Life’s Little Clues

Every day, Life leaves its little clues to us. Most of the times, we don’t see them. It requires a heightened sense of alertness to notice these clues and then connect them to what they are trying to see. I have felt this many times. We go through the better part of life not niticing these clues. If only we can start to figure out these coded messages…

I have felt this many times. Like today, I was driving for a meeting. I took a wrong turn because I had missed out a piece of information that had passed my way, and I had not registered it a couple days ago.

I am now trying to be careful – in noticing things around, in thinking and correlating incidents, and generally trying to see the conenction. This has to be subconscious. It has to become part of our routine.

Budget Windows

WSJ writes:

Microsoft announced a 12-month pilot program to provide personal computers running stripped-down versions of Windows XP to Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia starting in October.

Microsoft isn’t selling the software separately from the PCs, or disclosing how much it is charging computer makers. The company expects the PCs to be priced as low as $300, a Microsoft spokesman says. In the U.S., low-end home computers typically start at around $400; Windows XP Home Edition by itself typically costs about $99 for users that are upgrading to the product, or $199 for a first-time installation.

The new offering, called Windows XP Starter Edition, is an example of how Microsoft is trying to serve developing countries without jeopardizing its profits in developed economies. The test program also should help Microsoft try to counter the Linux operating system, which is gaining ground in some countries against Windows.

Deepak Phatak, a professor at the Indian Institute of Technology and adviser to India’s government, says the country is exploring programs to distribute Linux-based PCs that would cost just $300 to own and maintain over three years. Still he says, the government is very open to Microsoft lowering its prices.

“People in the government will never play a technology-favorites game,” Mr. Phatak says. “They want to see value for money.”

NextGen Search Tools writes:

Although search engines have greatly enhanced access to information, and storage technology has made it cheap to digitize nearly everything, search tools need to be refined to make it easier to digest information or conduct queries. That was the word from researchers and speakers at the New Paradigms for Using Computers Conference.

“Universal access to all human knowledge is within our grasp,” Kahle said. “It could be one of the greatest achievements of all time.”

Cellphones-WiFi Links

WSJ writes:

Imagine walking to work while talking on your cellphone. Out on the street, you’re using a cellular network and paying your mobile provider for each minute you gab. But once you reach the office, your cellphone detects a signal from your company’s wireless Internet, or Wi-Fi, transmitter and automatically switches you from the cellular network to the Wi-Fi one. Your call is now being routed over the Internet, saving money on cellphone fees. You’re also able to browse the Web on your cellphone at superfast broadband speeds.

Such technology — under development in Japan and elsewhere — stands to revolutionize telecommunications on two levels. For the consumer, the technology combines the convenience of cellular access with the low cost and high speeds of Wi-Fi, all in a single device. For the industry as a whole, this technology illustrates a new but increasingly common theme: how the convergence of once-discrete technologies — in this case, mobile-phone service and the Internet is pitting unlikely rivals against each other in a battle for chunks of a brand-new territory.

Japan serves as a prime example. Here, two companies have just announced handsets that function on cellular and wireless networks. One is made by NEC Corp. and will be marketed by NTT DoCoMo Inc., Japan’s largest cellular provider. The other device is from Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd., a unit of computer-maker Fujitsu Ltd., which has long cooperated with DoCoMo by making handsets for the carriers’ exclusive use. This time, however, Fujitsu, in a joint-project with telecommunications equipment-maker Net-2Com Corp., is striking out on its own.

Of course, Japanese companies aren’t the only ones developing such devices. Other companies, including Motorola Inc., Schaumburg, Ill., and Hewlett-Packard Co., Palo Alto, Calif., have unveiled phones that combine cellular and Wi-Fi technology.

TECH TALK: Black Swans: Entrepreneurship

Let us start by reiterating Nassim Talebs description: A black swan is an outlier, an event that lies beyond the realm of normal expectations. Most people expect all swans to be white because that’s what their experience tells them; a black swan is by definition a surprise. Nevertheless, people tend to concoct explanations for them after the fact, which makes them appear more predictable, and less random, than they are.

Nassim elaborates: The Black Swan is defined as a random event satisfying the following three properties: large impact, incomputable probabilities, and surprise effect. First, it carries upon its occurrence a disproportionately large impact. The impact being extremely large, no matter how low the associated probability, the expected effect (the impact times its probability), if quantified, would be significant. Second, its incidence has a small but incomputable probability based on information available prior to its incidence2. Third, a vicious property of a Black Swan is its surprise effect: at a given time of observation there is no convincing element pointing to an increased likelihood of the event.

In my life as an entrepreneur, I have experienced one black swan event.

When I started as an entrepreneur in 1992, I wanted to build a successful software company. 30 months later, that idea lay in shambles I didnt have much of a company, we werent doing much of software, and success was something others had. I had only options: restart, work somewhere, or join a fledgling family business dealing with marble and edible oils. The decision was easy.

When I restarted and made a bet on the Internet as a medium for distributing content to Indians globally as a prelude to enabling ecommerce, I had no idea of the endgame. All I could think was that I did not want to fail this time I had to first ensure that we got to profits quickly. There were challenges to be met on an ongoing basis each day brought with it something unexpected. Not necessarily black swans, though. We lived through some tough times and finally experienced some good times.

But even I was not prepared for the ending. If someone had told me in September 1999 that I would be selling my company for a hundred million dollars in two months, I would have thought of it as a nice joke. That September, I had exhausted talking to the last venture capitalist who showed an interest in us. We had profits, yes. We were market leaders, yes. We had great month-on-month growth, yes. But we were still a small sub-million dollar company catering to a small segment of the global online population.

That was when the black swan event occurred. Large impact, undoubtedly. Incomputable probabilities, absolutely. Surprise effect, totally. It was an ending no one could have scripted, and yet as it turned out, it had a finite possibility it happened to me and my company. Today, nearly five years later, as I look back, there is no way I could have imagined or prepared for that event.

For an entrepreneur, a black swan event is a nice, happy ending. But few entrepreneurs build a company keeping in mind that a black swan event will one day happen. They are just following their dream. Yes, they are inspired by stories of previous black swan events and think it can happen to them. But, they are also practical they go in to work every day working to reduce the risk of failure that is so much a reality in every small business.

Tomorrow: The Next

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