IMDB and Beyond

The New York Times has a story about Amazon’s Internet Movie Database:

Imdb’s convergence moment may soon be at hand, say studio executives who have worked with Amazon on developing a download service that could let people burn DVD’s on their desktops. Though Amazon and Mr. Needham decline to talk about plans, Imdb could play a more prominent role in the retailer’s media strategy. Paramount Pictures, Universal Studios and Warner Brothers are all involved in the project, executives close to the project have said.

Several weeks ago, one media executive who had been briefed on Amazon’s strategy but did not want to be identified because it was still being formulated, pointed out one aspect of Imdb’s popularity: if you use search engines to look for the title of virtually any past movie or television show, or the names of celebrities from those realms, Imdb often comes up as the first result.

Metaverse Summit

[via Kevin Werbach] Raph Koster writes:

There was a definite tug of war between two competing versions of what the metaverse means. One of them is the virtual world thing that most readers of this blog will be familiar with. The other is the annotated world augmented reality thing, which is the idea of pulling web data into the real world by overlaying it on our physical existence via heads-up specs and the like. In between is the mirrorworld which is a compromise, replicating the real world into virtual space and then annotating it there.

I have little doubt that all of these are dreams that are under development. But they dont all seem to me to be the same thing at all, and I think they serve different purposes because of their usage patterns. Virtual worlds are primarily, and will continue to be primarily, for leisure time activities. Augmented reality serves a primarily practical purpose, and will continue to be best-suited for that. The killer apps for augmented reality lie in local economy applications: real estate, comparative shopping, navigation, interpersonal interaction annotation (heads-up tickler files over peoples heads, etc). The killer apps for virtual worlds have been, and will remain, chatting, hanging out with friends, and entertainment.

Video on Demand

David Berlind writes:

Cablevision isn’t alone in wanting to roll out… a timeshifted VOD (video-on-demand) service. Comcast apparently has the same sort of service queued up. You can imagine how storage companies like EMC and Sun must be licking their chops at the idea of an services oriented storage architecture like this taking off. Moving all of those terabytes out of our homes and into the cable operators’ data centers will require some series hardware not to mention some special storage management software that’s suited specfically to the task of RS-DVR applications. For example, for everyone recording shows based on program title (versus custom time slot), the cable operator only needs to store the program once while feeding to many people in typical VOD fashion (an architecture that’s already in place for existing VOD offerings).

Underserved Web 2.0 Segments

Richard MacManus writes about a list from eConsultant and offers a few markets. Among them:

# Community-building services – overlaps with local; examples: craigslist, backfence, Oodle. There is a lot more that can be done to bring local communities into the 2.0 digital lifestyle.

# Cooperative Distribution Services – e.g. BitTorrent; I’m no expert on P2P, but 3 products listed in eConsultant seems a little light to me.

# Financial Services – has plenty of contenders, but I read/hear hardly any buzz about them in the blogosphere; if you’re talking about ‘real world’ needs, finances is right near the top of the list (as opposed to blogging, organizing photos, etc)

Mobile Search Triple Play writes:

Mobile search is indisputably a potent way to generate value. Consumers find what they want; marketers gain traffic by providing relevant offers and advertising; and mobile operators and service providers capture increased revenue as a result of the increase in mobile content purchases by consumers.

However, the much more lucrative business opportunity may be in combining search, personalization, and recommendation (modeled on Amazon – this technology suggests content on the basis of the individual users past preferences or on the basis of what a users peers consumed, or both). The end-game is to boost content sales by providing users personalized and relevant results – as well as the tools to discover other cool content they might not have otherwise known existed.

I refer to this as a kind of mobile content triple-play and (after interviewing some 40 C-level execs at search, discovery and personalization companies – as well as mobile operators – for my own report on the topic) I see evidence that the mobile content industry is ripe for it. In fact, many these companies have told me they fear mobile search – particularly the big-name brands like Google. Content owners want users to come directly to their sites and not be directed by search engine results to explore their competitors portals. In a D2C play, they tell me, its all about improving the accessibility and discoverability of their content.

TECH TALK: Education and Reservation: Atanu Deys Primer (Part 2)

The mismatch between supply and demand is symptomatic of non-market economies, such as command-and-control socialistic economies. In market economies, generally supply adjusts to the demand, perhaps with some lag. If the demand outstrips supply, prices rise, which induces entry of suppliers into the market, and a balance is reached eventually. In command-and-control systems the government interferes, and more often than not, prevents entry into the market thereby restricting supply. Prices are not allowed to do their proper function of market signaling and rationing the goods or services. Instead, monopoly rents are extracted by the government and these are then distributed in exchange for political support from various constituencies.

The particular instantiation of this general principle is the government imposed reservation or quota in the institutes of higher education in India. Relative to demand, the supply is very low. The government controls every aspect of higher education by either running its own institutions (such as the IITs and IIMs), or indirectly by heavily regulating private institutions. The regulation specifies who is allowed to run the institution, what its capacity can or must be, what is permissible to be taught, what the syllabus should be, who should teach and how much they can be paid, what the fees should be, and who should be admitted.

Each regulation introduces friction into the system. More damagingly, it introduces massive corruption. For instance, entry into the system for private providers of education is severely limited. Private firms have to compete to acquire a license. This is facilitated by appropriate bribes to people who have the authority to deny the license, such as senior bureaucrats and politicians. This is in effect competition for the market, which leads to limited competition within the market, which in turn implies high prices, limited quantity, and low quality. The limited quantity not only hurts the economy but is again very shrewdly exploited by the powers that bethey hand out quotas to select groups to buy their allegiance.

There is no earthly reason for why there should be a chronic shortage of any goods or services, least of all an essential service such as education. Yet they exist in India. Not too long ago, getting telephone service was a major achievement. People used to have to wait for many years to get phone service. Why? Because the government had determined that it was an essential service that could not be entrusted to the private sector. It took the liberalization of the telecommunications sector (and some help from technological change) to get us to the happy position that you can have telephone service within hours, and at prices which could not have been imagined in those days when the government was the monopoly supplier.

The big news these days is the protests over the proposed increase in reservation in institutes of higher education for certain sections of the population. The capacity is limited to begin with, and now it will become even harder for non-quota students to gain admission. But in the end, it does not matter whether the current quota is raised to nearly 50 percent of all seats or not. Either way, the difference is marginal. Instead of fighting over stale breadcrumbs, there should be a public debate about how to bake sufficient loaves of bread so that no one has to go hungry at all.

Tomorrow: Atanu Deys Primer (continued)

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