Microsoft, Huawei Mount African Smartphone Expedition
Today in international tech news: Microsoft teams up with Chinese telecom Huawei to launch a smartphone in Africa; Airbnb has problems in Amsterdam; HTC is hemorrhaging tons of cash; and a Somali al-Qaeda affiliate launches a new Twitter account after its previous one was banned.
Microsoft announced Monday that it is teaming up with Chinese telecom Huawei to sell a low-cost, Windows-powered smartphone in Africa, which according to The New York Times is the world's fastest-growing smartphone market.
The phone, which will initially cost around $150, is called the "Huawei 4Afrika" and will be sold in seven countries, including South Africa, Morocco and Egypt.
Windows currently ranks fourth among smartphone operating systems; it had just 2 percent international market share last fall.
Microsoft's partnership with Huawei will not affect its deal with Nokia, which turned to Windows Phone to power its new line of smartphones. A Microsoft executive reported that the company and Nokia would release their own new Windows phone in Africa later this year.
Africa's smartphone market has reportedly grown an average of 43 percent a year since 2000. In sub-Saharan Africa, 10 percent of the 450 million cellphone users have smartphones, but that number is expected to spike, according to the Times.
Airbnb's Amsterdam Problem
Amsterdam may be famous for its lax laws, but when it comes to Airbnb, the Dutch capital is apparently a bit uptight.
Authorities in Amsterdam are expanding an investigation that has already looked into 200 homes linked to Airbnb, a website that links travelers with locals willing to rent out space, according to The Next Web.
A "team of civil servants" will reportedly hit the streets next week to scour for "illegal hotel activities." Concerns center on fire safety and, more to the point, "illegal rental of rooms to tourists." The issue is taxes: Renters don't pay taxes on income netted from renting, whereas legitimate hotels most certainly do.
US-based Airbnb has more than 4,000 listings for Amsterdam, making it one of the site's most popular European cities.
Airbnb cofounder Joe Gebbia praised Amsterdam when he was there for the 2012 The Next Web Conference.
HTC: Hemorrhaging Tons of Cash
Taiwanese mobile handset maker HTC warned that its first-quarter revenues could fall 17 percent compared to the final quarter of 2013, according to The Guardian.
Making matters worse, fourth-quarter profits were down 90 percent for the year, while revenues were down 40 percent.
HTC is planning to launch a new 5-inch smartphone later in February that it hopes will compete with Samsung's Galaxy Note. It is, however, an uphill fight: Samsung spent about $14 billion on marketing in 2012. This dwarfs HTC, which last year cut its advertising budget by 45 percent.
al-Qaeda's Twitter Push
An al-Qaeda-linked group in Somalia, al Shabab, is back on Twitter less than two weeks after its previous account was suspended.
The BBC reports that the new English-language account supplants the previous one, which was shut down after al Shabab announced that it would kill a French hostage, clearly running afoul of Twitter's antiviolence policy.
The hostage, Denis Allex, was kidnapped in 2009 and was murdered after a failed French operation to rescue him.
The previous al Shabab account had more than 20,000 followers.
The U.S. reportedly wants to block the group from Twitter, but lacks the legal means to do so.