India Opportunities

Rafat Ali writes after a visit to India:

Technology is such a leveler here, and is bringing so many economic changes that it is a shame that we in U.S. can only boast about how iPod changed our lives.

Ask the farmers of India who are using simple voice technology (well, cellphones) to cut out the middleman (and yes, it is always a man here) out of the agricultural selling and procurement process. People are getting informed, and for once, can take informed decisions about their livelihood. This is the real revolution here, not just the metro-big-cities based outsourcing that we all hear and read about in the media in U.S. and Europe.

The time to invest in India, if you are interested, is now. Both on general technology level, and more specifically in mobile and online media (in that order) here. What we consider content (entertainment and news oriented) in U.S. is not necessarily what will work here. Informational services which help people make decisions and cut out the middlemanthat is where the huge opportunity lies. Anyway, I can go on and on, but make a trip here if you want to get the real feel of the changes here.

RSS Problems

Paul Kedrosky writes why RSS sucks:

* Too many feeds. People like Scoble talk about reading huge numbers of feeds, and for a while I read around 340, but I’m now down to less than fifty — and even those I don’t make it through all the time.
* Too little consistency. There is no uniformity about titles, titles plus summaries, or full-text feeds. I won’t re-hash the debate on this subject, but let me just say if your feed isn’t full-text it won’t likely last long in my aggregator.
* Too many posts. To be blunt: Faced with feeds regularly containing more than six or seven unread articles I, with rare friend-driven exceptions, usually nuke the whole list.
* Synchronization sucks. Despite using Feeddemon, which has a built-in synch across multiple PCs via Newsgator, my machines are not in synch. There are various feeds that the synched Feeddemon insists never contain items, despite there being items visible in the raw feed every day. The items are apparently being synched right out of existence.
* Too many news feeds, not enough data feeds. I wrote about this ages ago in a Harvard Business Review article, but the real value of RSS is in infrequently/irregularly updated sites — it saves you having to rememember to go and check for new stuff — and in machine-to-person communications. I still want to be able to subscribe to my credit card, but I can’t — so I apparently punish myself by subscribing to waaaay too many feeds.
* It’s asynch, not synchronous. I alluded to this in a prior post about XMPP, but I want realtime RSS/Atom. Getting delayed feeds, especially data feeds, on important subjects is nonsensical, and at least as irritating as getting twenty-minute delayed stock quotes. I want realtime data, and I want it now (literally).

The upshot? In way too many current cases RSS is just a clunky high-volume replacement for web browsing. Rather than making it easier to consume information, it makes it easier to drown in context-free news, inducing that panicked feeling we all eventually learn too well when you see an RSS folder stuffed full with hundreds of unread posts.

China Consumer Survey

The China Stock Blog writes about a McKinsey survey:

Though Chinas savings rate is high (most Chinese save to pay for health care and pensions) and most Chinese see creating a cash cushion as their #1 priority McKinsey reported a strong appetite for consumer goods. Here are some of McKinseys findings:

* Consumers intend to buy the following big-ticket items over the next 12 months: new cars, appliances, and the latest consumer electronics.

* 43% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that having a private car is my biggest dream (slightly more than 2% planned to purchase a car in the next 12 months).

* At the top of many Chinese consumers shopping lists is a new apartment or house.

* Nearly 75% of respondents had plans to upgrade appliances and furniture upon moving into a new apartment or house.

* 8% said that their next major purchase would be a flat-screen television.

* 20% of respondents in rural county seats plan to buy mobile phones over the next year vs 10% in top-tier cities and vs 15% in second-tier cities.

* 12% of respondents in small towns said they were likely to purchase new washing machines in the next year vs 5% in top-tier cities.

2005 for Software Stocks

Bill Burnham has compiled a list of 2005’s best and worst performing software stocks. “To qualify for this year’s race all a firm had to do was start the year with at least $50M in market cap and focus its business on trying to sell software.” Among the top 3:

1. Neoware
Price Change: 150% Ticker:NWRE
Comment: Neoware is consolidating the so-called “thin client” space by buying up every software and hardware player it can find. It is really more of a hardware company now, but they started out the year more of a software play so they sneak into the top spot.

2. Autonomy
Price Change: 133% Ticker:AUTN
Comment: British unstructured search provider came to life in 2005 largely thanks to all of the investor enthusiasm in search related companies thanks to Google. Merged with Verity at the end of the year to build market heft.

3. Convera
Price Change: 113% Ticker: CNVR
Comment: Yet another enterprise search vendor that saw tremendous Google inspired investor enthusiasm in 2005. Something tells me the party won’t last.

The Year of the Digital Citizen

Smart Mobs points to a BBC story about citizens started reinventing journalism in a big way:

Twelve months ago, it was clear the mass consumer was going to have at his or her disposal many more gadgets with greater capacity to record, store and share content.

It was going to be a year in which people started to challenge those who traditionally provide us with content, be it news, music, or movies.

Crucially, what 2005 proved was that far from these techno tools being purely dumb funnels for the same paid-for content from mainstream media, they had the chance to become powerful tools for political expression and reportage.

The consumer was turning into the citizen with a meaningful role to play. Media started to look more participatory and inclusive.

The Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 starkly showed the potential of these tools. Most of the memories of that day have been graphically captured, replayed and played again, making the event much more immediate and personal.

More recently, the BBC received 6,500 e-mailed mobile images and video clips showing the fires at the Buncefield oil depot, thousands more than the number received after the London bombings.

TECH TALK: 2006 Tech Trends: Search and Online Advertising

5. Search is at the heart of the rise of online advertising.

Apple and Google were among the two best performing stocks on Nasdaq. Apples comeback and prospects reflect the promise of the digital revolution. Googles growth mirrors the shift in advertising dollars from traditional media to the online world reflecting the increasing time and importance of the Internet in all that we do. The simple search box has become the start of most of our online explorations. The contextual ads become, for some, useful content. Matching profiles and searches to showing relevant ads has now become a science. And it all begins with the humble search box.

Bloomberg: The move to online advertising is happening faster than analysts anticipated as companies devote more of their budgets to the Internet than traditional media. The market for online ads will increase 32 percent to $16.6 billion next year, fueling growth at companies including Google Inc. and Yahoo! Inc., Credit Suisse First Boston analyst Heath Terry said in a research report. He had previously forecast 21 percent growth. Sales of online ads that have animation, sound or interactive features will jump 66 percent next year to become the fastest growing area of Web ads, Credit Suisse predicts.

David Kirkpatrick in Fortune: Take a new concept known as community-powered search. Yahoo is forging an early lead over Google in this fast-evolving technology with its acquisition last week of del.icio.us for a rumored $35 million (the actual amount was undisclosed). Del.icio.us operates on principles similar to the popular MySpace. But whereas that social network site helps members find dates, form groups, and share music picks, del.icio.us helps members find hot informationwebsites that others have found useful. (News Corp. recently bought MySpace, for $580 million.) Soon we will see a new form of results, like What Others Liked, on all search engines. It’s how Amazon tells its customers what others have bought, except that these search results involve information. In many cases, community-powered searches will let members find what they’re looking for more quickly than they would on a purely computerized type of web search, which Google does so superbly. Yahoo was already introducing community-based searches with My Web 2.0. Of course, Google is surely working on its own alternatives.

Google Blogoscoped: Google will finally go ahead and release a real web-wide video search. It will be integrated into Google Video and you will find both user-uploaded files, as well as videos found on the web. The video search will quickly make its way into the small selection of homepage links.

USA Today: Technologies will emerge in multiple realms in 2006 and beyond from video games to cable TV to podcasts that will give advertisers intriguing abilities to pinpoint designated segments of the public with specific messages.

Next Week: 2006 Tech Trends (continued)

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