Monday, June 18, 2007

Vital Wave Consulting Blog

Thank you for visiting my blog.

This blog will be discontinued and I shall now be blogging on my company's - Vital Wave Consulting - blog.

Please visit, and interact with us on, the Vital Wave Consulting blog -

Look forward to seeing you there.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Reliance roars into mobile phone handset market in India

Reliance Communications of India announced that it sold more than 1 million of its Classic 777 mobile phone the first week it was put on the market.

Reliance enjoys an extensive distribution network and brand recognition in India, but its core business has traditionally been telecom services, not hardware, so it was not a given that this handset would be a success

Reliance is committed to it's founders' - Late Dhirubhai Ambani - commitment to “Make the tools of information and communication available to people at an affordable cost." At 777 Rupees, or US $19, the Classic 777 is one of, if not the, least expensive mobile phone on the market and was designed specifically to lure first-time buyers of cell phone - users who may have been tempted to purchase secondhand phones. The Classic 777 is a basic communications tool with few bells and whistles aside from the FM radio, which is extremely popular on handsets in India (Motorola's Motomobile handsets also have FM radios).

Reliances' competitor, Vodafone, recently announced it will also sell private label phones in India (made by ZTE of China). Will be interesting to see what features Vodafone choose to/not to add to these models and if they have the same initial success as Reliance. Nokia and Motorola, stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Tsinghua University - Nokia Research Center's latest university partner

Nokia Research Center and Tsinghua University in Beijing are creating a new, long-term research partnership.

Tsinghua University is one of China's premier academic institutions with graduates including Charles Zhang, the founder and President of one of China's leading Internet portals; and Hu Jintao - President of the People's Republic of China.

Both Nokia and Tsinghua stand to benefit from the relationship:

Nokia will benefit from:
* incorporating localized, on-the-ground knowledge of Chinese consumers, culture, politics and economy into its product designs
* ability to shape talent to meet its specific hiring needs in a market with a scarcity of specialized talent
* connections to an esteemed alumni network that spans the globe (chapters are in Silicon Valley, Canada, the UK....)
* influencing research and teaching agendas

Tsinghua U. will benefit from:
* intermingling of Nokia researchers with its faculty and students, bringing an infusion of private sector culture and resources to the institution
* ability to update its curriculum based on the real needs and demands of a potential employer
* expertise in mobile telephony/design in a country where mobile devices far outnumber PCs
* financial and technology resources (likely)

Many scholars credit the strong linkages between industry and universities for the US' success in innovation. Nokia's competitor, Motorola, has a long history of partnering with universities across the world - including Tsinghua University. Nokia has been less aggressive in this area, but appears to be changing course, likely to the benefit of all involved.

Friday, May 25, 2007 - Source for interesting mobile applications and resources

Had coffee with Ken Banks, founder of this week. He has created two resources worth mentioning here.

Mobile Applications Database - a searchable database with links to some 250 recent articles, documents and projects about innovative applications of mobile technology - with a particular focus on those with a social/environmental impact in emerging markets. Nice way for mobile handset manufacturers and service providers to keep a finger on the pulse of interesting uses of their technology in these markets.

FrontlineSMS - a SMS messaging management application designed specifically for NGOs (and free of charge for them). Was recently used by HELP in Nigeria to manage some 11,000 SMS messages they received from their volunteer presidential election monitors across the country....could also have commercial applications in the future.

Monday, May 14, 2007

New letters added to low-cost laptop alphabet soup: ITP-C

Appears that the ITP-C is vying with the One Laptop Per Child's gang and Intel (Classmate PC) in the quest to be the technology platform for the Uruguayan classroom.

Launched in mid-2005 by ITP, the ITP-C is a small, Windows-based, touch-screen computer designed for educational institutions and applications. ITP - a small, privately-held, Israeli company - was founded in the early 1990s and specializes in education-related content and solutions for Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries. ITP solutions are installed across Latin America, including in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Paraguay.

ITP's arsenal of education-related content and applications, could distinguish it from OLPC and Intel. This very strength, however, could turn into a weakness as it its software is propriety, whereas the OPLC and Classmate PC both support open-source applications.

The Uruguayan government will soon have to decide between implementing (and perhaps, being locked into) a proprietary, but robust educational solution with ITP or going with the more-flexible, yet also risky (appropriate software may or may not be developed) open-source option.

Monday, May 7, 2007

$10 Laptop - not a silver bullet

Last Friday The Times of India reported that India's India's Ministry of Human Resource Development is working toward developing a $10 laptop....

Will they achieve what has eluded Negroponte and his $100 Laptop project? They claim that they already have... they have designed a $47 model, which is almost 4 times less expensive than the $100 Laptop (which, for the record, is now supposed to cost closer to $175). The $10 model will take another two years to develop, but with the high quality of Indian engineers and local manufacturing capability, there just may succeed.

Will this be the silver bullet that dramatically increases PC usage in emerging markets? Unlikely. This depends on what end users want.

If Internet connectivity is the objective, a $10 laptop is nice, but maybe not enough...Internet access costs are often out of the price-range of the average citizen. Even in India, where Internet access is extremely affordable (approx. $4.50 per month), $60 per year is still a heafty fee given that the average annual income is only $800 or so....(would you spend 7% of your salary, or say $7K per year if you make $100K, on broadband access....I would think twice before signing up myself)

If a stand-alone computer is desired, the question still remains - what do they want to do with it? Will they be able to afford the software cost? Who will train them on how to use it? Who will repair it when it breaks or gets a virus? Will they have (stable enough) electricity to power it?

I will not debate that the cost of a computer is a barrier to acquisition....but it is not the only one, and perhaps (likely, in my opion) not the most important one.....

Friday, May 4, 2007

Dr. Peter Cukor

Peter Cukor, a pioneering scientist, teacher and author, passed away last quarter. Peter had a unique gift of never losing sight of the needs of technology users - whether they lived in Boston, MA or Nairobi, Kenya. Peter earned three advanced scientific degrees, led GTE Labs for more than 30 years and extended his knowledge to students at Tufts, Harvard and the Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Peter also shared his expertise with the world through his innovative patents and dozens of peer-reviewed publications.

Peter's obituary is here , and a link to his autobiography, "Before the Silver Cord is Snapped," is here.

On a personal note, Peter was my MA and PhD advisor, mentor and friend. Peter was responsible for exposing me, and many other Tufts students, to the power and potential of technology and particularly on how it could be used to accelerate socio-economic development. Peter was an insightful, honest, and very kind person, and will be sorely missed.