Multitasking

The New York Times writes:

People now surf the Internet while watching television. Their children instant-message friends while listening to music. They all talk on the phone and check their e-mail while they cook.

“Our research showed that people somehow managed to shoehorn 31 hours of activity into a 24-hour day,” said Colleen Fahey Rush, executive vice president for research at MTV Networks, which worked with an online research company, OTX, last year. “That’s from being able to do two things at once.”

For advertisers, the challenge is getting their message across in one medium while the consumer is active at the same time in several others. The buzzword these days is “engagement” as in how engaged, or involved, the consumer is in a particular activity, a notion that is still relatively new in a media world that has for decades relied on stable indicators like the Nielsen ratings.

Future Phones

The Seattle Times writes:

[Nokia] plots its message on the future of mobile technology from Nokia House. The idea, says Antti Vasara, vice president for corporate strategy, is to change the perception of how we use the Internet. Where we now get content from a range of gateways desktop computers, handheld devices, TV set-top boxes Nokia is working to make mobile the “one way the dominant way to access it.”

That would make access to the Internet and all that implies available anytime from virtually any place, as seen in the example of Japanese users who wave their high-tech phones in front of a vending machine to charge a can of pop or a bag of chips to their phone bill.

At Nokia, a company that has virtually no landlines, signs of this concept underscore the showpieces in the demonstration room. There, phones interact with TVs, pictures post directly from the phone to an online blog, and another technology allows you to listen and interact with local radio stations.

The PC Era

WSJ had a commentary by Bill Gates and Paul Otellini recently on the supposed end of the PC era:

…The model which has fueled the incredible popularity and affordability of the PC will continue to drive innovation and choice in the burgeoning area of personal devices such as cell phones, digital players and mobile PCs. As such, the PC is becoming more important and popular as a key enabler for these new digital scenarios in every corner of the world, from Indianapolis to Istanbul. If anything, it is, to paraphrase Churchill, perhaps the end of the beginning: the end of the first phase in the life of a young and evolving technology that is just now becoming as ubiquitous as the TV or the automobile.

We believe that the PC will be even more important in the years ahead, and that the experiences delivered through personal devices are far from “complete” or have in any way reached the end of their history. This is because peripheral devices and the personal computer exist in a symbiotic relationship. Together, they provide ever-greater freedom, choice, flexibility and affordability in our options for communicating, accessing information and experiencing entertainment where and how we want.

TV + Web

WSJ writes:

Already, networks are making shows available online, whether on their own sites or through a service such as iTunes. Some are going even further, creating programs exclusively for the Web — a step that could eventually make the Internet a proving ground for television shows. Meanwhile, creative teams outside the television industry are producing their own online series — leading some experts to speculate that Internet companies like AOL could morph into de facto networks as well.

From a viewer’s perspective, all of this obviously means lots of new choices — more shows to watch and more say in when you watch them. But the Web also gives the public something more subtle: creative power. Not only can die-hards discuss their favorite shows on message boards, they can create high-tech tributes online, such as “best of” video montages. Sometimes networks welcome these efforts, but in many cases they take a hard line, cracking down on fan content that violates copyright.

Reservations in India (contd)

Atanu Dey continues his persuasive arguments against reservation:

The fundamental problem with the Indian economy is that the education system is one of the most flawed systems in the country. If there is one sector which is in dire need of reform, it is that education system. The most urgently required reform is to get the government out of itlock, stock, and barrel. The recent move by the government to further increase quotas in the so-called elite institutions with a view to social justice is akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. No, I take that back: it is akin to scuttling the lifeboats even as the ship is sinking.

Is there no role for the government in the education sector? Yes, there is, but it is severely restricted to three functions:

* First, funding (but not the provisioning) of universal education up to high school level

* Second, providing an independent regulatory authority for the higher education sector so that private firms can compete fairly on a level playing field

* Third, providing educational loan guarantees to banks

TECH TALK: Of Blue Oceans and Black Swans: An Entrepreneurs Life

As an entrepreneur, I have always bet on futuristic ideas. Most of the times they have not worked out. But that hasnt stopped me from making the bets. That is the only way I know how to create new businesses. Until recently, I didnt have a name for it. Now, I can term it as blue ocean strategy. The theory is easy to understand, but building a blue ocean business is tough. When one is trying to create a future that doesnt exist, skeptics abound. This is where an entrepreneur has to keep the faith. There will be many testing moments through the venture the entrepreneur has to face up to them with confidence.

I write this because we are facing similar situations in a number of companies I am involved in. I have faced it a number of times before also. Till a venture takes off, it requires immense belief in the vision to live through the daily challenges. And if a venture is not taking off, it requires great courage to accept failure and move on in life. Either way, the entrepreneurs life is about making difficult decisions and walking an often lonesome path.

This May, I completed 14 years of my return to India after a stint of just under four years in the US. This period has been punctuated with many experiments as an entrepreneur. It has been mostly about trying different things most of which have failed for various reasons. There has been once success in IndiaWorld. The life I lead is mostly in the future imagining tomorrows world and trying to create it. The present has little relevance.

This is not easy. Most of the time, I end up losing money. These are relatively small amounts of money I do not make bets which can wipe me out financially. I believe in making a few bets on what tomorrows world will be and hope that the companies I am involved in can execute well enough to not just make that future a reality but also be big winners. I didnt have a name for this approach till I read Nassim Talebs book, Fooled by Randomness. And then a phrase came to me I am a black swan entrepreneur.

Just like Nassim Taleb, who bets on extreme events as part of his investment strategy, I am betting on extreme ventures. These ventures are not about incremental change, they are about disruptive innovation. And as we were told again and again, most new ventures and products fail. But a few do succeed. Just because many new initiatives may have failed in the past, it does not mean that the next initiative will also meet the same fate. This is similar to seeing white swans. Just because one has not seen a black swan, one cannot conclude that it does not exist.

Combine the ideas of blue ocean strategy and black swan entrepreneurship, and it provides a new way of looking at the world around.

Tomorrow: Bets and Card Games