Five for Friday | 五日(星期五) | 금요일에 다섯 가지

Things that made my day this week:

A cheap facsimile of the classic Nokia 8110 managed to upstage the launch of of a range of premium Android phones at MWC.  Nostalgia is powerful, but I don’t think what’s going on here. I could see this as a weekend phone allowing consumers to wind down at the weekend and go cold turkey on the app economy.

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I think that the model of a single form factor based on common reference designs is broken. Apple managed to elevate the build quality of all smartphones as contract manufacturers moved towards an armada of CNC machines and advanced manufacturing. But in the process, the common designs, common components and new baseline in product integrity has homogenised and commoditised Android handsets to such a decree that only scale and advertising budgets are differentiators.

Amazing selection of music from the sound tracks of classic kung fu movies over at Shaolin Chamber 36.

Roni Size talks about the music that influenced him

Frank Herbert talks about creating the science fiction epic Dune

digitalethnography | Field Note Painting Booklet – done by Xinyuan Wang, a UCL social anthroplogist in a lower tier Chinese city. Ms Wang wrote a really good monograph on social media in industrial China.

ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우

After Anbang Takeover, China’s Deal Money, Already Ebbing, Could Slow Further – The New York Times

Hello, mobile operators? This is your age of disruption calling | McKinsey & Company – lots of buzz words, diagnosis but not a glimpse of a way forward

Edelman Revenue Up 2.1% In 2018 To $894m | Holmes Report – given that all the global PR groups have had exceptionally low growth or even declines

How Douyin became China’s top short-video App in 500 days – WalktheChat

Nokia on 5G at MWC, what struck me is the sales pitch was more like an enterprise software company like IBM or Oracle than a telecoms vendor. There is lots of tech in the networks but there isn’t a recognisable killer app. His warnings about 5G upgradeable products ring true though.

Asian Boss do some really nice street interviews in different Asian cities and this one about Apple iPhones in Korea is particularly instructive. Samsung is seen as the default as they assemble phones (mostly for Asian markets) in Korea. Whereas in Europe all of the are made in China.

The iPhone seems to have won out on product design amongst younger people.

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

Nokia

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?

Oprah time: Master Switch by Tim Wu

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Tim Wu is an American lawyer, professor and author on internet matters. He is main claim to fame is coining the phrase ‘net neutrality’ back in 2003. He is well known as an advocate of the open internet.

One needs to bear all this in mind when thinking about The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires. In it Wu posits a natural lifecycle for the rise and maturation of platform and media companies; which he called the ‘long cycle’.

Wu uses the following companies as examples:

  • Western Union’s telegraph monopoly
  • Western Union-owned Associated Press’ relationship with the nascent newspaper industry
  • AT&T in telecoms
  • The early film industry and the rise of Hollywood studios
  • Apple’s history – though this point is less nuanced because Apple has cycled a number of times between open and closed systems – a nuance that Wu doesn’t fully pick up on

In Master Switch, he points about how these companies have moved from open systems to closed systems in order to maximise profits and resist change. Wu then uses these cycle to argue that a repeat of history was under way with the modern internet. In 2010 when the book was written; this would have ben the rise of Google, Facebook and Amazon.

Ed Vaizey announced that ISPs should be free to abandon net neutrality in the UK and it was abandoned in the US when FCC chairman Ajit Pai was appointed by Donald Trump.

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ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우

I love Connie Chan’s blog posts and presentations. In this talk she covers how Asian applications manage to squeeze so much more features into their apps than their western equivalent to provide a fuller eco-system of services that she terms super-apps.

Interesting couple of articles on the user behaviour associated voice command enabled speakers – Alexa and Google Assistant have a problem: People aren’t sticking with voice apps they try – Recode and Alexa, We’re Still Trying to Figure Out What to Do With You – The New York Times – (paywall) – the low hardware price seems to be encouraging trial but that’s about it for now

Nike footwear supplier Yue Yuen to make HK$6.7b from retail arm’s privatisation plan | SCMP – it makes sense given the rise of e-commerce in China

The staggering scale of China’s Belt and Road initiative – Axios – scale of ambition is impressive but one also needs to think about maintenance. A lot of British laid railway and roads no longer exist due to a lack of maintenance after they left

Why we post – Interesting UCL project

For These Young Entrepreneurs, Silicon Valley Is, Like, Lame – WSJ  – for most of the 18 entrepreneurs and investors, and especially for those in their 20s and 30s, last week’s visit largely failed to impress. To many in the group, northern California’s low-rise buildings looked shabbier than the glitzy skyscrapers in Beijing and Shenzhen. They can’t believe Americans still use credit cards and cash while they use mobile payment for almost everything back home – not terribly surprised. Silicon Valley is no longer the place ‘where wizards stay up late’. Agencies work harder than their Bay Area tech clients and it is full of hubris

The Fall of Travis Kalanick Was a Lot Weirder and Darker Than You Thought – Bloomberg – actually I am not that surprised

Luxury is thriving in China again, thanks to millennials — Quartz – Chinese millennials start buying luxury younger, and they buy high-end products more frequently, the firm says. (It undoubtedly helps that they have more spending power than previous generations did at their age.) What they’re buying is also different. Bain surveyed about 500 Chinese millennials and found their interests leaned toward casual and street-inspired fashion – Supreme rather than Prada, put into context here

Luxury Daily | Rimowa undergoes rebrand – on the cusp of their 120 years in the business, reminds me of all the metal stamped information on each case

Official Google Webmaster Central Blog: Using page speed in mobile search ranking – makes total sense

Readiness for the future of production | AT Kearney for World Economic Forum – interesting assessement

Global expectations for 2018 | Ipsos – what the world thinks will happen (PDF)

The techlash against Amazon, Facebook and Google—and what they can do – A memo to big tech – reading Scott Galloway The Four at the moment, it seems to be the zeitgeist

Snap confirms reports of up to 24 redundancies in a bid to ‘scale internally’ | The Drum – no, it doesn’t make any sense to me either

RA: Moodymann: A Detroit enigma – via our Jed

Huawei – Really Convincing Story, Not. | Radio Free Mobile  – this means that this feature (RCS – Rich Communication Services), like its AI assistant, AI chip and its now commoditised imaging offering will be unable to generate any differentiation for Huawei in its devices. This leaves it exactly the same boat as all of the other Android handset makers who differentiate purely on the basis of hardware

APAC ads fail at integration, says Kantar Millward Brown study | Marketing Interactive