That's what I gathered listening to his State Of The Union speech : the POTUS said he wanted to focus on Jobs and to help the country cruise safely through this painful iPeriod.
Google decided to risk all its China operations in a public* stand-up against local censorship and repression but at this stage, it's hard to tell whether Mountain View acts as a proxy to prevent a major clash between Washington and Beijing, or to the contrary as a courageous whistleblower exposing a major crisis up to now contained by both diplomatic teams. Or is it simply good PR because the cover-up couldn't last much longer anyway ?
The crisis ? A massive cyberattack from China last December, against Google and "at least twenty other large companies from a wide range of businesses--including the Internet, finance, technology, media and chemical sectors". As far as Big G is concerned, they "we have evidence to suggest that a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists," but (in substance) our systems proved once against their infallibility and if a few activists were eventually phished, it was outside of China and only because of their carelessness so at the end of the day we're pretty sure no good guy is rottening in one of their terrible "black jails" or worse because of us...
... but this is definitely getting a bit too far. And Google is under enough pressure in the West these days... so avoiding a major blunder in the East could be wise, even if it means making less business there... So. "We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China."
This noble deed fairy tale even includes a footnote reminding us accepting censorship in the first place was some kind of "discomfort" for Google. "At the time we made clear that "we will carefully monitor conditions in China, including new laws and other restrictions on our services. If we determine that we are unable to achieve the objectives outlined we will not hesitate to reconsider our approach to China.""
Right now, Google China's future in the Middle Empire does look rather gloomy. China will have to give some sort of indirect answer**, arrest some fake culprit or whatever, but it is even less likely to concede to a foreign company than to a foreign country.
Is this good news for human rights in China ? Yes and no : Beijing may enjoy an even stronger direct control on the internet.
Will Google prevail in the long term in China ? As Zhou Enlai said about some other major disruption : too early to tell.
* see "A new Approach to China" (Official Google Blog - 20010112)
** ** even if being caught red-handed is not a crime in communist China
Since our last update last August (see "IPTV in Korea: an update"), Korea's IPTV market has almost tripled and is claiming 1.729 M subscribers EOY 2009 :
KT : 1,010,000 subs (58.4% market share vs 46% in July)
SKT : 403,000 (MS: 23.3% vs 22%)
LGT : 316,000 (MS: 18.2% vs 32%)
Even if all 3 players can leverage on their mobile bases, mobile leader SKT is not reducing the gap with KT, who benefits from an earlier start in / a better culture of convergence. Furthermore, SKT's "T" brand lags behind to the popular "Cook + Show" package in fun factor (reminder : Show is KT's 3G W-CDMA brand and Cook it's nth umbrella brand for fixed line services). LG Telecom is unfortunately more successful in converging towards its own mobile market share (around 16%).
But LGT's IPTV base keeps growing, and the group (via LG DaCom) remains the leader in the (also at last) booming VoIP market (sce Yonhap) :
LGT : 71.1% market share EOY 2008 (1.202 M subs), 42.7% EOY 2009 (2.140 M), 26.9% over 2009 (net gain : + 0.938 M)
KTF : 19.4% market share EOY 2008 (0.328 M subs), 32.9% EOY 2009 (1.700 M), 39.4% over 2009 (net gain : + 1.372 M)
SKT : 9.5% market share EOY 2008 (0.160 M subs), 33.6% EOY 2009 (1.330 M), 33.6% over 2009 (net gain : + 1.170 M)
Total : 5.17 M vs 1.69 M (+ 3.48 M)
Cablecos must wonder what Korea's 3 MNOs will leave to them EOY 2010 (KT boasted only 16,000 IPTV customers EOY 2008). On the other hand, MNO success in fixed access may help M-VNO candidates (such as Onse Telecom, as we saw earlier) make their cases.
It's CES time again and ahead of the show, Google and Apple have warmed up the audience*, Palm afficionados braced themselves for a new Pre-view, and HDTV confirmed it's dispositions to grow smarter and 3D.
But I'd like to get back to what's happening in Korea right now. Following iPhone's successful launch ("iPhone rocks Seoul and sacred cows"), both SK Telecom and KT are left without decent app stores of their own. We saw how SKT relied too timidly on the Samsung Omnia, but KT didn't play it smart either, stuck in the iPhone trap : on one hand you want to optimize your ROI in the Apple partnership, on the other you need to grow you own ecosystem and avoid the iPhone dependence. And which model do you think KT proposed as a plan B ? The same Omnia.**
SK Telecom started the new year with a higher profile : it's both high time to turn the WIPI page and the best moment to build Korea's leading platform against Apple. Android got the regulatory nod and ahead of the commercial launch, SKT proposed a "T-Store Application Contest" to developpers (reward : KRW 40 M or about USD 35.3 k).
The first Android device will be a Motorola (in February), but 11 other handsets are planned by EOY 2010, mostly from Korean manufacturers, who cannot afford lagging behind any longer : beyond Korea, they target China, where a big chunk of 2010-2011 smartphone market shares will be taken (even in case of a probable second dip). US (Motorola) and Taiwan (HTC) won't wait for Korea Inc.
It's not just about Samsung and LG : the whole ecosystem needs to catch up, and the future of many Taehangno service providers and start-ups depends on their ability to ride the next wave. SK Telecom can recover its mojo if it acts as a smart and swift leader. Again.
* the former going at iPhone's throat with his Nexus One, the latter preparing a counteroffensive into Big G's mobile advertising dreamland (Quattro Wireless will fill a gap in Cupertino's portfolio).
** note that the iPhone-Omnia battle has recently shifted in favor of Samsung : if more than 240,000 iPhones have been sold so far, Omnia is now leading in daily sales. Very much like the lack of 3G played against Apple during its 2007 launch, rivals pointed out the lack of connectivity (WiFi but moreover and as expected DMB), but also dramatized the fact that you cannot replace batteries with an iPhone. Seeding doubt in consumer minds done, more positive messages could start passing. For instance, Omnia's DivX player more often mentioned.
mot-bile 2010 - Skype stole part of the Google show : if the Nexus One was already yesterday's news*, Skype is tomorrow's.
Because coming up this spring, Panasonic and LG internet-connected HDTVs will have Skype inside**.
OK. We're not talking major innovation there. Only smart bundling. And for the moment, it's either Skype or TV, so forget about chatting while watching a program, for instance a soccer game (heard the news ? there's a World Cup this year). But it should help videophony get a boost, and internet TV become as mainstream as it should be.
Next thing you know, some may reconsider using at home that other always on screen of theirs, a much more personal yet smaller and costlier one.
Former Skype owners eBay were left at the gate, but I'm sure they - among others - would love to take a shot at home shopping networks. Anyway, expect in a very near future more familiar logos sticked on every internet HDTV.
* see "Google Phone at hand, no kindling".
ADDENDUM 20100105 : on the official Google blog, Mario Queiroz, VP of Product Management
developped "Our new approach to buying a mobile phone" (or rather "superphones")
"through a new, simple online web store from Google".
** see Skype video on "Get Skype on your TV" (Skype - 20100105)