Intel’s Community PC

Iamn Howard reviews it:

I think this computer is a great idea and I applaud Intel for finally making it, I think that many whom have thus far written about it have not really understood where it will be important. This is not a computer for a telecentre. This is a stand-alone computer. Labs where power is a concern ought to use thin-clients, multi-headed computers or other solutions (see “Skol Linux”), as those solutions can save much more power. These computers are suited for the home and because of the 12 volt option (or computers like them) and its low power, they will be attractive to the middle class, in their homes. With burgeoning home internet access via DSL, wireless, GPRS, WiMAX etc. people now need a computer that will work in places where electricity is expensive such as in Bamako, or too often not available, such as in Kinshasa. Hence I believe that this computer, though also suited for the village will be most useful to the new middle class of emergent markets, in the city.

Great Products

Richard MacManus writes about what Joel Spolsky had to say:

In his Webstock presentation, Spolsky produced “The Formula” for great products:

* Make people happy — i.e. put people/users in control of a product
* Think about emotions — very funny example of cupholders in SVWs (too hard to explain, but wait for the webcast/podcast!)
* Obsess over aesthetics — Joel used the example of the iPod’s “style over comfort”; for example you can’t change the battery in an iPod, so it fails miserably in usability there. Joel called this the “French idea of fashion” and wondered if Steve Jobs is actually French.

In summary, Spolsky thinks “the world is monumentally superficial”, which is reflected as much in Web products as in Hollywood celebrities. He said that if products are usable/useful and reveal true functionality, then they are “honest”.

Changing Media Business Model

Charlene Li writes:

Media companies in the past derived their value from either: 1) their distribution channel; or 2) the content they created.

I believe that in the future media companies will generate the bulk of their value from serving their ability to aggregate and serve audiences better than the competition. It doesnt matter if the media company actually creates or even controls the content that draws them. Channels will be transparent and content wont necessarily even be owned in a syndicated and aggregated content landscape.

A case in point: digg.com produces no content of their own but has a very unique way to look into the interests of its users. Kevin showed a very cool software tool they use internally called Trace that looks at the stories a specific user is reading, and shows in real time how that users attention jumps to other topics. Kevin also showed how diggers were related to each other based on the stories they mutually dugg. The traditional audience management advocates like Tacoda have shifted toward behavioral targeting, but at the core, understanding users at a highly granular level will be an essential skill for media companies.

Mobile TV

News.com provides an update:

Fast networks have been key to the success of mobile television in Korea, where wireless carriers have actually had to scale back their offerings to deal with demand, Kenagy said. Fast networks like Verizon’s and Sprint’s EV-DO (evolution data optimized) networks and Cingular’s HSDPA (high-speed downlink packet access) network are just starting to roll out in this country. Without enough bandwidth, mobile television can be a tough sell, but MobiTV has been able to find some success with slower networks.

People seem to be willing to pay somewhere between $15 to $20 per month for mobile television, said Michael Schuppert, president of Modeo. “Pricing is a pretty hypercharged subject around this market,” he said, as carriers are anxious to recover their expenses from building out networks, but consumers are wary about spending too much on an unfamiliar service.

TECH TALK: Education and Reservation: Atanu Deys Primer (Part 3)

Distinguishing causes and symptoms is an useful thing to do when attempting to solve a problem. While it may appear expeditious to address symptoms, ultimately it is doomed to failure. Band-aids and pain killers could delay diagnosis of the deeper cause and the introduced delay may indeed make the system worse off.

Reservation for candidates from specific segments of the population at institutes of higher education does not help anyone, least of all the students. If the quota students are unable to gain admission by competing fairly with the non-quota students, then they will also be unable to compete in the course of study. Clearly the solution is to prepare the quota students so that they can gain admission on their own merits. This means that they should be helped at the school level, because it is there they are disadvantaged. The logical conclusion is that those segments of the population which are not represented in the higher education system need to be helped in the primary, middle, and high-school level. The objective should be to level the playing field for them at the earlier stages of the game, and if that is done, there will be no need to engage in the futile exercise of pushing them unprepared into the later stages of the game.

The basic principle which needs to be kept in the forefront is this: that society can and must ensure equality of opportunity for individuals, irrespective of the random draw of their birth, but it cannot ensure equality of outcome, and indeed attempting to ensure equality of outcome is perverse and harmful.

All reservations are not created equal. I am all in favor of reservations, say, of the sort that exist for elderly and disabled people in buses. Such people dont have to do something, they just have to be. As passengers, the elderly and disabled are perfectly entitled to reservation, but the same cannot be said about their entitlement as bus drivers. Bus drivers have to do something, not just be. Students in higher education dont just have to be something, they have to do something. If they are unprepared to do what students do, then there is little point in putting them there. What they require is help before they arrive at the admissions stage of higher education.

Aside from the high cost that society bears as a consequence of denying a better qualified student a seat to admit a reserved category student, there is often a private cost that the reserved student bears. Merely because the student is ill-prepared, and not because of any innate inferiority, the student judges himself (or herself) unfavorably compared to the others. Not only his (or her) self-esteem suffer, but it confirms for others their prejudice that the reserved student is intrinsically inferior. Reservation is very costly for all concerned, except for the politicians who gain from appearing to favor segment of society over another.

The problem of under-representation of students from traditionally disadvantaged groups is a symptom of a deeper cause which needs to be addressed at the stages preceding higher education. Besides that, the problem of supply capacity constraint for the population in general is a more insidious consequence of the systemic problem with the entire education system. This we need to examine at some length.

Tomorrow: Atanu Deys Primer (continued)

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