The netbook is dead, long live the netbook

FastCompany published a good analysis of the netbook phenomena where they argue that the netbook as a growth item is over and has now just become another class of PC. This makes sense and we have seen it with other devices in the past, such as the Palm PDA.

I think however that the netbook phenomena needs a deeper exploration as it has changed the way we look at technology. The concept of the netbook wasn’t new. Psion had a device in the market until 2003 called a netBook which was similar in specification and abilities to the modern netbook. Nokia has developed the n8XX series of Linux-based web tablets with a similar functionality to the phlanax of netbooks. Asian markets which have a long history of sub-notebooks, came out with devices based on the low-powered Transmeta Crusoe processors which echoed the uptake of Intel’s Atom processor.

The netbook phenomena allowed consumers a cost-effective way to sample a new form factor which Western audiences hadn’t considered before. Laptops had gone bigger and more powerful in a manner that was eerily reminiscent of cars manufactured by Detroit in the middle of the 20th century and the netBook is the VW Beetle. VW in itself didn’t crash the US car market, but it opened the door for later Japanese saloons that shared a similar scale and thriftiness. The netbook is dead, long live the netbook.

Links of the day

Canon Electronics – PR fail

Unilever to Test Mobile Coupons – WSJ.com

Apple raises retail stakes against Microsoft • The Register

How People Share Online Video – eMarketer

Report: Server sales declined 24.5 percent in first quarter – SiliconValley.com – it isn’t all due to virtualisation either

Omniture Adds Facebook Data to Business Comparative Tools

Semantic technology gains publishing foothold | Digital Media – CNET News

Fitting the optimal level of openness to your business strategy | The Open Road – CNET News

Google adds new features for bloggers – SiliconValley.com

Time Warner splitting with AOL

Users Over 55 Quitting Facebook: The Baby Boom Times Over?

Rzostore – shoes and cool clothes

Sneak Peak: First Video Demo Of Siri Virtual Assistant

AT&T Moves Up Its LTE Rollout, Admits To Network Issues – some interesting materials on LTE

Why e-books aren’t cheaper

Cashing in: The 73 million people opting for mobile money – Networks – Breaking Business and Technology News at silicon.com

Ovi Store’s debut marred by technical hitches – Rethink Wireless

Why Nokia’s Branded Handsets Flew in Brazil (and May Flop in the States)

The power of word of mouth / we are social

@ D7: Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz Tries Image Shift | paidContent.org – good PR interview preparation doesn’t make a business turnaround

The Inside Word: On the Web, ‘Streams’ Are Replacing ‘Pages’—Why We Should Care | paidContent.org

MediaShift . How Journalists Are Using Twitter in Australia | PBS – Twitter is being used by journalists to subvert PR machines and crowdsource information from their followers apparently.

Beet.TV: Nokia CEO: iPhone was a “Wake-up Call”

iPhone does a Facebook

I was reading the WSJ blogs and came across Andy Jordan’s article on ‘crap apps’ iPhone applications that are the code equivalent of the whoopee cushion or the paper hat that you get in a Christmas cracker. In ‘The Trucker Hats of iPhone Apps’, one of the people interviewed rationalises these applications as ‘…add users social credibility, useful at bars or social situations.

Another developer described the target demographic as ‘younger, “social” crowd and impulse buys‘. These applications aren’t universally appreciated and it wouldn’t help Apple’s cool branding if the iPhone becomes associated with jackasses.

Facebook has faced a similar dilemma with the variations on the poke application, zombies, vampires etc. Even in the UK, where consumers have drunk the Facebook kool-aid, I recently saw the results from a survey claiming that a third of UK respondents resented receiving invites on the social network. Facebook’s redesigns and process changes have partly been about reducing the impact of these applications.

Whilst we are not looking at a Burberry-esque brand meltdown, a Nokia is starting to look the smarter choice.

Links of the day

What Makes Us Happy? – The Atlantic (June 2009)

You need Doug Winfield | Facebook – Doug is a social media expert who is promoting himself to prospective employers leveraging social media. Check it out!

RTÉ Business: Santander to scrap British brands

74% of Employees Agree Their Social Media Antics Can Ruin Your Company’s Reputation

Turkey has Seventh Largest and Most Engaged Online Audience in Europe – comScore, Inc – UK has highest proportion online and most engaged audiences

People Over 55 Are Quitting Facebook

10 Ways to Diagnose a Google Penalty

DoCoMo and Telefonica in handset pact that could pressurize Vodafone – Rethink Wireless

Android race heats up, but Sony Ericsson will wait for release 2.0 – Rethink Wireless – Windows Mobile not a great success apparently

You ask, they answer: Neals Yard Remedies | guardian.co.uk – some savage comments in here, the silence is deafening

Communities Dominate Brands: Beyond demographics, how marketing will use mobile to collect better insights

Round. The world. Connected. with Adrian Simpson  – really nice Nokia Siemens Networks site: telling really powerful digital stories about connected lives.

SPINNING AROUND : T-MOBILE: THE FATAL FLAW – interesting comments here about T-Mobile’s ad campaigns. The debate adds immensely to James’ original posting: good stuff here.

The inside-out guide to designing a website | Blog | Econsultancy

300+ tips for e-commerce professionals | Blog | Econsultancy

LUXURY IN CHINA: Get Rich Is Glorious – really good presentation on luxury brands in China

In South Korea, All of Life Is Mobile – NYTimes.com

Introduction to Twitter – Jonny Rosemont’s introduction to Twitter deck

Negative ads may not be nice, but they work | Blog | Econsultancy

Marketing: when the government gets it oh-so wrong | Blog | Econsultancy

Porsche on the financial brink – Telegraph – karmic payback for the way Porsche borked investment bankers with last years ‘short squeeze

Augmented Reality: Fad or future? | Blog | Econsultancy

The Pitch HK: Langham’s accidental orientalism – PR fail by Hong Kong’s best known hotel chain

msearchgroove » One Mobile Search To Rule Them All? GyPSii CEO Dan Harple Talks Location Services, Open APIs & Cool New Ways To Record/Search The Real World On The Move

A cultural energy crisis?

Mark Fisher argued in Running on empty that I discovered in the New Statesman online that culture lacked the energy it had in previous decades: the noughties are encompassed by a sense of cultural deceleration. He argues that cultural changes were driven by technology and that these technologies gave cultures their indelible mark: what he calls a ‘technological rapture’ that is absent from present culture.

The present moment might in fact be best characterised by a discrepancy between the onward march of technology and the stalling, stagnation and retardation of culture.

He characterises the web in its ‘web 2.0’ incarnation as regurgitating older media forms and having a parasitic relationship on ‘old media’ forms and that web 2.0 encourages us to ‘behave like spectators’. That web 2.0 deprives cultural movements of a ‘laboratory’ to evolve before hitting the mainstream and the networked world provides us with a broadly homogenised culture. Fisher summarises that ‘that technology will not deliver new forms of culture all on its own’.

I think that Fisher’s rhetoric is first-rate, many of the assertions can be disproved (if we had a homogeneous culture, then why is Clear Channel’s radio business going through a long and lingering death spiral)?

I find his point about technology not delivering new forms of culture all on its own most interesting though as I don’t believe that it ever did deliver new forms of culture. It helped them certainly, but it is only one ingredient in cultural change.

The 1960s and the 1970s were as much about a new individual consumerism and a disillusionment with government as much as technological leap forwards. The acid house and rave movement, whilst influenced by cheap computing, digital samplers, MDMA manufacture and cheaper analogue synthesisers it was also influenced by the depressing soulless nature of the 1980s.

Secondly, I’d argue that technological innnovation is ‘lumpy’ at the moment there isn’t one ‘world changing’ paradigm shift recently. Recent ones would have been the ‘web, affordable jet travel, the contraceptive pill, colour television, desktop page layout software and the ubiquitous mobile phone.

Many of the energetic sub-cultures that Fisher describes had a similar parasitic nature on old media and cultures that he attributes to web 2.0. Jungle would have been nowhere without the Amen Break from the b-side to Color Him Father by The Winstons released back in 1969. Acid house pioneers saw a clear lineage between themselves and electronic music pioneers like Kraftwerk. House and garage were as much about recreating in electronic means the sounds of the Salsoul record label as they were about blazing a new trail. And I haven’t even mentioned Andy Warhol or the way rock music raped and plundered rhythm and blues.

Finally maybe cultural progress or energy has moved from being a linear track of occurrences: hippies -> progressive rock -> glam rock -> punk and disco -> new romantics -> rave to a massively parallel cultural shift as we can access and tune into Japanese music, Korean films and read about Finnish design in a moment-by-moment way that wouldn’t have been possible before?