Ubiquity in Japanese Gadgets

WSJ writes about how the Japanese high-tech industry is focusing on creating gadgets that work everywhere:

Japan — and particularly its high-tech industry — is dying to become ubiquitous. Sony is working toward the “ubiquitous value network,” Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. the “ubiquitous network society.” No matter that until a few years ago, practically nobody here had heard the term and even fewer could pronounce it. Now, the word “ubiquitous” is, well, ubiquitous, with the nation’s biggest economic daily estimating that it appears in the paper’s pages once every other day.

In its narrowest sense, “ubiquitous” refers to a network of gadgets — the kind for which Japanese companies are famous — that pass around information. That is why Japanese cellphone giant NTT DoCoMo Inc. made “ubiquity” one of its three guiding principles.

But for those in the know, “ubiquitous” describes a grandiose vision where everything — from potatoes to people to the garbage — is linked to a big network that is accessible any place, anytime. It is all made possible, of course, by cutting-edge technology.

“Let’s put wireless devices on everything that moves,” DoCoMo President Keiji Tachikawa says. “Not just people — it can be pets or cars or personal computers.”

India too has the opportunity to leapfrong into the era of ubiquitous networks – we should free up our spectrum and make urban and rural India a testbed for these new technologies. This is one way to ensure that we build applications based on the always-on world of tomorrow, and not be hampered by the limitations of the past.

Internet-related Business Models

Slashdot has an interesting discussion related to Lester Thurow’s new book “Fortune Favors the Bold: What We Must Do to Build a New and Lasting Global Prosperity”. Writes Slashdot: “There is a chapter which discusses the beginning of new industries. During this time, several business models are introduced and only a few will survive. Looking at the PC industry, Commodore was the industry leader in the 1980’s, but ultimately failed and went bankrupt in 1994. Successful business models such as Dell were not introduced until years after the industry began. I now ask the Slashdot community: which internet business models they believe are going to succeed? Which companies will rise to the top? Will they be infrastructure related companies such as Cisco and even FedEx, or will they be true dot.com’s such as eBay or Amazon?”

At its heart, the Internet (like IT) is about reducing transaction costs. So, those business models which leverage on this will succeed. The question to ask is: how can we do business differently assuming the presence of the Internet?

Chandler

Hemispheres has a report on Mitch Kapor and his team’s open-source PIM (personal information management) software which has also been dubbed as the Exchange-killer:

Chandler aims to change the way you see, access, useand even think aboutinformation on your computer…[It] will let you sort and interrelate all manner of data in a free-form way, from e-mails, tasks, contacts, spreadsheets, and other documents to instant messages, Web logs, photos, and MP3 music files. And a great deal more.

As Kapor has described it: Users will be able to organize diverse kinds of information for their own conveniencenot the computers convenience. Chandler will have a rich ability not only to associate and interconnect items, but also to gather and collect related items in a single place, creating a context-sensitive view of many types of data. The goal, in other words, is to have interactions with your computer go from an organizational nightmare of frustrating searches and misplaced files to a desktop dream built on intuitive grouping of information, enabling quantum leaps in creativity.

Early versions of Chandler are available for download. The first full version is expected to be available by December 2004.

Business Week IT Outlook for 2004

Business Week has a series of articles covering the various IT sectors on what to expect in 2004:

– Hardware: Computers Get Their Groove Back
– Software: Pay-As-You-Go Is Up And Running
– Chips: This Boom Is Just Powering Up
– Services: Farming It Out At A Faster Pace
– Consumer Electronics: Free-Falling Prices And Rocketing Sales
– Telecommunications: Strong Signals The Bad Times Are Over

From the software story: “Analysts now estimate that over the next half-decade, as much as half the software sold to corporations will be paid for on a monthly basis, as part of a long-term contract or a monthly rental fee, or even on a pay-per-use basis.”

Web and Weblogs

Kevin Werbach writes: “While the Web dramatically lowered the cost of publishing and accessing information, it kept the static and impersonal page metaphor of older media. Weblogs, aided by syndication mechanisms, remove that crutch…Some day we may look back and identify the rise of blogs, not the Web, as the decisive development that changed our relationship to information… and to each other.”

Excellently put…and we are just at the start of the blogs (and RSS) revolution. We are still using tools and lenses from the previous generation – what we need are the next generation of applications which recgonise that we may use multiple devices to access the same information store, that content is no longer just text, and that we like to share things we like with friends. This is the Publish-Subscribe, Always-on World.

TECH TALK: Good Books: Mountains Beyond Mountains (Part 3)

As I read the book, I kept being amazed at the way Farmer battled all odds right from childhood, when he grew up in a trailer. He is 8 years older than I am, and I could not but help ask myself how I have made a difference to the world. We all only live once what is it that I can do which can help transform the world into a better place? One of Dr Farmers lines I cant sleep. Theres always somebody not getting treatment. I cant stand that. keeps resounding in my head. Here we are, with all the comforts that life has given us. And there is Farmer, amongst the tin roofs of Cange, working to ensure that every human life is saved. No price is too high to pay for the gift of life anywhere in the world.

I have often wondered can one or a few make a difference? Though the logical answer is probably a No, I have come to believe that Yes, it is possible. When Gandhi started the Dandi March, he was alone. We see the images at the end with the thousands, but that was not how it began. Frodo in The Lord of the Rings began his quest with just Sam and two other friends in his quest to destroy the Ring and save Middle Earth. There are many examples from history, from fiction, from contemporary life. We see the final results and think about all who made it possible, and yet, when it all started, there must have been One. A minds idea and a persons vision and determination can combine to bring about the most dramatic changes that one can think about. Dr Farmers pursuits are the embodiment of the fact that a few can, indeed, change the course of history. As Jim Kim, Dr Farmers colleague, says, quoting Margaret Mead, Never underestimate the ability of a small group of committed individuals to change the world. Added Jim: Indeed, they are the only ones who ever have.

There are many Dr Paul Farmers, but there is one Tracy Kidder, who brings it all to life. The book makes a deep and lasting impact as much for the work that Dr Farmer is doing and as much for Tracy Kidders realism-filled portrayal of the world around Dr Farmer. That is why the author is so important as a reader, we hand over our time and trust to the author, and allow us to see the world through a different lens than our own. Kidder succeeds but the real success will be if we start thinking about how we can bring an element of Dr Farmer in our lives. What is the Cange in our lives? What is the Zanmi Lasante that we can create?

Reading the book makes me think harder about what I want to do how can I use my strengths, and those of people around me, so we can succeed in the two goals that I have set myself: how can we make computing affordable for the next billion users from the worlds emerging markets, and how we can transform rural India. There are times when I feel it is an uphill struggle, and one where the challenges are just too many to try and overcome. Now, I think of these problems as part of the course mountains beyond mountains. Keep climbing. As Farmer said, As members of the world community, we must recognize that we can and should summon our collective resources to save the countless lives that were previously alleged to be beyond our help.

Tomorrow: The Scientists

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