Links of the day | 在网上找到

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Throwback gadget: Oddpost

Back in 2002, the web was a very different place. In order for applications to do anything they would have to refresh the whole page. You couldn’t dynamically edit a document with other colleagues like you can with Google Docs for instance.  The catalyst for change was a webmail client called Oddpost.
Oddpost RSS aggregator
Oddpost was different in a number of ways to anything else at the time. At first glance, it looked like a three pane desktop mail client, there was less navigation controls than your webmail interfaces at the time. Which heralded a very different design approach in subsequent web 2.0 companies. It is hard to articulate now, Gmail wouldn’t arrive for another two years and when it did it was invite only which meant that for the average Joe it took a while to come around. There was no download or application required to make it work (like a Java applet for instance). Oddpost, instead used technologies which are now humdrum, but a decade ago were the web equivalent of a revolution. Dynamic HTML, XML, and Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) allowed individual elements of a page to be updated that provided a desktop app-like experience.

Oddpost’s design approach didn’t lend itself to advertising that would slow down it’s dynamic interface and its method of updating components of a page rather than the full page adversely affected the page view metric advertisers cared about at the time. Storage was more expensive than it is now, so it made sense that Oddpost was a paid-for product.  In return for your subscription of $30/year got you a whopping 30MB of storage in your email box and an integrated RSS reader (rather like with OSX or Outlook with Windows).  In addition to the unique interface Oddpost offered support for both POP3 and IMAP standards which allowed access over an email client. IMAP allowed you to keep the files on the system providing you with a standard view using the web interface, your own computer, PDA (using Bluetooth and your cell phone as a wireless modem) or early smartphones like the Nokia 7650 and Nokia 6600 which came out in 2003. I was unusual at the time in having an IMAP email account, the entry cost for this service was purchasing an Apple computer.

Oddpost was rough around the edges. It would be another few years before the metal lid of an Apple laptop would be as common as it is now, so it wasn’t as much of an issue that Oddpost only worked on Internet Explorer (version 5 or better) for Windows. The search functionality only did the headlines of messages not the body text. The company was eventually acquired in April 2004 by Yahoo! as it looked to bolster its position as an email provider against the then new Gmail service.

Links of the day | 在网上找到

Hardware never sleeps in China’s most exciting city | Techinasia- Shenzhen, in some ways I am not surprised

The mystery of North Korea’s cyber threat landscape | H-P Security Research – interesting whitepaper by H-P on North Korea’s cyber warfare capabilities (PDF)

TV 3.0 is already here – I, Cringely – how do telcos get rewarded?

Muhammad is the most popular boys’ name in the UK | Quartz – the perils of research-led PR can be seen in the way the data has been interrogated

Skeletor Is Waging a Twitter Takeover of @Honda. Here Are the Best Moments So Far | Adweek – love it

TED Talks Aren’t Making My Generation Smart – They’re Making Us Stupid | VICE – yep

Rentrak Completes Acquisition of Kantar Media’s U.S.-Based Television Measurement Assets – PR Newswire – WPP gets significant minority share in Rentrak. Interesting that the shares are restricted

60-70% of global consumers are “very positive” about private label products, Nielsen’s report shows – interesting move. Retailers brands are now the promise of quality and FMCG are commoditised? May make feature based marketing like Colgate-Palmolive look much smarter in retrospect

Samsung readies its first Tizen smartphone for launch in India – cheapens brand perception of Tizen, but also shows how much leaner its code must be. Unfortunately Samsung has altered the UI from Meego so its just the same as Galaxy phones

China factory sector growth slows | RTHK – interesting that this is the official figure rather than the more volatile and less representative HSBC PMI figure. No real steer on seasonality at play however

Manufacturers’ interest in EL as light source starting to brighten | Asahi Shimbun – it depends on the use case, but very interesting

How Flash Games Shaped the Internet – The Atlantic – interesting essay which also explains the challenges that Windows 8 faced with one experience to rule them all

The rise of the Shenzhen eco-system

Just over 30 years ago China moved from a period of cultural isolation to gradually opening up to the commercial world beyond its borders. The place to naturally start this was in Guangdong province close to the British colony of Hong Kong. A small fishing village grew to become the workshop of the world. The growth of Shenzhen was driven by investment from multi-nationals and overseas Chinese.

Hong Kong clothing manufacturers moved across the border to cities like Shenzhen and Dongguan alongside Taiwanese counterparts in electronics and multi-nationals. The Shenzhen-Dongguan-Guangzhou triangle now has a population of 25 million people and is responsible for the majority of China’s exports by value.
OCT LOFT: former factories
At first, these companies were used to fatten the wallets of customers who took on the marketing and distribution of electronics in the West. The dirty secret about many PC and laptop designs was they were standard underneath. Then this cost saving was passed on to the customer as people like Dell went for close to lowest price operator based on a direct mail / online direct ordering and cut out the channel.

Finally that wasn’t enough, and most of the laptop and PC resellers make no money. Instead the main people to profit from these sales were Microsoft which licensed it’s Windows operating system and Intel which provided the majority of compatible micro-processors capable of running Windows-compatiable applications. In the PC industry there is usually just two or three profitable manufacturers and one of them is Apple. Historically it was Dell, then Hewlett-Packard and now it is likely to have be Lenovo.

Shrinking PC-esque computing power into the palm of one’s hand was inevitable with the rise of flash storage and Moore’s Law facilitating power-efficient processors. The challenge is battery technology, packaging and industrial design.  Apple pushed the envelope with suppliers. Hon Hai and other manufacturers installed hundreds of CNC machines to fabricate thousands of metal phone chassis. These radical changes in manufacturing capability were opened up to lower tier manufacturers raising the standard of fit and finish immeasurably over a few years.

Now Xiaomi and Lenovo product handsets that have better build quality than many Samsung and HTC handsets. The performance is good enough (again thanks to Moore’s Law) and the handsets run the same applications. Sony, HTC and Samsung handsets look as marooned as Sony’s Vaio PC range in the Windows eco-system.

Shenzhen’s eco-system has been a great leveller of manufacturing and industrial design capabilities with Apple at the leading edge of what’s possible from an industrial design and materials technology.

More information
Shenzhen Government Online – this loads slow like they are phoning the pages in from 2002, but is informative
The smartphone value system – An earlier piece I wrote about the challenges of the Android eco-system

Links of the day | 在网上找到

Who’s Behind the E-paper FES Watch? – Digits – WSJ – interesting the way Sony has become an internal VC operation. It makes sense since they need disruptive innovation and they still have smart people. The disappointing bit was hearing them working with an external product design agency given the industrial design strength of the company historically

Tightening too frightening for UK | HSBC – interest rate increase and lower than expected economic growth

Oh No They Didn’t: European Parliament Calls For Break Up Of Google | SearchEngineLand – inevitable but not sure it will make an impact, Google must have expected this?

Maglev elevators are coming that can go up, down, and sideways | Quartz – I love this

Flickr is about to sell off your Creative Commons photos | DazedTech entrepreneur Stewart Butterfield left the company in 2008, but says that Yahoo-ordained plan is “a little shortsighted”. He added: “It’s hard to imagine the revenue from selling the prints will cover the cost of lost goodwill”. It’s the equivalent of looking for pennies that may have fallen down a crack in the sofa

Supermarket own-brands generate more than half of UK grocery sales | BrandRepublic – bad news for CPG brands