Microfinance

Knowledge@Wharton writes about a recent conference:

The business of making loans to poor people in underdeveloped countries is itself entering a critical period of development, according to panelists at this year’s Wharton Finance Conference.

On one hand, they said, foundations and other non-governmental groups have shown the private sector that there is money to be made in lending to some of the globe’s poorest populations. And, they acknowledge, only the private sector has the capital to do this at the necessary scale. But they also warned, at the panel and in interviews afterward, that the drive for profit could leave behind some of the neediest citizens — particularly those in remote rural areas — and thus defeat the enterprise. Meanwhile, as an indication that microfinance is indeed on the global agenda, economist Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on October 12.

Nintendo’s Wii

The Economist writes about Nintendo’s new game console:

Nintendo set out to reach beyond existing gamers and expand the market. This would involve simpler games that could be played for a few minutes at a time and would appeal to non-gamers or casual gamers (who play simple games on the web but would not dream of buying a console). They would be based on new, easy-to-use controls. And they would rely on real-life rather than escapist scenarios. This was not an entirely new approach: dancing games that use cameras or dance mats as controllers have proved popular in recent years. But Nintendo began to design entire games consoles around such ideas.

he Wii is an attempt to apply the lessons of the DS to a fixed console that plugs into the television. Its key innovation is its wand-like controller, which resembles a simplified TV remote-control rather than the usual button-strewn joypad. Motion detectors translate the movement of the wand into on-screen action, making possible tennis, fishing and sword-fighting games. (Some games use an add-on controller held in the other hand.) The Wii can also display news and weather information from the internet, organised alongside the games as a series of channels. Old games from Nintendo’s back catalogue can be downloaded to draw in lapsed gamers.

Mobile TV

WSJ writes:

If you live in Japan or South Korea you’ve already been able to watch the country’s main channels on your cellphone for up to a year, and it seems you quite like it. But the rest of the world is a little behind the curve: The first commercial rollout in Europe was in Italy in June, while trials have been launched elsewhere in Asia in places such as Vietnam and Indonesia in recent months.

Once we get used to having TV wherever we are, on a screen that fits in our pocket, other similar video services won’t be far behind, such as TV programs tailored to the small screen. And, as Junko Yoshida, a news editor for the electronics weekly newspaper EE Times, points out, the mobile-phone industry was surprised to find in one trial that it might not just be about portability, but privacy. “A lot of people loved the ‘personal’ aspect of mobile TV,” she says, “so that they not only watched it in their commute but they even took a mobile TV to their bed to watch.”