Mobile OS Vision

Christian Lindholm writes:

We are at a stage where a new mobile operating system should be created. One that enables the creation of a cheap monoblock enabling best of breed convergence of mobility and computing. I envision an OS that morphs to accommodate both moving use and mobile use. Focused use and multi-tasking. I call it a Transformer OS.

One way to think of this is to think of RSS in terms of comand. Each command or feature in the user experience is wrapped into a meta language of context. This language of context will drive the use cases and the rendering. We do not only separate funtion and presentation we make function and context interdependant.

With such an operating system we would tear down classic application boundaries: like calling, camera, idle, and calendar into a fluid dynamic environment. The operating system is broader than the footprint of the silicon. It extends into the environment and the network.

Future of Internet Video

Paul Kedrosky has an excerpt from a Forrester report: “Like a flightless bird, the paid video download market in its current evolutionary state will go the way of the dodo, despite the fast growth and the millions being spent today. Television and cable networks will shift the bulk of paid downloading to ad-supported streams where they have control of ads and effective audience measurement. The movie studios, whose content only makes up a fraction of todays paid downloads, will put their weight behind subscription models that imitate premium cable channel services. Whats left of the paid download market will then evolve into IP-delivered video on demand that has more in common with traditional pay-per-view than online download business models today.”

The Widget Economy

David Hornik writes:

[These] companies are going to face a serious challenge when it comes to monetizing their traffic. That challenge is a byproduct of their precarious relationship with the “host” services to which they attach. To the extent those relationships are symbiotic, the combined organism will thrive. However, to the extent those relationships are, in fact, parasitic, the host will need to shed the parasite in the name of survival.

When determining if a widget relationship is symbiotic or parasitic, it makes sense to look at a few different factors. The most widely acknowledged, of course, is monetization. If a widget is doing nothing to monetize its host’s traffic (e.g., when Flickr photos are served into MySpace), it might be viewed as neutral or perhaps symbiotic for freely increasing the functionality of the hosts site. If a widget is seeking to monetize the host’s viewers (e.g., ads or branding on a voicemail widget), the host may view that widget as parasitic. This relationship, of course, assuming there is a zero sum game of monetizable attention on any given host service, therefore the fact that a widget is monetizing some of that attention means the host has lost that revenue opportunity in return.

Mobiles and Social Networks

Reuters writes:

Finding friends and meeting new ones could become even more important uses for global positioning chips than getting from A to B as the technology spreads to cellphones in coming years.

Combined with mobile Internet access, GPS (global positioning system) is seen in the industry as adding a new dimension to social networking that could also have implications for the media business.

Designing for the Poor

WSJ writes: When you design products for the poor, what must you keep in mind?

Mr. Fisher: The No. 1 items will be money-making devices, and money-saving ones only if they’re extremely cheap. You need something easy to maintain without many tools, and something that can be easily transported, because the poor live in remote areas. It can’t require a pickup truck. Human powered — maybe no petrol and no electricity. It has to be energy efficient. You’re dealing with 80 watts of human power.

Mr. Polak: You have a whole different range of affordability when you’re surviving on a dollar a day. We see it a little differently on quality versus affordability. People will pick a product that only lasts two years if it’s cheap. But some of the design principles are the same [as when you design for the rich] — you look at a tool and identify the key contributors to cost and look at ways to design around them.

TECH TALK: Indias Digital Infrastructure: Network Computing Devices

So, we are in a funny situation in India in the context of the Internet. The mobile industry has plenty of devices but very few services. The PC industry has plenty of services but very few devices. As such, the real benefits of the Internet both for consumers and businesses arent easily visible and accessible. For urban consumers, the Internet can help ease lifes daily inconveniences. For rural consumers, the Internet can help increase incomes by providing access to information and markets. For businesses, the Internet can accelerate information flows and speed transactions creating real-time enterprises. And yet, for all practical purposes, the Internet has still not become an integral part of Indian lives. What needs to change?

For the PC Internet to take off, we need to get computing devices into Indian homes connected to the Internet cloud via DSL, cable or wireless broadband networks. (Given the regulatory realities and technical challenges, the best near-term bet is on DSL offered by the two government-owned telcos, MTNL in Mumbai and Delhi, and BSNL everywhere else.)

These computing devices need to be affordable and manageable just like mobiles phones. To make this happen, we need to think of thin clients or network computers. These are computers which will strip away the costs and complexity of todays desktops, without compromising on performance. At a sub-$100 (Rs 4,000 or so) price point, they will be affordable for the large Indian middle class. People will not have to make do with a few minutes of cybercafe usage every once in a while they will have a computer in their home for use whenever they want. This is what will make computing and the Internet a utility in their lives.

The $100 upfront cost will be complemented by a $10-12 monthly (about Rs 400-500) charge for connectivity and basic software and content services. The server infrastructure to complement the thin client will be at the telco exchange and thus, there will be no incremental cost for the last-mile bandwidth used. Besides the underlying operating system to provide the desktop, video and other bandwidth-intensive services can be co-located at these mini-Grids in telco exchanges to ensure fast access.

In fact, the network computing model also creates interesting opportunities for additional revenue through value-added services. The desktop could be made up of a collection of icons from different commercial entities each paying for the privilege of offering customers one-click access to their websites. One can think of this as analogous to the value-added services that exist on mobiles and account for 5-10% of revenues for the mobile companies.

For the network computing model to become a reality, MTNL and BSNL need to think of themselves as more than mere pipe providers and think of themselves as computing service providers. In doing so, they will resuscitate their landline business and create the computing infrastructure for PC-based Internet services to thrive. By leveraging their billing relationship with customers, they will also share in the upside as customers do transactions.

If MTNL and BSNL do not want to do this, they should, at the very least, allow BVNOs (Broadband Virtual Network Operators) to use their network to offer services in return for carriage charges. Either way, we need 50 million Indian households to experience the joys of home computing in the next five years.

Tomorrow: Mobile Data Services

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