Synthetic Biology

The Economist writes:

Dr Carlson is a researcher at the University of Washington, and some graphs of the growing efficiency of DNA synthesis that he drew a few years ago look suspiciously like the biological equivalent of Moore’s law. By the end of the decade their practical upshot will, if they continue to hold true, be the power to synthesise a string of DNA the size of a human genome in a day.

At the moment, what passes for genetic engineering is mere pottering. It means moving genes one at a time from species to species so that bacteria can produce human proteins that are useful as drugs, and crops can produce bacterial proteins that are useful as insecticides. True engineering would involve more radical redesigns. But the Carlson curve (Dr Carlson disavows the name, but that may not stop it from sticking) is making that possible.

Human-Computer Interaction

ACM Queue has an article by John Canny, University of California, Berkeley:

Let’s start with PCs. Where are they now? Intel recently reorganized itself to align with the major market sectors for Intel PCs today. Those sectors are office, home, medical, and mobile. That’s a lot of PCs in new places, and they’re almost all running a Star-style WIMP interface.

What about cellphones? Global cellphone sales are now running at 800 million units per year, about four times the annual sales of PCs (or television sets). Recent years have seen 100 percent annual growth in overall phone sales, and close to 200 percent for smart phones. Sales are nearing saturation in developed countries, but still accelerating in the Third World, which dominates now. Smart-phone sales are about 15 percent of the market now (around 100 million units), but with their faster growth should outnumber PCs by 2008. Smart phones today are about as powerful as a midrange PC from eight years ago, but they waste the latter in media performance. Although only a tiny amount of smart-phone software is around now, it is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the industry. Unfortunately, if you’ve tried interacting with a nontrivial smart-phone application, you’ll know what an ordeal it can be. There has been a brave effort to evolve it from its WIMP interface roots, but it just feels wrong – like a shark in a shopping mall.

Riding the Long Tail

Steve Rubel provides three ideas:

Rethink reach: …in a Long Tail world, reach has entirely new meaning. Many niche sites, for example, can’t hold a candle to the traffic at the head of the media curve. However, what they do have going for them is credibility. If your brand is mentioned five times on a site that your 20 most influential customers trust, that’s gold. Word of mouth will only ripple from there.

Fund niches: …Marketers should play a role in funding the development of communities that give these birds of a feather places to flock together.

Demand more from media: …Demand that your media partners help you find ways to build your brand through niches like the Post does.

TV Shows Only on Internet

The Jeff Pulver provides a guide:

Somewhere between the world of professionally “produced” TV shows and personal video blogs lies the world of what can be best described as “TV Shows Only Available on the Internet.”

This summer the team at set out on a mission to explore and discover the state of “TV and the Net” and when looking at this space, we arbitrary divided the world into five parts:

– “TV on the Net” – these are websites for TV shows that are, or have been, on TV/Cable and are now available for viewing on the Net;
– “TV Shows Only Available on the Internet” – these are new programs produced for the purpose of viewing on the broadband internet.
– “User Created Content sites” – these are the sites like Veoh and YouTube which offer community members the ability to upload video content to share with others;
– “Sites to View TV” – these are sites like ChannelKing and ChannelChooser where someone can watch commercial TV stations over the internet.
– “Misc” – for websites that didn’t fit in any of the other boxes above.

Fidelity and Experience

USA Today has an article by Kevin Maney:

Here’s a deeper trend at work, driving decisions and investments throughout the media industry. It suggests that high-definition DVDs such as Blu-ray and HD DVD will not catch fire with consumers soon; that theatrical live concerts by bands such as U2 will only get more popular; and that live sports on cellphones could be a huge hit.

The trend is all about fidelity….Techies describe fidelity as the total experience of something. Seeing a movie in a packed theater, with its wide screen and the social aspect of a crowd, is a higher-fidelity experience than watching a movie on a home system. Seeing a movie at home is, in turn, a greater-fidelity experience than viewing a movie on a cellphone.

TECH TALK: The Now-New-Near Web: The Opportunity

The India of today has the right ingredients to make the N3 Web a reality. There are two key building blocks for this the ability to publish for the incremental web, and the ability to consume that content. The publishing capability has been around for some time blog-based publishing tools are a very good example of enabling mass creation of incremental content. But what has been missing so far has been the ability to consume the content with low latency. The PC is not the ideal device given that it is not with us all the time. This is where the mobile Internet comes in.

In India, the large base of mobile phones and the excellent mobile data infrastructure create the right foundation for building the N3 Web arguably, better than most other countries in the world. In India, our lives are being increasingly centred around the mobile. We can leave home with anything but not without the mobile. Our phones are not subsidised by the operators and so, we want to buy the best phones that we can afford because they are an extension of our identity. Even in tier 2 or tier 3 towns, it is not the cheapest phones that are the largest sellers people have a tendency to buy better phones because they are a very visible part of the body.

The mobile data infrastructure in India is amongst the best in the world, as noted previously. There are, however, two issues. The first is that for the most part it is a well-kept secret by the mobile operators. Their focus has been primarily on market expansion rather than leveraging mobile data services. The second related point is that the pricing for mobile data leaves much to be desired and limits consumer offtake. What India needs is not just zero-GPRS rentals but also flat-rate pricing options for data. I believe that both will happen within the next 12-18 months.

Armed with good mobile phones and friendly mobile data pricing, I believe users and businesses will start creating a wide array of content on their own. This is what will create the positive spiral for usage in India and bring alive the Incremental Web one where we know of the new things happening near us now. This is the [almost] real-time Web a world envisioned by David Gelernter in Mirror Worlds. This N3 Web will be built around 4 Ms: me, mobiles, microcontent and media. This, and not the incremental Web 2.0, is what the future of the Web is about.

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