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Tutoring: Enormous Opportunity

Posted on Sunday, Feb 12th 2006

From today’s New York Times: Tutor Program Offered by Law Is Going Unused.

George Bush’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has tremendous supplemental educational services funding. Students, under NCLB, are eligible for free tutoring, and according to this article, roughly two million public school students were eligible for free tutoring in the school year that ended in 2004, yet only 226,000 — 12% — received help.

In the nation’s largest school district, New York City, fewer than half of the 215,000 eligible students sought the free tutoring, and in California in the last school year, 95,500 of 800,000 eligible students were tutored. In Maryland, just over a quarter of those who were eligible — 5,580 of 19,520 students — actually enrolled in the last school year. And in Louisiana, despite aggressive marketing by the state, only about 5,000 of 50,000 eligible students took part in the program last year.

Reasons cited include lack-of-awareness amongst parents, and complicated paperwork associated with the process.

Well, this is both a problem and an opportunity for private small businesses to step in, get NCLB certification, and begin offering their services to schools and parents in each community across America.

While online tutoring programs with off-shore tutors may be an excellent business opportunity as well, it requires motivated students to take advantage of such services.

For the segment that NCLB focuses on -children in Public Schools, especially under-performing schools – it requires “in-person” tutoring, and that cannot be off-shored. These kids are inherently weaker, less motivated, come from under-priveleged backgrounds – hence, community tutorial services could both add a lot of value to their needs, as well as build strong businesses within the framework of the NCLB system.

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Google’s Strategy: Yikes!

Posted on Friday, Feb 10th 2006

Google keeps wanting to diversify its Advertising revenue mix from online only to other streams like print and broadcast radio.

In my view, this strategy is not sound. They should stick to online, but diversify the revenue mix outside of advertising, and into Software Services. Their DNA is technology, not advertising, and that is rather obvious to the entire world.

Stick to the core competency, Guys!

Stupid Immigration Laws

Posted on Wednesday, Feb 8th 2006

My mother-in-law died last night in Belgium. Under normal circumstances, I would leave for Brussels tomorrow night, to attend the funeral on Saturday morning.

Circumstances, however, are not normal. In fact, they are rather brain-dead. Immigration Policies in the EU do not permit long-term Visas, and I have an Indian passport, so I need a visa for Europe, and my Schengen Visa has expired. There is no Belgian Consulate in San Francisco where I can walk in and get a visa today. The nearest consulate is in LA.

It made me think, how come, in this age of electronic communication, we cannot tackle situations like this without physical exchange of documents?

It also made me write an email to Mr. Ronald De Langhe, Consul General and Ms. VĂ©ronique Marounek, Consul:

“Your laws, dear friends, are impractical and inhuman. In this day and age, with electronic communication of the utmost advanced calibre being available to us – it beats me why you cannot accept documents like bank statements, emails from family in Belgium confirming the news of the death, and payments by credit card. You have issued me a visa before. You have me on your file. Why can’t you let the immigration in Belgium know that a person with such and such passport number is to arrive on such and such date, to attend a funeral? Why can’t they check the passport number, while you check the electronic documents on this end? I need to take a plane tomorrow, and you don’t have a consulate in the San Francisco area … I do not have the time to send you the documents physically, because I will then miss the funeral.

Your laws and systems are outdated, and obsolete. You can tell me that the laws of no country allow for a visa to be issued without the passport being physically available. Well, my response to that then is that ALL immigration laws are outdated and obsolete. You should ALL look into what you are doing with a magnifying glass, study the progress of modern communication technology, and make a collective decision to join the march of human civilization.”

A lady from the Consulate called me back this afternoon to offer me condolences, and to acknowledge my letter.

Who knows, however, where the immigration reforms stand? I wonder if they even know how to spell technology!

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Make Hay While …

Posted on Tuesday, Feb 7th 2006

Apple slashes prices to maintain market share of the iPod family, much to the dismay of ALL competitors and aspirants.

Seth Godin makes a point that Fashion items don’t come with extended warranty, neither should the iPod.

Well, clearly, the sun is shining brightly on Apple right now, and many, many rules can be written and re-written to suit whatever the hell they feel like doing.

Meanwhile, here is a little post on a new chip by IBM that questions Apple’s decision to switch to Intel. I don’t think the decision is untimely at all. Apple had to take a step in the direction of the mainstream market, and pairing up with Intel is a good start.

Also, Microsoft is providing a kick in Symantec’s behind, (See my earlier analysis on the Security market), while it gets a kick from Google on its own, as it offers to pay PC Makers to include software like search, gmail, and chat at boot-time.

As I said recently, they could also provide toolbar level links to CRM, Security, and Collaboration via three acquisitions: Salesforce.com, Qualys, and Webex.

Teens and Tech Careers

Posted on Sunday, Feb 5th 2006

The iPod generation of kids and teens are by far the most tech savvy thus far.

During my teenage, through the mid-eighties in India, we hardly had access to computers. I took a computer class in 1987, at which the instructor used to give us “demos” on a real machine about once a week, and we never actually programmed on a PC. Instead, we wrote algorithms and pseudocode, and were tested on the logic of our programs.

During my recent India trip, we visited a village school that my great-great-grand-father had established in our ancestral village in Rajarhat, near Calcutta, where he grew up. The head-master took us around and explained that they have 10 computers, and students from 8th grade on learn data-structures, algorithms, AND they actually write programs in C. I was both impressed and fascinated by how far into the fabric of India – IT has made its way. In this case, the vehicle for this accomplishment is an educational outreach program from IBM.

In the US, of course, we have an Affluenza generation growing up on computers from the age of 3 or 4.

It is, therefore, somewhat disheartening to read this post by Laura Tiffany, on the career preferences of today’s teens:

   “The teens surveyed believe that innovation will take care of such issues as clean water (91 percent), world hunger (89 percent), disease (88 percent), pollution reduction (89 percent) and energy conservation (82 percent). They also believe gasoline and CDs are on their way out; 33 percent think gas-powered cars will be gone by 2015 and CDs will be just a memory within 10 years.
   
   But when asked about their future career choices, science, business and engineering weren’t at the top of the list. Those honors went to arts and medicine (17 percent each); health-care/medicine careers were more attractive to girls than boys (25 percent vs. 9 percent). Engineering did come in third overall at 14 percent, with a similarly wide difference between boys and girls (24 and 4 percent, respectively).”

Well, the numbers are very different in India and China. Is the US, then, leaving it up to the Asians to do the inventing and innovating?

Google’s three should-be M&A considerations

Posted on Sunday, Feb 5th 2006

I wrote, earlier, Microsoft’s two should-be M&A considerations.

Eric Schonfeld writes Google Enterprise and makes the case that Google should get into Enterprise Applications.

If Google’s earnings miss tells us anything it is that it needs to find some serious new lines of revenue. For all of its cool products that it seems to launch every week, none of them outside of search ads are making much, if any, money. Here’s my latest column on why Google should become a platform for online enterprise software apps and take on SAP (which is about to launch its own online CRM service) and Salesforce.com.

Absolutely! In fact, Enterprise and SME are the places to go, and in both, Google has great customers already.

Here’s Google’s three should-be M&A considerations, all in Software-As-A-Service (SaaS) :

Salesforce.com : Hosted CRM, with a meagre $4.14B market cap.

Webex: Hosted web collaboration and conferencing, with a paltry $1.26B market cap.

Qualys: Hosted Security, still private, for sure less than a Billion.

That $20 Billion or so in lost market value that Google just suffered, would come rushing back, if they spend this miniscule ~$6-$8 Billion, and make a statement to the market that they understand the need to look beyond advertising, and SaaS is a perfect place to loiter into, next.

Publishing Infrastructure

Posted on Saturday, Feb 4th 2006

From Burnam’s Beat: A Unified Theory of Search, Social Networking, Structured Blogging, RSS and the Active Web: RSS and its extensions on the demand side, combined with structured personal (and business) websites and search on the supply side will transform the web from a passive entity into the Active Web and will comprise the first major step towards a more autonomous web that adds real value to people’s daily lives without requiring constant effort and input.

On the supply-side, however, additional infrastructure is needed for monetization.

During the last week, I have been exposed to two ad management services for Blog publishers:RightMedia and Pheedo.

Have any of you used these services? If so, what are the pros and cons?

PalmPod

Posted on Friday, Feb 3rd 2006

… is a very good idea.

I especially like the part about Apple being the best acquirer for Palm in this article.

It gets Steve Jobs into the cell phone business, which is suffering still, from the lack of a really “usable” phone.

And it gives a ray of hope to the Palm userbase (moi aussi), of the product line having some future other than extinction.

Legend goes, that years ago, Jobs had said to Eric Benhamou: “You don’t know anything about marketing. Give it to me, I will make Palm happen.” Of course, why would Benhamou’s ego take that? After all, he was responsible for turning 3Com around …

Fast forward a few years.

It is true, the kind of marketing touch that Steve Jobs has demonstrated – pretty much no other high-tech executive today can claim to have. It is, therefore, not quite so humiliating for Eric to give in at this stage of the game.

On the other hand, it looks like Jobs has also grown up, and his recent finesse in dealing with Bob Iger would suggest he can do more, even on the relationship front.

PalmPod may just be a splendid opportunity whose time has come!