What does technology adoption really mean?

I have been spending a bit of time with the family over the Christmas period and as the Carroll family CTO. Reading some of the statistics out there about technology adoption got me thinking whilst I was doing my role as CTO. In my role as family CTO I had my work cut out for me. My first task on Christmas morning was to recover their Apple ID so that the iPad could be used effectively.
Old 2.0

Their mobile communications needs pose a far thornier problem for me and I have been given some thought to my parents and their battered feature phones.

The problem that I have is that its getting increasingly difficult to get them the kind of phone that they want:

  • Focused on voice
  • Really simple-to-use SMS
  • Good haptic feedback (just like what real buttons do)
  • Something that can be easily locked
  • Something that can be obtained SIM-free
  • Something that is physically robust
  • Something that I can troubleshoot easily

It is a tough call. I have been down this route before. I gave them my old Palm Treo 650 a number of years ago and it got them thinking about digital photography, but it failed as a phone. It’s failures were:

  • Being too complicated
  • Providing too many choices
  • Having too confusing a keyboard

The software was also buggy as hell, but I could trouble shoot any problems they had from my memory of using it a few years before they got their hands on it. The Treo 650 eventually gave up the ghost as the family digital camera, to be replaced by the iPad. My friends who have managed to get their parents using Weixin/WeChat on a mobile phone are not particularly good case studies for what I need to do. There is an absolute unwillingness to have phones with a data package: it is hard for them to understand the vagaries of the mobile phone company tariffs; email is something that they can pick up at home. They never hit the wall on their data allowance from the ISP so it never occurs as a consideration to them.

There is also something about the iPad which means it is accepted as something different to a complex smartphone device and more accepted despite the similar pictures-under-glass interface.

Instead a market stall provided a Samsung feature phone with a late Series 40-esque interface which pushes the envelope in terms of my Dad’s comfort level using it. Meanwhile my Mum soldiers on with an old Nokia. My immediate gut reaction is to go to eBay and pick up something like the Nokia 225 or a Samsung Solid Immerse GT-B2710 for the both of them.

I know other people who have faced similar conundrums and have gone with a Windows Phone (it fails my spec because I wouldn’t be able to troubleshoot it for them), but the tiles front page presents what could be a senior-friendly experience in their eyes.  The shy and retiring Tomi Ahonen got hold of some Nokia data looking at phone activations and was both astonished and angry. Roughly a third of Nokia Lumia phones which went out form the factories were never activated. His theory was that a combination of high handset failure rate, unsold inventory from the messy switch over to Windows Phone 8 and possible channel stuffing might be involved.

I don’t know what might justify a 26 million handset short fall, but I could imagine an appreciable amount of them might be due to people using a smartphone as a feature phone. Not having a data plan, being perfectly happy for a phone to be a phone. Is a smartphone still a smartphone if its used as a feature phone?

Extending this analogy further, a large amount of ‘smart TVs’ are now being sold and being touted as the new, new thing in terms of internet eyeballs. Web TV isn’t particularly new as an idea, Combining the web in a TV format has been going since at least the mid-1990s when Steve Perlman founded what would later become MSN TV.

We know that a large amount of homes are buying TVs that are smart, but how do they use them? Are they just using them for the delivery of Apple TV like services; a cable box over IP or are they doing ‘lean forward’ activity one would expect of a smart TV like email, Facebook updates and the like?

I suspect most smart TVs are video delivery mechanisms and that’s pretty much it, are they then really smart? All of this may sound like semantics, but they could feed into the decisions of advertisers, in terms of platforms and creative execution. They are also likely to feed back into product management in the the consumer electronics sector, where TV makers enjoy (if thats the right word) razor-thin margins.

From an information security point-of-view, how would you explain to smart TV owners with ‘dumb TV’ usage patterns that their set may be at risk of being hacked and how they should spend money to protect themselves. A worst case scenario maybe a Sony Bravia (or other manufacturers for that matter) bot army of TVs may never be shut down because consumer apathy to the perceived security risk.

More information
Bizarre Stat of the Day: Microsoft (and Nokia) have only achieved 50M Lumia activations? Seriously? Out of 76M shipments? What happened to the other 26M? Seriously! Tossed into garbage by retail? | Communities Dominate Brands

Links of the day | 在网上找到

MPAA Considered Pulling Out of UK Pirate Notice Program | TorrentFreakBoth Vaizey and Luke felt that if notices only started going out in the months preceding the May 2015 general election that would be an unwelcome development. A delay on notice-sending until the fall of 2015 was preferred all round

Personal tracking and online identity – 31C3 – from the CCC conference watch this and have a serious think about the quantified self etc

Xiaxue.blogspot.com – Everyone’s reading it.: The Big Gushcloud Exposé – interesting Singapore blogger ad network spat

How the Graft Crackdown is Rippling Through China’s Economy | WSJ – (paywall)

The Battle for Space | Slate – really interesting overview of space technology

Apple expands its social presence with new iTunes Tumblr blog | 9to5Mac – social publishing

The tao of Lei Jun, founder of Xiaomi | Techinasia – interesting model and a bit of a dick

Morgan Stanley Analysts Try GoPro, Discover Their Lives Are Boring | WSJ – just brilliant (paywall)

Google eyes Android to be built directly into cars | Shanghai Daily – is it ready for this?

The ten most popular posts of 2014

First of all thank you for having visited my site this year, I thought I would revisit  what posts were most popular on here this year.

  1. The WhatsApp | Facebook post (part I) – On February 20, I woke up to find out that Facebook had acquired OTT messenger service Whatsapp for an apparently very large sum. I wrote two posts that day which tried to make sense of what was happening. I drafted the posts in a franchise Starbucks on the edge of the A41. If I had to sum up this post in one word it would be gobsmacked. You can read part II here
  2. Throwback gadget: Apple iPod hi-fi – my throwback gadget posts I write seem to do very well on an ongoing basis. I had a new old stock unit in storage which I brought out of storage and pressed into use when I moved back to the UK and wrote about what attracted me to this system. It seems to have a marmite reputation even amongst Apple fan boys
  3. The WhatsApp | Facebook post (part II) – part two of my analysis for the Whatsapp / Facebook acquisition came together later that morning after a Facebook and WeChat conversation with my friend Calvin Wong. I started to think about the why of the purchase in more detail
  4. Throwback gadget: Nokia E90 Communicator – Ironically for someone who maybe perceived for being digitally forward, I miss having a proper keyboard that I can still slip in a (Carhartt) jacket pocket. My ode to the E90 got picked up by Tomi Ahonen and the rest as they say was history
  5. On smart watches, I’ve decided to take the plunge – At the beginning of October I decided to experiment using a smart watch. This was the first of a couple of posts that outlined my thought process and what I found out through using the Casio G-Shock G+ watch
  6. Jargon watch: app constellation – I started off what I thought was a pretty straightforward post and got to be a bit of handful in the end. I went down the rabbit hole looking at the different app constellations rolled out by the worlds major internet companies. The research was manageable, but editing the HTML on the table turned turned out to be more of a handful than I expected
  7. The Apple Watch post – I stayed up to watch Apple’s messy online presentation of the Apple Watch. Whilst I was impressed by the technical expertise, I was unimpressed by the likely customer experience and was struck by the obvious ‘borrowing’ of design elements from Marc Newson’s Ikepod watch range of yore
  8. Garnier’s PS Cream campaign – Garnier’s advertising agency doing a classic PR hijack in China that shows the innovative environment of Chinese platforms and the blurring of lines of what PR actually means now
  9. My digital tool box – I was doing some work at the end of April and was struck by how many tools and hacks that I used to use in my daily work life were no longer available. I thought it would be a good idea to do a snapshot of the stuff I currently used for posterity. I hope to revisit it on a regular basis, we’ll see how it works out
  10. The Amazon Dash post – I am intrigued by new technology that seems to reject the icons-under-glass metaphor that seems to dominate convergence these days. Amazon Dash is a dedicated order-input device for Amazon’s grocery service in the US that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Braun product brochure from the 1970s

People that have made my year

2014 has been a year of disruption for me, here are some of the people who played a key part in it:

My Hong Kong partner-in-crime Calvin Wong who brought a wealth of expertise in measurement and analytics to our role at Burson-Marsteller and a great friend

My former colleague Emma Xu Meng lin, who has just started a new role at Landor Beijing, we learned a lot about WeChat as we set up and ran the CIVB WeChat account

My good friend and go to creative Stephen Holmes at Bloodybigspider. If you are looking for someone to deliver a challenge brief in a tight timeline, pick up the phone and give them a call

 Tom List at Sysomos who has put up with some of my annoying questions

My good friend Cecily Liu at China Daily, who is always a great source of intellectual discussion

My friend Becky McMichael over at Ruder Finn, and Alex Banks at Social Bakers, both of whom I caught with far too little



Merry Christmas

I hope that everyone who logs on to this blog, promptly logs back off again to have a restful and enjoyable Christmas break.
Muji Xmas

Jargon watch: Chinadroid

The modern mobile eco-system was built in the factories of China, in particular Shenzhen.
Downtown Shenzhen
Chinadroids: These are phones that use the Android Operating System but have not gone through official channels for compatibility (CTS) or do not have a Google Mobile Services (GMS) license.

A couple of scenarios are playing out to drive Chinadroids:

  • Virtually no Android handset in China has access to Google services including the app store. Baidu estimates that are over 386 million active Android handsets in China, using different app stores and web services.  Some of these have a very different look-and-feel like Cyanogen or MIUI – Xiaomi’s flavour of Android
  • A second scenario is where smaller manufacturers don’t get Google to play ball and get them onboard with a GMS licence for those handsets that they do sell outside China. Google historically hasn’t bothered to scale to address the international aspirations of these tier two and tier three handset makers. Their product is probably being used across the developing world, from the Nigerian merchants with their suitcases of phones flown from Hong Kong to the virgin mobile markets of Burma or Laos. The big challenge with these secondary players is that they are market makers and not having them registered means that Google doesn’t get the full benefit of being able to onboard these people on to the internet and hooked into the Google eco-system

More information
The Shenzhen Market Mini-Guide | Medium
China now has 386 million active Android users | Techinasia
The rise of the Shenzhen eco-system
The smartphone value system
Google I/O: who is Google trying to disrupt?

Links of the day | 在网上找到

Yahoo announces plans to kill off some regional news sites, sunsets Yahoo Classic Games, alerts, and profile sites | VentureBeat – this is really big, Yahoo! is abandoning high growth markets in the Middle East and South East Asia. Just this time 12 months ago I was looking at running an ad campaign with Yahoo! Vietnam so this is shock

Huawei Honor 6 Plus Preview – CNET – detailing still slipping on design. You can see how HTC is getting caught between the hammer and an anvil

The secret to the Uber economy is wealth inequality | Quartz – sharing economy relies on grinding poverty

Social sellers: A new weapon for brands on WeChat | Campaign Asia – Social sellers (people who are selling through WeChat but not using official WeChat shop interfaces known as ‘weidian’ 微店) could help to bring e-commerce on WeChat to the next level (paywall)

McDonald’s Dim Jack to “hijack” HKTV’s drama to promote Chicken nuggets | Marketing Interactive – really interesting execution

Things that made my day this week

Things that made my day this week:

wetheeconomy is a series of films that look to demystify economics.

I found this impressive light installation set up in France.

This looks like a stunt at an Australian public transport station. It reminded me a lot of the past advertising promoting the Sony Bravia.

2014: crystal ball gazing, how did I do?

For the past few years I have been thinking about where digital is going and what it all means. At the end of last year here were my projections

Amazon won’t do drone delivery in 2014 – Whilst trials of drone deliveries have been ongoing and drones seem to be getting more mainstream thanks to companies like DJI Amazon hasn’t done deliveries yet. In addition, the FAA in the US started to regulate commercial drone usage, which is likely to slow down adoption in the short term, while providing a stable legal framework of operation in the longer term.

Small data – Not so much an explicit interest in smaller data sets for meaningful things, but the Hortonworks IPO had an almost Netscapean quality to it with shaky revenue streams and a healthy share price bounce when it came to market. It also made Silicon Valley nervous as companies were concerned about negative perceptions toward the big data ‘sector.

Offline to online integration – O2O seems to be a bigger thing in China and other east Asian markets with ‘mobile search keywords’ put into adverts and TV programmes for years. The QRcode seems to be a uniquely Asian form of integration largely abandoned by western developers – mainly because they didn’t seem to use them in as imaginative a manner compared to Tencent et al. Lower power Bluetooth beacons are still experimental. Weve the joint company set up by the UK wireless carriers to provide contextual data about consumers to integrate online and offline marketing is running at a loss and has abandoned peripheral business opportunities in mobile wallets/ m-payments.

Algorithmic display advertising – there are a number of ways in which greater data is being brought to bear on programmatic ad spend but algorithms weren’t the biggest thing shaping the market this year. Major brands seem to have developed a distrust of the agency trading desks and the lack of transparency into market data. Instead of giving agencies an unfair advantage and allowing them to play both sides of the trade, they are bring the trading desk in-house.

Mobile display advertising gets a radical reduction in formats – at the time I wrote this prediction, I had been concerned about clickthrough rates and mistaken clickthroughs, so I considered a reduction in mobile formats to just the ones that worked best like the page takeover. I didn’t forsee a bubble economy driving mobile display revenues around games apps. This may come to a head soon as western consumers seem to be less open to downloading to new apps according to research by Deloittes.

Content marketing on OTT platforms – WeChat has evolved in leaps and bounds with some amazing campaigns coming out in China, Burberry has worked with Tencent to push the envelopes on their campaigns and have included live webcasts. We haven’t seen so much of this happening with campaigns aimed at western consumers, but one brand springs to mind Vivienne Tam who ran a super model contest on the platform including a voting function and a special blog covering activity around New York Fashion Week as a separate tab on the account – all in English.

Chinese technology brands will finally be successful outside China – It’s still early days, but we’ve seen Lenovo and other Chinese brands demolish Samsung’s share of the smartphone market in the developing world. WeChat has expanded into India, Spain and South East Asia. OnePlus and Xiaomi have started selling direct in Europe, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Hong Kong. Alibaba had a monster IPO and Baidu bought into fast start-ups like Uber.

Privacy issues won’t change much with consumers – Back at the end of last year I didn’t expect the Snowden story to continue to echo onwards. On the surface things didn’t seem to change with consumers, but there has been sufficient consumer interest that technology vendors are addressing (some) consumer privacy needs much to the chagrin of the law enforcement/military industrial complex. This privacy experience hasn’t been universally enjoyed (depending on country regulations) but things are changing.

Technology company workers are the new bankers – the tech worker bus protests that started at the end of December 2013 mushroomed, so by August 2014 Westboro Baptist Church got involved. Uber’s surge pricing and Snapchat’s frat boy CEO were just some of the lightning rods that made the tech sector look like vintage Wall Street.

The rise of immersion – When I wrote my predictions I felt that I had been cheated out of the cyberpunk future that I had been promised and saw it as a major opportunity. Virtual reality had lost out in the 1990s when cumbersome helmet displays would disorientate you and cause you to throw up as the visuals and movement created dissonance partly due to a lack of computing power. Now we’ve seen cyberpunk author Neal Stephenson the chief futurist at one VR company, Facebook own another and companies like Zeiss and Samsung enter the fray. Together with advances in AR post-Google Glasses we are likely to see major innovations beyond gaming in the web-of-no-web.

Machine learning will threaten to disrupt programming – while machine learning is making an increased amount of noise in the tech media it is being seen as a leap forward in artificial intelligence rather than as an alternative strategy to traditional application programming. Skype adopted for their latest language training.

A race to the bottom will bring out hyper-competition in mobile semiconductor suppliers – the mobile market did race to the bottom which has made a major dent in Samsung and Huawei’s marketshare. Mediatek and Hi-Silicon are producing innovative silicon that has pushed phone performance forward. However rather than being a race to the bottom on pricing, Qualcomm has been taken to task by the Chinese government and Qualcomm admitted in its own financial documents that there at least some partners who weren’t paying them licence fees.

More information
2014: just where is it all going? | renaissance chambara 

Links of the day | 在网上找到

I had been off ill with flu, so I guess this became a bumper edition

Pharma to lose $69 billion in five years as patents expire | Pharma File – patent cliff kicks in

Laurence Fink Says Activist Investing Can ‘Destroy Jobs’ | New York Times – not terribly surprising but interesting that Black Rock has come out and said it

Britain’s autumn statement: Two lost decades? | The Economist – at least since there is no compelling reason for things to improve (like with North Sea oil in the 1980s)

Intelligence: Nike’s CIO Had to Get the Hell Out of Portland | Racked – surprised that Nike hadn’t managed to build a more urbane environment in Portland. I could see this as being a great case study for Who Is Your City author Richard Florida

Intelligence: Gucci Cleans House: CEO, Creative Director Are OUT | Racked – not surprising given poor sales performance

WhatsApp might be working on a web client | VentureBeat – me too feature to catch up with WeChat, expect QRCode hand-off

Yahoo shuts offices in Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia | Campaign Asia – Malaysia I understand: closeness to Singapore, less of an economic power machine and a marketing sector that needs to work hard to keep up with legislation and local sensibilities. Indonesia and Vietnam are surprises given the high growth and populous markets that they represent

Sony Lawyers Warn Press to Destroy Documents from Hack | Variety – this is tough one legally Sony as journalists are largely protected by the the US constitution

Top 10 websites in the US according to Quantcast: A few observations | Chris Dixon – some interesting data points, you can still see the power of the IE installed user base and email looking at this data

The Cheapest Generation – Atlantic Mobile – it assumes that will have the same amount to invest

Silk Road subsidies undermine rail link | South China Morning Post – really interesting article about the nitty gritty of rail freight including lack of international common legal standards and requirements for paper work, insurance etc

The Customer Journey to Online Purchase – Think with Google – really handy for media planning

Sony hack: Studio Tries to Disrupt Downloads of its Stolen Files | Re/code – ethically dubious at best

Xiaomi’s Indian expansion could be derailed by a patent tussle with Ericsson | Quartz – this is interesting as IP could put a speed bump on the new smartphone players for the time being, though this may decline in 5G as Huawei and ZTE get a bigger proportion of the IP in comparison to Alcatel-Lucent, Qualcomm, Samsung, Broadcom, Nokia, and Ericsson

Russia tries again, in vain, to steady its collapsing currency | Quartz – it’s a buffet that the west hasn’t been invited and will end with a stronger China – having got hold of military and strategic industry IP, industrial assets and natural resources to drive further Chinese growth and strength

Wal-Mart is the latest company to badly overestimate China | Quartz – there is a whole blog post in this story about growth, the nature of growth, management by Excel spreadsheets and a bit about China. Maybe I will have the time to write it one day

EDMTCC 2014 – The EDM Guide: Technology, Culture, Curation – white paper trying to defend the bastard child of the dance music scene now that the Americans discovered it including Swedish House Mafia alumni (PDF)

Five for Friday | 五日(星期五)

Things that made my day this week.

Interesting and funny film from Mercedes for the SLS coupe AMG. The way the businessman loses his mind trying to define luxury feels like a parody of Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Vice put together a great documentary about a veteran tattooist in Hong Kong

I love the way Honda taps into the inner child of potential customers

PBS have animated interviews that were done with Robin Williams back in 1991, and they’re really good

TOMY’s Cocoro scanner which detects stress (and according to the maker, lies)

Links of the day | 在网上找到

UBS uses artificial intelligence to deliver personalised advice to wealthy clients | South China Morning Post – should this artificial intelligence have to be registered and certified as a financial advisor? I could see a number of legal issues with this

The DRC (Desktop Record Cutter) – a future for vinyl cutting by Machina.Pro — Kickstarter – want

Singapore’s mobile path-to-purchase | Campaign Asia – interesting research from Yahoo! and Mindshare

Netscout unwisely sues Gartner for “Pay for Play” | Influencer Relations  – it is often the case that Gartner salespeople claim that clients get better placement in its research

New offline-to-online (O2O) sports lottery contract with Heilongjiang Province and commencement of live trials of virtual horse racing game | Investegaate – DJI Holdings launches sports betting in China

PayPal and WePay bigger threat to high street banks than tech firms, according to research | Out-Law.com – YouGov and Prinsent Masons

South Korea’s KakaoTalk Adds ‘Secret Mode’ | WSJ – now encrypts messages

Marketers delve into true meaning of real-time social media – Is it a waste of time? | The Drum – not that impressed for what it does

CCC | Chaos Computer Club on the blocking of our website in UK – blocked under a catch-all censorship of extremism – in this case extreme geekiness

An Illustrated History of Mac OS X | Git Tower – interesting run through I’d not even heard of Kodiak

AOL’s Bob Lord: Brands’ In-House Programmatic Teams Driving Growth | Advertising Age – interesting and bad news for WPP

What would music sound like if record labels went out of business? | Quartz – it would likely suck less

Have You Resigned from The New Republic Yet? | Vanity Fair – curiously like the new media figure attempting to buy the fictional network in The Newsroom

Next year’s iPhone-killers are already in trouble | BGR – Qualcomm issues apparently

Does PR have a PR problem? | Marketing Interactive – yes basically

So-called “dark social” traffic turns out to be mostly Facebook — GigaOM – not sure I agree with this and would like to see more data around it. From an analytics point of view does this mean that there is a similar hole in advertising analytics

Popular New App in China Removes Selfie Touch-Ups to Show What’s Really Underneath | TheNanfang – I suspect that its applying rules rather than ‘reversing’ the files given that they are PNGs or JPGs

Power Book 2015: iPhone is most popular must-have item for PR top brass | PR Week  – 24 going for their iPad and 18 picking their BlackBerry.

Here’s what’s really scary about China overtaking America as the world’s biggest economy – Quartz – interesting economic analysis on China

How Defense Offsets Help Drive the Global Defense Industry – Defense One – this could all go a bit Enron in a worst case scenario

Connecting with Digital natives | Huawei – Huawei has surveyed over 6,000 digital natives in China. Hear from a few of them here

Things that made my day last week

A much delayed post that highlights five of things that made my day last week:

Leo Burnett put together this great presentation on the state of the sharing economy (Airbnb, Uber, Lyft etc.)

Code Rush – an amazing documentary on Netscape and its Communicator product: a mix of email client and web browser

The Hundreds X Reebok collaboration movie is a great trip back to the early 1990s and some serious sneaker love

The creators of South Park put together some great animation to accompany recordings by the philosopher and buddhist Alan Watts

Finally, Red Bull put this great documentary together on the origins of video game music. The process that they used to compose the music is amazing

Links of the day | 在网上找到

How Qualcomm’s China Problems Could Hit Xiaomi – WSJ – likely to start Chinese device maker patent war

Bristlr is a Dating Site for Beardy Blokes and the People What Love ‘Em | Lifehacker – interesting specialist social networks offer highly targeted marketing opportunities. Not sure having a beard is a passion that people can form around

A $30,000 smartphone with four wheels and a motor | Luxury Daily – interesting take on the modern car

Google is funding “an artificial intelligence for data science” | GigaOM – there goes SkyNet

Huawei and Inspur Electronics challenge Q3 server status quo • The Register – not terribly surprising post-Snowden. Inspur is winning a lot of high-end business from Chinese banks which will roll down their range as well

Google Drive now lets you edit Microsoft Office attachments right from Gmail | VentureBeat – works back to feature parity with iCloud and Office 365

Bits Blog: China, a Fish Barrel for Cybercriminals | New York Times – using social engineering and the law of large numbers to commit fraud

RIP Clip Art: Microsoft axes yet another foundational piece of computing history | ExtremeTech – the move away from clip art reflects consumer behaviour but does it have IP implications beyond the saving made in not licensing bad drawings?