Editor’s note: CGTN’s First Voice provides instant commentary on breaking stories. The daily column clarifies emerging issues and better defines the news agenda, offering a Chinese perspective on the latest global events.
It’s a deal.
On Tuesday morning, Chinese telecommunication giant Huawei announced that it would sell off its budget smartphone brand Honor. In the official statement of Huawei, this move was “made by Honor’s industry chain to ensure its own survival.” The company will be owned by newly founded Shenzhen Zhixin New Information Technology Co., a consortium of over 30 agents.
Many see this as a “no-alternative-but-have-to” move in the face of U.S. sanctions. Last year, the U.S. issued sanctions blocking Huawei’s access to American chips. The restrictions were further tightened this year. The Trump administration banned manufactures worldwide using U.S. technology to sell chips for Huawei.
It would be impossible to deny that this move has nothing to do with U.S. sanctions. Would this help Huawei to adopt a more flexible strategy as it is being restricted around the world? Sure. But Wang Jianhui, deputy general manager of the research and development department at Capital Securities pointed out that there was a bigger push here against the current global background. The key word here is uncertainty.
One of the most direct consequences of U.S. sanctions and the disruptions of supply chains, is the decrease in revenue. The retail sales of Huawei for the first three quarters this year increased by 9.9 percent compared with last year. It was still in a leading position but the growth has slowed – in 2019, the company reported a 24.4 percent growth in revenue for the same period.
Would a new Biden administration adopt a new “Huawei” policy? By this time, it has become quite clear that the Democrats at least share some of the concerns that Republicans have towards China. It just seems too risky to place all the bets on a new administration.
In this case, selling Honor at a fair price would provide some decent cash flow for Huawei to focus more on its core business and inject funds to the company’s strategic development in the future. Although there has not been an official announcement, it is estimated that the price will be between 100 and 200 billion yuan ($15-30 billion).
According to Wang, selling off Honor should be seen as a strategic adjustment of Huawei. The company was already the number one tech giant in the Chinese market. According to a Counterpoint report, Huawei also surpassed Samsung to become number one in global smartphone shipment in the second quarter of 2020.
Having two brands at the same time would surely diffuse the company’s resources. Thus, for the long-term development of the company, Huawei decided to focus more on its main brand to compete in the high-end smartphone market with Apple and Samsung.
“In the face of an uncertain future, Huawei still hopes to pull all its resources to develop its private brand,” said Wang.
The sell-off could also avoid future accusations that Huawei holds a monopoly of the Chinese market. Without future concerns that regulatory authorities may investigate Huawei’s market share, it can focus more on research and development.
And not just Huawei, Wang also mentioned that this could be potential good news for the Chinese smartphone market and consumers as well. Under the new owner, Honor as a competitive brand can help some major shareholders to integrate some second and third tier smartphone brands and help to speed the R&D process for these brands.
For Chinese consumers, a new independent Honor would also be likely to give discounts and launch new products to attract more consumers. At least in the short to mid-term, consumers can also be beneficiaries.
Against the backdrop of a global pandemic, uncertainty has become the “new normal” and a new context that every business must take into account when thinking about the future. But one thing is clear: it’s too early to “mourn” at the fate of either Huawei or Honor. The best option is perhaps a wait and see.
(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at email@example.com.)
Xbox Series X/S now available on Walmart Canada's website [Now sold out] – MobileSyrup
Update 04/12/2020 at 12:07am ET: Well, that was fast — the consoles are already sold out.
Xbox Series X Game Review Roundup: Gears 5, Assassin's Creed Valhalla, NBA 2K21 and more – MobileSyrup
Given the compressed nature of the Xbox Series X’s review program, we unfortunately weren’t able to put together in-depth looks at every game releasing for Microsoft’s new video game console.
Like our round-up of PlayStation 5 launch titles, we’ve decided to give a selection of the Xbox Series X’s launch lineup the same mini-review treatment.
Along with taking a look at Xbox Series X’s backwards compatibility features, this story also delves into titles like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, The Falconeer, Halo: The Masterchief Collection and more.
It’s important to note that not all of these games are exclusive to Microsoft’s new consoles and that performance is generally comparable across the PlayStation 5 when it comes to most of the third-party titles in this list.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
Platform: Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC, Stadia
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
ESRB rating: M for Mature
At times, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is a bloated, shockingly glitchy, far too expansive mess. On the other hand, it can also be stunning, and genuinely pushes the long-running franchise in exciting directions.
For instance, the game’s Medieval setting, which includes intricate gothic castles, rolling hills and a level of detail not present in its predecessor, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, is one of the most compelling worlds Ubisoft Montreal has ever created.
Of course, as has become expected from Ubisoft’s open-world games, Valhalla is also a bit of a mess. Enemies aren’t very smart and will sometimes stop pursuing you for no apparent reason, environmental objects occasionally float (one time we saw a whale float through the ocean) and overall, it’s just not a very polished video game. Further, despite a streamlining of the series’ quest system, you’ll still find yourself grinding out the occasional side quest to push the story forward or to level up protagonist Evior.
On the more positive side of things, health no longer replenishes automatically, adding a level of stakes to battles not present in recent Assassin’s Creed titles. Also, the weapon and armour system is far more streamlined than in other recent titles in the series.
With all that said, Valhalla remains one of the best-looking video games available for the Series X and is a good indication of what to expect from the Xbox Series X in terms of graphics when it comes to future Ubisoft titles.
For more on Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, check out Patrick O’Rourke’s in-depth look at the game.
Platform: Xbox Series X/S, PC
Developer: Tomas Sala
Publisher: Wired Productions
ESRB rating: T for Teen
With that in mind, the game’s impressive aerial combat is compelling, though, unfortunately, gets repetitive after a few chapters. Between moments of intense combat, a relatively simple story unfolds that involves several different factions and uncovering secrets that have been lost to the sea.
It’s also worth noting that while The Falconeer isn’t very long, it’s one of the few titles that support 4K 120Hz on the Xbox Series X. All things considered, it’s cool to see an indie title like this launching on the Xbox Series X alongside big-budget titles like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. As long as you set your expectations appropriately, there’s a lot to like about The Falconeer.
Gears 5 leads the enhanced pack
Platform: Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PC
Developer: The Coalition
ESRB rating: M for Mature
Price: $39.99 (on sale for $9.99) Game Pass
Despite Gears 5 already being one of the best-looking Xbox One titles, Vancouver-based The Coalition has managed to improve the game’s visuals in several ways on the Xbox Series X. While the game still utilizes dynamic resolution scaling, it hits a far more consistent 2160p. On the multiplayer side of things, Gears 5 now features a shockingly smooth 120Hz frame rate and, as a result, a slightly lower resolution than the game’s campaign mode.
Gears 5‘s detail level has also been bumped up significantly across the board, with the Series X version of the game adopting higher quality PC-like volumetric lighting, improved shadows and more. Of course, the game also loads much quicker thanks to the Series X’s NVME SSD.
In what feels like an effort to fill the void left by Halo Infinite‘s delay, Microsoft offers several “enhanced” backward compatible Xbox One titles. For example, Ori and the Will of the Wisps runs at a smooth 120Hz, and Forza Horizon 4 — a game that already looked incredible on the Xbox One — now runs at native 4K and 60fps on the Series X. Sea of Thieves, Rare’s boat-filled pirate adventure, runs at a consistent 4K/60fps on Microsoft’s new console as well.
It’s also worth pointing out that all of the titles mentioned above are part of Microsoft’s excellent $16.99 per month Game Pass Ultimate subscription service, giving you access to a wide range of games for a relatively low monthly fee.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
Platform: Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PC
Developer: 343 Industries
ESRB rating: M for Mature
Price: $49.99 or available through Game Pass
Outside of Gears 5, Halo: The Master Chief Collection is perhaps the biggest older game to get Series X/S optimizations. Impressively, 343 Industries has introduced a slew of enhancements across the collection’s several games — both on the campaign and multiplayer side. This means that Series X and S players can enjoy 120fps single-player and multiplayer modes on top of improved splitscreen play and adjustable FOV. Series X owners, specifically, can benefit from 4K resolution.
We haven’t played the Master Chief Collection since the vanilla Xbox One days, so being able to play the classic Halo games at 4K/120fps on Series X was a real treat. While we didn’t personally notice much of a difference between 60fps and 120fps, it’s still a welcome change that does impact gameplay to a degree. What’s more impressive is the crisper visuals, making Halo‘s iconic maps look absolutely stunning as we shot, punched and Spartan Laser’d my way through them. Meanwhile, the consoles’ faster load times mean you can jump into levels more quickly. Amusingly, 343 actually had to rein in the load times so they didn’t affect matchmaking.
Overall, the optimizations certainly don’t fill the void left by Halo Infinite‘s delay, but they’re nonetheless nice to have in the meantime.
Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate
Platform: Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC, Stadia, Windows
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
ESRB rating: M for Mature
Positioned as the definitive version of Mortal Kombat 11, the game’s new Ultimate edition includes Kombat Pack 1, the aftermath Expansion and the Kombat Pack 2, giving players access to 37 playable characters, two full story campaigns and a wide array of modes. For reasons that remain unclear, Rambo is also in the game now and voiced by Sylvester Stallone himself (yes, you read that correctly).
If you’ve played a Mortal Kombat title before, you’ll know what to expect here. The game is rife with sometimes disgusting over-the-top blood-filled violence, features the same wacky franchise mainstay characters and a plotline that really doesn’t make sense. With all that said, there’s still something charming about Mortal Kombat 11‘s simplified special system and generally stripped-back combat. Nearly anyone can still pick up the game and have a great time button mashing away. There’s also a wealth of tutorials available if you want to understand the game’s mechanics on a deeper level.
Apart from improved load times, Mortal Kombat Ultimate also runs at a 4K dynamic resolution on the Series X.
Platform: Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Switch, PC, Google Stadia, Windows
Developer: Visual Concepts
Publisher: 2K Sports
ESRB rating: E for Everyone
NBA 2K21 is an extremely graphically impressive video game. This is because it’s one of the few third-party titles built from the ground up to take advantage of the ample power the Xbox Series X offers.
Everything from players’ faces and animation, to even the sweat dripping down their faces looks stunning in dynamic 4K 60fps with HDR. If you’ve seen videos of NBA 2K21 in action on YouTube, they truly don’t do the game justice given the limitations of video quality on the platform. That said, there are moments where the visuals fall apart, like, for example, when a player stares off into the distance for no reason — say hello to the uncanny valley.
On the negative side of things, NBA 2K21 is full of obtrusive microtransactions and pay-to-win mechanics across nearly all of its modes. It’s also really not that much of an upgrade over last year’s game in terms of features and gameplay, with most of the upgrades being purely visual. The only notable change to gameplay is a surprisingly compelling new shooting mechanic that requires the player to aim their shots and have precise timing.
Still, as far as sports titles that actually take advantage of what the Xbox Series X has to offer, NBA 2K21 is in a league of its own.
Google Employees Say Scientist's Ouster Was 'Unprecedented Research Censorship' – NPR
Hundreds of Google employees have published an open letter following the firing of a colleague who is an accomplished scientist known for her research into the ethics of artificial intelligence and her work showing racial bias in facial recognition technology.
That scientist, Timnit Gebru, helped lead Google’s Ethical Artificial Intelligence team until Tuesday.
She says she was forced out of the company following a dispute over a research paper and an email she subsequently sent to peers expressing frustration over how the tech giant treats employees of color and women.
“Instead of being embraced by Google as an exceptionally talented and prolific contributor, Dr. Gebru has faced defensiveness, racism, gaslighting, research censorship, and now a retaliatory firing,” the open letter said. By Thursday evening, more than 200 Google employees and a similar number of outsiders — many of them academics — had signed it.
The research paper in question was co-authored by Gebru along with four others at Google and two other researchers. It focused on the environment impact and ethical implications of housing the data for and promoting an AI tool that can create lengthy text documents as if written by a human.
According to Gebru, she was planning to present the paper at a research conference next year, but then her bosses at Google stepped in and demanded she retract the paper, or remove all the Google employees as authors.
Gebru threatened to resign. She then took to an internal email list to vent about what she saw as empty promises to increase the number of underrepresented groups at Google.
Describing her own treatment as “silencing marginalized voices,” she also claimed she was given an insufficient explanation for why Google opposed her research paper. It made her feel like her expertise was not valued at the company.
“Instead of being like, ‘OK let’s talk,’ they’re like, ‘You know what? Nope, bye,'” Gebru told NPR.”I don’t feel like they thought it through. They could have had a much better outcome through dialogue.”
I was fired by @JeffDean for my email to Brain women and Allies. My corp account has been cutoff. So I’ve been immediately fired 🙂
— Timnit Gebru (@timnitGebru) December 3, 2020
In the open letter, Gebru’s former colleagues described her as a “pathbreaking scientist” who sought to ensure the artificial intelligence systems were held accountable. They wrote that Gebru was one of the few Black women research scientists at Google.
Google’s dismissing Gebru, according to the letter, amounted to “unprecedented research censorship.”
Google had no immediate response to the letter.
But in an email sent internally and obtained by NPR, Google’s head of AI research, Jeff Dean, said Gebru’s paper “didn’t meet our bar for publication,” citing unspecified research she allegedly left out that undercut her premise.
Dean said since Gebru threatened to step down over Google’s lack of support for her paper, she was not fired, but rather resigned — something Gebru and her supporters dispute.
Emails from Dean and Gebru were first reported by Platformer’s Casey Newton.
Gebru’s row with Google unleashed a flurry of support from researchers and others on Twitter, organizing around the hashtag #ISupportTimnit.
I have long admired @timnitGebru for her brilliance, moral courage, clear voice in speaking up for what is right, & influential scholarship. It is truly terrible that Google would do this.
In this thread, I want to share some of Timnit’s work I lovehttps://t.co/9hi0f9nCe0
— Rachel Thomas (@math_rachel) December 3, 2020
Researcher Joy Buolamwini, who co-authored a seminal 2018 study with Gebru showing facial recognition technology is far more likely to misidentify people of color, particularly women, than white men, said Gebru’s termination could hurt Google’s reputation in holding its own technology accountable.
“Ousting Timnit for having the audacity to demand intellectual integrity severely undermines Google’s credibility for supporting rigorous research on AI ethics and algorithmic auditing,” Buolamwini said. “She deserves more than Google knew how to give, and now she is an all-star free agent who will continue to transform the tech industry.”
In July, Buolamwini and Gebru’s research played a prominent role in Amazon, IBM and Microsoft pulling back on providing the technology to law enforcement agencies during the national protests over the death of George Floyd.
Ifeoma Ozoma, a former Pinterest executive who left the company after voicing concern over the treatment of Black employees, said in an interview with NPR that she believed Google would not have let go a white male employee for similar behavior.
“She was fired because of who she is and not because of what she did,” said Ozoma, who also used to work at Google.
Gebru’s ouster, which she first tweeted about on Wednesday night, came the same day the National Labor Relations Board said Google had illegally fired two employees who were involving in labor organizing last year. The federal agency also found that Google had illegally spied on employees who viewed a union organizing presentation.
Ozoma, who is a friend of Gebru, says Google has shown a pattern regarding employees who agitate for change inside the company.
“Google is doing this over and over again and seems to not care at all and seems to believe they can get away with it,” she said.
In their open letter, the Google employees ask that senior leadership meet with the artificial intelligence team Gebru helped lead to explain how and why the paper Gebru co-authored was “unilaterally rejected” by management at the company.
Letting Gebru go could make Google’s workplace less welcome to Black researchers and other employees of color, the letter signatories wrote.
“The termination is an act of retaliation against Dr. Gebru, and it heralds danger for people working for ethical and just AI — especially Black people and People of Color — across Google.”
Editor’s note: Google is among NPR’s financial supporters.
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