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After five days of negotiations, Senate leaders and the Trump administration the White House said early Wednesday morning that Senate leaders and the Trump administration have reached a deal on a $ 2 trillion stimulus package to help relieve the economic impact of COVID-19.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are done. We have a deal,” White House legislative affairs director Eric Ueland told reporters around 1AM, according to the Washington Post.

Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who negotiated with Ueland, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin and other officials, are expected to discuss the deal in Senate soon.

The deal still needs to be approved by the Senate and House of Representatives, but the stock market rose on Tuesday as reports came out that an agreement was imminent, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining more than 2,100 points, or 11.4%.

The size of the stimulus package has grown over the past week, from the $ 850 billion that the Trump administration reportedly first asked for, to the current $ 2 trillion.

The deal includes an increase in unemployment insurance, $ 130 billion earmarked for hospitals, $ 1,200 checks to many Americans and a $ 367 billion loan program for small businesses, among other provisions.

According to New York Times reporter Alan Rappeport, the deal also includes a provision, secured by Schumer, that bars businesses controlled by the president, vice president, members of Congress and heads of executive departments from receiving loans or investments from Treasury programs.

President Donald Trump suggested this week that he wants to lift emergency orders much more quickly than public health experts have suggested. Yesterday Trump told reporters he wants the nation to be “opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” despite warnings by public health experts that more time is needed to contain the spread of novel coronavirus.

According to data from John Hopkins University, there are currently more than 55,200 cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., with a total of 801 deaths.


TechCrunch

Alibaba Group has acquired NetEase Kaola for $ 2 billion, the two companies said today, and will integrate it into Tmall, creating the largest cross-border e-commerce platform in China. The announcement follows weeks of media reports about a potential deal, which was said to have stalled in the middle of August after the companies reportedly disagreed on transaction details.

Tmall Import and Export general manager Alvin Liu has been named as Kaola’s new CEO, replacing Zhang Lei, but Kaola will continue to operate independently under its own brand.

Tmall Global and Kaola are China’s largest and second-largest cross-border e-commerce platforms, respectively, holding 31.7% and 24.5% of the market, and their union means they will create a business that will far outstrip in size rivals like JD Worldwide, VIP International and Amazon China. (Earlier this year, NetEase was reportedly in talks to merge Kaola with Amazon China).

Alibaba and Yunfeng, the investment firm launched by Alibaba founder Jack Ma, also agreed to invest $ 700 million into NetEase Cloud Music’s latest funding round. This will give Alibaba a minority stake in the streaming music service, with NetEase remaining its controlling shareholder.

In a press release, NetEase CEO William Ding said “We are pleased to have found a strategic fit for Kaola within Alibaba’s extensive ecosystem, where Kaola will continue to provide Chinese consumers with high-quality import products and services. At the same time, the completion of this strategic transaction will allow NetEase to focus on its growth strategy, investing in markets that allow us to best leverage our competitive advantages.”

Daniel Zhang, Alibaba Group’s CEO, said “Alibaba is confidence about the future of China’s import e-commerce market, which we believe remains in its infancy with great growth potential.”


TechCrunch

India’s Reliance Jio, which has disrupted the local telecom and features phone businesses in less than three years of its existence, is now ready to aggressively foray into many more businesses.

In a series of announcements, the subsidiary of India’s largest industrial house Reliance Industries today said it will commercially launch its fiber-optic broadband business next month, an IoT platform on January 1, 2020, and “one of the world’s biggest blockchain networks” in the next 12 months.

The broadband service, called Jio Giga Fiber, is aimed at individual customers, small and medium sized businesses, as well as enterprises, Mukhesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries, said at a shareholders meeting Monday. The service, which will be available starting September 5, will offer free voice calls, high-speed internet and start at Rs 700 per month.

Continuing its tradition to woo users with significant offers, Jio said customers who opt for the yearly-plan of Giga Fiber will be provided with the set top box and an HD or 4K TV at no extra charge. A premium tier, which will be available next year, will allow customers to watch many movies on the day of their public release.

The Giga Fiber broadband service, which also offers access to TV channels, will bundle games from many popular studios including Microsoft Game Studios, Riot Games, Tencent Games, and Gameloft,

Partnership with Microsoft

The company also announced a 10-year partnership with Microsoft to leverage the Redmond giant’s Azure, Microsoft 365, and Microsoft AI platforms to launch new cloud datacenters in India to ensure “more of Jio’s customers can access the tools and platforms they need to build their own digital capability,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in a video appearance Monday.

“At Microsoft, our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. Core to this mission is deep partnerships, like the one we are announcing today with Reliance Jio. Our ambition is to help millions of organizations across India thrive and grow in the era of rapid technological change…”

“Together, we will offer a comprehensive technology solution, from compute to storage, to connectivity and productivity for small and medium-sized businesses everywhere in the country,” he added.

As part of the partnership, Nadella said, Jio and Microsoft will jointly offer Office 365 to more organizations in India, and also bring Azure Cognitive Services to more devices and in many Indian languages to businesses in the country. The solutions will be “accessible” to reach as many people and organizations in India as possible, he added.

The first two data-centers will be set up in Gujarat and Maharashtra by next year. Jio will migrate all of its non-networking apps to Microsoft Azure platform and promote its adoption among its ecosystem of startups, the two said in a joint statement.

Ambani also said Jio is working on a “digital stack” to create a new commerce partnership platform in India to reach tens of millions of merchants, consumers, and producers.

The announcement comes weeks after Reliance Industries acquired majority stake in Fynd, a Mumbai-based startup that connects brick and mortar retailers with online stores and consumers, for $ 42.3 million.

More to follow…


TechCrunch

Wavecell, a cloud-communications platform for companies in Southeast Asia, announced today that it has been acquired by 8×8 in a deal worth about $ 125 million. The acquisition will help San Jose, California-based 8×8 expand in Asia, where Wavecell already has offices in Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Hong Kong.

Wavecell’s cloud API platform, which includes SMS, chat, video and voice messaging, is used by companies such as Paidy, Lalamove and Tokopedia. It has relationships with 192 network operators and partners like WhatsApp and claims its infrastructure is used to share more than two billion messages each year.

The terms of the deal includes $ 69 million in cash and about $ 56 million in 8×8 common shares. Founded in 2010, Wavecell’s investors included Qualgro VC, Wavemaker Partners and MDI Ventures.

In a prepared statement, 8×8 CEO Vik Verma said “8×8 is now the only cloud provider that owns the full, global-scale, cloud-native, technology stack offering voice, video, messaging, and contact center delivered both as pre-packaged applications and as enterprise-class APIs. We’re excited to welcome the Wavecell employees to the 8×8 family. We now have a significant market presence in Asia and expect to continue to expand in the region and globally in order to meet evolving customer requirements.”


TechCrunch

While AWS leads the cloud infrastructure market by wide margin, Microsoft isn’t doing too badly, ensconced firmly in second place, the only other company with double-digit share. Today, it announced a big deal with AT&T that encompasses both Azure cloud infrastructure services and Office 365.

A person with knowledge of the contract pegged the combined deal at a tidy $ 2 billion, a nice feather in Microsoft’s cloud cap. According to a Microsoft blog post announcing the deal, AT&T has a goal to move most of its non-networking workloads to the public cloud by 2024, and Microsoft just got itself a big slice of that pie, surely one that rivals AWS, Google and IBM (which closed the $ 34 billion Red Hat deal last week) would dearly have loved to get.

As you would expect, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella spoke of the deal in lofty terms around transformation and innovation. “Together, we will apply the power of Azure and Microsoft 365 to transform the way AT&T’s workforce collaborates and to shape the future of media and communications for people everywhere,” he said in a statement in the blog post announcement.

To that end, they are looking to collaborate on emerging technologies like 5G and believe that by combining Azure with AT&T’s 5G network, the two companies can help customers create new kinds of applications and solutions. As an example cited in the blog post, they could see using the speed of the 5G network combined with Azure AI-powered live voice translation to help first responders communicate with someone who speaks a different language instantaneously.

It’s worth noting that while this deal to bring Office 365 to AT&T’s 250,000 employees is a nice win, that part of the deal falls on the under the SaaS umbrella, so it won’t help with Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure marketshare. Still, any way you slice it, this is a big deal.


TechCrunch

Toyota will work with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on a fuel cell Moon rover vehicle, with a target launch date of a Moon mission currently set for 2029. The two previously announced their collaboration, but on Tuesday they signed a formal agreement which defines a three-year joint research agreement to co-develop pressurized lunar rover prototypes.

Each year will see the partnership focus on a different phase of the prototype’s development, with 2019 all about identifying technical requirements and drawing up spec docs; next year, the goal will be to build test parts and then actually putting together a rover prototype; finally, in fiscal 2021, the partners will test both the rover parts and rover prototype in order to evaluate the results for potential full production.

The pressurized rover will be able to transport astronauts over 10,000 km using its onboard fuel cells and solar recharging mechanism, according to a press release detailing the concept from March, prior to today’s development partnership agreement. It would have a total seating capacity of two people, with the option to carry as many as four if there’s an emergency need to do so.

It’s about the size of two microbuses, according to Toyota, which means about 20 feet long, by 17 feet wide and 12.5 feet tall. The six-wheeled concept also features deployable solar panels for recharging, ample communications equipment and a front winch for getting itself out of jams another potential applications.

JAXA intends to launch a series of lunar missions, including 2007’s Selene (or ‘Kayuga’), which sent an orbiter and a pair of communication satellites to lunar orbit. Ultimately, JAXA’s goal is to host a series of uncrewed and human missions under a broader Lunar Exploration Program with the ultimate aim of establishing a presence for Japanese astronauts in a combined international lunar outpost program.


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