People’s Processor: Embrace China’s Homegrown Computer Chips

January 28, 2010


We thought that this was a really important, provocative story about people, politics and technology.

Imagine that your nation is entirely dependent on a belligerent and economically unstable foreign country for a precious commodity. Imagine that without that commodity, your entire society would grind to a halt. Got it? OK, now imagine that your nation is China, the belligerent nation is the US, and the commodity is CPUs.


Fuloong is coming!

For China to maintain its blistering pace of growth — about 8 percent over the course of the global financial meltdown — the nation’s leaders know they must transition to a postindustrial economy as rapidly as they transitioned to a free-market economy 30 years ago. Computers are key to doing that. The country’s demand for PCs is enormous. The Chinese purchased 39.6 million of them in 2008. And that number is only going to climb — 75 percent of the population still doesn’t have access to the Internet. But the vast majority of PCs sold in China are running central processing units created by the US companies Intel and AMD. This poses a range of problems; perhaps the biggest is that it locks China into paying first-world prices for CPUs. China is also deeply reluctant to build military hardware on top of Western processors. (And if that sounds paranoid, keep in mind that there’s concern in Washington over whether the US military should use American-designed chips that have merely been manufactured overseas.)

Given those issues, it’s not hard to understand why the Chinese government sponsored an ambitious initiative to create a sort of national processor. Work on the Loongson, or Dragon Chip, began in 2001 at the Institute of Computing Technology in Beijing. The goal was to create a chip that would be versatile enough to drive anything from an industrial robot to a supercomputer. One of the first Loongson-powered computers appeared in 2006, an ultracompact desktop PC known as the Fuloong (Lucky Dragon). It was built by the Chinese company Lemote, which soon followed that up with a cheap netbook. And China is now boasting that a third-generation multicore Loongson chip, currently in the prototype stage, will be used to power a petaflop supercomputer.

China’s decision to roll its own processors has gone largely unnoticed in the West. It shouldn’t. The country is incredibly motivated for the project to succeed — it has become a cornerstone of the National High-Tech R&D Program embarked upon in 1986. And we know that the Chinese are very good at leveraging economies of scale. The Loongson chip is going to change more than just computer-ownership rates in the most populous nation on the planet. It’s going to have a profound impact on computers everywhere.

For starters, it could help usher in an era of true post-Windows PCs. Because the Loongson eschews the standard x86 chip architecture, it can’t run the full version of Microsoft Windows without software emulation. To encourage adoption of the processor, the Institute of Computing Technology is adapting everything from Java to OpenOffice for the Loongson chip and releasing it all under a free software license. Lemote positions its netbook as the only computer in the world with nothing but free software, right down to the BIOS burned into the motherboard chip that tells it how to boot up. It’s for this last reason that Richard “GNU/Linux” Stallman, granddaddy of the free software movement, uses a laptop with a Loongson chip.

Loongson could also reshape the global PC business. “Compared to Intel and IBM, we are still in the cradle,” concedes Weiwu Hu, chief architect of the Loongson. But he also notes that China’s enormous domestic demand isn’t the only potential market for his CPU. “I think many other poor countries, such as those in Africa, need low-cost solutions,” he says. Cheap Chinese processors could corner emerging markets in the developing world (and be a perk for the nation’s allies and trade partners).

And that’s just the beginning. “These chips have implications for space exploration, intelligence gathering, industrialization, encryption, and international commerce,” says Tom Halfhill, a senior analyst for Microprocessor Report.

Will Loongson-based PCs make inroads with average consumers in the West? You can already order a Lemote netbook online. It isn’t any cheaper or better than other entry-level netbooks, and reviews from geeky hardware enthusiast sites are less than enthusiastic. But these crude first-generation products hark back to another wave of boxy, underpowered consumer goods that were initially regarded as mere curiosities in the West. They were called Toyotas.

[Christopher Mims’ original article from]

A Guide to Advertising on Facebook

January 14, 2010


Facebook presents businesses with the opportunity to reach their target market throughout the entire marketing cycle. While a small percentage of users are ready to purchase while they’re browsing Facebook, a much larger percentage of users are going to make a purchase in the future rather than at the moment they see your ad.

Fortunately you have the opportunity to build an ongoing relationship with your customer and that’s what Facebook is most useful for. It’s a platform to build ongoing relationships and “remarket” to your customers, as Facebook says in some of their own marketing copy. Understanding that these users are not ready to purchase is key to success on Facebook.

Often times on Google, advertisers will create an ad which targets every person in a single country and then split test two ad versions against each other. On Facebook this model will do nothing but cost you money. Placing a generic ad that’s targeted at an entire country, without any additional targeting, will do nothing but get you a lot of clicks and waste a lot of money for the most part.

Define Your Market

In order to become an effective Facebook advertiser, you need to have effectively defined your market. This will help you to take advantage of the 11 targeting factors that Facebook currently provides. To help define your market, you can go through the market segmentation process. This involves defining the need your company satisfies and then more thoroughly defining who your customer is.

After exhaustively defining who your customer is, you’ll be more effective at defining the targeting factors to be used in Facebook advertisements.

Split Test Ads By Demographic

Let’s say that you’ve created an advertisement that’s targeted at CEOs of companies in the Northeast region of the United States. You can create two advertisements and compare which version of the ad results in a larger response. An example lesson learned would be that “CEOs in the Northeast region tend to respond better to ads with the word ‘influence’ over the word ‘power’”.

As you narrow your targeting, you can begin to adjust your advertisements even further. For example, as a second step you can now create separate ads for CEOs in the Boston area and CEOs in the New York metropolitan area.

Targeting Factors Outlined

Facebook provides 11 targeting factors for advertisers. Below is an outline of each of those factors:

  1. Location – Facebook enables advertisers to target by country, state/provice, city, and metropolitan areas. All advertisements are required to have a location selected. This should be pretty straight-forward as to which location you’d like to select.
  2. Age – Age is a standard demographic factor. Most marketers that have a well defined target-market will be able to select their age.
  3. Birthday – This is one of Facebook’s latest advertising targeting filters. It should be pretty obvious what types of ads should be presented to people whose birthday it is. Try wishing the user a happy birthday and offer them a gift for higher conversion rates.
  4. Sex – Gender is another typical targeting filter for Facebook.
  5. Keywords – Keywords will are based on a user’s profile information including Activities, Favorite Books, TV Shows, Movies, and more. What types of products do your customers like? Spend time on this field and you’ll be rewarded.
  6. Education – While you can target based on their level of education, this is most effective for targeting ads based on the schools that people went to. Want to announce a reunion for the University of Illinois class of 1996? This is a great way to promote it.
  7. Workplaces – This is another great targeting filter. Oftentimes you will know the companies that your target market works at. If you are looking to get new clients or looking to spread awareness within specific organizations, this filter can be priceless.
  8. Relationship – Want to target people that are about to get married? This is a great tool for that. If you are a bar or club, you most likely want to go after those people that are single. While this filter can be useful, you also need to keep in mind that selecting any of these settings will remove all users that haven’t selected a relationship status in their profile.
  9. Interested In – This factor is useful if a user’s sexual preferences are relevant to whatever you are advertising.
  10. Languages – If your ad is in English but the user speaks Chinese, it’s probably not a good idea to be displaying ads to them.
  11. Connections – The connections allow you to include and exclude users based on pages, events, and applications that the users have joined and you happen to be the administrator of. If you’ve created a Page and don’t want the ads to display to people who have already joined, this is a great way to avoid duplicate clicks.

If you aren’t taking advantage of the numerous targeting factors then you aren’t using Facebook advertising effectively. In order to have an increased conversion rate on your advertisements, increase the targeting in order to make the advertisement more relevant for the users. Relevance will get people to respond to your ad.

Why is this powerful?

  • The demographics are far more accurate than most data (age, sex, gender preference, relationship, etc.)
  • The deep data – being able to choose to market to employees of specific companies – should be an amazing tool for the right advertiser
  • The keyword associations that people have with their Facebook accounts are correlated quite highly with true interests
  • The “approximate reach” number gives you great insight into your target market size (even if you never place an ad)

Building Relationships

Facebook is about relationship marketing, not direct sales. That means it’s more important to build a relationship with a potential client or an existing customer than to close a sale right away.

Through Facebook advertising, users can become a fan or RSVP to an event directly from an ad. At that point, you have the opportunity to interact directly with that individual and build a relationship. If you had directed a user to your website, you would have been forced to have them enter a form or make a purchase right away. The odds of getting a user to fill out a form or make a purchase immediately is far less than getting them to become a fan of a Page or RSVPing to an event.

In addition to having an increased conversion, you are also now able to reach out to individuals directly if you wish. For example if someone RSVPs to an event, but you don’t know who they are, you can send them a message welcoming them to the event and inquiring about more information. This form of relationship building is used to build lasting customers, not one time purchases, and it is core to Facebook marketing.

Measure initial conversions as fans, comments, and likes. Since most users will not make a purchase right away, you need to make sure that you are at least engaging them. Follow-up with your fans often and consistently.

Think Long-Term

In terms of sales, the payoff will be further down the line so be prepared to spend over weeks and months, don’t blow your budget in a day. Unless you are an affiliate marketer (who has distinctly different goals), you should be invested in the advertising for the long haul. A one-week campaign is not going to bring you riches, but a long-term investment in advertising can produce measurable results.

This means don’t spend beyond your means for one week and have no money left at the end. Instead, set reasonable budgets that you’ll be able to handle for longer periods of time.

Monitor Your Ad Performance And Adjust Accordingly

Put the daily spending budget into place at a low level while you see how much traffic and at what cost you will get it. Keep a close eye on your campaigns, especially the first week. (Weekends can vary drastically from week days.)

Facebook provides advertisers with a number of monitoring tools including their basic ad manager area as well as downloadable data about each campaign you are running. If you visit the ad reports area you can download three types of reports to determine how your campaigns and ads are performing: advertising performance, responder demographics, responder profiles.

The primary things to monitor are clicks, click through rates (CTR), actions, action rates, and CPC. Each of these variables will differ depending on what type of campaign that you’re running but in theory, the more targeted your ad, the higher click through rate you should have. Additionally, your click through rate will tend to go down over time as your entire target population views your ad and decides whether or not they want to respond.

Test Landing Pages Versus Facebook Pages

In traditional online advertising, users are directed to a landing page from which they are prompted to fill in information in a form. This information is then typically used to send marketing literature. On Facebook, you want to build relationships but if the relationships you are building aren’t generating any revenue, you may want to diversify your advertising strategy by including some landing pages.

Yes, building relationships are extremely valuable and despite those users never making a purchase, they can become effective brand advocates that ultimately drive new customers to your business. For smaller businesses, investing in brand advocates is often considered to be a costly proposition which is why investing in some direct sales is always useful.

The point of this law is that Facebook advertising combined with relationship marketing cannot be your only strategy. You need to generate sales and sometimes that means being direct and converting a customer.

Creating Your Ad

Conversion is primarily about two things: your ad copy and the landing page. If your advertisement doesn’t provide a call to action, there is a good chance that the user won’t respond. 

Be creative. You will most likely be spending dimes on the ads, and there’s almost nothing to lose if they don’t work. This is a perfect chance to take a risk, assuming you’re closely watching your ad performance.

Use great images. The wonderful thing Facebook ads open up is the ability to use images easily. For very low costs you can find images that you can purchase the rights to, and use on your ads.


What’s Changed This Decade…

January 4, 2010

Since our last post gave you a look into the future, why not take a moment to look the other direction? Here’s a great infographic which shows how things have changed over the past decade. Most of all, it’s clear that web-based technology has pervaded society, and the trend is only increasing.

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