Monthly Archives: July 2009

Techno [cratic] [logy]

Ever heard of McWiLL? Probably not… and maybe you won’t even need to. McWiLL, which stands for multi-carrier wireless internet local loop, is a Chinese wireless technology that was recently annointed by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology to comete against WiMAX.

Launched a few years ago, the technology has not really made it to the market and it’s not sure that the recent government endorsement will provoke any change in the technology’s trajectory. More mature and widely deployed technologies offer strong resistance to technocratic technologies – note that it has already been sold to Sri Lanka, South Africa and Mongolia.

Such a pattern of “domestic technology adopted by a national champion and supported by the government” is well-established and manages to occupy small market niches on a regular basis. It is not bound to stop, unless the tight nexus of research-firm-government flies apart, which does seem to be on the horizon.

Bound to happen

It was bound to happen. Huawei – the Chinese national champion - is moving up in the race to becoing the top maker of telecommunication equipment as it just passed Alcatel-Lucent – the CEO makes no secret that he trusts the first place.

Not bad for a company founded by a retired army officer from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) which started importing PBX at the end of the 90s and introduced its first product in 1993. Huawei’s global strategy emerged rapidly with overseas sales surpassing domestic sales for first time in 2004. Its emphasis on R&D too: in 2009 it was named world’s top patent seeker by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

To many Huawei represents the model of competition to come from China: investment in R&D, transition from product manufacturer to solution provider, capture of markets in developing countries (mainly in Africa) before attacking more mature ones.

The invisible [.kp] attacks

According to the Guardian North Korea is suspected to have perpetrated a series of cyber-attacks on South Korean and American websites, including the Pentagone and the White House.

This may come as a surprise to those who thought Internet hadn’t reached the Hermit Kingdom. In fact the country-level domain name [.kp] was officially created in September 2007 and as of today it is rather difficult to find a website inside North Korea accesible from “the outside” – it is actually not clear as to what exists: a giant Intranet called Kwangmyong is supposed to offer browser, mail and news capabilities.

So is a cyber-attack from North Korea plausible? Probably not without the help of Chinese - collaboration already exists on the development of a firewall – or South Koreans supporter of the North.

P.S.: It looks like you can count the sites with a [kp]  extension on one hand. Even Naenara (http://www.naenara.kp/en/) IP address points to a German location…

No crisis in virtual worlds

It looks like the crisis has not hit virtual worlds. At least not in China where the online gaming industry is seeing an increase in sales. Sales – estimated at USD 2.7 billion for 2008 – are even said to outdo the combined revenues generated by films, television and audio-visual products!

The leading firms - Shanda, The9 and Giant – already have annual revenue above USD 200 million and are attracting strong interest from more traditional Internet players like NetEase, a major portal who just won the licence to run World of Warcraft in China. Growth is not about to stop either as the current 50 million online gamers are expected to double by 2013, with new segments including women, parents and even going “abroad”.

But the real question is whether Chinese online companies will be able to copy their counterparts in the real-world and move away from their reliance on the licensing of foreign online games to produce their own games.

A Central Bank for online currency?

The Chinese government has been looking into virtual currencies – defined as prepaid cards, prepaid currency and points - used for online gaming.

Regulations were draftet to strengthen the monitoring of the online gaming virtual currency. For instance virtual currency are banned from being exchanged for any real commodities or services offered by cyber game vendors.

Given the importance of online gaming in China – estimated at 200 million players – the potential for “value” creation and exchange is not trivial. Some game studios are even said to be turning profit from the trade of virtual currencies.

Has the time come to create a [world wide] central bank for online currencies?