Posts Tagged ‘Germany’


Brilliant Germany, Hapless Brazil or a Bit of Both?

July 9, 2014

Vista busy cursor  It will take Brazil a long time, if ever, to get over their 7-1 World Cup Semi Final mauling by Germany.

Brazil built up the game to be all about passion, emotion, riding the fans’ wild support and “doing it for Neymar”. While about it they seemed to entirely forget about discipline, shape, organisation, patience, control. The Germans couldn’t believe their luck. Thomas Muller was quoted after the game saying every time the Brazillians got the ball they rushed forwards with it and left the Germans masses of space to get at their defence on the counter.

Taking nothing away from the Germans, they were awesome. Movement, passing, vision, pace. Wonderful. But not 7-1 worth of wonderful without a lot of help from their opponents. Would that German side have stuck seven past Costa Rica, who got to the quarter finals while only conceding one goal (penalty shoot-outs aside)? Costa Rica don’t have stars or flair players but they know how to set themselves up to be solid and competitive.


Brazil have been shown up as not that great. They do have some decent players but got further than they deserved thanks to the incredible local support, occasional bits of brilliance from Neymar and moments of luck. Without their two best players, with the weight of expectation upon them and up against a very good team they were unmasked as not up to it. Worse, their over-reliance on emotion rather than organisation allowed the Germans to start sticking the goals in, and the realisation they were undone broke Brazil’s spirit so that they went utterly to pieces and the flood-gates opened.




iPhone a “flop” in the UK

December 7, 2007

iPod Maybe flop is too strong a word, but the early indications are that iPhone sales in the UK are bright rather than incandescent.

It’s all relative. Still, the hysteria in the US has not been repeated here.

From The Register, 23 November:

“Reliable channel sources tell us that Apple’s exclusive UK operator has activated just 26,500 iPhones since its launch two weeks ago, below the company’s expectations.

This doesn’t reflect the true number sold … but the gross is unlikely to be significantly higher. It’s far lower than first-weekend sales guesstimates of 100,000, a figure reprinted by tabloid and broadsheet alike.”

I’m not honestly surprised. I can think of lots of reasons:


This is the single biggest factor. The first year cost of an iPhone to an American buyer is $1,118.88* which translates to around £550 at current exchange rates. Now that’s quite a lot, but not compared with the £689** it actually costs a UK purchaser to own and run an iPhone on the O2 network for 12 months.

Note that the basic O2 contract only includes 200 free minutes a month (cf 450 for the basic AT&T contract in the US) so the UK cost for the equivalent service is probably around £750-£800. In other words, the iPhone is 45% more expensive to the UK buyer.

Now compare with the cost of buying a typical alternative high-end phone in the UK. The equivalent twelve month outlay if you plump for a Nokia N95 on a 400 monthly minutes contract is just £360. And in many ways the N95 comfortably out-specs the iPhone (eg HSDPA, 5MP camera, onboard GPS), even if the UI is not as cool and unique as the latter’s.

Market norms

It’s really part of the point above but Brits are used to getting their phones free when they subscribe for a contract. Having to pay a considerable up-front sum on top of a hefty monthly outlay goes against the UK phone market culture. It rankles.

Similarly, and unlike in the US, Brits are used to being able to get their phones unlocked so they can use the carrier of their choice. Being locked in to O2 also rankles. It’s not that O2 is hated, like AT&T is in the US, it’s the principle. Also, O2 does not provide the best signal strength in all areas.

Note that the French are able to buy their iPhones unlocked entirely legally, for an additional €100. Not surprisingly many are taking up the option and sales there look to be considerably brisker than in the UK. Sales in Germany are lacklustre.

Negative press about “bricked” iPhones in the US

This is related to the lock-in point above, in that the instances of iPhones getting bricked in the US are connected with attempts to break the carrier lock-in. But the point here is that Apple are seen as having penalised their customers unduly harshly, even if the latter did breach the licence terms. It’s all about whether a corporation projects an image of caring for their customers. The brickings damaged Apple’s brand, crucially before the iPhone’s UK launch.

The Yanks had it months ago

By the time the iPhone came to the UK it no longer presented a world first opportunity to get ones mitts on a piece of gadget history. The buzz at secondary launch locations was never going to be as big as for the original launch in the US.

Teething problems with reception

There have been reports of early adopters in some areas having to send their iPhones back because of signal problems. For some reason Matlock seems to have been singled out as a particular trouble spot. We know O2 coverage is weak in some places anyway, but this is different: iPhones are getting weaker signals than other phones on O2 even when the two are held side by side. This may be a technical fault due to a glitch in the system that conserves battery when the phone is on standby.

Timing of UK launch

Launched too early in the run-up to the festive season? Maybe sales will pick up as XMAS shopping gets into full swing.

Rumour that 3G version is around the corner

Reliance on EDGE for Internet browsing is definitely a drawback, but the rumours of a forthcoming 3G version are stronger now than when the iPhone first launched in the US.

Waiting for the post XMAS price drop

Apple have already annoyed early adopters in the US by dropping the price too soon after launch, creating a sense of having exploited their own greatest enthusiasts. Who would like to hazard there won’t be a significant price drop in the UK shortly after the XMAS rush?

*$399 for the phone from Apple (free shipping), $59.99 pm for basic AT & T basic plan (450 monthly mins)

**£269 for the phone from O2 (free shipping), £35 pm for O2 basic plan (200 monthly mins)

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Review: The City of Dreaming Books

September 24, 2007

Book Review This is where my review begins. Walter Moers is truly possessed of the Orm, that mysterious connection with a higher literary plane which distinguishes transcendental writing from quotidian prose.

How does someone, anyone come up with an idea so unlikely but which comes off so spectacularly? The setting for The City of Dreaming Books, my dear readers, is the fantasy world of Zamonia, but the book is not a fairy tale. The main protagonist and narrator is an author named Optimus Yarnspinner, a Lindworm (a dinosaur, basically) from Lindworm Castle, but the book is not really for children. If you do not have a knowledge of and interest in books, literature, literary forms, literary devices, authors or the world of publishing, much of this book will be lost on you. But then, you would not be a reader at all, dear or otherwise, if you had no interest in books.

The eponymous city is Bookholm, where Optimus travels in search of the author of a manuscript, given to him by his late authorial godfather, which no-one can read without being taken on a journey of joy and fulfilment no other written work could hope to engender. An author who has found the legendary Orm.

Bookholm is a city of authors, publishers, antiquarian booksellers, literary agents and critics. A place where aspiring authors go to seek their fame and fortune, but where failure could condemn them to the poets’ graveyard, to dwell in fetid holes in the ground and earn a pittance writing ditties and odes for passing tourists.

At Bookholm Optimus meets representatives of Zamonia’s diverse species such as Nocturnomaths, Ugglies, Hogglings, Shark Grubs and Vulpheads. He learns about the Golden List of valuable books and the armed, armoured and dangerous Bookhunters who scour the labyrinthine catacombs below Bookholm in search of rare and ancient first editions that will make them wealthy beyond measure; of the most famous Bookhunter of them all, Colophonius Regenschein, who is presumed lost in the catacombs, a victim of the rumoured but unseen Shadow King who rules the vast complex of subterranean caverns.

It is to the catacombs that the story takes the ingenuous Optimus, to a series of encounters with Hazardous books, Bookhunters, Booklings in their Leather Grotto and finally Shadowhall where he is presented with the opportunity to acquire the Orm himself.

What stuns me most of all about this book is that Walters Moers’ original was written in German. (Officially, Moers was himself merely the translator of the real original text, by Yarnspinner, from Zamonian into German). All the same, that it could have ended up in English without the merest hint that it had ever been in any other language is as much a testament to the extraordinary ingenuity and skill of the English translator (John Brownjohn) as the book itself is to the creative talent of Moers. I think the Orm must have a permanent residence in both of them.

The City of Dreaming Books

You can take The City of Dreaming Books in many ways; a fantasy for the not so young, a witty parody on the literary world and the sorts of people who inhabit it, a playful treatise on literary tricks and devices, an exercise in getting your readers to identify with an innocent but plucky dinosaur with authorial pretensions or just a deeply charming and enjoyable book to fall in love with. Moers is cartoonist as well as writer, and his distinctive illustrations help bring the quirky denizens of Bookholm to life.

This is a book like no other I can begin to compare it to, except maybe some of Moers’ other works. He is on his own and if only one author can lay claim to the Orm, my money is on Walter, dear readers. But now this is where my review ends.


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