Saturday, December 21, 2013

Beginning of a new start-up column on Bright Side of News : THE ROCKI ROAD

Pursuing my itch to write again, I've started writing a column - the real life adventure of running a new tech startup in today's blood thirsty consumer electronics world - THE ROCKI ROAD. Behind the scenes as we the ROCKI team kickoff our pursuit of the ROCKI dream after a successful campaign on Kickstarter. The winding road complete with roadblocks, uphill battles, rollercoaster emotions journeys through territories including smartphones, smartwatches, wearable technology, streaming services, music, crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, venture captial and events such as CES, Grammy's, Mobile World Congress, Cebit, and more, all seen through start-up eyes. 

I'm very happy that THE ROCKI ROAD has found a home on Episode #1 Life After Kickstarter Shall Begin At CES.

I'd love to hear your feedback - Did you enjoy it? Was it boring? Too much rambling? Did you smile or lightly chuckle? Positive feedback or negative feedback, is all good feedback.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Samsung & Apple, iWatch and wait ..

Rumorville is closely watching and rumor-mongering Apple's iWatch. Apparently Samsung is also watching (pun intended), confirming today that they too are working on a watch (article here).  I hope it looks better than the current ones. As a gadget lover, I've fallen in love with the idea of the "computer watch" long ago, so long ago that I'm already on the 5th divorce without ever getting married.

Yes, hello everyone, my name is Nick, I'm a gadget addict, I've never had a smart watch and still want one.

My first love was the Casio databank watch. Never had it, but so wanted it. This other guy in basic school had it. It could do so much things and it looked so cool on his wrist (not too sure it made him any cooler, but I was not one of the cool guys too so who am I to judge if he was cool or not). Whether a cool gadget makes the wearer cool, that's a long debate and every marketer will sure tell you "Oh you silly boy, of course it makes you so cool"

Then David Hasselhoff showed up on tele with the talking car and every so often he would talk into his watch. The watch would occasionally even prove to save his life automagically like when he is unconscious. Who could forget that photo of the Hoff-man with his hand to the wrist - what a classic. So we wanted that watch too. Couldn't get one, not even a plasticky pretend-it's-real toy version.

And as trends go cold, they go very cold - everyone ran away from digital watches and the Hoff-man like it's the plague. So for a while watches were safe from having to do anything other than tell you the time, and of course tell everyone who you are and what your net worth is - a Rolex or a Tag Heuer, a CK or a Replay.

Meanwhile, twenty years went by, David Hasselhoff is somewhat cool again, Casio while not back to its glory days have shaken off the plague-problem. And suddenly Sony decided that since they can do phones, they could do watches too plus you can't argue that they do have the bragging right of "hey look we're the kings of personal and portable we gave you the walkman". The first time I saw it, my first thoughts were who are you trying to fool, that's not a watch, it's like a blocky bulky mp3 player with some strap that you can strap to your wrist and you call it a watch. Not to blame the form designers, it's probably the technology - it's not there yet, the electronics are not small enough for the designers to be able to play with forms and shapes. The idea is cool though but I sure ain't buying this. So let's wait.

Of course the Chinese Factories had to follow up with their Android watches in all shapes and sizes. Innovation is sometimes like evolution, a case of hit and miss, just try all kinds of combinations and mutations. I was at that time in Shenzhen - the capital of China electronics - when a friend was visiting and saw online all the mutant Android watches and absolutely wanted to get one. Convinced me that I should help him get one (the sales people didn't speak much Chinese). After years of experience with factories and product photos, I was already a little wary. His enthusiasm did rub off on me and I felt the tingling of optimistic anticipation too as the nice sales lady offered to bring the watches to us (instead of us having to go to the factory). There we sat at the Starbucks (only reason for choosing Starbucks is that everyone seems to know where it is) as she took out the watches - my heart sank sank sank sank and sank. True enough as I suspected, product photos tend to hide thickness pretty well, every decent product marketer knows that, to show photos of products from a certain angle. There was nothing wrong with the devices - she has no less than 10 different models - they function well and you can make bluetooth calls. There was no breakthrough I was hoping for - it's still a bunch of devices with a strap, and since it's strapped to the wrist and it can tell time, let's call it a watch. In my books, a wrist device is NOT a watch. We didn't buy any.

Pebble, the 10 million dollar Kickstarter record holder. Cool, there's THAT many people loving the idea of a smart watch. I must say this is getting very close (still not there, for me). Love what they did with the display, the clock faces. It is thinner than previous Smart watches (and as I said earlier waiting for technology to allow form and shape), but again don't be fooled by the product photo angles, it's still thicker than it looks on the photos. Nothing wrong with thick if the form and shape is good (think huge thick diving watches). Pebble still hasn't evolved smart watches beyond the let's strap a device to our wrist with any strap and call it a watch. And I can see the Pebble team's strengths is in 2D design - the faces are really awesomely cool - not so much on 3D form. All in all, a solid Kickstarter project that's done more than any of the the big corporations have in moving forward in the quest for the smart watches.

Thirty plus years on and we might just be finally getting there? Samsung's preview photos are sadly not exciting me, it's the same old same old device + strap story. Apple? The iWatch concept phots in rumorville is are awesome but remember how exciting the iPhone5 was supposed to look like, according to the concept rumors?

Smart Watches - I'm still waiting to say the Yes, I do... with all the cynical optimism of an old post-menopause 5-time-divorced-without-ever-getting-married single. iWait.

Facebook Timeline predict the future?

Have you inserted photos into your timeline in the past? You have, haven't you. Carefully constructing the past on your timeline, the college photos, the old vacations, even the baby photos. Not just personal timelines, but also the world Timeline is being filled in too. Example, did you know you can check out the Timeline of the 2nd World War as it unfolded.

What started off as a sequential Timeline to record your Now moments as you post, has also taken on the role of recording the past. Lets us time travel and reverse into our pasts. That got me thinking... so, if we can Reverse into our past on Timeline, can we then also Fast Forward into our future on Timeline?

Figment of my imagination? Think again - it's hypothetically very possible. How? Facebook's other new feature - the Graph Search.

It's the pattern analysis / predictive technology behind the Graph Search could hold the key to the Future. Facebook analyses your Like!s, posts, comments, locations, and makes predictions that helps your friends search for you, or for you to search for them and practically anything else. Example, "friends who like sushi and are going on vacation to Europe this summer"

As the old saying goes (and also remembering my history teacher in school who repeatedly emphasized the relevance of learning history), "by studying the past, we can predict the future". Facebook could use all that pattern analysis to predict what you might do tomorrow. Based on predictive extrapolation and geographic data, Facebook could hypothetically predict who you might bump into "coincidentally" at the airport. How about predicting the cliched "romance is in the air as the planet of love moves into your star" - that could very well be Facebook knowing someone's secretly in love with you! I can see the marketing caption "Facebook - the new Horoscope, more accurate than any other cos its real science!"

I digress. Predicting personal future on the Timeline is fun but what would make much more impact would be predicting the World. The future of Mankind. It is hypothetically possible.

For now, after happily playing with Timeline the Now, and then Timeline the Past, I'm ready for Timeline the Future. The current Timeline stops at Now. It would be so awesome to be able to just slide it forward into the future, and discover your future life, perhaps you attending your favorite band's concert coming up (hint: advertising dollars!!!). Facebook Timeline the Future would also be so one-up on the upcoming Google Now, which Google is promising would stay one step ahead of you and show you everything you want to know now before you know it. Why just one step ahead when you can fast forward into the future - just slide on the Timeline into the Future - time travel is real - the Future is Now, Now is the Future. I'm ready for Timelining into my Future.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Would Google Glass be banned in strip clubs?

It's no doubt there's an excitement in the techie world about the Google Glass, seeing the number of news and non-news that comes by every day. Some positive, some negative, everyone is jumping into its slipstream to say something about it. Yes, myself included with this blog, here I go...

"Wouldn't that be a lot of invasion into privacy?" that's  consistently the first comment whenever I explain the Google Glass to a non-techie, so consistent that it's becoming predictable.  Of course, many blogs and tech journals have also jumped onto the bandwagon with articles like "Expect wide usage bans over privacy concerns", "Google Glass Half Full : Why that ban may not be needed", "Google glass is good for privacy"... you get the drift. The marketing champ that stole the limelight is 5 Point Bar, the Seattle bar that made a press release being the first bar to ban the Google Glass, promising an ass kicking for anyone disobeying the ban. 

The lists of where Google Glass would not be welcome runs on and on:

  • Pubs, Bars, Cafes : what if you're caught on camera and your wife sees you there when you shouldn;t be, or worse, with someone you shouldn't be with
  • Cinemas : you could actually be live streaming that blockbuster movie to anyone(s) in the whole world, or be the first to put up the torrent batmen_returns_again_6_cam_x264_aac-BiGdAddy.torrent
  • Casinos : something about counting cards? All I know about casinos is from watching too much Las Vegas (the TV series)
  • Playgrounds : because it could be used by pedophiles to monitor kids
Yes, the list can go on and on. That's what disruptive innovation does, it forces people to scramble new rules which didn't need to exist before. New rules about what's acceptable behavior, what's outright not ok and there would be a lot of gray area, a lot of disagreement before the dust settles and a new social norm finds its own balance.

Now you might wonder why sorely missing from the above list of Ban-Google-Glass places is : the Strip Clubs, the title of this post - Would Google Glass be banned in strip clubs? It would be the most logical place to ban it - the privacy of customers, concerns of the performances being recorded / streamed etc. On the contrary, I think Google Glass would be very welcome!

So why do I think Strip Clubs just might not ban it? Just look back in history, you'd find the porn industry has always been the firsts to embrace new technology:
  • DVD - when Hollywood was still holding out on DVDs, porn stood up for it - I know because I was marketing DVD-ROM drives and there was like 3 movie titles available for Region 2 (Europe), and at the same time already 200+ porn titles Region-Free - it's true!
  • Video Conferencing - the firsts webcam uses (then known as video conferencing ) were mostly personal "hello Grandma" and the likes. Before other non-tech industry could say "Hello, you see me?", all kinds of porn webcam services were making good and solid revenue!
  • not to mention breast implant technology, photoshopping, modem dial-up bulletin boards, photo-sharing sites, discreet internet shopping... they've always been ahead on the adoption curve. Well, not just adopting new technology, but actually embracing it and synergizing with full creativity.
You see, there's no stigma.

Not chained by stigma, it's free to embrace, free to create, free to create opportunities that outweigh the negatives. Imagine pay per view or ad-funded crowdcamera'd very multi-angle streaming, instead of illegal streaming; imagine sexciting (sorry I couldn't resist the pun) augmented reality, instead of privacy concerns (eg. auto realtime face replacements could replace your face with that of a dragon); imagine imagine ...

And we all know the old saying "you can do anything you put your mind to". Opportunities don't come to those who say nay. Take a lesson from the porn industry. New opportunities, new challenges, new industries, all thrive on disruptive innovation. Lose the fretting, just imagine.

---- disclaimer
I've been advised me to put this disclaimer (for the sake of my professional career): I am not from the porn industry, nor paid by the porn industry, nor involved with the porn industry in whatever form. The references to the porn industry in the article is just a personal observation that I've noticed in my many years in the technology world, with the introduction of each new technology. And please please read my blogs with whatever sense of humor you can mutter and not take it too seriously.

Friday, January 18, 2013

That Parallel Universe - s01e01 - something about WeChat, Facebook video call, morphing clones and all that

I was reading this article about how Facebook is trying out video calls in their messenger app (WIRED: Facebook Could Bury Video Calling Partner Skype...) I can’t help thinking : the social media in that parallel universe (aka China) is actually one-up on this one. Traditionally more known for its “cloning” ability rather than one-up-ness, where each newborn Social Media killer-app would generate similar clone(s) in the parallel universe, the social media giants of China seem to be finding their own feet.

For months, I’ve actually been happily been using video calls (and also video calls without the video) from within my social media hangout/ecosystem on the phone, without thinking much about it. It’s just there without much fanfare. Done it on wifi, done it on 3G as well - the audio call qualities were certainly good enough for business discussions too (not the choppy “hello hello do you hear me” kind in the early days of VOIP).

It’s WeChat (Weixin as it is more commonly known in China). So what is this WeChat?

Well it was born more like Whatsapp, once it’s installed, it reads your mobile phone book and tells you everyone in it that also has WeChat installed, after which you can message each other... very much like Whatsapp. Then it developed further.

Added “Moments”, a facebook/instagram like feature where you can make posts (with up to 9 photos per post) and friends could “Like” and/or comment. That morphed the Whatsapp-clone into Facebook/Twitter type of ecosystems of social hangouts. Like any ecosystems, it could have been embarrassing quiet with little activity. No worries here, partly helped by the fact the its parent is Tencent (the company’s other product is QQ, the ICQ-clone which morphed into hands down still the largest social media ecosystem in China. I’ll write more about that in another post)

Within 14 months of WeChat launch, it hit the 100 million users benchmark in March 2012. Impressive, isn’t it? Now what do you think of this... the next 100 million came within a mere 6 months! Yes, by Sep 2012, WeChat had 200 million users. And as I write this, the Jan 2013 figures shows it has gone past 300 million users (that’s a 100 million in a little over 3 months) While that’s still a farcry from Facebook’s Billion, it’s not hard to gasp at 300 million users in 24 months. And mind you, it’s not just numbers - as a user it is VERY noticeable too how many more friends are on there now and how much more bustling it has become.

So back to the video calling function, I do look forward to Facebook rolling out the feature to everyone (instead of iOS-USA only as it is now), so I speak with friends in this world (WeChat’s footprint in this world is as close to zero as you could get, zero, nought, nihil).

And then back the topic of that parallel world - over there these days it’s not just about cloning where the copy is a lesser product anymore you know. That was one era ago. It’s on to the next era now where the born-clones has a very vibrant and enormous environment, full of nutrients and resources, to grow in its own way such that it exceeds its origin. Ahhh how sweet, isn’t that what every parent wants of their offspring? Would the clone’s origins feel the same of their clones too : ) Or would we all start running around clutching our hair screaming “end of the world - end of the world - clones that think - clones are taking over the world”

Whatever your perspective is - positive or negative, engage or barricade - that parallel universe is there, not going away, alive and kicking, breathing and growing. And quite often than not, surprisingly different from your mental image and can be refreshingly new.

[note: Please don’t take this blog tooo seriously. It’s written light-heartedly, time off from all the serious thinking, always from my perspective with a dash of my oddball humor. I do invite you to a conversation if something I wrote interests you and you’ve got something to say - positive or negative, serious or light-hearted - conversations are always welcome]