Okay, Smart TV sells. And the all-inclusive, app-enabled Samsung or LG devices are serious competition to the more or less usual plug-ins (set top boxes, Apple TV & co). One thing keeps bugging me: you don't replace your TV as often as you do with other devices, how to make sure your TV remains smart? Isn't it more important to have screens that can interface smartly with more intelligent devices? Aren't smart screens more important than smart tvs?
Let's see how Smart TV and smartphone leader Samsung tackles the challenge. You can bet these guys will do anything to remain leader at the crux of both devices.
First, your hardware's getting smarter, and innovations keep coming, like motion control and language recognition, which Samsung packages as "Smart Interaction" (here on an Australian commercial):
To tackle the fear of obsolescence, Samsung proposes the Evolution Kit. It works a bit like Nissan Leaf batteries at the software level: you find Smart TV cool, but it's still a young market, and you want to be sure that you're not buying a young dinosaur, that you won't have to change the whole car because your battery is from the wrong generation. You need a double promise of simplicity (kit) and future-proofness (evolutivity): we'll make sure that you're always up to date, that you've always got the best set of Smart features, so don't worry, and just enjoy. This "Evolutionary Husband" ad is not very creative either, but you get the idea:
From couch potato to cloud potato, just plug and play dumb.
Okay, Smart TV sells. And the all-inclusive, app-enabled Samsung or LG devices are serious competition to the more or less usual plug-ins (set top boxes, Apple TV & co). One thing keeps bugging me: you don't replace your TV as often as you do with other devices, how to make sure your TV remains smart? Isn't it more important to have screens that can interface smartly with more intelligent devices? Aren't smart screens more important than smart tvs?
Mark Zuckerberg, who's doing a pretty good job at following Bill Gates' footsteps, reinvented the blue screen with Facebook Home.
The meta-app (embedded in HTC First for proof of concept) basically puts your Android experience in the background - nevermind the mobile network operator, that fabled 2G hero. And Google already faced a win-back surge from manufacturers, Samsung leading the way with a suite of me-too apps on time for Galaxy S3*...
Even if only 5% of hardcore mobile Facebook users switch to this "Virtual OS Operator" Facebook Home, that's going to have a significant effect, including for key partners. For instance, Bing's performances will significantly improve in all fields: search engine, mapping, translation, value aggregation... remember how Google Maps caught up with Daum Map and Naver Map within months in Korea?
|Feeling blue? Seeing red? No green robot around?|
If hardware and OS become commodities, personal environments remain personal... or at least the main ruler remains smart enough to let endusers believe they do remain personal.
* see "Anovations for Applelatres: Apple has lost its compass"
I just stole this laugh from Steve Chen ("mind if I send you back to YouTube?" - I consider his laugh as a "no", so here he is, back on YouTube):
Chen was invited to the 2013 Asian Leadership Conference (organized by Chosun Ilbo in Seoul), where he told his already rich (in every sense of the word) story.
According to him, the main reason why so few Korean start-ups make it to the world stage is that few have a global reach in mind in the first place, and that (a trait shared by many other countries) very few people are ready to "take the jump". I would also blame the weak SME ecosystem, with chaebols sucking out way too much value at the earliest stages of emerging technologies and innovations.
Chen started AVOS Systems with fellow YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley. They are reviving delicio.us, which they purchased from Yahoo!, and launched Zeen (social media - DYI magazines), an interesting revenge of traditional media in our paperless, always-on world.
In Barcelona, the hunt for the next killer app after Lionel Messi has started again, but for the moment, Mobile World Congress 2013 delivers at the hardware, OS, MNO levels. Vintage stuff.
Adding more flesh to its recent CES promises*, Mozilla decided to disclose** an impressive starting lineup for Firefox OS:
- devices? ZTE and Alcatel are there, LG's on board, Huawei will follow later this year
- apps? Facebook stars from day one
- cool factor? Mozilla unleashed its fox, and the long tail is now meant to set the whole sector on fire. Firefox OS joining Firefox Marketplace and Firefox fo Android, the predator is one search engine shy of splashing a Google-Android-Chrome-Killer tatoo across its chest. Even the Android dude got his tee:
- operators? check! This neither-Apple-nor-Google-nor-Microsoft OS comes as a blessing for MNOs that are desperately trying to recover their 2G mojo (see "joyn or die? forget about KakaoTalk and Anipang?"). Telefonica sums best the industry's mood by saluting "a major step to bring balance back to the telco sector", and America Movil is "committed to launch Firefox OS phones in Mexico and all possible markets during 2013". Completing the 17 member list are China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Hutchison Three Group, KDDI, KT, MegaFon, Qtel, SingTel, Smart, Sprint, Telecom Italia Group, Telenor, TMN, and VimpelCom.
Google must be preparing its own announcements, probably further down value chains and value galaxies (e.g. a music streaming service, according to the Financial Times). And meanwhile, execs reassert that virtual reality is the future of mobile... the occasion to re-mention Ingress game platforms, or augmented-reality-enabled eyewear Google Glass(es).
Just like Firefox OS, the Nokia 105 is meant for the masses: a cheap candybar handset with a late nineties look, and a tempting price tag (EUR 15). It's resistant, it consumes little power, and it would sound smart as a fox if Chinese manufacturers were not able to deliver the same kind of object at an even cheaper price. Nokia seems to be stuck in the 1990s, at a time when global marketshare in volumes was all that mattered. They'll get less press coverage for their Lumia 520 on Windows 8, but maybe that was the aim of the game: avoiding the comparison with Samsung on image.
Will the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Samsung Galaxy Note 3 live up to the hype? Until we get the answer, the Suwon-based giant keeps leveraging its subbrand: after Samsung Galaxy Camera, here's a Samsung Galaxy Note 8 tablet (Q2 2013), a supposed iPad mini killer. I can't wait to drive my Renault Samsung Galaxy LTE-Wibro Hybrid, to e-mail e-icecubes from my Samsung Galaxy Fridge, or to airkies these fancy apartment plans to my Samsung Galaxy Augmented Reality Printer.
Augmented reality sounds like material for pre-Lehman bubbles, something from the early Noughties. If you want something really ninetiesish, dig MasterCard's marketplace approach: MasterPass, a Visa's V.me-too.
Aah, the nineties... In 1996, after surviving 3 start-ups in 3 years, I joined for 7 years a French start-up that would become Cegetel and later SFR Cegetel. The shareholders were:
- Compagnie Generale des Eaux (44%), a French conglomerate recently converted to telecoms (SFR, partly held by a pure mobile player called Vodafone)
- Mannessmann (15%), a German conglomerate recently converted to telecoms (D2, Mannesmann Arcor, Omnitel...)
- British Telecom (26%), an international telecom institution that needed to set foot on new territories as deregulation reached further across its empire, and
- SBC (15%), the most ambitious of all Baby Bells
If you followed the turn-of-the-millenium sit(ele)com featuring the trio Klaus Esser - Chris Ghent - Jean-Marie Messier, plus Li Ka-shing as guest star, you already know what happened to each party.
SBC would resurrect Ma Bell and become the new and improved ATandT. British Telecom would remain a serious player and drop its MNO activities, but still enjoy its moments of fun (BT just purchased ESPN's operations in UK and Ireland). Mannesmann would bite the forbidden fruit Orange before being wolfed down by Vodafone. CGE would become Vivendi, spin off its formerly-core-but-still-cash-cow utility business, become Vivendi Universal, then Vivendi again. Vodafone would remain Vodafone, only bigger.
Today, Vivendi is getting rid of its formerly-core-but-still-cash-cow telecom operations in France (SFR, eyed by - among others - Ypso/Cinven/Carlyle), Brazil (GVT), and Morocco (Maroc Telecom). Canal+ shall become the new "core utility", the other gems being Universal Music Group, and Activision Blizzard, both leaders in sectors subject to profound changes.
Is virtual reality truly the future of mobile?
* "I see through you: City of Sin, Screens, and Smartpagers"
** see "Mozilla Announces Global Expansion for Firefox OS"
Remember that old 3D classic "Avatar"? Now Navis can say "I see through you" instead of "I see you" on Hisense's latest see-through 3D TV.
CES 2013 is all about screens, and it starts on your wrist. I wonder if Amazon will try to sell haikus on this mini ebook reader:
Pebble's e-paper watch for iPhone and Android does look like a gizmo from the 90s, some sort of Bluetooth-enabled smartpager, but the biggest story about it is the way it was crowdfunded on Kickstarter, smashing the $100k goal and raising $10M within days. 85,000 units have been ordered before the CES, more to come.
Does your handset require a remote control that works on Bluetooth? That's another story:
Moving on to some bigger screens: how do you like your OLED TV? 4K (Panasonic)? 4K and Ultra HD (Sony)? Curved (Samsung - nothing as sexy as its "Samsung Flexible AMOLED" of course -, LG)? Multi-view (Samsung again)?
Sharing your screen, that's also possible on the Lenovo IdeaCentre Table PC, a touch table that may host interesting game applications in a near future.
Nevermind the fingerprints, the dust, or even water. One year after HzO Waterblock, Huawei demonstrated a waterproof Ascend series (Ascend Mate, Ascend D2). I'm still in shock to see a smartphone, with all its connectivity slots open, take a dive and come out just fine.
And how about this schizophrenic Asus Transformer AiO? An Android tablet taking off from your Windows 8 desktop? Will an iPad spin off from it? An Apple, wrapped in a Google, inside an Microsoft?
I still don't know what to make of the Firefox OS (showcased in Vegas). A Plan B for Android makes sense (I'm not even mentioning iOS), and it's nice to start in Brazil, but can the Mozilla ecosystem grow that big?
SmartTVs, smartphones, smartwatches... it all sounds like logistics these days, more about fine tuning delivering processes than about delivering new goods.
Still better than last year's shark lawyer frenzies.
Remember last year, when KakaoTalk celebrated its 10 millionth user (see "Kakao Talk of the day")?
Well, 1000 days after launch, the Korean player claims 70 M users in 13 languages, with daily averages of 27 M users, 43 mn per user, and 4.2 billion messages. Even if Skype remains far ahead with its 280 M users (and the support of Microsoft* - whatever that's worth nowadays), Kakao Inc. has already become a global phenomenon - maybe level 5 on Gangnam Style scale - , and remains as ambitious as ever.
The way Anipang on KakaoTalk turned into an instant hit in the competitive game apps arena** probably scared the heck out of pure players (messaging services, VoIP...), not to mention much bigger netcos, starting at home with Daum and Naver, two giants on the Korean market who've - so far - failed to reach international recognition. Note that Kakao Inc. founder KIM Beom-soo is not an outsider: he created Hangame Communications, Inc., and headed NHN after the merger with Naver.
Even top players are paying attention. Sundaytoyz (Anipang's developer) is not Rovio, and Kakao is not Facebook, but I bet many people in Menlo Park start wondering what kind of value the Kakao platform will aggregate after games. And if Big G can leverage its superiority in searches to boost Google Voice (and counter Apple's Siri), the brand itself is not exactly a success.
Of course, the most nervous of all coopetitors are the MNOs, who see their customers use KakaoTalk for their calls and messages, and their own networks, even LTE-enabled, glogged with that booming data traffic. No wonder all 3 Korean cellcos decided to implement joyn, the GSMA's "Rich Communication Services" platform.
To start with, the "joyn" logo is the perfect anti-KakaoTalk: a double black on yellow speech bubble to counter a single yellow on black speech bubble. And RCS brings what operators who cooperate do best: interoperability. As the GSMA puts it in its sales pitch, the solution "delivers an experience beyond voice and SMS by providing them with instant messaging or chat, live video and file sharing across any device, on any network, with all the enabled contacts in their address book".
That's what cellcos will sell to their endusers - something young, sexy, colorful:
But first, the GSMA must convince its own customers, the MNOs, to implement the solution. Everybody must be on board for the promise to be delivered.
So further down the same page, the sales pitch sounds much more defensive and frigthening:
"Don't lose out to OTT – stay competitive and innovate with APIs
Your consumers are hungry for access to the entertainment and interaction offered by RCS-based apps. Agile and innovative, Over The Top (OTT) providers are exploiting the massive penetration of Smartphones by developing appealing rich communication apps available at little or no cost to the consumer.
Research conducted by one operator discovered a direct link between the penetration rate of cross-platform messaging services and the reduction of outgoing SMS traffic. Without RCS, the decline of voice messaging is likely to be next, as consumers increasingly engage with alternative IP based voice solutions.
Once consumers start using an OTT app service, that offering becomes, for them, the lead brand for communications services. Operators remain more competitive by responding more rapidly to consumers’ expectations and behaviour, and by using RCS to enhance the value of their network and bring richer calls to their consumers."
And those most dramatic final words: "Act now before it’s too late - Implement RCS today!"
Stop pulling your hair out, try this air lotion and stop the airtime loss. We don't guarantee return of love.
And be quick: the end is nigh.
* see "Skype keeps moving, Google googling"
** over 20 M downloads, only on Android (iOS to follow soon)
With the iPad Mini, Apple catches up with rivals Samsung (Galaxy Tab 7.7), Google (Google Nexus 7), Amazon (Kindle Fire, also 7 inch screen), or Barnes & Noble (Nook, also 7 inch). As usual, connectivity comes second: WiFi enabled devices arrive before the 3-4G gizmos (TTM not specified for LTE).
At least, iPad mini is released before the Microsoft Surface 7 inch, for a good reason: it has not even been announced yet.
So Tim Cook is mocking at Microsoft, a company from the past. Steve Jobs was mocking at 7 inch tablets not so long ago, but that was a time when Apple was well ahead of the pack.
According to Strategy Analytics, Android claimed 41% of the tablet market on Q3 2012, up from 29.2% one year earlier, while Apple iOS dropped from 64.5 to 56.7%. Actually both are much lower, since some players don't disclose their sales figures, most notably Amazon, who will probably open up sooner or later anyway: Amazon is about distribution, not into OS.
Launching iPad Mini looks more defensive than proactive. The market leader was condemned to cover all bases. Now what's expected from a cultural leader reaches far beyond that.
A couple of weeks ago, I changed my Samsung Galaxy II for a Samsung Galaxy III. Hardware-wise, software-wise, performance-wise, connection-wise, they clearly don't belong to the same galaxy. Samsung even managed to made NFC look sexy! The only - minor - default I see was the way the thin back cover vibrates with the speaker, but it's perfectly OK with the flip cover.
If I were (still) an Apple customer, I'd be really disappointed by the iPhone 5: the only real innovation is Lightning, the new dock connector, yet another proprietary marketing trap.
I never considered taking an iPhone because I used to be a Mac user, and I knew Cupertino would do the same with handsets as what they did with desktops:
- start with the sexiest product and user interface,
- refuse to open the proprietary system to other manufacturers,
- progressively retreat to a niche of Appleatres ready to pay dearly even if the product is not the best one anymore,
- get a bounce or two much later, when computers/smartphones are commoditized, just by the grace of a new sexy design (the iMac, the iPhone 69)
This time, they did it all by themselves. Cupertino didn't even need as formidable a foe as Redmond. Mountain View is by no means a small fish, and it learned a lot of sharkisms from Redmond, but if Android claimed the leadership so easily, that's because iPhone refused to hold it by building the largest ecosystem. Actually, to me the last straw was when Apple copied Microsoft by playing short term against long term and dividends against investments, by putting innovation last ("Apple - the end of the affair", "Omnipatent v. Impatent").
So I'm not even disappointed by this iPhone 5. To me, Apple has lost its compass long before and far beyond its first attempt in mapping apps.
Speaking of apps, that's something Samsung seems to be eventually more comfortable with. Not to the point of becoming a reason to be loyal to the brand*, but less an embarrassment.
* my last 4 handsets were Samsung, but I don't feel any special loyalty to the brand. I live in Korea, where their gizmos happen to be the best packages, and the customer service very efficient.
The Samsung-Apple patent war saw Samsung claim a minor half victory in Korea and Apple a major win in the US. The difference in rulings between the USA and Korea rulings may be the difference between carrying a case and carrying a suitcase.
Samsung lawyers are used to rule the show at home: this army of Seoul University Law School alumnis and former judges know all the tricks of the trade. I don't think there was much jury vetting nor adequate preparation ahead of the US trial, but Apple might have won anyway.
This is not about innovation, but about Intellectual Property management, property meaning that you own the rights, not necessarily that you invented something. Particularly in a system where the date of the patent makes all the difference, regardless of market realities.
As everybody well knows, Apple was built on infrigements: from stealing the Beatles logo to stealing Xerox inventions (no need to remind this audience of Steve Job quoting Picasso about great artists). The iPhone's round square icons mentioned in the trial? We saw them more than ten years ago in early mobile internet portal prototypes. When the iPod, the iPad, and the iPhone hit the shelves, Job's genius was as always in selecting the right existing bricks at the right time more than about inventing something new.
I'm sad to see that what matters now is not anymore to have the best Research and Developpment center and the best inventors anymore, but to have the quickest vultures and to snatch the best patent portfolios. The best product? Look at nowaday's rush for Samsung Galaxy. And anyway, the commoditization of smartphones is already well advanced. Apple is only gaining time*.
I'm interested in innovation. The NTP-RIM farce was not about innovation. Interval Licensing suing Microsoft rivals** was not about innovation. Google purchasing Motorola was not about innovation. This Samsung-Apple war is certainly not about innovation.
* see "Apple - the end of the affair"
** see "Paul Allen v. Rest Of The Web : NTP Redux ?"
Korean MNOs are still scratching their heads to find the optimal pricing system for Voice over LTE. LTE has been around for a while, but voice is basically using older routes (VoIP, 3G...).
VoLTE is not totally transparent for the user: theoretically, connections will come much quicklier, and sound quality will improve ("HD voice"). Of course, with the boom in smart device usages, the massive transfer of voice to data scares network owners. And the government is adding some pressure to prevent consumers from being charged too dearly (said consumers happen to vote for the next President this December).
One thing is sure: unlimited plans will not be offered as easily, and operators cannot abandon totally the time reference (minutes). More than ever, in-network calling will be promoted.
MNOs met to find common ground in the future, following the disclosure by KT of key elements of their LTE strategy ("HD Mobile Wonderland") and roadmap:
- "HD Voice" trials are under way for KT, with 300 testers and a target TTM of October 2012.
- August 1, 2012: LTE-only rate plans (see below), LTE roaming.
- September 2012: LTE upgrade for ABC Services (Always Best Connected is about seamless 3G and WiFi)
- October 2012: Joyn (HD "Rich Communications Suite") - HD Games by the end of the year
- November 2012: Olleh TV LTE upgrade from 500Kbps to 2Mbps
- Q3 2013 Multi Carrier LTE starting in Seoul. Quad Antenna
KT's LTE Warp, a service twice faster than standard LTE, already covers 84 cities nationwide, and all KTX lines. The operator aims at 4 million LTE subs by EOY 2012 (1.4 M nowadays), and stopped introducing new 3G smartphones. Note that Samsung Galaxy Note II LTE is also expected for October, and that KT's latest promotions are already preparing the transition, leveraging on the successful launch of Samsung Galaxy III LTE.
The LTE rates introduced in July ranged from KRW 37,400 to 137,500 (USD 37.5 to 119.6):
. LTE-340 (750 MB, 160 mn) adds a discount of KRW 7,700, and if you take the KRW 924,000 Galaxy III for a 24 month engagement, it will cost you KRW 68,200 (USD 59.3)
. LTE-1250 (25 GB, 1250 mn) adds a discount of KRW 33,000, plus KRW 32,000 for the smartphone, which adds up to KRW 141,667 per month (USD 123.2) over 2 years.
If you replace your phone, KT throws in a lot of free on-network calls to keep you onboard.
The LTE rates starting on August 1 allow data roll over:
. LTE-G650 (KRW 65,000): 6GB, 350 minutes + 3000 minutes in-network
. LTE-G750 (KRW 75,000): 10GB, 450 + 3000 minutes in-network
. LTE-1250 (KRW 125,000): 25GB, 1250 minutes + unlimited in-network (KT wired/wireless)
Now if they could do something about international calls...
NBC's mother company Comcast purchased Microsoft's half of a JV that sounded doomed from the start: You simply cannot build an internet powerhouse by leveraging on a non-brand at the commercial level.
Unsurprisingly and according to Alexa today, MSNBC.com ranked #7,201 globally and #1,503 nation-wide. NBCnews.com definitely can't do worse than it does nowadays (#1,164,341 at the global level, out of the US charts). Note that NBC.com claims slightly better slots (respectively #1,925 and #735), far behind MSN.com (17th and 14th), but also behind its other offspring CNBC (#605, #194).
CNBC stands for Consumer News and Business Channel, but I'm sure more people think it stands for Cable NBC or even for a JV between CNN and NBC. Anyway, CNBC does have a stronger identity than msnbc, and not only because of the capital letters: it's not a matter of reach but a matter of consistency.
Well. Back in 1996, Microsoft was still barely scratching the surface of the internet, surfing on its young troyan horse Internet Explorer.
16 years later, it seems that Redmond eggheads still don't have much of a clue.
Tomorrow, they pull the plug. At long last, Minitel will finally be put out of its misery.
This box materialized France's Videotex service Teletel, arguably the world's most successful predecessor to the web. Imagine, in the early 80s, elder citizen in rural areas connecting every day to consult their bank accounts, to purchase train tickets, or to chat in (sometimes naughty) fora. Imagine, in the early 80s, a thriving online ecosystem full of editors, developers, service providers, online advertising agencies... The loser was the enduser, of course, who was charged heavily for every minute online. But down the road, the pedagogy of the market was done (complete with the strident sounds of dial-up connections).
Minitel turned out to be both a blessing and a curse for France. In the early 90s, the Minitel lobby managed to prevent the French government from investing in the internet because the business model was highly profitable for the operator (then the PTT monopoly, now France Telecom), as well as for the biggest service providers (fellow public owned companies like SNCF, the banks...). But internet laggard France would catch up once its ecosystem migrated to the web, rich of a long experience in online services. Heck. Even a short one did the trick for me: working for France's leader in online gaming back in 1993-94 bulletproofed me for the madness that followed. And because I experienced the last throes of the Minitel, I could tell why such media darlings as AOL or NTT DoCoMo's i-mode would eventually fail (the latter even benchmarked the Minitel's business model and proprietary system).
We frogs loved to hate this French-Franc-guzzling old timer, with its screen and keyboard stuck in the 80s, stubbornly squatting next to our cool new DECT phones.
Now we'll long for the quaint touch of Minitel's rectangular keys each time we visit the museum of ancient communications.
Last January, Aakash made a splash with its $41 Android tablets (1.4 M UbiSlates booked online within a fortnight). Still made by UK's Datawind but slightly improved, the device is now sold $61. WiFi enabled, it can be also connected to a broadband device via USB. Otherwise, Airtel provides an internet connection for $1.7 per month, but that's on GPRS. Not exactly LTE... but then again, the iPhone was launched on 2G when 3G was all the rage. Since January, Aakash made a quantum leap from Froyo to Gingerbread (Android 2.2 and 2.3, both vintage 2010 stuff).
As announced during CES2012, Sony will launch its Google TV in Europe this summer. Sony NSZ-GS7 will cost $200, and combine a stylish set top box with a 1990sh remote control. The design tells a lot about Sony: a manufacturer who cares about how the most visible hardware looks, but pays little attention to the user experience. Software-wise, Google TV on Android remains behind Apple TV, but there's still some time until Xmas season. And the smart TV wars may be postponed because of The Great Depression.
$550 for a Samsung Chromebook Series 5 550 3G? A relief for Windows.
$650 for a Samsung Galaxy S3? Instead, you can get 4 Baidu smartphones in China: the Changhong H5018 goes for RMB 1000 (about $158 apiece), comes with a 100 GB cloud service, and runs on yet another Linux-based OS. After Alibaba's Aliyun, Baidu Cloud: the Google and the Amazon of China may be able to build decent user bases within months, and I wouldn't be surprised to see local players target emerging markets.
Nevermind the hardware: cloud-wise, it may become more interesting.
Over the past quarter of a century, I've survived countless seminars and conferences on innovation, most often as an attendee, sometimes in a different role (organizer, speaker, moderator...), but never with a "Press" badge hanging from my neck. I did just that yesterday. Just for a change, and for fun. What I didn't expect was a trip down memory lane.
First of all, let's set things straight:
0) (to those who knew me in my previous lives) I'm not missing the old times, simply enjoying it, as I've always done ever since I was a teenager. When you're into innovation, you always learn from such fora. And as usual I'm not as much interested in new gizmos (SDF is not the kind of vehicle for that anyway) as in the evolution of the ecosystem, and particularly how it is perceived by its key players, by newcomers, by outsiders.
1) I didn't steal that badge. This is the 9th Annual Seoul Digital Forum, and I happen to blog about Seoul (SeoulVillage.com) as well/poorly as about innovation (mot-bile)*. Besides, ever the caring city for its own diverse ecosystem, Seoul Metropolitan Government recently appointed me as a friendly neighborhood media. For good measure I even brought my old camera (I spared you the press-card-in-the-fedora-hat-band part).
2) I'm an author and a conceptor, not a journalist. I'm not covering an event, just feeding my poor brain with stimulating bits that, at the other end of the system, usually come out as junk as silly and useless as K-pop, only less entertaining, and with more traces of biased opinions in it. If you happen to read it, that's your problem. And if you like it, that's a problem for your shrink to solve.
3) As it turns out, when you have a "Press" badge, your body is also fed with stimulating bits in a cosy Press Room. But you quickly burn the said bits between levels B1 (Vista Hall, Keynotes) and 4F (Art Hall, Press Conferences). And perks are balanced by the fact that if you want to get a good spot, you apparently have to wake up in the middle of the night. My initial spot was really really bad: believe me, you don't want to have Steve Ballmer so close to you.
Seoul Digital Forum 2012 delivered the goods, kicking off with an impressive roster**. Day I started with a guest star who, for a reason that still baffles me, was dubbed a "visionary". Of course, Steve Ballmer is by no means a visionary: this hulk of a boasting salesman is more into products, functionalities and business management than into human beings and vision. Not even convincing as an industry (ex)leader. But life is unfair: nowadays, targeting 450 million devices doesn't sound that sexy when 900 million people are already familiar with the Facebook interface.
Steve B. left to a certain Brad McCabe the Steve J. part of his sales pitch for Windows 8. Tough Jobs, even if Android and Google are the main competitor, not Apple. Brad sounded very happy when he mentioned brand new apps "right out of the box"... but that's precisely a vocabulary Microsoft should ban in places like this. You're not supposed to be shipping boxes anymore, and you don't want people to visualize Skydrive as a UPS truck navigating the cloud (with Google Sky or Google MistView?). That said, Windows n does propose interesting features that Windows n-1 didn't have, starting with the 'blue screen' part of the demo (now a classy grey signals the usual glitch). That was my first stop down memory lane.
I certainly didn't expect disruptive points of view from Warren EAST (ARM) or Mike HARRIS (Gartner) either, only a fair and balanced appreciation of a very wide array of sectors where both maintain a now exoticly limited role in the chain. Both specialists confirmed the obvious market trends (did I mention the cloud?), except of course their own shrinking businesses. For this second station along memory lane, I thought about all those players who managed to survive in such an evolutive environment without really evolving themselves.
Bell Labs also lost some of their luster over the past decade, narrowing their scope to remain competitive in key areas in spite of a struggling mother company (Alcatel-Lucent). But Bell Labs remain a very special player in RD, with a focus on vision and values. And here, at a time when pure research is sacrificed on the altar of short term profits, talent is still measured by surprise more than results. This may sound like happy hypey talk from a Silicon Valley youngster, but Jeong KIM is a bashful, soft spoken leader, truly willing to promote well being at all levels (physical, mental, societal). Yes, technology does save lives, but it's also becoming ever more pervasive (and even intrusive, for instance with somatic network implants), and generating an ever increasing volume of information. All this means a bigger impact zone, higher stakes, higher risks of privacy breaches at the micro level, or massive destruction at the macro level. As an echo to the Big Data promise of managing the unfathomable, KIM quoted Asimov: 'science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom'. In that context more than ever, a sound education proves crucial. Memory lane station 3: in the eyes of Mr KIM, I saw the wisdom I met in so many researchers who really care.
On a lighter note, Phil LIBIN announced that he'd just signed the lease for Evernote's Seoul office, and that new talents were welcome. His 4 year old start-up keeps gaining new fundings and new users (32 millions as we speak), and the founder himself seems to have gained a few kilos in the process. Can LIBIN's "second brain" (that's how he describes Evernote) keep growing at a faster pace than his body? I was almost wondering when I heard him disregard competition as something he should not worry about - a diplodocus kind of reasoning if I ever heard one (and boy did I hear some as a former strategic intelligence nerd - memo lane station 4). But Evernote's CEO seems to be developping new synapses and neurons (or, as he puts it, A.I. as in "Augmented Intelligence") all right, and particularly in Korea, where a local cellco could soon follow NTT DoCoMo, and where a partnership with a major manufacturer covering a wide array of devices could help him develop an even sexier and more seamless user experience. When I asked him up to where he wanted his second brain to grow, LIBIN answered that Evernote would help users think smarter, that soon suggestions would come to them. And as I pointed out the risk of giving in to Big Data, he said, in substance, that it was not compatible with Evernote's DNA. Let's see how Evernote evolves, evolution being a process relying most heavily on genetic mutations.
Speaking of a major Korean manufacturer covering a wide array of devices, Samsung was represented yesterday by CHANG Donghoon: the head of the design team that delivered the Haptic or Galaxy series is confirming the user-centric approach of a company willing to make the most of foldable displays (remember flexible AMOLED?), sensors, context awareness, invisible and transparent technologies, seamless transitions, natural interactions... That brought me further down memory lane: we'll always be staring at exciting stuff, like what Pranav Mistry does at the MIT Media Lab with his Sixth Sense prototype, and for the magic to work and the engine to rock and roll, there must always be some level of reality we've not quite reached yet.
Reality hit home a long time ago for mobile operators, so I was surprised to hear SK Telecom CTO BYUN Jae-woan mention as something new the fact that cellcos were not at the center anymore, and that they had to abandon their telco mindsets, to reconsider their environment, the way they defined themselves. Memory lane, continued: I really enjoyed working on it in the late 90s for a major player, and was saddened to see SKT waste their considerable advance in the middle of the noughties when they forgot to adapt to a more open environment.
Yesterday, the moment I really felt home was when Ben CERVENY (frog design) pleaded guilty: yes, plays and games are major drivers for innovation. Yes, tech design IS game design, and yes, futility can lead to utility (and yes, to achieve that it takes a lot of work and energy). Memory lane: the first start-up I survived (back in 1993-94) was the French leader in online gaming, and the ultimate lab that got me ready for everything that came after. As it turned out, the same company popped up a few stations later: our marketing used to rely on both Big Data and anthropology, and here was Intel's Genevieve BELL, an enthusiastic anthropologist, showing pictures of both the idealized and the actual home environment of TV viewers. One one side, an impossibly neatly sitted Ingals family smiling from their sofa, on the other a pot-bellied couch potato staring from a jungle of a room. Genevieve commented on the way electronic devices were treated very much the same way our anthropologist pointed out the location of the Minitel in a customer's messy living room.
A good forum on innovation must be spectacular and entertaining, and we had the right people for that:
- Hiroshi ISHIGURO and his more or less humanoids (Geminoid, Telenoid, Elfoid, and, as the ultimate alien, Ishiguroid himself),
- Aaron KOBLIN (Google Creative Lab) and his worldwide web of artworks,
- Marc ABRAHAMS (Ig Nobel Prize) and his Miss Sweetie Poo. Note that all forum organizers should use this major innovation: have a 8 year old girl come to the speakers each time she thinks they talk too much, repeating "please stop, I'm bored" until they give up. Low tech, but kawaiily efficient.
Even more spectacular?
- Josh NESBIT's low tech smart(and caring)phones,
- Mikel MARON's grassroot initiatives to put marginalized communities not only on the map*** but behind and all around it (Groundtruth Initiative, Open StreetMap...). Note how, on this photo, Mikel's body language speaks volumes the above mentioned Steve will never read.
Empowering people, making a fair democracy possible, filling all kind of gaps... that's what smart networks should be all about.
mot-bile 2012 / SeoulVillage 2012
* among other nonsensical and poorly written blogules (nothing serious, it simply has to come out of my system).
** program of Day I:
Opening Ceremony and Keynote Address: WOO Wongil (Chief Executive Secretary, Seoul Digital Forum / President and CEO, SBS)
Congratulatory Remarks: LEE Kye Cheol (Chairman, Korea Communications Commission)
-"A New Era of Opportunity" - Steve BALLMER (CEO, Microsoft)
-"Technology and the Opportunities for a Better Society" - Jeong H KIM (President, Bell Labs / Chief Strategy Officer, Alcatel-Lucent)
-"The Future of IT: Learning from Coexistence Leadership"
- Warren EAST (CEO, ARM Holdings)
-"Enabling Equal Information Access to All Users" - T.V. RAMAN (Research Scientist, Google)
-"Technology, Film, and the Future" - Chris COOKSON (President, Sony Pictures Technologies)
-"Personal Cloud: The 'PC' of Tomorrow" - Mike HARRIS (Group Vice President, Gartner)
-"Shaping New Hopes in the Smart Era" - PYO Hyun-Myung (President, Mobile Business Group, KT Corporation)
-Special Address - PARK Won Soon (Mayor, Seoul Metropolitan Government)
-"Appropriate Technology: Simplicity brings hope to the digital age" - Paul POLAK (CEO, Windhorse International / Founder, International Development Enterprises - IDE), YOO Youngje (Professor, School of Chemical Engineering, Seoul National University / President, Scientists and Engineers Without Borders) - moderator CHANG Soo Y (Professor, Department of Industrial and Management Engineering, POSTECH / Codirector, Sharing and Technologies Incorporated)
-"Smart life enabled by mobile technology: an industry ecosystem will enable user experience" - BYUN Jae-woan (Head of Technology Innovation Center and CTO, SK Telecom)
-"Big Data and our future"
."The key to popular understanding of data is play" - Ben CERVENY (Founder and President, Bloom Studio / Founder, Experience Design Lab, frog design)
."Extending Humanity with technology" - Aaron KOBLIN (Creative Director, Data Arts Team, Google Creative Lab)
."Making one world through Big Data" - LEE Bong-gyou (Professor, Graduate School of Information and Director of the Communications Policy Research Center, Yonsei University)
."Interface: the window that changes the world" - CHANG Donghoon (Senior VP, Head of Design Group of Mobile Communications Division / Head of Design Strategy team at Corporate Design Center, Samsung Electronics)
-"Interface and Humanity":
."Genealogies of anxiety and wonder: our past and future with computing" - Genevieve BELL (Director, Interactions and Experience Research, Intel Labs, Intel)
."Devices, platforms, and a new way of life" - Phil LIBIN (Founder and CEO, Evernote)
.Initially scheduled: "User Interface Designed to Fix Personal Health" (Aza RASKIN)
-"Robots, games, and humor"
."The future life supported by robotic avatars" - Hiroshi ISHIGURO (Director, Intelligent Robotics Laboratory, Osaka University)
."Behavior-change Games and Habit Design" - Michael KIM (Founder and CEO, Kairos Labs)
."Research that makes people laugh, then think" - Marc ABRAHAMS (Founder, Ig Nobel Prize / Editor, Improbable Research / Columnist, The Guardian)
-"Technology, Humanity, and Collaboration":
."Expanding the reach of technology" - Josh NESBIT (CEO, Medic Mobile)
."Mapping the invisible: Open Source Mapping and Visible Communities" - Mikel MARON (President, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team / Codirector, Ground Truth Initiative)
*** note that yesterday, Seoul Mayor PARK Won-soon also mentioned a collaborative use of the map (on trial before the monsoon season): citizens spot problems, locate and report them on the map to shorten delays and improve accuracy.
UPDATE 20120524 (photos) ---
UPDATE 20120525 (dang, forgot Phil's pix as well)
From its brand new Space.1 (spacedotone) headquarters in Jeju-do, South Korea, Daum Communications announced Daum TV and Daum TV+.
Daum TV is an Android base OS for smart TVs, Daum TV+ a set-top-box running on Daum TV. But since Daum doesn't provide any access, it cannot deliver as many goods as its rivals (and certainly won't fight with them for content rights), but that's an entry point for Daum Cloud services. A not-quite VNO planting a device at the heart of households.
The gizmo, a small black cube, will sell at E-Mart for KRW 199,000 (USD 174.9) and that's quite a bet. Daum already saw Google storm through the Korean market via Android smartphones, they don't want to miss the TV wars. But here, Daum is also up against Google and Apple, who can leverage on a global reach. Even Samsung is pushing Android instead of its own Bada...
To sum it up, this black cube is supposed to be a category killer, with the biggest players around as targets (operators, MSOs, manufacturers, OS...), but not much of an army of services or contents to support it.
When shareholders come first, you know innovation is not the priority. Mirroring Microsoft's decision to fork out billions from its war chest to the market years ago, Apple officialized the end of vision-driven business.
I know the talk of the town is rather if AAPL, GOOG, or PCLN can break the $1,000 barrier, but if I were a long term investor in the compay, I wouldn't feel happy.
My only worry: I hope the stock will not fall too soon. If Apple coughs, the Nasdaq plunges. I don't mind if Wall Street takes a dip, but I'm not okay if it leads to a November defeat for Obama.
Saying Nokia must not fail for its future tablet is an outrageous understatement. The 10.1 inch, Windows 8 device must at least close some of the brand's gaping gap with Samsung's Galaxy series, and if possible propose an alternative to the Android - Apple duet (a more sustainable alternative than BlackBerry, that is).
A disruptive design could help, preferably one that would not be too reminiscent of the Nokia Communicator, or of the Sony Tablet P (the Terminator version of a clamshell, if not the Transformers version of a scallop).
Considering how RIM and HP fared, surviving next Xmas season could already be a noticeable achievement within 1.0 techie communities.
Nok-nok would be also working on a 'revolutionary phone'... Whatever that means (a Nokia Windows smartphone that sells, maybe?).
Buzztime for Gilt and Klout?
That's 3 hype words in one 5 word sentence, so let me rephrase it: online fashion retailer Gilt proposes discounts depending on the Klout score of its members.
Klout calculates individual influence scores (from 0 to 100) by aggregating behavioral data from various social networking services (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn...), and other partners. The concept rewards people who boast about how they fare on Klout, and actually monetizes social networking behaviors by offering 'perks' to the guys who behave well with selected partners.
That's were Gilt jumps in. For this member-only service based on flash sales, buzz plays a key role. Their glossy website looks quite different from the more sober Klout.com, but basically that's the same ego flattering concept: you're smarter than the rest of the crowd, you belong to a special breed of shoppers/influencers. A partnership with Klout makes sense to recruit new members as well as to ensure high turnouts for each sale...
Not to mention, of course, a more lucrative IPO.
* see "Gilt Groupe, Inc. and Klout Partner to Offer First-of-its-Kind Reward to Users"
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
My Wall and Wall Street are about to become an item: we're all going public, and you'll have to issue a profit warning each time I unlike you nth kitten picture.
Yet Facebook Initial Public Offering remains a non-event: Facebook has been milking our relationship from the beginning, and even with his 11M+ friends, Mark Zuckerberg has never been much of a philanthropist. The question was "when", and the answer is "now".
Now the other question remains: until when?
It doesn't have to come from the next big thing (a 4D, 5G meshroom cloud? the SOPAtriot Act?): remaining at the top happens to be difficult, even for a free, pervasive platform. And even a 800 pound gorilla can get off your back (I recently mentioned the potential Tripodization of Facebook: "Cloud Portability"). Furthermore, money won't do you much good without a vision. Look at Rupert Murdoch, who after losing over half a billion bucks on MySpace, delivers his pearls of conservative wisdom* for free over Twitter. And speaking of doing good: Google started being evil after its IPO...
... Come to think of it: Zuck started as a bad guy.
*if such a thing exists.
You is everywhere. Ubiquitous, yet with different levels of thickness depending on platforms and contexts. A change of temperature, and parts of your cloud precipitate into big drops for everyone to look and feel.
You is the marrow of the backbone. The bread earner for a Google or a Facebook, maybe a former unwilling employee of a Yahoo! or a MySpace.
You is stuck in a net, hooked, dependent. You has the mother of all monkeys on you's back. You can't kick the habit. You can't see a future without the virtual past you amassed over the years.
You probably doesn't remember Tripod, the killer app of yore. Picture this: a customized homepage, featuring whatever you fancy about you...
Tripod joined Lycos (yeah, go-get-it Lycos, a star of the silent internet times - limited colors, dial-up, only background track the faxlike connection), and followed its master to Germany (Bertelsmann), Spain (Telefonica), and Korea (Daum). Now both brands belong to Ybrant Digital (India). Tripod fetches domain names for the digital marketing group. Unlike most internet ventures, Tripod took some time to deserve its brand: is still walking around, but with a cane. At least, they're making a few bucks with the brand. Yahoo! totally euthanized Geocities.
I'm not digressing. Lycos was the first netco to make a decent living. And the most disruptive moment I remember about Tripod is when they announced the portability of homepages. Competition remained one click away, but you could switch with all your belongings.
Social network portability is much more complex. Friendships and synapses reach beyond simple pages or links. But we'll have to get there some day.
And who knows, 20 years from now, some South Sudanese venture shall sell capacity under the brand Facebook.