Samsung is giant. It employs 427,000 staff, has an annual turnover in excess of $270bn and assets of $600bn spread across over 80 business units. And GoogleGOOG+0.61% just floored it twice using Motorola as a baseball bat.
Why? On the surface having 81 per cent of Android marketshare would seem to make Google and Samsung best buddies. Samsung has been the driving force behind Android’s meteoric growth and put Google mobile devices in pole position.
The problem is Samsung wanted too much credit. It wasn’t enough for Samsung to make the most popular Android phones and tablets, it had to hide Android – and consequently Google’s role in its achievement. It did this using ‘TouchWiz’, the company’s proprietary skin which painted over all aspects of Android leaving it unrecognisable. To the casual consumer they were buying ‘a Samsung’, Google’s role was largely unrecognised.
Then things got worse. Samsung began degrading Android performance by switching out vast parts of the software – phone dialler, calendar, email client, contacts, notification center, music and video player, voice control and much more – for its own apps. Reviews were largely negative with TouchWiz and its bloatware slowing down Android, wasting storage space and the replacement apps were seen as inferior or, worse still, needless gimmicks.
Samsung then exploited this further. It put TouchWiz on its smart TVs, another market it dominates, and began building its own Android rival – Tizen – which, thanks to its TouchWiz interface, looks identical to the casual observer. The long term strategy was clear: switch over to Tizen and take the majority of the handset market with it. Google had to act.
Samsung Debuts The New Galaxy S IV
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Samsung Debuts The New Galaxy S IV
People interact with the Samsung Galaxy S IV, March 14, 2013 in New York City. Samsung, the world's largest handset maker, revealed their successor to the Galaxy S III. The Galaxy S IV features a five-inch 1080p screen, a 1.9GHz quad-core processor, a 13-megapixel rear camera and ships with the latest Android version, Jelly Bean.
How? The ‘how’ was Motorola. On 15 August 2011 Google announced it had bought Motorola Mobility for $12.5bn in cash. With it Google acquired more than 20,000 mobile patents and publicly declared the purchase of the phone maker would not in any way compromise relationships with its handset partners… honestly, really, pinky swear.
Of course Google didn’t expect handset partners to fully believe this and platitudes issued from them in reaction to the deal confirmed it. Should Google use Motorola to ramp up its own major handset business the market would be theirs. The phones would have stock Android and no-one, not even Samsung, could afford to subsidise their cost as Google can leveraging its mammoth advertising revenue.
The bait was set: obliteration by Google stock Android handsets unless manufacturers (read: Samsung) stopped messing with Android. Google quietly showed it could walk the walk as well as it ramped up Nexus production and introduced the well-received Motorola X and Motorola G which stripped away almost all customisation from stock Android.
Samsung bit. On 27 January 2014 Google and Samsung signed a wide-ranging global patent deal which will last a decade. Buried within it was an agreement that Samsung would tone down TouchWiz, refocus on core Android apps over its own customisations and cancel more radical customisations such as its ‘Magazine UX’ interface. Two days later Google announced the sale of Motorola Mobility to Lenovo showing both agreements had been working in parallel.
The consequences The smack down for Samsung is twofold.
Firstly, despite its size and dominance of the Android market, Samsung has been brought back into line. No longer will Samsung run roughshod over Android’s design, kick out its apps in favour of Samsung alternatives and hide Google’s hard work underneath. Indications of a low key Galaxy S5 launch suggest it will stand by its word.
Secondly, the jump off point for Samsung from Android to Tizen is no longer straightforward. With Android shining through more strongly in future Samsung handsets it won’t be a seamless switch from one to the other. If Samsung wants Tizen to succeed it will now have to be earned rather than snuck in under the radar.
All of which should be good news for Android users who will find it easier to move between handset makers when they upgrade while a stock Android experience (particularly with Android 4.4 KitKat’s optimisations) will make for faster, more responsive budget devices. Whether it gives smaller handset makers a greater chance to compete with the all-conquering Samsung, however, remains to be seen.
And what of Google’s supposed $10bn loss? It’s a misreported myth calculated by subtracting Motorola’s $2.91bn sale price from its $12.5bn purchase. What it misses are the $3.2bn Motorola had in cash, $2.4bn saved in deferred tax assets and two separate Motorola unit sales totalling $2.5bn in 2013. Factor in Lenovo’s purchase against roughly $2bn of Motorola losses during Google’s ownership and Google has still only paid $3bn for what it retained: $5.5bn worth of Motorola patents and the company’s cutting edge research lab.
If you’ve followed my work, you’ve read some startling research summaries that explore the havoc stress can wreak on one’s physical and mental health (such as the Yale study, which found that prolonged stress causes degeneration in the area of the brain responsible for self-control). The tricky thing about stress (and the anxiety that comes with it) is that it’s an absolutely necessary emotion. Our brains are wired such that it’s difficult to take action until we feel at least some level of this emotional state. In fact, performance peaks under the heightened activation that comes with moderate levels of stress. As long as the stress isn’t prolonged, it’s harmless.
New research from the University of California, Berkeley, reveals an upside to experiencing moderate levels of stress. But it also reinforces how important it is to keep stress under control. The study, led by post-doctoral fellow Elizabeth Kirby, found that the onset of stress entices the brain into growing new cells responsible for improved memory. However, this effect is only seen when stress is intermittent. As soon as the stress continues beyond a few moments into a prolonged state, it suppresses the brain’s ability to develop new cells.
“I think intermittent stressful events are probably what keeps the brain more alert, and you perform better when you are alert,” Kirby says. For animals, intermittent stress is the bulk of what they experience, in the form of physical threats in their immediate environment. Long ago, this was also the case for humans. As the human brain evolved and increased in complexity, we’ve developed the ability to worry and perseverate on events, which creates frequent experiences of prolonged stress.
Besides increasing your risk of heart disease, depression, and obesity, stress decreases your cognitive performance. Fortunately, though, unless a lion is chasing you, the bulk of your stress is subjective and under your control. Top performers have well-honed coping strategies that they employ under stressful circumstances. This lowers their stress levels regardless of what’s happening in their environment, ensuring that the stress they experience is intermittent and not prolonged.
While I’ve run across numerous effective strategies that successful people employ when faced with stress, what follows are ten of the best. Some of these strategies may seem obvious, but the real challenge lies in recognizing when you need to use them and having the wherewithal to actually do so in spite of your stress.
They Appreciate What They Have
Taking time to contemplate what you’re grateful for isn’t merely the “right” thing to do. It also improves your mood, because it reduces the stress hormone cortisol by 23%. Research conducted at the University of California, Davis found that people who worked daily to cultivate an attitude of gratitude experienced improved mood, energy, and physical well-being. It’s likely that lower levels of cortisol played a major role in this.
They Avoid Asking “What If?”
“What if?” statements throw fuel on the fire of stress and worry. Things can go in a million different directions, and the more time you spend worrying about the possibilities, the less time you’ll spend focusing on taking action that will calm you down and keep your stress under control. Calm people know that asking “what if? will only take them to a place they don’t want—or need—to go.
They Stay Positive
Positive thoughts help make stress intermittent by focusing your brain’s attention onto something that is completely stress-free. You have to give your wandering brain a little help by consciously selecting something positive to think about. Any positive thought will do to refocus your attention. When things are going well, and your mood is good, this is relatively easy. When things are going poorly, and your mind is flooded with negative thoughts, this can be a challenge. In these moments, think about your day and identify one positive thing that happened, no matter how small. If you can’t think of something from the current day, reflect on the previous day or even the previous week. Or perhaps you’re looking forward to an exciting event that you can focus your attention on. The point here is that you must have something positive that you’re ready to shift your attention to when your thoughts turn negative.
Given the importance of keeping stress intermittent, it’s easy to see how taking regular time off the grid can help keep your stress under control. When you make yourself available to your work 24/7, you expose yourself to a constant barrage of stressors. Forcing yourself offline and even—gulp!—turning off your phone gives your body a break from a constant source of stress. Studies have shown that something as simple as an email break can lower stress levels.
Technology enables constant communication and the expectation that you should be available 24/7. It is extremely difficult to enjoy a stress-free moment outside of work when an email that will change your train of thought and get you thinking (read: stressing) about work can drop onto your phone at any moment. If detaching yourself from work-related communication on weekday evenings is too big a challenge, then how about the weekend? Choose blocks of time where you cut the cord and go offline. You’ll be amazed at how refreshing these breaks are and how they reduce stress by putting a mental recharge into your weekly schedule. If you’re worried about the negative repercussions of taking this step, first try doing it at times when you’re unlikely to be contacted—maybe Sunday morning. As you grow more comfortable with it, and as your coworkers begin to accept the time you spend offline, gradually expand the amount of time you spend away from technology.
They Limit Their Caffeine Intake
Drinking caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline. Adrenaline is the source of the “fight-or-flight” response, a survival mechanism that forces you to stand up and fight or run for the hills when faced with a threat. The fight-or-flight mechanism sidesteps rational thinking in favor of a faster response. This is great when a bear is chasing you, but not so great when you’re responding to a curt email. When caffeine puts your brain and body into this hyperaroused state of stress, your emotions overrun your behavior. The stress that caffeine creates is far from intermittent, as its long half-life ensures that it takes its sweet time working its way out of your body.
I’ve beaten this one to death over the years and can’t say enough about the importance of sleep to increasing your emotional intelligence and managing your stress levels. When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, shuffling through the day’s memories and storing or discarding them (which causes dreams), so that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your self-control, attention, and memory are all reduced when you don’t get enough—or the right kind—of sleep. Sleep deprivation raises stress hormone levels on its own, even without a stressor present. Stressful projects often make you feel as if you have no time to sleep, but taking the time to get a decent night’s sleep is often the one thing keeping you from getting things under control.
They Squash Negative Self-Talk
A big step in managing stress involves stopping negative self-talk in its tracks. The more you ruminate on negative thoughts, the more power you give them. Most of our negative thoughts are just that—thoughts, not facts. When you find yourself believing the negative and pessimistic things, your inner voice says, “It’s time to stop and write them down.” Literally stop what you’re doing and write down what you’re thinking. Once you’ve taken a moment to slow down the negative momentum of your thoughts, you will be more rational and clear-headed in evaluating their veracity.
You can bet that your statements aren’t true any time you use words like “never,” “worst,” “ever,” etc. If your statements still look like facts once they’re on paper, take them to a friend or colleague you trust and see if he or she agrees with you. Then the truth will surely come out. When it feels like something always or never happens, this is just your brain’s natural threat tendency inflating the perceived frequency or severity of an event. Identifying and labeling your thoughts as thoughts by separating them from the facts will help you escape the cycle of negativity and move toward a positive new outlook.
They Reframe Their Perspective
Stress and worry are fueled by our own skewed perception of events. It’s easy to think that unrealistic deadlines, unforgiving bosses, and out-of-control traffic are the reasons we’re so stressed all the time. You can’t control your circumstances, but you can control how you respond to them. So before you spend too much time dwelling on something, take a minute to put the situation in perspective. If you aren’t sure when you need to do this, try looking for clues that your anxiety may not be proportional to the stressor. If you’re thinking in broad, sweeping statements such as “Everything is going wrong” or “Nothing will work out,” then you need to reframe the situation. A great way to correct this unproductive thought pattern is to list the specific things that actually are going wrong or not working out. Most likely you will come up with just some things—not everything—and the scope of these stressors will look much more limited than it initially appeared.
The easiest way to make stress intermittent lies in something that you have to do everyday anyway: breathing. The practice of being in the moment with your breathing will begin to train your brain to focus solely on the task at hand and get the stress monkey off your back. When you’re feeling stressed, take a couple of minutes to focus on your breathing. Close the door, put away all other distractions, and just sit in a chair and breathe. The goal is to spend the entire time focused only on your breathing, which will prevent your mind from wandering. Think about how it feels to breathe in and out. This sounds simple, but it’s hard to do for more than a minute or two. It’s all right if you get sidetracked by another thought; this is sure to happen at the beginning, and you just need to bring your focus back to your breathing. If staying focused on your breathing proves to be a real struggle, try counting each breath in and out until you get to 20, and then start again from 1. Don’t worry if you lose count; you can always just start over.
This task may seem too easy or even a little silly, but you’ll be surprised by how calm you feel afterward and how much easier it is to let go of distracting thoughts that otherwise seem to have lodged permanently inside your brain.
They Use Their Support System
It’s tempting, yet entirely ineffective, to attempt tackling everything by yourself. To be calm and productive, you need to recognize your weaknesses and ask for help when you need it. This means tapping into your support system when a situation is challenging enough for you to feel overwhelmed. Everyone has someone at work and/or outside work who is on their team, rooting for them, and ready to help them get the best from a difficult situation. Identify these individuals in your life and make an effort to seek their insight and assistance when you need it. Something as simple as talking about your worries will provide an outlet for your anxiety and stress and supply you with a new perspective on the situation. Most of the time, other people can see a solution that you can’t because they are not as emotionally invested in the situation. Asking for help will mitigate your stress and strengthen your relationships with those you rely upon.
Your data is trying to tell a story. Here is how you can help enchanting tales unfold.
How many times have you heard the boss say, “Turn those sales trend numbers into a graph” or “Give me those market projections as a chart”? There is an underlying reason for the demand. The world wants explanation before data. Visuals tell a story, they provide insight, they are information-rich. That’s one reason why visualizing data is becoming increasingly important in business.
Swedish professor Hans Rosling, one of Time magazine’s The World’s 100 Most Influential People: 2012, has a fascinating presentation of health trends in a 2010 film made by BBC Four. Rosling teaches global health at Karolinska Institutet. In the film, The Joy of Stats (available on YouTube), he presents 200 years of health data from across 200 countries in 4 minutes. He uses 120,000 numbers plotting life expectancy since 1810. It is entirely reasonable to assume that most of us would be challenged when it comes to wrapping our minds around 120,000 data points in 4 minutes—and make sense of the data. The way Rosling presents the numbers is staggering—for sure, he is a showman and the technology behind the presentation is just on the other side of Star Trek—but the story that he prises out of the numbers is even more fascinating. Incidentally, Rosling’s Trendalyzer data viewer was acquired by Google some years ago and it has since evolved into a public data explorer.
Similarly, there is data journalist David McCandless (www.davidmccandless.com). Like photojournalism, data journalism is its lesser-known brother; but it is a practice quickly rising to prominence in a world that has a ceaseless data exhaust. McCandless has turned his observations into a book, Information is Beautiful, that is strongly recommended for anyone wanting to become a commanding boardroom storyteller. The way data is presented on topics such as the cost of the worldwide financial crisis, books everyone should read, who really runs the world, the future of the future and other such impossible-to-imagine data points tells us that those simple graphs and charts we generate in a spreadsheet just won’t cut it anymore.
And let’s admit it, the kind of infographics we see today on the Web and in publications are seriously cool. Very few of them use bland old-school graphs and charts to narrate a story or to extract meaning from dense mountains of numbers. Most of them use modern storytelling methods rich in relational graphics, smart images, intelligent typography that doesn’t just help label the information but adds to the story, colours that speak more than words, call outs, flags, bubbles and stuff that can keep you immersed in the story for several minutes, even hours. Now that is what you want in your presentations, in your documents, brochures and reports. You want people to sit up and listen to your story, remember it and go back with images that cannot be easily erased.
There are innumerable sites on the Web that offer insights into infographics in addition to helping you create them. Here are our top 4 to get you going:
u www.coolinfographics.com: This is a blog by Randy Krum, the president of a visual thinking and marketing agency. The blog helps understand what goes into infographics and how to leverage them. In 30 minutes of reading the blog you could build a hunger for infographics that won’t be easy to feed.
u www.visual.ly: You can crowdsource the infographics and data visualization from your data at Visually. Infographics typically cost between $1,000 (around Rs.64,000) and $4,000. This may appear steep, but that’s the price you pay to tell a story in a single poster, slide or image. Once you have built an appetite for infographics, Visually could be your next stop.
u www.piktochart.com: Don’t have a mega-budget to commission that blockbuster infographic? You could try Piktochart that offers seven free chart themes that let you customize fonts, colours, images and create seductive stories from your data. Once you are ready to upgrade, the paid service at Piktochart has many more options that cost $29 a month or $169 a year.
u www.infogr.am: Just want to try your hand at infographics without spending a cent? You could do it with Infogram, a free Web-based tool with a fairly good range of themes. The site lets you create infographics using real data and your own images and videos.
Data and data visualization are hot right now. And it is getting easier to spruce up your data so that your audience doesn’t yawn through your presentation. There are many more tools on the Web than listed here. Seek them out. In most cases, it won’t take you more than an hour or so to learn how to put magic into your numbers.
Arun Katiyar is a content and communication consultant with a focus on technology companies.