Five for Friday | 五日(星期五)

A late edition of things that have made my day this week:

David Tran, the founder and CEO of Huy Fong Foods, on how Rooster sauce came about

Venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz | 16 Things looks at the trends shaping the companies that they invest in.

Rendering fractals using CSS3 and HTML (without the help of JavaScript) | Snowflake – they had me at fractal.

DLD15 – The Four Horsemen: Amazon/Apple/Facebook & Google–Who Wins/Loses (Scott Galloway) – his delivery is almost like freestyle rap.

To support the launch of the film Doraemon: Stand By Me in Hong Kong, a mobile merchandise shop was created that paid homage to the robot cat.

Desktop and mobile messaging

Over the past few weeks WhatsApp has rolled out a web client to complement its previously mobile-only experience. From a technical point-of-view this was WhatsApp playing catch-up with its rivals.
Mobile social network ecosystems
Skype has long been a multi-platform messaging system that made the leap to mobile over eight years ago. LINE has had both desktop and mobile applications for a while. WeChat had had a web interface for at least two years in addition to its mobile client and dedicated desktop clients for both OS X and Windows.
wechat app
Those whom I spoke to who had used the web interface talked of WhatsApp’s ‘unique’ way of handing off from mobile to the web through the use of QRcodes. And they were surprised when I showed them WeChat’s implementation that looked eerily similar and has been around for much longer.

There is a certain paradox that the most successful OTT messaging platforms now have a presence on the desktop, yet instant messaging clients like Yahoo!, MSN, AOL and ICQ weren’t able to successfully move from desktop to mobile.

So why desktop and why now?

Is it about WhatsApp putting pressure on Apple to change its model to suit WhatsApp?

The Messages app in iOS is secure, supports voice, photos and text messages. It offers much of the functionality of WhatsApp. WhatsApp complains that it can’t repeatedly charge on a yearly basis for its service on iOS, yet iOS has supported in-app payments for a while. I suspect WhatsApp wants to get a free ride or its beef with iOS is from some unstated reason.  In summary, whilst WhatsApp’s web service is only available to Android users, I don’t think that this is really about Apple.

It is threatened by other apps?

WhatsApp has a big presence across the world (outside of China) in the OTT messaging space with over 700 million active users. However other services are managing to increase their footprint.

I took a straw poll of some friends with regards their messaging usage. Did they just leave one platform for another in the same way that Google won out in search or was there something else going on?

Most people that I spoke to weren’t generally deleting  the more popular messaging apps and moving from one to the other generally. (They had tried and sometimes deleted the likes of Telegram or Wickr for instance). But they did have different groups of contacts in different places. So WhatsApp probably isn’t losing its spot on established users phones at all, and having a rival app on a phone isn’t likely to make WhatsApp lose out from being downloaded on a new phone.

By all accounts, different messaging platforms are about different groups of friends and contexts. WhatsApp tended to connect with family more often than other messaging services.

Is is about usage time?

I suspect that this could be the case. It was interesting to hear a couple of friends talk about LINE. They commented that LINE had a range of stickers, but the main reason is that you can use LINE at work without having to use your phone and it be obvious with your boss. I think that this is where WhatsApp could be feeling a gap and decided to fill it.
what is mobile
It also begs a second question. When you have laptops that will run for 8 to 10 hours on a battery and slip in a bag like a tablet, is desktop yet another mobile device? The kind of work usage mentioned would also fit in nicely in a coffee shop or in front of the TV with the family; a subtle back channel to the outside world.

My understanding was that WhatsApp was focused on getting people in the developing world on board, they provided a lean bandwidth frugal messaging platform that was leaner than Facebook. Instead, the web interface is more aimed at ‘first world problems’.

More information
Four Of The Top Six Social Networks Are Actually Chat Apps | Marketingland
WhatsApp hits 700 million monthly active users — GigaOM
Messaging app Kik passes 200M users | VentureBeat
From Messaging Apps To Ecosystems : Line, WeChat, Viber & Others | LinkedIn
Why Apps for Messaging Are Trending – NYTimes.com
Every app is a communications app | Layer
WeChat to overtake WhatsApp as top messaging app in India: GWI | Digital Market Asia
WeChat Dominates APAC Mobile Messaging in Q3 2014
Tencent Drafts Chinese Expats for U.S. Duel With WhatsApp – Bloomberg

Links of the day | 在网上找到

Now on Twitter: group Direct Messages and mobile video camera | Twitter Blogs – playing catch up with OTT messaging apps

Mayer’s Yahoo Plan Could Affect Softbank Interests – WSJ – it depends on who Mayer sells to

Mobile internet slower in Hong Kong than mainland, S Korea | Hong Kong Economic Journal Insight – and the service I enjoyed in Hong Kong was significantly better than the UK…

The Real Story Behind Jeff Bezos’s Fire Phone Debacle And What It Means For Amazon’s Future | Fast Company – I don’t agree with some of the conclusions, but an interesting piece nonetheless

Army Communications In Pacific Stretched, Tested « Breaking Defense – interesting discussion about data networks issues

Google Joins Apple, Others Cutting Off Crimea, Blocks AdWords, AdSense, Google Play | TechCrunch – interesting to see how this rolls out from a tech point of view. Russia does have replacements such as Yandex in search, advertising and Android app stores

Disney’s Maker Studios Struggles to Migrate Its Audience To Maker.tv – CMO Today – can’t get the traffic off YouTube

Tumblr Launches An In-House Ad Agency That Pairs Creators With Big Brands | Fast Company – interesting move, shame agencies aren’t stepping up to the plate

Eric Schmidt Just Admitted Google’s Dominance Is Under Threat: ‘All Bets Are Off’ (FB, GOOG, MSFT) – actually not as billed but an interesting more nuanced portrait of the current landscape

Davos 2015: Tech giants risk reputation, warn business leaders – FT.com – this is less about the tech sector per se and more about lightning rods of inequality, of which the tech sector is just one

Things that made my day last week

Here is a collection of things that have made my day over the past week or so

I am a big fan of Studio Ghibli – a kind of Japanese thinking mans Disney Studio. One of their alumni Yoshiharu Sato has branched out and produced this amazing advert for a Japanese alcohol brand with a strong theme of nostalgia.

Before Christmas Fox Studios had used LinkedIn to launch the latest in the ‘Taken’ series of films with Liam Neeson’s character Bryan Mills riffing of his ‘particular set of skills’. Well we now know who won the endorsement from Bryan Mills and here it is.

The Prodigy are back and their latest track Nasty has a psychedelic urban fox video to accompany it.

INK Hotel in Amsterdam have used storytelling to create a unique recruitment video, labouring heavily the cast metaphor that service industry businesses have adopted a la Disney.

CAS software company Autodesk have an artist-in-residence programme called Pier 9, and created a great video about it.

Links of the day | 在网上找到

From ‘superman’ to ‘big tiger’, Li Ka-shing loses favour with Beijing | South China Morning Post – interesting analysis of the changing sentiment to Li Ka-shing

Smartphones At Tipping Point In China | Young’s China Business – domestic Chinese smartphone market likely to contract 10 per cent over the next year – shipments of all types of cellphones actually plummeted 22 percent in China last year to 452 million units, led by a 64 percent plunge in 2G models and 46 percent drop in 3G ones. (Chinese article) China’s mobile users now number 1.28 billion, giving the nation a penetration rate of 95 percent. 

Smartphone shipments didn’t fare nearly as badly as the older 2G and 3G models, but were still down 8.2 percent last year to 389 million units. That means that a hefty 86 percent of all cellphones shipped in China last year were smartphones, which were rapidly flooding the market as new players jumped joined the space and older ones ramped up production. 

It’s worth noting that the 389 million figure is unit shipments and not actual sales. I suspect a big portion of those smartphones — perhaps as much as 20-30 percent — are still sitting in distributor warehouses and on store shelves as unsold inventory due to the market saturation – expect channel clearing sales or developing market dumping

The Psychology of Intelligence Analysis: Drivers of Prediction Accuracy in World Politics – Journal of Experimental Psychology – interesting traits and teams rather than individuals tend to do better. It would be interesting to see how this affects the wisdom of crowds given they are a mass of individuals rather than a team per se (PDF)

LIVEhouse.in – Online Broadcasting Service – really cool Asian content

Case Study: How Huawei turned its smartphone business around | Marketing Interactive – superlative headline but interesting overview of programmatic buying in China via iClick

BlackBerry Responds to Media Report – Press Releases – not talking to Samsung, it didn’t sound like it made sense to me

Millward Brown Digital partners with Snapchat | Research Live – interesting they can tell an ad

UK’s Cameron won’t “allow” strong encryption of communications — GigaOM – this is the most disturbing stuff I have seen and read in a long term, the Home Secretary is a political role by its very nature. It is not even an independent judiciary signing off. Secondly, given the poor understanding of technology by the body politic in the UK it doesn’t inspire confidence – if there is a back door for HMG, there is a back door for an abusive third party. Finally this is crush or encourage innovative start ups who focus on privacy to move offshore – Shoreditch to Berlin for instance

Vinyl’s difficult comeback | The Guardian – interesting opportunity for manufacturing record press machines

Most Energy Drink Companies Market to Minors, Report Finds | Time – this could be a ticking time bomb from a regulatory point of view

The return of Luxxury

US remix and edit master Luxxury has returned with a remake of Kiss – I was made for loving you. In my view it sounds better in this version than the original. Luxxury’s style reminds me a lot of 1980s remixes a la Shep Pettibone and the Latin Rascals with a lot of use of dub effects.

Luxury got into hot water last year after remaking the The Eagles Hotel California and Blondie’s Rapture.

Retail patterns

Interesting video on changing retail behaviour that is moving way from significant dates like Black Friday and Cyber Monday (despite retailers bringing them to Europe). Consumers are looking for discounts outside ordinary periods and retailers have the option to vary price based on the consumer – we could even see programmatic selling in the future, not something really discussed here but an interesting and frightening possibility.

Links of the Day | 在网上找到

Asiajin » Jerry Yang’s 1999 Order Thanked By Japanese Auction Dominator Yahuoku | Asiajin – interesting how Yahoo! engineered the product to meet Japanese characteristics

Why I’m not impressed with your smart device | VentureBeat – interesting take on CES

Rumor: Skype Set To Launch A Social Network To Compete With Facebook | Social Networking Watch – this seems a bit pointless to me

Huawei Bets Americans Will Want Contract-Free Phones – WSJ – I guess they are struggling to get carrier deals, is the new burner phone a smartphone and is the FCC holding up approval on HiSilicon-powered smartphones?

Beijing cracks down on Uber and its rival taxi-hailing apps | Quartz – interesting that Didi has been declared illegal

Spies are putting off writers | Channel EYE – more than 75 percent of respondents in countries classified as “free,” 84 percent in “partly free” countries, and 80 percent in countries that were “not free” said that they were “very” or “somewhat” worried about government surveillance in their countries

Chinese chip makers want in on bank card business | WantChinaTimes – threat for Infineon and Gemalto

Jeff Mills: The Failings Of The Future | Hypnotik – interesting to read this, especially after reading William Gibson’s latest book

The Behavioural Economics Guide 2014 – (pdf)

Changing definition of what social means

This post came from working with business-to-business marketing clients and prospects over the past six months or so. Based on the experience I had talking to clients and the work that I have been doing I came up with a what I’ll describe as a working hypothesis.
Sale
For a number of years, business and consumer social marketers have taken The Cluetrain Manifesto as their talisman. Social media marketing was about  re-defining the relationship between stakeholders and a business. This was around a number of values including:

  • Transparency
  • Speedy response
  • Humane
  • Resp0nsiveness

Things have changed, at least in Europe. I would put part of the change down to technological capabilities influencing the philosophy around social and the fact that business-to-business are measured exclusively on sales when they are not corporate HQ. And if they are corporate HQ for a non-US domiciled company the focus is much more quarterly results-orientated, so even the corporate social accounts are expected to carry their weight in terms of delivering regular prospective customers.

The focus has changed:

  • Brand communities and corporate reputation have given way to performance marketing
  • Influencer programmes have given way to prospect-baiting content marketing
  • Engagement has given way to CTA (call to action) and customer path to purchase
  • Building customer loyalty has given way to purchase satisfaction

The emphasis has moved from the brand to performance marketing, even for what would be seen to be corporate communications. The fig leaf of reputation used to protect corporate PR has been torn away in social media. A secondary aspect of this is a less tangible decline in the stock of social media or community professionals at least within the business-to-business context.

Whilst the organisations I have been dealing with are in the early stages of thinking about marketing automation, with only a few going through the costly integration process for the likes of Eloquia or Pardot – the philosophy behind them has become the defacto view.

I spent far too long writing this post, in between starting drafting this post and pressing publish, two of the authors (David Weinberger and Doc Searls) responsible for the Cluetrain Manifesto have updated it to reflect marketing realities online which broadly touch on areas of my hypothesis and I have included a link at the bottom.

In the words of Bill Hicks business-to-business marketers run the risk of knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing.

More information
The Cluetrain Manifesto
New Clues
#NewClues and #VRM – Watching The Watchers

Links of the Day | 在网上找到

Former MS privacy chief warned of NSA spying | Telecom Asia – The issue is that most privacy laws were drafted to cover communications, not computing and that technically it is possible to encrypt data and store it securely in the cloud. However, that is not possible if one wants to compute with that data

Here’s What Some Teens Are Using Instead Of Snapchat And Instagram To Share Pictures In Class – interesting that this is innovative and yet people have been Bluetoothing content for years

Xiaomi Confirms It Sold 61M Phones In 2014, Has Plans To Expand To More Countries | TechCrunch – so Xiaomi is valued at roughly 750 dollars for each handset sold this year?

Alcatel’s new Pixi smartphone can run Windows, Android, or Firefox OS | The Verge – interesting move, curious why SallfishOS isn’t getting any play

How to get 35 million downloads in 7 weeks / The short head of Apps – part 1 | The Short Head – great data analysis on app downloads with data via Appbrain

U.S.: No alternate leads in Sony hack – Tal Kopan – POLITICO – this is starting to get embarrassing

‘Monster Strike’ Gives Former Social Media Giant Mixi a Second Act – NYTimes.com – really happy for the people at Mixi, I thought their first mobile social network was a smart play, but you can’t fight Metcalfe’s Law

montblanc timewalker urban speed smart e-strap turns a timepiece into a smart watch | Design Boom – interesting less in the ‘extinction of Swiss watchmakers’ which isn’t on the cards (by tech companies anyway) and more in the user context in the design, the information conveyed is discrete, glanceable and filtered only for the really important shizzle

Only 5% of US iPhone users say they’re very likely to buy an Apple Watch – not terribly surprised suspect its more aimed at China, Korea, Japan

Fintech Trends in China to Watch in 2015 | TechNode – P2P consumer lending and comparative shopping engines a la moneysupermarket.com

Moth City – great digital comic

Is Xiaomi developing its own operating system? | WantChinaTimes – interesting that this is focusing on low-end handsets and is seen to be a target for FireFoxOS rather than Android or SailfishOS

One Of The Most Elaborate Alternate Reality Games Ever Is Launching In 2015 | ReadWriteWeb – really interesting idea

At CES let’s just concede defeat for an open standard for IoT | GigaOM – no XML for the IoT?

Huawei Smartphone Shipment Rocketed Over 40% YOY to 75M Units in 2014 | Technode – focus on cheaper handsets rather than trying to crack premium

Leaked NSA Documents Reveal The Best Way To Stay Anonymous Online | Business Insider – but will that stack perform at a usable speed?

LG brings LINE to internet enabled fridges, ovens, washing machines and more | SiliconAngle – what is the user context that this envisages?

JR Rolls Beacon Navi for Tokyo Station | Wireless Watch Japan – interesting internal navigation application of beacon (low power Bluetooth technology

Dark Mail specifications – step on the road to strong email protection

Hands On: How Haptic Technologies Will Bring Touch to VR | Make Use Of – break out your Nintendo PowerGlove

China Blocks Access to Google’s Gmail as Ban Escalates – Bloomberg – just formalises what has been going on

From Gongkai to Open Source | Bunnies Studios – really interesting examination of IP differences and opportunities

Things that made my day this week

These are some of things that have made my day this week

New Balance China made a video out of what looks like a product photoshoot of different MT580 colour ways

I had fallen out of touch with podcasts since the demise of Lawrence Staden and Stephen Bell’s ‘Loz n Belly’ weekly commentary on economic issues a few years ago, but got hooked again when I was introduced to Studio 360’s American Icons programmes. If anyone has any recommendations for good financial and economic podcasts let me know in the comment box below and will give them a whirl.

I thought it was just my perception that OS X had slowed down somewhat over the past couple of iterations, but this video gave me some food for thought.

I am just a sucker for fractals. I spent far too much time in college in front of a Mac 7500 and a colour monitor going deeper and deeper into a Mandelbrot set, so this video really resonated. Play it on full screen, sit back and enjoy

I have a boundless fascination of mechanical watches and this teardown of a Rolex Submariner brings home the miracle and beauty of their mechanical engineering. You can take your Apple Watch and shove it up your….

2015: just where is it all going?

It’s become a bit of an annual tradition on this blog for me to put together some guesswork on what is likely to be coming down the pipe over the next 12 months.

Business
Sony Corp. cleans house with the management teams of its US businesses. One of Sony’s start-up bets (the e-ink watch, smart locks etc) comes good. Sony will still be supported by its Japanese financial services business.

For years IBM has charged Huawei a fortune for consulting, telling Huawei the IBM way. In 2015, I could see the student becoming the master as Huawei sells into IBM enterprise markets in the developing world and possibly Europe.

Shareholder activists don’t take a run at Google. Google is moving from a growth stock to value as search advertising revenue growth is declining. However the structure of Google makes life very difficult for the activists to gain leverage. Any activist that does take a run at Google would need to go to court to help dismantle the two-tier structure that handicaps the shareholder voting structure. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be shareholder grandstanding and public letters to the board. Google’s privacy and antitrust regulatory woes will continue to fester outside the U.S.

As Fred Wilson over at A VC put it, the sharing economy is actually the rental economy, the digital economy equivalent of bulk breakage: breaking a larger container down to sell smaller, more manageable pieces to consumers for a profit. It’s disruption usually stems from breaking regulations: labour laws, public transportation regulations, laws governing guest house and hotels rather than innovation. It is likely to prey on the have-nots and is likely to see increased resistance. For me it is indicative of a move in founder culture, from the counterculture influenced start-ups of Apple’s era to a yuppie Patrick Bateman-like culture today. Expect more societal push-back as geeks become the new investment bankers in terms of being societal punch bags.

IoT / wearables
There won’t be an over-arching XML type bridge for the IoT. Battery life will limit the fantastic visions that pundit have for wearables and the internet of things.

I would be surprised if we didn’t see some devices trying to power themselves by scrounging energy from wider electromagnetic spectrum (wi-fi networks, cellular devices, radio, TV etc).

Consumer electronics
We are going to continue to see baby steps towards more immersive experiences, as VR glasses slowly make progress in the marketplace. OLEDs would be an ideal application for VR glasses, particularly if they want to hold off smartphones in a frame. Content is likely to role out in a similar way to IMAX – visually stunning documentaries about space and nature alongside computer games. It will be interesting to see what James Cameron does with VR. There will also be some baby steps towards haptic feedback (think a better Nintendo PowerGlove).

Despite The Interview, Hollywood still won’t do cinema / digital simultaneous releases, or global simultaneous releases for any content that wouldn’t have been direct to TV/video in an earlier age.

Wireless
The YotaPhone2 won’t get the customer base it deserves as it struggles against the superior marketing muscle of Samsung in the premium Android segment of the market.

The Cyanogen distribution of Android won’t go anywhere fast due to its geographic exclusivity agreements with the likes of OnePlus and MicroMax cramping the style of handset manufacturers with global ambitions. This offers an opportunity for Jolla’s SailfishOS.

Google revamps the resources and process to get more Chinese smartphone manufacturers going through its official channels for compatibility (CTS) and have a Google Mobile Services (GMS) license. At the moment there are a number of Android handsets going into developing markets without these, which means Google is losing out on incremental licensing revenue.

Online/social
There is a change of emphasis in business, social is no longer well, social. Businesses start to pull ‘social’ media back into business functions. An increased emphasis on paid media over earned engagement / community management and marketing automation makes social look more like electronic direct marketing.

Asian platforms WeChat, LINE and KakaoTalk have led the way in both consumer and brand adoption. They will continue with a relatively slow international rollout. Facebook Messenger doesn’t seem to fill the same user context as these applications, is this an opportunity that a SnapChat or new player can fill?

Things could get very interesting if WeChat or LINE professionalise their international marketing and start rolling out some of their more advanced features internationally such as integrating payments and m-commerce. They can’t do it by going alone, they would need to be good partners and deals like that take time to negotiate.

I suspect that international e-commerce will have breakout years. Yesasia.com, Rakuten and Aliexpress have been percolating for years. Combine this with the valuation put on Asian e-commerce outfits, it would be quite easy to see how cost-conscious consumers in economically challenged Europe and the developing world may appreciate a new Amazon. Secondly, Chinese purchases of foreign goods are likely to expand further due to a rapidly developing logistics network within China, increasing international acceptance of UnionPay and a rein-in on more ostentatious tastes due to Mr Xi’s anti-corruption drive. Consumers will be looking for quality less overt luxury and premium products. Foreign travel for shopping will start to be scrutinised by the government and foreign shopping through intermediaries will become professionalised by the Rakutens of this world.

We’re likely to see European states take a similar stance to India and China and more widely blocking sites for security considerations and media IP enforcement. Expect the UK and Australia to lead the way in terms of site censorship.

More information
Who is behind the e-paper FES watch? | WSJ
Sony Qrio smart lock crowd funding page
What Just Happened? AVC

Happy new year

I hope that you have a great start to 2015
Holiday Inn