The Internet - The first Worldwide Tool of Unification ("The End of History")

" ... Now I give you something that few think about: What do you think the Internet is all about, historically? Citizens of all the countries on Earth can talk to one another without electronic borders. The young people of those nations can all see each other, talk to each other, and express opinions. No matter what the country does to suppress it, they're doing it anyway. They are putting together a network of consciousness, of oneness, a multicultural consciousness. It's here to stay. It's part of the new energy. The young people know it and are leading the way.... "

" ... I gave you a prophecy more than 10 years ago. I told you there would come a day when everyone could talk to everyone and, therefore, there could be no conspiracy. For conspiracy depends on separation and secrecy - something hiding in the dark that only a few know about. Seen the news lately? What is happening? Could it be that there is a new paradigm happening that seems to go against history?... " Read More …. "The End of History"- Nov 20, 2010 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll)

"Recalibration of Free Choice"– Mar 3, 2012 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Carroll) - (Subjects: (Old) Souls, Midpoint on 21-12-2012, Shift of Human Consciousness, Black & White vs. Color, 1 - Spirituality (Religions) shifting, Loose a Pope “soon”, 2 - Humans will change react to drama, 3 - Civilizations/Population on Earth, 4 - Alternate energy sources (Geothermal, Tidal (Paddle wheels), Wind), 5 – Financials Institutes/concepts will change (Integrity – Ethical) , 6 - News/Media/TV to change, 7 – Big Pharmaceutical company will collapse “soon”, (Keep people sick), (Integrity – Ethical) 8 – Wars will be over on Earth, Global Unity, … etc.) - (Text version)

“…5 - Integrity That May Surprise…

Have you seen innovation and invention in the past decade that required thinking out of the box of an old reality? Indeed, you have. I can't tell you what's coming, because you haven't thought of it yet! But the potentials of it are looming large. Let me give you an example, Let us say that 20 years ago, you predicted that there would be something called the Internet on a device you don't really have yet using technology that you can't imagine. You will have full libraries, buildings filled with books, in your hand - a worldwide encyclopedia of everything knowable, with the ability to look it up instantly! Not only that, but that look-up service isn't going to cost a penny! You can call friends and see them on a video screen, and it won't cost a penny! No matter how long you use this service and to what depth you use it, the service itself will be free.

Now, anyone listening to you back then would perhaps have said, "Even if we can believe the technological part, which we think is impossible, everything costs something. There has to be a charge for it! Otherwise, how would they stay in business?" The answer is this: With new invention comes new paradigms of business. You don't know what you don't know, so don't decide in advance what you think is coming based on an old energy world. ..."
(Subjects: Who/What is Kryon ?, Egypt Uprising, Iran/Persia Uprising, Peace in Middle East without Israel actively involved, Muhammad, "Conceptual" Youth Revolution, "Conceptual" Managed Business, Internet, Social Media, News Media, Google, Bankers, Global Unity,..... etc.)



Etiquette mavens say the book on manners must be rewritten, literally, to take into
account new technologies and social media (AFP Photo/Ed Jones)

A 2012 survey by Intel found that in several countries, a majority said they were put
off by "oversharing" of pictures and personal information on the
internet and smartphones (AFP Photo/Nicolas Asfouri)

German anti-hate speech group counters Facebook trolls

German anti-hate speech group counters Facebook trolls
Logo No Hate Speech Movement

Bundestag passes law to fine social media companies for not deleting hate speech

Honouring computing’s 1843 visionary, Lady Ada Lovelace. (Design of doodle by Kevin Laughlin)

Monday, July 24, 2017

China cashing out as mobile payment soars

Yahoo – AFP, Allison JACKSON, July 23, 2017

This photo taken on June 27, 2017 shows a man making purchases through his
smartphone at a seafood booth at a market in Beijing

Yang Qianqian holds out her smartphone to scan a barcode on the mobile of a vendor selling fresh fruit and vegetables at a bustling outdoor market in Beijing.

The dance student is part of an explosion in the use of mobile payment platforms in China as consumers increasingly take out phones instead of cash to pay for everything from a coffee to a language class or a gas bill.

"Even though I have cash on me it's not convenient to get it when I am carrying a lot of bags," said Yang, 25, clutching plastic bags filled with pears, potatoes and watermelon.

China was the first country in the world to use paper money but centuries later the soaring popularity of mobile payment has some analysts forecasting it could be the first to stop.

The gross merchandise value of third party mobile payment rose more than 200 percent to 38 trillion yuan (about $5.6 trillion) in 2016 from a year earlier, according to China-based iResearch.

The growth of the cash-free system has been supported by China's rapidly expanding e-commerce market as Chinese shoppers increasingly shun bricks and mortar stores.

"I think it's really very possible that China becomes the first or one of the first cashless societies in the next decade," said Ben Cavender, a director at China Market Research Group.

Cavender estimates China's mobile payment market is already 40-50 times larger than the United States.

This photo taken on June 27, 2017 shows a woman looking at QR codes 
used for scanning payments at a seafood stall at a market in Beijing

Cashless

Alipay, started by e-commerce giant Alibaba and now owned by its affiliate Ant Financial, and WeChat Pay, which is built into Tencent's popular messaging service, have hundreds of millions of users between them and are China's dominant payment platforms.

In Beijing it is hard to find a product or a service that cannot be purchased with a mobile.

At the fresh produce market, stallholders display barcodes on tables laden with fruit and vegetables for customers like Yang to scan -- though many shoppers appeared more comfortable with cash.

"People at my age don't dare to use it," said a woman in her 50s.

Some restaurants in the capital no longer accept bank notes while it is common for motorbike taxis, street food carts and hair salons to offer mobile payment.

Mobile accounted for eight percent of the total value of retail payments in 2015 and is expected to reach 12 percent in 2020, according to a report published in April by UN-backed Better Than Cash Alliance.

But cash is still king in China -- although less so than it used to be.

The Better Than Cash Alliance expects cash's percentage of the value of retail payments to fall to 30 percent by 2020. It stood at 61 percent in 2010.

A key attraction of mobile payment is convenience.

People can carry little or no cash and avoid the problem of their debit or credit card being rejected due to the limited number of point-of-sale terminals in stores.

China's relatively short history of using bank cards also makes consumers more open to new technology, said Martin Utreras, vice president of forecasting at eMarketer.

"In China a lot of people never had any financial instruments that were automated in any way and the first thing they had was mobile payment," he said.

This photo taken on June 27, 2017 shows a woman making purchases through 
her smartphone at a shop in Beijing

'Hands off'

But some have been reluctant converts to the cashless system.

Among them is a 63-year-old woman surnamed Song who sells hand-knitted sunflowers and peashooters from the popular video game Plants vs Zombies in a pedestrian underpass in Beijing.

She prefers cash but accepts mobile payment because some customers do not carry real money.

"Cash is more convenient for me because I'm getting older and have bad eyesight," she said, standing next to her bright-coloured ornaments neatly displayed on the ground.

Riding on their success, payment providers are expanding their businesses to offer consumer and business credit scoring, short-term lending and even investment products.

The shift fits with the Chinese government's domestic agenda of boosting consumer spending and increasing access to financial services among ordinary people.

Alibaba and Tencent are also taking their technology -- and deep pockets -- abroad as they target cashed-up Chinese tourists and nascent payment markets in developing countries.

Tencent earlier this month teamed up with German payments company Wirecard to launch WeChat Pay in Europe where Alipay is already available.

Security of mobile payment is a growing concern, however, after reports of criminals replacing real barcodes with fake ones carrying software that steals personal information or drains users' bank accounts.

Authorities are still working out "the right balance between innovation and regulation", according to Better Than Cash Alliance, but they have been "more active" in taking steps to reduce financial risk and fraud.

"The government doesn't want to slow down adoption... that's why they have kept their hands off," said Cavender.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Cheap 3D printed prosthetics could be game changer for Nepal

Yahoo – AFP, July 21, 2017

Leprosy sufferer Ram uses his new 3D printed prosthetic hand

Ram's new hand was manufactured on a 3D printer in Nepal's capital for just $30, an innovation that could be a game changer for many in the impoverished Himalayan country.

Once a farmer, Ram lost his hands and toes within a few years of contracting leprosy, forcing the father-of-three to turn to begging in a desperate bid to feed his family.

That's where he was spotted by US-born Matthew Rockwell, the founder of Disaster Hack, a non-profit technology startup that is making functional prosthetic hands for those who couldn't otherwise afford them.

Disaster Hack makes its money doing tech consulting and teaching people to code, while running altruistic ventures on the side like teaching Nepalis IT skills and manufacturing low-cost, basic prosthetics.

Rockwell -- who flits between Nepal and the US, where he is part of the tech team behind the annual Burning Man festival in Nevada's Black Rock Desert -- brought a 3D printer to Kathmandu after a powerful earthquake struck the country in 2015.

Soon, he began printing new hands for those in need: a girl who lost both limbs after being electrocuted by hanging power lines, a construction worker whose hand was crushed beyond repair.

Disaster Hack founder Matthew Rockwell (R) attaches a 3D printed prosthetic 
hand to leprosy sufferer Ram's arm in Kathmandu

"We've only distributed to five so far but we have a list that keeps on growing," said Rockwell, sitting in a cramped office in Kathmandu, the 3D printer whirling behind him.

Recycled materials

Rockwell only has the capacity to make hands at the moment -- a leg requires a more heavy-duty printer -- but he has identified more than 7,000 people in Nepal who could benefit from Disaster Hack's creations.

"A traditional prosthesis costs anywhere between $1000 to $3000 to $5000," Rockwell explained.

"Now we're able to produce prostheses for right around $30 so it (3D printing) lowers the cost dramatically for a functional prosthesis."

Rockwell hopes to bring down the cost even further by recycling plastic bottle tops to make the wire that feeds the printer.

Nepal's healthcare sector is chronically underfunded and ill-equipped but 3D printing can reduce both the cost and time it takes to bring medical equipment to those who need it most.

Nepal's healthcare sector is chronically underfunded and ill-equipped but 3D 
printing can reduce both the cost and time it takes to bring medical equipment
to those who need it most

The 3D printed hands being manufactured by Disaster Hack take nearly a full day to print, and are comprised of roughly 20 different parts.

Rockwell hopes the mostly volunteer-run project will sow the seeds for something bigger.

He has now trained 20 prosthetists at hospitals in Nepal in 3D printing, and signed a deal with Kathmandu's largest university to set up the country's first biomedical 3D printing lab.

Meanwhile for Ram, a new hand could mean a chance to give up begging.

"What should I say, I have nothing to eat. If I stay here I make 100 rupees ($0.97), 50 rupees," he said from his daily spot on the corner of a busy intersection.

He lifted the new prosthetic hand, and as he slowly contracted the plastic fingers to make a fist, a smile spread across his face.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Dutch police take control of dark web market, monitor thousands of deals

DutchNews, July 20, 2017


Dutch police said on Thursday they have shut down and dismantled one of the biggest ‘illegal market places on the internet today’ after keeping it running for a month and recording thousands of transactions. 

Hansa Market was the most popular dark market on the ‘anonymous’ part of the internet, or dark net, police said in a statement

The international investigation was carried out together with Europol, the FBI and the authorities in Germany and Lithuania. This week a Dutch seller was arrested in Krimpen aan den Ijssel and his accounts, with some €2m in bitcoins were seized. 

Police say the winding up of Hansa Market is the final step in an undercover operation which began when Dutch police seized control of the illegal market place on June 20 after two of the site’s administrator were arrested in Germany. 

The website was hosted on servers in Lithuania. Once the administrators were arrested, the servers and infrastructure were sequestered and transferred to Dutch servers, allowing the police and public prosecution department to monitor all trades. 

Drugs

Most of the trades were involved drugs, police said. On average, 1,000 orders per day were placed in response to almost 40,000 advertisement sand more than 50,000 transactions have been monitored since the authorities took control of the website. 

Some 10,000 foreign addresses of Hansa Market buyers were passed on to Europol and more than 500 Dutch delivery addresses were reported to couriers and postal services so they could halt deliveries, police said. 

Dark net markets enable large-scale trading in chiefly illegal goods, such as drugs, weapons, child pornography, and ransom software. Well-known examples include Silk Road (taken down by the FBI in 2013) and Alpha Bay (reportedly shut down earlier this month). 

The police said that the number of transactions processed through Hansa Market rose from 1,000 to 8,000 after Alpha Bay was dismantled. No weapons or child pornography were sold on Hansa Market.


The shutdown of two dark web marketplaces announced by US Deputy Attorney 
General Rod Rosenstein (C), Attorney General Jeff Sessions (R) and other law 
enforcement officials came three weeks after AlphaBay stopped functioning 
with no explanation (AFP Photo/CHIP SOMODEVILLA)

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Rapper Akon to buy 50% of African music download service

Yahoo – AFP, July 15, 2017

Akon, whose real name is Aliaune Badara Thiam, announced in Dakar he would
 become the majority shareholder in the service, describing Musik Bi as 'the
platform of the future' (AFP Photo/John Muchucha)

Dakar (AFP) - Senegalese-American rapper Akon announced Saturday he would purchase 50 percent of African music download service Musik Bi, as the platform struggles to gain a foothold after its launch 18 months ago.

Africa's first home-grown platform for legal music downloads, Musik Bi launched in Senegal in February 2016 with a mission to promote African artists, pay them properly, and fight internet piracy.

Akon, whose real name is Aliaune Badara Thiam, announced in Dakar he would become the majority shareholder in the service, describing Musik Bi as "the platform of the future".

"It's not just a platform for Senegal but for Africa," he added, refusing to be drawn on what he had paid for the transaction.

Best known for his singles "Locked Up" and "Smack That", Akon has devoted more of his time in recent years to his Lighting Africa solar energy initiative and other charitable pursuits.

He launched his latest single "Khalice", a collaboration with Senegalese superstar Youssou Ndour, exclusively on Musik Bi.

More than 200 internationally famous musicians, along with younger rappers, jazz artists and Christian and Muslim vocalists, initially agreed to put their music on Musik Bi, where users can download it using their phone credit.

CEO Moustapha Diop, whose company Solid pioneered the project, said ongoing disputes with phone companies over their cut of takings had hindered Musik Bi's reach.

"We have the ambition of developing across Africa and being 'the' musical distribution platform in Africa," Diop told journalists.

"The profit made by the operators is problematic because it goes against the interests of the artists and the platform in general. We will keep pushing to get a reasonable deal," he added.

After mobile operators took their share, artists keep 60 percent of their income from the service, while Musik Bi take the remaining 40 percent.

The platform also hopes to broaden into a music festival, television channel and a streaming service, Akon said.

Piracy and changing consumer habits have seen record sales drop across the continent, with illegal downloads tempting African consumers looking online for music while copyright enforcement remains relatively weak.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Police step up social media presence following successful pilot in Twente

DutchNews, July 13, 2017

Photo: Depositphotos.com

Dutch police are stepping up their efforts to monitor social media use following the success of a pilot scheme in Twente. 

The police force wants all divisions to have a strategy in place for investigating social media within three years, theTelegraaf reports

In Twente 20 officers have been delegated to operate the area’s social media channels on a rota basis. The trial scheme has already had tangible results, such as successfully intervening on Instagram last week to stop a teenage girl taking her own life. 

‘We want to make contact with society. That’s what people expect of us,’ Ron de Milde, who is in charge of the new media strategy, told the Telegraaf.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

'Gangnam Style' dethroned as top YouTube video

Yahoo – AFP, July 11, 2017

After 4.5 years as the most viewed YouTube video, the quirky "Gangnam Style"
pop hit is dethroned by "See You Again" by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth
(AFP Photo/OZAN KOSE)

New York (AFP) - "Gangnam Style," the quirky South Korean video that spawned a global dance craze and went so viral it nearly broke YouTube, has finally been dethroned as the most watched video.

After four and a half years as YouTube's most seen video, "Gangnam Style" slipped late Monday to number two, replaced by "See You Again" by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth.

"Gangnam Style," a satirical take on the nouveau riche residents of the Seoul district by the same name, surprised even its singer, Psy, with its sudden global ascent in 2012.

Psy, who until "Gangnam Style" was little known outside of South Korea, found an avid fan base with the video's equestrian-style dance moves set to its infectious pop beat.

The video became the first to reach one billion views on YouTube and caused the site's engineers to scramble to make changes when it topped 2.1 billion views, previously thought to be the maximum possible.

As of early Tuesday US time, "Gangnam Style" had 2.895 billion views on YouTube, a notch under "See You Again," which was featured in the 2015 action movie "Furious 7."

"See You Again" intersperses scenes from the film with Wiz Khalifa rapping and Charlie Puth singing as they overlook a sandy coast. The song was a tribute to Paul Walker, an actor in "The Fast and Furious" film franchise who died in a car wreck.

Psy's triumph was all the more striking due to the overwhelming dominance of English-language music on global charts.

In a new example, "Despacito" -- a Spanish-language reggaeton song by Puerto Rican star Luis Fonsi and rapper Daddy Yankee -- has reigned for nine weeks at the top of the US Billboard singles chart.

The "Despacito" video is already the fifth most-watched on YouTube at 2.486 billion views even though it was released just this year.

Once historic when Psy crossed the threshold, a total of 68 clips have passed the one billion view mark on YouTube, all but three of them music videos.



Saturday, July 1, 2017

Bundestag passes law to fine social media companies for not deleting hate speech

German lawmakers have approved a controversial law that would impose high fines on social media companies like Facebook, Twitter or YouTube for failing to swiftly delete posts deemed to exhibit hate speech.

Deutsche Welle, 30 June 2017


Under the new legislation, social media companies have 24 hours to remove posts that obviously violate German law and have been reported by other users. In cases that are more ambiguous, Facebook and other sites have seven days to deal with the offending post. If they don't comply with the new legislation, the companies could face a fine of up to 50 million euros ($57.1 million).

The law was passed with votes from the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) - Social Democratic Party (SPD) government coalition. The Left Party in the Bundestag voted against it, while members of the Greens abstained.

The new rules are supposed to drastically reduce the number of posts containing hate speech, fake news and terror propaganda on social media. In January and February 2017, Youtube deleted 90 percent of hate speech videos reported by users - but Twitter only deleted one percent. Facebook did a little better at 39 percent.


"We do not accept the fact that companies in Germany do not adhere to the law," Justice Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) told public broadcaster ARD in April, explaining why the new legislation was necessary.

Skeptics criticize, however, that under the new rules social media managers are the ones who have to decide whether content complies with German law. They also worry that freedom of speech will suffer since, in their opinion, companies are likely to delete many posts just to be on the safe side and avoid fines. 

Maas said the new law didn't curb freedom of speech but was rather a prerequisite for it. To counter the criticism, the legislation also stipulates the establishment of an independent regulatory institution to which Facebook and other sites can pass on content when they're not sure whether it should be deleted. Investigators there will then make the final decision.

Landmark legislation in Europe

In addition to the strict new rules about deletion, the law forces networks to reveal the identity of those behind the hateful posts and to offer users "an easily recognizable, directly reachable, and constantly available" complaint process for "prosecutable content," which includes libel, slander, defamation, incitement to commit a crime, hate speech against a particular social group, and threats.

Germany is the first country in Europe to introduce such clear legal guidelines against online hate speech.

Related Article:


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Multinationals hit by global wave of cyberattacks

Yahoo – AFP, Oleksandr Savochenko with Maria Antonova in Moscow and AFP bureaus, June 27, 2017

Ukraine's central bank said a cyberattack hit several lenders in the country,
hindering operations and leading the regulator to warn other financial institutions
to tighten security measures (AFP Photo/Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV)

Kiev (AFP) - A global wave of cyberattacks that began in Russia and Ukraine on Tuesday wrought havoc on government and corporate computer systems as it spread to Western Europe and across the Atlantic.

Several multinational companies said they were targeted, including US pharmaceutical giant Merck, Russian state oil giant Rosneft, British advertising giant WPP and the French industrial group Saint-Gobain.

The first reports of trouble came from Ukrainian banks, Kiev's main airport and Rosneft, in a major incident reminiscent of the recent WannaCry virus.

Some IT experts identified the virus as "Petrwrap", a modified version of the Petya ransomware which hit last year and demanded money from victims in exchange for the return of their data.

But global cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab said: "Our preliminary findings suggest that it is not a variant of Petya ransomware as publically reported, but a new ransomware that has not been seen before," which it named "NotPetya".

The cyberattack also recalled a ransomware outbreak last month which hit more than 150 countries and a total of more than 200,000 victims with the WannaCry ransomware.

'Spreading round the world'

The virus is "spreading around the world, a large number of countries are affected," Costin Raiu, a researcher at the Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab said in a Twitter post.

In the United States, Merck was hit as was New York law firm of DLA Piper.

"We confirm our company's computer network was compromised today as part of a global hack. Other organizations have also been affected," Merck said on Twitter.

"It seems to be done by professionals criminals, and I think money is the motivation," said Sean Sullivan, a researcher at the Finnish cybersecurity group F-Secure.

He said that unlike the recent WannaCry attack, this "Petrwrap" attack has sophisticated elements that could make it easier to rapidly infect many more systems.

'Powerful' attack

Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman wrote on Facebook that the attacks in his country were "unprecedented" but insisted that "important systems were not affected."

However, the radiation monitoring system at Ukraine's Chernobyl nuclear site has been taken offline after it was targeted in the attack, forcing employees to use hand-held counters to measure levels, officials said Tuesday.

The technological systems were working "as usual" at the plant that exploded in 1986, however.

The attacks started around 2:00 pm Moscow time (1100GMT) and quickly spread to 80 companies in Ukraine and Russia, said cybersecurity company Group IB.

The companies affected were hit by a type of ransomware that locks users out of the computer and demands purchase of a key to reinstate access, Group IB said.

The cryptolocker demands $300 in bitcoins and does not name the encrypting program, which makes finding a solution difficult, Group IB spokesman Evgeny Gukov said.

Ukraine's central bank said several lenders had been hit in the country, hindering operations and leading the regulator to warn other financial institutions to tighten security measures.

Banks were experiencing "difficulty in servicing customers and performing banking operations" due to the attacks, the bank said in a statement.

Rosneft said earlier that its servers suffered a "powerful" cyberattack but thanks to its backup system "the production and extraction of oil were not stopped."

The wave of cyberattacks also impacted Maersk, a global cargo shipping company; Saint-Gobain, a French company producing glass and other construction materials; and British-based WPP.

In Amsterdam, the Dutch parcel delivery company TNT, which operates in 200 countries around the world, said its systems had been affected. "We are assessing the situation and are implementing remediation steps as quickly as possible," the company, part of FedEx, said in a statement to AFP.

Signs of sophistication

Experts also said this latest attack could heighten fears that companies may be more vulnerable to cyberattacks than suspected, potentially putting personal data at risk.

"This will undeniably affect trust in these organisations and raise questions of competency," said Louis Rynsard, a director at the corporate communications agency SBC London.

"The long-lasting impact of a cyberattack cannot be overstated," he said.

The fight against cyberattacks has sparked exponential growth in global protection spending, with the cyber security market estimated at $120 billion this year, more than 30 times its size just over a decade ago.

But even that massive figure looks set to be dwarfed within a few years, experts said, after ransomware attacks crippled computers worldwide in the past week.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Nearly 2,000 people fall for ‘Microsoft helpdesk’ scam in 18 months, police say

DutchNews, June 22, 2017

Intelligence agencies are bracing themselves for Brexit hacks. 

Last year 1,100 people filed a police report after being conned out of money by phone callers claiming to work for Microsoft, and 800 have done so already this year, broadcaster NOS said on Thursday. 

Victims are phoned by an English-speaking man or woman, often with a heavy accent, who claim to work for the software giant’s help desk. They then proceed to explain that the victim’s computer has problems. 

In some cases victims are asked to install software which allows the conman or woman to take over their computer. In others they are asked for bank details so that they can empty bank accounts. 

Victims have lost hundreds of thousands of euros to the scammers, police say, and one man lost some €70,000. 

Most victims are over the age of 50. ‘This could be because the scammers use fixed phone lines and older people are more likely than youngsters to have them,’ spokesman Rob van Bree told the broadcaster. 

The police say they think several groups are involved in the different versions of the scam. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

After toppling Apple in China, Oppo eyes world market

Yahoo – AFP, Julien GIRAULT, June 21, 2017

An army of salespeople and 200,000 stores across the country have helped
Oppo overtake giants Apple and Samsung in the Chinese smartphone market
(AFP Photo/Nicolas ASFOURI)

With its army of salespeople and vast network of outlets, a relatively new smartphone maker has exploded in popularity to overtake global giants Apple and Samsung in China’s market -- and now it has its eye on the West.

Oppo began life selling DVD players in the in the southern manufacturing hub of Dongguan a little more than a decade ago and only broke into the handset market in 2011.

But with an aggressive marketing strategy and concentration on bricks-and-mortar stores in small and medium-sized cities -- rather than relying on online customers -- sales have soared.

Last year it had a market share of 16.8 percent making it the China market leader and while a slip in the first three months of 2017 put it just behind local rival Huawei, according to market analyst IDC, it remains well ahead of Apple and Samsung.

Globally it ranks fourth behind Samsung, Apple and Huawei.

While its rivals focus on the premium end of the smartphone market in major cities and online, Oppo makes relatively cheap devices -- its latest model is less than half the price of an iPhone 7.

Oppo also sells them in actual shops. It has 200,000 outlets across China -- less than 10 percent of its purchases are made online -- while retailers are offered generous commissions in exchange for promoting the brand.

"In small cities, consumers unfamiliar with smartphones need to see and touch the devices and to have salespeople there to help them," said Yi Jun, Oppo's international sales director.

At the company's factory in Guangdong province, Oppo handsets are submitted to a series of durability tests including one-metre drops and temperature changes ranging from -40 degrees Celsius to 85 degrees Celsius.

"Technology is essential for meeting consumers' expectations," Yi said, pointing to Oppo's fast-charging ability, high-definition camera lens and sleek design.

Smartphone market share graphic (AFP Photo/Gal ROMA)

'Brand ambassadors'

Now Oppo's rivals are starting to follow suit.

Chinese brand Xiaomi, which lost significant market share in 2016, has been relying on the web for sales of its top-of-the-range smartphones.

But in February it announced plans to go back to old-fashioned selling techniques with plans to open 1,000 stores by 2020 in the hope of reversing its fortunes.

As competitors play catch up, analysts warn Oppo must maintain its momentum to stay on or near the top.

It needs to continue expanding its sales network and offering competitive products, said Mo Jia, an analyst at technology research firm Canalys.

Oppo has also been boosting its sales abroad, including emerging markets in Southeast Asia where its share more than doubled to 13.2 percent last year -- by far the biggest increase among its rivals, IDC data shows.

In India, it was the fourth-biggest player in the fourth quarter, with 8.6 percent market share, behind Samsung, Xiaomi and Lenovo.

"Its success in these countries comes from frantic marketing," said IDC analyst Tay Xiaohan, noting the use of local celebrities as "brand ambassadors" as it targets millennials.

It is also starting to back high-profile sports teams to increase brand awareness. Earlier this year it forked out more than $160 million to become an official sponsor of the Indian cricket side.

And Oppo is adapting its products to satisfy the "selfie" trend.

"We noticed the craze in Southeast Asia for group selfies and tailored our devices accordingly," Yi said, referring to special camera features that enable users to take better self-portraits.

Next stop is the West.

"We are very interested in entering the US and European markets, we are working on it... but without a precise timeline," Yi said.

It will be challenging.

While Huawei has managed to make a name for itself in US and European smartphone markets, it was already very present in those places as a telecom equipment manufacturer, said Annette Zimmermann, an analyst with technology research company Gartner.

And Oppo's direct sales strategy might not be as successful in markets dominated by mobile network operators that provide handsets with their contracts.