Alibaba to Challenge Amazon with a Cloud Service Push in Europe

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. is in talks with BT Group PLC about a cloud services partnership as the Chinese internet giant challenges Amazon.com Inc.’s dominance in Europe. An agreement between Alibaba and the IT consulting unit of Britain’s former phone monopoly could be similar to Alibaba’s existing arrangement with Vodafone Group Plc in Germany, according […]

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. is in talks with BT Group PLC about a cloud services partnership as the Chinese internet giant challenges Amazon.com Inc.’s dominance in Europe.

An agreement between Alibaba and the IT consulting unit of Britain’s former phone monopoly could be similar to Alibaba’s existing arrangement with Vodafone Group Plc in Germany, according to a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified as the talks are private.

A BT spokeswoman confirmed by email that the U.K. telecom company is in talks with Alibaba Cloud and declined to give details. A spokesman for Alibaba declined to comment.

Started in 2009, Alibaba Cloud has expanded fast beyond China in a direct challenge to Amazon Web Services, the e-commerce giant’s division that dominates cloud computing. Alibaba Cloud is now the fourth-biggest global provider of cloud infrastructure and related services, behind Amazon, Microsoft Corp. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, according to a report last month by Synergy Research Group.

Europe has become key to Alibaba Cloud’s success outside China, with prospects in the U.S. made murky by President Donald Trump’s America First agenda. Alibaba has pulled back in the U.S. just as tensions between America and China have escalated under Trump.

Alibaba started the German partnership with Vodafone in 2016. The Hangzhou, China-based company put its first European data center in Frankfurt, allowing Vodafone to resell Alibaba Cloud services such as data storage and analytics. Last week, Alibaba Cloud moved into France, agreeing to work with transport and communications company Bollore SA in cloud computing, big data and artificial intelligence.

Telecom dilemma

BT’s talks with Alibaba underscore a dilemma for the telecom industry. As big tech companies and consulting firms muscle in on their business installing and maintaining IT networks for large corporations, they must choose whether to resist them, or accept their help and decide which to ally with.

BT Global Services has struck up partnerships with Amazon, Microsoft and Cisco Systems Inc., while Spain’s Telefonica SA works with Amazon. In Germany, while Deutsche Telekom AG’s T-Systems has partners including China’s Huawei Technologies Co. and Cisco, it has structured its public cloud offering as an alternative to U.S. giants Amazon and Google—touting its ability to keep data within Germany where there are strict data-protection laws, 100% out of reach of U.S. authorities.

A deal with Alibaba could bolster BT’s cloud computing and big data skills as clients shift more of their IT capacity offsite to cut costs.

BT is undertaking a digital overhaul of its Global Services business in a restructuring involving thousands of job cuts after revenue at the division fell 9% last year. The poor performance of Global Services and the ouster last month of BT CEO Gavin Patterson have fueled speculation among some analysts that BT may sell the division. Still, the unit is seen by some investors as critical for BT’s relationships with multinational clients.

Read the source article in Digital Commerce 360.

Alibaba Furthers Use of AI to Power the Future of Business

Alibaba Group is powering ahead with a range of AI research and initiatives in a bid to realise its vision: To make it easy to do business everywhere and anywhere. That’s according to an Alibaba Group chief scientist and associate dean of machine intelligence and technology, Xiaofeng Ren, who spoke at CeBIT about how to […]

Alibaba Group is powering ahead with a range of AI research and initiatives in a bid to realise its vision: To make it easy to do business everywhere and anywhere.

That’s according to an Alibaba Group chief scientist and associate dean of machine intelligence and technology, Xiaofeng Ren, who spoke at CeBIT about how to develop AI applications that power the future of business.

“Alibaba has changed the everyday life of the Chinese in China. Looking forward, our visionary leader, Jack Ma, wants us to be able to reach two billion consumers and to help 10 million businesses around the world. That’s a very big call, but we already have half of the platforms in place.”

He explained how the company’s enabling services including Ant Financial (mobile online payment platform); Alibaba Cloud (public cloud service); cainiao (logistics branch); and alimama.com (an online marketing and trading platform) are making the vision a reality.

With technology the one universal driver behind all of these things, Ren said AI is a big part of the strategic play. He noted the world is in the third or fourth wave of technological development, and AI fits right into the equation, promising to change both business and society on a massive scale.

“There’s a blending of the digital world and the physical world where we have IoT, robotics, 3D printing, nanotechnologies – there are a lot of things that are happening that could further power the growth of the fourth wave. And I certainly think that artificial intelligence will be a big part of this revolution,” he said.

Ren’s machine intelligence technology division spearheads Alibaba’s efforts into AI, and aims to bring sweeping and disruptive changes both to the online player and to China’s dynamic business landscape. The independent R&D division is working across the Alibaba group in areas including speech recognition, computer vision, natural language understanding and optimisation and learning.

Projects underway

Ren detailed how emerging technologies are being developed at Alibaba, and how they will impact its future and the global retail landscape and enhance customer experience. One example of business innovation comes in the form of AliMe, a chatbot Alibaba developed that understands what people say both in terms of the text and the speech.

“It can respond to you in a number of ways. It can be a shopping assistant. For example, if you want to buy a train ticket, it can help you with it. It can be a customer service. It can help you with some of the problems and provide information to you. It can also be a generic ‘chatty cathy,’” he said, explaining some people just want to chat if they are bored,” he explained.

“Last year, this system handled about 95 per cent of requests – 9 million requests – and people were really happy with how this system performed in the real-world as a stress test.”

Another example is the work the company has done over the past four years around ‘Image Search’, which is being used by Taobao, the Chinese online shopping website, headquartered in Hangzhou, China, and a subsidiary of Alibaba Group. Taobao is considered one of the world’s biggest e-commerce websites, as well as one of the world’s top 10 most visited websites according to Alexa.

“On the Taobao app, when you want to search for a product, you can actually take a picture and upload a picture and it will find a similar picture in the catalogue,” Ren said. “There are certain limits on how you can describe a product. But on the other hand, a picture is worth a thousand words. One you put in a picture, it becomes much more clear what you’re looking for.”

He said 14 billion people use this feature everyday, and the company has three billion images of over 10 million products. “Once we have a technology and we get it to the mature point, we actually make it available for everyone to use.”

Image Search – which is now mature enough and announced as part of the Alibaba Cloud offering in March  – was recently picked up by The Iconic, an Australia online fashion and footwear store.

“Today you can actually use the search functionality in Iconic. It works in a similar way, you can take pictures, upload the pictures, and find similar products,” Ren said. “I’m excited to see in terms of the work of Image Search, not just into one product, or one part of the world, but useful to a lot more people and a lot more businesses.”

Other projects come in the area of media and video in terms of copyright protection and content, as well as indexing and search. Alibaba launched Whale Watching last year, a unified platform for protecting and trading video content.

Read the source article at CMO.

Alibaba and SenseTime Team to Make Hong Kong a Global AI Hub

Alibaba  is teaming up with SenseTime,  the world’s highest-valued AI startup, to launch a not-for-profit artificial intelligence lab in Hong Kong in a bid to make the city a global hub for artificial intelligence. Alibaba, which is SenseTime’s largest single investor thanks to a recent $600 million round at a valuation of $4.5 billion, is providing financing for the […]

Alibaba  is teaming up with SenseTime,  the world’s highest-valued AI startup, to launch a not-for-profit artificial intelligence lab in Hong Kong in a bid to make the city a global hub for artificial intelligence.

Alibaba, which is SenseTime’s largest single investor thanks to a recent $600 million round at a valuation of $4.5 billion, is providing financing for the “HKAI Lab” through its Hong Kong entrepreneurship fund. SenseTime said it will contribute too, although the total amount of capital backing the initiative hasn’t been revealed.

The partners of the project — which also includes the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) — said the aim is to “advance the frontiers of AI,” which includes helping startups commercialize their technology, develop ideas and promote knowledge sharing in the AI field.

That’s all fairly general — Alibaba has a track record of politicking through technology investment schemes in Greater China and Southeast Asia — but one tangible project is a six-month accelerator program planned for September which will welcome AI startups to the HKAI Lab. Alibaba’s Cloud business and HKSTP are among the backers that will help the program offer early-stage funding to successful applicants, while Alibaba and SenseTime will help with mentoring and development during the program.

“Alibaba sees AI as a fundamental technology that will make a difference to society,” Alibaba executive vice chairman Joe Tsai said in a statement. “We envision the Hong Kong AI Lab to be an open platform where researchers, startups and industry participants can collaborate and build a culture of innovation.”

China and the U.S. are the two biggest players in the global AI battle; this project alone won’t divert that, but it could stir up potential in Hong Kong.

Alibaba maintains tight relationships in Hong Kong, particularly through the fund which is around $130 million in size. While the program is ostensibly aimed at promoting startups in Hong Kong, particularly around AI, it is also sure to galvanize Alibaba’s ties to Hong Kong’s establishment and tech community. Hong Kong is growing as a destination for startups, as a number of the city-state’s key players discussed at a TechCrunch China event last year, but still the issue of talent is a key one and this initiative could benefit Hong Kong in that respect.

See the source article at TechCrunch. 

Here Are 14 Amazing Facts About Alibaba’s Co-Founder Jack Ma

Jack Ma is one of the richest people in China, and his way to the top has been a long and tough journey. A business magnate and philanthropist, Jack Ma is the cofounder of Alibaba, a conglomerate that’s focused on technology, artificial intelligence, retail, e-commerce, and the internet. If that leaves a lot to the imagination, […]

Jack Ma is one of the richest people in China, and his way to the top has been a long and tough journey.

A business magnate and philanthropist, Jack Ma is the cofounder of Alibaba, a conglomerate that’s focused on technology, artificial intelligence, retail, e-commerce, and the internet. If that leaves a lot to the imagination, think something along the lines of a combination of eBay and Amazon.

Something as impressive as starting a company and turning it into one as big as Alibaba naturally spark the interest of many. Getting a closer look at Ma’s history and tidbits about him could be just the thing to know more about how it came to be.

As of this writing, he’s behind only Tencent Holding’s CEO and chairman Ma Huateng, making him the second richest in China, according to Forbes. On the international stage, he’s in the 20th spot.

Beyond his home country of China, Ma may not be a household name such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Mark Zuckerberg, or Jeff Bezos just yet. However, all that has been changing since his accomplishments and whatnot have made their way to the worldwide scene.

For starters, Alibaba shares opened at $92.70 per piece, which is the biggest initial public offering or IPO in the history of the United States.

Now to whet the appetite: his real name is Ma Yun. That’s just one of the many amazing facts about Ma, and there’s a lot more to find out.

He Started Out As An English Teacher, Earning $12 To $15 Per Month

After he graduated from Hangzhou Teachers University – now known as Hangzhou Normal University – with a bachelor’s degree in English in 1988, Ma was the only one chosen out of 500 students to be a university teacher.

It was a stroke of good luck, and it was probably an honor. During his stint as an English teacher, he was earning somewhere between 100 to 120 Renminbi a month. At the time, that was equivalent to roughly about $12 to $15.

He spent a total of five years teaching before he moved on to other things, including but not limited to starting his own businesses.

He Learned English By Giving Visitors Tours Free Of Charge For 8 Years

When he was 12 years old, Ma had a strong desire to learn the English language.

To do that, he would give foreigners tours for free, riding his bicycle during the early hours of each morning to a hotel in Hangzhou that’s at least 40 minutes away.

He would then improve his English by conversing with the visitors as they go through the tours. Not only that, but he also learned “Western people’s system, ways, methods and techniques.” In that, he developed a globalized view, which was in conflict with what his teachers and studies taught him.

This went on for eight years.

He Flunked His University Application To Hangzhou Teachers’ University Not Once, But Twice

With billionaires such as Gates and Zuckerberg dropping out of Harvard University, it’s easy to mistake Ma as following in their footstep.

The thing is, his story didn’t go like that at all. He flunked his university admission exam at Hangzhou Teachers University two times. In an interview with Inc., he even said that the university could be considered as the worst in the city.

What’s more, he wasn’t really a good student to begin with.

“I failed a key primary school test two times, I failed the middle school test three times, I failed the college entrance exam two times and when I graduated, I was rejected for most jobs I applied for out of college,” he said.

Needless to say, Ma didn’t let his failures stop him or slow him down on his way to success.

He Was Rejected By Harvard 10 Times

During the World Economic Forum 2015, Ma revealed that he was rejected by Harvard University.

For most people, one rejection is enough to stop them, but that wasn’t the case for Ma. He applied over and over again to the university until he was rejected a total of 10 times.

“I applied for Harvard ten times, got rejected ten times and I told myself that ‘Someday I should go teach there,’” he said.

In 2002, he gave a speech in Harvard where he was called a “mad man” for his way of managing Alibaba by a CEO of a foreign company, whose mind was changed after Ma invited him for a three-day stay at his business.

Ma earned his Master of Business Administration degree or MBA from Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business.

He Was Rejected For A Job Application At KFC

Right after leaving behind his five-year career as an English teacher in 1995, Ma started his search for other opportunities.

One of the 30 jobs he set his eyes on was a local KFC branch in Hangzhou, but he was rejected by the fast-food restaurant. To add insult to injury, he was the only applicant who was rejected out of 24 candidates. In other words, the other 23 people who applied got in, and Ma was the only person who didn’t get hired.

After that, he went on to pursue his own business, which was a small-time translation and interpretation company.

Read the source article in TechTimes.