Links of the day | 在网上找到

EU Deepens Antitrust Investigation Into Google’s Practices | WSJ – its telling that a US commenter claims this is economic warfare and they might have a point…

Phone numbers may start with ‘unlucky’ 4 and 7 as Hong Kong mobile demand outstrips supply | South China Morning Post – the phones are mounted on the dashboards of taxis ;-)

The Future of Developing Firefox Add-ons | Mozilla Add-ons Blog – really interesting changes going on Firefox that is going to break popular plug-ins

Piece Lets Your Phone Dual-Wield SIM Cards | Technabob – interesting idea, a slave phone

Fjord – Living Services Report – interesting report from Fjord on dynamic digital services

Will 5G Kill Free WiFi? | Motherboard – all I am going to point out here is that Intel backed WiMax versus LTE for 4G

EU Deepens Google Antitrust Investigation | WSJ – (paywall)

The changing culture of Silicon Valley

When I was in college I interviewed for a few placements, one was with Hewlett-Packard in Germany. They wanted a marketing student to look after their printing brochures on demand initiative for their UNIX product line. This was going to save them a mint in terms of marketing spend using an Indigo Digital Press rather than brochure runs on litho printing, reducing waste, storage needs and allow for faster document updates. (HP went on to buy Indigo in 2001).

Commercial adoption of the web was around the corner, I was already using it in college, but its ubiquity still seemed quite far away. I decided I didn’t want to go for the job primarily because I wanted to get my degree over and done with and HP weren’t paying that much for the role.

We were interviewed by a succession of people, the only one who was memorable  was a guy called Tim Nolte who wore a Grateful Dead tie and had a Jerry Garcia mouse mat in his cubicle.

At that time HP, had the dressing of the company man but had more than a few hippies on the payroll who permeated its culture. Reading Robert X Cringely’s Accidental Empires made me realise that technology was as much a culture war as technological upheaval.

If one looks at the icons of the technology sector up to and including the early noughties many of the people were influenced by the counterculture movement if not part of it. The  Grateful Dead where one of the first bands to have their own website at dead.net. The Electronic Frontier Foundation was founded by John Perry Barlow, a lyricist with The Grateful Dead. Steve Jobs was influenced by Indian mystics and his experiences using LSD.

Stewart Brand who founded WIRED magazine and The WeLL was the editor of The Whole Earth Catalog, a guide to useful things for people who wanted to get back to the land. He was influential in the early environmentalist movement and had been involved in the counterculture of 1960s San Francisco.
Members of the Golden Circle Senior Citizens Club of Fairmont holding quilt they made. The quilt was raffled off during the Fairmont centennial, May 1973
Ideas from open APIs and creative commons came from their libertarian values. Open Source Software again comes from academic and countercultural attitudes to information and has had to defend itself from accusations of communism, yet it now runs most of the world’s web services and gadgets from smartphones to Google’s search engine.

Reading the Cluetrain Manifesto is like reading a screed that could have come from an alternative Haight Ashbury.

Aeon magazine wrote an article on how yuppies have hacked the hacker ethos, but the truth is they’ve got behind the steering wheel as web2.0 declined. The move from open web API’s and the walled garden approach of Facebook and their ilk marked a changing of the guard of sorts.

Flickr had and ability to move your photos as a matter of pride in their product. Just a few clicks kept them honest and kept them innovating. Joshua Schachter’s similar approach on del.icio.us allowed me to move to pinboard.in when Yahoo! announced that it would be sunset.

Government always is the last to catch up, which is the reason why open data only really gained mainstream political currency in the past five years.

Were now in a Silicon Valley whose values are closer to the Reagan years and I am not too sure what it will do for innovation. I suspect that the change won’t be positive.

More information
Accidental Empires: How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition, and Still Can’t Get a Date by Robert X Cringely
Don’t listen to Bill Gates. The open-source movement isn’t communism. | Slate
How yuppies hacked the hacker ethos – Aeon

Links of the day | 在网上找到

Should Your Logo Be a Wordmark or a Symbol? + Subtraction.com – app design space predictates going with a symbol which has its own risks

3M Builds an Impressive Branded Rube Goldberg Machine From a Variety of Its Products – absolutely nails the brand positioning of 3M

Selfridges puts Apple Watch at the center in floral window display | Luxury Daily – interesting targeting strategy by Selfridges, focusing on Apple Watch sales to women

Jargon watch: breakfastarians

Marketers have a unique knack of mangling the English language to put labels on market segments.
The festive pie obsession continues
Breakfastarian seems to be a self description rather than a market segment on this occasion. It’s people who like breakfast for dinner. Apparently, this is a segment of the population who appeals to McDonalds who is suffering from stagnating sales.

More information
McDonald’s Is Now the Top Choice for ‘Breakfastarians’ | TIME

Links of the day | 在网上找到

Glove-like socks are made from material stronger than Kevlar – Swiss Barefoot Company

LinkedIn Lookup app replaces company intranets – Business Insider – defensive move against Facebook for Work

Smartphone-Owning Millennials Say Most of Their Retail Browsing Occurs In-Store | Marketing Charts – so retailers need to put in free wi-fi without a reg wall

Gallery: A practical, low-tech Japan | Ars Technica – really clever product design

Vlogger Chyaz on product placement online – BBC News – ASA clarifying yet again

Chinese Soccer Prepares to ‘Fly Alone’: Will Success Follow? | WSJ – moving away from government

China’s smartphone sales slide 10% year-on-year (but not for the reason you think) | Techinasia – consumers going for premium handsets and keeping them for longer than changing cheap handsets. Is it total cost of ownership or status driven?

Kik Takes $50 Million Investment From WeChat Parent Company Tencent, Hits $1 Billion Valuation – interesting move by Tencent

Five for Friday | 五日(星期五)

Things that made my day this week:

How Long to Read – find how long it will take to read any book.

Japanese artist brings ukiyo-e woodblock prints to life through animated GIFs.

Gallery: A practical, low-tech Japan | Ars Technica – really clever product design.

Fort Tilden looks like an awesome film

BrainCandy | Create a GIF from a YouTube video

Alan Kay – Normal Considered Harmful

Alan Kay is an iconoclast in the history of personal computing. He worked at Apple, Xerox PARC and Atari. He was part of Apple’s R&D team up until 1984. He has challenged the direction of personal computing and is the father of object orientated programming – which is the foundation of many modern programming and web development languages.

Kay’s presentation on computing given in 2009 is well worth a watch to get a macro view of the state-of-play in computing. It is interesting how many new ideas are actually old and how the skills of computer programming in some ways has gone backwards.

Links of the day | 在网上找到

China’s Ecommerce Giant JD.Com Expands to Russia | SocialBrandWatch – just because Russia is under western sanctions doesn’t mean that the Chinese won’t go there

Google Hangouts breaks out on its own site | TechRadar – dismantling Google+

Smartphone giants have lost 15,000 jobs to cheap Android phones this year | Quartz – commoditisation belting the life out of the market

Intel Said to Unseat Q’Com in iPhone | EE Times – Qualcomm has the best modem technology in the market and the iPhone 6S is a premium phone. I can’t see Apple settling for second best technology

The limits of Google

Earlier I wrote a post on the work blog: Alphabet: what does it all mean? – which I have republished below. One thing that came through to me from this exercise was the limits of growth to Google and by extension the limits to growth in online advertising. The ceiling on advertising is limited by a number of factors:

  • Cost of acquisition – the most obvious ceiling is tat advertisers generally won’t pay more than their profit margin is wort to acquire customers. Search advertising did see bubbles of a sort around mortgages and insurance, but as performance marketing has improved measurement of attribution in the customer journey buying stratagems have become more efficient. More efficient the purchaser, the less profits for Google
  • Supply – when Google rolled out search advertising there was only really display advertising as competition. Now there is a plethora of social platforms and advertising technology behind display advertising that provides better data and a more nuanced understanding for media agencies
  • Context – ten years ago Morgan Stanley claimed that seven out of ten web journeys start with search. This knocked the guts out of the portals: Yahoo!, Excite and MSN. Now social and mobile advertising platforms via for Google’s lock on context. Google’s stewardship of Android facilitated some of these competitors. Now Google is prevented from even from access to the Chinese marketplace, one of the fastest growing internet markets in absolute terms. Amazon has ended up having such a lock on retail that many consumers don’t go to Google first but instead use the search box on the Amazon store for many of their purchases. Every search on Google is a potential loss of advertising opportunity
  • Screwing the channel – marketing groups such as WPP have facilitated and many cases bought a whole sector of media buying ‘middleware’, or what the industry calls ‘ad tech’ platforms. Google has stopped playing nicely with them and their largest customers publicly view them as co-opertition – behind closed doors the sentiment is likely to be less amiable

Social media went into overdrive on Monday evening UK time when Google announced a formal restructure of all its businesses, creating a new company called Alphabet. For the man on the street, Google means Search, YouTube, Drive (including Docs, Sheets etc.), email and Android. For the average marketer you can throw various advertising products and Google Analytics into the mix. For business IT managers, it is everything from productivity, software-as-a-service and possibly as a supplier of a search appliance for its internal servers.

Three different customer types exist and a product set that grows layer-by-layer like an onion. The bulk of Google’s revenue currently comes from advertising due to the clever technology behind it. One can see from Microsoft’s move to the cloud that there is less revenue in cloud computing than in Google’s current business, so when advertising reaches a natural ceiling for growth, services will provide an incremental benefit at best.

Android was designed as a conduit to Google services and for advertising to venture out into the mobile space. But the world’s most popular mobile operating system is not without its own issues. Despite all phones essentially looking the same, there is a massive amount of fragmentation in the Android marketplace, which makes life harder for developers. Google is also a developer, so building applications that it can build loyalty through and make money from becomes more difficult.

Secondly, an appreciable amount of Android devices (those sold in China) and many sold in Russia don’t use Google services and provide little to no opportunity for Google advertising.

This means that Google is forced to make big bets in very different sectors. Sergey Brin and Larry Page, partly because of their entrepreneurial nature to explore new opportunities, built in an ability to scale Google beyond the business lines that I have outlined above. This was apparent from their original IPO share prospectus and accompanying letter. Xerox is famous in Silicon Valley lore for fumbling the future, by inventing lots of products that would be recognisable to us today in the late 1960s and early 1970s, only to see a corporate head office miss the boat. Brin and Page would have had some awareness of this. Microsoft’s inability to leapfrog beyond its core business successfully is probably also a factor for consideration.

Alphabet formalises the framework that Page and Brin had been working to for a number of years.

So what does this mean to Google?

For the foreseeable future it will be more of the same for Google. We’ve the seen the business scale back services; by September last year Google had closed down 30 services. It has cut back the functionality of Google Adplanner as a reference tool, to just focus on sales. Google has continued to prune back services such as Google+ (a challenging task given the tentacles + has across Google’s services). The changes inside Google for staffers also reflect similar moves towards profit optimisation, move away from experimentation and being a ‘mensch’.

The biggest move was to get rid of the 20% of time engineers could devote to projects that interested them. The truth is since at least 2009, the Google myth of people working there to change the world rather than delivering profit hasn’t held sway for a great deal of their staff.

On the outside Google will still likely have playful swag and cool offices, but the reality is that it will be more of a ‘normal’ business. That means that we won’t see the next Facebook coming from within Google and that whilst the speed of evolution will continue to run along at the same pace, substantial innovation probably won’t. This kind of business requires a different kind of leader to Page, and by appointing Sundar Pichai, will create a cultural break from the past. Pichai is likely to be able to get more revenue out of the Google ‘cash cow’ to help drive innovation in these other areas.

Page and Brin are freer to bring their energy to the other businesses in Alphabet. For instance, keeping Nest out of Google allows it to work easier with Google competitors like Apple and Microsoft as part of a wider eco-system.

Lastly, it could be an effort to ring fence Google’s anti-trust woes within the existing business and prevent restrictions being imposed against its newer businesses because of the past sins of the core business.

So what does this mean for marketers?

Google is likely to pursue a steady as she goes approach. The focus will be to optimise revenue, so there will be tension with agencies on advertising practices. We’ve already seen this, with Google restricting methods of buying YouTube advertising. These changes will impact the advertising technology business around programmatic advertising.

The picture with SEO is more about slow and steady change; Google has evolved its Panda index changes to a rolling change rather than the massive shake-ups of old.

More information
Android Fragmentation Report August 2015 – OpenSignal
2004 Founders’ IPO Letter – Investor Relations – Google
Fumbling the Future: How Xerox Invented, then Ignored, the First Personal Computer
What’s eating Google’s brand | renaissance chambara
Why Google Employees Quit? | TechCrunch
Google Tightens How Advertisers Buy YouTube Ads | AdWeek
Google’s $6 billion miscalculation on the EU | Bloomberg Businessweek

Links of the day | 在网上找到

China is two-speed consumer market | warc.com – high speed and low speed consumers – These high-speed households, consisting mostly of the urban middle-class, currently number 81m people and generate $1.7tr of the $3.2tr in total urban consumption, but their numbers will swell to 142m by 2020 when they will account for $3.8tr of the $5.6bn in total urban consumption.

How Long to Read – find how long it will take to read any book

Ritz-Carlton, Naples shares a slice of pie on social media | Luxury Daily – being useful, smart social play

Luxury Hotels Move Into Low-Touch Luxury | L2 Think Tank – thinking carefully about process and the use of digital

Channel Mum looks ahead after ITV takes a stake | digiday – ITV investing in YouTube content

Is Bing Trolling Google & Alphabet With ABC.WTF Redirect? – looks like some prankster punk’d Alphabet

Alphabet: what does it all mean? | CommsTalkBlog – a post I wrote for the company blog, check it out

HAVE BRITS ABANDONED RAVE CULTURE? | DJMag – Newsbeat was probably the wrong format to do the report from

Tinder and Hookup-Culture Promotion | Vanity Fair – is this really that different from the traditional meat market approach?

Five for Friday | 五日(星期五)

Things that made my day this week:

Ice Cube appearing in a video for Vanity Fair, critiquing interpretations of NWA lyrics on Rap Genius

Great video on the design of signage and what it means

L2 Think Tank on how Twitter may change its business model (and its stock market fortunes), Can Twitter Become a Messaging App? | L2 Think Tank – however LINE and WeChat are more than messaging infrastructure but platforms in their own right supporting m-commerce, gaming, virtual goods and payments.

Great use of sound in this video for Yamaha

Interesting product designs using passive plastic cases to control devices through sound

Links of the day | 在网上找到

Hardkiss Music – love to see this stuff get reissued

5ninthavenueproject – YouTube – set of VHS amateur documentaries that capture New York in the late 1980s

The decline and fall of HTC | Digital Evangelist – a bit of the PC commodisation industry model and the mistake of following the Apple model without the full stack and marketing spend

Korea’s Daum Kakao Brings In 34-Year-Old CEO To Grow Its Messaging Business Overseas | TechCrunch – can KakaoTalk deal with LINE, WhatsApp, KIK and WeChat overseas?

Has America Completely Forgotten Its Roots In Dance Music? Magnetic magazine – I understand it but many people think that the blues started with Eric Clapton, culture is becoming like vapour

Google new operating structure – Business Insider – interesting moves which formalises where Google has been. It also means that the Google brand isn’t likely to be over extended or risked on edge ventures

Pinterest’s Difference From Other Social Media Lures Quaker | Advertising Age – more like search. Longer content shelf life, minimal snark, searchability

759 Store dips toe in e-Commerce waters | Marketing Interactive – pet products, snacks and other in store products to follow

Traditional ad spending drops for first time | Kantar China – presumably because the economy is slowing down

Here’s how a Finnish startup landed $10M from Baidu. In a McDonald’s – interesting use of magnetic fields

Oprah time: The Divine by Boaz Lavie, Asaf Hanuka and Tomer Hanuka

I am a big fan of graphic novels, partly because I don’t have the patience to collect and read weeklies. I binge read, rather like one consumes video as a DVD box set or Netflix. Lavie and Co. have come up with beautifully illustrated fantasy that incorporates US private military contractors and a Mondo Cane-esque view of Southeast Asia.

Set in a made up country, a child army led by twins takes on US contractors working with the local government to prepare the area for mineral exploitation. All hell breaks loose with explosions and dragon versus helicopter flights.

What comes off as a great high concept feels rushed into just one trade paperback book and could have been explored in a more in-depth way. If Jamie Hewlett lost his sense of humour, he would probably draw stories like this – and that’s no bad thing either.

Links of the day | 在网上找到

Podcasting embraces native advertising | Digiday – interesting as podcasting historically has struggled with an advertising model

Refinery29 – Time cover reinforces tech stereotypes – PCGamer calls the cover “the greatest threat to VR” because it “reinforces, rather than challenges, the perception that VR is a mask that nerds use to blot out the world.”

Sephora Launching Beauty Box Subscription Service | TIME – interesting that the retail brand is stepping into BirchBox territory, it’s not only about sales but product market testing and says something about the tyranny of choice

Pepsi plant shuts down in Venezuela as desperation grows over product shortages | Fusion – soft drink gains currency

How to be a cyberpunk, according to a 1990s tech magazine | Fusion – love this, but it shows how far Sony has fallen

California Court Gets One Step Closer to Deciding Uber’s Fate | TIME – important because California tends to lead legal trends

Jungle, Raves and Pirate Radio: The History and Future of Kool FM | VICE – nice to see Kool FM getting some recognition, how did they manage to survive through the raids I wonder