Economist Survey on China

The Economist writes:

A more potent story that is only just starting to be articulated is that China is going out to the world. Indeed, China is risingsome say has already risento become the newest great power. Do not yet think of it as a global one. Even if commercial and diplomatic tentacles stretch increasingly round the world, the main site of China’s power, for decades to come, will be in its Asian backyard.

In a forthcoming book about China, David Lampton of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University argues that nations define and achieve their goals using three means: coercion, material inducement or intellectual motivation. Put more bluntly, that means guns, money and ideas. How China blends the three, and how the rest of the world perceives the process, will more than anything shape the future course of Asia and beyond.

Mark Anderson Talk

Stephen Johnston writes about a talk Mark Anderson of SNS delivered at Nokia:

Mark’s 2007 Predictions
1. ePhones: Phones will be used to pay for things
Japan already does this. Nokia has been testing this for years.
“Carriers have been the bottleneck” – but why wouldn’t carriers do this. Qualcomm are investing in startup payments. Carriers are changing their mind about this.
Many technologies, but security clearly the main issue. Authentication is required.

2. Authentication everywhere.
ID theft is so important, that authentication will be required everywhere. Biometric will be big. Voice is one idea, would be great if it does work. Phones could have a bio swipe, and reduce theft – it costs about $9 to install. Could do this in conjunction with insurance companies – never worry about phones being stolen. This then would allow the phone to be used in conjunction with keys for phones. “Phone” is not the right term for what this is – it communicates more with systems than people. 50% increase in data.

Wireless Innovations

WSJ writes:

In the next two to three years, consumers will be able to get TV broadcasts on their cellphones with better picture quality than current video offerings — and a greater range of live programming from major networks like NBC, FOX, ABC and Comedy Central.

Users will also get sophisticated software applications for surfing the mobile Web, and more services to connect with friends, share videos and exchange photos. And they’ll likely see mobile devices that can roam seamlessly across Wi-Fi hot spots, cellular networks and new high-speed data networks, bringing a much faster and smoother surfing experience.

And that’s just the beginning. In the longer term, advances in battery, display and storage technology could make it possible to squeeze ever more functions onto smaller handsets. And cellphones could extend even further beyond the realm of communications, to be used as credit cards to pay for groceries and airline tickets, ID cards to swipe at security checkpoints and data-storage devices.

Novatium in The Hindu

The Hindu had a story recently on Novatium:

Mr. Mani’s house is now one of 140 homes in Chennai where `Nova Net PC’ offers Internet connectivity and computing solutions at affordable rates.

The Net PC primarily scores with its costing. The Net PC package consisting of the CPU, a 14-inch CRT monitor, a keyboard and a mouse has been tentatively priced at Rs.4, 450 (roughly $100). When Net PC hits the market at this price, it could well be the most economical home PC ever.

However, Novatium is positioning the device beyond the cost advantage. It is talking about the PC as a home appliance that would offer a no-frills attached comfort of use.

So, what makes it comfortable? For starters, the first generation Nova Net PC is stripped off most hardware that could give rise to complications. The CPU consists of a motherboard, an Ethernet connectivity port to connect to the VLAN, 4 USB ports and a serial port for the monitor. Two of the 4 USB ports are used for the keyboard and mouse. Storage, therefore, will exist remotely on a server managed by Novatium. Each user gets close to 2 GB of space.

Vanu’s Software Base Station

IEEE Spectrum writes:

A cellphone based on software-defined radio would be lighter, smaller, cheaper, and more power efficient. Whats more, it would be better at making calls: instead of being stuck with one frequency or even one cellular carrier, it would automatically search out the best and least expensive way of connecting. And equipment makers wouldnt need to overhaul their products to fit every new telecommunications standard. Wireless providers would be able to roll out new services easily and troubleshoot technical glitches with a simple download.

We arent there yet, but software-defined radio is definitely coming. Dont expect an overnight transformation, though. After all, it took years for the PC to sweep aside the IBM Selectric typewriter. This revolution, too, is bound to happen in a series of incremental but significant steps.

Steps like this: Vanu, a small Cambridge, Mass., company, says that this year it will begin selling the first cellular base station that can simultaneously process two waveformsCDMA (short for code division multiple access) and GSM (global system for mobile communications)all in software running on off-the-shelf computer servers.

Distributed Bookings Platform

TechCrunch writes:

Real world services become much more efficient when paired with Internet-based search and booking platforms. Today, event venues, hotels, airlines, restaurants and other businesses can build their own booking applications with software from various vendors. And OpenTable has done a good job creating a bookings portal for restaurants. Skype Prime and Ether are two good services that let phone-based vendors book, charge and perform their services online.

But no one has created a distributed bookings platform that can easily be plugged into individual businesses websites (without any programming knowledge), as well as yellow page and other local business sites. Once this platform exists, consumers will have a much easier way of booking everyday services (think tennis lessons, dentist appointments, hairdresser appointments, massages, cooking course, etc.). The potential market is millions of daily transactions.

TechCrunch discusses two companies — Genbook and Libersy.

SMS vs MMS

Xen Mendelsohn interviews John White:

MMS has not failed; the industry had totally unrealistic expectations of MMS in the first place. MMS was hyped as the natural replacement for SMS, but that shows a misunderstanding of SMS and the reasons why SMS has been such a big hit worldwide. SMS owes its success to its simplicity. It is the quickest, easiest and cheapest way for two people to communicate a short and simple message and as such it serves as an extremely useful communications option that is affordable universally, even among some of the lowest income groups of society.

MMS, on the other hand, has been misunderstood from the start. MMS should be seen more as a mobile entertainment service than as a messaging service. MMS is more complex and expensive than SMS, so consumers are unlikely to use MMS to communicate a simple message, when SMS does the job so quickly and easily and costs so little. MMS will always look like a failure when compared alongside SMS, yet when you consider MMS in its own right, as an entertainment application and content delivery tool, then MMS can be seen as a very popular and successful service.

Mobile Advertising

FierceMobileContent writes:

Louis Gump, vice president/mobile at The Weather Channel, says that banner ads still dominate mobile advertising because this type of advertising is intuitive and easy for consumers (and ad buyers) to understand and use. And Gump should know: The Weather Channel consistently scores high on the lists of top mobile web sites. NPD named The Weather Channel the third most popular mobile web site visited in December and the No. 2 most-visited mobile web site visited in November. “We can put a banner on a page and have consumers click-through to a destination,” Gump says. “The mobile web is more flexible and similar to the PC, so it’s an easier transition for ad buyers.”

But Gump believes that the mobile web is just a launching pad for mobile advertising. Text messaging–which has the potential to reach a lot more consumers because more people send and receive texts vs. those that access the mobile Web–is promising. However, Gump says that brands are less certain about this mechanism because it requires a different mindset. Text messaging ads must be short and concise, sometimes no more than just a word or two. He also thinks that mobile video advertising holds promise but that there is still work to be done on the length of the advertising spot (15 second or less) and the audience still needs to grow to make it attractive to more big-name brands.

TECH TALK: India’s Challenges: Atanu Dey (Part 2)

Atanu Dey’s second post discusses the creation of new cities:

My view is that the problem of rural development has to focus on the development of rural people, not the development of villages. Villages are not the proper object of analysis when it comes to economic growth, and hence economic development. By insisting on the development of villages, scarce resources, which could have been more efficiently used elsewhere, are wasted. There is another way of using the same resources, and that is the development of cities. It seems to me that the answer to rural development lies in urban development. Paradoxical but true.

About 70 percent, or 700 million Indians, live in villages. Clearly, there is no possibility of urbanizing them by migrating them to the existing cities which are already bursting at the seams. All of the major cities are little more than mega-slums. Practically all Indian towns and cities are unplanned and inefficiently use land and other resources. They are arguably inadequate for the current residents, leave alone adding hundreds of millions more people to them. The existing urban centers would do with a massive makeover but we cannot afford that. (Fires, earthquakes, carpet bombings have benefited many other cities in the past.) So there is clearly a need to have new urban centers to accommodate the hundreds of millions of people who need to be in cities for economic growth and development. And that is the greatest opportunity that India provides to everyonepeople rural and urban, firms domestic and foreign, governments, NGOs, multinational entities . . . the list goes on.

Imagine building absolutely new cities from scratch for 600 million people. Imagine 600 new large cities of one million people each. Imagine building houses, schools, shopping centers, parks, factories, roads, public utilities, hospitals, libraries, . . . And now imagine doing that using the best urban planning known to humanity. Take whatever humanity knows about the best way to get things done, and use that to design and build cities that can develop and sustain the people for generations.

That is the greatest opportunity we have of building from scratch which is not available to any developed economy.

In a nutshell, this is what Atanu Dey is saying: India needs economic growth for development to occur; for economic growth, urbanization of the majority of the population currently living in 600,000 small villages is a necessity; the current urban centers cannot accommodate the present urban population adequately, leave alone taking on any additional burden. Hence the proposition has forced itself on us: we need new urban centers to accommodate the hundreds of millions who must get out of villages for Indias economic growth.

The question before us: how do we do it before we run out of time? Think it over.

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Multitasking Not Good

The New York Times writes:

Several research reports, both recently published and not yet published, provide evidence of the limits of multitasking. The findings, according to neuroscientists, psychologists and management professors, suggest that many people would be wise to curb their multitasking behavior when working in an office, studying or driving a car.

These experts have some basic advice. Check e-mail messages once an hour, at most. Listening to soothing background music while studying may improve concentration. But other distractions most songs with lyrics, instant messaging, television shows hamper performance. Driving while talking on a cellphone, even with a hands-free headset, is a bad idea.

In short, the answer appears to lie in managing the technology, instead of merely yielding to its incessant tug.

The Live Web

Doc Searls writes:

[The Live Web is] the one with verbs such as write, read, update, post, author, subscribe, syndicate, feed and link. This is the part of the Web that’s growing on top of the old Static Web of nouns such as site, address, location, traffic, architecure and construction. Nothing wrong with any of those static nouns (or their verb forms). They’re the foundation, the bedrock. They are necessary but insufficient for what’s needed on the Live Web, which is where your paper needs to live and grow and become more valuable to its communities (as well as Wall Street).
Lemme unpack that a bit. The Static Web is what holds still long enough for Google and Yahoo to send out spiders to the entire universe and index what they find. The Live Web is is what’s happening right now. It’s dynamic. (Thank you, Virginia.) It includes all the stuff that’s syndicated through RSS and searched by Google Blogsearch, IceRocket and Technorati. What I post here, and what others post about this post, will be found and indexed by Live Web search engines in a matter of minutes. For those who subscribe to feeds of this blog, and of other blogs, the notification is truly live. Your daily paper has pages, not sites. The difference is not “just semantic”. It’s fundamental. It’s how you reclaim, and assert, your souls in the connected world. It’s also how you shed dead conceptual weight, get light and nimble, and show Wall Street how you’re not just ahead of the curve, but laying pavement beyond everybody else’s horizon. It’s how your leverage the advantages of history, of incumbency, and of already being in a going business.

Google as King of All Media?

Henry Blodget does not think so:

* First, we must define terms, because if “King of Media” means richest, most powerful company in the media sector, Google’s already there. (Sorry, Sumner.) If “King of ALL Media,” however, means the company that creates, produces, and monetizes all media, forget it.

* Traditional media content–journalism, linear storytelling (in TV and movies), music, talk shows, comedy–is not going away. Google currently does not produce traditional media content, and won’t unless it radically changes its business. What Google does do–extremely well–is organize, distribute and aggregate media. As a result, it is a major threat to traditional media distributors, but not (in most cases) to media creators. (For the purposes of this debate, I’m going to assume that to be “King of All Media” one can’t just be a distributor).

Yahoo oneSearch

WAP Review does a deep-dive into the service. “Currently oneSearch is only officially available in the US, although I think that if you use the full url of us.m.yahoo.com/p/search it may be reachable worldwide – although local search results will only be returned for US locations. I applaud Yahoo trying an innovative and generally successful approach to mobile search. Google needs to look out, if Yahoo can address their local search failings promptly mobile search will have a new leader.”

TECH TALK: India’s Challenges: Atanu Dey

The future of India and Indian policy is important because we are living in India. A few years ago, I had remarked in one of my Tech Talks that one could sense a visible change of attitude around people were optimistic that tomorrow will be better than today. While at least some of that optimism remains, it is being tempered with the harsh reality that the politics and economics of what needs to be happening in India are just not right. The solution does not lie in replacing one party in government with another. Give people power and its shocking what they are capable of doing with it. Armed with a little knowledge, a large percentage of Indian politicians can be quite dangerous for the future of India. I do not have a solution on hand, but the problem is important enough that we all need to think hard about it. After all, we all intend to be around in tomorrow’s India.

One starting point is by reading and thinking over what people like Atanu Dey (my colleague) have to say. I will reproduce two of Atanu’s recent blog posts. The first one lays out the challenge ahead of policy makers:

We live in cities, engage in non-agricultural work, and earn far more than what the average Indian earns. The vast majority of Indians live in villages, and eek out a meager existence from agricultural related labor. We tend to forget the fact that our economic prosperity and our lives in urban India are correlated. Therefore if the goal is Indias economic prosperity, somehow the 700 million living in some 600,000 villages of India have to have the same option of living and working in urban India on jobs in non-agricultural sectors.

Do we want the reality of todays India to persist into the future, a generation or two hence? Or do we want a future where the majority of Indians are urbanized and are engaged in highly productive non-agricultural sectors? We can choose, and having chosen, we can actually make that future happen.

I think it is fair to assume a broad consensus on that development is a good thing. Of course, development and economic growth are not the same thing. You can have one without the other. For a very materially rich society, development does not require economic growth. It is possible to appropriately channel resources towards development, an exercise in greater allocative efficiency if the resources are available in plenty. But in a materially poor society, merely changing the allocation of resources is not likely to be sufficient. There you have to have increased production, in addition to the problem of efficient allocation of what is produced. The US, for instance, has a per capita annual income of around $28,000. Extreme variance in incomes and wealth can be reduced with appropriate redistributive mechanisms. Contrast that with India. Yes, there are a lot of very poor people in India. Even perfectly distributing the national income leaves everyone pretty poor. The conclusion is hard to avoid: India needs economic growth for development.

Economic growth is both a cause and consequence of urbanization. The reason is simple. Cities are the engines of growth. The high population and population densities of cities reduce transaction costs. Services are cheaper (as compared to the same in rural areas) because infrastructure is less costly because of scale economies. That is, infrastructure have high fixed costs and investment in infrastructure is lumpy. The high aggregate demand and supply of infrastructure in urban areas makes lower prices possible.

So the logic so far: economic development of India requires economic growth. Cities are engines of growth because there is a bi-directional link between urbanization and growth. Therefore the rural people have to be urbanized for Indias development and growth. Every economy has followed that path which begins with agriculture being the main source of income for the majority of the population and ends with agricultural employment being a very small fraction of the total labor force.

In my considered opinion, the problem with Indias rural development has been that the focus has been on the development of rural areas, not rural people. The policy makers have been focusing on the wrong goal, that of village development. It is silly to attempt to develop 600,000 villages because it cannot be done. The future is deserted villages because people vote with their feet when they get the chance to move to a city. Only in very rich economies do people have the resources to live comfortably in villages. India cannot afford to live in villages; it is not that rich.

Tomorrow: Atanu Dey (continued)

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Indian Media’s Global Attention

India Knowledge@Wharton writes:

With the relaxation of the country’s foreign direct investment (FDI) rules, publications as diverse as Newsweek, Fortune, Time Out, Men’s Health and Auto Car have set up Indian operations in recent months. The Conde Nast group has come in through a 100% privately held subsidiary, and will launch its flagship Vogue next year. On the newspaper front, there is now company for the International Herald Tribune, which had come in two years ago to launch an identical locally printed version of its international edition (called a “facsimile edition”). The Independent of the U.K. tied up with Dainik Jagran, a leading Hindi-language newspaper publisher. These are just some of the new arrivals.

Why this sudden interest in Indian print media?

First, in contrast to the West, where in recent years the print media have been left bloodied by declining circulation and staff layoffs, India is adding millions of readers. The National Readership Survey 2006, an annual review by an autonomous division of the Audit Bureau of Circulations, said the entire Indian press had added seven million new readers in the year leading up to June 2006. The number of readers of dailies and magazines grew from 212 million to 216 million in the three years leading up to June 2006. The survey did not cover the string of niche titles that are regularly launched and whose collective readership estimates are unlisted, but considered sizeable. “There is still significant scope for growth, as 359 million people who can read and understand any language do not read any publication,” the report stated.

Facebook CEO Interview

Andy Kessler writes in a story from the Wall Street Journal about his interview with Mark Zuckerberg:

I dont get the sense Mr. Zuckerberg is a big fan of traditional media. He was famously photographed at a big media powwow wearing Adidas flip-flops. I snuck a quick glance down and noticed he still had them on. Actually, I dont have a TV but I do read newspapers. But how I read them is important. I dont pick up a physical newspaperIll get sent a link. The experience is very different, given to me by different people. What my friends sent to me or what other people think and send to me.

In effect, Facebook works in a similar way, only on a grand scale with software helping pull out relevant information. In the next iterations, youre going to see real stories being produced. These people went to this party and they did this the next day and then heres the discussion that was taking place off of this article in The Wall Street Journal. And these two people went to this party and they broke up the next day. Whatever, you can start weaving together real events into stories. As these start to approach being stories, we turn into a massive publisher. Twenty to 30 snippets of information or stories a day, thats like 300 million stories a day. It gets to a point where we are publishing more in a day than most other publications have in the history of their whole existence.

Mobile Content

MediaPost has an article by Steve Smith:

Likewise with phones, drilling for applications and WAP favorites, passing photos to one another and downloading music is just on the other side of the tipping point of convenience. The content is not that good to induce us to learn new habits — and the alternative, easier channels to the same information are just not that far away.

I think that mobile content would do well to get over itself. Let’s face it; having in-hand my headlines, email, games, MySpace, etc. just is not that important. Mobile data is convenient, which is different from important. Important is connecting with family and friends, which is why we learned to navigate phone interfaces to begin with, and why low-tech SMS is the mobile cash cow that mobile TV can only dream of becoming.

GPS and LBS

Tom Hume writes:

I’m wondering nowadays whether [GPS} actually provides a better means to do LBS, for lots of reasons:

1. There’s no per-lookup charge with GPS, cheapening its use and enabling a whole class of apps which would previously have been too expensive;
2. It’s consistent across networks, and more easily understood than network-based lookup. Can’t get a GPS signal? That’ll be all those tall buildings around you – see them now?
3. Pricing of the kit; it’s heading to that lovely near-zero point which cameras and MP3 playing kit have reached, whereupon it becomes a part of the standard build of every handset, and that’s that;
4. And finally – perhaps most importantly – with GPS, device owners control the process and own their own data: GPS doesn’t so obviously expose you to the idea that your network operator knows where you are, and will sell this information. Perhaps this will allay some of the privacy fears which network-based LBS encourages?

SME Software

Paul Kedrosky writes:

With 37signals’ launch today of Highrise, its small-business CRM product, I got to thinking about 37signals and the small & medium business market for software. One of the hoariest and most accepted bits of wisdom about the SMB market is that it sucks. Not that it’s small, because it demonstrably isn’t, but because the market is full of tiny companies who don’t purchase enough to justify the sales/marketing to get to them.

Enter 37signals. What Jason et al., have done well is to recognize that the path to profitable SMB sales is to become the default choice of a new generation of companies. Their Basecamp, Backpack, and, now, Highrise, are part of a suite of hosted tools that are near-ubiquitous at startups, not just because they’re well done, but because they are what everyone else is using. Yes, they’re hosted, and yes they’re simple, but it helps to be everywhere in a self-referencing niche too.