History speeds up…

This has been a momentous year. On the 17th December 2010, unemployed Tunisian youth, Mohamed Bouazizi, after having his vegetable stall removed by the police, sets fire to himself in protest. He later dies – this was the literal spark the garnered Tunisian youth into rebellion. Within a month, Tunisian President Ben Ali, had fled to Saudi Arabia, his regime collapsing.

This movement was soon adopted by the Egyptians, Jordanians, Palestinians and Syrians, to a greater or lesser degree of earnest application, and repressive crackdown. Syria is ongoing; Libya spawned a Conflict all of its own, involving a myriad of Nato forces – though, no manpower on the ground. So. we heralded the “Arab Spring”…the US, for once impressive in its restraint, adopted  a “wait and see” policy – one it still maintains.

The year moves on: Mubarak finally resigns (“finally” in this context should be qualified: after a 30 year reign, to take a couple of months to oust, is no mean feat.) Libya, however, entrenches – Colonel Gaddafi isn’t going anywhere…months of violence ensue, cities are bombed, thousands displaced, hundreds killed. The western countries follow an aerial bombing campaign, a war of attrition from the sky begins and formal alliances with the rebels are established. The bombing begins to co-ordinate with rebel movement on the ground; Gaddafi flees. He is later captured, physically violated and killed by those he has ruled for 40 years, those who he swore would die to protect him…

Meanwhile, back in Europe, things are not looking quite so rosy either. We enter the fourth year of either recessionary or significantly below trend growth. The countries of the Eurozone experience further problems in their fiscal positions. Europe, in the main (Italy always being the exception), has a recent history typified by stable government. The problems of the Euro and unsustainable debt begin to take their toll – as does almost 40% youth unemployment in areas of some member countries. Individual nations begin circling around that great spiral known as “Default”. The prospect of an ignominious exit from the greatest project of European unity, now seems an all too certain outcome. Greece is likely to be the first taker. Ireland, once the doyen of the Euro enthusiasts, now is littered with entire apartment blocks nobody wants to buy, and heartbreakingly, a new exodus of its’ talents…the first mass emigration out of the western European nation’s…

So…what do we conclude? Simply, that few things are knowable, that history itself  is speeding up and our path uncertain. That mass media and technology act as both a catalyst and spur, and moreover – witness. We are all participants, we are all stakeholders and some of us get to be drivers…which direction shall we head in 2012?

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Decisive time for Blackberry….

Research in Motion (RIM), the Canadian parent company of Blackberry, began it’s quest for first mover advantage in the smartphone business, on the back of healthy revenues from the educational PC market.

We now commence day 4 for generalised service failure, across its network of users. This was all RIM could say yesterday, in response to a now worldwide outage: “BlackBerry subscribers in the Americas may be experiencing intermittent service delays this morning”

In a world where mobile computing is now the standard, users have demanded, and expected, reliability. BB had indeed differentiated itself, on the basis of offering this reliability. One of its key selling points for business, was the fact that it has its own network of servers, and so is less reliant on the technology of the mobile providers whose platforms essentially act as a co-host.

Losing the perception of this security and stability, could not be more crucial for RIM – not least as it happens at a time when Apple is launching its own iPhone 4S, with a bundled iMessage, a rival to the lauded BBM.

Ian Fogg, a mobile industry analyst at Forrester, said RIM had built its reputation on reliability.

“RIM is in danger of becoming its own worst enemy if it is unable to reliably operate the communication services that have differentiated it,” he said on his blog.

“BBM is the reason many young consumers stay with BlackBerry. If it doesn’t work, they will leave RIM.”

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