China reportedly escalates trade war with ban on foreign computer kit

All Chinese public bodies need to replace all foreign computer hardware and software within three years according to a report.

The scoop comes from the FT, which says it’s a publicly-known instruction, direct from the Communist party – i.e President Xi Jinping. No clear reason seems to have been given for the directive, but it’s clearly part of a drive to make China as self-reliant as possible so it can’t be held to ransom by the US.

The biggest losers from this move stand to be Dell, HP, Apple and Microsoft, while they must be breaking out the bubbly at Lenovo. To what extent non-US companies might get a pass is unclear and presumably Taiwanese ones get a pass since China likes to insist it owns the place. Assuming that’s the case China is pretty well served by companies such as Acer, Asus, etc.

This particular move doesn’t seem to directly affect the telecoms industry, but the precedent it sets is ominous. By banning Chinese companies from its telecoms sector the US has made it clear it’s prepared to use business as a political weapon. This directive has apparently been in place for a few months and IT has presumably been chosen because that’s the industry China is best placed to be self-reliant in.

But while its easy to imagine the entire Chinese public sector using only Lenovo PCs in three years’ time, what software they will run on them is less clear. Microsoft obviously dominates globally when it comes to operating systems and productivity software, so a switch to home-grown equivalents feels like a massive undertaking.

That’s the real statement being made with this move, that the Chinese state is willing to do whatever it takes to be as independent as possible from the US when it comes to trade. It’s easy to imagine China extending this band to its private sector and, whenever it considers such a thing possible, to extend the ban to other industries such as telecoms. This geopolitical tussle between China and the US looks set to escalate a lot more before one of them blinks.

Tech Mahindra gets UK/India pact off to a good start

Tech Mahindra has announced a number of new investments into the UK, indicating the technology partnership signed between the UK and India recently was perhaps more than a PR stunt for the Prime Minister.

The UK government is in need of friends right now, and India is looking like it could be our new trading chum. As part of the announcement, Tech Mahindra has set up a new research lab, ‘Makers Lab’, at Adastral Park near Ipswich in collaboration with BT, has opened a new office in Salford, Greater Manchester and also plans to roll out an apprenticeship programme in the UK.

“Innovation is the key to survival in the digital future,” said CP Gurnani, CEO and MD of Tech Mahindra. “The UK-India Innovation partnership draws from the best learning and skills of both developed and developing economies in shaping the digital future. We at Tech Mahindra are taking the philosophy of disruption by design to our client ecosystem, academia and people through our research arm Makers Lab in UK.”

The ‘Makers Lab’ will aim to focus on a number of different areas such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and quantum computing to make citizen services and experiences simpler. The investment itself will form part of the TechMNxt Charter strategy, its global program to explore emerging technologies like AI, Blockchain, Cybersecurity and AI-infused IoT solutions.

While this might seem like a small partnership based around R&D for the moment, there is huge potential here. Tech Mahindra is a $4.7 billion IT services company with 115,00 employees across 90 countries and 903 global customers. Tech Mahindra is also part of the $19 billion Mahindra Group that employs more than 200,000 people in over 100 countries. As far as introductions go, this is a pretty good one to make, offering a lot more potential for investment and growth in the future.