Posts tagged ‘Finland’


Stefan Engeseth’s Sharkonomics out in China with a new edition

11.12.2017

My good friend Stefan Engeseth’s Sharkonomics hit China a year ago, and it’s been so successful that the second edition is now out. It looks smarter, too, with its red cover, and I’m sure Chinese readers will get a decent taste of Stefan’s writing style, humour and thinking.
   I even hope this will pave the way for translations of his earlier works, especially Detective Marketing and One: a Consumer Revolution for Business (the latter still remains my favourite of his marketing titles).
   I’ve written a brief quote for Sharkonomics and the publisher (with some nudging from Stefan) has taken the time to make sure my Chinese name is accurately recorded, rather than a phonetic translation of my Anglo transliteration, which, of course, then wouldn’t be my name.
   Stefan’s inventive and innovative thinking might seem left-field sometimes, till some years pass and people realize he was right all along. Take, for example, Google wanting to build a high-tech neighbourhood in downtown Toronto, announced in October. Notwithstanding the hassles Google has created on its own turf in Silicon Valley, it’s the sort of project we might expect from the giant now. But would we have expected it in 2007? Probably not, except Stefan did.
   In 2007 (though he actually first floated the idea a year earlier), Stefan blogged about his idea for Google Downtown—why not make real what Google Earth does virtually? Why not shop at places that already know all your personal preferences, if that’s where things are heading? The town would have free wifi and you’d be paying for it with ‘your self’ (the space, I’m sure, was intentional). In 2008, 500 people heard his plans at a conference and laughed. The following year, he met Eric Schmidt and mentioned it to him. Eric paused and didn’t laugh—and maybe the idea sunk in.
   It’s not the first time Stefan has hatched an idea and it gained legs, from Coca-Cola delivering its product through taps to Ikea making flat-pack fashion—both have wound up being done, though the latter not quite in the way Stefan envisaged.

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Posted in business, China, marketing, Sweden | 1 Comment »


Retrograde steps for our cellphones

07.11.2010

Nokia 2730 ClassicLast week, our company’s Nokia 2730 Classics arrived as part of a contract with Telstra Clear, of whom we’ve been a customer since the 1980s. They are a reminder of how technology is regressing.
   Remember that scene in Life on Mars, where Sam Tyler, or Samuel Santos in La chica de ayer, tells Annie Cartwright, Annie Norris or Ana Valverde (depending on which version you saw) how LPs had been replaced by MP3s and digital music, and that the sound is ‘much, much worse’? That’s sort of how I feel with these new gadgets.

Left Not quite the same as ours—the display is different—but this is a publicity shot of the Nokia 2730 Classic. Below Life on Mars’s record shop scene in its various incarnations (from left to right, top to bottom): the UK original in Manchester; the unaired US pilot, set in Los Angeles; the US remake, set in New York; and the Spanish remake, set in Madrid.
Life on Mars music store scenes

   On the surface, the new phones aren’t much to look at. Compared with the 6275i phones that the 2730s are replacing, it’s clear that they are built to a price, cost-cutting for easy manufacture in China rather than Korea. There’s not much of an excuse here for design simplification: this is manufacturing simplification.
   I have reason to be cynical. I’m sure it’s part of a conspiracy to force us to get a nicer model. I remember buying a Microtek scanner for around $600 in the 1990s—probably around 1996—and it lasted me for years, till around 2002 when I ordered an upgrade. I looked at the specs for the latest scanners and thought, ‘Wow, here’s one with a higher resolution going for half the price.’ I brought it back and the scanning quality was total crap.
   I wrote to the distributor in Auckland and they informed me: the equivalent model to my old one is this other machine costing $600. The difference is that the half-price one has a plastic lens and my old one had a glass lens. So if I wanted one with comparable quality, I would need to pay twice as much for one with a glass lens. In other words, it would still cost me $600.
   I bought the glass one and they were as good as their word, although I had to put up with a smaller scanning area (but I got a faster speed). The resolution figure, it turned out, was meaningless, because the actual quality of the product was so poor.
   Technology didn’t really advance in six years. I still had to pay the same price for a machine with actually less capability on the primary function, which was scanning an area of x cm².
   This seems like a repeat. I have yet to try what it’s like as a phone, because the switchover’s not till the 8th, but for many features, it’s poorer. It has a better media player. The speaker for playing music and movies is better. The graphics move more nicely. Nokia supplies some free maps (which, incidentally, get deleted when you eject the memory card, though you can re-download them for free from its website).
   But (and there must be a but given the headline): the camera is worse (judge for yourself below) and the battery life is shorter. I might not be an initié when it comes to cellphones, but I know that people have been using them for telephony and photography for a lot longer than as MP3 and 3GP players. On at least two of the three major criteria on which a cellphone can be judged, the 2730 is worse than the mid-decade 6275i.
   Judge for yourself below. These are photographs (reduced) taken at Massey University’s Blow festival exhibition, currently on at its Wellington campus.

Nokia 6275i
Massey University Blow Festival 2010

Nokia 2730 Classic
Massey University Blow Festival 2010

Nokia 6275i
Massey University Blow Festival 2010

Nokia 2730 Classic
Massey University Blow Festival 2010

   And what is the point of that? Unless Nokia now tells me: if you want the quality of the old one, it’s this other model, which will cost you an extra $300.
   I know there are many exceptions to what I’ve just written. The Asus laptop I type this on is way fancier than one that cost twice as much with a fraction of the power in the mid-2000s. But just because one area of technology marches so rapidly doesn’t mean every area follows suit.

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Posted in business, design, general, New Zealand, technology | 2 Comments »


Getting Wellington out of debt—by growing the right businesses

01.07.2010

Back Jack Yan for Mayor In plain English, when a city is hundreds of millions of dollars in debt—depending on who you believe, the figure is between $200 million and $400 million—how do you get out of the hole?
   1. You can sell the family jewels, and there’s water left. We tried this in the 1980s, and now so many foreigners own New Zealand companies that the profits go offshore and we lose a source of tax revenue. Not good, doesn’t work.
   2. You can put up the rates for residents to the tune of 5·58 per cent and hope they cover some of this. (The figure was 5·5, then 5·75—so much for transparency.)
   3. You can keep praying that the Rugby World Cup will give a temporary boost and hope no one notices that the other years aren’t as prosperous.
   4. You can look at what the city has in terms of creativity and intellectual capital, and build on that, especially if the world values the innovative thinking of New Zealanders.
   Of the four, I prefer (4). This present mayor and council favour (2) and locked in that rise for us a wee while ago.
   I know in some circles my name has become associated with the free wifi for the central city promise, but it goes a bit deeper than that.
   Free wifi is like having roads in a city in the 21st century, and right now, what we have is like paying tolls on every single road we drive on.
   Compare this to Finland, who enshrined in law the right to broadband, which became effective yesterday (July 1). This means every citizen in Finland has a legal right to having broadband at a minimum speed of 1 Mbit/sec. With netbooks and cloud computing on the rise, this seems to be the logical thing to do. The old ways of having programs on your computer are disappearing.
   Get the infrastructure right—after all, Singapore and numerous US cities have done it, and Wellington has to play catch-up with Dunedin and Whanganui—and we can get other things right.
   The sectors that have the greatest potential in the 2010s, and in my mind are the biggest earners for New Zealand companies, are the tech and creative sectors. Both rely on the ’net and a more visionary direction for Wellington in a huge way.
   Clustering, mentoring and financing are the things we need to do, and they have to be driven from the top. Some are done through lobbying by a business-minded, pro-Kiwi mayor and council (rather than a pro-foreigner one). Others can be driven through council itself. But we need a shake-up in order to do this.
   They are all possible solutions, and some are happening now at an ad hoc level.
   I’d want to help those companies that are Kiwi-owned or will remain majority Kiwi-owned—this helps with job creation, with the city’s rates and with the country’s tax take. And if Wellington becomes a centre for this activity in the 2010s and demonstrates that we are an advanced economy, who knows what else we can inspire around the nation?
   It’s not an overnight solution. But I know we have businesses out there that can generate millions for the New Zealand economy. Thanks to our social consciousness, many are sustainable. We already have examples in businesses I’ve cited many times before: the Sidhes, Wetas, Silverstripes, Catalysts of this world are creating jobs for Wellington. We just need to expand on that and stimulate innovation.
   Equally important are the need for transparency and changing the culture within the Wellington City Council, topics for other posts.

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Posted in business, culture, internet, leadership, New Zealand, politics, technology, Wellington | 5 Comments »