Over the past six years group buying had grown into a multi billion (US) dollar business. Among the many sites focused on group buying around the world, Groupon.com is the largest with global presences in 24 countries or 168 cities, and Woot.com pioneered the concept when it started in 2004. If you are not familiar with group buy please allow me to explain, the concept is fairly simple. A merchant (shop) subscribes to a group buying site (site). The shop creates an offer for it's services or products at a discounted price; something that is very attractive (around 50% off or more). The shop specifies a minimum number (tipping point) of sales for the offer before it becomes valid. The site will then list the offer along with customized marketing copy on its site and all channels the site has at its disposal.

The site normally sets a short deadline (1 - 3 days depending on the site) for consumers (end-users) to sign up for the offer. If the tipping point is not reached by the deadline, the offer will be invalid even for consumers who had signed up. Otherwise if it is reached within or by the deadline, the payment for the offer will be immediately withdrawn from the consumer's account, and any subsequent consumers wanting to sign up will receive the offer immediately upon payment, up until the maximum units sold, if one was set by the shop.

The purpose of having a tipping point is for the shop to receive a guarantee minimum revenue before an offer becomes valid. For the consumers it is in their advantages to spread the word about any offers they have signed up for prior to the tipping point, doing so will help themselves guarantee that the tipping point is reached. The site makes their profits from commissions on the shop's revenue for the offer.

The shop itself normally write these cost; the commission to the site and the discount, off as marketing expenses. The difference for this type of marketing compared to the more traditional methods are:

  • In most other marketing initiatives they are out bound and the target audiences have not shown interests in what the marketer is selling. The exception being certain types of social marketing.
  • Group buying brings to the shop customers that not only have shown interests in the products or services offered by the shop, but have committed to a purchasing action by subscribing to the offer through the group buying platform.
  • The shop receive payments prior to committing the services or products to the customers who signed up for the offer. Although, this may not be the case it depends on the terms from the group buying site.

There are benefits for all parties in group buying. The customers normally receive a great deal on products or services they normally cannot get. The shop is able to convince vetted consumers into their shop at cost, so they have the opportunity to up sell or cross sell the customers and may be retain them as long term repeating customers. The site is able to build its membership and further secure itself as the final stop for great offers.

In most cases group buying sites are location specific as they are normally associated with physical brick-and-mortar stores. Even for global players like Groupon their offers are specific to localized city sites. It is these localizations and ways offers can be found that draws both consumers and shops to the site. If a shop establish an exclusive offer with a site, this will heighten the offer's exclusivity making it more attractive to the consumers. While at the same time being exclusive with the wrong site may waste the efforts if no one signs up for the offer, creating a negative image for the shop's products or services.

As suggested earlier there are differences among group buying sites. Although the basic concepts of group buying are the same. How these sites spread its marketing message for the shop can be quite different. Everyone one of them use social sites like Facebook, but not all of them use it in a way that is ethical. For example, some will require customers to "Like" their Facebook Page before they can take advantage of an offer on the site, or they will require customers to provide email addresses but does not offer a easy method to unsubscribe to mailings.

In Hong Kong there are currently 11 group buying sites: BeeCrazy BuyLaBuy.com FunShare GigOnZone GoBuyA Group Buyer Joy-Coupon MyCutepons Twangoo uBuy iBuy ValuUp VBuy

Although I have not used them all I do have experience with a few of them. I will get into a more detailed comparison of the ones I tried in a subseqent article.


HTML5 has long been promoted by Apple, Google, Mozilla, Opera, Microsoft, etc. as the future for the web. Apple even went as far as not supporting Flash on its mobile platforms (iOS) to further promotes the use of HTML5 in web site development. Apple's decision caused a major war of words between Adobe and Apple, plus all sort of underhanded tactics from both companies in an attempt to cripple the other's technology/platform. Adobe recently released a new version of its mobile Flash, but it done so for almost all mobile platforms except for iOS. This is often seen as a retaliation of Apple's modifications to its iOS Developers' Terms of Use, to exclude tools like the one found in the latest Adobe's Flash development environment.

While Google openly supports and promotes the use of HTML5, it also supports Flash on its latest Android platform. Now that users have experienced Flash on the latest Android OS (v2.2), they have found Flash app/movies to run slowly and cause their Android enabled mobile devices to drain their batteries quickly.

On the other hand both Google and Apple have published respective technology demonstration pages to show off the capabilities of HTML5. Google even made a HTML5 version of their popular online video site, YouTube.

Last week the adult film studio Digital Playground announced that it will convert all its mobile sites to use HTML5 and its native supports for video embedding instead of using Flash videos. This is so that their sites will be compatible with the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices.

In the past technology formats have won over their respective competing formats when the porn industry throw its supports behind it. Case in point is the VHS video tape format over the BETA video tape format; even though experts believes BETA is a superior format, simply because the porn industry decided to release videos only in VHS format.

I believe this support by a major porn video production company will exaggerate the adoption of the W3C HTML5 standard as in VHS over BETA.


Smartone-Vodafone logoThis afternoon the mobile carrier Smartone-Vodafone has announced the price and tariff plans for the HTC Hero. The top of the line plan is identical to the tariff planSmartone-Vodafone is offering iPhone users in Hong Kong, which they called "The Ultimate iPhone Experience". The main difference being for the iPhone tariff plan, Smartone-Vodafone is not selling the iPhone 3GS themselves. Customers just have to bring in a proof of purchase from a Hong Kong Apple Authorized Reseller or Apple HK that is dated within 3 months.

The plan requires a 24 months contract with the carrier, plus a minimum subscription of HKD36.00 VAS per month. Giving the unlimited data plan a total monthly cost of HKD446.00 after taken into account the mandatory HKD12.00/month Administration fee. Smartone-Vodafone Tariff Plan for HTC Hero Like most typical mobile phone launch in Hong Kong, the HTC Hero is not exclusive to Smartone-Vodafone in Hong Kong, but will also be sold by the local mobile carrier, PCCW.

CategoriesHTC, News

Apple Blue LogoShortly after the release of OS X version 10.5.7 Apple released 10.5.8 to its developers for testing. This version of OS X is rumored to be the last of the OS X versions that continues to support the PowerPC Macintosh. With an educated guess this rumor is definitely believable, as OS 10.6 is expected to be released sometime in September 2009, and it will not support Macintosh hardware with PowerPC architecture.New Updates Yesterday (Cupertino time) Apple made version 10.5.8 of OS X available through Software Update, you can see the list of fixes it includes from Apple's Knowledge Base article.

Since the list of security fixes is so comprehensive, it is recommended that all OS X users upgrade to this latest version.


I was reading the article, Chinese Worker & Apple iPhone 4G, from VentureBeat yesterday and it made me think that we are getting too much pressure at work. According to the story from Chinese sources [Chinese], last Thursday (July 16th) an employee of Foxconn, who is responsible for shipping prototypes from the factory in Shenzhen to Apple in Cupertino, committed suicide after being questioned for loosing one of the 16 prototype next generation (4th generation) iPhones. Is there a conspiracy?

On July 9th the employee, Sun Danyong, found one of the 16 iPhone prototypes missing, reported to his boss on July 13th, his apartment searched by Foxconn employees on the same day, and allegedly Sun was detained and abused physically during his detention. On July 16th Sun jumped to his death. Was this final act by young 25 year old Sun was the result of the pressure from Foxconn management?

I understand why Foxconn was so concern with the missing iPhone prototype, they must be worried that such an incident will damage their lucrative relationship with Apple. This concern was justifiable, as any information regarding unannounced or pre-release products by Apple garners a great deal of attention and potential value when sold. From the point of view of Apple, it could be very damaging for such a device to be leaked out to competitors or the media at this early stage of development. All in all these built up a great deal of demand for secrecy with all parties concerned.

Having said that there are ways to handle such an incident. Foxconn can inform Apple immediately and own up to the mistake; human error, and then let the experienced Apple PR handle the situation. Rather than acting on their [Foxconn] own to try to get to the bottom of the incident.

With Apple's innovative machine, I am sure the missing prototype was not the only idea Apple Design had in mind for the next generation iPhone (or media tablet). I am sure a leak like this will cost Apple a great deal and probably Foxconn, but no way it should cost someone's life. Although I am sure Foxconn management could not have predicted Sun action on the 16th.

Or can they?

The conspiracy theory is that someone up the chain from Sun had stolen the missing iPhone prototype, and s/he wanted to make it more believable as an authentic Apple iPhone prototype, so this person blamed Sun for the theft. Knowing that doing so will cause an incident, but may be not a suicide.

Otherwise, Foxconn may have kept the story hidden and only informed Apple, and the missing prototype may have been treated as just one of the many concept devices people often create to feed the Apple rumor mills. Now a person died for the prototype, this incident made the missing prototype much more valuable and validated it as authentic.

Can someone at Foxconn be so ruthless? That really depends how much the prototype was sold for. So many in China will do almost anything for money.

I want to say that I am not trying to lighten the sadness of Sun's death. It is indeed a sad consequence to such an incident. Nor am I saying that all mainland Chinese are corrupt. Can you imagine the type of pressure exists for employees of Apple?

Would love to hear readers' opinions on the subject. Should companies place such demand on their partners and employees for corporate secrets? Are there alternatives?

Categoriesiphone, News

iPhone3GSThis morning 3 HK, the official Apple carrier partner, began selling iPhone 3GS in Hong Kong. At the same time Apple Online Store Hong Kong began selling versions without carrier-contracts at a price of HKD5388.00 and HKD6288 respectively.

Now (16;00) Apple has changed their estimate shipping duration from "24 hours" to "5 - 7 business days" for both models of the iPhone 3GS, which is an indication that the iPhone is sold out at their online store.

Similar reports are also coming in from various 3 HK store outlets throughout Hong Kong.

Although, we do not know how many units of either channels had sold but we can be sure that it was at latest more than 5. I bought mine from the Apple Online Store and I have heard from others also done the same. My order is still showing a delivery date of this coming Monday. I presume that means my order was prior to Apple Online Store Hong Kong selling out.

This further means that the likelihood for Authorized Apple Resellers to receive enough quantities to sell through their stores within next week is slim.

Categoriesiphone, News

iPhone3GSThis afternoon 3 HK, Apple's official carrier partner in Hong Kong released details of their iPhone 3GS tariff plans. From the prices of these plans, it indicates that the "contract-free" version to be sold at Apple Online Store Hong Kong and other Authorized Apple Resellers will be around the same HKD5400.00 and HKD6200.00 prices respectively; as with the iPhone 3G, for the 16GB abd 32GB models.

These phones and tariff plans will be available to all starting tomorrow, July 10th, along with a 2-year contract. For existing 3 HK customers there will be 12-month contract at special upgrade prices. Details of which will most likely depends on the number of months into and the tariff plan of the existing contract. 3 HK iPhone 3GS Tariff Plans

It is a bit strange to see the HKD398.00 plan that suppose to have unlimited "local" data access has a HKD290.00/month cap based on HKD0.01/KB. At that rate HKD290.00 = 29MB, isn't that less than the 100MB free "local" data for the HKD138.00 plan?

[Updated: July 9, 2009, 18:00] Finally able to get through to 3 HK Sales Hotline; understandably busy this afternoon. They clarified the "unlimited local data" definition, it is indeed unlimited. The HKD290.00/month cap based on HKD0.01/KB only applies to tariff plans of HKD298.00 and lower. This HKD290.00 is only a cap on the additional data charges and does not mean the data access will stop after the customer incurred an additional HKD290.00 of data usage.

In this case, I must compliment 3 HK on releasing a very competitive "Unlimited data" tariff plan for the iPhone. I wish my current carrier, Smartone-Vodafone will respond with a competitive "unlimited data" tariff plan of their only after the iPhone 3GS is officially available through all Apple HK sales channels.

So far, the Apple Online Store Hong Kong still does not show any signs of it making the contract-fee versions available tomorrow. There were rumors yesterday saying that the July 10th launch is only for 3 HK and the rest of the Apple HK retail channels will not have the iPhone 3GS until months (6) later. For anyone who lived in Hong Kong long enough, we hope that is not true. As I for one will not want to switch to 3 HK nor get bound to a 2-year contract.

[Update: July 10, 2009, 00:00] Apple Online Store Hong Kong released their prices for the iPhone 3GS 16GB and 32GB at HKD5388.00 and HKD6288 respectively. That's a decrease of HKD12.00 and an increase of HKD88.00 of the previous price points (for the iPhone 3G).

[Update: July 10, 2009, 13:00] None of the Authorized Apple Resellers in Hong Kong currently have the non-contract versions of the iPhone 3GS, but according to my sources and Premium Authorized Apple Reseller in Hong Kong are suppose to be able to sell any item that are sold through the Apple Online Store Hong Kong. This means that Premium Authorized Apple Resellers in Hong Kong should also have the iPhone 3GS today or the latest Monday, depending on whether Apple and the resellers can get their logistics straighten out.

Categoriesiphone, News

Just received the following email from Apple Asia. This was sent to several of my email addresses I have registered with Apple, including my MobileMe email address. There are no further information as to pricing or whether this pending availability is only through 3 HK, Apple's official carrier partner in Hong Kong.

I am hoping that since the email is from Apple Asia, it will mean that the iPhone 3GS will be available at the same time through Apple Online Store Hong Kong.

There are currently rumors in Hong Kong stating that the Friday launch is exclusive to 3 HK for a fix period; this may be as long as the wait non-3 HK customers (or want to be customers) had to wait for the iPhone 3G last year.

Marketing Email from Apple Asia

Categoriesiphone, News

Apple March 2009 Product Release Apple this morning (US PST) released new Mac Mini, iMac and Mac Pro. The former were not a surprise to me but the latter was. As I had thought Apple will leave the Mac Pro upgrade for WWDC, especially given the current economic climate.

First the Mac Mini, the previously leaked photos, from China, was indeed real. I guess Apple had not place a tight enough iron fist around the Chinese factories manufacturing their hardware. The form factor did not change from the previous model, but inside and the back had.

The new Mac has:

New Model Previous Model
CPU 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo 1.83GHz or 2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
System Bus 1066MHz 667MHz
Memory (RAM) Max. 4GB with 2 DIMM slots taking 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM Max. 3GB with 2 DIMM slots taking 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM
L2 Cache 3MB shared 2MB and 4MB shared
Video Card NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics processor Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950
Video RAM 128MB or 256MB shared with main memory 64MB DDR2 shared with main memory
Hard Drive Options 120GB or 320GB 5400rpm SATA 80GB or 120GB or 160GB 5400rpm SATA
Optical Drive SuperDrive across the line Choice of Combo or SuperDrive
Firewire Port 1 Firewire 800 1 Firewire 400
USB Ports 5 USB 2.0 ports 4 USB 2.0 ports
Video Ports Mini DisplayPort & Mini-DVI output DVI output
Wireless (WiFi) AirPort Extreme Card (802.11n) AirPort Extreme Card (802.11b/g)
Bluetooth Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR
Ethernet 10/100/1000BASE-T (Gigabit)
Audio Ports Optical digital audio input/audio line in, combined optical digital audio output

This new Mac Mini with is improved separate video processor and more memory can now be a even better home media center with Boxee installed than before.

If we can only bring back Hulu on Boxee then it will be ideal.

As for the new iMac there was no design change except the wired keyboard that come in the box. Apple has removed the numeric keypad from the right of the keyboard. I personally think this is not good.

Anyway here are the comparison between the new and previous models:

New Model Previous Model
CPU 2.66GHz, 2.93GHz or 3.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo (Core i7 on the 24" models) 2.80GHz or 3.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo ("Penryn")
Memory (RAM) Max. 8GB with 2 DIMM slots taking 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM Max. 4GB with 2 DIMM slots taking 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Video Card NVIDIA GeForce 9400M with 256MB shared with main memory or NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 with 256MB or NVIDIA GeForce GT 130 with 512MB ATI Radeon HD 2600 Pro or NVIDIA GeForce 8800GS
Video RAM 128MB or 256MB shared with main memory 64MB DDR2 shared with main memory
Hard Drive Options 320GB or 640GB or 1TB 7200rpm SATA 320GB or 500GB or 750GB or 1TB 7200rpm SATA
Optical Drive SuperDrive with 4x double-layer burning SuperDrive
Firewire Port 1 Firewire 800 1 Firewire 400, 1 Firewire 800
USB Ports 4 USB 2.0 ports + 2 on keyboard 3 USB 2.0 ports + 2 on keyboard
Video Ports Mini DisplayPort output with support for DVI, dual-link DVI, and VGA Mini-DVI output support for DVI and VGA
Wireless (WiFi) AirPort Extreme Card (802.11n) AirPort Extreme Card (802.11a/b/g/n)
Camera Built-in iSight camera
Bluetooth Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
System Bus 1066MHz
L2 Cache 6MB shared
Ethernet 10/100/1000BASE-T (Gigabit)
Audio Ports Optical digital audio input/audio line in, combined optical digital audio output
Infrared Port For Apple Remote only

The Mac Pro was improved in almost all elements I will not do a comparison here as there are too many, instead you can check them out at Apple's web site for the Mac Pro.


Apple logoBefore heading to bed, I thought I give everyone a quick summary of the keynote at Macworld 2009. Apple announced three new things: iLife '09, iWork '09 and a new MacBook Pro 17" plus two iTunes Store updates. The latter being the immediate availability of 8 million DRM-free tracks on iTunes Store worldwide and OTA (Over-the-air) iTunes Store purchase on the iPhone.
All four components: iPhoto '09, iMovie '09, GarageBand '09 and iWeb '09, of the suite received a refresh. With the most significant being the new sort by Faces and Places features of iPhoto, and the tutorials of GrageBand. All of this for USD79.00.

Again all three components: Pages '09, Numbers '09 and Keynotes '09, received a refresh. With the significant improvements being: Pages '09 with its full-screen view, easier formula creation and more templates to choose from in Numbers '09, Keynote '09 has more automated transition creation, new theme, plus a paid iPhone App (USD0.99) for controlling the Keynote presentation on your Mac. Alll this for USD79.00. With iWork, Apple is also launching iWork.com, which requires iWork '09 to try.

The new MacBook Pro 17" (Early 2009) starts at USD2799.00 with:

  • 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
  • 6MB of L2 Cache
  • 1066MHz frontside bus
  • NVIDIA GeForce 9600M GT graphics processor; 512MB of GDDR3 memory
  • NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics processor with 256MB of DDR3 SDRAM shared with main memory
  • Maximum video resolution 1920 x 1200 pixels
  • 4GB (2 x 2GB 1066MHz) DDR3 SDRAM, with a maximum capacity of 8GB
  • 320GB 5400rpm SATA hard drive
  • SuperDrive optical disk
  • A brand new type of battery* (95-watt-hour lithium-polymer) that gives the MacBook Pro 8 hours of wireless productivity
  • One FireWire 800 port
  • Three USB 2.0 ports
  • Combined optical digital In/Out and analog line In/Out
  • Built-in iSight camera
  • Built-in omnidirectional microphone
  • Built-in stereo speakers
  • Built-in 10/100/1000BASE-T Gigabit Ethernet
  • Built-in AirPort Extreme Wi-Fi (based on IEEE 802.11n draft specification); IEEE 802.11a/b/g compatible)
  • Built-in Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
  • Mini DisplayPort
  • ExpressCard/34 port
  • Full size backlit keyboard
  • Multi-Touch trackpad
Optional features being:
  • 2.93GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
  • 320GB 7200rmp SATA hard drive, or 128GB SSD drive, or 256GB SSD drive
* battery in the new MacBook Pro 17" is not removable.
All in all this is a bit disappointing to me, because I was hoping for a new Mac Mini with AppleTV features built-in.

Member of the iPhoneDev Team, MuscleNerd, posted a video of him unlocking the iPhone 3G from his Mac.

The layman version is expected to be release on New Year's Eve 2008.

Fortunately, people who lives in Hong Kong, Belgium and Taiwan do not need this unlocking method, as those iPhone 3G sold are already officially carrier (SIM) unlocked straight from Apple.