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Laptops you wind up, not plug in

Negroponte and his nonprofit group, One Laptop Per Child, are working with five countries - Brazil, China, Thailand, Egypt and South Africa - to distribute up to 15 million test systems to kids, writes Deepak Mankar.

india Updated: Oct 08, 2005 18:12 IST

Star power! No, I don't mean the one you check out in the daily newspaper's astrological column. The star power I'm referring to is the contribution a star (in showbiz) makes to the success of the venture (s)he stars in, be it film, sports, even business.

At the Harvard Business School, Professor Anita Elberse recently researched the concept and the dynamics of 'star power. Her study included riddles like: Can studios depend on a star's track record to predict future success? Are two 'A-list' stars better than one? Can stars improve a studio's overall profitability and box office revenue on one movie? What stars attract the most ticket buyers? Her aim? To better understand if and how A-list stars contribute to Hollywood's bottom line. Her modus operandi involved a design research not around actual box office receipts but rather around an online simulation game, called 'The Hollywood Stock Exchange' with over half a million players. Now all this sounds intriguing, almost esoteric, doesn't it? She published her findings in a working paper, 'The Power of Stars: Creative Talent and the Success of Entertainment Products'. According to her, the notion of 'star power' "captures the extent to which an artist's involvement with an entertainment product contributes to the success of that product. … For example, in the case of films, powerful actors and actresses can help guarantee financing and push a movie through the development process; they can aid in generating interest from theaters across the globe seeking to show the film; and they can help to attract audiences to the film. Their power may find its origins in superior acting skills, a loyal fan base, a knack for picking the most promising projects, a strong relationship with other creative talent, a solid box-office record, or a combination of such factors." Read her interview by Sarah Jane Gilbert, a content developer at HBS's Baker Library, ('The Box Office Power of Stars') here: hbswk.hbs.edu. By the way. 'The Hollywood Stock Exchange' has voluntary players who use 'Hollywood dollars' (virtual money) to "increase the value of their portfolio by, among other things, strategically trading 'MovieStocks'. The prices of these MovieStocks reflect expectations of box office revenues." hsx.com.

ALL NEW CHILD'S PLAY. Laptops you wind up, not plug in.

Remember Nicholas Negroponte, the co-founder of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the author of 'Being Digital'? According to a story ('The $100 laptop moves closer to reality') at techrepublic.com#, Negroponte released detailed specs for a $100 windup-powered laptop. It uses a version of Linux operating system and has a 500MHz processor, 1GB memory and an innovative dual-mode display in either a full-color mode or in a black-and-white sunlight-readable mode, making it "both an electronic book and a laptop", for children in developing nations where electricity is either undependable or unavailable. Negroponte and his nonprofit group, One Laptop Per Child, are working with five countries - Brazil, China, Thailand, Egypt and South Africa - to distribute up to 15 million test systems to kids. "Power for the new systems will be provided through either conventional electric current, batteries or by a windup crank attached to the side of the notebooks, since many countries targeted by the plan do not have power in remote areas." Want to see how the laptop looks? Go here: techrepublic.com. Read Negroponte's Wired columns here: media.mit.edu. Find 'selected bits' of 'Being Digital' here: archives.obs-us.com. P.S.: I wonder why India is not on the Media Lab list of beneficiaries.

WEB DESIGN'S BLOOPERS! Top Ten, 2005 edition.

He's back! Jakob Nielseen. Aka The Internet Usability Guru. This time, he brings us the Top 10 list of the web design mistakes of 2005, compiled with inputs from the readers of his Use-It website. Heading the parade is 'Legibility Problems' or "small font sizes or frozen font sizes low contrast between text and background". At No.2 is 'Non-Standard Links'. Following it are 'Flash' (a pet hate of his for a long long time!), 'Content That's Not Written for the Web', 'Bad Search', 'Browser Incompatibility', 'Cumbersome Forms', 'No Contact Information or Other Company Info', 'Frozen Layouts with Fixed Page Widths' and 'Inadequate Photo Enlargement'. useit.com. Worth a careful read as always.

ONE IN TEN. Latest blog readership estimate.

Forrester's new research suggests that ten percent of consumers read blogs once a week or more as against five percent in 2004. RSS use has tripled in the same period from 2 percent to 6 percent. Social networking via sites such as Friendster.com and MySpace.com jumped up from 4 percent last year to 6 percent in 2005. Overall, the use of the "three of the technologies highest on the Internet's buzz list - blogging, reading RSS feeds, and engaging in social networking - is climbing, … but two of the three haven't cracked the 1-in-10 barrier". Some observers attribute the increased use of blogs and RSS to the mainstream news outfits developing more blogs and 'non-geeky' RSS reading aids, e.g., My Yahoo! "Technology has given consumers an option to tune businesses out, and tune each other in," said Forrester Research Director Chris Charron. "On the flip side, technology has given businesses an opportunity to gain greater customer insights at a lower cost." techweb.com.

BACK AND BLOGGING. Henry 'Internet bubble' Blodget.

At internetoutsider.com is the blog of one of the notorious characters of the Internet bubble era. He's Henry Blodget who was Merrill Lynch's Internet analyst at the zenith of the bubble and who was later disciplined over conflicts of interest. In his first posting (05 October), he writes: "Despite ten years of effort, vast technological and financial resources, and a legendary intensity, Microsoft is running a distant third in the web wars (behind Google and Yahoo!) - and it continues to fall farther behind. Importantly, this is almost the same competitive position Microsoft occupied in 1995, when Yahoo! was run out of a dorm room and Google didn't exist. Microsoft was trying desperately to win the Internet war then, and it has tried desperately every year since. And despite all its assets, the best it has been able to do is run a distant third." Why? "Microsoft is an enterprise software company, not a consumer web services company…" And, the way out? "In the absence of disastrous mistakes by Google and Yahoo!, Microsoft's best chance to win with MSN is to merge it with AOL and spin it off." You may request for the related 'beta' September 2005 report ('The Web War is Over...And Microsoft Lost') to readers@cherryhillresearch.com. Blodget describes New York based Cheery Hill Research that deals with Internet business and finance without offering personalized investment advice as a "fledgling industry analysis company" and is apparently connected with it.

FURTHER UPDATE. McKinsey on India.

Two recent additions to the McKinsey special India coverage are: 'Premium marketing to the masses: An interview with LG Electronics India's managing director' and 'Checking India's vital signs' (the sources of India's rapid economic growth and its effects on businesses and consumers as well as the country's most significant challenges, including poor infrastructure, economic reform, and economic disparities) at mckinseyquarterly.com & mckinseyquarterly.com.

That's all for now though there's plenty more out there. Join me again next week, same place.

Copyright (c) 2001- 2005 by Deepak Mankar. All rights reserved. Deepak Mankar, an advertising practitioner on the creative side since 1965, is also intensely passionate about the web and web content creation. Read his online articles athttp://www.asiaondemand.com/. Website:http://www.addgandhi.com/original/. You may e-mail him at dmankar@bom8.vsnl.net.in.