IPTV Emergence

Unwired points ot comments by Philip Swann: “With Internet TV, television will go from being a convenience store to a giant supermarket. The viewer will scan the aisles for interesting programming, whether it’s from a well-known network or a start-up TV service based in someone’s garage in Silicon Valley. Much like today’s World Wide Web, Internet TV will give an equal opportunity to the big and the small. Of course, the established media will always have an advantage due to marketing muscle and recognition factor. But they will have to work harder to keep their spot in the viewer’s mind.”

Barron’s on Comcast

Barron’s writes in its cover story:

As a multiyear, $38 billion makeover of its vast fiberoptic network heads toward completion, Comcast is finally rolling out long-promised services: Internet-based telephony, TiVo-like digital video recorders, high-definition local and cable channels, video on demand with thousands of hours of programming, and a revitalized, content-driven broadband Internet service. Says CEO Brian Roberts: “Watching cable is a completely different experience than it was even 12 months ago.”

Microsoft Hardware

Bob Cringely speculates about the future:

Take a long look at xBox development, the evolving PC and consumer electronics markets, and Microsoft’s own need for revenue growth, and figure what that means for the xBox 3, which should appear around the end of this decade. My analysis suggests that xBox 3 will be a game system that’s also a media receiver and recorder and a desktop workstation. Not that you’d use one box for all three things, but that you’d buy three essentially identical boxes and use them for all three functions. And of course you’d buy extra units for kids and spare TVs, etc. In short, xBox 3 will be Microsoft’s effort to extend its dominance of the PC software industry into dominance of the PC hardware, game, and electronic entertainment industries. At that point, even mighty Dell goes down.

With its continual need for more revenue, Microsoft will by then have already finished its destruction of the world software market, will have sucked all the profit out of the world hardware market, and will discard its hardware OEMs like HP and Dell and compete with them head-to-head. And they’ll be doing the same for DVDs, TVs — even mobile phones. Of course, part of the plan is for all the content coming to those devices to throw off little revenue streams to Microsoft, too. And the software that holds it all together will be rented, rather than owned or even traditionally licensed. This would give Microsoft both the deterministic revenue stream it covets and the leverage of being able to threaten to turn off the tap and thereby maintain control over, well, all of us. It will be an effective five to 10 percent tax on global income that suddenly appears one day, and academics will call it a natural monopoly.

Argentina’s Comeback

Another emerging market is soaring. The New York Times writes:

Three years after Argentina declared a record debt default of more than $100 billion, the largest in history, the apocalypse has not arrived. Instead, the economy has grown by 8 percent for two consecutive years, exports have zoomed, the currency is stable, investors are gradually returning and unemployment has eased from record highs – all without a debt settlement or the standard measures required by the International Monetary Fund for its approval.

Argentina’s recovery has been undeniable, and it has been achieved at least in part by ignoring and even defying economic and political orthodoxy. Rather than moving to immediately satisfy bondholders, private banks and the I.M.F., as other developing countries have done in less severe crises, the Peronist-led government chose to stimulate internal consumption first and told creditors to get in line with everyone else.

“This is a remarkable historical event, one that challenges 25 years of failed policies,” said Mark Weisbrot, an economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a liberal research group in Washington. “While other countries are just limping along, Argentina is experiencing very healthy growth with no sign that it is unsustainable, and they’ve done it without having to make any concessions to get foreign capital inflows.”

IBM’s Search Strategy

The New York Times writes:

I.B.M. [recently] released OmniFind, the first program to take advantage of its new strategy for solving search problems. This approach, which it calls unstructured information management architecture, or UIMA, will, according to I.B.M., lead to a third generation in the ability to retrieve computerized data. The first generation, according to this scheme, is simple keyword match – finding all documents that contain a certain name or address. This is all most desktop search systems can do – or need to do, because you’re mainly looking for an e-mail message or memorandum you already know is there. The next generation is the Web-based search now best performed by Google, which uses keywords and many other indicators to match a query to a list of sites.

I.B.M. says that its tools will make possible a further search approach, that of “discovery systems” that will extract the underlying meaning from stored material no matter how it is structured (databases, e-mail files, audio recordings, pictures or video files) or even what language it is in. The specific means for doing so involve steps that will raise suspicions among many computer veterans. These include “natural language processing,” computerized translation of foreign languages and other efforts that have broken the hearts of artificial-intelligence researchers through the years. But the combination of ever-faster computers and ever-evolving programming allowed the systems I saw to succeed at tasks that have beaten their predecessors.

Mr. Ciccolo, the search strategist, said that in a way his team was trying to match – and reverse – what Google has achieved. “As Google use became widespread, people began asking why it was so much easier to find material on the external Web than it was on their own computers or in their company’s Web sites,” he said. “Google sets a very high standard for that Web. We would like to set the next standard, so that people will find it so easy to do things at work that they’ll wonder why they can’t do them on the Internet.”

TECH TALK: Best of Tech Talk 2004: India and Bharat

The year show one of the biggest surprises in India in recent times: the incumbent BJP-led government which built its campaign around India Shining lost to a Congress-led coalition which focused on the common man. An economist, Dr. Manmohan Singh, became Indias new Prime Minister. Together with Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, they are working to ensure that the benefits of reforms reach rural India also. The challenges for India are many. Time is short. How will Indias development take place?

As India Develops (Mar 2004): Indias development opens up many opportunities. Here, I will focus on seven key areas that entrepreneurs can seek to target in the coming years. While some of these ideas may be specific to the urban or rural context, others can work across both. The two things common to all of them are that they require much less capital than the build-out of core infrastructure, and they need new, innovative ideas. If we can make these ideas work in India, we could also translate them to many of the other emerging markets as they develop. The seven areas are: Education, Microfinance, Market Access, Information Access, ICT, Energy and Distribution HubsFor the most part, the focus [needs to be] on two sectors which can be the twin engines for growth: the small- and medium-sized enterprises of India, and rural IndiaAs we look ahead, what will be the other catalysing factors to accelerate Indias development? Think Vision and Will, Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

An Agenda for the Next Government (May 2004): After a popular, peaceful rebellion by the ballot, India has a new government at the Centre. The victory of the Congress and its allies was unexpected it was a surprise even for the victors. It just goes to show how much the media and we people in urban India are out-of-step with the opinion of the majority. So, after eight years in the political wilderness, the Congress returns to power and Vajpayee leaves the helm of India after six-and-a-half years. The election results will cause a lot of soul-searching across the Indian political spectrum. Even as the post-mortem takes place, it is time for a new government to take over. This column looks at the challenges for the new leadership: Governance, Development, TechnologyIrrespective of what party or candidate we voted for, it is for us to ensure that we get the governance we need to take India forward faster. Bharat and India are but two sides of the same coin. Without one, there is no other. The hopes of many now rest with a few.

I also took a couple of journeys during the year one through Rajasthan, and another to From Delhi ot Dehradhun by train (en route to Mussoorie for a talk). Journeys give me time to think more about India.

Rajasthan Ruminations (Feb 2004): In many ways, Rajasthans story is that of India a glorious past, but a future handicapped by the short-sighted policies of our own leaders. The problems are complex, but at their core, there are a few. India is a country whose spirit has, for a long time, been held hostage by its own politicians and bureaucrats. There are signs of change, but it is coming very slowly. And unless we act quickly, another generation will have lost an opportunity for a better tomorrow To bring back the glorious era of the past, Rajasthan and Rural India needs the right mix of governance , entrepreneurship and technology to put it on the road to economic development and prosperity.

A Train Journey (Jun 2004): Sitting in the train, I couldnt help thinking that access to computing could be that disruptive innovation which transforms lives in the Indian countryside not just in rural India, but also for the middle and bottom of the pyramid in urban and semi-urban India. From education to healthcare, for families and students, from content to commerce, for shopkeepers and enterprises the computer is the digital hand that can potentially remake India. It can provide for efficient operations, create opportunities, increase options and open new windows to the future. How can we make the third revolution happen in the next five years to open windows for hundreds of millions of Indians to the future? That is what occupied my thoughts as dusk turned to night and we made our way to the foothills of Mussoorie.

Tomorrow: Entrepreneurship

Continue reading TECH TALK: Best of Tech Talk 2004: India and Bharat