Saturday, June 26, 2004

Visions of the Future

A Rational Technology repost.

MANILA, June 4, 2004 -- They say when you have a near-death experience, your life flashes before your eyes. Somehow the converse must also be true: you've worked on something so hard for a long time, and at the point of discouragement, you hit a breakthrough. Then, you catch a glimpse of what might be.

No, there are no messianic delusions in this column. All the same, I'm writing it in a light mood. I've just come from a presentation by my partners-in-crime -- Injong Fortunato, Dean Sinco, and Veneeth Iyengar -- to a group of CEOs to discuss opportunities in Dumaguete. Gov. Arnaiz was also in the meeting, and senator-elect Mar Roxas made a brief appearance.

For two years running that I've been with this group, I've seen them work very hard promoting Dumaguete to investors, and largely por amore. There have been a few shambling steps here and there, but in the last year things have started to coalesce with sharper focus on call centers. Somehow, I just could not feel the breakthrough moment. Not until the meeting tonight.

After listening attentively to the presentation, the CEOs probed deeper into what Dumaguete had to offer. Infrastructure was very much on top of mind; significant improvements are yet in order. All the same, the overall assessment was positive and the suggestions were very constructive. The group drew out action plans, with active participation from these senior executives over the coming months.

That's when I had my moment of epiphany: a Dumaguete with a very vibrant economy, with local industries ready to receive the products of her various universities. As the centerpiece, an IT ecozone with shiny new buildings and wide paved well-lit streets. In it, call centers, business process outsourcing, transcription services, and IT development houses running 24x7, riding on the efforts of the Dumaguete yuppie set. Alongside that, a thriving community of restaurants, convenience stores, and apartments.

There's more: Dumaguete as a waystation for nurses and IT professionals preparing for work outside the country, taking language classes and certification programs. On yet another side: Dumaguete as a retirement community for expats, supported by social, medical, and commercial services. And yet still: Dumaguete as ecological preserve and research center.

Still, it will take time to bring all this to fruition, and the road ahead is long. Much work needs to be done, and much cooperation needed across the community. This time we seem to have finally hit a breakthrough, the path so much clearer, and the goal within reach within our lifetimes. I am genuinely excited.

As to the actual details of the meeting, I will let my fellow columnist Veneeth lay it out over the coming weeks.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Gadgets galore

A Rational Technology repost

Practically everyone in the office carries a Sony-Ericsson P900. In case you didn't know, the P900 is a combination cellphone-personal digital assistant-camera. At a cool P42,000, it represents the pinnacle of gadgetry chic. For the moment, at least, until the next new thing comes along.

And that's basically the story of our gadget-happy society these days. It's an explosive combination of technology, fashion, marketing, and expendable incomes. Manufacturers jostle for your attention and your wallet, and the only way to do this, apparently, is to come up with newer models with incremental improvements. Don't we all feel like James Bond?

Personal digital assistants, or PDAs, have come a long way from their initial incarnation as the Palm Pilot. There are over thirty different models on the market today, with a variety of operating systems. Almost all of them sport color screens, and a built-in camera is fast becoming a standard feature. The higher end models have built-in wireless connectivity so you can surf the Internet on the go.

If you're not happy with the rinky-dink cameras on your PDA, you can always go for a real digital cameras. They're either getting smaller and more compact; or getting loaded with more features. On the upper end of the spectrum, you have cameras with 40x zoom and vibration compensation. Single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras are already available at under $1,000.

The list goes on: there are souped-up MP3 players, typified by the very stylish Apple iPod. The norm these days is to feature high-capacity hard disks able to pack in 30 gigabytes, or roughly 6,000 songs. There are also a new generation of handheld gaming devices, like the new Nintendo Gameboy and the Nokia N-Gage, which is also a cellphone.

You know these things have already come into the real mainstream when you have glossy magazines dedicated to them. Sitting side-by-side with such staples as Cosmopolitan and FHM, gadget magazines highlight what's new, cool, and hip. Who do they feature on the covers? Fashion models, of course.

As one of the original certified geeks, I ought to be deliriously happy with the selections available today. I mean, look at all these toys! But somehow...I'm not. It's not just the thought that within six months, my purchase will be obsoleted by the new release. It's really because they're so mainstream now.

If everybody's got it, the cool factor just ain't there anymore.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

A Bird's Eye View of Eastwood

A Rational Technology repost.

The "City" tag that's attached to Eastwood City is a bit of a misnomer. It's not legally a city by Philippine statutes; it doesn't have a local government to speak of, only commercial administrators appointed by Megaworld Properties. In actuality, it's still part of Quezon City.

But other than that tiny detail, Eastwood City is practically a city by itself. Almost all the necessities and amenities for modern city living are encapsulated within its boundaries: condominiums, department stores, restaurants, bookstores, cinemas, fitness centers, furniture shops, schools, office space, and even a chapel.

To fully appreciate Eastwood, you have to go beyond walking the surroundings and sampling the sights. You have to take a bird's-eye-view of the place.
Eastwood City is roughly 15 hectares in size. One third of the space are dedicated to office space for the technology-oriented companies that bestow on it the title of IT ecozone. This area is made up of Citibank Square, Eastwood Corporate Plaza, IBM Plaza, Cyber One, Technoplaza One, and a couple more planned buildings.

Another third of Eastwood City is dedicated to restaurants and shopping centers. City Walk takes up the bulk of this space, followed by the Home and Lifestyle Center and some sections of Technoplaza One and CyberOne.

Finally, the condominium row takes up the last third. These are upscale living accommodations provided by Eastwood Lafayette, Eastwood Excelsior, Grand Eastwood Palazzo, One Orchard Road, and Olympic Heights.

Several portions of Eastwood are still under construction, but two years since it went full swing, it's already a buzzing hive of activity.

So when is Dumaguete getting one?