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All posts by Hilton Tarrant: Columnist

  • Privacy? Why you should let Google, Facebook and others track you online

    Mainstream news (in fact, all news outlets) will have you believe it's the end of the world. Google's new privacy policy came into effect yesterday. From CBS News: How to remove your Google Web History, from the Washington Post: Google privacy policy changes March 1: How to clear your search history, account information and the obligatory Business Insider impression bait: How to Use Google's New Privacy Tools to Stop Them from Tracking You. Then of course there are the fear mongers. Headlines like this are irresponsible and, quite honestly, bordering on insanity: The Internet makes money by spying on you...

  • Nokia is not BlackBerry

    Nokia’s in trouble! BlackBerry is in trouble! There is a tendency, especially among Wall Street talking heads and US tech bloggers who don’t understand anything outside of the Valley, to group underperforming companies together. After all, it makes for great headlines and “everyone” knows the mobile battle is between iPhone and Android. Except it's not. Nokia and Research In Motion (the maker of BlackBerry) cannot compare on size. In its most recent quarter, Nokia shipped 113.5-million devices, totaling revenue of €6-billion (close to $8-billion). Even as it shifts its smartphone platform to Windows Phone and practically ensures a dead-end for its...

  • 6 Facts that emerged from Facebook’s massive IPO

    The echo-chamber has flooded the web with all the details following the filing of Facebook’s IPO. It will raise $5 billion in the listing. It will be valued somewhere between US$75-billion and US$100-billion. We even know that the graffiti artist who took stock instead of cash for painting the walls at Facebook’s first HQ is now worth US$200 million. But what’s behind the numbers and how do they compare? 1. We're all going mobile Out of 825-million monthly users on Facebook, more than half -- 425-million active users -- access the site via mobile. These are people who use the site...

  • Android is not winning

    Fragmentation is busy killing Google’s OS, as Apple comes close to outselling Android for the first time. Sales of Apple iOS and Android smartphones are now neck and neck in the US. According to research outfit NPD Group, iOS phones accounted for 43% of smartphones sold in the US in October and November. Android’s share? 47%. That's the closest Apple’s operating system has ever been to Google’s “juggernaut”. But, "Android is winning". Yes, Apple’s share of sales in those months (not to be confused with overall market share) would be higher because of the launch of the iPhone 4S....

  • Forget everything else, Timeline will keep Facebook ticking in 2012

    Ignore all the rubbish about "serendipitous experiences" that Mark Zuckerberg wants you to have. Forget about his notion of "frictionless sharing". The first iterations of sharing content or experiences seamlessly on Facebook are all wrong (witness the horrible real-time “ticker” that does not sit comfortably above "chat"). But, Facebook got one thing very, very right. Its Timeline was the single biggest innovation in social media over the past few months. Sure, the New New Twitter changes everything, but the two spaces are conceptually so far apart that you cannot really compare them. Plus the numbers don’t lie: Facebook has 800...

  • Six ways the ‘new new’ Twitter changes everything

    The launch of a major new version of Twitter’s service signals one important thing: Jack Dorsey is back. And Jack is in charge. His strength has always been in the "product" and up until now, there's been an obvious void at Twitter. In many ways, it was trying to do everything for everyone -- Evan Williams’ strength was never in product (think “lists”), and temporary boss Dick Costolo was never going to be a visionary when it came to the platform. 1. Consistency New New Twitter finally delivers a consistent experience across all platforms: web, mobile, apps. The service has always...

  • Why regionalised Yahoo! portals make sense

    Yahoo! has been rolling out regionalised and localised versions of its portals for years. This year it rolled out portals in emerging markets like South Africa and Romania. The multinational online publisher also has a presence in key emerging market BRIC countries, including Brazil, Russia, India and China. It does not have a dedicated presence in any other part of Africa, besides South Africa and some North African countries. The veteran internet player, the old man of the internet, serves hundreds of millions of page impressions a month. Daily, it says it serves 15-billion ad impressions. That’s a boat-load of inventory. The...

  • Three things BlackBerry has to fix to stay in the game

    BlackBerry is soaring ahead in Africa, the Middle East and Europe. In July, it disclosed that it had added one-million new subscribers across this region in less than three weeks. This is huge. Balance that out with a net decline in subscribers in its mature North American markets, however, and the outlook isn’t fantastic. Basically, it needs to keep adding more (net) subscribers in emerging markets than ones it’s losing. So far, it’s keeping pace. But the company and platform are undergoing a fundamental transition. Right now, there are three things RIM needs to get right to ensure BlackBerry...

  • If Android’s so popular, where are all the Android phones?

    It’s "all Android, all the time". That's what they’ll tell you. It's "totally blowing away the competition". According to Gartner, Google's pet project (which as we all know, doesn't generate any meaningful revenue) Android now commands 52.5% of the global smartphone market. Huh? Where are all these Android phones? On the face of it, the market share numbers make sense. You have a powerful operating system and ecosystem (second in number of apps only to Apple). You have numerous device makers, including HTC, Motorola, Samsung, SonyEricsson (now just Sony) and LG, pegging their future (at least on the high-end) on Android....

  • When does a dumb phone become a smartphone?

    The line is blurring. A year ago, perhaps even six months ago, it was pretty easy to define the difference between a smartphone and a feature phone (or "dumb" phone). You could point to an Android device or an iPhone and say: "There. That's a smartphone." Similarly, you could label any phone that retailed for less than US$100 (or R800) as "dumb". Today, it’s not so simple. Sure, ultra low-end phones without internet access are easy. But what about devices like the Asha range announced by Nokia at Nokia World last week? Sure, it's all part of Nokia's plan to connect "the...

  • Angry Birds means Nokia will win in emerging markets

    The headlines from Nokia World in London have centred around two things: Its new smartphones running Windows Phone (the new Nokia Lumia 800 and Nokia Lumia 710), and a persistent message around "connecting the next billion". While its marketing message has the convenience of a Really Big Number, connecting a healthy portion of those next billion will keep Nokia relevant. This is not about smartphones. It needs to attract those customers in "high-growth" markets (its term for describing emerging markets) because those customers on more basic devices will be the smartphone users of the future. Its new Asha range of phones...

  • BBM is not dying, it’s BlackBerry’s secret weapon

    Much has been made about BlackBerry being backed into a corner. Its device sales are "falling" (not so, it has 20-million more users today than a year ago), there are "no apps" for the platform (yet it's the second most profitable app store), and BBM or BlackBerry Messenger is fast-becoming "irrelevant". Apple’s iMessage baked into iOS will "kill" BBM. Or, so say the headlines. Except it won’t. Today, BBM has more than 50-million active users (it had 28-million just a year ago). Having used both, it is clear that iMessage is a great replacement for SMS. This is more about Apple...

  • BlackBerry and Nokia only have a few more rolls of the dice left

    The train might’ve already left the station. With iOS and Android powering ahead, notching up record activations every day, analysts have all but written off other platforms. This is especially evident in developed markets like the US and Europe, where the “experts” continually question and criticise Nokia and RIM’s (BlackBerry’s) every move. Never mind the fact that Android handsets are dime a dozen and the fragmentation of the operating system is causing headaches for everyone: Operators, device makers, customers, Google (that’s a topic for another column). All things being equal, RIM (BlackBerry) and Nokia still find themselves in particularly precarious positions....

  • iLegend: We are privileged to have lived in the time of Steve Jobs

    One day we’ll fully realise just how much Steve Jobs changed our lives. I just don’t think we can appreciate it as much as history will allow our children to. He was an inventor in the truest sense of the word. Right up there with the greatest inventors of the modern age: Leonardo Da Vinci, Howard Hughes, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford. Men who invented something out of nothing. Here was someone who created entirely new categories of products out of thin air. He made the personal computer a reality, invented the graphical user interface (which Microsoft popularised in the mass market as...

  • Tim Cook is a genius: Why there’s no iPhone 5 just yet

    The world is “disappointed” with the new Apple iPhone 4S. You haven’t been able to read or watch any reporting about the event (aside from boring, sober reportage) without hearing talking heads expound their “disappointment,” and wax lyrical about the “market’s muted response” and how Apple “failed to wow”. It’s an evolutionary upgrade to a product that has been on the market for 14 months. Nothing revolutionary. It doesn’t have to be. In fact, had Apple announced a must-have device it would’ve alienated the 100-million-odd iPhone 4 owners. Can you imagine the resentment you’d feel? Your device is only a...