China smartphone makers join hands on apps, pose threat to WeChat

WeChat, which has more than 1 billion users, last year launched “mini-programs” within the app that look and operate much like apps on Apple Inc’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems but are far less data-intensive. (Reuters)
Updated 21 March 2018
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China smartphone makers join hands on apps, pose threat to WeChat

HONG KONG: China’s biggest smartphone makers are collaborating to promote download-free “fast apps,” in a move backed by the government and likely to threaten Tencent Holdings’ grip on mobile traffic with its wildly popular WeChat app.
The messenger-to-payment app WeChat, which has more than 1 billion users, last year launched “mini-programs” within the app that look and operate much like apps on Apple Inc’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems but are far less data-intensive.
Tencent has said WeChat is not a challenge to the dominant mobile platforms, but some analysts and developers say the new business could eat into that of iOS and Android app ecosystem, as they take a cut from app purchases.
Since its launch, WeChat’s mini-programs have lured some consumers away from those app stores.
The “fast apps” are similar, HTML-based lite apps that can be instantly launched without downloading and introduced by a group of 10 Chinese smartphone vendors and a government agency, they said in a joint statement on Tuesday.
The partners in the alliance are Xiaomi Technology, ZTE Corp., Huawei Technologies, Gionee, Lenovo Group, Meizu, Nubia, OPPO, Vivo, OnePlus, and the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
They will standardize formats so that app developers need to just design one “fast app,” instead of 10 “fast apps” tweaked to each vendor’s hardware.
The open platform will form a new mobile traffic ecosystem which will be more efficient and convenient for users totaling nearly 1 billion among the 10 vendors, the statement said.
Xiaomi, which said there are already more than 100 “fast apps” in its app store, told Reuters the alliance is aimed at enhancing user experience and is not targeting any particular company.
“Fast app” versions of some of the most popular apps in China, such as news aggregator Toutiao and travel booking site Ctrip, can be found in the Mi app store with an “instant launch” mark next to them.
Smartphone makers plan to promote the “fast apps” through AI-enhanced recommendations, they said in the statement.
Tencent did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Lebanon president: negative rumors about the economy harm country

Updated 19 September 2018
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Lebanon president: negative rumors about the economy harm country

  • Lebanon has been without a government for four months since a national election
  • “The Lebanese pound is not in danger and Lebanon is not on the road to bankruptcy," Aoun said

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s currency is not in danger and rumors about the economy are causing harm, President Michel Aoun said on Wednesday, amid concern that a political deadlock has blocked urgent reforms and left the heavily indebted country vulnerable.
Lebanon has been without a government for four months since a national election. The central bank has issued repeated assurances about the soundness of the Lebanese pound’s peg to the dollar and the size of its foreign currency reserves, in response to speculation over the currency’s future.
“The Lebanese pound is not in danger and Lebanon is not on the road to bankruptcy. The economic situation is difficult but the things being spread as rumors are harming Lebanon,” Aoun said, in comments published by his office.
“We do not deny that there is a crisis,” Aoun said, but added that the country was working to address it.
Lebanon had the world’s third highest debt-to-GDP ratio, at over 150 percent, at the end of 2017. The International Monetary Fund wants to see immediate and substantial fiscal adjustment to improve debt sustainability.
The failure of politicians to form a government needed to undertake the necessary reforms following the parliamentary election in May has added to concern for the economy.
Leaders from across the political spectrum have in recent months said the political stalemate is harming the economy and a government needs to be formed. Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri this month said the country was in “intensive care” and the economic situation was “very dangerous.”
While politicians have stopped short of saying the peg is in danger, some economic analysts abroad have been considering the possibility of a devaluation.
“Lebanon’s ongoing political stalemate has renewed market concerns over the country’s frail balance sheets which could propel the government to devalue the Lebanese Pound ... Under this scenario, the authorities would find it increasingly challenging to service their large foreign currency debts,” Japan’s MUFG Bank said in a report on Wednesday.