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Samsung to Build $7B Plant in China

Samsung to Build $7B Plant in China

In today's Tech Trek: Samsung ponies up big time for a plant in China; the UK introduces controversial monitoring legislation; the Chinese government tightens its grip on social media; and more.

By David Vranicar
04/02/12 2:48 PM PT

South Korea-based Samsung Electronics announced Monday that it would spend US$7 billion to build a NAND memory chip plan in China.

The plant, which will mark Samsung's biggest-ever overseas investment in chip production, is reportedly going to be built in the central-China city of Xian. Before Monday's announcement, analysts had anticipated the plant would cost about half of the $7 billion price tag.

Bloomberg quoted Korean investment analyst Seo Won Seok saying,

"A single factory of this size could be the largest in the industry. For NAND flash, China will be a key production site, along with Korea."
Fellow chip manufacturer Intel opened its first plan in China, located in the northeastern city of Dalian, in 2010.

UK Introduces Online Monitoring Legislation

Multiple media outlets reported Sunday that the United Kingdom will expand the purvey of law enforcement to include previously sacrosanct mediums.

According to the BBC, the government will be able to monitor the calls, emails, texts and website visits of everyone in the UK under new legislation set to be announced soon.

Internet firms will be required to give intelligence agency GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) access to communications on demand, in real time.

The Home Office, which is the UK's "lead government department for immigration and passports, drugs policy, counter-terrorism, police, and science," said the move is designed to thwart crime and terrorism.

This is an unprecedented move for the UK, which in 2006 abandoned an attempt to introduce similar legislation after fierce opposition from various political parties and civil liberties groups. As such, it's no surprise that Sunday's announcement has been met with strong criticism.

On Monday, the website Giga OM provided a round-up of reactions, including a few choice tweets, like this one from the account of Prime Minister David Cameron: "Government Announcement: To save time, please CC every one of your emails and texts to GCHQ. Thank you."

The International Herald Tribune had this article detailing Monday protests.

China Social Media Crackdown

While online monitoring is newly introduced in the UK, it's old hat in China, where on Friday the government intervened to stem rumors that were spreading on social media platforms.

On Sunday, with numerous Chinese websites shut down, USA Today reported, government-run Xinhua News Agency said Beijing police questioned and admonished an unspecified number of Internet users and detained six people for "fabricating or spreading" online rumors. The government shut down 16 websites including two Twitter-like services that have more than 250 million users.

The Sina and Tencent microblogging services -- known as "weibo" in Chinese -- were disabled so that their comment functions could "clean up" rumors that included talk of "military vehicles entering Beijing and something wrong going on in Beijing," the government Internet Information Office told Xinhua.

The "online rumors" started after the March 15 dismissal of Bo Xilai, a party chief from Chongqing, who has not been seen in public since.

Online Gift Service Competition Heating Up in Europe

Wrapp, a Swedish gift-giving app that touts itself as "the world's first and leading social gifting service," is expanding its operations in the face of growing competition from Germany-based Rocket Internet's "DropGifts" service.

Founded in 2011, Wrapp was "cloned" by Rocket Internet, which sought to corner the gift-app market in Germany. Having just been made available in the UK last month, Wrapp will open in Germany on Monday. According to Giga OM, the Wrapp-DropGifts battle is now starting to resemble a high-speed (for the e-commerce world) game of Risk. Wrapp only launched in Sweden last November, and in the intervening months it claims to have had 150,000 users sending more than a million gift vouchers to their Facebook friends, using the iPhone and Android Wrapp apps, in that country alone.

BusinessWeek: 'Optimism Trumps a Sales Implosion' in Canadian Town

The freefall of BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion, or RIM, is not breaking news. Having been passed up by Android and Apple, the company's value has long been plummeting. Last November, RIM's stock hit a 7-year low, and it's only gone down since then.

In light of last Thursday's quarterly earning report -- sales dropped 25 percent for a net loss of $125 million -- BusinessWeek took a look at how Waterloo, Canada, home of RIM, was handling the ongoing meltdown.

The article, which ran Monday, reports,

... There's not much of a silver lining to RIM's cloud, but you wouldn't know that if you were to visit Waterloo, Ontario, the small city where RIM's operations are headquartered. In Waterloo, southwest of Toronto, the bad earnings news is brushed off as simple market hype -- despite a 75 percent stock-price plunge in the past year -- as the city maintains a Twilight Zone-worthy sense of cheeriness and optimism about its biggest, and most troubled, prized pig.


Tech Trek is a blog that looks at tech news from around the world. David Vranicar is a freelance journalist currently living in the Netherlands. His ECT News Network archive, with links to articles and podcasts, is available here. Follow him on Twitter @davidvranicar.


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