Category Archives: Technology

Microsoft’s Bing in China

In the nerdosphere today Microsoft announced a new search engine, dubbed “Bing” to be launched next week. In China bing.com is redirecting to cn.bing.com – leaving many (nerds) guessing what the Middle Kingdom will get in terms of a search engine.

In Chinese, Bing could mean a number of things depending on which tone you say it in or what context:

病 bìng – disease, sick
兵 bīng – soldier/military
冰 bīng – ice/cold
饼 bǐng – cake
并 bìng – bring together/merge

I’m not sure how the masses will take to it but a Chinese n00b like myself most commonly uses bing like “Wo bìng le” – I am sick…

Anyway, it seems to have taken someone by surprise judging by this screenshot taken today:

picture-40

Shanzhai Eye: DIY helicopter

It’s one thing to Shanzhai a USB stick or SD card. Another to copy the iPhone. Amazing to see a whole F1 car made from scratch. But, a helicopter?

Update: Thanks to Swiss James for pointing out this story was last month’s news at Shanghaiist and
56minus1.com. 56minus1 even has an update on what happened to this gentleman after a recent crash.

That’s right, kids. Tell your friends that you heard it here 1st, 2nd, 3rd…much later!

Stop motion animation: Shanghai Auto Show

This is a short stop motion animation taken in front of the Volkswagon pavilion at the Shanghai Auto Show last week. A few less than obvious things to note from the clip:

  • The HD screen in the background was amazingly huge and clear.
  • There are models walking up and down the stage in front of the HD screen during this clip.
  • Volkswagon were promoting green cars while people visiting the pavilion were sweating under the spotlights.
  • I probably should have used a tripod.

The music in the clip is a Beijing band called New Pants. Check them out.

Shanzhai Eye: The Hi-Phone

Make no mistake about it, Shanzhai (fake) phones are big business in China. According to some in the local mobile industry, shanzhai phones make up between 20-30% of the market in China. If you take the industry figure of 650 million mobile subscribers in the middle kingdom then you’re looking at a ballpark figure of 160 million shanzhai phones.

hiphone

To put that in perspective, my native country – Australia – has pretty much reached mobile phone saturation point at roughly 20 million mobile phones. That’s roughly 1 per person.

Other than pointing out Australia is a big country that’s sparsely populated, my point is, this is a huge market. And its estimated the shanzhai market will get bigger if the figure of 1 billion phones in China by 2013 is realised. That could mean a quarter of a billion shanzhai phones.

While device manufacturers like Apple and Nokia may not be too impressed by this, its not a huge worry for other stakeholders in the market – content creators and carriers. In fact, shanzhai phones probably create a great deal of money for those groups. Also, shanzhai phone making employs and gives many innovative people an income.

What I find interesting is the ability for these creators to work so fast on new innovative features and bring them to market. Even the direct copies of branded phones bring their own set of innovative features to the table – iPhone copies with shake shuffle and dual sim cards for example.

Whether these phones work as well as industry-tested phones is debatable, and whether they are as safe, and the companies that make them are accountable for creating safe phones is questionable. Like anything bought on the shady market: Caveat emptor.

The next question is how other countries such as Australia, India, USA, Europe, Africa and so on will respond to Shanzhai phones being exported. Will network providers work together with phone creators to require greater authentication to connect to networks? Will it lead to greater vendor lock-in?

Or, should users have the right to Shanzhai phones? And what’s the difference between Shanzhai and the Google Android powered Lenovo Ophone?

As an example of how well built some of these phones are here is the Hi-Phone:

Kung Fu Cyborg

I hope you’re sitting down, or have a book handy to hide pending excitement, because there’s a new movie hitting cinemas soon – “Metallic Attraction: Kung Foo Cyborg”. Here’s the English trailer:

We’re not quite sure what the movie is about but the trailer says its a romantic sci-fi set in a future where the “East has ascended” and features scenes from Shanghai, Asian Robot Police, and mysterious Taichi magic.

Directed by Jeffrey Lau, the 14 million dollar film promises to be a lot more fun than the clunky Transformers 2 movie. In fact, Lau pretty much says the Transformers are a bunch of pussies.

“When I saw SPIDER-MAN, SUPERMAN and BATMAN, I wondered why we don’t have similar superheroes in China. I burst out laughing when watching TRANSFORMERS. The effects were amazing but the robots didn’t know how to fight. So I decided our Chinese superheroes should be kung fu experts,” Lau said in a recent interview.

The film is due out some time in the northern hemisphere’s summer and will go head-to-head with Transformers and the new Terminator movie. Will this be China’s Star Wars moment when they take over the western box office?

Judging from this trailer – I hope so.

China’s top 50 Websites

China: the world’s largest population of Interweb users. But what’s going on inside the great firewall and what are people interested in?

This is a complex question to answer for a number of reasons; poor industry data, poor publisher’s data, data manipulation, and lack of industry standard measurements. However, one can find a general primer through the use of Google Ad Planner, a free tool (currently in beta) for online marketers researching websites to advertise on. While an interesting tool to use, I don’t think it’s a one-stop shop to find in-depth answers about users in various categories or regions – not just in China but also Australia/US/UK after looking through some data.

According to Google the data is “estimated based on an automated analysis of millions of search queries and site visits,” and combines information from Google opt-in external consumer data panel data, third-party market research, opt-in anonymous Google Analytics data and aggregated search data.

Having seen some of the actual traffic figures from a handful of the sites below I can confirm it is indeed an estimate and not 100% accurate. However, it’s not a bad primer if you’re looking for educated guesses on the overall, big picture view of China’s Web landscape.

The following table is a simplified view of the top 50 Web sites in China according to the Google Ad Planner for February 09:


Site Name Audience Reach Country Unique Users Country Page Views
baidu.com 91.6 160000000 27000000000
qq.com 74.6 130000000 20000000000
sina.com.cn 62.4 110000000 8700000000
163.com 42.8 73000000 5900000000
sohu.com 39.4 68000000 4900000000
soso.com 35.1 60000000 1400000000
tudou.com 34.9 60000000 2100000000
xunlei.com 32.5 56000000 2300000000
youku.com 32.2 55000000 3300000000
hao123.com 29 50000000 2500000000
gougou.com 26.4 45000000 1300000000
taobao.com 26.3 45000000 10000000000
ku6.com 26.3 45000000 960000000
yahoo.com 23.7 41000000 2200000000
sogou.com 16.6 28000000 790000000
xinhuanet.com 16.5 28000000 490000000
pconline.com.cn 14.8 25000000 590000000
tianya.cn 14.7 25000000 790000000
tom.com 13.6 23000000 800000000
cctv.com 13.5 23000000 490000000
ifeng.com 13.4 23000000 2100000000
zol.com.cn 12.5 24000000 650000000
skycn.com 12.2 21000000 170000000
pcpop.com 11.3 19000000 370000000
xiaonei.com 11.2 19000000 4800000000
people.com.cn 11.2 19000000 370000000
6.cn 11 19000000 210000000
4399.com 10.3 18000000 720000000
xici.net 10.3 18000000 190000000
mop.com 10.2 18000000 370000000
126.com 10.1 17000000 640000000
51.com 9.4 16000000 1400000000
live.com 9.3 18000000 1100000000
hexun.com 9.2 16000000 450000000
eastmoney.com 8.6 15000000 1200000000
alibaba.com 8.5 15000000 1000000000
pomoho.com 8.5 15000000 120000000
39.net 8.4 14000000 250000000
pps.tv 8.3 14000000 340000000
baixing.com 7.8 13000000 140000000
china.com 7.8 13000000 540000000
pplive.com 7.7 13000000 120000000
msn.com 7.7 13000000 370000000
alimama.com 7.7 13000000 230000000
vnet.cn 7.7 13000000 210000000
onlinedown.net 7 12000000 80000000
douban.com 7 12000000 540000000
it168.com 7 12000000 190000000
4399.net 6.9 12000000 600000000
pchome.net 6.9 12000000 280000000

Video: Lenovo’s Android phone for China

According to Engadget this is a hands-on video of Lenovo’s Ophone, a new smart phone powered by Google’s Android operating system.

According to reports this iPhone wannabe will run on China’s TD SCDMA (China’s home-grown 3G standard) and be available through China Mobile. When? We’re not sure, but, possibly before Apple’s rumored release of the iPhone in May.

Embed and share Google Music playlists

The big music news in China last week was the launch of Google Music – a free service allowing users in the mainland to download or stream more than a million licensed songs. Yes, you heard that right – FREE.

Finding FREE MP3s to stream and download isn’t exactly news, right? The difference here is that Google have the authorisation from 140 label partners including the big 4 major labels – Warner Music Group, Universal Music, EMI and Sony Music Entertainment. Google’s revenue model is to sell advertising around the service and split the profits amongst the labels. Presumably, a portion of that amount sees the artists. We hope.

While it’s seemingly a blow to the potential introduction of paid services like iTunes or Amazon in China the move is said to be less about the music and more of a strategic play against search rival Baidu. Google currently trails Baidu as the search engine of choice in China.

The catch? It’s only available to users on a mainland China IP address. For nerds or technically savvy folks this is probably a small hurdle to circumvent.

Get Started

To get started with Google Music you’ll need to get familiar with the interface. The site is in Chinese but its fairly easy to see what’s going on. George Godula from Web2Asia has put together a comprehensive overview of what you’ll need to know to get started:

Embed and share your playlists

Now that you’ve got the basics out of the way there’s a neat trick to allow you to embed and share your playlists to put on a blog, forum, or website. It’s a handy way for others to listen and download (legally!) songs they might like.

1. Find the code

Once you’ve got a handle on Google Music and created a playlist of songs its simply a matter of finding the < embed > tag’s content in the page source. To do this right click on the playlist in your favourite browser and “view source”. Scroll through the code until you find the < embed > tag and copy the whole line as shown below.

picture-24

2. Paste the embed tag

Next you’ll need to paste the embed tag on your blog, website, or favourite forum. The code will be rather long but don’t worry. Paste it in and hit preview. If the player is shown with your music then you’ve done it. If the player doesn’t fit quite right you may need to follow step 3.

3. Resize the player

The player is rather big and might take some tweaking to fit properly on your website. They key is to change a few paramaters at the end of the < embed > tag code. At the very end of this tag, past all the gobblygook code is the following bit of code you can change:

picture-23

Simply change “noscale” to “scale”, then change the height and width of the player in % or pixels. For the example below I’ve chosen a pixel height of 450 and a width of 550. Change around with those settings until the player looks right on your site.

4. Rock

As God, Bon Scott said “Let there be Rock!”

Update: I have a feeling the content in the player might expire after a week or two.

Shanzhai Eye: Marlboro Phone

This week on Shanzhai Eye: Take one poisonous habit and a rising emotional attachment addiction, mash it up, and you get this ingenious invention – the cigarette pack phone.

What looks like a regular packet of Marlboro Reds, dubbed “Cowboy killers”, is in fact a phone in disguise with the ability to hold at least 1 cigarette.

Remembering to pack your ciggies and phone at the same time can be such a hassle – not to mention the pants space both items occupy at the same time. Forget the iPhone. Dump your Blackberry. Look out for the Marlboro phone at a market near you.

What does IE 8 say about Web development in China?

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) was released late last week – another browser, “whoop-dee-do”, right? Well maybe, but, the new browser release is an interesting insight into the way Web development seems to happen in China.

In non-geek speak the new browser uses a new rendering engine which more closely follows open standards such as the Firefox and Safari browsers. This will, and has, caused many popular sites to break around the world – including Microsoft’s own sites. To combat this problem the Redmond company has released an ‘incompatibility list’ which display sites in ‘non-standards’ mode if the tool is downloaded and installed. To keep it simple, ‘non-standards mode’ reverts to the old rendering engines of previous Internet Explorer browsers – IE6 and IE7.

It’s a useful feature, but, what is striking about the list is the high amount of Chinese Web sites on it. Many are high traffic Web sites in China which haven’t updated their code to work with IE 8. For example the recent list included Tencent, Baidu, Sogou, Ku6, Tudou, YouKu, ZDNet China, Taobao, NetEase, 163.com, QQ, and Google China.

I’m not quite 100% sure of the reason; Is it lazy coding? Is it too soon to upgrade the code? Was there not enough testing time? Developers too busy with other priorities, Were Microsoft’s communication channels to Web developers in China poor? Is Internet Explorer 8 not worth targeting in China compared to other browsers? Are Web developers in China poor at building sites that comply to open Web standards?

It’ll be interesting to see where this goes in China, the world’s largest Internet population, in terms of market share for Microsoft. Not only does Redmond have to compete with Firefox, Chrome, and Safari but other browsers popular in China such as Maxthon.

I won’t publish the full list of incompatible Web sites here, because, they are constantly changing, but you can download the most current file from Microsoft here.

Will China vote Ying or Yi for the “Best Job in the World”?

Meet Yao Yi, a 30-something year old from Guangdong, and Yu Ying, a media professional and documentary maker from Beijing. They’re the lucky Chinese candidates shortlisted from over 34,000 YouTube video entries submitted from all over the globe for the ‘best job in the world’ – Caretaker of the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef.

And now its in the hands of the world’s biggest Web population to vote one of them to join the Wonka tour interview in person for the job on Australia’s Hamilton Island.

The worldwide marketing campaign set up by Queensland Tourism, a group set up to promote tourism in Australia’s north-east state, was initiated to find a suitable caretaker and spokesperson for the world heritage marine park. Responsibilities will include; Exploring the islands of the Great Barrier Reef to discover what the area has to offer; report back via weekly blogs, photo diary, and video updates; Feed the fish; Clean the pool; Collect the mail via the aerial postal service. Sounds tough, right?

To be in the running job applicants had to create a YouTube video on why they should have ‘The Best Job in the World’. The carrot set the Internet abuzz via various online social networks and even coverage on TV, radio, and print around the world.

Within the last week the top 50 shortlisted applicants representing over 22 countries, including Ying and Yi from China, have been announced. Queensland Tourism will choose the top 10 applicants based on their own judgement but the final wildcard position will be decided by Internet voters around the world. The successful top 11 will be flown to the Great Barrier Reef for the last round of face-to-face interviews to determine who gets the final job. Oh, and for their trouble, the winner will get a salary of $150,000 Australian dollars – a lot of $USD money until a few months ago.

At the time of writing, Yi and Ying were a long way from the lead and sitting in 13th and 14 respectively. Clare from Taiwan is out in front with a country mile lead of votes. The question is, can China’s netizens – the biggest Web population in the world – rally behind Yi and Ying and get one of them to the top?

To vote visit the Web site http://www.islandreefjob.com. Voting closes March 24. The site is in a variety of languages, including simplified Chinese. Two thumbs up to Tourism Queensland for an interesting – and so far successful – online campaign to promote Australian tourism.

Here are the video applications:

Yao Yihttp://chinadiver.blogspot.com/

Yu Ying