Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Got the $199 EEPC, the $9.99 broadband; now where is the content?

I read about the ASUS EEPC today (http://www.hothardware.com/News/Asus_Eee_PC_Hands_On_Preview_/).
Here are the highlights that struck me as most interesting:
1. Full blown Linux distribution (Xandros) with Open Office installed
2. Weight of <900 gms
3. Expansion through USB
4. VGA output
5. WLAN/Ethernet connectivity
6. Rumors of putting 3G connectivity on the EEPC soon
7. $200
8. $200
9. $200
10. $200

Yes the pricing is very attractive, and it will be a high volume seller in developing countries (think volume, think China, Latin American, Africa, and South Asia). There are offcourse, lots of issues here. For example, localization is one issue. Then there is the issue of Internet connectivity itself.

But the most important issue is that of content. So far, the content on the Internet is limited to cater to people who have some western-style education. Content for the masses, and I mean content that is interesting to large populations of developing countries does not exist. One of most important business plans that needs to be written now is how to produce, syndicate and price content for this huge market. Unless we have meaningful and reasonable content to offer, the case for spending $200 on a computer becomes very weak.

We also need to understand that there may be populations who now have access to the Internet, but other basic infrastructure such as roads, delivery services, banking systems, electricity, etc. lag far behind.

How do we prevent the situation of putting the cart in front of the horse?

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

To make the internet attractive to non-western 3rd worlders via cheap laptops (assuming some kind of access is available) seems to me not much different from the stages by which the 'net became popular in the industrialized nations.
1). business use (will help legitimate things)
2). educational use will help provide reason for infrastructure funding
3) make sure the cheap laptops will interact with youtube, myspace, and that ilk...and a few other social media.They will be a "must-have" (for business or educational purposes, of course.)

Jacob said...

The content is open to all in the Internet.. This is a gateway to the large ocean of content. Once you connected to the internet, you can have a lot many content on a veriety basis!

Sachin Agarwal said...

All true...we could hope to replicate the way the content industry grew in the West. I am just not sure if the support infrastructure exists. For example, where is the Paris Hilton of say, Indonesia, whose pictures and videos could be good content?

We need an entertainment industry to create viable entertainment. User generated content is not enough.

arun said...

Electricity has emerged as the preferred mode of consumption of energy across the world. This has brought into sharp focus various technologies involved in the production, conveyance and consumption of electricity.

Hydro-electricity is by far the most preferred mode of production as it is cheap and clean as well as a renewable source of energy. However, as the easy availability of flowing water sources for generation has diminished, the world has increasingly shifted to production of thermal and even nuclear power. Thermal power has certain advantages in production as we can better control the generation of this electricity. This becomes necessary as typically power consumption fluctuates not during day and night but also across seasons. For example in much of North America and Europe consumption increases during the winter due to heating requirements. This is precisely the time when production from hydro recourses drops as waters freeze.

The emergence of thermal power as the preferred mode of production has brought into focus the issue of availability of fuels for this purpose. Typically coal has been used the world over for this purpose- though oil rich countries of the middle east has not hesitated to use their vast oil resources for this purpose.
India and China two of the biggest consumers of electricity have both fallen back on the coal resources, as their oil and gas resources are very limited. Coal is a difficult material to handle as it pollutes the atmosphere and coal mining can be dangerous and also has ecological consequences. China's experience in this regard is typical its rapid pace of economic development has meant that China has had to fall back on mining even its small and technically unsafe mines. This has resulted in a great increase in industrials accidents involving deaths and injuries to workers.

Our search for safer and cleaner methods of generating energy have so far shown only limited results. One interesting variation on this theme is Canada's attempts to exploit its vast resources of tar sands. A large amount of oil appears in association with sand in certain part of Canada. Theoretically (and even practically) technologies are available for extraction of oil from these sands. However, recent attempts by the government of Canada to extract oil from tar sands have met with opposition from environmentalists on various grounds.

Nuclear power has been talked about as the fuel of the future. Here again the basic technologies are already available, and in fact a number of plants are being run successfully in countries like US, Great Britain and France. However, the efforts to generate more power from this source received a serious set back after accidents at the Chernobyl plant in Russia and the three mile long island in the USA. The fact is that due to safety considerations nuclear power remains a practical non-starter over much of the world including India.

In my humble opinion in the field of electricity generation we pay all our attention to generation of electricity to the exclusion of losses in electricity during transmission and consumption. If we could improve the quality of transmission equipment and bring down these losses to below 5% as against almost 30% in some cases present it is possible to enhance availability of electricity even without further generation. Similarly, we must also concentrate R&D effort on the power consumption efficiency of all electrical gadgets in use- especially bulbs and other household electrical gadgets. These are some of my views on the subject.