Monday, January 21, 2013

IBM ITS University 2013 - Shenzhen, China

Last week, I traveled to China on business for the first time to present at an IBM internal sales conference - ITS University.  I was asked to speak on mobile enterprise including IBM's products and services.

A few observations from my visit:
  • I was pleasantly surprised by China Eastern Airlines, a Skyteam airline.  I was able to take a direct flight from New York's Kennedy airport to Shanghai.  The plane was new (Airbus A340) and each seat had a power outlet.   Service was excellent for economy class (two full meals, one snack, hot towels).  Unfortunately, there was no in-flight wi-fi and entertainment was limited to a shared video screen.  The China Eastern iPhone app was in Chinese only and there was no web check in or flight status.  My two overseas flights (departure, return) were completely full.   
  • Shenzhen is a new, modern business city that is still growing.   I saw new high-rises under construction everywhere. 
  • Lots of iPhones.  However, all of the Apple products I saw at both the Apple store and authorized resellers were a good 20-30% more expensive compared to the US. 
  • Lots of Samsung Galaxy Note "phablets" at the IBM conference I attended (in addition to iPhones)
  • People were extremely friendly and helpful.  As an example, I was struggling to buy a subway token since I only had large bills.  A helpful resident gave me a 1 RMB coin so I would have enough for a token.  The subway tokens used RFID technology and the amount you paid depended on the distance traveled.
  • While the primary purpose of my trip was business, I still managed to squeeze in some sightseeing.  See my photos on Picasa
  • Free wi-fi was everywhere
  • The Chinese food I had was delicious and had little resemblance to Chinese food in the US.  The biggest difference I found was the China uses lots of ingredients that I had never seen in the US (fruits and vegetables). 
  • My AT&T iPhone worked flawlessly (voice and data) roaming on China Unicom (international plan)
  • I didn't notice any blocked websites.   FaceBook, Google, Foursquare, Twitter and Apple Maps all worked flawlessly on my iPhone as well as on wi-fi networks. 
  • Little English was spoken.  Two free iPhone apps - Google Translate and XE Currency were very helpful
  • My first opportunity to use TSA Pre and Global Entry to speed through security and customs.  Well worth $100 for 5 years. 
It's a long flight, but I'd welcome the opportunity to return to China.

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