|So, what did we learn in January? Apparently, Chinese government takes life too seriously, while their North Korean colleagues never stop trying to prove it can be ever more bizarre. French society is the most harmonious in the world with a passion for voyeurism and exhibitionism whilst Americans can go miles protecting online liberties. YouTube now boasts 4 billion views a day; Twitter was promised 83% ad revenue growth this year and Polaroid has conspired to reverse technological evolution by developing a photo camera that can make phone calls.|
Let there be light
London is not known for its marvellous weather. As a matter of fact, the combined miseries of high humidity, low temperatures and grey skies have contributed to the capital’s rather gloomy global image . That’s why the idea Greyworld had for Tropicana is nothing short of ingenious. An artificial sun, 200 square meters large, 60,000 light bulbs strong gave Londoners, and probably the even more excited visitors of the city, an additional 3 hours of daylight. I do not know what will make people swop a builders‘ cuppa for a glass of orange juice but if a 2.5 tonne installation so powerful that it can be seen from space doesn’t do the trick, the gifted people at Tropicana can at least console themselves with the fact that they gave it their best.
Is sarcasm the new creativity?
There is something dull about the latest advertising trend: brands promoting themselves by making fun of other brands. At least the Zubrowka ad is well done. Although aired in the middle of December, it took the Lynx Effect parody a good month to get noticed. Well, better late than never.
Samsung, on the other hand, is trying to capitalise on the unexpected success of its hilarious “Dude, you are a barista” ad we covered back in November. The latest addition to the series follows the same spirit, comparing various features of the powerful Galaxy handset to the allegedly technically inferior iPhone 4S. All three are as mildly funny as a single joke repeated four times usually is. In addition to that, the ads backfire on three levels: firstly, they position Samsung as a follower, fighting the brand that created the market. Secondly, the ads admit that Samsung have lost all hope of converting the current iPhone users. Thirdly, the ads do not attack Apple gadgets as much as they attack caricatures of Apple users. Bullying rarely inspires true love.
The future is here
Few people would expect Microsoft to come up with a great ad. Although it is the technology that really matters here, the commercial unveils the potential few would otherwise recognise. Who would have thought that a gadget created for better gaming experience can truly revolutionise so many aspects of our lives in one go? If Microsoft was looking for its iPod, it has certainly hit the jackpot with Kinect. I only hope that should a neurosurgeon ever use the device on someone I like, the operating system is not going to freeze.
Last chance for RIM
Back in August we wrote that in spite of the 47% rise in earnings in 2010, RIM was deep in trouble. As unfortunate as it is, we were right. Thorsten Heins, the new President and CEO who took control of the Blackberry maker at the end of January, has big plans for the company. Whether it involves licencing its software to competitors or the long-rumoured sale of the company, the plans better be good. According to the industry, the chances of Blackberry getting out of the void unharmed are diminishing by the day and the new marketing ideas like using cartoons to promote the gadgets, do not help. On a positive note, the German-born ex CTO of Siemens who spent the last five years rising through the ranks of RIM, Heins does look as conservative as they come. Unfortunately, according to the latest reports, Apple has already surpassed RIM in popularity among the corporate users and winning those back will be a truly Herculean task.
Google is brilliant in many respects. I was an early adopter of the search engine itself, Gmail and Chrome and I have to say, it is going to take something extraordinary to make me consider alternatives. However, the trouble with a company that has grown from Frodo to Sauron in just over a decade is that, very much like its fantasy alter-ego, it tried to conquer the whole Middle-earth in one go. Instead of mastering their core services (that are good but by no means perfect) Google launched and acquired a few dozen additional ones, most of which are feeble to say the least. It seems, someone at the top finally looked at the portfolio and said: “… Erm, folks? Do we really need a sky map when our blog hosting service is second rate and the new interfaces of both Google Analytics and Gmail have transitioned stoic to tragic?”
Between piracy and tyranny
Not unlike the Occupy movement, the events surrounding the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) crafted by the US House of Representatives and the US Senate’s Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) originated in the United States but quickly went viral. The global nature of the Internet and the dominating role America plays in it makes the argument as relevant in London as it may be in Washington, Buenos Aires or Canberra. On one hand, the proposed legislation would be a highly efficient weapon in support of the intellectual property owners; on the other hand, the number of ways the power could be abused should be obvious to even its most fervent supporters. In the words of Mikko Hypponen, the international cyber-security expert, “while we might trust our governments right now, right here, in 2011, any right we give away will be given away for good.” The events of January 2012 are really nothing more than a battle in a modern Hundred Years’ War, the next one is in Europe and there will be plenty more after that. The global 24-hour blackout of 18th January is a testimonial to the virtual society: under the pressure of social activists, the bill in its present form was shelved. The only apparent victim of the standoff seems to be president Obama, who may have lost the support of Hollywood for publicly opposing the bill. The New York Times offers a decent overview of the most efficient act of peaceful crowd politics thus far.
The US Department of Homeland Security monitors Twitter but doesn’t speak English
The story would be quite funny if it wasn’t deadly serious. Two British tourists were stopped at LAX, detained in a cell with some colourful characters for 12 hours and packed off back to their home-towns with a stamp in the passports saying they have been refused entry to the US; something that will without doubt make future trips to the New World both exciting and adventurous. So, what did the guys do and why do I bother writing about it? The answers are interconnected. I bother writing about the story because, sadly, the incident seems to be symptomatic of this day and age. The reason The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) went ballistic on a skinny 26 year old and his girlfriend was that the gentleman used the words ‘destroy America’ in a tweet to friends. Now, if the sentence were provocative, the issue would be less straightforward. The tweet, however read: ‘Free this week, for quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America?’ Not only did it become obvious that American special services monitor all Social Media, it also became apparent that their analysts do not speak the language. I do not know what is scarier, the fact that DHS could miss a real terrorist or shoot someone for ‘killing time in NY’.