Monday, March 30, 2015

Wireless charging era dawns with Galaxy S6

I agree with the general point made in a recent article in The Korea Joongang Daily that the Samsung Galaxy S6 represents the dawn of the wireless charging era.  This constitutes another small, but important hardware-related innovation by Korea's leading electronics firm.  All other things equal, consumers around the world will prefer wireless to "wired" charging of their smart devices, just as they prefer mobility to the older desktop machines that were tethered to an electrical outlet and RJ45 connector for high speed internet access.
Having acknowledged this, the central looming challenge for Samsung Electronics and Korea's other leading smart phone manufacturers is to begin offering innovative and attractive software, applications and services for these devices.  

Friday, March 27, 2015

The "notetel" and digital disruption in North Korea

As frequently noted in earlier posts on this blog, the steadily decreasing cost and size of digital devices, along with their vastly increased power to compute, store and transmit information poses a dilemma for the government in North Korea.  To date, the bulk of the evidence for this proposition is anecdotal.  Nevertheless, it is increasingly persuasive. (Click on the accompanying graphic to see a larger version.)
As noted in a new report by Reuters, the popularity of a $50 device called the "notetel" in North Korea symbolizes a shift in that country.  As noted in the report,"Notel or 'notetel' - the name is a uniquely North Korean word combining 'notebook' and 'television' - are easily found on the black market for around 300 Chinese yuan ($48), and are also available in some state shops and markets.The device was legalized last year, according to defector-run news outlets in Seoul - one of many recent measures taken by the state to accommodate grassroots change. The new rules, however, also require North Koreans to register their notel, enabling authorities to monitor who is most likely to be watching banned foreign media." Later on the report notes that "The low-voltage notel differs from the portable DVD players of the late 1990s in that they have USB and SD card ports, and a built-in TV and radio tuner. They can also be charged with a car battery - an essential piece of household equipment in electricity-scarce North Korea." A North Korean defector, quoted in the Reuters report, said the device's multi-function nature makes it easier for users to get away with watching illegal material. "To avoid getting caught, people load a North Korean DVD while watching South Korean dramas on a USB stick, which can be pulled out," he said. "They then tell the authorities, who feel the heat from the notel to check whether or not it has been recently used, that they were watching North Korean films". " Fascinating information, even if anecdotal.  I wonder about the significance of "Sansung" on the display screen of the above graphic, but I doubt it is any coincidence.   The North Korean public is by now well acquainted with Samsung Electronics!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Digital natives and the dominance of social media in Korea

I'm teaching an undergraduate course this spring semester at SUNY Korea on the topic of Information and Communications Technologies for Development (ICT4D).   On Monday I asked the class how many of them had heard about typhoon Pam, which devastated the island nation of Vanuatu and was heavily covered over the weekend by CNN, the BBC and all the mainstream media here in Korea.  Only one out of six students was aware of the disaster.   This result did not surprise me, because I've asked similar questions in class before.  Today's generation of "digital natives," for the most part, do not follow mainstream news media, choosing instead to rely on their social networks for information about what's going on in the world around them.
This reality has not been lost on Korea's politicians, who are using digital and social media this year in the run up to the April by-elections for the national assembly.  The Arirang TV video embedded here offers an interesting update.