What if the smartest thing to do was to play dumb? And when everybody's racing for the best performances, to deliberately aim at the most limited service? SixFox is not exactly 5G on steroids, but rather TETRA on Valium (for those of you who remember Dolphin Telecom).
SigFox focuses on M2M applications, you know, that formerly un-sexy business that become hot overnight when some marketing genius rebranded it "Internet of Things". Well at SigFox, they don't hesitate to use the old 'machine-to-machine' jargon. We're talking about French entrepreneurs (Christophe Fourtet and Ludovic Le Moan) headquartered in a town of 4,000 souls near Toulouse (Labege), but Labege is an innovation cluster, and Le Moan someone who's already made it before (Scoop.it). Furthermore, SigFox rolled up its first network in San Francisco area, a neighborhood more associated with start-ups and IoT, not to mention players like Cisco. Now it's also attacking the UK with Arqiva.
What do these guys do? Provide connectivity solutions for M2M-IoT applications that DO NOT require more than:
• 140 messages per object per day
• 12 bytes for each message
• 100 bits per second
So don't expect video chats between your toaster and your Ski-Doo. With such constraints, you still can cover a wide array of basic information systems, typically two-way communications with meters or sensors, device location, alerts... Ever the early adopter, Clear Channel was among their first consumers.
That's long distance wireless (WAN), and any cellco can provide this kind of service, and some m-VNOs have already specialized in M2M, so what's the deal?
SixFox uses Ultra Narrow Band (UNB), and unlicensed spectrum - ISM. In Frisco, that's on 915 MHz (902 usually available in the US), and in Europe on 868 MHz. So the so-called SNOs (SigFox Network Operators) can operate without a license.
Furthermore, energy costs are really low. According to SixFox's white paper, communicating from an energy meter consumes only 50 microwatts compared to 5,000 over cellular technology, which means that a 2.5 Ah battery shall last 20 years instead of a couple of months.
You won't find much about the cloud costs, or the hardware at the device of the infra levels, but a BS is said to cover a 3-to-10 km radius in urban areas and 30-to-50 km in rural areas. Here too, because there's much less waste at many levels (e.g. protocol data), the network is supposed to consume 200 to 600 less energy than a classic cellular network.
Can this 'slow telecom' approach speed up IoT? Certainly if some guys take this ungratifying part of the job seriously. This is all about minor operations with very low margins, and you want to be among the first ones to reach big volumes. The big players have yet to join the party, and some of them could be tempted to pull out their own broadband UNB gun, or the checkbook (sending SigFox one simple message, under 12 bytes, but preferably for Le Moan and Fourtet, with a lot of 0s).
As of today, on its own counters (on sigfox.com), SigFox claims 157,499,000 messages sent and 3,935 kw saved compared to GSM. I'd like to check these numbers one year from now.
What if the smartest thing to do was to play dumb? And when everybody's racing for the best performances, to deliberately aim at the most limited service? SixFox is not exactly 5G on steroids, but rather TETRA on Valium (for those of you who remember Dolphin Telecom).
Yesterday, Daum and Kakao Corp announced that they would merge on October 1st, and Google that its first Google Campus in Asia would be located in Seoul.
The Daum Kakao merger looks rather defensive: before everything, it creates a stronger competitor to NHN, the leader operating among others the main rivals to Daum and Kakao Talk: Naver and LINE.
NHN and Daum are rare exceptions as successful newcomers in a country where start-ups struggle to survive in an ecosystem dominated by chaebols: as soon as a new gem shows some potential, the big fishes try to eat it, or to destroy it with me-toos leveraging on in-house countless entry points, or to control it by becoming its sole 'partner'.
NHN and Daum could storm the web at the turn of the millennium, when mobile operators where busy building proprietary environments, and other chaebol focusing as usual on hardware. They built competitive platforms that even resisted Google, who only managed to gain strongholds in Korea thanks to Android. Typically, even if Naver maintains its leadership in web searches, Google could 'crowd-boost' Google Maps or Google Translate, with the help of smartphone manufacturers who were too happy to have a platform rivaling Apple to care about the hidden costs.
As we've said before, Samsung and LG helped Google BtoB (OEM) succeed where Google BtoC (portal) failed, and all they can do now is send a Tizen to nibble at the heavyweight champion's ears.
There's a finite space for major value aggregators in Korea, and as Samsung's latest attempt to build a sustainable platform beyond hardware, Tizen probably accelerated the need for rivals to stretch their reach.
Big G needed to beef up its Asian ecosystem and Korea seems the perfect choice: Android rules, start-ups need competitive platforms to survive chaebol bullies, and Mountain View has the opportunity to weaken some of its most serious competitors on their own turf. Bonus: by supporting Korea's SME and creative ecosystem, you gain the favors of local authorities and regulators.
Anyway, good news for Korea's attractiveness... but yet higher entry barriers for potential major newcomers.
ADDENDUM 20140828: let's guess which 'independent' whistleblower suggested Korean watchdog to investigate Kakao Corp in the wake of the merger ("Kakao under probe for allegedly abusing market power: sources")
If you're a frequent flyer on these miserable errlines (believe me, I feel your pain), you've been prepared years ahead for Apple's and Samsung's troubles.
The Apple case is very simple: Cupertino lost the leadership in smartphones the day they decided not to open their platforms to other manufacturers. You can't beat manufacturers and users demographics, and the Android community was bound to catch up very quickly.
For Samsung, the "Nokia Syndrom" hits a leader that can't cover all bases when commoditization strikes. It's not how far you stretch in today's range of products, but how deep you stretch into tomorrow's value chains. Nokia kept churning out great stuff from its research centers, yet didn't convert them into innovations because the leadership forgot to focus on innovation itself. Samsung is very much aware of the need to extend its leadership into fields more sustainable than hardware design, but that's easier said than done (Bada? Tizen?). And as smartphones become commodities, it's getting harder to differentiate from Chinese or Indian players that can themselves sell massively and invest massively in research (Xiaomi, Micromax... Motorolax?).
If plummeting market shares are only sanctions from the market, giving away freebies remains the ultimate sign that a leader is losing its mojo. Significantly, the freebies that signaled the end of the race for innovation leadership came in the form of cash for shareholders (see "Apple - the end of the affair"). Samsung chose to bribe endusers instead, by giving away gifts across Southeast Asia markets (see "Samsung Localizes Southeast Asia Strategy" - WSJ 20140811).
A quick fix before the next big hit. Maybe the Galaxy Note 4 next month, supposedly a LG G3 killer that could come in flat and curve versions, and preferably unbuzz the upcoming Apple iPhone 6.
But again*, we're talking Fall/Winter collections here, not game changers.
* remember "Apple's Ready to Ware v. Fast-Fashion"?
Europe has already forced Google to propose a "Forget Me" function for those who want to opt out of the standard "Forge Me" treatment. So the ideal of that other pervasive, blue, big brother may not be totally dead yet.
Unlike for the 2012 edition*, I decided not to attend SDF 2014 with a "Press" card, but to remain in the audience... which still leaves opportunities to chat with innovators, particularly when they are launching impromptu roundtables at the cafe**, like Alan Mycroft, the enthusiastic father of Raspberry Pi who succeeded in bringing fun back into computer science and students back to both schools and playgrounds. Needless to say, Mycroft wishes Korea's education system were less destructive for creativity.
By the way: this country would be a much better place if failures were recognized as an indispensable component of innovation. In the wake of the Sewol tragedy more than ever, we must learn how to learn from our mistakes, instead of just firing people before they accumulate experience.
And let's not deter those who are willing to try, or turn down a 15 year-old because he's 15 year-old. Let's keep in mind that at that ripe age, Jack Andraka invented his 3-cent cancer detector:
|Andraka also called for a democratization of science papers, which should be available for free - knowledge as a human right - twitter.com/theseoulvillage/status/469346406327529473|
|1982, Korea's maiden internet network (the first outside the US). Meet its father, Kilnam Chon, at Seoul Digital Forum. twitter.com/theseoulvillage/status/468913159601152002|
Innovators need to be empowered, though, and that's what Mark Randall loves to do. At Adobe, he pushed the suggestion box to the next level by offering a "Kickbox" to all collaborators willing to develop a pet project. Nothing revolutionary, but a concrete message: we give you a process, some money, total freedom, so that you can give your best. And it works.
In any case, never forget to have fun. Like Guy Hoffman when he improvises on piano with his robot. Hoffman's take at anthropomorphy in robotics is not of the 'creepy' kind, like Hiroshi Ishiguro's*: instead of reaching for the most realistic humanoid, he focuses on human-robot interactions, UI/UX, and particularly body language, a universal, emotionally loaded language that speaks volumes.
Travis, Hoffman's latest cute bot was on stage at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza, for a closer look and a more comprehensive understanding of his work, check his TEDx talk in Jaifa (more videos on his website - http://guyhoffman.com/category/topvideo):
As computers around us keep getting smarter, and as the best brains collaborate to decypher the human brain and make the next computers even smarter***, it's somehow reassuring to see masses embrace a technophobic human relying on his own intellect. But there as well, it takes a lot of work to make your creation look brilliant: "Sherlock" co-author Steven Moffat confessed that neither Benedict Cumberbatch nor himself were superior minds. And I presume that a robotic arm would have certainly come in handy for Moffat's book signing marathon - this waiting line tells a lot about Sherlock's popularity in Korea:
Yes, there were a few dull talks too - but again, failures are part of the innovation process. And the young participants to the first Global Hackathon will learn as much from their failures as from their successes. Maybe the Australian leader of the winning team will even learn to share the stage more gracefully in the future - but he doesn't need that if he's looking for a Job(s).
The 11th edition of SDF is over but, as a famous cyborg said, "I'll be back".
* see "Seoul Digital Forum: Return To The Future"
** I wish I had more time to chat with KIM Sangbae, a MIT expert in biomimetics who does amazing things by learning from geckos, cheetahs, meshworms or cockroaches (check the (vi)vids on http://biomimetics.mit.edu/videos). The following day, in his talk, KIM showed the part of BBC's fascinating 'Meat eaters' with the cheetah, pointing out the position and the role of the tail during the hunt, but what strikes me each time I watch this slow motion masterpiece is the eerie stability of the predator's head, like a Steadicam locked on its prey.
*** looking forward to the findings and applications of the Blue Brain and Human Brain projects (Henry Markram - EPFL)... and to tasting the cherry-mushroom mix recommended by Cognitive Cooking (Rob High - IBM Watson).
SDF 2014, the program:
Wednesday May 21
09:00-09:10 Opening Ceremony & Keynote Address Opening & Congratulatory Remarks
09:10 - 09:30 ‘‘The Beginning of ‘New TIME’”
09:30 - 10:00 [KEY1 ‘Connect’] CHON Kilnam
10:00 - 10:30 [KEY2 ‘Capture’] Luis von AHN
10:50 - 11:10 [KEY3 ‘Resonance’] AN Yongil
11:10 - 11:30 [KEY4 ‘Unprejudiced’] WI Euiseok
11:30 - 11:50 [KEY5 ‘Wear’] Eric FRIEDMAN
12:50 - 13:10 [KEY6 ‘Programmable’] Alan MYCROFT
13:10 - 13:30 [KEY7 ‘Working Together’] Lia NAVARRO
13:30 - 13:50 [KEY8 ‘Borderless’] Tony LYU
13:50 - 14:30 [KEY9 ‘Simply Brilliant’]Alfredo MOSER, Illac DIAZ, Claire RIGBY
15:10 - 15:35 [KEY10 ‘Universal’]Sylvia CHAN-OLMSTED, RHEE June Woong
15:35 - 15:55 [KEY11 ‘Empathy’] Laura and Chris AMICO
16:00 - 16:20 [KEY12 ‘Emotional Innovation’] Kwame FERREIRA
16:20 - 16:40 [KEY13 ‘Understanding’] Simon Seojoon KIM
16:40 - 17:20 [KEY14 ‘Radical Connectivity’] Nicco MELE, YOON Youngchul
Thursday May 22
09:00-09:50 Keynote Address
09:10 - 09:50 [KEY15 ‘Uncommon Sense’] Steven MOFFAT & Sue VERTUE
09:50 - 10:10 [KEY16 ‘Brain-reading’] Henry MARKRAM
10:10 - 10:30 [KEY17 ‘Mind-reading’] Rob HIGH
10:50 - 11:10 [KEY18 ‘Moving Design’] KIM Bongjin
11:10 - 11:30 [KEY19 ‘Cure’] YUN Kyongsik, CHO Dongcharn
11:30 - 12:00 [KEY20 ‘Communication & Reflection’] HWANG Kyung-Sig & SON Wha-Chul
13:20 - 13:40 [KEY21 ‘Bridging by Sharing’] LEE Sangchul
13:40 - 14:00 [KEY22 ‘Creativity Within’] Mark RANDALL
14:00 - 14:20 [KEY23 ‘Unwalled Curiosity’] Jack ANDRAKA
14:20 - 14:40 [KEY24 ‘Seeing without Seeing’] Pete ECKERT
15:10 - 15:30 [KEY25 ‘Truth’] KWON Hyejin
15:30 - 15:50 [KEY26 ‘Learn from Nature’] KIM Sangbae
16:00 - 16:20 [KEY27 ‘A Duet’] Guy HOFFMAN
16:20 - 17:00 [KEY28 ‘Amplify’] Daniel Dae KIM, CHANG Tae You, KIM Younghyun, PARK Sangyean
17:10 - 17:50 [KEY29 ‘Hope’] The 1st Global Hackathon Ceremony (“善 Challenge”)
17:50 - 17:55 Closing Remarks · The End
SDF DeepDive I - Gaming as Illness and Social Remedies by Graduate School of Culture Technology, KAIST (14:30-17:00 Wednesday May 21) - LEE Dongman, SHIN Yee-jin, PARK Juyong, DOH Young Yim, KIM Huy Kang, SONG Gil-young, Jake SONG, LEE Wonjae, Park Jun Hyun, WOO Jae Joon
SDF DeepDive II - The 1st Global Hackathon “善 Challenge”by AppCenter with SBS Foundation (For 4 days & 3 nights Monday-Thursday May 19-22) - 100 contestants from 16 nations
SDF DeepDive III - Master Class for Media Writing: The Formula for Successful Storytellingby Korea TV & Radio Writers Association with SBS Foundation (14:00-18:40 Thursday May 22) - Steven MOFFAT, Ekuni KAORI
Since I've been asked by a good friend what to make of the recent 'post-6-P.M. e-mail ban' in France*, I may as well share my two cents with you.
This agreement between two trade unions and two business federations was signed on April 1st, but is more serious than presented in foreign media, and part of a wider re-negociation of the old "Forfait Jour" framework, a specific working hour plan for executives in fields known for abusive work hours (see Article 4.8.1 "Temps de repos et obligation de deconnection" in the 'Avenant Forfaits Jours'**). This new right to be 'disconnected' during off-work hours is limited to executives in the fields covered by the two signing federations:
- SYNTEC (syntec.fr): engineering, technology, IT/digital services, consulting, surveys, HR, training...
- CINOV (cinov.fr): intellectual services in consulting, engineering, digital.
Note that, typically, the two signing trade unions are rather progressive: the politically agnostic CFE-CGC focuses on executives, while the CFDT follows a social/christian-democratic line. France's biggest trade union, the more 'hardcore' CGT (workers, ties to the French Communist Party), refused to sign the agreement because it didn't apply to all employees in the sector.
From now on, even in very small structures or in groups where no specific systems have been negociated yet, abused employees have something to oppose to their persecutors, and caring employers more leverage to protect overdoing workaholics (NB: 'overdoing workaholics' is not a pleonasm when you need to distinguish workhorses in your stable).
Even with overtime, the French law imposes a minimum of 11 consecutive hours without work every day + 35 hours every week (24 consecutive hours + 11 consecutive hours). The employer, who is responsible for the health, rest, and professional-personal balance of his employees, must make sure that their daily / weekly rest periods are respected. Now employers have also the obligation to provide the possibility to 'unplug' from the company, and employees the obligation to disconnect beyond these limits ("obligation de déconnexion des outils de communication à distance"). This double obligation clearly diminishes the 'guilt factor' and burnout risks, particularly during intense consulting projects, or on startup mode.
So yes, some companies might opt for email bans after 6 P.M. if they fancy, but such radical, one-size-fits-all solutions sound more suitable for 9-to-5 administrations than for internet start-ups.
Overall, the measure looks more preventive than punitive, a deterrent system rather than a coercive law. The text doesn't go into detail because technologies are evolving all the time, and because ultimately it's about humans living well together.
Of course, at the legal level, precedents are bound to happen, some potentially disruptive in very competitive fields... which, combined with the new 75% tax, and the projected multi-billion fine on Google, certainly wouldn't boost start-ups in France!
But as for now, this sounds like a genuine progress. France is simply starting to adapt to our 'always on', 'smartphone slavery' times, and Germany could follow soon.
* see for instance "Updated: The French Move To Protect Workers From After-Hours Email" (FastCompany.com - 20140410), "Mails, SMS, téléphone : Syntec reconnaît le droit des cadres à la déconnexion" (Les Echos - 20140406)
** see for instance:
- the PDF of the CFDT-SYNTEC agreement: "Avenant Relatif a la duree du travail - 1er avril 2014"
- Also on CFDT's website: the focus "Bureaux d'etudes - signature de l'avenant relatif aux forfaits jours" and the press release "Bureaux d'etudes - Des avancees sur les forfaits jours"
- On CINOV's website: "Avenant forfait jours signe".
Facebook added Oculus VR to its portfolio.
The star product is the Oculus Rift headset..
... compared to which Google Glass looks much less autistic...
... but then we're not talking about the same kind of eyewear, human "inter-face", or applications - with Google Glass 1.0 at least.
Besides, Oculus also proposes a Development Kit that captures motion IRL:
Apprehending environments and interactions is key in internet everywhere / internet everywear / internet of things times. Regardless of which devices will prevail when 5G is ready, you want to be at the key entry points, have your say at key standardization levels.
Virtual Reality already enjoys moneymaking applications (e.g. games), and the ecosystem is much more advanced than say holograms, to name another 5Gology darling.
And the nerd factor is sooo Zuckerberg.
"The Next Big Thing Is Almost Here", that's how Samsung Galaxy S5 is announced on Samsung.com US:
Of course, what you read is "The Almost Next Big Thing Is Here". Here? Barcelona, at the 2014 Mobile World Congress.
Analysts seem disappointed by the last generation of the leader's star product, but it simply confirms the long expected commoditization of smartphones. Like computers before, performances will keep improving, and more enablers shall bring interesting changes in the future, but the device itself has reached a plateau for a while.
Even smartwatches and smartwrists have become commodities*: meet Samsung Gear 2, Samsung Gear 2 Neo, and Samsung Gear Fit.
Boring? Not so much: Gear has switched to Tizen, the - of course Linux based - OS propelled by majors who don't want Google and Android to rule, but don't want to resurrect Microsoft or Jobs either. Samsung already launched a Tizen camera last fall, and continues its low-key approach from minor connected accessories...
|This Tizen ain't the world heavyweight champion yet|
I'm waiting for Tizen on a heavyweight boxing ring, not just around a wrist.
Ah, if only Samsung had a iTunes to leverage, that could boost the launch of a Tizen smartphone. And unlike Apple 2007, Samsung 2014 can't afford to launch a technologically imperfect first model...
* MWC confirms CES: see "CES 2014: Beep Beep Goes Bling Bling"
With 450 M active users of one of the most pivotal services - messaging, WhatsApp is already an interesting catch for Facebook. But the best thing about WhatsApp subscribers is that in order to keep the service after the first year, they must pay a fee. Only 99 cents a year for now, but on a messaging platform, you can plug in an infinity of free or paid apps.
How many of these 450 M active users are actually paid subs? Probably much less than the half, since the bulk of the growth has been made over the past 12 months (e.g. 350 M active users back in October 2013). The key question is how many will want to pay knowing that Facebook will be tempted to peek into their messages and somehow monetize stuff. Beyond advertising, off limits according to Facebook; WhatsApp already pledges to bar ads, and Facebook needs new kinds of revenue streams, preferably CtoC or BtoC for a change. I bet that WhatsApp user fora are going to scrutinize any changes in the fine print of privacy and terms...
Business models are one thing, brands and platforms another: they too open up new horizons for Menlo Park at a time when churn rates get worrying.
Today, Google rules with the two most powerful search engines, its main service and YouTube... but both are free. Facebook already raised many eyebrows when it launched its vanity URL service precisely because terms and conditions opened the door to future fees, and a non-free Facebook could be the final straw for many users on the verge of deleting their accounts. Keeping WhatsApp as it is sounds a wiser bet to collect recurrent fees from hundreds of millions of endusers, but wisdom doesn't seem to exist in Zuckerberg's dictionary.
Anyway, the winner is WhatsApp founder Jan Koum: waiting one year before giving in to Facebook's siren calls proved very profitable for him.
Over the past weeks, Samsung buried the hatchet with Ericsson, before signing cross-license agreements with Google, and then Cisco, days after a similar deal between the last two (note that Google sold Motorola to Lenovo in almost the same breath, but this is not about hardware - Big G keeps the bulk of the patent portfolio).
Samsung and Google concluded in their press release ("Samsung and Google Sign Global Patent License Agreement" - 20140127) that "there is more to gain from cooperating than engaging in unnecessary patent disputes". A clear memo to Apple, and food for thought - and juries - ahead of the next bouts in court between Suwon and Cupertino.
|"Samsung and Google are showing the rest of the industry that there is more to gain from cooperating than engaging in unnecessary patent disputes". Follow my eyes...|
Again*, I'm not taking sides here. It's just that I'm interested in innovation dynamics, and that I don't like to see lawyers or finance people set the agenda in that field. Such partnerships don't put them out of the equation, but allow innovators to keep their eyes on the ball.
And key players to prepare for what comes next. 5G standardization, for instance, or the still open internet of things, domains where Google and Samsung don't want to become the Microsoft and Nokia of yesterday, leaders who were supposedly the best positioned for convergence and pervasive internet...
Samsung outqualcommed the Americans for 4G but now, the Korean needs to build a common platform with them and what's left of Europe before China Inc or other players try to claim their own time slot.
Tomorrow won't be about Samsung v. Apple any more than the present is about Microsoft v. Nokia
* see "Apple - the end of the affair" or "Omnipatent v. Impatent"
Very disappointing first day at CES 2014: the long awaited (see "Rise of the Nork Zombies") "Frankenstein Android" and "Headtop iBrain" didn't show up so far.
Following last year's trends*, wearable gizmos keep popping-up, and the screen war between LG and Samsung didn't abate. Now TV giants are not only flexing their muscles, but their screens as well. And if we've already seen "bend it like Koreans" on handsets, with a 85 inch TV, that's quite something:
OK, not as flexible as to wrap you up like a piece of bulgogi in a sesame leaf, but that's a good start.
Nothing distruptive in DreamWorks' DreamTab (not flexible, but for kids who like to move it move it), just another example of how classic smart devices have become commodities:
Smartwear-wise, more show off stuff from Vegas:
|Vuzic V720 video headphones|
|Razer Nabu: not a wedding ring, but a smartwatch that does ring|
|LG Lifeband Touch: earn it, burn calories|
.. and the Killer Melanomapp of the Year Award goes to the Netatmo JUNE, the ultimate bling-bling UV tracker:
I can't wait for the Geiger or Yellow Dust versions, to track exhausts from my North Korean and Chinese neighbors...
Again***, expect more line-blurring between fashion and smartwear from those who look for ways of escaping the commodity market curse.
* see "I see through you: City of Sin, Screens, and Smartpagers" (January 2013)
** except maybe the Kolibree Bluetooth Toothbrush (bluetoothbrush?)
*** see "Apple's Ready to Ware v. Fast-Fashion" (July 2013)
Harald Haas was in Seoul recently, as one might have expected doing some Li-Fi evangelism.
|pureLiFi's moto? |
"Light becomes data"
(which also reads
"data becomes light")
No radio frequency, no spectrum, just a spot, a lamp driver, a receiver (e.g. dongle). A bit like IrDA, only sexier because it works better in the dark.
Unfortunately, it's not long range - even shorter than Wi-Fi. So forget about smart semaphore lights. But it works: last time someone flashed their headlights to my car, I could decrypt their curses.
Following his 2011 TED talk, Haas founded pureLiFi to push the technology OEM. Here's the startup-in-the-garage-style demo:
You may feel like a suspect in a police investigation, but when it comes to grilling, LED light is far less harmful than say Wi-Fi waves. And you can see what happens, be sure that no one will sniff your data from beyond your brick walls. That's the beauty of a Li-Fi Hotspot(light).
We're always excited to see dumb objects get smart, particularly when they surround us, like these plugs that a decade ago promised to transform our electric home network into a smart one. VLC can find countless applications, including where we don't expect them (art, toys), but competition is fiercer than ever among short-medium range technologies.
So Vivendi and SFR shall demerge, and Vincent Bollore replace Jean-Rene Fourtou at the helm of a group more centered on media and contents.
Officially, the idea is to raise the value of both entities by focusing each one on its core business, but demerging also paves the way for separation, and Vivendi presents a bride as pure as possible by keeping the telecom participations it failed to get rid of (Brazil's GVT and Poland's PTC). Maroc Telecom could be sold to Etisalat on time for June 2014 and the shareholders' meeting expected to confirm both the demerger and Bollore's triumph.
So long for Jean-Marie Messier's old dream of convergence? At least, that's the end of Fourtou's last hopes of controlling Bollore, a man who managed to take over with only 5% of the shares*, and who's not exactly known for centering on core businesses: Bollore Group is (among many other) into media, plastics, logistics, palm oil, real estate, electric cars and(!) coal.
This group badly needs a clear long term strategy, but if he's a bit more daring than Jean-Rene Fourtou, Vincent Bollore is not much of a visionary entrepreneur either. Arnaud de Puyfontaine has been drafted from Hearst to manage the core media and content activities, but can he inspire the group, and can the group handle the months ahead, very tricky at the financial and managerial levels?
* his son Yannick led the sale of Bollore Media to Canal+ that brought the bulk of these shares. Now 33 and head of Havas (also a Bollore company), Yannick Bollore is married to a niece of Martin Bouygues, a key rival of both Canal+ and SFR (TF1, Bouygues Telecom...). Note that President Nicolas Sarkozy, a known friend of Bouygues and Bollore, did his best to undermine Canal+ (a rather liberal channel), and even invited Qatar to launch beIN Sport in France (now 1.5 M subscribers thanks to its spectacular aggressiveness in sports rights)...
The mercato is over, and while Vodafone-Verizon clinched a long expected Tottenham-Real Madrid-Garreth-Bale kind of deal, Nokia and Microsoft ended their 1990s rivalry at Intertoto Cup levels.
EUR 3.79 bn for the business units, and EUR 1.65 bn for the patents: that's all Nokia mobiles and their 32,000 employees are worth today. To add insult to injury, the buyer is generous. Microsoft would have dreamed to do just that a decade ago but today, the move sounds like a bitter defeat for two former foes years of decline had already brought close to each other (to the point Nokia's CEO - an aptly named Mr Elop - came from Redmond).
Blackberry should follow soon, but even that won't save Windows Mobile OS. Microsoft will have to leave its incredible shrinking comfort zone, slash royalties, or why not go Home, like Facebook did (a much cheaper mode of diffusion for blue screens).
Of course, the move doesn't disrupt in any way the ecosystem. It only puts more pressure on Steve Ballmer's successor. Google can rest for a little while: these days, neither Apple nor Microsoft seem to have a clue, and software-wise, Samsung remains a gnome. So no major challenges in the short term except themselves, regulators, or a new alternative popping up out of the blue (China could do that, but trust would be an issue).
Skype has turned 10, but where's the hype?
Skype has replaced Windows Live Messenger, but where's the innovation?
Skype has been commoditized, ebayed, microsofted, ballmerized.
The success story has turned into a stupid cash cow, as boring as Windows.
The Estonian start-up into a global PTT of VoIP challenged by smarter, faster players.
At least Steve Ballmer is at long last about to launch a massive product out of Microsoft's comfort zone: himself.
So Tim Cook hired Yves Saint Laurent CEO as Apple's VP of special projects.
So nothing changes: Paul Deneve already knows the company, he used to work there. And it's not about future lines of products (we didn't need Snowden to learn about iWatch, the smartwatch market is already crowded*, and smartwear has been in the air for a decade and a half), but about the future of a brand in mature markets where smartphones, tablets, smartTVs, smartwatches, smartaccessories and smartwear have technologically become commodities.
|Long time no see! Reminds me of the Pinault-Arnault web / telecom / luxury wars of the nineties!|
Apple is used to conceiving articles that sell with a premium, but design itself won't make much difference for the basics. Anyway, Apple is now lagging in design (iPhone 5 < Galaxy 3), and brand loyalty has been decreasing ever since the company stopped delivering genuine innovation, focusing instead on legal battles, shareholder dividends, and shameless customer retention techniques leveraging purely on proprietary hardwares or softwares**.
Apple needs to revamp itself, to reinvent itself as a leader, and to stretch the brand umbrella beyond its now usual markets in terms of products and services, consumers, distribution channels... without destroying the most valuable parts of its DNA.
Apple won't shrink down to Nokia's Vertu, or even to the equivalent of 'masstige' fashion brands. But it will have to sustainably justify higher price tags.
Of course, differenciation in mature markets remains a much tougher challenge for Samsung.
BTW the company disbanded its strategic foresight unit yesterday: they didn't come up with successful suggestions for new businesses.
At least the family is already familiar with many markets, ranging from top luxury to fast-fashion...
* e.g. "I see through you: City of Sin, Screens, and Smartpagers"
** e.g. "Anovations for Applelatres: Apple has lost its compass", "Omnipatent v. Impatent", "Apple - the end of the affair"...
Up to 150 Mbps? Not bad for a mobile network. That's twice the speed of my old 4G, and we call it 4G LTE-Advanced.
SK Telecom just announced* a launch for July in Seoul, a world first at the commercial level. Russia's Yota did do something last december, but the Korean operator has the handset to go with the network: the Samsung's Galaxy S4 LTE-A.
On SKT's T world shop, this SHV-E330S_32GR sells for KRW 954,800 (USD 826):
Customers will enjoy new services or rather richer / fuller ones: faster, with more splitscreens (up to 6), more HD... and they won't pay a premium for the Advanced speed. For their new, improved, and advanced usages? That could be a different story...
Coverage-wise, SKT plans progressively adapt 20,000 base stations and reach 84 cities, which should mean at least 75% of the population if the said cities are fully covered.
Speed is expected to increase even more next year, when Enhanced Inter-Cell Interference Coordination (eICIC) is ready. For the moment, we'll have to do with "Advanced minus" stuff: Carrier Aggregation (CA) and Coordinated Multi Point (CoMP). It may sound trivially geeky, but for the enduser experience to be as seamless as possible, algorithms do make a difference, particularly in HetNet environments (more geek lingua, this time for Heterogeneous Networks).
Now is this 4.5G, 4.66G, or 4.75G? That's marketing. And not yet 5G. "New generation" usually means new spectrum / new licenses.
Like pornography, you'll know it's 5G when you see it. Particularly if you're in the finance department.
* see PR release today: "SK텔레콤, 2배 빠른 LTE 세계 최초 상용화"
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.
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.