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
0

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.


Libya’s National Oil against paying ‘ransom’ to reopen El Sharara field

Updated 14 December 2018
0

Libya’s National Oil against paying ‘ransom’ to reopen El Sharara field

  • Ransom payment would set dangerous precedent
  • NOC declared force majeure on exports on Monday

BENGHAZI: Libya’s state-owned National Oil Corp. (NOC) said it was against paying a ransom to an armed group that has halted crude production at the country’s largest oilfield.
“Any attempt to pay a ransom to the armed militia which shut down El Sharara (oilfield) would set a dangerous precedent that would threaten the recovery of the Libyan economy,” NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanalla said in a statement on the company’s website.
NOC on Monday declared force majeure on exports from the 315,000-barrels-per-day oilfield after it was seized at the weekend by a local militia group.
The nearby El-Feel oilfield, which uses the same power supply as El Sharara, was still producing normally, a spokesman for NOC said, without giving an output figure. The field usually pumps around 70,000 bpd.
Since 2013 Libya has faced a wave of blockages of oilfields and export terminals by armed groups and civilians trying to press the country’s weak state into concessions.
Officials have tended to end such action by paying off protesters who demand to be added to the public payroll.
At El Sharara, in southern Libya, a mix of state-paid guards, civilians and tribesmen have occupied the field, camping there since Saturday, protesters and oil workers said. The protesters work in shifts, with some going home at night.
NOC has evacuated some staff by plane, engineers at the oilfield said. A number of sub-stations away from the main field have been vacated and equipment removed.
The occupiers are divided, with members of the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) indicating they would end the blockade in return for a quick cash payment, oil workers say. The PFG has demanded more men be added to the public payroll.
The tribesmen have asked for long-term development funds, which might take time.
Libya is run by two competing, weak governments. Armed groups, tribesmen and normal Libyans tend to vent their anger about high inflation and a lack of infrastructure on the NOC, which they see as a cash cow booking billions of dollars in oil and gas revenues annually.