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The Best of Tech News 2021: February 22nd-28th

We made it through February 2021 and as March is starting, we are waiting for a warmer and better time and a hopeful end of the pandemic in sight. The best of tech news this week is featuring China Tech Giants and Biden administration, the first investigation into Apple payment-system possibly reaching an end, an interesting IPO in sight, Google upgrading its ML feature, EU countries trying to curb big tech’s excess, and disappointing news for Salesforce. You may notice that we are not talking about any fintech, biotech, or telecom developments in this week’s news highlight. The reason is simple, we prepared a little upgrade for you! From this week, each week you will see three separate segments that are dedicated solely to FinTech, BioTech, and Telecom. Remember to come back during the week and check out what is happening in FinTech, BioTech, and Telecom. Meanwhile, sit back, relax, and enjoy the best of tech news featuring news from the last week of February 2021.

China Tech Giants Curbed By The Biden Administration? 

In February 2021 tech news highlights, the moment that the Chinese tech giants have been anxiously awaiting since the Presidential Election in the United States has come and the outcome disappoints them. The Biden administration plans to furtherly allow the Trump rule that heavily targets the Chinese technology firms that allegedly pose a threat to the United States. Friday, The U.S Commerce Department said Friday that the ruling will go into effect despite large protests from the U.S businesses.

“Trustworthy information and communications technology and services are essential to our national and economic security and remain a top priority for the Biden Harris administration,” the statement said.

The groups representing major industries in the United States issued a letter to the Commerce Department early in the year where they emphasized that the rule gave “nearly unlimited authority to intervene in virtually any commercial transaction between U.S. companies and their foreign counterparts that involves technology, with little to no due process, accountability, transparency, or coordination with another government program”

However, despite the major protests from the U.S businesses, it looks like so far, the Biden administration wants to proceed with the plans outlined by Trump. Having said that, considering that the Commerce Department is still accepting public comments, companies still hope that the rule will be revised due to concerns and objections raised by the public.

To find out more about Trump targeting Chinese Tech Giants, You May Want To Read These: 

FCC Halting Huawei And China Telecom!

Chinese Telecom Giants Kicked Out Of NYSE

Tech News Highlights 2021: Dutch Investigation Into Apple Nearing An End 

After years of investigation into Apple, the Dutch regulators are finally reaching the draft decision in the case regarding software developers being forced to use the in-app payment system of Apple. 

The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) publicly announced it was investigating Apple over the requirement for developers to use the in-app payment system that charged the software developers with a commission that ranged from 15% to 30%. Moreover, as per Apple rules, developers are banned from sharing cheaper payment options with other developers. 

David Heinemeier Hansson, the co-founder of the software company Basecamp and a developer involved in the Apple payment-system scandal said “It’s not just that Apple is inflicting economic harm. Apple is essentially giving us a gag order.”

If ACM manages to issue their final decision soon, they may become the first antitrust authority that rules on the app-story payment policies of Apple. For a long time, the tech giant has received numerous complaints from app developers that were deeming the policies unfair. Last year, the European Commission has issued a formal investigation into Apple over these practices. 

Tech News Scandal 2021: Britain Wants A Consensus Among G7 Nations On How To Stop Big Tech’s Dominance 

After the widely condemned media blackout in Australia that was a part of last week’s news highlights, Britain wants an agreement between the G7 countries on how to stop big tech’s opportunities for exploiting their dominance. There is no doubt that Great Britain believes that the repeat of the media blackout scandal in Australia will not be tolerated and cannot be repeated. 

Although the issue between Facebook and the Australian government, involving the payment for the local news is now resolved, the regulators across the world have once again turned to the issue of power held by big tech companies and the effective ways of curbing it. 

“We will hold these companies to account and bridge the gap between what they say they do and what happens in practice,” The digital minister of Britain, Oliver Dowden, said on Friday. “We will prevent these firms from exploiting their dominance to the detriment of people and the businesses that rely on them.”

Dowden said that he spoke with Facebook executives and raised all of these concerns, as well as set the expectations for the “proper commercial relationships to be formed.” Facebook has also commented on the call with Britain’s digital minister and called it “constructive”. 

In June, Britain is set to host a meeting for G7 leaders, consisting of the United States, Japan, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, and Canada. Additionally, Australia has also been invited to the meeting. The large topic to be discussed is the new competition regime and legislation that will regulate social media platforms. Great Britain is currently working on such changes to the current rules. As Dowden said, the meeting’s goal will be building consensus for a coordination action that will be  “promoting competitive, innovative digital markets while protecting the free speech and journalism that underpin our democracy and precious liberties.”

If you want to learn more about governments’ effort to regulate big tech, you may like: Governments Ramp-up Regulations to Curb Big Tech Excesses

M&A News Highlights: Disappointing Profit Forecast For Salesforce 

News highlight in a company that acquired Slack just a few montsh ago. Salesforce has released the full-year profit forecast on Thursday, showing a disappointing below-market expectations prognosis. After the announcement, the company’s stock has plunged by 3.9%.

The provider of enterprise cloud computing solutions said it expects the non-GAAP earning per share (for the full-year 2022) between $3.39 and $3.41, which is a fall from the Wall Street estimation of $3.49

We remind that Salesforce has made its biggest acquisition so far only a couple of months back, acquiring the workspace collaboration company Slack in December of 2020, in a mega deal of  $27.7 billion. Although there are clear long-term benefits of that acquisition, it is clearly expensive and the forecasting of the Wall Street analysts will reflect that. 

The Needham & Co analyst, Scott Berg, has said “Weak FY22 EPS guidance suggests margin expansion is likely to be muted even adjusting for the acquisition of Slack,” 

Moreover, Salesforce is facing increasing competition from Microsoft. This was one of the biggest issues of Slack and even though the acquisition by Salesforce opens a lot of doors, the increasing power of Microsoft as a cloud-based team collaboration platform cannot be ignored. 

Revenue in the quarter that ended on Jan. 31, has increased from $4.85 billion in 2020 to $5.82 billion, slightly beating the analysts’ predictions of $5.68 billion

Wanna find out what the Salesforce and Slack acquisition was all about? Check out: Salesforce And Slack: BigTech Merge Made In Heaven?

EU Data Regulator Warns Of Massive Disruptions To Data Flows In A News Highlight

One of the European Union’s most powerful data regulators warns companies about facing huge disruption to transatlantic data flows. Reasoning? An EU court ruling from last year. 

In July of 2020, Europe’s highest court rules that an EU-U.S data transfer agreement was not valid, based on the U.S surveillance regime that poses a threat to the privacy rights of citizens in the EU. The ruling led to widespread consent about the transfers of personal data from the EU held companies to the United States and whether such transfers will even be possible at all. 

The full impact of the EU ruling and how exactly it will affect the companies will be known as early as next month, according to the Irish Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon. 

In August, a provisional order was issued stating that the system currently used by Facebook that allows transferring EU customer data to the United States cannot be used in practice. However, the order was later frozen by the Irish High Court and it will be revisited possibly already in April. The decision on the issue will determine a lot of future transatlantic data flows. 

“In very general terms, removing from that specific (Facebook) case, there would be massive disruptions for individual companies and organizations” Dixon told Reuters. “There would equally be solutions that would overcome those issues in some cases” such as keeping the data within the EU. In other cases, there wouldn’t be easy solutions,”

AI News Highlight: ABB Shows Off Two New Robots As Demand Increases 

On Wednesday, the Swiss engineering company announced the launch of its two new robots, highlighting the increasing demand for automated production in the post-Covid19 world. The company stated that more and more industries are interested in using robots, from logistics to food and beverage or pharmaceuticals. 

In 2020, in news highlights, it was reported that robot sales in China have skyrocketed, growing by 90%. ABB believes that the demand will pick up further when the pandemic reaches its final stages. A recent survey showed that 84% of businesses want to introduce robots or increase their current use of robots in the next decade. As the head of ABB’s Robotics & Discrete Automation, Sami Atiya, said, companies want to invest in productivity. 

The demand for collaborative robots is forecasted to grow by 17% a year, which is double the demand estimated for traditional robots. Thus, ABB that their newest automated robot additions, GoFa and SWIFTi will be used by customers who want to raise their productivity. 

“Customers want to be independent of fluctuations in the future,” Atiya said. “The question of resilience has become fundamental. The pandemic has accelerated the mind-shift.”

The companies that want to invest in the GoFa or SWIFTi need to invest between $25 000 and $35 000 per robot. The new models are faster and more efficient than its predecessors and they are equipped with high-quality sensors that can prevent accidents. The company claims that these robots will be great for smaller businesses that have not had experience with automated robots before. 

“I see our customers actually increasing their hiring,” he said. “The companies get more productive and have more work to do, so people will do more rewarding and creative work while the robots do the dirty and dull jobs,” Atiya told Reuters.

Alkami Technology About To Go Public With A Possible $3 Billion Valuation

On Monday of last week, it was reported that Alkami Technology, the U.S banking software provider is preparing for its initial public offering. Goldman Sachs Group Incs was chosen to lead the preparations and may offer Alkami a valuation of $3 billion, as reported by Reuters. 

The current investors of Alkami include General Atlantic, D1 Capital Partners and Fidelity Management and Research Company. The news about IPO do not come as a surprise. The pandemic has emphasized the need for secure digital platforms and thus, a demand for third-party providers such as Alkami is growing. 

Approximately 160 financial institutions are now using Alkami’s services and that number is expected to quickly rise as investors are more interested in software companies than they have ever been. Another banking software provider nCino Inc listed in July of 2020 and it has had a great performance so far, trading at more than 150% above its IPO price. MeridianLink is another software company that is benefiting from the growing interest in the industry.  

Alkami’s last round of private investment occurred in September of 2020, with a $140 investment and an undisclosed valuation. Alkami revealed that at that point they had $130 million of annual recurring revenue. 

Huge AI Tech News Of 2021: Google AI Announced Launch Of Model Search 

Google AI announced the release of Model Search, a platform meant for developing machine learning (ML) models automatically and efficiently. Built on Tensorflow and able to run both on an individual machine and distributed settings, the Model Search is flexible and will minimize the effort and resources needed to develop an ML model. 

Model Search employs transfer learning during its experiments. That way, the accuracy is higher and the model is created in a more efficient way as faster training occurs and more architecture alternatives can be discovered. After the platform runs, the users are able to compare the number of different models that were found, as well as customize the different architectural element in their own search space. 

“We hope the Model Search code will provide researchers with a flexible, domain-agnostic framework for machine learning model discovery,” Hanna Mazzawi and Xavi Gonzalvo, the members of the Google research team wrote in a blog post. “By building upon previous knowledge for a given domain, we believe that this framework is powerful enough to build models with the state-of-the-art performance on well-studied problems when provided with a search space composed of standard building blocks.”

Please come back next week for a fresh portion of weekly highlights on tech news 2021. Meanwhile, if you missed last week’s 2021 tech news of the week, you can check them out here:

The Best of Tech News: February 15th-21st


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