No question, for me, about the most interesting business story of the week: the launch in India of a $35 tablet computer called the Aakash (“sky” in Hindi). For perspective, go to the tablet department of Walmart.com, where $35 will buy you – just – a snap-on case for an iPad 2.
For anyone in doubt about the political significance of the announcement, Kapil Sibal, India’s education minister, rammed it home:
The rich have access to the digital world; the poor and ordinary have been excluded. Aakash will end that digital divide.
As a pugnacious Flemish politician and prime minister of Belgium in the early 1990s, Jean-Luc Dehaene earned two seemingly contradictory nicknames – “the bulldozer”, for his bluntness, and “the plumber”, for his ability to reach compromises.
He’ll need to draw on both these skills as chairman of Dexia: the Franco-Belgian bank, pushed to the brink by eurozone turmoil, is contemplating break-up and seeking shelter from both Belgian and French authorities. As one Amsterdam-based analyst told Bloomberg on Tuesday – with admirable understatement – “Dexia is an extremely complicated file.”
It’s gratifying when private corporate disagreements erupt into the open. It confirms the perception that business, often dressed up as a decorous diplomatic dance, is in fact a vicious hand-to-hand battle. It was in this spirit that I welcomed the recent outbreak of hostilities between Oracle – the software group headed by Larry Ellison – and Autonomy, the UK technology company founded by Mike Lynch and now being taken over by Hewlett-Packard.