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Saturday, November 18, 2023

Mira and Ilya's Risky Gambit at OpenAI: A Path to Ruin or Redemption?

Mira Murati and Ilya Sutskever's recent takeover of OpenAI has sent shockwaves through the tech industry, sparking both excitement and skepticism. While some hail the move as a bold step towards achieving OpenAI's ambitious goals, others warn that the duo's lack of entrepreneurial experience and the company's shaky financial standing could lead to disaster. Despite their impressive credentials as AI researchers, Murati and Sutskever have never faced the harsh realities of running a business. They have never had to raise capital, negotiate deals, or manage a team through the ups and downs of the startup world. These challenges, coupled with OpenAI's unit economics that make every ChatGPT interaction a costly affair, paint a daunting picture. Mira Murati and Ilya Sutskever have made a bold move by ousting Sam Altman as CEO of OpenAI, a leading non-profit research company focused on developing safe and beneficial artificial general intelligence (AGI). However, this controversial decision comes with significant challenges and potential consequences


The Financial Hurdle: Unit Economics and Investor Relations

OpenAI's business model faces scrutiny due to its unit economics, with the company spending $0.30 every time a user asks a question to ChatGPT. This raises concerns about long-term sustainability, as the company will need to find a way to generate revenue or secure additional funding. Moreover, the departure of Altman, a renowned figure in the tech industry and a key investor in OpenAI, could jeopardize the company's financial stability. Altman's expertise in fundraising and his network of connections were valuable assets, and his absence could make it harder to attract future funding. Furthermore, the company's recent $80 billion valuation, once considered a testament to its potential, now seems like a mirage in the desert of reality. The deal has fallen through, leaving OpenAI in a precarious position. To make matters worse, the ousting of Sam Altman, a seasoned entrepreneur and investor, must be surely making Microsoft, OpenAI's key partner very concerned.. With top researchers and product visionaries jumping ship, OpenAI runs the risk of losing its core strengths. If Sam Altman, with his proven ability to raise and deploy capital, decides to start a rival company, Murati and Sutskever could find themselves in a fierce battle for talent and resources. Looking ahead, Murati and Sutskever face an uphill climb. They must find a way to improve OpenAI's unit economics, repair relationships with key partners, and instill confidence in their leadership. If they fail, OpenAI's ambitious goals could crumble, leaving the duo as footnote in the history of AI. On the other hand, if they succeed, they could rewrite the narrative, transforming OpenAI into a transformative force in the tech industry. Their unlikely journey would serve as a testament to the power of perseverance and the audacity to dream big. Only time will tell whether Murati and Sutskever's gamble at OpenAI will lead to ruin or redemption. Their story will undoubtedly be one worth watching.

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Sunday, October 29, 2023

AI Woodworking Project Goes Wrong: A Lesson in AI Limitations

My son came running to me that they have found a simple use case where AI limitations came out so demonstrably well. He was referring to an article in a popular do it yourself magine -Popular Mechanics The author, a woodworker, wanted to revisit her woodworking skills and decided to ask ChatGPT to give her a simple project to build. ChatGPT suggested a square wooden box, and the author began following the instructions. However, she soon realized that the instructions were incomplete and inaccurate. For example, ChatGPT did not specify the type of wood to use, or the thickness of the wood. The author also found that the measurements were incorrect, which resulted in a box that was too small. The author's experience highlights the limitations of AI systems. Large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT are trained on massive datasets of text and code, but they do not have the ability to understand or reason about the world in the same way that humans do. As a result, LLMs can generate text that is factually incorrect or misleading. This is especially true when LLMs are used to generate instructions for tasks that require physical knowledge or skills. For example, an LLM may be able to generate a list of steps for building a square wooden box, but it may not be able to account for factors such as the type of wood or the thickness of the wood. Another limitation of LLMs is that they can be biased. The data that LLMs are trained on is often biased, and this bias can be reflected in the text that they generate. For example, an LLM trained on a dataset of woodworking instructions may be more likely to generate instructions that are appropriate for experienced woodworkers than for beginners. It is important to be aware of the limitations of AI systems when using them for tasks that require accuracy or reliability. AI systems can be a valuable tool, but they should not be used in isolation. It is always important to double-check the results of AI systems with human experts.

Implications for ChatGPT Users ChatGPT is a powerful tool, but it is important to be aware of its limitations. When using ChatGPT, it is important to: Keep in mind that ChatGPT is a text model, not a subject matter expert. It is not able to understand or reason about the world in the same way that humans do. Be critical of the text that ChatGPT generates. Don't assume that everything that ChatGPT says is accurate or reliable. Double-check the results of ChatGPT with human experts before using them for tasks that require accuracy or reliability.

Intriguing Outcomes with ChatGPT Despite its limitations, ChatGPT can be used to generate some intriguing outcomes. For example, ChatGPT can be used to: Generate creative text formats, such as poems, code, scripts, musical pieces, email, letters, etc. Answer your questions in an informative way, even if they are open ended, challenging, or strange. Translate languages. Help you with brainstorming and problem-solving. If you are interested in exploring the full potential of ChatGPT, I encourage you to experiment with it and see what you can create.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2023

ChatGPT Enterprise : New Possibilities, New Challenges

OpenAI just launched ChatGPT Enterprise. This is a significant milestone in the intersection of AI and the corporate world. Marketed as an enterprise-grade solution with advanced security, data protection, and unlimited access to GPT-4 functionalities, it is projected to fundamentally reshape work processes within organisations.The launch of ChatGPT Enterprise is likely to have a significant impact on enterprises in a number of ways. By automating tasks, reducing costs, improving customer service, and driving innovation, ChatGPT Enterprise can help enterprises to achieve their goals and become more competitive. Here are some of the potential impacts:

A. Improved productivity: ChatGPT Enterprise can be used to automate a variety of tasks, freeing up employees to focus on more strategic work. For example, ChatGPT can be used to generate reports, answer customer questions, or even write code.

B.Enhanced innovation: ChatGPT Enterprise can be used to help enterprises innovate by providing new ways to generate ideas, solve problems, and create new products and services. For example, ChatGPT can be used to generate new product concepts, write marketing copy, or even design new user interfaces.

c. Reduced costs: ChatGPT Enterprise can help to reduce costs by automating tasks that are currently performed by humans. For example, ChatGPT can be used to answer customer support tickets, which can free up human agents to handle more complex issues.

D. Improved customer service: ChatGPT Enterprise can be used to provide better customer service by providing 24/7 support that is always accurate and up-to-date. For example, ChatGPT can be used to answer customer questions, resolve issues, or even provide product recommendations.

E. Improved decision-making: ChatGPT Enterprise can be used to help enterprises make better decisions by providing access to insights and data that would not be otherwise available. For example, ChatGPT can be used to analyze customer data, identify trends, and make predictions.

Here are some specific examples of how ChatGPT Enterprise could be used in enterprises:

- A customer service team could use ChatGPT Enterprise to answer customer questions, resolve issues, and provide support 24/7.

- A marketing team could use ChatGPT Enterprise to generate new product concepts, write marketing copy, and create social media posts.

- A sales team could use ChatGPT Enterprise to qualify leads, generate proposals, and close deals.

- A product development team could use ChatGPT Enterprise to brainstorm new ideas, research competitors, and test new features.

- A finance team could use ChatGPT Enterprise to analyze financial data, identify trends, and make predictions. As the technology continues to develop, we can expect to see even more innovative and creative uses for ChatGPT Enterprise in the future.

Now, the caveat : However, this technological leap raises a set of key legal issues in the realms of data protection, intellectual property (IP), and the forthcoming AI Act’s foundation model regulatory obligations. ChatGPT Enterprise assures users of robust data protection, stipulating that the model is not trained on business-specific data and that all conversations are encrypted both in transit and at rest. OpenAI claims the platform's SOC 2 compliance adds an additional layer of trust in its security protocols. The rules will have t chan ge in respect of customers/enterprises further finr tuning the model - and reexamining the impact on data, security, ownership, copyright etc. Similarly creative work, technical block of worl created by GenAI both by the enterpiseand by third parties employed by them opens the issue of ownership, copyright etc, Also, monopoly laws may begging to kick in upon mass adoption. The US District Court last week ruled that AI generated work cannot be copyrighted. There are complex legal and regulatory challenges that are expected to be raised and addressed. Overall, the launch of ChatGPT Enterprise is a significant development that has the potential to revolutionize the way enterprises operate.

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Sunday, August 27, 2023

Generative AI: It’s Game Even

While there are very incisive views on Generative AI and a magnitiude of perspectives on opportunities across sectors, spaces and geograohies foreseen, there is this thought provoking article “undisrupted” in the current issue of Economist(very telling it does not state who the author is),- in a nutshell arguing, “that despite the transformative potential of generative AI tools such as ChatGPT, large established companies are unlikely to be overthrown by AI-driven startups.The article posits that incumbents like Microsoft and Salesforce have advantages in distribution and others have valuable proprietary datasets, such as McKinsey and Bloomberg’ with its financial data. It argues that these resources allow them to integrate AI into existing products, thereby fortifying their market positions.

The article also highlights that the existing infrastructure enables easy adoption of AI models from giants like OpenAI and Alphabet Inc. limiting opportunities for new entrants.Lastly, historical data is cited; only 52 of the Fortune 500 companies were established after 1990, implying that disruption has not accelerated significantly over the years.”

On a related note, It's an impressive thought, that Nvidia's Jensen Huang's view in their earning call on VmWare, where in distributing the Genai kit through them, the focus is on supporting the management system, the operating system, the security and software-defined data center approach of enterprises and moves like this catapult both the big and the upstart to delve into GenAI on an entirely new baseline of readiness and maturity. Very interesting, though i feel that the author underestimates the potential for disruption from these startups. First , the article assumes that incumbents can easily integrate AI into their existing products. This is not always the case. AI can be complex and difficult to implement, especially in large, legacy systems. Startups, on the other hand, are often more nimble and can move more quickly to adopt new technologies. Second, the article assumes that incumbents have a monopoly on data. This is not necessarily the case. There are many ways for startups to collect data, such as through crowdsourcing or scraping the web. Additionally, the open-source nature of AI means that startups can access the same AI models as incumbents. Third, regulations will introduce its own impact on the progress/adoption. I expect the regulatory effects to more favour the unknown and dampen possibilities of a linear upside to incumbents And the article cites historical data to show that disruption has not accelerated significantly over the years. However, this data does not take into account the fact that the pace of technological change is accelerating. AI is one of the most disruptive technologies of our time, and it is likely to have a major impact on many industries in the coming years. Its also true that the big players of today wont try winning more with AI and as the adage goes, the faster one will adapt and succeed- "Its Game Even”

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Monday, July 19, 2021

Zoom + Five 9 = Momentous!

Just seeing that Zoom will be acquiring Five9 in an all-stock transaction valued at approximately $14.7 billion. In the industry now, we see that UCaaS is continuing to evolve to include voice, video, contact center, chat, and messaging. Every wannabe big player wants to have a slice of the large enterprise market and this move brings together the leading video provider and cloud contact center provider and with this the combined entity becomes a formidable force for the large enterprise. Zoom has become a household name ( and attaining iconic status as a “noun” representing video teleconference across devices. as businesses and schools adopted its services to hold virtual classes, office meets and socialise. As businesses and schools adopted its services to hold virtual classes, office meets and socialise, zoom has seen a meteoric success and not to forget, it’s an investor favorite in the year since the coronavirus pandemic, The acquisition will complement Zoom Phone service, an alternative to legacy phone offerings, by adding Five9's business customers and combining its contact centre software to optimize customer interactions across channels.

Clearly, this coming together of Zoom and Five9 is big development in the world of UCaaS. Its well known in the industry circles, that Zoom used partnerships with Five9 and other CCaaS vendors to serve that segment, but the acquisition is a relatively late recognition of the fact that CCaaS is an important product to ultimately win in the enterprise going forward. Zoom has been clearly a company on the roll. It added Zoom apps interfaces last year riding on the success of the video conferencing system . This move fortifies its position in the UCaaS portfolio. Zoom is the undisputed leader in video collaboration, it is quickly establishing its position in cloud telephony (PBX), and one can see the contact center space (known as CCaaS) as the natural next step in its evolution of the product offerings and strategy. If we will look keenly, it will slowly become apparent that overtime this will bring them as a strong player in locking horns with Microsoft and will be seen to bring forth, a significantly differentiated offerings relative to Microsoft, which is matter of fact the big elephant in the lucrative enterprise market. Also, this move will bring tougher competitive love for another well known player, RingCentral in the enterprise and mid market segments.

Automation is a hot area in which Five9 has taken an early lead ahead of competitors. In the post pandemic world , we are now seeing a review of the trend wherein the large enterprises disproportionately allocate spend to labor over technology, there is a huge opportunity for making labor more efficient and allowing customers to increase their tech spend. Growing digital seats with customers should drive higher realization for FIVN given that digital agents monetize at substantially higher rates relative to human agents.

Five 9 has seen rapid growth in the last few quarters with impressive strides in winning deals centered on digital transformation of its customers' investments in their contact centers. And now begs the question - why this valuation and what's the runway ahead ? Various industry pronouncements show that on the whole, the CCaaS market is still only 10-15% penetrated. Despite the fact that FIVN has seen recent acceleration in the rate of digital transformation within contact centers, it is to be noted that the overall market is still just 10-15% penetrated into the cloud, and FIVN is at the front and center of the cloud transition opportunity. The biggest draw for FIVN’s business currently is in the enterprise space, complemented by product portfolio expansion particularly in the area of automation.

The key component of Five9’s recent success relates to its automation portfolio, centered around the Intelligent Virtual Agent (IVA) product. The IVA product mainly focuses on high-volume, low-value tasks that can easily be automated for customers. Five9 is also seeing strong demand for its built-in workforce optimization product that was added through the Virtual Observer acquisition. From a customer perspective, evidently Innovation drives twin advantages like increasing revenue and enhanced cost savings for customers. In all, a bold move and a definite step up for Zoom in the enteprise world - whoc could have imagoned this three years back!

Update : The merger has been called off owing shareholder objections. This definitely will hurt Zoom, unless it makes some other moves. The entry barrier to the UCaaS market is indeed substantial. Let's watch for next piece of action here.


Sunday, September 13, 2020

nVIDIA : The New PowerHouse In The Making

My son recently came with a chart to assemble a computer for himself at home and when I looked at the price, 50% of the price went to nVIDIA’s new launch GPU. There comes the news Softbank is likely to sell ARM Holdings to nVIDIA. nVIDIA and ARM have reportedly been in exclusive talks for several weeks and reports suggest that the deal may be finalized as soon as early next week if there are no last-minute issues. This acquisition of ARM, as it happens, will be a game-changer for nVIDIA, as it may potentially catapult Nvidia to be far bigger reach than rivals Intel and AMD.

nVIDIA is known for its graphics chips that power video games, but it has developed other markets including artificial intelligence, self-driving cars and data centers. With ARM under its fold, nVIDIA will now get to focus on creating what the computers of the future may be. Over the last three decades or so, we have seen a major transition in the core markets - whereby many functions previously requiring dedicated chips were replaced by software running on increasingly fast CPUs. Two decades back, it was thought that 3D graphics would be the next wave of growth. The bottlenecks in general purpose CPU’s meant that , it was not technically possible, as these CPU’s are very bad at several essential operations required to render 3D images. And GPUs, initially created just for 3D graphics, in a turn around started taking over a portion of many computations previously performed by CPUs. All the current supercomputers are built with at a minimum as many 64-bit GPUs as CPUs. More silicon area is now taken by GPUs than CPUs in a large percentage of many system-on-a-chip 'computers': smart phones, PDAs, and many laptops. The trend is that in the future 'computer chips' could consist of by area 90% GPUs, with CPUs taking only a small region the corner. If Augmented Reality becomes mainstream, it will only accelerate this.

Currently, AMD and INTEL have the most dominant marketshare of the cpu market. There's no real market where a combinations makes nVIDIA a monopoly. The main bet is ARM will be bigger in CPUs in the future. That was an aspiration for the ARM world when it began the journey. Now with this coming together, the ARM worlds domination could very well happen.

nVIDIA remains 1-2 steps ahead of competitors with rollout of its leading Ampere-based architecture for its next-gen GeForce RTX 30xx series of gaming graphic processors. During the GeForce event, Jen-Hsun Huang, nVIDIA’s CEO introduced its leading Ampere-based architecture for its next-gen GeForce RTX 3000 series of gaming graphic processors. The new GPUs have significant performance advantages vs the previous Turning-based RTX 20xx generation (2x performance and 1.9x power efficiency). Architecturally, the GeForce RTX 30xx series is built on Samsung’s 8nm process (unlike the Tesla A100 on TSMC's 7nm process) representative of its dual fab strategy and optimized with Micron’s next-gen GDDR6X memory (3080/3090). Analysts observe that the New products are rich in features – including ray tracing, AI cores, and high-speed memory and should solidify NVIDIA’s leadership in gaming GPUs.nVIDIA already has leadership in Compute Acceleration and Networking With Multiple Vectors Of Growth. As the company pivots to a total solutions approach with silicon/hardware performance and strong development of software and ecosystem. Nvidia is inching towards leadership in the data analytics space and is working in booting up the developer ecosystem (e.g Apache Spark 3.0). In the fast-growing Edge AI and IoT applications, nVIDIA is working closely with OEM’s to roll out the EGX platform. Truly a historic moment in evolution is unfolding with Nvidia gaining center stage now. An inflection point for sure!

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Friday, September 08, 2017

Equifax : Disturbing Developments

Credit-rating company Equifax’s data breach, which involves an estimated 143 million people, may not be the largest that we have seen, after all Yahoo lost billions of emails in a series of data breaches, most of them brought out to the public much later. Given the nature of data at play here, this is clearly becoming the most deadly of all data breaches - like tropical storm IRMA. The feared IRMA is on its way to touch Florida(pray for the safety of all living in Florida), but the Equifax data breach storm has the potential to affect large set of Americans to become the worst ever data breach. The sensitivity and the direct information access makes the big difference between the two. Yahoo email’s could have exposed some back account information or some personal information and the hacker must be scanning so wide to find relevance that can be good enough for him/her to benefit from, An occasional back account, credit card information might have been exposed. The odds are stacked against given the volume of information to sift and find the useful ones. But Equifax is a different ball game altogether. Equifax is one of the three biggest credit-reporting companies in the U.S. and incidentally the breach is reported to have occurred occurred mid-May through July 2017,even though the public got to know about this on Sep 7, 2017

According to Equifax, the information that were accessed includes: Names Social Security numbers Birth dates Addresses In some instances, driver’s license numbers. In addition, credit card numbers for north of 200,000 U.S. consumers Certain dispute documents with personal identifying information for north of 180,000 U.S. consumers Come to think of it, this is precisely the information US residents share with a bank to get credit cards, get certain types of jobs, or get a mortgage. This is important information, and a seem to have affected a wide number of Americans. The class-action lawsuits are already being filed less than 24 hours after the information became public.

Equifax’ s response so far has been so pathetic and uncaring, to say the least.

To start with, Equifax did not share news of the breach for several weeks, since it began investigating this breach. Second, three top executives sold stocks between the time Equifax knew about this and the time they shared the news with Public. Public sources reveal chief financial officer John Gamble sold $946,374 worth of stock, president of U.S. information solutions Joseph Loughran sold $584,099 worth of stock, and Rodolfo Ploder, president of workforce solutions, sold $250,458. It may be the case that these gentlemen were not aware when they sold, (looks difficult to believe though, as the CFO and the IT head were not aware of data breach of this magnitude happening but as key executives inside Equifax they could not find out what the matter was!)but clearly Equifax is defensive based on popular perception on this ground. Equifax has since set up a web page with information and a way to enroll in “complimentary identity theft protection and credit file monitoring services and how to find out if your personal information may have been impacted.” The site requires you to enter your last name and the last six digits of your social security number, and Equifax won’t tell you right away if you’ve been impacted but the site promises to let you know when you can enroll in the company’s “TrustedID Premier” program” and tells you to “mark your calendar” to check back. And some security experts were concerned about the basic setup of the site and that even there, new set of data breaches can happen. Many trade sources complained that “Customer service agents contacted by phone on the emergency telephone line said they couldn’t provide further clarity on the matter.” And the people fielding those calls, were telling callers that that they don’t have access to the database of those affected.

What next to do

The options in front of the affected person is indeed very limited. There’s the standard advice after a data breach: Change passwords if you reuse the same one , turn on two-factor authentication when possible, and watch for any suspicious links or emails from Equifax or others. Some suggested freezing the credit score, so that external players cannot access such information till this is waived. You can also turn to the other big two credit-reporting agencies in the U.S., Experian and TransUnion, and make sure there haven’t been any recent inquiries made into your credit history. Equifax is giving away a free year of credit monitoring and identity-theft insurance, which everyone is highly encouraged to take advantage of. For those who are already a victim of identity theft, are encouraged to visit the FTC Identity Theft Recovery website and follow the steps therein. The Federal Trade Commission will provide the victim with a specific identity theft report and "to-do" recovery plans

On an ongoing basis, ensure that one spends the time keeping a closer eye on credit-card statements - the newly issued cards may be more exposed. Don’t leave any financial statement archive without your express approval. .At the end of it, it is clear that a tremendous amount of data is now floating out there with someone not authorized to hold them - either in the hands of criminals or a nation-state. Your Social Security number will never change, your past addresses will always be your past addresses. The effects of the Equifax breach will be felt for years to come. Beware of phishing mails which are clickbaits to draw one into rogue schemes and keep your machines remain state of the art and all patches applied. One of the things I find disturbing about this data breach is that there is essentially nothing any of us could have done to protect ourselves. We’re told to have strong passwords, avoid risk sites and apps and use security software but that only protects our devices, not data stored by others. And, in the case of Equifax and other credit reporting bureaus, it’s not as if we’ve even chosen to do business with these companies. They collect and store sensitive data about us whether we like it or not and I’m even sure if there is a way to opt-out.Increasingly, companies are supposed to safeguard this information, but they’re subject to hacks, human error and even deliberate breaches from within. Medicare even puts recipients social security number on their card, which they usually care in their wallet so if their wallet is stolen, their identify is at risk. Medicare plans to change this next year, but in the meantime millions of people over 62 are vulnerable. We need to figure out a way to disempower the use of the social security number to steal our identities. I’m not sure how that can be done, but I’m pretty sure it’s doable.

Some hacker is reportedly trying to take advantage of this development. I also demand a national center of cyber breaks and all enterprises should have an annual checkup of their enterprises and would act as the clearinghouse for providing national relief. Hope America comes out of this unscathed.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Google Cloud Platform : Good Times Ahead

The tech behemoths Amazon, Microsoft & Google are established players in one of the battes that will change the future of customers view and investments of computing. This is an area with a potential hundred billion dollars plus that can be secured for the vendors – a lucrative space that each one wants to corner : the cloud. For a quick recap of the dollars under consideration - read here. Cloud lets business tap on demand the processing, storage and software over the web. Tall, powerful and cool servers with gargantuan memory onboard installed inside enterprises now are gradually giving way to tap on need model –use when needed and shut them down in other times. The vast data centers and governance brought in by these tech behemoths make them ideal partners for business to tap such services on a need to have basis – whenever and wherever required.

Amazon is by far the well-established leader here with a revenue that far exceeds the combined revenue of all competitors put together. Amazon partly achieved this by bringing a single-minded focus to this space to scale up and win and it paid back handsomely. Amazon’s first-mover advantage coupled with slow reactions from competition has now made Amazon an almost insurmountable lead in business in this space. That’s the focus and attention of the next two players. Microsoft has been pushing Azure extensively last 2-3 years and clocking impressive success. The lesser known of the trio in this space – Google is now flexing its muscle and is now focused on striking it big here. Google is recognized primarily as the early proponent of cloud computing – after all, Google built huge date centers in its early days and ran services like search, gmail and maps , available around the world and with unthinkable scale in action. Alongside, developers build other applications on top resulting in an expanding google universe. Google has the strong reputation of running scalable, secure services and recognized as one delivering successfully for a long time. By being late and remaining indifferent to this space, Google lost out on big time opportunities that were out there and Amazon happily grabbed these. Now, Google wants to get back aggressively and be counted as large player in this space and is increasing its investments, market messaging and outreach efforts. Last week the company hosted an event to talk about their upcoming plans around the Google cloud platform and talk loudly about some notable success that they have notched thus far. I listened to the webcast and followed the announcements keenly to see how Google is planning to move things here and I heard good actionable things.

Google’s overall messaging shows that the momentum in the business continues and the focus to scale this platform with enterprise as a key segment to focus on for adoption. Google positioning is getting better to take a sizable chunk of business in the ever growing public cloud space over the next few years. The overall market is projected to have 50% of the enterprise workloads moved into overtime. Google paraded customers/customer stories – the likes of Spotify, Coca-Cola, Disney etc. as proof of successful adoption of their services.

The emphasis on a move forward basis is positioned around:

A. Machine learning as a cornerstone of their approach and hence drive the attendant benefits for customers.

B. Monetization/Commercialization of native security tools used within Google to make these available to customers.

C. Make ease of deployment and migration more easy.

In terms of upcoming innovation, consistent with its focus on enterprise adoption, Google talked about the lofty vision of No-ops goal for enterprises. This will be an ideal demonstration of the power of cloud computing and if Google and others are able to make it happen everywhere, it’s a true sign of the changed paradigm here.Another important facet of the evolution of the cloud revolved around the extreme emphasis on machine learning and the Google cloud platform’s leverage of this. A new product called Tensorflow has been open sourced by Google and it is their core belief that embracing machine learning will become a non-negotiable for innovative startups focused on scaling globally and offering sophisticated services.Add into the mix cloud monitoring tools working across clouds – enterprises can hardly resist massive cloud adoption with these. And in order to keep helping enterprises adopt and scale faster, Google wants to focus on the three important aspects of cloud computing – data centers, security and containers.

I drilled into these a little more to find what could be differentiated in offering such services and what I could recollect from the conference webcast included the following, which Google finds as the drivers for increasing enterprise adoption of their services.

1. Better value: GCP can cost up to 50% less than competitors. Google provides automatic discounts as customers consume higher volumes. And GCP also offers custom machine types (i.e., cores or gigabytes), which helps save customers versus static instance types from other vendors that often lead to overprovisioning.

2. Accelarate innovation: Google’s approach here is to allow customers to run applications with no additional operations staff needed. For example, Google showcases Snapchat here - grew from zero to 100mn users without hiring an operations team (just two people).

3. Risk Management : Google shall be focused on providing best-in-class security for customer’s data and digital assets, protect privacy and help in conforming to compliance and regulatory needs.

4. Open Source adoption –leading to better management by customers for products like Kubernotes( focused on managing data containers).

I got the feeling that the GCP was comparable to Amazon’s fabled AWS services for the purpose of enterprise adoption. While the engineering and under the hoods battle is one part of the equation, the real determinant of success and also ran lay in shaping market forces – GTM, Solutions, Partnerships, support and ease of doing business – an area that Google will have to heavily focus on. With Google’s stated plans to triple their data center regions and with some good early demonstrated success, the market should begin to warm up for Google.Enterprise success depends not just on what’s available from a service provider – determination of what and how to move to cloud, transforming IT landscape, flipping over the governance model and change management – all these have a say in the eventual success of any cloud initiative. With substantial progress and focus on this space with the tech giants competing aggressively for their pie in this fast growing space, the competition expands the market, services get more sophisticated and yet mature fast and the industry improves and courtesy of Moore’s effect, the customers get superior services at a lower cost. It’s a win-win situation for all.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Taylor Swift & L’affaire Apple In The Digital Universe

As known for quite sometime, Apple is working to get its new streaming music service, Connect, up and running. It followed what is generally taken as the standard way of launching things: offer the service free for the first three months. But, Apple then made a decision that quickly showed itself as short-sighted. Apple also decided that during the three months, writers, performers, and producers - in other words, all the people who created the content Apple was giving away - would not get paid any royalties. A call taken by them , before being upturned owing to opposition by many in the industry most notably, a 25 year old Taylor Swift. The manner in which the upstage unfurled itself is legendary. The affected indie artists and record houses could have threatened to sue. Apple, of course, has the resources to fight the battle and the outcome could have gone in any direction. The larger issue, of course, was actually taking on the mighty corporation, Apple. Doing so would have been a big risk for an artist. Except, as it turns out, Taylor Swift - the winner of seven Grammy awards, 11 Country Music Association awards, 20 Billboard Music awards, who could perceive no such risk for herself.

Taylor Swift wrote one note, and the world’s richest company, Apple couldn't shake it off. What an electric impact that this record industry star has made. It was just yesterday that Swift published a post threatening to pull her latest album from the about to be launched Apple music streaming service. Her principal concern (though she says in her post that her view reflects the views of her fellow industry artistes) for keeping mega-hit 1989 off Apple's new streaming service: the world’s most cash rich company wasn't planning to compensate the artistes and business of the record music industry - music writers, producers, and artists during the three-month free trial period. The star, aptly called as the music industry,who could easily endure the pay cut, decided to speak for the 99% of the industry who couldn't. She wrote, “These are not the complaints of a spoiled, petulant child. These are the echoed sentiments of every artist, writer and producer in my social circles who are afraid to speak up publicly because we admire and respect Apple so much. We simply do not respect this particular call”.

Ms Swift is right on the money. Quite arguably, she is not a lone voice in this battle against Apple's policy—she's just the most impactful, latest and probably the loudest. It may be noted that Beggars Group, associated with such an array of indie labels like 4AD, Matador, and Rough Trade, released a statement about their decision to steer clear of Apple's contract: "Whilst we understand the logic of their proposal and their aim to introduce a subscription-only service, we struggle to see why rights owners and artists should bear this aspect of Apple’s customer acquisition costs." (The best iTunes album seller in history—Adele's 21—belongs to Beggars Group label XL Recordings.) Another indie label exec told Rolling Stone, "A lot of independent labels are of the same mind – that it's kind of a raw deal." The American Association of Independent Music expressed some concern:

Please do not feel rushed to sign Apple’s current offer.
And yet,it was unmistakably Taylor Swift’s widely followed blog - which got the mighty Apple to see sense and back down. Apple’s Eddy Cue responded positively to her demands in a series of tweets. In her earlier Wall Street Journal op-ed , she wrote:
The value of an album is, and will continue to be, based on the amount of heart and soul an artist has bled into a body of work, and the financial value that artists (and their labels) place on their music when it goes out into the marketplace.
Her WSJ op-ed and her controversial decision to stay off was of course controversial but she has come a long way in acknowledging that streaming is a trend that she and the industry can’t fight and has to embraced. Ms. Swift’s bold stand with L’affaire Apple needs to be welcomed. For her stature and success, she could have just remained silent - taking on Apple would send cold shivers down the spine for many in the technology, retail, entertainment industry and Ms. swift has shown real leadership and changed the course. What Ms.Swift gains from this move is much more valuable than album sales. To quote Bob Lefsetz, a music industry observer:
Efforts like Taylor Swift's are career-defining moments of credibility that are trumpeted for eons, they're what cement artists' careers. It's not only hits, it's identity. Records come and go, people remain. If you stand for something, you're the hook that catches the velcro loop, and we're all loops waiting to be caught.

Ms. Swift is a tour de force in the world of entertainment. Her records sell too well and her live performance tickets get sold in record time and yet she stands apart from her peers by an almost old-fashioned sense of poise. How Ms. Swift engaged Apple tells a story of the modern leader. She combined analytical skills and emotional intelligence to turn Apple around leveraging social media expertise and analytical reasoning.. As technology increases its role in our lives, and more decisions are handled by software, the role of humans in the world is becoming less clear. Humans possess capabilities that computers are still far from matching. As analytically adept as they may be, computers are still far from understanding and using the soft skills, such as emotional intelligence. Ms. Swift nicely demonstrates why soft skills are so important in the modern world, and how deftly used they can lead an army. No wonder Apple couldn't shake off Ms. Swift.

Recently, Fortune magazine while naming her amongst the most powerful women earlier this year wrote,”

She’s also the highest-paid woman in the music industry. In the past year, Swift racked up an impressive list of savvy business moves. Back in November, she pulled her entire catalogue from Spotify, saying that the streaming service doesn’t adequately compensate artists. Since then, she’s proved to be one of the savviest brand creators going. The singer took steps to trademark some of her key phrases (think “This sick beat”), devalued paparazzi snaps by posting her own photos to Instagram, and, just this week, made the news for buying up any adult-sounding web domains that include her name.
Fortune further noted that She’s become a massive cultural influencer—exemplifying the exact model leadership that forms the basis of this year’s list. Ms. Swift has definitely stood up in time and made her stand be counted with the mighty Apple and in the process is standing more tall. In the process, the world is witness to how effective one can be if determined in the digital universe, to make change happen through influence. Powerful lessons indeed out of this happening for individual(s) and mighty corporations as well.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Digital Transformation To Serve The Business

The goal of digital initiatives have clearly gone far beyond to be a matter of smooth and trouble-free provision of digital technologies. Leading edge enterprises state their goal of digital initiatives as one that can and should create a path for new way of doing business with customers and also as an general enabler of operational efficiency working at digital speed and scale and by extension serve as a catalyst for growth.

The real challenge comes in when in their respective laudable initiatives for growth, many enterprises may tend to take ownership of technology decisions for themselves and tend to operate on the belief that they would know the means to digitalize their part of the business including purchase and transformation programs, potentially in the process creating a fragmented and incoherent islands across the enterprise. The enterprise concerns about such an approach and their outcomes. How can enterprises put in place a program to manage this overall digression while pursuing their digital initiatives is a ringing concern begging an answer. We will briefly attempt to take a shot in getting some concrete answers here.

Digital transformation is a long journey - it’s a marathon and not just a sprint. Today’s enterprises are living in the most accelerated innovation lifecycle ever seen in the history of mankind. Leading edge enterprises recognize and try to take advantage of the fact that digital technologies have created a new sense and purpose for consumer behavior with very different ways of engagement. Added to this is the increasing global wealth and the propensity to spend more in the consumer era.

Staying ahead of the curve - While the explosion of connectivity, data and internet of things have created great opportunities for innovation , the fact of the matter is that these provide great difficulties to organizations as well. In the nee spend paradigm, more bang for the buck with frozen or near frozen levels of budget are expected to bring greater value and in shorter time with larger positive impact. External service providers can step in here -providing the much needed services on storage, development and processing paraphernalia. In fact, a new niche of value added data providers are emerging who can provide valuable insights with the data that enterprises have with them. Niches can get richer and deeper experience and expertise - enterprises should always look for leveraging them. Digital speed and scale are very different and in many ways characterize what digital business actually means.

People - It can be easily said that look for change agents, who are versatile and flexible, who are the tree shakers bringing in change and who understand the forces that are driving the market now in terms of trends, technology and business. It’s so difficult to find them or mould them to fit these expectations. unfortunately digital transformation would perforce demand these changes in people inside enterprises. Every enterprise is entitled to minimize risks but the risk profile and propensity should move higher over time and needs to adapt to a changing market and develop mitigation proposals, while keeping an eye on growth.

Technology - An unstoppable stream of technology advances keep happening at a blistering pace and breakthroughs are getting reported much more than usual. Some of these technologies can have a deep impact in the way business can get conducted changing people and organizational behaviour and sometimes transforming the value chain. It's a judgemental call which set o technologies and business models can create such a deep impact and enterprises need to be alert in constantly looking for and assessing such opportunities.Robust scenario planning exercises including emerging opportunities, assumption busting, changing the status quo and competitive advantage assessments need to be conducted in an effective way regularly.

Enter the Chief Digital Officer(CDO) - Any enterprise not taking the initiative for digitalization would be missing out majorly on getting competitive and securing long term success for themselves. This is regardless of the industry that an enterprise falls under - from museums to special events industry - every industry is going to get engulfed in the wave of digitization. The existing leadership dispensation may not be rightly equipped to drive the needed changes required to capitalize on the digital wave. Consequently, the emergence of the chief digital officer (CDO) is essential for the new age of digital business.The chief digital officer will be the primary mover for transforming regular business into digital business besides creating new digital centric business models In embracing digital tenets of running an enterprise, the basic nature of functioning of the enterprise undergoes massive changes. Digital business brings in its own expectations that include cultural shifts as part of a new digital DNA - every part of work - why, what, where and how are susceptible to big changes. And, the gamut of changes covers areas like business models and extending into data, security, digital platforms and the extended digital ecosystem - all need to be properly leveraged to help enterprise remain competitive -in the short term to longer term. The CDO is integral to planning and executing digital transformation in the enterprise.

As I wrote here, every transformation efforts brings along with it substantial degree of risk. Digital proponents leverage the fact that the business strategies that embrace. New process models and couple powerful new technologies are transforming the way we do business and the vibrant nature of the marketplace. It’s clear that yesteryears paradigm of economic and business models are too inadequate to secure future years success. New paradigms need to be created, starting with the vision to innovate and enormous energy and skills to stay the course and realize quantifiable benefits. The core ability needed to enable digital transformation rests around customer centricity and a focus on making their businesses different through technology but not per se on the technologies. No technology should be deployed without a fully thought through vision of how it advances business goals, addresses customer needs, or both. Beyond that, technology should be so tightly intertwined with strategy that the two drive and reinforce each other.

A digital strategy that focuses on specific business outcomes leveraging various forms of digital technologies can create a massive edge for the enterprise. Sustainable edge comes in where the physical world and digital universe come together in creating new value. Digital winners get there by thinking big and small together transforming processes, creating/validating/rebooting business models and enabling new waves of customer experience. Any company large or small, old or new can use this digital technology to create a winning edge for its business and perhaps, its industry.

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