On the ropes, Apple’s China nemesis still dreams

Here’s a piece I wrote with Lee Chyen Yee about the man and company behind the iPad trademark battle in China.

(Reuters) – Yang Long-san, Apple’s nemesis in a battle over the iPad trademark in China, once strutted the expo halls with dreams of market dominance. His company, Proview, may now be in ruins and his most valuable asset a disputed trademark, but those dreams remain intact.
“My biggest wish is to resolve all these frustrating problems and put them behind me,” Yang said in a recent telephone interview. “If we can resolve all the problems we have now and I have a chance to make a comeback, I’d still want to overtake my old competitors.”
Much of that will depend on whether he wins a long-running dispute over ownership of the trademark in China – Apple’s second-biggest market by revenue. Although a recent decision by the Shanghai district court to reject Proview’s demands that Apple stop selling the iPad was a setback for Proview, the case is still to be heard in the higher court in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong Wednesday.
A decision against Apple there would set a precedent that would create an uphill battle in other cases in lower courts around China. Local media have said Proview is seeking up to 10 billion yuan ($1.6 billion) in compensation.
Proview’s fortunes may currently be the polar opposite of Apple – one has creditors at the door and the other is the world’s most valuable listed company – but both illustrate how the fickle world of technology can make or break a company.
Yang and Proview rode the first wave, when every home and office desk had to have a computer, and a screen. For Apple, the last decade has seen it ride the crest of a new wave where the computer moved from a commoditized, clunky desktop to a fashionable mobile consumer device.
Proview may now be a shadow of a company, trying to convert its last major asset into cash, but it was not always so. “They definitely existed,” says IDC analyst Rhoda Alexander, who covered them for a while. “They were a significant manufacturer and a major player.”

The full story can be found at reuters.com

The Blogging Revolution is Over, But That’s Not the Point

I was digging through some of my old columns the other day, trying to see if I had predicted anything right. Here’s what I had to say 10 years ago this month, about a new and still obscure habit called blogging:

I’d like to think that blogs do what the much vaunted portal of the dotcom boom failed to do: collate, filter and present information from other sources, alongside comment. Bloggers — those that blog — will be respected as folk who aren’t journalists, or experts in their field, but have sufficient knowledge and experience to serve as informal guides to the rest of us hunting for stuff on the World Wide Web.

There’s not much money in this, though doubtless they’re likely to upset the media barons who realize that their carefully presented, graphics-strewn home pages are being bypassed by blog-surfers stopping by only long enough to grab one article. But that may be the future: The editor that determines the content of our daily read may not be a salaried Webmaster or a war-weathered newspaper editor, but a bleary-eyed blogger in his undershirt willing to put in the surfing time on our behalf.

I called it, to the bemusement of my friends and media colleagues, the blogging revolution. I was, it turns out, both right and wrong.

Blogging was huge: so big, in fact, it led to the publisher I was then working for being bought by another, and me looking for another job. Blogging, it turned out, was the spearhead of a much bigger assault on the citadel of the media barons and we all know the results of that. But blogs themselves have themelves been superseded: Those companies that got rich realised that, like the people selling shovels and buckets to gold diggers, it was better to make money from the process of generating content than to actually produce the content itself. Facebook, Amazon and Google, of course, don’t actually produce any of their own content, but they seem to be doing well monetizing the distribution of it.

But that doesn’t mean blogging is dead. Although no one got into trouble for suggesting it: A survey by the University of Massachusetts shows that for the first time since it started looking five years ago, fewer of the fastest growing companies of the Fortune 500 are blogging—in 2010 half were, and now only 37% are.  Pew found something similar among younger people.

Of course, blogs were never about quantity. Indeed, the more blogs there were, the harder it was to follow them. In that sense, microblogging—twitter, Google+, etc, where the emphasis is on a limited number of words—and presence sharing tools such as Facebook, where you’re encouraged not to write at length but simply to share brief thoughts, commentary or media, are an indirect reaction to the explosion of blogs.

Frederic Filloux, a French newspaper man, looked at mainstream media’s use of blogs and calculated recently that "too many blogs hosted by large media brands seem loose or rarely updated."

But I was also wrong about another thing: I thought blogs would serve as guides to the web. And many do: They highlight interesting stuff that others are saying. They curate, in the argot of the web. But actually the really good ones—the ones that keep traditional media on their toes—are those which actually dig up new stuff. They actually break news: Florian Mueller, a German patent consultant and campaigner, runs a blog about the ongoing patent wars between mobile phone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung that is based on original reporting from the court rooms and documents. It’s considered the place to go to learn about and understand what is going on. His twitter feed has 10,000 followers.

Then there’s the anonymous blogger who has doggedly pursued the financial problems of Glasgow Rangers football club for a year, laying out in detail the decline of the club—details the mainstream press seemed reluctant to carry themselves. The blog gets 100,000 page views a day, and the most recent post has more than 3,000 comments.  In a recent piece he wrote for the Guardian the author of the blog wrote:

In a world of free information, where most blogs die alone and ignored shortly after birth, the very popularity of rangerstaxcase.com carries a message about modern Scotland. It is a story of the unmet need for the straight story, uncorrupted by the sinister Triangle of Trade that renders most of what passes as news in Scotland’s media outlets as worthless.

There are not many of these examples, but that, perhaps, is the point. These people are amateurs in the sense that they don’t make money from their work, usually. But they’re professional in that they rise or fall on their words—the research they put in, the clarity they bring to the subject—and while the blogging revolution may be over, but if all we’re left with are these blogs, I reckon it was more than worth it.

Facebook’s daunting Asian challenge

Here’s a piece I pulled together with the help of Reuters reporters Andjarsari Paramaditha, Camilo Mejia and Estelle Griepink in JAKARTA, Harichandan Arakali in BANGALORE, Lee Chyen Yee in HONG KONG, Kazunori Takada in SHANGHAI and Harry Suhartono in SINGAPORE.

Facebook aims to connect all two billion Internet users. So far it has captured 845 million of them. Of the rest, nearly 60 percent live in Asia and hooking them is going to be a daunting challenge.

A block on access in China, court cases in India and rivalry from other services elsewhere in the region stand between Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook and more than 700 million users.

"The size of our user base and our users’ level of engagement are critical to our success," Facebook said in its SEC filing for an initial public offering. Quoting industry data that there were two billion Internet users globally, it said: "We aim to connect all of them."

Growth is held back in the rest of the world, either because of limited Internet penetration, or because those who want a Facebook account already have one.

Full text here.