PC Business Future

David Kirkpatrick of Fortune looks ahead:

The future market-share battle in computers for individuals will hardly be confined to Dell, HP, and Lenovo, numbers one through three in todays PC market as conventionally defined. Those giants will face steady and creative competition from a list of companies that will include Apple, Nokia, PalmOne, Sony, and possibly Microsoft itself. This will become a business of hits, fads, design, and brand. Thats why, in a message to employees about the Lenovo deal, IBM CEO Sam Palmisano explained that PCs were entering a phase for which IBM, with its focus on the enterprise, was unsuited. “The PC business is rapidly taking on characteristics of the home and consumer electronics industry,” he said.

I expect Lenovo to be aggressive in migrating the PC platform toward new opportunities. It has already forayed, for instance, into the cellphone business, one area Dell and HP have thus far avoided…China is a hotbed of mobile technology usemore so than the U.S. A company centered there may have advantages a U.S. company would not. Ideas will likely emerge rapidly in China about new kinds of “personal computers.”

Intel and AMD are poised to deliver massive processor power improvements. And the ability to maintain a full-time wireless broadband connection grows ever easier and cheaper. In three to five years we will be able to build tools as different from todays state-of-the-art PC as the iPod is from the rack of 500 CDs it replaces.

I recently spoke to Microsoft research chief Rick Rashid, who noted, with appropriate awe, that a terabyte of storage now costs about $500. Thats enough space to hold every conversation you will ever have from birth to death, or 2000 photographs taken every day of that life, Rashid said. He admitted nobody really knows what such newfound capabilities really mean. Get ready for the life recorder, probably coming soon. It would contain every event from your entire lifeprobably in video if you want it.

Quadruple Play

Triple play was about a combined offering of voice, video and the Internet. Now, it is time to add a fourth element ot the bundle – wireless. WSJ writes:

Telephone companies and cable operators are increasingly competing with each other by offering customers a complete telecommunications “bundle,” including television, high-speed Internet, landline telephone and now cellphone services. The theory: A customer getting multiple services from a single provider — on one bill, at a discount — will be less likely to defect.

Over the past year, cable companies have been aggressively pushing their phone service, which allows customers to make phone calls over their broadband connections — letting the companies offer the triple play of high-speed Internet, TV and phone.

Phone companies, which can offer phone service and high-speed Internet connections, have teamed up with satellite-TV providers to offer their version of the bundle. The three biggest local phone companies — Verizon Communications Inc., SBC Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp. — already own chunks of the major wireless phone carriers, giving them a leg up on the cable providers in offering cellphone service.

The BitTorrent Effect

Wired writes about “Bram Cohen’s blazing-fast P2P software has turned the Internet into a universal TiVo.”

You could think of BitTorrent as Napster redux – another rumble in the endless copyright wars. But BitTorrent is something deeper and more subtle. It’s a technology that is changing the landscape of broadcast media.

“All hell’s about to break loose,” says Brad Burnham, a venture capitalist with Union Square Ventures in Manhattan, which studies the impact of new technology on traditional media. BitTorrent does not require the wires or airwaves that the cable and network giants have spent billions constructing and buying. And it pounds the final nail into the coffin of must-see, appointment television. BitTorrent transforms the Internet into the world’s largest TiVo.

One example of how the world has already changed: Gary Lerhaupt, a graduate student in computer science at Stanford, became fascinated with Outfoxed, the documentary critical of Fox News, and thought more people should see it. So he convinced the film’s producer to let him put a chunk of it on his Web site for free, as a 500-Mbyte torrent. Within two months, nearly 1,500 people downloaded it. That’s almost 750 gigs of traffic, a heck of a wallop. But to get the ball rolling, Lerhaupt’s site needed to serve up only 5 gigs. After that, the peers took over and hosted it themselves. His bill for that bandwidth? $4. There are drinks at Starbucks that cost more. “It’s amazing – I’m a movie distributor,” he says. “If I had my own content, I’d be a TV station.”

During the last century, movie and TV companies had to be massive to afford distribution. Those economies of scale aren’t needed anymore. Will the future of broadcasting need networks, or even channels?

“Blogs reduced the newspaper to the post. In TV, it’ll go from the network to the show,” says Jeff Jarvis, president of the Internet strategy company Advance.net and founder of Entertainment Weekly. (Advance.net is owned by Advance Magazine Group, which also owns Wired’s parent company, Cond Nast.) Burnham goes one step further. He thinks TV-viewing habits are becoming even more atomized. People won’t watch entire shows; they’ll just watch the parts they care about.

Scott McNealy on Network Computing

JDJ has predictions for 2005 from Scott McNealy of Sun.

Network computing is at a tipping point, as the race to connect everything of value is driving widespread adoption of innovations like Java technology, and hundreds of millions, and soon billions, of devices get on the network and need to share information securely and reliably.

For over a decade we’ve said “the network is the computer,” and that has never been more true than it is today. The world has embraced a vision of network computing based on industry standards and open interfaces. Every country on the planet, every industry, and hundreds of millions of consumers are enjoying the benefits of the Java lifestyle. It’s all about write once, run anywhere, and it couldn’t be any simpler as mobile phones, PDAs, gaming consoles, cars, and even that bag of potato chips in the supermarket become part of a network that will eventually connect trillions of things.

Strategic Advocacy as Business Model

The New York Times writes about Craigslist’s contrarian approach:

Jim Buckmaster, the chief executive of Craigslist, is soft-spoken, reserved, minimalist in his rhetoric and demeanor. But his personality is a perfect fit for his company, which aims to provide a no-frills “public service” in an industry filled with overblown claims and intrusive marketing.

Craigslist, based in San Francisco, has attracted acclaim through what Mr. Buckmaster calls its “nerd values.” There is no talk of monetizing eyeballs, maximizing click-throughs or building a backlog of banner ads. Users swap messages, sell goods and services, search for apartments and look for jobs on a bare-bones site that charges no monthly fees, accepts no advertising and uses virtually no graphics.

Craigslist has a simple, unadorned Web site. But that is part of a forward-looking business strategy. Mr. Buckmaster said he reveled in what he called “the ironies of unbranding, demonetizing and noncompeting.” Together, they represent sharp departures from the commercialism on so much of the Web.

Craigslist has an unconventional approach to investing in its “brand”: it doesn’t do anything. “We never even use that word internally,” Mr. Buckmaster said. “We do zero advertising. We don’t have a logo. Now we’re told we have the strongest brand ever for a company our size.”

The company also has a fresh approach to competition: it doesn’t compete. “We have no interest in competing with anyone,” Mr. Buckmaster said. “We’re just trying to create something as useful as possible. Yet we keep reading that we’re one of the newspaper industry’s deadliest competitors” for classified ads.

Above all, Craigslist has a distinctive approach to economics: it keeps finding reasons not to charge customers. It imposes modest fees on companies that post job listings in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, and there is talk of charging real estate agents to list apartments in New York. Other than that, the site is free. Yet the company has generated healthy profits on revenue approaching $10 million a year, and eBay recently bought a minority stake.

THAT is the ultimate contradiction of Craigslist, and the power of advocacy as a strategy. Craigslist’s authentically anticommercial values have led to a flourishing commercial property – a company with Web sites in 65 cities, sites that add three million new classified ads a month and get more than a billion page views a month. People involved in several proposed deals said that Craigslist, with just 14 employees, might fetch as much as $100 million if it were put up for sale.

“We’re definitely oddballs in the Internet industry, and we always have been,” Mr. Buckmaster said. “Lots of people made fun of us, especially at the height of the dot-com boom. Most of those people are out of business now.”

TECH TALK: On Watching Swades: Reviews

Shradha Sukumaran in Sunday Mid-Day: Gowariker captures the village idiosyncrasies curious children scrambling all over the caravan, a postman who shows off his English, an enterprising shack owner with tall dreams. The director’s message is more than clear; there’s no looking forward until we untie the baggage of sanskar’ and parampara’.

Mayank Shekhar in Mid-Day: This is another inspiring account of what self-empowered underdogs can accomplish through sheer zeal and phenomenal focus.

Komal Nahta in Film Information:

The film has an inherently dry story and the screenplay doesnt make matters any better or livelierThe drama fails to entertain as it becomes more like a documentary about the ills plaguing the nation. Further, the pace at which the film moves is so slow that the dry and drab drama also begins to drag ad nauseum.

The problems highlighted in the film are so macro that Mohans return to India appears to be a micro and mismatched solution to them. For, even after he returns, theres little he can do to change the face of India all by himselfWhats more, todays audience in the cities and towns couldnt care less about the problems plaguing the remote villages of India and they will, therefore, not be able to identify with the plot.

The film lacks identifiable emotions, exhilarating romance, enjoyable drama and mass-appealing comedy. In other words, the pillars on which a wholesome entertainer should rest, are either shaky or non-existent in the case of Swades.

Subhash Jha wrote for Indiatimes Movies: Swades is a unique experiment with grassroot realism. It is so politically correct in its propagandist message that initially you wonder if the government of India funded the director’s dreamThis neo-classic, conceived and designed as the Great Indian Journey into the heart and soul of poverty , is funded entirely by Gowariker’s over-weening idealism, his sincere desire to define his purpose and function as a creative artiste and his determination to alchemize his angry social conscience into a work that’s as simple lucid and lyrical as a tune sung in repose by that minstrel singer who sings not because he must but because he knows no other thing to do.

Taran Adarsh on IndiaFM:

SWADES disappoints big time. The story of SWADES would’ve been ideal for a documentary, but for a feature film with a running time of 3 hour plus and starring the country’s biggest star, it just doesn’t work To put it bluntly, SWADES is high on hype, low on substance and extremely low on entertainment. Ashutosh Gowariker has missed the bus this time!

For a majority of cinegoers, especially the hoi polloi, the film holds scant appeal. Gowariker’s intentions of depicting the problems of rural India may be noble, but it’s not too great an idea of entertainment, specifically for that viewer who is thirsting for entertainment and believes in sunshine/feel-good/escapist cinema. Besides, the length only acts as a deterrent.

Gaurav Sabnis: Swades is more of an exploration, a hike into unchartered country, both literally and figuratively. It will not keep you on the edge of your seat, and it won’t get your adrenaline flowing the way Lagaan did. yet it is a movie par excellenceWhat Ashutosh Gowariker has done is, taken inspiration from a real life story, and painted his own impression of it. An NRI returns home, and circumstances bring him face to face with the harsh realities of rural India. The movie is a story of how he reacts to those realities. So the two main components of this story are the realities, and the reactions.

Jitesh Pillai in The Times of India: Swades is undoubtedly the No 1 movie of the year. Art imitates life. Swades is compelling and a brave testimony to that. Instead of copping out, Gowariker takes the road less travelled. And that makes all the difference. No villains, no skin, no disco, no mustard fields. Gowariker has his heart in the right placeGo find yours! Gentle viewers, the revolution is near.

Tomorrow: The Message

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