few minutes.

Amazon’s competitor, Wal-Mart, announced its own discounting effort Wednesday to try to get ahead of Amazon. It will offer discounts throughout July on a host of products online. It is also offering a free 30-day trial on its two-day unlimited shipping service, and an extra month free for paying members.

Their efforts may prompt other retailers to launch deals. Prime Day last year spurred “Christmas in July”-type sales from Target, Macy’s and Best Buy as well as Wal-Mart.

Amazon doesn’t release detailed numbers on Prime but says it has “tens of millions” of subscribers. Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter estimates there are about 50 million. It’s a key platform for Amazon because Prime members buy more than others. To attract subscribers, the company has added grocery delivery, one-hour delivery in some cities, more video streaming and a smart speaker called the Echo that syncs with Prime music.

Flipkart Seeks Better Infrastructure for Karnataka Investment: Official

Flipkart Seeks Better Infrastructure for Karnataka Investment: Official

India’s leading e-tailer Flipkart has sought better infrastructure and ease of doing business to invest more in Karnataka for expanding its operations, Industries Minister R.V. Deshpande said on Wednesday.

“They (Flipkart) did talk about fresh investments in the state and are looking for our support, especially better infrastructure and favourable regulatory framework for e-commerce segment,” Deshpande told reporters after an informal meeting with Flipkart co-founders Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal at his home office in Bengaluru.

Admitting inadequate infrastructure was a cause for concern to all stakeholders, especially in the e-commerce space where supply chain and logistics were critical for e-tailing operations, Deshpande told the Bansals that the state government was addressing the issue to overcome its bottlenecks.

“On infrastructure, we understand that nothing can be done immediately, as it takes time due to constraints in early execution, as many agencies are involved in the projects” the minister asserted.

Advising the Bansals to interact more with his counterparts in the e-commerce segment and revert, the minister said the government was investing in building elevated corridors, Bengaluru Metro Second Phase and other amenities to expand infrastructure, speed-up vehicular movement and decongest the city roads.

“We are addressing the issues (roads, flyovers, ring roads) to ensure people do not get delayed and doing our best to meet the expectation of the e-commerce sector,” Deshpande asserted.

Noting that without investments, no state could grow, the senior minister said the state government was doing everything to create conducive atmosphere for leveraging the city’s best eco-system for the sunrise e-commerce industry.

Though registered in Singapore, Flipkart is headquartered in this tech hub since 2007.

Asserting that Flipkart was seeing very good growth across categories, Sachin said the company was exploring different revenue streams, as e-commerce in India was still at two percent of shopping across the country.

“For instance, mobile phone has gone beyond other categories from penetration viewpoint. We are exploring opportunities to improve our operations and focus on execution than worry about mark downs, as Flipkart is not the only company to be marked down in the e-commerce space,” Sachin told reporters on the occasion.

The co-founders are also looking at mentoring leaders and developing partnership for the company to overcome headwinds, especially financial cycles.

“The Internet sector is going through down cycle, which doesn’t last forever,” Sachin added.

Clarifying that the company was not looking to raise funds, Sachin said efforts were underway to improve efficiency and growth.

Netflix CEO Says Firm Continues to Look Into Entering China

Netflix CEO Says Firm Continues to Look Into Entering ChinaNetflix Inc will continue to look into the possibility of entering China, Chief Executive Reed Hastings said on Thursday, as the video streaming service seeks to grow its subscriber base outside its home of the United States.

“Since China is a great opportunity, we continue to look into China,” Hastings said at a media event in Seoul, without elaborating.

Netflix is trying to counter slowing growth in the US with its move in January to launch in 130 new markets worldwide. But the streaming service remains absent in the world’s most populous country, where content providers face stringent regulations and censorship challenges.

The company has also struggled to make headway in other large Asian markets such as South Korea and Indonesia due to a dearth of local content and regulatory hurdles.

Netflix in April forecast US and international subscription growth for the second quarter that was weaker than analyst estimates, underscoring its need to expand.

“The weakest point for Netflix, people say, is the local content, but that’s because we need time to learn not just the market and box office but about what and how Korean people watch,” Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, told reporters in response to a question about the firm’s strategy in South Korea.

Netflix is looking at various investment opportunities in Asia to improve its offerings, Sarandos said without elaborating.

Four Reasons Why Amazon’s Dash Buttons Won’t Help You Save Money

Four Reasons Why Amazon's Dash Buttons Won't Help You Save MoneyAmazon is expanding its lineup of Dash buttons, its “Jetsons”-style devices that let you reorder a particular product with a single touch. The online retailer says the buttons offer “quick and easy” convenience – but they won’t necessarily help you save money.

Amazon first introduced the buttons , which bear product logos and attach to household surfaces, around April Fool’s Day in 2015. On Tuesday, it added 50 more brands to Dash, including Campbell’s Soup, Nerf and V8 vegetable juice, bringing the total number of Dash buttons to 150.

Dash buttons are undeniably simple to use. You set them up with a smartphone via Wi-Fi, and can configure them to send order alerts to your phone in case you need to cancel. You’ll need an Amazon Prime membership ($99 or roughly Rs. 6,680 annually) and will get free two-day shipping in the US.

But Dash may not always be the greatest way to stretch your shopping dollar. Here’s a look at some smart-shopping tactics that can fall by the wayside with Dash.
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1. Stick to a budget
Dash buttons let you choose what size or type of product to order. For example, you can configure a Tide button for any of 14 different products, including a $13 box of detergent or a $27 container of 77 Tide Pods. But prices can fluctuate.

Mary Hanson-Busch, a medical technologist in New Prague, Minnesota, uses a Dash button for cat litter, and she noticed that the price of a 40 lb. box of Arm & Hammer cat litter changed from $10.49 to about $14 between orders. Still, she says the convenience of not having to lug home a box of cat litter is worth a few dollars. “It’s so simple and easy to set up,” she said. “I do like the convenience factor.”

If you’re not quite sure what you’re paying, though, it’s much harder to stick to a budget. The Dash button encourages piecemeal reordering, so it sometimes isn’t clear when you’ll be paying for what, either.

2. Avoid impulse shopping
It’s an old adage not to grocery shop when you’re hungry, but Dash buttons can make it all too easy. If you hit the Pepperidge Farm Goldfish button one day when you’re thinking about a snack, you could find yourself a few days later with a 6-pack of cracker boxes that you don’t really want. Amazon gives you the option to cancel orders – but you have to log into your account, which sort of negates the time-saving “convenience” of the Dash button.

“Impulse shopping is something we warn against,” says Benjamin K. Glaser, features editor for online deal site DealNews.com. “Having a shopping list and sticking to it makes it easier to resist impulses.”

3. Stock up in bulk
Stocking up in bulk isn’t a great deal for items like perishable foodstuffs. But you can save quite a bit on products like toilet paper and laundry detergent by buying in bulk at warehouse clubs or elsewhere. A Dash button could make it easy to miss out on savings.

4. Make price comparisons
Dash buttons are ideal for people who are extremely loyal to one brand. Of course, manufacturers like them for similar reasons: They help brands stand out on Amazon’s site and encourage people to reorder the same thing over and over again. (Amazon cites the ease of repeated orders as a plus.)

That’s fine if you’ve discovered the best paper towels on Earth and will never willingly use anything else. But you probably won’t be getting the best price, either.

“Deal hunters by nature are brand agnostic, and retailer agnostic, and this locks you into both a brand and a retailer,” DealNews’ Glaser said.

Google Testing Internet Speed Widget in Search Results: Report

Google Testing Internet Speed Widget in Search Results: ReportGoogle appears to be testing a new widget feature in its search results that will allow users to check the speed of their Internet natively. By searching for the phrase ‘check Internet speed’, the search result shows a widget with an option to run the speed test without opening any third party sites.

The new widget appears to be powered by Google’s Measurement Lab tools. Google introduced Measurement lab in 2009 as a public service with the aim to conduct tests on ISP’s practices and performance for research purposes. And now, the company looks to leverage those tools to provide speed test results in Google Search directly.

(Also see: Microsoft Experiments With Showing Network Speed Test Results on Bing)

This development was first spotted by Dr. Pete Meyers, who even tweeted a screenshot of the search result. The widget claims to run the test in less than 30 seconds, and typically transfer less than 40MB of data for most users. The feature appears to be in testing in select regions, as the widget did not show in search results for us. There is no word on when the company plans to roll it out commercially.

This seems like yet another effort by Google to stop users from going to third party sites to perform various functions. Google tries to answer more and more queries with its own products and services, like converting time, showing the current time in different zones, and even conversion of currency.

(Also see: Why Lyrics Websites Are Worried About Google’s Latest Move)

The search giant also now gives the full lyrics to a song in its search results, with its Google Play Music link at the end. As fruitful as this might be for Google, many lyric sites that rely solely on web traffic may be hit severely after this move. Already, these lyric sites have been injured due to ad-blockers and lyric licences, and now Google’s push of its own products in search may just further exacerbate the issue.

Google Said to Face New EU Antitrust Charges

Google Said to Face New EU Antitrust ChargesGoogle faces fresh EU anti-competition charges, this time targeting the search engine giant’s advertising business, sources close to the matter told AFP on Tuesday.

Margrethe Vestager, the powerful EU Competition Commissioner, could open two new in-depth investigations against Google as early as August, the sources said on condition of anonymity.

The first case would involve the Silicon Valley giant’s lucrative advertising business, while the second would deepen an existing case targeting online shopping practices.

The EU in 2014 accused Google of abusing its dominance in the Internet search market to steer European consumers to its own shopping service.

A spokesman for the European Commission refused to comment on the report.

In April, Brussels also charged Google with abusing the dominance of its Android mobile phone operating system. The Android operating system accounts for about 80 percent of the world market for mobile phones, far ahead of Google’s closest rival, Apple.

The EU has accused Google of obstructing innovation by giving unfair prominence to its own Android apps, especially its search engine, in deals with mobile phone manufacturers such as Samsung andHuawei.

If found at fault, Google risks a fine equal to up to 10 percent of worldwide global sales for one year, which would amount to a $7.4 billion (roughly Rs. 50,199 crores) on the basis of 2015 revenues.

Siemens to Invest EUR 1 Billion in New Startups Unit

Siemens to Invest EUR 1 Billion in New Startups UnitGerman industrial group Siemens plans to invest EUR 1 billion ($1.1 billion) over the next five years in a new startups unit to help it develop businesses in areas such as artificial intelligence and decentralised electrification.

The funds will be available to employees, external startups and established companies if they want to pursue business ideas in fields that are strategic to Siemens’ future, the trains-to-turbines group said on Tuesday.

Siemens, which was founded in 1847 on the then-new telegraph technology, is expanding its core strengths in automation and electrification in new directions to stay at the cutting edge of the digitisation of industry.

It said the first project of its new unit, named “next47” after the year of the group’s founding, would be the previously announced joint development with Airbus of electrically powered planes.

Other important fields will include autonomous machines, networked mobility and blockchain applications for the secure transfer of data in industry and energy trading, the technology on which crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin are based, it said.

The new unit will come into being on October 1 and will initially be headed by Siegfried Russwurm, Siemens’ chief technology officer. It will have offices in Berkeley, California, Shanghai, China and Munich, Germany.

Why Lyrics Websites Are Worried About Google’s Latest Move

Why Lyrics Websites Are Worried About Google's Latest MoveIf you’re a child of the ’80s or early ’90s, you probably have fond memories of sites like AllMusic: places that finally made it possible to memorize the latest Oasis or Foo Fighters or Backstreet Boys, even if the CDs did not come with lyrics.

Alas, Google may have just delivered a crippling blow to the web’s decades-old lyrics industry: The search giant/plundering tech carnivore has inked a multi-year deal with the licensing clearinghouse LyricFind, which will let the search giant display the full song lyrics for millions of artists in a “knowledge box” module at the top of the search page.

No longer will you have to click through to sites like AZLyrics or SongMeanings.com – which has those sites pretty worried.

“We are indeed very concerned about the fact that Google is going to provide song lyrics directly on its search results,” said Yigal Ben Efraim, chief executive of Stands4, which owns Lyrics.net. Eight of 10 people who visit that site get there after Googling a song lyric, which does not bode well for the site’s prospects.

Efraim was not totally blindsided by the Google move, mind you – Google has been experimenting with lyric panels for almost two years. And Stands4, which also owns a portfolio of reference sites, is well-acquainted with Google’s ability to casually decimate long-standing websites when it decides to expand: Efraim’s Definitions.net, like the better-known Merriam-Webster.com and Dictionary.com, took a significant hit when Google began displaying definitions directly in search. (Similar claims of harm, and reduced competition, have been made regarding Google’s incursion into spaces occupied by Wikipedia, Yelp and TripAdvisor.) Google did not immediately respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment.

For lyrics sites, though, the fallout could be particularly dramatic. The industry was suffering, anyway, Efraim said: Ad-blockers have cut into his revenue, and lyrics licenses – which all sites must have, lest they attract the wrath of the National Music Publishers’ Association – are very expensive.

Much like dictionaries, lyrics sites rely almost entirely on search traffic to stay afloat. The top three sites – AZLyrics, MetroLyrics and LyricsFreak – all get between 90 and 91 percent of their traffic from search, according to SimilarWeb. Any impact to that traffic could wreak havoc on their bottom line; just look at the damage one week of depressed Google-search placement did to Genius.

Lyrics sites are not giving up, of course – they are just evolving to do things that Google doesn’t (yet). Lyrics.net employs a small editorial team to encourage community and discussion around its songs. MetroLyrics is barely recognizable as a lyrics site anymore: Bought by CBS Interactive in 2011, its homepage now lists “hot songs,” a la Billboard, and news items about Alicia Keys, Selena Gomez and Rihanna.

Still, the future remains uncertain: It’s hard to compete in a marketplace where one company not only does a great deal of production but owns the primary means of distribution, too. In a signal of battles to come, perhaps, Google’s new lyrics boxes link out to promotions for its own paid music service.

“The bottom line … is that most small content publishers are very worried about the future,” Efraim said. “And for good reason.”