Tuesday, September 29, 2009

More on Naver vs. Google

According to an article in the Korea Times today, Naver takes pride in being one of the planet's few internet companies that can claim to be a "Google Beater."  The other three countries, as mentioned in earlier posts on this blog, are China, Russia and the Czech Republic.
The article further noted that Naver has improved its search results in order to recognize the search habits of individuals so that they can be provided with the type of information they prefer.  As if this weren't enough, the article states that Naver "...doesn't want to hear talk about an open web environment."
Altogether, this article provides convincing evidence that Naver is not really an internet search service.   Rather, it is a walled garden Korean-language database which tells Koreans what other Koreans think about things.  While the internet is global, Naver tends to be national and rather narrowly so.
Contrast Naver's goals with the mission of Google, "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."  Google operates in all the world's major languages while Naver excludes all but Korean. This is not simply a matter of language.  It also extends to internet content--books, videos, blogs and all of it.  Naver simply ignores most of the world's information.  Let's assume a user wants to see whether a book has been written about some topic in European history.   Would sh/e use Naver or Google?    I think the answer is clear.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Samsung Delivers Linux Handset to Vodaphone, but NOT for Korea

Samsung will provide Linux-powered mobile phones to Vodaphone, the world's largest wireless carrier, based in London. The phone is the industry's first commercial handset using release 2 of the LiMo operating system. LiMo, backed by a large group of global handset vendors, is a platform based on the open source Linux, which can be used on mobile phones for free. The Korea Times has an interesting article on this development. By now, everyone should realize that the future of the mobile communication industry is going to revolve around
  • a growing array of handsets that are essentially like small internet-enabled PCs. These will become like a commodity, with increasing power and lower prices,
  • the real excitement and money in mobile will be in the content (software and applications) that mobile devices allow customers to use.
Given these realities, I only have one question about the new LiMo based phone by Samsung. When will it, along with Samsung and LG's android phones, hit the Korean market? For the overall health and growth of the market, the sooner the better.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Korea's Microsoft Monoculture: the Downside

There is an excellent article in today's Korea Times about the price South Korea is paying for an almost exclusive reliance upon Microsoft Windows based software and its "Active-X" controls.  As the article notes, some critics would claim that the almost complete reliance on Microsoft software here makes the country's computing experience outdated by about a decade, compared with the rest of the world. As the article notes, ". . . Linux, Firefox, Chrome and Opera users can't bank or purchase products online, and where Mac users buy Windows CDs to prevent their devices being reduced to fashion items." It is going to be a major challenge to break this heavy reliance on Microsoft and introduce some healthy diversity into the Korean market. However, it is a challenge that must be met for this country to remain competitive and in tune with global developments.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Apple's iPhone Coming to Korea: The Implications

The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times and press all around the world are reporting that the Korean government has removed the last legal hurdles to sale of Apple's iPhone in the South Korean market.  Assuming the reports are all true and that that the iPhone will go on sale here later this year, this is good news, but it is only the beginning of a big shakeup in the mobile communications market in South Korea.   Watch what happens in relation to the following questions.

  • Will only KT sell the iPhone or will it be sold by competing service providers as well?
  • When will Android-based phones show up in the South Korean market and which service providers will offer them?
  • Will VOIP services like Skype be allowed on the iPhone and Android phones?  (presumably because Skype is already being used on iPod Touch here in Korea).
These are only a few "top of mind" questions.  What seems likely is that the mobile communications market here may soon shift, along with the rest of the world, over to the iPhond/Android model. Stay tuned.

Lessons from SK Telecom's App Store: Welcome to the 21st Century

An article in the Korea Times contains some interesting bits of information about SK Telecom's new Apps Store.   Among the key points are:

  • It is a "me-too" effort, modeled after the great success of Apple's online App store.  
  • The only way apps can currently be downloaded is through SK Telecom's own fixed data rate plans.  Those not subscribed will have to pay on a per-packet basis, 3.5 won per kilobyte.   So downloading the 1,349-kilobyte ``2009 Pro Baseball'' mobile game, one of the most popular programs made available on T-Store, will cost users nearly 5,000 won for network usage, in addition to paying 3,000 won for the game itself.
  • The article quotes bloggers who note that SK Telecom only wants to make as much money as possible, and is not interested in improving the smart-phone experience of users.
  • SK Telecom remains concerned that free internet capabilities (via Wi-Fi) on their phones would lead to  VOIP calls on the handsets and thus cut into their voice revenue!!
 The last point is obvious from the growing number of Koreans who are using Skype on I-Pod Touch sets.  It would seem that it is time for SK Telecom, along with KT and LG Telecom, to develop strategies with an eye toward the future.  The future of mobile communications, as demonstrated by the iPhone phenomenon, and soon to be reinforced heavily by the likely success of Android around the world, lies with handsets that are really mobile computers.  This in turn means that future profits will come from software and content innovations.  Welcome to the 21st century!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Another of My Books Available Full-View on Google Book Search

I'm please to let you know that my 1993 book with Heung Soo Park, Global Television and the Politics of the Seoul Olympics is now available full-view on Google books. It will take a few days before it is in the Google Books search engine and fully searchable, but for now you can read it on my own web site, and download a PDF version if you prefer. http://jamesflarson.com/global-tv-pol-seouloly-main.html Professor Park and I are delighted that this book is now available to a wider readership. The 1988 Seoul Olympics were a pivotal event for Korea and for its relationship with the rest of the world. In retrospect, it is even clearer now that they marked a distinct takeoff point for this country's ICT sector. Some of the reasons for that are discussed in the book. Enjoy

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Samsung Launches Solar Cell Testing Facility

Today the Chosun Ilbo published a very interesting article on Samsung launching a solar cell R&D and testing facility.  Its eventual goal is the mass production of solar cells.   The sentence from the article that caught my attention was the following. "The company said it has raised its technological independence in solar cells to 85 percent by utilizing its expertise in LCDs and semiconductors." This is only one example of the diverse effects of having a strong ICT sector like that here in Korea.

More on the iPhone's Conspicuous Absence from the Korean Market

The Korea Times and other media reporting today that the long-delayed arrival of Apple's iPhone in the Korean market is being mulled over by the government.   The big hangup seems to be the current regulations governing location-based services in South Korea.
I would only point out that the delayed arrival of the iPhone, Android-based phones and other competitors here is, in a broad sense, detrimental to the health and future growth of Korea's mobile communications market.  The failure thus far of the major service providers to move in this direction is one reason that WiBro services are so slow to take off here. One cannot help but surmise that, once people in Korea get a taste of iPhone and Android applications, they will also demand greater speed, and that is precisely what future WiBro equipped devices will provide.
Today's news makes it appear unlikely that Korea will see an iPhone this year, but that is only my speculation.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Anecdotal but Interesting: LG more popular than Samsung in North Korea

A short article in The Korea Times today notes that LG home appliances are more popular in North Korea than those manufactured by Samsung.  Even though North Korea is generally regarded as a "closed" society, quite a few Samsung and LG television sets enter the country through China.  To prevent the flow of South Korean electronics products, North Korea started a registration system for television sets in May of this year.
The most interesting point of this story was the reason for LG's popularity.  Reportedly, many people in the North don't know that LG is a South Korean brand, thinking instead that it is an international brand like Sony.  The story also notes that in electronics categories like computers and digital cameras, Samsung is considered better than LG.   Although this is anecdotal evidence of what is happening these days in North Korea, it is interesting and thought-provoking.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Google Book Settlement: An Author's Point of View

I read in the New York Times this morning that the top copyright official in the U.S. has attacked the Google Book settlement with authors and publishers.  She claimed the agreement would allow Google to profit from the work of others without prior consent, and could put "diplomatic stress" on the United States because it affected foreign authors whose rights are protected by international treaties.
Regarding her first point, as an academic author myself, I have read the terms of the Google Book Partner program and wonder where the U.S. copyright official is getting her information.  Authors and publishers have the choice of whether to submit their works for digital publication by Google and should they make that choice, they have nearly complete control over how the material is displayed and distributed through the Google program.  Furthermore, they share fairly in any advertising or other revenue that may result from online display and sale of the books, something that was not the case under the old, pre-information age copyright system.
As an Academic Author, I think that Google's partnership with Creative Commons was a huge, positive factor that augurs well for the success of its books program and others who should choose to follow its example and compete in this new arena.  I have already submitted four books and two short monographs to Google for scanning and processing.  Two of them are live and you can read them, search them, or download a PDF at the following links:
http://www.jamesflarson.com/tvs-window-main.html  --Television's Window on the World was based on an expansion of my doctoral dissertation.  I wrote it in the late 1970s and early 1980s, at a time when there was great concern about the possible role of communication in national development.   Should you choose to read the Acknowledgements (p. viii), you'll note that I dedicated the book to people who live in the world's developing nations.   Now, thanks to Google, many of them will soon be able to read it, and many may first encounter it on a handset or Kindle-style reader.
http://www.jamesflarson.com/tr-in-korea-main.html -- The Telecommunications Revolution in Korea was based on two years of research in Korea in the early 1990s, with the assistance of many Korean colleagues, and the content relates rather directly to some of the concerns I express in this blog.  Were I writing it again, I would revise certain portions.  Nevertheless, it represented my best effort at the time (1995).
Back to the New York Times article and the U.S. copyright officials point about foreign authors.  If she was referring to academic authors, along with others, I fail to see the point.    Two more of my books that will soon appear in Google Books were co-authored with "foreign authors," one Korean and one from Spain. As co-authors normally do, we've talked about the Google Book Partner program and amicably and jointly decided to submit our co-authored books for digitization and publication on the web.
Finally, I would simply note that the old, print-only academic publishing houses are rapidly changing with the times.   Oxford University Press, Greenwood Press, Westview Press, and John Libbey were very willing to revert copyright to me and my co-authors so that we could submit the books to the Google project. Looking ahead, they and other university and academic presses are going to have to chart a successful business approach in an era in which there is a large, rather comprehensive digital library, mostly available to the public around the world.   In large part, we have Google to thank for this welcome new development.  

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

China Looms Large in Display Market

Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics currently lead the world in the manufacture and export of flat panel displays and television sets.   As outlined by the Korea Times today, China looms large for these two companies and for the other major manufacturers of flat panel displays.  After 2012, China is expected to become the world's largest market for displays, outpacing the United States and Europe.  LCD panels are used for everything from mobile phones, to computer displays to television sets.
Samsung is reportedly pursuing a "dual strategy" in the display business, by producing panels that require cutting edge technology in Korea, for export to the U.S. and Europe, while producing other panels in China.    LG Electronics, by contrast, is concentrating on gaining the "first mover" advantage in China by setting up partnerships in that country.  All of the world's biggest LCD panel manufacturers are in Asia, primarily in Japan, Korea and Taiwan.  The number of LCD TVs sold in China is expected to jump 76 percent to reach 23.6 million this year, according to Austin, Texas-based DisplaySearch. With Samsung and LG Display, Taiwan's Chi Mei, Japan's Sharp and China's BOE Technology are set to build advanced eighth-generation plants on the mainland.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Samsung is Committed to Open Innovation

I just read in Korea's Electronics Newspaper (etnews.co.kr) an article which proclaimed in its headline that "Samsung is Committed to Open Innovation."  Many of the actions taken by Samsung Electronics in recent years support that proposition, including its strong involvement in the Open Handset Alliance, and its vigorous support of basic research that will influence future electronics and telecommunications.
I have only one suggestion to add for Samsung Electronics---that it increase efforts to encourage open innovation in the Korean market.  True open innovation needs to display openness in the following ways:

  • Linguistically--hardware, software and content need to be made available simultaneously in all of the world's major languages.
  • Geographically--innovations should be introduced broadly and globally, in tune with the global nature of innovation and the information society.   E.g. Samsung's introduction of its Android phone only in Europe deprives Korean consumers and those in other countries of access to the innovation.
  • Innovation in content--Google is the undisputed world leader in terms of organizing the world's information and making it accessible.  Why should Samsung not partner in a deep, long-term way with Google?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Telecommunications Revolution in Korea

Just a note to tell readers of this blog that Google has corrected the scanning problem that omitted a dozen or so pages in Chapter 1 of The Telecommunications Revolution in Korea.
The book is now fully viewable by searching Google Books or on my own web site at
Enjoy! Comments welcome

Use of Chinese Mobile Communication Services in North Korea

An article in yesterday's English edition of the Chosun Ilbo outlined a new crackdown by the North Korean government on defectors.   It contained interesting detail on how the government places defectors into three categories, with the harshest punishment dealt to those  who had entered foreign embassies or taken similar action to get to South Korea, or who had converted to Christianity.  Of particular interest to me was the detail contained in the article about those found trying to use Chinese mobile phone services.  The article notes that they are subject to the level of punishment reserved for defectors and taken to the Chongori reeducation center in North Hamgyong Province, a center which has reportedly been reorganized to deliver harsh, concentration-camp approach to punishment.
Since 2003, when mobile telephone traffic increased in the areas near the North Korea-China border, China has built many signal towers there. As a result, communications, which had been possible only in some mountains near the border, is now possible in nearly all urban areas in North Korea including Sinuiju close to the border. But North Korea is cracking down on Chinese mobile phone carriers because they could help smuggle out information and encourage defection. It has reportedly recently launched an around-the-clock watch, providing all security guards in the border areas with portable radars. Any mobile phone carrier would see a security guard vehicle arrive immediately if they engaged in a phone conversation for more than five minutes, so they are safe to use phones if they do so in the mountains, where they do not need to worry about being caught by security guards.