World Map of Dominating Websites

Here's an interesting map from webempires

It's 3 years old and it would be interesting to see if the dominating websites are still dominating. I'm particularly interested to see if Yahoo is still the leading website in Cameroon and if Mail.ru is still leading in Central Asia. 

Hopefully, webempires will update this map soon. 

From http://webempires.org/dominating-websites-map/

From http://webempires.org/dominating-websites-map/

What is 3D Printing?

Yesterday was about wearables. Today is about 3D printing. Why? 

Simple. It doesn't take a prognosticator to see that 3D printing wearables are coming. 

Stratasys, one of the largest manufacturers of 3D printers and 3D production systems, has an introductory infographic explaining the state of 3D printing.

Just like how a digital printer is ubiquitous in our society, 3D printers will soon find its way into every home and/or office. 

Iphone 6 vs Galaxy S5

Thinking of changing my phone soon and debating between the big 2: iPhone 6 and Galaxy S5. Not trying to start a flame war, just comparing the components/build quality. 

It seems like Samsung charge themselves a lot for the material (so as to justify the price). I mean, Galaxy S5 camera component is more expensive than iPhone's even though it's made by Samsung. Ditto for the SDRAM. NAND and power management components are cheaper than iPhone's which should be the case since Samsung manufactures them. Strangely, iPhone uses Samsung processor, but Samsung uses Intel processor. Wonder why Samsung won't use their own processor which is actually cheaper than Intel. 

Hmm...rumors are already swirling around the next generation. Probably best to wait for one more generation. 

Lawyers and Their Tech

It's interesting the trends that lawyers predict about technology in their firms. Most expect a paperless office and e-libraries, but hardly any mention of the two elephants in the room: machine learning & artificial intelligence. 

Too early to tell or they rather not think about it?

From http://raconteur.net/infographics

From http://raconteur.net/infographics

YouTube, Netflix, and Vine - Vying for Kids' Hearts

Children's media app is the next battleground for the media industry.

Last month, YouTube launched a YouTube Kids app, Vine launched a Vine Kids app, and Netflix announced that its expanding its kids’ lineup with 5 new shows. Why this sudden interest in kids' media apps? I think it's due to the proliferation of content — print, blogs, TV, web videos, film, video games, selfies, vine videos, etc — and the fact that a lot of the content were previously not targeted toward kids. 

Online media providers like YouTube, Netflix, and Vine realize that the market penetration for adult is already very high and if you want to expand your market, you have to look at expanding your demographics. Kids seems like an easy choice because they are a gateway to the household and they eventually grow up to be in the initial target market. If kids were so easy and convenient, why now? That's probably because of the advancement in machine learning and algorithm. It's easier now for computers to categorize content than when YouTube was first starting out. Either way, it looks like content providers are now focusing on the children's market and it'll be that way for some time. 

That's good news for kids, headaches for parents, and a godsend for advertisers. 

eBonds - Seriously?

80-Year-Old John “Mac” McQuown wants to reinvent corporate bond. 

Basically, it sounds like he wants to issue a corporate bond and then package it with a credit default swap [CDS] and clear it through a clearinghouse, which (hopefully) will have a AAA claims-paying ability and thus creating a AAA corporate bond. He calls it the eBond, short for exchangeable bond.

From http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-02-03/meet-the-80-year-old-whiz-kid-reinventing-the-corporate-bond?cmpid=BBD020315&alcmpid=

From http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-02-03/meet-the-80-year-old-whiz-kid-reinventing-the-corporate-bond?cmpid=BBD020315&alcmpid=

Hahaha! If only it were that easy, then the failure of the credit-default swaps for the mortgage-backed securities would never have happened and the 2007 Global Financial Crisis would not have occurred. Transforming junk-graded debt into AAA-rated notes was what caused the Great Reset and Mr. McQuown is proposing another way to do just that. 

McQuown's eBond idea sounds like an innovative way to obscure risk from the market and fool the masses. I hope it never sees the light of day. 

Not sure why Bloomberg would put him on the cover of their March 2015 edition and give him such prominent coverage. 

Apple's Gold - Real or Fake?

Last Monday, model Christy Turlington Burns wore an Watch at Apple’s Spring Forward event where Tim Cook unveiled the new Macbooks (gorgeous, but slow) and to hype up the Watch.

What seems to be missing from the news is Apple's patent application that was published on Dec 11, 2014 for "Method and apparatus for forming a gold metal matrix composite".

In short, Apple has created a method that makes their 18k gold contain less gold than regular 18k gold by messing around with the metal composite and basically using cheaper materials to accomplish this task. 

Tim Cook said that Apple's gold is harder and more scratch-resistant than regular gold and this might be due to the fact that Apple may be using low-density ceramic particles in its gold composite, which makes it less dense overall and hence less gold. 

The post here has all the lowdown on the mathematical calculations behind this patent. 

Now, while Apple does have this patent, it seems that Apple has not use it...yet. The Watch that were announced last Monday were using standard gold alloy and not Apple's patented gold composite. 

Some questions remain though — how exactly is Apple able to make their gold harder and more scratch resistant than regular gold? Will Apple eventually use this patent sometime in the near future?  

Google's Frenemy Strategy Part II: Uber

I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.
— Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs made that remark in reference to Google launching the Android operating system while Eric Schmidt, Google's CEO at the time, was sitting on Apple board. Needless to say, Eric was removed from Apple board and iOS and Android have been battling for mobile supremacy ever since.

Google launched Android to ensure its search supremacy in the mobile space since Google doesn't actually make money directly from Android, giving it away for free. Given that other mobile operating system (Blackberry, Symbia, etc) may have ended using a different default search engine on their mobile devices, Google wanted Android to ensure that it wasn't beholden to anyone - even Apple. It's safe to say that the mobile space would be very different if Google did not market Android. And while it seems that Android is winning because of its larger market share, Apple continues to profit handsomely from its fat margins and brand loyalty. 

This tidbit of history is important because Google is once again executing its frenemy strategy. This time, it's with Uber. 

Just as Eric Schmidt sat on the board of Apple while developing a competing product, David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer and senior vice president of corporate development, sat on the board of Uber since 2013. News are surfacing that Drummond has informed Uber's board that Google is possibility going to offer its own own ride-hailing service very soon. Furthermore, some Uber executives have seen actual screenshots of this so-called app that is currently being beta-tested by Google employees.

Google's own ride-hailing service, let's call it "Google Taxi" for now, is a product that makes a lot of sense for Google. Google Maps dominates the map service space and Uber drivers are already using Google Maps when they're driving. Google owns Waze, the social driving network, where people share their traffic condition with others. And lastly, Google is the visible leader in the autonomous vehicle space. Combining Google Maps with Waze and self-driving cars and Google Taxi sounds like it would be an amazing service.

Furthermore, just as Google waited to see the success of Apple's iOS, Google has been waiting for Uber to settle the difficult legislation and court cases so that when it launches Google Taxi, all the legal headaches are pretty much settled. 

While I am looking forward to Google Taxi and believe that, like Android, it will probably dominate its market in terms of market share, it is troubling to know that a company that expounds the virtue of "don't be evil" continues with its frenemy strategy - sending its executives to sit on the boards of potential competitors as "friends" and then launching a competitive service/product when the market is big and ready. 

Even if you like Google and their services, just be careful if they approach you as a "friend". After all, who knows when they would stab you in the back?

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me


Pre-fab buildings and its impact on society

Prefabricated building, a type of building that consists of several factory-built components or units that are then assembled on-site to complete the unit, has been growing in popularity.

Last year, a nine storey apartment building consisting of 34 one and two bedroom apartments, was constructed in Melbourne in only 120 hours. This year, the city of Amsterdam will be providing prefab pop-up rental houses on vacant city lots. I'm bringing this up to show that the full impact and possibilities of prefabs have not been fully considered.

Why rent a hotel room or a room on AirBnB when you can rent a rental house that will be ready by the time you arrive in the city? Prefab pop-up rental units should scare the hospitality sector. Housing policies and building ordinances will have to adjust to the rapid turnaround cycle of prefab buildings. Imagine a pop-up neighborhood that appears overnight. How will the city react to such a rapid development? 

Rendering of what a pop-up neighborhood of houses might look like as envisioned by the Dutch building company Hejimans.

Rendering of what a pop-up neighborhood of houses might look like as envisioned by the Dutch building company Hejimans.

Housing policies and building ordinances are generally slower to react due to the burden of bureaucracy. As governments adjust to the "sharing economy" of companies like AirBnB and Uber, they should also start planning on how to adjust to the "prefab economy" - where things are rapidly constructed to fulfill a users' need. So far, no one seems ready for the change that's on the horizon. 

A heart-shape phone

Japan recently introduced a new phone - Heart 401AB. A heart-shape phone that is low-tech: no email, no web browser, heck, no SMS. The new phone will undoubtably be an object of curiosity and will definitely stand out among the crowd of phones. Still, you have to wonder about its market. Who exactly is this phone for? 

The low-tech aspect means that the phone isn't for the techies. The heart-shape design removes the majority of the male population. So, the phone is basically for female who does not want nor need SMS or any amenities of a digital lifestyle. Is the market that big in Japan to warrant such a unique phone? Japan has always been a country that waltz to its own beat. Vinyl is alive and kicking, CD sales are the highest in the world, and the fax machine still rules supreme in corporate Japan. 

While it's difficult to ascertain the domestic market size because of the unique characteristics of the country, it's still a good thought experiment if we consider how the phone will fare in the international market.

Microsoft's low-budget phone, the Kin One and the Kin Two, failed horribly because no one knew exactly who the phone was targeted at. While Microsoft tried to market it to kids and parents buying kids their first smart phone, it didn't attract those markets because kids wanted "cool" smartphones and parents wanted value for money. The marketing message got muddled and it was inevitable that the phone would fail. 

The Heart 401AB, on the other hand, is highly targeted: female who doesn't want a high-tech gadget but wants a cute phone. Depending on cost of production, the heart-shape phone might actually end up being extremely profitable for the manufacturer precisely because it's so highly targeted. If the phone is a success, it's certainly only a matter of time until other manufacturers follow suit and produce other unique shape phones to cater to the market. 

Either way you look at it, it's an interesting market experiment.

Messaging apps are the new web browsers

Popular messaging apps like WeChat and Line are slowing demonstrating the power of messaging apps. 

In Japan, the Line messaging app is allowing users to book taxi and look for jobs directly within the app. The user doesn't have to leave the app to use the different services. WeChat already provides banking services in China. 

Both these apps showcase the power of messaging apps as the new "web browsers" for the smartphone generation. Facebook and Twitter popularize the notion of the social web, where people would use their social network to obtain information (ie asking your friends for advice, posting a message for the world to see, etc). Messaging apps are taking it to a whole new level by combining the social web via contacts in your messaging apps and integrating the services directly. From a user perspective, they don't have to exit the app, which is currently the case for most actions right now on your smartphone (a specific app for a specific service). Messaging apps can do away with that all together. 

How is it different from a web browser? Well, a web browser lacks the social element (no contacts and no messaging) and so while users can use the web browser to complete their desired actions, they aren't able to use the social/messaging element. 

And let's be honest, what did we get a phone for if not to talk/chat/communicate with our friends? So it seems that messaging apps are the ideal "web browser" platform for smartphones. It's only a matter of time until all services are integrated directly in the messaging apps.

The current state of messaging apps is similar to the early days of web browsers where people are trying to figure out how to best maximize the screen space and what services to provide. Eventually, web browsers offer all these different extensions and tools that augment its capabilities and personalized it for its user. 

It shouldn't be too long for messaging apps to reach that stage. 

2015 - Year of the Wearables?

While people have been anticipating the rise of the wearable technology market for the past two years, no one has actually taken the lead. Will 2015 be different with the Apple Watch

The $89 Lenovo Vibe Band

The $89 Lenovo Vibe Band

Apple is usually not the first to market a new technology. It wasn't the first company with a tablet (that was Microsoft), the mp3 player (that was Rio), or the smart phone (that was Palm). But, whenever Apple truly enters a market, it usually defines it. It defined the tablet market with the iPad, the mp3 market with the iPod, and the smart phone with the iPhone. I don't consider Apple TV to be a device that Apple is truly interested and so it hasn't truly define it. 

So, will Apple live up to its expectation and create a huge market for wearable with the Apple Watch? Personally, I don't think so. Granted, it's never good to bet against Apple and when the iPad first came out, I thought it was going to just be a giant iPhone and wasn't sure about its appeal to the general consumer. I was wrong about the iPad and I might be wrong about the Apple Watch, but I still think that it won't be a runaway success. 

For one thing, only certain demographics wear watches. The second thing is that I'm not sure how different is the Apple Watch from the other smart watches. The Moto 360, the Qualcomm Toq, the Garmin Vivoactive, the Withings Activite Pop, the Lenovo Vibe Band, and Montblanc's E-strap are all appealing to me. Unless the Apple Watch is significantly better than the rest, it's going to be hard to demand a premium for an Apple Watch. 

The wearable market is unlike the smart phone market where Apple blew everyone out of the water and all the manufacturers had to scramble to catch up with the iPhone. Everyone, even a luxury brand like Montblanc, is ready for the wearable market to explode so they can capitalize on it. It remains to be seen if the Apple Watch will be the catalyst that the market needs. 

Regardless, 2015 is going to be amazing year for consumers with a plethora of smart watch offerings from established tech companies and unknown startups alike. The question is, will people be buying? 

We need a failsafe against bad robots

As AI gets smarter and robots gets better, shouldn't the world come together to formulate a failsafe plan against bad AIs? 

We've seen a lot of movies about robots that deviate from their original programming to become a threat to humanity. Think of Terminator, the Matrix, and I, Robot and you see all the ways that the world can go to hell because of super smart AIs in metallic, nearly indestructible bodies.

Why not pre-empt the potential problem with a series of guidelines so as to prevent people from creating AIs and robots that might actually threaten all of humanity? Previously, there was a vigorous debate about the publishing of a controversial flu studies that included information about a man-made flu would cause a worldwide catastrophe should it ever be released. The information was deemed so dangerous that the Dutch court limited the publishing of the findings and required the scientist to obtain an export license before his findings can be published.

Shouldn't there be similar concerns with AIs? Scientists have already programmed robots to learn cooking on their own just by watching YouTube videos. Who knows what else the robots will "learn". As AIs continue to improve, we need the failsafe measure as soon as possible. 

It might all sound far-fetch, but so did driverless cars, the hover board, and colonizing Mars