Sunday, 15 April 2012

What I've been reading this week

I’m of the belief that participants in the TMT industry need to read widely in order to understand the present and future dynamics of the market. To that end, this post is a collection of the articles that have caught my eye.

This week: Spotify, Indian semis and the Academic Spring build momentum, HTC, Yahoo lose it; how the iPad dominates online shopping and why blue is the future of Internet infrastructure

Emerging markets

India’s semiconductor consumption is expected to grow 20% this year, to over $9Bn. The appetite of newly-middle class consumers for tech’ is huge – most good tech’ products provide unmatched aspirational bang for the buck compared to more traditional products like cars.

TV set top boxes are just one such product. Technicolor have shipped 5Mn of them to Tata Sky customers. A huge number and demonstrative of the enduring value of TV in a market that has become consumerist in the era of smart devices.

This is the sort of regime we’re dealing with in China – one that covers up horrendous breaches of food hygiene with death sentences and gagging orders. Worth reading, particularly if you think that capitalism is “civilising” China.

In more positive news, China’s version of Twitter - Sina Weibo – continues to gain subscribers and is now becoming a platform for social sentiment analysis.

On the other side of the world, this is a neat use of Twitter by Smart in Argentina. Argentines, like many other Latin Americans, are huge users of social networks, particularly on their mobile devices.!/smartArg

An article about how Blackberry is the smartphone for Africa. Except it isn’t. Local competitors are cheaper and although they lack the brand cache, they have the look. Those who 5 years ago set the trend by having Blackberry are moving onto to iPhone and its imitators.

And on the above topic, a spot on article about how designers should look to design for Africa’s strengths rather than focus on the things it can’t do.

Final point on Africa. As I’ve reported in my Telecoms Infrastructure benchmarks, investment is drifting south. This data about major chains’ strategies for opening new hotels shows the same focus on sub-Sahara for growth.


Anonymous is flexing its (virtual) muscles again, this time by crashing the Home Office website in protest of various extradition treaties and online privacy policies. Seems that some of the Syndicate world of tech mega corporations and sinister digital terrorists is coming true... a bit.

Business models

The academic publishing market is a curious one, because it’s two sided without incentive on either side. What this means is that authors pay to be in journals and libraries pay to stock and consume said journals (largely online in this day and age). Since authors are also the ultimate audience it’s no surprise that academics are doing it for themselves and looking to cut out the middleman. Providing robust enough peer review will be the biggest issue, I suspect.

HTC’s annual results show the way that Samsung has taken the driving seat in the non-Apple smartphone world by offering sleek devices and decent customer services instead of nerd-chic naming and shoddy experiences. I’m afraid to say that I think HTC are in a bit of trouble. A colleague thinks they might end up merged with Taiwanese electronics brother Acer. Interesting, but there’s a certain frisson of turkeys and eagles about that combination!

Localising brands will become ever more important as every country becomes a serious consumer economy over the next two decades. This link is to an amazing Japanese Starbucks and goes to show that even the most iconic brands can adapt.

Digital media

Spotify’s revenues are now just short of $900Mn. Pretty impressive!

Sport is one of the last content types that commands large live audiences and inspires round-the-year loyalty. No wonder the biggest teams are so highly valued for their brand pulling power.

No, no and thrice again no! Another set of analysis muppets who’re unable to distinguish between TVs that COULD be connected to the Internet and TVs that are actually connected. Their 31% of US households is roughly double the likely number. Even if they had got the proportion right, their survey isn’t big enough to be statistically relevant.

A very detailed analysis of the infrastructure of porn sites and one that points to the future of the mainstream Internet. The amount of traffic, throughput and even the dwell times are multitudes that of conventional text + picture websites, thanks to the preponderance of streaming video. YouPorn is responsible for about 2% of the total traffic on the Internet. Interesting reading and safe for work!

I posted a link a couple of weeks ago about the forthcoming Yahoo! restructure. And here it is in the flesh – the usual stuff, frankly – more customer focus, more geographic focus. What’s needed more, I think, is more business model focus.

New technology

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – wearable displays are (in my opinion) the next big thing in interface. Worth looking at this link just to see how unobtrusive this prototype is – that Sergei Brin was willing to wear it out tells you that the rumours of a reasonably imminent launch might not be far from the truth.

Ten years ago a video encoder with the capabilities of this $500 one would have cost hundreds of thousands. Although reliability is one of the crucial selection factors in the multi-billion dollar broadcast switching market, there must be some concern about the onset of software driven playout solutions.

A short, but insightful article on life after photo-lithography. Or in other words, how the next generation of silicon chips will be made faster and more efficient. I’m not as polar in my view as the blogger, for what it’s worth. I don’t think innovation is dead, I just think we’ll find new architectures that make the most of what we have – the days of smaller = faster are gone. Now chips do with massive parallelism what they used to do with watts and clock speed.

Superpower politics

A neat little blog post on the reality of Google’s 170Mn Google+ users, which makes the excellent point that most of them are actually using “Google+ enabled” services rather than the actual social network. I actually prefer Google+ to Facebook as an experience, but it is a bit quiet...

If the data in this infographic is correct (and it’s based on analysis of 3.4Bn shopping sessions) then 89% of US mobile shopping revenue comes from the iPad. Now, this is probably a technicality in that iPads are computer replacements in the way that smartphones are not so much of that shopping will be offsetting online (and is probably only a small proportion of the latter). Still, I’m now eagerly waiting for Apple Wallet to come along and create another revenue stream to take advantage...

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