Affordability

One of the themes of the coming year(s) is going to be Affordability. The first tech revolution has taken technology as far as it could possibly go with the set of price points. 500 million PC users, a billion cellphone users. This segment of users now is in upgrade mode only – there are few new buyers who will be attracted to the current price points.

Now, for the next set of users, we need much lower price points. This is what will get us the next 500 million PC users and next billion cellphone users. It needs a radical rethink of the tech infrastructure and price points. This is what, for example, Reliance Infocomm wants to do in India – with long-distance calls for as low as 40 paise (1 cent). To do something like this, they need to build out the infrastructure from scratch, as they’ve done, using the newest technologies and next-gen ideas. There is no legacy, and thats the biggest advantage.

We need to take this theme to computing. “A connected computer accessible to every employee and family.” At a fraction of today’s price points. Computers for less than USD 100 and software for USD 5 per month. This will mean building up our own value chain, our own ecosystem. Because the existing players are used to much fatter margins and their interest lies in preserving not disrupting the status quo.

Affordability as a theme will make technology a utility for the world’s emerging markets, and Emergic needs to be at its heart. This is the challenge and opportunity for us in the coming years.

Tech Products to Watch in 2003

A list, from UBS Warburg’s Research Report:

  • Nokia 3510I: Nokia expects this to be the highest selling phone in the world in 2003.
  • Microsoft CRM: Microsoft’s Navision and Great Plains acquisitions lead Microsoft’s charge into the small-med business.
  • Cisco MDS 9000 Storage Switch: Implications for Brocade and McData likely bigger than for Cisco.
  • Sun J2EE 1.4 spec: Next Java specification finally introduced in early
    2003.
  • AMD Hammer: AMD’s much-delayed equivalent to Intel’s Itanium.
  • Intel Banias Chip: First architecture exclusively for mobile processors. Big focus on Wi-Fi.
  • Adobe Acrobat 6.0: Roughly 25% of Adobe’s revenues, next Acrobat product cycle could have major implications for Adobe.
  • .NET Server 2003: Upgrade to the server O/S version of Windows 2000 forms foundation for .NET.
  • Microsoft Office 11: Big Office upgrade already getting plenty of
    press. Focus on .NET, integrating XML into the suite.
  • Cometa Networks: Intel, AT&T, IBM initiative to develop Wi-Fi hot spots throughout the top 50 U.S. metropolitan areas in 03 and 04.

  • An Anti-Spam Strategy

    From the NYTimes:

    Dr. Ioannidis of AT&T Labs suggests adopting something he calls “single-purpose addresses” rather than continuing to refine software filters that try to sort the good from the bad.

    Such addresses would not replace permanent e-mail addresses, which, under Dr. Ioannidis’s plan, users would continue to give to those they trust and need to maintain contact with, like relatives or employers.

    Instead, single-purpose addresses would be used when the senders have no continuing relationship with the other parties and fear that their e-mail addresses might be sold or given to spammers. Online purchasing or newsgroup postings are obvious examples.

    Sounds good in theory, but I don’t know how well it would it practice. In my case, a few filters have helped cut spam by 90%. The first-level solution via filters is simple enough, but few of us actually bother to even do that!

    Continue reading

    TECH TALK: 2003 Expectations: Wi-Fi and Online Gaming

    Two big consumer drivers in 2003 are likely to be Wi-Fi (enabling the creation of wireless LANs and community wireless networks) and Online Gaming.
    Stephen Wildstrom writes in Business Week:

    In 2002, wireless data became a reality. Widely available networks offered speeds equivalent to dial-up. High-speed Wi-Fi wireless networks became available not only in offices and homes but also in “hot spots” at airports, hotels, coffeehouses–even convenience stores. In 2003, these networks should become easier to use, cheaper, and more pervasive, fulfilling the promise of anytime, anywhere connections.

    Both the networks and the devices that use them are getting a lot smarter as we move toward the day when your laptop or handheld will automatically use the best available connection–and you’ll get a single monthly bill that covers all the networks you use. The software, roaming, and billing systems needed to make seamless network switching a reality remain a formidable challenge. It probably won’t come together in 2003, but we are well on the way.

    Automatic switching among wireless networks will happen first on laptops since each network requires its own radio, and it’s hard to cram all that gear into a package that can fit in a pocket. Wireless laptops will get a big boost when Intel releases the first processor (Banias) it has designed from the ground up for mobile use rather than scaling one down from a desktop chip.

    Complementing the rollout of WiFi will be the continued creation of global hotspots, which will create the beginning of the pervasive high-speed connectivity envelope that weve been hearing for the past few years. While 3G players are also actively working towards the same vision, it is likely that the Internet-like bottom-up WiFi networks may be the winner.

    The online gaming business is one which is going to get even more attention in 2003. Sony and Microsoft have both rolled-out online services. Multi-player gaming is also doing very well in countries like China and South Korea. Says Michael Noer (in Forbes):

    The trend toward online games will eventually permanently alter the balance of power between hardware makers and software developers. If you are playing online it hardly matters whether you are connecting through an Xbox, a PS2 or a PC. It’s the game that counts. Expect large software publishing houses like Electronic Arts and Activison to garner ever more power and influence. To be sure, a platform agnostic gaming world is a long way from the current state of affairs. But, in almost any imaginable long-term scenario, the hardware becomes a commodity.

    PC gaming is not dead. Despite the mass-market appeal of consoles, the industry needs to pay heed to the PC crowd, which is older, more technologically savvy and has a higher disposable income than console gamers. This makes them a great test bed for new technologies, and, for developers, a reliable niche market for complex strategy, role-playing and simulation games. Both Sony (with EverQuest) and Microsoft (with Asheron’s Call) developed profitable online gaming communities for the PC long before launching their online console services.

    It will be very interesting to watch how online version of The Sims (launched in December 2002) does. It is perhaps the first experiment at creating a parallel universe which is driven not be fantasy characters but by real-world avatars.

    Tomorrow: Linux, IM and Blogs

    Continue reading