The Russian communications regulator has told Facebook that it needs to begin storing data on Russian users in the country or face a ban, something which happened to LinkedIn last year. The relevant law was passed back in 2015 but it seems the Russian government has given specific tech companies some time to comply because of the investment necessary to make it happen, though it’s not setting a deadline of next year for compliance. This is the kind of thing that could quickly get expensive for Facebook if more companies jump on board – there have certainly been rumblings about data storage in a number of European countries already. My guess is that Facebook will choose to comply given that it likely has many users in the country and won’t want to lose them, but it will also worry about setting a precedent. Facebook’s ad targeting tool suggests a potential reach of 160 million for the country, whereas the official population is just 144 million, so it’s hard to know exactly how many users Facebook has there, but it’s likely in the tens of millions at least.
Google Officially Launches Tez Mobile Payments App in India (Sep 18, 2017)
I debated whether to make this its own item today given that I covered the leak of most of the details last week, but I feel like it’s worth it to cover a couple of details that I didn’t cover the first time around, when I largely focused on the broader issue of localization in markets like India. One of the most important aspects is integration with UPI, which is the Indian government’s mobile payments technology and is unique to the country. Almost any mobile payments service in India that didn’t feature integration with it would likely be dead in the water, while UPI itself has significantly boosted interest and uptake around mobile wallets in the country (and banking in general). Secondly, Google is using Tez to test some new ideas around payments including one based on sound called Audio QR, which borrows a little from the QR-based payments that are common in China but requires less specialized software and hardware. I wouldn’t be surprised if that technology in particular made its way into Google’s existing mature-market payment services too eventually.
Google is reportedly getting ready to release a new mobile payment service explicitly for the Indian market, with localizations intended to integrate with payment mechanisms unique to that country. The name is Tez, which means fast in Hindi, and it’s just the latest example of big tech companies making significant local adaptations to their products, services, and business models to fit into India, along with Amazon’s forthcoming first party smartphones (which I’m assured are launching soon), Apple’s local manufacturing, and Facebook’s work with local wireless operators and others. Other than its local manufacturing and fairly standard language support, though, Apple has largely resisted localization in India, unlike China, where it’s made far larger concessions to local customs and platforms. Others are arguably willing to bend their usual rules more to be successful there than Apple is, despite Tim Cook’s frequent remarks about how important the market is. That may need to change if Apple is really to break through, though there continue to be big additional barriers to Apple building a big business there (notably income levels).
AT&T More than Doubles DirecTV Now Live Local Channel Lineup (Jun 30, 2017)
It’s clear that Amazon has felt the need to compete with Netflix’s global launch almost a year ago, but its own global offering is sparse and inconsistent. The lack of localization (or in some cases any local offering at all) is one of the most overlooked issues in consumer tech – so many services we take for granted in the US simply don’t exist or are pale imitations of themselves in other markets. Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Netflix have all done well to make their offerings at least somewhat global, but Amazon is still very early in this game.