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Friday, April 30, 2004

Offshoring Services: Which Are the World's Top Locations -- and Why? Via Knowledge@wharton

Kearney's 2004 index study underscores the fact that countries to which white collar jobs are being offshored offer a range of attractions besides low-cost labor, creating a complex decision-making process for companies selecting offshore locations. Countries such as India and China, with large populations, offer an abundance of educated workers. But at the other end of the spectrum, "small, highly developed economies like Singapore, New Zealand and Ireland offer excellent infrastructure, education systems and business-friendly low-risk environments," the study says. Surprisingly, the report says Singapore is more competitive than India or Malaysia when it comes to high-end requirements. He points to Singapore's superior telecommunications and IT infrastructure, transparent financial markets, clean legal regime, and the availability of a strong pool of middle and senior management personnel. "Singapore also has tremendous risk mitigation management and containing expertise," he says. All of these can substantially offset Singapore's higher wage levels, he feels.Malaysia is a surprise at No. 3 in the Kearney index. Its population of 22 million people does not allow it to compete with India and China's scale advantages, but there are other factors that work in its favor, the study says. "Low costs, particularly for infrastructure, the most attractive business environment among emerging markets, and high levels of global integration helped Malaysia reach the number three spot in this year's index." Malaysia's government is also promoting the IT and services sector. All that, the authors say, will make Malaysia "one of the strongest competitors to India's BPO dominance in the next five years."China may trail India in BPO experience and qualifications, but its cost advantages and large educated labor pool are big strengths. China also is emerging as a growing offshore destination for Japanese and Korean companies, and it attracts U.S. and other multinationals "because of talented work force," India too has worked on its competitive strengths. "India has extended a significant lead through its continuing cost advantages and its increasing market maturity,". Overall a well researched report.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Ebiz strikes again via Bweek

The Internet has rewritten the rules for books, music, and travel. Which industries are next? Here are six : In the first wave of disruption, Amazon, Expedia, and others rewrote the rules for books, music, and air travel. Now the Web is poised to remake at least six more major industries: jewelry, bill payments, telecom, hotels, real estate, and softwareAs e-biz strikes again, key questions arise: Why these industries? And why now? In the first round of Net disruption, the online players were selling commodities: books, music, or stock trades. Customers didn't need to see, squeeze, or sniff the stuff -- all they cared about was price. Today's Net upstarts are pulling together more complex information and boiling it down so consumers can become smarter purchasers of a broader array of products and services. In real estate, for instance, zipRealty and others have learned how to use software to show potential home buyers photos and floor plans for scores of potential houses. Because that reduces the agent's work, zipRealty can save consumers 20% to 25% off standard commissions. In the jewelry biz, Blue Nile offers loads of educational information on diamonds so lovestruck men feel comfortable buying gems based on a collection of independent ratings on color, cut, clarity, and carat size.Broadband has been instrumental in the Net's advance, too. A critical mass of people around the world now have high-speed Net access, including 27 million U.S. households. That means consumers can handle the huge loads of information dished up by the second wave of online players. Lickety-split Net links let them browse through dozens of photos of hotel rooms, check out a variety of gold necklaces, or take virtual tours of scores of homes for sale. Speedy Net connections also have made it easier for programmers around the world to cooperate in developing new open-source software, which is changing the economics of the $200 billion software market.The industries under assault have other more subtle characteristics in common, as well. Several, including jewelry and hotels, have long supply chains with many middlemen, each of whom takes a cut of the profits, driving up retail prices.The power of the net is going to be felt much more in the days to come..

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Waking Up a Sleeping Company - Authentic Leadership Via HBSWK

One of the greatest challenges for the values-centered culture is to produce top performance and succeed in the market against "win at any cost" competitors. Values are only one part of an organization's culture; the other half is its operating norms—the way in which day-to-day business is conducted. Practicing solid values does not guarantee results unless a passionate commitment to performance standards is incorporated into the organization's norms writes Bill George in his latest book - "Authentic Leadership" Goerge Bill writes, "The company's (Medtronic) long history of success had led to a soft underbelly that manifested itself in a lack of discipline. The company was extremely values-centered, but its internal norms of consensus decision making, conflict avoidance, and lack of personal accountability all undermined the company's performance. For all its strengths, it was my impression that Medtronic's culture was too Minnesota Nice. I realized that these aspects of Medtronic's culture had to change if we were going to be an effective competitor and realize our vision of being the global leader in medical technology.The challenge we faced was changing a successful culture without diminishing its positive attributes. Cultural change is never an easy task, and far more cultural change efforts ultimately fail than succeed. Transforming a healthy culture is even more difficult than changing an unhealthy one. Many people will not understand why change is necessary when the company has been successful. The leader has to be patient, communicative, and diligent in insisting on changes at all levels, or the organization—like the proverbial willow tree—will snap back to its previous mode of operation as soon as the pressure is off. Bill concludes by saying,"The extraordinary results achieved by Medtronic in the past fifteen years shows that an organization can be both values-centered and performance-driven. The key is aligning the organization's values and performance objectives. Working in complementary fashion, practicing values and driving for performance reinforce each other and enable the creation of a great company." Extremely well written and backed by solid performance of the company - this is compulsary reading for all managers.


Next Wave Of Advances In Tech Will 'Surprise Us,' Gates Predicts

Bill Gates, who foresaw a revolution in computing and built a business empire on his vision, scoffs at notions the software field is mature.To take the industry to the next level, he says, technology must get better. Web services software and standards must improve so that disparate computers and programs can share and update information as they get it. Speech recognition and online search need to be more precise. Gates says,"There are so many exciting and challenging problems to tackle - from natural language processing to navigating large amounts of digital information - and the way we solve them will help technology further improve our lives". Technology will never lose its ability to surprise humanity, software breakthroughs will make computing vastly more powerful and intuitive in a few short years and for the current generation, technology is like oxygen to them, and the ways they're using it will define how we build computers and write software in the future.

RFID /EPC - Managing the transition - 2004-2007 Via Line56

This paper from ATKearney says that while the vision of RFID is compelling, the transition from today's practice to the EPC enabled future will be challenging Initial economises are not always favourable and shall ultimately depned on dramtic improvements in hardware and software and tag costs. Governing standards for these are not still established. Many teachnical issues related to these need to be resolved. Consumer privacy,methods for sharing data are still grey areas and therefore the paper argues that 2004-2005 would be a period of trials and pilots.The combination of WI-FI and RFID are going to create a huge impact after 2005. Very well written paper - Must read for all interested in RFID.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Technology and Show Business Kiss and Make Up via NYTIMES

HP, Apple, Microsoft are all offering new solutions to the entertainment industry. From a time of standoff between technology and entertainment companies,the current emerging trend is different. With growth slowing in both entertainment and technology, players on both sides started to accept an uncomfortable reality: they simply could not afford to go on fighting. The ability to deliver movies and music over the Internet in a pirate-proof format could mean big money for movie and record companies, which have long complained about the expenses of manufacturing and distributing their wares.We are seeing the emergence of beautiful new friendship. Joint ventures, strategic alliances and photo opportunities materialize every week, as tech companies jostle for position in the entertainment world, and producers enjoy the courtship.The benefits to consumers are just beginning to show. While downloading music onto an iPod or a similar music player is commonplace, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and others are pushing for a completely digitized home. Their vision starts with a central media player used for personal computing, downloading movies and television and listening to music. This courtship and marriage has the potential to change the landscape of entertainment industry.

Irrepressible, Is thy name -Steve Jobs,Oh, Yeah, He Also Sells Computers Via NYTimes

In just two and a half years, Mr. Jobs, Apple's chief executive, has managed to take a well-designed hand-held gadget, add software connecting it to Macintoshes and Windows-based personal computers and convince the recording industry that he has found an elegant solution for ending its nightmare of digital piracy. In doing so, he has shifted the emphasis of Apple from what made it famous - hip, even lovable computers - to what he hopes will keep it relevant and profitable in the future: products for a digital way of lifeApple's growth may no longer be defined by its PC market share, now a declining sliver of the PC industry, but instead by Mr. Jobs's ability to create consumer markets."Both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs arrived with the idea of digitizing the world, but Gates has lost his way," said George F. Colony, the chief executive of Forrester Research, a computer industry consulting firm. "Despite all of his warts, Jobs has kept the dream alive, whether it's movies, music or photos. I call him the digitizer."People who know Mr. Jobs well say he disdains strategic thinking as it is practiced by large corporations. Several people who have worked with him describe his business approach as "instinctual."Two striking figures in Apple's most recent quarterly financial results, announced on April 14, underscore Mr. Jobs's new approach. In the last three months, Apple sold 807,000 iPods, surpassing for the first time the number of Macintosh computers it sold (749,000). At the same time, revenue for products other than Macintoshes reached 39 percent of the total of $1.91 billion for the quarter, more than double the percentage two years ago. Irrepresible - is thy name, "Steve Jobs"?


Sunday, April 25, 2004

Chinese economy - Headed For A Crisis? Via Bweek

China's economy is overheated, its banks are shaky, and hot money continues to pour in. Can the new leaders rein in a runaway financial system?Scenes of prosperity, scorching expansion, commodity shortages, and speculative froth in the Chinese economy: In Beijing, local authorities are driving an unprecedented stadium-construction boom to prepare for the 2008 Olympic Games, an historic shot for the country to strut its stuff and showcase its economic ascendancy before a global audience. The capital city is spending $30 billion-plus on new subways, road construction, and glittering stadiums.In some thriving coastal cities, 2004 is shaping up to be the year of the brownout, as construction of new factories and housing fuels ever greater demand for electricity. China's State Grid Corp. forecasts an electricity gap of some 30 million kilowatts this year. Power rationing has become a fact of life in Shanghai and in smaller towns in the provinces of Zhejiang and Anhui in the booming Yangtze River Delta. Because the yuan is fixed at a cheap rate of 8.27 to the dollar and the government so far has not let it appreciate, the Chinese are spending more and more to import increasingly dear raw materials, which mainland manufacturers turn into products to sell abroad at low prices. In other words, China is paying more and getting less in return. The result: China actually ran a first-quarter trade deficit of $8.43 billion.The system is clearly out of whack. Yes, China is regarded as a country with first-world manufacturing prowess, the planet's workshop. But that industrial might is hitched to a broken, third-world financial system. When the heat turns up, things can get ugly.The authorities are clearly getting nervous. Beijing has raised bank-reserve requirements for the second time in eight months, and a sell-off in Chinese bonds has been accelerating.For all of its glittering skylines, emerging space program, and love affair with cell phones and the Net, China is still burdened with a backward financial system that can't tell a good risk from a bad one -- and often doesn't seem to care. "There is no such thing as efficient capital allocation in China," says Carl E. Walter, chief operating officer for J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (JPM ) in China.Very scary and looks to be precarioussly perched - but China has always managed to baffle the world in the past and this gives them enormous confidence that things can be managed. Also the stakes are high for the big economic powers and any collapse can have severe impact for them as well - the hope is that this would ensure that they rally behind china and support it when the need arises.

Software: The Subscription Pricing Model

Some industry analysts predict subscription-based licensing models are about to break into widespread acceptance as alternatives to perpetual licenses, the status quo in the software industry. Research firm IDC last month predicted "dramatic shifts" in software business models as a growing number of customers shop for more flexible licensing options. "Vendors that can't accommodate these models will eventually be at a competitive disadvantage," predicts IDC analyst Amy Mizoras KonaryIDC estimates a quarter of all software sales today are tied to subscription licenses, so the transition is already in gear.The trend is gaining so much momentum that Merrill Lynch software analysts have come up with a new method of assessing and valuing software companies, one that takes into account the growth in deferred revenue that results when vendors move in this direction. The brokerage firm has devised a formula, called the Merrill Lynch On-Demand Index, for measuring the performance of software companies using metrics that go beyond the standard stock-price-to-earnings or stock-price-to-sales gauges.The trend toward subscription contracts is being driven in part by customers' dissatisfaction with the old way of deal making. Perpetual licenses can entail large up-front costs and annual maintenance fees that can reach 20% of a contract's initial value. Fewer than 20% of users surveyed by IDC say they're taking full advantage of the software they licensed.

Ricardo Semler - Set them free via cioinsight

Ricardo semler is known for his very unconventional views of managing enterprises -His book Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World's Most Unusual Workplace, became an international bestseller (it's more Rocky than The Firm), and laid out his unorthodox, if strikingly commonsense approaches—no dress code, voluntary meetings, mandatory vacation time. In the last decade how has he fared? Semco's revenues have jumped from $35 million to $212 million in the last six years, and the firm grew from several hundred employees to 3,000—with employee turnover of about 1 percent. The privately held firm has eight businesses, or, says Semler, "nine, depending on the week," having expanded into outsourcing management (for four of Brazil's five biggest banks), to environmental site remediation and engineering risk management Upon semler's health setback, Semler determined to balance his work and personal life more carefully, and to do the same for his employees—all while improving Semco's fortunes. To his great relief, he discovered he didn't have to reconcile these two goals: The more freedom he gave his staff to set their own schedules, the more versatile, productive and loyal they became, and the better Semco performed.His new book, "The Seven-Day Weekend: Changing the Way Work Works" is due out in May.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Don't laugh at gilded butterflies - The economist about innovation

Rather than chasing wonder new products, big companies should focus on making lots of small improvements The article says,"important business trend: blockbuster new products are harder and harder to come by, and big companies can do much better if they focus on making lots of small things better."Even in relatively zippy businesses like pharmaceuticals, genuinely new products are fewer and further between. Spending on pharmaceutical R&D has doubled over the past decade, but the number of new drugs approved each year by America's Food and Drug Administration (the industry's key regulatory hurdle) has halved."Disruptive innovation”—simpler, cheaper and more convenient products that seriously upset the status quo—can herald the rapid downfall of well-established and successful businesses.Operational Innovation talked about by Michael Hammer and Strategic innovation coined by Christopher Trimble and Vijay Govindarajan are other relevant approaches recommended for corporate innovation. In the increasingly globalised world, corporate innovation is an essential weapon for survival, leave alone leadership and dominance.

The New Factory Floor, and Tomorrow's via Bweek

Manufacturers know that to survive is to change. And the changes they're making are sweeping now and will soon be revolutionary.With America's worst industrial recession since World War II drawing to an end, it's increasingly clear that the future of manufacturing won't look much like its past. However painful the transformation, the U.S. factory sector is continuing a decades-old evolution away from labor-intensive activities measured more often by scale than precision.Those manufacturers still standing are concentrating on ever-higher-quality products and processes, even if that means tearing up long-standing business practices and shedding workers to survive. And in the wings awaits a new generation of molecular manufacturers -- which have more in common with chipmakers than carmakers -- aiming to create self-assembling machines on a nanoscale. A focus on quality in the near term helps fuel innovation down the road.It's clear that the manufacturing recovery is finally out of the starting box, and this time the recovery has legs. Though the article may not be high on details and may even appear a little suferficial, the trends noted herein are really worth deliberating.

The Toll of a New Machine Via FC

It started with ATMs. Then gas stations. Now self-service kiosks are taking over airports and invading McDonald's restaurants. Is this the face of the jobless recovery? Or will automation make service better for workers and customers alike?Crudely put, the work that required 100 people in 2000 requires just 89 people today in the US.Employment has actually grown in other service businesses that have been automated. At the dawn of the self-service banking age in 1985, for example, the United States had 60,000 automated teller machines and 485,000 bank tellers. In 2002, the United States had 352,000 ATMs--and 527,000 bank tellers. ATMs notwithstanding, banks do a lot more than they used to and have a lot more branches than they used to.each Kinetics self-check-in machine, at an initial cost of between $6,000 and $10,000, takes the place of two-and-a-half ticket agents, because the machine is available (at least) from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week--or about the number of hours that many agents would work. But that both understates and overstates the machines' impact.Kinetics has installed 3,800 self-check-in machines for airlines--but 9,500 ticket agents have not lost their jobs.Here's the double-reverse flip of productivity improvement: The kiosks have increased sales at McDonald's so much that the owners have had to add two more employees in each store.The final surprise is that customers who use the kiosks spend more money. A very interesting article.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Google - Challenging times ahead Via Bweek

All around the world, Web-surfing humanity has found its way to Google's bare-bones Web site and picked up the simple formula, pecking out a few words and hitting enter. Google has blazed a new path of learning and turned its search engine into the keys to knowledge. Its massive banks of servers process more than 3,000 searches every second of the day. Now, much of Silicon Valley waits eagerly for the miracle company to translate its soaring popularity into a mountain of cash."Google has proved a better mousetrap matters," says Microsoft Corp. CEO Steven A. Ballmer. Yahoo, Microsoft are leading the assault on Google. But google, as a company still operates under freewheeling management, a vestige of its peaceful prosperity as a private company. Under a ruling triumvirate, no one exec has clear control. Competitors are attempting to outflank Google and turn search into a ubiquitous feature, a commodity. To defend its market, Google must come up with a better model, one that establishes its search engine as a central platform for computing. This pushes Google to extend from its slender specialized base and venture into many of the same broad services the giants offer. To keep the big powers from feasting on its specialty, Google must stretch and become a sprawling power of its own. The search market is undeegoing huge chnage.In time, search engines will feast on every bit of personal information we're willing to share, and serve up links that fit our tastes and locales -- maybe even fine-tuning them according to the time of day. It's a market headed for dramatic growth and change. Interesting developments lay ahead.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

How big can walmart grow? Via Economist

The world's biggest retailer is defying its critics by continuing to grow vigorouslyHow big can Wal-Mart grow? With $256 billion in sales in the year to January 31st, the firm is already the world's biggest company by that measure. Its nearest retailing rival, a French supermarket chain called Carrefour, is less than half Wal-Mart's size. In America, Wal-Mart manages nearly 3,000 giant discount stores and hypermarket “supercentres”.Eight out of ten American households shop at Wal-Mart at least once a year. Worldwide, more than 100m customers visit Wal-Mart stores every week.The mathematics of big numbers suggests that Wal-Mart's growth must slow. Amazingly, the opposite appears to be happening. In America this year, Wal-Mart intends to open some 50 new discount stores and more than 220 new supercentres, some of which will be existing stores moving to new locations. Overseas, it plans another 140 or so new stores, including relocations. This adds up to some 50m square feet of new space—even more than many of its rivals operate in total.According to A.T. Kearney, Wal-Mart's three-biggest sources of cost advantage are low corporate overheads, the efficiencies of its supply-chain and, above all, its low labour costs. A newly hired “associate”, as Wal-Mart calls its employees, could earn as little as $8 an hour, some 20-30% less than unionised workers at rival supermarkets.with an employee turnover rate of 44%, the firm has to hire an astonishing 600,000 people every year simply to stay at its current size. As the company grows and employs yet more people, that task will become even more difficult, suggesting that Wal-Mart will want to push turnover lower still. That might put pressure on costs, as workers gain tenure, pay rises and better benefits. Touch challenges, but walmart ha always managed to stay on top of such things.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Google and Akamai: Cult of Secrecy vs. Kingdom of Openness Via Technology Review

The king of search is tapping into what may be the largest grid of computers on the planet. And it remains extraordinarily secretive about its core technologies—perhaps because it senses a potential competitor in dotcom era flameout Akamai.“Google always reports much, much lower numbers than are true." Whenever somebody from Google puts together a new presentation, he explained, the PR department vets the talk and hacks down the numbers. Originally, he said, the slide with the numbers said that 1,000 queries/sec was the “minimum” rate, not the peak. “We have 10,000-plus servers. That’s plus a lot.”Just as Google’s search engine comes back instantly and seemingly effortlessly with a response to any query that you throw it, hiding the true difficulty of the task from users, the company also wants its competitors kept in the dark about the difficulty of the problem. After all, if Google publicized how many pages it has indexed and how many computers it has in its data centers around the world, search competitors like Yahoo!, Teoma, and Mooter would know how much capital they had to raise in order to have a hope of displacing the king at the top of the hill.Akamai, in contrast is keen that all technical details are known to the public in a very direct way -To be fair, there are important differences between Google and Akamai—differences that assure that Google won’t be breaking into Akamai’s business anytime soon, nor Akamai moving into Google’s. Both companies have developed infrastructure for running massively parallel systems, but the applications that they are running on top of those systems is different. Google’s primary application is a search engine. Akamai, by contrast, has developed a system for delivering Web pages, streaming media, and a variety of other standard Internet protocols.


Tuesday, April 20, 2004

States Tackle Outsourcing Via Foxnews

Many states in the US are moving to ensure that more workers and businesses are homegrown thereby putting brakes on outsourcingLisa Langsdorf pointed out this link to me. My views are as under:
A wave of protectionism is evident in the USA .The USA continues to subsidise its farmers, depressing the price of commodities for Third World exporters, and this has held up the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas. Is neo-protectionism a serious threat for global trade for countries like India? I suspect not.But do not interpret this as a fundamental change in American attitudes to trade. The election will pass, the job crisis is fading, and the rhetoric will change. The current outsourcing companies based out of India are not concerned - they point out that state contracts are less than 1% of their business. They are also hopeful that post elections these things would change.

Gearing up for Grid

Financial advisers at Charles Schwab will notice a substantial improvement in their real-time retirement planning tool. That's because retirement-scenario calculations that used to take many minutes to compute are now completed in seconds thanks to a change in the way the firm has designed its computing infrastructureDaniel Powers, vice president of grid computing strategy at IBM Corporation, agrees that grid computing is ripe for financial-services firms. That's because financial services is an industry that has a tremendous number of applications to run in a high-performance computing environment. Moreover, he notes, online brokers deploy a large number of servers. "When you look at the utilization characteristics of servers, it's up and down. There's a tremendous amount of unused capacity. There's a really good opportunity to mix the computing environment to fit different parts of the business." To summarise, grid computing advantage shall be :
-Running several trade scenarios in parallel, enabling more sophisticated analysis in a shorter timeframe.
-Working in a heterogeneous environment and taking advantage of different operating systems and hardware.
-Adding processing power quickly and easily.
-Using the grid infrastructure for a variety of analytical functions.
-Scheduling jobs and restarting operations more easily.
-Better use of resources.

The Secret of Dramatic Change at BP by Howard Gardner

some of BP's decline can be blamed on ill-adapted conditions within the company. BP had a huge and poorly disciplined employment force scattered all over the world. Nor was the company sufficiently strategic; for example, much effort was spent digging for oil in the Netherlands, though mega-rival Shell was much more likely to succeed on its home soil. Neither highly positioned managers nor ordinary workers were held accountable for their achievements and lapses, let alone their specific contributions to profitability. In crude behaviorist terms, there were few rewards (or positive reinforcements) for outstanding performance and few penalties (or negative reinforcements) for failure. Far too much of the company's business was focused on oil, though the extent of world reserves was unknown and the possibility of seizure by nationalistic leaders (or followers) was ever present. Perhaps most disturbingly, there were no plans for dealing with such destabilizing situations. BP stood at considerable risk of becoming an industrial dinosaur, going the way of once-dominant companies like Westinghouse, American Motors, and Montgomery Ward.
Howard gardner suggests the following in general for a massive change :search for the resonance and stamp out the resistance. Consider three such entrenched views—each familiar to anyone who has worked in any organization—and the ways in which these views might profitably be reformulated:

Early representation: Bigger is always better.
Better representation: It all depends. Sometimes small is beautiful. Assets of scale are often at odds with flexibility, comfort, innovation. The behemoths of one era may well become the dinosaurs of the next.
Early representation: It you don't like your situation, scream, quit, or do both.
Better representation: All niches have pros and cons. If you act shrewdly, you may be able to improve your situation, not only benefiting yourself but also improving the atmosphere for others. It is also important to listen to what others are saying because you might not grasp the whole picture.
Early representation: I've done it this way so long that I know it is right.
Better representation: There is merit in tried-and-true practices, but sometimes—and particularly at a time of rapid change—such practices can become dysfunctional. Items of inferior quality that are less expensively made sometimes dislodge quality products. Keep an open mind, be willing to experiment, blend the best of the old and the new.

India's unique approach to development is preparing it to overtake China in the economic-growth race Via FEER

By Dan Fineman
Far Eastern Economic Review
Issue cover-dated April 15, 2004

Shiv pointed out a very thought provoking article about India's potential and expected growth that appeared in last week's Far Eastern Economic Review:-

Eye-popping 10.4% GDP growth in the quarter ending in December has excited hopes that India will become the next China, but expectations need to climb even further. India now looks better than China. India's growth model promises more stable,sustainable expansion and bigger returns for investors than China or other adherents of the East Asian development strategy have delivered. Eventually, India should overtake China in growth and per-capita output. Superior corporate performance explains much of India's recent success. According to JPMorgan, listed Indian firms deliver a higher return on equity (RoE) than comparable companies in Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, Taiwan, Japan and Malaysia or Hong Kong-listed Chinese firms. Remarkably, Indian firms combine high RoEs with Asia's lowest debt-to-equity ratios. Large equity bases enhance stability but depress RoE, making Indian profitability all the more impressive. India's economic growth has rewarded investors unusually richly by Asian standards. Because the East Asian model generates growth without commensurate profits, the region's stockmarkets badly lag GDP. From 1990-2002, nominal GDP growth exceeded the increase in developing East Asia's stock indexes (excluding China, which lacked a sizeable stock exchange in 1990) by an average of 236 percentage points. Backed by superior corporate profitability, India's gap was just 96 percentage points. Only Hong Kong performed better.

In contrast to China and other high-growth economies, the state has played almost no role in India's recent growth. Governments in Japan, Korea, Singapore and China support favoured industries with tax breaks, directed lending and hidden subsidies. In India, the state has displayed almost no preference for any particular sector. The government poses an equally heavy burden on all firms. It has aided industry of late by demanding less, not by showering businesses with favours. Privatization and deregulation, not an intrusive industrial policy, represent the state's biggest contribution to growth. DOMESTIC DEMAND : India requires less onerous thrift of its population. National savings in the high-growth countries regularly topped 40% of GDP in the 1990s, and China's savings rate reached 44% last year. India's more modest 20%-25% rate allows workers to enjoy more of the fruits of their labour and replaces fickle export demand with steady consumption as a growth driver. More modest savings have fuelled less destabilizing over-investment. In the "Tiger" economies, investment typically exceeded 40% of GDP in the fat years, while China last year invested at a 42% rate. In India, the figure fluctuates between just 20% and 25%, in line with savings.

Freed from state direction, the Indian economy has developed a happy but unusual structure. In China, Korea and Japan, government policies push manufacturing to the forefront. The service sector remains underdeveloped in most of East Asia. In India computer programming, back-office outsourcing and call centres flourish, in part because official policy did not divert capital to manufacturers. India's burgeoning service sector makes the economy unique among emerging markets. No other country at
India's level of development boasts a globally competitive service industry, apart from tourism and money laundering. All this should sound familiar. Low investment and savings rates, an even-handed government and highly profitable corporates are also hallmarks of the United States economy. India's approach follows the successful American model, not the failed Japanese example.

India's development model might never reproduce the multi-year, double-digit GDP expansion the Tigers and China registered in their peak years. Hypercharged investment fuelled by underpriced capital propelled those growth spurts. Lower investment and savings rates could limit India's expansion.But India's model should prove more sustainable than the typical East Asian strategy adopted by China. India is developing more efficient corporates, healthier banks, more robust service industries and a bigger consumption base. China has won the sprint. India is training for the marathon.


Fiorina: Bring on broadcast's digital revolution

Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina says,"Broadcasters must embrace digital technology before they're left behind"We have entered an era in which every process and all content is going from analog, static and physical to digital, mobile and virtual, based on the shifts in the creation, production and distribution of broadcast programming.What happens when a teacher wants to tap your digital archive to order the best TV and film documentaries on the Civil War for her American history class?" she asked. "Many of these answers will come not just through new economic models but through the use of new technology." Very relevant thought as we have seen a dramatic transformation in the home digital entertainment segment in a big way in the last 18-24 months.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Intel's Telecom Weapon: WiMax Via Bweek

Sean Moloney says this wireless technology will surprise critics: "I'm just looking forward to proving people wrong"In the past three years, Intel has become one of the prime backers of some innovative, high-speed wireless technologies -- including Wi-Fi and WiMax -- that promise to reshape the telecommunications industry. While Wi-Fi can cover a few hundred feet, WiMax has a range of up to 25 to 30 miles. That makes it an alternative to traditional broadband technologies, which use phone and cable pipes.The next wave of personal productivity at work is about mobility, with people wanting to get access anywhere. During the next 5 to 10 years, industry after industry will turn to wireless. People use their notebooks 30% more once they're on wireless. It's pushing people to take their computers everywhere.


Wal-Mart’s Mega-Growth Continues, But Is its Image Getting a Bit Tarnished? Via Knowledge@wharton

Wal-Mart’s appearance for the third time in a row at the top of the Fortune 500 list of largest U.S. companies would seem to confirm what many have long suspected: This retailing behemoth is all-powerful and unstoppable With 259 billion usd in annual sales, walmart rerpresents a stunning 2.3% of U.S. gross domestic product, walmart accounts for 10% of US imports from china.In 2003, the average American spent $761 in Wal-Mart stores, which accounts for 32% of all disposable diapers sold through mass market stores, 30% of all photographic film, 26% of toothpaste and 21% of pain remedies, according to published reports. Retail Forward, a consulting company in Columbus, Ohio, predicts that by 2007 Wal-Mart will control 35% of the supermarket and grocery store sales in the United States and 25% of the pharmacy and drug store sales. Having grown too big, walmart is very careful to avoid getting into Microsoft like situations on monopoly.There is a sense that Microsoft is squelching innovation and charging significantly higher prices than they should. This is why Microsoft is on the Justice Department’s radar and Wal-Mart is not … As long as prices are falling it would be hard for the Justice Department to argue that they are abusing market power and heft. It’s important not to lose sight of the fact that a lot of people benefit from Wal-Mart.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

How Adobe plans to keep beating Microsoft Via Knowledge@wharton

Adobe Systems is on a roll these days, just had the most profitable quarter in its history. Adobe is always seen as a company with the edge to innovate and retain its turf by rolling out superior, reliable and relevant product. Bruce chizen, Adobe's President & CEO discusses past challenges, future plans and competitive strategy against rivals such as Microsoft. Another point to note is that Adobe is one of the early embracers of Offshoring and points out in this interview that the company makes more than 55% of revenue outside the US.

The Tao of Tech By Cynthia L. Webb

Reading the technology sector's tea leaves these days is a lesson in Taoist philosophy -- every positive development is inevitably offset by an equal, negative force. Call it the yin and yang of technology. A funny but interesting view about recent reportings on IT recovery.

Outsourcing? Get In Sync Via Optimizemag

Corporate self-examination helps management select the right outsourcing partner and anticipate both the benefits and drawbacks of transformational outsourcing Outsourcing isn't what it used to be. A few bold leaders are going far beyond the conventional cost and resource savings benefits; they're using outsourcing to deliberately transform entire enterprises. While these transformations are generally successful at improving business processes, they can occasionally bring unanticipated results that may alter a company's initial outsourcing objectives. The article outlines an appraoch to maximize offshoring benefits to look at outsourcing for transformational benefits, like rapid growth, corporate turnaround etc. A well targetted appraoch towards outsourcing can provide rich dividends.


Friday, April 16, 2004

Can Amazon Unplug Google? by John Battelle Via Business 2.0

The online retailer is planning to change the way we navigate the Web.By overlaying what you're looking for onto what you've already found -- and, ultimately, what you've consumed -- A9 aims for the holy grail of search and e-commerce. While others have tried to create personalized interfaces, none has worked so far. Users don't like to answer questionnaires about what they like and what they don't; often they lie. But Amazon already knows who you are -- or at least, what you buy. With A9, the company can factor in what you browse and search for as well. In truth, Amazon and Google are speeding from two ends toward a very fertile middle ground where commerce and search meet. When they get there, they'll have formidable company -- AOL, eBay (EBAY), Microsoft (MSFT), and Yahoo, to name a few. Udi Manber, Amazon's chief algorithms officer and Yahoo's former chief scientist says, "In general, the main problem of search is very simple: Too often people do not get the results they need. Solving that is hard. We cannot read people's minds, but we can do much better anticipating their needs and making the process much easier for them."


The Common Sense of a Giant Via FC

In a soon-to-be-published biography and remembrance of the late Marvin Bower, the high priest of McKinsey & Co., there's a wonderful memo that should be tacked on the wall of every leader everywhereThe Bower memo :
First, we admire people who work hard. We dislike passengers who don't pull their weight in the boat.
We admire people with first-class brains, because you cannot run a great (organization) without brainy people.
We admire people who avoid politics -- office politics, I mean.
We despise toadied who suck up to their bosses; they are generally the same people who bully their subordinates.
We admire the great professionals, the craftsmen who do their jobs with superlative excellence. We notice that these people always respect the professional expertise of their colleagues in other departments.
We admire people who hire subordinates who are good enough to succeed them. We pity people who are so insecure that they feel compelled to hire inferior specimens as their subordinates.
We admire people who build up and develop their subordinates, because this is the only way we can promote from within the ranks. We detest having to go outside to fill important jobs, and I look forward to the day when that will never be necessary.
We admire people who practice delegation. The more you delegate, the more responsibility will be loaded upon you.
We admire kindly people with gentle manners who treat other people as human beings -- particularly the people who sell things to us. We abhor quarrelsome people. We abhor people who wage paper warfare. We abhor buck passers and people who don't tell the truth.
We admire well-organized people who keep their offices ship-shape, and deliver their work on time.
We admire people who are good citizens in their communities -- people who work for their local hospitals, their church, the PTA, the Community Chest, and so on. In this connection, I am proud of the example set by some of my colleagues during the year.

Alaska is Melting. Can Kyoto Save It? Via MIT Technology Journal

Treaties that mandate emissions reductions aren’t the ultimate solution. R&D on efficiency technologies isMuch of Alaska is built on frozen ground called permafrost, a soil condition that results when the yearly temperature averages below freezing. But across most of the state, that criterion is just barely met, by a few degrees Celsius. Alaska lives on the edge of a phase change. A small bit of warming can make a big difference. And that’s why many Alaskans, along with plenty of outside researchers and environmentalists, are concerned about global warming and the strategies proposed to limit its rise. Even if the United States signed international treaties designed to limit climate change, they’re starting to realize, that might not be enough to keep the state from softening. The author, Richard A. Muller, a 1982 MacArthur Fellow, is a physics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, where he teaches a course called “Physics for Future Presidents.” says,with energy efficiency, rather than dreading the ecological consequences of economic growth, we can have the joy of sharing it with the rest of the world.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

China, India,US,manufacturing and outsourcing - economic interweave.

As job magnet, China sits far behind India Jim Chen writes,"Both India and China are top destinations in the trend in offshore job dislocation. But whereas India may easily play host to an American company’s large-scale call center, where receptionists are trained to speak English without an Indian accent, China is more of a destination for American manufacturing jobs.China and India both have a large pool of well-educated young workers and low wages. For obvious historical reasons, however, the spread of English in China is not as widespread as in India. More Indians than Chinese have climbed to the top levels of the American corporate ladder and are more influential in deciding where to outsource the labor-intensive functions of their companies.Consequently, linguistic and cultural disadvantages situate China many years behind India. Interesting..

Cap Gemini Aims for Arrogance-Free Consultancy!! says its CEO

Clients are fed up with "arrogant" consulting firms, admits Paul Hermelin, the chief executive at IT services provider Cap Gemini SA.Hermelin, who was unveiling the re-branding of the Paris-based company as Capgemini, said: "There is a real fatigue about the arrogance of consulting firms. We told clients to beware of Y2K, and they are still waiting for something to happen. We told them not to miss the Internet wave and they spent a lot of money. There is a need for a more modest approach. Consultancies need to be more credible."Joe Thomas, who has been given responsibility for implementing a new code of working guidelines at the company to encourage a more collaborative approach of working with clients, said: "We have not done a good enough job in asking the client what are their key areas of priority. Clients get frustrated when consultants think that they do not have anything to bring to the table, when the consultancy should be looking to leverage what the client has already invested in." Reality is sinking in with high profile consulting companies.

Amazon launches A9 search engine

The much awaited Amazon's search engine has been launched - beta version is thrown open A9 combines the power of Google, Alexa and Amazon.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Changing Minds: The Art and Science of Changing Our Own Mind and Other People's Minds by Howard Gardner

Insights into One of the Greatest Mysteries of Human Behavior.Eminent Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner, whose work has revolutionized our beliefs about intelligence, creativity, and leadership, offers an original framework for understanding exactly what happens during the course of changing a mind—and how to influence that process.Gardner, a psychologist and professor at Harvard, examines the factors involved in changing minds on significant issues, in politics, science, business and art. He identifies seven key elements, including reason, research and real world events, that are part of the decision-making process. Certain facets are more heavily weighted in some fields than others: "leaders of large groups often rely on the appreciable resources at their disposal but are buoyed or undercut by real world events," says Gardner (Frames of Mind), who believes this explains why a politician or a CEO will disregard advice in the face of larger issues and popular perceptions. To prove his theories, Gardner analyzes the behavior of several individuals including President Bush, Britain's Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, and South Africa's Nelson Mandela. Gardner doesn't limit his examination to politicians because he also believes that artists, writers, musicians and teachers can change people's minds. While the discussions and real-life examples are intriguing and do clarify Gardner's theories, the book doesn't fully deliver on its promise. An excellent book - must read for all managers and leaders of current age.

Should We Brace Ourselves for Another Era of M&A Value Destruction? by Jim Heskett Via HBSWK

Research tells us that the short-term value in an acquisition accrues primarily to shareholders of acquired companies. On the other hand, short-term value is more often destroyed than created for shareholders of acquiring organizations. There are conflicting conclusions about whether mergers and acquisitions contribute directly to long-term value for the surviving organizationWhat is generally agreed upon is that perhaps as many as two-thirds of all acquirers fail to achieve the benefits planned at the outset of an acquisition. In part, this is thought to be due to the fact that too many acquirers are more concerned about size and top-line growth than value creation. Others approach an acquisition like a conquering hoard, focusing on the numbers while remaining insensitive to the qualities and needs of the human resources being acquired. The article agrues through a structured well thought out approach mergers can meet stated objectives of merger initiatives.

Decoding Information-Worker Productivity by Thomas Davenport

Decoding Information-Worker Productivity - New research should help businesses figure out how IT helps knowledge workers and product development Despite many ongoing efforts, there are still no broadly available ways to measure information-worker productivity. With this in mind, researchers at the Information Work Productivity Council—a consortium of technology companies, academics, and analysts founded last year—have focused on several specific issues and business processes to determine how these workers have been impacted by IT. The survey results are analyzed and published here. Research like this is long overdue - enormous resources are being committed to by enterprises hoping to get returns and improve productivity substantially.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Gates And Ballmer On "Making The Transition" Via Businessweek

Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer separately discuss innovation, competition, and the company's future Bill Gates at his best, "On Microsoft's real competition.I don't know if people really get what I'm saying or if they just think I'm being cute when I say our biggest competitor is our installed base. Yes, we have other competitors -- Sony (SNE ), Linux, Nokia (NOK ), Oracle (ORCL ), and IBM (IBM ). But the fact that you can sit on the existing [products] -- that's a perfectly legitimate choice. This is not a soft drink where you get thirsty and say: "I drank my word processor, let's have another." No. Some people actually say to us: "There are no new things you can do." I know at least for the next decade that is just wrong. It's just wrong, and it will be fun to surprise them and on Microsoft's growth prospects -If you want growth, don't go to the big guy. Go to the small guy. If growth is your story, you're looking in the wrong place. Now, if you're looking for innovation... we're more of a change agent for the way business is done, the way people work, the way people do things at home. We're 100 times more interested in [change] than we are [in] growth percentages or something like that." A very insightful interview that I read after a longtime.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

How Real-Time Info Makes a Real Difference Via HBS Working Knowledge

We are surrounded by examples of real-time monitoring, capturing, analyzing, reporting, and responding to events. Despite the damage caused by business surprises attributable to an absence of real-time information and the prevalence of real-time information in our personal lives, little is being done to change the business culture and processes that tolerate surprises and to begin using real-time opportunity detectionthe notion of monitoring, capturing, analyzing, reporting, and responding to critical information is not an alien concept in our day-to-day activities.
We depend on real-time information about the time of day to make it to meetings on time.
We rely on thermostats in our homes and office buildings to respond instantly with more heat or air conditioning when the temperature rises or drops beyond a certain point.
We expect the gauges in our cars to reflect real-time information on our speed (especially when we see a semi-concealed police car) and fuel status.
We watch the meter at the self-service gas pump to make certain we stop the flow of gas when we reach the desired amount.
We use smoke and fire detectors to warn us immediately of danger, especially while we are asleep.
We even use temperature-sensitive pop-up buttons to tell us when to take a Thanksgiving turkey out of the oven
Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve, noted in a speech in August 2002, the use of real-time information is slowly but surely beginning to have an impact: "Economic imbalances in recent years apparently have been addressed more expeditiously and effectively than in the past, aided importantly by the more wide-spread availability and intensive use of real-time information. The detailed article provides an example of how real time info is making a difference in performance of Amberwood Homes, a construction company. A nice article.

One nation under Internet Protocol by J.William Gurley

Take a trip to Korea or Japan, and you will immediately have a new appreciation for the definition of broadband.What is most striking about the notion of a 45-megabit Internet Protocol connection is the overwhelming universality of such an incredibly high-speed packet-based conduit. Into it melt all forms of media and communications: voice, data, video and any other application or service you might imagine. There is no need to consider bringing multiple connections or service providers into your home, for this network can do everything you need and more. Gurley beleives that the Korean, Japanese experience should be repeated in the US, but beleives that seven factors would have a key stake in this decision: A.Who is the leader today? B.Will there be a long-term, stand-alone business for voice services? C.content providers can establish a direct relationship with their customers - e.g Comcast, Hilton etc.. D.Will the cable providers "break" the IP network? E.How will the RBOCs respond? F.Who is underestimated in this market evolution? G.Will there be a video over IP portal? Gurley concludes by saying, "As IP engulfs everything else, many traditional industries and paradigms will be challenged." An excellent analysis of current technological capabiltiies and possible moves by entrenched business players.


Carly Fiorina on HP's adaptive strategy

The Adaptive Enterprise looks at an entire business' organization. This is about process, application and infrastructure. Carly explains,"Most customers tend to realize that they are adaptive enough as an enterprise because one of three things happens. Either they realize that they are not utilizing the technology investment they've already made. So, they kind of look around and say, 'Gee, I'm only using 50 percent of the capacity I've invested in.' Secondly, they look around and they say, 'I can't get a hold of the information I want, and because I can't get a hold of the information I want, I can't make decisions fast enough, or I can't execute effectively the decisions I'm going to make.' Example: 'I want to introduce a new product. I want to introduce it in every country in which I have business, and I want to do it all at the same time.' A lot of companies literally can't do that because they don't have the information to support that. So, that's another kind of revelation that people have. And the third revelation that people have is that they're spending too much money because they are duplicating investments. They're duplicating investments, they've built more complexity into their system than they need to. I was speaking with a CIO who said, 'You know, I have 23 supply chains; I probably need nine.'" Carly also says that Linux-based PCs, are going to be an application for developing markets with very stringent price point requirements, and they're going to stay there for some time and it would be sometime before this happens in the US.

The China Syndrome

China's emergence as an economic power,poses a threat to the U.S. in a new way: China's use of its growing economic might to try to dictate critical technology standardsChina's meteoric rise from a closed, near- feudal society to the most dynamic economy on the globe has been mostly good news for U.S. CIOs and captains of technology. An enormous supply of cheap labor, coupled with modern factories, means that prices for most high-tech gear should remain low for years to come. Armies of highly educated yet low-paid scientists, engineers, accountants and other professionals provide a long-term opportunity for U.S. firms to get skilled work done for less. Add to that the millions of newly minted middle-class Chinese and thousands of growing businesses ready to buy, buy, buy, and what's not to like?China's use of its growing economic might to try to dictate critical technology standards. China's current effort to establish its own 3G wireless standard has little chance of success outside some parts of China, and is mostly an annoyance. But in the years to come, China may be able to use its heft to dictate standards in newly emerging markets, and to use them to its own advantage. The implications of this could be profound.


Saturday, April 10, 2004

Does IT Matter? Information Technology and the Corrosion of Competitive Advantage -New book released

In May 2003, Nicholas carr published the article "IT Doesn’t Matter" in the Harvard Business Review. Called "the rhetorical equivalent of a 50 megaton smart bomb," the article challenged the conventional wisdom that information technology has become increasingly important as a strategic weapon in business. In fact, he argued, IT is becoming less important as it becomes more powerful and more widespread. Some of the leading figures in the tech industry attacked the article, with Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer dismissing it as "hogwash." But the debate over his ideas has only intensified. Nicholas expands his ideas in this book further.Harvard business school press says,"Over the last decade, and even since the bursting of the technology bubble, pundits, consultants, and thought leaders have argued that information technology provides the edge necessary for business success. IT expert Nicholas G. Carr offers a radically different view in this eloquent and explosive book. As IT's power and presence have grown, he argues, its strategic relevance has actually decreased. IT has been transformed from a source of advantage into a commoditized "cost of doing business"--with huge implications for business management. Expanding on Carr's seminal Harvard Business Review article that generated a storm of controversy, Does IT Matter? provides a truly compelling--and unsettling--account of IT's changing business role and its leveling influence on competition. Through astute analysis of historical and contemporary examples, Carr shows that the evolution of IT closely parallels that of earlier technologies such as railroads and electric power. He goes on to lay out a new agenda for IT management, stressing cost control and risk management over innovation and investment. And he examines the broader implications for business strategy and organization as well as for the technology industry. A frame-changing statement on one of the most important business phenomena of our time, Does IT Matter? marks a crucial milepost in the debate about IT's future". The book should be available in a few days worldwide.

Capturing the Real Value from Outsourcing -John Hagel's perspective

John Hagel, the well known management thinker writes,"There’s a storm brewing over offshoring, but the irony is that neither side in the emerging debate fully understands the challenges – and the opportunities – ahead. One side – the opponents – focuses on the workers being displaced from their jobs as companies shift work to offshore locations and see nothing but challenge. The other side – the companies that are actually shifting key areas of activity offshore – focus on the near-term cost savings and see only benefit, if only they can keep a low enough profile to avoid adverse publicity. Both sides miss the key significance of the offshoring trend." Excerpts :"offshoring will force all of us to become more specialized and to make some difficult choices to exit certain activities along the way". There are distinctive resources available offshore -like chinese superiority in wireless design, performance of indian software engineers at superior levels of productivity than the average levels seen in large US corporations. Hagel argues that."To realize the full potential of these distinctive resources, companies need to adapt their approach to building high performance organizations, often going against conventional wisdom.It is challenging to master these techniques for building high performance organizations offshore. In many cases, it will make sense to go with specialized offshore service providers, rather than trying to create your own offshore operation.Rather than viewing offshoring simply as a defensive move to cut costs, the real winners will be companies that understand that offshoring can be used as a competitive weapon to expand market position.By understanding how to access world-class capabilities through offshoring, companies are more likely to recognize that offshoring is not just an operational initiative. It has profound strategic consequences." An extremely well written notes - need to be definitely read by people of both camps in offshoring and also by all beneficiaries of offshoring to understand what enduring/cutting edge value are possible with offshoring.

The Secret Source of Google's Power Via Topix.net

Google has taken the last 10 years of systems software research out of university labs, and built their own proprietary, production quality system. What is this platform that Google is building? It's a distributed computing platform that can manage web-scale datasets on 100,000 node server clusters. It includes a petabyte, distributed, fault tolerant filesystem, distributed RPC code, probably network shared memory and process migration. And a datacenter management system which lets a handful of ops engineers effectively run 100,000 servers.While competitors are targeting the individual applications Google has deployed, Google is building a massive, general purpose computing platform for web-scale programming. This computer is running the world's top search engine, a social networking service, a shopping price comparison engine, a new email service, and a local search/yellow pages engine. What will they do next with the world's biggest computer and most advanced operating system? Very interesting..

The utility business model and the future of computing services - An IBM perspective

The utility business model is shaped by a number of characteristics that are typical in public services: users consider the service a necessity, high reliability of service is critical,the ability to fully utilize capacity is limited,and services are scalable and benefit from economies of scale. The paper discusses various business models of utility services and also provides a comparison of metered and subscription model of utility computing. A very good article written as part of IBM system journal's special issue on Utility computing.

Desperate embrace - Sun & Microsoft Via Economist

Did Scott McNealy of Sun just make peace with an enemy, surrender, or cry for help?The two enemies have agreed to bury the hatchet. Microsoft will pay Sun almost $2 billion to settle Sun's pending antitrust lawsuit against it, to resolve patent issues and to pay in advance for some licensing royalties. For Microsoft, which has some $53 billion in cash, this is peanuts. For Sun, whose credit rating was cut to junk last month by Standard & Poor's, it is most welcome. Longer term, the two firms have agreed to make their technologies compatible and, more generally, to play nice. Large companies invariably have in their data-centres both Sun's fancy network-server computers and also cheaper machines running Windows. And they all have Windows on their employees' desktop computers. These need to talk smoothly to all the servers in the basement, but often do not. So customers are increasingly annoyed at the complexity of making the various technologies work together.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Mastering Major-League Change Via Optimize

GM's CIO says there's a gap developing two classes of information officers There are two types of CIOs. There are the hard workers who have an incredible command of technology and are admired by their staffs as IT visionaries. And then there are those who will survive. He closes the article with a nice question, "How well can you represent your company to an outside business audience? Your answer will say a lot about the real value you offer your company. When I'm talking to outsiders, I don't talk much about IT. I talk about great cars, market-share growth, globalization, and profitability. Then I might talk about technology". Lucid expression - a simplified view of what would be seen to be one full of complexity.


Is Something Wrong At Microsoft? Via Chief Executive

It isn’t fending off an emerging challenge to its monopoly. And it can’t extend its dominance into new sectors. Is this the AT&T syndrome?it’s been a tough year for the software giant, with headaches ranging from allegations of patent infringements to billion-dollar lawsuits to European and Japanese antitrust actions. Following their brush with federal antitrust regulators, Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer don’t appear to have regained the kind of momentum—and respect—the company once enjoyed.On the competitive front, the company’s server business is losing market share to Linux-based servers, and its core Windows operating system is being challenged by Linux, particularly overseas. Microsoft also is losing money with Xbox, its stab at Sony’s PlayStation 2 game console; and its Internet MSN venture is losing subscribers, down 1 million between October 2002 and October 2003. Goldman Sachs managing director Rick Sherlund says Microsoft’s dominance at the desktop is slipping, albeit slightly. “Linux is taking opportunities away from Microsoft on the server side and the next target is the desktop,” Sherlund says. “(Linux backers) are trying to get their act together now and over the next couple years will do just that. The small percentage of the marketplace that doesn’t like Microsoft will want to take a chance to do something different, and that will translate into a couple of market share percentage point losses for Microsoft.” A very insightful article.

The Anatomy of the Grid Via Globus

The Globus Alliance is developing fundamental technologies needed to build computational grids. Grids are persistent environments that enable software applications to integrate instruments, displays, computational and information resources that are managed by diverse organizations in widespread locations.“Grid” computing has emerged as an important new field, distinguished from conventional distributed computing by its focus on large-scale resource sharing, innovative applications, and,in some cases, high-performance orientation. The globus toolkit provides the core protocols for Grid computing and holds the key to various expected advances through grid computing.

On Jeff Bezos - The 2004 Wired Rave Award winner

The citation says, "For reinventing the book by day and moonlighting as a rocketeer".Once upon a time, Amazon.com sold new books. Now it offers new and used music, videos, electronics, clothing, jewelry, food - and profitability. Perfect time to launch Search Inside the Book, an audacious project to digitize Amazon's entire catalog. Bezos has set his own sights even further out: His private jet propulsion lab, Blue Origin, aims to "create an enduring presence in space." Bezos says,"With computers and display devices getting less expensive, when will half of households have four or five computers? Assuming they all have always-on broadband, this will eliminate a lot of friction in using the computer. I put a computer in my kitchen and it doubled my Amazon purchases!" On competition Bezos says-"If you're competitor-focused, you can watch your competitor go down blind alleys and you don't have to invest there. That can lead to success but not a lot of innovation. We have a pioneer strategy. Ten years from now, customers will still want choice, selection, and the lowest price. If you base your strategy on foundational needs of customers, even if the world is swirling around you, you can keep your head down and don't have to worry about it." Ten years down the line, Bezos will become one of the most formidable man in the cyberworld - His confidence and brlliance and ability to execute flawlessly shall catapult him to become that- Man to watch.

Korea's Broadband REVOLUTION

What Korea is doing will have global impact.In a country of 48 million people, there are 12 million broadband lines, which pump data between 20 to 400 times faster than the old trusted 56K dial-up modem connection over normal copper-wire telephone lines. Of the nearly 16 million Korean households, 78 percent now have a broadband connection—or more than four times the home broadband penetration rate of North America. (The United States has 21.5 million broadband connections serving 110 million households.) On average, Koreans spend more than 20 hours a week surfing the Internet. Korea has the world’s highest rate of video- and movie-on-demand downloads. Last year, 68 percent of all stock trading in Korea was done online (compared with less than 25 percent in the U.S.). Online shopping now makes up nearly 12 percent of all retail sales in Korea. Companies like CJ Home Shopping and LG Home Shopping, which started with home shopping channels on cable TV, now derive the bulk of their revenues from online sales.At top speed, Korea’s broadband connections over very high-bit digital subscriber lines (VDSL) are on average four times faster than the fastest broadband connections that the likes of Comcast.“Korea is at the forefront of the broadband revolution, and everyone from telephone and cable companies in America to policy makers in developing countries wants to learn from Korea’s experience,” says Renee Gamble, Asia telecom analyst for technology research firm IDC in Singapore.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Moore's second law: Overall net efficiency of any electronic system will double every 24 months - By Malone Via Wired

The biggest impediment to our technological future isn't extending Moore's law. Thanks to recent breakthroughs at the semiconductor manufacturing level, by 2010 top-tier processors should be stuffed with a billion transistors and running at more than 20 gigahertz. No, the biggest challenge to progress is much more ordinary: It's battery life. What good is a super-functional cell phone if it runs out of juice after 20 minutes? Or a laptop supercomputer that weighs 15 pounds and singes your thighs? The article says,"An inability to run the next generation of chips at their full capability will play havoc with the semiconductor business, consumer electronics, telecommunications, the PC industry, and ultimately the world's economy. Moore's first law could come to an ironic end - not because we can't build the next generation of chips, but because we can't run them."we need is a fourth axis of development - a systematic improvement of overall system efficiency, from the individual silicon gate, through motherboards and displays, all the way up to the Internet itself and the goal could be doubling overall net efficiency every 24 months.

How to Really Make a Revolution Via FC

"The Internet was supposed to knock off established businesses," Bill Gates opined recently. But the real impact of the Internet revolution, he said, "is so much less than a lot of people think." Shoshana Zuboff says, "there's something missing: the new enterprise logic that can finally harness the Internet to a fundamentally new conception of commerce. Without that, the only revolution we'll see is the one produced by a revolving door". Definitely worth pondering.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

The Adaptive Edge and utility computing

A company that can predict the future, map current IT resources -- namely people, technologies, investments, and projects -- to business demands, and analyze those it has used in the past is an adaptive organization Becoming adaptive is a multiyear evolution. There are four states:
Reactive: Companies take action based on stimulus. They want to plan, but execution is disorganized, with poor internal coordination.Managed: Companies are reactive, but have a set of processes and procedures. Planning focuses on how to react better and optimizing a single process. Proactive: Companies anticipate needs, plan extensively, and, while still occasionally reacting, have a degree of automation. They're rarely caught off guard. They have long-term plans, well-documented processes, and extensive coordination. Adaptive: Not only are these companies proactive, but they anticipate potential needs. Business units and IT can automatically make changes either manually, triggered by a process, or with automation technology, triggered by metric analysis.

RFID Reality Check Via IW

Mandates aside, real-world concerns may slow uptake of the revolutionary supply-chain technology report released last week by Forrester Research predicts that less than a quarter of Wal-Mart's top 100 suppliers will meet the retailer's Jan. 1 deadline. "It's not possible for these suppliers to meet Wal-Mart's 100% readability-rate deadline in the next 276 days," says Forrester Research analyst Christine Spivey Overby. Smaller suppliers, which have an extra year, are likely even further behind." In the near term, RFID is likely to create more hype than help. FedEx's Aaholm expects as much for the next couple of years. But, she said, 10 years from now, we'll look back and be amazed at the impact the technology has had.

A wakeup call for coffee growers Via Mckinsey

Productivity improvements have changed the cost structure of the coffee bean industry, leaving many traditional growers in the red. A McKinsey study suggests that they go upscale, diversify, or get out.Odds are that your morning cup of coffee started life as a net loss for the farmer who grew the beans. Coffee growers have long struggled with fluctuating prices, national politics, and capricious weather, but today's crisis stems from deeper structural change. Few countries today can boast that a majority of their growers make a profit, and the exceptions generally have the largest and most diversified coffee industries. Productivity improvements from big coffee producers in Brazil, as well as competition from efficient new entrants such as Vietnam, are erasing many growers' margins-especially, as the chart shows, in the Americas. The article concludes by saying that some coffee growers must have to exit the industry - easily said,hard to digest and much more hard to make it happen.. Life is complex..

Sunday, April 04, 2004

The Chief Process Officer by Michael Hammer Via Optimize

Natural business evolution may spawn a new executive role says Dr. Hammer Dr. Hammer says,"Most companies don't have a clear and complete picture of processes, such as filling orders, developing products, getting new customers, and closing sales, because responsibility for these is handed off to different players as goods or services evolve through the value chain. Any given manager sees only his or her part of the process-and is held accountable accordingly. This can create critical blind spots that directly affect business performance and other assets-brand, intellectual capital, people, and financial capital. The trouble with processes at most companies is that they're unmanaged, invisible, and unmeasured, and consequently, they're executed haphazardly, inconsistently, and poorly. The results are delays, errors, low quality, and high overhead costs. Unmanaged processes also can't detect and adapt to changing market conditions-which in today's business environment can be fatal.A case is emerging for a new breed of manager who can take ownership of understanding, tracking, measuring, and optimizing an enterprise's crucial end-to-end business processes." Read on..

The Wizard, King, and Hobbit of Business -The story of IBM Via FC

The history of IBM unfolds into an epic trilogy about its three CEOs--the determined father, reluctant son, and enterprising stranger. Jim Collins writes,"Has there ever been a great business trilogy?" Jim adds, "I wanted to find an epic adventure of real people transformed by a hero's journey. I found only one. It's the story of a father who builds an empire, a reluctant son who battles against his father before inheriting the empire and taking it to greatness, and a stranger who shows up in the nick of time to save all that the father and son built. It's a story that spans nine decades and is enmeshed in the sweep of history, from World War I through the Great Depression, World War II, the rise of America, the go-go 1960s, the technology explosion, and the dawn of a new post-September 11 world. The trilogy of IBM--three extraordinary books, each composed by a different author--is populated by characters as bold and daring and ultimately flawed as any in literature, beginning with a fascinating individual who, in middle age, found his life and career shattered". A very interesting connect between the three legendary CEO's of IBM and best selling books covering their era's in IBM and their interconnects.

Prophet of Productivity -John chambers Via FC

Cisco CEO John Chambers sure showed the chrome-domes in Davos a thing or two.There is a one-to-one correlation between GDP growth and productivity growth," he drawled, "and a 0.98-to-1 correlation between the percentage of capital investment going into your economy and productivity growth."I believe--and I said it four years ago--that you should drive your economies at 2% to 3% productivity growth a year, and 3% to 5% is not out of the question. Four to five years ago, economists said that was impossible. But I believe it is possible, and [if you can do this] you should grow GDP one to two points above productivity increases."

The End of the Oil Age Via FC

A geologist view of impending oil crisisKenneth Deffeyes is professor emeritus of geosciences at Princeton University and he feels that threat of coming oil shortage is not fully understodd as yet. Would an desruptive intervention help the world at large?

Hopeful signs of a job-full recovery via Economist

American firms are hiring again in earnest: payrolls grew by 308,000 in March. If the job gains continue, interest rates will rise, and so will President George Bush’s fortunesAmerica’s jobless recovery has bemused economists, bound the hands of the Federal Reserve and benighted the administration of George Bush. Despite impressively fast economic growth, firms have been depressingly slow to hire. Last month, however, America’s corporations made up for lost time: 308,000 workers were added to the payrolls in March, according to figures released on Friday April 2nd. That is twice the number hoped for by even the most optimistic forecaster. Quite interesting.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

The Global Payoff from Outsourcing via Bweek

Intensely criticized in the U.S. these days, the practice offers a wide range of potential benefits to people around the worldA tantalizing hope, an alluring vision, is taking shape in the global economy. After decades of disappointing economic development strategies pushed by the major industrial nations, including import-substitution policies and recycling petrodollars, prospects for sustained gains in incomes and material wealth are improving for much of the developing world.In the vanguard of the movement for better living standards in the developing world is an unlikely institution, one held in opprobrium in much of the world: multinational corporations. These giants are aggressively harnessing the Information Revolution to forge strong links between rich and poor nations. Their ability to offer better wages and jobs are putting pressure on emerging-market governments to pursue liberal economic policies, especially spending more on education and maintaining open borders with the outside world for trade and foreign investment. A very nice article.

Friday, April 02, 2004

The Monster in the Closet: Reliable Unpredictability Via FC

Vijay Govindarajan considers the balance of efficiency and entrepreneurship within larger organizations -- and the need to embrace reliable unpredictabilityCommon corporate wisdom extremely well articulated.
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