Tuesday, October 20, 2009
"TheStreet’s Scott Mortiz is reporting that Google plans to sell a phone of its own. The device will supposedly run Android and will go on sale at retail stores this year. It would be an unlocked phone that would run on AT&T, T-Mobile, and most carriers around the world, and Google is supposedly undertaking the project to get more control over the integration of the device with its own services.
Moritz based his story on a report by analyst Ashok Kumar, who says he’s spoken with hardware companies involved in bringing the product to market. According to this GigaOM post, Kumar also says that Google will release a netbook (presumably running Chrome OS) next year, and that both the phone and the netbook will use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon CPU." [PCWorld]
Smartphones and netbooks are obviously the hottest markets in computing right now. Google's rumored netbook would technically be a 'smartbook' due to its ARM based Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and Chrome OS operating system. Regardless, there are plenty of reason's why Google would elect to join in on the hardware competition, but couple of problems come to mind that would seem to get in the way of such a decision.
First off, Google is a software and services company with the bulk of their revenue coming from advertising. They don't make hardware.
Second, even is Google did decide to make hardware, they would be upsetting their partners such as Motorola who have working with Google to promote their operating systems and services.
The last major hurdle that Google would face relates specifically to their rumored smartphone. The report claims that this Google phone (likely to be manufactured by HTC) would be an unlocked device, allowing it to be used on any network, and sold through retail rather than carriers. This present challenges to both consumers and wireless carriers. Smartphones are sold through carriers as a method of subsidizing the price device for potential buyers. Smartphones are expensive when sold unlocked, so Google would have to make their device affordable. Additionally, while consumers would be able to have their choice of wireless service carrier, the carriers would likely require an activation fee for the device.
There is still upside for a software and services company electing to make their own hardware, especially when it's open source. Google can ensure that there is tight integration between their software and services with the hardware for an optimized experience. A good example of this is Apple's iPhone, Apple software optimized for Apple hardware. The only obvious difference is that the operating system, software, and hardware is proprietary and part of a closed system, while Google is open source and already has numerous manufacturers running Android and Chrome on a variety of different devices.
Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how all of this plays out, especially between Google and their 'partners.'
Monday, October 19, 2009
Total revenues have two components: service revenues and equipment (or handset) revenues. Mobile service revenue is further divided into two segments: voice services and data services. In emerging markets, operators generally focus on voice services, whereas in developed markets the focus is on complementing voice services with a range of value added voice and data services.
Mobile operator 3 in the UK has announced it’s launching a tariff with an inclusive Spotify premium subscription which will be bundled with their first Android handset, the HTC Hero. Hutchison Whampoa, which owns 3, is an investor in Spotify. There were rumors of the move but this is now official confirmation.
The offer will come in at £35 ($57) a month over 24 months plus £99 ($161) for the Hero handset. That tariff includes unlimited use of Spotify Premium on both the handset and the owner’s PC for 2 years. That is a pretty good deal. The announcement hints at Spotify appearing on other handsets and, I daresay, other networks at some point – though the service has yet to launch at all in the US.
This is a great first step in the way telecoms will provide more than just a connection for their customers. Many carriers worldwide have expressed frustration is the amount of data being shared/sent by their customers, causing the broadband pipes to become sluggish for others. Rather than throttling connection speeds, integrate a comparable service that customers can utilize instead of their current habits.
The amount of multimedia and data being transmitted and received by users worldwide is obvious increasing rapidly...some say more rapidly than the speed in which telecoms can expand their network infrastructure. 4-generation networks such as WiMax and LTE will relieve some of this stress, but it is unclear how long it will take to provide an affordable solution for customers in all regions. By providing a carrier-approved method of multimedia consumption such as Spotify's streaming music service, both the customer and the telecom's needs can be satisfied.
A similar solution could be provided for video consumption. What immediately comes to mind is to include a premium Hulu subscription for television and an subsidized Netflix subscription for movies.
While such services are not as ideal as the current model of free and infinite consumption of multimedia, it is better than insisting users pay-per-byte on a monthly basis. Yuck.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Not only did balloonbrat Falcon Heene casually admit they 'did it for the show,' but this video of the UFO taking off demonstrates that there couldn't be any kids inside. It also demonstrates that the father is a world-class a-hole.
Clearly, that balloon didn't have a kid inside. It's just flying up way too fast and uncontrollably. If the kid would have been on the bottom part—weighing the balloon at its center—the balloon would have taken off in a straighter vertical line, and never tilted in the way it did.
Later in the video you can also see the bottom part on its own, after the authorities got the balloon. It looks like it was completely sealed from the start, so there's no way the kid could have got in there at any point after the construction of the balloon.
Look at the guy getting mad and shouting at his wife, as she fails to hold onto the balloon tether. As Adam Frucci just cleverly remarked a minute ago: 'I knew Wifeswap was a sleazy show, but this is some next level shit.'Balloon Boy is the perfect metaphor for cable news: America spent hours riveted by a powerful and gripping story that turned out to be totally meaningless, and will have no significant impact on anybody's lives going forward.
(voices.washingtonpost.com) submitted 6 hours ago by nelsonjs to WTF
>>so i had to turn on my vpn
Thursday, October 15, 2009
"The fight to dominate cloud computing will increase competition and innovation.
There is nothing the computer industry likes better than a big new idea—followed by a big fight, as different firms compete to exploit it. “Cloud computing” is the latest example, and companies large and small are already joining the fray.
The idea is that computing will increasingly be delivered as a service, over the internet, from vast warehouses of shared machines. Documents, e-mails and other data will be stored online, or “in the cloud”, making them accessible from any PC or mobile device. Many things work this way already, from e-mail and photo albums to calendars and shared documents.
Technological developments have hitherto pushed computing power away from central hubs: first from mainframes to minicomputers, and then to PCs. Now a combination of ever cheaper and more powerful processors, and ever fast and more ubiquitous networks, is pushing power back to the centre in some respects, and and even further away in others. The cloud's data centres are, in effect, outsize public mainframes. At the same time, the PC is being pushed aside by a host of smaller, often wireless devices, such as smart-phones, netbooks (small laptops) and, perhaps soon, tablets (touch-screen computers the size of books).
Despite the growing similarities among the three (Google, Microsoft, Apple), each is a unique beats, says Michael Cusumano, a processor at Massacusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management. They can be classified according to how they approach the cloud, how they make money and how openly they approach the development of intellectual property.
How will this three-way contest play out? The last similar war was in the 1980's and early 1990's, when Apple, IBM, and Microsoft fought for mastery of the PC. After much fire and smoke, Microsoft was victorious. Thanks to what economists call strong network effects, which allow winners to take almost all, Windows relegated its rival operating systems to mere slideshows, securing fat profits for its owner.
Such a lopsided result is unlikely this time. One reason is that the economics of the cloud may be different from those of the PC. Network effects are unlikely to be as strong. Much of the cloud is based on open standards, which should make it easier to switch providers.
...all three will have ample resources to spend in the main area of the fight: data centres, cloud services and the periphery...Just as much of hardware has become a commodity, knowing how to build huge data centres may not be a competitive advantage for long. And data centres can get only so big before scale ceases to be an advantage.
Only one thing seems sure about the future of the digital skies: the company or companies that dominate it will be American. European or Asian firms have yet to make much of an appearance in cloud computing.
Government outside America may harbour ambitious plans for state-funded clouds. They would do better simply to let their citizens make the most of the competition among the American colossi.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger just left the stage of the Oracle Open World conference in San Francisco, where he gave a short speech extolling the importance of technology. He concluded that tech will be more important for solving the world’s problems (particularly global warming) than any government decision. Technology has been crucial at all three stages of his career, Schwarzenegger said — nutritional supplements when he was a bodybuilder, special effects when he was a movie actor, and now of course technology is crucial for California’s economy, environment, and more. “I love technology,” Schwarzenegger said. He tossed out different types of technology, like biotech, cleantech, “all of the techs. The speech included a quick overview of California’s tech industries, but it lingered on cleantech. Schwarzenegger pointed out that the Long Beach Port has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent without reducing the number of ships, trucks, or tugboats. He also pointed to electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla Motors, whose technology is putting California closer to the automotive cutting edge than Detroit. And he spoke glowingly about how Smart Grid technology will improve the state’s energy infrastructure. All of these developments will be more important to preventing environmental catastrophe than any law or treaty, Schwarzenegger added. Global leaders are working on a new version of the Kyoto Protocol to limit carbon emissions around the world, and while Schwarzenegger said, “We wish them well,” he also argued that we won’t see the reductions we need until there’s technology to make it happen without any negative economic impacts. “Technology will save us all,” he said.
Earlier this year, we wrote about a long line of politicians fearing the impact of new innovations -- from video games to the waltz -- and how they would harm the morals of children. These were classic 'moral panic' quotes from politicians. As a bunch of you have sent in, Ars Technica put together a similarly nice list of moral panic quotes concerning pretty much every major new technology innovation from the past 100 years. From the days of the grammophone and the player piano (which was the main reason behind much of the 1909 Copyright Act), the big copyright holding industries have pushed out fear mongering quotes about how some new technology would absolutely destroy the ability to make money from content, unless Congress acted quickly to put in place some new restriction, tax or extra right for those copyright holders. In every single case the fears and complaints from the industry weren't just wrong, but were stunningly backwards. Every technology opened up new markets and new opportunities.
And yet, where are we today? We're still listening to the RIAA, MPAA, BSA, NMPA, ASCAP and others spewing the same nonsense about the internet. And almost no elected official or reporter calls them on this. They may claim that 'this time it's different,' but shouldn't the burden be on them to actually prove it for once?
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
NABE: Worst of recession is over: "“The great recession is over,” the National Association of Business Economists has declared.
The proclamation is based on a survey of professional forecasters, who also caution that the recovery will take place slowly as large increases in federal debt and unemployment rates are expected to remain very high through next year.
The NABE is conducting its annual meeting this week in St. Louis.
“Following a sharp 6.4 percent (annual rate) contraction in the first quarter of this year and another 0.7 percent drop in the second quarter, NABE forecasters expect real GDP to rise at an above trend 2.9 percent rate in the second half,” NABE President-Elect Lynn Reaser noted in a statement.
The association said the three-year downturn in the housing market appears close to coming to an end, with growth expected next year.
While the unemployment rate is forecast to rise to 10 percent in the first quarter, it is expected to slip to 9.5 percent by the end of 2010.
“The good news is that this deep and long recession appears to be over and, with improving credit markets, the U.S. economy can return to solid growth next year without worry about rising inflation,” Reaser noted.
Among other findings:
- Sales of light vehicles are expected to remain weak, with projected sales of 12 million next year.
- The housing recovery will gather momentum, with housing starts up 38 percent and residential investment up 8 percent.
- Business investment will contribute to the economic rebound.
- The dollar will soften further this year and remain weak into the new year. The NABE panel expects a modest deterioration in the trade balance next year.
- About 21 percent of the panelists believe that the financial markets will improve to the point that they no longer hinder economic growth at some point in the second half of 2009. Another 21 percent expect this will occur in the first half of 2010.
- Fewer than 8 percent of the panelists expect lost jobs will be regained before 2012.
All very positive numbers, but I think until interest rates start rising in most countries(Australia is the only industrial nation to do so), it's too early to tell.
I'll still take whatever hopeful news we can get.
Gainesville-based music start up Grooveshark just announced signing a major label agreement with EMI Music and EMI Music Publishing. While the company is unwilling to disclose the exact terms of the deal, Grooveshark VP of Marketing Josh Bonnain expressed that the agreement is fair and mutually beneficial. The surprise deal comes after EMI filed a June lawsuit against the company. While Grooveshark members gain access to EMI's huge song catalogue including tracks from the Virgin, Blue Note and Astralwerks labels, it'll be interesting to see if the agreement is actually a sustainable one.
Although a number of music startups have established partnerships with smaller indie record labels, larger deals are rare as the cost of music licensing has proved prohibitive. For streaming music site Imeem, the road to signing major labels has been fraught with legal battles. Despite the fact that Warner music originally invested in Imeem, the company sued the startup to settle outstanding debt. In the end, it seems Grooveshark renegotiated licensing agreement while looking down the barrel of a gun. Due to the similar nature of the EMI / Grooveshark relationship, we can't help thinking that this recent deal likely skews in favor of the labels and rights holders.
As ReadWriteWeb covered in August, Grooveshark recently launched a $3 per month ad-free subscription service and continues to build out its artist tools. Nevertheless, the site's key revenue stream is its advertising. With seminal albums like Miles Davis' Birth Of The Cool, Radiohead's OK Computer and Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, EMI will increase Grooveshark's catalogue selection and popular draw. It will be interesting to see if the company's revenue increase will be worth the licensing fees.
To try Grooveshark visit listen.grooveshark.com.
I still believe this is the best music service available...better than iTunes, Imeem, Zune, Pandora, Last.fm, Songbird, Winamp, etc. I pay $3/month for the premium service (V.I.P.) that is definitely worth it. Whether V.I.P. or not, grooveshark creates a web-based, personalized music experience for aggregating and organizing tracks from large number of sources. I have had no trouble finding any track I can think of since most songs unsurprisingly already exist on the web. An included 'Radio' feature activates a Pandora-like auto-play feature. The best analogy I can make for grooveshark is the youtube of music with personalized jukebox interface.
By signing a deal with EMI, their library now becomes even larger and much more official/legitimate and hopefully this is the end of their legal troubles.
The site is certainly still a work in progress, but a survey was recently offered to users that asked which feature would be the most intriguing/wanted. I think the next step is covering all bases on mobile platforms (iphone, android, blackberry, winmo) as well as implementing more social features between users.
Thank god this deal got signed! Starring down the barrel of the gun is right...
Ford Reaches Deal With UAW: "Ford has reached a tentative agreement with the United Auto Workers union that would freeze entry-level wages, implement a no-strike clause and pay a bonus to workers for agreeing to new concessions.
The UAW confirmed Tuesday that the agreement will be presented to its national council delegates, who will decide whether to present the deal to its members for a union-wide vote.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Knowledge: Every day, 15 petabytes of new information is created, which is more than eight times the information stored in all the libraries in the U.S. While consumers generate 70 percent of that figure, enterprises will be responsible for maintaining 85 percent of it.
Monday, June 1, 2009
Security experts Finjan traced the giant network of remotely-controlled PCs, called a botnet, back to a gang of cyber criminals in the Ukraine.Several PCs inside six UK government bodies were compromised by the botnet.Finjan has contacted the Metropolitan Police with details of the government PCs and it is now investigating.A spokesman for the Cabinet Office, which is charged with setting standards for the use of information technology across government, said it would not comment on specific attacks "for security reasons"."It is Government policy neither to confirm nor deny if an individual organisation has been the subject of an attack nor to speculate on the origins or success of such attacks."He added: "We constantly monitor new and existing risks and work to minimise their impact by alerting departments and giving them advice and guidance on dealing with the threat."It is the second time in a year that PCs inside government departments have been hacked to form part of a botnet.On this occasion, the machines were infected with software which allowed them to be taken over and enslaved in the botnet due to vulnerabilities in web browsers. At the mercy Once a machine has been compromised, it can be instructed to download further software, which puts the machine at the mercy of malicious hackers.The compromised PCs are capable of reading e-mail addresses, copying files, recording keystrokes, sending spam and capturing screen shots.Once a single machine inside a corporate network has been made part of the botnet it puts other machines on the network at risk.The Cabinet Office would not give details of what the compromised machines had been instructed to do, nor the names of the different government departments that had been infiltrated.The cyber criminals, who have not been caught, were selling access to the compromised machines, thought to be mainly PCs inside companies, on a hackers' forum in Russia.One thousand machines were being sold at a time for between $50 and $100.Finjan reports that the botnet is under the control of six criminals who are able to remotely control the infected machines. Different organisations Almost half of the infected machines were in the US. Six percent of the botnet, about 114,000 machines from 52 different organisations, were from the UK, among them a single PC inside the BBC's network.Many of the infected machines will have been caught by routine information security policies at firms, as it was in the case of the BBC, but Finjan says many of the botnet PCs are still active.More than 70 different national government agencies from around the world were caught up in the malicious network.Yuval Ben-Itzhak, chief technology officer for Finjan, told BBC News: "When we looked at the network domain names to see where the [compromised PCs] come from we were surprised to see many government networks, including UK government computers."Obviously we reported it and they have now dealt with it. There were six UK agencies with at least one computer in each department that was running the bot."I'm not at liberty to name the actual agencies - but this isn't a unique story to the UK, they were running in many other non-UK, government bodies too." Government bodies A number of different government bodies are responsible for IT security and deployment across the UK.They include the Central Sponsor for Information Assurance, the National Technical Authority for Information Assurance, and the the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI), the government body which is part of the British Security Service and responsible for providing security advice to organisations that make up critical services in the UK.All of the infected machines were Windows-based PCs and the vulnerability was targeting security holes in Internet Explorer and Firefox.Mr Ben-Itzhak said: "What is unique is the number the size of the network. When we look at a similar network last year they were in the hundreds of thousands. Now were looking at mega-size botnets." In contact A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police said: "This is an ongoing investigation. We are aware of this botnet and are taking appropriate action."Large botnets can be used to co-ordinate attacks to knock parts of the network, or specific websites, offline, called a Distributed Denial of Service attack.Last year, the CPNI told a Cabinet Office-commissioned independent review that stopping such attacks was difficult.It said: "The attacks are relatively low in sophistication, but have been highly effective due to the large number of compromised machines involved."It is difficult to defend against a sophisticated Distributed Denial of Service attack without impacting legitimate business use."The CPNI recommended that the best defence against these attacks was appropriate monitoring of the network.http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8010729.stm
Botnet ensnares government PC's
Darren Waters, BBC News
Almost two million PCs globally, including machines inside UK and US government departments, have been taken over by malicious hackers.
Security experts Finjan traced the giant network of remotely-controlled PCs, called a botnet, back to a gang of cyber criminals in the Ukraine.Several PCs inside six UK government bodies were compromised by the botnet.Finjan has contacted the Metropolitan Police with details of the government PCs and it is now investigating.A spokesman for the Cabinet Office, which is charged with setting standards for the use of information technology across government, said it would not comment on specific attacks "for security reasons"."It is Government policy neither to confirm nor deny if an individual organisation has been the subject of an attack nor to speculate on the origins or success of such attacks."He added: "We constantly monitor new and existing risks and work to minimise their impact by alerting departments and giving them advice and guidance on dealing with the threat."It is the second time in a year that PCs inside government departments have been hacked to form part of a botnet.On this occasion, the machines were infected with software which allowed them to be taken over and enslaved in the botnet due to vulnerabilities in web browsers.
At the mercy
Once a machine has been compromised, it can be instructed to download further software, which puts the machine at the mercy of malicious hackers.The compromised PCs are capable of reading e-mail addresses, copying files, recording keystrokes, sending spam and capturing screen shots.Once a single machine inside a corporate network has been made part of the botnet it puts other machines on the network at risk.The Cabinet Office would not give details of what the compromised machines had been instructed to do, nor the names of the different government departments that had been infiltrated.The cyber criminals, who have not been caught, were selling access to the compromised machines, thought to be mainly PCs inside companies, on a hackers' forum in Russia.One thousand machines were being sold at a time for between $50 and $100.Finjan reports that the botnet is under the control of six criminals who are able to remotely control the infected machines.
Almost half of the infected machines were in the US. Six percent of the botnet, about 114,000 machines from 52 different organisations, were from the UK, among them a single PC inside the BBC's network.Many of the infected machines will have been caught by routine information security policies at firms, as it was in the case of the BBC, but Finjan says many of the botnet PCs are still active.More than 70 different national government agencies from around the world were caught up in the malicious network.Yuval Ben-Itzhak, chief technology officer for Finjan, told BBC News: "When we looked at the network domain names to see where the [compromised PCs] come from we were surprised to see many government networks, including UK government computers."Obviously we reported it and they have now dealt with it. There were six UK agencies with at least one computer in each department that was running the bot."I'm not at liberty to name the actual agencies - but this isn't a unique story to the UK, they were running in many other non-UK, government bodies too."
A number of different government bodies are responsible for IT security and deployment across the UK.They include the Central Sponsor for Information Assurance, the National Technical Authority for Information Assurance, and the the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI), the government body which is part of the British Security Service and responsible for providing security advice to organisations that make up critical services in the UK.All of the infected machines were Windows-based PCs and the vulnerability was targeting security holes in Internet Explorer and Firefox.Mr Ben-Itzhak said: "What is unique is the number the size of the network. When we look at a similar network last year they were in the hundreds of thousands. Now were looking at mega-size botnets."
A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police said: "This is an ongoing investigation. We are aware of this botnet and are taking appropriate action."Large botnets can be used to co-ordinate attacks to knock parts of the network, or specific websites, offline, called a Distributed Denial of Service attack.Last year, the CPNI told a Cabinet Office-commissioned independent review that stopping such attacks was difficult.It said: "The attacks are relatively low in sophistication, but have been highly effective due to the large number of compromised machines involved."It is difficult to defend against a sophisticated Distributed Denial of Service attack without impacting legitimate business use."The CPNI recommended that the best defence against these attacks was appropriate monitoring of the network.http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8010729.stm
We're not talking about your grandfather's socialism. In fact, there is a long list of past movements this new socialism is not. It is not class warfare. It is not anti-American; indeed, digital socialism may be the newest American innovation. While old-school socialism was an arm of the state, digital socialism is socialism without the state. This new brand of socialism currently operates in the realm of culture and economics, rather than government—for now.
When masses of people who own the means of production work toward a common goal and share their products in common, when they contribute labor without wages and enjoy the fruits free of charge, it's not unreasonable to call that socialism.
In the late '90s, activist, provocateur, and aging hippy John Barlow began calling this drift, somewhat tongue in cheek, "dot-communism." He defined it as a "workforce composed entirely of free agents," a decentralized gift or barter economy where there is no property and where technological architecture defines the political space. He was right on the virtual money. But there is one way in which socialism is the wrong word for what is happening: It is not an ideology. It demands no rigid creed. Rather, it is a spectrum of attitudes, techniques, and tools that promote collaboration, sharing, aggregation, coordination, ad hocracy, and a host of other newly enabled types of social cooperation. It is a design frontier and a particularly fertile space for innovation.
Monday, April 20, 2009
At the Digital Britain summit, PM Gordon Brown speaks out on importance of fast broadband for all
Gordon Brown has called for "UK content for UK users" backed up by a universally available super-fast broadband network at this week's Digital Britain summit. In turn, Lord Carter, speaking to a panel of top industry and government execs from China, Japan and across the world, noted that we are competing in what he referred to as a "digital arms race" with both Western and Far East economies The Prime Minister is keen to give his support to the creative industries, including film, TV, radio and publishing, noting that these industries need investment and legal support to protect their valuable intellectual properties.
Global creative industries cabinet
Culture Secretary Andy Burnham announced he is set to chair a global creative industries "cabinet" in October to look at new ways in which the government can assist with IP protection in more depth. Business secretary Peter Mandelson added that: "Broadband is not just going to underwrite the communications industry. It will redefine the productivity and competitiveness of UK companies for decades to come."
Monday, March 23, 2009
One of the highlights of last week’s SXSW show, aside from seeing the Austin Crew again (hi, guys!), was when I spent some time talking to a few of the guys from Rhapsody, just like I did last year. The conversation touched a number of topics, but the one I found most interesting was the changing notion of music ownership. That is, now that most of us are at least familiar with streaming, on-demand music from pick-your-service (Imeem, Pandora, Spotify, Rhapsody, etc.), will people in the future still see music as a “thing” that they’ll own, or more like a service that they’ll tap into whenever the need arises? Will people still cling to a finite number of MP3s on their iPod, or will they prefer to have their music on The Cloud, using a device (say, the iPhone) that can call upon any song at will? A sort of, “Shoot, I wish I had that U2 song on my iPod right now” versus, “Here, let me stream that U2 song for you.” And, if people are becoming more comfortable with this type of music consumption, where does that leave traditional, download-to-own services like iTunes and Amazon MP3? The things we think about!
It’s like this: we’re right about at the point where most of us have a smartphone or other device that has a reasonably reliable, always-on Internet connection. As such, we’re right about at the point where a service—the aforementioned ones, or perhaps some new one—can came along and say, “Oh hai! You know, instead of taking your iPod with you everywhere you go, why not just connect your phone to our service? We have every song in recorded history in our database (“Cloud”), and they’re all yours, provided you pay us $15 per month. Think about it: every song ever, in the palm of your hands. That sure beats listening to the same MP3s over and over again, right?!” That’s a best case scenario, of course. While Rhapsody told me the record labels are now much easier to deal with than they were in the past—there’s still a few music executives yelling, “Go away, Internet!”—, we’re still a little bit away from having Everything Ever at our fingertips. On the technical side of things, that also assumes that our Internet connections are, indeed, sound as a pound (aside: I think that phrase needs to be updated!), something that any iPhone-using SXSW attendee will tell you isn’t exactly the case just yet.
But, for the purposes of this here article, let’s assume that all those problems have been solved. Let’s assume that the mobile Internet is fast, reliable and affordable, and that the record labels have opened up their vaults for placement in The Cloud; no technical issues remain. The only thing we have to confront now is the consumer and her listening habits: will they change? Have they already changed? Does Little Stacy, who’s currently in junior high and listens to music via YouTube and Imeem, portend an adult who won’t think of music in terms of CDs and MP3s, but of something that’s “just there,” for lack of a better term? She won’t have a personal music library, in the form of vinyl, CDs, MP3s, FLACs, or whatever; The Cloud will be her library, on which everything ever recorded will reside. The notion of “not having that album” will be totally alien to her; she has everything, always. No, she doesn’t own any of it—it belongs to the record labels, by way of your Rhapsody and Spotify (or whatever)—but it’s always available to her wherever she goes, so why should she care wether or not she “owns” it? Ownership, in this scenario, will become an antiquated concept, no longer applicable to current conditions, and Adult Stacy wouldn’t have it any other way. Nothing’s stopping Stacy from buying a physical copy of an album on some future whiz-bang format, which includes a super-de-dooper high quality copy of the album, but it would be the exception and not the rule. People still go camping (“roughing it”) even though they have fully decorated master bedroom they can sleep in.
But that describes Little Stacy, our hastily invented character who’s currently in junior high; at most she’s 13-year-old. What about Big Steve, who’s 15 years out of college and works in a spiffy office downtown? He still owns his music—in fact, he’s probably just getting used to buying songs off iTunes and the like—and the idea of songs “being there” is sorta weird to him. What if they’re not there? (Big Steve is a glass-half-empty kind of guy; blame the recession.) And even if the songs were there, why should he pay a monthly fee for an entire library of music he’ll never listen to? How is that better than having an iPod filled with only the songs he likes—he loves Danzig—without any garbage pop music getting in the way? A cynic could say, well, long-term, Big Steve is irrelevant, since he doesn’t buy new music anyway, and besides, it’s his kids whom the music industry will be targeting in a few years anyway. Let him “own” all the music he wants, since it’s only a matter of time till he isn’t even on the music industry’s radar. Of course, that completely ignores the fact that, with his fancy corner office, Big Steve has more disposable income to throw at the music industry (and the services we’ve been talking about) than Little Stacy ever will while she’s growing up. To ignore Big Steve, and all the dollar signs he represents, would be foolish. That’s not to say that Big Steve can’t still buy CDs and MP3s, of course, but the question here is whether or not people, in the future, will be comfortable with not owning music. And as people like Little Stacy use the aforementioned services, they’ll no doubt get used to it; it’ll be just another thing they do, like sending thousands of text messages per month or spending hours upon hours on Facebook.
Specific to Rhapsody, yes, you can now buy MP3s from their online store. (Even disruptive technologies and companies like to hedge their bets.) Whether or not that’s the way forward, or merely something done to placate the Big Steves of the world, is what we’re trying to determine. My guess? I hope they have house music in The Cloud.
My Two Cents:
Cloud computing is certainly inevitable, it is just a matter of how long it will take companies to make the system easy, reliable, and secure, and how long it will take enterprises to adopt the technology on a wide-scale basis. However, as it relates specifically to this article, cloud computing will have an impact on the way we understand and enforce digital media distribution: the argument can be made more more than just music (movies, television, publishing and literature, magazines, software, etc.). hopefully the change is for the better and individuals, enterprises, and governments will embrace the opportunity for the more effective spread of knowledge, media, and other forms of communication.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Ironically, recently after writing my post on John Maynard Keynes, I was recommended a story from the March 7th-13th edition of the Economist by my father. The article is a book preview/review of "The Life and Times of Raúl Prebisch". Born in 1901, Prebisch was an Argentine economist known for his contributions to what is known as structuralist economics, the most famous of these being his collaborative creation of the Prebisch-Singer hypothesis that outlines the basis of economic dependency theory. The idea behind the theory is that the price of primary products tends to decline relative to those of higher productivity, manufactured goods. Therefore, industrialized nations derived more benefit from trade that developing countries. How is the developing nation supposed to be able to compete in a global market? I had been exposed to some of Prebisch work during my studies, particularly in my Latin American economies course, but I personally had never really followed up on the life of the Argentine policy-maker.
From what I have read, Prebisch experienced a similar cycle of popularity to that John Maynard Keynes. His work initially was received as new and insightful, but then temporarily disregarded after the real-life existence of economies that disproved his theories. Now, he is making a comeback given the capricious conditions the world is facing today. Volatile markets and environments have motivated theorists and one-time critics to the once ridiculed ideas of Raul Prebisch. Professionals have been called upon to recommend macroeconomic decisions as it relates to the national and global economic strategies, and they are willing to consider all options.
Obviously conditions worldwide change exponentially with any news, advancements, predictions, estimates, statistics, and other influential occurrences. The relatively recent integration of the world system lacks the regulation and understanding to effectively function, and the end result is the current crisis whose pressure has built up over the last 30 years or so. Transparency, morality, and knowledge are just some of the many themes to the transition to a new economic future.
As it relates to developing nations and the ideas of Raul Prebisch, to truly understand the dependency theory, one has to apply reforms on a case-by-case basis. Strategies for the improvement of economies obviously differ depending on the advantages, relationships, politics, and a number of other factors that contribute to the growth and success of a nation. Regardless, if an economy lacks domestic, competitive industries, it is going to have to rely on the already developed technologies and industries of the industrialized world based on the trading agreements between the countries. Reliance on this arrangement will not enhance the health of an economy in an ever-increasingly competitive and expansive global market.
The world economy will always need raw materials and other primary products. Nations that are able provide these goods have tremendous advantage. That still does not remove the responsibility to create forms of employment, establish efficient and productive domestic industries, and diversify the methods of national output, especially as population and competition increase worldwide. Regardless, the modern globalization of world trade and relations has re-stimulated interest in dependency theory as economists try to apply thoughtful generalizations to the relationship between developing and industrialized nations.
The reason I like Prebisch is because of his ability to change his opinion, to be flexible. Some even consider him a dangerous radical. At times people thought he was too politically naive. I see that as realism. Politics is tremendously important to the pursuit of effective economics, but does not necessarily have to be considered in every economic analysis. I also admire his preference for reform rather than revolution. There are obviously times for when revolution is necessary, but there is also much more at stake in these cases and when it is all said and done, there is more work that needs to be done to clean up, sometimes even more than when the situation originally arose. Lastly, his stance that a mixed economy is the most ideal, one in which the private sector would play a leading role is critical, especially today. It cannot be the decisions of policy-makers and government to always lead nations through times of crisis or ones of stability. It is up to the individual, to the community, to members of the private sector to outgrow dependence of macro-economic forces.
Raúl Prebisch was an advocate of structural and industrial change in Latin America, but this concept can certainly be applied to other developing nations. He was invited by the United Nations in 1948 to direct the newly formed Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLA), which gave him the chance to preach inward development via what is known as import substitution industrialization as well as regional integration. I personally have always been supportive of cooperative economic theory, but unfortunately politics and other real world factors tend to get in the way of efficient integration.
The Argentine called for "new international economic order," which is very fitting considering the circumstances. He stressed independence of the central bank and fiscal stability, both important policies for any economy. What was forgotten from his formula is that is it the responsibility of economies to cultivate both a domestic market as well as an autonomous generation of technology and industries for independently creating employment and sustainable growth, rather than relying on the relationships with other economies.
Meet Cambodia's social media elite - the Cloggers Young motivated bloggers spearheading a web-led revolution
Sunday, March 15, 2009
After visiting Cambodia with my family a couple of Christmases ago, I felt a personal connection to this article. This was taken from the site TechRadar and is a brilliant example of how the technological revolution could impact the well-being of societies around the world, regardless of their political, social, and economic barriers.
With its jagged, pot-holed streets and swarms of begging children, visitors are often shocked at the poverty in Cambodia, widely considered Asia's backwater behind Vietnam and China.
Shacks and slums are testament to a third of the population earning less than half a US dollar a day and Transparency International ranks the country, only recently freed from years of civil war, coups and rigged elections, as the 14th most corrupt in the world.
Yet tech-savvy youngsters are bringing a new voice to Phnom Penh's poverty-wrought landscape. Hanging out in cafes and clicking away on their laptops, they comprise a small but growing middle-class of baby-boomers born during the 1980s, after the Khmer Rouge genocide left 2million Cambodians – a quarter of the population – dead. Now they've come of age, and they're wiring Cambodia with it.
They're a tight-knit clique. Led by 26-year-old writer and photographer Bun Tharum, Cambodia's first blogger, a small group formed in 2006 to give workshops on social media. With their efforts, and Cambodia's King-Father Norodom Sihanouk starting his own blog, the group of 30 soon transformed into thousands. Now, they call themselves 'Cloggers' – Cambodian bloggers.
Tharum sees change on the horizon. "After all the hardship our country has experienced, we're trying to bring a new era of innovation," he says. "Blogs are helping break down barriers, get discussions going – something we need to move forward. It's the voice of the new generation."
Reaching the summit
The group reached a peak in popularity when it held the Cloggers' Summit in August 2007, attended by 200 international guests, including editors from Harvard Law School's Global Voices Online project. Attendees discussed social networking with a Cambodian twist, looking at how non-profits – which dominate Cambodia's economy – and students could use it, despite the country's low-bandwidth connectivity.
They hit another success in September with the first annual BarCamp Phnom Penh, an event that saw hundreds from around Southeast Asia attend, including Microsoft. "BarCamp was great for thinking outside the box," Tharum says. "We got Cambodians to start speaking their minds in that untraditional setting, the un-conference."
Much more can be attributed to the city's sudden blogging craze. While less than two per cent of Cambodians have web access on their own computers, Phnom Penh sports a huge mobile web culture. "It's amazing. Farmers are selling their land so they can buy a mobile phone and motorbike," says John Weeks, an American who heads Phnom Penh's popular House 32 web design firm. "You'll see Khmers [Cambodians] wearing sandals and eating street food while talking on their Blackberrys."
Phnom Penh has just been wired with 3G technology, far ahead of neighbouring countries Vietnam and Thailand, giving blogs explosive potential. Yet phones still haven't reached their peak, Weeks insists. "Users aren't afraid of technology. But phones aren't reaching their full potential," he says. "If ordinary Cambodians can overcome the language barrier and literacy barriers, phones have incredible gateway potential that would dwarf the current blog boom."
Huddled around in Phnom Penh's sparkling new KFC – Cambodia's first foreign franchise – the Cloggers whip out cutting-edge phones yet to catch on in the West. One begins texting in a frenzy – he's on Twitter and he's addicted. The others laugh, moving into a discussion of King-Father Norodom Sihanouk, the country's leader and highest profile blogger.
He's revered by older generations, but Cloggers don't share their zest for the monarch. "Young people don't care about the King when we blog," says Sreng Nearirath, a lawyer who blogs her thoughts in My World vs. Real Scary World. "We just blog because we want to talk about our lives and talk with each other." Cambodia, a conservative society, doesn't offer opportunities to open up and discuss your feelings, especially for women. That's what makes blogs so special here.
"Men have dominated technology fields, but we're seeing more and more women speaking their minds through blogs," says Chak Sopheap, a rising voice in Cambodia's women's empowerment movement. "They give us an outlet to gain selfesteem and be more informed about the world."
Sopheap is perhaps Cambodia's most controversial blogger, touching on subjects like trafficking, corruption, forced land evictions and women's rights. Her public profile is brave; most political bloggers in Cambodia, such as the popular "Details are Sketchy" and "KI Media" blogs, are anonymous. "If everyone keeps silent to intimidation, intimidation will gain its position.
"By making our voices heard, we can create change," she insists. She's pursuing a master's degree in international relations in Japan, which she credits for bringing new angles to her blog. "I've learned from a different cultural context about how crucial good governance is," she says, referring to Cambodia's corruption problem.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
GrandCentral is a phone management service that first launched in 2006 and was acquired by Google for over $50 million in 2007. Since, it hasn’t really been in the news much. Other than a few jabs at their marketing gimmicks and coverage of outages, this project has been low key. This is all about to change as the service prepares for a public launch under a new product name: Google Voice.
The 21 month delay between acquisition and re-launch was, unfortunately, expected. Like most Google acquisitions, the service has been rebuilt from the ground up, a lengthy process that has in the past taken an average of 16 months or so. Now Google is ready to launch this new GrandCentral/Google Voice service.
Some key new features have been added that make the service incredibly intriguing. The basic idea around GrandCentral is “one phone number for all your phones, for life.” Grand Central gives you one phone number that can access all your numbers, (cell, home, mobile, and work numbers); the GrandCentral numbers stay the same, as many of these number change over the course of a user’s lifetime.
Most people have never used the service, because Google froze new accounts following the acquisition. The freeze hasn’t being lifted yet (and we’ve heard there are tens of thousands of people on the wait list). But starting Thursday existing accounts are being given the option of switching to the new service and allow access to the new features. Over the next several weeks Google will begin to let new people in. Some people, impatient to try out the new service, have been paying as much as $650 on Ebay for an account.
The service was free and is still going to be free. Users can purchase credit (much like Skype) to make international calls at rates far below what they normally pay. GrandCentral will also remain solely a U.S. service. Google wants people to use their Google Voice phone number exclusively (and in fact it’s the only way to use it properly).
Google’s added new features and plugged some big holes that limited the original service. A problem with the original service – it didn’t allow text messaging, so you had to tell people your mobile number as well if you wanted to send and receive text messages with them. Now, Google Voice will accept text messages and forward them on to your mobile phone. You can respond to those messages as well. Google is using the existing Gateway technology (which is used by Google Chat) to power this feature.
Google also added a nifty transcription feature (which is using the same subscription service as Google 411) for voicemails. All voicemails are transcribed easily saved into the system and searchable. Users can add notes or tags to voicemails and each transcription details how confident Google is about the success of voice transcription; Google Voice highlights word in lighter color that they are not confident were subscribed properly. And transcription takes about 30 seconds to be seen in the system from the end of a voicemail. All in all, Google may have just revolutionized voicemail.
Google has added new settings that allow users to route calls from specific people straight to voicemail, or your mobile phone, etc, instead of having to state their name and then be forwarded accordingly. The primary user interface for Google Voice is through your phone via an audio menu. But users can also log in to the website to administer the account and view activity. This interface has undergone a makeover - It now looks very much like a comprehensive Gmail inbox with tabs for Voicemail, SMS, Recorded calls, Placed calls, Received calls and Missed calls. And the Google Voice is easily integrated into the list of links to
Google apps at the top left of each application. All SMS and transcribed voicemails are searchable and taggable, which is very useful and will change the way people interact with these messages. Google also says that full integration with Gmail is coming, but won’t say when. If all of one’s email, SMS and transcribed voicemails are able to be organized into a single inbox: this could be life-changing. You can also respond to text messages from the interface and initiate phone calls, which then call your designated phone and then the recipient.
Google Voice also added a conference calling feature allowing conference calls with up to six participants and the ability to record. International calls can also be made through the system at very reasonable rates (about the same as Skype’s international phone rates).
The key to this service seems to be reliability. With previous outages and technical issues (both in Google Voice/Gran Central and Gmail), Google has to assure stability to its users. It always seemed to make sense that Google would one day try and buy Skype from Ebay, but I guess that wouldn’t make any sense anymore considering what type of product they appear to have here.
Over the course of my four years studying as a Global Economics major, I have been told a number of times that there are essentially two broad perspectives to economic theory, with a number of specific variations or the two filling in the gap in between the theoretical divide.
The first and more traditional school of thought is the classical interpretation developed and supported by thinkers such as Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and Thomas Malthus, in which theories on value (or price) and distribution attempt to explain market tendencies. As it relates to prices, three inputs are said to impact the value of goods or services: 1. the level of outputs or "effectual demand," 2. technology and 3. wages. From these assumptions, economists are able to derive the general equilibrium model. This free-market philosophy also supports the idea of the "invisible hand" that guides economics in a natural cycle. The highs of these undulations are periods of growth and expansion, while recessions and depressions are responsible for the troublesome times.
The other economic philosophy that is taught as the prevailing "alternative" to this classic view is the "Keynesian" thinking, which was derived from the more neoclassical school of thought and is based on three essential assumptions: 1. People have rational preferences among outcomes that can be identified and associated with a value, 2. Individuals maximize their own utility while firms look to maximize profits, and 3. People act independently on the basis of full and relevant information.
At core of John Maynard Keynes' economic theory is that markets, whether local, national or global, cannot be viewed as natural systems in which intervention is not only not necessary, but discouraged. He saw markets as inefficient, subject to slowdowns and crisis in which the government should step in to boost demand in the marketplace. A balanced government budget is irrelevant when the private sector is unable to invest sufficiently enough to generate demand, in which case it is the responsibility of the government to increase spending as a method of creating jobs for citizens. More jobs obviously create higher incomes, which then increases the demand for goods and services.
It was back on October 24th, 1929 that the United States stock market crashed, marking the start of the Great Depression, the worst economic crisis the U.S., or the world for that matter, had ever seen or experienced (well, modern period that is). President Roosevelt turned to the policy recommendations of Keynesian thinking and used these theories as the framework for his "New Deal." Public works projects were created in a variety of industries through massive government spending, which temporarily provided jobs to millions of Americans and immigrants. As a result, unemployment began to slow throughout the 1930's, but it wasn't until increased spending as a result of World War II that the economic slowdown was able to rebound. This "success" story influenced most mainstream economists to accept the Keynesian views.
It wasn't until the 1970's that Keynesian thinking began to fall by the wayside amongst theorists. Keynes' models project that inflation and unemployment have an inverse relationship and that the government can control either through monetary policy such as adjustments to interest rates and the money supply or by the way of fiscal policy such as taxation and spending. This theory was essentially disregarded with the existence of 8% unemployment and 16% inflation in the U.S. during the 70's, with countries such as Japan and the United Kingdom experiencing similar conditions. Along came the conservative thinking of Milton Friedman and his view that interest rate and money supply adjustments should always be the primary tools for economic policy. Lower taxes and lower interest rates while letting the pursuit of wealth act as the driver for economic recovery. This philosophy has seen its share of "success" stories as well.
Strangely enough, Keynesian thinking is making a "comeback" due to the current economic crisis and the ineffective nature of monetary policy. Interest rates are essentially zero and can go no lower, while lending remains minimal, economic activity has ceased, and employment figures continue to dive. This is why the White House and their $787 billion dollar stimulus package became the prevailing solution to boost aggregate demand. An unprecedented amount of spending on public-works projects, health care, education, law enforcement, greener and more advanced technology, and a number programs for various industries look to create jobs, boost incomes, and generate demand. Obviously during these tough times, consumers are forced to save money to handle their mortgages, debt obligations, and other basic needs rather than exhibit "normal" consumer spending tendencies.
The issue with I take with the polarized nature of economic thinking, especially as it relates to my educational upbringing in becoming an economist is that I am constantly reminded that even the experts, the analysts, the professionals, the politicians, the professors...nobody seems to know what's really happening or how to fix "it." There are a lot of ideas, opinions, interests, and even opportunities amongst those with and without a voice, but in terms of an effective solution that a broad majority can truly understand and believe it, that "idealism" appears to be absent. Confidence levels continue to fall. Daily waves of economic reports, statistics, and business conditions flood the media outlets and tend to provide little or no inspiration to individuals around the world. In a recent poll (Zogby Interactive), only 27% of likely voters believe the new economic stimulus package will personally benefit them or their families. This can then be broken down by political party, in which 48% of Democrats expect it will help, while only 19% of independents and 7% of Republicans feels the same way. And the poll itself doesn't effectively portray the gravity of voter confidence because how do you define "help" or "benefit." Is it the individual, the family, the community, the nation, the continent, or the planet that will be aided by such a policy, and to what degree?
I find it odd that, at least at my university, economics students are exposed to a fixed number of concepts, models, schools of thought, philosophies...all that were deemed "effective" or "successful" during time periods that are not even remotely comparable or relevant to today's situation. I cannot even begin to count the number of times I have read or heard the phrase, "This is the worst economic situation we have faced since the Great Depression." Anything that we may have "learned" from that time period, or any period for that matter, is not truly comparable to the grave situation we are faced with today. We need new ideas, fresh concepts, and original models (even though I don't even like the idea of models because they often are too general. Generalities tend not to be incredibly useful in solving complex, global situations.) How are up-and-coming students, the world's future leaders, potentially bright minds, or influential professionals supposed to solve a situation that 1. was inherited from a previous generation(s), 2. have not been directly active in the planning or brainstorming of potential solutions, and 3. have only been "taught" or exposed to the archaic theories of the 20th, 19th, and even as late as the 18th centuries. This is a 21st century problem in need of a 21st century solution.
That is not to say that we cannot draw or learn from our previous experiences. Of course we can. History is a repetitive cycle of ups and downs, periods of growth and downturns, peace and war. It is not possible to stumble upon modern, unique, and effective solution without considering the strategies of the past. And it is not going to be a silver bullet solution, but rather a series of well thought out policies, reforms, and ideas that are implemented after the consideration of all beliefs and philosophies. But at the very least we can provide young theorists with the tools, motivation, and experience to re-invent economic theory. This is what has been motivating me as an economist for the past couple years, especially recently because of the increased intensity of the global economic crisis. When studying economics, there are truths, facts, and assumptions. But on a grander scale, there is no truth, no solution; it has yet to be discovered.
During the last economic crisis of this scale and magnitude (but once again, very different in many ways), a British professional argued "We have involved ourselves in a colossal muddle, having blundered in the control of a delicate machine, the working of which we do not understand." This was over 70 years ago, and I think that declaration is still applicable and appropriate today. But then again, this same individual did also famously declare, "In the long run, we are all dead." This man was John Maynard Keynes.
Hopefully the average person in this globalized world is waking up to what is going on and as a cooperative and open-minded society, we are able to create the appropriate solution not only for the short term, but for generations to come.
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