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David Wolf

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  • China Milk Crisis: Quality Is Everybody's Problem [View article]
    All - the correct name of the New Zealand dairy firm in question is "Fonterra" not "Fronterra." I apologize for the typo and any inconvenience caused.

    David
    Sep 24 12:15 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Focus Media: Will Massive Accounts Receivable Lead to a Future Write-Down? [View article]
    The other factor that bears examining when comparing AR numbers among FMCN and its peers is the nature of FMCN's client portfolio. As a rule, large Chinese enterprises tend to pay advertising and other marketing fees somewhat more slowly and less systematically than their MNC peers.

    If FMCN's clientele are skewed heavily toward the domestic side, average AR aging will be considerably longer than peer companies whose customers are primarily MNCs. That is not something they're likely to be talking about, so it would be a good question for their next conference call.
    Aug 24 10:05 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • China Mobile, Apple Butt Heads Over iPhone [View article]
    mmii: you're spot on about the Unicom experience. But I suspect we'll be waiting a while for iPhones with CHL embossed on the back.
    Jan 29 08:51 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • China Mobile, Apple Butt Heads Over iPhone [View article]
    Boettger: Apple wage guerrilla warfare on the Chinese market? Oh, hell yes!

    I saw an estimate yesterday that as many as 25% of all iPhones sold are hacked and never returned to the network that sold them. How many of those have made it into the hands of China's newly-prosperous?

    Anybody want to bet on whether Apple will unlock the GSM/GPRS iPhones once they launch 3G devices?
    Jan 29 08:50 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • China Mobile, Apple Butt Heads Over iPhone [View article]
    jmmx: thanks for the post.

    Methinks Mr. Jobs - he of the Great Reality Distortion Field - may well be downplaying what is likely an uncomfortable situation.

    Here's my point - The iPhone does not need CHL right now, and CHL does not need the iPhone. As sad as that might be for all of us living here in the Middle Kingdom, them's the facts.
    Jan 29 08:45 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • China Mobile, Apple Butt Heads Over iPhone [View article]
    Reinharden: You're right that Unicom has a GSM network, and in fact they're well into rolling out their GPRS capability. All fine and good. The reason Apple would probably not be prepared to work with China Unicom is the user-experience factor.

    See, if Unicom's GPRS network is so good, I wonder why my BlackBerry 8700 with an overseas SIM card can only find a GSM signal when it roams onto China Unicom's network here in Beijing and not a GPRS signal. I've had to force-select China Mobile on the device or lose all data services the second it gloms onto a China Unicom signal.

    My wife's brand-spanking new RAZR2 V8 GPRS device - she's a China Unicom subscriber - is not getting onto a GPRS network at all anywhere in Beijing.

    Does Unicom have GPRS? Maybe. But you wouldn't know it from OUR day-to-day user experiences in China's capital city, nor those of others who have commented on my blog or emailed me. Whether Unicom has the hardware or not is irrelevant if the network can't offer a consistent user experience on two GPRS devices from two major manufacturers.

    Apple is going to be really sensitive about quality-of-service issues with carriers, a lesson it learned in going with AT&T in the United States. Unicom is in no position to truthfully offer a lot of comfort in that area, a sad legacy of its dual-network (GSM/CDMA) heritage.

    How about them odorless feces?
    Jan 29 08:40 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Beijing's Hybrid Hypocrisy [View article]
    Rlirph:

    I absolutely agree that any US citizen traveling or living abroad needs to be tactful, thoughtful, and considerate.

    I absolutely disagree, however, that this means we have no right to critique policies or practices that run counter to China's best interests. I believe it is my obligation - and that of all of us who love China, live here, invest our sweat-earned dollars here, respect her people, and deeply appreciate what she has accomplished in a very short time - to serve as a "loyal opposition," to point out areas where China can improve its policies if those policies will improve the lives of all Chinese and improve China's standing in the world, this making this a better place for everyone.

    We are doubly obliged given that Chinese themselves lack the political mechanisms do do so themselves. Given that foreigners who have spent their lives here, contribute positively to society, speak the language, and understand the culture are regularly consulted on issues like this by Chinese, it is a role we are expected to play.

    To do otherwise (under the guise of "good manners"), to see no evil, hear no evil, and keep our mouths shut about the problems we see is to give lie to the idea that our presence here can help improve things. In that case, we all might as well pack up and leave.

    To tell China to change "just to be like us" is wrong. You and I agree on that.

    But if those of us who know a little something about this place don't say anything when we see something wrong, we condemn China to remaining a third world country. Or worse.

    Join the loyal opposition. By doing so you will join a long line of foreigners who have helped China overcome its challenges.
    Dec 26 11:12 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Beijing's Hybrid Hypocrisy [View article]
    Anonymous: you miss the point. I guess I wasn't clear, and I apologize for that. The problem is not the price concession. The problem is that the same vehicle with the Hybrid drive sells for $16k more than the standard-drive vehicle, when the LIST PRICE difference in the US is only $4k, AND that at least $6k (and possibly all) of that difference is because of taxes and import duties on the price difference of the hybrid drive.
    Dec 26 10:40 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Nokia's Restructuring: Nobody Loves A Value-Chain Hog [View article]
    Hi Lauri,

    Thanks for your comment.

    Your point, if I am reading you correctly, is that carriers cannot hope to offer walled-garden services. If you believe that, however, you must grant my point, which is simply that Nokia cannot either. Now, as an analyst who has covered Nokia in Finland for a very long time, you may know something about their plans on the services side beyond what was disclosed yesterday, but from here in Beijing it sounds like they want to create a proprietary, walled garden.

    There are two great questions that hover over the future of mobile services. The first is "will mobile services be more like the Internet, with thousands of services freely available and accessible, or will it be like cable television, with operators assembling bouquets of standard and premium services?" With respect, as certain as you appear to be that the former will be the case, I think it is too early to call this one either way.

    Personally, I believe that in some markets we will continue to have a walled garden for the foreseeable future. In other markets we will see an Internet-like free-for-all within 1-3 years. And in most markets, we will see some form of interesting hybrid twixt the two. Either way, each market will go its own way.

    Now we come to the second great question that hovers over the future of mobile services: "who will create the services that will turn the world into compulsive users of the mobile device as an all-purpose information, entertainment and services terminal?"

    That one is a lot easier to answer: everybody. The reason for that answer is that no single entity - no operator, no online search giant, no software monopolist, and indeed, no mobile hardware manufacturer - has a clear enough grasp on the market to create more than a few of the services people around the world will want. Even the mobile operators who successfully maintain a walled garden will have to build their bouquets from a large variety of service providers.

    My issue with Nokia leaping into that fray is not whether or not they belong there - certainly they do. My issue is with the apparent scale of their ambition. Setting up some small entrepreneurial units to create or invest in services that build heavily on the features Nokia builds into their devices is a natural. Creating what appears to be a massive corporate bureaucracy ostensibly to offer carriers "complete solutions" sounds a bit different, like they want to displace carriers' walled gardens with their own. That sounds, well, unrealistic. Inappropriate. Ominous. Perhaps even megalomaniacal.

    If Nokia's ambitions are simply to be a player, it should walk before it tries to run. If its ambitions are to be a dominant force in the global online services industry, it should know that it faces a battle royal, and from where I sit, its likelihood of failure is high.

    You've made your call Laurie. I've made mine. Let's sit back and watch the game.

    Thanks again,

    David
    Jun 21 10:10 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Nokia's Restructuring: Nobody Loves A Value-Chain Hog [View article]
    Mr. Zheng,

    Thank you for your comment. You are obviously quite passionate about this.

    To begin, I'd like to point out that whatever the faults of my line of argument, you are mistaken in your assumptions about who I am.

    You said:

    "I know what is the origin of your so silly reviews, it is all because your narrow eyeshot. You just use a Verizion 1 mega camera Samsung phone and one ipod. You never go outside US to say how European, Chinese, India, Japaness are living. That's your problem. Remember twice, cellular industry's Vatican is not US."

    If you had taken the time to learn a little bit about me before launching a personal attack (which, you should know, detracts seriously from your credibility), or indeed if you had even read the article carefully, you would see that I actually live in Beijing and have lived here for twelve years. I actively use two iPods, a Motorola ROKR E6, regularly try the handsets of other manufacturers, and I've spent more time in Japan than the United States in the past three years. So I actually agree with you on one point - the heart of the cellular industry lies outside the US, and indeed Asia leads the world.

    I am not an Apple zealot. I love and use their computers and their iPods, but I see the iPhone as a niche product and not a threat to the core industry. If you had read some of my previous posts on the subject, you will find I am extremely skeptical about the iPhone's near-term prospects in Asia generally and China specifically.

    Since Nokia is the subject of our discussion here, let us return to it:

    When I speak of design, I am not referring to technical specs. Outside of Nokia, people use the term "design" to describe the overall shape, form, and fit of a device. I don't think there is any question that Samsung, LG, and Motorola are far ahead of Nokia in delivering devices that are appealing to the senses, and therefore appeal to the growing number of users who see their handsets increasingly as a fashion accessory, not a computer. A recent survey I saw noted that after price, the most important attribute of a handset is how it looks. Now, you and I, being more technical, may not fall into that category, but we are most assuredly the exception, not the rule.

    When I refer to mobile entertainment, this includes primarily handsets designed for music and video playback. These are an important category, because in Asia we like to use our mobile phones as entertainment devices. Nokia may well have 20 devices that can play music, but the numbers out of independent research houses like SinoMR make it clear that the sheer number of devices does not mean leadership in the segment. Sony-Ericcson still leads that pack with only a handful of devices, and 70% of Motorola handsets sold in China are either music enabled or optimized. Nokia's problem in entertainment is the experience, and part of the reason you will probably see them migrate off of Symbian in the next 18 months to the "cute" Linux-Java platform is that they have stretched Symbian just about as far as it can go in this area. Since you asked for a list, Motorola has the ROKR Z6, E6, E2, E780x, E680x, SLVR L6g, and MING that all play games. Is the list as long as Nokia? No. But sometimes a wider choice is a substitute for a quality experience. That's a merchandising tactic that is as old as retail.

    As to mobile gaming, the category is languishing generally in China, a very small and specialized niche. I expect to see some major announcements from Nokia on games in China in the second half of this year, but they are still recovering from their N-Gage faux pas globally. Me, I've got six games on my ROKR E6 that I play occasionally to regularly, but as I said, I am not representative of the broader population in this regard.

    As to Nokia's performance in the US market, Nokia's loyalists may believe the company's weak showing there is because of Qualcomm, but the reality is Nokia's original and continuing failures in the US can be attributed directly to product decisions made at Nokia.

    My evidence about Apple's leadership in design and user experience, I think you may have been confused. I was referring to their leadership in design and user experience generally. I'm not ready to judge the iPhone until I - and a few million other people - have had a chance to use it. You also continue to confuse "features" with "design" and "user experience. That's okay - Nokia has, too. The rest of the industry and the vast majority of users, on the other hand, do not. Apple's leadership in design and experience in the computer and consumer electronics industries is a matter of record, and if you want to compare Apple and Nokia on innovations, we can do that separately. I think you might be surprised at the results.

    As far as "leverage" is concerned, frankly that's all Nokia has, and as a company it is starting to understand that sheer volume is not going to be enough if it wishes to continue as a healthy business. This is why it is undertaking its foray into services, software, and the like in first place. After all, it's much easier to launch into a "blue ocean" strategy than it is to fix core problems.

    Look at the market performance in New York overnight, and you will see that investors are as unconvinced as I am that Nokia is doing the right thing.

    And to your final question: I'd bet on NOK, SNE, MOT, and Samsung for music phones against the iPhone any day. That may change, but for now, that's where my money is.

    Thanks again for your comment.
    Jun 21 02:25 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Bill Gates' Three-Dollar Barricade Against Ubuntu [View article]
    Dennis:

    I get Canonical's business model. What interests me is that for as log as I've been using Ubuntu, I've never had to pay a nickel.

    You're absolutely right - the real question is "choice." What delights me about Ubuntu - and Red Hat, Mandriva, Linspire, and the host of other distros out there is that in the space of the last three years, we've gone from Linux being a hobbyists toy to a real alternative for your average personal computer user. Choice may be the point, but the recent qualitative improvements in Linux (and the evolution of OS X) mean that the choice is a REAL choice now.

    Malkiel, you're right, Ubuntu has places where it is still challenged as a complete Windows substitute, particularly for computers used for multimedia. But with an evolution every 18 months, the gap narrows, and the gap with institutions is nearly gone.

    As to Mac OS X, that's another discussion. Suffice to say that I run my business and my blogs on Macs, and spend most of my day in OS X.

    And lest you think I'm just here to bash Microsoft, let me say that I'm using Microsoft Office - licensed and paid for on all of our computers - and my CFO runs XP on boot camp on her Mac when she has to. And when I'm in the U.S. this summer, I'm buying an XBox 360.

    Microsoft does some truly wonderful and amazing things. But they make the second- or third-best operating system, they need to address that, and their best asset - Bill Gates - is off to pasture soon.
    Apr 24 12:18 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Nokia the iPod Killer? I Think Not [View article]
    Hi Lauri,

    Thanks for your input. You quite accurately echo Nokia's world view of the consumer electronics field. Unfortunately, I'm not entirely certain that, as expressed, the "convergence" model is necessarily accurate, for several reasons.

    First, I am inherently suspicious of any rhetoric that is universalist in nature. All consumers will want a single device? Doesn't that make a rather bold assumption that all consumers want the same thing?

    Second, the model assumes that standalone devices offer no significant advantage over converged devices. For some devices this is true, and you mention several - an alarm clock, a pocket calculator. But to this point I find phone-based calendars and PIMs - even in Treos and iPaqs - to be far inferior in utility than the PIM/CRM on my laptop, or even in a paper-based DayTimer. I find the same is true for dictionaries.

    For the future, a GPS device? Absolutely. But a dive computer? No way.

    A digital camera? Maybe as a replacement for a disposable point-and-shoot. But don't even begin to suggest that a mobile phone will, in the next 3-4 years, displace the function of my Canon digital SLR camera. Don't get me wrong - photography is not my hobby - I'm going to get one shot at great pictures, and I want a system that delivers. Mobile phones are a long way from that stage, and it is not merely a matter of a higher-resolution CCD or more storage that makes it so.

    An e-mail device? Possibly. But I've got big hands, and I want to use a keyboard that's large enough so I'm not hitting two keys by accident. I'd also like to be able to talk on the phone while doing e-mail, and I'm sure I'm not alone. Frankly, I don't want to heft a heavy device just to chat on the phone - I want something light and sleek with a decent wireless headset.

    A music player? You're right. Apple has got to give up on the standalone music player, and I think they will. But it's no longer about music alone, is it? It's about video, which takes up immense storage space, and about podcasts, and about our photo collections, and recordings of lectures or conversations, and games, and books, and all of the media we carry around in our lives.

    My bet is that Sony is dead in the water with a standalone book reader, but I'm not going to read an e-book on a screen that will fit next to my ear. Nor will I play games on such a screen. The ignominious end of the N-gage certainly proved the latter.

    So there are a lot of ways a media player can still converge before it can practically get sucked into a phone.

    I could go on, and we're STILL only talking about the device problem, Lauri. We still haven't addressed three important problems:

    1. JUICE - As much as I only want to carry one adapter, I also don't want to shlep extra batteries. But if you put all of this stuff into a single device with adequate storage, pray, where is all of the juice going to come from? I, like many people, absolutely rely on my mobile phone being available at all times. I own a business and I have a family. I can afford to let my camera, my media player, my Blackberry, and even my laptop run out of juice. NOT my phone. I want 72 hours of talk time and two weeks of standby, because on some trips I don't slow down long enough for days to plug in - and sometimes I just plain forget. That won't happen with a "converged" device, and the more you "converge" the more you tax current battery technology.

    2. Content - Until Nokia integrates its devices into a system that provides users with a superior selection of content and fairly compensates (and protects the rights of) artists, authors, labels, studios, and publishing houses, at best Nokia's media devices will fail to gain traction. At worst, they will become vectors for piracy.

    3. Experience - Just because you can stick it all into 300 grams of plastic, glass, and silicon doesn't mean the experience of any of this is going to get better. The experience is about much more than cramming more features into a single device - it's about a complete ecosystem to deliver on those experiences.
    > Camera? Sure. Now how do I manipulate, store, print, share and archive those precious memories? The device doesn't provide the whole answer.
    > Video? How do I transfer that video to my 42" flatscreen or burn it to a DVD- and what will it look like when I do? How do I get it to YouTube - and how do I edit and add credits before I do so?
    > Email? How do I view an e-mail attachment - especially if it is an important document - and make changes, then store it?
    > FM Radio? What about satellite? Does anyone really want to pay for FM anymore?
    > Portable TV? How do I record for later viewing? For viewing on another device? You need a service for that, don't you?

    But you get my point. Nokia remains of the conviction that the device should be sufficient to deliver a superior experience. Despite the introduction of increasingly converged, feature-laden devices, all Nokia does is prove that the device is no longer sufficient. There must be more.

    Whether that "more" comes from a single-provider (a la Apple) or from a system of specialist providers will be determined in each major market in the world. But until Nokia really gets their arms around the "more" and what it will take to deliver it for increasingly picky consumers, the most converged devices in the world will fail to live up to their promises.

    The ghost of N-gage calls as the wind blows through the trees around the glass house in Espoo. The question is - is anyone listening?

    Many thanks,

    David
    Nov 2 10:52 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
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