1 China and the issue of investor trust (Straits Times) Foreign car and car-part makers are the latest firms to be hit in China’s clampdown on anti-competitive practices in various industries. This week, Daimler was found guilty of infringing the six-year-old anti-monopoly law while 12 Japanese car-part makers were fined a total of $201.8 million for the same offence, even as American tech firms Microsoft and Qualcomm have come under scrutiny.
Antitrust probes of multinationals in recent months have sparked concern that China is turning protectionist to nurture indigenous innovation and firms. What is also worrying is the charge that “administrative intimidation tactics” are being used to get firms to accept punishments and remedies without full hearings.
To be fair to the Chinese, many of the probes, from cars to pharmaceuticals, appear aimed at bringing down prices. In the Daimler case, an antitrust official called it a “vertical monopoly”, with the carmaker using its leading position to control prices of its spare parts and repair and maintenance services. The motive for cracking down on tech firms is less clear. Microsoft is being probed for problems of compatibility, bundling and document verification in its products.
China denies gunning for foreign firms, naming local ones nabbed, such as China Unicom. With limited resources, it targets a few industries at a time and, with foreign luxury makes dominant in the car industry, they are naturally scrutinised. Whether foreign firms are unfairly targeted will be clearer when antitrust officials move to sectors dominated by local firms.
2 Almost all PC game sales are now digital (James ‘DexX’ Dominguez in Sydney Morning Herald) Around 92 per cent of PC game sales worldwide in 2013 were online purchases, downloaded direct to the user’s computer, meaning that only 8 per cent of PC games were purchased on a disc. This is the startling figure that analysis firm DFC Intelligence revealed to British technology news site PCR this week.
DFC said that the total revenue of the PC gaming sector also exceeded revenue for TV-based consoles in 2013. These claims come after the news in January, from British gaming site MCV, that digital purchases of games across all platforms in the UK exceeded those of traditional physical media for the first time in 2013. Downloaded games accounted for £1.18 billion in sales revenue for the year, compared to £1.015 billion for boxed physical media such as discs and cartridges.
There are many reasons for the increase in digital game sales. Access to broadband internet and increased speed of that connection is a major factor. For example, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that while around half of Australian internet connections in 2006 were broadband, in 2013 they made up over 98 per cent. An increase in secure online payment methods, and the willingness of more people to pay via those methods, has also had an effect.
Cheaper hard drives and devices with larger storage capacity also had an impact – mkomo.com reports that hard drive cost-per-gigabyte has halve in the past five years, and decreased by a factor of 20 in the past decade. Price-per-gigabyte for flash memory, the type used for storage in phones and tablets, has likewise plunged.
The death of physical media has been expected for a long time. Way back in 2003, industry analysis firm Forrester told The Register that “CD and DVD sales are doomed”. While they were talking about non-interactive media, they were remarkably prescient: years before Apple launched iTunes, they predicted that a third of music sales would be digital by 2005. iTunes alone reportedly now sells around a third of all music worldwide.
3 Why men should open up (Professor Green in The Guardian) I was 24 when my dad, Peter Manderson, took his own life. We had a troubled relationship and hadn’t spoken to each other for about six years; for no real reason we just stopped. Then one day I got in touch to try and repair some of the damage. It was Boxing Day and we argued over the phone about where to meet. I got angry, and my dad, who was a gentle man, stammered and stuttered. The last words I said to him were: “If I ever see you again I’m going to knock you out.” It all seems so desperately trivial now.
I still don’t know what was going through my dad’s mind when he killed himself in a park not far from where he lived in Brentwood, Essex, in April 2008. I’ll never know. The last time I saw him alive was my 18th birthday. He had been in and out of my life for years. I was brought up by my gran in Hackney, east London, because neither of my parents were capable of looking after me. I just wish that he could have reached out to someone, anyone.
His death was a complete shock and it’s still a struggle to articulate how I felt. I went through so many emotions that day. At first I was angry with him for doing what he did. I kept thinking, how could he take himself away from me? The daughter of actor Robin Williams, who took his life recently, Zelda said something similar about her dad: “I’ll never understand how he could be so loved and not find it in his heart to stay.”
I thought my dad was selfish for taking the easy way out. But then I quickly realised that I was the one who was being selfish for thinking he was selfish. The last thing I said to him kept replaying in my head – you have no idea how much I regret that the final words he heard from me were anger and hate. I would give anything to change that. I never got a chance to say a proper goodbye or tell him that I loved him.
Last year in Britain, almost 6,000 people killed themselves, leaving behind families struggling for answers. Men aged between 30 and 44 are most at risk. My dad was 43. Communication is a big problem with us men. We don’t like to talk about our problems; we think it makes us look weak. Society likes to tell you that you have to be happy all the time, and it’s easy to think that if you’re not happy then there’s something wrong with you. But happiness isn’t permanent, it’s not something you can feel all the time – and neither is sadness.
What happened to my dad and uncles makes me want to deal with things. As much as I love my dad, I don’t want to be the father to my child that he was to me. I wrote the song Lullaby about my experience of depression and how it has affected my life. The most important lyrics are the final two lines: “Things always change, as long as you give them the chance to.” Know that is true. I just wish my dad did.