Machine blowing away pieces paper

It only takes a quick internet search of the terms “UPS” and “telematics” to understand why the promised benefits of big data are likely to take longer to arrive than many have been led to believe.

Among the links to technology information sites and Teamsters Union web pages is a comment from a blogger known as Denverbrown.

Addressing drivers for the US parcel delivery service UPS, it sums up the mood of workers who sometimes find themselves at the sharp end of new technologies like this: “The system should be known as Harassamatics. They tell you it’s about safety, and seat belts . . . It’s all about stealing your break time for their profit, and harassing you into a heightened state of frenzy about your job.”

Big data is facing its human moment.

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The prospect of a US-based IPO by Chinese e-commerce juggernaut Alibaba has triggered a recent wave of short-term conjecture over the eye-watering figures involved.

A listing could garner as much as $25bn for example – making it the largest float in history. Wall Street banks could reap up to $400m in fees. Alibaba’s $170bn annual revenue now accounts for 2 per cent of China’s gross domestic product, and is bigger than those of eBay and Amazon combined.

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A man looks at the screen of his mobile phone at Pudong financial district in ShanghaiA new war is brewing between China’s three internet giants, known collectively as BAT – short for Baidu, the dominant search engine, Alibaba, which controls 80 per cent of China’s ecommerce, and Tencent, the gaming and social media juggernaut with a market capitalisation of $132bn. For Wang Ran, a blogger and founder of China eCapital, an investment bank, the competition between Didi Dache [“Honk Honk Taxi”], a Tencent taxi-hailing app, and Alibaba’s Kuadi Dache [“Fast taxi”] is “the first battle in the first world war of the internet”.

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Alibaba’s decision to head to the US for its blockbuster IPO – perhaps the world’s largest ever – is undoubtedly a major blow to Hong Kong’s global ambitions.

But chucking out years of hard-won progress for a single pay-day – with the risk of opening
the market to myriad potential problems down the road – would have been the wrong move.

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Retiring Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer

There will be a new face in charge of Apple’s balance sheet.

Luca Maestri, currently a corporate controller at the iPhone maker, will be Apple’s next chief financial officer. He succeeds Peter Oppenheimer, who is retiring. Read more

In the battle between old and new media, Time Warner’s premium cable channel HBO still rakes in more money and global subscribers but television streaming service Netflix is quickly gaining ground, writes Emily Steel.

Time Warner released separate financial figures for HBO for the first time on Wednesday, prompting comparisons with Netflix which famously overtook HBO in US subscribers in November. Read more

A British tech entrepreneur has had his vision backed by a further $20.7m of US money, writes Andrew Bounds. Dan Wagner’s Powa group is developing a “revolutionary” ecommerce system that will allow customers to buy and order a product by photographing it with a smartphone.

PowaTag has attracted $96.5m in total, mainly from Boston-based fund Wellington Management, for around a quarter of the business. Read more

Are we seeing the emergence of a grand alliance between Google and Samsung for Android mobile devices, similar to the Microsoft-Intel alliance for Windows personal computers? It looks like that from events this week:

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Eric Schmidt (c) Getty Images

On Thursday Eric Schmidt gave a fascinating talk on technological innovation, in which he warned that broad range of jobs that once seemed beyond the reach of automation are in danger of being wiped out by technological advances.

I raised two questions to neither of which in my view did I receive a good answer.

First, we see IT everywhere, except in the productivity statistics. It is really quite hard to reconcile the idea of a dramatic technology revolution with stagnant or near-stagnant productivity in high-income countries.

What is going on? Is most of the revolution in household production? Or is GDP even more mis-measured than usual?

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It sounds improbable. Dogged by closed borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan, a narrow export base, pervasive monopolies and an over-reliance on remittances from abroad, Armenia’s economic future poses plenty of questions. Could one answer come in the shape of a tablet?

In December, Technology and Science Dynamics Inc/ArmtabTechnologies Company, an American-Armenian joint-venture, announced the first tablet and smartphone made-in-Armenia. Both Android-run, the ArmTab and the ArmPhone were designed in Yerevan and will be assembled in Hong Kong and the US. The producer said the devices, available for wholesale in a few weeks and to retailers in late 2014, were aimed mainly at the regional markets.

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