I was involved in a session on social computing -- Facebook, MySpace, etc. I always bring Forrester data to Davos -- in an attempt to cut through the slugs of opinion/speculation emanating from all concerned. For U.S. people on-line, here's what percentage go to each of the following sites at least once a month: 31% YouTube, 29% MySpace, 22% Wikipedia, 8% Facebook, 3% Friendster, 3% LinkedIn, 1% Second Life. In every major country in Europe, MySpace is in the top three most popular social sites -- Facebook is only in the top three in the U.K. The social computing elite who populated my session beat me up about the data -- they all think Facebook is much bigger than the data suggests. My theory is that Facebook is the white collar place to be, and MySpace is too blue collar for the elite...
Yesterday, I finished my first draft of my first Forrester publication. The subject is the product development process and how it needs evolve, not merely mature.
Around Forrester, the first publication is a rite of passage. Sure, Mr. Smarty-Pants Industry Guy, you've written millions of words over your career, but can you write a succinct, useful document in the Forrester style? And can you back up your claims with data?
Since I'm normally able to write pages and pages of text without too much effort, my daughter was thrilled to hear that this first Forrester piece was a real challenge. Writing useful advice is not like blogging. Researchers are not pundits.
All of the Indian outsourcers were there. Infosys' lavish parties from year's past have upped the ante -- now all of the top Indian players are out in force. They have five worries: 1) the "tax holiday" that the Indian government bestowed on Indian IT companies will not be renewed in 2009, 2) the price of the rupee is too high, 3) the price of the dollar is too low, 4) U.S. recession, and 5) somehow, someway to get leverage. The ten year math on Tata/TCS, Wipro, Infosys and their smaller brethren doesn't work. There aren't enough smart, employable people to satisfy their current growth rates, and the planned growth of IBM, Accenture, and the captive players. They should go into the software business...
Asia was a hot topic. The consensus was that the Asian economy is not decoupled from the U.S. economy. A U.S. recession will take Asia with it -- at least for the next five years. There is $9 trillion of consumer spending in the U.S. per year, and only $1.6 trillion in "Chindia" -- China and India. If the U.S. consumer stops spending, Chindia can't make up the difference. Big debates about whether China can pass the EU or U.S. in GDP over the next 25 years without political reform. A lot of the hard-bitten economists and business people say that China will "muddle through." Pei Minxin of the Carnegie Foundation said that without political change, the Chinese people cannot see the future. He called China's expansion "authoritarian growth" or "high-speed, low-quality growth." In his opinion, political change is inevitable. But the Chinese government watched the clumsy Soviet Union to Russia transition and doesn't want to make the same mistakes.
The wane in U.S. power and influence was a subtext of the proceedings. If the U.S. economy was truly de-coupled from the rest of the world, you get the impression that no one at Davos would be talking about America --they'd be focused on the fast growing India, China, Korea, et al economies.
Lots of talk about the emerging worldwide water crisis. Some interesting thoughts: 90% of the world's water is used in agriculture. To cut this number we need another green revolution. That would be a genetic revolution -- but governments won't permit it. That's got to change if the impending water crisis is to be avoided. Energy places large demands on water supplies. It takes 2.5 liters of water to produce one liter of oil. The production of heavy oil or oil sands (the hard-to-get-stuff that the world will turn to as "easy" oil depletes) takes ten times as much water -- big problem. Ethanol is a double whammy -- it consumes lots of water to produce the corn, then it takes a lot of water to go from corn to ethanol. And you still get high CO2 emissions.
Seven years before the mast...I mean, hey, this is my seventh year attending the World Economic Forum! Lovely place -- snowy and cold. It's fun to watch all of these important people slipping and sliding on the ice in their expensive, leather-soled shoes...
Biggest topic: "Are we going to have a recession?" Everyone's worried. But when I probed on the health of their businesses, CEOs said that things looked pretty good. The world's best economists and finance ministers don't think a recession is imminent. If we do have one it will be mild. Unlike the Japanese debt crisis in the early 1990s which took six years to clean up due to slow-moving banks and government, Merrill, Citibank et. al. are moving fast to re-capitalize. The only other potential shoe to drop on the credit markets is a private equity or hedge fund collapse.