Digital Music in China

Knowledge@Wharton writes:

Digital music can be divided into online music and mobile music; each broadcasts, respectively, through the Internet and a mobile telecommunications network. Online music is downloaded from the Internet to computers or digital music players. Mobile music mostly targets cell phone ring tones and “color ring back tones” — music downloaded for listening while a caller waits for a call to be picked up. Another type of mobile music developed recently is cell phone music — downloaded wirelessly and played through software preinstalled in the phones. It remains to be seen if there is a market for this new type of mobile music because it is still at a test stage. In addition, there is not enough network capacity, and music-playing mobile phone software has yet to be fully developed and adopted.

“About 30% of China’s cell phone users play mobile music through color ring back tones,” says Conor Yang, CEO of Rock Mobile, a Chinese wireless music producer and publisher. “That percentage will rise to 45% over the next three years with the development of 3G networks and the popularity of mobile music cell phones.” Rock Mobile, founded at the end of 2002 in Guangzhou, was spun off from Taiwan’s Rock Music Group to distribute in China wireless digital music produced by Rock Music. Rock Mobile has ranked in the top five spots since the start of 2003 in terms of China’s mobile color ring back tone sales and has a 10% share of the Chinese color ring back tone market.

The story will probably be very similar in India.

Power Lines for Networking

The New York Times writes:

A version for power lines called HomePlug came out in 2002, and while it hardly affected sales of wireless network equipment, it sold enough that major companies like Intel, Cisco, Sony, Sharp and Comcast created the HomePlug Alliance to push for next-generation products, with the first to come out later this year.

Some companies are not waiting. Panasonic, Netgear and Marantz are already offering products that will move data through home electrical lines faster than routers using the current Wi-Fi standard for wireless networking, 802.11g.

Within about 18 months, cable companies may start offering set-top boxes with networking abilities over power lines. Computer makers, as well as television and DVD makers, will do the same. At that point, all a consumer will have to do is stick the power plug into the wall and the data will come racing down the wires with the electricity.

A Tale of 2 OSes

Nicholas Carr writes:

…even as the world’s largest software company struggles to meet its latest deadline for unveiling Vista, it’s announcing a massive new effort to build a completely different operating system – a web operating system modeled on Google’s sophisticated network of computing “clusters.” Google’s Web OS runs the company’s search engine and a rapidly expanding set of related services such as the lucrative AdWords advertising system. Seeing such web services as the future of software, Microsoft feels it has no choice but to build its own Web OS to compete with Google’s.

A Web OS is very different from a traditional computer operating system like Windows. The latter is an intellectual construct, a set of instructions written by people. You have to spend a lot on salaries and other labor costs to build a traditional OS, but the capital expenses are negligible. A Web OS, on the other hand, takes physical as well as intellectual form. If you want to control the OS, as Google and Microsoft do, then you not only have to write the instructions but you have to buy, assemble, and maintain all the equipment – processors, storage drives, and so on – that the instructions control. Because a Web OS runs centrally, you have to own the equipment it runs on, rather than offloading that headache onto your customers.

Sun’s Schwartz Interview

Forbes has an interview with the new Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz. An excerpt:

With the advent of electricity, Thomas Edison tried to patent a lightbulb so that you would have to use his lightbulbs if you used his dynamo. That strategy obviously failed. And what emerged was the standard plug. Asking Sun the value of Java is like asking GE–which is, I think, the largest manufacturer of power turbines in the world–what the value of the standard plug is. It ensures they can serve a global marketplace. So if you asked them whats the value of the plug, how would they respond?

Here are some stats on Java: There are more than 1 billion Java cards in the marketplace, securing everything from set-top boxes to handsets. There are more than a billion Java handsets, all driving demand for network infrastructure. There are nearly 1,000 members of the Java community process, who collectively contribute to the standard called “Java.” It is the default standard for set-top boxes in Brazil. So what will the infrastructure opportunity be in Brazil to serve 100 million Java-enabled set-top boxes? I promise you it will be enormous, and Sun will be among many participants that can serve that demand.

The Perfect News Site

WSJ writes (among a number of ideas):

People are awash in news and information. What they really need is highly edited coverage that makes the best use of their time. “I would like to receive only news that is news to me, not news that I have already read or heard,” wrote one. Said another: “Some days I think we were all blessed when we had [just] an evening newspaper and the 6:30 network news.”

One solution: a site that is adaptable “to filter, prioritize and effectively size the amount of news to my needs. I may want to know that a shooting has occurred in Lower Phoenix, but not want the 20 different eyewitness statements.”

TECH TALK: Fooled by Randomness: My Life and Views

As I was reading the book by Nassim Taleb, I started thinking about my life as an entrepreneur. In the 14 years that I have an entrepreneur, I have tried many things. I have had one big success which is what everyone sees. I have also had an umpteen number of failures. And the fate of some of the current businesses is as yet unknown. When I look at the success (which could be termed a black swan event in my life), I have often wondered whether I was smart or just lucky. The answer that I have is: you have to be smart to be lucky.

The bets that I make are a little far out in the future. In a sense, I like to play in the blue oceans. They are extreme bets. If the future that I envision happens, I will win big as has happened once. If it doesnt happen, I will fail as has happened often. The key difference is that my failures are small from a financial perspective I dont, in the words Nassim Taleb uses in his book, blow up.

Going back to the question: was I lucky or smart (with what happened with IndiaWorld)? Looking back, it was the multiple failures during 1992-94 that made me start IndiaWorld. Had any of these ideas succeeded even to a small degree, Id have been running a software products company with unknown prospects. I had little to lose when I started IndiaWorld I had failed multiple times, so I figured that there was little else to lose. The investments at that time were relatively small, and I was trying to create a future that was ahead of its time. So, I had plenty of time to learn and get things right.

Even during the five years that I ran IndiaWorld, there were many things which could have happened. We had our near-death moments due to some business decisions that I had made, but somehow we pulled through. While there were many ideas we had on what to do, we let the business drive us once we started. It was the failure of people remembering as the domain which forced us to think of nice, easy-to-remember Indian names like khoj, khel, samachar and bawarchi as domain names. Each of them, over time, become a memorable one. I was one signature away from getting venture capital. If that would have happened (a couple months before the eventual sale), I dont know what path we would have been on. As it turned out, the ending was very different something I could not have imagined when we started. When I look back now, many years later, I have to believe that luck had to have played an important role in all that happened.

Going ahead, I have made two kinds of bets with my work and investments. There are four companies which I have founded or helped co-found (Netcore, Novatium, Seraja and Rajshri Media) which are the big bets each of them has the potential to be a black swan in the world of technology in the coming years. Then, there are half-a-dozen small bets which help me either learn or influence events in a specific direction to help things along for the rest of the ecosystem. At the heart of all of this is my vision of tomorrows world built around the broadband and mobile Internet with a focus on the needs of consumers and businesses in emerging markets, and computing as a utility. Lets see how it all unfolds.

Continue reading