Archive for March, 2006

Intel launches “community platform” initiative

March 29, 2006

Intel launched its ambitious “community platform” initiative today to address the needs of the “emerging economies” (India, China, Brazil, Russia, South America and African countries).

There was a specific launch of the “Community PC” platform– a full function PC

• that runs on car battery (addressing the chronic power situation in rural India)
• protected against severe dust, humidity and heat (a casing with single opening and a dust filter that can be easily cleaned, motherboard design to work at temperatures up to 55 degrees Celsius)
• a single button to protect data and provide enough functionality to permit continued working till the service person arrives (several hours, if not days later), and,
• a ‘pay as you use” arrangement where the PC stops working after the “paid amount” is over, and renewable after payment, through a “key” entry

There was a keynote address by Hon’ble Minister Jairam Ramesh (Commerce Ministry) followed by talks from Intel India President Frank Jones, Intel Corporate VP Bill Siu and Amar Babu, Intel South Asia MD.

There was an interaction with four “end users” drawn from rural areas of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat & Madhya Pradesh in addition to “video links and actual demonstrations” from Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh kiosk operators; the discussions and demonstrations were moderated by the creative genius Ashutosh Gowariker who had directed the highly successful Indian movie “Lagaan” (that was nominated for Oscar Award).

The launch itself was done by Frank Jones driving a tractor into the main hall and bringing the “much awaited community PC” followed by a Lecture-cum-Demonstration by Intel VP Will Agatstein and the Product Manager Rakesh Godhwani; they showed a set of applications – adult literacy (from TCS), children education (from Azim Premji Foundation) and Entertainment (Hindi movie) – convincing the audience that the hardware is “best” (no deficient functionality) and “cheap” (shared access will bring down the costs to Rs 10 per person per day for 3 persons over 3 years).

Intel also used the occasion to bring in a whole range of partners like Wipro, HCL (hardware), IIIT Bangalore (Research), HLL & ITC (Logistics) and several NGOs. They were ackonwedged with a Memento from Intel. The “eco-system is already working”; it was heartening to see Wipro launching Bharat PC on this platform and HCL launching its own model based on the “reference design”

There was an interesting “panel discussion” that followed, coordinated by Sadagopan of IIIT Bangalore.

The distinguished panelists include Professor MS Swaminathan (who joined over a video link), Hon’ble Panchayati Raj Minister Mani Shankar Iyer, Alok Bhargava, Chief Executive, Rural CSC Program of IL&FS (Infrastructure Leasing & Financing Services), Ajai Chowdhury, CEO, HCL Infosystems and Rohit Kumar, Director, Public Sector, Microsoft India.

Mani Shankar Iyer brought out the data that India is not only the largest democracy; with 3 million elected representatives of Panchayati Raj (village government), India also has the largest elected representatives. He talked of the different ministries, governments and companies working together to create the critical mass of users and applications.

Professor Swaminathan talked of the need to work in “mission mode” to create rich content and reach the goal of 100,000 Kiosks by August 2007 (60th year of Indian Independence). He also emphasized the need for capacity building.

Ajay Chowdhury passionately talked about HCL working in this area for decades and holding on to “hardware manufacture” in India for three decades. He talked of the need for layered applications – literacy, e-Governance, entertainment, and communications – each though small, contributing enough to make the “stack” rich and sustainable.

Alok Bhargava gave the details of the ambitious 100,000 Common Service Centers project of the Ministry of Information technology (under the National e-Governance Plan) and the need to look beyond e-Governance applications.

Rohit Kumar mentioned that what Intel is launching – a platform that can scale that is maintainable and broad-enough to sustain a whole range of exciting applications – is “an idea whose time has come”. He also talked of Project Shihksha of Microsoft that addresses capacity building.

Intel’s Willy Agatstein had the last word. He talked of his thirty years with IT and the promise that he sees of “community PC” having the potential to “double the income” of the rural community.

There were interesting questions on sustainability, importance of basic amenities (like drinking water) and a dose of cynicism (where are the success stories?).

All in all, it was a packed day; hopefully, Intel will organize another event next March to take stock of the “real” developments over a year; only then we will know the real impact of today’s launch.

(Intel “Jaagrati” – Community PC Launch Delhi Pragati Maidan March 29, 2006)

BSNL order for 65 Million phone lines getting ready

March 26, 2006

It is interesting to see BSNL RFP getting final touches is drawing global attention. Fierce Wireless has the following to say on today’s newsletter
“Vendors are not only salivating over the mobile-phone prospects in China, but India is just as big. Here’s why: The country’s state-owned telephone operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL) requested bids to help it set up 63.5 million mobile lines in a deal estimated to be as much as $4.8 billion. Analysts say it is the world’s single largest RFP involving GSM. Vendors bidding must have posted at least $ 1.8 billion in revenue for each of the last two years to be eligible”
We are finally coming close to being “world-scale”; we placed plane orders that made the global industry ‘look up”; our handset orders have been big; we need to do the same in oil, steel, semiconductor. Then, and only then, India would have arrived.

Cleaning-up the mess and Messing up a clean sheet – Subroto Bagchi on “dilemmas”

March 25, 2006

In his ever-exciting columns Subroto on Wednesday March 22, 2006, talked of the “apparent contradictions” in life and the need to be clear as to how to reckon with the dilemmas. He goes on to say that such things keep propping up all our life and there is a dire need to learn to “cope up” with contradictions as we move up in our senior managements.

Subroto’s example of someone cleaning up a table with split ink is telling. While the young man who cleaned up the mess was clear that he has cleaned up, little did he realize that he only transferred the mess from the table top to a clean towel! Did he mess it up or cleaned up the mess; both are true – so goes our life!

Pune plans to un-wire the city

March 22, 2006

According to CXO news, Pune Municipal Corporation has selected Intel to provide wireless access to the citizens of the city spread across 400 square kilometers. Intel will work with the city officials to deploy Wi-Max / Wi-Fi solution

Taiwan un-wired the city of Taipei in December 2005; there are many cities in USA, notably, SFO that is working on it.

Bangalore, the IT capital of India, is clearly lagging

Open the borders

March 21, 2006

Subroto Bagchi, COO, Mindtree Consulting in his column in “Times of India” recently talks of India “opening the borders” and welcoming outstanding talent from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar & Sri Lanka into India. It is an excellent idea worth serious consideration by the “powers that be”.

India is getting close to a “leadership” position in many areas; it is time we learnt to play the “leader’s game”. India is large enough not to worry about limiting ideas that others will “take away”. Just as Indians who went to USA are returning back now that Indian conditions are improving, the immigrants from these countries will return once these countries improve. In fact this process will lead to a situation of India surrounded by “prosperous” neighbors; a sure sign of long term stability. Just tourism alone – by people of these countries visiting each other will – lead to 8 – 10% growth in the individual economies of every country.

It is not “incredible India” alone; it is “incredible Pakistan”, “incredible Nepal”, “incredible Bangladesh”, and “incredible Sri Lanka as well”.

Future of IT

March 20, 2006

What is the future of IT? Here is my take

1. The hardware-software divide will disappear. Most systems will have “embedded electronics” that will have software to take on different functionally. Today’s mobile phones already demonstrate the dominance of software even in devices considered as “hardware pieces”.

2. Domain will dominate – increasingly jobs in IT will go to those who can combine IT skills with domain knowledge; Banking, Healthcare, Automotive, Telecom and Tourism are the major “domains”. Students will be better prepared if they specialize.

3. CHINDIA will rule – contrary to popular press writings, China and India will complement each other, though they will compete too. Chinese hardware industry would benefit through Indian software; India would need Chinese hardware to grow the software industry. Chinese companies will fight Indian companies for domestic Indian market and vice versa; but outside India & China, the companies on both sides will cooperate to dominate the global markets.

4. IT will become invisible; in another 20 years, there will be more IT but less “IT tag”. Most professionals will do lot of “IT work”, but call themselves auto engineer or control engineer than mere “IT engineer”

(Keynote address given in Al Ameen College Bangalore, on the occasion of their College Festival “Insight IT 2006” on March 20, 2006)

President Bush’s talk in Purana Quila

March 5, 2006

What I liked most in the talk by President Bush on March 3, 2006 was his quoting of Mahatma Gandhi, Ravindranath Tagore, Kalpana Chawala, Bobby Jindal and Sania Mirza. His use of the term “brother nations” was interesting. The talk appeared genuine; no doubt, it was to listen to US President talking of India in glorious terms.

President Bush visit to India and the nuclear deal

March 3, 2006

Today is a historic day when USA and India sign the nuclear deal ending “isolation” of India over the past 30 years.

Hopefully the better features of the deal will be seized by all; it is always “give and take”; nothing comes for “free”. We need to use it in “our” interest.

Congress Party should support the Prime Minister who has “taken” the decision. BJP should not get into “mindless” opposition. Once Congress and BJP act the “double standard” of the Communists will be exposed.

One hopes to see India emerging strong in the whole issue.

Budget 2006

March 1, 2006

The central budget was presented on Feb 28, 2006. Luckily, no new taxes have been imposed.

One wonders why the government has to put 8% excise duty on packaged software and increase tax on PCs. The service tax increase will affect 120 Million Indians who talk on phones (which they could never get till DoT had monopoly! When India is finally consuming IT, taxing IT is the least one expects. So much for “aam admi”

Luckily, budget support for education is up, particularly school education. There is a token bonanza for higher education; Rs 100 Crores each for Madras, Bombay and Calcutta Universities. One hopes that the government grants such “significant” grants every year to ten Institutes so that in five years at least 50 Institutes will get a new lease of life. Of course, the political bosses should not “force” the Universities into starting irrelevant “studies centers for political masters” and building endless third rate buildings to keep the “contractors” happy