Brazil, Open-Source and Cheap Computers

The New York Times writes:

Since taking office two years ago, President Luiz Incio Lula da Silva has turned Brazil into a tropical outpost of the free software movement.

Looking to save millions of dollars in royalties and licensing fees, Mr. da Silva has instructed government ministries and state-run companies to gradually switch from costly operating systems made by Microsoft and others to free operating systems, like Linux. On Mr. da Silva’s watch, Brazil has also become the first country to require any company or research institute that receives government financing to develop software to license it as open-source, meaning the underlying software code must be free to all.

Now Brazil’s government looks poised to take its free software campaign to the masses. And once again Microsoft may end up on the sidelines.

By the end of April, the government plans to roll out a much ballyhooed program called PC Conectado, or Connected PC, aimed at helping millions of low-income Brazilians buy their first computers.

Under the program, which is expected to offer tax incentives for computer makers to cut prices and a generous payment plan for consumers, the government hopes to offer desktops for around 1,400 reais ($509) or less. The machines will be comparable to those costing almost twice that outside the program.

Buyers will be able to pay in 24 installments of 50 to 60 reais, or about $18 to $21.80 a month, an amount affordable for many working poor. The country’s top three fixed-line telephone companies – Telefnica of Spain; Tele Norte Leste Participaes, or Telemar; and Brasil Telecom – have agreed to provide a dial-up Internet connection to participants for 7.50 reais, or less than $3, a month, allowing 15 hours of Web surfing.

100 Megabits at the Edge

Om Malik’s blog has a guest coumn by Robert Young :

What happens when you have 100 megabits per second connections on the edge of the network? In your homes, or in your pockets, or in your cars an always-on 100 megabit per second pipe that wirelessly networks your life. No, we are not talking about fast pipes to the Internet, but simple easy networks all around you.

Starting next year (2006), millions of people will begin to equip themselves with computers and portable devices capable of swapping files at a speed of 100Mbps, all wirelessly (WiFi/802.11n and UWB). Think about that 100Mbps!! Thats about a hundred times faster than what the average broadband user in the U.S. is accustomed to today.

More specifically, what Im talking about here is short-range computer2computer, device2device connectivity directly between people in close proximity of one another (think: Rendezvous).

The Way We Live Now

The New York Times has an article by Christine Rosen:

Today’s personal technologies, particularly the cellphone and the digital video recorder…are marvels of individual choice, convenience and innovation; they represent the democratization of the power of the machine. Our technologies are more intuitive, more facile and more responsive than ever before. In a rebuke to Marx, we have not become the alienated slaves of the machine; we have made the machines more like us and in the process toppled decades of criticism about the dangerous and potentially enervating effects of our technologies.

The near future promises even more of these ego-casting technologies, which offer us greater control and encourage the individualized pursuit of personal taste. Soon we’ll carry cellphones that double as credit cards, toll passes, televisions and personal video cameras. At home, we’ll merge the functions of these many technologies into a single streamlined machine that will respond to the sound of our voice, like the multimodal browser being developed by I.B.M. and Opera. This expansion of choice and control will foster the already prevalent expectation that we can and should be able to have anything we want on demand.

Rather than turning on, tuning in and dropping out, we might perhaps do better, individually and socially, to occasionally simply turn our machines off.

Social Environment

Bill Burnham writes:

While Friendster represents the previous social networking othodoxy of having the social network itself be the application, MySpace, and now Yahoo 360, reflect the new understanding that social networking will be just one aspect of a fully encompassing online “social environment”.

MySpace, has arguably blazed the path in the creation of a social environment. Rather than focus soley on networking, MySpace early on tried to make its site a complete “social experience” by sponsoring real world parties and encouraging interaction within its membership. MySpace has been particularly aggressive in using music as a way to bind and organize its community. To that end, it has aggressively pursued bands to have them launch and maintain fan sites on MySpace and it has encouraged fans of bands to launch their own sites, blogs, and discussion threads about music. This emphasis on music makes tremendous sense given that music tastes are one of the key ways that young people often segment themselves. Thus, MySpace’s social network is a actually a multi-dimensional experience that not only connects people who know or indirectly know each other, but links groups of people together by their interests/hobbies/passions. It’s no wonder then that MySpace now generates far more page views and time-on-site than Friendster: people on MySpace actually have something fun to do.

Wikicities

WSJ writes:

Four years ago, Jimmy Wales launched a free online encyclopedia that anyone could edit. Now, Wikipedia is one of the most popular sites on the Web, and Mr. Wales is building on its success with a new venture. This time, he intends to make a buck.

Mr. Wales’s closely held company Wikia Inc. has begun promoting its first for-profit endeavor, an ad-supported site called Wikicities.com that is based on the concept behind Wikipedia. Through Wikicities, groups of Web users can create their own free Web sites and fill them with, well, nearly anything. Among the topics being discussed on the nascent site: Macintosh computers, college hockey and real-world cities like Los Angeles, Beijing and Calgary.

TECH TALK: The Future of Search: Yahoo 360

Yahoo 360 is a way to keep connected to friends with blogs, photos and more. It combines a personal portal with social networking. Charlene Li of Forrester Research had this to say after a preview of the service:

Central to the whole service is the concept that you want to communicate and connect with the people that you already know, rather than try to meet new people. To this end, your home page on the service shows the most recent content published by people within your network. This might be a blog post, a photo album, review, or an updated profile item. This page is constantly refreshed as the people in your network update the information on their spaces. This fundamental concept of linking people through their updated stuff is what makes Yahoo! 360 unique and inherently will drive usage of the service higher than traditional social networks. In essence, the content is being pushed to you by the service.

The profile page contains the usual features from social networking sites friends, profile, lists of things you like to do, where you work/went to school, and groups that you belong to on Yahoo! Groups. But it also excerpts content youve created that you want to share with your network. This includes not only a blog, but also photos from Yahoo! photos, reviews created on Yahoo! Local, and LAUNCHcast Stations.

The ability to leverage your network to get something done is what gives Y! 360 the real potential to become something even bigger. At the beta launch, users will have the ability to look narrow local business reviews by their network a recd from someone I know counts for a lot more. Of course, this assumes that people will start creating reviews (a clever way for Y! Local to jumpstart reviews on the service). In the future, I can imagine new modules for job searching, dating, travel planning (What hotel in Paris would you recommend?), car buyingthe list is extensive. Yahoo!s (as well as MSNs and AOLs) advantage is being a one stop shop in terms of leveraging your networks knowledge across multiple categories.

The last few years have seen the growth of do-it-yourself publishing on a large scale. Whether it is writing text or sharing photos, podcasts, screencasts and even videos, individuals and groups can now publish and share content easily on the Web. What hasnt changed significantly, though, is how reading (or viewing) takes place on the Web. While RSS aggregators have made headway, they still remain a niche. MyYahoo has been around for a long time, and now supports RSS. But fundamentally, what is needed is a new way to view the content. This is the direction I was heading in with the Information Dashboard.

Tomorrow: Information Dashboards Rationale

Continue reading