A third wave of H1N1? We'll know in a few weeks

The predictions have been out there for some time that we would get a third wave of this most recent novel H1N1 pandemic.  Previous pandemics have behaved similarly, and the idea that H1N1 will ‘obey’ the general flu season is something that was shot to hell as it spread around during the last Summer.  Still, predictions are never perfect. With that in mind, it’s quite interesting to look at Google’s new city-by-city flu map.  If you chart the current H1N1 levels across the nation on the grid, and then superimpose the data for the last three years or so, you’ll see we’re pretty much in the same place we were at this time during other flu outbreaks, and that February is generally a pretty bad time for the normal seasonal flu. We’ve all got our shots and boosters so we’re in a pretty good position right now.  With our upcoming travel plans I’m pretty glad everyone is immunized given the long hours and tiny plane I expect we will be flying to the other side of the world.]]>

So just how much money is there in search in China?

Of course with yesterday’s “New Course” announcement there has been a lot of talk about Google surrendering the market to Baidu or other search engines in China.  But I was curious and decided to take a quick look at the numbers right now for revenues in search in China.  I was actually quite surprised at how little is being made there.  And as I thought about it, I realized this really isn’t about money at all, when you start to take this up the ladder to the global politics that might soon come into play. Baidu (BIDU) brings in about 3,194,000,000 in RMB per year, or about $467 million dollars annually.  This comes from revenue from search (i.e. ads) but also from subscriptions services offered by Baidu, some of which are notorious for providing links to copyright violating material (think Napster-like). Google (GOOG) has revenues worldwide of about $21,795,000,000 US$ per year.  This works out to about $419 million per WEEK.   So, even if Baidu was to explode tomorrow, and Google get all the of the revenues formerly received by their competitor, you’d be looking at something like a 2% increase in the overall revenue picture for Google.  Given that Google has only about 1/3 of the search traffic in China, you have to figure they are not bringing in more than $100-$150 million in total revenue from their operations there. For Google, that’s just chicken feed.  They spend more than that on green tech projects as sort of a side business. You have to start to look at the value of the Google brand, such as Gmail’s security, Google’s overall public relations (which is scoring a major coup today) and some new projects like the reliability of Android, Chrome and the GPhone.  These are multi-billion dollar projects in the future and with problems in China affecting the value of these brands, it starts to make sense, from a financial standpoint, to sacrifice Chinese search revenues for the long term value of the Google name. There is a lot of chest thumping on some of the nationalist messageboards in China, and I’ve even seen some posts saying that by leaving China, Google is going to hurt the overall US economy and continue the recession.  Some are playing this as Baidu beat Google at their own game, but the reality is probably a bit different than that.  Sure, Baidu has commanded a greater market share, but Google just went over their head and made it not Baidu v. Google but China v. Google.  In the worldwide court of public opinion, in which the reputation of “Brand China” and “Brand Google” are at risk, the issue of a few hundred million in search revenue grows even smaller.   The anti-China forces on Capitol Hill are now licking their chops.  There is a growing sense of an impending trade war and this spat may end up, in the long run, costing China, Inc BILLIONS should the negative perception of the Chinese government continue to grow and develop into economic sanctions of one sort or another.  China is starting the year as the ‘bad boy’ for their actions in Copenhagen, and now they have this problem to deal with.  In a country in which face matters, the Chinese government is certainly paying quite a bit of attention to the steady stream of supportive press that Google is getting for thumbing their noses at the rules.  This is going to be interesting…]]>

Google: I'm shocked, shocked to find that evil is going on in here!

google-chinaWell this was not unexpected. Google has announced, on their English-language blog, that because of cyberattacks directed against certain human rights figures who use Google email accounts, Google is going to stop filtering their searches and if the Chinese government doesn’t like it, they are going to pull up stakes from China. I’m shocked, shocked to find that evil is going on in here. Google has never really been all that reliable in China.  The government is constantly interfering in search queries to google.cn, and the google site is frequently inaccesible within the country.  Baidu, Google’s clone in China, has frequently mucked about with Google’s operations in China, from being a tattle-tale about bad searches for porn to even more blatant (and quasi-illegal) actions behind the scenes and, possibly, under the table. Google has thrown down the gauntlet after a relatively minor event.  Some may say this is the straw that broke the camel’s back, but in reality, this whole thing, China-exit/Woo-the-world’s-press was sitting on a shelf waiting, just waiting for an excuse to be put into operation.  I just have to wonder, why today? While the Baidu folks and Chinese nationalists are screaming ‘we won’ the reality was it wasn’t necessarily a race that had to end on January 13, 2010.  I doubt Google’s China operations were costing that much vs. the cost of their revenues.  And generally, while a consistent black-eye to the company, there hasn’t been a flurry of anti-google PR in recent months for their operations in China. So I just have to wonder why January 13, 2010 is the date in which it all ‘just became too much’.  Is something else about to happen?  Was the writing on the wall that there was going to be some larger changes within China–some additional censorship or legal requirements?   We haven’t heard the full story, by a long stretch.  Perhaps in a few months I’ll get more details when I’m back in China, but for right now, the whole thing just seems a bit like an ‘excuse’ rather than a ‘reason’. UPDATE:  For what it is worth, Baidu’s revenues in China are approximately $450 million a year US.  Google’s revenue’s world wide are approximately $21 billion, or nearly 50 times larger.  Google makes in about a week what Baidu makes in a year, so walking away from the China market right now really isn’t going to hurt the bottom line.]]>

3D TV or Die: Television's last gasp gimmick to slow IPTV?

[/caption] So everyone who went to Vegas came back talking about 3D televisions, and I guess I probably should as well. The folks who saw 3D tv and who were awestruck basically fell into two categories:  gamers and sports fans.  The gamers were really excited about some of their favorite titles ending up in HD, and the sports fanatics were basically just a bunch of drooling jibbering idiots (according to Leo Laporte of Tech TV during one of his posts).  Oh yea, and porn too.  But we’re not going to go there. But it might also be about keeping one step ahead of the streaming IPTV services. Print never had a chance, music took solace (wrongfully) in the idea that mp3’s were of such an inferior quality that people wouldn’t give up CD’s for the sound, and radio went down a long dark road to HD nowhere thinking that was the solution to the problem (as they saw it).  TV moved up to HD quality a few years back, forcing everyone to buy a new television and forestalling, temporarily, the IPTV movement.  Just when bandwidth got to such a level to support some good quality streaming (such as Twit.tv) they raised the bar to a quality level that as some have said, once you have seen it is hard to go back to standard digital. But now HD streaming is becoming more and more popular.  Hulu is offering HD streams of TV programs, Youtube is as well.  There are TV programs such as FILMON that allows HD streaming of content that is pretty impressive for live quality. Perhaps this whole 3D thing is just another attempt to push the bar a bit higher–to differentiate IPTV from 3DHD.  Make it harder for the computer folks to keep up with what the television networks are offering, and you are able to stay in business a few more years as an over the air / cable broadcaster.  Stay alive until the new new thing is out, or until TV figures out streaming in such a way as they can make a decent profit from it and avoid the piracy concerns they have. Or maybe it is just a gimmick. As for me, no way I’m buying a 3D TV for at least a few product cycles (i.e. until they get a standard, and work out the kinks).]]>

Some cool things at CES missed by the major media

energyhub[/caption] D-link is a massive company that has network switches, routers, cameras and a ton of other things.  They’ve recently fixed their home security monitoring system to include energy systems, utilizing third party electrical plugs.  Honestly it felt like energy monitoring was a bit of an after thought for them, but apparently their system was nominated for the best in innovation award for CES.   Energyhub is the startup of the mix.  They have a nice display and outlet covers running over Zigbee.  They’ve closed a recent funding round and have another in the wings.  They will have some tough competition from the bigger players if they can’t get going fast enough, but their units looked very professional and ready for consumers to start buying.   Marvell   has a nice looking device that will be out in Home Depot shortly.  It works over wifi and displays the usage of all outlets and whatnot, along with also controlling your lawns sprinkler systems if you have such a thing.  They were the furthest along in development and said they will be in Home Depots sometime in the next few months, at a pretty low cost.   Oregon Scientific.  Looks very sexy but haven’t seen it in person yet. There are probably other devices out there, but I haven’t had a chance to meet them all.  What is really interesting about these devices is that eventually they will be in almost every home, regardless of whether you are geeky or not as new contractors and energy companies start to roll them out for consumer usage.   I’m going to the ‘Asia rooms’ today to meet with manufacturers of different things.  They might have some cool toys in there as well.  Follow my Twitter updates if you want to keep up with me real time.]]>

Did I crash the White House Oslo Peace Treaty Signing? I guess I might have, maybe.

Basically.

September 13, 1993.  The Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO were being signed at the White House and it was quite the event in Washington.  I was working for a Congressman and the invite came through for “The Congressman and his wife” to come to the White House and attend.
Well the Congressman’s wife didn’t feel like going, so my Chief of Staff called me in and said “You’re going.  You are the Congressman’s son in case anyone asks.  It’s been cleared with the White House.”  I said ok and that afternoon walked over to the House steps and met up with the boss.
“I’m to join you at the White House” I said.
“Are they (the White House) aware of that” he said.
“As far as I know”
“Ok, let’s get on the bus.”
When I was getting on the bus I was stopped by some harried staffer.
“Who are you?”
“I’m with him” I said, pointing to the boss.
“Do they (the White House) know about it?”
“Yea, it’s all cool at their end” I said.
That was it, on the bus, and she went back to dealing with more chaos on the steps.
So we got on this bus and had a police escort down the Mall to the White House 17th and E Street Entrance (back in the days before it was all closed down to traffic).  We pulled into West Executive Avenue and got off the bus, going straight onto the South Lawn of the White House, no metal detectors or X-rays or anything.  The Congressman headed toward the front and I said ‘see you later’.  I eventually found a seat quite a bit further back, sitting next to the Presidents of Howard, Georgetown and GWU universities.  I remember actually telling the Howard University President “My dad says I should go to your law school and try to get a minority scholarship” to which he laughed.  “Sure, send in an application.”  We chatted a bit more and he said “the White House loves to drags us (referring to all the other presidents) out for these sorts of things”.
Anyway, ruffles and flourishes and all that.  The famous handshake which my tiny camera got a very small picture of as people were jumping up cheering when it actually took place.  And then it sort of just broke up.  I walked back to the Congressional bus and sat next to a Congressman from Illinois (I don’t recall which, but we chatted some downstate Illinois stuff).  He was actually kind of impressed I was there saying he didn’t know staff were invited.  I just told him “we finagled it” not knowing if we really did or not.
Did they know about it?  Hell if I really knew.  I was going on faith it was all sorted, but my Chief of Staff never showed me an email or proof of that fact (this was in the days before email).  I do know I was never queried after I got on the bus, and walked right onto the grounds without anyone ever challenging me.  I guess they assumed someone at the Capitol sorted it all out and the Secret Service didn’t want to upset a Congressman.
In the end, it just shows that general fact:  if you look like you know what you are doing, most people will generally get out of your way and let you go do it.  I can’t tell you how many security guards / doorman I’ve just breezed past in DC and NY because I had ‘that look’ of someone who was supposed to be there.
So when I read about slight glitches here and there at the White House recently, I’m really not all that surprised.
[caption id="attachment_2676" align="alignright" width="300" caption="I was here, but much further away than this."]Rabin and Arafat[/caption] Basically. September 13, 1993.  The Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO were being signed at the White House and it was quite the event in Washington.  I was working for a Congressman and the invite came through for “The Congressman and his wife” to come to the White House and attend. Well the Congressman’s wife didn’t feel like going, so my Chief of Staff called me in and said “You’re going.  It’s been cleared with the White House.”  I said ok and that afternoon walked over to the House steps and met up with the boss. “I’m to join you at the White House” I said. “Are they (the White House) aware of that” he said. “As far as I know” “Ok, let’s get on the bus.” When I was getting on the bus I was stopped by some harried staffer. “Who are you?” “I’m with him” I said, pointing to the boss. “Do they (the White House) know about it?” “Yea, it’s all cool at their end” I said. That was it, on the bus, and she went back to dealing with more chaos on the steps. So we got on this bus and had a police escort down the Mall to the White House 17th and E Street Entrance (back in the days before it was all closed down to traffic).  We pulled into West Executive Avenue and got off the bus, going straight onto the South Lawn of the White House, no metal detectors or X-rays or anything.  The Congressman headed toward the front and I said ‘see you later’.  I eventually found a seat quite a bit further back, sitting next to the Presidents of Howard, Georgetown and GWU universities.  I remember actually telling the Howard University President “My dad says I should go to your law school and try to get a minority scholarship” to which he laughed.  “Sure, send in an application.”  We chatted a bit more and he said “the White House loves to drags us (referring to all the other presidents) out for these sorts of things”. Anyway, ruffles and flourishes and all that.  The famous handshake which my tiny camera got a very small picture of as people were jumping up cheering when it actually took place.  And then it sort of just broke up.  I walked back to the Congressional bus and sat next to a Congressman from Illinois (I don’t recall which, but we chatted some downstate Illinois stuff).  He was actually kind of impressed I was there saying he didn’t know staff were invited.  I just told him “we finagled it” not knowing if we really did or not. Did they know about it?  Hell if I really knew.  I was going on faith it was all sorted, but my Chief of Staff never showed me an email or proof of that fact (this was in the days before email).  I do know I was never queried after I got on the bus, and walked right onto the grounds without anyone ever challenging me.  I guess they assumed someone at the Capitol sorted it all out and the Secret Service didn’t want to upset a Congressman.  But was I really on the list?  To this date I don’t know. In the end, it just shows that general fact:  if you look like you know what you are doing, most people will generally get out of your way and let you go do it.  I can’t tell you how many security guards / doorman I’ve just breezed past in DC and NY because I had ‘that look’ of someone who was supposed to be there. So when I read about slight glitches here and there at the White House recently, I’m really not all that surprised.]]>