Mobile

China mobile

Monday, 21 July, 2014 0 Comments

Earlier today, Reuters reported that for the first time ever, more people in China access the web on a mobile device as opposed to a PC. According to the China Internet Network Information Center, of the 632 million internet users in China, 83 percent (527 million) used a mobile phone or tablet to do so. Money quote: “The fastest growing services were mobile payment, where users shot up 63.4 percent, online banking, with a 56.4 percent rise, and mobile travel booking, which was up 65.4 percent.”

Noteworthy stat: China is the world’s biggest smartphone market, and by 2018 is likely to account for nearly one-third of the expected 1.8 billion smartphones shipped then.


In the civilized company of the newsosaur

Sunday, 16 March, 2014 0 Comments

Last year, the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University reported that 55 percent of individuals under 35 preferred digital media as their primary news source, as compared with 5 percent in the same age category who preferred print. Last week, eMarketer predicted that UK mobile advertising spending will top £2 billion […]

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Does capitalism work? Ask Jan Koum.

Thursday, 20 February, 2014 2 Comments

Jan Koum was born in 1977 and raised in a small village outside of Kiev. The family home had no electricity or hot water and his parents rarely talked on the phone in case it was tapped by the state. At 16, Koum and his mother immigrated to the US, where she took up babysitting and he swept the floor of a grocery store to help make ends meet. When his mother was diagnosed with cancer, they lived off her disability allowance. When she died in 2000, the young Ukrainian was alone in America; his father had died in 1997. He taught himself computer networking by buying manuals from a used book store and returning them when he was done. He got a job a Yahoo but in his LinkedIn profile, he unenthusiastically describes his time there with the words, “Did some work.”

He left in September 2007 and spent a year traveling around South America. On his return, he applied, and failed, to find work at Facebook. In January 2009, he bought an iPhone and realized that the seven-month old App Store was about to generate a whole new industry of apps. His thinking was it would be cool to have a free messaging app where the login was your own phone number. Koum chose the name WhatsApp because it sounded like “What’s up,” and a week later on his birthday, 24 February 2009, he incorporated WhatsApp Inc. in California. Yesterday, Jan Koum signed the $19 billion Facebook deal paperwork on the door of his old welfare office in Mountain View, California. (Photo courtesy of Jan Koum)

Jan Koum


Farewell, then, Nokia

Tuesday, 3 September, 2013 0 Comments

At the height of the NSA hysteria, the usual suspects reheated their arguments for a “European Google”, which would, somehow, save us from the big, bad Americans. Nobody fell for it, though, as everyone knows that the “European Google” idea/scam is predicated on sucking billions of euros into “research” in France and Germany, which will never produce a search engine, never mind a European Google. Now that Microsoft has acquired Nokia’s devices and services business, we can expect demands for a European phone maker. But that train has finally left the Finland station and it’s not coming back.

The year Apple launched the iPhone, 2007, was Nokia’s best-ever year: it sold 436 million handsets — nearly 40 percent of the total purchased worldwide. (Its nearest competitor, Motorola, sold 164 million.) That was then. In the first quarter of this year, Nokia shipped 61.9 million handsets, but Samsung shipped 112.8 million and is on track to reach the 500-million milestone. Poor old Motorola shifted a mere 3.9 million units in Q1 2013.

In April last year, Nokia introduced the Lumia 900, which prompted Nicholas Thompson, writing in the New Yorker, to speculate on “The Resurrection Of Nokia?” He declared: “The cell-phone market could use another competitor. It probably won’t be Research in Motion, which appears set on hara-kiri. But Nokia and Microsoft are genuinely trying to recapture the magic of that old N95.” Strike Nokia there. It’s all Microsoft now.

In early 2001, Rainy Day became the proud owner of a vivid red Nokia 3330 and it fended off all competitors until Steve Jobs reimagined the phone business. No one today can say that Nokia didn’t have fair warning of its fate.

Nokia to Apple


Apple ate the BlackBerry

Wednesday, 14 August, 2013 0 Comments

In the New Yorker, Vauhini Vara muses upon “How BlackBerry Fell“. She mentions the real reason early in the piece. (Hint: It’s a five-letter word beginning with “A”):

“Shares in the Canadian maker of BlackBerry smartphones peaked in August of 2007, at two hundred and thirty-six dollars. In retrospect, the company was facing an inflection point and was completely unaware. Seven months earlier, in January, Apple had introduced the iPhone at San Francisco’s Moscone Center. Executives at BlackBerry, then called Research in Motion, decided to let Apple focus on the general-use smartphone market, while it would continue selling BlackBerry products to business and government customers that bought the devices for employees. ‘In terms of a sort of a sea change for BlackBerry,’ the company’s co-C.E.O Jim Balsillie said at the time, referring to the iPhone’s impact on the industry, ‘I would think that’s overstating it.'”

Yummy! Blackberries Vara adds: “BlackBerry, of course, wasn’t the only company that made the mistake of ignoring the iPhone and the revolution it portended: engineers at Nokia, which, years earlier, had introduced a one-pound smartphone, dismissed the iPhone because, among other reasons, it failed to pass a test in which phones were dropped five feet onto concrete over and over again, the Wall Street Journal reported last year. Microsoft C.E.O. Steve Ballmer actually laughed at the iPhone. ‘It doesn’t appeal to business customers because it doesn’t have a keyboard,’ he said. Nokia and Microsoft, which are now building smartphones in partnership with each other, have, like BlackBerry, seen their share of the market shrink.”

Long before Vauhini Vara came to this conclusion, John Gruber identified the rot at the heart of RIM. On 9 May 2008, he wrote “BlackBerry vs. iPhone” and nailed it beautifully here: “RIM doesn’t really have any lock-in other than user habits. The BlackBerry gimmick is that it works with the email system your company bought from Microsoft. Replace a BlackBerry with an iPhone (2.0) and the messages, contacts, and calendar events that sync over the network will be the same as the ones on the BlackBerry you just tossed into a desk drawer.”

RIP RIM.


Mobile phone moment in Milan

Sunday, 4 August, 2013 0 Comments

“Franco Ferrarotti, a sociologist at the University of Sapienza in Rome, also believes that the Italian overuse of the phones stems from a national passion for verbal communication. But he said it was abetted by a flair for deception. ‘Lying is a Mediterranean art form,’ he told the Rome daily Il Messaggero. The cell phone […]

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An app a day

Thursday, 20 June, 2013 0 Comments

Nowadays, a 50,000-page library of medical reference books can be converted into an app that occupies about 1GB of space on a mobile device. Some of the most popular apps being used by doctors in the field are drug databases and reference guides that deliver critical clinical information to their fingertips. Among the makers of such apps is Skyscape Inc., which licenses content from medical publishers. It’s an expanding space.


May Day is mobile in Vietnam

Wednesday, 1 May, 2013 0 Comments

This time last year, Hanoi experienced the hottest day of 2012, with a high of 39°C and oppressive humidity. The people of Vietnam endured their May Day stoically, however, because they’re used to oppression. Hundreds of dissidents are in prison for challenging the one-party rule of the Communist Party. No independent media is allowed, pro-democracy blogs are banned, protests are forbidden and civil rights activists face constant harassment and persecution.

May Day in Vietnam

Yesterday marked the 38th anniversary of the fall of Saigon and the withdrawal of US troops from Vietnam, but the vocal anti-war protesters of the 1960s and ’70s never speak out about what’s happening in the country today and neither do they demonstrate to help make Vietnam a freer country, like they so passionately professed to care about four decades ago. Still, there is hope. Access to independent sources of information is expanding rapidly thanks to the mobile phone, which is the ultimate status symbol, and people seem to be connected all the time. Texting while zipping around on the ubiquitous motorbikes is routine and answering phones while driving or in meetings is commonplace. If you want a SIM card, and thus a new number, just hand over a few dollars on a Hanoi street. No photo ID is required. All this suggests that the iron grip of the Party cannot endure forever. A May Day might yet come when the people of Vietnam are truly free.


Fingered speech

Tuesday, 5 March, 2013 0 Comments

One of the specialties of radical thinker and linguist John McWhorter is how the grammar of languages changes as the result of socio-historical phenomena, such as the pervasive use of mobile phones. Texting is a kind of writing like talking, says McWhorter, who calls it “fingered speech”.


The mobile world economy

Monday, 4 March, 2013 0 Comments

Let’s start with a definition of “subscriber“. In the mobile phone business the term is used to refer to a person who has an account with a mobile network carrier. People are called subscribers because they subscribe to the carrier’s mobile phone services.

When it comes to subscriber numbers, the statistics are breathtaking. Last year, the worldwide number of mobile subscribers reached 3.2 billion. One billion subscribers were added in the last four years, alone. The four-billion subscriber mark will be passed in 2018 and by then, 80 percent of the global population will be connected via a mobile device. All this, and much, much more can be found at “The Mobile Economy“, which was compiled by AT Kearney for the GSM Association.


RIM has gone south and will go East

Monday, 28 January, 2013 0 Comments

On Wednesday, in New York City, Research in Motion (RIM) will present the first phones based on its all-new BlackBerry 10 operating system (OS). Given the company’s near-death experience in recent years, these devices will be RIM’s most important products since the first BlackBerry was released in 1999. Since then, 200 million of the devices have been shipped. So Wednesday is a now-or-never moment for “Canada’s signature technology company“, as The Globe and Mail calls it.

Those who know the mobile business say that RIM has left it too late. Its tragedy was the complete denial of the need for a new OS following the introduction of the iPhone in 2007. Six years on, all is changed, “changed utterly“, as the poet said, and the real story now is about who’ll get which cut when the cooked Canadian goose is carved up.

“We are looking at all opportunities — RIM and many others,” Lenovo chief financial officer Wong Wai Ming told Bloomberg. “We’ll have no hesitation if the right opportunity comes along that could benefit us and shareholders.”

But maybe Samsung will pounce. The Koreans have shiploads of money and by buying RIM they’d acquire useful patents and, critically, a foot in the door of the enterprise market. However, if BlackBerry 10 turns out to be good, Sony, which makes excellent hardware, might be keen to get the kind of software that would allow it to become a serious player in the mobile business. RIM has gone south and the prediction here is that it will go East.