Mobile wars – they are here.

Cellular dominance war

Your mobile communication device, whether a “smart” or a “dumb” phone, an IPad, Android tablet of “phablet”, is the ultimate prize for the likes of Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Apple etcetera who are “at war” over becoming the dominant player in the market. In non-technospeak, it means they are “upsizing” – the bigger you are as a market player, the stronger you are, the more you can throw your weight around (… in theory).

Google’s moves included buying out handset maker Motorola, making its mobile operating system Android Opensource and launching (revamping) its own social networking offering, Google+.

Microsoft has also been put under the microscope by market analysts who blame Nokia’s declining sales on its dogged partnership with Microsoft’s “old, sluggish and buggy” Windows mobile operating system. In fact the latest industry talks indicate that Microsoft has jettisoned the “entry level” phone market – including its entry-level smartphones. One of these days, the only Microsoft phones will be on the same “level” as the other mobile phones on the market.

Yahoo, once one of the “most loved” tech companies has come under fire for “falling behind” in the innovation race – failing to come up with novel and creative ideas to remain on top. No so long ago it was reported that Yahoo has gone through CEOs like ticks on a hot plate.

What does this all mean for the consumer? Although Google is already a giant on the Internet, its growth will soon see it become the Godzilla of everything to do with data and information. In fact, there are some who are convinced that the behemoth has already become unstoppable and that sooner or later smaller, more innovative ICT entrepreneurs will either have to bow down before it or get gobbled up.

I wonder what the solution is – if there is one. Any ideas?

Digital Television approaches …

The South African Department of Communications  (DOC) has finally pulled a rabbit out of its hat after the switch-over to digital television broadcasting infrastructure has been delayed on several occasions. Judging from its “Go Digital” campaign that’s in full swing during 2012, South Africans should soon benefit from DDT (Digital Terrestrial) television signals. The DOC’s pamphlet states that the roll-out is to start early this year (2012) and that by 2015, “almost 11 million TV viewers” should have access to DDT in their homes.

Should this be the case, and the DOC and its partners do not board star ship Enterprise, to “boldly go where no-one has gone before”, a clearer, sharper and more enjoyable television picture (and hopefully, content) will be on offer for all. Thus, according to the marketing material there will be:

  • More channels, thus more choices for viewers.
  • “Equal access to every citizen” to all free-to-air channels of “good quality picture and sound”
  • Electronic Programming Guide and program synopsis.
  • Better control by parents over what is to be watched or not in the household
  • More accessibility for those with hearing and sight disabilities

Concerns ..

Although the DDT is long overdue in South Africa, compared to the rest of the digital world, two issues still chafe. The first  is the “set-top” boxes which must be purchased in order to enable “old” (Analogue) television sets to convert and display the signal. This conversion will result in a loss of quality of both picture and sound. In talks about the “set-top” box this does not seem to be worth mentioning. Perhaps the idea of it  being a “digital signal” seems to negate the need to explain this fact. In addition, the cost of these boxes seem to still be “in flux”.

Receiving a good quality digital signal with your current “bunny ears” is another issue that’s not made very clear. Mention is made that “some viewers may require new TV aerials or adjust their existing aerials for reception”, giving the impression that you will still be able to use it. But, alarm bells have sounded about this being an additional cost for consumers. If, however, you are one of the lucky few to have a television set with a built-in digital receiver and a “dish” hooked up already, the switch-over will be quite painless.

Call a spade … a spade!

Straight-talking

Wordsmiths know that words you choose “paint” a picture in the mind of the reader. Therefore, writers choose their words carefully, especially if they want the reader to “see” (visualise, if you insist) something from a certain angle or perspective. Marketing gurus also know this. In fact, it’s their bread and butter (literally) to know which words or images they use make you want to “get-out-there-and-buy-one” or which ones are likely to turn you off. Journalist, especially those in the finance industry have “developed” a whole arsenal of “neutral” words when they talk about issues related to the financial markets. One which caught my attention recently is the use of “austerity measures” whenever there is talk about what is going on with the finances of a country such as Greece.

In a “wait-a-minute” moment, the expression elicited a smirk, and this post. What are they really talking about?, is the million-dollar (pun intended) question. Not being a financial guru, my take on it is that they are actually talking about issues which affect people’s lives. In fact, they are talking about a shortage of money and the measures taken by the government and the EU to manage Greece’s debt. These “austerity measures” are similar to the “tightening-of-belts’ concept- one which conjures up hunger, poverty and tough times ahead for all. Unsurprisingly, the expression is not used. The “austerity measures” basically means that the government, and its sidekicks such as the IMF, World Bank and EU Parliament are putting the squeeze on the ordinary citizens of Greece – that for those struggling to make a living, conditions will become tougher.

Straight-talking

Think back to the “sub-prime” lending crisis which rocked the US economy a while back. “Sub-prime” was the “tag” used by the banking industry to describe their practice of lending money to those who, due their financial situation, would not be able to get a loan using the normal “screening” criteria. Instead of calling it “risk lending”, a more “truthful” description, it became known as “sub-prime” lending in “finspeak” (jargon used in the financial sector).

The result of such reckless behaviour by the banks? Those who received the loans “defaulted” – could not pay back the interest plus the money, and the country’s economy took a nosedive. And since markets are linked nowadays, the rest of the world’s markets went into a spin. Another one was “poisoned assets” which emerged during this crisis time. These were basically bad investments made by the banks – spending money on assets such as stocks and property which were not worth the money spent on them. It means someone went on a shopping spree without doing their homework as business leaders. And now, after the fact, these became known as “poisoned assets” – a nice way of saying we invested in a “dud’.

How we talk about things, the words we use, the expressions used, help us to understand what we are really talking about. Talking about a spade, calling it a “specialised digging tool” only serves to hamper communication. Speech and text (now video) are already such crude tools to represent, convey and share human concepts and ideas. Putting such “creative spins” on words and phrases diminish the true understanding of their meaning and impact.

Say what you mean .. which is what I hope I’ve done.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) … fact or fiction?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) specialists have been posting comments, promising an “increase in traffic” should I use this plug-in or that software solution. Following the links, you inevitably run into a page demanding “only $$!” for a chance to boost your blog’s rating – and of course your bank balance.

Promises of how my listing on Google (and other) search engines can be improved and “ranked higher” have been slipping into my comments moderation panel more and more. Ignoring such promises don’t seem to do the trick. Perhaps, these are the very visitors who’ll remove this blog from their RSS feed after this post. But … it prompted this question “Search Engine Optimization … fact or fiction?”

Hardly surprisingly, a “SEO” keyword search brings up nearly a million results, each one following the same pattern. First you get an explanation of what SEO is and how it works, and then they hit you … “Click here to sign up for our services” – of how you could increase your search engine ranking, your traffic and eventually earn your fortunes.

Two sides

Like most things in this reality, where there’s a good, there’s also a bad. Apparently, balance is one of the key elements of the universe – thus also of the internet. It turns out that there are two types of SEO “specialists” on the web – those who’ve taken on the dark side and those who live in the light. Sorry, that’s “Hollywood speak” for an ability (or skill) used to make this world either a better or more sinister one. An extensive article on Wikipedia points to “white” and “black hat” practitioners of the art of SEO. What “hat” has to do with the issue beats me …. but it basically means there are good guys (girls) and bad guys (girls) … err … sorry Hollywood, again.

White hat SEOs are the good guys who’ll explain what they are doing, why they are doing it and how you might (or not) reap the benefits of “thinking” like search engine algorithms (clever coding able to do some nifty things). Basically, the white hatters tell you what you should (not must) do to make your site more “attractive” and “friendly” to search engine software trawling the web, looking to “tag” (record) the content of your pages. If you don’t have the know-how or the time, you’ll pay them to do it for you. Nice, clean and “white”.

The “Black hatters”, being the “bad guys”, are those who will try all sorts of means to persuade you that without their expert knowledge and expertise, search engines don’t even know that your site exists. Claims such as “being listed under the top five” and “guaranteed” are sure signs that you are in rattle county (Hollywood!).

In the beginning …

In the early days of the web, when search engines were magical (Hollywood, again!) there were mostly text pages but as the number of pages on the web grew, so the tools to keep track of what’s where became smarter, making it easier to find relevant information faster. In fact, that was the original idea. Then came the commercialization of the web, spawning a new industry, web marketing … and Search Engine Optimization experts.

In my universe the jury is still out as to whether the magic wands SEO hats wield catapult you up the ladder of search rankings. In fact, some search engines have developed “potions” to protect themselves against “evildoers” – websites cluttered with keywords and phrases just so that their listing is high.

Another issue which prompted this post were comments made although the information is “good and interesting” yet Google does not list it as “up there”. Whether such comments came from SEO experts or not underscores the point that search engines have become more of a moneymaking tool than one meant to help you find what you’re looking for.