Monday, May 29

A static, un-mobile way to get mobile downloads

What do you do if you have an under developed mobile infrastructure and a nation of young, trendy mobile phone users? You improvise.

Mobile gaming is a fairly new phenomemon in Vietnam and due to various technical limitations, downloading "on-air" is limited. So, as you would expect, budding entrepreneurs have found a way to get the content to you. And it's distinctly non-mobile.

Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) is the cafe capital of the world. So what better way to provide content to a captive audience. I sat in a cafe sipping my 'ca phe sua da' (Iced Coffee) whilst browsing a catalogue of ringtones, wallpapers, applications, videos and games.

When you see something you like, call the waitress and pass her your phone. Ten minutes later, just as the ice is beggining to melt faster than I can drink the coffee, my Samsung reappears. Freshly installed with some cool games and a wallpaper of a manga character.

It's not mobile as we know it, but it's civilised, cheap and low on hassle. Perhaps something for Starbucks to think about.

Sunday, May 21

Vietnam: The Youth of Today

It's about 32C, pretty humid and there's a woman selling vegetables wearing a connicle hat right next to me. And I'm wi-fi'd to the net. Vietnam is waking quickly from its communist slumber but still carries the charms of its past.

The driving force behind this change is an enormous young population, 70% of Vietnam's citizens are under the age of 30, that's over 60 million people. And culturally the new generation are strikingly similar to everyone else of their age around the world. Borders are beginning to matter less and less.

I walked into a gaming cafe today to see what goes on. It was 8:30am, I was surprised to find it open, but more suprised to find a dark room packed with over 100 gamers who had kept their places all night. The decor was manga style - just like any other similar cafe around the world.

In Vietnam there is almost no technology adoption curve. Children from ten upwards know Yahoo Web Chat, watching TV shows online, streaming music, playing games, taking part in forums and gaming. So if something new comes along that is good, they're completely open to try it. Compare this to the UK/USA, where the introduction of technology is often a slow education process because of the wide variety of age groups.

It's an inspiring place to be. Despite some deep routed nationalism for the UK, I can't help thinking that VN will overtake the UK in consumer internet within a five years, maybe less. All this will be driven by Vietnam's youth of today, made up of hard-core gamers and fast moving entrepreneurs.

Saturday, May 6

Social Media: FiFa Fast Like A Gumball Rally?

I'm a self-confessed lover of cars; classics, supercars, Japanese imports - they're all good. So last weekend I joined tens of thousands for the start of the Gumball 3000 World Rally.

For me this is the best example I've seen of Social and Distributed Media at large on a global scale. Maximillion Cooper and the Gumball team have used the full mix of media to publish progress. But more importantly, the fan base and innocent bystanders have been getting online with their own versions of events.

I played my own part in this with the following self-made video - posted to YouTube -picked up by the, autoSpy and various.

Go to and search for Gumball. Every aspect of the rally is covered in Video from crashes to races from London to Bangkok (so far). All user generated. Plus there are blogs like

The official Gumball stuff is really well done, but can't keep pace with the user generated content!

Gumball Live (official)
http://Gumball 3000 official website

Great work to the Gumballers for fuelling the fun. I would love to see the World Cup in Germany covered in the same way... Fan reports, Player Blogs, Game photo's and Video's. Somehow I can't see Fifa being as fast or open minded as Gumball 3000.

Thursday, May 4

Distributed Media: Channels Still Worth Fighting For

Following on from my thoughts in "Triple Play? Strike One" a friend of mine suggested that distribution itself is becoming commoditised. I think in most cases he's right.

The delivery mechanisms for content that are based on open standards will make the process of distribution a flat rate service, and not something that is controlled or owned. But in some areas, even with emerging technology, there's still space for owning this part of the chain.

Take the newspaper industry for example. Thousands of trucks trundle up and down the country to a limited number of wholesalers. Trucks, drivers, paper, loading, unloading - now that's all expensive stuff. So there are only ever going to be a handful of players in the space willing to take on the business costs of distribution. Distribution is controlled and it limits your choices of daily news to a few papers.

News is big business. So breaking into, disrupting or redefining distribution in this market is a huge opportunity for new players...and Microsoft. Microsoft announced their own e-paper publishing technology late last week, entering the fray with current providers Newstand, Oliver, Newspapers Direct.

Microsoft's move surely can't be to own the platform serving the current global e-paper subscriber base - which probably rests at less than 100,000. Rather, this is a step toward owning one the future distribution of mobile news. Consider MS Origami (another gentle, limited experiment in this area), a renewed focus on RSS and aggregation, another push with its Mobile OS.

In fact, we ought to consider current e-paper and mobile solutions as interim until e-ink becomes a mass-market reality. When it does, you can expect the battle for the distribution of news to be blood-thirsty and savage.

In writing this blog I'm already suprised at how advanced e-ink technology is. There is a lot happening in this space. Last year e-ink began to appear on billboards - providing illuminated and animated printed posters. Now e-ink technology is rolling out in consumer products from flat screens to watches.

When e-ink becomes a low-cost paper technology, the distribution of daily newsprint can no-longer be controlled. For the news you want to read will be as distributed and open in e-print as it already is online. You can read what you want, when you want on the device you want. The enormous potential global volumes in providing this new technology, let alone the content, will surely drive prices for the devices rock-bottom very, very quickly. Perhaps the mobile operators have a roll to play here, given their similar experience with mobile phones.

And maybe our granchildren will marvel at how a daily printed newspaper ever existed.