Archives for January 2012
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Any foreign company that comes to China and says, ‘There’s 1 1/2 billion people here, goody goody, and I only need 1 percent of that’ … [is] going to get into trouble. You have to understand how the consumer operates at a really detailed level.
Lorna Davis, Global Biscuits Category Head at Kraft
Planet Money’s piece Rethinking The Oreo For Chinese Consumers provides an interesting view into the experience of one of the best known American brands stumbling, recovering and then dominating it’s market in China. It’s a fun read.
“Children give the first four years of your life back to you.”
If you haven’t read the excellent How U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work in the New York Times, you should do so now. The story describes a seismic shift in technology that many haven’t noticed until only recently.
A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.
“The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”
Similar stories could be told about almost any electronics company — and outsourcing has also become common in hundreds of industries, including accounting, legal services, banking, auto manufacturing and pharmaceuticals.
Charles Duhigg and Keith Brasaher- How U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work
It’s also worth reading Why China Wins after you’ve read the first article for additional context:
Go to the lobby of the Sheraton Four Points in Shenzhen — or a dozen hotels like it. Table-after-table is a white guy from middle America trying to make his company competitive again sitting with a Chinese factory head or “fixer” who can get them into the right factories. It’s not unlike wandering into Cuppa Cafe in Palo Alto and seeing table-after-table of VC sitting with hopeful entrepreneurs.
It shocks me that people always assume the Chinese can only make inferior products when Apple– the gold standard of well-made products– is made in China. Sure, China can make shitty products for cheap. But it can also make the world’s best products. Again, like Silicon Valley can produce a bloated, uninteresting startup like Color and a nimble startup like Instagram that millions love. The startup machinery doesn’t make a company great or bad. It just makes whatever is put into it, more efficiently than any other place. Ditto China and manufacturing.
Sarah Lacy – Why China Wins
If you haven’t tossed all of your old assumptions about quality, innovation, China and the future already, you should do so now. If you want to be prepared for the future, you can’t carry old expectations as baggage.
A must-read for anyone who designs or develops for any screen, with a focus on the Web. The concepts are still important for all other designers and developers to understand though – the ‘pixel’ is changing, and thus the entire foundation for on-screen design is shifting beneath our feet.
“At the end of December, the country had 513 million Internet users, according to a report issued Monday by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), a non-profit group with ties to the government. This puts the country’s total Internet penetration at 38.3 percent, up 4 percent from a year ago. In contrast, the U.S. has a total Internet penetration of 78.2 percent, according to Internet World Stats.
“The number of users accessing the Internet from their mobile phones has also grown, reaching 355 million, or more than the entire population of the U.S. Now 69.3 percent of China’s Internet users connect to the Internet via their handsets, up from 66.2 percent a year ago.”
A far better list than the standard set of travel tips. There are some great ideas in there.
A Node.js tool that syncs browsing sessions across multiple devices on the same Wi-Fi network.
via @grumpicus. “a brilliant piece of social engineering, masquerading as a bar game” Love it.
Looks like a must-have for anyone who uses Photoshop CS4+.
Oooh, must watch. via @matthewpennell
Excellent article. I knew some of this, but picked up a couple of solid tips.
I’m not looking back. 2011 was a good year, but it was merely a foundation for 2012 and the years to come. I start this fresh year having already made a transition in a few major areas and expecting larger transitions to come.
I am excited about the next 12 months. Very excited. But, lining that excitement is a thread of fear. The good type of fear. The fear that indicates forward progress, often into situations that are hazy from this distance, but hold great promise. I have opportunities ahead of me and I have the support of an amazing family and steadfast friends to support me as I jump into the undefined and uncomfortable. These situations will provide the chance to grow, and inn some cases, will force me to grow. And what is life, if not continuous improvement?
The most important event in my life will occur in about six weeks, when my first child, a son, will be born. I know that he will transform me in ways unimagined. I shift from excitement, to disbelief, to fear and back again multiple times a day. I push back on my dread that I won’t be up to the task of raising him well. I smile each time I see Sarah, my gorgeous wife of ten years, carrying our soon-to-be-born child. I wake in the middle of the night thinking about who he will be and what we will do together.
It’s hard to keep track of everything I want to share with him. Life lessons, astounding aspects of nature and triumphs of humanity fill my head.
So, I’ve started a new site where Sarah and I can collect things our kid should see, learn, listen to and know. My Kid Should Know will be a repository of life lessons, astounding feats, pivotal events and heartwarming reminders of our shared humanity. It’s a small step toward explaining the wonders of this world and sharing the curiosity that has driven me.
I am stepping back from my role leading Refresh Austin, leaving it in the hands of a great team with fresh ideas and the energy to lift the group to the next level. While I’ll stay involved as a minor part of that core team, fading back is not an easy transition for me. But, I know it’s the right one. I have every confidence that Refresh will glow even brighter within the community in the years to come.
I’ve never been one to sit still in a role for long. Once I feel that I’ve mastered a subject matter, or that I have met a goal, I look for the next challenge. While I love to build and I love to design, I have left both behind. I’ve enjoyed my time and the lessons learned focusing on user experience and product management, but I wanted new challenges. So, in 2011 I switched jobs, and now three months in at Appconomy, I can attest that my current role, while comfortable in many respects, pushes me forward to a degree that I haven’t experienced in my career previously.
I am immersed in a new space – mobile development. I’ve been interested in it for a while, but this is the first opportunity that I’ve had to study the both the intricacies and the market as a whole. It is very similar to the early days of Web Development that I experienced in the mid-to-late 90s and the rise of social software seen in the last five years. It moves quickly, it is insanely complex given the number of players, both large and small; and it sets a pace that weeds out the lazy.
Beyond the challenge of mobile, we at Appconomy are focused on the Chinese market, which is unique in every possible aspect. China itself is transitioning – holding on to the party-controlled communist roots, while embracing capitalism at a fervent pace. There is no way to predict what China will look like come 2020, a scant eight years from now. Some predict that China will eclipse the US, others that it will falter as its fast-paced economy cannot maintain its current speed. When I look ahead, I see opportunity on a scale that hasn’t been seen since the early days of powerhouses like Google, Microsoft and Apple. 2012 will be a pivotal year.
Alongside the challenges of this new market, is the opportunity to learn a new language. If we are to be successful in China, team Appconomy needs to learn the language and the culture. One of the most exciting aspects of my role, and a key reason I accepted the job offer three months ago, is the opportunity to learn Mandarin, which is quite possibly the hardest language for an American to master. So,twice a week we have Chinese class. It’s hard, but fun, and made much more enjoyable in a light-hearted environment full of coworkers who are motivated to learn. It’s a lot to pick up, but I will learn and improve in 2012. Hopefully I won’t embarrass myself too much when I travel to Shanghai.
I know what’s coming, but I don’t know everything that it will bring. That’s exciting and scary. It’s the way it should be.