LG Readies Tablet and Smartphone Incursion

The afore-quiet LG is plunging into the smartphone world, announcing today that they would launch 10 smartphones and sell five million devices by the end of 2010.

If that doesn’t impress, they are also releasing a new tablet that Chang Ma, the marketing man for LG, says is going to top the iPad.

The company is scuttling to catch up with industry competitors who have been riding the premium-phone wave for some time now. The Optimus smartphone line is their prospective engine.

LG’s tablet computer will be marketed globally by the end of the year too. The software base for the tablet, also called the Optimus, will be Google Android, and it varies from the iPad in that users can create content rather than just view it.

The LG tablet will gravitate around tools that allow document writing, editing and video creation.

The move likely comes from the company’s recognition that the feature phone market is becoming saturated. In America, for example, about 77 percent of people are already mobile subscribers. Profits no longer amount from increasing subscriber penetration like they used to. In a user-end driven market, companies increasingly need to compete with premium phones like Androids and iPhones. And though LG is the third-largest handset maker, the company is clearly playing catch up.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the company’s share of the smartphone market was 1.2 percent in the second quarter of this year, and in July, LG’s handset unit reported a 31 percent decline amid the smartphone frenzy.

LG will be making a dramatic push though. Starting with the Optimus One, which will launch through 120 operators, the execs at LG have a carefully tailored marketing plan.

Quoted in the WSJ, Chang Ma, the marketing man for LG, said the Optimus One will be a gateway smartphone for people who have not yet owned one—an indication that the company is going for simplicity off the bat.

As of yet there is no official word that they will be pitching their tablet with a wireless provider, yet some analysts predict that it will likely have one.


Virtually Dining Out

Zagat, Foursquare, and Foodspotting have several things in common.  They are all about restaurants and food, they are fueled by consumer interaction, they each have a smartphone app, and now they are combined together in the newly released iPhone app, ‘Zagat to Go’.

Zagat is known for its reviews and ratings of restaurants, and the new app is a mobile, up to date version for iPhone users.  With the integration for Foursquare, users can now “check in” to Zagat to Go when they eat somewhere.  The app keeps track of the checkins, as well as any user submitted opinions.

Along with professional reviews and user comments, Zagat to Go is integrated with Foodspotting, an app that includes pictures of thousands of restaurant’s menus.  Foodspotting--and now Zagat to Go--allows users to take pictures of the food they order to share on the app.

The Zagat app follows a trend of integrating smartphones and mobile apps with user locations and GPS coordinates, with the hopes of providing as much information about a place as possible without having actually been there yet. 

Chinese Telecom Market in Perspective

News hit this week that China’s economy surpassed Japan’s and took the number two spot. Newspapers were ablaze describing the different implications and quoting experts for insight and projections. At AccuConference, all the uproar got us thinking about the implications for the Telecommunications sector.

Telecom infrastructure is necessary for economic growth as it facilitates the communication between other industries; therefore, coming off the economic downturn, the implications for telecom couldn’t be greater. This need is reflected in the global telecom spending as a share of GDP.

According to an industry review by The Insight Research Corporation (IRC) global telecom spending as a share of GDP went from 2.5 percent in 1990 to 4.8 percent in 2006. By 2013 it is supposed to jump to 5.9 percent. This growth has resulted in worldwide revenues of $1.9 trillion and is projected to leap to $3.7 trillion by 2015.

Amid this impressive compound growth, different regions of the world account for different growth rates. The lowest is the Europe/Mid East/Africa region, which is slowed because of poor conditions in much of the Middle East and wireless saturation in Europe. By contrast, the Asia-Pacific region has the fastest overall compound annual growth rate, with 17.9 percent.

This region is buoyed most vigorously by China. With a burgeoning middle class and surging GDP rates overall, Chinese telecommunications companies are aggressively broadening their broadband penetration.

The industry review by the IRC expects the growth of telecommunications in the Asia Pacific Region, which has strong contributions from India, to surpass that of North America this year, making it the region producing the most revenues in the world.

Factors driving this include the massive underserved population and the turning of China into a consumer-driven economy, a feat that the Government is adamantly advocating and directly pursuing through policy choices.

For example, the Chinese government is investing heavily in infrastructure and has devoted $586 million in government pump spending to development. A good portion of this stimulus is devoted to telecommunication projects.

Just for a frame of reference: China Mobile, the largest mobile company in the country, had a total subscriber base of 554.04 million subscribers by the end of June 2010. The entire population of the United States is less than 400 million. Despite this massive base, China Mobile signed up 31.8 million people in the first six months of this year. These numbers are from this WSJ report.

When all of the mobile subscribers are tallied across all providers, the number reaches nearly 800 million.

Despite this, the big three providers—China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom—have their problems, namely in that their growth is starting to wane.

To maintain growth, the companies have strategized to attract users to third generation mobile, which is meant to generate profits and curb the $21 billion spent rolling out the 3G service.

China Mobile posted $4.7 billion in net profit for the quarter from April through June.

Nonetheless, The New York Times reports that China Mobile faces a struggle forward, as competition for and saturation of subscribers increases.


American Airlines Charges Extra For Front-Row Seats

American Airlines announced a new plan today that will charge passengers who want to sit in the first two or three rows, including bulkhead, extra.

The product, called the “Express Seats Option,” will beguile customers into paying from $19 to $39 to sit in the first rows, which typically represent prime aircraft real estate.

According to the AA site, the extra charges include Group 1 of general boarding priority.

To use AA’s word, the “option” of purchasing the tickets is extended to all AA passengers and can be purchased via airport Self-Service Check-In machines 24 hours to 50 minutes prior to flight departure time.

This is the third program AA has launched under the “Your Choice” initiative, following Group 1 stand-alone service, which allows passengers to be among the first to board, and the boarding and flexibility package that works like insurance against flight-change charges, and early flight standby options.

"Express Seats” is another tactic for generating extra revenue.

Some critics of the plan point out that the said “option” is merely charging for seats that used to be free before, which means passengers are paying for perks that used to be included in base rates.

AA spokesman Tim Smith told the Star-Telegram that AA may begin charging for other perks in the future, depending on the outcome of this move.

Also, American’s move may be a forebear that other airlines will be watching, meaning passengers may see the stratagem being practiced across other carriers in the future.

Airlines Surge on Surcharges, Fees

Airlines are trying to make the most out of the surge in travel demand, and in many cases, the travelers are the ones paying.

First, travelers can expect to pay as much as $60 in surcharges when booking certain flights in the U.S. in the course of summer and holiday travel.

According to Bloomberg, industry experts say that there are 49 days with surcharges in the five months from August to Dec.31.

Surcharges will be seen Aug.1 to Aug. 22; Sept. 2 and 3; the two days before Labor Day weekend; Nov. 19 to Nov. 29, which are Thanksgiving travel days, and Dec. 17 to Dec. 31, except for Christmas Day, according to the Bloomberg article.

Surcharges began in 2009 when carriers like Delta Air Lines Inc. and American Airlines figured out they could boost fares on peak travel days to skim greater profits. Airlines have traditionally boosted rates on peak demand days, but carriers switched to surcharges because they could levy separate charges to make more money rather than change the actual base rates. So, with surcharges, the price to fly goes up, but the base rate stays the same. It’s basically a simplification process for the airlines, saving them the burden of raising millions of base prices on certain days only to change them back to the original rate on other days.

Also, pricing rules did not allow the extra amount to be added onto certain days until 2009, according to the Bloomberg article.

The problem is, it results in less transparency for the passengers, and the fares are often hidden in the transaction.

For example, to find surcharges, passengers must look up their total ticket price, realize a disconnect between the base fare and the surcharge, then scroll through the fine print on the “fare rules.”

Carriers Southwest, JetBlue Airways Corp., and AirTran Holdings Inc. and Virgin America Inc. don’t use surcharges.

In addition passengers will incur more traveling costs through ancillary fees.

Airlines found these fees—checked baggage, Internet, in-flight Wi-Fi—to be great mechanisms for boosting profit during the economic slump beginning in 2007. In 2009 these fees amounted to $7.8 billion in revenues.

They aren’t going anywhere. The International Air Transport Association says the global airline industry is poised to make $58 million through 2010.

These fees, too, pose transparency difficulties, as many passengers are realizing that air travel cost is going up, but not only because of surcharges.

So, when the Bureau of Transportation Statistics released its 1st-quarter 2010 air fare data, saying that fares increased 4.7 percent from the previous year, they were correct; base fares did go up. But, this number did not account for baggage check fees or in-flight meals or, in some cases, charges for extra leg room—services that airlines used to include in their airfares.

So, it appears that caveat emptor couldn’t be more relevant when it comes to traveling via the skies through the rest of 2010.


Offshore Drill Sites Embrace Telemedicine

Telemedicine via Web conferencing is playing an increasingly important role for workers on remote oil rigs by staving off unwarranted evacuations and providing timely assistance to injuries and illnesses.

Though disasters of magnitude close to the Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico don’t happen frequently, off-shore rig workers often work 12 hour days lifting heavy and dangerous equipment. Workers typically work in four-week cycles, where two weeks are devoted to toiling and two weeks are spent recouping on terra firma. The reason for that break is because of the nature of the work: exhausting and remote.

Until recently, workers who became injured or sick would be reviewed by on-site nurses or paramedics who would telephone diagnostics to physicians on shore. Without the ability to examine the rig worker visually, they would often require that the worker be evacuated, a measure that was safe, yet costly.

Now, broadband has become cheaper, rigs are connected to the Internet, and companies have realized that video conferencing can, in many cases, provide sufficient visual evidence to diagnose injured or sick patients. In several instances this can save timely and costly evacuations of workers who didn’t actually need emergency evacuation. Also, in dire cases, emergency technicians on shore can see electrocardiograms or laboratory tests quickly, allowing them to more accurately assess the patient and determine the emergency care.

According to a recent report in Telemedicine and e-health programs at universities such as George Washington (GW) and the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston (UTMB) saw more than 80,000 patients over videoconference last year. Though the report doesn’t make clear exactly how many of these were rig workers, it suggests that a good portion call in from the platforms.

In addition, drilling contractors using video conferencing for medical ends exist virtually all over the world, from the South China Sea to the Atlantic off of Brazil and the Caribbean.

According to the report, the potential oil-industry market includes 322 active drilling rigs and about 1,000 occupied platforms.

Alexander Vo, the executive director of the Center for Telehealth Research and Policy at UTMDB, said in the report that the merging of medicine and telecom has not only been beneficial for employee health but has been a cost cutter for corporations too.

“Oil rigs do not have medical specialists on board,” he said. “So telemedicine is a means to bringing specialists on board and treating the patients.”

The GW maritime program reports treating everything from bumps and bruises to asthma and cardiac arrest via two-way videoconferencing. Offshore platforms call in to a call-handling center, which forwards the call to a team of physicians, who then diagnose the problem.

According to the report, one company, called InPlace Medical resolves 80- to 85 percent of the situations without evacuating the patient.

Lead Your Meeting

When you need to have a meeting about small group projects or announce updates to company policy, it is the perfect reason to hop on a conference call. With the smaller call and less people on the phone, you might have the feeling that you can kick off the formalities and let it get a little casual right?

Wrong. Just because it’s a smaller conference call doesn’t mean that you don’t need some structure. Is full on lecture mode needed for calls with four or five people? Probably not, but you are still going to want to give the people you’re inviting some little pointing in the right direction. Sometimes, encouraging things to be a little more casual can cause everything to be a little more chaotic.

Here are some helpful tips to keeping the peace without having to slap on the lecture mode and make people take turns.

  • Prior to the meeting, send out an agenda, even if it is brief. Include objectives to keep everyone on task and encourage others to suggest what else might need to be covered.
  • Invite only the people who are necessary to attend the conference. For company policy updates, you might consider just inviting the managers and letting them filter the news to their employees.
  • It will help to keep down on the clutter.
  • Encourage everyone on the conference to participate, so that no one has to listen to one person talk endlessly. With that being said, don’t be afraid to stand up against argumentative and disagreeable types. When you have an open call, everyone should take turns, otherwise as the leader you can just press the lecture mode command and shut everyone up.

Remember that every meeting and conference call doesn’t have to be super serious and include full PowerPoint presentation. You can keep things orderly and effective by providing a little bit of structure even when the conference is really small. Are you planning for your small conferences in advance or just playing them by ear?

Windows Phone 7 Boasts Xbox Live Gaming

The Microsoft Phone 7 demonstrated a host of Xbox Live titles on August 16, confirming that gaming will be at the forefront of the WP7 platform.

In fact, Microsoft’s Game Studios will house a group specifically devoted to developing games and recruiting Indie game developers for the WP7.

Among the 50 games slated to come out at the launch date are popular titles such as Halo Waypoint, Star Wars, Guitar Hero 5 and Crackdown 2. There are also new games like ilomio, and new offerings are supposed to crop up every week in the Xbox Live Marketplace.

People who have demoed the phone’s gaming, such as these from Engadget, have said the graphics and response time are comparable to the iPhone4 and iPad, though sometimes the load time is said to be slow—which may be attributable to the phone’s still being a work in progress.

Another interesting aspect is the fully rendered Avatar that will appear on users’ WP7 Live accounts. Each person’s Avatar is fully customizable from clothing to props, and is used to designate a player’s stats in the realm of live. This is a really cool feature in games where users compete because players can track their friends (or enemies!) and compare scores and records.

As of yet, there is no head-to-head multiplayer action; each game requires that users take turns.

The Avatar also interacts with basic phone utilities like flashlight, apps, levels and the gyroscope, meaning that it holds your flashlight, falls if you shake the phone, or hops from side to side as you turn it.

Microsoft also plans to integrate some of the phone’s capabilities into the gaming environment. For example, according to Engadget, games like Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst will use Bing maps to create levels.

Also of note, players will be allowed to demo games in the Xbox Live Marketplace before spending their money on them.

TI’s Buyout Expands Intel’s Atom Processor Reach

Intel has announced it will expand its Digital Home Group with Texas Instrument’s Cable Modem manufacturing division in a buyout during the fourth quarter of 2010. Intel’s wants to further develop its “system-on-chip” line of products, and the acquisition of TI’s Puma technology gets it closer to that goal.

Earlier this year Intel entered the “living room market” with Google TV, a screen that blends TV and the internet--and was developed around Intel’s Atom processor. The Atom is a low-cost, low-power chip normally found in mobile computers.

After Google TV and the Texas Instruments cable modems, Intel will look to putting its Atom chips into other consumer electronic devices such as set-top boxes, blu-ray players, companion boxes, and residential gateways.

But Intel plans don’t stop in the living room. The Atom processor was designed for smartphones and TVs, but also for future emerging devices, even cars. Basically, to have “microprocessors where there weren’t before.”

Facing Your Fear

This past Friday night, I did something very out of character for me. I turned off all the lights and watched a scary movie. Not just any scary movie – the original Nightmare on Elm Street. Since I was five, I have been deathly afraid of Freddy Krueger. As a child, I couldn’t see Robert Englund or I would burst into tears. My brother wasn’t allowed to wear his striped sweater because it made me cry. When you’re five, you rationalize things in a very strange way. For me, it was about a man who came in your dreams, and I would have nightmares about him. It was very real for me.

What I found after watching Nightmare was that Freddy was lame. Maybe it was the cheap 1980s graphics and special effects, or perhaps it was Johnny’s Depp’s hair, but I am no longer scared. I don’t plan on going out and renting all of the Nightmare films, but I won’t need to hide my face from him anymore.

Did you know the number one fear of the average person is public speaking? The old school of thought would tell you to picture everyone in their underwear to kick this fear, but I have to be honest – that just tends to make things seem more awkward. Here are a couple of ways you can approach facing your fear – and everyone can keep their pants on.

  1. Don’t try to ignore the fear – it never makes it any better. You’ll be much more productive stepping up and facing the fear.
  2. Take small steps. If you have stage fright, it’s a bad idea to throw yourself into the running for speaking at something like SXSW. Start smaller, like a chapter of a local business group or even your church. Get used to being in front of people before you really put the pressure on.
  3. Remember that nervous people will sweat. Sounds gross right? Tough luck – sometimes, nerves can overshadow the power of your deodorant, and there’s nothing quite as embarrassing as being “un-sure”. You might think about wearing dark colors, just to lessen your worries by one.
  4. Eat something! It’s easy to not eat before you do something you’re afraid of, because you’re a tightly wound ball of nerves, but if you don’t eat, I promise you won’t be happy. Don’t pass out on stage.
  5. Think positive thoughts about yourself. Don’t just focus on your speech contents, but on yourself – are you having a good hair day? Are your shoes amazing? Did you buy a new outfit that you really love? It’s all about confidence and giving yourself a little boost will help you get out there and face your fear.

When I was watching Nightmare, I had a five year old part of me screaming into a blanket and hiding her chubby little face. I recognized her, I respect that scared little girl, but I was determined to conquer my fear. It paid off for me and Freddy is just a movie character. If you can overcome your fear of public speaking you can open all kinds of doors for yourself. Have you already battled your stage fight and overcome it? What did you do that first time to help ease your nerves?