Oprah Time: What Does China Think? by Mark Leonard

 I was first switched on to Leonard’s writing by former colleague Jonny Rosemont who recommended Why Europe Will Run The 21st Century.

What does China think? sounds like a major subject area which would require a huge volume to discuss. Leonard’s book in comparison is little more than a pamphlet which I managed to sit down and read cover-to-cover in a little over three hours during the Christmas period.

Over at Danwei it was dismissed as ‘wonkish nonsense’ and being unable to ‘filter the official line’, but I think that this criticism misses the point of Leonard’s book, which seeks to explore some of the ideas and organisations that help shape China’s thinking.

I found that the book gave me  (as a neophyte on all things Chinese) some questions to think about, which I hadn’t considered before and made  me reconsider some of the west’s vision for the future. It was interesting that the Chinese devoted thought on how to manage the ‘decline of the West’.

Predictions for 2009

Its become a bit of a tradition to do predictions, here’s mine for 2009:

  • Haptic displays are going to evolve as everyone jumps on the touchscreen wagon for mobile devices
  • Mobile devices won’t move forward much in terms of technology as the battery life isn’t there, mini and micro USB connections will become the norm on many cell phones (I’m hoping even with Nokia)
  • SSD drives will continue their slow advance into the mainstream
  • Sales of computer hardware will drop in real terms due to a focus on cheaper platforms, the power of mobile devices and virtualisation employed at the high end of servers
  • People will start to get concerned about IP v.6 compatability, especially the fact that BT’s 21 Century Network may only support IP v.4
  • DVDs will exist happily alongside blu-ray for most people as there isn’t a compelling reason to upgrade and financial belt tightening is required
  • The Nintendo DS does comparatively well as it becomes the geek’s answer to the lipstick effect , especially when you have people like Korg making add-on cartridges turning it into serious hardware. Testing equipment may become Nintendo DS cartridges to take advantage of the small size, touch interface and dual screens
  • Enterprises are going to start looking seriously at devices like the Asus eeePC: more applications can be run through a web browser, the devices have a decent battery life and cheaper to purchase than the dullest corporate laptop. This will help reduce the spiralling cost of desktop support.
  • Business software won’t provide any magic gains in productivity, all the big wins have already been made. High-end database sales start to drop as organisations look at more effective ways of handling and processing huge amounts of data
  • Google is likely to find itself on the end of a federal anti-trust case, and make new inroads into the enterprise.
  • Cisco’s telepresence isn’t likely to make business sense until someone invents a display where the camera element stare out from between the pixels, allowing you to make eye contact with other video conference participants. without having to have a huge room and huge screens. It won’t be Cisco that makes that leap forward in screen technology, Apple already holds patents on it
  • Amazon’s Kindle won’t be a great success in Europe, Amazon Marketplace will do rather better so long as it avoids eBay-type fraud cases
  • There won’t be any major innovations in online marketing as marketers stick with tried and proven ROI ways to drive demand
  •  There won’t be a breakthrough application for 2009 in the way Twitter broke through in 2007/8
  • People will form company-specific Facebook groups to reflect on how bitter they are over being made redundant, badvocate causes will multiply
  • Google will continue to do well as marketers fall back from experimenting with social media to online marketing that they can easily demonstrate ROI from, and it doesn’t get any easier than with Google Adwords programme
  • Mobile will be embraced by pioneer brands and these will be rewarded in the longer term, particularly if as part of integrated campaigns incorporating digital artifacts and location based services (the web of no web)
  • ADSL broadband connections will decline slightly as cash strapped consumers use PAYG wireless broadband services, though this may be mitigated by the requirement of having a passport to get a wireless dongle

What are your predictions for 2009?

Design: Adfunture Workshop Hiroshi Fujiwara figure

Hiroshi Fujiwara, originally uploaded by renaissancechambara.

Causeway Bay’s vinyl dons Adfunture Workshop have come back with a blinder: a vinyl figurine of famous musician and tastemaker Hiroshi Fujiwara.

Fujiwara-san is now famous for his collaborations and designer threads; working with the likes of Nike, Levis, Burton the surfboard company and guitar hero Eric Clapton. Ok, apart from Clapton an amazing track record.

But he first jumped into the spotlight with Japanese hip-hop label Major Force back in the 1980s alongside Gota Yashiki, Toshio “Tycoon To$h” Nakanishi and Kan Takagi. He influenced artists like Tim Simenon aka Bomb The Bass, jammed with DJ Red Alert and got to remix Yellow Magic Orchestra. I remember trying to hunt down Major Force 12s in record shopping sprees to Bluebird in Liverpool and in record shops across Soho when I occasionally came down to London to get vinyl in the late 80s and early 90s.

Oprah Time: Grown Up Digital by Don Tapscott

Tapscott’s book is a sequel to Growing Up Digital; a book that he originally wrote about the net generation / millenials / gen-Y. The book is more of a defence of the net generation Tapscott takes some of the different criticisms leveled at them and deals with them head on. Are the net generation really unmanageable, spoilt, dumb, able to commune with digital electronics (kind of like Tarzan and jungle animals) and they can do 69 things at once?

Grown up digital by Don Tapscott

Tapscott proves that the inate ability to multi-task isn’t true, but most of the other positive attributes are true. The book breaks down into how the net generation need changes in education, government, business and in marketing communications. The book is easy to read, it is deceptively thick due to the appendix of data at the back of the volume.

Tapscott gives some simple guidance to marketers:

  • Engage with consumers turn them into prosumers rather than the traditional consumer focus of marketers
  • Move from products and services to creating consumer experiences (Starbucks doesn’t sell coffee, it sells a ‘third space’ between home and work that happens to have coffee)
  • Reduce the marketing spend on broadcast media and refocus the spend in digital channels
  • Word-of-mouth marketing is critical
  • Integrity needs to be at the centre of the business, consumers will put their money where their morals are
  • Move the marketing mix from Porters 4 Ps (product, price, place and promotion) to Tapscott’s ABCDE (Anyplace, Brand, Communication, Discovery and Experience)

If you are at all interested in what the future holds for us over the next ten years, I can recommend this book.

Jargon Watch: Dark Trading

Dark trading – Buying and selling stock outside of public view in pools set up by investment banks such as UBS and Goldman Sachs. The practice allows clients to exchange stock at high volume without moving the market significantly. The benefits for doing things in this way mean that positions can be built up over time for a take over bid, without speculation pushing up the price of shares artificially.

It also allows them to avoid derivatives, on the flip side speculators in less regulated markets can speculate without the awareness of their target company, so the Porsche debacle could have been avoided.  This of course does rely on the investment banks not using the trading data from the dark pools as their very own prediction market and acting accordingly. Kudos to Wired magazine.