Monthly Archives: January 2011

A closer look at China

Thanks to tianditu.cn, one can now take a closer look at China.

Map World - overseen by the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping - is said to offer accuracy up to a resolution of 60 cm for more than 319 Chinese cities (as well as 3D maps in some of them). The site comes with the usual satellite view as well as street views. How does it compare with Google Maps? It really depends on your level of patience as Google displays images much faster. What about granularity? A look at Zhongnanhai (the center of power in Beijing) reveals that Google also has a slight advantage.

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Google Map

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Tianditu

So far, the rest of the world is only roughly covered. Let’s see how quickly Tianditu catches up with Google maps in terms of speed and accuracy and whether it will expand beyond Chinese boundaries.

Booth #13632

Anybody with an interest in technology looks forward to the annual CES meeting in Las Vegas - the world’s largest consumer technology tradeshow.

Among the usual suspects present at the fair, booth #13632 was occupied by Haier. One may be wondering what the Chinese company – one of the world’s leader in appliances such as minibars and washing machines – was doing there among the Samsung and Microsoft of this world. Well, Haier was unveiling a new range of internet-connected appliances – yes the domotic dream is still alive and the firm even partnered with Yahoo! Connected TV.

On one hand, it is not bad for a company founded in 1984 – the year the first Macintosh was released. On the other side, one is still waiting for Chinese firms to establish recognized brands in the consumer electronics market and come up with innovative products.

Maglev…is suspended

The project to link Shanghai to Hangzhou by a Magnetic Levitation train doesn’t look like it will be off the ground soon.

Despite getting the green light from the State Council more than 5 years ago, the project now seems shelved. There are some good reasons for that. First, the cost of the line (more than USD 5 billion) makes it hardly a good value proposition. In fact, even the line linking the Shanghai airport to the city will probably never bring a return on investment. Second, the proposed line faces stif  competition from the high-speed train linking Shanghai to Hangzhou. Among other, the gain in time between the two modes of transport would of less than 10 minutes. Finally, one has to remember that the initial Shanghai line was a pet project of Zhu Rongji’s administration intended, among others, to show the technological advancement of China (with Siemens technology).

Now that this hardly needs further proof, transport planners can get down to sustainable business while residents along the planned line see the spectre of relocation vanishing.

No Facebook in China

Not so long ago, one would look at NASA’s satellite to see what the earth looks like. Those stunning pictures are now rivaled by other visualization of the blue planet.

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If you look closer to the visualization of Facebook friendships you won’t fail to notice that one big chunk of humanity (no, not North Korea) is missing from the picture. How come No that the country that coined relationship (guanxi) is nowhere to be seen? Of course, the fact that Facebook is currently banned in China goes a long way in explaining the conspicuous absence – the recent trip of Facebook’s founder to China may not be unrelated to an attempt to unblock the service. But even then, some home-grown social network alternatives (like Kaixin and Renren) occupy that space and may give Facebook a run for its money.P.S.: For those wondering why Japan is also missing from the map, Japanese Netizens have a very different Internet culture in which users hide behind pseudonyms and nicknames

Chinese IT developments that made news in 2010

Just before New Year’s eve the Shanghai Daily ran the list of the top IT developments in China. They are in order of appearance (and with my comments):
- Foxconn’s vague of suicides (the days of cheap and silent labour may be counted)
- Google’s redirection of traffic to Hong Kong (censorship mixed with cyber-espionnage)
- Mobile applications and online stores (the Apple business model conquers China)
- Micro-blogging (65 millions would-be commentators of China’s socio-political evolution)
- Government-supported technology projects (bad habits die hard)
- No. 1 seat in the supercomputer race (more of a symbolic than actual technological feat)
- Debut of the iPad (Apple conquers China redux)
- Overseas IPO wave (in China too technology means serious business)
- The battle between Tencent and 360 (privacy matters)
- Tang Jun’s academic scandal (fraud from a posterchild of China’s  IT industry).