U.S. Security Firm Identifies Android, iOS Spyware Targeting Hong Kong Protesters

That’s the subject of a story I wrote Friday:

A U.S. mobile security firm says it has uncovered smartphone spyware aimed at pro-Democracy protesters in Hong Kong that comes disguised as an app created by a community of socially minded programmers.

When activated, the Android app reveals the smartphone user’s geographical location, text messages, address book, emails and more, San Francisco-based Lacoon Mobile Security said this week.

Lacoon notes that a link to download the spyware began spreading via chats on the WhatsApp messaging app in recent weeks. Messages, which arrived from an unknown account, said “Check out this Android app designed by Code4HK for the coordination of Occupy Central!”

Clicking on an accompanying link infects users’ phones.

Click through to read the rest.

The Alibaba IPO Roadshow Came to Singapore Yesterday

And some colleagues and I wrote it about it here:

Alibaba on Tuesday wrapped up its roadshow in Asia as it nears what could be the world’s largest initial public offering, with investors seeming to shrug off concerns about a higher valuation and focusing on the Chinese e-commerce firm’s growth prospects.

Founder and Executive Chairman Jack Ma, along with other top executives at the Chinese e-commerce firm, met with about 150 investors behind closed doors at Singapore’s Ritz-Carlton hotel.

He did not speak with media, and hotel staff did not allow reporters to enter the luncheon event, which included prawns, spiced chicken, Portobello mushrooms and tiramisu, according to people who attended.

Ma, speaking in English, told investors that Alibaba is more worried about competitors it cannot see – early stage startups developing technologies “from their apartments” — than more established rivals, according to Adrian Toh, a Singapore-based executive at RHB OSK Asset Management, who attended the roughly hour-long meeting.

Many folks in the U.S. aren’t familiar with Alibaba. Check out this WSJ interactive feature about the company:

Alibaba is China’s — and by some measures, the world’s — biggest online commerce company. Its three main sites — Taobao, Tmall and Alibaba.com — have hundreds of millions of users, and host millions of merchants and businesses. Alibaba handles more business than any other e-commerce company.

And here’s a snip from a story we ran back in April:

Jack Ma still has the spartan apartment in the Chinese city of Hangzhou where the former English teacher started Alibaba.com in 1999. As the e-commerce company grew, executives and employees often hunkered down there for inspiration while trying to come up with the next big thing.

Big doesn’t come close to describing Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. now.

Taobao, a website dreamed up in Mr. Ma’s apartment a decade ago, has about 800 million product listings from seven million sellers who pay Alibaba for advertising and other services. In 2013, the combined transaction volume of Taobao and another Alibaba-run shopping site called Tmall reached $240 billion, says a person with knowledge of the figure.

The total is more than double the size of Amazon.com Inc., triple the size of eBay Inc. and one-third larger than the value of all the transactions last year at the two U.S.-based e-commerce giants combined.

A fascinating company indeed.

Personal Blogging: Everything Old is New Again

Blogging — at one’s own custom domain, as opposed to scribbling away over at Medium or penning an email newsletter — is cool!

Seriously, is it 2014, or 2004?

Fred Wilson:

There’s a bit of a renaissance of real personal blogging here in NYC. Two of the original NYC bloggers have, after years of writing professionally and editing others, returned to their own blogs.

It started with Lockhart Steele, the founder of Curbed, Racked, and Eater, who started that media business on his personal blog.

Then the next day, Elizabeth Spiers, the founding editor/blogger at Gawker, dusted off her blog and started writing on it again.

And:

There is something about the personal blog, yourname.com, where you control everything and get to do whatever the hell pleases you. There is something about linking to one of those blogs and then saying something. It’s like having a conversation in public with each other. This is how blogging was in the early days. And this is how blogging is today, if you want it to be.

It feels so good to link to both of them.

Brent Simmons:

I’ve heard blogs classified as a type of social media. Maybe that’s true, and maybe not — I don’t care.

What I do care about is that my blog isn’t part of a system where its usefulness is just a hook to get me to use it. It works the way I want to, and the company running the servers (DreamHost) doesn’t care one fig what I do.

My blog’s older than Twitter and Facebook, and it will outlive them. It has seen Flickr explode and then fade. It’s seen Google Wave and Google Reader come and go, and it’ll still be here as Google Plus fades. When Medium and Tumblr are gone, my blog will be here.

The things that will last on the internet are not owned. Plain old websites, blogs, RSS, irc, email.

Kottke:

I knew if I waited around long enough, blogging would be the hot new thing again: Sippey, Steele, Spiers.

I have been blogging consistently here at Newley.com since January, 2002.

Streaks are important.

Our Exclusive Today: Twitter’s Opening an Indonesia Office

Twitter’s global head of revenue, Adam Bain, told me in an interview that the company will be opening an office in Jakarta in the next three to six months.

Our story today is online here.

As I wrote in the piece, the move underscores the importance of fast-growing, emerging markets for Twitter.

About 75% of the company’s 271 million monthly active users are outside the U.S. But Twitter derives a much smaller proportion of its revenue internationally.

Tapping markets like Indonesia — which has 240 million people, many of whom are under the age of 30 — will be crucial for Twitter’s future growth in users and advertising revenue.

Having an office in Jakarta will help Twitter work more closely with advertisers and marketers, Bain said.

Update: Embedded above and online here is video of a chat I had with WSJ Live’s Ramy Inocencio.

Samsung’s Plan to Hook Consumers in Southeast Asia

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Can free Frappuccinos, deals on hotel rooms, and apps offering localized content keep users hooked on Samsung’s smartphones as the company loses market share here in Southeast Asia?

The South Korean electronics giant is betting that the answer is yes.

That’s the focus of a story I wrote that ran on the front page of the WSJ Asia and in the U.S. paper yesterday.

You can find it online here.

In addition, embedded above and online here is a WSJ Live video in which I talk a bit more about the issue.

And here’s a separate post on our Digits blog about some companies that are gaining ground at Samsung’s expense: local smartphone makers little known outside the region, like Advan Digital, Smartfren, Ninetology and Cherry Mobile.

Kevin Kelly: Now is a Great Time to be an Internet Entrepreneur

Kevin Kelly, in a post at Medium:

…In terms of the internet, nothing has happened yet. The internet is still at the beginning of its beginning. If we could climb into a time machine and journey 30 years into the future, and from that vantage look back to today, we’d realize that most of the greatest products running the lives of citizens in 2044 were not invented until after 2014. People in the future will look at their holodecks, and wearable virtual reality contact lenses, and downloadable avatars, and AI interfaces, and say, oh, you didn’t really have the internet (or whatever they’ll call it) back then.

My Q&A with Twitter’s VP of Emerging Markets, Shailesh Rao

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It’s online here and in the print edition of today’s Wall Street Journal Asia.

It begins:

Shailesh Rao has one of the most important jobs at Twitter Inc.: overseeing the company’s revenue in emerging markets.

Eight months after the messaging service’s initial public offering, the San Francisco-based company is betting that populous countries in Latin America, Asia and elsewhere can help it stem slowing user growth in the U.S. and boost sales.

Twitter’s revenue, most of which comes from advertising, more than doubled in the first quarter to $250.5 million. But the company, which was founded in 2006, has yet to make a profit. Some 78% of Twitter’s more than 255 million users are located outside the U.S., but the company derives just 28% of its revenue internationally.

Mr. Rao is trying to change that. The 42-year-old joined Twitter in 2012 after seven years at Internet search giant Google Inc., where he ran the company’s Asia display advertising business.

In an interview at Twitter’s offices in Singapore, Mr. Rao, who was born in Toronto and grew up in Pittsburgh, discussed the company’s goals for growth, how double-majoring in history and economics helps him on the job, and why yoga makes him a better manager.

A Warning for Southeast Asia’s Brick-and-Mortar Retailers

I wrote a recent WSJ Digits story about how e-commerce in Southeast Asia is set to boom, according to a UBS report:

Message for Southeast Asia’s brick-and-mortar retailers: E-commerce companies could soon be eating your lunch.

That’s according to a recent study by UBS , which showed the region’s consumers are already flocking to e-commerce sites at the expense of traditional retailers’ platforms.

Internet penetration in the populous region is higher than many assume, and will soon skyrocket thanks to the increasing use of low-cost smartphones and the availability of mobile Web connections, according UBS’s head of research and strategy in Thailand, Raymond Maguire, who authored the report.

Satya Nadella: ‘We live in a mobile-first and cloud-first world’

What’s Microsoft’s role in a world that is less and less PC-based and increasingly mobile-focused?

Chief Excutive Satya Nadella last week sent a long email to his charges that provided some hints:

A snippet:

We live in a mobile-first and cloud-first world. Computing is ubiquitous and experiences span devices and exhibit ambient intelligence. Billions of sensors, screens and devices – in conference rooms, living rooms, cities, cars, phones, PCs – are forming a vast network and streams of data that simply disappear into the background of our lives. This computing power will digitize nearly everything around us and will derive insights from all of the data being generated by interactions among people and between people and machines. We are moving from a world where computing power was scarce to a place where it now is almost limitless, and where the true scarce commodity is increasingly human attention.

From my colleague Shira Ovide’s story:

Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Satya Nadella, after five months on the job, signaled Thursday he won’t quickly reshape what Microsoft does, but is likely to cut the number of people doing it.

In a more than 3,000-word email to employees, Mr. Nadella said Microsoft needed to “rediscover our soul,” and he pointedly defined Microsoft’s mission not as delivering long-standing software products such as Windows or Office, but broadly as developing technology to help people live better lives and businesses run more efficiently.

The missive from Mr. Nadella, the third CEO in Microsoft’s 39-year history following Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, didn’t shed much light on how his Microsoft would look and act differently than the company of his predecessors. Mr. Nadella’s statements suggest he wants to inject urgency and speed without taking Microsoft in a new direction.

My Story on Messaging Apps in Southeast Asia

2014 06 25 messaging apps

The reason I have this special folder on my iPhone: I’ve been researching a story on messaging app makers battling for users here in Southeast Asia.

It ran in the WSJ Asia in print and online Friday.

The lede:

When Listri Samudra, an equity sales representative in the Indonesian city of Bandung, opens her smartphone to connect with her clients, she has three messaging apps to choose from.

She usually prefers BlackBerry Messenger, which remains highly popular in Indonesia, but also often uses WhatsApp—the company Facebook Inc. recently agreed to buy for $19 billion—or Line, a Japanese app that is rapidly gaining ground in the region.

The crowd of free messaging apps on Ms. Samudra’s phone illustrates why Southeast Asia is shaping up as an important battleground for messaging app makers. The region, in which no clear messaging leader has emerged, is critical, in part, because many of its roughly 600 million people have yet to upgrade from basic cellphones to smartphones.

Click through for a map of the region with estimates of which apps are most popular in countries like Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia.