Speedy Companies

Business Week writes about how “smart companies are creating new products — and whole new businesses — almost overnight.”

Speed is emerging as the ultimate competitive weapon. Some of the world’s most successful companies are proving to be expert at spotting new opportunities, marshaling their forces, and bringing to market new products or services in a flash. That goes for launching whole new ventures, too.

Virgin, which made its name in music, megastores, and airlines, may be the exemplar. In short order, it has entered one new business after another, including mobile phones, credit cards, bikes, fitness clubs, books, hotels, games, trains, consumer electronics, even space travel. “A good idea for a new business tends not to occur in isolation, and often the window of opportunity is very small,” explains Branson. “So speed is of the essence.”

IPTV Introduction

Ars Technica offers a tutorial:

First things first: the venerable set-top box, on its way out in the cable world, will make a resurgence in IPTV systems. The box will connect to the home DSL line and is responsible for reassembling the packets into a coherent video stream and then decoding the contents. Your computer could do the same job, but most people still don’t have an always-on PC sitting beside the TV, so the box will make a comeback. Where will the box pull its picture from? To answer that question, let’s start at the source.

Most video enters the system at the telco’s national headend, where network feeds are pulled from satellites and encoded if necessary (often in MPEG-2, though H.264 and Windows Media are also possibilities). The video stream is broken up into IP packets and dumped into the telco’s core network, which is a massive IP network that handles all sorts of other traffic (data, voice, etc.) in addition to the video. Here the advantages of owning the entire network from stem to stern (as the telcos do) really come into play, since quality of service (QoS) tools can prioritize the video traffic to prevent delay or fragmentation of the signal. Without control of the network, this would be dicey, since QoS requests are not often recognized between operators. With end-to-end control, the telcos can guarantee enough bandwidth for their signal at all times, which is key to providing the “just works” reliability consumers have come to expect from their television sets.


The Economist writes:

March Madness starts this week in America, and for the rest of the month millions of basketball fans will watch the country’s college teams dunk on each other, until the final of the men’s national championship on April 3rd. CBS, a broadcast-television network, has shown the event since 1982but this year it is conducting an experiment. As well as broadcasting the games on TV, it is streaming them live over the internet free of charge, accompanied by advertisements.

CBS’s move is one of many recent efforts by traditional media companies to try to develop new media revenue streams. Music firms have sold their material online for a while. Newspaper and magazine publishers are busy trying to attract readers on the internet. But now the world’s largest entertainment companies are rushing to distribute their video content online and, to a lesser extent, to the users of mobile phones.

South Korea and Mobile TV

The New York Times writes:

Since January, cellphone users in Seoul have been able to watch television on their cellphones through a government-subsidized technology called Digital Multimedia Broadcasting, or D.M.B.

South Koreans have become the first to be able to watch free mobile TV around the clock. While Americans and Japanese consumers can also watch TV on their cellphones, the images are not as clear.

WiMax Report

Smart Mobs points to an OECD report: “A wireless technology known as Wimax could bring broadband to rural areas, says a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development,”the BBC reports.”The OECD report looked at the prospects for Wimax,a technology widely touted as one to beat both wi-fi and third-generation mobile networks.But,says the report,regulatory,security and spectrum problems may limit the widespread use of Wimax.Instead, Wimax may find niche uses such as in remote areas.Wimax (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) is a technology designed to give people high speed access to the net over relatively long distances.”

TECH TALK: A Presentation at PC Forum: Esther Dyson and Release 1.0

One tech event Ive always wanted to attend has been Esther Dysons PC Forum. I guess the fascination came about because of her unique insights which I had become used to over the years through her publication, Release 1.0. Every month (now quarter), Esther takes up one topic or emerging vertical and delves deep into it, through interviews with the companies (especially, start-ups) working in the area. What is really engaging is the style and the ability to simplify even the most complex topics. Esther (or the author of the issue) does this through personal interviews which probe deep and wide. The result is one of the most insightful and thought-provoking tech industry reports. It is not inexpensive ($285 for 4 issues each year) but it is absolutely worth the investment.

The previous two issues of Release 1.0 in 2005 have looked at healthcare and the importance of time (When 2.0). In fact, the December 2005 issue covered a company that I have co-founded, SEraja. Here is an excerpt of what Esther wrote about what we are doing:

Perhaps the most ambitious events project we have come across is EventWeb, the brainchild of Ramesh Jain, now Donald Bren Professor in Information and Computer Sciences at University of California, Irvine. Prior to this he was a titled professor at Georgia Tech.

[Ramesh] Jain is taking all that he has learned over the years and all that the Web has created over the years to support such ambitions to build what he calls EventWeb. The vehicle is a company called Seraja (which has no meaning, but did have a URL available).He is chairman; the companys CEO, Arun Katiyar, is based in Bangalore along with the development team; the primary investor, Rajesh Jain (no relation), is also based in India. Were moving from the document Web to the event Web, he says with the smoothness of a popular professor. We want to move beyond the Gutenberg legacy and reverse-engineer the environment. You should be able to follow your own course through an event online.

The idea is to index and display content by time and place i.e. to index events. And then heres the magic EventWeb will process the content it finds or gets from users using the sorts of pattern- and object-recognition tools that characterize much of Jains previous work. What makes it interesting is that it will can process video objects as well as text-based event information. The service relies on indexing, classification and recognition algorithms. . .and people. As a service, it will both host its own content and object recognition, annotation and editing tools, and let users use the tools to manage and host both shared and their own content, with links to EventWeb. Imagine Wikipedia-style collaboration to generate metadata for any event-related content anyone can find.

When I first read the description of what we are doing in Seraja, I was floored by the simplicity with which Esther represented our work. She does this (as I found out talking to Ramesh) through personal interviews which go deep into the past and connect all the dots to the present.

So, when I got an opportunity to meet with Esther in Mumbai in January, it was like a dream come true for me.

Tomorrow: The Event