Needed: Ajax of Voice

Nivi writes:

We need a technology that lets you send your voice through your web browser. It can be done today but the options are

– Flash which costs thousands or tens of thousands of dollars
– Java which takes half an hour to load the Java Runtime Environment
– ActiveX which only works on Internet Explorer

We need an open and standards-based way to send our voices and video through our web browsers. We need the AJAX of voice.

I dont know if the browser will eventually replace all of the applications we run on the desktop. But the tremendous grow of Meebo is the latest example of a desktop application that is quickly moving to the web (Meebo is IM on the web).

Voice is one of the richest forms of communication. Unless we build Voice over Web technology, we will be beholden to companies like Skype (a Bessemer investment, God bless them) who will own voice.

Sun’s Razors and Blades

Business Week has a great quote by Scott McNealy: “Well, the software is the razor. The razor blades are the servers, the storage, the memory, the service contracts, the archiving services, the tape cartridges, the integration, the consulting services. The whole deal.”

Web Access on Gadgets

WSJ writes about the mobile Internet:

The overall move to Web pages designed for small screens is still in the early stages. In many cases, when you access any Web site from a mobile device, you may see the text and graphics of the normal page awkwardly condensed. But such distorted layouts are becoming less common, as companies take advantage of faster wireless networks and more powerful mobile devices.

Sites tailored for mobile — the availability of which varies depending on the device and carrier — typically have only a few links listed on the home page and few or no graphics clogging the screen. The URLs of these sites may be identical to their parent sites or may require adding “mobile” or “wireless” somewhere in the address.

Internet giants Yahoo, Google, MSN and AOL are leading the mobile Web push, but other sites are gaining popularity as well. Among them are mobile versions of ESPN, Mapquest, sites that list movie show times, such as Hollywood.com, and a range of travel sites.

$100 Laptop Economics

The Economist’s 2006 Annual has an article by Nicholas Negroponte:

Heres how well do it. To start, at least 50% of a modern laptops purchase price is swallowed by the cost of sales, marketing, distribution and profit. OLPC has none of those costs. Our device will not be available in retail channels, although to discourage a grey market we will authorise production of a commercial version, where a share of profits will be dedicated to further lowering the cost of the OLPC machine. Distribution in most cases will simply piggyback on well-established textbook channels.

The remaining 50% of the cost of a laptop can be divided into two roughly equal parts: the display, and every-thing else. Without question the display is the technical challenge. The Media Lab has short-term ways to bring the cost of a laptop display close to $30 and longer-term solutions like E Ink (which we invented) that could eventually be as inexpensive as 10 cents per square inch for a full-colour, sunlight-readable screen with better-than-textbook resolution in print mode.

The interesting part of laptop economics is the every-thing else: the processor, memory and power management. Todays laptops use about 75% of their own processing capacity to support bloated software applications and the operating system itself. I am reminded of a suspension cable where after the span reaches a certain length most of the strength required is to support the weight of the cable itself. Likewise, software has become self-serving, obese, more complicated and less reliable. The solution is a strict diet. In the case of the $100 laptop, this also means open-source software for kids all around the world to participate. For us, the answer is thus a skinny Linux operating system.

Video Blogs

The New York Times writes:

AMANDA CONGDON is a big star on really small screens – like the 4- inch window she appears in on computer monitors every weekday morning or the 2 inches she has to work with on the new video iPod. Ms. Congdon, you see, is the anchor of a daily, three-minute, mock TV news report shot on a camcorder, edited on a laptop and posted on a blog called Rocketboom, which now reaches more than 100,000 fans a day.

In terms of subject matter, Rocketboom is actually quite a standard – one might even say traditional – Web log: Ms. Congdon comments on intriguing items she, and the site’s producer, Andrew Baron, have found on the Web, and includes links to them which appear just below clear, smooth-playing video. The items tend to be developments in Internet culture (robots and flash mobs, say, or flash mobs of robots) with a sprinkling of left-leaning political commentary (Ms. Congdon announced the posting of Representative Tom DeLay’s mug shot while wearing a party hat and blowing a noisemaker) and samples of Web video from around the world.

What makes Rocketboom so different from most of the other video blogs, or vlogs, that have popped up in the last year or so is that the daily episodes are consistently entertaining. With Mr. Baron, 35, the designer who created the site and films the episodes, Ms. Congdon, 24, has fashioned a quirky, charming persona, with an inventive take on the news that is closer in spirit to Letterman than CNN.

At a cost of about $20 an episode, they reach an audience that some days is roughly comparable in size to that of, say, CNN’s late, unlamented “Crossfire” political debate show.

TECH TALK: The Best of 2005: The Power of Us

10. Business Week cover story

Blogs, podcasts, tags it is all about we the people creating content. Business Week had a cover story in June discussing this trend:

The nearly 1 billion people online worldwide — along with their shared knowledge, social contacts, online reputations, computing power, and more — are rapidly becoming a collective force of unprecedented power. For the first time in human history, mass cooperation across time and space is suddenly economical. “There’s a fundamental shift in power happening,” says Pierre M. Omidyar, founder and chairman of the online marketplace eBay Inc. “Everywhere, people are getting together and, using the Internet, disrupting whatever activities they’re involved in.

Peer power presents difficult challenges for anyone invested in the status quo. Corporations, those citadels of command-and-control, may be in for the biggest jolt. Increasingly, they will have to contend with ad hoc groups of customers who have the power to join forces online to get what they want. Indeed, customers are creating what they want themselves — designing their own software with colleagues, for instance, and declaring their opinions via blogs instead of waiting for newspapers to print their letters. “It’s the democratization of industry,” says C.K. Prahalad, a University of Michigan Stephen M. Ross School of Business professor and co-author of the 2004 book The Future of Competition: Co-Creating Unique Value with Customers. “We are seeing the emergence of an economy of the people, by the people, for the people.”

11. Technology Review on Social Machines

A story in the August issue of Technology Review discussed the trend in a lot more depth:

Constant connectivity has changed what it means to participate in a conference or any other gathering. Using chat rooms, blogs, wikis, photo-sharing sites, and other technologies, people at real-world meetings can now tap into an electronic swirl of commentary and interpretation by other participants–the “back channel” mentioned by Campbell. There are trade-offs: this new information stream can indeed draw attention away from the here and now. But many people seem willing to make them, pleased by the productivity they gain in circumstances where they’d otherwise be cut off from their offices or homes. There is meaning in all of this. After a decade of hype about “mobility,” personal computing has finally and irreversibly cut its bonds to the desktop and has moved into devices we can carry everywhere. We’re using this newly portable computing power to connect with others in ways no one predicted–and we won’t be easily parted from our new tools.

To grasp how rapidly things are changing, consider all the things you can do today that would have been difficult or impossible just a few years ago: you can query Google via text message from your phone, keep an online diary of the Web pages you visit, download podcasts to your iPod, label your photos or bookmarks with appropriate tags at Flickr store gigabytes of personal e-mail online, listen to the music on your home PC from any other computer connected to the Net, or find your house on an aerial photograph at Google Maps. Most of these applications are free–and the ones coming close behind them will be even more powerful. With more and more phones carrying Global Positioning System (GPS) chips, for example, it’s likely that companies will offer a cornucopia of new location-based information services; you’ll soon be able to find an online review instantly as you drive past a restaurant, or visit a landmark and download photos and comments left by others.

Tomorrow: Chindia

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