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Missed call? Counting the cost of no-show Mobile World Congress

BERLIN (Reuters) - For an event meant to showcase the power of telecoms, cancelling this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona without a back-up plan has perplexed many in the trillion-dollar sector.

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Employees pass by Fira de Barcelona after the Mobile World Congress (MWC) was cancelled in Barcelona, Spain February 13, 2020. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

Wednesday’s decision to call off the telecoms industry’s biggest annual gathering over fears of coronavirus, which has yet to reach mainland Spain, has left a hole in marketing budgets and dealt a $500 million blow to the local economy.

It has also raised questions about whether the four-day event, which drew 110,000 visitors last year, has become too big for its own good, while missing an opportunity to use the very communications technology that it is meant to highlight.

Sony and Nokia said after pulling out of the event that they would hold product launches online instead, while South Korea’s Samsung Electronics showcased a new folding phone at separate event in San Francisco last week.

The crisis began eight days ago when South Korea’s LG Electronics became the first company to scratch, triggering a spate of cancellations.

“The whole idea, that we’ve got to get tens of thousands of people together to meet, goes out of the window,” Mike Rosenberg, an associate professor at the IESE business school in Barcelona, said of the decision to cancel February’s event.

Rosenberg said that with China still battling the worst of the coronavirus outbreak, the GSMA mobile network operators group’s next big conference in Shanghai this summer could also be at risk.

The Chinese province at the center of the coronavirus outbreak reported a record rise in deaths and thousands more cases on Thursday under a new diagnostic method, raising fresh questions about the scale of the crisis.

Spain has so far only reported two coronavirus cases - one in the Canary Islands off northwest Africa and a second on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca.

Catalonia’s top economic official, Pere Aragones, told Reuters he respected the cancellation decision but stressed that there was no public health danger in the Spanish region.

He called instead for a stronger alliance between the GSMA and Catalonia, adding that a way to do it would be for the organizers to extend the MWC presence in Barcelona beyond 2023, when the current contract ends.

SEE YOU NEXT YEAR?

While major exhibitors can bear the cost, hundreds of smaller companies for whom MWC is the big event on their marketing agenda may think twice about returning, analysts said.

“Now they face the challenge of having to figure out what is the best way to salvage something,” Ben Wood, chief of research at consultants CCS Insight, said.

In a show of unity, the GSMA’s leadership held a joint news conference with local leaders on Thursday, vowing to work to stage next year’s edition of the event, which has been held in Barcelona since 2006.

But Director General Mats Granryd faced tough questioning from reporters after conceding that insurance that the GSMA takes out on behalf of exhibitors does not cover an event like the coronavirus outbreak.

“Clearly there is no way you can insure yourself out of a force majeure situation,” Granryd said.

Ramon Fernandez, CFO of French operator Orange, said cancellation was “going to cost us a bit of money, just like it’s going to cost a bit of money to all those who had planned to go.

“We’ll find a way to continue the dialogue,” he added. “A number of those who had planned to go have written us to say: ‘Let’s meet up in Paris since we won’t be able to see each other in Barcelona.’ Agendas are filling up at lightning speed.”

Communicating its decision also tested the GSMA’s public relations machine. Even as cancellations snowballed and talk circulated on Wednesday that a decision to cancel was imminent, the GSMA was still sending out media invitations.

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The final blow came when the European telecoms firms that form its core membership pulled out as a bloc, forcing the GSMA to bow to the inevitable.

Granryd told staff in an email he was “deeply saddened”.

“The team working through this crisis have been fact-based, took appropriate measures and communicated both externally and internally in real time.”

Additional reporting by Jordi Rubio, May Ponzo, Isla Binnie, Joan Faus, and Mathieu Rosemain; Editing by Alexander Smith and Giles Elgood

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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British network Three joins 5G mobile club

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FILE PHOTO: A man walks past an advertisement promoting the 5G data network at a mobile phone store in London, Britain, January 28, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - British network Three is rolling out 5G mobile to major cities including London, Glasgow and Birmingham from the end of the month, joining its larger rivals in offering next-generation services on new 5G-enabled handsets.

Three, owned by Hong Kong’s Hutchison, launched a 5G home broadband product in central London last year, but Chief Executive Dave Dyson said he wanted all elements of the network, including its cutting edge “cloud core”, fully functioning before moving onto mobile.

He said Three’s entry into the market coincided with the launch of a bigger range of compatible handsets, including the new Samsung Galaxy S20 range unveiled on Tuesday, which would spark wider interest in ultrafast services.

Apple is set to launch its first 5G iPhones later this year, industry analysts have predicted. “We are prepped and ready for that critical inflection point,” Dyson said.

The company, unlike rivals like BT’s EE, said it would give customers access to 5G with no speed caps and at no extra cost on all contract, SIM-only and pay-as-you-go mobile plans.

The service will initially be available in 25 cities and towns, building to 80% coverage by the end of 2021, it has said.

Three’s spectrum holdings - the airwaves mobile operators license for their services - historically lagged rivals, but when it comes to 5G the position is reversed.

Three said it currently holds more 5G spectrum than the rest of the industry combined and its was the only UK operator with the 100MHz of 5G spectrum required to meet the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) standard for a 5G network.

Three has partnered with leading London fashion design college Central Saint Martins to create what it said would be a fully immersive 5G catwalk experience later on Friday as part of London Fashion Week.

Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Alexandra Hudson

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Tech firms must do more on child abuse, European police chiefs say

LONDON (Reuters) - European police chiefs have thrown their support behind British demands for technology companies to urgently transform how they operate to prevent access to child sex abuse, Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) said on Friday.

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FILE PHOTO: Facebook, Google and Twitter logos are seen in this combination photo from Reuters files. REUTERS/File Photos/File Photo

The NCA said abuse images were easily available online and could be reached with just three clicks of a mouse on internet search engines. It said there was a direct link between offenders viewing material online and then going on to target children themselves.

“The technology industry urgently needs to transform its response to counter the extreme level of online offending,” said Lynne Owens, the NCA’s director general.

“To stop the pathway of escalation into severe offending, there must be zero tolerance of the presence of child sexual abuse on industry platforms, with industry reinforcing this at every level to raise the bar to offending.”

Governments globally are wrestling over how better to control content on social media platforms, often blamed for encouraging abuse and the spread of online pornography.

On Wednesday, the British government said it would force social media companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Snap to do more to block or remove harmful content on their platforms and would legislate to ensure firms had systems in place to tackle harmful content such as child abuse.

The NCA said police chiefs from 32 countries, along with international agencies Europol and Interpol, had now agreed to endorse five demands on the tech industry.

These included ensuring child abuse material was blocked as soon as firms detected it was uploaded; companies must stop online grooming and live-streaming of abuse on their platforms; and they should be more open, and do more to help law enforcement agencies.

“European police chiefs see an increasing need for tech companies to work together to create a new safety standard and introduce safety by design that applies to new applications, games and social media platforms,” Netherlands Police Commissioner Erik Akerboom said.

“These standards should not be forced upon the industry by government but developed by themselves creating a safety standard for their users.”

Tech firms such as Facebook and Google have said they were putting in measures to keep users safe, recruiting more people and using more artificial intelligence to find and remove offensive content.

In November, Facebook said it had removed millions of posts depicting child abuse although the company’s plans for an encrypted messaging service have been criticized by law enforcement officials who say it could hinder the fight against child abuse.

Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Canada's Telus to launch 5G network with Huawei soon: CFO

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FILE PHOTO: A Telus Corporation sign is pictured in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

(Reuters) - Canadian telecom operator Telus Corp (T.TO) will soon begin rolling out its 5G network and its initial module will be with Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s equipment, the company’s Chief Financial Officer Doug French said on Thursday.

“It’s important for us to launch our network when the time is right...” French said in a statement, adding that the company will continue to collaborate with the Canadian government in building the ecosystem.

Canada is reviewing the security implications of 5G networks, including whether to allow Huawei to supply 5G network equipment.

Telus on Thursday warned of higher costs related to setting up 5G wireless network if the Canadian government banned Huawei.

Meanwhile, U.S. prosecutors on Thursday accused Huawei of stealing trade secrets and helping Iran track protesters in its latest indictment against the Chinese company.

Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou is currently in Canadian custody awaiting a decision on extradition to the United States.

The Conservative Party of Canada said in a statement Trudeau’s Liberal Party has refused to take a position on Huawei. “Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government must take immediate action to protect our national security and Canadians’ privacy and ban Huawei from Canada’s 5G network.”

Reporting by Arundhati Sarkar in Bengaluru and Moira Warburton in Toronto; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Uttaresh.V

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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GoDaddy quarterly results top estimates as revenue per user rises

(Reuters) - GoDaddy Inc’s quarterly results topped Wall Street expectations on Thursday, as the web hosting company earned more revenue per user, sending it shares up 5% in extended trade.

The world’s largest domain registrar that manages about a fifth of all global web domains earned $158 per user in the quarter compared with analysts’ average estimate of $157.8 per user, according to Refinitiv data.

GoDaddy also forecast full-year revenue of $3.32 billion, slightly higher than Wall Street expectations of $3.31 billion.

Total revenue rose 12.2% to $780.4 million from $695.8 million, higher than analysts’ average estimate of $777.2 million, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Net income attributable to the company rose to $60.5 million, or 34 cents per share, in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, from $42.5 million, or 24 cents per share, a year earlier.. Anlaysts on average had expected earnings of 31 cents per share.

However, the company’s first result for an entire quarter under its new chief executive officer, Aman Bhutani, saw costs rise 8.1% to $706.9 million.

(This story corrects paragraph 3 to say the company forecast full-year revenue of $3.32 billion, not $3.34 billion)

Reporting by Chinmay Rautmare in Bengaluru; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Broadcom ships the first Wi-Fi 6E chip for mobile devices, paving the way for new 6GHz networks

Broadcom has announced what it’s calling the first Wi-Fi 6E chip for mobile devices, supporting 160MHz-wide channels in the 6GHz wireless spectrum that the FCC could soon open up for use in the United States.

The dedicated bandwidth will add a third frequency band to the traditional Wi-Fi spectrum. Most Wi-Fi networks and client devices today utilize the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands. The new standard will take advantage of contiguous blocks within the unlicensed frequency spectrum of 5.925- to 7.125GHz. Essentially, Wi-Fi 6E is simply Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) with lots more bandwidth.

Why is this important? Because Wi-Fi shoulders quite a lot of the load of global internet traffic, with only a limited amount of bandwidth to handle it: There’s just 70MHz of spectrum in the 2.4GHz band, and 500MHz of spectrum in the 5GHz band. The 6GHz band offers up to 1,200MHz of additional bandwidth—enough to support 14 new 80MHz-wide channels, and seven new 160MHz-wide channels.

All those new channels will mean less congestion on wireless networks at home, at work, and on the go. But as you’ve probably already guessed, you’ll need new hardware to tap into that spectrum. Wi-Fi 6E chips like Broadcom’s will be backward compatible in that they’ll operate on 2.4- and 5GHz networks, but they’ll only deliver the higher speeds when connecting to routers and Wi-Fi access points that are also operating in the new 6GHz spectrum. .

Broadcom says its BCM4389 chip will support two spatial streams simultaneoously and should theoretically deliver throughput of 2.63Gbps at the physical layer. Real-world performance is sure to be significantly less, but still plenty fast. The chip will also make use of technologies introduced with earlier Wi-Fi versions, including Multi-User MIMO, OFDMA, and 1024-QAM modulation.

One possible drawback to using 6GHz spectrum, however, is decreased range. Radio transmissions using higher frequencies have shorter wavelengths, and short wavelengths are more susceptible to being absorbed by physical barriers such as walls and ceilings. That’s why a 2.4GHz network can cover more area than a 5GHz network.

According to Broadcom, the BCM4389 should be shipping and available in client devices by late fall, 2020. The upshot? You’ll have Wi-Fi 6E devices to choose from this holiday season.

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Original author: Mark Hachman
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Windows 10's first PowerToys app allows custom Snap resizing and looks amazing

Note: We're republishing this story from Sept. 6, 2019, because an update has added multiple-monitor support to FancyZones, which resolves one of its few outstanding issues.

If you’re a fan of Windows 10’s Snap feature, you’ve been waiting and hoping for Windows to allow you to design your own custom Snap layouts. Now you can! One of the first Windows 10 PowerToys apps, FancyZones, does just that—and it looks incredible.

If you don’t know what Snap does, head to a PC and open any window there—this story will do. Then press the Windows key and one of the directional arrows. If you hit Windows + the left arrow, for example, Snap snaps a window as a column attached to the left side of the screen. If you drag it toward any corner, the window will snap to that corner, allowing you to create a 4-window tiled effect.

But if those windows are a little smaller than what you want? Or if instead of two columned windows, you want three? Until now, you’d have had to create your own, dragging and resizing windows manually. Now you don’t have to.

Microsoft’s PowerToys were a beloved staple of the Windows 95 era, allowing users to add vetted extensions to the basic operating system. Others, like SyncToy’s tool for syncing folders, emerged as PowerToys for Windows XP and Vista. Now, PowerToys is back, and each app even has the code available on GitHub for suggested modifications. There are two initial PowerToys apps: a Shortcut Guide, and the FancyZones app. You’ll need to download the PowerToys installer, then select which apps you’ll want to install. You don’t even need to be on a Windows 10 Insider build to get it—this is open to anyone.

Microsoft powertoys shortcut guide Microsoft

Windows PowerToys’ Shortcut Guide.

The Shortcut Guide is basically a cheat sheet to what’s going on in your Windows screen. With the Shortcut guide enabled, depressing the Windows key for more than a second will turn on the available Windows shortcuts for what you’re currently seeing on your screen. The implication is that Shortcut Guide is somewhat context-aware, and will display what action those shortcuts will take given the current state of the desktop and active window. If, after you’ve triggered an action, you still hold down the Windows key, those shortcuts will adjust to reflect what you’re seeing.

When you Snap a window to the side or corner of the screen, what you’re doing is telling the window to shrink (or expand) to a predefined region of the screen. What FancyZones does is allow you to select from a list of templates of predefined zones, or you can create your own.

In effect, it allows you to create your own version of Windows Snap, so that you can snap apps to cascading windows, or to regions on the screen. 

Microsoft powertoys fancyzones 2 large Microsoft

What’s great about the predefined templates is that it creates useful layouts right away: three columns of text that might be well suited for a widescreen monitor, for example—or, alternatively, a “priority grid” that widens the middle column.

Microsoft powertoys fancyzones 3 additive Microsoft

You can create FancyZones from scratch, creating and resizing windows...

If none of these work, you can also create your own zones. FancyZones allows you to do this either additively, by creating zones that can be resized; or via subtraction, where a number of predefined zones can be removed or adjusted. If you’re looking for a way to quickly and easily rearrange windows for Windows’ Snap feature, FancyZones definitely is worth a look. 

When we originally wrote this story, there was just one catch: it only worked on a single display. Now, that's changed, and FancyZones works on multiple monitors. It's still a little awkward: there's a toggle switch in the FancyZones Settings that allows the app to "follow mouse cursor instead of focus when launching editor in a multi screen environment". I'd suggest flipping that to "off," dragging the zone configuration screen to the appropriate monitor, and setting up the Zones that way.

Microsoft powertoys fancyzones 4 subtractive Microsoft

...or you can “subtract” them from existing predefined regions.

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.

Original author: Mark Hachman
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What to expect in Microsoft's new Windows 10 20H1 release, due soon

Windows 10 20H1 (version 2004) looks like it’ll finally be giving Windows users something to talk about, after a year’s worth of vanilla updates. Using Microsoft's Insider builds as a guide, you can expect the most significant changes in the Windows Subsystem for Linux, Cortana, Windows Search, and Your Phone. There’s also the usual mix of small “utility” improvements and conveniences.

Before we dive deeper into the new features to expect, let’s talk timing. There's reason to believe that Microsoft’s already wrapped up development on Windows 10 20H1, given a mound of circumstantial evidence: Microsoft's Insider Fast Ring has moved to “future code," and the Insider Slow ring has seen little more than bug fixes since November. (The last Slow release was in January.) Microsoft has characterized 20H1 as version 2004, usually code for the fourth month (April) of '20, or 2020. But in Build 19033, Microsoft signaled that it chose “2004” to avoid confusion with Windows Server 2003, suggesting that the new version could arrive as early as March. 

Microsoft representatives, for now, have declined to comment. While we wait for official word, however,let’s go through the biggest changes you can expect in Windows 10 2004. 

Windows Subsystem for Linux 2: The real deal

When Microsoft added the Windows Subsystem for Linux as part of Windows 10’s Anniversary Update in 2016, it was mindblowing: Linux, which Microsoft publicly hammered for years, was now within Windows! But the original Windows Subsystem for Linux was hobbled by the fact that it wasn’t running a real Linux kernel. Certain kernel modules, such as device drivers, were unable to run.

That’s changed within the Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 (WSL2), which essentially runs a real Linux kernel inside a virtual machine (even on Windows 10 Home). If you use Linux, you’ll also be able to place your Linux files within the Linux root file system, and access them via Windows File Explorer. 

microsoft windows 10 20h1 windows subsystem for linux 2 wsl2 Microsoft

Microsoft’s Windows Subsystem for Linux within Windows 10 20H1 promises a “real” Linux experience, but running under a virtual machine.

Unfortunately, there are still limitations. Microsoft’s said that you won’t be able to use VMWare, or versions of VirtualBox before VirtualBox 6, or tap into system resources like the GPU or even USB peripherals within WSL2.

If this means absolutely nothing to you, don’t worry—you’re absolutely not required to run Linux, and it won’t interfere in your day-to-day computing. If you do want to try out Linux, however, it’s there. 

Cortana: On the move

Microsoft’s Cortana is now a bit less of an assistant and a bit more of an app. In the May 2019 Update, Cortana separated herself from the Windows Search box, and now she’s moving on: You’ll be able to resize the Cortana window, and move it around your screen, just like any other app. You’ll be able to type Cortana queries, just like you were able to when she was part of Windows Search.

microsoft windows 10 20h1 cortana Microsoft

Cortana is now free to roam around your desktop, wherever you’d like to set the window.

Microsoft’s also evolving Cortana’s conversational style to be less of a question-and-answer session and more of what it hopes will become a dialogue—“a personal productivity assistant that helps you in the Microsoft 365 apps,” in Microsoft’s words. That’s entailed some rebuilding of the app itself, temporarily losing some capabilities as new features are developed. We expect the app may still be somewhat basic when 20H1 launches, and that the conversational elements will be added later. We’ll take a closer look at Cortana as we test it, hopefully discovering some new capabilities.

Windows Search: Dialing it down a bit

Any breakup can be messy, and Windows Search responded by hitting the gym and pumping up the search indexer underlying the instant search results in the Windows 10 November 2019 Update. Last year also saw Microsoft add “Enhanced Mode” search, which expands the search beyond your libraries (Downloads, Documents, and Pictures) into the desktop and other areas of the drive.

windows 10 20h1 web preview Microsoft

Web searches under Windows 10 20H1 will offer richer previews, Microsoft says.

But the poor thing went a bit too far, so that Microsoft is now dialing back the search indexer’s ability to scour your hard drive, waiting for times when the PC is less busy. Some of the other improvements that Microsoft scheduled for 20H1 actually appear in some stable builds now, including the four “quick searches” buttons that appear at the bottom of the Windows Search box: “Weather,” “Top News,” “Today in history,” and “New movies.” 

Windows Search will also feature new, compact previews of webpages when you perform a web search.

Your Phone: More functions, more devices

Microsoft seems to be working hard to detach as many apps and functionalities as it can from Windows 10 itself, in order to give them their own unique, independent upgrade path. (Microsoft’s new Edge browser is a good example.) Your Phone has been on its own journey, with new features migrating from the Windows 10 Insider channels to the stable version of Windows 10. We looked at the updated Your Phone experience last November, noting what you’d need to enable photos, SMS messages, interactions with your phone’s screen, and even the ability to place calls. At the time, Your Phone worked best with a PC configured with the Windows 10 Insider program.

microsoft windows 10 20h1 your phone calls Microsoft

Some Your Phone capabilities are already available to you today, including the ability to place calls.

Microsoft already has several of these features enabled for the stable version of Windows 10. On a OnePlus 6T and a Surface Laptop 3 running the stable version of Windows 10, I can view photos, send texts, place calls, and receive notifications. I can’t interact with the phone’s screen, though, and photos are limited to just 25 images. We’re hoping to see more of this functionality extended to a broader range of devices.

Under the hood: The good stuff

Some of the best features of Windows 10 aren’t explicitly called out, and won’t be discovered unless you poke around in the nooks and crannies of Windows 10. Based on the Insider previews Microsoft has published, we’re looking forward to trying out these new features:

More kaomoji! Emoji 12!

About a year ago, Windows 10's May 2019 Update added kaomoji as an upgrade to its existing emoji keyboard. We expect the next version will offer additional ways to pep up your email, chat, and social networking apps.

microsoft windows 10 20h1 emoji 12 Microsoft

Emoji 12: when texting an ice cube emoji is critical for a hot summer’s day.

A new tablet experience

If you detested the “tile” interface of Windows 8 but the “desktop” interface was too cluttered for your fat fingers, Microsoft may have the answer. Everything’s spaced out a little wider in this new mode, specifically designed for the Surface Pro 7 and other Windows tablets.

A redesigned Network status page in Settings

The current Network & Internet > Data usage Settings page is being folded into the Network Status page to provide more of a data dashboard. A small change, but a welcome one.

microsoft windows 10 20h1 bluetooth connect Microsoft

More Bluetooth devices will be set up via notifications, rather than entering codes inside the Settings menu.

GPU temperature and SSD type in Task Manager

Okay, it’s geeky. But we hate digging out the SSD type from the Device Manager, and it's handy to have a small indicator telling you what the GPU temp is, even if third-party utilities monitor it anyway.

Of course, that’s not all of the new features we expect to see in Windows 10's spring update. We’ve even held back one or two of our potential favorites, just to see if we’re right. We’ll continue to poke and prod Windows 10 20H1 in the weeks leading up to a formal release. Stay tuned for our review!

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.

Original author: Mark Hachman
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Acer Swift 3 (SF314-57-57BN) review: Thin, light, affordable, and Ice Lake, with Thunderbolt 3 to boot

With its slim profile and featherweight form factor, the Acer Swift 3 deftly balances size, power, functionality and price. Retailing for $700 and weighing in at about two and a half pounds, the Swift 3 is an enticingly affordable quad-core laptop. While its Ice Lake performance is decidedly middle of the road, it stands toe-to-toe with its competitors without the usual roar of cooling fans. The inclusion of a Thunderbolt 3 port is a nice bonus given the Swift 3’s price range, although the IPS display is on the dim side.

Configuration

Acer offers a wide variety of Swift 3 laptops in 15.6-inch, 14-inch, and 13.3-inch configurations, along with Core i3, i5, and i7 models ranging from 8th-gen Kaby Lake all the way to 10th-gen Ice Lake (not to mention a single AMD Ryzen 5 version). At the lower end of the Swift 3 spectrum you’ll find a 14-inch Core i3 Kaby Lake configuration with a stingy 4GB of RAM and 128GB of solid-state storage for $480. On the upper end sits a 14-inch Core i7 Whiskey Lake system with 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and dedicated Nvidia GeForce MX150 graphics for $1,000.

The $700 (or $650 at your local MicroCenterRemove non-product link) Ice Lake model we’re reviewing sits in the upper third of the Swift 3 range:

CPU: Quad-core Intel Core i5-1035G1U Ice Lake processor RAM: 8GB LPDDR4 RAM GPU: Intel UHD Graphics G1 Display: 14-inch 1920x1080 full-HP IPS non-touch Storage: 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD Networking: Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) with 2x2 MU-MIMO Dimensions: 12.58 x 8.54 x 0.63 inches Weight: 2.51 pounds (without power brick), 3.46 pounds (with power brick)

This looks like a solid configuration at first glance, with that bright and shiny 10th-gen Ice Lake CPU certainly getting our attention. We’re also enticed by the roomy solid-state drive, while the Wi-Fi 6 radio means that this Swift 3 will be ready the moment you upgrade to a speedier, cutting-edge wireless router. The 8GB of low-power DDR4 RAM is fairly standard for a laptop in this price range (although 16GB would have been a nice bonus). The integrated UHD Graphics G1 core represents (as we’ll soon see) a substantial step up from Whiskey Lake’s integrated UHD 620 graphics, while still falling short of full-on discrete graphics performance.

As far as the Swift 3’s Ice Lake processor goes, you’ll have to temper your expectations. In our initial Ice Lake tests, we saw the CPU scoring high marks when it came to video encoding and other CPU-intensive tasks, but that’ll only happen if the manufacturer gives the chip free rein. A relatively thin, light, and inexpensive laptop like the Swift 3 won’t have the same cooling prowess as, say, a $1,500 or $2,000 laptop, so we’d expect Acer to dial down the performance of the Swift’s Ice Lake chip somewhat as a heat-management measure.

Design

As far as looks go, our steel-gray Swift 3 review unit is, well, a bit on the dull side, with a perfectly flat and featureless aluminum lid (save for the Acer logo in the middle), a sturdy hinge with the “Swift” brand engraved in the middle (subtle but stylish), and a pair of rear vents that are only exposed when the lid is open. In other words, nothing about the Swift 3 would particularly stand out on the shelf of your favorite big-box store.

acer swift 3 sf314 57 57bn shell Ben Patterson/IDG

The Acer Swift 3’s design might be on the pedestrian side, but there’s no arguing with its pleasingly slim and light design.

That said, you’ll probably forgive the Swift 3’s pedestrian design once you pick it up and feel how light it is. Weighing just a hair over two and a half pounds (or nearly three and a half pounds if you count the power brick) and measuring a svelte 0.63 inches thick, the Swift 3 felt great in my hands. Toting it around in my pack for the day didn’t throw my back out of joint.

Beyond that, the only other design element of the Swift 3 worth mentioning (besides its display bezels, which we’ll cover momentarily) is the wide notch on the front edge of the laptop, which makes the lid a little easier to pry open.

Display

The Acer Swift 3’s full-HD 14-inch display gets off on the right foot thanks to its pleasingly thin 0.17-mm side bezels, with a bottom bezel that’s somewhat thicker (about three-quarters of an inch). The screen itself boasts solid viewing angles thanks to its IPS (in-plane switching) display technology, which means the screen brightness doesn’t seem to fade until you’re looking from the side at an angle greater than 45 degrees.

acer swift 3 sf314 57 57bn display bezels Ben Patterson/IDG

The Swift 3’s slim top and side display bezels make the most of its 14-inch display.

As with many budget laptops, however, the screen on the Acer Swift 3 is a bit on the dim side, measuring just 235 nits (or candelas) according to our readings. That’s a little less than our usual low-water mark of 250 nits, but it’s still pretty much in the standard brightness range that we’ve seen from laptops in the Swift 3’s sub-$1,000 price range. During my testing, I found the Swift 3’s display reasonably easy on my eyes while indoors, although you might find yourself squinting at the screen if it’s in direct sunlight.

Keyboard, trackpad, speakers, and extras

The Acer Swift 3’s backlit keyboard felt pretty solid as far as bargain laptops go. Travel (or the distance that a given key moves when it’s struck) was a bit on the shallow side, but I liked the solid, tactile bump in the middle of the keystrokes as well as the refreshingly springy rebound. The keyboard is also relatively quiet given the Swift 3’s price range. (I’ve typed on quieter keyboards, but they generally come in laptops costing hundreds more than this one.)

acer swift 3 sf314 57 57bn keyboard Ben Patterson/IDG

The Acer Swift 3’s keyboard makes for comfortable typing, and note the fingerprint reader that’s sitting near the bottom-right corner.

I didn’t have any issues with the Acer Swift 3’s trackpad, which is centered more or less directly beneath the space bar. Generally speaking, my palms didn’t brush against the trackpad as I typed, but even when I dragged my palms on the trackpad deliberately, I had a hard time getting the cursor to jitter around.

The Acer Swift 3’s built-in stereo speakers actually aren’t horrible, and that’s saying something when it comes to the generally dull, tinny world of laptop speakers. Paired with Acer’s TrueHarmony sound processing, the two down-firing drivers deliver reasonably detailed sound, though occasionally thin and with hardly any bass response. (Hey, I didn’t say these speakers sounded great.) Needless to say, you’ll get much better sound if you plug in a pair of headphones or external speakers, but the Swift 3’s integrated speakers will do in a pinch.

Sitting just below the keyboard in the right corner is a Windows Hello-enabled fingerprint reader, handy for unlocking Windows and logging into compatible apps with a swipe of your finger. I used the fingerprint reader to log into my Windows account during most of my testing. The reader almost always recognized my fingerprint on the first try, then proceeded to unlock Windows in a few fractions of a second.

Ports

Let’s cut to the chase here: Thunderbolt 3, baby. It’s not often we see a Thunderbolt 3 port—perfect for power delivery, connecting a 4K or 5K display, or transferring data at up to 40Gbps—on a laptop in this price range, so we’re definitely jazzed about that.

acer swift 3 sf314 57 57bn left side Ben Patterson/IDG

Yes, that’s a Thunderbolt 3 port, along with a USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A port and a full HDMI port.

Next to the Thunderbolt 3 port, which sits on the left edge of the Acer Swift 3, is a USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A port, as well as a full-size HDMI port and a barrel-shaped charging port.

On the right side, you get a USB 2.0 Type-A port, a combo audio jack, and a laptop security slot.

acer swift 3 sf314 57 57bn right side Ben Patterson/IDG

The right side of the Acer Swift 3 features a USB 2.0 port and a combo audio jack; no media card reader, however.

Missing from the port party: a media card reader. We're seeing that less and less often on laptops, and you may not care if you've ditched your digital camera. On the other hand, we still use SD and microSD cards for phone and dash cam storage. It may be time to get a USB hub to fill out your connectivity needs. 

General performance

Looks can be deceiving, and that’s particularly true when it comes to the Acer Swift 3’s benchmark results. True, the Swift 3’s scores tend to sit in the middle of the pack or lower, but the Swift is achieving these numbers without running up the high temperatures that many of its similarly priced competitors do. And yes, you’ll find better performing laptops with the Swift 3’s form factor, but not in its $700-ish price range.

PCMark 8

Our first benchmark, PCMark 8, measures how a laptop’s CPU handles such day-to-day tasks as web browsing, spreadsheet crunching, online shopping, and video chat. Given that most of the chores simulated by PCMark 8 work just fine on a single processor core, laptops with four CPU cores or more won’t necessarily get a leg up compared to cheaper, dual-core systems. Even the latest Ice Lake laptops may find themselves neck-and-neck with a dual-core Whiskey-Lake-powered system.

acer swift 3 sf314 57 57bn pcmark8 Ben Patterson/IDG

The Acer Swift 3 should deliver smooth Office performance, as its PCMark 8 score suggests.

A PCMark 8 result of greater than 2,000 generally points to buttery-smooth Office performance, and the quad-core Acer Swift 3 easily crushes that score, along with all of the other laptops in our comparison chart. It’s worth noting that the cheaper, dual-core Acer Aspire 5, while coming in second-to-last in our PCMark 8 chart, pretty much sits with its pricier competitors in the 3,000-plus club.

HandBrake

Our processor-intensive HandBrake benchmark involves encoding a 30GB MKV video into a file format suitable for Android tablets. It’s a test that pushes laptop CPUs to the limit, as well as one in which the system with the most processor cores generally wins.

acer swift 3 sf314 57 57bn handbrake Ben Patterson/IDG

The Acer Swift 3’s HandBrake score essentially comes in second in a four-way tie.

Looking at our results, the quad-core Acer Swift 3 turned in a satisfactory, if not exactly set-your-hair-on-fire performance. Its place near the bottom of the list is a bit deceiving, given how close it came to the four quad-core i5 laptops that finished the test (slightly) sooner. Indeed, instead of saying that the Swift 3 landed in fifth place, I’d call it more of a four-way tie for second. Up top is a Lenovo IdeaPad that’s thicker and heavier, and thus easier to cool, while lagging way behind is the dual-core Acer Aspire 5.

It’s worth noting that as opposed to what we usually see—and hear—during our HandBrake benchmark, the Swift’s cooling fans never roared to life during the test, namely because they didn’t have to. Indeed, the Swift’s processor clock speed never rose above 2.87GHz, which is well below the Core i5-1035G1’s maximum 3.6GHz boost clock. For the majority of the test (which can take up to an hour or more), the Swift’s CPU downshifted to about 2.0 GHz.

Of course, there’s a glass-half-full way of looking at the Swift 3’s OK-but-not-amazing HandBrake score, which is that the Swift managed to match the performance of several other quad-core laptops in our chart closely without breaking a sweat—and trust me, the cooling fans on the those competing laptops sounded like jet engines while they were running HandBrake. In other words, the Ice Lake-powered Swift 3 may not have been faster than its quad-core Whiskey Lake counterparts, but it’s probably way more efficient in terms of handling thermals.

Cinebench

Another CPU-intensive test, our Cinebench benchmark measures a laptop’s performance as it renders a 3D image in real time. Given that it only takes a few minutes to complete, versus an hour or so for HandBrake, Cinebench does a nice job of showing us how a laptop handles short bursts of activity under a heavy load.

acer swift 3 sf314 57 57bn cinebench Ben Patterson/IDG

The Acer Swift 3 holds its own in our Cinebench test without having the break a sweat.

Again, the Acer Swift 3 turns in a so-so performance, essentially tied with other quad-core Core i5 laptops (although that quad-core Whiskey Lake Lenovo Ideapad is looking pretty sharp up there in second place), while the quad-core Core i7 HP Envy 13 sits at the top of the chart. Coming in dead last is (unsurprisingly) the dual-core Acer Aspire 5.

As with the HandBrake benchmark, the Acer Swift 3 kept its cool with Cinebench, with its processor clock hovering around 2.3GHz and its cooling fans keeping quiet. Checking out its single-thread Cinebench performance, the Swift 3 actually steps up to third place, which speaks to the laptop’s single-core efficiency. So again, not the fastest, but quite possibly the coolest.

Original author: Ben Patterson
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Cord-cutters: Here's how to audit your streaming TV subscriptions so you don't waste money

In a perfect world, each of us would have ample time and energy to monitor all our subscription video charges. We could keep spreadsheets, regularly check our banking statements, and never forget to cancel.

Reality, of course, is messier. Between work, family, and household obligations, ending unnecessary subscriptions might be the last thing on your mind at the end of the day. It doesn’t help that many subscription services will run your credit card without any kind of notification beforehand.

While I still think immediate cancellation is the best strategy for any streaming TV service you don’t plan to keep year ‘round, a little extra auditing can’t hurt. Here are some links and tools that can help sniff out sneaky charges:

Checking on major streaming services

To check directly on your subscription status with major streaming services, just head to their respective account pages and sign in. Below are direct links for several major services, along with cancellation links where I could find them:

”Channels” subscriptions and in-app billing

To further complicate matters, several streaming TV platforms now offer their own subscription stores and in-app billing systems, so you can sign up for channels like HBO, Showtime, Starz, and Epix without having to re-enter your payment info every time.

While these stores are useful for managing lots of subscriptions in one place, each one is separate from the other, and your subscriptions do not transfer from one store to another. They also make sign-up as frictionless as possible, with billing info you might already have on file; so if you’re not careful, you could end up with unwanted or even duplicate subscriptions.

Amazon, for instance, has a service called Prime Video Channels, which is available on Fire TV devices and through the Prime Video app on other devices. If you’re a Prime or Fire TV user, you should check the Manage Your Prime Video Channels page to ensure you haven’t signed up for anything by accident.

Roku also offers a subscription store through The Roku Channel, which is an app that’s primarily available through Roku streaming players and smart TVs. This allows you to sign up for services with whatever payment information you have on file with Roku already. In addition, Roku provides in-app billing for certain services, such as Hulu. If you’re a Roku user, you can check on active subscriptions through this link.

Apple, meanwhile, offers a subscription store called Apple TV Channels, available on Apple TV, Roku players, Fire TV devices, and certain smart TVs. Many individual iOS and Apple TV apps also accept subscriptions through Apple’s in-app billing system. If you’re on an iOS device, or you have iTunes installed on a Mac or PC, you can view and manage all these subscriptions through this link.

Finally, there was a period during which Spotify was bundling subscriptions to Hulu at a discount. If you took advantage of that offer (which is no longer available) and want to cancel Hulu, you’ll need to do so through Spotify’s account system.

Subscription monitoring tools

Of course, the best way to monitor your streaming video subscriptions is to see what’s showing up on your credit card statements. But if you’re not in the habit of doing this regularly, or you have trouble parsing the excess verbiage that your bank account uses, payment monitoring apps like Truebill, Trim, and Hiatus can help. With these apps, you can connect a bank account or credit card, and they’ll sniff out any recurring payments based on your past billing history.

truebill Jared Newman / IDG

Truebill is a useful app for viewing all your subscriptions in one place.

I gave all three of the aforementioned services a try, and I like Truebill the best for monitoring subscriptions. The app, which is available for both iOS and Android, has a dedicated “recurring” subscriptions tab, along with a calendar for viewing future charges. You can also get notifications for upcoming subscription payments as well.

Just one thing to keep in mind: When you first sign up for the app, Truebill asks you to pick a price that you think is fair for its services. If you don’t pick $0 per month, Truebill will charge you for its own “Premium” service through whatever bank account you’ve connected. This page on Truebill’s website explains what’s included in the Premium service. The app, however, doesn’t make this totally clear up front, but you can still choose $0 per month and use subscription monitoring for free.

In other words, even the tools that combat sneaky subscription fees employ their own sneaky tactics. Be careful out there.

Update: One other subscription management app to check out is Bobby, available for iPhone and Android. Unlike Truebill, it doesn't monitor your credit cards or bank accounts for subscriptions, so you have to manually add all the ones you're paying for, but it still shows your average monthly subscription expenses and offers reminders when payments are coming up. It's certainly more elegant than setting up a spreadsheet. (Thanks to kfetty for the tip.)

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Original author: Jared Newman
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Mobile World Congress, the world's biggest phone show, cancelled over coronavirus fears

This year’s iteration of the world’s biggest phone show, Mobile World Congress, has been cancelled, mere weeks before it was supposed to kick off in Barcelona, Spain, on February 24. Before the cancellation, many of the show’s exhibitors withdrew over the past week due to coronavirus fears.

John Hoffman, CEO of the GSM Association that runs Mobile World Congress, announced the cancellation in a statement.

“With due regard to the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona and the host country today, the GSMA has cancelled MWC Barcelona 2020 because the global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event. The Host City Parties respect and understand this decision. The GSMA and the Host City Parties will continue to be working in unison and supporting each other for MWC Barcelona 2021 and future editions. Our sympathies at this time are with those affected in China, and all around the world.”

While the biggest names in mobile—Apple, Google, and Samsung—tend to shy away from announcements at Mobile World Congress, instead preferring to reveal new products at dedicated events where they own the spotlight, MWC remains an important event for the industry. But Mobile World Congress 2020 would’ve been barren if it wasn’t scrapped, as LG, ZTE, Sony, Amazon, Intel, Nvidia, Vodafone, Nokia, Ericcson, and other companies pulled back from the show to prevent potential coronavirus exposure.

“Ericsson appreciates that GSMA have done everything they can to control the risk,” the company said in its withdrawal announcement. “However, as one of the largest exhibitors, Ericsson has thousands of visitors in its hall each day and even if the risk is low, the company cannot guarantee the health and safety of its employees and visitors.”

Mobile World Congress isn’t the only global event to shut down. This morning, WordPress also announced that its WordCamp Asia event scheduled for February 21 in Bangkok is also being cancelled due to health concerns. Earlier this week, PUBG Corporation announced that PGS: Berlin—a major PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds event—will be postponed from its original April schedule thanks to the coronavirus.

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Original author: Brad Chacos
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The Full Nerd ep. 125: AMD's monster Threadripper 3990X, $300 budget gaming PC build recap

Opinion

The Full NerdThreadripper 3990x reviews, $300 gaming PC build, Q&A | The Full Nerd ep. 125

Closed Captioning Closed captioning available on our YouTube channel

Today's show dives into the reviews of AMD's 3rd Gen Ryzen Threadripper 3990x as well as Alaina's $300 gaming PC build.

In this episode of The Full Nerd, Gordon Mah UngBrad ChacosAlaina Yee, and Adam Patrick Murray talk about the most powerful consumer processor ever released.

imageAMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-Core, 128-Thread Unlocked Desktop Processor, without cooler

See it

Yes, AMD’s monstrous 64-core Threadripper 3990X has stomped onto the streets, carrying a just as staggering $3,990 price tag. Its performance is in a class all its own: Intel doesn’t field a high-end desktop chip anywhere near this potent, and Windows itself needs to pull off some tricks to be able to handle it. So who needs the Threadripper 3990X, and what can you do with it? The gang dives in.

After that, we shift gears to more budget-friendly matters. Alaina and Adam recap their $300 Athlon 3000G-based budget gaming PC build, seeing how AMD’s chip and Nvidia’s new GeForce Now service run in such affordable digs. (We also tested it with a Radeon RX 570 inside in a separate stream). How’d it hang? Then things got a little philosophical as we get into what makes a gaming PC a gaming PC, and whether it’s sacrilege to test games on a new system with a controller.

Finally, as always, we fielded questions from you, our viewers, listeners, and Discord members.

You can witness it all in the video embedded above. You can also watch The Full Nerd episode 125 on YouTube (subscribe to the channel while you’re there!) or listen to it on Soundcloud if you prefer the audio alone. 

Speaking of audio, you can subscribe to The Full Nerd in iTunes (please leave a review if you enjoy the show). We’re also on StitcherGoogle Play, or you can point your favorite podcast-savvy RSS reader to: http://feeds.soundcloud.com/users/soundcloud:users:226190044/sounds.rss  

Have a PC- or gaming-related question? Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we’ll try to answer it in the next episode. You can also join the PC-related discussions and ask us questions on The Full Nerd’s Discord server. Finally, be sure to follow PCWorld on FacebookYouTube, and Twitch to watch future episodes live and pick our brains in real time! 

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.

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Original author: PCWorld Staff
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India court stalls Amazon, Flipkart antitrust probes: lawyers

NEW DELHI/BENGALURU (Reuters) - An Indian antitrust investigation of Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) and Walmart’s (WMT.N) Flipkart has been put on hold by a court, three lawyers involved in the proceedings told Reuters on Friday.

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FILE PHOTO: An employee of Amazon walks through a turnstile gate inside an Amazon Fulfillment Centre (BLR7) on the outskirts of Bengaluru, India, September 18, 2018. REUTERS/ Abhishek N. Chinnappa/File Photo

Amazon this week challenged the investigation in a court in Bengaluru and the court has granted a stay of two months, according to a lawyer from P&A Law Offices representing Amazon and two other legal counsels involved in the matter.

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) last month ordered a probe into Amazon and Flipkart over alleged violations of competition law and certain discounting practices.

“This comes as a major relief,” said the Amazon counsel, who declined to be named as he was not authorized to speak to media.

The CCI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The CCI ordered its probe after a New Delhi-based trader group complained that the e-commerce giants were promoting select sellers and in turn hurting business for other smaller players.

Over three days of hearings in the Bengaluru court, Amazon denied the allegations and argued that CCI did not have sufficient evidence to order the probe.

A lawyer for the Indian trader group, Delhi Vyapar Mahasangh, said he would appeal against the court’s decision to put the investigation on hold.

Amazon and Flipkart have faced mounting criticism from Indian retailers which accuse them of violating local laws by racking up billions of dollars of losses to fund deep discounts and discriminating against small sellers.

The companies deny the allegations.

Last month, the trade minister said Amazon wasn’t doing India any “great favor” by announcing $1 billion in investment, laying bare the tensions with the U.S. online retailer.

Reporting by Aditya Kalra and Munsif Vengattil; editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Jason Neely

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Wirecard quarterly profit strength meets expectations

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FILE PHOTO: The headquarters of Wirecard AG, an independent provider of outsourcing and white label solutions for electronic payment transactions is seen in Aschheim near Munich, Germany April 25, 2019. REUTERS/Michael Dalder/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) - Payments company Wirecard reported strong quarterly results in line with analyst expectations on Friday and reiterated guidance for core profit growth of 34% this year.

There was no update on an outside audit to address Financial Times allegations of fraud and false accounting that have dogged the Munich-based company over the past year. KPMG is due to report its findings by the end of March, Wirecard has said.

Chief Executive Markus Braun has denied the allegations, which were made in a series of investigations by FT reporter Dan McCrum and have prompted Singapore police to raid Wirecard’s local offices and sparked a legal battle between Wirecard and the newspaper.

The company’s shares, which have rallied by 28% since the start of the year on the absence of any negative news around the KPMG investigation, were down 1.1% in early Frankfurt trade.

Commenting on the financial update, Braun said: “This is a strong result on our path for profitable growth. Above all, it is very clear evidence of the sustained profitability of our business model.”

Wirecard forecast core profit of 1 billion to 1.12 billion euros ($1.08 billion to $1.21 billion) this year. At the mid-point, that implies growth of 34% from the 794 million euros it made in 2019.

Fourth-quarter adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) came in at 241 million euros, up 46% year on year and in line with expectations in a Refinitiv poll of analysts.

The results were preliminary and Wirecard will publish audited figures on April 8.

Reporting by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Michelle Martin and David Goodman

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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ByteDance to name exclusive head for gaming, signaling ambitions for business: sources

HONG KONG/BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s ByteDance, the owner of video-sharing app TikTok, will appoint an executive to exclusively lead its nascent gaming business, sources said, signaling its growth ambitions in the sector and an intensifying rivalry with tech giant Tencent.

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FILE PHOTO: The ByteDance logo is seen in this illustration taken, November 27, 2019. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

Yan Shou, head of both strategy and gaming businesses, will focus wholly on gaming, as ByteDance sees gaming as the next important source of growth and plans to roll out a game like Honor of Kings, according to one of the people, asking not to be identified because the information isn’t public.

The move comes as the Beijing-based startup, which was valued at $78 billion in late 2018 and is backed by well known investors including SoftBank Group Corp and KKR Inc, is seeking to diversify its business amid a U.S. national security probe into TikTok.

Gaming became strategically important for ByteDance a year ago and the division is working on several full-fledged games simultaneously, according to separate people familiar with the matter.

ByteDance declined to comment. Yan did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Gaming is seen as a steady revenue source as users tend to keep playing popular titles for years. The industry has also received a boost in recent weeks after the coronavirus outbreak forced many Chinese residents to stay at home, driving up game downloads.

China’s gaming industry, the world’s biggest, is currently dominated by Tencent Holdings, which developed the successful mobile game Honor of Kings and currently makes up over half of the market by sales, according to research firm Gamma Data. Other major players include NetEase.

An increased focus on gaming by ByteDance will heighten its competition with Tencent, with which it already competes in areas such as short video and music streaming.

Yan, vice president at ByteDance, reports to company Founder and CEO Zhang Yiming. Before ByteDance, Yan worked as a strategy manager at Tencent, according to Yan’s LinkedIn profile.

The personnel change also means that ByteDance needs a new vice president to oversee its strategy and investment team. Currently the team is run by two directors, and the situation is supposed to be temporary, according to one of the sources.

ByteDance first dipped its toes into gaming by launching “mini-games” via its Chinese short video hit Douyin in February 2019. For the mini-games built within Douyin, users don’t need to download them separately and can just play within the Douyin app. Mini-games were first created and launched by Tencent.

Reporting by Julie Zhu in Hong Kong and Yingzhi Yang in Beijing; Editing by Brenda Goh and Muralikumar Anantharaman

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Portuguese communities lock horns with lithium miners to save their land

LISBON (Reuters) - The lush, green hills where Paulo Pires has for years brought sheep to graze above his picturesque Portuguese village may soon be transformed by the race to power electric vehicles.

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Demonstrators protest against lithium mines in downtown Lisbon, Portugal September 21, 2019. The banner reads "No to mine, Yes to life". REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

Signs of change already give him sleepless nights. Hundreds of drill holes across the countryside show where miners want to excavate the land for lithium, a vital ingredient for batteries used in electric cars, smartphones and energy storage.

“If my livelihood is taken away from me, I won’t have a future elsewhere,” said 45-year-old Pires, whose village lies in the municipal district of Boticas.

Pires and his idyllic surrounds are on one of the frontlines of a battle pitting companies eager to exploit Portugal’s 60,000 tonnes of known lithium reserves against locals determined to preserve their rights over the land and stop the exploitation.

It puts the minority government in a tight spot at home. Growing opposition to lithium exploration by local groups, which communally own and manage rural areas, could mean miners reach an impasse and seek government support to expropriate land.

Lisbon’s actions will also have repercussions beyond its borders. Its reserves may be modest compared to Australia and Chile, the world’s top lithium producers, but Portugal is central to Europe’s bid to cut reliance on lithium imports.

Tapping European deposits of the “white gold” is an important part of the European Union’s ambition to secure more of the battery value chain as the continent’s carmakers roll out electric vehicles, a European Commission spokesperson said.

Portugal, which produced about 1,200 tonnes of lithium last year, currently sells almost exclusively to the ceramics industry rather than producing high-grade lithium needed for car batteries. It is already Europe’s largest lithium producer, but Portugal remains a small player compared to Australia and Chile, with output of 42,000 tonnes and 18,000 tonnes respectively.

Europe, with just 3% of global battery production capacity, has no lithium refineries and relies on imported raw materials.

As the world seeks to phase out fossil fuels, dozens of miners, such as Australia’s Fortescue, have applied for almost 100 licenses to explore for lithium in Portugal.

GRAPHIC: Lithium mining in Portugal - here

GRASSROOTS ACTION

Some miners are already building up operations. Britain’s Savannah Resources has a license for Pires’s Boticas area and Portugal’s Lusorecursos has a license for nearby Montalegre. The two areas make up the Barroso region, a world agricultural heritage site.

Both companies are now awaiting approval from the state environmental agency to proceed with their plans that could involve refining lithium to raise the grade of the product.

An international tender will determine who secures rights to the rest of Portugal’s lithium-bearing territory, covering nine areas with investment in just five of these estimated to be worth 3.3 billion euros ($3.6 billion), the government said.

But anti-lithium sentiment is gaining ground. At least five municipalities have passed motions against exploration and grassroots groups have signed a national manifesto opposing the government’s mining strategy.

“These companies come with millions (of euros). What can we do with our little money? We can only try to stop them,” Pires said.

In a bid to defuse concerns, the government is preparing a new mining law to tighten rules on future licenses and is discussing the draft with local authorities during February.

Companies and the government say mining could bring money and jobs to inland regions struggling with ageing populations and low investment.

“When we extract lithium in Portugal there’s one thing we are certain of: the highest environmental standards will be observed, the most responsible social practices will be observed and this is also a matter of security of supply,” Economy Minister Pedro Siza Vieira told Reuters.

‘GREEN ECONOMY’

“Lithium is critical for the future of the green economy,” he said. “It’s better to extract it here than take it from other countries where we are not certain the same standards will be observed.”

Much of the land expected to contain lithium in Portugal, including the areas where Lusorecursos and Savannah have exploration rights, is classified as common land, known as “baldios” in Portuguese.

Local associations have the right to decide how it is used, such as for hunting or farming. Many associations have passed motions against exploration to avoid damaging the countryside and disrupting age-old ways of life.

“One of our mountains will simply disappear. It will be cut in half. The impact will be brutal,” said Fernando Queiroga, the mayor of Boticas, one of the municipalities that have backed motions against lithium mining.

Such motions have no legal weight. But if developers cannot secure agreement in talks with local associations and private landowners, the companies will need the government to grant them rights to expropriate land in the public interest.

“When and if the question arises, the government will make the decision under the terms of the applicable law,” an Environment Ministry spokesperson said on the issue.

But backing expropriations would complicate life for the Socialists, who are governing without a majority. The companies say it could lead to lengthy legal challenges.

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Slideshow (3 Images)

Savannah told Reuters it was in talks with local stakeholders and had forged several commercial access agreements. Lusorecursos said it saw no reason to approach associations before starting negotiations over land rights.

Activists are already winning some battles. Fortescue withdrew a bid for a license last year in the Alto Minho region after local opposition. The government removed two prospective license areas over environmental concerns expressed by local authorities and environmentalists .

Meanwhile, 18 activist groups have demanded more public transparency in drawing up the new mining law. “I really am willing to go to the end of the world for this,” said local activist Maria de Carmo Mendes.

Additional reporting by Sergio Goncalves and Ingrid Melander; Editing by Ingrid Melander and Edmund Blair

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Tesla to recall 3,183 Model X vehicles in China: market regulator

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FILE PHOTO: A Tesla Model X electric car is seen at Brussels Motor Show, Belgium, January 9, 2020. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo

BEIJING (Reuters) - Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) will recall 3,183 Model X vehicles in China, because of a potential issue that could make steering harder and increase the risk of a crash, according to the country’s market regulator.

Tesla will recall the sport-utility vehicles made in 2016 from June, according to a statement from the State Administration for Market Regulation on Friday.

Reporting by Yilei Sun and Brenda Goh; Editing by Tom Hogue

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Judge grants Amazon motion for pause in Microsoft's Pentagon contract work

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Thursday granted Amazon.com Inc’s request to temporarily halt the U.S. Department of Defense and Microsoft Corp from moving forward on an up-to-$10 billion cloud computing deal that Amazon says reflected undue influence by President Donald Trump.

Amazon, which had been seen as a front-runner to win the contract, filed a lawsuit in November just weeks after the contract was awarded to Microsoft. Trump has publicly derided Amazon head Jeff Bezos and repeatedly criticized the company.

Judge Patricia Campbell-Smith issued a preliminary injunction but did not release her written opinion. She also ordered Amazon to post $42 million in the event the injunction was issued wrongfully.

The Amazon lawsuit said the Defense Department’s decision was full of “egregious errors,” which were a result of “improper pressure from President Donald Trump, who launched repeated public and behind-the-scenes attacks” to steer the contract away from Amazon “to harm his perceived political enemy” Bezos.

Bezos also owns the Washington Post, whose coverage has been critical of Trump and which has frequently been a target of barbs by Trump about the news media.

The Pentagon, which had planned to start work on the contract on Friday, said it was disappointed in the ruling.

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Carver, a Defense Department spokesman, said the Pentagon believed “the actions taken in this litigation have unnecessarily delayed implementing DoD’s modernization strategy and deprived our warfighters of a set of capabilities they urgently need.”

It added it remained “confident in our award of the JEDI Cloud contract to Microsoft.”

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FILE PHOTO: The Microsoft sign is shown on top of the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles, California, U.S. October 19,2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

Defense Secretary Mark Esper previously denied there was bias and said the Pentagon made its choice fairly and freely without external influence.

Alexander Major, a partner at McCarter & English, said: “The court has confirmed through the injunction that Amazon’s challenges with respect to this procurement are not trivial. It’s not guaranteed that they will prevail but the fact that they got it at all is a big deal.”

Amazon shares closed down 0.4%, while Microsoft was down 0.5%.

TESTIMONY SOUGHT FROM TRUMP

As part of the lawsuit, Amazon asked the court in January to pause the execution of the contract, popularly known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure Cloud, or JEDI. The contract is intended to give the military better access to data and technology from remote locations.

Microsoft said in a statement: “We have confidence in the Department of Defense, and we believe the facts will show they ran a detailed, thorough and fair process.”

Amazon did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The White House declined comment.

Earlier this week, Amazon’s cloud computing unit, Amazon Web Services, said it was seeking to depose Trump and Esper in its lawsuit over whether the president was trying “to screw Amazon” over the contract.

The logo of Amazon is seen at the company logistics centre in Boves, France, November 5, 2019. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

Amazon also seeks to question other officials involved in the decision and alleged that Trump had a history of inappropriately intervening in governmental decisions. Amazon called the process “fatally flawed and highly unusual.”

The procurement process has been delayed by legal complaints and conflict-of-interest allegations.

The judge told Amazon and the Pentagon to confer by Feb. 27 on what portions of the opinion can be released publicly.

Reporting by David Shepardson and Nandita Bose in Washington; Additional reporting by Mike Stone; Editing by Leslie Adler and Peter Cooney

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Nvidia forecast tops expectations on cloud sales despite coronavirus hit

(Reuters) - Nvidia Corp (NVDA.O) on Thursday forecast first-quarter revenue that topped Wall Street expectations, powered by sales of its chips to cloud computing vendors, even as it projected a $100 million hit from the coronavirus outbreak.

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FILE PHOTO - The nVIDIA booth is shown at the E3 2017 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, California, U.S. June 13, 2017. REUTERS/ Mike Blake

The forecast reinforced expectations of a rebound in chip demand and sent Nvidia shares up nearly 7% in extended trading. Last month, Intel Corp (INTC.O) and Advanced Micro Devices Inc (AMD.O), Nvidia’s primary rivals in selling chips to data center customers, both forecast positive trends in that market.

Nvidia is the second chipmaker after Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O) to warn about a potential impact on its businesses due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Nvidia’s largest market is chips that enhance the graphics in video games played on PCs and laptops. But in recent years, the company has expanded to sell to data center and cloud computing customers as its chips increasingly power artificial intelligence tasks such as facial recognition and speech recognition.

Revenue from Nvidia’s closely watched data center chips business rose 42.6% to $968 million in its fiscal fourth quarter, beating analysts’ estimate of $829 million, according to research firm FactSet.

Nvidia did not name big customers but said that “hyperscale” customers drove the increased data center sales, a group that industry analysts often define as major cloud computing vendors such as Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google, Amazon.com’s (AMZN.O) cloud unit and Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O).

Artificial intelligence chips for data centers come in two broad types: “training” chips that ingest data and train a software to carry out tasks like recognizing a face, and “inference” chips that use the trained algorithms to carry out the task. Nvidia dominates the market for training chips, while Intel had most of the inference market.

But Nvidia executives said the company’s inference revenue grew by a factor of four over the past year, thanks to a new chip. Chief Executive Jensen Huang told Reuters in an interview that inference chips reached a “low double-digits” percentage of Nvidia’s data center revenue in its fiscal fourth quarter, but training chips also set sales record.

“I would expect inference to grow, and I would expect training to grow,” Huang said.

The Santa Clara, California-based company said it expects current-quarter revenue of $3 billion, plus or minus 2%, the midpoint of which is above analysts’ expectation of $2.86 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

The company said the impact of the coronavirus outbreak in China, a major market for both its gaming and data center chips, was unclear but it has reduced its sales outlook by $100 million in response. In a conference call with investors, Colette Kress, Nvidia’s chief financial officer, said China represented about 30% of sales for Nvidia’s gaming chip business, the company’s largest sales segment.

“We had expected a weaker outlook for its April quarter as Nvidia does have a very high gaming GPU sales exposure in China,” said Kinngai Chan of Summit Insights Group. “We believe the continued strength in Nvidia’s data center business is able to partially offset the demand weakness in its consumer gaming business in China due to the coronavirus outbreak.”

Nvidia said it expects its $6.8 billion acquisition of Israeli chip firm Mellanox Technologies Ltd (MLNX.O) will close in the “early part of calendar 2020.” Nvidia still needs approval from Chinese regulators.

Revenue from its gaming business, still the biggest contributor to sales, rose 56% to $1.49 billion in the fourth quarter, but fell short of analysts’ estimate of $1.52 billion, according to FactSet.

Total revenue in the quarter rose about 41% to $3.11 billion, above analysts’ estimate of $2.97 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Net income rose to $950 million, or $1.53 per share, in the fiscal fourth-quarter ended Jan. 26, from $567 million, or 92 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, it earned $1.89 per share, above estimates of $1.69.

Reporting by Amal S in Bengaluru and Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Leslie Adler

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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FTC antitrust victory on Qualcomm questioned by appeals court

(Reuters) - The U.S. government’s antitrust victory over chip supplier Qualcomm Inc drew tough questions for the Federal Trade Commision from a panel of three appellate judges in San Francisco on Thursday.

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FILE PHOTO: A Qualcomm sign is pictured at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Shanghai, China June 28, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in a closely watched case the regulator brought against Qualcomm in early 2017.

San Diego, California-based Qualcomm supplies modem chips that connect phones and other devices to wireless data networks, but patent licensing drives most of its profits.

The company is fighting a May 2019 decision by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh. That judge sided with antitrust regulators, writing that Qualcomm’s practice of requiring phone makers to sign a patent license agreement before selling them chips “strangled competition” and harmed consumers.

The panel of judges probed the FTC on how Qualcomm may have violated antitrust laws, even if the company did use its dominant position in the chip market to gain higher patent royalties.

“Anticompetitive behavior is prohibited under the Sherman Act. Hyper-competitive behavior is not. This case asks us to draw the line between the two,” Judge Stephen Joseph Murphy III said.

The FTC argued Qualcomm applied an excessive “surcharge” to phone makers, charging them too high a price for patent licenses because the phone makers had to sign the deals to get Qualcomm’s chips.

“Doesn’t the Supreme Court say that patent holders have the right to price their patents? What would be anticompetitive about that?” Judge Johnnie Rawlinson asked.

Brian Fletcher, a law professor from Stanford University brought in by the FTC, responded that phone makers could not challenge the patent prices in negotiations or other court proceedings for fear of losing access to Qualcomm’s chips.

Judge Consuelo María Callahan asked whether the FTC’s case had conflated profits with anticompetitive behavior. She asked Qualcomm’s attorney if Qualcomm’s practices “helped Qualcomm make lots of money for a few years, is that in and of itself an antitrust violation, even if consumers paid higher prices for cell phones?”

Representing Qualcomm, Tom Goldstein responded no. He conceded Qualcomm was a monopoly, but argued that it broke no laws because its chips were better than rivals.

“It is the prospect that a monopolist will make a lot of money that encourages it to do so much innovation. That is what capitalism is intended to encourage,” he said.

A decision in the appeal could take anywhere from several months to more than a year.

Reporting by Jan Wolfe in Washington and Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Dan Grebler and David Gregorio

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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