Telcos Morphing

WSJ writes:

Battling for customers in a quickly changing communications landscape, telephone companies are starting to roll out a range of new gadgets and services that combine wireless, landline and Internet access.

The wave of new products and services comes as phone companies are trying to grab market share and beat back stiff competition from cable operators, wireless carriers and, increasingly, Internet companies such as Google Inc. They are doing so by shifting their focus to growth businesses such as wireless and Internet access.

For consumers, the strategy could mean further discounts for packages of Internet, landline and wireless services — and a wider selection of services and gadgets.

IT and Business

InfoWorld writes in the context of Nicholas Carr’s “IT Doesn’t Matter” essay of 2003:

Fast-forward to the predawn of 2006, and even Mr. Carr is starting to change his tune. Nobody’s partying like its 1999 again, but across many industries companies are demonstrating that IT can be a key ingredient in a winning business formula. Here, we highlight three such companies — JetBlue Airways, Netflix, and BNSF Railway — as market leaders that make aggressive, innovative use of IT.

Management gurus are also turning more bullish on IT as a source of competitive advantage. But they note that the game has changed, that IT alone cannot create sustainable advantage in a competitive global marketplace.

Nick Carr was half right,” says Tom Davenport, Babson College professor and management guru. “You’ve got to combine IT with smart people and good business processes that are supportive of a distinctive capability the organization has.”

Davenport rattles off a roster of companies — Wal-Mart, Harrah’s, Capitol One, Amazon, and Marriott — that have “focused IT on what really matters to their business” to become tops in their categories. And he claims it may take a decade for their competitors to catch up.

Craigslist

SF Weekly profiles Criag Newmark and his classifieds site.

Almost by accident, Newmark built one of the Internet’s most successful sites, creating a free marketplace for millions that continues to grow around the country and the world. Among the unintended consequences of Craigslist’s growth, though, is that it’s sucking away significant dollars in classified advertisements from already-struggling newspapers. Bay Area papers alone forfeit at least $50 million annually to Craigslist, losses that contribute to layoffs of dozens of reporters. As fearful publishers cut newsroom jobs, inferior news coverage is the likely outcome. Craigslist’s devoted fans are unknowingly exchanging one public service for another — trading away the quality of their news for a cheaper way to find an apartment. At the same time, Craigslist’s executives won’t disclose the amount of money they’re pulling in.

Newmark now suffers from a moral dilemma: He feels guilty about helping cause job losses and poorer-quality papers, but he’s excited to accelerate the decline of the big, bad mainstream media. He seems determined to remedy his sins against the media by changing it for the better, lending his name and dollars to a citizen journalism movement populated by J-school professors, idealistic techno-futurists, and so-called citizen journalists. A self-described news dilettante, Newmark believes his recent journalism-related work could be more important than Craigslist. Citizen journalism, though, may not be enough to plug the news hole created by his site’s success. Newmark’s well-intentioned campaign to repair the institution he inadvertently injured could very well be in vain.

Mobile Internet

IHT writes:

The mobile Internet – or, the World Wide Web that you can get on your cellphone or handheld device – has had an incredibly lengthy and labored gestation. Around the turn of the century, it was widely heralded by the telecommunications industry, only to be widely derided by consumers for being slow, cumbersome and generally useless.

Today, it is still sometimes slow and occasionally cumbersome, but the portable Internet is no longer useless. On a recent-model mobile phone, you can navigate to almost any Web site at an almost-reasonable speed and a not-too-outrageous cost, once you sign up for a data plan with your phone company. You can get and send e-mail from your regular accounts. For consumers, it is convenient and cool; for business users, it can be a critical mobile tool.

But it is still a far cry from using the Internet on a personal computer.

Online Ad Marketplace

Fred Wilson writes:

Online advertising is a marketplace and its working great. That $12.3bn number was around $9bn last year. Any market that is that big and growing at 30% per year is super healthy.

But there are some things that arent yet right about this market.

For one, there really isnt true price transparency. And there isnt true performance transparency. Its not like anyone in the world can look at the xbox 360 ad campaign that Microsoft is running, chart it, see how it is performing, understand how it is being priced in the marketplace, and step up and say Ill take some of that. I can do that with MSFT, the stock. But I cant do that with Microsoft the advertiser.

I believe that right now, we have a marketplace, but its a nascent marketplace.

The thing that gets me so excited, though, is that is so clear where all of this is headed.

Toward massive liquidity

Toward total price and performance transparency

And toward a completely open marketplace where anyone can run anyones ad campaign.

TECH TALK: Trains, Planes and Mobiles: The Institution

The Indian Railways is an amazing institution. Here are some facts taken from its website: Railways traverse through the length and breadth of the country covering 63,140 route kms as on 31.3.2002, comprising broad gauge (45,099 kms), meter gauge (14,776 kms) and narrow gauge (3,265 kms). As the principal constituent of the nations transport system, Indian Railways own a fleet of 2,16,717 wagons (units), 39,236 coaches and 7,739 locomotives and manage to run 14,444 trains daily, including about 8,702 passenger trains. They carry more than a million tonne of freight traffic and about 14 million passengers covering 6,856 stations daily.

The impact of the Indian Railways is broad. As the website put it: Indian Railways have been the prime movers to the nation and have the distinction of being one of the largest railway systems in the world under a single management. Railways being the more energy efficient mode of transport are ideally suited for movement of bulk commodities and for long distance travel. As compared to road transport, the railways have a number of intrinsic advantages. Railways are five to six times more energy efficient, four times more efficient in land use and significantly superior from the standpoints or environment impact and safety. Indian Railways, therefore, rightly occupy pride of place in the growth and development of the nation.

Here is some more info about the Indian Rail system we probably knew this when we were younger, but it has probably faded away since then:

  • The total distance covered by the 14,300 trains on the Indian Railways everyday, equals three & half times the distance to moon
  • The first train on Indian soil ran between Bombay and Thane on the 16th of April 1853
  • IR has about 63,028 route kms. of track
  • IR employs about 1.55 million people
  • It carries over 13 million passengers & 1.3 million tones of freight everyday.
  • IR has about 7,000 railway stations
  • The longest journey on the IR is from Jammu Tawi (North) to Kanya Kumari (South), a distance of about 4,751 kms. covered by Himsagar Express in about 66 hours
  • The longest platform in the world is at Kharagpur and is 2,733 ft. in length.
  • I came across this fascinating travelogue by Manohar Rakhe on the Indian Railways. I can only echo what he says so eloquently:

    The best way to get to know a vast country like India is to traverse it by Indian Railways Travelling on Indian Railways is very much like drinking Indian tea, made the Indian way, of course. It can be addictive.

    The real fun of travelling begins as soon as you board. Your role changes from that of a spectator to that of a participant. Indians are not content to mutter a comment about the lateness of the train and then immerse themselves in the equivalent of the Telegraph crossword. They are far too social for that. As the train gathers speed, so does the banter. If you are travelling on an Indian train for the first time, it is difficult to believe that your fellow passengers are meeting each other for the first time. Not only is gossip exchanged, but also food and life stories. As everyone is expected to join in, you might as well do the same. Your fellow travellers are not averse to asking you direct and leading questions even if you put on the famous British reserve. This is not nosiness but friendliness. However, I can visualise a few raised eyebrows, when somebody you have only just met, asks you what your take-home pay is!

    My experience that day was very positive. Both the trains I took (to and from Surat) were on time. And talking of conversations, the trio (all in their early 40s or so) sitting across from me was fascinated by the iPod and wanted to know more. When I told them what it did and how much it cost, they started discussing amongst themselves why anyone would pay so much for such a small music player when one could get a big, 1000 watt music system for a lot less! And just as I was telling them that the smaller they are, the more they cost, a youngster sitting on the other side popped the question: Uncle, 4 GB or 40 GB? For a moment, I was stunned. For some reason, I hadnt expected to find a fellow iPod aficionado on the train! But, as I thought to myself, this is the New, Young India. And the train is the ultimate melting pot.

    Tomorrow: A Discovery

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