Sunday, December 20, 2015

opinion | SEALs cover-up reveals high level mismanagement

The New York Times has reported on allegations of a cover-up by the Navy SEALs after the beating of Afghan locals resulted in death to a detainee under murky moral circumstances. The report has rightfully stoked outrage and debate about our control of the armed forces. These are, after all, the very men and women we expect to uphold the finest qualities in America, the vanguards of the liberty and democracy we enjoy every day.

But in spite of the clear need for safeguards and accountability to prevent this disgrace from recurring, the allegations have revealed a deeper mismanagement of resources at a higher level.

Friday, November 27, 2015

analysis | OnePlus USB-C cables faulty, no recall issued

It’s never wise to take a fire hazard lightly.

Mobile phone manufacturer OnePlus has offered to refund customers who purchased their USB-to-type-C cable after a flaw was discovered that could cause damage to the power source, potentially resulting in an electrical fire. The cable, which shipped with its OnePlus Two phone in July this year and was also sold as a standalone accessory, was not standards compliant, and a blog post by the company recommended against using it for anything other than charging its own device.

Friday, November 13, 2015


France has declared a state of emergency late Friday evening following a string of deadly attacks in Paris that have left more than 100 dead, multiple sources have reported. The attacks included scores dead at a concert venue following a hostage situation, shootings at two restaurants in the 10th and 11th arrondissements, and explosions near the Stade de France soccer stadium. The AFP has reported a total of seven attacks throughout the city.

Monday, October 12, 2015

news | Strife in Turkey highlights restrictions on freedoms

Suicide bombers attacked a peace rally in Ankara, Turkey on Saturday, killing at least 97 and injuring dozens more. The bombings come in the midst of nationwide turmoil, as Turkey prepares to hold snap elections on November 1st. Opposition leaders have accused the Turkish government of using the current political climate to censor and restrict news coverage and curtail freedoms of speech and of the press.

Saturday’s attack is the third of its kind, following an attack at another political rally in Diyarbakir that killed four in June, and an attack that killed 33 in Suruc in July.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

opinion | Introducing the PocketWatch



Inherently familiar.

Whenever we set out to build something with the latest technology, we want it to be a device that makes you think money is no object in the relentless pursuit of rampant consumerism. We painstakingly created a groundbreaking device that’s immediately attractive and intimately familiar—a device you can read just by looking at it.

Introducing the PocketWatch. Everything old is new again.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

opinion | Android's sudden Stagefright

Of all the talk about the Stagefright exploit, its most sinister aspect is the delivery: all it takes is the phone number of the target. An MMS is sent to the victim with the payload as part of a video, and the attack takes over even if the message is not read by the user. Worse, elevated privileges mean any trace of the attack can be removed before the user is aware of the problem.

I'm currently tracking the Stagefright exploit on Android with considerable interest (and, I'll admit, a modicum of trepidation). While I think many of the fears about widespread attacks on the "billions" of Android devices are largely unfounded, I also think the exploit is simple enough and thus serious enough to warrant attention from Android users.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

news | Financial Times acquired by Nikkei for £844m

Japanese media company Nikkei acquired the FT Group from current owner Pearson for £844m (US$1.3m) in a deal announced earlier today. When finalized, the deal will bring the British business newspaper Financial Times under the control of Japan’s largest media company, adding to an already impressive but largely domestic media empire spanning radio, print, and television broadcast companies.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

analysis | It's all Greek to me. Capital controls explained

The government of Greece is considering drastic measures such as the use of capital controls to stabilize its economy should the country default on its debts and begin to leave the European Union. As bailout negotiations between Greece and Eurozone leaders continue to stall, financial analysts and experts are considering the once untenable idea of capital controls.

The term saw airplay in headlines as recently as December 2014, when Russia considered (but ultimately did not implement) capital controls after the Russian Rouble tumbled in value, sparking a crisis so large that multinationals like Apple temporarily ceased its sales in the country. Capital controls were used to great effect in Cyprus when it experienced a financial crisis in 2013. Now, capital controls have become a part of the Greek "doomsday" scenario if it were to leave the European Union and its common currency.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

opinion | The geopolitical case for Greece

As the Greek debt crisis reaches its peak, headlines from around Europe and the world scream for the swift departure of Greece from the European Union. Whispers of a breakup have even been heard in the German Bundestag, where it was once an inconsiderable option.

There is undoubtedly a strong case for a Greek Exit. Greece currently owes €1.5bn in loans to the International Monetary Fund by the end of June, with an additional €3.5bn due to the European Central Bank in July. With default on the horizon, the country remains in financial limbo; bank runs and capital controls are now considered realities to plan for rather than purely academic exercises.

While the markets have held mostly steady, analysts believe most of it is attributed to confidence in an 11th hour deal, (which ironically reduces the impetus to act). But if Grexit really became reality the EU would not come crashing down overnight, and the world will not be plunged into a crisis. The financial repercussions are unlikely to reverberate beyond Brussels. Some are even hoping (perhaps naïvely) that a Grexit is the crisis to end all crises, that once Greece leaves, stability in the Eurozone will be restored and it will never face another squabble among its members.

But the decision must not be made solely on cost.

As counterintuitive as it may sound, the decision for keeping Greece inside the Eurozone should not be viewed as a purely economic decision, but as a geopolitical one.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

analysis | Not the product, but the idea: Why New Coke failed with consumers.

New Coke.

Nothing else continues to evoke such fear and wonder in the world of marketing than these two words. It was an unmitigated disaster, a cautionary tale of poor planning whose very mention conjures powerful images of corporate hubris gone awry.

The quintessential marketing failure of the 1980s, New Coke was a popular name for a product heralded as the reformulated replacement of Coke, one designed to appeal to changing consumer tastes and counter sliding market share. But its eventual failure and phaseout raised an uncomfortable question the soft drink behemoth, The Coca-Cola Company, had never before confronted:

What were they selling?

Sunday, April 5, 2015

news | Ford and GM attempt to move into luxury sector with release of new models

Marking a resurgent entry into the highly competitive luxury automobile sector, Cadillac and Lincoln have both unveiled new high-end sedans at the New York Auto Show intended to compete with leading German marques. The resurrection of the storied Lincoln Continental brand marks parent company Ford's effort to broaden its portfolio following the sale of its luxury marques late in the last decade. Cadillac's CT6 represents GM's efforts to compete with offerings like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW's 7-series.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

analysis | Fool's Gold: Apple Watch Edition is not for sale.

© Apple
Credit where it's due: Apple's announcement of the Watch Edition starting price of $10,000 has stunned the tech world in its sheer audacity. Why charge an obscenely high price when aside from the casing, it's identical to the basic $350 model? No convincing explanation has developed, but that's because people are viewing it wrong.

Watch Edition is not a product, it's a brilliant marketing strategy.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

analysis | Go (small) or Go Home: Project Ara and the future of Android

The Lego set is Google’s vision of the future smartphone: choose the features that matter, connect them to a basic frame, and swap parts at will. Broken screen? Pop in a new one and keep the rest of the phone. Drooling over a new camera? Buy the upgrade and snap it in place. The device is flexible, customizable, adaptable to any user, easy to upgrade and maintain.

The last part should sound familiar—it’s the same core idea behind the Android operating system, it’s innovation in the stagnant smartphone market, and most importantly, it’s the future of Android.

©2014 Motorola Mobility LLC

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

review | Noteworthy 2015 Super Bowl Ads

The first of February marked the broadcast of Super Bowl Clicks (apparently spelt XLIX), which for the unpatriotic and the uninformed is when every major advertiser in America releases their latest 60-second film, and even features a sideshow where some blokes run about playing catch. Since those of us stateside are condemned to view these commercials ad nauseam for the better half of a season, it seems like a good time as any to analyse some of Madison Avenue’s more innovative ideas while skewering their more tasteless excesses.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

rewrite | Unstable, paradoxical, and prone to implode - A simple(r) explanation of Bitcoin

Money is only worth what other people think it’s worth, an adage that forms the socioeconomic bedrock of Bitcoin. But while “strength in numbers” shields the cryptocurrency from outside influence, it also gives Bitcoin its notorious volatility.

Imagine if everyone in the entire world suddenly threw up their hands and said "alright, we don’t accept the US dollar (a fiat currency) as valid payment." The US government would still provide a good or service in exchange for that USD, which effectively gives it value.

Now imagine if everyone in the entire world suddenly threw up their hands and said "alright, we don’t accept Bitcoin as valid payment." There is no large body or entity that would continue to provide a good or service in exchange for a bitcoin, making the cryptocurrency effectively worthless.

Paradoxically, the only way Bitcoin can become mainstream is by gaining the support of a large, financially steady organization that will guarantee its value, much in the same way a government guarantees its own currency. But doing so would undermine its purpose as an unregulated, “pure” currency that can’t be influenced by any one entity. Its greatest strength is its own greatest weakness.

Rewrite is the writing process in action, where old topics are revisited, taken apart, revised, and redrafted. Now rewritten is "A simple explanation of bitcoin", completed 28 September 2014.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

analysis | Seeing Past Glass: What Google’s withdrawl of its headset means for its future

Google’s recent decision to withdraw Google Glass has drawn an immediate, almost visceral reaction from both Silicon Valley and Wall Street. Finally, they proclaim, Google has come to its senses! It’s grown up at last; time to put away the balloons and the toy cars, and move on to the things that actually matter!

Make no mistake, Google Glass in its current iteration has failed to become a tenable product, something no amount of marketing spin can cover. If Glass really was doing brisk business, Google would be beside themselves singing the praises of the just-released second generation. That the wearable computer was pulled from the market altogether without so much as a projected date indicates its failure to resonate with consumers.

But the failure of Glass does not mean the company is cubbyholed in the same way Blackberry has been unable to move beyond making mobile handsets. Rather, it is the inevitable result of Google’s “leap without looking” approach, where the game is not necessarily to make the best or the most polished product, but to capitalise on first mover advantages…then figure everything else out, including how if it prints money. Google Search, after all, began life as a pageranking research product until someone realised just how many zeros advertisers were willing to tack onto a cheque in exchange for targeted advertising.

This approach couldn’t be any different from their traditional rivals at Apple. While the Cupertino based technology giant keeps products under wraps for years, testing, redoing, perfecting, and grandly unveiling a highly polished, finished product, Google favours a scattershot approach, floating products to the market to “see what sticks”; ruthlessly killing things that don’t make money or otherwise fail.

While this would send most investors running for the hills, the Mountain View company has an uncanny ability to “sniff” out good investments. Google has historically supplemented itself by making several very smart acquisitions in key areas, nurturing them until they became industry powerhouses: it was prescient enough to buy YouTube near the start of the video sharing revolution, and made an equally prophetic acquisition of a small software startup called Android, Inc.

Most outsiders fail to realise the inherent danger in sticking to core strengths. The obvious cost of playing it safe is missing out on the next big thing. Intel was so wrapped up in its indomitable chokehold of the desktop and laptop market it completely missed the mobile revolution, and now finds itself fending off Qualcomm, VIA, Texas Instruments, and a horde of other eager competitors, some of whom have even begun to encroach on Intel’s traditional leadership in laptops and desktops.

“Failures” like Google Glass are the necessary price of keeping ahead. While some of Google's products may be tone-deaf and poorly timed, the spirit of “giving it a go” remains ingrained in the corporate culture and should be insulated from the fickleness of investors. There is no harm in throwing things against the wall when you have the finances of a developing nation, and an idea need only work once to be successful.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

analysis | The brand of your glasses isn’t meant to influence others. It’s meant to influence you.

Try this the next time you’re on a subway, a bus, or any place filled with lots of people. See if you can determine the brand of glasses someone is wearing before they realize you’re staring and start calling for the police.

Notice the brand yet? It shouldn’t take any longer than a couple of seconds to determine: most frames have the brand plastered along the side.

If your face is considered the world’s window to your soul, then glasses are the window frame in this increasingly torturous analogy. Yet in spite of its visibility, most people don’t seem at all bothered about wearing a designer’s logo on the side of their face.

The truly observant (or perhaps the truly obsessive) will notice that while branding becomes very prominent for most midrange glasses, neither economical frames nor expensive frames carry branding along the sides.

In spite of outwards appearances, the purpose of the branding is not to advertise your affinity for the brand to others, but to advertise the glasses to you.


A brand at its most basic is a simple way of communicating a complex set of ideas already ingrained in the consumer through extensive marketing.

The brand is a trigger that helps recall the value-added benefits of the company’s marketing message in addition to the immediate utility of the product. Put simply, it reminds you that you’re not just buying a mere cup of coffee, dear consumer, you’re buying the trendy cosmopolitan lifestyle that only the best Arabica, picked by smiling, happy farmers and lovingly batch-roasted by a (possibly bearded) barista named Grant, can provide in a 10% post-consumer recycled cup…whatever that all means.

Conversely, brands help a consumer make a purchase with incomplete information. Rather than needing an intimate knowledge of operating systems, software packages, hardware configurations, and compatibility issues, people buy an Apple computer because the brand is famous for having simple, modern, sophisticated machines with end-to-end support. A brand helps distill what would otherwise be a complex decision into something very simple.

The glasses market is an excellent example of incomplete purchasing information: Even though a pair of glasses will be worn every day from morning to night, often for several years, most people don’t know—and oftentimes don’t need to know—the differences in materials, designs, durability, and workmanship.


People that buy glasses largely fall into three categories: utilitarian buyers prioritise cost before all other considerations, midrange buyers balance what they are willing to spend with what they want, and high-end specialty buyers make purchasing decisions on other, often aesthetic, factors.

Most buyers fall into the midrange category: A fresh prescription means new glasses as soon as possible, and the buyer must temper “what looks good” with “what can I afford.” Interestingly, the midrange market demonstrates inelastic demand relative to income, partially due to immediate utility. Translation: a richer customer may not take some time to shop around for the best set of eyeglasses because the customer kind of needs them to see. This presents a conundrum: He must make an immediate, informed decision on a product likely to be kept for several years, but has limited knowledge on what makes a “good” pair of glasses aside from how they look and feel.

The brands themselves, however, are a smokescreen: most glasses sold today are all made by the same gargantuan company. They’re not actually “Prada” glasses, they’re made by Luxottica but licensed to carry the name of Prada. It’s not just for show, though; if everything was sold as “Luxottica,” the differences might be difficult to note, but brands help emphasise these differences and draw subconscious associations with the consumer (remember, it’s not just the product, it’s the lifestyle).

All this changes when considering the utilitarian buyer and the high end buyer. Utilitarian buyers make a decision based purely on cost above all else, and won't respond to a brand. Beyond a consideration of what additional features are needed for purpose, the purchase decision is influenced solely by price. Fashion-centric buyers are likely to shop around before committing to a purchasing decision because their decision is made based on other attributes: the style and quality of the frame, the type and design, the workmanship, the materials, and the durability. Glasses marketed in both categories reflect this: they are not labeled with the brand because they are expected to sell based on other attributes other than the brand. With these consumers, the brand loses its relevance because the purchasing decision is made based on other factors. Both these consumers have the luxury of shopping around, whether the goal is to to save money or to find fashionable frames.

The brand is a particularly powerful form of marketing. It tells the consumer where the product sits in relation to its competitors. It serves as a trigger for the brand’s attributes. It is a way of communicating the added value to the consumer if only you bought this wonderful product. But it is in a relatively homogenized market where consumers have limited knowledge, like that of eyeglasses, where brands are at their most effective. You’re not just buying glasses. You’re buying a new lifestyle.