OLPC Debate

The New York Times discusses the merits and demerits oF the $100 laptop:

Seymour Papert, a computer scientist and educator who is an adviser to the project, has argued that if young people are given computers and allowed to explore, they will learn how to learn. That, Mr. Papert argues, is a more valuable skill than traditional teaching strategies that focus on memorization and testing.

The idea is also that children can take on much of the responsibility for maintaining the systems, rather than relying on or creating bureaucracies to do so.

We believe you have to leverage the kids themselves, Ms. Jepsen said. Theyre learning machines. As an example, she pointed to the backlight used by the laptop. Although it is designed to last five years, if it fails it can be replaced as simply as batteries are replaced in a flashlight. It is something a child can do, she said.

Internet and Traditional Media

Knowledge@Wharton writes:

According to Wharton marketing professor Peter Fader, online companies’ invasion of traditional media buying is only the latest example of the Internet’s ability to transform industry after industry. “A lot of people viewed advertising as a sacred area where only advertising people have expertise. I say ‘Phooey.’ There’s no reason any smart, resourceful firm should not be able to get in on the game — particularly those with a proven track record in a related area,” he says, adding that Google and the other Internet firms are looking at traditional media sales as an inefficient market where they can quickly harvest “big, tasty, low-hanging fruit.”

The Internet firms’ simultaneous rush into traditional media is another boon for advertisers because the companies will be competing against one another, preventing any one from gaining monopoly pricing power. In the end, says Fader, the broader economy, not just advertisers, will benefit, although the companies that currently broker advertising may be squeezed. “The biggest problem Google is going to face is both inertia from the entrenched players and natural fear and skepticism on the part of [advertisers]. But from the standpoint of technology and pleasing the customer, there is no reason Google can’t revolutionize this industry.”

SaaS Benefits

VentureBlog has a post by David Hornik:

As fantastic as it is having greater predictability of revenue, I think that the product benefits of software as a service are what make the model truly compelling. Take, for example, PayCycle, a small business payroll service I invested in some time back. When I first invested in PayCycle, the team was just building the first version of the service. They had to make tough decisions about what states to roll out first, what features to build for each state, how to implement direct deposit, how to automate Federal and State tax payments, etc. With each new release of the software, the service reached more people, had richer features and was easier to use. Now tens of thousands of small businesses use PayCycle to do their payroll every month and they can bank on the service getting better and better as the development team continues to mature the service. The same story could be told of Salesforce, Facebook, Typepad, YouTube, NetSuite, the list goes on.

The beneficiaries of the service architecture are the end users — simply log in and get a better service than the day before. But this capacity to rapidly innovate also leads to greater revenue as attrition is driven down to single digits and lower over time. Ultimately, software as a service is a win-win for end users and startups alike. I have no doubt that I will be investing in interesting software services for years to come and look forward to watching the ones in which I have already invested continue to thrive.

TechNet Innovation Summit

Some observations on the event by Will Price:

  • Two of Gates’ comments struck me: 1) he compared MSFT’s focus on low price high volume software (compared to the prevalent IBM model in 1980) to GOOG’s focus on low price high volume advertising (compared to traditional Madison Avenue models). Both models commoditized huge industries and enabled new participants and beneficiaries to share in the now larger pie. 2) the greatest strategy sins are ones of omission, missing a market or opportunity. He believes in identifying and entering markets as early as possible as the opportunity to repeatedly play the game (v 1.0, 2.0, etc) allows for iterative innovation not possible if you are not previously commited to the market. Also, markets that take off follow s-curve growth rates and it is often impossible to catch up with the pioneers in front of you.

  • resources, and not capital, are they key constraints to providing energy to the 1/3 of the planet’s population without ready access to energy. With energy consumption correlated with GDP growth, developing economies will drive huge increases in demand for carbon based energy sources.

  • Mobile TV Report

    Nokia commissioned a report from the London School of Economics:

    Personalisation and interactivity will be the key drivers of mobile TV according to a new report commissioned by Nokia and conducted by Dr Shani Orgad from the London School of Economics. The report, titled ‘This Box Was Made For Walking’, examines the future impact of mobile TV on the broadcasting and advertising industries.

    The report predicts that the introduction and adoption of mobile TV will ultimately give way to a more personal and private TV experience than that of traditional broadcast TV, with big implications for users, content providers and advertisers. Users will be able to receive content anytime, anywhere, choose what is most relevant to them, and even create and upload their own television content, while content providers and advertisers will be able to tailor their offerings more specifically to the user.

    “For mobile TV to become more than just television on the move, it will have to build on existing channels, programmes, and ways of watching television and using the Internet.” said Dr Shani Orgad. “Mobile TV will become a multimedia experience with an emphasis on personalisation, interactivity and user-generated content.”

    TECH TALK: 15 Years as an Entrepreneur: Beyond

    Going ahead, there are a few key bets that I am making. At the end of the day, these are just ideas. Execution is key if Netcore and the other companies I am involved in have to succeed. But for me, the ideas are important starting points.

    The first bet is that emerging markets like India are going to be the big markets. We do not have to follow the same technology progression as users in developed markets have done. We can leapfrog. Being based in India gives us an important advantage over others because we are closer to the future markets. If we can make ideas work here, it will be easier to roll them out to other emerging markets and even perhaps to the developed markets.

    The second bet is around a mobile-centric future. I tend to use the higher-end phones now a complete switch from two years ago. This gives me a glimpse of what the mass market will expect in a couple of years or less. There is little doubt that the mobile is a transformational device and an incredible opportunity. The challenge is to think through how people’s lives and businesses can benefit from mobiles which will essentially be multimedia computers, connected to the Internet over high-speed networks, and equipped with high-resolution screens.

    The third is a world where broadband is a reality. In India, unfortunately, this still seems distant. But one has to assume it will happen. How can computing be reinvented in a world where connectivity is ubiquitous, cheap and high-speed? What kind of content and services will users want? How will entertainment be different?

    This world view of mobility and broadband in emerging markets is at the centre of my thinking, my entrepreneurial activities and my investing. It is a world where the second-order effects will be more powerful than the first-order ones. It is more than just Web 2.0, user-generated content, video, social networking and pay-per-click. The real power of this digital infrastructure will come when it is applied to rethink vertical industries like education and healthcare. That will still take some time, but it is something which will happen sooner than we can imagine.

    For me, the past fifteen years are a foundation on which to build for the future. These years have helped me build mental models which I now need to apply and leverage in the businesses I am involved in. As an entrepreneur, I have to ensure these businesses succeed. My track record on that front hasn’t been great so far, though. Hopefully, I can set some of these things right in the next fifteen!

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