Wednesday, April 30, 2008

How fast is fast?

Click on the picture to see the details of the data download speed (orange bars) that I'm getting from my ISP. There's this wonderful URL that tests your Internet speed in commonly used speed units and then compares yours with the rest of your province, region, country, continent and the global village. According to a few tests I did, mine proved faster than 85% of everybody else in the world and faster than 80% of everybody else in Belgium; you also get to see average stats for the rest of the world, who is the fastest and who is the slowest and much more of this trivia. For the geeks among you, this is a nice URL to waste your time and energy. Go check your systems. It's fun.

Just for kicks, click the screen capture below to see some of the world results I was talking about. In all honesty, with the speeds I am getting I never knew how fortunate I have been so far, compared to some dudes in the middle of California where Information Technology and the Internet are supposed to have been born. Good ol' Belgium... wired and cabled to the bone... Rumor has it that starting this June my ISP is gonna offer me an upload speed of more than 1 megabit per sec. I'm getting 512K rated per their contract and about 490K as we speak. It's cool to live in this country, other than its lousy rainy weather, that is. Well, you can't have it all!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Obsessed? Who, me?!?

I've been a regular visitor and poster of own shots on Flickr for years now. From time to time I come across some interesting pictures... few of those make me blog about on my Diaries though. This one is one of the scarce exceptions! Hope you like it as much as I do!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Greek Easter Sunday

Celebrated Easter twice this year. I am not even a devoted religious man but I like the cooking and partying part. We were even lucky and had sunshine during most of the day in this weather cursed country.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Conservative and proud!

If you're bored to death and want to read a recent poison article about BO link here. The kind of crap some US folks are keeping busy with during this election year is beyond belief. They'll go thru anything to prove their bad taste and rock-bottom IQ.

Anyways, those 'neocons and proud' folks rather tie a rope with lead blocks around their neck and jump in the deepest ocean and let us be. Here in the rest of the world outside the US, we had enough of the 8 years conservative administrations who done nothing else than damage both our economy and security.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Enjoy iJustine as a Madonna look-alike. Thx to F* Steve for posting this.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

St-Walburga in Oudenaarde

tapestry flirting

My cousin Mike who lives in Athens, Greece, since the mid seventies "boasts" that he has never climbed the Acropolis to visit the Parthenon! He actually says he's ashamed to admit it...

I felt like him today when I visited first time ever the St-Walburga church in Oudenaarde, my hometown since 1982 and a city I have known since 1971. The church dates from 1150 and has known construction extensions leading to its current form up until middle of the 16th Century. Click the picture above to link to a series of shots I took with my Nokia N95 (yep, true story) posted at my Flickr account.

The church tower is 88 meters tall and visible from kilometers away. The city was the birthplace of Margaretha of Parma, illegitimate daughter of King Charles V, Duke of Burgundy (among many other titles he enjoyed). Maggie's mom lived in Oudenaarde at a house that has been recently beautifully restored and nowadays is the home to an upper class restaurant and coffee-shop. Maggie was born at that place (see the building's current interior at the same Flickr posting).

I have been living here for a quarter of a century (longer, come to think of it) and like my cousin in Athens, have not stood still to enjoy the history of the city that is more than a thousand years old... I felt like an ass watching a small group of retired Texas tourists admiring the treasures of St-Walburga, assisted by a local guide... thinking that my culture lagged behind that of Texan visitors depressed me... you heard the saying: what's the difference betweens muscles and Texans? Muscles grow in cultures...

Friday, April 18, 2008

Genius or plain stupid?

Everytime I am thinking of stopping for good to post iPhone related blogs, there's again some weird news about it that makes me start all over...

Go have a look here... if you understand Dutch it's self explanatory; for the rest of you here's the story. Some guy who goes by the name pgtrends (Gosh, he used the P&G logo too (!!!); probably someone they fired) decided to start a little business for himself by renting 'trendy' items during weekends, with formal contracts and all. This time he rents iPhones for more than 135 bucks a day, 230 bucks for a weekend.

Now tell me, how stupid you have to be to spend that type of dough for showing off a rented iPhone over the weekend? Impress the broads? Gimme a break!

No wonder our neighbors are making fun of us 'stupid' Belgians!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Some more on the Marketing and Sales of the iPhone...

I picked up this commentary recently on the Net:

Wall Street analysts like Gene Munster and Toni Sacconaghi continuously discount the role of international demand in iPhone sales. They do this primarily because they have a very America-centric view of the world in which this 5% tail wags the dog. Not in cell phones.

This is the issue. The customer-satisfaction numbers you see for iPhone in the US are no different internationally, in some cases they are much higher because the price ($399 and $499 is seen as perfectly reasonable, particularly in emerging markets used to paying higher premiums on US prices for BlackBerry and high-end Nokia phones).

Demand for iPhones outside the United States, particularly in emerging markets, is out of control and has reached the point where it has started to impact Apple’s normalized supply chain projections. It’s okay to have a delta of, say, 100,000 units or so per year between actual and forecast. International demand is driving that delta upwards of 1 million. That’s a whole different ball game for component sourcing, quality control and production ramp-up and some things are starting to come unstuck, even for a finely managed company like Apple.
What’s driving this?

1. Free, out-of the box -ready, GUI-based network unlock solutions like Ziphone and iLiberty. Confidence in these unlock systems has grown significantly over time as technical expertise required to use them has fallen.

2. A large, very organized procurement mechanism for iPhones, particularly into Russia, Eastern Europe, India and China. There are people who go from store to store buying iPhones and aggregating them for export to “resellers” overseas.

3. Proliferation of Wi-Fi penetration and the recognition that in GSM countries, iPhone works simply and well enough. Wi-Fi hotspot usage is growing significantly around the world and the iPhone’s superior web browser is taking full advantage to maximize customer experience. It’s the right product at the right time for the macro-trend.

4. The iPhone is relatively cheap to emerging market customers used to paying $500 for a BlackBerry and a cheap US Dollar makes it an even better deal. For example in Russia, at $499, a16GB iPhone translates to around 12,000 Rubles. An 8GB Nokia N95 costs $815 or 20,000 Rubles. The value-for-money perception with iPhone is absolutely huge.

5. Zero or minimal compatibility issues on GSM Networks. I have used my iPhone with SIM cards from 32 different networks in Europe and developing countries. It works seamlessly. The iPhone is a quad-band GSM phone, meaning that it supports all four major GSM frequency bands, 850 and 1900 MHz bands which are used in the Americas, and 900 / 1800 MHz bands used in most other parts of the world, making it compatible with all major GSM networks worldwide. 2 billion people around the world use GSM phones.

To give you an idea of international demand; There are Nigerians shipping more than 500 phones a week from New York to Lagos and Nigeria is a third world country. The EDGE internet works perfectly, albeit just as slow, there and data is very, very cheap at $5 per 100 MB of usage.

“Data-driven” analysts like Munster and Sacconaghi get misled by the laziness of long-distance US-chauvinist analysis into making market projections based on perfunctory GDP per capita statistics and “population living on less than dollar per day” figures. They look at the wrong data because they think the world works in the same way everywhere. This weak analysis disregards latent middle and upper income demand in developing countries. Income distribution in many emerging markets is extremely lopsided.

If you define a potential user as someone who can afford (or is used to) paying twice as much for an iPhone and double what an AT&T subscriber pays per month, there are at least 7 million potential iPhone users in Nigeria, 9 Million in South Africa, 80 Million in India, 25 Million in Russia, 25 Million in Brazil, 8 Million in Indonesia and 100 Million in China. Not all of them will be users but just 5% of this number is way more than 10 million. Considering mobile phones are some of the most universally adopted products on the planet, a good GSM phone reaches Iran and Iraq much faster than people on Wall Street can ever imagine. I predict iPhones will be available to elites in Cuba (which has both GSM and TDMA) within the next 30 days.

From research I’m conducting. we have conservative numbers of grey market as follows:

Russia 2000-4000 phones/week
China 4000 -6000 phones/ week

Demand from Western Europe is substantially slower but still significant, averaging anything from 2000 -3000 units/week from New York and other big cities with international airports. Now, not all the phones shipped from New York are bought in NYC but the export pattern is clear and very strong.

I have completely ignored the cash-flush Middle East where Dubai has always been a world-leading port in grey market clearing and forwarding for consumer electronics.
Conservatively speaking, something is sucking 15,000-20,000 iPhones/week out of the United States. If this phenomenon is coinciding with steadily growing adoption among US customers, suddenly the slack Apple had is drying up.

Many of the millions of visitors coming to the United States every month are going back with a packed iPhone in their luggage. It’s one of the things people are expected to buy when they come.

Foreign nationals are not very likely to buy iPhones at an AT&T store because the requirements are inconsistent (some stores requiring SSNs, existing phone numbers and/ or activation), queues are long (non-starter for people with a limited window to get back to the airport), lack of other Apple products (iPods etc) and accessories and simply, AT&T stores are not landmarks.

Finally, the reason why used iPhones will begin to show up on eBay and other consumer-to-consumer sites in Western Europe is because individuals who speculatively buy an iPhone to resell are up against “organized unofficial” suppliers and 3G is a big deal there. In emerging markets, you’re much more likely to buy a phone from an “expert hacker supplier” if you worry about fixes and other things. And yes, the parallel market is showing budding signs of getting sophisticated at providing some of the support Apple wont provide.
Oh well, maybe it’s just version 2.0 coming out soon.
I think not.

Bottom line: Apple has produced a product that is promising but short of the mark in 3G Western Europe, reasonably good for the US but a smash hit in emerging markets.

PS. If you assumed that Apple Inc Executives and Jobs himself are fully aware of some of the things this dude is talking about, then, you haven't worked for a Yankee company ever in your life...

What's wrong with Apple Sales and Marketing?

Front page news this morning on the 'Morgen' newspaper, in Belgium: European Tourists buy all the iPhones in the US.

It's a blast, innit? Apparently the Apple Stores can't keep up with the demand. Numerous reports on the Internet are discussing the 'shortage' for a couple of weeks now.

Here's the thing. With the current dollar exchange rate to the Euro (1.57 USD for one Euro) it's a give-away to buy a 8 GByte iPhone. For the 8 GByte Nokia N95 (the sob I own) they ask 670 euros in this country (Belgium). You can buy two iPhones with this kind of money. European tech geeks and non-geeks are starving for an iPhone. In the large three countries where it's been launched since late last year it is both expensive and linked to even more expensive operator subscriptions. It's also impossible to buy one in a box and avoid signing a subscription. They won't sell it to you...

In the US, where logic and reason and a Free Market are the rule, even ATT shops will sell you an iPhone, and even more than one if you choose so. I heard a story just yesterday from a friend of a friend whose pal has been traveling in NY the other day. As he found no iPhones stock available in any of the big Apple Stores, in Soho and 5th Avn, he came across a tiny little ATT shop in an obscure place where normally no tourists appear. To his surprise, he found a stock of three iPhones; the ATT shop-owner was more than happy to accommodate his demand by selling him all three. Who cares for ATT's lost subscription revenues by selling to an alien tourist. WTF! He's got himself a deal of twelve hundred bucks plus sales tax from one single customer,  money on the table; he wish he had more boxes to sell like this; innit sweet? Long live Capitalism! Say that again!

I mean, why does Apple bullshit like this on the iPhone is a huge mystery. Do they just want to prove incompetent in terms of sales and marketing, I don't know. Both Europe and the Far East are dead serious about the iPhone, the best device invented in mobile telephony, ever. What's the point of making something and not selling it? Or, are they in the business of creating collector's items?

There is a potential of selling hundreds of millions of iPhones in the next few years if they only unlocked them and sold them at reasonable prices everywhere. What is this bullshit of linking them to rigid and dinosauric operators like the ATT, T-Mobile, Orange and the like! Make a few hundred bucks per phone more? Let me laugh! They can do a lot more if they sell multiples of what they sold todate. It would also be much better to those owning one and operate it with some other than the legitimate operators. Because people who bought the iPhone and had it hacked won't feel like criminals, having done something "illegal". By the way, nobody can convince me that Apple Inc doesn't want its phones to be hacked. Otherwise, they would make it virtually impossible to do it that easy!

Easy, you said? Yes sir! Even a blind man can do it! Thanks to ZiPhone! Available in 27 languages! Again, the friend of a friend says to me the other day: All you got to do is change ATT's SIM to your operator's, connect the darn thing to a PC or Mac, make sure iTunes is not running, launch Ziphone that you download first (obviously), and then press the button unlock, activate, jailbreak (sic)... In 4 min 55 secs (they say) you are ready to go! You just reached Nirvana.

Go do it folks... I need you to... cos, I got some Apple shares sitting there and if you've seen the beating they took since last January you can feel my pain!

PS. Hey, Steve (Jobs), how's this for an idea? Give the entire project to Nokia for a license fee! Those dudes are in the business of selling half a billion units a year; they'd be more than happy to sell another hundred million for you and they sure got the capacity and distribution to do it. If you made, say 50 bucks a unit as a license fee, then you'd add another 5 billion to your bottomline (give and take) hands down. And growing...And you would make us all real happy. Problem is, you always wanna do things on your own... what a shame!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Wireless explosion

Every month that passes by, almost as many new net mobile subscriptions as the entire population of Belgium (10m) are added in each of both China and India.

China has already reached half a billion subscriptions (one in three Chinese has got one) and India reached 250 million (one in four). Currently India has more subscriptions than the US (where 7 out of 10 citizens own one). In so doing, India has now become the nr 2 worldwide, behind China. This is if you don't count the EU as a single entity.

In other words, China, India and the US together are good for a billion subscriptions, 30% of the world total of 3.3 billion. Besides, this total is 20% more than the previous year (2006).

More than a billion new mobile phones are being sold annually, with Nokia supplying 40% of these (437M phones in 2007), which is actually more than the following three suppliers combined.

The total services revenue from using wireless phones (voice and data) are good for 700 billion USD, of which data accounts for 17% and voice for 83%. For some of the largest operators the data share is even higher, above 30% and growing. The lion share of the data services revenue is attributed to SMS's. Can you imagine the size we are talking about? More than 100B USD in sending SMS's?!

Finally, of the 10 largest operators, 6 are from China, Japan and Korea, 3 from the US and one from Europe. If you were still wondering whether the Far East is gonna beat the living shit out of the West, dream on... we are dead meat!

These and many other interesting fun facts can be found in a recent update of the Wireless industry published by Chetan Sharma Consulting. In their homepage you can also download for free that full report, in both PDF and PPT format.

It's a pity the study has approached Europe in terms of a number of selected countries rather than the combined European Union. With a market of 500 million people I am sure the EU must be ahead of both India and the US in terms of total subscriptions and services revenues. Anyways!

Friday, April 4, 2008

CSI iPhone

This nutcase shown here murdered a woman, presumably 'his' lawyer helping him with formulating a will, and he then stole her iPhone and went on calling friends and relatives. The Police, clueless for starters (aren't they always?) realized that the victim's iPhone was missing and with ATT's help they traced down the UPoS* (BTW his name is Villegas).

Read the full details here.

The iPhone as a CSI accessory. Innit sweet?

*Useless Piece of ... (I reckon you can fill-in the blanks)

Celeb Mac chick...

Shot borrowed from Macenstein's archives.

I had no clue who Macenstein was until I came across this at FSJ's. Trust me, a little visit to his site might cheer you up (at least if you are male, relatively young and heterosexual). Try specifically his Mac chick of the month. Inspiring!

Anyways, Jennifer A. shown here likes to carry her Mac Book Pro around for everyone to see... and why not, this is one piece of equipment worth carrying around and being proud of.

BTW, we see more and more of these, readily recognizable by the little white apple logo on the back, in magazines, TV shows, and in public places. The morale of the story... buy Apple stock... it's gonna be good for you.

Think different and get rich...

Or the other way around... who can say? Anyways, there is this survey done among users of the iPhone and, surprise... surprise... they all seem to be young and high income, sophisticated, and tech savvy geeks! And they all drive BMWs and Ferraris. The men look like Jude Law and the women like J-Lo. And they all enjoy a superb sex-life. Do you want more? C'm on!

Why commission surveys like this one is a mystery to me. What do we learn from its conclusions is even a bigger enigma. Is the iPhone a tool just for elite members? Not anymore if you believe T-Mobile in Germany is washing out its stocks and giving it for free these days (99 euros, wow!). So, it's not its price that stops it from being owned by the less than average income and not too sophisticated, right? My N95's cost was heads and shoulders above the iPhone's (what an ass I was). In Germany the iPhone is so cheap nowadays that you shouldn't even bother keeping it at all if its battery dies. Go buy another one, right?

On the other hand, why should you be tech savvy for a gadget that even blind can operate? I only owned an iPhone for a few hours (before my daughter grabbed it). I own an iPod Touch and I can say the two are identical where the iPhone has got a camera, a mic, speakers and can place phone calls as well. Ok fine. I believe I can live with my touch iPod and my N95 without the need of an iPhone whatsoever.

What'd you expect... I am above 50, modestly sophisticated, got no income worth talking about nowadays and I am an... amateur geek, I think. So, I'll stick with the Nokia for the time being.

Peculiar survey if you ask me... nevertheless.

The R word...

I had fun with this article in Fortune Magazine earlier today.

It deals with the luxuries the rich among us will have to push back as they find themselves amid a much debated Recession. Bernanke says we are already in, payrolls drop in record numbers, so on which daily pleasures are the rich and famous about to start cutting back?

I'll summarize that for you right here, right now:

Pilates (C'm on!)

I can understand Hotels... as they have become obscenely expensive nowadays without much improvement in their service and facilities and demanding twice or more the price compared to few years ago.

I can understand Golfing as this is also obscenely expensive for a game that's all about hitting a stupid ball in a hole by using expensive clubs...

I can understand yachts... who has them anyway? Like the saying goes, that your two best moments in owning a yacht are the day you buy it and the day you sell it. In between, f*ck it!

Now, how about steaks?!?! WTF! I mean, who cares? Maybe people decided to eat more white meat and more vegetables as it is. Much healthier too. Red meat is bad for bowel cancer as well. I know that for a fact! So less juicy steaks is not as bad as it sounds.

At last, pilates! I've grown almost 55 to find out what the heck this is. I thought people were talking about Pontius and his washing his hands from the blood of our Lord Jesus C. Then I realized this one was spelled with -es and not -us. Turns out it's a yoga like exercise for pensioners fooling them about reaching the nirvana for body and soul... and lots of this Far Eastern BS! Anyways, I don't do Pilates either and I wouldn't care less if I had to miss it.

Now tell me, don't you think the Fortune article is a scream?!