Archive for ‘Technology’

15/09/2014

Chinese City Launches Special Lane for Cellphone Addicts – China Real Time Report – WSJ

If you’re tired of walking behind someone who’s trudging along as they text, has this Chinese city got the sidewalk for you.

Last week, the city of Chongqing unveiled a lane specially designated for people who want to walk as they use their cellphones. “Cellphones, walk in this lane at your own risk” is printed in the lane in white lettering. The adjoining lane reads “No cellphones.”

On Monday, Weibo users reacted to the news with a mixture of amusement and scorn. “It’s such a lazy design. Shouldn’t the cellphone lane be placed [farther from the road]? It is not practical at all,” wrote one user.

Another dismissed the innovation, writing, “It’s just another imitation of foreign inventions,” the user wrote, referring to a similar experiment launched in Washington, D.C., earlier this year. “Besides, it seems only to be serving as a tourist attraction,” the user wrote of the road, which is located in a Chongqing tourist area called “Foreign Street Park.”

Still another wondered whether the road would make anything safer. “Is the goal here to encourage still more people to use their cellphones while walking?”

via Chinese City Launches Special Lane for Cellphone Addicts – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

12/09/2014

Schumpeter: The China wave | The Economist

MANAGEMENT thinkers have paid surprisingly little attention to how Chinese firms are run. They routinely ascribe those firms’ rapid growth in recent years to their copious supply of cheap labour, or to generous financial backing from the state, rather than inventiveness. They have much more time for India, particularly its knack for frugal innovation, with all those colourful stories of banks putting cash machines on bikes and taking them into the countryside, and companies building water purifiers out of coconut husks.

However, it seems unlikely that China’s companies have come as far as they have just by applying lots of labour and capital. It is also hard to imagine that the huge expansion of China’s education system and its technology industries is not producing fresh management thinking. Western companies knew little about Japan’s system of lean production until its carmakers gobbled up their markets. The danger is that the same will happen with Chinese management ideas.

There are, however, signs that these are now getting the attention they deserve. The MIT Sloan Management Review devotes much of its current issue to examining innovation and management lessons from China. Peter Williamson and Eden Yin of Cambridge University’s Judge Business School contribute a fascinating essay on “Accelerated Innovation: the New Challenge from China”. The latest issue of the Harvard Business Review has a piece on “A Chinese Approach to Management” by Thomas Hout of the Monterey Institute of International Studies and David Michael of the Boston Consulting Group.

The first article suggests that the Chinese, like the post-war Japanese, have been doing a great deal of innovation under the radar. The second demonstrates that they are becoming more creative as they seek to solve the problems of a rapidly advancing consumer economy.

Messrs Williamson and Yin focus on the way that many Chinese companies are using mass-production techniques to speed up not just the manufacture but also the development of products. They break up the innovation process into a large number of small steps and then assign (often sizeable) teams to work on each step. For example, WuXiAppTec, a drug company, divided the search for a new treatment for chronic hepatitis C into eight steps, assigning dozens of people to each. The firm also adapted German software that was designed for managing assembly lines to co-ordinate the innovation process. Whereas a Western software firm typically releases an early “beta” version of a product only to a select group of guinea-pigs, Chinese firms are more likely to launch theirs straight into the market: they use consumers as co-creators, seeking their feedback and then rapidly adjusting their products.

This sort of accelerated innovation may not generate stunning breakthroughs. But that is not what it is for. China’s success has depended on its ability to be a “fast follower”, copying foreign ideas and turning them into mass-market products. Messrs Williamson and Yin argue that the Chinese can now apply accelerated innovation in lots of areas; and that the technique helps them make better use of one of the country’s most important resources—a pool of competent but unexceptional technicians.

Messrs Hout and Michael are also struck by Chinese companies’ emphasis on speed, and their willingness to throw things at the market. Goodbaby, which makes prams and car seats, introduces about 100 new products each quarter. Broad Group, a construction firm, puts up buildings rapidly by breaking them up into modules, fabricating those modules in factories, pre-loaded with utilities, and then plugging them together: an idea long talked about in the rich world but not much implemented.

However, their paper’s focus is broader—on how Chinese entrepreneurs are coping with the speed at which technology-related industries are changing. They note that even big companies delegate lots of authority to preserve flexibility: Haier, a home-appliances giant, consists of thousands of mini-companies, each of which reports directly to the chairman. That is an interesting contrast with Japanese firms’ obsession with seniority and consensus-building.

Messrs Hout and Michael also highlight the creativity of some Chinese companies when faced with the need to build entire ecosystems out of thin air, from supply chains to labour pools. Hai Di Lao, a hotpot restaurant chain, deals with one of its biggest problems—recruiting and retaining young people to train as branch managers—by offering them housing, schooling for their children and trips abroad. This sort of imaginative thinking on how to attract good workers will increasingly be needed now that China has used up most of its surplus rural labour.

via Schumpeter: The China wave | The Economist.

05/09/2014

Alibaba’s Taobao, Tmall Transform Shopping in China’s Small Cities – Businessweek

Li Yuxin remembers when she had to travel from Zhangjiekou, her northern Chinese home town, to visit her half-sister in Beijing so she could buy the right clothes. Sure, Zhangjiekou has large shopping malls full of cheap t-shirts and baggy jackets, but not stores where the aspiring fashionista could purchase accessories from such foreign luxury brands as Prada (1913:HK) or even popular Western sportswear made by Nike (NKE) and Adidas (ADS:GR).

Checking deliveries from online marketplaces Tmall and Taobao at an express delivery company in Beijing

But since she started ordering clothes from Taobao and Tmall—websites owned by Alibaba Group—her options and her wardrobe have dramatically expanded. “Maybe I spend too much money now, but I have to catch up with Li Zhu,” her half-sister who lives in China’s capital, she says.

E-commerce has quickly changed the face of shopping and consumer marketing in China. Mirroring the rise of Amazon (AMZN) in the U.S., the ascendance of Alibaba in China has greatly accelerated this trend and turned China into the world’s second-largest e-commerce market.

via Alibaba’s Taobao, Tmall Transform Shopping in China’s Small Cities – Businessweek.

05/09/2014

India’s $33 Smartphone Sales Surge, Setting the Stage for a Shakeup – India Real Time – WSJ

The maker of India’s $33 Mozilla Firefox smartphone says sales of the world’s cheapest smartphone have been strong since it launched last week.

Intex Technologies India Ltd. said it quickly sold out of its first batch of Cloud FX phones–which use Mozilla Corp.’s Firefox operating system—and that it has already had to order another large shipment. It expects to sell 100,000 handsets this month and a total of 500,000 by the end of the year, the company said.

Another super-cheap Firefox-powered smartphone hit the Indian market on Tuesday. India’s Spice Retail Ltd. started selling its Spice Fire One Mi FX1 for about $37. The company did not respond to requests for early sales figures.

The less-than-2,000-rupee price tags make the Firefox mobile operating system smartphones more than 30% cheaper than the least-expensive smartphones which use Google Inc.’s Android operating system.

Other phone sellers say they are also planning Firefox handsets. India’s Karbonn Mobiles says it plans to launch a $41 Firefox smartphone by the end of September. It will be less than half the price of Karbonn’s latest Android phone, making it a “game changer,” said Pardeep Jain, managing director of Jaina Mobiles India Pvt., which  controls the Karbonn brand.

Reviews for the ultralow-cost phones have so far been generally positive. While the phones may lack some functionality and speed, buyers and technology reporters agreed they were still a great deal for the price and a good option for first-time smartphone buyers who use their phones for basic calls, web surfing and social networking.

While Mozilla phones will make smartphones affordable to millions of new users, they will likely get more competition soon on price from Android, the operating system used on most phones from Samsung Electronics and others, analysts said.

Google is expected to launch its Android One low-cost smartphone in the next few weeks.

via India’s $33 Smartphone Sales Surge, Setting the Stage for a Shakeup – India Real Time – WSJ.

30/08/2014

Houses in Shanghai are not built, they’re printed[1]- Chinadaily.com.cn

A Chinese company recently built 10 full-sized houses using a giant printer.

Houses in Shanghai are not built, they're printed

The detached, one-story houses now standing in the Shanghai Hi-Tech Industrial Park, in the city’s Qingpu district, look like ordinary buildings. But they were “printed out” in less than a day with “contour crafting“, commonly known as 3-D printing technology.

‘Mirror’ perfect fit for shoppers  Four huge printers measuring 32 meters long, 10 meters wide and 6.6 meters tall were used to make the houses, which were built layer by layer.

“It’s not only cost-effective but also environmentally friendly,” said Ma Yihe, inventor of the printers, who is also president of the Shanghai Winsun decoration and design company.

“Unlike traditional construction, the new technology doesn’t produce any waste,” said Ma, who has been working in the 3-D printing construction industry for 12 years.

The materials used to make the houses are a mixture of quick-drying cement and recycled industrial waste, which help lower construction costs by up to 50 percent. For the moment, the company is keeping the recipe for the cement a secret.

Meanwhile, the houses can withstand just about any safety test, Ma said.

via Houses in Shanghai are not built, they’re printed[1]- Chinadaily.com.cn.

15/08/2014

Online sites shake up hidebound retailing in India – Businessweek

Finding a way into India’s vast but vexing market has long frustrated foreign retailers. Now, overseas investors are pouring billions of dollars into e-commerce ventures that are circumventing the barriers holding back retail powers such as Wal-Mart and Ikea.

Some investors see India as the world’s next big e-commerce opportunity, with the upcoming mammoth public stock offering of Chinese online giant Alibaba hinting at the potential.

Online shopping is still in its infancy in India at $2.3 billion of an overall $421 billion retail market in 2013, according to research firm Crisil. But it is growing fast and the potential of reaching a mostly untapped market of 1.2 billion people has sparked a funding-and-expansion arms race.

Flipkart, a Bangalore-based company founded in 2007 by two former Amazon employees, last month announced it had raised $1 billion in mostly foreign capital after building its registered users to 22 million.

A day later, Amazon raised the stakes with founder Jeff Bezos saying the company would pour $2 billion into developing its India business.

Snapdeal.com, another Indian e-commerce contender, has raised at least $234 million in the past year, and recently local media have reported that Rajan Tata of India’s Tata Group conglomerate is considering a personal investment in the company.

via Online sites shake up hidebound retailing in India – Businessweek.

06/08/2014

China Investigates Microsoft, Symantec – Businessweek

For years, U.S. politicians have been calling Chinese telecom-equipment makers Huawei Technologies and ZTE (000063:CH)threats to American security. But making charges about national security is a game that China can play, too. Following Edward Snowden’s disclosures of U.S. spying, the Chinese government seems eager to show American companies that they will pay a price for U.S. government actions.

Why China Is Investigating Microsoft and Symantec

That’s a lesson that Microsoft (MSFT) and Symantec (SYMC) are learning now. An antivirus company from Silicon Valley, Symantec competes in China against local favorites such as Beijing-based Qihoo 360 Technology (QIHU). According to reports by Bloomberg News and the Chinese media, China has instructed government departments to stop buying antivirus software by Symantec and its Moscow-based rival, Kaspersky Lab. Symantec software has back doors that could allow outside access, according to an order from the Public Security Ministry. Not coincidentally, Qihoo’s New York-traded shares rose 2.7 percent on Monday, following reports of the move against Symantec and Kaspersky.

Symantec is trying to contain the damage. Although the official People’s Daily newspaper reported on Sunday that the government had banned both Symantec and Kapersky, Cupertino (Calif.)-based Symantec says the action is more limited. “It is important to note that this list is only for certain types of procurement and Symantec products are not banned by the Chinese government,” the China Daily reported Symantec commenting in a statement. “We are investigating this report and will continue to bid for and win government projects in China.”

via China Investigates Microsoft, Symantec – Businessweek.

05/08/2014

Seaplane about to enter trial production – China – Chinadaily.com.cn

China expects to test-fly next year its first domestically developed seaplane, which is intended to be the world’s largest amphibious aircraft, according to an executive at the company working on it.

Seaplane about to enter trial production

Trial production of the TA-600 aircraft, formerly known as Dragon-600, will start in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, around the end of this year or the beginning of 2015, as the design has been completed, said Fu Junxu, a senior manager of China Aviation Industry General Aircraft, a subsidiary of Aviation Industry Corp of China, the country’s leading aircraft maker.

Fu said contractors will deliver large parts to the company before the end of this year, and the aircraft’s maiden flight is planned to take place in 2015.

The aircraft, with a maximum takeoff weight of 53.5 metric tons and a maximum range of more than 5,000 kilometers, will be larger than a Boeing 737 and could be used for a variety of operations such as passenger transport, marine environmental monitoring, firefighting and maritime search and rescue, Fu said.

Powered by four turbine engines, the TA-600 will be the world’s largest amphibious aircraft, surpassing Japan’s Shin Maywa US-2. It is designed to carry up to 50 people during search and rescue missions.

The company’s market research estimates there is demand for 60 of the seaplanes in China.

The country began developing the aircraft five years ago, Fu said.

Wang Ya‘nan, deputy editor-in-chief of Aerospace Knowledge magazine, said the TA-600 would fill a vacancy of modern seaplanes in China, which has long ignored the development of such aircraft.

“The old saying ‘A thousand days the country nurtures its soldiers and all for one day’s battle’ applies to the development of amphibious aircraft. People say such equipment is becoming useless, but will eventually realize they are indispensable in maritime operations,” Wang said, referring to the continuing search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

“If the Chinese navy had such large, modern seaplanes as the TA-600, it would be much easier for it to search at sea,” he said.

Rescue agencies are among the largest operators of seaplanes due to their efficiency and their ability to both locate and rescue survivors of emergencies at sea. Land-based aircraft cannot rescue people, and many helicopters are limited in their capacity to carry passengers and in their fuel efficiency compared to fixed-wing aircraft, Wang said.

China now has at most five SH-5 maritime patrol amphibious aircraft, which are old and cannot perform modern maritime tasks, Wang added.

via Seaplane about to enter trial production – China – Chinadaily.com.cn.

05/08/2014

Samsung Loses Top Spot to Micromax in India – India Real Time – WSJ

Samsung Electronics Co.005930.SE -0.08% was dethroned as the top cellphone seller in India last quarter as local rival, Micromax Informatics Ltd., undercut and outsold the Korean company for the first time in Asia’s third-largest economy.

Micromax which was launched only five years ago, has taken the pole position in the Indian market—the second largest in the world in terms of handset sales—by undercutting the prices of Samsung and other international brands.

In the April-through-June quarter Micromax’s market share reached 17% of the Indian market compared to Samsung’s 14%, according to Counterpoint Technology Market Research, a research and consulting company based in Hong Kong.

Samsung, the world’s largest cellphone company by sales, is facing tough competition from Micromax and other Indian handset sellers. The South Korean company lost its top spot in terms of handset volumes as it has shifted its focus to smartphones and away from the less-expensive feature phones, said Neil Shah an analyst at Counterpoint.

Micromax has been more successful than most at targeting the Indian consumer. In the past five years it has come out of nowhere by investing heavily in advertising, distribution and developing a portfolio of relatively inexpensive handsets for Indians.

Samsung may be trying to claw back some of its market share. The company, last week, added three more smartphones to its “affordable” category of handsets priced below 10,000 rupees.

via Samsung Loses Top Spot to Micromax in India – India Real Time – WSJ.

30/07/2014

Indian online retailer Flipkart raises $1 billion – Businessweek

India’s largest online e-commerce company, Flipkart, says it has raised $1 billion in new capital as the company gears up for competition with Amazon‘s push into the Indian market.

Flipkart Flipkart Flipkart!!

Flipkart Flipkart Flipkart!! (Photo credit: samratm)

The company says the funds will be used to invest in expansion, especially in mobile technology.

Flipkart is sometimes called the Amazon of India. It was founded by two Indian brothers who left Amazon and came home to found their own online retailer.

Flipkart says it has 22 million registered users and handles 5 million shipments per month.

Amazon’s India division has been making a big push in the country’s small but fast-growing online retail market. It has been running front-page advertisements in newspapers and touting one-day delivery.

Flipkart itself recently acquired Indian online fashion retailer Myntra to strengthen market share.

via Indian online retailer Flipkart raises $1 billion – Businessweek.

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