India Dept of Education to debut $20 Laptop on February 3rd NOT

UPDATE:  Reports, pictures, and details are still murky but this appears to be a case of overhyped nonsense where the device is simply a flash drive system without monitor or keyboard:  http://education.zdnet.com/?p=2131

The Times of India and others are now reporting that a team of students and the Government of India have developed a low cost laptop that is expected to be put into widespread use throughout India very soon. The initial cost is reported to be $20 with a mass production cost expected to be $10.

Yes, you heard that right – ten bucks for a computer.

Although the specs on these machines will obviously be marginal, it is not longer important for most users to have a robust machine – rather cloud storage and applications and internet-as-network computing has become dominant even for many high end computer users.

As admirable as the One Laptop Per Child project has been to this process it appears the India machines may wreck the One Laptop train. Although it’s not clear yet if the India systems will be self powered and have mesh networking capabilities as the One Laptops do, I think the key brilliancy of Negroponte was to create machines that were accessible to a dramatically greater number of people than have had access in the past to advanced technologies. The India project combined with the dramatic innovations in smartphones and cellular connectivity combined with Intel’s falling out with One Laptop last year may obsolete the One Laptop project in its current form, though Negroponte can certainly be proud to have ushered in an era of “extremely low cost” computing.

Carol Bartz to become Yahoo’s new CEO

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Carol Bartz is about to accept Yahoo’s offer to be their new CEO, replacing Jerry Yang after his stint of about a year where Yahoo saw their share price collapse after a rejection of offers from Microsoft that many feel were as much an ego play by Yang than a reasoned business decision.

Bartz has been CEO of Autodesk and it remains somewhat unclear why Yahoo’s board sees Bartz as the best person for the job at this challenging time in Yahoo’s corporate history. One idea bandied about on CNBC right now is that Yahoo’s plans are to sell off their search business to Microsoft and then reinvent themselves as a software company, although I’m skeptical even Yahoo would be so foolish as to think they can monetize software in the current online environment where most software is free.

Yahoo does have huge potential to leverage it’s brilliant Web 2.0 development to date (e.g. Flickr, Open Search APIs, etc), but only if they can find ways to make sure their huge internet footprint stays intact and users start to see and interact with Yahoo advertising. If Bartz can do this Yahoo’s prospects could improve significantly.

Disclosure: Long on YHOO

Google Chrome: It’s a very good browser, so why don’t we use it?

When Google Chrome launched several months ago I think a lot of folks assumed they’d be switching to that browser, which uses several excellent innovations to enhance online navigation.     Google even issued a nifty comic book to help explain the innovation, and blogs were buzzing for weeks with mostly neutral or favorable reviews.

So what happened?    Why is Google Chrome market share so small compared to Firefox and IE?

The first reason of course is simply  … habit ….   It’s very hard to get people – even innovative online folks – to change from one good application to another.   Contrary to a lot of silly suggestions the Internet Explorer browser was not broken and even though FireFox has slowly been gaining market share it is clear that the rapid demise of IE was greatly exaggerated.     I use FireFox but I’d hardly say it’s dramatically superior or even all that different from IE.

Although it’s hurting Google Chrome, our habituation works very well for Google in the search sphere where people tend to use Google for search without even testing against other engines – that game is over and until we see a major new semantic search innovation Google’s likely to be the search of choice for years to come.

Interestingly Google Chrome really does “feel” different to me and on balance I liked the differences, yet like millions of other onliners who loaded up Chrome I did not switch over and rarely use that browser now.  I know one of my concerns was the uncertainty that still surrounds Google’s treatment of the data I indirectly share with them using Google products.   As a regular user of Google search, Gmail, blogger, and more watching Google both become dominant and also struggle to maintain their legendarily high online revenue I do worry that Google has too great a potential to become “the boss of me”.

Still not sure what’s up with Chrome, but as with many things internet it’s good to head over to Matt Cutts’ blog to get a very well informed opinion.     Matt is one of a handful of Google’s veteran search engineers and writes what for many is the key blog discussing issues relating to search, especially Google search.

Matt’s Five Reasons to Use Google Chrome

Matt’s Ten Reasons Not to Like Google Chrome

Hmmm – I don’t think it’s fair to use the 5 vs 10 math here, but maybe Matt’s on to something.   As creatures of habit we tend to settle in to the familiar and with the new we quickly look for things that bother us.   Google Chrome may in fact be the best browser, and I think I’d want to take the Crhome side in a debate even though I’m not using it, but not sure if I’ll be able to break the old browser habits.    Will you?

Mashup Camp 6 in Mountain View

I am at the computer science museum in Mountain View at the first part of Mashup Camp where API providers are showing their stuff.   There will be a lot more tomorrow, and then on Wed and Thursday mashup folks will be showing off their stuff.

I get the impression that this is a different crowd from the first camps, where most were already familiar with mashups, though perhaps those folks will be coming Wed and Thursday for the main camp.

Anxious to try Intel Mashmaker, which looks good.

Most of my blogging about this will be at WebGuild

Facebook – Myspace = 100% revenue share

Josh at Redeye VC has some *excellent* points about the coming big battle between Facebook and Myspace for web developers:

If you ran a venture-backed company and had to decide whether you wanted to focus your effort on: (a) a property that welcomed you in and let you keep 100% of the revenue you generate or (b) a company with a vague policy that doesn’t let you generate any revenue, which would you choose? I don’t think it’s even a decision. It’s an IQ test.

However, it is significant that Myspace remains far larger than Facebook in terms of a user base and also important is that users, not developers, have driven the success of Myspace.

Facebook is hard to analyze because until very recently they had a much more restrictive policy on new accounts, opening them only to groups associated with businesses or universities. To join Facebook I initially had to contact my old alma mater – University of Wisconsin – to get an alumni email set up, then redirect that to my current mail. No big deal but certainly a barrier to entry. Facebook now (wisely) has opened itself up to everybody and (also wisely) is pursuing a very open approach to API usage and social media. Most importantly Facebook is going to allow those who build applications around Facebook to keep 100% of the revenue those create.

I think this “100% revenue share” is a brilliant approach because the Facebook “whole” will be much greater than the sum of these parts. Thus Facebook can make a *lot* of money through the extra traffic and advertising created by websites and developers and users gravitating to the Facebook social media ecosystem. The loser in this equation would be Myspace and other sites (that would be MOST sites) that try to create social media environments but don’t share much of the revenues.

Facebook Rules with Social Tools

Today Facebook launches a social media initiative that is significant enough to possibly become a web milestone, depending on how the developer community views and uses all the new capabilities that Facebook is offering to them.

Rafe Needleman‘s got a video of the conference today and Techcrunch will, as usual, have insightful summary of the implications of all this.

Based on my quick first look into what they are up to this really looks like a brilliant move, and a sign they won’t be selling to a bigger player, rather trying to rise up and eat the bigger fish.

If Facebook can capture the imagination of enough developers and become “the” key platform for social media they’ll likely be very glad to have turned down the billion+ dollar buyout offers earlier this year.

At the least Mark Z and his crew deserve huge props for going for the gusto and offering to take the development community along for the ride.  This is not only great stuff for Facebook and social media evangelism, this appears to be consistent with the grand and open internet community vision that one hopes will ultimately prevail.

Jimmy Wales on Charlie Rose

Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, discusses his Wikia search projectand the internet. He’s the chairman of Wikia, Inc. He thinks it’ll be 2-3 years before they have a robust product.

“Democratic, participatory” search project.
“Google, Yahoo, Ask” have similar, proprietary and closed search. He wants to break up the idea that a few companies should be so dominant.

Making search ubiquitous. He thinks Google may not have problems with WIKIA because they can keep matching up ads, advertisers, and buyers as they have been.

Wales thinks Facebook made the right decision to turn down Yahoo’s billion+ offer for Facebook, calling it an “interesting gamble”. “He’s a pretty sharp guy” (Zuckerman), and Wales thinks that unlike Myspace, Facebook is doing right by the customers. Notes increase of spam and advertising intensity of Myspace.

Wikia major initiatives: Search, Reference Works for humor, opinion, sports. 66 languages plus a “Klingon language” project. “Roll this revolution” into many other areas. What makes the internet great is that it’s a “global platform for people to share knowledge”. Keeping it “open” appears to be a key guiding principle for Wales, and his admirable efforts at Wikipedia support his sincerity in that mission.

Wales suggests that Firefox is the best browser, primarily due to features that he sees as the result of the open source development model that created Firefox.    He says that monopolistic activity by Microsoft has slowed innovation, but feels that Google is a friend of Open Source.     Wales recounted telling Bill Gates at Davos that Microsoft search is so bad people are switching away from it as the Vista default, and suggests that he’ll have fun trying to build a better search than Google with Wikia.

Bebos, billions, and why Yahoo is starting to piss me off.

Yahoo may buy Bebo, the British “Myspace”, for a billion dollars. That is a LOT of money – about 3% of Yahoo’s market cap. Presumably this, like Yahoo’s unsuccessful Facebook aquisition attempt, is Yahoo’s approach to recapturing the market dominance it enjoyed back in the day. Dominance through the aquisition of a social network rather than developing their own.

They should know better than to trust their existing criteria for decisions about aquisitions. Yahoo is the company that aquired Overture’s pay per click technology years ago, and then managed to cede dominance in that area to Google. Ever heard of Google? Yahoo probably could have *owned* Google, but it seems higher management didn’t think search had the monetization potential of … broadcast.com which was purchased for billions.

Isn’t it time for top management at Yahoo to let innovation, not aquisitions, rule the day? This approach has worked very well for Google, who’s main mistakes now appear to be in aquiring things like YouTube which in my opinion is unlikely to recover YouTube’s 1.6 billion price tag and will certainly pester Google with big money lawsuits for decades. Yahoo’s still got a LOT of great technical people, especially in the developer and new business divisions. More importantly, the world is producing hundreds of thousands of new, brilliant innovators every year, most of whom are chomping at the bit to bring new and exciting innovation to the hungry online world. Why not devote the billions to this rather than purchasing companies with marginal revenues and long term prospects that are more hope and prayer than reality?

With the latest flurry of high priced aquistions it almost seems like, to the big players, the billion dollar deal is the new million dollar deal. I remain skeptical that deals of this size pay off in the long run – certainly very, very few of the early pre-bubble ones did not pay off for companies. I’d suggest that the smaller deals (e.g. Flickr) do have potential, but that Yahoo’s top management is looking for a killer deal that simply does exist while the innovation approach (ie much, MUCH more support to the core values and teams at Yahoo) is starting them in the face. Traffic? Yahoo’s got plenty of it. Modest changes can send millions of Yahoo users to any new idea, so why not do this *a lot more* and test *a lot more ideas*.

Edison suggested that there is always a better way, and it’s time for Yahoo to ….. find it.

More Bebo-logy from Techmeme:

Yahoo may net Bebo owners $1bn

 

 

Bebo/YHOO: My Rumor’s Bigger Than Yours

Yahoo May Be Bidding For Social Network Bebo: Report

Yahoo: When You Can’t Buy Facebook, You Buy Bebo

Bebo is not for sale


Twitter and SEO

Interesting.   My Chico the Wonder Dog SEO experiment is yielding some unexpected results.    A tweet about this is now higher in the ranks than the original blog post page.

Chico the Wonder Dog has been trading places with another Chico the Wonder Dog.   That post is much older and may have more incoming links since that guy seems to spend more time posting about his dog than I do, though based on my quick analysis of this and a few other cases I think it indicates that Google looks carefully at the rate of link growth, and if it slows they tend to put back the “old, tried and true” page in favor of the newcomer. This makes sense from an anti-spam perspective although in Chicos particular case it probably does not yield the top dog.

However, the Twitter reference rising to high seems really surprising because Twitter posts are generally small and insignificant (as it is here).  I’m surprised Google ranks these at all, let alone makes them competitive with meaty postings.  Perhaps Google has elevated “social media” in some algorithmic fashion though my guess is this is a defect that will be corrected – ie Twitter is structured in a way that links to these posts from many Twitter people and this is messing up the Algo’s handing of this insignificant material.    If I’m searching for “Tesla Coil”, let along pretty much anything of any relevance, I hardly want a bunch of Twitter posts!

Pew Study – new web stuff is catching on *fast*, not slow!

Matthew Ingram has got it right when he suggests that the recent Pew study results are an indication that many, not few people are engaged in Web 2.0. Several headlines about the study suggest, oddly, that there is some sort of tech elite who participates in web stuff when in fact the study is a powerful indication that the social internet is thriving and getting adopted by a broad spectrum of society rather than an elite group.

Click here for the Pew study with these key findings:

8% of Americans are deep users of the participatory Web and mobile applications.

23% are heavy, pragmatic tech adopters – they use gadgets to keep up with social networks or be productive at work.

10% rely on mobile devices for voice, texting, or entertainment.

10% use information gadgets, but find it a hassle.

49% of Americans only occasionally use modern gadgetry and many others bristle at electronic connectivity.

MORE:  Wow – I don’t think I’ve ever seen research so hopelessly misinterpreted as these findings.  Perhaps those writing about this like the idea of being a “tech elite” so they interpret accordingly?

The significant finding was that only 15% are “offline”.     Hmmm – compare this to 10 years ago when only about 15% were “online”.   This is called “rapid adoption” rather than “tech elitism”.

Off the network (15 percent)
People in this group, tending to be 65 or older, do not have a cell phone or Internet access. Some have computers or digital cameras.