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November 28, 2005


Fazal Majid

Well, Minitel was actually meant as an act of Colbertian industrial policy, i.e. subsidies to electronics manufacturers. In the early 80s, France had finally gotten over the bulk of migration to digital switching, after decades of neglect (telecoms was the largest item on the national budget for most of the 70s). The makers of electronic switchgear needed some other business selling transistors, and the ministry of PTT decided an electronic phonebook might do the trick. Online services were an afterthought.

As for telcos and innovation, despite being a France Telecom alumnus (fighting the internal battles for the Internet vs. extending the Minitel), I tend to think what used to be said of IBM: "They think when they piss on something, it improves the flavor".

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