Links of the day

Hip Young Thing – nice collection of design, great source of inspiration for ideas

Information outlaws through the ages – CultureLab – New Scientist

The Pitch HK: Chui Sui Central: China’s Gen Y brand sirens

Air New Zealand reveals new lie-flat design for economy class | Upgrade: Travel Better – I’d like to see how this plays out before booking one for myself

Benevolent hackers poke holes in e-banking – 29 January 2010 – New Scientist

Out and about: Tsui Wah Restaurant, Central District, Hong Kong

Tsui Wah is a regular sight here in Hong Kong with 13 branches around the place. It provides good quality food at a reasonable price. It has a menu that covers Chinese dishes, Malaysian curries and western food.

Tsui Wah restaurant Wellington Street Central Hong Kong

Vegetarians are catered for too, I enjoyed a nice vegetable curry with a fried egg and rice. However, my personal favourites from the menu are its milk tea made with Black & White condensed milk and strong enough to stand your spoon up in together with toasted bun covered in condensed milk.

The ambiance is a mix of US diner and a canteen, with the chefs cooking in an open ‘short order’-style kitchen and busy waiting staff who keep the service snappy.

Tsui Wah Restaurant
Ground – 2nd Floor
15-19 Wellington Street
Hong Kong

Jargon Watch: MAVINS

Goldman Sachs was widely credited with coming up with the concept of the BRICs a decade ago. An acronym for Brazil, Russell, India and China – the countries that they thought would be the economic engines of the world.

Business Insider has thought about who would be the tier two countries who are most likely to benefit from the global economy. In a partial homage to the BRICs, they put them together into an acronym: MAVINS. MAVINS stands for Mexico, Australia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Nigeria and South Africa. All of them have an abundance that gives them competitive advantage, be it resources, land or people.

SALE: don’t believe the hype

My Mum loves a bargain and looks forward to sales at her local stores. Like many people she thinks that some stores may put in special stock that they have shipped in to sell especially at this time amongst items that have just not sold. Allied Carpets was often the butt of jokes for its never-ending sales, but thought of as the exception rather than the norm.

Sale basket in Shenzhen

A friend here in Shenzhen got this basket from a market here. The markets are usually full of production overruns and samples. What I found interesting about this item was that it had a UK sale tag attached.It reads £29.99  £19.99 SALE.

My initial reaction was how can it be reduced if it hasn’t even reached the shopfloor yet? It was an interesting proof-point of how retailers play customers as chumps. By all means enjoy bargain hunting but don’t believe the SALE hype.

Links of the day iPad – I am torn – too big for mobile casual usage. – interesting take by Christian Lindholm on the iPad collective fashion consciousness.

Privacy pioneer search engine launches anonymous surfing service | Pinsent Masons LLP

Anatomy of a Stock | Aitken | Waterman production – interesting insight from a sound engineering perspective

The best health apps for your iPhone | The Guardian

Countdown on the traffic lights

Countdown on the traffic lights, originally uploaded by renaissancechambara.

One of the most interesting things I found during my time in Shenzhen was the concept of time and traffic congestion. Waiting at a traffic lights is a time for catching up on reading, making phone calls, sending text messages or returning emails. Hands-free kits are the exception rather than the norm and dead time is wasted time on the road so the traffic lights have a countdown timer letting you know how much time you have to wait; and once the lights are green how much time you have to get across the junction.

Talking iPads

I was chatting about the iPad after catching up with the news that happened overnight my time. One viewpoint i found particularly interesting.

“An iPad would be good for a woman. It is small, stylish, easy and light to carry, you don’t need to bring a laptop with you travelling any more; you can just pop this in your back. I may get rid of my MacBook Pro; get an iPad and use my iMac at home.”

Is the iPad a big girl’s laptop? Secondly, will it cannibalise the Mac notebook market? I for one will be sticking with my 13″ MacBook Pro, but will it be the same for more casual users?

I found the accessories a bit disappointing: the keyboard doesn’t look particularly portable and the case just doesn’t look that “Apple-ly”.  One thing I am absolutely certain of however is that the iPad will not save print media titans.

Dang Gao (cake)

Dang Gao (cake), originally uploaded by renaissancechambara.

Just because.

I like: Google ceramic takeaway cup

Google’s corporate store has a version of the Fujifilm plug adaptor that is much cheaper than the Fuji one. Whilst I was browsing on there, I came across this mug which I thought was a really sweet design.

Google takeaway mug

Though it looks like a throw-away coffee cup. It is actually a double wall ceramic mug with a silicone lid, I saw a similar unbranded cup in Emoi. More information here.

The electric scooter

Electric scooter, originally uploaded by renaissancechambara.

These are probably the scariest things that you are likely to encounter in China. They are fast enough to be dangerous, but slow enough to be annoying for other road users. They make no sound so pedestrians can’t hear them coming.

It doesn’t pay to be green in this case.

Links of the day

Reckoning with Chinese Gen Y – BusinessWeek – interesting take on how consumer behaviour in China is and isn’t changing

American Science & Surplus : Items Just Off the Truck – design and kitsch ideas here

How US consumer spending is changing – McKinsey Quarterly – long lasting conservative consumption patterns

Japan’s luxury shoppers move on – McKinsey Quarterly – luxury brands suffer as consumers develop their own style and other brands compete on quality and value with them

Common Currency Woes: European Union Sees Threats to the Euro – SPIEGEL ONLINE – News – International – ‘many analysts are now warning that it may be in for a long slide. Some are even concerned that the cohesiveness of the euro zone might be endangered altogether — with the European Union itself chief among the worry-warts’

A consumer paradigm for China – McKinsey Quarterly – Economic Studies – Country Reports – interesting stuff here on the Chinese marketplace

The myth of the Sony ‘kill switch’ – Telegraph – you couldn’t make this up if you wanted to

Economics backs net neutrality, say researchers | Pinsent Masons LLP
Macro-lighting source – Brando have done a great job with this cheapy cheap ring flash for macro-photography

TMT WALLETS – interesting product design which reminds me of Rhinoskin in the early noughties, in terms of the product ethos

BBC – A History of the World – Object Gallery – I love this new site by the BBC and The British Museum. Great way of visually presenting history

Communities Dominate Brands: Major milestone has passed, over half of internet access is now from mobile (says Nokia) – interesting numbers, would love to know how it breaks out by region etc

Nokia sets Maps free – this was a long time coming, however if the maps are on the handset rather than in the cloud it could be a boon for roaming charges

Music industry meltdown – post-Midem blog post by Forrester Research – ‘Value chains are shifting. The music industry will have to look more and more to new entrants as business partners. The good news is that brands and product strategists expect to invest more money in digital music in 2010 than they did in 2009’

McDonald’s Texas Burger | Japan Probe – I can’t understand the phenomena of McDonalds in Japan, but apparently these are doing crazy business: thanks to Junko for sharing

Apple financials

I caught up with the Apple Inc. earnings announcement first thing this morning my time. I found it nigh impossible to get a quarter-on-quarter comparison mainly because the media weren’t sure what the numbers meant with the accounting change so just went with the big topline number. That overseas now counts for almost 60 per cent of Apple sales didn’t surprise me.

In the UK, I have anecdotal evidence of increasing Mac adoption. Even longtime PROs who had worked on the Microsoft business and ‘knew’ the Windows advantage inside out had succumbed.

The iPhone seems to be much more prevalent in Shenzhen with consumers than the Tim Cook numbers indicate, mainly because of Hong Kong grey market imports; though there is also no shortage of shanzhai devices on offer if you care to look. The story is pretty much the same with Mac laptops. The illuminated logo on the lid is becoming a more common site, compared to the last time I was in China and Hong Kong.

Tablet form factor: don’t believe the hype

The first sets of coverage from the Consumer Electronics Show had a wide range of companies including Motorola, Microsoft, NVIDIA and H-P all have been talking up the tablet form-factor. However there also needs to be a bit of reality sprinkled in amongst the hype. So here is my contribution:

  • Touch-typing is becoming more common rather than less common as younger people have learned how to touch type in school. Virtual keyboards just aren’t as good as a well-designed electro-mechanical keyboard with positive feedback. In comparison hand-writing software is slower to use. Working on the Palm account I got really handy with their Grafitti-I written language after having done demo-after-demo. Palm went off the boil when it brought out the Grafitti-II written language to try and get around a patent case which they eventually won anyway. Even with these mad skillz handwriting didn’t trump typing speeds
  • Batteries are still relatively inefficient and kick out a good deal of heat. My iPhone seldom lasts on a full day’s charge and can get quite warm. LED backlighting can help the screens power consumption. However the touch screen mechanism, accelerometers, memory, connectivity and processing all consume a good deal of power
  • The clamshell of a laptop gives the screen at least some protection in comparison to the slate design. Ironically it also helps putting the screen in an ergonomic viewing position
  • Electronic ink doesn’t do colour all that well but that may well be dealt with sooner rather than later

Interesting consumer health advertising campaign

Whilst traveling on Hong Kong’s MTR service I noticed an advert for some sort of baby food-related product from Wyeth. The reason why I sound a bit vague at this point is that I can’t read or speak any Chinese dialect.

The one bit of the advert that stood out for me was a brief clip at the end of the video being screened where a search box appeared and ‘biofactors’ was typed in.

I got back home and tried the search term using Google’s Hong Kong search engine front page , I have taken a screenshot of the SERP (search engine results page) below. Wyeth used Google Adwords to get the number one paid position on the page.

biofactors Google SERP

Clicking on this link takes you through to a local product site.

Wyeth Gold product site

This approach had a number of advantages:

  • Wyeth was able to maximise brand engagement with consumers who had seen the ad, by giving them just one thing to remember: the search term
  • Wyeth is able to use the search click-through rate as a proxy for the brand recall, efficiency and effectiveness of the adverts
  • Wyeth was able to have a cost-effective online advertising strategy by narrowing down the list of keywords which they needed to bid against and make the maximum use of a low value keyword rather than higher-priced generic words