Mobile Music and Video

WSJ writes:

Cellular companies have been hampered by their inexperience as middlemen between consumers and producers of music, videos and other content. Their high-speed networks can’t yet guarantee constant connections. And equipment is expensive. Thus far, less than 1% of U.S. cellphone users have shelled out hundreds of dollars for phones fancy enough to access the most advanced entertainment.

What’s more, the price of the content provided by cellular companies remains steep. Sprint charges $2.50 to deliver a song to a handset, and Verizon Wireless charges $1.99. Apple Computer Inc.’s iTunes Music Store charges only 99 cents, and its songs can be downloaded by computer to some Cingular Wireless cellphones, netting Cingular nothing. Sprint says customers are willing to pay more to be able to download songs anywhere.

PCCW’s NOW

The Economist writes about PCCW’s trailblazing IPTV service in Hong Kong.

PCCW has, in the past couple of years, done something that fixed-line telecoms firms across the world hope to do in the near future. It launched a television service over broadband phone lines, called Now Broadband TV, that has been a huge commercial success. It could soon dethrone the local cable-TV firm as the dominant provider of pay-TV services. It is also the largest television-over-broadband deployment in the world. As they worry about the encroachment of new competitors on to their turf and search for new sources of revenue, telecoms operators the world over hope to follow Now’s example.

Now also took the unusual step of developing its own set-top box, based on a stripped-down DVD player and produced very cheaply in China. This enabled it to begin its service without waiting for industry standards to emerge. It offered the box free of charge to broadband customers, 93% of whom now take the TV service as well. As its subscriber base grewit exceeds 500,000, or more than 40% of the marketNow was able to poach valuable content, such as sports rights and film channels, from rival pay-TV operators. It recently launched a films-on-demand service, and on March 20th its own Chinese-language business channel.

Robots in South Korea

The New York Times writes:

By 2007, networked robots that, say, relay messages to parents, teach children English and sing and dance for them when they are bored, are scheduled to enter mass production. Outside the home, they are expected to guide customers at post offices or patrol public areas, searching for intruders and transmitting images to monitoring centers.

If all goes according to plan, robots will be in every South Korean household between 2015 and 2020. That is the prediction, at least, of the Ministry of Information and Communication, which has grouped more than 30 companies, as well as 1,000 scientists from universities and research institutes, under its wing. Some want to move even faster.

Hive7

Om Malik writes about a new virtual world:

Hive 7 is just the first example of the next generation web possibilities. It was nearly two years ago when I met the Linden Labs founder Philip Rosedale and understood his vision of the virtual spaces. For nearly half its life, Linden was kept going by angels, and before it got the money from professional investors.

I think, Hive7 is in the same place. It will be sometime before the world catches on to its true potential. Skibinsky says that his big breakthrough was in 2004, when he realized that instead of building a closed online game its possible to do the reverse. In other words, he had an epiphany that web is the ultimate API. He put together a virtual universe which has rooms where folks can meet, meet, chat, exchange resources and items. What got me excited about Hive7 was that it allows anyone to customize the whole experience. You can take the code, and tweak it.

Looking at what Hive7 has built, I have just realized that the web has now gone 3D. Virtual worlds have a new meaning, and collaboration just got easier.

Sunil Mittal’s Quotes

Veer Bothra has put together a profile of the Bharti-Airtel creator, and offers the following quotes:

Mittals views on the new opportunties in India.

1. Software, ITES and Telecommunications is a done deal.
2. Hospitality, Healthcare and tourism will be the next big waves.
3. 630 million people in India are of working age, projected to go up to 837 million by 2010 making India a continent of consumers in six years.
4. India had a huge lead in the manufacturing sector but suddenly, in the last 20 years, China chipped in this area and we lost.
5. I personally believe Indias time has come”.

Mittal quotes Gandhiji: those who try hard with lot of passion, eventually win”.

TECH TALK: Let’s Build a Business: 3. India Search Engine

The current search engines have a low relevance when it comes to searching for India-specific content because of their inability to identify India-only websites. Since most Indian sites tend to have a .com suffix, are in English and are typically hosted on US servers, none of the standard three parameters to identify India-centric content (domain, language and hosting location) work well. As such, there is an opportunity to build an India-centric search engine provided it can have the right basis set.

To build the basis set, one approach followed would be as follows:

  • Identify about 10,000 India-centric URLs. These would be identified from current search engines and links from known Indian sites. They would be vetted by human editors prior to crawling. This would result in a few million pages. This process would take 5 content editors along with a couple software programmers (to write software to automatically pick URLs from specified pages) about 2 person-months to identify. [1 content editor should be able to identify/vet 40 URLs a day. Thus in a month, one person can vet about 1,000.]
  • Next, crawl these sites. That is the initial basis set.
  • From these sites, work on identifying outgoing links and incoming links. Some heuristics should be used to identify India-relevance of these URLs. These would then be submitted to the editorial team for vetting.
  • In parallel, inputs would be solicited from webmasters for submitting India-specific sites, which also would be vetted by the editorial team.
  • Our goal should be able to get to 90% coverage of the Indian sites in about 3 months after launch and 100% in about 6 months.

    There should be a total of three offerings each on the web and mobile platform:

  • A directory of the best Indian sites, organised hierarchically
  • A Reference Web search engine based on the sites
  • An Incremental Web search engine based on RSS feeds

    Points to Ponder:

  • How can we build a more scalable model for soliciting India-specific content? eg. Tagging
  • What additional differentiation can we get with the likes of Google and Yahoo?
  • How can we get local content?
  • What about maps?
  • How would search work in the context of mobiles?
  • How do we support local languages?

    When I had created khoj.com in 1997, the focus was on building an India-specific search engine. It is now time to rethink a new khoj.com building on a lot of new search-related ideas and leveraging the community.

    Interested in leading or being part of this venture? Email me at rajesh-at-netcore.co.in or fill out this feedback form with a brief profile of yourself, your thoughts on the ideas presented, and your thinking about the role that you’d like to play in the venture.

    Tomorrow: Computing Grid

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