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Travelling abroad and keeping your job is pretty easy these days with seamless smartphone access. But I noticed a few things during a trip to London and Paris last week that gave me some food for thought.


• The prepaid “Oyster” cards for public transport make it fun to hop on a bus or the underground; they let you look up your travel records; and (maybe) could serve as a platform for a wide range of smart card commerce.
• Nokia’s bold ad campaign for the N series — plastered on buses throughout the city –really hammers home the GPS and points of interest features. It is a compelling differentiator for a non-iPhone contender.
• All the major newspapers are 70 pence or more. That’s $1.37, compared with the 50 cents charged on average by U.S. newspapers. And most are tabloids. The International Herald Tribune is about $3.25.
• The Times of London has devolved into an English version of The NY Post. But it does some interesting things. Last weekend, for instance, it published the text of an entire new James Bond book. Sometimes, it also provides a CD of the greatest hits of various rock stars.
• There is not a lot of free Wi-Fi around London; just a few coffeeshops. Meanwhile, hotel Wi-Fi and broadband is generally 15 pounds a night, or $29.40. That’s a lot.
• Online ordering of major events and travel is a breeze. Theater tickets, The Chelsea Flower Show and EuroStar were all easily ordered from the Web (although I relied on half price TKTs for theater).
• Despite very high cellphone penetration, public phone booths are still readily available in central London for 30 pence a call. It is amazing how many girlie ads they can plaster inside those booths.


• Digital signage at every bus stop announces the wait-time for different bus lines via GPS. We’ve seen it in many subway lines, but never before for buses — although my colleague Mike Boland says they also have it in San Francisco. Great!
• Young women hand out copies of The PagesJaunes (Yellow Pages) at the bottom of the Champs-Élysées. It may not be the best way to achieve universal penetration, but it is probably good for building awareness.
• The French keyboard’s letters are in different places, and Wanadoo uses a round plug for DSL. That makes it hard for out-of-towners to plug and play.
• Google automatically defaults to the “local” country, without a readily apparent way to get an English-language version.
• Our taxi driver couldn’t find the location of our friend’s apartment near the Eiffel Tower using the GPS that was integrated into his dashboard. So he pulled out a personal GPS with more updated maps and found the apartment with no trouble at all.

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  1. Here in the Czech Republic, Google also defaults to the “local” version (in this case, However, there is a link under the search box that says “ in English”. After you click the link, you go to the “regular”, and it seems to remember the preference for the next time you visit Google.

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