Tech Heads East

Business Week has a special report on the importance of the emerging markets for technology (China, South Korea, India, Eastern Europe, Russia). Each market has its own drivers.

In Russia, oil money and strong economic growth is pushing the dial. In China, efforts to automate manufacturing are driving sales, as is a growing consumer market. In India, the software and outsourcing markets have boomed, creating 160,000 jobs, a 25% increase, in just the past 12 months. Although more mature than other emerging markets, South Korea is enjoying stellar growth, thanks to a boom in broadband demand. A keeping-up-with-the Joneses mentality there, plus a zeal for education has prompted parents to buy computers and other tech devices to ensure that junior becomes tech-savvy. Likewise, Korean schools use computers and the Internet extensively in homework assignments.

The conclusion is telling: “But with the East rising steadily as the West struggles, the importance of these emerging markets will clearly increase over time.”

Continue reading

Villages as Emergic’s First Market?

Since my visit to Bhopal last week, I’ve been thinking more on the role that affordable computing and our Emergic ideas can play in villages. Thus far, there has been little modern technology that has made it to the village level. While quite a few have telephone lines, getting a dial tone is a challenge. Electricity is available – intermittently. TV is there – when the electricity works. Villagers have so far been left out of the technology value chain.

It is in this scenario that I feel that the teleinfocentre (which have 3-5 thin clients with a thick server) could bridge the digital divide in a manner nothing else can. It can create a two-way information flow between the government and the citizens, especially those right at the bottom of the pyramid. It can open up new futures and opportunities for the younger generation – in terms of education and jobs.

So, I am beginning to think a lot more seriously about rural India (the villages) as a possible first market for Emergic. There is no legacy of computers (and Microsoft). People there are likely to be welcoming of what they get. In a sense, the teleinfocentre (and Emergic) can be a “disruptive innovation” – just the sort India and other emerging markets to raise the standard of living of what constitutes the majority of people in their countries.

Battling Email Overload

CNN writes about three tools:

Stata Labs wants you to toss your current e-mail software in favor of one called Bloomba. The package has search engine-like qualities to categorize messages and classify items based on patterns of use — so newsletters are automatically separated from those not-to-be-missed missives from the boss.

Ella from Open Field Software, meanwhile, works as an add-on for the more than 100 million users of Outlook and Lotus Notes. Chief executive Robert Cagle calls Ella an “e-mail tuner” that, using an adaptive learning engine, takes the messages thrown at you and intuitively sorts them by priority and type.

A lean collaboration tool that also meshes with Outlook or Notes was introduced by Kubi Software . Founder and chief executive Julio Estrada, a Lotus alumnus, figured that because most people work primarily in e-mail, even as they do other things, they need some way to easily integrate shared projects, calendars, documents and contact information.

The Internet’s Riches

Lee Gomes (WSJ) writes about the riches that the Net has given us:

The Net’s biggest riches, though, involve the spread of information, or at least, of facts. Who played the sheriff in that movie? Which one was Pathfinder? How do I fix my dishwasher?

All just a few clicks away. It is hard to remember what the life of a fact-gatherer was like before browsers.

The Web is getting better with ideas, too. Should America go to war with Iraq? You can follow the debate online from just about any point of view: political, national, religious or other.

Newspapers with online versions are one way. Another are weblogs, the running online journals that are one of the few “hot” parts of the online world right now. Blog start-ups are being bought up by bigger Web companies, which are betting that lots of people will be willing to pay $10 or $20 a month to be able to publish their daily thoughts on Saddam Hussein, Bill Gates or Justin Timberlake.

This boon in information has its risks. Ultimately, all we might be getting from the Web is shorter attention spans, clicking from one topic to the next. And there is the chance that in an age of blogs, political discourse will grow even more hyberbolic and overheated, as folks try to stake out differentiated positions in an increasingly crowded marketplace of ideas.

The Net’s information and ideas flow is perhaps the best thing to have happened – especially for those among us who live outside “tech hubs”. The Net (and especially now, the blogs) are almost as good as being there, as one can follow various conversations from thousands of miles away. Better still, a blog lets you become a participant in these conversations, helping enrich your own knowledge and share it with others.

RSS for Personal News Page

Jenny Levine has an interesting ideas on what can be done with RSS feeds and aggregation:

Imagine a news aggregator that has your local newspaper’s headlines, news from your municipality, programs you’ve noted interest in from the park district, announcements from both your kid’s school and teacher, status reports from your kids’ sports teams, a notice of the “special of the day” from the local coffee shop you love, and on and on and on.
Yes, it’s an information explosion contained all on one page and you don’t have to do the work!

That’s why I think RSS (or something very much like it) will be very big. On cell phones, PDAs, tablets, and laptops, it makes great sense for portability. Of course, we’ll need better aggregators and they’ll have to support services like authentication, prioritization, multimedia, and things we haven’t even thought of yet. The key will be to create an aggregator that looks and acts like a web page. You won’t call it an aggregator. Instead it will be sold as “the daily news you want” or something like that. It will have a catchy name that my neighbors would understand and actually try. It won’t be a “technology” – it will just be useful.

Microsoft v Linux

Robert Scoble writes a letter to Bill Gates suggesting what needs to be done to counter the Linux threat. Some of his suggestions:

Don’t “take away their oxygen” like you did with Netscape.

Learn the motivation for folks developing Lindows and Linux and other open source technologies.

Don’t disparage their technology or their tactics.

Don’t brag about the next version of Windows until it’s out.

Give Linux away for free with every copy of Longhorn.

Start a new company, with Microsoft money and ownership, that will develop open source software.

Put a link on Windows start screen that says “try alternates to Microsoft software.

What Microsoft needs to be is to make its software more affordable. More than the freedom to make modifications, what is driving Linux and other open-source software are the price-points. Most of the world’s new customer simply cannot afford Microsoft 80-85% gross margins.

TECH TALK: RSS, Blogs and Beyond: SMBmeta.xml and BlogMeta.xml

Recently, Dan Bricklin (and TrellixTech) proposed an initiative to make it easier for SMBs to communicate information such as the physical location of the business and the area it serves, as well at the type of business, to search engines and other services.” Bricklin provides the background:

One of the major drivers of the US economy are small and medium businesses (which we’ll call “SMBs”). These range from restaurants, machine shops, lumber yards, advertising agencies and law offices, to carpenters, musicians, and locksmiths, to weekend DJs and grandmothers selling their knitting. This document describes a data file format and associated services designed to help those businesses in their use of the Internet.

One of the concerns of businesses is having their web site found by customers. One of the concerns of customers is being able to find an appropriate set of businesses from which to choose to meet their needs. Web sites and normal search engines meet some of these needs. Unfortunately, it has been difficult for search engines to ascertain specific information such as the particular locale served by a business, the type of the business, the languages spoken by the staff, etc. A human being can often find out this and a wide variety of other information by reading a web site, but it can be hard to automatically find it out for constructing a reliable database. The goal of this “SMBmeta” project is to provide a way to amass this additional data to aid in searching. It is not to provide the data that you would find on the web site itself, just the data you use in searching.

The way we do this is with an “smbmeta.xml” file.

The smbmeta.xml file is an XML file stored at the top level of a domain that contains machine readable information about the business the web site is connected to. It is an open, distributed way for small and medium businesses to communicate information such as the physical location of the business and the area it serves, as well at the type of business, to search engines and other services. Hopefully, it will open up innovation that will result in a wide variety of new services that will benefit the SMBs and their customers.

More information can be found at smbmeta.org.

The nice thing about this idea is that in can plug right into an RSS-like Aggregator, so users could subscribe to feeds from SMEs (small and medium enterprises) in their geographical area to find out whats new. It could also solve what is perhaps one of the most challenging marketing problems how to target SMEs for products and services. It can also bring forth greater co-operation between SMEs. The XML feed Bricklin describes is very much like the RSS feed put forth by news sites. Both are in XML. What Bricklin is doing with his SMBmeta initiative is describing a format for the content that needs to be in there. But the basic concept is identical to make it easier for end-users to subscribe to changing content, without having to actually go and poll the website regularly.

The same idea can be extended to blogs, a sort of BlogMeta.xml initiative. This is what I had written on my blog about this idea sometime ago: Imagine if every blog had an XML file which specified various parameters like bloggers’s name, location (city and country), blog’s starting date, brief profile of blogger, specific categories covered (perhaps taken from DMOZ or Yahoo’s categories), format of the archives directories, link to RSS file, etc. This file could then be botted and built into a directory, just the way the RSS files are picked up. Having the metadata would make it much easier for us to find other bloggers based on geography or interest. Users could be given a front-end to generate this file, which would be stored in the home directory of their blog.

This takes us to the next logical step blog categorisation and mapping.

Tomorrow: Mapping Blogs

Continue reading