November 2012
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Month November 2012

On Capital Spending's Transformation of the Electronics Industry – YouTube

Asymco’s Horace Dediu on Capital Spending’s Transformation of the Electronics Industry – YouTube.


A video of Horace Dediu’s presentation at IBM’s Electronics Global Leadership Forum in Taipei on 23 October 2012. Horace discusses how Apple’s enormous capital spending is reshaping the global supply chain for the industry.

The policymaker's dilemma

Here is an exchange with Robert van Apeldoorn, Journalist with Trends Tendances Magazine in Belgium. ( The exchange took place in early September via e-mail.

Robert: -Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is considered in Europe as a way to push growth, and is a target of national and EU policies (digital growth,etc), but the result seems to be a failure: the European computer industry (hardware) is almost dead (ICL, Siemens computers bought by Fujitsu, Olivetti almost out of computer business, Nixdorf dead) since the 90’, and the telco industry seems to be in crisis. All European companies are out of the handset business (big and fading exception is Nokia, but with  American software), and Alcatel is suffering with telco equipement manufacturing. It seems that at best, Europe can be a good niche player, with companies like ARM (chips). Technology seems to be reduced to localized services (computer services), some software businesses. What do you thing about that point of view? Is it correct or exaggerated ?
What will remain to the European companies ?

The main problem is perphaps the creation of European platform/ecosystems. Almost all are American today: Apple IOS-iTunes, Android, Amazon,…

Why Symbian didn’t succeed as a competitive platform ?

Is it possible to create European platforms? After all, IOS succeed after a short period of time.

What are the European tech companies that could play an important role in the near future ?

5by5 | The Critical Path #61: Testing the App Supernova: An interview with Maxwell Wessel

5by5 | The Critical Path #61: Testing the App Supernova: An interview with Maxwell Wessel.

Horace interviews Maxwell Wessel, fellow at Clay Christensen’s Forum for Growth and Innovation at Harvard Business School. We explore the notion of apps as a disruption for multiple industries, especially entertainment.

The late smartphone adopter paradox

comScore reports that US smartphone penetration has decisively crossed over 50% in August. This should not come as a surprise as the penetration rate has been very linear.

Now that we’ve crossed this milestone, the thing to watch is the conversion rate from smartphone non-consumption to smartphone consumption.

The reason is that we don’t know what “saturation” means in smartphones. We can assume it’s at least 80% as about 80% of new phones being purchased are smartphones. What we don’t know is how much above 80% it can be. It could  be 100% if feature phones simply stop being made but we can’t be sure if there will be latent demand and how long this will last (similar to the market for black-and-white TVs after Color became commonplace).

To help keep an eye on this measure, the following graph shows the rate at which non-smart to smart conversion is happening.

It measures the addition of new (to smart) subs each week in a particular measurement period (three months ending the month shown on the x-axis). There is also a 3 period moving average shown as a line. Keep in mind that this shows net new users and therefore excludes smartphone switchers. It’s a good measure of how rapidly non-consumers are being converted to consumers.

The data shows that there are as many first time smartphone adoptions in late 2012 as there were in late 2010. Or, the new-to-smart users are joining ecosystems just as quickly when penetration is 50% as when it was 20%. An encouraging situation when considering the opportunity space above 50%. The “S-curve” has not reached an inflection point.

If you’re thinking about growth, so far so good. There is however one surprise in the data.

The App Revolution (in Filmmaking)

The following article is published in Filmmaker Magazine. Fall 2012, Vol. 21 #1.

There is a saying I once heard: “Once you change the method of distribution, the product has to change.”

This itself is a take on the idea that distribution defines the product. You see this around you every day in the products you buy. Cars are influenced by the dealership networks that sell them. Phones by the mobile network operators and the choice of computer you use at work by whatever the IT department or value added reseller prefers to work with. Mass market restaurants offer what can be sold by wholesalers–typically frozen, long shelf-life staples. Almost every product category is shaped more by what can be distributed than what can be produced. That’s simply because in mature economies distribution is harder than production. In consumer products it requires access to wholesalers who then require access to shops who themselves have access to prime real estate which attracts foot traffic. Production only requires capital. Distribution requires relationships, often exclusive ones.

This pattern is even more pronounced when looking at media products. Production is arguably easier since it’s constrained by talent, which is fungible. But distribution is even harder as it is addressing bigger audiences in shorter time frames. You see this lopsided balance of power in the abundance of books being written relative to those being published. There are thousands of films produced and hundreds get distributed.

But the saying suggests that if distribution were to change then the product itself would change. Indeed, if you can sell ebooks direct, then they tend to evolve into new genres (e.g. Fifty Shades of Grey). If you can sell cheap adult video online it tends to evolve into new genres as well (I’ll leave examples to the imagination.) YouTube videos quickly cluster around “Fail” or “Win” compilations which evolved from America’s Funniest Home Videos. They get millions of views. Even before the Internet, the availability of cable created the genre of music video, which created the first music broadcast alternative to radio. And of course, cinema itself redefined theater once it could get shown to millions rather than thousands. The new methods of distribution of media affected what gets produced rather than the other way around. Consider the converse: innovative filmmakers who try new storytelling methods are stymied by a lack of acceptance by existing distributors and find their material languishing in festivals or perpetual cult status.

So we can re-state the saying to a new “Law of new media”: Once you change the method of distribution, the medium itself has to change.