I hadn’t done one of these posts in a while so I decided to focus on the media sector, the consumer electronics sector and developments in search.
Participants in the Korean wave who are currently doing good business in both Japan and the US:
Publishers finding that tablets aren’t a panacea for declining print sales and consumers finding that e-magazine are huge data files and aren’t that well designed
Media industry lobbyists running amok and going to war with their customers a la Digital Economy Bill
Samsung including vacuum tubes in their top-of-the-line home cinema set-ups. Now if they could just learn how to make hi-fi separates
Still surprised by the relative lack of support for DAB radio broadcasts amongst hardware manufacturers
Traditional Japanese consumer electronics manufacturers who have lost their mojo on high-end products and lost their market everywhere else as there is no longer a compelling reason to buy their brand.Their convergence strategies and undifferentiated SKUs have been a commercial suicide pact
Innovations in trying to understand consumer intent like Hunch and developments in social search like Quora
New poorer versions of Google tools; notably the new beta Analytics look-and-feel which is just plain awkward
Advanced search functions and tools. No longer with us
In this edition of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly we have new Asian films worth going to see if they break on UK shores, underwhelming technology and fashion business trends:
Cat Shit One – imagine a film that did for the war on terror what The Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now did for the Vietnam War. Only as computer animation where the bad guys are camels and the protagonists are rabbits. That’s Cat Shit One.
Like most anime it is made up of short episodes with the first one in the can and available on DVD from Amazon.com. They are financing the production as they go so hence selling one 22-minute episode at a time.
The idea behind Cat Shit One is a manga series based in Vietnam and later low-intensity conflicts during the 1980s.
In this case bad meaning good as Run DMC would say. Let The Bullets Fly is a Chinese film some of the best talent from Hong Kong. It is set in the chaotic times of the 1920s China. Much of the timing in it reminds me of Sergio Leone’s Dollar’s trilogy or My Name Is Nobody.
It’s good to see Chow Yun-Fat back in the heart of the Chinese film industry in a role that suits him better than Confucius.
Akira – I love the original but the idea of Hollywood making a live action version of an anime film after the Avatar The Last Airbender car crash doesn’t bear thinking about. I am sure that they will probably try and dump down the story as well.
iPad – its not that the iPad is bad technology. It isn’t, it’s more that I can’t find a way to it it into my life. I think that the real gift of the iPad is that it has managed to press the reset button on the definition of PC, which had strayed of its homebrew roots of lean engineering to being a profligate waster of memory, power consumption and time.
The iPad is a cure for laptop shoulder providing much of the same functionality in a much lighter package.
But as a content creator I find my Mac laptop irreplaceable.
3D – Let’s be honest about one thing first of all. 3D is all about making cinema films harder to pirate rather than primarily for audience enjoyment. Once you take that into account together with the divergent formats of 3D TVs it all looks like a consumer electronics car crash.
Glassless 3D displays from Toshiba have apparently been a bit of a disappointment. Let’s see if Nintendo can reinvigorate 3D for consumers, the way it did with moving console gaming beyond anti-social males with social inadequacy issues.
Nokia’s phone range – Symbian has been written off, the low-end phones aren’t as interesting as other people are offering and the MeeGo devices have had the kosh laid on them. Whatever Nokia does to come back with won’t be in mobile or smartphone.
The deal with Microsoft is kind of like the insurance company that Xerox bought to keep the cash flow going whilst they perfected modern photocopying.
However if Nokia can’t win a sector it owned, how does it expect to come back with something completely new? It also has to make you wonder what will happen with Nokia Siemens Networks?
Gyaru fashion - fashions that young Japanese women are shaking up the way the style business operates. Many of the looks come from the customer up. Fashion labels spring up in the Tokyo shopping areas of Shibuya and Harajuku but then find new ways of reaching a customer base: real world events, mobile commerce and e-commerce help customers from outside Tokyo get the latest styles.
Local brands also ensure that they provide fashions that suite the body types of their customers and even use ‘ordinary models’ rather than your traditional size zero clothes horse to show off the threads.
Luxury wear – most of the real excitement seems to be happening in the board room as fashion labels either look to IPO in Hong Kong or get acquired as part of a large group like LVMH.
One of the most fascinating aspects of this industry is watching how the Asian markets change and mature at such a rapid rate. Things will get very interesting if the Chinese government drop the luxury good tax. This will cause a realignment in retail strategies and brands may look at new routes to market.
Disposable fashion – high cotton prices and an increasing Chinese consumer market is starting to put a restriction on the high street cancer of disposable fashion and I will be glad to see the back of it.
In this edition of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly we have groups that have been summed up 2010 for me, vintage options and alternatives to delicious:
The Boys – Garth Ennis takes the superhero comic book genre, turns it inside out and adds a touch of Hollywood Confidential in this series of stories about vain superheroes gone wrong and the group that has to keep them in order.
Take That – I used to have a modicum of respect for Take That because of Jason Orange and Howard’s skills as breakdancers. But now that they have become M&S male models and crooners the goodwill has evaporated.
But then they wouldn’t be relying on someone like me to pay their kids school fees anyway.
X-Factor – I just can’t bear to watch these people on TV or listen to their songs.
It just strikes me that a bizarre masochistic streak is needed in the ‘talents’ involved to put themselves forward on the show. My last words on this are that 5,000 audience complaints can’t be wrong.
Vintage hi-fi – Ok so time and technology usually makes things better. But in the case of hi-fi and even home cinema this isn’t necessarily the case.
The rise of digital entertainment has resulted in audio and video formats that are inferior to legacy technologies like vinyl, CD, LazerDisc and DVD.
Secondly, globalisation has meant that the build quality of equipment has gone downhill. Thankfully, a mix of vintage equipment dealers and eBay now allows you to buy exceptionally well-made equipment at a steep discount.
Snap up bargains before the world suddenly realises that convergence isn’t all its cracked up to be.
Vintage eyewear – I like the way hipsters recycle and re-use fashion icons, notably vintage Ray-Ban eyewear. Unfortunately most of them are actually buying new Luxottica-made Ray-Bans rather than the vintage Busch & Lomb equipment which is almost as bad as buying a fake.
The authenticity is lost. But then their flannel shirts are also more likely to come from Muji than a thrift shop
Vintage t-shirts – at Urban Outfitters. The problem with vintage patterns is that the state of the fabric is inconsistent with the state of the transfer on the shirt.
No is getting fooled here its not even close enough to be ironic. Give it up.
Pinboard.in – When the initial flight from delicious kicked in Pinboard.in was one of the main winners. A clean interface and smart features put this out ahead of the rest.
It would be great if there was some mobile integration; such as the ability to bookmark articles from my iPhone but I guess I can mail them in instead
Mister Wong – is a well established social bookmarking site that is free. It has a nice layout, a mobile application and even shows thumbnail images of many sites.
I have found it a bit slow and managed to load my bookmarks two or three times on to the system by accident. Well worth looking at though.
Diigo – ok to be honest with you I just gave up on trying Diigo as it seemed to go horribly wrong. (This may be due to the great Delicious exodus, but it didn’t inspire confidence.
In this edition of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly we have super hero films that sucked and deserve a new remake, mobile phone price plan options and Asian cuisine in London:
The Punisher – Hollywood has taken three runs at The Punisher and still hasn’t got it right. The first Punisher was Dolph Lungren who had the physicality of the character, but was let down by a poor script.The second version couldn’t even be saved by John Trovolta as a bad guy and made Battlefield Earth look like a quality film.The third iteration came out whilst the corpse of the second film was still warm. Not even the acting talent of Ray Stevenson could save it. Despite this The Punisher should be the easiest of the three films to get right. I live in hope.
Howard The Duck – George Lucas tried to bring counterculture comic book hero Howard the Duck to the big screen.Values and the plot were compromised along the way (not that Lucas has very been strong on character-development and plots).Film-making technology has come a long way since then. And Tarantino proved that audiences could take a lot more this time around, Howard deserves another chance.
The Watchmen – Whilst a brave and valiant effort, the Watchmen was too much graphic novel to try and squeeze into one film, even if it does take a backside-numbing three hours.Visually it matches Moore and Gibbons vision, but it ultimately falls down due to the lack of depth in the storytelling – the essence of Moore’s work. Where is the pirate ship, the clock motif and the grittiness of the original?
Vodafone:Passport – hoping that enlightened roaming fees will cause them to revisit their previously criminal pricing. And they will have the Nokia N97 when it lands in the UK.
Orange – I like the brand but don’t like the pricing structure.
3 UK – for icing Three like Home, in my eyes their USP. I can’t get reception in my home with them and they have the most appalling customer services, in comparison to other carriers.
Korean food – London has had a boom in Korean food over the past few years, particularly around the British Museum and Centrepoint. It makes a pleasant addition to the world of food in London
Japanese food – you know that a cuisine has been absorbed into the British palette when you can get a (bad) version of its signature dish from Marks & Spencers. The problem with British Japanese cooking is that most of it is no good.
Vietnamese food – unfortunately most Londoners palates (myself included) tend to mix up Vietnamese food with Thai.Whilst there are some good restaurants in Stoke Newington, Vietnamese cuisine has yet to get the popularity it deserves.
In this edition of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly we have product placement in films, phone upgrade options and start-up catering options:
Quantum of Solace – 007 returns in the Quantities of Cash, product placement cash. Looking more like a luxury advert for Omega and the Ford Motor Company Daniel Craig puts in a great performance as brand spokesperson par excellence
Independence Day – Jeff Goldblum and Will Smith demonstrate the Apple laptops resilience to malware from outer space to vanquish little green men and take cinema-goers on a rollercoaster ride. There was a strong film/marketing synergy with Apple across all promotional activities.
Back to the Future – When I first saw this at the cinema I was astounded by the blatant brand close-ups. But without BTTF there couldn’t be Daniel Craig as marketing spokesperson. Tight logo shots and fimsy product integration for Aiwa personal stereos, JVC video cameras, Nike sneakers, Toyota pick-ups and Calvin Klein underwear showed how we were all Material Girls and Boys in the mid 80s.
Happy with my handset, but you can take your contract and shove it – lots of things are changing in the mobile world. Many of the must-have handsets need at least another iteration to get right. Meanwhile once ARPU rate declines, market saturation kicks in and handset deals stagnate the mobile phone companies may crack open their piggy-banks and offer more reasonable tarrifs. My upgrade this year is a new battery for my Nokia E90.
iPhone / Blackberry Storm / T-Mobile G1 on an 18-month contract – Your mobile phone company has just made you their property and you’ll have a phone that will look grubby in next to no time due to your fingerprints on it. Oh yeah, battery life: battery half-life more like it.
A variant of your existing handset on a 24-month contract – Hello! apart from the fact that it has less scratches, the phone isn’t going to be of any use anyway and 24-month contract is mobile carrier version of indentured slavery.
Bring your own – given that the economy is in the tank, bring your own allows bootstrapped web people to minimise their burn rate and adds an interesting conversation piece in itself to the event.
Cup cakes – Whilst the marketing manager may like cup cakes because they offer a great branding opportunity, its not great for the sedentary lifestyle of many web people. I mean what’s the thing we really need; yep you’ve got it lots of calories to pile on the pounds and sugar in the icing to get us well on the road to diabetes.
Beer and pizza – The old stand-by which has kept programmers going for the past four decades. Unfortunately its also the reason why conference t-shirts could double as hot air balloons. Pizza is basically complex carbohydrates and saturated fat (the bad kind that sticks to the walls of your heart and kills you), whilst beer makes conversation less coherent and is the world’s most efficient delivery system of calories bar none.
Also branding opportunities with pizza toppings are severely limited.
In this edition of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly we have technology trends that have been on the map and come back, conspiracy-laden spy films and people who embody rock n’ roll:
Return of the network computer: Although that you could argue that devices like ASUS eeePC and Nokia’s n8XX series do not match the technical specifications of Larry Ellison’s Network Computer, they do match the ethos of the device.Applications and services are primarily accessed of the web and the consumer benefits from the use of low-cost hardware and reduced power consumption.
Return of the PDA: lets be honest about this, the Nokia 5800, the Apple iPhone and the iPod touch is like stepping back eight years to colour PDAs. My Palm Tungsten T3 was a perfectly adequate music player and that was five years ago. It was also a very nifty voice recorder
Return of the portal: Is it me or is Facebook and Google IG just the return of the portal a la Excite and Yahoo?
3 Days Of The Condor – it was tough to split between The Parallax View and 3 Days Of The Condor. Ultimately Condor won out by a nose (or beak), it is classic political Redford alongside The Candidate and All The President’s Men.
Defence Of The Realm – Defence Of The Realm was a British film that captured the paranoid nature of Thatcher’s Britain. Things weren’t help by a shoot-to-kill policy in Northern Ireland, government tactics against the NUM and Peter Wright’s Spycatcher debacle.
Enemy Of The State – Will Smith’s non-stop adventure train makes it feel like every other action film out these days. It isn’t going to provide with any conversation starters at a dinner party. Speaking of conversations, Gene Hackman’s role in Enemy Of The State echoed his performance in The Conversation, another great paranoid thriller.
Ronnie Drew – Ronnie was one of the prime movers behind The Dubliners, although they were folk music revivalists. Drew embodied rock and roll and managed to do a fair bit of good at the same time. One of Drew’s overlooked works is the short film O’Donoghue’s Opera, a film shot on the proverbial shoe string in 1965 and is worthwhile checking out.
Johnny Cash- The man in black was rock and roll before rock and roll knew what it was.
Marshall Mathers – When Shakespeare wrote that all the world’s a stage, he didn’t mean that the world should be a therapist chair.
Haagen Dazwas built on a fake name and owned by a large conglomerate (General Mills). The resources of a mega corp is ideally suited to crank out lots of flavours.
Leica – high quality rubber-armoured binoculars and optics which are second-to-none. The only problem with Leica is the high price of the optics.
Zeiss – there is a wide range of binoculars available under the Zeiss brand and it says something of their robust nature that many of them available are over 60 years old. Ironically the best sets of binoculars used lead crystal lens, but Zeiss stopped makng them in the mid 1990s.
Bushnell- despite the high performance optics label and the rubber armour these are not in the same league as their German cousins.
Harry Palmer – Michael Caine’s subversive paper pusher who gets on the wrong end of things as bait on the hook of his boss Ross’ fishing line in the Ipcress Flie made for compelling viewing and was influential for many ‘kitchen sink’ spy portrayals. Edward Woodward’s Callan owes a lot to Caine’s Harry Palmer. Unfortunately Palmer was ressurected in films shot when Caine was older and some of the gloss was lost.
Alec Leamas – The protagonist in John Le Carre’s The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. Leamas was brought to life by Richard Burton’s morose film portrayal of the character put the cold in cold war.
James Bond – Ian Fleming’s cold calculating killing machine has been lost in the world of gadgets and box office considerations. Thankfully, Moore and Neill portrayed him in a more interesting manner in The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier
In this edition of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly we have music, classic looking headphones and quality maxims:
The Found Sound Orchestra: Aussie mash-up artist takes a leaf out of The Avalanches playbook and produces some of the most sublime productions that would have made Gnarls Barkley happy.
My personal favourite is Bam Bam featuring Bobby Kray.
Modern Guilt by Beck: the new album by Beck makes you want to go out and buy the vinyl, cover it with clotted cream and strawberry jam and wash it down with lashings and lashings of ginger beer.Beck keeps moving the styles around to provide an interesting package that still hangs together
Music industry: why not just save up your pennies, buy a Mitsubishi Zero and fly it headfirst into an LPG tanker? Your end would be painless and not as much of a spectacle. Chronic mismanagement and a failure to invest in talent has left the industry exposed to piracy since there is relatively little vibrant content to track down
Sennheiser HD250 linear II – the classic modernist style of 1980s and 1990s Sennheisers, not as quite as ubiquitous as HD25, but have all the benefits in terms of sound quality and user replaceable parts available from good pro studio gear suppliers.
Sony MDR 7506 / MDR-CD900ST – rocked by a number of famous DJs over the years and film makers. Their function-based 1980s design makes them great to wear, without the bulk and weight of Beyerdynamics D100s. The big downside is that none of the bits are user serviceable :(
Panasonic RP-HTX7 – Retro styled headphones that hark back to the big aluminium and teak trimmed hi-fi separates of the 1970s that have great emo appeal but don’t sound as sharp as they look.
PCQ – The manifesto that Rickshaw Bagworks use to make their bags. It stands for Passion, Craft and Quality. Like the Japanese saying goes: In order to do something well you have to burn yourself in it. More on PCQ from the folks at Rickshaw Bagworks.
6 Sigma – I am sorry but anything that awards some pencil pusher a black belt like as if they are Bruce Lee cannot be taken seriously.
TQM – Total quality management smothered businesses in paperwork and annual inspection visits induced a huge amount of sick days. Made things consistent and traceable. Notice the words good or quality improvement didn’t appear once in that last sentence? I burn toast every time I cook it, that doesn’t make me a Michelin-star chef.
In this edition of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly we have web trends, sunglasses and green footwear:
Web 3.0: the semantic web – the web is hitting a plateau and needs a paradigm shift
Web 2.0: what was a philosophical leap forward in web development has become overburdened by suits and and the great unwashed
Mobile web: whilst I use Twitter and Bloglines on my mobile phone, the mobile web has yet to deliver its true potential
Vintage Ray-Ban – I am currently rocking a set of Ray Ban Shooter with ambermatic lens from the early 1990s. Thanks to the whole 80s revival I have a lot of people admiring them. I am glad that I left them in the back of the drawer for the past decade rather than throwing them out like I stupidly did with my Oakley T-wires
CAZAL – Cari Zalloni’s more outrageous designs were rocked by the famous in the 1980s from Tim Simenon of Bomb The Bass to MC Hammer these glasses are a triumph of form over function
Modern Ray Ban – comparatively poor build quality leaching off the reputation the brand gained for quality optical instruments under Bausch and Lomb. The new Italian owners Luxottica Group have a lot to answer for. Scarily, they now own Oakley as well.
Nike Considered – now Nike may employ children on pitiful wages, but their Considered range of outdoory wear combines style with green credentials and they have made some shoes ideal for client meetings and comfortable enough to wear on a long-haul flight.
adidas Grun – adidas have been the dons at raiding the design archive to bring back classic shoes and styles. I have their gear but their environmentally-friendly range looked as appealing as a 3-day-old lentil casserole.
Converse Chuck Taylors – why when shoe technology has moved on would anybody want to wear this medieval basketball boot? While we’re at it should we bring back foot-binding for all female offspring?
In this edition of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly we have performance Audi’s, technology conferences and London airports:
Audi Ur-Quattro – growing up as a teenager this was the car that I wanted to have. The early version without the Buck Rogers style digital display.
The red Quattro which plays a starring role in Ashes To Ashes reminded me of just how good this car is.
Vorsprung durch Technik.
Audi R8 – it’s a fearsome good-looking beast but also has a fearsome price tag to match. It has an awesome musical score on its adverts (very DJ Rolando meets a chamber orchestra). However in the late noughties outside of Russian and Arabian rich circles is it really socially acceptable to drive one?
And If I had that much money wouldn’t I prefer a Porsche instead if I didn’t want a gold-plated Prius?
Audi TT – My ex-colleague Lis managed to insult a client by calling a TT a hairdressers car. It may handle like a four-wheel drive skateboard, but it isn’t coming off a German production line and has curves on it that are more
children’s toy than performance motor.
Yep, Lis was right – a hairdresser’s car (admittedly a well-heeled hairdresser.)
LIFT – imagine a more egalitarian, more focused version of TED. LIFT is held in Switzerland every year and costs about a tenth of what a trip to TED would cost your average European.
SXSW– the internet conference founded on the back of the Austin music festival.
Whilst it has premiered great applications like Tom Coates’ Fire Eagle.
However it also has managed to capture the shallow feel of other industry events such as the Winter Music Festival in Miami.
TED – has moved from being an event that provides brainfood to geeks to a cut-price Davos. The TED-appointed great-and-the-good get entertained at a 3-day event.
LCY – ok it’s a small airport that takes you to European business
destinations but you get to fly in a remarkably civilised manner.
LTN – yes it is Luton but the Silverjet terminal makes it worthwhile. The problem is that Silverjet online goes to New York and Dubai.
Otherwise it has no redeeming features and is full of the same shell-suited underclass that go to LGW.
LHR – Heathrow Hell – it isn’t commonly used just because its an
alliteration, but because this airport is so shocking. It is a grimy, squalid, badly signed airport where your bags get pillaged and you have to wait a ridiculously long time to get through immigration.
On the bright side, its still better than going through immigration and DHS at most American airports
Unashamedly inspired by Wired magazine’s ‘Wired, Tired, Expired’ section, I thought that I would do my own every so often. I’ve kicked this off looking at gangster films wireless internet devices and brand behaviour:
Cocaine Cowboys – a documentary on how the US became awash in cocaine told by
the people who did it.
American Gangster – Washington gives one of this best performances as the Harlem hoodlum Frank Lucas who influenced New York gangster portrayals like Snipes
in New Jack City and Christopher Walken in the King of New York.
However the film has been marred by allegations against it by drug enforcement officials
Scarface – Tony Montana a political refugee from Cuba, Pacino’s lifetime performance yada yada.
Ok, it’s a great film, but it has been devalued by having every chav and petty criminal watching the film repeatedly and having a copy of the poster stuckto the wall of their hostel/squat/crack den
Nokia N810 – unlike the MacBook Air, this has made compromises in all the right areas, has a nice screen and is ideal to take on the road. Nokia’s product design narrowly wins out over Asus
Asus eeePC – kawaii computer styling and a really nice software package that turns it into the ideal internet terminal for travellers
OQO – nice product design touches and several times the price of the Asus or Nokia device.
Being good – a lot of the time being green isn’t enough to make you feel good about yourself. Some of the most environmentally-friendly people I knew were the biggest most self-righteous insufferable people that I ever had he displeasure to deal with. Your iPod may be biodegradable but are the workers allowed to participate in collective bargaining and do they work such long hours that industrial accidents are the norm?
That’s why I like buying American Apparel t-shirts alongside my Stussy, New Balance trainers to supplement my adidas ZX8000 fetish and US Carhartt jeans
Being green – the whales are dying, carbon trading is a great opportunity and biodegradable means that I can sell you things again and again. Or maybe I am
just thinking different because oil prices are so ridiculously high
Being very, very naughty – like Unilever not living up to its Dove values through the way it promotes Lynx/Ax, Toyota with its gas-guzzling pick-ups after showing us the way with the Prius no one likes a cheat, a bully or a hypocrite.