Medical Data

Fred Wilson writes:

Yesterday I attended a really great event put on by Esther Dyson’s Release 1.0. It was called the Personal Health Information Workshop and it featured a bunch of interesting people and companies working on the problem of unleashing medical data so that it can be used by consumers and physicians to improve our collective health and reduce the costs of providing health care.

I came away from the event convinced that we are on the cusp of a revolution in the way medical information is collected, shared, and used that will mirror the revolutions we have witnessed in fnancial and marketing data.

My bet is that medical data is about to start moving out of the hospitals, doctors offices, and health care plans, into the hands of consumer and the intermediaries they authorize to handle their data for them. This is a big opportunity.

BitTorrent’s Revolution

WSJ writes:

Last week BitTorrent Inc. landed $8.75 million in venture capital financing.

So why might this all change our world? Simply put, suddenly anyone can be a broadcaster. No longer do you need a network to get your product out. Just compress your show into a computer file, add the BitTorrent protocol, and put it on the Net. Users just click on a link and download it to watch when they want. Ashwin Navin, chief operating officer of BitTorrent Inc., says he’s already persuaded media companies to sign up. He sees BitTorrent spawning lots of new TV programs as small and big producers alike make use of its low-cost distribution channel. “This tool empowers the creative folks, especially those that don’t want to pitch their idea for years before they get their big break.”

Mark Pesce, a lecturer in interactive media at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School, has no doubt it’s going to change not just the way TV is distributed, but how TV programming is made. “BitTorrent is here to stay,” he told a conference of filmmakers in Montreal last month, “and what it does changes everything about everything in the creative industries.”

$100 Laptop Odds

Marc Wagner writes:

If you have spent any time at all in industry, you’ve heard of the old joke “We’ll take a loss and make it up on volume.” That’s exactly what Mr. Negroponte and his sponsors are gambling on. Is it a safe gamble? I don’t know.

Mr. Negroponte is counting in shipping 150 MILLION units a year by 2007. I would be surprised if any OEM has ever shipped even 10 million of any single model of any PC ever let alone 150 million. To be sure, shipping this many Linux laptops in a single year would swamp anything Microsoft (or any other IT vendor) has ever done single-handedly. Are you listening Bill?

The scale of Mr. Negroponte’s vision is so grand that his sponsors would be foolish not to tap into it even if only 1% of that volume is ever attained. Still, like Microsoft, Mr. Negroponte’s sponsors are obligated to their stockholders they too are in it for the money. The opportunity to rub Bill Gates’ face in the mud is only gravy.

What exactly is Mr. Negroponte dependent upon to make his vision a reality?

Faster Networks

The New York Times writes:

It has been almost two decades since Sun Microsystems pioneered the slogan “the network is the computer.” Today, after many false starts, that idea is a reality.

Along with relentless technical advances, one force behind this change has been the billions of dollars spent by telecom companies on fiber-optic lines before the end of the tech boom. That splurge was a factor in driving many of those companies into bankruptcy, but also helped reduce the cost of transmitting data.

For decades increases in the speeds of computer networks trailed the exponentially accelerating speed of microprocessor chips. Now the balance between the power of computer processing and networking has fundamentally reversed, and the rapid rise of transmission speeds is beginning to have a revolutionary impact on how computers are used and what they can do.

“That box of things that used to be contained inside of your PC now gets spread out literally on a global basis,” said Mike Volpi, a senior vice president at Cisco Systems, the largest networking company in the world. The changes are taking place both at the highest end of the supercomputing world and just as swiftly in the consumer World Wide Web.

“Can you blow up the computer machine room and spread it over the surface of the planet?” Mr. Smarr said. “This is really happening.”

Mobiles as Consumer Electronics

Russell Beattie writes about the transition that mobile manufacturers will have to make:

For the past several years when you thought of a getting a mobile phone, you went to the company that made the best mobile phones and that was Nokia. They had the best quality in sound, the best UI, and the nicest physical phone design. Now consumers are starting to look at buying a mobile phone based on other factors besides whether or not its a good phone, and this is where Nokia and Moto are going to start having trouble. Look at the luke-warm reception of the Moto iTunes phone and the Nokia 3250 compared to the wow-factor from people who talk about the Walkman phone. Sony knows how to create a great piece of consumer electronics – in fact, you could argue that they invented the category – Nokia and Moto and LG and Audiovox and all those know how to make great phones, now will they be able to make the leap?

This is only going to get worse as communications starts to take a back seat to other functionality. People have their phones with them and turned on 24 hours a day, yet the amount of time they spend actually using these devices is a lot less. It goes back to that foreground/background way of looking at the handsets. Consumers are going to want to take advantage of this little computer and entertainment device they have with them more and more. Its sitting in their pocket, it might as well be useful.

TECH TALK: Web 2.0: Conference Highlights (Part 2)

This is what Michael Parekh had to say about the explosion of services:

It’s becoming clearer to many more that the traditional ways that mainstream consumers have used PC software and today’s relatively static Internet services is about to change.

We’re entering the blizzard stage of Web 2.0 companies and services.

One has only to look at the diversity of companies introducing new products and services (good lists here at Buzzmachine) to see that both early adopters geeks like myself and mainstream internet users are about to be seeing a flood of cool things they can be doing to make their lives easier, better, more fun, less stressful, and generally cooler and hipper.

The important thing is that we’re going from a world where we may have half a dozen to a dozen such services that we put up with this from today to literally hundreds, if not thousands over the next few years.

this time we’re going from linear growth to growth curves that are more exponential and combinatorial. The last is key because the increasing “mix and match” interoperability of the various consumer web services. Your Flickr feeds can be used in your blog, your favorite social networks, your instant messaging services etc.

Consider this, in the ten years that we’ve had the wonderful pleasure of using Yahoo!, a little more than 10% of their approximately 400 million global unique users subscribe to the personalization offered by My Yahoo! One wonders how many of those 40 million My Yahoo! users actively change their personalization settings after setting it up for the first time.

The average mainstream user (read your/my mom, non-geek friend or relative) will NOT put up with the complexity of adding/learning/managing and then personalizing all these services.

We’re at the “invent it and see if it sticks” phase of this second cycle of the commercial web, now increasingly infected with “let’s fund it/invest it/and quickly flip it” to the next Big Internet and/or Incumbent company that is hungry to catch up with the Web 2.0 hype and technological realities.

We’re at the “we know it’s just a feature, but maybe we can build a company and business model around it”, stage (again!), and if not, we can always flip it to one of the above-mentioned companies who need these features (aka Point Solutions) for their product and/ service suites.

So, how to go about developing all the Web 2.0 services? Dan Farber wrote about what Jason Fried of 37signals had to say:

Traditional software development is expensive, resource-intensive, and born of a Cold War mentality, Fried said. His advice is to “think about one downing, instead of one upping, and underdoing competitors”beating them with less.
According to Fried, in the era of lightweight apps and simple products you need less money, people, time, abstractions and software.

Fried believes that money mostly buys salaries and you only need three peoplea designer, programmer and utility player, which he calls a “sweeper.” The feature set should be scaled for the headcount. Having less time is also an advantage. “You spend time in unproductive meetings and overanalyzing the product. Less time forces you to spend less time on better things,” Fried said.

He suggested 30 hours per week per person, which “forces you into building better products and being creative with your time.” And, if you have less time, you have less time to think about abstractions, such as functional specification documents, which Fried characterized as a waste of time. “Instead, build the product and start from the user interface customer experience first; then wrap with the technology,” Fried said. “The interface screens are the functional specification.”

Tomorrow: Conference Highlights (continued)

Continue reading TECH TALK: Web 2.0: Conference Highlights (Part 2)