Seoul: Best city for mobile LBS?

Other | 2009/07/28 20:36 | Web 2.0 Asia

Yet another interesting, "only possible in Korea" story. For those who didn't know, Seoul is pretty famous for its healthy (or almost unhealthy?) dose of night life. Recently, a civil organization called Citizen's Movement for No Prostitution published "escort businesses map" of Gangnam Gu, southern part of Seoul. 

As expected, the whole Gangnam area is found to be jam-packed with various kinds of nightlife places where people can drink and, if they want, buy sex. Does this spell a business opportunity for nightlife-focused mobile LBS (location-based service)? You figure it out. 

A Glimpse into SK Telecom's App Store

Mobile | 2009/07/28 20:17 | Web 2.0 Asia

These days, it almost looks like it's harder to find mobile companies that are not building their own version of app stores. SK Telecom, Korea's #1 wireless carrier, is of course no exception. Here's a short glimpse into SKT's mobile app store, still in closed beta, courtesy of this blogger

SKT's app store is called "SKT Mobile Open Market." To use SKT Open Market, one has to download a PC application first (called SKT PC Manager). Macs are not supported as yet.  

Inspired by iPhone App Store, SKT Mobile Open Market also allows users to download various types of multimedia content (full-length songs, movies, or other audio/video content) onto their phones. As this download happens over the internet, not over the air, users don't have to pay for expensive packet fees. This is a good news to many mobile users, who often have to pay $10 for packets to download a $3 mobile game

Of course, what makes an App Store an App Store are -- apps. SKT offers 6 different categories of apps -- entertainment, news/life, education, community, LBS, and utility apps. Currently there don't seem to be overwhelming number of apps available on SKT Mobile Open Market, but one can guess the number of apps will only increase, once the app store fully opens its door. 

On the other hand, there seems to be relatively richer volume of gaming content on the SKT Open Market, but as the reviewer says, all the games on the Open Market are already available on SKT mobile content site and can be downloaded wirelessly too. What will make the game download section far more interesting are large-file games that will turn high-end phones into full-fledged, Nintendo DS-fighting gaming devices. 

So far, SKT's app store doesn't seem to be breaking much of new grounds. It looks more like the extension of PC application-based content download site, which has been around for quite some time. Also, another limitation seems to be that content downloading only happens through SKT PC Manager application -- no downloading via WiFi. 

Cyworld to launch App store

Web 2.0 | 2009/07/08 16:52 | Web 2.0 Asia

Similarly to Facebook, iPhone, and Mixi, Cyworld is also launching (link in Korean) its own version of app store. Earlier, Cyworld had announced plan to support Google's Open Social. Third party application developers will soon be able to write apps that can run on Cyworld Minihompies and submit those apps through "Dev.Square", Cyworld's developer network. Apps will be able to leverage Cyworld's user data and social graph. 

Then the apps will be listed on and sold at Cyworld App Store. Consumed applications will be displayed in the user's Minihompy profile or as a post entry. 

Users will be able to recommend Cyworld applications to Cyworld friends (1-chons), whether or not they are actually using such apps. Through Open Social activity stream, other users will receive feeds of their friends' newest apps. 

Interestingly, Cyworld will only allow free-to-use apps initially. However, that doesn't mean app developers won't be able to monetize off of their apps. Cyworld will allow pay-as-you-go, or "freemium", monetization model (e.g. a game should be freely distributed, but virtual items can be sold within the game). Cyworld will share the incurred revenue 70:30, 70 for app developers. Developers would have much preferred a paid app store, but the "free apps" policy may lead to a wider initial adoption of the apps anyway. 

For those who are familiar with Facebook and iPhone app stores, nothing much in the Cyworld app store plan jumps to the eye. It all sounds familiar, which actually makes one wonder why it took this long for Cyworld to build its app store. 

Also, like other social networks embracing Open Social, Cyworld is focusing entirely on getting apps onto its container site ("Out=>In", so to speak), while not supporting external apps to import Cyworld social data ("In=>Out"). Later case might lead to many more interesting opportunities (imagine finding your Cyworld buddy's Wishlist right on an online bookstore), but in defense of Cyworld, other social networks are also much more sheepish about exporting their social graph out, as opposed to enriching apps and thereby drawing more users to their own sites. Stay tuned for more updates about Cyworld App store. 

Apparently, Google is not the only company that . Just a day before the "nuclear bomb" news about the Chrome OS, Tmax, a Korean software company, unveiled (link Korean) a demo version of their new OS called none other than "Tmax Window". 

Tmax Window is squarely aiming to become Korea's Microsoft Windows fighter. The promise: Works just like Microsoft Windows, but the price is half. During the product demo, Tmax ran Starcraft game and Microsoft Office on its Tmax Window. The applications somehow ran, but there were still many rough edges and glitches, participants witnessed. Tmax Window will go on sale in November this year. 

Tmax is one of the leading software companies in Korea, most famous for its middleware server solution. They take huge pride in being the only Korean company (or one of only few local players anywhere in the world) competing head-on against global software giants such as Microsoft and Oracle. Pride is good, but it may not necessarily mean success: Especially with the Tmax Window, one can't help but question if Tmax is fighting a worthy fight. When even Microsoft itself is much struggling to launch a OS that just works, will Tmax ever get a chance? 

It remains to be seen if TMax Window will be a contender at least in the Korean market, but one thing is dead clear: The company couldn't have picked up a worse time. With Google's Chrome OS announcement, chances are not many people will care Tmax Window anyway. 

TAG tmax, Windows

This is not the post aboout the latest, cutting edge IT development of Korea. New York Times reports a man nicknamed the "antenna man", who has set up 85 satellite dishes in his rural house. 

You might wonder if this person is either an eccentric type trying to receive some signals from aliens in the outer space, or a TV maniac who just can't be satisfied with hundreds of Korean satellite TV channels -- but the story actually goes deeper than that. What started out as a man's hobby is now one of the best ways to serve the local community, which has many foreign wives suffering from homesickness. 

In South Korea, which had once prided itself on being a homogeneous society, 4 out of 10 women who married in rural communities last year were foreign born. In Yeongju alone, the number of foreign wives increased by 28 percent in the past year and a half, to 250, half of them from Vietnam.
“These women have a hard time fitting in. The local governments, and the husbands, often focus only on making them ‘Korean,’ teaching them the Korean language and computer skills,” said Mr. Lee, 39, who has never married. “They don’t quite understand how isolated these women feel.”

When Mr. Lee, who lives with his 80-year-old mother and 97-year-old grandfather, is not toying with his satellite equipment, he tends his pepper and sesame fields or makes the rounds of nearby villages to see if the foreign brides are having any problems with their television reception.

Startup Seoul

Web 2.0 | 2009/07/01 15:19 | Web 2.0 Asia

This is a hopelessly belated post, but recently there was Startup Seoul (link in Korean), a great event put together by three startup entrepreneurs - David Lee, John Kim, and Daesan Hwang

The event was held in the chic office of Zenitum, where David works. Two startups presented their services in front of other startup folks, who provided some intense feedback. The presenters were SundayToz and HugeFlow. SundayToz is a social games startup, and they are just about to unveil an RPG game on Facebook; HugeFlow, a Silverlight and RIA (rich internet app) specialty house, is trying to apply their RIA technologies to create a more interactive, user content-rich online map. 

Overall, my expectations were totally exceeded. We had great startups, the food was good, and the discussions had substance. People always ask me if there is any good web startup meetups they can join, and I think Startup Seoul can be a good one. (The next one hasn't been scheduled yet, but you can stay tuned.) Given one of the organizers hail from Canada (that's David), I'm sure the event is pretty open to English-only speakers too.