Gateway or Router

Dana Blankenhorn states that the battle for control, between the ISPs and the router makers will define the World of Always-On for the next two years.

An Always-On home has both a wireless LAN on the inside and fast Internet connectivity on the outside….

Another important point is the question of who controls the environment. If you get a gateway it’s the ISP. They can sell a variety of add-in services, through the gateway, that will improve your Internet experience in various ways. Server-based parental controls, announced by Netopia (and others), is just the first of what will be many service offerings.

When you go the router route, control passes, not so much to you as to the hardware maker. If your wireless router is a ‘modular, scalable platform’ built on a ‘PC operating system’ with a ‘big kernel’ (as I suggest), the hardware maker may then work with its channel on applications.

Marc Benioff

News.com story on a rumour that Marc Benioff, the Salesforce.com CEO & founder, may ring the bell on the floor of NYSE with his dog called Koa when his company goes public. Om Malik thinks this is a publicity stunt.

He believes good, or bad, any news is better than no news. A little while ago, he got an egg on his phase when he tried to use Dalai Lama in a software promotion. His Holiness was not amused.

But Kevin Maney nicely puts things in perspective by calling him a “character”.

Let’s say you run a company as Benioff does that makes technology most of the population will never see or touch. Yet you want to get a lot of attention and have a major impact.

What do you do? Well, one approach is to be “a character.” You do quirky things, talk to the press a lot, and become the reason people learn about your company. It has worked for Ellison, who runs Oracle, maker of big unfathomable databases that do something incomprehensible but important behind the scenes just about everywhere. As a billionaire playboy sailor who built a $100 million Japanese villa to live in, Ellison is much more fun than Oracle, though his new wife will no doubt put the kibosh on the playboy part.

Back in the 1930s and ’40s, the same thing worked for Thomas Watson Sr., who ran IBM when it made big clattering tabulating machines that were at the time incomprehensible yet ran things behind the scenes nearly everywhere. Watson had those famous THINK signs, held conventions in tent cities and led employees in company songs. It got IBM on the cover of national magazines.

Now here’s Benioff who happens to be a one-time Ellison protg. Salesforce is already doing well. On Wednesday, it will release numbers expected to show 2003 revenue of about $100 million, up nearly 100% over 2002. Like Ellison and Watson, Benioff is apparently a good businessman.

But that doesn’t get you worldwide press coverage and a spot on society’s radar. For that, you need a character.

Mobile Domain Names

Mobile industry majors have applied to ICANN for a new top-level domain. But Tom Hume is not convinced that there is a need for mobile-specific domain names.

We can already differentiate services by using a prefix to the domain name: compare www.futureplatforms.com and wap.futureplatforms.com; you don’t need a new domain name to do this.

Saying a service is “mobile” doesn’t tell you anything about which “version” of mobile it is: WAP? XHTML? cHTML? If you plan to automatically determine which version you’re going to deliver, that’s great: but in this case you don’t need a separate domain name. Just hand out “futureplatforms.com” and redirect as necessary.

There’s an underlying assumption that URLs are relevant to everyday users of mobile services – that in a few years time, we’ll all be tapping addresses into our handsets to access sites. Personally, I don’t like this: the reach of mobile goes way beyond the reach of the fixed-line internet. People who don’t know or care about underlying technology use mobiles every day of their life, and it seems rather arrogant of us (mobile service providers) to expect them to learn about browsers, servers, sites, and URLs in order to get them to spend time and money with us. The mobile internet needs to be easier than the web, rather than apeing (sp?) it on a small screen. Just because the people building the mobile Internet understand URLs doesn’t mean that users have to.

TECH TALK: As India Develops: Market Access (Part 2)

Atanu Dey puts the challenge of developing rural India in perspective:

Rural India, like the rest of India, is extremely large. Around 700 million people in 600,000 villages call rural India their home. Agriculture is their main occupation. Foodgrains and cereals add up to about two-thirds of India s agriculture output. For India as a whole, agriculture is the most important sector accounting for about a third of the nations GDP and two-thirds of all employment. Though the share of agriculture in national income has declined as India develops, it still provides the main source of wage goods for the manufacturing and services sectors of India. Agriculture makes up about 18 percent of India s exports.

Rural India is also extremely poor. Of India s over one billion population, about 35 percent live below the poverty line. Fully three quarters of all poor Indians live in rural India. In other words, about 270 million rural Indians or 40 percent of the rural population are poor even by Indian standards. The defining characteristic of rural India is therefore both income-and non-income poverty. The challenge facing those concerned with Indias development therefore simply stated is: how to raise rural Indias income. One prerequisite is to increase agricultural productivity, of course. But that would necessarily imply that less labour will be required for agriculture. The labour released from agriculture will have to find alternative sources of income. Manufacturing and services are the obvious sectors which will absorb the additional labour. Given that India is a large economy of over a billion people, the growth of manufacturing and services is natural. However, there are structural impediments to their rapid growth such as poor infrastructure and inadequate financial resources. In the long run, infrastructure improvements must happen. But it will take many years, if not decades, to happen.

Given the constraints, it is important to explore s ort-term and medium-term alternative sources of income for the rural population. Gandhi, the father of Indias independence, once observed that the solution to Indias poverty lay not in mass production but rather in production by the masses. It is in that spirit that we considered the problem of mass poverty. What, we asked, were the masses of rural India most suited to producing outside the traditional agricultural sector? The answer was evident: hand crafted labour-intensive goods which can be produced without requiring massive investments in infrastructure.

Even a cursory examination of the non-agricultural production of rural India leaves one breathless at the scope and the variety of goods produced by artisans. Traditional handicrafts span a range that is nearly impossible to describe without employing superlatives. Tens of thousands of handmade goods in a variety of media are traditionally found across the vast landscape of India. Vast numbers of goods made from a wide range of wood, leather, iron, brass, copper, silver, granite, marble, soft-stones, semi-precious stones, fabrics of various kinds, glass, and so on are traditionally made in rural India. Each region of India has something unique in terms of styling and workmanship. The traditions run deep since the crafts are handed down from generations to generations across the centuries.

It is therefore easy to argue that at least in part, the answer to the problem of rural poverty has to be found in the production of handmade goods by the masses of rural India. Urban India has been so far the major market for these. However, the potential exists for expanding the markets beyond urban India. Globalization and the revolutions in ICT have presented an opportunity for enlarging the market for rural handcrafted goods and thus provide income opportunities to rural artisans like never before.

Indian handicrafts are not entirely unknown outside rural India. There are many institutions, both public and private, that channel handicrafts from rural India to the rest of the world. For example, various Indian state governments have outlets for handicrafts from their states. Most of these are found in major metropolitan cities in India. Some firms export Indian handicrafts also. Exports of handicrafts (including hand-knotted carpets) from India are of the order of $1.5 billion per year. In absolute terms, that is an impressive figure but relative to the size of the rural population, it is clearly far below the potential. One can easily argue that handicrafts should fetch about $50 per capita per year if properly marketed. That means, rural Indias handicraft exports could aggregate around $35 billion. That scale would have been difficult, if not impossible, to achieve a few years ago. Fortunately, it is no longer outside the realm of the possible because of a confluence of a number of factors such as globalization, the Internet and the world wide web and the glut in mass-produced manufactured goods.

The solution proposed by Atanu is ABC: A Mediated Marketplace.

Tomorrow: Market Access (continued)

Continue reading