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To Take the Lead Globally Korea must build the Ferrari of Hand-held Devices

Monday, September 27th, 2010

It may seem odd to suggest that Italy be the model for Korea in its future development in technology. Although Italy does not hold the dominant position in high volume manufacturing that Korea possesses, Italy offers exactly what Korea needs to jump into the next stage of economic development: an emphasis on fashion and ergonomics. Italy has established itself as the undisputed leader in design, with such names as Gucci, Prada and Ferragamo in fashion and in the automotive sector with leaders such as Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini. The aesthetic sensibility and artistic quality found in Italian products are what Korean products lack today.

Let us start with the basic facts. Korea does not need more technology at this point and it does not need more manufacturing capacity. It needs to build cutting-edge devices that will capture the imagination of users and define new fields, along the lines of the I-Phone.

Let us consider the case of handheld devices. Korea must dominate the high-end of handheld devices and use that position to make its brand value unassailable along the lines of Gucci or Ferrari.

Let us imagine that Korea builds a "Ferrari of Hand-held devices" a top of the line device that is so innovative and so luxurious that it leaves behind all competitors. That specific product will affect how all Korean products are perceived globally, placing Korea in an unprecedented dominant position.

At present there are top of the line handheld devices available, but they the market for a truly exclusive range of handhelds (10 million to 60 million Won range) has yet to be explored seriously. The opportunity for Korea is tremendous in this blue ocean.

Part of the problem is the "imagination gap" that so troubles Korea. We find that the design used in Korean devices is often unimaginative and even trite: an attempt to catch up with an imagined modern world in the United States rather than a daring leap forward into uncharted territory. The images used for the icons in Korean handhelds are bland stock photos. The structure of menus lacks innovation. The technology is a breakthrough but the design is not.

But the point is not that Korea should team up with Gucci. Rather Korea should learn from Italy how to combine its own cultural and manufacturing sectors effectively.  All you have to do is open up a recent issue of "Art in America" magazine to see that Korea has the most creative and adventurous visual artists in the world. Those Korean mavericks of painting and sculpture (music and drama) are second to none. But they are not being consulted at Samsung about the layout of the Galaxy. Korea has both the artistic creativity and the engineering know-how. All we need is to bring them together.

Let us take a moment to imagine what the Ferrari of handheld devices might look like. The exterior will be handcrafted of wood, stone and silver with the loving care you might put into a diamond necklace. Although the software within the device will be changed constantly, the perfectly crafted exterior will last for a lifetime.

The visual representation of information will be deceivingly easy to use, so well thought out that it is additive, no matter what the price. CEOs will gladly pay fifty million Won, or more, for one of these devices.

The images used within the device will be stunning. They will be remarkable illustrations in a perfectly designed "interior architecture" for the representation of information.

The layout within the programs will be original and highly functional. The handheld features an inner landscape so perfectly structured as to create a "memory palace" for the user that he can constantly customize to his needs. The user can walk through a 3D "house" within the device that organizes all information on shelves and drawers, or boxes, or whatever form is most appealing to the individual. Just clip on a pair of electronic "eyeglasses" and the user can wander through the device like her apartment to find and organize information in the most convenient manner.

As the user builds the "interior" of his hand-held's virtual reality, this activity of personalizing the representation of information becomes a personal, even creative, activity for the user. He will never want to give up the device he has invested so much time in creating an internal world in.

The major problem of our day is that handhelds, rather than helping the CEO, have made him into a secretary. He must schedule everything by himself and call, message or email all day long. The amount of time consumed is enormous. The solution is to put the secretary in the device. A live secretary (or team) works remotely with the handheld device to arrange all information in an optimal manner 24 hours a day, and conduct research. A supercomputer link helps with more complex tasks. The potential of this market for high-end handhelds has not even begun to be explored.

If the user has a pile of business cards after a party, he can just take a picture of them with the device and press send. The information will be input in the optimal manner by the device support team. And after research has been done by the team on the business cards, recommendations are made as to how those individuals could be useful for specific ongoing projects.

 

Another service is instant access to experts. If the CEO needs to talk with an expert on nuclear power, or on biotechnology, or a real estate agent in Argentina, the support team will use a paid group of consultants to set up the telephone call immediately. Simultaneous translation will be offered as well if necessary. For a bit higher cost, the CEO can be put in touch at the press of a button with Nobel Prize winners or important figures in the arts and media. This built in consulting service will make all the difference to the CEO in his business activities. Price will be a secondary concern.

Korea can learn something valuable from the Italian tradition of high-end craftsmanship. Korea has some of the most creative artistic minds in the world. Bring those artists into the workshop at Samsung and SK and there will be no limit to how far Korea can go.

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