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Why the “iPhone 5C” is genius

I’ve owned a fairly substantial amount of phones. From my first Nokia 5110 to my current iPhone 5 I’ve owned and reviewed more phones than I can even count. However, if you ask me what my favourite phone of all time I’d have to say it was my iPhone 4. For a device to last me the usual two year cellular contract period is highly unusual. I loved that phone and even after two years it was still going relatively strong. In the end though, the contract cycle continues and I got an iPhone 5. Such is the vanity of the iPhone owner. Interestingly you can still buy the iPhone 4 and 4S, a testament to the longevity of these devices. No one is still buying a Samsung Galaxy S2, it’s a thing of the past.

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A day with the Ford EcoSport

I got whirled down to Durban for a brief spin in the soon to be launched Ford EcoSport, a small SUV aimed at young, sporty people. The EcoSport was originally designed in Brazil and now built in India. Ford South Africa will be importing these models directly from the subcontinent. We’re getting the second generation of the EcoSport; there are three spec levels, three engine options, two transmission choices and eight different colour choices. The name of the car is a portmanteau of Eco (economic) and Sport (lifestyle implications).

This is very much a car for the B-segment buyer (Ford Fiesta or VW Polo) looking for the SUV lifestyle and a vehicle that is more aspirational than your hatchback runaround. According to Ford the B-segment makes up 24% of yearly sales in South Africa, making this a smart move on their part. Competitors in the “B-SUV” segment include the Daihatsu Terios, Suzuki Jiminy and to some extent the Nissan Juke.

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What’s in a technology name?

Technology names are tough, we’ve become so desensitised to names such as the “Huawei G590″ or the “Lenovo T410″ that we accept arb naming conventions. There’s the classic example of how Steve Jobs returned to Apple in the late nineties and took their range from the likes of the “Quadra 700″ to the infinitely simpler “iBook”, “iMac”, “Powerbook” and “PowerMac”. Even though there were more than one product per range, you knew immediately which product was for you based on your computing requirements.

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Introducing the Wallee

I recently had the pleasure of spending some time with the Wallee, a brand of iPad and iPhone accessories that give your phone and tablet some cool abilities. Basically you clip on a case and can hook into cool accessories such as the wall mount, a stand, hand strap and my personal favourite: The Pivot which makes your tablet into a mini iMac. Pair a Bluetooth keyboard and you’ve got a cool workstation.

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Where’s the vertical integration in digital?

Vertical integration is a classic business tactic: Why just own the chicken farm when you can own the trucks that transport the chickens as well as the restaurant that serves the chicken. The benefits are that you can control your entire supply chain so if one business isn’t doing amazingly then you have the opportunity to supplement your income in the other businesses.

Here are some other benefits:

  • Lower costs due to eliminated market transaction costs
  • Improved quality of supplies
  • Critical resources can be acquired through VI
  • Improved coordination in supply chain
  • Greater market share
  • Secured distribution channels
  • Facilitates investment in specialized assets (site, physical-assets and human-assets)
  • New competencies

The downsides are fairly dire: you can spend so much time diversifying your workforce and strategy that all your businesses fall apart. If done wrong, vertical integration could result in multiple failures. Here’s a great diagram on the topic:

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In digital and specifically in South Africa we’ve not seeing much in terms of vertical integration. The only example I can think of in recent history is that of Mr Delivery being bought by Takealot in order to secure their distribution chain. In my mind this was a brilliant move as delivery is the weakest point of e-commerce businesses in South Africa. Again though, I can’t think of much more.

It would be interesting to see an agency in South Africa buying another, smaller agency in order to secure production or buying a media outlet to ensure preferential rates.

Fundamentally we’ve got an industry that’s still finding its feet so it’s going to be tough to start investing up or down your supply chain. The reality is that if I were a large digital business, I’d be jumping on opportunities such as this as it’s still cheap to buy into the digital industry.

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Getting involved with those around you

Recently I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a lot of interesting people. These interesting people also have interesting new projects they’re currently working on and it’s occurred to me that some really cool projects currently happening. I find that speaking to people about their projects is both interesting and inspiring for my own businesses.

Fortunately I’m getting to help various people with their projects and I wanted to share that with my readers.

Kirsty Sharman is the mind behind SuperHeroStuff. It’s a mixture of geekery, Superhero’s and gaming. I think what makes the site so unique is the fact that it’s a woman giving her input on general geekery rather than your typical horny man. At the moment I’m involved in helping shape content, a bit of strategy direction and increasing the amount of content. It’s a fun site and it’s only going to get bigger.

My friend Matt Hart is a storytelling genius. He understands the structure of a story as well as how to integrate it with business. He has a great blog on the topic (disclaimer, I also contribute) and the aim is to create a consultancy on helping businesses tell their story to their customers with more meaning and relevance. Storytelling is a massively popular topic at the moment not just because it’s a cool buzzword but due to the fact that humans are the best at understanding a product or sales pitch when wrapped in a story.

Another disclaimer here, I am involved in this business fairly full time but I’ve partnered up with Gary Meyer in order to help solve the recruitment problem with digital agencies in South Africa. We don’t provide staff, we provide a solution to your knowledge and people problems by getting involved on a daily basis to truly understand what your business requires in terms of staff and cultural fit.

So here’s my pitch: I wouldn’t have had these opportunities were it not for the chance meeting of these people. That brings me to my next point: I want to meet you. I don’t need to take ownership of your business but I want to hear about it and see where I can get involved. I’ve been called the “rolodex of the digital industry” and I love connecting people. Maybe nothing will come out of it, maybe we’ll get you further than before.

Email me.

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The business of hotel WiFi

I recently went to an event launching WiFi at all Tsogo Sun properties around the country. Press release blurb starts here:

In its ongoing quest to create great experiences, Tsogo Sun has installed high speed quality connectivity Wi-Fi in all its hotels that is free up to a varying data limit per room per day, depending on which grade of hotel the guest is staying in.

 

In Tsogo Sun’s Deluxe hotels, 750MB is free per room per day to in-house guests; in Southern Sun hotels, the cap is 500MB per room per day; in Garden Court hotels, the cap is 350MB per room per day; and in StayEasy hotels, the cap is 250MB per room per day. In all the hotels, these data limits are limited to a maximum of three devices per room. The free high speed, quality connectivity Wi-Fi service was launched in Tsogo Sun hotels at the start of June 2013, setting a new Wi-Fi standard in the hospitality industry in South Africa.

I think it’s a great move by Tsogo and while it might initially be painful it’s a step in the right direction. Tweeting about this led to an interesting debate: surely WiFi in a hotel is akin to having towels? Well the counter argument has two points:

  1. WiFi has always been a profit line item for a hotel. Suddenly you’re looking at tens of thousands of rands lost per month. That’s not insignificant in this economy.
  2. Not everyone uses the WiFi so surely it’s being subsidised for those that use it by those that don’t? Why should there be a small charge on my room for something I’m not using?

In the US WiFi is fairly common in hotels yet in Europe this isn’t always the case. After spending six months selling a hotel product related to marketing I can say that hotels only care about two things: Can you make more money or lower costs. WiFi doesn’t really fit either of those short term but it’s definitely a longer term goal that all hotels should aim towards. People will pick a hotel with free WiFi over another if the price or location isn’t that different.

It’s about time hotels and malls realise that WiFi is a people puller rather than an expense.

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The greatest storytellers of all time

In today’s “Slideshare Tuesday” we’re looking storytellers, more specifically the “Ten best storytellers of all time”. This brings me to another point, I’m big into storytelling lately and have a (what I think) great blog on the topic. Take a look at www.storyline.co.za for South Africa’s top blog on the topic. For now, enjoy the slideshow:

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Some thoughts on the launch of WeChat in South Africa

Chat messaging software WeChat is up against some tough competition in Africa. Off the top of my head there is BBM, iMessage, Whatsapp, Facebook Chat, Mxit and 2Go that are ridiculously popular around the content. The service that started in China recently went from 50 million to 70 million users outside China in just six weeks. In China there are over 300 million people using the service. Now, they’re coming to Africa:

Five months after launching in the US, in addition to operations in South America, Europe, Australia and its native Asia, Tencent’s newest focus is Africa, specifically the continent’s biggest economy. With the help of its partner Naspers—which holds a 34% stake in the Chinese firm—Tencent is targeting South Africa’s 50 million people with a marketing campaign to promote WeChat.

WeChat competes directly with other well-known companies like Google, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and LINE, with a suite of functions geared towards voice, video and text messaging. Its CEO, Pony Ma, has said that “internationalization is Tencent’s dream,” and it scored a major marketing coup this week by launching WeChat commercials featuring the internationally beloved footballer Lionel Messi.

This is fairly exciting considering the potential for smartphone growth in Africa. Internationally smartphone purchases have overtaken feature phones and we’re sure to see this trend expand into Africa around 2016. Considering that WeChat provides voice chat I’d say the network operators should be worried.

They’ve started a global campaign that features football superstar, Lionel Messi. He joins their impressive team of ambassadors, including musicians, artists, fashion icons and VIPs:

If you’re keen on getting videos, voice messages and photos from Messi, you can – by downloading WeChat and adding his official account ID: MessiOfficial. You can also win a copy of Fifa 13 for any platform if you leave a comment below.

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WeChat is free and offers unique features like a “Hold to Talk” feature, video chat, as well as image, video and music sharing. You can also choose to communicate one-on-one, or within closed social networks through the “Moments” feature.

With the might of Tencent and Naspers behind them, WeChat can only be massive.

Follow them on Facebook and Twitter to find out more about what they have to offer.