Throwback gadget: Bose Wave Music System

It is a little disingenuous to call the Bose Wave Music System a throwback gadget, mainly because Bose still makes it. It would be reasonable to call it a design classic. There are benefits to picking up a 2006 model Bose Wave Music System, rather than paying the premium of a new device.

BOSE Wave music system専用iPod接続キット

Bose Wave System timeline

The original Bose Wave System was launched back in 1984; this was back when Sony was king due to the Walkman, digital wasn’t really on the horizon with the Discman only launching same year. The Acoustic Wave 1 (AW1) was a new take on the boom box radio that was ubiquitous in households and workplaces at that time. The AW1 featured a cassette deck and a two band radio.

Eight years later digital finally arrived when Bose switched out the cassette for a top-loading CD player instead.

In 1993, the Bose Wave System shrank from about the size of a medium sized boom box to something about as tall as an iPod Classic but featured radio only and was called the Wave Radio.

Five years later a slot loading CD player was integrated. In 2004, the CD player also accepted MP3 based discs and Boselink connectivity.


Boselink is unique in consumer electronics in terms of the expandability it allows. It was originally designed as a communications protocol for multi-room sound systems, but is also useful for connecting modules that extend the functionality of the basic Bose Wave System. Compatible accessories include:

  • Multi-CD drive
  • Soundlink – playback of music which is streamed to the device over Bluetooth
  • DAB module – UK-only adapter allowing reception of digital radio as well as AM and FM signals

Bose also offered an iPod kit, which charges your iPod Classic and plays back the music. There is a replacement remote for the Bose Wave Music System which integrates basic iPod playback controls.

Vintage over new

The key benefit of a vintage Bose Wave System over a new device is the display. New devices have a back lit LCD display which wash out and aren’t as legible as the vintage vacuum fluorescent displays.


Secondly, you still enjoy the ‘big box’ sound created by the diminutive size of the Bose Wave Music System. They use use a folded waveguide, which is a series of passages from the speaker driver to the speaker grill. This attempts to replicate sound from larger systems. Bose claims the waveguide “produces full, clear stereo sound from a small enclosure by guiding air through two 26” folded wave guides.” The design of the wave guides has changed minimally over the years.

My casual listening at home is based on two systems. A 12 year old Apple iPod Hi-Fi A1121, which works as a centre speaker for my TV when I need it. It takes audio in via TOSLink and gives a better sound than most sound bars that I’ve listened to.

I use a Bose Wave Music System of a similar age to the iPod Hi-Fi with the DAB module connected via BoseLink and iPod adaptor as my go to radio around the house. It is the default provider of background music and up to the minute news. It provides a better sound than most of its newer BlueTooth enabled competitors. It wins out over the Apple iPod Hi-Fi, because of its ability to play digital radio and hide out of the way on book shelf.

I then use a dedicated hi-fi for serious music listening of CDs and vinyl records.

Chinese smartphone eco-system for beginners

Ok this isn’t the most technical video in terms of its review of the Chinese  smartphone eco-system and it doesn’t touch on the WeChat eco-system, but its a good introductory video for westerners by Winston Sterzel, a YouTuber living in Shenzhen. It focuses on only the top domestic Chinese smartphone brands.

If I was looking to explain Chinese smartphone dynamics to a western client, this video is as good an introduction as any to the hardware side of the business.

Here are the key points I’d highlight and additional comments that I would add to the film.

Mobility in the working population drove Chinese smartphone adoption

The transitory nature of the Chinese workforce following China’s opening up has mean’t that many people are migrants and many only return home once a year (for lunar new year) if they are lucky. Staying in touch is critical to keep families together. Secondly being migrants, having a ‘computer’ that you can carry makes more sense than a traditional PC. Finally, the price point of smartphones puts the internet in the hands of pretty much anyone who wants one. These three factors explain why smartphones took off so dramatically in China. This started in the urban areas, but then migrants brought them home to relatives and gave them away as Chinese new year gifts.

China Mobile had a government mandate to build out connectivity into even the most rural areas in China. Data packages and the applications that run on it like WeChat made telecommunications even cheaper and easier.

The smartphone is where the majority of Chinese online shopping takes place, how families keep in touch and are starting to be a tool for the delivery of government services.

The price-value balance of smartphones

The development of the iPhone had an unintended on the Chinese smartphone contract manufacturers. If we go back to the early Samsung Galaxy models from the S to the S4; the industrial design of these phones owed a lot to Nokia. They had replaceable storage with micro SD cards and a replaceable battery with a battery hatch in plastic. If you dropped the phone the hatch may pop off. This was by design as it got rid of the some of the energy from the fall and the frame had a degree of flex to protect the innards. This is one of the reasons why Nokia 3310 feature phones ran and ran. The face and back might pop off your phone if you dropped it; but they could easily be snapped back on.

Manufacturing phones of that nature also helps with scaling up manufacturing based on mouldings.

Apple didn’t bother with external batteries, which at the time sparked a huge controversy. Their battery life was awful and most working stiffs kept their phone charging from their office PC during the day. By comparison I had a desktop charger with previous Ericsson and Nokia phones, along with a few spare batteries and felt comfortable going on holiday for a few days with a spare charged battery in a zip loc bag and no phone charger. Up until the 6 plus, Apple’s battery has been a real pain. 

So Apple differentiated by done what seemed like an insane idea of using a CNC (computer numeric controlled) machine to make the phone chassis. This is like a robot version of the machine tools that you would have used in shop class individually making each phone chassis.

Apple tried this out with the stainless steel ‘belly band’ of the 4 series phone and then perfected it with the 5 series. I suspect the reason why they moved from stainless steel to aluminium alloy for manufacturing was to balance durability with optimising manufacturing time.

Over time these machines move from the Apple production lines onto another product. Soon you can’t be the smartphone chassis manufacturing business unless you have this capability. Apple’s machines may have been sold on, but there was probably an increase in the CNC machine makers manufacturing capacity as well.

So all of the smartphones shown, whether it cost £80 or £800; none of them felt cheap or had a ‘China penalty’ in terms of case design.  This has affected the market in the Chinese smartphone eco-system. They are more durable, but there is less incentive to go premium when a cheap or medium priced phone looks and feels this good.

The durability of modern Chinese smartphones might be one fo the reasons why sales in smartphones have declined year-on-year. I’d argue a second reason is WeChat; so long as you can use WeChat your smartphone is fine. WeChat has had a similar effect on Chinese smartphones to what the web had on western PC sales over the past two decades – computers had become about as useful as they were going to be and performance became less of an issue.

Chinese smartphone market consolidation

Winston kind of alluded to it in his video but Oppo, Vivo and OnePlus are all related to BBK Electronics; a longtime Chinese phone and consumer electronics manufacturer. When I first went to visit China I bought a BBK ‘keitai’ style clamshell feature phone. At that time BBK competed with international players like Nokia or Samsung and domestic brands like Ningbo Bird. (Ningbo Bird was the largest manufacturer in China from 2003 – 2005).

Now they make everything from cheap TVs and speakers under the Memorex brand, to smartphones and high end Blu-Ray players as Oppo.

In the smartphone sector, they operate under three main brands. OnePlus is aimed at international users and kind of similar to Xiaomi in terms of the balance that it strikes between technology, features and price. Oppo is more of a Samsung or Huawei analogue. Vivo was launched to have a lower price youthful brand.

Between BBK, Xiaomi and Huawei you now have most of the Chinese smartphone eco-system, by value and sales volume. Just a few years ago there would have been far more players that would have merited a review including the following the companies and their sub-brands:

  • ZTE
  • Lenovo
  • Meizu
  • Coolpad
  • TCL

These are still big businesses, and I am not denigrating these brands. The analyst reports show that the Chinese smartphone eco-system is undergoing rapid consolidation; in the same way as Sony and HTC have been dwarfed by Samsung and Huawei.

ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우

The great big Spotify scam: Did a Bulgarian playlister swindle their way to a fortune on streaming service? – Music Business Worldwide – this also shows how topsy turvy the economics of Spotify are

China is quickly becoming the dominant force in startups | Quartz – makes you wonder about Silicon Valley

Opinion | The Tyranny of Convenience – The New York Times – Americans say they prize competition, a proliferation of choices, the little guy. Yet our taste for convenience begets more convenience, through a combination of the economics of scale and the power of habit. The easier it is to use Amazon, the more powerful Amazon becomes — and thus the easier it becomes to use Amazon. Convenience and monopoly seem to be natural bedfellows. – great article by Tim Wu

WPP Vows to Do Better After Weak Results, Nervous Outlook Send Shares Plunging – The New York Times – WPP plans to accelerate a programme to simplify the business by aligning digital systems, platforms and capabilities to provide bespoke teams for its clients as opposed to the different agencies that currently compete with each other to win contracts.

Smart homes and vegetable peelers — Benedict Evans – interesting starting point, but I think that there should be a second layer. Can the intelligence be local (like lighting sensors based on movement and presence in office buildings) or does it need cloud computing? Why can’t smart lightbulbs be at the edge rather than in the cloud. Why does a Nest thermostat need to be in the cloud?

WeChat New Year Data Report 2018 – China Channel

WSJ City | Five signals sent by China’s Anbang takeover – Reining in big spenders (spending capital abroad in an untargeted manner), reduction of systemic financial risk, concern over complex short-term high-yielding wealth products

Wealthy Chinese Women Are Unique in APAC: Agility Research | Jing Daily – interesting dissonance between Hong Kong and Chinese high net worth consumers

Levi’s Invented A Laser-Wielding Robot That Makes Ethical Jeans | Fast Company – the laser and chemical free treatment remind me a lot of the work that Frontline Clothing in Hong Kong have been doing for years in association with their Chinese supply chain partners

Struggling Esprit to close more than 40 shops in Europe | South China Morning Post – it plans to close more than 40 “heavy loss-making” shops in “core” European countries, or make around a 10 to 15 per cent reduction in its controlled space in these countries

Amazon Has Officially Invaded The Advertising Industry | Forrester Research – the bit this misses is that consumers already use Amazon’s search page as a first port of call for things

Huawei distances itself from executive’s comments that rivals using politics to keep it out of US | South China Morning Post  – Huawei did not authorise Yu to make comments about the US on behalf of the company, and does not agree with his views, Chen said. Yu did not immediately respond to a text message seeking comment – Richard Yu is known for going off-piste with media

LittleThings online publisher shuts down, blames Facebook’s algorithm – Business Insider – not terribly surprising, one only had to look at the games companies that built their businesses on Facebook and got eviscerated

Burson Cohn & Wolfe – SixtySecondView – like any other business merger the focus will keep the eye off the ball at a time when the PR industry is seeing exceptionally low growth rates. I have friends and former colleagues on both sides of this in both Asia and Europe; so I hope it works out well.

Samsung says it’s going to stop pumping out features and start making devices good instead – BGR – “We developed mobile phones earlier than China, and we were obsessed with being the world’s first and industry’s first rather than thinking about how this innovation would be meaningful to consumers,” Koh said. “Being the first turns out to be meaningless today, and our strategy is to launch something that consumers believe meaningful and valuable at a right time.” – this reads like a slap in the face to Huawei’s approach on innovation and features

Tea Turns Up Temperature in Fight Against Coffee – WSJ – what tea misses is ritual

Daring Fireball: Berkshire Hathaway’s 2017 Annual Report (PDF) – they know how to play to small town audiences well

Oprah time: Operaatio Elop (Operation Elop) by Pekka Nykänen & Merina Salminen


There has seldom been a fall so drastic as Nokia’s fall in the mobile phone market from leading player to disaster. With that fall came the humbling of a country.

Given the scale of the fall and the size of Nokia as a brand around the world, I was surprised the the book hadn’t been translated and published in different language editions. Instead it was up to numerous Finns to translate it into English for free and provide it on an as is basis.

Had Nokia’s fall had been so complete that it literally fell out of interest for non-Finns?

What becomes apparent is a story more nuanced than the press coverage would allow. Elop comes out of it a flawed tragic figure – a one-trick pony; rather than a skilful trojan horse.

Nokia’s feature phone line up where surprisingly a hero of the piece contributing positively to the business for longer than I would have expected and slowing down the business collapse precipitated in the smartphone business.

Nokia’s board of directors and former management come out of it much worse.

Nokia’s strengths had become its weakness.

  • Smartphone manufacturing processes weren’t ready for mass adoption
  • MeeGo had been unfairly assessed
  • It blew its marketing budget on a bet on the North American market, ignoring other countries
  • The marketing budget was spent too early and all at once, by my reckoning it was roughly $100 per phone sold during the launch of the Lumia range in the US
  • Windows Phone software and cheap Android phones were key issues
  • Chip technology parter issues from its relationship with Qualcomm to it

The more pertinent question would be is there any circumstances where Nokia stood a chance of staying on top in the mobile phone marketplace?

Twitter for Mac – some alternatives

Twitter’s desktop client on the Mac has been pulled from the app store and won’t be supported any more. It is time to look for an alternative.  What you should choose depends on how you use Twitter, I’ve tried to outline what I consider are the best native Mac apps for Twitter.

The alternative that I use is Night Owl (夜フクロウ or YoruFukurou)  which is a small lightweight client put together by a Japanese development team. I used it historically because it had a small footprint on my desktop which is handy when you a list running in the background. It allows you to use many of the same ‘short cut’ commands that used to be available when you could use Twitter via SMS – it helps in running a productive app now.  I have a breaking news list that I use, this is what it looks like.

Night Owl

You can download Night Owl from the Apple App Store or their website.

Twitterific is probably the best maintained out of all the Twitter clients for the Mac, it looks similar to Night Owl and costs £7.99 on the app store.

Echofon has a similar layout to Night Owl , but charges you £9.99 for the privilege. It has also hasn’t been updated as often as Night Owl.  Echofon comes in full price and light versions in the App store.

If you are managing social media accounts then Tweetdeck is an obvious option. It’s multiple panels create a screen-wide dashboard so that you can handle mentions, direct messages and keep an eye on trending topics. It’s been last updated in 2015 and I’ve heard anecdotal evidence of it being buggy.

An alternative to TweetDeck is Janetter Pro which provides a similar look and feel to TweetDeck but allows for further customisation including custom wallpapers (if you care about that kind of thing). It also supports multiple languages for the app interface including Japanese, Korean and simplified Chinese.  Janetter Pro was updated in May 2017, it costs £4.99, you can find out more on their website and in the app store. There is also a free version in the App Store. In my opinion Janetter Pro is an overlooked gem of a product if you want a comprehensive dashboard view. If I had to do Twitter community management, I’d invest in Janetter Pro.

Tweetbot is the editors choice on the Apple App store and comes in at a premium price of £9.99, for this you get an interface that can flex between the Night Owl and Tweetdeck style interface design.