Thursday, June 30, 2005

Tracking Links

I originally started this blog, in large part, to keep track of links to interesting articles and sites that I found. Now I've realized that is a much easier way to perform the same function. There's now a link in the upper right to my bookmarked pages. It will be much easier to track them in the future since allows you to tag each one with relevant keywords fairly easily. My only complaint is that the site's name -- while cool -- is annoying to type.

the relevant link

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Music Industry Stubborness

[Sony]'s use of the software, which is designed to limit consumers to making no more than three copies of a CD, reflects an effort to alter a format that is two decades old and contains music that can be readily copied and digitally distributed.

It's an open-ended question whether the music industry will ever understand their consumers. Sony has begun producing CDs with more restrictions even as the electronics side of the company continues to introduce music hardware with mangled DRM schemes. They are actively pushing their target customers to both piracy and competitors (what is the iPod to Walkman sales ratio these days?). They need to offer a compelling platform, music at a reasonable price, and then upsell on extras.

the relevant link

Monday, June 13, 2005

Flying Cars; About Time

I am still bitter over the hundreds of flying car articles that I read in Popular Science when I was in grade school. Those were promised a long time ago and still haven't materialized. So it's pretty cool to see that some guy has developed a combo car-gyroplane that he drives from his house to the airport, flies and lands at another airport, and then drives to work. Seems like we're gradually getting closer.

the relevant link

Friday, June 03, 2005

Innovation in the Wireless Space

The WSJ's Walt Mossberg claims that in the US wireless market, "the wireless phone carriers have used their ownership of networks to sharply restrict what technologies can actually reach users." Tom Evslin at Fractals of Change agrees and brings up the example of Hong Kong, where mobile phone companies do not have control of which phones and programs can run on their network. [Speaking of which, his posts on telecommunications are phenomenal.]

Their argument that the carriers are harming innovation, however, seems unfair and only true at the margin. The huge leap in innovation occurred when the carriers invested billions of dollars in the infrastructure necessary to create national networks and, again, when they invested billions to upgrade their networks for digital service, data capabilities, etc. Compared to this investment, innovations like the Treo are quite small and incremental.

Letting the carriers exercise ownership (i.e., control) of their networks is just another way of saying that they can seek to maximize profits. It's important that they do so because, in high initial investment, long payoff type industries such as wireless communications, cable, and satellite, companies are not profitable or cash flow positive until the network has been built out and deployed. In order to encourage future investment, development, and innovation in analogous situations, it's paramount that these companies earn a reasonable return on capital.

The Hong Kong market illustrates both the points both Tom and I are trying to make. It's true that, as a result of less carrier control, consumers there have more options when they look for phones, content, and mobile applications. However, it's also true that cutthroat competition prevents the carriers from justifying further investment outside of that required to sustain the current business.

It's not clear to me if Walt and Tom are calling for the carriers to willingly open their networks or if they are implying that regulators should take attention but I think competition will soon solve the issue. Considering that there are 4 large, national wireless carriers competing for customers, they will find it difficult to ignore innovative technologies for any sustained period of time. If customers demand the Treo, they will get it or else they will migrate carriers; the stodgy carrier will have to take notice or Wall Street will punish it for rising customer churn. On the other hand, forcing the carriers to open their networks through regulation will almost certainly lower the long-term returns of the carriers, crimping future investment and innovation.

On a side note, it's ironic to see Steve Jobs deploring the control that carriers exert over their network when he runs an even more closed system (iPod + iTunes) for music!
[Steve Jobs] is wary of producing an Apple cellphone because he would have to offer it through the “four orifices” – the major US cellular carriers – rather than being able to sell it directly to the public. We here in the US would have a far wider choice in wireless phone technology if wireless carriers did not have a veto over what is deployed on their networks.

Teaching Writing in the Times

Typical, of course, that the Times would publish a lament on education in the form of a Fish editorial espousing an interesting-but-arcane way of teaching writing. Still an interesting article.
The next step (and this one takes weeks) is to explore the devices by which English indicates and distinguishes between the various components of these interactions. If in every sentence someone is doing something to someone or something else, how does English allow you to tell who is the doer and whom (or what) is the doee; and how do you know whether there is one doer or many; and what tells you that the doer is doing what he or she does in this way and at this time rather than another?

the relevant link

Stat Usage

All I can think of is the public digesting Paul Krugman's argument that we spend more money on health care than countries with socialized medicine, we have the same longevity as those countries, therefore socialized medicine is more cost-effective.

In fact, we spend $2000 more per capita than other countries. Taking David Cutler's value of a life-year as $100,000, the critical value for whether that $2000 is cost-effective is whether it increases our longevity by one week. If you want to try to find that week by controlling for all the other factors that affect longevity (genetics, homicide rates, traffic fatality rates, etc.), go ahead. But I think it's like trying to call balls and strikes from a helicopter.

the relevant link

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