423 Million Handsets sold in 2002

WSJ reports that the cellphone sales were ahead of estimates, showing a 6% growth over the previous year. The reason: “More consumers than expected were lured into shops by flashy color screens and multimedia messaging, known as MMS, which allows photos and sound to be sent between mobile phones.”

Nokia’s market share was at 35.8%, Motorola second at 15.3% and Samsung third at 9.8%. 2003 is expected to see continuing growth.

There’s a related article on Qualcomm, whose “technology fuels 13% of the world’s wireless subscribers, and the company is feverishly working to expand into new markets including India and China.” Qualcomm owns a near monopoly on CDMA patents.

CDMA is now the most popular cellphone standard in North America, where it is used by Verizon Wireless, with 32.5 million subscribers, and the No. 4 U.S. carrier, Sprint PCS, which has about 17 million. The technology also dominates the cellphone-rich market of South Korea. Last year, the number of CDMA subscribers grew by 31%.

13% of the world’s 1.1 billion cellphone users are on CDMA, with GSM being the global leader, powered by its strong position in Europe and Asia.

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Little do we realise it but the disks where our data is stored is perhaps the most critical component in our electronic lives. Jason Comptonprovides a good overview of storage technologies and where they are headed: “Enterprise storage clouds are a breathtaking accomplishment of terabyte upon terabyte of redundant, failover-ready, disaster-recoverable critical data. Some of the most important day-to-day data spends its entire life on very tangible whirring, clicking and grinding storage devices attached to a PC. That’s where the most significant storage changes are coming.”

Social Software

How we interact and form groups is coming in for close attention. One side of approaching the problem is by understanding how networks form, ideas about “six degrees of separation” and small worlds. Another approach, Clay Shirky writes, is to look at social software and the politics of groups.

Social software, software that supports group communications, includes everything from the simple CC: line in email to vast 3D game worlds like EverQuest, and it can be as undirected as a chat room, or as task-oriented as a wiki (a collaborative workspace). Because there are so many patterns of group interaction, social software is a much larger category than things like groupware or online communities — though it includes those things, not all group communication is business-focused or communal. One of the few commonalities in this big category is that social software is unique to the internet in a way that software for broadcast or personal communications are not.

The radical change [due to the Web] was de-coupling groups in space and time. To get a conversation going around a conference table or campfire, you need to gather everyone in the same place at the same moment. By undoing those restrictions, the interent has ushered in a host of new social patterns, from the mailing list to the chat room to the weblog.

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Asian Websites Rising

Kevin Werbach has a comment on Alexa’s Top 500 Sites on the Web:

Yahoo!, Microsoft, and Google are in the top 5. That’s not surprising. But sites #3 and #4 are, at least to me. They are two South Korean portals. In all, 11 of the top 20 sites on the Alexa list are Asian, dominated by Korea.

I knew Korea had the world’s highest penetration rates for broadband and mobile phones, but hadn’t realized how much usage patterns have shifted as a result. After all, this is a country with less than one-fifth the population of the US. Something major is happening when the usage disparity is that great.

Alexa’s may not be a scientific survey since users have to download and install software. But it nevertheless underscores the fact that Asian sites are seeing increasing traffic, as more users get online and connectivity improves.

Real-Time Info to Customers

Writes Information Week on a survey it conducted to gauge where companies are in their efforts to become real-time businesses:

The customer is set to become the next big constituency to benefit from real-time information.

A vast majority of business technologists have decided that real-time information can be used to improve customer relationships in two important ways. First, managers and customer-service staff can use timely data to do a better job of giving customers the products, services, and support that keep them loyal. But, going a step further, real-time information can be delivered directly to customers as a way of adding value on top of other products and services that a company provides them.

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Email and Productivity

Ole Eichorn writes about the six rules for avoiding email tyranny:

1. Turn your email client off. Pick the moment at which you’ll be interrupted.
2. Never criticize anyone in email, and avoid technical debates. Use face-to-face meetings or ‘phone calls instead.
3. Be judicious in who you send email to, and who you copy on emails.
4. Observing some formality is important.
5. Don’t hesitate to review and revise important emails.
6. Remember that email is a public and permanent record.

He adds a “one big rule and four guidelines” for being productive:

Big Rule: It takes three hours to get anything done.

1. Turn off your email client, put your ‘phone in “do not disturb”.
2. Isolate yourself. Get good headphones. Warn colleagues when you’re “in the zone”, to minimize their interrupts.
3. Minimize meetings and schedule them to avoid three-hour windows.
4. Become self-aware about warping off and try to un-stuck yourself.

Tech in Silicon Valley

In a special report on LA Times has a special report discussing the present and future of Silicon Valley.

I spent about 6 months in the Valley from Dec 1992 to May 1993 working at a firm prior to my return to India and then another 2 months in late 1994 at a friend’s place thinking up the business that later became IndiaWorld. What I liked most was the diverse flow of ideas in meetings with people. It is what I now feel through weblogs – even though one cannot meet the people, reading their blogs almost make you get to know them and their thinking well.

One of the articles discusses five emerging technologies which offer hope for Silicon Valley: Electro-bio Convergence, Micro-sensors, Nanotechnology Processors, Flexible Electronics and Mining Unstructured Data. Here is what it says on data mining:

In the next three years humankind will generate more data”video footage, Internet traffic, corporate records and even newspapers”than it has generated in all of human history,” says Nelson Mattos, a software expert at IBM’s Santa Teresa Laboratory in San Jose. That’s hardly reassuring for those of us already drowning in data. So the quest continues for effective ways to tackle information overload.

The goal, Mattos says, is to “organize, index and mine [diverse data types] so that you can discover the trends and patterns.” Then exploit that knowledge for everything from corporate marketing to research surveys of thousands of medical papers in multiple languages to detecting potential terrorist plots amid billions of innocuous activities by billions of law-abiding citizens.

IBM and other companies are developing methods to organize everything from millions of hours of commercial television archives to medical X-rays to satellite images scattered across thousands of locations across the Internet. Commercial products are starting to apply similar search techniques by labeling video streamsto recognize scene changes, individuals, locations and voices. Before long a news network will be able to identify every video clip of John Lennon singing “Imagine,” in archives dating back decades. Or a company wondering how it is perceived by the public might conduct a “sentiment analysis” that distills millions of media references, images and opinions that would be sifted and measured with artificial intelligence software.

Slashdot Thread

TECH TALK: Transforming Rural India: Village Visits

I am a city-dweller, as urban as one can get, having spent most of my life in Mumbai. My exposure to village life has been limited to a few days. But of late, I have spent quite some time thinking through what can be done to improve life in Indias villages. The immediate reason for this was a presentation I had to make to the Madhya Pradesh government on eGovernance. And that set me thinking about the state of Rural India.

Once a year, I travel for 2-3 days across Rajasthan, visiting various temples. Most of these temples are in villages, scattered across the state. In fact, seeing these temples built many centuries ago(and the new ones being built), I could not help thinking that if only we had spent a fraction of the money that we spend on religion on education, healthcare and other areas, the villages would have made much more progress!

On my last trip to Rajasthan, I also visited the village where my father was born and spent much of his early life. The road from the highway into the village is still dusty. There is now a school in the village finally. It was built from contributions made by the locals who have since emigrated to the cities and done well for themselves. There are some homes which have been tastefully constructed but lie empty their owners, of course, live in far-away cities. But for the most part, it is like time has stood still in this part of the world.

In Madhya Pradesh (MP), I also spent half a day visiting various villages around Bhopal. The abiding memory I have is that of a classroom of 24 children (ages 8-9), half of them sitting on 3 computers in groups of four, and learning. This is part of MPs Headstart programme, where over 2,700 schools in villages have been equipped with computers to assist in educating students. The focus is on the hardspots of learning.

Seeing the kids there operating the keyboard and mouse with ease, I realised that they (and I) could have been in a school in Mumbai or anywhere else for them, the digital divide had been bridged through these computers. Children everywhere have the same levels of curiosity. They can learn at the same quick pace of their city brethren. For these children, the computer is an ally, a friend, a window to a new world.

And then the reality sinks in. This effort is but a drop in the ocean. There are 50,000 villages just in MP. There are over 600,000 villages in India. We are touching but a handful of people. It will take many many years to the current pace of roll-out to reach out all the children. And by then, India would have lost yet another generation.

Tomorrow: IT for the Masses

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