A Mobile Future

BBC News has an interview with Nokia chief Jorma Ollila:

Within a decade mobiles will be so powerful that we may no longer need to be tied to desktop computers, Nokia chief Jorma Ollila has predicted. With help of wireless technology, sending messages, files and images on the move will be easier and faster too.

“In 10 years, which is a very long time ahead to see, we really will have very powerful devices, which will enable us to send and receive pictures, files, or documents.

“So what we do at our desks we can basically do through mobile devices which are easy to handle,” Mr Ollila said. Even though the devices will get more sophisticated and powerful, the popularity of SMS which allows people to communicate simply and quickly will continue, he said.

“People do want to check their e-mail. They don’t necessarily want to spend a lot of time responding, but they will want to receive e-mail messages. “They will want to send short e-mail messages and SMS messages in the future,” he said.

With the promise of 3G technology as well as wi-fi – which allows broadband over the airwaves – Nokia is convinced that powerful handheld devices will combine both technologies. “Wi-fi is a very important complementary technology to cellular, and they will continue to live very well together,” Mr Ollila said.

Yahoo Refocuses on Search

In the aftermath of Yahoo replacing Google and launching its own search engine, NYTimes writes about Yahoo’s plans and challenges:

Under [CEO] Mr. Terry Semel, Yahoo has become a big hit on Madison Avenue, with advertising revenue surging ahead of its traditional rivals, America Online and Microsoft’s MSN. Yahoo now has about 70 of the top 100 national advertisers as clients.

But now Mr. Semel must win over a tougher audience: Silicon Valley. In many ways, Yahoo’s main rival is Google, started five years ago by two brainy Stanford graduate students who believed, against conventional wisdom, that sophisticated computer science could produce better Web searches.

Mr. Semel says the new search engine is just the beginning of a rapid series of improvements to Yahoo’s search capabilities. Many of these, he says, will try to exploit Yahoo’s two main advantages over Google – its vast array of original content and a database with information about its 133 million registered users. Knowing where searchers live and what their interests are, Yahoo believes, will let it present results that are more relevant and advertising that is more focused.

In addition, he is turning his attention to Yahoo’s specialized areas, like finance and music, which he plans to bolster through a series of major product introductions and acquisitions over the next year.

Ultimately, Yahoo wants to take share not from other online sites but from television and other traditional media. Of all the time people spent last year using media, 4.9 percent was on the Internet. But online advertising represented only 2.3 percent of all advertising.

Mr. Jeff Weiner, who runs Yahoo’s search unit, said that there would be a series of improvements to the search system in coming months. Many of them take advantage of its data about users.

“Personalization will ultimately change the way search is delivered,” Mr. Weiner said. In particular, he hopes that by watching users over time, the search engine can guess what sort of information they are looking for – or, as he put it, “If you type in flowers, do you want to buy flowers, plant flowers or see pictures of flowers?”

Another plan is to create search systems for Yahoo’s specialized areas, like finance, jobs and travel. Last fall, the company introduced a highly regarded search service in its shopping channel that lets users specify prices, brands and product attributes. Each specialized search engine, of course, also creates opportunities for specialized advertising.

The biggest new advertising opportunity is in searches related to merchants and other information in a local area. Yellow-pages advertising is a huge market that has yet to move online, and both Yahoo and Google see local search as their way to claim their share. Mr. Weiner says Yahoo should have an advantage because it already has address information for many users.

One of the things I like about the new Yahoo search: its inclusion of the RSS URL where the feed is available, and the ability to add the feed directly to My Yahoo. Jenny Levine has more.

Adds Red Herring:

  • It forces Yahoo! back on its historic business model, as a search-centric company, at the very time that CEO Terry Semel has demonstrated that its content and community services, which drive more traditional retail banner advertising, and;

  • Google’s business, by contrast, is blossoming by segmenting audiences around different faces of searchfrom finding information that drives AdWords revenue to community services like Blogger and Orkut that could deliver increasingly targeted AdWords inventory and, even, retail banner advertising.

    Both companies, then, have embarked on a course where they will become increasingly integrated media companies. They will need to pursue new technology development and acquisitions in areas of, for example, blog search, where companies like Technorati and Feedster are already taking leading roles, and growing their search inventories to support specific lines of business, like Google’s Froogle and Yahoo!’s Shopping services. All of these business issues are solved at higher costs than acting as a conduit for other companies’ content, which suggests that Yahoo! more than search-centric Google faces increased operating costs in the short term.

  • Robert Scoble thinks (and I agree) Yahoo missed an opportunity to overtake Google – being nearly as good is not enough. He has some suggestions:

    I’ve done a few dozen more Yahoo vs. Google comparisons. I’m convinced that Yahoo squandered a good chance to overtake Google. Here’s my view on how to overtake Google:

    Give users access to the variables.

    What do I mean? At O’Reilly’s ETCon two weeks ago I saw Google’s Nelson Minar, Google’s senior software engineer speak. He told us that Google tracks 100 variables that they can play with to move around results.

    It’s clear that Yahoo has something like the same kinds of variables. Yahoo, for instance, clearly ranks individual’s sites (er, weblogs) lower than Google does.

    What if the user had control of that? I want a search engine that lets me control the variables. I might never want to see any results with webloggers included. I might want to have results that have only webloggers included (yeah, today I could use Feedster for that). But, what about the other variables?

    A search engine that would let me control the variables would be instantly the one I’d use. Imagine if you could use such an engine via a web service? I could display results here. That kind of engine would instantly be the geek’s favorite. Why? Cause they could tweak it to give better results.

    Even better, why not provide hooks into such an engine so we could come up with new variables that would provide even stronger results?

    Anyway, Yahoo will keep its current market share (which is sizeable) but won’t convince many people to switch with its current engine. Why? Cause it is isn’t demonstratably better.

    I think it’s possible to make a search engine that +is+ demonstratably better. And, no, I haven’t seen MSN’s engine yet. I doubt it’ll give users the kind of control over variables that I’m asking for too.

    I think the innovators will be the small engines like Technorati and Feedster. It’ll be interesting to see if any of those open up their variable tables for us to play with.

    Demo 2004 Reports

    Many reports on Demo 2004:

    – Jeffrey Nolan (SAP Ventures) [1 2]. A comment to think over: “The power of RSS is underappreciated in blog discussions, and this is disappointing as RSS offers a huge productivity lever for enterprise as it is a pub/sub for XML. I was surprised to hear very little in the way of new applications being enabled within the enterprise via blogs and RSS. How about product development collaboration, portals, event monitoring?”
    Robert Scoble
    – Buzz Bruggeman [1 2 3 4]
    – Ed Sim (BeyondVC) [1 2 3]
    – Red Herring [1 2 3 4 5 6 7]
    Internet Week on RSS at Demo 2004

    Intranet Solutions

    Dina Mehta blogs out the discussions we had with a cmpany in India in the context of Intranet solutions, incorporating presence, communication and collaboration:

    One of the key requirements – really a very simple one to have, but something so sorely left out in the current system, is a presence indicator. Much like in current IM systems – telling us who’s available, who’s logged in and therefore present in the office, who i can ping for a query, and ensuring that a response is received. In the case of this organisation, currently, they’d send an email, wait for a response, followed by more emails as reminders, and finally in sheer frustration, pick up the phone and make a call – which can be expensive if outstation (as is the case very often in their line of business) and does not always ensure that they will get a response – what if the person is away from the office?

    Tied into this requirement for presence indicators is the need for ‘real-time’ ‘live’ communication. This is where voice applications, small cam shows, conferencing facilities would be useful. Skype with its conferencing facilities has really shown its possible to do this with terrific quality. Combine this with some of the ‘soft profiles’ that make a person far more approachable than just another colleague, like those on Ryze or Orkut.

    And finally the need for collaboration spaces – where one can play around with Wikis and Blogs. Not having to rely on a whole host of asynchronous emails – or bothering to archive them systematically – these tools can do that automatically for you. And more food for thought pinging its way in through RSS in Newsreaders.

    Picture this scenario – you have a project on and are racking your brains about how to approach it – you check your presence indicator – see who’s available – ping them with a request for conferencing – hitch up the webcam, enable voice – and bingo – in minutes you have a virtual team ! Record the conversation, take notes on the wiki, synthesize it in a team blog which has comments enabled, feed in current thinking on the topic from your newsaggregator, and you have real flow. And, ridiculously easy group-forming to borrow a wonderful phrase from Clay Shirky.

    Some interesting comments too at Dina’s site.

    Rudy Giulani Inc

    NYTimes has a story on how the former New York mayor (and TIME Person of the Year in 2001) has built a fast-growing consulting business.

    In its two years of existence, his firm, Giuliani Partners, has earned tens of millions of dollars by assembling an extremely broad range of clients, jumping almost immediately into the ranks of the nation’s most prestigious consulting firms, according to two industry guides.

    A detailed examination of its business practices shows that the firm’s work for its base of 20 or so clients with at least two on different sides of the same issue stretches well beyond providing advice on policing and domestic security, the type of job that has produced the most publicity for Giuliani Partners.

    The firm has been hired to improve public confidence in a horse-racing gambling operation. It has advised New York hospitals on buying bulk supplies, helped expand a California-based business that sells inexpensive wills, and set up an alliance with a large accounting firm to fight computer hackers.

    More recently the partnership moved into the world of venture capital, working with Bear Stearns & Company to invest $300 million in security-related businesses, with Giuliani Partners to eventually share in the profits of businesses that succeed.

    Taken together, the firm’s deals, carried out chiefly by a handful of former civil servants, have made the partnership one of the most novel and lucrative ventures ever begun by an out-of-office American politician, avoiding the familiar path of many ex-officials who join law firms or become lobbyists.

    TECH TALK: As India Develops: The Market Within

    India is on a roll. Confidence and optimism reign high as every day brings with it news of more jobs and investments coming in. Construction activity is booming with the demand for new offices, homes and malls in urban and semi-urban India. Improving roads are driving demand for cars and weekend vacations. Rarely a week goes by without a significant story in the Western press about India. Indian companies are eyeing acquisitions abroad. Growth rates and foreign reserves are rising to levels which provoke comparisons with China in the 1980s and 1990s. As elections draw near, politicians across the board are realising that the best way to stay in power is to actually do constructive work for the people rather than harp on caste or communal issues. So, India is, finally, Developing.

    After years of false starts, stunted growth and belied expectations, India has begun its march on the path of development. For the first time, many of the changes are happening at a fundamental level which is setting in motion a positive feedback loop that is expected to sustain growth at high levels and increase incomes for the next many years to come. For a nation that last experienced real prosperity many centuries ago, this is a different feeling. Attitudes and mindsets are beginning to change as the feel-good sector percolates across. It is unlike anything that has been seen in our lifetime.

    Yet, this is only the first step in a long journey on the path to development. A lot more has to be done. There is also an India comprised of hundreds of millions of people that still is steeped in illiteracy and poverty, and find life a punishment. Life may be improving for some, but try telling that to those living in the urban slums. Even as employment opportunities abound for some, there are many who are stuck in low-quality jobs. Reliable supply of round-the-clock power is still a challenge in much of India. Peninsula India may be shining, but much of the Hindi heartland and the East of the country is still awaiting its turn.

    But, for all its lopsidedness, the development process that has begun promises to transform India. Finally, more than government policies, I believe it is the Indian entrepreneurs who will build the New India across it length and breadth. One person with vision has the ability to make a difference for hundreds. And what India is seeing today is the creation and rising of the aspirations of this class who want to not only seek out opportunities to create wealth (and in doing so risk everything they have), but also genuinely believe that it is they who can build out the future.

    This series is for these emergent entrepreneurs that class of people which wants to do good and do well at the same time. Their parents led life in the constraints of the India that was shackled. They want to break free. Their role models are simultaneously Vajpayee and Bill Gates. As they unleash their creative power, these are the entrepreneurs who will take India to levels far greater than what we can imagine. For them, India beckons as a market. Ambala and Jabalpur hold more promise than America and Japan. The opportunities are also within, and not just outside. India is an emerging market.

    Tomorrow: What Others Say

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