There are more and more knock-offs (Shanzhai 山寨 in Chinese) coming out of China, the authenticity of these products are getting better and better. Of course I'm only referring to the esthetic appearance and not the quality or workmanship. The latter is the reason why counterfeit goods are worth while business for those involved. In most cases counterfeit sellers are trying to scam people looking to buy the real thing. In the past clothing was the most popular counterfeited products, but as more and more authentic clothing brands begin to manufacture their products in China, counterfeiters no longer have the advantage of cheaply made goods. These factories begin to produce extra pieces to sell in the gray-market or they start to sell rejected items as factory-outlet items.

The counterfeiters in the late 1980's began going into imitating brand name handbags. Selling counterfeit versions in mainland China shops at 10% of the authentic brand's retail price. For the keen eyed buyers they can tell the difference between the real and counterfeit items. Some of these counterfeit models don't even exist with the authentic brands; in most cases the pattern, colour or their combinations are the difference.

In recent years these differences between counterfeit and authentic handbags draw smaller and smaller. In many mainland China handbag shops selling counterfeit versions, will display real retail catalogues from the brands for customers to choose. This serves to demonstrate to the customers that the model/colour/pattern and combinations do indeed exist from the respective authentic brands, it also help them avoid carrying too many counterfeit items at the store premises.

So far these counterfeit consumer items from mainland China have not hurt anyone other than the original brand/copyright holders. But ever since Hong Kong's SARS outbreak, mainland Chinese counterfeiters have started to produce fake food products. These items actually hurt people who consume these fake food; in many cases causing deaths.

In 2008 the biggest scandal was the contaminated powder milk, as a result creating a gray-market for authentic powder milk from Japan sold in Hong Kong. Many stores in Hong Kong, who never sold powder milk began to sell imported Japan manufactured powder milk. With the events on March 11th, it causes all Japanese manufactured powder milk to be sold out in Hong Kong mostly due to the mass purchasing by mainland Chinese gray-marketers.

In the past several years counterfeit products in another industries have also matured. Mainland Chinese counterfeiters begin making fake Apple products and other hot selling electronic items from various manufactures. These fake products are so real from their appearances that it is often hard to tell the difference until one begins to use them.

Using the fake Apple iPad 1, fake Apple iPhone 4, fake Apple MacBook Air or fake Apple Smart Cover, you will immediately realize they are counterfeits. Of course their retail prices will often give them away. These fake Apple products are usually sold at 50% of the authentic items' retail prices; except in the case of the Apple Smart Covers.

So how can the brands fight back? Is lawsuit the answer? Can foreign government treaties stop the counterfeiting? Not likely.

The tactic most brands take is to open their own stores in mainland China, making their respective products easier to acquire by Chinese consumers. This is an effect stop gap for counterfeit products, because in most cases Chinese consumers do want to purchase authentic items. But by the time these items are imported into China and local retailers add their markups, the retail prices are just too high.

Recently Abercrombie & Fitch lost a lawsuit against a mainland China retailer, in which A&F claims the retailer of selling counterfeit A&F products. You would think since there are no authorized resellers for A&F products in Asia, A&F's claims should be easy to proof and win. That was not the case, because during the hearing the A&F expert could not tell the difference between the counterfeit and the authentic A&F products.

Did this failed lawsuit deterred A&F? No, A&F will open their first Asia retail store in Hong Kong 2012, taking over the space previously occupied by Shanghai Tang at one of Hong Kong's most historic building, Pedder Building, and paying HKD7 million per month in rent for the privilege. Gap will also do the same; although not Asia's first, and opens around the corner in the vicinity at the heart of Hong Kong's business and high end retail district. I hope A&F will take this opportunity to bring their other sister brands: Gilly Hicks Sydney and Hollister California to Hong Kong.

The 12,700 square foot Pedder Building retail space will be smaller than the 15,000 square foot space soon to be occupy by Apple for their first Apple Store at IFC Mall Q4 2011 and their second Apple Store of 20,000 square foot at Hysan Place for 2012.

Will these actions by the major brands finally stop the counterfeiting? Only time will tell.

In the past Apple online store had held one day sales event for "Black Friday" (aka "Boxing Day", the day after Christmas). Usually any other times Apple products are rarely discounted; unless it is through the Corporate or Education sites or refurbished items. So it is a bit surprising to receive a Sale event announcement from Apple Hong Kong this morning. Let along a one day sale event from Apple HK. The email announcement detailed their first ever Chinese New Year 2011 one day sale event to be held on Friday, January 14th in their online store. There are currently no additional details about the deals, discounts or products included in the one-day-sale event. Visiting the page on Apple HK online store right now, one will see a message asking visitors to return on Friday for details.

Over the past 3 years Apple Inc. has taken the heat on pushing the adoption of the W3C standard, HTML5, for all web based development. They have even been taken to court for not allowing competitor's technology (Flash) on their platform (iOS). Recently to avoid any more blame for flaws in these 3rd party technologies, they have stopped pre-installing them on all hardware products they ship.

Now the companies behind these other technologies are showing signs of support for Apple's directions. Are Microsoft shifts away from Silverlight and Adobe announcing the HTML5 Video Player widget indications that Apple rivals in the HTML5 war are finally given up?

This recent Microsoft decision is in line with their statement 4 years ago stating that, what they had done with Internet Explorer for the past 6 version were wrong and IE8 is the start of HTML5 compliancy.

Recently Microsoft released beta version of IE9 at PDC, which will be even more compliant with HTML5 than any previous versions of Internet Explorer.

The mess that are current web sites is really the fault of Microsoft. For creating browsers (IE) that are too tolerant of HTML coding mistakes and non-conformation to the HTML standards. Microsoft also provided web developers with technologies (ASP, etc.) and tools (.NET) that are not W3C standards. Along with the prevalent of Microsoft technologies in the 3rd world countries, these created a low cost labour force that further propagates non-standards web sites and applications. Fortunately with Apple's and other members of W3C efforts web site and applications owners are finally demanding HTML5 compliance.

Microsoft's statement about HTML5 is not to say they are abandoning Silverlight, Silverlight is still the development environment for their Windows 7 Phone platform. What they are saying is that HTML5 is Microsoft's future directions for true cross platform compatibility. This is a significant message to all web site and application owners. In the past these owners are only focused on the platform [Windows] they felt majority of the computing users are using. Now they are told that if they want to future prove their products and services they should focus on HTML5.

As for Adobe, they are not giving up on Flash either. They released the HTML5 Video Player widget because their users [developers] are demanding ways to be compatible with the iOS platform; it being the largest consumer of HTML5 content at the moment. I'm sure they are also aware of the efforts YouTube, Vimeo and others are doing to make their respective sites compliant with HTML5. One of the largest video sharing site, YouKu, serving the largest population in the world made their site compatible with on the iOS platform in July this year.

In the same month, we saw one of the largest online business migrating to HTML5; the porn industry. The adult film studio Digital Playground announces it will convert its mobile sites to HTML5. History teaches us that when the porn industry puts its supports behind a technology all competitive technologies will eventually disappear. Case in point is the VHS and Beta video cassette tape format war.

If you know me I am a strong proponent of standards compliance, I first express my opinions publicly with my article Compatibility. So I am very happy to see HTML5 is showing signs of wining the war. This will results in better build web sites and applications in the long run. Content will finally be separated from the technologies they are served in. How? I will leave this as a topic for another article.

A patent filing by Apple in February 2009 was made public last week. This patent is related to the "Systems and methods for identifying unauthorized users of an electronic device". In the patent it details how Apple's technology is capable of identifying unauthorized users of an electronic device. This unauthorized user of the electronic device can be detected by identifying particular activities that may indicate suspicious behavior. It is rumored that this technology may appear on the iPad to allow for the feature of sharing a single iPad among different family members or in a classroom situation.

For security application of the technology, when an unauthorized user is detected, various safety measures can be taken. For example, information related to the identity of the unauthorized user (ie. photo, IP address, etc.), the unauthorized user's operation of the electronic device, or the current location of the electronic device can be gathered. While functions of the electronic device can be restricted upon unauthorized used has been confirmed.

The owner of the electronic device can be notified of the unauthorized user by sending an alert notification through any suitable medium, such as, for example, a voice mail, e-mail, or text message.

On the positive side this technology may be Apple's attempts to satisfy corporate users regarding security concerns and their ability to entrust sensitive corporate information on these iOS devices.

On the other hand, Apple can use this technology to potentially identify Jailbreakers as "unauthorized users", the system will then notify Apple via one of the notification means described. We have to remember that when the US Copyrights Office rules that it is no longer illegal under the DMCA to jailbreak the iPhone, Apple's response to the ruling is that "jailbreaking is a violation of the iPhone end-user license agreement",

I continue to caution anyone who are considering jailbreaking their iOS devices. Please read blog post relating to local [Hong Kong] issues with jailbreaking.

Posted
AuthorVinko
CategoriesApple Inc-

Many people are tempted by the low cost of Apple products in Hong Kong compared to all other countries around the world, including USA. They are most attracted to the factory SIM-unlocked iPhones sold through official Apple resellers and Apple HK store online. So they are tempted to purchase one or more of these products while they are travelling to Hong Kong. Making a purchasing decision like this should not be taken lightly. Aside from the cost, for any electronic product there should also be consideration of warrantee.

Fortunately, Apple had changed its warrantee last year for all its "portable" devices (ie. MacBook, iPod, iPhone, iPad, etc.) such that they have a worldwide warrantee coverage. But you need to read the (not so) small print in Apple's warrantee documents. Apple has the rights to request any warrantee services to be performed in the purchased country. Of course, this is less likely if the country where the warrantee requester is in also officially sells the item in question.

In some cases, people who lives in Hong Kong may want to consider purchasing Apple products from other countries. One such example, is the current situation with the iPad, where they were sold out within one day and Apple Premier Resellers have stopped receiving pre-orders because they can no longer promise a date on which to fulfill the backorders. Fortunately, for people who lives in HK, by this Friday (July 30th) Apple HK will be officially selling every Apple released products. Therefore, the chances of Apple HK requesting purchasers to send the warranted item back to purchasing country for warrantee repairs is low. So if you have the means to purchase iPad or iPhone 4 from UK or France, and willing to pay the higher cost due to exchange rates, you can.

Please understand I am not suggesting you purchase from the gray-market sellers in Mong Kok or Wanchai. These resellers are charging approximately HKD1000.00 above List price for iPads and close to 200% more for the iPhone 4 (from UK or France), lower for the ones from USA.

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.

Posted
AuthorVinko
CategoriesNews

Several weeks ago I published an Open Letter to Smartone-Vodafone asking them to create a new tariff plan. Unfortunately, I have yet to receive any comments from SMV regarding my suggestions. Instead, it appears that Rogers in Canada is hearing my cry. The data plan that Rogers is considering is not specific to Apple's iPad or iPhone, but they did mentioned Apple's new device by name. Too bad Rogers is a Canadian carrier who only operates in Canada. In the past carriers in North America had not taken the lead to innovate and change with the times. So it is a present surprise to see this from one of the older carriers in Canada.

I see SMV as a even more forward thinking carrier than Rogers, so if Rogers can consider it why hasn't SMV mentioned anything. Is this really that difficult? Are there technical hurdles that cannot be overcome? Is this pure a business roadblock? Does SMV care?

Love to hear opinions for or against my suggestions, whether you're in the telecom business or not, I love to hear from you. Please leave your opinions in the form of a comment here, on FriendFeed or Facebook.

Posted
AuthorVinko
CategoriesiPad

Of the seven mobile carriers in Hong Kong: CSL's One2Free, CSL's 1010, Hutchison's 3 HK, PCCW Mobile, Smartone-Vodafone (SMV), China Mobile and China Unicom, SMV may be the one that tries to deliver the best quality of service the hardest. This is why I am writing this open letter to SMV, hoping that the CEO and others in charge see it and finally make a change.

Dear CEO,

I understand Smartone-Vodafone is a business that needs to make money, and your business is to deliver mobile communication and data connectivity to the people in Hong Kong.

The way I see it is that majority of your revenue comes from monthly subscribers and pay-as-you-go customers. With the sales of handsets and other 3G radio equiped devices rounding out the remainder of your revenue.

You currently have several voice only, data only, and voice/data combine tariff plans. All of these come in both contract and Flexi versions of the tariff. What I want to focus on are the data plans.

I'm sure you are happy to see that your existing and potential customers are surrounded with more and more devices equipped with 3G or better radios. I am also certain you will love to have all these devices connected to the SMV network and use paid data on it.

Given this situation many of your existing and potential customers are faced with the delima of whether to commit to multiple 3G contracts for their devices. Or choose which of these devices to allow to connect to the SMV 3G network. With the latter resulting in lesser revenue to SMV.

We both know that these 3G radio equped devices will be much more functional if they are connected, resulting in higher revenue per customer just because the devices are connected.

You may already see where I am going with this. For example if a customer have a MacBook, an iPhone and an iPad they will have to commit to a voice/data contract for his iPhone, a data contract for his iPad and one more for his MacBook.

The type of devices is not that important here, what is important is that this example customer above has to sign 3 separate contracts with SMV.

Not only is this costly undertaking, there must be extra administrative cost to SMV to maintain and serve this customer.

The Solution

What I propose instead may sound like something radical in the telecom industry, but in the long run it may increase the revenue of SMV per customer. While at the same time makes SMV looks chic enough to realize, carrier should treat mobile voice/data service as an utility, which everyone needs and not try to dictate how its customer use the service.

SMV should offer new voice and/or data plans that enable N number of devices to connect to its 3G network simultaneously. If the customer needs more simultaneous devices he can pay more.

I may be describing the needs of the advance users here but these are the users who will generate the most revenue and in turn help advance SMV's infrastructure.

Now that this Open Letter is published, I'm sure your 6 other competitors in Hong Kong will see it. With the pending arrival of the iPad and alike devices time is running short. So it is now up to you to stand out among your competitors and show us why we should be loyal to SMV instead of churning.

Look forward to your actions and attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Vinko

I hope as many of you, who agrees or disagree with me, will contribute your opinion of my proposal to SMV in the form of comments below.

Let see if SMV reacts appropriately.

Posted
AuthorVinko
Categoriesiphone

After using the Nexus One for 7 days I came to a conclusion on whether Nexus One is suitable for me. That was several weeks ago, My Transformation to Nexus One, and based on the title of this post you can guess what my conclusions are. I will attempt to explain my position in this post. First and foremost, I do agree that Google's Nexus One is one of if not the best Android phone in the market; at the moment. This is mainly due to the version of Android OS (2.1.x) it is using; 2 versions ahead of any other released Android phone in the market at the time of this writing. For the Nexus One there are no other layer above Android's UI to obscure the user experience as Google had intended, this latter point may be an advantage to some and a disadvantage to others. As Google is not famous for developing the best User Interface.

Being a Macintosh user, one of my main reasons for not liking the N1 is its poor integration with the Mac. I rely on various applications and tools on my Mac every day. iTunes to manage the music and podcasts I listen to every day. Contact information for everyone I know and in touch with are stored in my AddressBook application. My photos are organized in iPhoto.

Using the N1 I cannot sychronize the play count of songs, making the Smart Playlists I have in iTunes useless. As I have Smart Playlists that automatically gather songs that I had not listen to in the past 2 days. Making the need for a large music storage device unecessary. It also does not sychronize the position within the podcasts I listen to, making it difficult for me to get through all the podcasts I need to. Neither of these issues can be resolved by the Mac application DoubleTwist, which I use to synchronize the music between the N1 and my Mac.

For contacts information the fields in Google Contact are much less detailed than the ones in my AddressBook application on my Mac. Google Contacts doesn't separate First and Las names of contacts, or have the number of additional fields that AddressBook offers. Fortunately there is SpanningSync on the Mac to help mange this.

For some reasons DoubleTwist was not able to synchronize the photo albums in iPhoto with the N1. So any photos I need from iPhoto onto the N1 will require first mounting the N1 via USB as an attached drive, then drag the desired photos into the appropriate folder on the N1.

As you can see I had to use various "workarounds" to accomplish my day to day tasks on my "mobile personal device", currently the N1. Which I did not have to do when that was the iPhone.

Aside from the above there are also some general user experiences that I do not like about the N1, which makes my use of the N1 clumbersome.

For over two years we were waiting for Apple to introduce Copy & Paste; that they invented on the Macintosh over 24 years ago, to the iPhone. When it finally arrived it quirky became part of my daily use of the iPhone. On the N1 there is Copy & Paste but these features are not available when you needed it most. Like copying an URL or phone number from a SMS or email. The N1 will not even allow you to copy text within the builtin browser.

My conclusions about the three platforms of smartphones: Windows Phone (aka. "Windows Mobile"), iPhone and Android are as follow.

For Windows Phone the user must think and learn the way Microsoft do thing on the phone.

For the iPhone, Apple considers all the different ways of performing various tasks on the phone and think for the user so the user can focus on the task at hand.

For Android phones, Google wants to be as flexible as possible, and does not want to restrict it's users so they just don't think and allow the user to customize the phone the way they want. To accomplish the task the users want.

My opinion is that the N1 is not suitable for the layman users and is more suitable for the technical types. I am definitely a technical person, although when I use my "mobile device" I do not want to deal with the technical aspect of the device, but just focus on the tasks I want to accomplish. The iPhone allows me to forget about the technologies and focus on the tasks.

This is why I am selling my Nexus One. If you do not agree with me and like to purchase a barely used N1 please let me know.

Posted
AuthorVinko

From January 31 - February 14 I travelled to three US cities: New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. As you all know I am a long time iPhone user, someone who is very familiar with the Internet and various technologies. Hence, I was surprised to received a SMS from Smartone-Vodafone (SMV) on Feb. 5th, while in Los Angeles (the second city of my trip), regarding my data roaming charges exceeding HKD1400.00. I immediately followed the instructions in the SMS and contacted SMV's Customer Service (CS) department to determine what had went wrong. Especially when at that point, out of the 6 days I had been away from Hong Kong I spent 2 of those traveling on air planes.

To make things worst the AT&T cellular network in Los Angeles is very unreliable and I had to call the SMV CS 3 times, at the end SMV had to call me back to finish the conversation. The SMV CS representative tells me there were several +2MB files download and that my iPhone is still using data connections while I was speaking to the SMV CS representative. This was impossible as I had turned off Data Roaming, all Push Notifications and any Email Fetches on the iPhone. So I ask the CS representative to immediately disconnect all data functions for my account until I return to Hong Kong.

Out Come

On Feb. 14th when I returned to Hong Kong, the first thing I did as soon as I am able to turn on my mobile phone was to contact SMV CS. They tell me that they can reactivate all data functions for my account, but for any further enquiry about the case I will have to wait until Feb. 17th, when the department that handled my case, while I was in the US, to return to work from the Chinese New Year holidays.

Today, I was finally able to see my SMV bill online. According to SMV, on Feb. 5th when they sent me the SMS warning, there was supposedly a 7.999MB data usage costing HKD1119.86 based on a rate of HKD0.14/KB in a period of 1 minute. As you can imagine this comes as a great shock to me, since I knew mobile carriers have outrages roaming fees. So I was very careful not to incur any data usage while I was overseas and only do so in a very controlled manner. I explained all this to the SMV CS representative but he insists that my iPhone had indeed used the said data and refused to do anything about the charge.

Over the past several years I had supported Smartone-Vodafone by recommending it to almost everyone I know, including writing about it compared to other Hong Kong mobile carriers. Mainly due to its obvious desire to do its best for its customers. I even supported them during the past several years when it is indeed inferior to other mobile carriers in Hong Kong. I even offer my personal time to help them test their network, to try to help them improve the quality delivered.

My mobile phone bill for the month came to HKD3153.12 and I am only disputing the HKD1119.86 charge for the 7.999MB data use, but the SMV CS representative refuse. Saying that I have to provide proof that I did not use the said data amount. How am I able to do that?

I am very surprise to find SMV to be so heartless and disregards all that I had done for its Network Team. I expect it to stand on my side and believe that I did not incur the 7.999MB data claimed on Feb. 5th. This incident had totally changed my positive opinions of SMV and will definitely think twice on any future recommendations for SMV. I will most likely look for another carrier when my current contract expires.

[Updated: February 23, 2010, 22:00] Smartone-Vodafone had paid attention to my situation and now they had done the following three things to help ease the charges of my February bill.

  • Credit me for the voice charges relating to the calls I made from LA in regards to this issue.
  • Applied a 20% discount on the roaming data charges upon complaining about this issue and after I published my post.
  • Applied a further 10% discount on the roaming data charges after publishing my post, generating discussions on Twitter and after several SMV departments were made aware of my complaint.

These actions on behalf of SMV is appreciative and discounts the title of my post "Smartone-Vodafone Heartless". Having said that, I believe SMV CS needs to reflect on the tone and attitude of the CS representative (Mr. Kong) who handled my complaint the second time I called after returning to Hon Kong. I do not believe that SMV handled this case correctly initially, they should be treating all their customers as valuable customers. It should not take someone complaining about the situation publicly on the Interweb to react.

I hope SMV had learned a lesson about handling customer complaints as I have regarding roaming with my home carrier.