Daily Tsunamis

Atanu Dey writes about the “silent emergency” in which tens of thousands die everyday:

Yesterday 55,000 children died premature deaths, a few hundred million people didn’t have adequate housing, hundreds of millions were hungry. About half of all children in South Asia are malnourished. Poverty, a clear cause of malnourishment, is a also a consequence. It is a Silent Emergency.

We are a strange lot. We get on with our lives as if nothing is the matter with the world, when 10 million children die needlessly every year.

The advanced industrialized economies (the so-called “developed nations”) spend hundreds of billions of dollars bombing and killing hundreds of thousands–and spending trillions of dollars in arming themselves to the teeth–and noone bats an eyelid. It is a man-made calamity of global proportions. Then one Sunday morning, a natural event wipes out a few thousand people–almost a rounding-off error to the numbers invovled in the man-made calamity and everyone and his brother wakes up and runs around as if the sky is falling.

Why? Bounded rationality? Or as I see it, unbounded stupidity. Fifty-thousand dying each and every day is not news. Being essentially innumerates, we do not find statistics very useful. What we need is pictures of great devastation for entertainment and distraction. The pictures of tsunami-ravaged coastlines compel our attention unlike the numbers we read in the annual reports of global institutions such as the World Bank.


Adam Rifkin writes about the evolution in the software industry “from desktop applications running on single-machines that helped individuals with productivity through word processing and spreadsheets and email, to enterprise applications in corporate data centers that helped workgroups and companies with productivity through automating business processes… and now to collaborative applications available to anyone from anywhere on the Internet, leveraging an increasingly-connected and ever-faster world. The web is the platform that subsumes the others…The software platform of choice evolved from desktop operating systems, to enterprise operating systems, to what Tim O’Reilly calls the emergent Internet operating system.”

Glues for Ubiquitous Computing

Smart Mobs points to an article on Anti-Mega:

It seems to me that there are primarily 3 kinds of glue, depending on where they get their information from, and what they transform it into. All 3 are important, and needed for ubicomp.

physical to digital glue (‘inputs’):
CD ripper
DVD rippers
digital cameras

digital to physical glue (‘outputs’):
Airport Express
video senders

digital to digital glue:
web servers
UNIX-style pipes

Physical to physical glue is mainly cabling, or dual deck cassette recorders, and gradually dying out.

The biggest piece of glue has to be the Internet substrata on which pretty much everything else relies. This has been ubiquitised by wifi and mobile phones.

Enterprise RSS

MoonWatcher has a couple posts [1 2] discussing the trends:

2004 has been a big year for RSS and has seen this kind of ad-hoc information networking develop in the wild, fueled by the availability of aggregators like NewsGator, Bloglines, and NetNewsWire, publishing platforms like Movable Type, Blogger, and MSN Spaces, and feed search engines like Technorati, Feedster, and PubSub, plus the emergence of super-infomediaries like Robert Scoble and the widespread adoption of RSS itself.

The harder it is right now for people to accomplish their task of communicatingof routing informationthe more improvement Enterprise RSS has to offer. Given that much of the information that will flow through an Enterprise RSS system is informal nuggets of informationnot a white paper, but a pointer to an article; not a marketing campaign, but a note about a product incompatibilitymuch of the value of Enterprise RSS will be in replacing informal communication channels, that is, “watercooler talk” and information usually gleaned by “walking the factory floor”.

The people for whom these channels have ceased to exist are mobile, remote, and distrbuted. Many of them only come to corporate HQ once a quarter, and ravenously eat up all the tidbits of information they can scrounge. They’re the last to know about just about everything. But they’re the ones in front of the customers, and in the middle of the revenue stream: sales, professional services, and field support.

Aside from field sales reps and consultants, many workers work in remote or home offices and are similarly disconnected from HQ. Enterprise RSS can help integrate these people back into the information fabric of a company.

Qualcomm, China and WiMax

Unwired has an interview with Dave Mock. Excerpts:

Q: What are your predictions about Qualcomm and China? China has been testing the two leading 3G technologies along with a homegrown technology. Any thoughts on how it will all play out?
A: I think China will push TD-SCDMA into the market somehow, with the principle purpose of leveraging a bigger role in the industry. Whether it is successful or not probably doesnt matter as much as what it buys them. I think arguments of Qualcomms assertion of IPR in the standard are moot, as I dont see it as a significant driver of royalty for them. However it plays out, CDMA and WCDMA should still develop a significant presence.

Q: Speaking of Wi-Fi, do you think that Wi-Fi-enabled handsets will hurt the success of EV-DO and other 3G technologies, or increase usage of these networks (or both)?
A: I think Wi-Fi is shaping up to be a serious threat, and this is no surprise to anyone in Qualcomm. But I think it hurts Qualcomm less than the operators, who will lose control of the channel. Regional (and municipal) Wi-Fi deployments have the biggest chance of limiting the uptake of EV-DO, and pressuring service prices. Actually, Wi-Fi itself is not the true threat its the aggregation of hotspots and roaming agreements for WLANs that potentially could cut out EV-DO. But so far these efforts have failed.

Q: Should Qualcomm be frightened by WiMAX? And do you think the vendor will ultimately support WiMAX?
A: Qualcomm should be concerned about WiMAX and anything like it and they are. The standard itself will likely be stalled to no end as it is too broad right now, but some significant decisions will be made in 2005 that could put it on the fast track or send it out to be shot. Intels weight shouldnt be underestimated here, and I think theyll be successful in getting many in the industry to adopt the standard if it comes through in marketable form.

TECH TALK: Best of Tech Talk 2004: Entrepreneurship

I have been an entrepreneur now for over twelve years in India. This period has seen many ups and downs, and successes and failures. What is still alive for me is the passion to make a difference, to build tomorrows world. I have used many of my Tech Talk columns to share my experiences and learnings.

The Company (May 2004): If there is one thing common to most of us, it is that we are part of a Company. Be it a startup or an established one, be it small or big, be it a local one or a global multinational, the Company is where we spend the better part of our adult lives. It is the mechanism through which we effect change (or get changed), where we build relationships (friends and business), and through which we generate income. The Company is a unique institution that binds us all together In my first Company, the goal was to prove that I could build and manage a successful business. In my second Company, the goal is bigger and bolder I want to build something that will last and make a difference, and to do well and do good. Perhaps, they are all the same. Only time will tell. For me, the Company is an all-consuming love affair. It is an instrument of innovation, of bringing forth new ideas and revolutions into the world.

Crucicle Experiences (May 2004): A crucible experience [is] something which transforms us, and shakes and shapes our lives. We have all gone through these experiences in our life some of these experiences last a short time, others much longer. Either way, they help change us in some way. More often than not, these are intense and deeply personal experiences, which we would rather not talk about. Even thinking about these experiences makes us want to purge them from our memories. But whatever happens, they leave an indelible mark on us for the rest of our life As I think back on my life, there are at least three experiences which I can think helped change me. One was a brief incident at school, the second was my first semester at IIT, and the third was a two-year period of business failure after my return to India in 1992. Each incident, in its own way, made an impact. While time can diminish memories of the period, it cannot take away the reality of the occurrence.

A Tale of Two Summers (Aug 2004): My thinking this summer was very similar to what I had been thinking in 1994, when I wanted a new way to reach Indians worldwide. Then, I used the Internet as a distribution platform. Now, I needed to do the same. Then, I focused on delivering news and information to an audience with their own computers and connectivity. Now, I was seeking to deliver the basic utility of computing to an audience which had no computers and no connectivity In 1994, I was an entrepreneurial child. In the summer of 2004, I have grown. As I see the world ahead, these two summers ten years apart are uncannily joined together as I think about both the opportunities ahead. The moment in time that I stand today, linked by the rainbow of revolutions, makes the heart of an entrepreneur leap.

From Employee to Entrepreneur (Aug 2004): The decision to be or not be an entrepreneur is an intensely personal one. It is one which needs to be discussed and debated with family and friends. It depends on each one’s appetite for risk. There is never a right or wrong answer, just as there is never a right or wrong time. The fundamental decision has to come from withinI also believe that once the decision is made to leave the world of employment and move to the world of entrepreneurship, the parachute needs to be cut. If we know that there are always the options of going back to the safety and security of the other world, it will be much harder making the entrepreneurial option work. In a sense, as we close one door, other doors will open. But we have to close doors. We have to believe that making the new venture succeed must be akin to a life-and-death battle. One has to fight knowing that there is no looking or going back The most important thing for an entrepreneur is to build a mental model of the industry under consideration. The mental model takes time to form. It is more about internalising the external views, developments and trends. It is the mental model which creates the foundation for the business. Understanding the bigger picture takes time, but is extremely important because of the challenges we will face on a regular basis as we seek to build out our business. Change is continuous and constant. It is the mental model or the latticework of mental models that will help us navigate the terrain, not with maps but with a compass.

An Entrepreneur’s Growth Challenge (Sep 2004): It is the dream of every entrepreneur to build a company that is Built to Last. Yet, it is that rare exception of an enterprise that makes the transition from Good to Great. Like an unprotected fawn in the big and dangerous forest, a new business must navigate difficult and challenging terrain as it grows from its early days to maturity. One small mistake can sound the death-knell for the fledgling business. So, how can a business grow?

My Life as an Entrepreneur (Nov 2004): Based on my experiences, there are three things that Id like to tell people starting their own businesses: Dream Big, Use Failure as a Teacher, Combine Optimism with Realism.

Black Swans (Aug 2004): Close your eyes. Imagine a swan. White in colour. Imagine another swan. White in colour. Imagine one more swan. It is also white in colour. Go on. Imagine more swans. There is no colour other than white that we can think of. Now, paint one of the swans black. Something doesnt seem right. A black swan? Hard to imagine. Hard to contemplate. Its almost unreal. Whoever in the world has seen a black swan? This column is about the unthinkable and the unimaginable. It is also about the possible. It is about black swans I believe that the next technological black swan the next Google will come not from the developed markets but from the emerging markets.

Wish you all a Very Happy New Year.

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