Weblogs and Journalism

Jay Rosen writes about what is “radical about the weblog form in journalism”. Among the differences:

The weblog comes out of the gift economy, whereas most (not all) of todays journalism comes out of the market economy.

Journalism had become the domain of professionals, and amateurs were sometimes welcomed into it as with the op ed page. Whereas the weblog is the domain of amateurs and professionals are the ones being welcomed to it, as with this page.

In the weblog world every reader is actually a writer, and you write not so much for the reader but for other writers. So every reader is a writer, yes, but every writer is also a reader of other weblog writersor better be.

So very true!

India’s Sizzling Economy

The articles lauding the Indian economy continue. NYTimes writes [via Reuben Abraham]:

Much of India is still mired in poverty, but just over a decade after the Indian economy began shaking off its statist shackles and opening to the outside world, it is booming. The surge is based on strong industry and agriculture, rising Indian and foreign investment and American-style consumer spending by a growing middle class, including the people under age 25 who now make up half the country’s population.

After growing just 4.3 percent last year, India’s economy, the second fastest growing in the world, after China, is widely expected to grow close to 7 percent this year.

The growth of the past decade has put more money in the pockets of an expanding middle class, 250 million to 300 million strong, and more choices in front of them. Their appetites are helping to fuel demand-led growth for the first time in decades.

India is now the world’s fastest growing telecom market, with more than one million new mobile phone subscriptions sold each month. Indians are buying about 10,000 motorcycles a day. Banks are now making $15 billion a year in home loans, with the lowest interest rates in decades helping to spur the spending, building and borrowing. Credit and debit cards are slowly gaining.

The potential for even more market growth is enormous, a fact recognized by multinationals and Indian companies alike. In 2001, according to census figures, only 31.6 percent of India’s 192 million households had a television, and only 2.5 percent a car, jeep or van.

Foreign institutional investors have poured nearly $5 billion into the Indian market this year, already more than six times last year’s total. The Bombay Stock Exchange’s benchmark Sensitive Index has risen by more than 50 percent since April, hitting a three-year high. Foreign exchange reserves are at a record $90 billion.

This Diwali will be the most optimistic in many years. I think what is happening in India is that the people are now feeling much more confident and positive about tomorrow. The government is running a media campaign called “India Shining” highlighting the achievements.

SMEs driving IT Recovery

Barron’s writes:

So if the world’s global conglomerates aren’t driving a tech recovery, who the heck is? Answer: Small and medium-sized businesses, or SMBs. Just as the SMB is the salvation for a broader economic recovery, the smaller companies are the ones kick-starting tech, says analyst Jaime Roca of Precursor, an independent technology-research boutique.

Consequently, those IT vendors who were the biggest suppliers to the SMB going in to the tech depression will be the biggest winners coming out of the slump, Roca says. This group has the earnings power and incentive to increase their tech spending prior to the end of the year and well in to 2004. For the most part, most of the SMB companies did not overindulge in massive software and hardware upgrades during the bubble to the same extreme extent that their enterprise-class brethren did, and that means they will be generating more of a demand now, he adds.

In a September study of large and SMB spending, Precursor concluded that small and medium-sized firms (100-1,000 employees) have increased their capital spending, including tech, at a rate eight times faster than larger corporations.

Thus, the research shop has identified a group of IT vendors who are most likely to benefit, calling it the “growth pack.” They are: Microsoft, Intuit, International Business Machines, Dell Computer, Symantec and Lexmark.

Unsurprisingly, software and services will gain the biggest share, with hardware following and telecom scraping for crumbs, he says. Companies of many sizes and stripes are trying to reduce the complexity of their networks and improve their return on investment, but the SMB is more likely to turn to fewer vendors to do so. They want what technology that they already own to work better through improved integration. And they want to add new applications and services that allow them to better track their supply chains, sales, and finances. Sound familiar?

But they aren’t likely to go to a dozen vendors to do so. This is why Microsoft and IBM stand to do well. They are already providing a lot of these things to small and medium-sized businesses. In fact, Microsoft best serves the smallest businesses, where the least competition lies, but it is progressively moving up into the middle tier as well. Microsoft, as well as Intuit, have entrenched customer bases amid the smallest companies, where they can up-sell and cross-sell new product lines, Roca says. Intuit, for its part, has expanded well beyond its consumer-retail roots (Quicken) and is offering accounting and other back-office software for small businesses.

Roca’s colleague, Bill Whyman, thinks that Microsoft’s launch this week of its new Office System business software will be a big winner, accounting for about half of the company’s revenues and about 70% of its net profits. Along with its growth in servers, Microsoft will morph from being a PC-centric software company of its past to a networking software company of the future.

Meantime, Dell and Lexmark will continue to win the business of the SMB through their lower price strategies. Dell is becoming their supplier of choice in servers and storage, and Lexmark continues to grow through its concentration on all-in-one machines that print, fax and copy. (Lexmark also sells machines under the Dell name through a joint venture between the two). As for Symantec, its dominance in the security software makes it a staple for any IT upgrade, regardless of the size of the company, Roca says.

George Gilder

NYTimes writes about the man who for a period wa synonymous with the telecom boom. I remember reading George Gilder’s lengthy essays in Forbes ASAP in the late 1990s and being fascinated by the world he was projecting. Suddenly everything changed. But there are now indications that at least part of the broadband future that Gilder predicted is now coming. The article is a fascinating story about the rise and fall and possible comeback of Gilder.

In early 2000, Mr. Gilder presided over a small but lucrative empire that consisted of his newsletter, the Gilder Technology Report, and its various spinoffs – with names like Digital Power Reporter, Dynamic Silicon and the Supply Side Investor – half a dozen annual conferences and a staff of 55.

At the time, Mr. Gilder’s net worth, around $7 million, was modest by dot-com standards, but Merrill Lynch and Hambrecht & Co. were vying to take his company, Gilder Publishing, public, valuing it at $150 million to $200 million. His newsletters had 110,000 subscribers.

Then, as quickly as the riches and the promise of more riches came, they vanished. People canceled their subscriptions by the tens of thousands; only the original newsletter survives today, with just 8,500 subscribers. Since the tech bubble burst, all but five staff members have been laid off. A former business partner holds a lien on Mr. Gilder’s house. And in a cruel twist of fate, Mr. Gilder, an outspoken critic of the nation’s tax structure, finds himself at the mercy of the Internal Revenue Service, as he awaits the agency’s final decision on the terms of his tax bill.

Now, slowly but surely, portions of the telecom industry are recovering. Shares of the companies Mr. Gilder recommends in The Gilder Technology Report – a more diverse mix than it used to be – have outperformed the Nasdaq by a healthy margin for the past year, and his adherents are cheering up. And Mr. Gilder is gradually regaining the credibility that nearly vaporized before his eyes three years ago.

Execution over Idea

[via Joi Ito] Loc Le Meur writes about the importance of execution over ideas in starting a company:

I think the idea has clearly no value when you create a company. This is what makes most people afraid of launching their own business, they wait for the idea of the century and never have it !

My point is that execution matters much more than the idea itself. Very few people actually execute an idea and execute it well and fast.

This is why when I start a company, I am never afraid of sharing it with everybody. Few people will do the same as you, just bet you will be faster. Sharing it with everybody gets you new ideas and very often constructive criticism, so share it.

I think creating a business is about filling empty space. There is empty space everywhere. How many times today you felt a service or a product was perfectible ? How many times you needed something that no company actually provides ? This is empty space. Just consider how big is the demand for this empty space and you have got your idea.

I would not complete rule out the importance of the idea. It is important, though not critical. What is perhaps crucial is the space in which one wants to operate – what is the final goal / destination, along with execution that is almost flawless.

Nice Hindi Movie

It is not often that I mention Hindi movies here. Part of the reason is that I see very few of them. Some of the ones that I see occasionally strike a chord. Like the one I saw recently “Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon”. For the uninitiated, Madhuri Dixit is one of India’s all-time great actresses. The movie is about the struggles of a village girl who comes to Mumbai aspiring to become a heroine.

The movie is well-made, an honest effort. Watching it reminded me of the struggle we went through in creating IndiaWorld. Many a time when one feels that there is no hope, there comes an opportunity from the unlikeliest of places. It is so true of life – as long as we don’t give up on our goals and dreams, we will get help from unexpected quarters.

TECH TALK: SMEs and Technology: Client Architecture

The reference hardware architecture for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) needs to ensure that even as the total cost of ownership is kept low, there is no compromise in performance. By making computers affordable, it will become possible for SMEs to provide one to every employee in the organisation. This ubiquitous presence of the computer will create the platform for the software applications to revamp existing business processes and make the enterprise as a whole more productive.

The two fundamental components for the hardware architecture are thin clients and thick servers. The thin clients are low-cost, low-configuration computers. It should be possible to create these for about USD 50 (Rs 2,250). Add to that a refurbished monitor for USD 40, and keyboard and mouse for USD 10, and one has a USD 100 desktop solution.

How will the USD 50 base unit become possible? This virtual computer needs to be only able to work as a dumb terminal, though fully capable of displaying the graphics that one sees as part of existing desktops (in Windows and Linux). It needs to have a processor of about 100 Mhz, 2 MB RAM, a couple of USB ports for the keyboard and mouse, LAN support (either for 100 Mbps Ethernet or WiFi) and should be capable of driving a monitor/display unit.

Traditionally, thin clients have been used in companies for reducing cost of administration, rather than the cost of the actual solution itself (if one takes into account the software costs of solutions like Citrix). This is what is different about the approach being presented here: we want to create architectures which can bring down costs across the board of hardware, software and management. In other words, we do want the best of all worlds!

There are many options to build such a thin client: a 486-class motherboards, existing PDA or cellphone architectures, set-top box designs or even game console units. The point is that there is a need for a solution which does the bare bones processing only, shifting the entire load on the server. The key is the cost for such a unit only at these low price points will it be possible to achieve a 1:1 employee:computer ratio in the SMEs.

The closest we can get to these solution today is through the use of older (second-hand) computers which are available for about USD 75-150. Here, the issue in India is the anti-dumping duty which adds USD 200 to the price. But in other countries, this could work fine. One problem with this is the lack of consistency in the configurations of the older computers, and the shipping costs. An alternative solution is through the use of VIAs mini-ITX motherboard. A computer built using VIAs board with a new monitor would cost about Rs 11,500 (USD 250). Using an older monitor would bring the cost down to about Rs 9,000 (USD 200). We need a solution at half this price point for mass-market consumption.

It needs an enterprising group of people to put a solution for a thin client in place. This is a very interesting opportunity we are unlikely to see the likes of Intel and AMD target this market, because of the fear that this could disrupt their primary CPU brands. The thin client segment needs a disruptive innovation to target the non-consumers of computers.

Tomorrow: Server Architecture

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