That cloud lining may be gold and not silver, ethical hackers take over an EU space satellite and the European Union and UK reign in the tech giants.
These stories and more on Hashtag Trending, for Wednesday, April 26th. I’m your host Jim Love, CIO of IT World Canada and TechNewsDay in the US.
Both Google and Microsoft have exceeded earnings expections largely because of their cloud computer services.
Microsoft announced that its quarterly revenue results were up 7 per cent from a year ago at almost 53 billion. Per share earnings were up by 10 per cent from last year.
Why? It’s not what you’d think – Microsoft’s ChatGPT and AI excitement hasn’t yet influenced earnings. And it’s certain not its PC related business. Windows revenue from computer makers is down 28 per cent and their own hardware, including Surface devices is down 30 per cent.
What’s making the difference? The cloud. Microsoft’s cloud revenue was up 22 per cent at 28.5 billion. Of the three big cloud companies, Microsoft is growing at the fastest rate with its Azure cloud. Some analysts have said that this is at least partly due to aggressive pricing at a time when many companies are taking a long hard look at their cloud expenses.
And there’s a similar story at Google’s parent company, Alphabet. Once again, cloud computing is a large part of propelling the company to beat earnings estimates.
Alphabet’s cloud offering turned a profit in this first quarter, which might seem like a minor success especially since Google’s market share is still far less than its competitors. But sales in cloud rose by 28 per cent in the last quarter and at least in part, made up for the drop in advertising revenue that Google has experienced as more people move to in person shopping after the pandemic and new competitors like TikTok take a bite out of ad revenues. But although ad revenues are challenged, they held up better than market expectations.
That and Google’s relentless drive to manage expenses led it to exceed earnings projections in the last quarter.
Google is expected to continue pushing cost cutting and looking for savings.
Google shareholders are happy with the result as the company is using the profits to buy back about 70 billion dollars in shares which in turn drove share prices higher by about four per cent in extended trading when the earnings announcement came out.
Maybe every cloud does have a silver lining – or maybe even a gold one.
A story in the Record, reported that experts from French defense giant Thales have promised to show how they seized control of a European Space Agency satellite. It’s reported to be the world’s first ethical hacking exercise aimed at a satellite.
It’s certainly timely. The recent leak of US intelligence documents contained a warning that China is developing similar capabilities to seize control of what they describe as “hostile satellites.”
The traditional approach to satellite interference has been to try to jam their signals. The leaked security documents state that China is working on ways to mimic operator commands and “seize control of a satellite, rendering it ineffective to support communications, weapons, or intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems,”
Which is what Thales did, using a small European satellite, called OPS-SAT a nanosatellite the size of a shoe box, which was launched in 2019. Despite its size it contains “an experimental computer “ten times more powerful than any current ESA spacecraft
Thales’ ethical hackers seized control of the satellite, exploiting “standard access rights to gain control of its application environment.” From there they were able to exploit vulnerabilities to introduce malicious code and take control.
They used that control to “compromise the data sent back to Earth, in particular by modifying the images captured by the satellite’s camera, and to achieve other objectives such as masking selected geographic areas in the satellite imagery while concealing their activities to avoid detection by ESA.”
Acting as ethical hackers, they released control of the satellite after this sobering demonstration with a warning that “this unprecedented exercise was a chance to raise awareness of potential flaws and vulnerabilities … [and] to improve the cyber resilience of satellites and space programmes in general, including both ground segments and orbital systems.”
Given our continuing reliance on satellites for in everything from defense to communications, it’s no wonder that some are urging the Biden administration to designate space as part of critical infrastructure.
Sources inlcude: The Record
And in a related story, AST Spacemobile announced that they have completed a two-way voice call using a satelite. What’s the big deal? This call, that went from Texas to Japan, didn’t have a satellite phone. It used the AT&T spectrum and a standard Samsung Galaxy S22.
This is all part of AST’s attempt to build a satellite cellular network using AST’s low orbit satellites that they hope in future will serve 2G, 3G, 4G LTE, and even 5G broadband to users anywhere in the world.
Using their patented service, they hope this network will allow unmodified smartphones to make calls, send and receive text messages and more no matter where they are – in areas with poor cellular service, particularly rural and coastal areas.
Abel Avellan, Chairman and Chief Executive Office of AST SpaceMobile, in a press release. “Achieving what many once considered impossible, we have reached the most significant milestone to date in our quest to deliver global cellular broadband from space.”
The release did not mention what was said on this historic call. We can only hope it was, “Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you.”
Sources include: ZDNet
And despite the Brexit separation, the UK and the European union seem to share a common objective – to keep a tight reign on the large tech firms.
The UK announced a new bill which will required big tech to “actively demonstrate” to their Digital Markets Unit or DMU “how it is complying with competition law principles” without requiring the regulator to bring its own challenges. The aim is clearly to prevent the world’s largest tech companies from dominating the market and to make room for smaller competitors to prosper.
The companies that it seeking to regulate aren’t name in the bill, but with the theshold of 1 billion pounds in UK revenue or 25 billion pounds worldwide, it’s pretty obvious who they are targeting.
And this bill has some real teeth to it. Under it, the penalties range from fines of 10 percent of global turnover and even making senior managers “personally responsible for ensuring the company complies with DMU requests.
The European Union has led the way in legislation and has been flexing its regulatory muscle in a similar approach going after what they regard as the anti-competitive behaviour of the giant tech companies.
They disclosed this coincidentally at the same time as the EU was announcing its Digital Services Act (DSA) which requires companies to do “risk management, conduct external and independent auditing, share data with authorities and researchers and adopt a code of conduct.”
Once again the stakes are high for any company defying the regulators – up to 6 per cent of global revenue and even potentially a ban from operating in the EU.
The threat of regulatory action is having an impact in Europe.
Microsoft is offering to stop bundling web conferencing and messaging app Teams with Office software hoping to avoid an anti-trust action from the EU.
Twitter reported that it took down over 6.5 million pieces of content in the first half of 2022, an increase of almost 30 per cent over that prior six months – in the period before Elon Musk took over Twitter. According to an article in the Register, this was announced at the same time as the EU announced its new regulatory regime. We don’t know what happened after Elon Musk took over.
But of course, Musk wouldn’t mess with the European Union or the UK government, would he?
And on a final note, a comment posted on Reddit posed the question. Do you say please when you end a prompt on ChatGPT? It occurred to me that I did that. And it started me wondering whether the Canadian version of ChatGPT might one day start saying “I’m sorry.”
That’s the top tech news stories for today. Hashtag Trending goes to air daily newscast five days a week as well as a special weekend interview with an expert on topics relevant in today’s tech news.
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I’m your host, Jim Love – I’m off tomorrow but my colleague James Roy will sit in. Have a Wonderful Wednesday.