Wednesday, August 24, 2011

China, Russia may lose out in new Libya

China and Russia may lose out on oil contracts as a new Libya rises from the destruction of the Gaddafi regime. This week an official at Libyan oil company AGOCO, allied with the rebels, told news agencies they "may have some political issues" in future dealings with China and Russia as they prepare for a return to production.

The reasoning behind his statement was due to the fact both Russia and China had failed to support the rebellion and abstained in voting for Resolution 1973 which paved the way for NATO airstrikes and a no-fly zone.

Gaddafi's fall will reopen the doors to Africa's largest oil reserves and give new players such as Qatar's national oil company and trading house Vitol the chance to compete with established European and US oil majors. But if the rebels side with those that helped them overthrow Colonel Gaddafi several major players are likely to lose out in benefiting from Libya's rich resouces.

Russian commentator Alexander Nekrassov talking to Al-Jazeera conceded Russia and China was likely to lose out on new oil contracts. But he said he did not believe it was a mistake to abstain from giving support to the rebel cause. "You cannot humiliate small countries just because you feel like it," he said, and went on to say that anti-Western sentiment may grow because of Western interference around the world. He also criticised the hypocrisy of the US and West for ignoring other dictatorships such as Saudi Arabia.

Nekrassov pointed out that China and Russia were not the only nations to abstain from supporting the rebels. India, Brazil and Germany also opposed military action and had urged greater diplomacy, he said.

But these nations too may also fail in securing lucrative contracts. "We don't have a problem with Western countries like the Italians, French and UK companies. But we may have some political issues with Russia, China and Brazil," Abdeljalil Mayouf, information manager at Libyan rebel oil firm AGOCO, told Reuters on Monday.

Russia has rich oil and gas resources, but China and other countries rely heavily on imports of oil. Before the revolution Libya was China's 11th largest oil supplier, but there is more at stake. China, which has sponsored an increasing number of development loans and projects in Africa in exchange for access to natural resources, also risks losing out on major redevelopment contracts.

"China is now encountering the complications of its non-interference policy," says Patrick Chovanec, associate professor in Beijing's Tsinghua University's School of Economics and Management. "China has a presence in a lot of countries that are seen as potentially politically unstable and yet it has this policy of supporting that status quo…When things are uncertain, it puts China in a very uncomfortable position."

This week as it became clear Gaddafi's regime was finally crumbling China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs appeared to change its position. In a statement the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said, "We have noticed recent changes in the Libyan situation and we respect the Libyan people's choice." A commerce ministry official meanwhile called for a return to stability. "We hope after a return to stability in Libya, Libya will continue to protect the interests and rights of Chinese investors and we hope to continue investment and economic cooperation with Libya in the future," a conciliatory Wen Zhongliang, deputy head of the commerce ministry's trade department, told a news conference.

Behind the scenes China may well be nervous. Before the uprising there were some 35,000 Chinese workers in the country. Now it seems unlikely they will return.

Until the Arab Spring, China massaged the shoulders of dictators everywhere, and took home boatloads of oil, metals and minerals. This may not be a dependable bet in the future. Libya may just be the beginning of a growing movement for democratisation of African and Middle East states. Successful opposition movements may not be favourable toward apolitical resource-buyers. A policy of non-interference and of ignoring issues of human rights abuses may severely affect China if it loses out to more of Africa's vast resources [Globe & Mail / Foreign Policy / Reuters / CNN].

Perhaps China and Russia should have read The Little Red Hen, an old folk tale, most likely of Russian origin. In the tale, The Little Red Hen finds a grain of wheat, and asks for help from the other farmyard animals to plant it. However, no animal will volunteer to help her. At each further stage (harvest, threshing, milling the wheat into flour, and baking the flour into bread), the hen again asks for help from the other animals, but again she gets no assistance.

Finally, the hen has completed her task, and asks who will help her eat the bread. This time, all the previous non-participants eagerly volunteer. However, she declines their help, stating that no one aided her in the preparation work, and eats it with her chicks, leaving none for anyone else. The moral of this story is that those who show no willingness to contribute to an end product do not deserve to enjoy the end product. By maintaining a hands off approach with regards Libya, China and Russia as well as several other countries may well be left out of any new deals. 

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Monday, August 22, 2011

Endgame for Gaddafi

Late Sunday night it became clear that the Gaddafi regime was in its final throws as rebel forces converged on the Libyan capital Tripoli. As the news broke that rebels had taken parts of Tripoli Sky News was the first to bring live pictures of jubilant crowds on the streets. The BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera struggled to bring live pictures from the country relying on recently shot video and still pictures of correspondents who relayed reports by telephone.

As the anti-Gaddafi forces made the final push Sky News certainly won the day as far as news coverage was concerned. Sky correspondent Alex Crawford was the only broadcaster on the ground in Tripoli itself surrounded by a jubilant and excited crowd. Al Jazeera meanwhile was only broadcasting pictures from Benghazi as its correspondent struggled to describe what might be happening in the capital. Behind he the town square was filled with thousand of jubilant Libyans. The BBC and CNN could only relay second hand reports and voice overs from some correspondents by phone.

Other broadcasters also struggled with the breaking news story. For political and editorial reasons Xinhua's CNC and China's state broadcaster CCTV News only touched on the developing story. The coverage from Russia Today and Iran's Press TV was also scant and did not match the in depth analysis provided by western media outlets.

While the rebel advance continued towards the centre of the city it became clear that some of Gaddafi's power base remained as Moussa Ibrahim, the Acting Minister of Information, came on air in a live broadcast. He criticised NATO for "attacking the heart of a peaceful city" and spoke of more than some 1,300 killed in the previous 12 hours. The press conference was short and relayed by France 24 and Al Jazeera amongst others. However the BBC ran the broadcast a few minutes later though did not remove the Live strap until some minutes later.

In the morning papers there was only one story [Sky - papers]. Many spoke of Gaddafi's regime being "on the brink" and that it was the "endgame" for his near 42 year dictatorship. By the early hours of Monday Downing Street released a statement saying it was clear the end was near for Col. Gaddafi. However as the sun rose over Tripoli there were still pockets of resistance in many parts of the city.

The whereabouts of Muammar Gaddafi was still not clear on Monday though the Pentagon did not believe he had left the country. There was a strong indication he might be holed up at his Tripoli compound which remained protected by pro-Gaddafi troops and tanks as the day continued.

Wherever he was he was certainly not in control. The TV station had been seized by the rebels by Monday and several of the dictator's sons had been detained.

Around the world leaders aired their joy that the end of Gaddafi's regime seemed close. British Prime Minister David Cameron said the allies should be proud to have helped the Libyan people. "This is not our revolution but we should be proud that we've played a part," he said on the steps of Downing Street. But he urged some caution. "We will not be complacent, there is still lots to do," he added.

Of NATO's actions he said that it was legal and right to have intervened. But the revolution in Libya was not only a turning point for Libyans. "I do think the Arab spring is a great opportunity for North Africa... and indeed the whole world," Cameron continued.

While Western politicians spoke out loud and clear in support of the rebels some nations were far more critical. Hugo Chavez slammed NATO saying that they were "destroying Tripoli with their bombs." In a statement he said, "Today we are seeing images of the democratic governments of Europe, along with the supposedly democratic government of the United States destroying Tripoli with their bombs." [WSJ]

However China, who abstained in the original UN vote for action and have been critical of NATO's role, seemed to made a U-turn. In a statement the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeman Ma Zhaoxu said, "We have noticed recent changes in the Libyan situation and we respect the Libyan people's choice." [Xinhua]

The muted statement was a far cry from the vociferous statements coming from China a few months ago. In March the People's Daily, the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party, accused the United States and its allies of violating international rules through the use of air strikes. This despite the fact that China had refrained from blocking the United Nations Security Council decision which effectively authorised the air attacks.

The People's Daily likened the assault on Libyan sites to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, and suggested it followed a pattern of the West's overreaching into other countries' affairs.

"The blood-soaked tempests that Iraq has undergone for eight years and the unspeakable suffering of its people are a mirror and a warning," said the commentary in the People's Daily. "The military attacks on Libya are, following on the Afghan and Iraq wars, the third time that some countries have launched armed action against sovereign countries." [Reuters]

China's handling of Western pressure on Libya has laid bare the quandaries facing Beijing in the Middle East. The Middle East is an important source of oil for China and Libya had particularly strong ties before the turmoil begun. About half of China's crude imports last year came from the Middle East and North Africa.

Such voices of criticism subsided later in the year when it became clear that the Gaddafi regime might fall. In July a Chinese official met with a Libyan rebel group fighting to oust Gaddafi. The foreign ministry said Beijing's ambassador to Qatar, Zhang Zhiliang, and the head of Libya's Transitional National Council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, met in Qatar's capital, Doha. The men "exchanged views on the Libyan situation," a ministry statement said though they gave no further details. "The Chinese side's position on the Libya problem is clear," the statement said. "That is, we hope for the crisis to reach a political resolution." It seemed more likely that China was attempting to broker potential deals should the rebels succeed in ousting the Libyan dictator [WSJ].

It is not only China who is after Libya's oil. Western nations will certainly be keeping a keen eye on the country's oil interests. Oil reserves in Libya are the largest in Africa and the ninth largest in the world, however it may take some time to restore the flow of the precious resource. Foreign oil producers in Libya have already said it is too early to consider restoring output at halted fields. Italy's Eni SpA has said it may take as much as a year to get fields back to full capacity. Meanwhile the US, UK, France and Italy are all said to be working with Libya's National Transitional Council to restore oil production [Business Week].

Oil prices have fallen as markets spiked ahead of a possible conclusion to unrest in Libya. However this maybe shortlived, and any fall in oil prices is unlikely to make it to the pumps [Sky / Guardian].

For Libyans there may soon be great cause for celebration, despite the massive loss of life over the last six months. Oil companies around the world may ultimately benefit too. Whether the rest of the world benefits is not so clearcut.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Saturday, August 13, 2011

UK Govt seeks to control social networks

The British government has said it is looking into ways to control social networks like Twitter, Facebook and Blackberry's BBM message system following a week of riots and mayhem on Britain's streets which was partly coordinated using social media.

There is already concern amongst users of social networks who have drawn comparisons with the way sites such as Twitter are tightly controlled in authoritarian regimes [FT]. As well as technical and legal issues, there are also doubts over the effect blocking such services might have.

Organising before social media

Even before social media there have been riots. Before the advent of Twitter and smartphones, SMS texts have been used to connect between individuals and regular phone calls have also been used to coordinate activity. But even before mobile phones were an everyday item people were still able to organise.

There was undoubtedly some coordination between troublemakers before the 1990 Poll Tax march which descended into widespread chaos and rioting across much of the West End of London.

In the 1980s many an animal rights' march would descend into chaos as it arrived at the focus of attention such as an animal testing laboratory. Anarchists and violent agitators often gravitated to such regular events, though coordination would be organised though phone calls over landlines and even regular post. Badly photocopied lists of upcoming marches would often be handed around at protests and at concerts, not only rallying together protesters for the cause but also potential troublemakers.

The infamous Stop the City demonstrations which began in 1983 was organised primarily by a leafleting campaign. London Greenpeace, which was an unconnected offshoot of the main organisation, was partly behind the organising of the initial idea. But other groups spread the word with stickers and leaflets ultimately bringing several thousand onto the streets of the City. There were violent clashes with police and the financial quarter was effectively locked down as crowds of protesters filled the surrounding streets.

Just as the Internet raised the public profile of organisation which would have only been known at a grass roots level, social networks have merely brought the organisation of event to a larger audience and sped up the procedure.

The Stop the City protest of March 1983 was talked about for many weeks prior to its happening and with stickers all over the London Underground authorities would have been well aware that an illegal protest was in the offing. Yet police were caught out by numbers and the level of violence.

Twitter & Blackberrys

The anonymity of Twitter and Blackberry's BBM services has brought extra bravado perhaps not seen so brazenly before. However, there are laws in place which may be helpful if such individuals are identified to be deliberately inciting others to break the law. Twitter users may be more easily identified since British courts can compel the company to supply user information. With such data the identity of the users could potentially be established. While a Twitter user may hide their real name in their Twitter profile they will have had to use an email address in order to sign up for the service. In many cases the signing pup for an email account might require real details including an address. Facebook particularly rejects users with names that are not real.

This week the prime minister David Cameron said he was looking at ways to inhibit the use of such services. "We are working with the police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality," he told MPs on Thursday.

While monitoring of such services can be useful to the police both during and after disturbances few people would be so daft as to blatantly call for a riot, though one individual has been arrested for inciting violence on Facebook [Guardian].


Police intelligence gathering is already fairly advanced as regards to quasi-public communications media such as Twitter and Facebook. Many messages are viewable by anyone, and there are security firms lining up to provide authorities with software tools to make mass, real time monitoring easier. Websites like Twitterfall is often used by journalists to search keywords in realtime, an indicator of the way technology can be used to monitor events [Telegraph].

Rioters are unlikely to talk openly on social networks. Instead any messages sent are probably going to be sent as private messages, a Direct Message in Twitter, or by using the even more secure Blackberry message system [Telegraph].

Police have powers under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act to seize stored messages, but the process involves a mountain of paperwork and would useless in an ongoing crisis. As regards BlackBerry Messenger conversations it is unclear how much data is stored by the company since its message service is supposed to be private and secure. The company says it is "engaged with the authorities to assist in any way we can" [ZDNet]. But there have already been threats from some who hacked the company website [Telegraph].

Question of censorship

There is much talk in the media suggesting that blocking Twitter, Facebook and others would be too difficult. In legal terms and in immediate practical terms this might be true [Telegraph]. However, it is entirely possible to do so. In China the Blackberry is not on sale primarily because Research In Motion have yet to appease the Chinese government concerning its message service. As far as other services such as Twitter, Facebook and other social media, these are entirely blocked by the so-called Great Firewall of China. While a VPN can circumvent these blocks China has recently shown it has the technology to affect VPNs with DNS poisoning attacks and other methods. In short it is possible to impede access to such service, though even in China there is social disorder and riots. Blocking may have some effect, but people will always look for other ways to circumvent such restrictions.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Monday, August 08, 2011

Rioters bring mayhem to London

Parts of London has seen riots and violent disorder over the weekend following the fatal shooting of 29 year old Mark Duggan on 4th August. The violence is seen by some as a reaction to growing discontent and disaffection amongst sections of society, but police and local politicians have condemned the rioters as being nothing less than criminals.

While there is certainly high unemployment in parts of London, the destruction of shops, houses and local government buildings will do nothing to improve the situation for those seeking jobs. Businesses will think twice before locating themselves in areas which might be considered unsafe. And it may be months before some of the stores destroyed on Saturday night are rebuilt. Damage is estimated to be in excess of £100 million but the repercussions could extend much further. As well as scaring business away, the rioting will do nothing for the reputation of London as a city.  

Tottenham saw the worst disorder with rioters attacking police officers, setting fire to police cars, a bus and buildings. Amongst the buildings set on fire were an Aldi supermarket and the Carpetright shop, built in 1930, both of which were gutted. Not only will employees face an uncertain future, so too will the community who will have fewer stores in which to shop. There were other shops also targeted by youths, some as young as seven [The Sun]. Mobile phone stores were looted, banks were smashed and cash machines were stripped bare.

As well as destroyed stores, many people's homes were also gutted. Families had to flee their flats situated above shops as the went up in flames. Some spoke of escaping near death with one family talking of how rioters had even attempted to set fire to their car in which their young baby was sitting [The Sun]. Journalists, TV crews and photographers were also attacked by rioters as they tried to capture the scenes of mayhem. A BBC satellite truck was bombarded with bricks forcing the crew to retreat behind police lines. Even a man who called the fire brigade was attacked by thugs.

A second night of rioting

While the local community and shop owners were still picking up the pieces of their shattered businesses on Monday, in other areas of London copycat rioters continued their weekend of disorder. Disturbances were seen in Enfield, further to the north of Tottenham, Walthamstow to the east, in nearby  Edmonton and in Brixton in south London. Police spent much of Sunday night attempting to stop the looting of shops by gangs of youths though the destruction was much less than seen on Saturday night.

Metropolitan police and reinforcements from Kent turned much of Enfield into a sterile area. Hundreds of riot police some with dogs, charged at groups of teenagers, who melted into side streets. Although damage was much less than that seen in Tottenham, many cars were smashed as well as shop windows.

A closed Tesco Extra store was targeted in a nearby retail park. Workers inside described hearing windows smashing as dozens of youths poured into the store. "They left carrying TVs, alcohol – they were stuffing trolleys," said one supermarket worker.

Met criticised

Although riot police were on the scene in large numbers they were unable to prevent widespread disorder, looting and destruction. And there has been criticism that the police were ill prepared and failed to control the situation [Daily Mail / Guardian].

The Metropolitan Police say they were unprepared for such levels of violence, this despite warnings there could be trouble. Whenever there is a police shooting tensions are raised, and more so in communities which perceive themselves to be victimised by police.

Mark Duggan was shot by police marksmen while he sat in a minicab stopped by police in Ferry Lane, Tottenham, on Thursday evening. During the attempt to arrest Duggan, three shots were fired. A bullet was said to be found lodged in a police radio. A police officer was injured in the incident, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said. According to police two shots were fired by an officer and it is believed that one shot was discharged from an illegal firearm inside the car [BBC / Guardian].

However, there is anger amongst some in Tottenham over the events that took place. As the IPCC appealed for witnesses, conflicting accounts of the shooting emerged. One man told the London Evening Standard he had seen officers shoot a man on the ground. But others said a shot was fired from the cab before police returned fire.

On Friday the scene of the shooting was visited by David Lammy, the MP for the area, who said, "I am shocked and deeply worried by this news. There is now a mood of anxiety in the local community but everyone must remain calm. It is encouraging that the Independent Police Complaints Commission has immediately taken over the investigation. There is a need to clarify the facts and to move quickly to allay fears."

And while he called for answers he urged that people remain calm. "It is very important that our community remains calm and allows the investigation to take its course," Lammy said.

Some 48 hours later he was speaking to the press again, condemning the rioters who had brought mayhem to Tottenham's streets. "A community that was already grieving has had the heart ripped out of it," Lammy told a throng of media camped outside the police cordon. He went on to tell those who had come from outside the area to stay away and described the rioting as "mindless nonsense."

They may have stayed away from Tottenham on Sunday night, but the rioters did not stay at home. Police were once again trying to maintain order as organised gangs of "copycat rioters" brought chaos to parts of Brixton and Enfield [BBC].


Criticism of the violence came from many quarters. The Home Secretary, Theresa May, said: "I condemn utterly the violence in Tottenham... Such disregard for public safety and property will not be tolerated, and the Metropolitan Police have my full support in restoring order." A Downing Street spokesman added, "The rioting in Tottenham last night was utterly unacceptable. There is no justification for the aggression the police and the public faced, or for the damage to property." London's mayor, Boris Johnson, also added his voice to saying, "I'm appalled at the scenes of violence and destruction in Tottenham."

The police and politicians have said the perpetrators will face the full force of the law. Identifying those who took part may prove difficult given the cover of darkness and the sheer numbers of individuals involved. Many may find themselves caught if found to be in possession of stolen property. Many thieves may find their acts of criminality have come to nought. While mobile phones were stolen from shops in several areas, they can be rendered useless by mobile providers. Shops will have records of the IMEI (international mobile equipment identity) numbers which are unique to every mobile phone. Such a list can be given to mobile phone companies and the devices blocked. This may not affect sale to foreign countries since there is no international agreement as yet. While the IMEI number can be changed, the possession of such equipment is a serious criminal offence.

The theft of other items may not be so easy to identify. Rioters were seen to be stripping stores of food, clothes, alcohol, cigarettes amongst other things. Some 41 people have already been arrested, though police will doubtless make further arrests in the coming days. They will also be on standby for signs of any more trouble. It is unclear whether the violence will spread which might indicate deep rooted dissaffection amongst Britain's youth, or whether the disturbances seen over the weekend were merely opportunist criminality [Wikipedia: 2011 Tottenham riots].

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Gingerbread arrives, but where next for Android?

It's never been clear whether FOTA [Firmware Over The Air] updates would be available to Android users who had let their data contract lapse and who had opted for a WiFi only approach. However it appears that if the Android device is ready for updates then it may, just may, arrive over the air by WiFi.
Many people have smartphones today, and Android has been the choice for a great proportion of those. However for those travelling abroad the option of data roaming is often cost prohibitive, while signing up for a local data contract is troublesome. So there existed uncertainty as to whether that elusive upgrade from Eclair to Froyo, or Froyo to Gingerbread might arrive.

For some Android users, even those with data contracts, there is still a long wait for Android 2.2, otherwise known as Froyo. Google's Nexus One was released in early 2010 with Android 2.1 Eclair built in. After a few months Android 2.2 Froyo was released and the Nexus became the first to receive this update with further additional updates continuing until December. 

Launch of Gingerbread

With the launch of the Nexus S, Google's next flagship phone made by Samsung, and its much lauded Gingerbread OS, there was some excitement amongst Nexus users that they too might be the first to receive this update. But it has taken a lot longer than first anticipated.

There were reports that Gingerbread, or Android 2.3, was arriving on some devices as early as February this year. For many users the wait has been very long indeed. Currently most Android devices are still stuck on Android 2.2 Froyo which leads the way with a 59.4% share. However that figure has fallen in the last few weeks as some phones receive a version of Gingerbread. That is not to say there are not but a few Android users still stuck in the ark. Around 17% of users are still using Android 2.1 Eclair according to AndroidCentral. And although a tiny proportion of all Android users, there exists a small pocket of smartphone users still stuck with 1.5 (Cupcake) and 1.6 (Donut). For the latter group the issue is down to compatibility since the first devices to hit the market are unable to upgrade to later versions. 

FOTA updates via WiFi

Those with more modern devices are however seeing the prompt message asking them to install new firmware. And for some there is the added pleasant surprise as it comes over a WiFi connection. Not having a data plan while in China, it was expected that any FOTA upgrade would not arrive until returning to the UK. However, one morning last week the Nexus One displayed the prompt to install new updates. Seemingly the FOTA system works via WiFi too since the only SIM installed was a local China Mobile SIM without a data contract.

There was, and always is, a feeling of nervousness and excitement at installing such updates. There is the concern that things won't work as well afterwards. For example there was much talk that those who had received Gingerbread some months back had experienced issues with the WiFi connection. Having a Chinese SIM in the device also raised a doubt. Would the update be China-centric? Many apps on the Android Market are not available in China and Google apply regional restrictions and other regional based aspects onto its products. A browser may often display in the local language for instance. 

Gingerbread user base growing

However after a tense couple of minutes the upgrade had installed and one more Android device had joined a growing number of others with Gingerbread. In fact Android 2.3 Gingerbread (Android 2.3, 2.3.2, 2.3.3 and 2.3.4) has doubled to 18.6% in the last month alone.

It is likely that some users will have to upgrade their actual device if the want to stay in front. HTC have admitted that Gingerbread may not install on some of its most recent devices, and even where is does it may wipe some user data from the device [CNET]. One reason for such issues is the limited memory in many devices. Even the Nexus One with the advantage of expandable memory in the form of an SD card has limits. With many heavy apps unable to be transferred to the SD card it does not take long before the phone runs short of the 190 MB of memory set aside for apps. Of particular issue are apps like Adobe Flash Player which is nearly 12 MB, the Facebook app which eats up over 7 MB and Google Maps which takes up a whopping 11.43 MB. Even Google's Music app takes up a massive 7 MB. Even the Nexus S with greater internal storage, of around 16 GB, it does not have SD card support. Where memory is all in the world of smartphones, this is by far the biggest issue for users. App developers, including Google themselves, should take note of this. 


So are the updates worth it. For some the simple answer is yes. Froyo was certainly better than its predecessors, giving proper Flash video support and WiFi tethering. Gingerbread's advantages are less clear cut, and for some devices makes little difference. The NFC [Near Field Communication] support is only compatible with the Nexus S at this time and will, if it takes of, facilitate the use of the phone as a virtual wallet. The SIP [Session Initiation Protocol] support is good in itself, but it is unlikely to be used by the vast proportion of users. In fact reviews so far suggest its functionality is relatively limited [OnSip / ProductiveOrganizer]. While SIP is popular in some regions, most people tend to gravitate to VOIP services such as Skype which is supported already on Android devices.

There is also support for a front-facing camera for video calling. However since only the Nexus S has this at present it is another redundant feature in most devices. Many of the features which came with Gingerbread were aesthetic. User interface elements, such as the notification bar, turned from grey to black, in a bid to avoid screen burn-in and increase battery life, if only marginally. The on-screen keyboard gained a number shortcuts across the top, and a cursor to better select and copy text, this was the best and most obvious benefit of the update.

Unclear future

While the new Google tablets are being rolled out with Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) with an 'Ice Cream Sandwich' to come, the future of updates for the Android smartphone is not quite clear. The Nexus S has received 2.3.5, which brought improved network performance for the Nexus S 4G, but there are no obvious routes where the little green robot is going next. NFC may prove more useful as more devices incorporate this technology and outlets adopt it. Indeed Google are putting a lot of effort into promoting their Google Wallet, though it is mainly confined to the US for now. Perhaps Android has gone as far as it can until Google and mobile phone developers decide upon the next generation of smartphones.

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

IE users have lower IQ study says

There has already been some evidence published which supports the idea that GMail users are more intelligent than users of other email services. But new research goes further and suggests the use of browser may also be an indication of intelligence.

Previous studies

According to a number of surveys conducted as recently as 2009 GMail users showed higher IQ ratings than those of Yahoo and Hotmail. Although the difference was marginal in tests carried out by one group, the results were nonetheless significant. According to IntelligentElite the average IQ of GMail users was 109 compared to 104 and 103 for Hotmail and Yahoo respectively.

An article in Mashable also alludes to the possibility that email preference may also reveal one's credit worthiness. According to Credit Karma, an online credit checking service, data from its some 20,000 users and split it up by email address, showed that Yahoo Mail users had the lowest credit scores of all. Bellsouth and Comcast users had the highest credit ratings, while GMail users ranked third. MSN, Hotmail and AOL users took 4th, 5th and 6th position respectively.

IE users have lower IQ

Now there is further evidence which adds weight behind the assertion that users of Google products may be brighter than the average Joe. Reports in several publications today [Tuesday 2nd August] says that Internet Explorer users are far less intelligent than those using Google Chrome, Safari or Firefox. The new study found that those with Internet Explorer 6 installed on their computer typically have an IQ barely higher than 80. By some rankings this would make them almost retarded! 

In comparison the IQ levels for those who used Mozilla's Firefox or Google's Chrome came in at around 110, while users of Opera or Camino were top with an IQ of around 120.

The survey was carried out by psychometric-assessment firm AptiQuant of a sample exceeding 100,000 people and showed a shift between IQ rating in 2006 and 2011. Five years ago the high IQ levels sat with Internet Explorer. However it appears the intellint Internet users have shifted to modern browsers leaving the less bright with older technology. However Even users of IE8 and IE9 do not fair well in the ratings both sets falling below a 100 IQ. In fact the only users of Microsoft browsers showing high intelligence levels were using Internet Explorer with Chrome Frame, whereby Google's Chrome browser is incorporated into IE [AptiQuant study - PDF].

Colourful headlines

Such revelations of course has created a plethora of colourful headlines. Register ran with "It's official: IE users dumber than a bag of hammers", the Daily Mail headlined with "Internet Explorer users are stupid" while CBS went with a slightly safer "Internet Explorer users 'are kind of stupid,' says study". The Daily Telegraph also played safe with its "lower than average" description.

Google Chrome use growing

Other statistics revealed this week was that Google Chrome was fast becoming the browser of choice for most Britons. Seemingly this would indicate the British, or at least its population of Internet users, are becoming brighter. Only three years after launch, Chrome last month secured 22% of UK market, marginally overtaking Mozilla's Firefox browser, this according to the web metrics firm Statcounter [Guardian].

Microsoft's Internet Explorer is losing to Chrome but still remains the most popular browser for British users with 45% of market share. Apple's Safari is UK number four, with a 9% share. Elsewhere in the world the division is far more stark. In China, Chrome takes only 5.4% of the overall market holding level with other browsers such as Firefox and the almost unknown Maxthon, according to Statcounter. Safari barely registers with less than 1% of the Internet population using the Apple Mac based browser. Internet Explorer is the browser of choice for most Chinese, particularly the older IE6. However it would be wrong to draw any conclusion from this. Many computers in China still come with XP preloaded, a preference for many, and as such comes with IE6. In addition many users are forced to stick with IE6 since many online banking services have failed to facilitate compatibility with newer browsers.

Chrome remains the number three browser worldwide and is expected to knock Firefox off its second position. However both browsers still fall behind Internet Explorer's 43% share. Microsoft benefits partly because IE is pre-installed in most computers. However, if the new study is to be believed, and the online population is becoming more intelligent and switching browsers, Microsoft may well be edged out of the game, and that only leaves one clear winner, i.e.: Google. You can take free IQ tests online at HighIQSociety and SpaceAndMotion.

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China