China’s Growing Pains

The Economist has a series of articles on the challenges China faces as it grows. An excerpt from the editorial:

The state has retreated not just from agricultureover 60% of China’s population still live in the countrysidebut from great swathes of industry and commerce, too. Inevitably, this has led to unemployment on a staggering scale. Reliable numbers are hard to come by, and the official ones are certainly gross underestimates. But there are perhaps as many as 15m unemployed in China’s cities, and ten times that number in the countryside who have little or nothing to do. Still, this is at least a problem that rapid economic growth can be expected to chip away at fast. China’s economy is clearly starting to slow, but an Economist poll of forecasts puts growth this year at 9.2%, and at a still-stellar 7.9% next.

One casualty of the freeing up of China’s economy has been its state health-care system, which has in effect collapsed. This threatens to undo one of the genuine achievements of which the Communist Party can boast: life-expectancy in parts of the country, particularly in the west, may actually now be falling. Diseases like tuberculosis and measles, which had been thought tamed, are making their return. Burdened by the costs of modernising its economy, but receiving only a modest tax take (it has risen from 12% to 18% of GDP a year, but that is not enough), the government’s deficit has been increasing. The health system has been a victim.

Pollution is an invariable consequence of development everywhere, but in China it is reaching scandalous proportions. The World Bank reckons that China is home to 16 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities, and calculates that pollution and environmental degradation together cost China as much as $170 billion annually.

The Power of Windows

Dana Blankenhorn writes:

The power of Windows lies in your ability to create and market profitable applications using it.

Yes, there’s a limit. Once Microsoft decides it wants your market, your cost of defending the market will likely exceed any incremental sales from that effort.

But Linux lacks Windows’ ability to make software profitable. And that is why Windows, not Linux, will lead the next evolution in cellular equipment.

Critics will point to big numbers for Symbian devices, and real growth in data applications like games and ringtones.

The ability of operators to restrict competition from Windows devices, combined with the increased cost of any Windows device (which includes the cost of licensing Windows) means there’s a bigger lead here.

But in terms of time, I don’t think that lead is decisive.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Small kernel, consumer electronics operating systems can’t stand against large kernel, expandable operating systems. Large kernel systems can be built-on in ways small kernel systems can’t handle.

Windows’ domination of the cellular space, in other words, is just a matter of time.

Desktop Search

The San Francisco Chronicle writes:

the search is already on for what many see as the next big thing in that industry: technology to help you find information on the Web, in your e-mail and on your computer — all from the same engine.

It’s an area that analysts believe Google is keenly interested in, as is its archrival, Yahoo. Microsoft has already said that it plans to create such a search engine, which could be released as soon as this winter.

In June, Ask Jeeves acquired Tukaroo, a desktop search company, but has yet to release anything publicly.

In the meantime, several upstarts are trying to make their mark in the so- called desktop search field, including Blinkx, Copernic, X-1 and Terra Lycos’ HotBot. They have drawn considerable attention with their products, but have so far won only mixed reviews from Internet industry observers.

Companies are hoping that blending search across multiple platforms will increase consumer loyalty. The winners, analysts believe, could be richly rewarded because of the potential to expand targeted advertising from just Web search results to e-mail and documents.

“I always thought that this was a natural extension of search,” said Gary Price, an editor for SearchEngineWatch, an online newsletter about the search industry. “It’s always a challenge to get to the documents on your desktop.

“This will give the major search players an opportunity to sell more ads and get more eyeballs on those ads,” he added.