Thursday, August 30, 2012

Dokdo in the news again 독도는한국 땅이라 !

Dokdo is in the news again, following President Lee Myung Bak's recent visit to the rocky islets in the East Sea and Japan's response.  My last posts on this subject were back in 2008, the last time this issue flared up.   In two of them, one here and another here, I emphasized that the cyber diplomacy about Dokdo may be as important as the "real world diplomacy."
The Korean press this morning (for example the Joongang Ilbo) is covering the fact that old Japanese textbooks, all published before 1905, do not claim Japanese sovereignty over Dokdo. As the accompanying map, from a Japanese geography text published in 1887, clearly shows, Dokdo is part of Korea's territory. (Click to see a full size version of the graphic.  Dokdo is the easternmost of the two small islands to the east of the Korean peninsula) This makes historical sense, but the Japanese claim to Dokdo does not.  On a clear day, Dokdo is visible from the nearby Korean island of Ulleung-do, a larger and inhabited island that I recommend without hesitation to tourists visiting Korea.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Samsung-Apple ruling in California

The recent jury verdict in the Apple-Samsung patent infringement case needs to be seen in global context and in the context of the networked information economy in which we now live.  In this post I'd like to call attention to two of the issues.  First, the notion that Apple should be allowed to patent so exclusively the physical design of its smartphone.  In fact, Apple's iPhone, like all smart phones, is a hand held computer.  Its main components include the screen, a case, a memory chip, a processing chip, a GPS unit, etc.  The process for manufacturing screens is a bit like that for semiconductors.  They are churned out in mass and in a certain size.   Also consider that there is a certain range of sizes that fits comfortably in the human hand.  Given these realities it seems reasonable that there were in fact, design proposals similar to the Apple iPhone before it ever appeared (that, in fact, is what Samsung claimed publicly) and it stems from the simple reality that you have to build a lightweight, hand-held device that will accommodate a certain size screen.
Second, a related issue is discussed in an insightful article in The Korea Times by Kim Tong Hyun.  As he points out,"The real issue is whether the framework of the century-old patent laws, which served as the basis for the San Jose decision, has outlived its essential usefulness for inspiring innovation."  These days I've been reading Yochai Benkler's excellent book, The Wealth of Networks, particularly for his treatment of the basic economic characteristics of information.  One very important characteristic of information, referred to by economists as the "on the shoulders of giants" effect.  Information is both an input and an output of its own production process.  In fact, innovation in today's global ICT sector depends critically on this characteristic.
Let's face it, Apple, while producing some devices that people love to use, has not yet embraced the open model of the internet that Google and other companies, along with many citizens groups and even governments seek to foster.  Those of you who think that Apple should be the only company allowed to manufacture devices with the "pinch to zoom" touchscreen feature should remain loyal to Apple, but I believe that in the long run, consumers, companies, citizens groups and others around the world will weigh in against Apple on their limited, litigious approach to building networks and devices for the information age.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Forget the desktop: my sentiments exactly

An excellent article appeared in Slate, entitled "Forget the desktop."   The author consults a tablet first thing every morning.  In my case, I consult my Google Nexus phone, mainly to check e-mail.  Even when I do get to work in my office at home, I use a notebook computer, with a second large screen attached.  But it is arguably more convenient to check a smart phone or waiting for the device to boot up, a clearer display, and so on and so forth.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Korea increases its share of global TV market

As reported in The Korea Times and elsewhere, South Korea, led by Samsung and LG Electronics, increased its share of the global market for television sets in the second quarter of 2012.  These two firms dominate the international television industry and are pushing ahead with AMOLED and other new technologies.
South Korea's dominance of the television industry should not be viewed in isolation.  I read a report recently that suggested owners of Samsung flat screen television sets were more likely to consider purchase of a Samsung smart phone.   Such a pattern would make sense in markets all around the world.   With the move to cloud computing and smart devices, people want to be able to access all of the content on the internet, including television and video, from a phone, from a tablet, or from a smart screen in their home or office.  The following graphic (click to see a full size version) from a recent DisplaySearch study shows that this trend is even more pronounced in emerging markets, including China, than in the so-called "mature" markets such as the U.S. As noted in the text of the report,“Because many households in emerging markets have only one TV but multiple generations living under one roof, mobile device penetration in these markets is high, which enables consumers to access content in other ways.”

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Progress on Open Courseware in Korea

A very interesting and informative article appeared recently in The Korea Herald.  It summarizes developments in Korea in response to the open courseware movement that was pioneered by such universities as MIT in the United States. As noted in the article, the Korea Education Research Information Service,a state-run agency,benchmarked MIT's Open Courseware program and initiated the Korean Open Course Ware project in 2007. In 2009 it launched the KOCW site ( to offer free online lectures from universities across the country. Note that as of this date the KOCW site and its lectures are entirely in Korean.

Samsung SDS and Freebalance in an alliance to promote e-government

South Korea is a leader in e-government (see an earlier post), so the news that Samsung SDS and the Canada-based company Freebalance have entered into an alliance caught my eye. FreeBalance, based in Ottawa Canada, is a global provider of Government Resource Planning (GRP) software used in Canada, developing countries and emerging economies. As noted in the release on PRWeb, Samsung SDS is leading the way for computerization and advancement of public administration across the world, spreading the Korean e-government model to other markets.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Akamai's "State of the Internet" report for first quarter of 2012

Akamai has published its "State of the Internet" report based on data for the first quarter of 2012 (available for download here).  Not surprisingly, South Korea still has the fastest broadband internet in the world, by quite a margin over second ranked Japan and many other nations.  Those of you who choose to delve into the data will see that no other country seems poised to catch Korea anytime soon.
This quarterly report contains a few changes, one of which is that Akamai has changed its definition of "high broadband" from connections of 5 Mbps or higher to connections of 10 Mbps or higher, in keeping with global trends toward higher and higher speeds.   According to the new measure, South Korea had the highest level of "high broadband" adoption at 53%.   Another change in the report is that Akamai is no longer reporting city-level data.   However, in addition to its wealth of data on internet speed, the quarterly Akamai report continues to offer useful data on such topics as security (attack traffic), adoption of IPV6 and mobile connectivity.  See one of my earlier posts for an idea of what you can do with the online data visualization capability provided by Akamai.

Friday, August 3, 2012

More on North Korea's mobile telephony

There is interesting news coming out of North Korea these days regarding the continued growth of its mobile telephone networks and the possible implications of that for efforts by the country's government to control the flow of information in and out of the nation.    The Wall Street Journal carried an article, with the accompanying graphic (click to see a full size version), showing that there are now one million mobile phone subscribers in North Korea.  Also, as noted in the article, Chinese handsets smuggled into the country continue to form an important link for communication with the outside world.
Adding interesting detail to this picture, as reported by The Korea Times, North Korea has disabled video camera and memory card functions in the newest mobile phones being distributed.  In conjunction with this move, they have reportedly raised the price of mobile phones with those services to about U.S. $1,000, putting them beyond the reach of ordinary citizens.  We will continue to follow these developments.  Readers interested in the issue may want to look at earlier posts (for example here, and here.)