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Move to Mobile Has China's Sina Sweating

Move to Mobile Has China's Sina Sweating

Today in international tech news: The move to mobile is making a top Chinese Internet portal very nervous. Also: Another cyberwarfare device has apparently been designed to target Lebanese banks; the so-called Kidney for iPad trial begins in China, with five people facing charges for taking a 17-year-old's kidney in exchange for money to buy Apple gear; and more.

By David Vranicar
08/10/12 11:14 AM PT

Sina, China's top Internet portal, is concerned about the nation's ongoing shift toward mobile devices despite its market dominance, according to Tech In Asia.

Sina operates the nation's most-frequented social media platform, Sina Weibo, which is similar to Twitter. Sina Weibo has roughly 300 million users, but even so, Sina execs are sweating the migration from PC use, down 13 percent over the last year in China, to mobile, which is up 14 percent.

More than 50 percent of Sina Weibo users are accessing the site from mobile devices, according to Tech In Asia. That number is just 32 percent from PCs.

This is a big deal for Sina because monetizing its mobile app has proven problematic. That struggle is compounded by another: People accessing Weibo via mobile-device apps don't use Sina's portal site. This has Sina "bewildered" and "frightened," according to a Sina representative quoted in the Tech In Asia post.

Kidney for iPad Trial Kicks Off

A trial has begun in China for five people accused of orchestrating the removal of a 17-year-old's kidney in exchange for money to buy an iPad and iPhone, according to the BBC.

The five defendants, including the surgeon who removed the kidney, are accused of illegal organ trading and intentional injury. They face up to 10 years in prison if convicted, according to the article.

The five reportedly received about US$35,000 for the transplant, and the boy got about $3,000 for his trouble.

The 17-year-old, who according to prosecutors was recruited from an online chat room, nearly died from post-surgery renal failure. His mother reportedly became suspicious because of his new electronic gadgets -- bought with the money from the kidney.

Some 1.5 million people are believed to need transplants in China, but only about 10,000 are performed each year.

Another Digital Weapon

A new cyber-warfare weapon has shown up on the radar of Kaspersky Lab.

The new weapon, reported on by NPR and All Things D, among others, is apparently designed to steal account information of Lebanese bank customers.

Dubbed "Gauss," the cyberweapon shares many of the same characteristics as the Flame software discovered by Kasperky earlier this year. That weapon was deemed to have sprouted from US and Israeli software designers, according to a June Washington Post article that cited unnamed sources.

Kasperky deciphered that the virus was targeted at Lebanon because 1,660 of the 2,500 or so known infections have been in Lebanon, according to All Things D.

All Things D goes on to connect dots between Iran and Lebanon, which is the "home base" for the terrorist group Hezbollah. This, according to All Things D, means that Lebanon could be a key player in any war between the U.S. and/or Israel and Lebanon. And the virus, therefore, could be a way to track and possibly drain money flowing into Iran.

Economy Down, Tech Labor Up

The euro crisis is reeking havoc on economies throughout the continent, few more so than Portugal, which has received extra funding from the European Union and IMF to stay afloat.

Portugal has the lowest GDP in Western Europe and has been getting hammered harder yet by debt problems. Its slide also ushered in a new, somewhat inverted phenomenon: Established Western countries becoming springboards for services in developing countries.

That's the hypothesis put forward by GigaOM, which says that the old model of using developing countries as incubators is changing.

GigaOM cites HouseTrip (a holiday rental service), Webnographer (a UX startup) and Rocket Internet (a company that clones popular programs and devices) as examples of how Portugal's role in the tech world is changing. Each of those companies is based outside Portugal -- the first two in the UK, Rocket Internet in Germany -- but are still utilizing cheap labor in Portugal.

Rocket, according to GigaOM, is rapidly trying to expand into South America, Asia and the Middle East -- and they're using Portugal to establish products that will be taken to those place.

GigaOM goes on to discuss some other Western countries that could also take the route of Portugal.


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. You can email him at david.vranicar@newsroom.ectnews.com.



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