Intel making Cheaper Chips for Emerging Markets?

[via Jeff Nolan] ArsTechnica speculates:

The word on the street is that Intel is developing a low-cost CPU for emerging markets in Asia, and potentially elsewhere. Surely pitted against AMD’s Sempron, Shelton is a test product aimed at Vietnam and two other unnamed countries countries if this VNExpress article (in Vietnamese) is to be believed.

Shelton’s lone attractiveness will have to be rock-bottom prices, because Shelton redefines bargain basementparticularly the “basement” part. Shelton is rumored to have absolutely no L2 cache, and will be based on older Celeron architecture, fabbed at 90nm, and meant to run at a mere 1 GHz.

At this point, we don’t have much to go on, but one thing is clear: this, coupled with today’s earlier news and recent trends in the tech biz show us that while company’s may be outsourcing to boost profits, they’re also catering to smaller economies with unimpressive tech to squeeze money from rocks. Whether or not the extra effort is worth it remains to be seen.

Jeff provides the context: “Interesting, because just yesterday Rajesh Jain came by my office and explained to me about how entire sections of the market in India see nonconsumption as the only alternative to buying an expensive (by local standards) PC. When it comes to CPU manufacturing costs, Intel/AMD have pretty much hit a plateau with regard to actual mfg costs, it’s pretty much an issue of what they are going to take out in order to reduce the cost and cache memory is an obvious choice. I also read somewhere else that M$oft is looking at ways to dramatically reduce the cost of Windows and Office in India and Southeast Asia in order to combat piracy, the primary competitive choice in software for those countries.”

Spectrum Policy

The Economist writes that “governments and industries are bracing themselves for the possibility that radio interference will become a thing of the past.”

On one side, therefore, are notions of radio frequencies as scarce resources that can be used by only one transmitter at a time and are worth lobbying and paying billions for; on the other side is the idea that any number of transmitters and receivers can peacefully co-exist on the airwaves and that spectrum should therefore be open to allnot individual property, but rather a commons. To understand this debate, one must look back at history; to understand its importance, at economics.

The article discusses four technologies:
– spread spectrum or wideband
– smart antennae
– mesh networking
– cognitive radios

Web as Platform

Jason Kottke writes:

a distributed data storage system would take the place of a local storage system. And not just data storage, but data processing/filtering/formatting. Taking the weblog example to the extreme, you could use TypePad to write a weblog entry; Flickr to store your photos; store some mp3s (for an mp3 blog) on your ISP-hosted shell account; your events calendar on Upcoming; use iCal to update your personal calendar (which is then stored on your .Mac account); use GMail for email; use TypeKey or Flickr’s authentication system to handle identity; outsource your storage/backups to Google or Akamai; you let Feedburner “listen” for new content from all those sources, transform/aggregate/filter it all, and publish it to your Web space; and you manage all this on the Web at each individual Web site or with a Watson-ish desktop client.

Think of it like Unix…small pieces loosely joined. Each specific service handles what it’s good at. Gmail for mail, iCal for calendars, TypePad for short bits of text, etc. Web client, desktop client, it doesn’t much matter…whatever the user is most comfortable with. Then you just (just! ha!) pipe all these together however you want with services (or desktop apps) handling any filtering/processing that you need, and output it to the file/device/service of your choice. New services can be inserted into the process as they become available.

What you need is a “virtual desktop.”

TECH TALK: Black Swans: The Next

I believe that the next technological black swan the next Google will come not from the developed markets but from the emerging markets. This is not the same as seeing the next big ideas will only emerge in the emerging markets. What I mean is that the next company which will thrive and become as successful at the time of its public offering will come from the emerging markets.

Before we go ahead, it is good to get an understanding of what made Google thrive to get to the point where it has reached now. One, it had only one round of venture capital investment, giving the founders sufficient management control on the future direction of the company including the right to refuse takeover offers. Second, they focused on an area which others had given up on search. When Google started up, search was a forgotten area in the Internet backwaters. They not only made search work well, but also created a business model around it via the text ads. Third, they built up scale rapidly over the years. Their use of commoditised hardware and open-source software at the backend gave them the platform to keep costs low even as they layered their proprietary algorithms on top of the GoogleOS.

In 1999, it would have been hard to imagine that a search company would be doing an IPO at a market capitalisation of $25 billion. What is interesting in this is what the likes of Yahoo and Microsoft did not do to prevent Google from getting where it is now. That is the incredulity of it all. That is what makes Google a black swan.

Now, let us imagine a technology start-up call it NewCo. There are many reasons which lead me to believe that a NewCo will not survive for long in the developed markets. For one, others are probably less likely to make the errors of judgment that Yahoo and Microsoft did even accounting for the innovators dilemma. Second, in todays challenging times, companies are more likely to sell out because investors want to cash out. Third, the developed markets are where most of the worlds largest technology companies are located it is harder to sneak past them now.

In contrast, the emerging markets are the outliers. They have people, but for the most part, little playing capacity especially in the dollars the companies in the developed markets love. They speak different languages, are separated by distances, have limited infrastructure. Except for the people and possible future opportunities, they are all that the developed countries are not.

How will a lotus thrive in this environment? Many factors are combining to make the emerging markets the new hotbeds of opportunity and new technology. Look at the buzz around parts of China and India. There is also limited legacy which hobbles some of the existing giants.

Where does the opportunity for the next black swan lie? According to me, the opportunity lies in making computing available as a utility across these markets. What is needed is a reinvention of the entire computing ecosystem to make hardware, software, content, connectivity and support available for $15 per user per month. This is an entity which must have the innovativeness of a Google, the aggressiveness of a Microsoft, the growth potential of an eBay, and the endurance of an IBM. Will it happen?

Nassim Taleb quotes Scottish philiospher David Hume in the Gladwell interview: “No amount of observations of white swans can allow the inference that all swans are white, but the observation of a single black swan is sufficient to refute that conclusion.” Just because something has not happened before does not mean it is never going to happen in the future. It is for entrepreneurs in the emerging markets to prove Hume and Taleb right by envision a future very different from today and building it out. Ill be watching for a black swan in 2010.

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