Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Thoughts on few recent tech news – Facebook/Whatsapp/Samsung/Xiaomi

For a person who pays attention to the tech field, there are just so much going on recently that I can’t really help but wanna share my 2 cents of thought about some news items:

Facebook’s acquisition of Whatsapp – Well US19billion sounds like a huge amount, and indeed it is, but some news critics are really right that it is a rich tech company using its high price stock to make this purchase. The actual cash portion is mere US$3billion. That’s still a lot! I don’t know whether this purchase justifies the cost, but I think it makes sense as of now. Being an active FB user myself, I can’t recall if I’ve ever used FB Messenger. Whatsapp is my message app of choice and I like it very much. I don’t know how FB can make money from me down the road, but the 450M client base is certainly attractive. If FB can’t build its own and it can afford it, this purchase makes sense since it instantly expands its kingdom to become dominant in mobile communication field. Just coming in today that, Whatsapp will add feature to allow users to make voice call in next quarter, that would make it in direct competition with Skype and Viber. Perhaps, next phase will be video call like Facetime, or group video conference call even. That would be very nice! Meanwhile, I would imagine FB will imitate what Tencent is doing with WeiSin down the road, to develop something in mobile commerce. Just stay tune.

Samsung Galaxy S5, Gear 2, Gear Neo and Gear Fit – Just announcement of these products by Samsung doesn’t really surprise me much. The biggest selling point of S5 is the finger print reader integration with Paypal. That would be nice and I think Apple would do the same in near future. However, the phone itself doesn’t wow me in its form factor, the flat back with leather feel is nice. But it seems to me as 50% effort of only working on the back but nothing change on the front and edge, unless Apple, HTC when they revamp their form factor, they real show they dare to do it over. The water proof ability for S5 is nice as well, but the grimmick thing of adding a heart-rate sensor to the phone itself is kinda weird. I don’t wanna press my phone to my heart all the time, ever!  Android 4.4 is a given, no surprise there, look and feel of the screen has changed a little bit. As I’m not an Android user, can’t comment on that. The usage of Tizen on smartwatch should get Google thinking that perhaps S6 or S7 down the road would be using Tizen rather than Android. It is so obvious that Samsung doesn’t want to be bounded by Google. I don’t know much about Tizen, but I think it would still need few years (if it ever can) to catch up Android or iOS, provided that Samsung’s phones will still being sold really well. I think it is gonna be quite interesting, if Google and Samsung go for a split, would that benefit Apple? 

The release of Gear 2 is normal, given the poor reception of Gear 1. I still don’t know if it will do much better than Gear 1. Don’t know how the Gear Neo will be positioned, a strip-down version of Gear 2? Gear Fit with heart-rate sensor is surely going a head-on with iWatch. I think I would need to know a bit more before I would think this is gonna be good or not. Certainly, its integration with Galaxy devices would help and going for the health/fitness sector as a start is a safe bet. Apple is thinking the same way, but I think Apple would do a bit more as a late comer. The Gear Fit belt looks a bit cheap to me, though it is exchangeable, it is plastic anyway! It’s my first impression of the product. I’m not sure how that horizontal and vertical bouncing view of the UI works with the pedometer. Would it make users to bend  necks to read the screens? 

Xiaomi Redmi – This phone is sold quite well in its existing market, given its price and spec combination. However, I still don’t see it as the next Samsung or Apple as some critics might think. Xiaomi’s sale is based on price, it means that it can’t profit from a higher margin. Indeed, no one does except Apple. Secondly, it uses Android. I doubt it will have its own ‘Tizen’ anytime soon. So, its neck is holding by Google. Thirdly, everybody is trying to build its own eco-system. Microsoft is trying, but it is a distant 3rd. Apple succeeds. Google…well, after it sold Motorola to Lenovo, it doesn’t look like it wants to emulate Apple to have an OS-hardware-Services ecosystem. Samsung is trying to build one, and I doubt Google would let it succeed. So, when it comes to Xiaomi, though they have a so-called charming CEO, I think it can only go as far as what PRC government protective strategy would allow it to go.  It would well sell tons in China which by no mean a huge market, but I doubt it will make a significant dent in US/Europe.

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