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by Bertie

The age of black goods

September 23, 2013 in Marketing, Media, tablets, User experience

When last did you ever got the urge to have a look at the latest stoves and fridges on the market? When you were renovating your kitchen, I bet. But otherwise I don’t think you wander in and out of the white goods stores to see what’s interesting.

Maybe we have now entered the age of black goods as well. Black goods?  These square black slabs we call mobile devices. At the Internet conference I attended in Berlin on of the presenters showed a screen with all the different brands and labeled them evocatively “black slabs.”  They are all looking more or less the same, and it is a race to reveal ever more obscure features. This is a dead sure indication of a mature industry and both consumers and analysts who complain about the lack of innovation do not understand the historical phase of the industry. You could just as well complain about there being so little innovation in micro wave ovens!

I have noticed since getting my iPhone 5 a year ago that I was just not interested into wandering into electronic gear shops anymore – whereas this was my favourite time spent in malls previously.

Of course this has a grave implication for companies and investors.

But for now, it seems the Age of Black Goods are upon us.


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by Bertie

What happened to the other Kodak?

September 11, 2013 in Management, Strategy

Fuji film that is. The FT recently ran an article inquiring into the other Kodak. As the FT rightly put it, Kodak and Fuji will one day feature as case studies on dealing with industry decline.

Here is the quick comparison: Kodak has just emerged from 19 months of bankruptcy with US$3,5 billion of losses. Fuji suffered in the same time only one loss and managed US$1,6 billion in profits. Looks better but only mildly successful with a growth in profit of only 1% per year.

So, what did they do differently. It seems as if they avoided a head on clash with digital photography for the masses. 75% of their profit came from their joint copying venture with Xerox and then some obscure applications of imaging techniques such as endoscopy and cosmetics of all things (the collagen that helps prevent fading film helps skin to remain elastic).

But would you want to invest in Fuji, or in Kodak the once disrupted who now wants to disrupt packaging and print?



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by Bertie

If this don’t move them to Nedbank

September 9, 2013 in User experience

Nothing will. That is small business owners. My friendly small business contact at my local Nedbank branch – where my business account is – just send me news of the Nedbank pocket POS available at iStores. For the small business owner to take credit card payments on the spot with an iPhone of iPad.

Now if I were selling goods and services for which I wanted on the spot payment, I would have rushed off to my local iStore to get one immediately, even before my first cup of coffee this morning.


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by Bertie

How are we going to compete?

July 15, 2013 in Education

The British government last week announced an overhaul of their education system in schools. Away with a lot of the fluffy stuff that creativity gurus foisted over the decades on the world’s education system and which have little or nothing to show in the bedrock skills of education, arithmetic (yea! there is a difference between arithmetic and mathematics!), reading and writing skills.

Listen to this!

  • They will begin at primary school level with coding (programming in old speak) skills and
  • At age six with fractions.

So where does that leave South African school children? And our competitiveness in the coming decades?

In a global society what you do on your own is of little consequence (as a member of The Economist’s Strategy Unit reminded a SA government official a couple of years ago at a public presentation), it is what happens relative to what others are doing.

And clearly if the Brits go ahead with this, we can tick off on country less that we can compete with.

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by Bertie

A triumph for capitalism

July 8, 2013 in Investment

Is the caption this morning of a column by economist Mike Schüssler in Sake24 (fin24′s Afrikaans version in Beeld newspaper).  Here are some interesting facts he mentions:

  • South Africa ranks amont the top countries in house ownership: more than 62% of households have a home or is paying off on a home loan. This represents more than 9 million South African households.
  • 9 times more blacks than whites own fully paid homes than whites.
  • 18% of households occupy a home without paying rent (the so-called HOP homes built by the government as part of the development plan for disadvantaged communities).
  • An often overlooked fact is that those in the formal economy who belong to pension funds are represented through the pension funds’ investments on the JSE. There are almost 9,4 million active pension savings funds.
  • Some1,5 million South Africans are beneficiaries of BBBEE ownerships schemes.

Why a triumph for capitalism? Because Schüssler’s figures shows such a large portion of the population being owners of capital, directly or indirectly.

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