Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Mobile Broadband Revolution in Korea

Two articles in the Joongang Daily this morning provide further evidence of the mobile revolution that is sweeping the nation since the arrival of Apple's iPhone in late 2009.  The first article, entitled "Smartphone craze spurs location-based apps" explains a variety of location-based services that are taking off in Korea.  One will allow a woman to track the location of her boyfriend, another allows parents to follow the location of their children, and so forth.
The other article, describing how credit card companies and mobile carriers are vying for mobile payments business also presents some interesting data on the rapid diffusion of such services here.   (Click on the graphic to see a full-size version.)
Location-based services and mobile payments are but two examples of the types of services that become possible once broadband goes mobile.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Content Farms! A Nuisance to be Dealt With.

This morning, as usual, I looked through my Google Alerts and read a number of newspapers, all online.  The internet is a wonderful tool for finding information, if properly used.  However, it is also vulnerable to abuse by spammers, creators of malware, and those who seek to make money through the creation of the so-called "content farms."  These websites offer no new thinking or analysis and do not create their own content.  Instead, they use code to aggregate existing content on the internet, building on others intellectual property in hopes of attracting unsuspecting netizens.
This morning I ran across a site purporting to provide information about "Telecommunications in North Korea," a topic that I regularly follow.  The site, which shall go unnamed here, has a generic sounding name that might appeal to expats living and working overseas.  It's homepage contains no information whatsoever about North Korean telecommunications, instead carrying only advertising, and links through which you might "subscribe to this forum" or "register and participate."
Unfortunately, some people surfing the internet will be gullible enough to be drawn in by such schemes.  One litmus test for any website is whether the home page has an "About" tab or a paragraph clearly telling visitors who sponsors the web site, who creates the content, and the purpose of it.  In general, it is wise to avoid reading content or following links on sites that do not clearly and openly identify themselves.
I'll be pleased to answer questions or elaborate on this topic, in hopes of undermining the efforts of such "content farms" to attract traffic.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Language and Internet Use in Korea

An article in The Korea Times today touches on a topic which was the subject of many earlier posts on this blog (for example this one),  the important role of language in conditioning the web-surfing patterns of most Korean citizens. It notes that the internet has become the first source of information for many people, but expresses doubt that most Koreans make use of most of the information available on the web.“Text in Korean makes up less than 1 percent on the Internet. The remaining 99 percent has been useless,” says Lois Kim, head of PR and marketing for Google in Korea.  The article then proceeds to note progress in machine-translation technology, led by Google.  Improvements in such technology promise to open up a vast new world of content for Korean netizens.  I'm wondering if good translation alone will have this result or if there is more to it, such as cultural preferences for activities, topics, and so forth.  Comments welcome.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Samsung Unveils World's Thinnest Tablet Computer

My first reaction to the Apple iPad when it was initially introduced can be summarized in a word or two.  Too heavy!  That reaction was shared by many consumers.    The Joongang Ilbo  examines this dimension of competition among tablet computers in an article this morning.  The accompanying table (click on the graphic to see a full-size version) compares the dimensions and weight of Samsung's new Galaxy Tab 8.9 with two other rival products.  I've long thought that clip-board or standard paper size tablets are going to be widely adopted when they become as lightweight and as thin as an old-fashioned clipboard or paperback book.  We're very rapidly approaching that stage.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Media and PyeongChang's Winter Games Bid

The Korea Times article entitled "PyeongChang to offer Media Convenience in Winter Games" caught my attention for several reasons.   One is that I frequently spend weekends in Gangwon Province not far from PyeongChang.  The other is that I've co-authored two books on the role of media, especially television, in the modern Olympic games.   The first was Global Television and the Politics of the Seoul Olympics, and the second Television in the Olympics.  The hyperlinks used in this post will take you to Google Books, where you can read either of them online, or download a PDF version.  I know that my co-authors will appreciate my sharing this information.
While television played a dominant role in the 1988 Seoul Olympics and the 1992 games in Barcelona, the continued development of the internet and convergence of digital media since then has changed the nature of Olympic media coverage and, if anything, increased the importance of media infrastructure in determining the success of an Olympic bid.  In the decision that will be made by the IOC this July, between PyeongChang and two European competitors, I'm sure that the quality of the information infrastructure to support global media coverage, with an emphasis on television, will loom large. I'm also confident that PyeongChang's bid will be a strong one, bolstered by South Korea's world-leading digital networks.

Cheap Smartphones and the Mobile Broadband Revolution

The modular character of digital devices is becoming very apparent in the worldwide diffusion of smartphones.  Although the mainstream press often reports that the Apple iPhone is "manufactured" in China, this is really a misnomer.  Instead, it is assembled in China, rather like putting together lego blocks, while the highly sophisticated components are manufactured in Korea, Japan or elsewhere.
The Chosun Ilbo this morning carried an article headlined "Cheap Chinese Smartphones Poised for World Conquest."    It notes that ZTE, which ranked fourth in smartphone shipments in 2010, is selling its San Francisco smartphone through Tesco Mobile of the UK for 80 pounds per unit (about 145,000 won) based on prepaid calling plans.  By contrast, LG Electronics sells a phone which is almost identical, with better finish and trim, for 150 pounds.  Samsung, the article notes, has plans to release a lineup of cheaper smartphones later this year.
So the familiar pattern underlying the information revolution continues, the cost keeps decreasing while the computing and communications power increases!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Low Cost Online Education

Business Week is carrying an interesting article about "Online Education With a Low-Cost Twist."
It profiles Western Governor's University, which delivers online education at a fraction of the cost of for-profit players.  The university is a non profit institution, founded in 1997 by 19 governors from western states and headquartered in Salt Lake City.  The school combines reasonable tuition --just $2,890 for six month term-- with an academic model that lets students accelerate completion of their degree based on prior subject knowledge.  The price of a bachelors degree is about one half to one third the cost at for-profit institutions such as the University of Phoenix.

Digital Development in Korea is Finally Published!

Over the weekend I stopped by my old office to pick up mail and, to my surprise, found a package from Routledge in London containing a single advance copy of the book that Dr. Oh Myung and I wrote.  Digital Development in Korea:  Building an Information Society. (see Routledge web site for details)  It was very satisfying to finally hold a printed copy of the book in my hands, as regular readers of this blog will know from my prior posts about it.    Just use the search tool at the right and enter "Why a Book" to see all of my posts dealing with my personal motivation to undertake this project.
I've written or co-authored a number of books over the years, but this one is very special, mostly because of the opportunity to co-author it with Dr. Oh.  
The e-book version of our book should be available very shortly.  In the meantime, the hardback edition has been rather widely publicized and marketed around the world via Amazon and many other booksellers.
It is an interesting experience to work on a printed book in this day and age of instant electronic communication.   Dr. Oh and I worked on the book for nearly three years and delivered the final, edited manuscript to Routledge in early August of last year.
If any readers of this blog happen to read our book, I'd be pleased to entertain and respond to comments here.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A New Round of Competition for Smartphones and Tablets

As a user of both an iPhone 3GS and, starting just recently, a Samsung Galaxy Tab I've found the recent spate of media coverage about the "second round" of competition in the South Korean market quite interesting.  The Korea Times carried an article entitled "iPhone Drives Smartphone makers into corner."  It describes what it calls the "second round" of the smart phone wars.  In the first round, SK Telecom teamed with Samsung, while KT offered Apple's iPhone.  In the second round, by contrast, the competition is between the carriers, with both offering Apple's iPhone.   The article goes on to speculate whether market power is shifting from the carriers to the handset makers.
It is not only the second round of competition for mobile handsets, but also for tablet devices.  As noted in another article in The Korea Times, even though Apple has not yet announced when the iPad2 will be available in the Korean market, early adopters are flooding shopping agencies in a pre-launch craze. An agency which runs an Internet café on the country’s top portal Naver had over a hundred requests to purchase the iPad2. On this site it costs 845,000 won to buy a 16GB, Wi-fi iPad2, including the agent fees and shipping costs. It depends on the agent, but the price is usually 1.5 times more than the price in the United States which starts from $499.   Furthermore, consider the actual cost of the parts that make up an iPad2.  As reported in yet another article, iSuppli has revealed that the iPad2 3G equipped with GSM has about 370,00 won ($327) worth of parts while the CDMA version is slightly cheaper.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Smartphones Boost Mobile Commerce

As reported in The Korea Times, the rapid diffusion of smartphones in the South Korean market is giving a measurable boost to mobile commerce. 11st, an online market operated by SK Telecom, announced that it recorded 1.85 billion won in monthly sales through mobile shopping last month, the most since it started the service. Its mobile shopping application had 625,000 downloads, and Auction and G-market have also launched similar applications. Mobile commerce currently marks 4 billion won in monthly sales, and is expected to grow to 50 billion won this year. This is still a small part of the online shopping industry, but the growth is remarkable. According to the Korea Online Shopping Association, the market is set to double, exceeding 120 billion won next year. Not only open markets but also TV home shopping channels are stretching to the mobile sector. CJ O Shopping, Hyundai Home Shopping, GS Home Shopping, and Lotte Home Shopping have launched applications to attract smartphone users. They find it appealing as they can reach out to customers regardless of time or place. On top of showing the shopping programs in real-time, the home shopping channels are linking the mobile service with their other online and offline shops.

Monthly Private Education Cost for Preschoolers Averages $255

South Korea is known for its zealous pursuit of education, beginning in the pre-school years.  OECD data over the years have shown that Korean families invest more in private education than parents in other nations.  According to a report in The Korea Times, households in the Seoul metropolitan area last year spent an average of $255 (290,000 won) per month on private education.  This figure is based on a survey of nearly 1,500 households in Seoul.  The same report indicated that an average household spent 420,000 won per month on private schooling for an elementary school student and 568,000 won for a middle school student.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Rapid Adoption of Smart Phones in South Korea

I'm in Seattle near the end of the AACRAO (American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officials) conference, which explains the lack of posts over the past few days.  However, during a few free minutes before my departure for SeaTac I had a chance to catch up on some reading, including an interesting article in the Chosun Ilbo documenting the extremely rapid adoption of smart phones in South Korea.  According to the article, the number of smartphone users has skyrocketed from fewer than 1 million early last year to 9.7 million or some 20 percent of all 50 million mobile phone users.  At this rate, most users will have switched to smartphones by 2015.  Furthermore, as the article notes, it is likely to become difficult to purchase the less expensive feature phones by 2013.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

North Korea's Digital Underground

The Atlantic is carrying a very interesting article on the efforts of outside news organizations to gather and disseminate information from inside North Korea.  These developments have obvious implications for the future unification of Korea.   I recommend it to you.

Education in the Information Age: Universities Respond to Social Media

As we all know, or are rapidly coming to realize, digital information technology has far reaching implications for education.  Nowhere is this more apparent than in the field of international education, as noted by a recent article in University World News.  Higher education institutions worldwide have responded to the growth of social media by creating facebook pages, blogs, interactive web platforms and Twitter accounts.  The article noted that social media are critical for international education and can be used to attract prospective students, manage students studying abroad, and keep alumni connected after graduating.  As one expert on international education put it, "The student is trying to minimize risk and get very authentic communication.  It is driven by peer-to-peer communication, by people who have experience with the product and the institution, so there is much higher credibility."  In contrast with the old internet model, characterized by centralized control, limited access, lack of flexibility and high cost, social media represent collaboration and a lack of hierarchy.
Examples of the new use of social media include the Web 2.0 project at Carleton University called GlobalU.  It is designed to help international education administrators manage and share information.  Twenty-five universities are currently using the open platform.
Another example is Eastern Illinois University's AbroadScout, a web platform aimed at empowering foreign exchange students, schools and providers with reliable information and tools to cross reference their needs with the experiences of students currently studying abroad.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Trends in Study Abroad: China, Korea and the U.S.

Over the weekend I received an interesting alert via Google with some information on the growing number of international students in China.  According to the People's Daily, in 2010 the total number of Chinese studying abroad reached 284,700, with those returning from study abroad numbering 134,800. According to data from the ministry, the number of Chinese students studying abroad and returning home increased by 55,400 and 26,500, respectively. Students studying abroad at their own expense still account for the majority, followed by personnel sponsored by the government and employees sent by their companies. Data showed from 1978 to 2010, the number of Chinese students studying abroad in all areas reached up to more than 1.9 million, 632,000 of whom returned China.  Although the People's Daily  article did not break down the numbers, quite a few of those Chinese students went to study in the United States, and a sharply increasing number in recent years have come to study at South Korean universities, where a large proportion of the faculty are U.S.-educated.
The article also noted that the number of foreign students studying in China rose to 265,090.  They came from 194 countries around the world, but students from neighboring Asian countries accounted for more than 66 percent of the total.  Of particular note is that South Korea and the U.S. were the top two countries, in that order, in terms of international students in China during 2010.  China's Ministry of Education reportedly is taking steps to optimize the study environment and improve education quality in order to absorb 500,000 international students by the year 2020.
To place the above numbers in the larger global context, data from the accompanying table from a 2004 OECD policy brief are informative.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Samsung (and LG's) Relationship With Apple

The introduction of the Apple iPhone, followed by Android devices was a boon for South Korean electronics manufacturers, led by Samsung and LG.  However, as noted by an article in the Joongang Daily, the relationship with Apple poses somewhat of a dilemma for the Korean firms.  As Samsung and Apple products go toe to toe in the global market, the two companies are now more dependent upon each other than ever before.
Samsung has never specified which parts it supplies to Apple. But when consumers disassemble the iPod, iPhone, and iPad, Samsung’s A4 central processing unit, NAND Flash, DRAM, and liquid crystal display panels are there in plain sight. Industry sources also say Samsung is in the running with LG to become the main display supplier for the second version of the iPad. Apple will place an order worth of $7.8 billion in parts for future productions.
As for the iPhone 4, Samsung parts account for 27.5 percent of the device, which amounts to $187.51 per iPhone, according to iSuppli, a research firm.
As shown in the accompanying graphic (click to see a full size version) Apple remains far ahead of Samsung in the global market.  With the growing strength of Android devices in the world market, it will be interesting indeed to watch the shifts taking place in market share.