Artificial intelligence (AI) is intelligence—perceiving, synthesizing, and inferring information—demonstrated by machines, as opposed to intelligence displayed by humans or by other animals. Example tasks in which this is done include speech recognition, computer vision, translation between (natural) languages, as well as other mappings of inputs.[
AI applications include advanced web search engines (e.g., Google Search), recommendation systems (used by YouTube, Amazon, and Netflix), understanding human speech (such as Siri and Alexa), self-driving cars (e.g., Waymo), generative or creative tools (ChatGPT and AI art), automated decision-making, and competing at the highest level in strategic game systems (such as chess and Go).
As machines become increasingly capable, tasks considered to require “intelligence” are often removed from the definition of AI, a phenomenon known as the AI effect. For instance, optical character recognition is frequently excluded from things considered to be AI, having become a routine technolog
HO CHI MINH CITY — On a recent Sunday, a pink-breasted parrot escaped from its cage at Mindfully Cafe and hopped around the shop. Nguyen Kim Ngan, owner of the Ho Chi Minh City cafe, alternated between frothing drinks and trying to coax the emerald bird back into its cage.
Cafes like hers have retained their quirks and held their ground even after a coffee shop with another green mascot hopped onto the scene: Starbucks.
Coffee is steeped in the local identity in Vietnam, which boasts more cafes than almost any place on earth. So when Starbucks entered the market in 2013, it faced a different set of expectations than other U.S. brands like McDonald’s and Subway, which also debuted in the 2010s.
People wondered how the world’s biggest coffee chain would fare in a country that is the world’s largest exporter of robusta beans.
The Seattle-based chain itself has been quiet about its progress. The company told Nikkei Asia it will mark 10 years in Vietnam by opening its 100th location but declined to answer a question about whether it is profitable in the country.
And while Vietnam has Southeast Asia’s biggest cafe market by value and number of shops, it has just 0.9 Starbucks for every 1 million people — the smallest number among the region’s six main economies.
“Starbucks is not something people can afford every day,” Ngan said at her shop, where the roof is a canopy of grape leaves. “I want to bring quality and something people can afford.”
Price is one of three factors that explain local rivals’ ability to defend their share of the $1 billion market. Taste and a distinct drinking culture are the two others.
While Starbucks offers a cup of mild arabica for as much as $5, often mixed with syrup, competitors sell every possible alternative from specialty coffee to $1 robusta, which tends to be bitter but also cheaper and higher in caffeine than arabica varieties.
Vietnam has 87 Starbucks cafes, the least among big Southeast Asian economies and less than a fifth of the Philippines’ despite similar income levels. (Photo by Lien Hoang)
For Enma Bui, another figure in the local coffee market, Starbucks is bittersweet. On one hand, she said the global giant generated more curiosity about coffee after it arrived in Vietnam; on the other, its sugary concoctions flatten palates.
“I had a customer come to me and ask if they could have a Starbucks caramel macchiato,” said Bui, the brand ambassador at cafe and wholesaler Lacaph. “How do you convince someone to drink black coffee and enjoy its beautiful notes if they’re used to that?”
Vietnam’s coffee tastes date to the 19th century, when French colonizers planted the seeds of what would become the world’s biggest robusta grower. Through the 2000s, coffee drinking developed into a national habit, dominated by domestic chains Highlands Coffee and Trung Nguyen. Thousands of tiny cafes sprouted up, with low barriers to entry that made it possible for a single location to change owners three times in as many months.
Coffee devotees bring pets and watch street life at Mindfully Cafe in Ho Chi Minh City. (Photo by Lien Hoang)
But in the 2010s two trends emerged. Vietnamese chains led by The Coffee House and Phuc Long embraced young customers with a hipper aesthetic — and free WiFi. And the communist country’s opening economy brought international influences, such as “third-wave” coffee, with its focus on distilling a bean’s natural flavors.
These newer shops added to the existing sea of coffee kiosks and family shops, many operated out of people’s homes, resulting in a market of 19,000 cafes. Only the U.S., China and South Korea have more, according to Euromonitor data.
Despite this scale, foreign brands have carved out a relatively small slice of the market.
“I guess it’s something to do with the demographics and the consumer profile in Vietnam that could explain why the international cafe chains have not been doing as well as expected,” Euromonitor Asia beverage insights manager Nathanael Lim told Nikkei. “Because they have done well in other markets in Asia, they think of using the same strategy, by positioning themselves as boutique and premium.”
Among early international movers, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf has just 15 stores after about 15 years in the country, while Gloria Jeans exited Vietnam in 2017, though it is attempting a comeback.
“We will take a thoughtful and locally relevant approach to drive sustainable growth,” Starbucks Asia Pacific president Emmy Kan said without addressing Nikkei’s question about its limited presence in the country of 100 million. Vietnam has fewer than 90 Starbucks outlets, while the region’s next-smallest market, Singapore, has 146, Euromonitor said.
Local relevance, say those who know, is key.
Coffee in Vietnam is social, said Mindfully Cafe’s Ngan. Friends like to dine at a restaurant, then move to a coffeehouse for a drink — relocating is part of the routine. Or they like to watch the street from a cafe, at times on the street itself — a feature that sets sidewalk vendors apart from Starbucks.
Some patrons like to go where somebody knows their name. During a joint interview Ngan’s wife, Nguyen Thi Ngoc Yen, jumped up to brew lemon-soda espresso for a regular who had walked in.
“See you tomorrow,” the customer said on his way out.
“If he’s not here, it’s not a normal day,” Ngan joked.
Vietnam’s Lacaph decorates its coffeeshop with an iconic motorbike toting a bag of beans. (Photo by Lien Hoang)
Bui of Lacaph likewise sees independent cafes as serving quintessential local needs.
“Coffee is an excuse,” she said, describing the desire for community that draws Vietnamese to cafes.
“It’s really magical, this one small thing, but everyone can talk about it,” she said.
“A sense of community is really important for a cafe. We talk to neighbors, friends, street vendors who come to sell snacks”Lacaph brand ambassador Enma Bui
And talk about it people do, discussing fruity aromas and filter methods in Facebook groups. Two decades ago, coffee was important to Vietnam as a profitable export and as a daily ritual. Only in recent years has it taken on the cachet of a dedicated craft, with imbibers more aware of the contents swirling about in their cups and aware they’re partaking in a culture.
It remains a lucrative export. Vietnam ships out 25 million bags of beans a year, behind only Brazil, U.S. Department of Agriculture data shows. Those are 60 kilogram bags, mostly of robusta.
Domestic demand is also, in a word, robust. The tropical country’s cafe market grew 13% from 2021 to 2022, according to Euromonitor data.
How far Starbucks Vietnam, or any other international chain, can tap into that growth remains to be seen.
“As customer preferences evolve, we continue to meet them where they are through ongoing partnerships,” Kan told Nikkei.
Taste for the little auburn beans is indeed evolving, even among the brewers.
“I didn’t even drink coffee before,” Bui said. But once she entered the sector, “It charmed me somehow.”
There’s certainly a lot to see and do in Tokyo, and among all of its culture and cuisine are its many flagship stores. These large and stylish shopping facilities that serve as the focal point for a brand in any city or country could be considered landmarks in themselves. Roland has a store in Japan.
And joining their ranks is the legendary guitar maker Fender, which is setting up its first-ever flagship store in Japan this summer. Although from time to time the company has set up stores around the world in the past, none will be quite like this one. For starters, as a flagship store, it looks like it’s going to be huge.
Fender will actually be moving into The Ice Cubes building once occupied by H&M in the ultra-stylish Harajuku area of Tokyo. This store is planned to occupy the basement and first three floors for a total of just over 1,000 square meters of floor space offering an unprecedented array of Fender instruments, equipment, accessories, and other merchandise.
Fender Flagship Tokyo will feature the company’s new apparel brand, F Is For Fender, as well as a full array of its guitars and a soundproof room for musicians to play “loud.”
The 1,068-sq,-meter emporium will open June 30 in the Harajuku-Omotesando district, a trendy Tokyo neighborhood known as a hub of fashion and youth culture.
The store will be a place where “people really get to experience the Fender brand,” Edward Cole, the company’s president for Asia-Pacific, told Nikkei Asia. “Fender, throughout history, has not only shaped musical culture … it’s shaped popular culture.”
Fender, established in southern California in 1946 by engineer Leo Fender, has grown into the world’s top electric guitar maker. Its iconic Stratocaster has been a favorite of rock guitarists ranging from the late Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck to Eric Clapton and Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour.
What We Like
- A free-to-use version is available
- Real-time threat protection
- Comes with password manager, VPN, and performance booster
What We Don’t Like
- Prices increase after the first year
- No firewall
- Service tries to upsell customers even after purchasing
TotalAV’s solid offering of digital security products and features is appealing. Coupled with its affordable first-year prices and responsive apps, we see a lot of value in TotalAV.
- Google is adding a new AI-powered “top results” section to Gmail searches on smartphones.
- The company said Friday it will be introduced to all mobile users in the coming weeks.
- It’s the latest in a string of AI features announced for Google’s range of products and services.
Searches in Gmail are set to become more accurate as Google rolls out a new AI-related feature for smartphone users.
Alphabet said in a Friday blog post that mobile Gmail users will soon see a “top results” section when searching for old messages or attachments in their Gmail app.
The top results section will be assisted by Google’s machine learning algorithms, which the company said would use the search term, some recent emails, and other “relevant factors” with the aim of finding what a user is searching for.
In its blog post Google said the feature was “highly requested”, and said it will be rolling out to all Gmail mobile users over the next two weeks.
The post only mentions the mobile version of Gmail, so it’s unclear whether the “top results” feature will be added to the browser-based version.
Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider, made outside normal working hours.
The search giant announced several new AI features and services at its I/O developer conference in May – so much so that some employees joked internally about how often executives mentioned “AI” during the event.
We’re just a few days away from what could be Apple’s most significant event in quite some time and just a few days past Memorial Day, which brought a ton of savings on gadgets by the technology giant.
Right now, though, you can get a four-pack of AirTags for the lowest price of 2023 at just $79.99 on Amazon. Best of all, that comes to just $20 an AirTag, which is normally sold for $29 apiece. Furthermore, it’s a deeper discount by $10 since the previous discounted price of $89.99 for the four-pack.
No large screen mac’s to be info at Apple showing. Key Finder, Bluetooth Tracker Locator for Luggage Works with Apple Find My Smart Tracker for Suitcase, Bag, Backpack, Wallet,Pets Replaceable Battery Smart tag
Chances are this deal won’t last long, so if you’re sold we’d head over to Amazon right now. But ahead, we’re breaking out what makes the AirTag an excellent item tracker and one that can be essential for travel.
The security of Gmail has always been one of its biggest selling points, but now one of its most important new security features is actively being used by hackers to scam users
Introduced last month, the Gmail checkmark system highlights verified companies and organizations to users with a blue checkmark. The idea is to help users discern which emails are legitimate and which may have been sent by impersonators running scams. Unfortunately, scammers have tricked the system.
it’s already being exploited
Last month, Google introduced a Twitter-style blue checkmark for verified brands in Gmail. This means that anyone with the “Brand Indicators for Message Identification (BIMI) in Gmail” would have the trust of their users who would then know that the sender was, in fact, the real deal instead of an imposter.