Wireless Future

Business 2.0 has a feature by Carlo Longino:

Technologies like Wi-Max could introduce more competition by eliminating the advantages that telephone and cable companies now enjoy thanks to ownership of the wires that deliver broadband into homes and offices. Unlike a Wi-Fi hotspot, which provides wireless access within a radius of just a few hundred feet, Wi-Max creates a wireless cloud big enough to cover several square miles.

“It’s hard to get excited by the technology as it exists now,” says James Enck, an analyst at Daiwa Securities SMBC Europe. “But when you look at everything that’s happening, it starts to get really interesting.”

Put simply, we’re on the cusp of a dramatic transformation that will extend far beyond the mere ability to download e-mail, photos, and webpages more quickly. Plentiful wireless bandwidth, coupled with more sophisticated mobile devices, will usher in a new generation of wireless tools and services.

Building a Platform for Growth

HBS Working Knowledge has an article by Donald L. Laurie, Yves L. Doz, and Claude P. Sheer. From the editor’s note:

Researchers at Harvard Business School and INSEAD helped Boston-based consulting firm Oyster International study how executives of twenty-four successful companies achieved organic growth over time. The answer: by creating “new growth platforms, on which they could build families of products, services, and businesses and extend their capabilities into multiple new domains.” United Parcel Service is a prime example, as it expanded from a small-parcel delivery service into a variety of high-growth areas, including managing the flow of goods for customers.

Video Ads Exchange

MarketWatch writes:

Google Inc. will be letting anyone — from Coke, General Motors, to your local plumber, physician, and you — create an advertisement no longer than two-minutes and upload it onto the search engine’s site. You must become a Google AdWords client (takes minutes to sign up) before you can submit a video ad by uploading it onto Google. As an advertiser, you can then bid to be placed across online publications — like niche blogs — that might find your video relevant.

For those who have any doubt about how much video advertising will be created and viewed, think again.

Videos will come from people and places unimaginable. Are we going to see passionate college students create ideological campaigns and target political blogs? Will Swedish nannies start creating ads about their services and target blogs that only attracts readers who can afford such luxuries? If the potential salary covers the cost of their ad spend, which it might, why not? Last year, I predicted that users would be creating commercials. With that creative power in their hands, anything is possible.

PCs with Mobiles Business Model

USATODAY has a column by Kevin Many on Microsoft’s FlexGo initiative:

Microsoft announced a “pay as you go” computing model aimed at emerging markets. The press release says it “allows customers to have a fully featured PC at home by paying only for the time as they use it through the purchase of prepaid activation cards or tokens.”

It works a lot like prepaid cell phones. A customer takes home a Windows XP-based machine and buys time on a prepaid card that has an activation code. Type in the code and a little timer pops up in the screen’s corner, showing time left. To get more time, buy more cards, or buy time online. After paying for a certain amount of time, the customer would own the machine outright.

It’s also yet another sign that the big computer companies believe their growth opportunities are in the next billion computer users — people who so far have not been able to afford computers or Internet connections. The current computer market is basically saturated, and it’s getting harder to excite customers to buy new, more powerful machines because — for most people — their old machines are by far powerful enough.

TECH TALK: Education and Reservation: Atanu Deys Primer

A part of India is seething. The reason? A decision, driven entirely by politics, to reserve 27% seats in Indias higher education institutions for other backward classes. The government has tried to assuage some of the anger by announcing a simultaneous increase in the overall seats by 54% so that mathematically the number of existing seats do not change. Over this week and next, we will discuss some of these issues here, starting with a five-column series by my colleague, Atanu Dey.

There are numerous characteristics which distinguish developed from underdeveloped economies but the one invariant difference is that the former have robust, efficient, and effective educational systems which the latter do not have. Indeed it can be argued that it is the educational system which forms the foundation upon which the development of an economy rests. Even economies with little natural resources can overcome this handicap and flourish based entirely on their stock of human capital created by an excellent educational system. Conversely, even though endowed with a wealth of natural resources, some economies dont prosper because of poor educational institutions.

If you wish to predict the trajectory of an economy, the leading indicator you pay attention to is its education system. If the system is in decline, the economy has little to look forward to in this age post-industrial age; if the system is in ascendancy, the economy will emerge to join the ranks of rich nations. Note not just the level but note especially the trend of the educational system, and you will have a fairly good estimate of where the economy is headed.

The Indian education system is moribund. It is not, and in fact has never been, very good. By the 12th standard, the school drop out rate reaches an astounding 94 percent. Of those who finally graduate out of college, only around 15 percent (or, one percent of the those who enter grade one) are employable, leading to a serious shortage of qualified college graduates. It is severely capacity constrained. Getting admission into a good school or college has become a Herculean task. Horror stories of three-year olds being given kindergarten admissions tests and the parents being interviewed abound. Quality higher education is scarce. The IITs, those much celebrated technology institutions, can only admit fewer than 2 percent of applicants: annually around 300,000 compete to get a shot at 5,000 seats.

But the disturbing fact is the negative trend in the system. The primary worry is that the system is increasing falling behind in its capacity to meet demand. India is demographically very young. About half the population is below 25 years old. Young people need schools to become productive members of society. The capacity constraintthe mismatch between demand and supplyhas the predictable effects of low quality and high prices. Prices are a rationing mechanism and high prices implies high barriers to entry for the huge number of poor people in India. The economic waste that results from tens of millions of people not being able to afford education is staggering. Poor quality education also has effects that propagate across the entire economy. Globalization has increased the premium associated with a well-educated workforce, and India stands to lose a great deal if the quality of its labor force does not make the cut.

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.

Tomorrow: Atanu Deys Primer (continued)