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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