We generally credit smartphones for making camera and audiovisual players irrelevant. But we often forget that every smartphone is also, by default, a GPS receiver. Quite correct, if not precise, latitude and longitude of the device is being instantaneously updated and displayed. This standard feature is embedded in every smartphone regardless being Android or iOS. It has prompted Battalgazi Yildirim, a (literally young Turk) geophysicist from Stanford, developing a mobile-based IoT application named Zizmos for earthquake’s early warning system.
After cannibalizing the hardware businesses – may it be phones, laptops or network equipment – the Chinese Internet outfits are breathing on their western counterparts’ neck. Alibaba has greater reach than Amazon: Chinese are happier to buy online than Americans. Ecommerce accounts for about one-tenth of all retail sales in China compared with about 7 per cent in the US. Tencent’s WeChat messaging and calling app has more than 650m active monthly users and is catching up rapidly with Facebook’s WhatsApp, which has just passed the billion-user mark. Facebook is blocked in China, which has allowed microblogging website Sina Weibo to amass more than half a million users who not only post but use Weibo as a social media site similar to Twitter.
Japan is a country that grew rich before growing old. In the countries that we work in, the median age is rising fast and more people live long. Our fear is that these countries will grow old before they amass the wherewithal to support a good life for their elders. Little has been done mobile ICTs for the aged. It is significant that this colloborative effort is focused on Japan, perhaps the country most associated with the problem of an aging population.
Guess you are not taken seriously these days unless you lose a few billion on smartphones. When it comes to smartphone profits, Apple and Samsung divide them up, leaving crumbs for every other manufacturer. At least in the United States, phones are a mature market, with 120 million sold last year. Now Amazon is giving this brutal business a shot. On the one hand, analysts say, it has no choice.
Recently, I had to explain my aversion to Intellectual Property law, despite my PhD work being on copyright law and policy. I said it was the most inelegant and dishonest branch of the law. The central dictum is “ideas are free, only expression is protected.” Yet, even lists of addresses and telephones numbers were protected by copyright (this was subsequently changed in the US). There just did not seem to be an intellectual foundation; just a series of post hoc rationalizations.
I’ve been harping on the value of focusing on earnings per employee if we are to pay decent salaries. This was in the context of the IT and ITES sectors in Sri Lanka, where I have the data, but the argument applies to the entire service sector (where most of the jobs of the future will be) and to all countries. A recent report on Apple’s earnings per store employee v salaries paid to those employees, highlights the issues again: By the standards of retailing, Apple offers above average pay — well above the minimum wage of $7.25 and better than the Gap, though slightly less than Lululemon, the yoga and athletic apparel chain, where sales staff earn about $12 an hour. The company also offers very good benefits for a retailer, including health care, 401(k) contributions and the chance to buy company stock, as well as Apple products, at a discount.
We heard, back in 2005, that the Pakistan Telecom Authority and the Nigerian Communication Commission had calculated how much direct and indirect employment had been created by the telecom industries. Further inquiries revealed that the methods used were suspect and that the studies would not float under rigorous review. The difficulties are exemplified by the prepaid card value chain, where a whole series of resellers are involved in selling value and almost none are engaged solely with mobile. Now the NYT reports an attempt by Apple to quantify its job creation within the US. Apple has made its first attempt to quantify how many American jobs can be credited to the sale of its iPads and other products, a group that includes the Apple engineers who design the devices and the drivers who deliver them — even the people who build the trucks that get them there.
The emphasis is on the word “still.” Nokia remained the world’s No. 1 maker of mobile phones, including traditional cellphones and smartphones, but its share of the phone market is rapidly shrinking. For the full year of 2011, its global market share was 23.8 percent, down from 28.
The retirement of Steve Jobs from active management at Apple has been commented on by many. Paul Saffo’s comment about the reconceptualization of the Internet experience resonates with much that LIRNEasia has been talking about. The other point about not anchoring innovation on how consumers actually live their lives is more problematic. As the NYT says: Mr. Jobs did not so much see around corners; he saw things in plain sight that others did not.
Part of an ongoing discussion at LIRNEasia is the tipping point from the operator-centric world of feature phones (intelligence in the center) to the operating-system-centric world of smartphones (intelligence at the edges). In the developed economies, lots of people assume the tipping point has been crossed. But the operators have not seen their “obituaries,” and seem to be working on immortality pills, in the shape of Blackberries: While the carriers do not openly talk about the threat of Apple and Google, analysts say the two companies have fostered a system that could make carriers slow-growing utilities selling little more than generic network access. The revenue from apps, which provide entertainment, news and other services, do not flow to the carriers. In an apparent bid to exploit those concerns, RIM has repeatedly told carriers that, unlike Apple, it believes that they deserve a portion of revenues from its apps store and as well as future services.
Tp provide location-based services, companies will need maps that will describe relations between shops, people and places. Both Google and Apple are collecting this information, using software embedded in the handsets. Google and Apple use this data to improve the accuracy of everything on the phone that uses location. That includes maps and navigation services, but also advertising aimed at people in a particular spot — a potentially huge business that is just getting off the ground. In fact, the information has become so valuable that the companies have been willing to push the envelope on privacy to collect it.
We had been using the app store, first introduced by Apple, as an easy-to-grasp model that Asia’s telecom operators should emulate. Reduce transaction costs; foster decentralized innovation, we said. We were pleased that Etisalat in Sri Lanka was one of the first to implement the idea. Sadly, it appears that Apple is reintroducing some elements of the discredited walled garden metaphor into the app store. The change may signal a shift for Apple.
LIRNEasia has been supporting app stores because we believe this is the solution that reduces transaction costs and mobilizes decentralized innovation. But as the NYT story today shows, it’s not an easy path for developers: Because Google makes its software available free to a range of phone manufacturers, there are dozens of different Android-compatible devices on the market, each with different screen sizes, memory capacities, processor speeds and graphics capabilities. An app that works beautifully on, say, a Motorola Droid might suffer from glitches on a phone made by HTC. IPhone developers, meanwhile, need to worry about only a few devices: iPhones, iPods and iPads.
Now that Android has taken a bigger market share than Apple in the smartphone market, the lawsuits are coming hot and heavy, according to the Economist. Eventually, even lawsuits must come to an end. How much harm they will cause remains to be seen. If Apple wins against HTC, that would be bad news for upstart handset firms. Until a few years ago, HTC only made devices for others, but now it has become a brand of its own.