China No. 1 Destination for Foreign Investment

NYTimes writes that “for the first time, China probably bested the United States as the world’s top choice for foreign investment” and ponders if China is a rival, partner or both.

China’s influence takes many forms that are subtler than the loss of low-wage manufacturing jobs in the United States or the opening of a huge new consumer market in China. The costs and benefits of the trans-Pacific relationship are much more complex than simple gains and losses from trade. They extend to the bedrock of the American economy, including the productivity of the labor force and the stability of financial markets.

China’s growth has been reinforcing one of the most prominent trends in America’s recent economic history: its transition from a manufacturing to a service economy. In the last two years alone, the economy has shed two million manufacturing jobs. Now, only about 16 million Americans work in manufacturing, the same as in the early 1950’s. Since then, though, the number of Americans in service professions has risen to 107 million from about 30 million.

China is “accelerating the structural change” taking place in the United States, said Daniel J. Meckstroth, chief economist of the Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI. “We’re moving the high-labor-cost jobs, the low-technology jobs and the low-capital-intensive jobs abroad.”

Lurking in the background is India with its services outsourcing, hoping to move the high-technology jobs overseas.

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Qualcomm and 3G

Qualcomm has positioned itself as the toll-collector for 3G, which will come in two flavours:
CDMA2000 in the CDMA world and WCDMA among the GSMers. Writes Fortune:

Qualcomm used to manufacture both handsets and network equipment, but by 2000 had sold off both businesses to Kyocera and Ericsson, respectively. Those moves have left Qualcomm with two big-money businesses that provide 84% of its $3 billion in annual revenues and 98% of its $360 million in earnings: CDMA chipsets for cellphones (Qualcomm designs the chips and outsources their manufacture) and technology licensing. Since Qualcomm owns many of the core processes that make CDMA cellular systems work, anyone who wants to get into the CDMA game will at some point have to pay up. That’s translated into healthy 12% net margins in an industry known today mostly for its financial wreckage.

If Qualcomm does nothing in a 3G world but license its technology, it thrives. If it does that and continues to sell a lot of chipsets for all those new phones–whether they’re for the U.S. or Europe or anywhere else–it thrives even more. And the best case of all? That we all turn Korean.

South Korea has been the leader in 3G rollout. Much of the coming action is now going to be in China. In India, Reliance is rolling out its CDMA-based mobile telephony services across the country. Plenty of opportunities for Qualcomm.

In the same issue of Fortune, Stewart Alsop provides a user’s perspective on the power of these new phones:

The next-generation cellphones will lead to what might be called the convenience revolution. Play interesting games when you’re bored. Find out about the weather or traffic right where you are, right when it matters. Locate that new store you’ve heard about while you’re walking around downtown. To be honest, half of what we do with personal computers now no one really foresaw back in the early 1980s. And I can’t tell you half of what cellphones will do for us in the year 2010. But I can tell you I’m excited about the possibilities.

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Linux and Windows Desktop Perceptions

Samba.org team leader John H. Terpstra interviewed a sample group that included 30 people evenly split in the Linux and MS camps, to discover their desktop OS perceptions. His detailed report is published on
DesktopLinux.com. His conclusions:

If Linux were the same as Microsoft Windows then it would BE Microsoft Windows. Thankfully, it is not and thus there is a choice. Linux CAN substitute for MS Windows on the desktop, but it will NOT suit everyone. Linux DOES provide all the environmental tools that MS Windows users are familiar with, although they are not identical and they offer a different look and feel as well as different features. That too gives rise to choice that the user has the ability and freedom to exercise.

Some say the Linux desktop is wonderful today, others are of the opinion that it needs to mature further. There are some legitimate barriers due to the inability to run certain essential applications on Linux that are available for MS Windows. But there will always be someone who can find reason to object, no matter if the desktop platform is Linux or MS Windows.

No matter which way you analyze the responses, Linux is a contender for the business desktop. Users have every right to choose their desktop of choice. For the large organization the total cost of ownership will be a deciding issue, particularly in a tight economy.

The key battle for Linux is NOT primarily a technology issue today, it has much more to do with knowledge and acceptance. In many ways Linux is today where MS Windows 3.0 was in 1989 on the radar set, and climbing.

Self-Cloning Corn to Feed the Poor

From WSJ (originally carried in Technology Review):

If they’re allowed out of the lab and into the field, crops genetically engineered to reproduce through cloning could feed the world’s poor.

An hour outside of Mexico City, the taxi turns off the main road, and the noise and bustle of the highway fade away. Past a steel gate and a white guardhouse, we enter the well-tended grounds of the International Center for the Improvement of Maize and Wheat, known by its Spanish acronym, Cimmyt. It’s a farm masquerading as a small United Nations. An array of flags pays tribute to the countries that fund the organization’s work: creating better crops for the developing world’s poor farmers.

If only corn could reproduce by skipping pollination altogether and cloning itself. The idea is not as far-fetched as one might think. A few plants do this naturally, creating seeds without sex in a process called apomixis. Dandelions reproduce through apomixis; so do about 400 other plant species, including at least one wild relative of corn. So why not corn? If someone could flip a switch and make corn apomictic, Cimmyt might finally be able to make highly productive hardy strains poor farmers could share with their neighbors and replant from their own harvest year after year.

Wireless Mesh Networks

Robert Poor (Ember Corporation) writes in Sensors on how to create “industrial-strength connectivity [which] delivers self-configuring, scalable, and self-healing networks”.

Multihop mesh technology, however, is inherently reliable and redundant, and it can be extended to include thousands of devices. In addition, these networks can be installed in hours instead of days or weeks. And the network doesnt require sophisticated planning and site mapping to achieve reliable communications. Theres no need for specialized and costly RF engineering labor to complete the installation.

The network is self-configuring. All devices can transmit from their original position, and they dont have to be moved. A weak signal or dead zone can be fixed simply by dropping a repeater node into place. The network error rate is low and can be further reduced if occasional re-transmits are allowed.

Industrial systems can now benefit from a wireless format that satisfies the multiple conflicting demands of redundancy, distributed communications, flexibility, and reliability. Furthermore, self-configuring, self-healing networks are inherently less expensive to install and maintain as radios and microprocessors become cheaper. A significant barrier to low-cost connectivity has been removed.

Slashdot thread

Wireless mesh networks could be a useful technology for connectivity in rural areas.

TECH TALK: RSS, Blogs and Beyond: Events Horizon

So far, when we have talked of RSS items, weve been limited to thinking of talking about news items and blog posts. But it does not have to be so. The basic format that RSS allows item, description and link can also be extended to enterprise events and other streams. For example, the accounting program could create an RSS feed of all transactions that take place, thus allowing managers to subscribe to all payment receipt events. On a different note, a site could publish a list of holidays and festivals, which could be subscribed to by interested individuals. Or, a newspaper could publish a list of classifieds as an RSS feed, and users could set up filters based on specific fields.

What we are saying here is that the RSS feed concept could be extended to become a much broader Events Stream with different sites and software applications publishing these feeds for users to subscribe to. This is information-push (as opposed to information-pull, that we do when we go to a web page) with a twist there is no need for a web browser. Combined with the previous idea of an RSS Mailbox, these events could be delivered right to our mailbox.

At first glance, this may seem very similar to setting up Alerts. But there is an important difference. The concept here is more akin to what Tibcos Vivek Ranadive describes as an Information Bus. Information (or Event) publishers create RSS streams and publish it. Whenever the RSS feed is updated, the site can ping a central server which can then bot the feed, and then distribute the events to the subscribers. Whoever is interested in receiving the information can simply subscribe to the specific feed and then set up filters to get the information desired. This is very different from the information source being directly told to send out alerts or the actual items when an event happens, or the user polling to check if updates have taken place.

So, from a users perspective, think of sitting in front of a screen and watching an Events Horizon. The user has set up the subscriptions to the feeds that he is interested in, and the events that match the filters set by the user would then flow on to this Events Horizon. Once the user comes across an event of interest, then the user can take various actions on it post it a blog (which would then itself publish an RSS feed to complete the flow), comment on it, or forward it to someone else.

The Events Horizon becomes the basis for creating an Information Refinery on one side for processing information, and a Digital Dashboard from the user-side to display information. To enable this infrastructure, what is needed is for applications and databases to start publishing RSS feeds of the state changes that take place. Taken together, these ideas could form the basis for a new, information-rich, event-driven desktop.

Tomorrow: SMBmeta.xml and BlogMeta.xml

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