Archive for October, 2005

MIT Media Lab unveils the details of $ 100 Laptop; OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) will ship it in year 2007

October 2, 2005

It was interesting to see Professor Nicholoas Negroponte, Director of Media Lab, MIT announcing the launch of OLPC and showing off the first designs of $ 100 PC that he talked about in World Economic Forum last year. Economist talked about this development yesterday; there is a lot of heightened expectations.

It is promising, but one has to keep one’s fingers crossed about the many assumptions; they plan to sell directly millions of pieces- one million is the minimum- to Ministries of Education in China, Brazil, Thailand and Egypt; they plan to use low-cost $ 35 dual LDC display; there is no storage and there is a definitive need for connectivity and content.

Will Governments be able to buy in millions directly without a “tendering process”? Will the display stand the heat & dust as well as usage by high school kids? Will not the cost of communications and other useful content + software take away the charm of “low cost”?

With $ 20-40 mobile phones a reality today, will it not be worthwhile for the Governments to subsidize the last mile communications cost (with communications being far more useful to the child’s entire family than computing that is targeted primarily for the children)? Can large-scale project take off without extensive field trials?

These are issues I am sure the learned professors at MIT must have addressed; the only doubt is whether professors at MIT can really “feel” the “reality” in third world countries.

Only time will tell if the project succeeds in the field.

Paramount Airways takes off A unique business model from an innovative thinker

October 1, 2005

Last week Paramount Airways took its wings from Coimbatore.

What is striking is its focus on secondary cities, move away from low cost, and offer “business-class only” seats at affordable fares.

It is likely to be a big hit according to me.

The quality of life in many of the secondary cities like Mysore, Coimbatore, Indore, Ranchi or Pune is much better than metros; but senior executives and scions of business families cling to metros for better air connectivity. With telecom improving dramatically, education institutions moving to hinterland, and availability of good quality hospitals in secondary cities, it is only time that the growth will move to secondary cities. With people with larger disposable income moving to secondary cities, entertainment and retail will move too; that would start the real growth in non-metros in India.

Hopefully, the municipal functions will improve; so are law and order, infrastructure like power; if that indeed happens India will be a better place to live.

I am also happy that the airlines chose Embraer Aircraft from Brazil; aircraft that suit travel between “secondary cities to metros” (too short for Airbus and Boeing, too long for ATR), far more comfortable and economic. If only the Government had not stifled the public sector with their archaic processes and the never-ending CVC, CAG and Parliamentary Committees (that are used by successive governments to settle the score among them, with the public servants being used as ping pong balls), HAL & NAL would have built such aircraft in 90’s that would have added another growth engine (in addition to IT and BT) to the Indian economy in this decade. Embraer also shows that niche companies from “not so advanced” countries can compete with the gorillas (Boeing & Airbus) too!

The knowledge industry (IT, Biotech, R & D, Design and Pharma) should be the first to grow into such secondary towns.

What this country needs is such innovations in every walk of life – Arvind in eye care, Devi Shetty in Cardiac suregery, Mashelkar in CSIR… That alone will do justice to India’s Talent