Although the actual show will not air until October 23rd (or later) in Asia, my recent spot on CNN's Spark show has already gone online via Kristie's blog.  At the ACID group, we constantly talk about doing personas for the Chinese Millenials (the generation born  after the one child policy restrictions) since its such an interesting and unique group in Chinese history. Not to mention, that most of our colleagues and interns are part of this group as well which gives us added insight. At the end of the interview, Kristie's team said that it was great stuff since I injected a little bit of history and context to the gadgets I discussed.  Of course for anyone in Microsoft product group knows, we live and breathe scenarios and personas in all the projects that we do. I said something like "well, its the way Microsoft Research approaches problems by looking at the user and how tools or applications effect their lives or behavior." It sounds a bit hokey but its true that in every group I've worked at in MS, we always try to look at it from the user's perspective as to why they use the product and how. Some groups do it better than others but its an actual part of the process that I'm afraid that other Non-MS companies overlook.

Just for reference these were the products that I profiled on the show: hard drive enclosures, webcams, a speaker,  and a USB vacuum cleaner. Nothing really expensive or pushing the envelope of technology. However, its how people use it and why which makes it exciting. Especially when you use some catchy new jargon to describe something new and trendy like OCPCs.

 

"China relentlessly churns out cheap electronics for the rest of the world. But what does it produce for its home market?

Gadgets that deliver an enhanced experience of the Net, but at cut rate prices -- just what the OCPC ordered.

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OCPC stands for the One Child Policy Crowd. It's the nifty new acronym I picked up from Frank Yu, a high-tech commentator and program manager at Microsoft Research in Beijing.

"The OCPC is the generation born after the 1970s when the single child policy kicked in," says Frank.

"They always have mobile phones. ICQ is a standard form of communication. They have never known a poor China."

Coddled by their parents and grandparents as infants, the OCPC is now a tribe of confident, tech-savvy consumers, based mainly in China's urban centers.

Think: one massive me-generation.

Compared to their moms and dads, the OCPC may have more spending power. But its appetite is restricted by an average salary of $400 a month.

So the tribe cuts corners when it can.

"The OCPC likes to download," says Frank. "They don't buy pirate discs. They rip music and movies and software off the Internet."

And where does it all go? Into the external hard drive.

The external hard drive is a PDA-sized casing that turns a generic laptop hard drive into a virtual iPod.

For around $10 a case, OCPCs can trick out their own media players to store pictures, music and movies.

To push music out of the hard drive, China's wired tribe turn to the plug-and-play portable speaker.

Frank showed me a stylish, brushed-steel version developed by a Shanghai-based company that retails in Beijing's Zhongguancun tech markets for around $30 a pop.

The speaker is not only relatively affordable, it packs a punch. Though it's just slightly larger than a can of Coke, the speaker has a subwoofer and excellent sound quality for its size.

The OCPC also relies on technology to make much-needed social connections.

"They are alone," Frank says. "No brothers, no sisters. They really have to rely on the Internet for social interaction."

"They may learn socialization through school, but they also do it online which is why Internet dating and Internet gaming are so popular in China."

Enter the Webcam, a simple bit of technology that takes on must-have gadget status in China.

Here, it's squeezed into funky shapes like fur balls, retro robots or lucky Chinese characters. And they're pushed out to the China's tech markets for under $7 a piece, including the software to install the driver.

It also frames the user for the rest of China's wired world to see.

"When a Webcam costs just under $10, most OCPCs in China have a Webcam picture of themselves posted on their blogs and Web sites, and not a digital photo," Frank points out.

I imagine a blurry low-res image of a Chinese surfer staring at the screen -- a fitting portrait of the OCPC."

 

Frank Yu