Digital TV in Rural India

WSJ writes:

Relying on signals transmitted from a satellite to a receiving dish and from there to a set-top signal-decoding box, rather than through cables, digital TV can transmit anywhere, delivering more channels and better picture quality.

“Digital TV is going to change the dynamics of the Indian TV marketplace,” says Vivek Couto of Media Partners Asia, a consultancy in Hong Kong, who sees a looming commercial battle between digital and cable companies.

Mr. Couto expects India to have 12 million paying subscribers to digital TV by 2015 — a huge jump from just 400,000 currently — generating 45 billion rupees, or about $1 billion, in annual revenue. Cable connections are expected to exceed 70 million by then, he says.

There is pent-up demand for such service. India is the world’s third-largest television market with 108 million TV-equipped households, a number that is growing by about nine million a year. But that still leaves half of all Indian households without a television set. Moreover, many existing TVs are old 14-inch (35-centimeter) black-and-white models that can’t receive some satellite channels via cable, even if cable operators were willing to hook up remote areas for new subscribers.

Internet’s Next Users

ZDNet writes about what Jonathan Schwartz had to say recently:

The threat to PCs is twofold. Not only are services moving to the network, Schwartz said, but PCs won’t be the way people use those services–particularly in poorer areas of the world that have risen higher up Sun’s corporate priority list. Instead, that access will come through mobile phones.

“The majority of the world will first experience the Internet through their handset,” Schwartz said.

When it comes to aiding developing regions’ digital development, “Our collective generation believes the desktop PC is the most important thing to give to people. I don’t buy that. The most important thing to give is access to the Internet.”

Tim O’Reilly

Wired profiles Tim O’Reilly, one of the originators of the Web 2.0 meme:

O’Reilly’s radar is legendary. It works on country roads and on the information sea. It told him there was a market for consumer-friendly computer manuals and that he could build a great business publishing them. It helped him understand the significance of the World Wide Web before there were browsers to surf it. And it led him to identify and proselytize technologies like peer-to-peer, syndication, and Wi-Fi before most people had even heard of them at all. As a result, “Tim O’Reilly’s radar” is kind of a catchphrase in the industry.

Yet O’Reilly himself has operated for years under the radar. Most nontechies, if they know him at all, know him by the eponymous name of his publishing -company. It has a 15 percent share of the $400 million -computer-book market but casts a much bigger shadow.

Advertising’s Holy Grail?

The Economist writes that “the holy grail of advertising is within reach.”

HALF the money I spend on advertising is wasted, John Wanamaker, the owner of America’s first big department store, allegedly said in the 1870s. The trouble is, I don’t know which half. It has been the advertising industry’s favourite witticism ever since. But it may expire soon, at least in the online world.

This week, Microsoft unveiled a new system for placing advertising hyperlinks on its MSN internet search site that could help it to close the gap with Google and Yahoo!, the two most popular search engines and the leaders in so-called paid-search or pay-per-click advertising. (MSN currently uses Yahoo!’s advertising technology.) The basic idea behind pay-per-click is that advertisers bid in an online auction for the right to have their link displayed next to the results for specific search termsused cars, for instance, or digital camerasand then pay only when a web surfer actually clicks on that link (hence pay-per-click). Since the consumer has already expressed intentfirst by typing in the search terms, then by choosing the advertiser’s linkhe is more likely to make a purchase. From the advertiser’s point of view, this reduces some of the waste that bothered Mr Wanamaker.

Platform Fever

Nicholas Carr writes:

Greg Gianforte, CEO of RightNow Technologies, a supplier of one of the leading software-as-a-service applications for managing customer service, thinks the “platform fetish,” as he puts it, is dangerous. He shared with me a brief essay he’s written that attacks platforms like Oracle’s Fusion, SAP’s NetWeaver, Microsoft’s .NET, and Salesforce.com’s AppExchange as either “global hegemony” strategies to “exercise total control over their customers computing environments” or “‘marketectures’ that exist purely to rationalize bad acquisitions.” Grand platforms, in his view, run counter to the real interests of corporate customers, who simply “need business solutions that actually help them compete and succeed in the real world.”

Ultimately, Gianforte believes, the on-demand utility model for IT delivery will combine with open-source software to render platforms irrelevant. As the underlying IT infrastructure becomes a commodity that users neither own nor care about, “the need to create a proprietary technology platform as a competitive differentiator” disappears. “MySQL replaces Oracle. Linux replaces Windows. TomCat and JBOSS replace Websphere and NetWeaver. Vendors that are still trying to differentiate themselves in these commodity businesses are clearly headed in the wrong direction. Yet that is exactly what platform vendors continue to do.”

TECH TALK: Web 2.0: Tim OReillys Views

Recent discussion was ignited by Tim OReillys Web 2.0 Meme Map. To summarise the ideas:

Strategic Positioning
* Web as Platform

User Positioning
* You control your own data

Core Competencies
* Services, not packaged software
* Architecture of participation
* Cost-effective scalability
* Remixable data source and data transformations
* Software above the level of a single device
* Harnessing collective intelligence

Other aspects of Web 2.0 as outlined in the meme map:
* An attitude, not technology
* The Long Tail
* Data as the Intel Inside
* Hackability
* The Perpetual Beta
* The Right to Remix: Some Rights Reserved
* Software that gets better the more people use it
* Emergent: User behaviour not predetermined
* Play
* Granular Addressability of Content
* Rich User Experience
* Small Pieces Loosely Joined (web as components)
* Trust Your Users

Examples of Web 2.0:
* Flickr and Del.icio.us: Tagging and Taxonomy
* Gmail, Google Maps and Ajax: Rich User Experiences
* PageRank, eBay Reputations, Amazon Reviews: User as Contributor
* Google AdSense: Customer Self-service enabling the Long Tail
* Blogs: Participation not Publishing
* Wikipedia: Radical Trust
* BitTorrent: Radical Decentralisation

Tim OReillys recent essay explores these themes in greater depth. One of the telling differences between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 can be seen in the approaches of Netscape and Google, as discussed by Tim OReilly:

If Netscape was the standard bearer for Web 1.0, Google is most certainly the standard bearer for Web 2.0, if only because their respective IPOs were defining events for each era. So let’s start with a comparison of these two companies and their positioning.

Netscape framed “the web as platform” in terms of the old software paradigm: their flagship product was the web browser, a desktop application, and their strategy was to use their dominance in the browser market to establish a market for high-priced server products. Control over standards for displaying content and applications in the browser would, in theory, give Netscape the kind of market power enjoyed by Microsoft in the PC market. Much like the “horseless carriage” framed the automobile as an extension of the familiar, Netscape promoted a “webtop” to replace the desktop, and planned to populate that webtop with information updates and applets pushed to the webtop by information providers who would purchase Netscape servers.

In the end, both web browsers and web servers turned out to be commodities, and value moved “up the stack” to services delivered over the web platform.
Google, by contrast, began its life as a native web application, never sold or packaged, but delivered as a service, with customers paying, directly or indirectly, for the use of that service. None of the trappings of the old software industry are present. No scheduled software releases, just continuous improvement. No licensing or sale, just usage. No porting to different platforms so that customers can run the software on their own equipment, just a massively scalable collection of commodity PCs running open source operating systems plus homegrown applications and utilities that no one outside the company ever gets to see.

At bottom, Google requires a competency that Netscape never needed: database management. Google isn’t just a collection of software tools, it’s a specialized database. Without the data, the tools are useless; without the software, the data is unmanageable. Software licensing and control over APIs–the lever of power in the previous era–is irrelevant because the software never need be distributed but only performed, and also because without the ability to collect and manage the data, the software is of little use. In fact, the value of the software is proportional to the scale and dynamism of the data it helps to manage.

Google’s service is not a server–though it is delivered by a massive collection of internet servers–nor a browser–though it is experienced by the user within the browser. Nor does its flagship search service even host the content that it enables users to find. Much like a phone call, which happens not just on the phones at either end of the call, but on the network in between, Google happens in the space between browser and search engine and destination content server, as an enabler or middleman between the user and his or her online experience.

Tomorrow: More Views

Continue reading TECH TALK: Web 2.0: Tim OReillys Views