Alternative Energy

WSJ writes:

Alternative energy still can’t compete with fossil fuels on price. But the margins are narrowing, particularly since oil and gas prices have been rising. The math looks even more favorable if you consider the environmental cost of fossil fuels — which most purely economic calculations don’t.

Alternative energy still faces obstacles to mainstream success. Many projects need government or utility subsidies and incentives to be viable. Generating costs have risen recently for some types of renewable resources, pushed by higher materials prices, labor costs and demand. Supply chains are prone to hiccups, and wind and solar-energy resources need backup sources of power to compensate on windless or cloudy days.

Novatium Approach Criticism

Following the Newsweek cover story, I came across this article by Chin Wong:

A company in India called Novatium has begun selling the NetPC for only $100, but heres the catch: it has no hard disk, very little memory to speak of, and uses a cheap processor of undisclosed origin thats more typically found on mobile phones. The software? Zip. Youll have to subscribe to that, including the operating system, which will be rented out to you over the Internet. You cant save your files locally, eitheryoull have to send them back to the server over the Internet.

even if the speed of my broadband connection suddenly doubled tomorrow, I still wouldnt trade in my PC for a $100 NetPC and heres why.

First, I run applications that would crawl over a network. You can do word processing reasonably well over the Internet, but dont try manipulating a 60-megabyte graphic file or editing video over a network unless you have a lot of time on your hands. And hosted applications will slow down as more users get on the network.

Second, I like local storage and I have a hunch most people do, too. This is why we save data files to the hard disk, keep backups of important files, burn digital photos onto CDs and fill up MP3 players with our favorite songs. We like having this stuff available, even when the network isnt.

Finally, and perhaps most important, I like the freedom to run any program I want on my computer without having to get it from some centralized server. This is what drove people from dumb terminals and centralized computing in the first place, and this is what will keep thin clients out of the computing mainstream for years to come. The PC let the genie out of the bottle, and it will take more than a rehashed network computer to get it back in.

Mobiles in Emerging Markets

WSJ writes:

For years, developed nations provided the cellphone industry with most of its growth and fat profits. Now, that growth has slowed, it is the emerging markets that are rising fast. As a result, cellphone-service providers are reaching into the world’s remotest regions.

Developing regions such as Africa, China and India together account for roughly 1.6 billion cellphone subscribers, about 59% of the global market, according to Wireless Intelligence, a joint venture between the GSM Association and Ovum Holdings Ltd. that tracks cellphone-industry data.

Analysts expect these newer cellphone markets to contribute the vast majority of growth in mobile subscribers in the coming years. Only about a third of people in developing markets currently have mobile phones. In India, less than 15% of the population has a cellphone, but the market is increasing by more than six million new subscribers a month. By contrast, roughly 70% of the U.S. population own a cellphone and some Western European markets have reached saturation point.

Mobile Web Phone

A post from Ajot Jaokar (from December 2006):

This new phone if it may be called that would have the following features (fewer the merrier!)

a) It is a phone
b) Its screen and other device form factors are optimised to browse the Web(sort of like the Blackberry device is predominantly geared towards email)
c) It would include caching i.e. localised storage if information
d) Network connections would be optimised towards browsing
e) It would also support Syndication, Widgets etc on a mobile device(not just browsing)

One way to look at it is to think of the same principles of simplicity and optimization both of Nicholas Negropontes idea of 100$ computer or Larry Ellisons Network computer

Implementation aside, the $100 PC and the Network computer are basically valid and the idea of a Mobile Web Phone is taking the same principles to the Mobile Web.

Web 2.0 as Dynamic Internet

The Pondering Primate writes:

Web 2.0 is, or occurs:

1. when a physical object or location is able to retrieve or deliver information from the Net

2. when the Net allows you to retrieve information from ANY physical object or location that is remote from you.

Web 2.0 is about retrieving and delivering realtime information through the Net from another dimension. If you look at the hottest sites, the ones getting bought out by the major players, they are all providing static information.

It will arrive when Internet connections to any electronic device are as prevalent as electricity.

TECH TALK: A Tale of Two Covers: Looking Ahead

When I look back, the Time Asia cover story came after I had done something, while the Newsweek story has come as I am doing something (there’s a long way to go). Of the two, the Newsweek story puts even greater pressure on us to make sure we can bring about the home computing revolution in India and perhaps, the developing world. We are trying to bring in place a new paradigm. It is something that I have been thinking about since 2000 how to make computing and Internet access affordable to a magnitude more people than have it now. At its core, it is about building India’s digital infrastructure.

The last two paragraphs in the Newsweek story capture the essence:

Novatium, of course, has a long way to go. It needs to build a network along the lines of those run by India’s mobile and Internet service providers. For that, the company will need to partner with telecom or cable companies that are pushing broadband Internet access. (It is working to line up a contract with a few small cable companies, which if successful could lead to deals with larger broadband firms like Airtel, Hathway, Sify, Tata Indicom and state-owned BSNL and MTNL.) Success will bring competition from Western firms such as San Jose, Calif. -based Wyse, which already sells some network PCs to India’s IT firms. But Wyse and the others aren’t yet interested in the home market. And Novatium has licensed its technology to Sun Microsystems for the enterprise and education markets so Novatium can focus on selling to home users. Jain is hoping that that head start plus a rich offering of featuressuch as streaming video, video-on-demand and voice-over-IP, which other low-cost thin-client PCs don’t offerwill give Novatium an edge for at least a few years.

Down the road, Jain envisions his device transforming the computing landscape. “It’s taken a quarter century for computer makers worldwide to get to 700 million users,” he says. “The utility and network computing model can double that number in the next five years. That means there’s a huge opportunity for the likes of Dell, HP, Lenovo, Intel, Microsoft and so on, and the entire existing computer value chain. But they’ll have to reinvent their businesses. They have to look at an entirely different model.” And they’ll have to look to India.

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