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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tolerance For Digital Ephemera

Bruce Schneier, the noted digital security expert writes that today we chat in e-mail, over SMS and IM, and on social networking websites like Facebook, MySpace, and LiveJournal. We blog and we Twitter.
Noting that ephemeral conversations are becoming a taboo in government circles at the highest levels, he points out that conversation is not the same thing as correspondence.Today's mobile converged device is more likely to run software considerably more advanced and versatile than desktop systems just 10 years ago. That versatility is an enemy of security is granted,given that it turns the underlying security architecture on its head. No doubt, it’s also a myth that communications are encrypted from end to end.

Lets look beyond this. As Bruce notes, technology makes our conversations less ephemeral, we need laws to step in and safeguard ephemeral conversation. We need a comprehensive data privacy law, protecting our data and communications regardless of where it is stored or how it is processed.

Commenting on the ban on Blackberry usage for the US president elect ,he highlights that with the Internet the younger generation chats digitally, and the older generation treats those chats as written correspondence. Until our CEOs blog, our Congressmen Twitter, and our world leaders send each other LOLcats – until we have a Presidential election where both candidates have a complete history on social networking sites from before they were teenagers– we aren't fully an information age society.

Intense efforts by mobile operators to increase their data subscribers in order to drive higher average revenues per user (ARPU), resulting in higher handset subsidies compared to traditional handsets.

The widespread usage and penetration is further aided by the fact that
• Lower component costs have enabled availability of more affordable smartphone devices
• The frenzied consumer appetite for mobile applications such as traditional Internet
access, wireless email, GPS applications, and gaming.

Within the next three – four years, analysts estimate that we are likely to see around 40% smartphone penetration in North America and in Western Europe. With all these happenings, I can’t agree more with Bruce Schneier’s view that the people in the younger side of the internet generation gap need not be necessarily operating under the rules written by the older side and lets try and make sure that it does not take another generation before society's tolerance for digital ephemera changes.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Amazon Kindle : Gaining Steam

Jason Perlow writes , to wipe out the cost of the Kindle completely, you have to buy and read six books per month to wipe out the Kindle’s cost over the course of one year. Oprah's new favourite seems to be picking steam. Reports suggest that Oprah helped in the dramatic increase in the Kindle search traffic.

Kari Sullivan, a Kindle owner notes that the Kindle helps her make better choices. Jason adds,

"for ordinary readers, it would seem that unless the convenience factor of the Kindle currently outweighs its costs, the Kindle is not a huge value proposition for your average consumer today. His proposition : if its cost were to drop approximately in half – say, between the 3 and 4 book per month level — at around $200 per unit – then we might start seeing greater e-book adoption by a larger segment of the population. At the two books per month level, it’s going to need to cost around $125.00 or $150.00 or so".

Here comes the recent announcement is that Google is planning to launch a digital media access device,which will start by selling online access to copyrighted, out-of-print books, and newer books could be available for sale if authors and/or publishers allow Google to sell them. The eBook market is getting more interesting though Google access device details are still awaited.

As I see it, the Kindle is definitely a big move for both the publishers and the readers. It is clearly as impactful as the iPod and a big catalyst of change in the market. Kindle is a real necessity for those :

A. Who travel few hours every working day using public transport

B. People who do business travel often

C. Who read at a minimum a full book a week

D. Class of people who like using a eReader while enjoying freebies like the internet access

My final thought is that eventually there may be a convergence of devices like GPS and Kindle (not the smartphone though - as it would be difficult to hold a phone that big and it would be aesthetically unappealing).

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sad Happenings In The Valley

Barely within a few miles from where I work, comes this news of gruesome murder. Layoffs are getting more common in the valley and more disturbing news on the layoffs kept coming the whole week. Both the enterprise focused and consumer focused organizations are getting affected. The San Jose Mercury News reports that Jing Hua Wu, after being laid off the previous day from his job at Siport, a fabless digital radio semiconductor startup in Santa Clara, came back to the office on Friday afternoon with a gun and killed three people. Sid Agrawal, the company’s CEO, and Brian Pugh, VP Operations, were killed along with one other as yet unidentified woman. The report adds, Wu has since been arrested.As Mike says this is a sad day in the valley. Our heart goes out to the families of the victims.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Technology Triumph

Barack Obama's victory creates historic global demand for web content. In the US, almost everyone talks about how Obama managed his campaign in an extraordinary way in the last eighteen months. I first heard face-to-face the impressive strategy behind Barack Obama’s social networking leverage from his web strategists and advisors in the forbes leadership network last month in the valley – particularly the part where they focused on first building the community and how the money raising mechanism got fired up in the primaries. Jeremiah Owyang captures details of the momentum that the campaign gained with the social networks. It is common knowledge that the campaign had been heavily leveraging the web platform in very many sophisticated ways. The campaign spectacularly succeeded in integrating political infrastructure with the web infrastructure that they managed to create. A peer-to-peer, bottoms up campaign seemed to be the strategy that finally delivered results. Volunteer participation, feedback synthesis and citizen vote drives were successfully brought out in massive scale hithertho unknown with the web platform. The campaign heavily shaped by the power of social networks and internet energized the youth power in unimaginable ways signifying the triumph of technology power. Obama's online success outclassed his opponents and there were 150,000 or so campaign-related events over the course of the campaign, aided by more than 35,000 groups related by affinities like geographical proximity and shared pop-cultural interests. With 1.5 million accounts Obama campaign raised a record-breaking $600 million in contributions from more than three million people, many of whom donated through the web. That reflected in building record war chest of contributions to the campaign – and in many ways engaging the millennials in unknown ways. It is now clear that the young voted for him in droves. It is the conventional view that IT is Business. Now comes an extension, IT shall also become almost the nerve center for presidential campaigns. With all this the new president elect has a big job ahead.

Update : The Internet As A Force In Politics: “Obama Would Not Have Won Without The Internet” .”The Internet played a disruptive role in the 2008 election in the same way television played a disruptive role in the 1960 election of John F. Kennedy to president. Neither medium was new in the respective elections, but both “came of age” and swung the election towards the winning candidate”.

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

RIP : Risk Taking, Good Logic & Instincts

While the fabled "RIP Good Times" Sequoia presentation made a huge impact, Benchmark and few others followed. Look at John Doer's dull advice to startups. The irony is that these forceful negativity helps create the very downturn that venture capitalists are warning their companies to defend themselves against, perpetuating a sort of vicious cycle downward. Sequoia highlighted Salesforce.com Vs Siebel performance between 2000-2005 in their presentation as a sign of almost tracking financial indicators. Today's SF chronicle has a nice interview with Marc Benioff where he refers to the Sequoia slides and has something very interesting to say - how he approached Sequoia thrice to raise capital and failed all the three times! I agree with Marc and my feelings are with him - when it comes to enterprise software in Marc's own words,

"During the last cycle, we were one of the companies that was very successful. Sequoia and every other venture capital firm turned us down for funding. We raised $65 million to start Salesforce.com almost entirely on our own from individuals, from myself, from Larry Ellison and from others. And those VCs didn't - they never helped us. Those venture capitalists, in many times they A. overreact; and B. get it wrong.When I saw that presentation, I think that you have to separate the wheat from the chaff on that. Which is that yes, we're in difficult times, but in difficult times, some companies will struggle but others will be very successful and you have to decide if you're going to be one of those companies"

As I see it, we need more daring and courageous approach based on a more balanced perspective here. Take contrarian approaches-like what Warren Buffet is demonstrating -"A simple rule dictates my buying: Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful". The uncertainty is also an opportunity for some to breakout into a success spiral in the backdrop of negative sentiments. Therein likes the key for the turnaround and make good of this troubled times.

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