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Court battle, trade war and 5G spell tough 2019 for Apple in China

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SHANGHAI/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Apple Inc’s chief executive Tim Cook has his work cut out in China this year: the iPhone maker faces the looming threat of a court-ordered sales ban, the uncertain outcome of trade war talks and the roll-out of a new 5G network, where it finds itself behind rivals like Huawei and Samsung.

FILE PHOTO: Apple CEO Tim Cook attends an Apple store in Shanghai, China October 9, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

The complex outlook raises a challenge for Apple as it looks to revive its China fortunes after weakness there sparked a rare drop in its global sales forecast, knocked $75 billion from its market valuation and roiled global markets.

Cook told investors that the main drag on the firm’s performance in China had been a sharper-than-expected slowdown in the country’s economy, exacerbated by the impact of trade tensions between Washington and Beijing.

“We did not foresee the magnitude of the economic deceleration, particularly in Greater China,” he said.

Chinese shoppers told Reuters another element had been key: the high price-tag on Apple’s flagship phones.

Analysts said the firm faced a brewing storm of challenges: an economic slowdown, stronger rivals like Huawei Technologies Co Ltd [HWT.UL] bringing out comparable tech at lower prices and bubbling patriotic sentiment amid the trade war.

A Chinese court has also issued a preliminary injunction banning some Apple phones, part of a legal battle with chip maker Qualcomm Inc. This ban, potentially hitting iPhone models from the 6S through the X, has yet to be enforced.

On Thursday a local industry body, the China Anti-Infringement and Anti-Counterfeit Innovation Strategic Alliance, called on Apple to heed the court order and not “trample the Chinese law by leveraging its super economic power and clout.”

Apple declined to comment on the group’s statement but has previously said it believes its current phones comply with the Chinese court’s order.

“These are tough times for Apple in China,” said Neil Shah, research director at Counterpoint, adding the iPhone could see its market share slip to 7 percent this year in the face of stronger local rivals and worry about the sales ban.

Apple’s market share in the third-quarter of 2018 was around 9 percent, and has dipped from above 14 percent in 2015, overtaken by local rivals like Huawei, Oppo and Vivo.

Apple vs Huawei: tmsnrt.rs/2GWXNEf

5G STRATEGY

Another question mark for Apple is its 5G strategy in China, where the U.S. firm is not expected to have a 5G-enabled phone until 2020, behind rivals like Huawei, Xiaomi Corp and Samsung Electronics.

China is looking to push ahead with its rollout of a faster 5G network, with a pre-commercial phase this year and a commercial network in 2020.

Some are looking to make an early bet on the technology. Huawei is planning a 5G phone mid-year, while Xiaomi is aiming for the third quarter. Samsung is expected to unveil a 5G phone in the first half of the year.

Industry insiders, however, said Apple would likely hold off until the fall of 2020 to have its own 5G-enabled phone, a strategy that would bypass the untested early period of the technology, but which could mean Chinese shoppers delay iPhone purchases or buy another brand that switched to 5G earlier.

“I’ll definitely be paying attention to 5G functionality when I buy my next phone,” said Wu Chengjun, a graduate student in Beijing who currently uses an iPhone X.

With the exception of Huawei, which makes it own 5G chips, Qualcomm is providing the technology to many of the major phone makers releasing 5G handsets this year.

“If you’re a [phone maker] looking for a ‘super cycle’ [of sales], if you don’t have 5G, your situation won’t get any better,” Cristiano Amon, Qualcomm’s president, told Reuters in an interview. “The carrier channel is going to be incentivized to start selling 5G phones in the second half” of 2019, he said.

But there are risks integrating 5G too early into high-end smart phones because the technology requires deeply re-designing the devices with multiple new antennas. Given spotty coverage in 2019, gambling on a new design before networks are mature could be more risk than reward, said Darryn Lowe, a Bain & Co partner who works with the wireless industry.

“When you think about 5G, it’s a heck of a lot more complicated than an aluminum strip running around the phone,” he said.

And other shoppers and analysts said Apple’s more cautious approach to 5G made sense and that the firm would not likely lose out too much to rivals by delaying its launch.

Apple’s decision to wait to adopt 4G until after other makers didn’t hurt it. But that was when consumers commonly purchased a phone every two years, a cycle that has elongated and might prompt buyers to want a more “future proof” device, said Glenn Lurie, CEO of Synchronoss Technologies and the former head of AT&T’s wireless unit.

“If you’re going to walk in to make a 30-month decision, the concept that I’ve already got 5G built in, it feels pretty good,” Lurie said.

Slideshow (2 Images)

But buyers such as Li Hongzhuo, 22, a student in Beijing, said he was interested in 5G, but it wouldn’t be the deciding factor and he preferred to wait until the technology was tried and tested.

“Typically my needs for my phone are high speeds for downloading videos or transferring files from chat apps. This will get faster (with 5G), but 4G already satisfies my needs,” said Li.

“I won’t really consider switching my phone until 5G has been operating stably on the market for some time without any bugs – or unless they stop offering 4G.”

Reporting by Adam Jourdan and Josh Horwitz in Shanghai, Cate Cadell in Beijing, Sijia Jiang in Hong Kong, Stephen Nellis in San Francisco, Heekyong Yang in Seoul; writing by Adam Jourdan and Stephen Nellis; Additional reporting by Shanghai newsroom; Editing by Nick Zieminski

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Future of Ottawa: Coffee with Francis Bueckert

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Francis Bueckert: When it comes to the current landscape of coffee-roasting companies and independent cafes in Ottawa, I think we are at a really interesting moment in time. There are more local roasters that are doing artisanal small-batch production—with more attention to the quality and origin of the beans.

With larger corporations such as Starbucks closing locations, it has opened a bit of space for local players to grow. We have been lucky to work with many folks in the coffee-roasting community, and we have found that there is a willingness to collaborate among different coffee roasters. For example, when Cloudforest started back in 2014, we were roasting our coffee at Happy Goat and it was the expertise of their head roaster Hans that helped me learn how to roast. Other companies such as Brown Bag Coffee have also lent a hand when we needed extra roasting capacity. There are others, such as Lulo, Mighty Valley Coffee, Bluebarn, The Artery, and Little Victories that are also part of the growing local coffee community. It’s small roasters like these who have shown me what a coffee community can look like, and that we can help to elevate each other, rather than being locked in competition.

If you care to make a prediction… What’s happening to the local café industry in 2021?

We believe that there is hope and that 2021 can be a big pivot year for small roasters and cafes.

This year will not be ideal from a business point of view. However, it could create a shift in people’s attitude toward where they get their coffee. We are holding out hope that people will support the roasters and cafes that are local to help them economically survive what is in all reality a very difficult time.

It all depends on where consumers decide to go this year. People are starting to recognize that supporting large corporations at this moment will be at the cost of the local roasters and cafes. There is the growing realization that a future where there is only Amazon, Walmart, and Starbucks would be pretty bleak. So we have an opportunity this year to support the kind of local businesses that we want to see thrive.

In your wildest dreams, what will the landscape for local coffee roasters and cafés look like in your lifetime?

In my wildest dreams, all of the coffee roasters and cafés would be locally owned and independent. They would all be focused on direct trade and artisanal coffee. Each different coffee roaster and café would know exactly where their coffee came from. Ideally, each company would be a partnership between the farmers who grow the beans and the people here selling them. There would be a focus on how to cooperate and collaborate with the farmers in the countries of origin to share the benefits around. We would all work together and share orders of cups, lids, and other packaging so that we could get better bulk pricing. In this way, we would make our local coffee community so efficient that the large corporate coffee companies wouldn’t even be able to compete.

We would also like to see people use coffee as a way to create social good. For example, we started Cloudforest as a way of helping support farmers in Ecuador who were taking a stand against large mining companies. This remote community stood up to protect their environment, so that they could have clean drinking water and soil for the next generation. They started an organic coffee cooperative to help show that there are other models of development, and we are doing our part year after year to help support their vision. They have a vision of development that does not include mass deforestation and contamination, and organic coffee is a key (among others) to show that another way forward is possible.

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Special events in the Ottawa Valley dominate annual OVTA tourism awards

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The Ottawa Valley Tourist Association hopes that its annual tourism awards will provide a little sunshine during what is a dark time for local tourism operators because of the pandemic.

The Ottawa Valley Tourism Awards are presented annually by the Ottawa Valley Tourist Association (OVTA) to individuals, businesses, and events that recognize the importance of working together for the growth of the local tourism industry, as well as offering exceptional visitor experiences.

“After a year that saw a lot of businesses in the hospitality and tourism industry being challenged like never before, the annual Ottawa Valley Tourism Awards represent a bit of light on the horizon” said Chris Hinsperger, co-owner of the Bonnechere Caves.

The Ottawa Valley Tourist Association’s (OVTA) Awards Committee co-chairpersons, Meghan James and Chris Hinsperger, said they were very pleased with the recent nominations received, especially in the Special Events category. Submissions were received for The Farm to Fork Dinner Series at the Whitewater Inn; Light up the Valley; The Eganville Curling Clubs’ Rock the Rings; The Ontario Festival of Small Halls ; The Bonnechere Caves On-line Underground Concert Series; The Opeongo Nordic Ski Clubs’ Ski Loppet; The Tour de Bonnechere — Ghost de Tour 2020; and The Bonnechere Caves Rock ‘n Roll Parking Lot Picnic.

“During a time when communities were challenged, it is nice to see that people still made an effort to get together and celebrate, albeit under certain conditions. It just shows the creativity and resiliency of our tourism Community here in the valley” said Meghan James, director of sales at the Pembroke Best Western.

There are three Award categories: The Marilyn Alexander Tourism Champion Award, The Business of Distinction and The Special Event of the Year.

Hinsperger, is excited about this year’s awards.

“During this pandemic the hospitality and tourism industry was the first to be hit, was the hardest hit and will be the last of our industries to fully recover. As Valley entrepreneurs we owe it to ourselves, to our businesses and to our communities to be an active part of that recovery. Our livelihood and economic recovery depends on our efforts. And we will get back to welcoming people from all over the world to share a little bit of the place we are privileged to call home. This awards process leaves myself and others fully optimistic about our positive outcomes.”

Award winners will be announced at the Ottawa Valley Tourist Association’s virtual annual general meeting on Monday, May 31.

The OVTA is the destination marketing organization for the Upper Ottawa Valley and proudly represents more than 200 tourism businesses, comprised of attractions and outfitters, accommodation, food, beverage and retail establishments, artists and galleries, municipalities, as well as media and industry suppliers. The OVTA is supported by the County of Renfrew, Renfrew County municipalities and the City of Pembroke.

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Future of Ottawa: Farming with Jeremy Colbeck

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Jeremy Colbeck: Well first, let’s talk about what we mean by farming. Although farms, and farming as an occupation, are in decline across Canada, they are still a major part of our rural landscape. That’s even more true for a strange city like Ottawa which includes a LOT of rural areas and whose urban boundary takes, what, three hours to cross? About 40 per cent of the rural land in Ottawa is farmland. Most of that farming is corn and soybean cash-crop, as well as some dairy and livestock farming. That’s mostly conventional farming (the kind that is profitable but not exactly where you take your kids on a Saturday).

There are also a lot of agri-tourism businesses in Ottawa, which give you that oh-so-good Saturday spot for family donkey-petting and apple-picking. And it’s totally understandable from a business perspective, but sometimes surprising to find out, that even though they grow some of the Christmas trees they sell, they might also be reselling some that come from much larger farms far away. The farmland around Ottawa is also inflated in price because of its proximity to the city, where it is in demand by would-be hobby farmers—folks who want to do some farming on their property in their spare time but make their money (to subsidize their small-scale farming habit) elsewhere. Unfortunately, many of these properties will have large mansions built on them, which will then make them completely unaffordable for the average farmer

There’s also a segment of small-to-medium-sized Ottawa farms that grow “premium” (artisanal, unique, extra-fresh, ecologically- or organically-grown etc…) products that they sell directly to local eaters via farmers’ markets or other direct marketing channels, including on-farm stores and farm stands. That’s where BeetBox fits in.

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