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Since my last update on the Chinese search world all the major players have been very active in launching new channels and products.

I like to start with the latest report from China IntelliConsulting Corporation (CIC) that researched the current market shares of the search engines in China. CIC conducted a survey in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou (the most urbanized and modern cities of China).

The main conclusion, based on the last 12 months, is that there are only two parties left that can be taken serious.

Some other highlights from the report:

Chinese users response positively to Google’s localized products

Google’s market share gains are mainly from student users.

(Hi-end users: Aged 25 and above, bachelor or higher and a salary of more than 3000 Renminbi)

The report also gives an overview of what they call frequently visited websites. Sina is the most popular, followed by Sohu and Netease. Yahoo China is number 4 on the list. The last 3 websites all lost market share according to CIC.

The battle seems in favor of Baidu at this stage but Google is in China for the long run and won’t give up easily. You can find a pdf version of the report here.

Let’s have a look of what they have been up to as well as the other players. And if you make it all the way to the end of the article, I even have something funny, well a bit funny at least.

Baidu

Not long after that they launched Baidu Game.

CWR blog describes it as:

… a search driven forum for sharing know-hows of any games (in future, currently only 5). It’s a natural derivative for game players to turn from asking in Baidu Zhidao to Sharing.

The five games that are included are: Perfect World 2, Zhu Xian Online and Legend of Martial Arts, Zhengtu Online and World of Warcraft.

And if this wasn’t enough they launched their Olympic channel.

From China Tech Stories:

Head of Baidu’s Olympic platform, Wang Xiao said: “We will utilize the world’s leading Chinese search technology, to guide the hundreds of millions of Olympic-related inquiries daily to the best Web sites that users want. This will not only promote an environment of efficiency and fairness for the Olympic media coverage, it can also greatly highlight the authoritative nature of Baidu as a new media.”

Google

Baidu is not the only one speeding up its launches. Google China activated it’s blog search engine at the end of last month. It’s self-censored as is their search engine but as Blogoscoped mentioned, “blog information is especially hard to control.

Talking about blogs, Google’s reader is since September 18 also available in Simplified and Traditional Chinese (as well as in many other languages).

And then very recently yet another launch, well actually 2. The first one makes it possible to search Chinese video sharing websites. It’s similar to Baidu’s video search. The second is a Chinese version of Google Transit. You can plan your trip in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Hangzhou and Nanjing for now.

And before I end up with the Google news, the last tidbit is a report from again China Tech News that President of Google China, Kai-fu Lee, announced a massive market promotion in the coming months in order to entice more users to try Google’s products.

Ok, one more, although not so fresh but still a nice win for Google.

From China Vortex:

Alibaba had been in secret discussions with both Google China and Baidu. The discussions with Baidu broke down for undisclosed reasons, and soon after, Alibaba announced its partnership with Google.

The Rest of the Best

Although search market wise trailing behind, Yahoo is still a popular destination website for its services. They have launched their map service as well as the Lifetime Emailbox. It’s a mailbox with unlimited capacity.

Microsoft has lost its CEO for Greater China, Timothy Chen. He will continue his career with the NBA to lead its newly created NBA China division.

MSN was in the news for the fact that their partner for its MSN China joint venture intends to get out of the partnership and is looking for buyers for their stake. This will have to be a Chinese company to comply with Chinese regulations that say that the majority of the stake has to be held by a mainland company.

Links that may be of interest:

Alipay makes it now possible for consumers in mainland China to buy directly online from global retailers

Chinese online payment company Yeepay partners with Eachnet. EachNet is a joint-venture between eBay and TOM Online. The question is here, where has paypal, an eBay company, gone in this setup.

The CEO of Myspace, Luo Chuan, has been talking about the user growth. Not yet a hit in the market it seems. Ad company WPP has faith in the venture and bought a stake in the venture capital firm backing MySpace China.

The biggest video-sharing website in China, Tudou (potato), is now 360 million videos a week according to Nielsen.

Blogs and other websites hosted in the mainland are under scrutiny and data centers have been closed down in the run-up to the meeting of the National Congress. You’ll find an overview here. It will make you think twice before hosting here.

A little fun

There are many expat classified magazines here in Shanghai and reading them can be entertaining. This ad made me chuckle, considering the on going discussions about the colors of one’s hat.

If you want to apply you can check it out here. If you want to know what else can be found in these magazines, check out these classifieds.

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The Internet Of Things Needs A Lot Of Work

Mobile connected devices may make life easier for consumers in the long run, but today they present a bundle of user headaches, a panel of industry leaders said Tuesday.

Smart homes, Internet-connected cars and wearable devices represent the next generation of mobile gear beyond smartphones. The new systems will coexist with phones for at least the next few years, though given the changes that have occurred since the iPhone’s introduction in 2007, it’s hard to predict what mobile will look like 10 years from now.

But beyond convenience and the cool factor, it’s still often a chore to live with these devices, and it doesn’t get easier as they proliferate, panelists at the Open Mobile Summit said.

“We’re about to hit the ceiling of what people are willing to babysit,” said Mark Rolston, chief creative officer at Frog Design. “How many devices do you want to try and keep alive and awake throughout the day?”

Technology shouldn’t make life harder

Managing devices is also the biggest worry for Ro McNally, vice president of device technology at Verizon Wireless. It’s a challenge both for systems engineering and for the subscriber’s experience, she said.

Between linking devices, entering passwords, managing home Wi-Fi and dealing with corporate IT departments at work, connected life is already hard for some consumers, Rolston said.

“They are network admins, by accident,” he said. That’s created a business opportunity for someone to take over those tasks as a virtual service, he said.

But there are still too many challenges for users, according to Rick Osterloh, senior vice president of product management at Google’s Motorola Mobility subsidiary.

“If you look at what’s there today, it’s just horribly, terribly broken for the end user,” Osterloh said. “There’s so much to go fix.” He cited manual setup of wireless connections via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi Direct and a hornet’s nest of other technologies.

“This is a totally unresolved problem for users. It’s so bizarre to me that the underlying tech is exposed to the users in your settings,” Osterloh said. Within three years, that will change, he predicted.

Still a long way to go

The whole premise of mobile interfaces is wrong, according to Osterloh and others. Devices should be asking users what they want and learning from prior events rather than always forcing users to ask, they said.

“There’s just a million use cases you can think of where today there’s interface to try to understand what the user wants, and in the future there should just be action that does the right thing,” he said. For example, a car should automatically connect to the Internet, by itself or through the phone, and when it reaches the driver’s home it should turn on the house lights automatically, he said.

Home tech also needs to be transformed, Frog’s Rolston said. Using a phone to control devices in the home doesn’t make sense, he said. The many connected appliances and control should together form a computer of their own.

“The computer is not this box in the corner, or box in your pocket, it’s something you are surrounded by,” Rolston said. “We have a difficult time with that right now. … We built a whole industry marketing and developing around boxes.”

Found: A Star That Last Dazzled Astronomers In 1437

In the hours before dawn on March 11, 1437, the constellation Scorpio rose over the horizon near Seoul, Korea. Astronomers tasked with scanning the sky and noting nightly changes—aurorae, comets, shooting stars and the like—noticed something odd about the group of stars they called the tail of the dragon, one of the lunar mansions of the night sky.

There was a star there that they’d never seen before.

The bright light persisted in the sky for 14 nights before vanishing, it’s position diligently recorded by researchers all the while.

Now, 580 years later, astronomers have found it again.

In a paper published today in Nature, Mike Shara of the American Museum of Natural History and colleagues describe how they hunted down a star whose surface exploded over half a millennium ago.

What the Korean astronomers saw in 1437 was a classical nova. Unlike the more famous supernova, the classical nova is not a destructive process. Supernovae are massive star-destroying explosions. Novae, on the other hand, happen in binary star systems, where a white dwarf and a red dwarf circle each other like two sparring partners.

The white dwarf—a star about the size of our planet, but with the mass of our sun—pulls hydrogen off of its red opponent. When enough hydrogen builds up on the white dwarf’s surface, a massive explosion like a hydrogen bomb goes off, making the star brighter for the astronomical equivalent of an instant. That was what the Korean astronomers saw in March of 1437: a massive explosion of hydrogen off the surface of a white dwarf.

Modern astronomers see novae fairly regularly, with around 10 bright enough to be seen with the naked eye occurring every year. But these systems usually take about 10,000 to 100,000 years to build up enough hydrogen to go nova again. In between their big, bright, let-it-go moments they sit nearly invisible in the sky, though researchers have noticed smaller entities called nova-like vairables and others, called dwarf novae, which display much smaller brightening events.

Back in 1986, Shara proposed that classical novae, nova-like variables, and dwarf novae were all part of the same kind of system, just in different stages of development. Over the next 30 years, he and colleagues were able to find dwarf novae inside the shell of exploded gas that indicated a classical novae, but there was no direct connection between them—no unbroken chain of evidence that showed that the two celestial phenomena were one and the same.

Shara knew about the Korean nova, and he and other astronomers spent years looking through star charts, photographs, and records trying to find evidence of dwarf novae in the same place as that massive brightening 580 years ago. But the area between the two stars that historians believed the text referred to were devoid of the evidence Shara was looking for.

Eventually he gave up, putting aside that particular quest. But he came across the file again later, while cleaning his desk. At that point, Harvard had begun to digitize its incredible collection of glass-plated images of the stars, a record of the night sky that stretched back well over 100 years. Shara figured he might as well use the database to check on a larger area than the space he’d spent years scouring.

And a mere hour and a half after he started the search, he found what he’d spent years looking for.

“It was the next two stars over. There it was, just staring at me.” Shara says. “I have to say, when I got it it was a few minutes of simultaneously dancing around my office and pounding my forehead in frustration,” he recalls, laughing.

With the precise location and photographic records in hand, he was able to show that what had once been identified as a planetary accretion disk—a planetary system in its infancy—was really one of these binary star systems within a blown-out hydrogen shell that burst off the white dwarf 580 years ago.

He and his co-authors also identified three other dwarf novae that occurred within the past century on the same star using the photographic plates.

A dwarf nova occurs when hydrogen from the red dwarf is pulled off and begins to build up in a ring around the white dwarf companion. When enough hydrogen builds up in the ring, the ring collapses and is pulled down to the surface of the white dwarf, building up a layer of hydrogen that will eventually contribute to its big show—a classical nova—in thousands of years.

“That happens in dwarf novae every few months or decades. The systems brighten from a tenth the luminosity of the sun to ten times the luminosity of the sun for a few days or weeks” Shara says.

Though the two stars are companions in the vast reaches of space, it’s far from a healthy relationship. Eventually, after cycling through enough nova cycles, the red dwarf will shrink as the white dwarf devours its hydrogen. It will become a brown dwarf, then a Jupiter-sized planet, then all that remains will be its rocky metal core. Even this the white dwarf will take, smashing it apart into an asteroid belt— and eventually smooshing the rock out across its own surface.

“It doesn’t end well for the red dwarf—cannibalized by its white dwarf companion and then shredded,” Shara says. But at least their violent partnership is helping scientists understand the life cycle of some of the most elusive stars in the sky.

Ram’s Electric Pickup Concept Will Be Revealed In Less Than A Month

Now in its fifth generation, the Ram 1500 pickup truck was originally born as the Dodge Ram in 1981. It made the moniker switch in 2010, and soldiered on as your average full-size pickup truck until it was treated to a full makeover for model year 2023, earning accolades the brand hadn’t seen before. In sales numbers, the Big Three truck manufacturers compete for customer dominance, with the Ford F-150 handily leading the market and the Chevrolet Silverado and Ram 1500 trailing behind in a relatively distant second and third.

In that order, the automakers have released their versions of all-electric pickup trucks. Ford launched its F-150 Lightning EV last year, and Chevy plans to start selling its Silverado next year for model year 2023. Meanwhile, Ram is hyping its version of a full-size electric truck, aiming to unveil the Ram Revolution Concept on January 5 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares will take the stage for the keynote.

What we know so far

As for other automakers, Tesla says its Cybertruck will tow up to 14,000 pounds, but after three years with not a single Cybertruck on the road, it’s difficult to muster the energy to buy in.

Rivian is the current outlier with its R1T offering an estimated 11,000 pounds of towing capacity. On the surface, the R1T seems to be significantly more expensive than the Lightning or Silverado EV, with a starting price of $67,500. Ford put together a similar strategy for its F-150 Lightning, starting at just under $54,000 and soaring to nearly $83,000 with the extended range battery that improves both towing and distance between full charging. And, while the Silverado EV costs $42,000 for its Work Truck variant, that’s a stripped-down model that won’t appeal to many; the cost is estimated to jump up to $75,000 for the well-equipped LTZ trim. 

As for range, Ram says the Revolution will achieve 500 miles on a full charge, which is more than the Lightning (230-320 estimated miles), the Silverado EV (up to 400 miles) and the Rivian R1T (314 miles). Tesla claims the Cybertruck will get 500 miles of range, but imaginary trucks can’t travel far. 

Where it could set itself apart

A new teaser video of a clay model appears to show a two-door single-cab truck, which is different from the Lightning, Silverado EV, Hummer EV pickup, Cybertruck, and R1T, all of which are four-door vehicles. However, spy photographers captured pictures of the Revolution mocked up with a crew cab and long bed, which suggests that perhaps the Ram 1500 BEV (battery electric vehicle) will be available in a variety of body styles like the gas-powered version. 

Stellantis reporting specialists Mopar Insiders snapped the spy photos, and the reporter developed some assumptions based on what the pictures show. Referencing Stellantis’ EV Day 2023 event, Mopar Insiders recalled a claim that vehicles built on the new EV-ready frame architecture will include individual electric drive modules (EMDs) capable of 330 kilowatts (443 horsepower) each and that each frame can accommodate up to three of those modules. Considering the Lightning uses two EDMs and the GMC Hummer EV uses three as well, Insiders believes a Ram Revolution with three motors can generate up to 990 kilowatts, or more than 1,320 horsepower. (That’s a lot.) 

On top of that, Koval said the Revolution will be enhanced by a gasoline or diesel-fueled range extender. You can think of a gas-powered range extender as the exact opposite of a hybrid, which harnesses the power of an electric motor to boost the initial torque. Ram has experience with hybrids, as it launched its eTorque mild hybrid system in 2023 on the Ram 1500. Ram’s eTorque replaces the traditional alternator and adds more functionality for a quieter ride, improved fuel economy, and better towing and hauling capability.  

The Consumer Electronics Show, or CES, has become a popular platform for technology and vehicle reveals; in fact, GM CEO Mary Barra unveiled the Chevrolet Silverado EV at the 2023 event. While Ram is trailing the Silverado by a year, that may not be a detractor for the Stellantis brand considering all-electric trucks are still such a new entity. Truck buyers are still skeptical of towing numbers and range when it comes to EVs, and the uptake is going to take more time. By the time the Revolution arrives in dealerships in 2024, the market (and the beleaguered supply chain, which has struggled to manufacture the necessary chips that run the electronics systems) will hopefully be ready.

This Month In #Socialmedia: Updates From May 2023

May proved to be a productive month in terms of social media updates.

Read on for all the details!

Facebook

Facebook is testing its own in-app search engine capable of crawling the web and retrieving content for Facebook users without the need for them to visit Google. This new feature will be an extension of Facebook’s status updates.

Learn more: Facebook is Testings its Own In-App Search Engine, A Possible Threat to Google

Twitter

An update to Twitter’s iOS live streaming app, Periscope, introduces the ability for users to sign in without the need for a Twitter account. Previously, in order to use Periscope you had to sign in via Twitter. Now you can create an account on Periscope using your phone number, and get access to all of its features without the need to link your Twitter account.

Learn more: Periscope Uncouples Itself From Twitter, Twitter Account No Longer Required

Periscope is also now available on Android.

A redesigned version of Twitter’s search results interface is rolling out to all logged-in web users. In addition to a more streamlined look and feel, the new Twitter search will allow you to filter results to show only top tweets, live tweets, accounts, photos, videos, news and so on.

Learn more: Twitter’s Redesigned Search Experience Hits the Web

Tweets have returned to Google search on mobile devices. When searching on either the Google mobile app, or on a browser on your smartphone or tablet, you will now see tweets indexed in real-time right in the search results pages.

Learn more: Indexed Tweets Are Now Live in Google Mobile Searches

YouTube

Learn more: Google Product Listing Ads Come to YouTube Allowing Retailers to Promote Own Products

Google released data highlighting that, when it comes to searching for how to do something, 91% of smartphone users rely on their devices to find that information. This has resulted in a 70% year-over-year increase in “how-to” searches on YouTube.

Learn more: “How-To” Searches on YouTube up 70%, More Than 100M Hours Watched So Far in 2023

P.S. If you missed last month’s SEJThinkTank webinar I did on social media for big brands, a recap of the webinar’s contents, along with the slides and recordings, can be viewed here.

All images from their corresponding blog announcements.

China Is Opening A New Quantum Research Supercenter

The $10 billion National Laboratory for Quantum Information Sciences in Hefei will be the center of China’s attempt to take the global lead in quantum computing and sensing. National Laboratory for Quantum Information Sciences

On 37 hectares (nearly 4 million square feet) in Hefei, Anhui Province, China is building a $10 billion research center for quantum applications. This news comes on the heels of the world’s first video call made via quantum-encrypted communications and the completion of a quantum-encrypted fiber optic trunk cable.

The National Laboratory for Quantum Information Sciences, slated to open in 2023, has two major research goals: quantum metrology and building a quantum computer. Both efforts would support military and national defense efforts, as well civilian innovators.

But let’s back up. What is quantum metrology, anyway? Basically it measures minute changes in gravity and other physical effects, which can be used to build highly accurate, self-contained navigation systems. This has a key application for autonomous vehicles and submarines, which wouldn’t have to rely on GPS or other external navigation signals that could be jammed or used to detect their location.

Quantum Computing

The Shanghai based Institute for Quantum Information and Quantum Technology Innovation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences unveiled this quantum computing device in May 2023.

And then there are quantum computers. Pan Jianwei, a leading Chinese quantum scientist, says that the first general-purpose Chinese quantum computer could have a million times the computing power of all other computers presently in the world. In the computers we use today, information is encoded in a series of bits set as either 1 or 0. In a quantum computer, bits would theoretically be able to hold one, both, or some combination of these states. They could be used to speedily crack encrypted messages or solve complicated research problems involving anything from weather modeling to fusion research and biomedicine, because quantum bits allow certain calculations that happen one by one on a standard computer to occur simultaneously.

Many Firsts

While QUESS is projected to have only a two year lifespan transmitting quantum keys between China and Europe, it’ll be succeeded in 2030 by a constellation of quantum satellites.

This work aligns with a broader national push for quantum research and technology. The success of the Micius quantum satellite is enabling China to build a nationwide quantum network for military communications and financial transactions. Quantum communications systems are proofed against eavesdropping, as any attempt to eavesdrop would change the entangled quantum state, alerting the users. The future of information technology and security may be a quantum one, and China is ensuring in the loop, if not leading the way.

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