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Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Andy Grove on Intel's spirit at the heart of innovation

Businessweek has published an excellent interview with Andy Grove in the Voice of the Innovator series. Andy Grove reminiscences,

- From the beginning of the LSI era, the large-scale integrated-circuit era, to today, there are very, very few companies that have navigated it.It's very hard to sustain, adapt, and prosper in the cross currents of a developing technology. If it's hard to make a success out of something, it's an order of magnitude harder to sustain the success for exactly the kind of thing we're talking about. It's a testimony to Intel's institutional character that by dealing with each of these technology twists and turns and market twists and turns, we fought our way out of this pitfall and that pitfall -- and we're still alive and kicking. We're arguably doing better than that. But surviving and thriving in that business might have been the hallmark of a great company.

- On Intel's innovation - "We're reasonably comfortable with technology innovation,We're also reasonably comfortable in innovations in organizational approaches, innovations in management philosophy,Centralized manufacturing [of chips] didn't exist in the late '60s. It was an innovation in manufacturing organization that's sort of on par, in my opinion, with just-in-time manufacturing of the '80s that Intel put-in-place,Intel Inside is a marketing innovation on par with the manufacturing and technology innovation that we're talking about" Innovation is the driving spirit inside Intel..

-On Strategy -"Strategically, the most important learning that I have summed up in the years of teaching and studying our strategies, other people's strategies, is: Strategy is what you do, not what you say. You want to find out what some company is doing, look at what they do and infer it from this. Forget their strategic talk". Nice one - must read for all interested in High Tech industry and modern management techniques.


Adam Bosworth redefines the term -"Platform"

Adam Bosworth has written this extremely provocative but insightful piece about redefining what a platform is? He writes,"When I was at Microsoft, the prevailing internal assumption was that:
1) Platforms were great because they were "black holes" meaning that the more functionality they had, the more they sucked in users and the more users they had the more functionality they sucked in and so, it was a virtuous cycle.
2) To get this functionality, they had to be as extensible as possible so that extensibility, not ease of development was the priority for the API's.
3) Since the rest of us often found aforesaid API's complex/arcane, and since the rest of us built the "apps" that the corporations used, there needed to be a layer above the API's called a Framework which hid the complexity and provided a kindler simpler gentler programming paradigm. (Think VB or MFC)
4) If everyone who could code could use this Framework, then they would build a plethora of applications locked into the platform and, hey presto, "stickiness". Thus building an IDE and a Framework was the sine qua non of a platform even if it lost tons of money".
Adam Bosworth points out two important shifts in trends:

A.Today, I wonder if this set of syllogisms about the platform is still true (if it ever was). Open Source has shown us that well understood software can and will be commoditized. The operating system has been. The Web server has been. The Applications Server (to the extent folks need it) has been and more message buses are being written in open source. The entire XML processing stack is open source. So the value in "well understood" software today is in the support, not the code.

B.The community that forms around open source software seems quite up to the job of educating itself. The real value in my opinion has moved from the software to the information and the community. Amazon connects you to books, movies, and so on. eBay connects you to goodness knows how many willing sellers of specific goods. Google connects you to information and dispensers of goods and services. In every case, the push is for better and more timely access both to information and to people. I cannot, for the life of me, see how Longhorn or Avalon or even Indigo help one little bit in this value chain.

He concludes by saying , "The platform of this decade isn't going to be around controlling hardware resources and rich UI. Nor do I think you're going to be able to charge for the platform per se. Instead, it is going to be around access to community, collaboration, and content. And it is going to be mass market in the way that the web is mass market, in the way that the iPod is mass market, in the way that a TV is mass market. Which means I think that it is going to be around services, not around boxes. I postulate, still, that 95% of the UI required for this world will be delivered over the browser for the same reason that we all still use a steering wheel in a car.Notice that the big players, Amazon, eBay, and Google have already opened up their information through Web API's. It is Open Data coupled with Open Communication built on top of Open Source that will drive the future, not Longhorn".

My Take : Absolutely stunning - "The value that shall be perceived shall not be the technology, it's the interaction, community that the technology enables to build. Examples would be Ipod's playlists , Flickr , FeedDemon , Bloglines etc".


What The Bubble Got Right By Paul Graham

Paul Graham, Author of the book Hackers & Painters spoke and wrote about what the bubble got right recently. Key highlights:
- The Internet genuinely is a big deal. That was one reason even smart people were fooled by the Bubble.
- Recognizing an important trend turns out to be easier than figuring out how to profit from it. The mistake investors always seem to make is to take the trend too literally. Since the Internet was the big new thing, investors supposed that the more Internettish the company, the better. Hence such parodies as Pets.Com . In fact most of the money to be made from big trends is made indirectly. It was not the railroads themselves that made the most money during the railroad boom, but the companies on either side, like Carnegie's steelworks, which made the rails, and Standard Oil, which used railroads to get oil to the East Coast, where it could be shipped to Europe.The Internet will have great effects, and that what we've seen so far is nothing compared to what's coming. But most of the winners will only indirectly be Internet companies; for every Google there will be ten JetBlues.
- Some keys to winning in the internet economy -"First, the Internet lets anyone find you at almost zero cost. Second, it dramatically speeds up the rate at which reputation spreads by word of mouth. Together these mean that in many fields the rule will be: Build it, and they will come. Make something great and put it online. That is a big change from the recipe for winning in the past century".
-During the Bubble, optimistic analysts used to justify high price to earnings ratios by saying that technology was going to increase productivity dramatically. They were wrong about the specific companies, but not so wrong about the underlying principle. I think one of the big trends we'll see in the coming century is a huge increase in productivity.Or more precisely, a huge increase in variation in productivity. Technology is a lever. It doesn't add; it multiplies. If the present range of productivity is 0 to 100, introducing a multiple of 10 increases the range from 0 to 1000.
This high-tech guru's essays are a joy to read in content, style, and wit. His insider view of the entire process of a startup is rivetting, and his guide on how to do it should be required for all high-tech gamblers and futurists betting on High Tech and New Economy.


Leadership - How to Achieve Your Vision via Feld

Feld writes about his uncleCharlie Feld EVP,Portfolio Management of EDS as one of the most extraordinary manager and leader to work with. Charlie Feld writes about leadership in the CIO magazine. His recent column Three skills a leader needs to get the job done is quite insightful. Charlie says,"Even if you prepare for contingencies, nothing happens the way you expect. You've seen this in sports: A game plan is formulated and athletes drill to execute flawlessly. Then game day comes and a star player gets hurt or the other team changes its approach. Great teams and exceptional leaders rise to the occasion. They are able to execute their plans because they establish close partnerships, they act decisively, and most important of all, they stay focused on their goals" and lists,
(1) Partnerships Need Reinforcement,
(2) Decisiveness Demands Confidence, and
(3) To Get Focused, Get Together
as key guidelines that leaders should exhibit and demand in building great teams and leading oraganisations.He adds that leaders also need good values if they are to inspire achievement and help others to grow. The legacy of a leader is not just what he or she accomplishes, but how it gets done.Charlie's other articles like How to Read the Signs and How to build great teams are excellent reads. Charlie's thoughts are moulded by very significant experience for extended periods of time at various organisations -mostly as CIO is indeed very significant and as Feld rightly points out -"Part of the magic of Charlie is that his management theory isn't impenetrable academic stuff or theoretical philosophy based on qualitative and quantitative analysis of a large data set - it's common sense in simple language and concepts based on deep experience. And - it all holds together".

A perspective about RFID adoption in China and India

Two emerging giants - China & India are moving at differet pace in adopting RFID technology. China is on top of the RFID revolution. The Chinese have been at the helm of the electronic and semiconductor revolution. They may also be at the top of the radio frequency identification (RFID) revolution, thanks to the 2008 Summer Olympics and Wal-Mart.The first is understandable. The Chinese government has plans of showcasing the Chinese achievements to the world through the Olympics in 2008. Hence no cost or effort is being spared to harness the very best in technology to the Olympian event. Yet having Wal-Mart driving technology in China is another matter. The mega-retailer has directed its suppliers to use RFID tags on cartons and pallets, in which the products are packed, supplied to them. Wal-Mart's RFID implementation (currently in the United States) is going to be in stages, but other retailers such as Tesco and Metro AG have given similar directions to their suppliers.The catch here is that China has become the factory to the world. Its manufacturers supply directly to Wal-Mart and other such retailers. They also supply to the suppliers of Wal-Mart and others, which buttons up roughly 50% of all products being sold by the mega-retailers worldwide. Naturally, given the depth of China's involvement in global manufacture, the retailer's directions to its suppliers in the US on RFID tags will have a major impact on China in course of time. "The Chinese are not unfamiliar with RFID technology. However, the true impact of Wal-Mart's direction to its suppliers would be felt in 12 months' time in China,say analysts.Chinese suppliers would end up using about 5 trillion tags annually to supply to Wal-Mart alone during the next two years,according to industry estimates. The chinese government and business are all set to embrace RFID in a big way.

In contrast RFID is slow to take off(Reg.Required) in India. Key Concerns -RFID adoption is hampered by a lack of worldwide consensus about the frequency standards used for various applications. The US and North America operate on the 915 MHz frequency (UHF); Europe operates on UHF as well as a different frequency range; Japan on the microwave (Gigahertz) range, while Asia works with still another range. "In India, one has to get a special license from the Wireless Protocol Commission (WPC) to use the 915 MHz range and therefore these readers cannot be imported easily into India. Regulations such as these need to be standardized to enable popular adoption," says G.B.Prabhat,Director, Consulting & Enterprise Solutions of Satyam. Moreover, there has not been any explicit allocation of spectrum in the context of UHF RFID in India.He adds,"From the Indian industry point of view, the Wal-Mart mandate will not have a significant impact. However the spin-off effect of the mandate has led to this technology being in the news often and hence companies have started taking interest in this space."Prabhat opined that, knowing the conservative IT spending trends in the industry, Indian companies would go in for RFID only if they are convinced that they will get an RoI that they are comfortable with. "We expect RFID adoption in India to take place in a phased manner rather than after a dramatic fashion," he added.In the final reckoning, then, Indian industry hasn't been all too enthusiastic in taking to RFID, favoring instead a wait and watch approach though in terms of technology development, pioneering spirit hasn't been wanting. I believe that the gap between china and india is widening - every opportunity to be at par or ahead of china in terms of technology advancement and economic progress needs to be seized by India, the runner in the race, as of now ,to count as a competitor to china.


Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Just Launched -RFID Insights

RFIDinsights I Have just launched this site - shall focus exclusively about RFID related developments - intend to cover very specialised issues about RFID therein - Shall count myself lucky if I manage to post a new entry every day - While there are a lot many things that I see, hear, experience and get to discuss about RFID at various levels in reasonable detail, courtesy being at a place and in a position that I am in currently( No more disclosures about this for the time being), I do not get the time to do any better than this. Even this little stretches me a lot. Increased traffic and a lot of mail feedback and my own passion in expanding my thoughts and to begin to see the world through this prism, am conditioning myself to a certain form of compulsive behaviour to post that keeps me going. I thoroughly enjoy this process. Needless to say all those entries shall also be published here in this blogsite as well.

RFID Deadlines Intensify Need To Manage Product Information via Informationweek

Enterprises face dual 2005 deadlines relating to RFID and supply-chain data synchronization. Those that haven't moved forward with a product-information-management strategy will be under-prepared to realize RFID's value.A couple of key supply-chain imperatives are forcing many big companies to deal with two major issues concurrently--RFID and global data synchronization--while still conducting day-to-day operational activities.As various 2005 RFID mandate deadlines--from Wal-Mart, Target, and Albertson's--approach, enterprises are likewise making investments to meet the Wal-Mart UCCnet global data synchronization (GDS) 2005 mandate.These dual 2005 deadlines don't give enterprises much time to evaluate the linkage between a tag's 96-bit electronic product code (EPC)-based identifier and the global trade identification number (GTIN)-based structured and unstructured information associated with that product.Suppliers are in varying states of readiness for the 2005 deadlines. Some suppliers are focused on improving RFID tag read rates by adjusting the tags' orientation and pallet configurations. Others are working to ensure that retailers who subscribed to product data actually receive and implement that product data into their operational systems.Additionally, some suppliers are working on the product data-unification process that's needed to pull together product data stored in a variety of systems for synchronization and haven't embarked on their GDS or RFID initiatives. Furthermore, there are enterprises that have only focused on meeting the minimum UCCnet GDS mandate requirements and haven't embraced the full capabilities of a product-information-management solution.Of all of these groups, we believe enterprises that haven't moved forward with a product-information-management strategy will be under-prepared for RFID's long-term process-improvement contributions. These enterprises will be unable to convert EPC codes into the semantics needed for conversation between a retailer's and suppliers' operational systems since these operational systems aren't EPC-based and are more likely GTIN- or UPC-based. Both retailers and suppliers will need to create an environment that converts EPC-based activity into meaningful product information. The problems of implementing RFID to meet 2005 deadlines are indeed formidable.The long-term success of RFID initiatives is based on the linkage of the RFID sensing capabilities of the enterprise with the overall product information consumed in the transactional systems of the enterprise systems. That's because these enterprise systems--not tags on products--manage day-to-day business processes.

Java and Windows platforms continue to dominate the developer market via Infoworld

This year's programming survey reveals developers’ conservative side - to make the most of what you've got.The Java and Windows platforms continue to dominate the developer market this year.Infoworld's survey says, Microsoft tops the list of preferred vendors, with 80 percent of those surveyed acknowledging that Redmond supplies some of their development tools. The next three vendors on the list -- Oracle (Profile, Products, Articles), IBM (Profile, Products, Articles), and Sun, in that order -- primarily supply tools for Java development.C and C++ made a strong showing once again, proving that compiled languages for systems programming are still core to the IT operations of many enterprises.Among more traditional enterprise technologies, one important trend is the ascendancy of Microsoft's .Net platform over "classic" Windows APIs. This year, 53 percent of respondents cite .Net as their preferred development framework or API, knocking older Win32 technologies such as COM and DCOM out of the top spot to a level below both J2EE and Unix/Linux. Another 51 percent say they will increase usage of .Net in the next 12 months.Java remains survey participants' top pick among programming languages, less than half the respondents rank J2EE among their frameworks or APIs of choice. Presumably the rest of the Java developers prefer traditional APIs and non-J2EE servers, such as Apache Tomcat.A resounding 71 percent say they will increase use of XML -the structured markup language.XML goes hand-in-hand with Web services,Forty-one percent report they currently have projects underway involving SOAP, UDDI, WSDL, or WS-Security. SOA initiatives have not gained much traction with developers.If any single conclusion can be drawn from this year's survey results, it's that IT organizations continue to place emphasis on integration and consolidation, rather than launching extensive new projects. While there are many CIO level surveys about the initiatives being funded and planned pointing to emerging tremds, this survey is unique in that this find out what is currently being engaged and quite informative.


Martin Luther King on Change through the Prism of IBM consultant Via WLD

( Via Fast Company) Dave Holloman, change management practice leader for IBM Business Consulting Services considers,in the current edition of the Wharton Leadership Digest,the change management lessons offered by Martin Luther King's campaign. Dave writes,"Leading business change remains an inherently risky undertaking. In today’s environment, business change leaders need every tool possible to confront the inevitable risks and challenges that must be faced and resolved". The key lesssons learnt from Dr.Luther King's campaign that can be instructuve for today's business leaders are:

- Conflict Can Be Constructive.
- Public and Personal Sacrifice Has Limits.
- Dramatizing the Reality to Vision Gap is Vital.
- Execution to Plan Supersedes Stakeholder Concerns and Desires.

The lesson that stands out is how leaders need to rise above all immediate concerns and relentlessly pursue the vision.Present-day realities are often viewed as less important than a future vision. But the gap between the present situation and the intended change motivates action. Placing a future vision within the context of the present demonstrates the degree of progress required, which is essential. Dave points out from this illustration that the tradeoff between an supportive constituent and poor execution is no trade-off. Decision-making based solely on constituency concerns becomes a “stakeholder trap” that compromises progress.

Kevin Roberts, CEO Saatchi & Saatchi in conversation with Tom Peters

Kevin Roberts on his book Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands - We tried to make the book live, to walk the walk, talk the talk. It's designed to be a lovemark. So, if you think that at bottom lovemarks are mystery, sensuality, and intimacy, the book is full of mystery. You're not meant to know what's going to happen on the next page. Is it going to be a picture? Is it going to be a post-it? Is it going to be a family photograph? Is it going to be a case study? There is no rhyme or reason. It's meant to have mystery in it.For sensuality, we chose lipstick red.Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, a prolific traveler and coveted speaker, he is a constant source of inspiration to thousands of people through his vision, clarity of purpose, and inimitable, straight-talking approach.Kevin discussed the elements of mystery, sensuality and intimacy that inspire loyalty beyond reason. When asked, "What exactly do you mean by a "lovemark?" He responded like this,"I think that people now are just bored with the whole commodification of things, no matter what industry you're in. Whether it's sports—teams have become commodities. Or fashion—now everything looks the same. Whether you drink Pepsi or Coke, you're going to get a good refreshing hit of sugar and fizz, you know? So consumers are no longer going to be bothered with these PR words that everybody gives you: cheaper, whiter, stronger, bigger."Consumers need to be emotionally engaged, they need to have a relationship. A lovemark is a brand that has moved up that respect axis." Kevin cited the Apple concept stores as a prime example. "I'm loyal beyond reason to Steve Jobs, to Apple, because they put me at the heart of their thinking. They make Apple only for me, I think." Kevin goes on to add why love is very important in current times - Two-thirds of people over the age of 70 live alone [28% of people in the U.S. age 65 and over are in single-person households, according to the 2000 U.S. Census -- tpc]; they're going to die alone. The average length of a marriage in the U.S. is seven years. One in two kids in urban America is born out of wedlock. You're seeing people not having kids. People are hungry for relationships, hungry for intimacy. Trust in established instituitons like the church and the government is coming down. Because that's going to be Enron, or they're going to lay you off anyway next week and outsource you, etc., etc. So there's no trust. Many can't trust the family unit because one probably haven't seen his/her father. People are looking for relationships, they're looking for intimacy, they're looking for bonding. They're not interested in transactions. He adds,"They are looking for a relationship, whether that's with an author, an idea, a brand, a product. If you don't give them that, you're certainly never going to be able to charge a premium. You've got to remember, brands are only invented to charge a premium. That was the purpose of a brand; it didn't have any other. "Recognize me, desire me, have faith in me, trust me, pay more for me." Kevin dreams about his company Saatchi & Saatchi,to be the hottest idea shop on the planet. What's the difference - He explains," We started off with a dream, which is to be revered as the hothouse of the world-changing idea. We changed our name from "ad agency" to "ideas company." Our focus is to create and perpetuate lovemarks. Our spirit is, "Nothing is impossible." We hire anthropologists, sociologists, misfits, authors, writers, creative people.And we've changed our compensation structure so we don't get paid fees or commissions; we get paid as a percent of sales".


New My Yahoo Beta, Featuring RSS and Atom

Jeremy Zawodny introduces the "New My Yahoo."Personalization on the Web is Old News. Aggregation and Syndication are some of the hottest topics around these days. But the difference between old school My Yahoo aggregation and today's RSS and Atom driven aggregation is that it's a decentralized model. My Yahoo demonstrates that the content model is open now.This not only makes My Yahoo relevant in the modern wave of syndication, it does something else--something that Yahoo is in a unique position to do: bring RSS to the masses.To make content discovery easier, there are multiple ways to find feeds: search, a small directory, a list of popular feeds, and even some editor's picks.Some may compare Yahoo to Bloglines. It seems a logical comparison, since Bloglines is an on-line RSS aggregator (and a damned fine one at that). But My Yahoo isn't simply an RSS aggregator. It's still about pulling together lots of information into a single place. And not all of that information is available via RSS.Instead of thinking that My Yahoo has morphed into a low-end RSS aggregator, think of it this way: My Yahoo has adapted to handle RSS/Atom feeds in addition to all the other content that was previously available.The New My Yahoois a definite improvement and shall prove to be a new milestone in the web evolution.

It's all in the mind!!!

Bill Ives points out this excellent postPersonality and Propensity to Brokerage where Bruce Hoppe discusses the relationship of networking capability and personality. He finds that most researchers suggest that there is little correlation between the ability to network and specific personality types. Cross and Parker in their book -"The Hidden Power Of Network" suggest that research to date suggests... that the link between one's position in a network and personality characteristics is tenuous. In combining many of our social network analyses with personality scales (such as Myers-Briggs, FIRO-B, and learning styles), we have found limited and inconsistent relationships between personality traits and network position....It seems that the even the most introverted among us can, and often do, have robust personal networks. I completely agree, that given right training and environment, normal humans can set out to do what they want to do..

Monday, September 27, 2004

New Technologies Will Disrupt Mass Media, Mass Marketing

During a session at yesterday's Forecast 2005 entitled "Disruptive Technologies," a group of panelists debated the impact of various technologies such as DVRs and targeting software on the media business.The resolve presented to the group was: "Emerging technologies will completely break down the last vestiges of mass media and mass marketing." Panelists were not completely sold on this notion, but they universally agreed that the TV business in particular was set to undergo tremendous change.The topic of "addressability" in TV advertising--the continually buzzed-about concept of individually tailoring advertising messages to viewers--was top of mind.Addressability turns a mass model to a targetable model felt an expert.DVRs, like the popular TiVo, were also discussed at length, their continued adoption has the potential to dramatically alter the role of the 30-second spot.Beyond TV, the group offered predictions on other technological advances that are likely to affect the media business significantly, including wireless applications and home networking.


End -of-Road for IT Creativity via Infoworld

Distinctive systems once provided competitive barriers," Nicholas Carr says,..."But barriers have eroded as accessibility, affordability and standardization have increased," Carr adds. Don Tapscott counters by saying that IT can spark business model changes that can help companies gain strategic advantages over competitors.Nicholas Carr continues his passionate theme by saying that The economies of scale that standardized open systems provide has outweighed the costs of the temporary advantages that proprietary systems offer and this further commoditises the value of IT to business. Tapscott rightfuly counters,"New business processes can help drive new business models that are even harder to replicate, and can transform the whole culture of a company, which is even more difficult, and may be even impossible, to replicate"."The Internet is a platform for programmability and on that platform companies can make innovations.Today's Internet has become a "hypernet". "Billions, trillions of objects around the world are now smart communication devices.The most important point is not about technology, it's about how IT enables new business models and designs." The final comments from Don Topscott are quite insightful -"By giving up on IT innovation you're not giving up on just IT but on business innovation as a whole."

"We'd be nuts to outsource" - Linda Dillman, CIO, Walmart

Dillman oversees 2,500 business-technology projects that come with high expectations. Topping the buzz list is Wal-Mart's much-talked-about radio-frequency identification initiative, but Dillman will tell you that isn't even the most expensive IT project going on at the company, not "by a long shot." Other high-priority projects include revamping supply-chain processes, synchronizing product data with suppliers using the UCCnet standard, improving E-commerce platforms, and developing talent and fostering regulatory compliance in stores across the globe.As with 95% of Wal-Mart's IT projects, the Information Systems Division will manage the work from programming to process reengineering, relying very little on commercial software and not at all on outsourcing. Indeed, programmers are right now putting the finishing touches on intelligent RFID middleware to handle the influx of data to be generated as the first wave of 100-plus suppliers begins sending RFID-tagged cases and pallets of products through the doors of Wal-Mart's Sanger, Texas, distribution center. Yet Wal-Mart spends below the average on IT for retailers--less than 1% of worldwide revenue, which reached $256.3 billion in 2003. "The strength of this division is, we are doers and do things faster than lightning," says Dillman.. "We can implement things faster than anyone could with a third party. We run the entire world out of the facilities in this area at a cost that no one can touch," she says. "We'd be nuts to outsource."The company's IT budget has, in fact, grown at less than the rate of sales growth, says Dillman.Wal-Mart relies on information to run its business and depends on technology as the enabler to meet the customers' needs," says Walton (no relation to the retailer's founding family), who's responsible for the worldwide rollout of RFID technology. "There's confidence and credibility in the IT organization to deliver results."Wal-Mart expects its RFID project to help not only its sales but also those of its suppliers, and it may even aid competitors and other industries. How much it will benefit suppliers, however, is one of the biggest debates in the IT industry.RFID tags on cases and pallets will be read not only when inventory enters a stockroom but also when those cases or pallets go to the floor and, ultimately, when empty cases go to the compactor, she explains. Much of the data collected during RFID reads will be passed on to Retail Link, Wal-Mart's Web-based software that lets the retailer's buyers and some 30,000 suppliers check inventory, sales, and more. The company is developing software for Retail Link that will leverage that data and trigger a business process--for example, initiating a purchase order. The use of RFID "can dramatically improve suppliers' in-stock positions.Dillman expects Wal-Mart to use all the data gleaned to draw conclusions about when to bring additional stock to the floor, of course, but also to figure out if too much of a product has been ordered by a store (monitoring how long a case sits in the stockroom before its contents are emptied) or is sitting in a distribution center (if the case doesn't get shipped out for days).Critical to the RFID effort is global data synchronization to enable communications with the industry-standard EPCglobal registry so that accurately described and consistent product information is exchanged between trading partners. Wal-Mart has selected UCCnet and, so far, 650 suppliers send item information to the data pool on a machine-to-machine basis.The potential benefits across the supply chain from deploying RFID are such that Wal-Mart has taken the unprecedented step of collaborating with its competitors to make the technology easier for suppliers to adopt.Among the next set of innovations in the area is an effort dubbed Remix. The project, being tested in Florida with a dozen stores, will turn upside down distribution processes that have been in place since 1992. The aim is to revamp the distribution network to eliminate mixing different types of freight so that associates won't have to pick through trucks to find items, and to provide Wal-Mart buyers with additional visibility into inventory in the system. Wal-Mart is turning grocery-distribution centers into "high-velocity" buildings out of which will be distributed fast-selling products, such as paper, that are pallet-loaded onto trucks and can go straight to shelves, while regional distribution centers handle merchandise that gets loaded onto trucks without pallets.Wal-Mart is structured so those projects can happen fast, too. The centralized IS group doesn't have some of the budget and governance issues many companies do. It charges nothing out to the divisions--budget and project resources are allocated to what's most important in the company, not to the person with the biggest budget. No steering committees exist to slow the process, making it possible to give new projects a try on a small-scale basis, as well as to simplify projects for the critical piece that adds the most value. The Wal-Mart way, VP Walton notes, is to look for the 80% to 90% solution and deliver it with 100% accuracy.The nucleus of the IT infrastructure Dillman presides over is a single, centralized, 423-terabyte Teradata system that churns data from 1,387 discount stores, 1,615 Supercenters, 542 Sam's Clubs, and 75 Neighborhood Markets in the United States, plus 1,520 more stores worldwide.The common system, centrally managed, is our competitive advantage at Wal-Mart," enabling the same data set for both buyers and suppliers.Key to Wal-Mart's development efforts today is its build-it-once-for-all-systems mentality. That means build it for both domestic and global operations.Today, Wal-Mart captures all the day's sales and product data across its global operations on an hourly basis. Database queries can start running as soon as data is available.Wal-Mart's common IT foundation is textbook, but not often seen in the real world. Now Wal-Mart is engaged in bringing its online operations onto a common platform as well. An initiative dubbed Global.com that encompasses the retailer's online sites--www.walmart.com, www.samsclub.com, www.asda.com, and www.walmartmexico.com.mx--will move by 2005 from the disparate technology platforms on which they were developed onto a Java-based platform running on IBM's WebSphere and an Informix database. That way, "scalability is easier to maintain." What Walmart has acheived is marvellous.The Walmart IT team seems to have actualised a famous statement made by their founder - Sam Walton -" The Greatest Pleasure In Life Is Doing What Other People Say Can't Be Done." Senthil pointed out to me the oft repeated criticisms about Walmart and where its modernisation and cost cutting is taking walmart to:

Does Flagsmart Staff Need Super Walmart?- Walmart -Myth and Reality.


The Wal-Mart You Don't KnowThe giant retailer's low prices often come with a high cost. Wal-Mart's relentless pressure can crush the companies it does business with and force them to send jobs overseas. Are we shopping our way straight to the unemployment line?

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Grady Booch about Software Architecture

Grady Booch, one of the Three Amigo's responsible for the creation of the Unified Modelling Language(UML), is currently working on preparing a Handbook of software architecture - He has released a deck of slides about the work and the contours of the soon-to-be published handbook. Booch outlines the goals of writing and publishing the Handbook as: The primary goal of this present work is to fill this void in software engineering by codifying the architecture of a large collection of interesting software-intensive systems, presenting them in a manner that exposes their essential patterns and that permits comparisons across domains and architectural styles.The second goal of this work is to study these architectural patterns in the context of the engineering forces that shaped them and then to expose a set of proven architectural patterns that may be used to construct new systems or to reason about legacy ones.The third goal of this work is to feed his insatiable curiosity. Grady Booch brings in important insights into software developer productivity - interesting data like while the number of IT professionals are increasing the population of developer community is not and maps the productivty increase elegantly.Booch offers his view about what characterises and distinguishes software architecture:
-No equivalent laws of physics
-Combinatorial explosion of state space
-Non-continuous behavior
-Systemic issues
-Requirement and technology churn
-Low replication and distribution costs
He elaborates these in his own style:With software, time matters. Software is all about state and changing state. There are usually a large number of states the software can exist in, and the software behavior may be very complex, which makes it difficult to analyze all of the different state combinations. This is different than with physical systems where even moving elements have a finite number of states.
Physical systems are constrained and governed by the laws of physics. On the other hand, with software systems, you can do anything you want. This makes visible and physical systems easier to architect.Many physical systems such as buildings, are static structures. Software systems have both static and dynamic perspectives. Software is assumed to evolve and hence it is built in such a way that applying changes should be inexpensive. Adaptability is the rule for software. In fact, adaptability is the very nature of expert systems. Physical systems are not really built to change over time. Per physical systems engineering standards, software systems are perpetually in the design and prototyping stage. At some point, a running version is good enough to be released. Since the replication and distribution costs are very low (e.g., just burn a CD), new releases can be produced very frequently (we are not saying that this is desirable). In other words, software development is a continuous design process, where the manufacturing cost is effectively zero. This is unlike hardware systems where you build once and spend the rest of the time manufacturing. Software architecting is less predictable and more risk-building that hardware architecting. Thus, software is becoming more complex and difficult to build than hardware. A must read for all IT professionals irrespective of what role they play in their professional life.

Azul: A Server Startup with a Plan via Bweek

On Sep 28, Azul Systems, will launch a brazen attempt to shake up the $50 billion server business. The goal: to exploit a major shift in the way software is developed. It's a gargantuan task, but it's off to a good start: Azul has working prototypes of its innovative server in its labs and has lined up a number of top-shelf tech buyers on Wall Street to do field trials this fall. Today's servers are designed to run a particular brand of software. For example, PCs are tuned to run Windows-compatible programs. But nearly all new corporate software is developed with so-called "virtual-machine" technologies, such as Java or Microsoft's .NET, that let it run on any type of underlying hardware. Azul's server, dubbed the compute appliance, is the first designed from scratch to do one thing: run this "virtual machine" code faster and more efficiently than existing servers. Giants like IBM & HP have focused on complex grid-computing schemes to help companies tap the unused power inside the reams of servers they've purchased over the years -- most of which are scattered around the globe and run at well below 20% of capacity.But that approach requires expensive software and often lots of consulting services. And it does nothing to control the proliferation of more and more computers to do all of this, which leads to the biggest cost of all: paying IT staffers to install, maintain, and manage all that hardware.Azul's server does the same job, but with one machine. The server plugs into the corporate network, waiting for work if any single machine gets overloaded. That means companies could continue using existing servers and simply offload extra work to a single machine rather than divvy it up into smaller chunks to be handled by several computers across the network. This "network -attach- processing" is akin to what happened in the data-storage business over the past decade. Rather than lock up data in drives enclosed in individual servers, companies began using "network-attach storage" (NAS) setups that created a central pool of disk capacity. That way, each server would never run out of drive space, and the capacity that was available in the NAS could be allocated more efficiently.The product design stands out in two key ways. First is its single-minded focus on running Java-style programs. Other servers spend much of their oomph just running Windows, Solaris, or whatever sprawling general-purpose operating system resides therein.The second innovation is the chip inside the machine. The 105-person Azul has put much of its effort into creating a new kind of processor that's right in line with one of computerdom's latest crazes: multicore chips. While Intel talks about "dual-core" chips and Sun plans to move to 16-core varieties by next year, Azul's first server will have up to 384 cores.Azul's box will be able to process 10 times more software than rival servers. The second-generation box, due out in early 2006, will have up to 896 cores. One of the most daring and potentially far reaching launch that I have heard in recent times.


Work Like In 2020 via Guardian

The Guardian is publishing a series of articles about work and social life in 2020. From his base in Leeds, Professor Peter Nolan runs the Future of Work programme, a huge research project which has been running under the auspices of the Economic and Social Research Council for six years and across 22 UK universities. He paints a picture of a growing divergence between those employed in highly skilled, highly paid professions, and those at the bottom of the employment chain. The economy of work, he believes, will be increasingly hourglass-shaped.At the top end of the jobs hierarchy, people are likely to enjoy substantial discretion over their hours, places and patterns of working time. But this will be fuelled by the growth of low-paid and unskilled labour, doing jobs that would have been familiar 100 years ago," says Nolan. He predicts managers and those in the professions will have job security. And, contrary to the predictions of futurologists, the majority of employees are likely to continue working for an organisation, rather than for themselves, or for a series of different people. In 2020 nine out of 10 jobs will still be permanent, although maybe not full time, he says.Flexible working is the mantra of those who seek change in the way our working lives are structured - in the first six months of this year, this newspaper alone carried 67 stories that mentioned the phrase "flexible working". The government has given employees the right to request flexible working patterns, and recent survey's show a strong appetite for greater flexibility, especially among young workers. That hunger is likely to have been satisfied by 2020, by which time the way our jobs are structured will have changed massively. Many people will work as employed freelancers. People will be trained to work on a wide range of different projects, liaising with experts outside the company when additional help is needed. Companies will be smaller and more specialised. Thomas malone in his famous book, The Future of Work expresses almost similar ideas. Mr.Malone says that we are in the early stages of increased freedom in business and this freedom shall bring about analogous changes to business that democracy brought to governments. He further says that in future, enteprises shall be organised in such a way that they have economic benefits of a large organisation but provide employees the benefit of working with small organisations. Four decentralized organizational structures—loose hierarchies, democracies, external markets, and internal markets—that will be enabled by technology but centered around enduring human values shall be the dominant model. The shift from “command-and-control” management to “coordinate-and-cultivate,” and the new skills that will be required to succeed would become critical to succeed.A framework for determining if a company’s situation is ripe for decentralizing and which organizational structure would be most effective would evolve.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Google's index size has plateaued?? via Sean

Google's index should be growing exponentially to keep up with the growing size of the web. Google's main page indicates that it searches 4,285,199,774 web pages, and this number has remained the same for the last year and seven months, since around February 8-14, 2003, according to the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. Previously, it had been growing rapidly — 1,326,920,000 on Feb. 1, 2001; 2,073,418,204 on Feb. 6, 2002; 3,083,324,652 on Feb. 8, 2003; 4,285,199,774 on Feb. 14, 2004. The google index had been growing at a rate of roughly 50% per year until it reached its present plateau. Extrapolating, by now it should be over 5 billion.With 4 bytes, which is the natural word-size for the inexpensive ia32/x86-compatible processors they are using, they can store 32 bits, and that means 232 different values, or 4,294,967,296. They may be using some of the values for special purposes, and so haven't reached the absolute maximum, yet they are within 0.22% of the maximum.Adding another bit or byte to store more URL ID numbers would probably slow things down because it would require their CPUs to do much more work when manipulating the IDs. I suspect they have decided that they are in a engineering sweet spot and 4.285 billion URLs are enough for a while. So they won't increase the index size until they switch to using 64-bit processors, which would provide enough bits to easily manipulate 264, or 18,446,744,073,709,551,616, URL IDs (that's over 18.4 quintillion).As a result of the plateau, there are an exponentially growing number "unimportant" (as measured by their PageRank) web sites that are not in Google's index. An increasing number of web site owners and web site searchers will be rather unhappy with Google because of this, and the situation might not improve for months if not years. While this scenario looks plausible, I do think that Google would have some workarounds.


Tim Berners-Lee on semantic webs and new standards

Tim Berner -Lee,named by Time magazine as one of the 100 greatest minds of the 20th century is now busy channeling his energies into the work of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), a standards body he founded and now directs. He spends his time hailing the virtues of the Semantic Web and working to create standards that will drive the Web to its full potential. Sir Tim recently discussed the state of the Web browser market, the growth of the Semantic Web and some of the challenges facing the W3C. Sir Tim says, "We've come a long way with Web browsers, but there are still things to do to get it right. When we talk about Web browsers, we have to talk about standards compliance". The key problem in security is attributed to the fact that software client's nature of understanding the content rendered. You could build the client to display pictures, text, documents and not ever execute scripts. The fact that there's no concrete wall between browsing e-mail and installing software is amazing.Also, that operating systems aren't able to distinguish between things which can carry a virus and which don't is a mistake. While on the progress of the semantic web, he feels that the foundation is in place with the approval of RDF [Resource Description Framework] and OWL [Web Ontology Language]. In this phase, we can build up and out from those foundations.In practical terms, the semantic web movement has reached a certain level of maturity.The excitement that it continues to generate is encouraging. The military needs it; the health sector needs it. There's already an academic field around it. The biggest challenges facing w3c can be summarised as:
A.The tension over patents and propriety standards. The standards are getting adopted by W3C despite the fact that big companies are doing their own thing.
B.Another big problem is the question of patents and royalties. W3C has made some huge strides, but it's still something that may loom going forward. It's encouraging that a lot of large companies are realizing that they have to allow royalty-free use of patents to take the industry forward.
C.Web Services also present a challenge for W3C. This is an area that's quite big as the others.
The area to watch is the mobile Web. A lot of initiatives and energy in this space is seen now. Dr.Tim warns that If you were to isolate all the mobile stuff under one domain(.MOBI), it would die. It won't be the real Web. He is suggesting to take all the energy, and this desire to make the mobile Web accessible, and pour it into the work at the W3C. W3C has already done a lot of work around .Device Independence. Sir Tim's vision of the web standards -"What we really need to do is show how to use the existing technology of the mobile Web to allow access to a unified Web from any device, in any context, by anyone. I'd like to see us work towards some really strong interoperability to say, "look, let's make phones that meet these standards. Let's make Web sites that meets these standards.""


HDTV, DVD, Hard Drives and the future by Mark Cuban

Mark Cuban turns the conventional wisdom upside down and opens an interesting debate."Right now in the entertainment world, the conventional wisdom is that both sides on the HD DVD vs Blue Ray DVD will battle it out and a standard for HD on DVD will emerge.The longer it takes, the less chance any format of DVD has of having a place in the future of home entertainment.The price and size of hard drives have fallen like a rock, while capacities have soared, with no slowdown in site.Which leads to the question — What is the best way to distribute content? Mark Cuban expands his thoughts,"DVDs which will be limited in capacity to 9.4gbs on a single DVD for another year, and then after that 50gbs on a single disk for years to come after that, or rewritable media that can hold 2gb already in a device half the size of a pen, or in a hard drive that can hold 200GBs plus in a drive the size of your cell phone." DVD, knowing that the future standards will be locked for 7 to 10 years, or these storage devices that will grow in capacity, and shrink in size and price, not to mention the additional flexibility of being able to erase and rewrite the drives?Bigger cheaper hard drives gives HDNet the ability to use that additional storage to hold our content in uncompressed quality and increase the picture quality that you can see on your TV. A bunch. We can take advantage of new cameras to capture at better and better qualities, and of new compression schemes that approach future camera capabilities, only because we have ever expanding storage. That’s something DVDs will never have. So by delivering content on Hard Drives rather than DVDs, we will be able to continue to increase the picture quality for years to come. Mark also highlights his experience:One of the things I learned at broadcast.com is that when you give thousands of choices on demand, people go to the little things that they couldn’t find anywhere else. The sailing fan will choose the show about sailing over the blockbuster movie because they can’t get the sailing show anywhere else. Or maybe they choose both. The problem is that when people all choose different things at the same time, its a huge bandwidth hog. Thousands of choices, thousands of people using different movies, particularly when the expectation is for HD quality, and there is a huge problem. The cost of delivery per movie if the system is used a lot is incredible. Unicasting DVD or higher quality video is an incredibly inefficient business Mark concludes that bandwidth on own network is cheaper than the net, but when hard disk storage costs 25c per GB, and falls fast from there, unicast won’t be the best way to go. A few things that came out of the discussions and that appealed to me:
A. This is irrefutable logic and reasoning expressed well. Few related key issues/trends:
B. Why should we assume that the technology affecting the speed off downloading and uploading will not keep pace with other new technology.
c. What role wouLD WI-FI Play in future and how this would influence bandwidth and speed.
D. Customers accustmed to hugh bandwidth internet in places like Korea and Japan may feel,"although storage capacity-to-cost ratios are improving more quickly than broadband bandwith-to-cost ratios, there is no reason to believe these file sizes will be prohibitive-a typical HD movie that is 2 hours in length would be 18 gigabytes. Given the availability of broadband connections in the US that support either 1.5 megabits/s or 3.0 megabits/s download speeds, you are looking at:
~17.5 hours to download at 3.0 megabits/second (~300 kilobytes/second), ~35.0 hours to download at 1.5 megabits/second (~150 kilobypes/second).
E.Kiosks,like the ATM networks vending digital music downloads could be distinct possibility
F.Piracy concerns and legal regulations.
eWeek just published an interview with David Proctorjust published an interview with David Proctor, hardware lead for the Microsoft Portable Media Center who predicts that in two years the "Portable Media Players will come equipped with 125GB of data storage by 2007 for recording and storing Hi-Def video, and that PMP devices will come with wireless connectivity to “stream content on the fly from a local source, connected to a user's home server or content provider via the Internet." Proctor seems to be a little inconsistent himself when he explains that the Wi-Fi feature will most likely obliviate the need for a large local hard drive.

Overall, any development here hinges on advances to be made in multiple streams - very interesting to watch how this evolves - but I think Mark cuban may prove to be rigt at the end.


Google searching to RSS by Ben Hammersley

An Interesting utility that converts google search results into RSS feeds, one can use a RSS reader and view the results. you can see things coming in and out of the Google top ten. Easy to use too, simply add your search request to the end of this URL:
for example
and subscribe to that URL in your fave newsreader.
Ben is running this from his own Google API key, which has a limit of 1000 queries a day. If you’d like to help out,you can get your own key and use it with your own queries. Add it to the url with a &k=123456789 attribute, like this:
http://www.benhammersley.com/tools/googlerss.cgi?q=ben%20hammersley&k=123456789. The source code is available here. I have not tried this, but this looks very interesting.


Friday, September 24, 2004

Dave Pollard reviews The Medici Effect

Dave Pollard, the acknowledged thinker on Innovation reviews Frans Johansson's The Medici Effect. Dave writes, beginning with a pragmatic definition of innovation (anything that is new, valuable and realized), Johannson argues that most innovations occur in intersections (the 'spaces' where different disciplines, cultures or specialized domains of knowledge meet. Three factors, he says, are increasing the number of such intersections and hence the opportunities for innovation: (a) increasing human mobility, (b) scientific convergence, and (c) increasing computing power. Much of the book describes processes and techniques to break down the barriers that prevent us from seeing and entering intersections. These techniques include:
-getting exposure to different cultures
-broadening one's knowledge and learning capacity
-encouraging curiosity
-reversing assumptions (e.g. imagining what would happen if a restaurant had no menus, didn't charge for food, and didn't serve food)
-taking different perspectives and points of view (e.g. how would X view this situation)
-randomly combining concepts (e.g. the craze for Magic The Gathering was generated by combining attributes of gaming with attributes of collectibles)
-learning to be mentally prepared to see opportunities at the intersection when they present themselves (I am especially appreciative of this point because it is the hardest thing I ever learned to do).Dave has written about this before where he describes how the learning of how butterfly wings display colour even though they have no pigment has been applied to counterfeir-protecting banknotes.
- undertaking a variety of diverse occupations interacting with diverse groups of people looking for connections in unlikely places producing a continuous, large quantity of ideas
-striking a learning balance between sufficient depth and maximum breadth of knowledge subject-matter
-reading prodigiously and listening attentively and openly brainstorming (starting with individual idea generation to prevent groupthink and premature discarding of 'crazy' ideas)
- allowing time for ideas to be properly considered (Johansson dispels the myth that deadlines and time pressure encourage innovation).
Johansson then explains the importance and difficulty of implementating innovations. It is critical, Johansson says, to 'execute past failures', to know that no innovation will work perfectly in its first design, and be prepared to fail by being agile enough to turn failed ideas into successful ones, allowing time and resources for trial and error, and staying motivated to persevere and overcome adversity. While, I find that The Medici Effect to be a very good book for the way the idea is articulated, superb usage of examples and analogies, we covered the case of Bose developing auto suspension systems yesterday Headphones And Autosuspensions From Bose, Dave says that he does not find anything innovative in this book.

Is Outsourcing On The Outs via Bweek

Are companies forced to take a closer look at outsourcing?It's an article of faith that corporations will gradually hand off ever more of their technology operations to big service providers. The J.P. Morgan move doesn't presage a major shift in the market. Still, many businesses are taking a harder look at how they handle their IT. To ensure they're getting bang for the buck, chief information officers are exerting more control over what they outsource, dividing the contracts among vendors according to specialty and, like J.P. Morgan, even ending contracts and bringing tech operations in-house. As a result, industry watchers see fewer multibillion- dollar deals and more pressure on tech-service companies' profits.Austin A. Adams, the former Bank One chief information officer who has moved over to that job at Morgan, considers technology strategic since it boosts reliability and efficiency -- crucial to improving service. "Having the majority of the work performed by employees gives us the best shot at technology being a competitive advantage," he says.Most of the newer deals have incentive clauses. If service providers don't meet goals for improvements in operations, they don't get paid. As part of a February, 2004, deal to provide Sprint's (FON ) customer-management services, for example, IBM is required to meet goals for the rate at which complaints are resolved in the first phone call, the customer churn rate, and even Sprint's customer-service rankings by J.D. Power & Associates. But if companies are demanding greater control and transparency, by and large they are sticking with outsourcing. A recent research suggested that of the thousands of companies that have off-loaded tech operations, only 3% later took them back.The drivers for outsourcing are so overwhelming, that enteprises by and large can not even think of avoiding it. Even in the J.P.Morgan deal , the economics is not clear - compensation to IBM, IBM says that it would continue to provide services in significant numbers to J.P.Morgan and costs associated with rehiring 4000 employees and what net difference this can make to J.P.Morgan.

Companies Adopting RFID Despite Challenges via IWeek

Many companies across a variety of industries are either deploying radio frequency identification systems or plan to adopt the product-tracking technology.Concerns over the high cost and lack of good integration tools and standards remain a key concern. A lot of companies are working in deadline mode. Their chief concern is to comply with the mandates and to remain eligible as a supplier to these big outfits. Many companies have adopted a "slap-and-ship" approach to RFID, in order to meet the mandates at minimal cost.The term applies to companies that stick an RFID electronic tag on a case or pallet before shipping it to the retailer, but do not use the technology themselves to track goods.Companies across industries are expected to gradually adopt RFID as the technology matures, because of its ability to cut costs through more efficient handling of shipments and inventory. There's widespread belief that as the technology takes hold and tracks goods from manufacturers to consumers, there will be major benefits through efficiency. Nevertheless, enterprises should wait to reap the cost-cutting benefits of small projects, before expanding them into more warehouses and other facilities within a supply chain.


More Net Equals Less TV by Robyn Greenspan

The latest online Vs. television usage finding that there is a distinct correlation between the increase in online time and tenure and the overall decline in television viewing. It took only ten years to overtake the most important, most powerful medium of all time.The number of hours spent online in 2003 has increased over 2002 while the number of hours spent watching TV has stayed virtually the same. Growth in online time has risen more quickly than television viewing declined.Other studies have also shown that Internet users are overlapping media, rather than substituting. Research shows that consumers are watching TV while online and vice versa...shifting their attention back and forth between the two media, sometimes minute by minute. Simultaneous usage creates the risk that marketing messages will become diluted, and therefore less effective. Competition for the consumer's attention will continue to increase and be a challenge to marketers.


HeadPhones and Autosuspensions -Bose creates history

Bose, the company best known for audio systems and speakers, has developed a revolutionary computer-controlled suspension system that replaces the traditional shocks and springs with electronic actuators. The result is a ride that's absolutely flat over the bumpiest of roads and around sharp corners. In theory, a car could even bank into turns, as do planes and high-speed trains.There are several interesting things about this piece.The suspension module is an oval tube slightly thicker than the spring that coils around a shock absorber in current systems, which it replaces. Processing power is supplied by a 750-MHz Intel Pentium III running at a quarter of its capability in the test vehicle, a 1994 Lexus LS400. When the car senses a bump, the linear motor actuator retracts or extends the wheel and tire almost instantly—many times faster than a standard suspension. The action is so quick that occupants sense no motion at all if the bump is less than the actuator's travel of up to 20 cm (about 8 inches).The system can reduce body roll in a turn or even allow a car to bank into a turn, but research showed that passengers find the result discomforting because they expect some roll. How come Bose engineers assume expertise in designing and developing suspension systems for automobiles?Frans Johansson, author of the book The Medici Effect wonders, aren’t the Bose enginners supposed to develop audio systems, speakers and those anti-noise headphones you bring along on a flight? It certainly appears that their engineers stepped into the Intersection and broke new ground because of it. It would be interesting to see the nature of the composition of the team that pulled off this invention. The second surprising thing about this innovation is that Amar Bose, the company’s founder, gave a small team the task to try to radically improve a car’s suspension system in the mid-80s. This was, in other words, an innovation 24 years in the making – at a company that makes sound systems!Bose will chose an automaker within a year and the sound system will be available to buyers “late in the decade”.Another invention based on intersection of ideas from different fields, disciplines and culture - also I think any enterprise can acheive what the top man wants - it is highly doubtful if Amar bose has not backed this for more than two decaded this could have been acheived.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Cisco is saying that entrepreneurship is in India while research in China by OmMalik

Om Malik said earlier,"axis of technology has shifted to somewhere in the South China Sea."Couple of days ago, Cisco Systems announced that it was setting up a $32 million R&D labs in China. Today there is news that Cisco Systems is setting up a venture capital arm in India.Cisco is bullish on the Indian market, which it says is amongst the top three strategic markets worldwide and its fastest growing. New product launches and the recent establishment of separate vertical business groups there have buoyed hopes for Cisco in the country, whose own manufacturing and services industry has been maturing in recent years because of de-regulation and privatization. Businessworld, recently wrote How India became attractive to Cisco two of its top three deals last year in the Asia-Pacific market came from India.OmMalik, the most pereptive analyst about telecom and associated economic trends, had always been bullish about India. I personally beleive that while among the largest capital investments in recent times in India might have gone towards telecom investments, the country has a long way to go in terms of deploying leading edge telecom infrastructure like countrywide GPRS, 3G networks etc.Major asian cities today have “last mile fiber” in the range of – 9.2 GBPS Bandwidth . As India begins to invest in these definitely Cisco, the dominant player in the indian market and its spin-offs would stand to gain the most. This makes sense for Cisco to invest heavily in India and investment in china where the market is more developed could be to keep low cost emerging chinese competitors at bay. Anycase, the global telecom cauldron is seeing more action.


PeopleSoft's Brilliant Move by Brad Feld

PeopleSoft made a brilliant move this week when they announced their strategic alliance with IBM. PeopleSoft is obviously under attack from Oracle. IBM has simultaneously been positioning themselves as the ultimate middleware player via their WebSphere products.IBM's software strategy is to be complementary to enterprise application software providers rather than competitive to them.With one move, PeopleSoft says another "Bye" to Oracle, IBM deeply reinforces their position in the enterprise application ecosystem, and the two companies stir up the enterprise application consolidation pot a little more. The view is that the chaos and uncertainty in the enterprise app market - while bad for customers - is good for infrastructure software companies as the ultimately consolidation plays out - good for our companies that can get in the mix before the music stops .This is seen as a precursor to an acquisition announcement - IBM+PSFT. Then the real consolidation begins - Oracle + Siebel, MSFT + SAP.Oracle, PeopleSoft, IBM, Microsoft, SAP, and Siebel certainly have an interesting chess game going.There is another constellation that we may need to take into account - lot of portal, EAI, Datawarehousing players and ofcourse BEA - how these players would get aligned would have significant influence in the emerging enterpise landscape. .
Jeff Nolan from SAP had this to say at Fred's blog on this topic - I found it really very perceptive - In Jeff's words,"However, I will say that IBM would do well to proceed very cautiously with regard to any consideration of acquiring PSFT given that they derive a huge amount of revenues from their SAP relationship, which for all practical purposes would evaporate the minute they announced such an acquisition . The MSFT-SAP combo was briefly explored but the regulatory hurdles to make such a deal happen are simply enormous and it's not likely that the companies would combine well. I would be surprised if Oracle didn't acquire Siebel, it's a good fit from many perspectives and Oracle needs the CRM apps bad.Finally, with regard to SAP there is very little that can be gained by merging at this point.We're already taking a big % of business away from the other players, the tea leaves favor us staying right where we are while the other companies flail around... we really do look like the adults in the industry. It's really hard to make the case that an ORCL/PSFT combo would be competitive to SAP simply because we already beat both of those vendors even when they are discounting up to 90%, in essence giving away their products for the maintenance and services revenue. Oracle needs PSFT, but only because it stems their slide from #2 to #3 in the market, it doesn't help them beat SAP".


Blogging - a new age business imperative via Fortune

David Kirkpatrick writes,"It's Hard to Manage if You Don't Blog". Business embraces the new medium as executives read—and write—blogs. Blogs,which are a way to post text to a website—have found their way into business.Jonathan Schwartz, president and COO of Sun Microsystems, has recently criticized statements by Intel executives, mused that IBM might buy Novell, and complained about a CNET.com article—all by writing a blog on a Sun website.Schwartz encourages all Sun's 32,000 employees to blog, though only about 100 are doing it so far. But they include at least three senior managers other than Schwartz as well as development engineers and marketers. Over at Microsoft, some 1,000 employees blog.Robert Scoble, Microsoft's most prominent blogger, says that he often links to bloggers who are not friendly to Microsoft. They know that microsoft emplyees are listening, and that alone improves relationships. Other tech companies with company blogs include Yahoo, Google, Intuit, and Monster.com. Even Maytag has a blog.Some companies want to bring some guidelines for bloggers -overall blogging in corporate field, as in every other field is growing by the day.

Ecologizing Mobile Media by Howard Rheingold via Thefeature.com

Howard Rheingold, author of the book "Smartmobs" writes,"The mobile telephone has quickly, profoundly, and unexpectedly altered many aspects of human life -- social, economic, cultural and political". He goes on to examine the advantages and perceived disadvantages of the all encompassing changes brought out by the mobile revolution.Smart mobs emerge when communication and computing technologies amplify human talents for cooperation. The impacts of smart mob technology already appear to be both beneficial and destructive, used by some of its earliest adopters to support democracy and by others to coordinate terrorist attacks. The technologies that are beginning to make smart mobs possible are mobile communication devices and pervasive computing - inexpensive microprocessors embedded in everyday objects and environments. Already, governments have fallen, youth subcultures have blossomed from Asia to Scandinavia, new industries have been born and older industries have launched furious counterattacks.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Global Knowledge Review edited by David Gurteen (Via Gautam)

The first issue of Global Knowledge Review is out - The issue edited by David Gurteen covers various dimensions of Knowledge Management in organisations.The issue has contributions by different executives - that include the likes of Dave Pollard, Jo singel(J.P.Morgan Chase), James Robertson etc.There are articles written by a few well known bloggers like Gautam Ghosh, Dina Mehta as well. While I have not read the complete set of articles as of now, three articles stand out - Dave Pollard's - "what do knowledge workers want?",Kurt April's - "How ready is your organisation for KM?" and Gautam's," A wake up call for HR". More about this theme and the collection of articles later.

Depicting Life Without the Internet - An Interesting Study

Yahoo co-sponsored a study wherein a set of people were deprived of access to internet to understand what effect this could have on regular internet users.Study participants suffered withdrawal symptoms, feelings of loss when deprived of web access for two weeks. This study is entirely indicative of the myriad ways that the Internet, in just ten short years of mainstream consumer consumption, has irrevocably changed the daily lives of consumers. This is true to the extent that Yahoo found that it was incredibly difficult to recruit participants for this study, as people weren't willing to be without the Internet for two weeks. Deep ethnographic research like this enables to do much more than look at consumer trends, it allows a rare glimpse into the reasons consumers make the choices they do and how they are emotionally impacted. This can then help marketers apply these insights to reach their target audiences. We published yesterday research findings about the impact the online media is having on consumers and in a few areas, has become the primary means for information and commerce. The internet is indeed one of the giant strides for humanity.

VoIP - All About Connecting People via Bweek

There is near unanimity that net phone services are the future.Just a few years ago, only tech geeks and a few hobbyists made phone calls over the Internet. Now, Net telephony is starting to find widespread acceptance among consumers and corporate customers alike. The technology is taking off despite its clumsy name: VoIP, short for voice over Internet protocol. The U.S. alone already has 500,000 residential users. Internet phone services are taking off now for a number of reasons. Most important, faster connections have improved quality and reliability. Nearly 30 million households, or 25% of the U.S. total, will have broadband by yearend.Second, big telecom and cable outfits are aggressively pushing the technology as a way to bypass the home dial tone. And self-installation is now so simple even technophobes can do it themselves. Anyone who's capable of operating a DVD player is capable of going to a retailer, purchasing an Internet phone, and plugging it into a broadband connection.Because calls are directed to an IP address instead of a specific physical location, VoIP providers can perform lots of nifty tricks that are much harder to do with regular phone service. For example, most basic VoIP packages include a feature that lets you receive your voice mail as e-mail messages. And you can plug the phone in to any broadband connection, and calls will automatically forward to the phone without you having to set up a new call-forwarding number.the quality of Internet calls remains inferior to regular phone service -- typically somewhere between a cell-phone call and a regular landline call. Also, you need a battery backup system to protect your connection in case of a power outage. Regular phones can run off the small amount of electricity that phone companies transmit over twisted-copper phone wires. VoIP phones require more juice and are often connected to DSL lines or coaxial lines used by cable companies, which don't have their own source of power.It's all part of a big trend to make voice calling just another service provided over an Internet connection. And since future phone service won't depend on a dedicated phone network, the telecom world will be forever altered. The old one was about connecting places. The new one is about connecting people.

The self-service economy via Economist

The self service economy has subsumed traditional human interactions in services like withdrawing cash from Bank and thanks to the proliferation of websites, kiosks and automated phone systems, one can also track packages, manage finances, switch phone tariffs, organise own holiday (juggling offers from different websites),and selectown theatre seats while buying tickets.In theory, companies can save money by replacing human workers with automated self-service systems, while customers gain more choice and control and get quicker service. There is even talk of self-service doing for the service sector what mass production did for manufacturing, by enabling the delivery of services cheaply and on a massive scale. When it is done well, self-service can benefit both companies and customers alike. But when done badly—who has not found themselves trapped in a series of endless touch-tone menus?—it can infuriate and alienate customers. In their desire to cut costs, many companies deliberately make it difficult to get through to a human operator; yet their phone or web-based self-service systems do not always allow for every eventuality.In areas where self-service is only just starting to take hold, this is less of a problem: fuming customers can, after all, always take their business elsewhere. But if every bank were to adopt impenetrable self-service systems, disgruntled customers would no longer be able to express their discontent by voting with their feet. Such a scenario ought to provide an opportunity for some firms to differentiate themselves: some banks, for example, already promise that their telephone-banking services always offer the option of talking to a human operator. But in return for guaranteed access to humans, many firms will simply charge more. Some of the objections to self service could come from people who prefer not to use self-service systems (such as the elderly) will be forced to pay higher prices. This is already happening: many travel firms offer discounts to customers who book online. Buy tickets the old-fashioned way and one must pay more. Firms are, in effect, introducing penalty charges to persuade customers to use self-service systems. Some customers might resent this.Another objection to self-service is that while it saves companies money, it does not always save their customers time.Companies that go too far down the self-service route or do it ineptly are likely to find themselves being punished. Instead, a balance between self-service and conventional forms of service is required. Companies ought to offer customers a choice, and should encourage the use of self-service, for those customers that want it, through service quality, not coercion. Self-service works best when customers decide to use a well designed system of their own volition; it infuriates most when they are forced to use a bad system. Above all, self-service is no substitute for good service.


Modernizing supply chain solutions through the convergence of computing

Moore’s law is at the core of the new RFID phenomenon where two things are guaranteed: The RFID chips will get smaller and cheaper; and as the technology gets more reliable, standards will emerge and proliferate in ways that could only have been imagined 30 or so years ago when early RFID pioneers started to experiment with the technology. Dr. Moore’s observation of a generation ago makes it a certainty that it’s only a matter of time until the full promise of the technology is realized.( Via Future Now ).The previous technologies all had one glaring limitation that RFID is intended to solve: accurate knowledge of the goods’ location, particularly as they near the point of manufacture/sale. The knowledge of where the goods are in the supply chain from manufacturer to distributor vary, and some have used bar codes and some fairly laborintensive business processes to develop reasonable accuracy here.RFID approaches offer the potential to save significant labor cost during the middle stages of the supply chain. The critical information gap occurs on either end between the times when the goods leave the distributor’s truck and when they are actually built or sold. This is often referred to, tongue in cheek,as the last 100 meters. This is where the hype is focused.Simply having the information is important; how it is shared and with whom will dictate the ultimate economic benefit.What You Should Do RFID is an exciting component of a larger industry trend toward the convergence of computing and communications and pervasive, or autonomic computing. Within this macro trend wireless communication is emerging as a critical communication model that is required to derive the ultimate value since it untethers the users and the systems. Any business with a supply chain should take the following steps:
Get smart on the technology. It’s not rocket science, although it’s close,
and it’s important to understand what it is and isn’t all about;
• Benchmark your current supply chain and understand if/where having better
information about inventory levels, workflow, and forecasting could drive business
• Determine if there is a process that would benefit from using RFID, do a rough ROI
analysis, and if the indicators look positive, then kick off a pilot; and
• Don’t wait, and don’t limit your thinking to mandates or simple

The Internet and its dominance of the media.

Online media rate highly in head to head comparisons with offline media across all age groups in the US. For example, 97% believe online is the same or better than magazines for finding information about products and music. In addition, 83% say reading a story on the Internet is the same or better than reading one in a newspaper, and 67% say that watching a short video clip online is the same or better than watching highlights on television. Longer-format videos compare less favorably online, with 63% sill believing that television is better for watching longer video programming. Some of the key findings are very interesting and a definite pointer towards the online media getting stronger and stronger -in regards to product purchase information, travel and entertainment related information, the online media has become the most preferred across different age groups. Some Key findings are :
A. Internet now ranks head-to-head with offline media
B. Internet is the most preferred media for information, travel, fun and entertainment.
C. Few generational differences exist when it comes to behaviours and attitudes.
D. Young people show clear preference for using internet as primary source of news.
While the sample population refers to the US environment, other nations advanced in internet infrastructure and usage and nations catching up would more-or-less show similar characterstics. The data is clear..

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

How CEOs Reinvent Their Companies via CE

Jay Desai writes,"The challenge of continually reinventing your company to survive in a business environment where change comes faster than ever is real and formidable. It means implementing repeated, sustainable change to achieve profitable growth in a fiercely competitive global marketplace".Relatively few companies—notably Dell, Wal-Mart, Southwest Airlines, Home Depot, Starbucks and eBay—have completely reinvented not just themselves but also their industries. Even fewer have been able to do so continuously to meet the realities of a rapidly changing business climate. But, the question remains, can these innovative powerhouses transform their sectors over and over and achieve even higher levels of growth? To reach this lofty but imperative goal, a company must evaluate its culture, leadership, organizational capabilities, measurements and rewards systems, and methodology. Dell, Wal-Mart and Southwest, it seems safe to say, all retain a mindset for continuous reinvention, although they’re limited somewhat by their respective industries’ growth rates. It’s too early to tell with eBay and Starbucks, and Home Depot faces steep challenges in this regard.Assessing their companies’ potential for continuous reinvention, CEOs also must consider three other factors: ultimate customer experience, unique business model and breakthrough innovation capability.Unlike reactive companies focused on incremental growth, so-called “built to reinvent” companies plan and implement a broad range of simultaneous, game-changing moves designed to achieve hypergrowth. Continuous reinvention is more than a glib catchphrase. It is the hard truth that can guide success in this new global business universe. To do otherwise is to stagnate, to fall behind and, ultimately, to die.

South Korea's Blitzkrieg -Mobile Banking via Bweek

South Korea is taking an unassailable lead in communications and in deploying communications based applications.Mobile banking has taken off in a big way - Bweek writes, "In June, some 581,000 Koreans used their cell phones to complete a total of 4 million banking transactions, the Bank of Korea, the central bank, reports. All of South Korea's retail banks now offer mobile banking, and every month, more than 300,000 people buy new phones equipped with a special slot where subscribers can plug in a tiny memory chip with their banking data and an encryption code for secure transactions."Korea has long been a test bed for the global wireless industry, and if banking by wireless phone catches on here, the rest of the world may follow. Already, tens of thousands of restaurants and stores have terminals that read credit-card information from phones via infrared beams, letting customers avoid the hassle of swiping cards. And Seoul commuters can have bus and subway fares deducted from their accounts by flashing their phones as they pass the turnstiles.Banks have high hopes for the service. Koreans have already set up more than 24 million online bank accounts. Given that more Koreans own cell phones than computers, and the convenience of being able to bank anytime and anyplace, bank execs believe most Net banking clients -- and many others -- will eventually sign up for mobile banking. That will likely save banks a bundle. Transactions made by cell phone cost a fifth of what face-to-face transactions do.. Bank executives say that with many transactions going mobile, the branch employees can focus on consulting or other high-value activities.The service provider benefits too - while increasing penetration and use of cell phones,the service providers get a new set of customers hooked on using their cell phones for more than voice calls. Whereas other trendy new mobile services such as multimedia e-mail, video clips, and music downloads appeal largely to the young, banking is most popular among people in their 30s and 40s.This would surely count as another example of technology and services bringing in a multiplier effect to the economy.

PC's and Media Revamped by Adam Bosworth

Adam Bosworth dreams about the combination of PC, Terabyte Harddisks,Bluetooth and Cellphones reshaping the entertainment industry.The core idea runs as,"With an amp and speakers (of good quality) and just plug them into a box that in turn, talks wirelessly to all of PC's and/or hard disks. if we think of the box as a preamp, but it can be a lot simpler than old ones because the only sound source and media source is ethernet and 80211, and if cell phone can support bluetooth to the box so that it can be used and its screen and keyboard/keypad to pick the album, artist, movie, tv show, etc to play/record and the box to support record like a Tivo, but on thehard disks. Why cell phone? Because these days it has a good enough screen to show a list of artists or albums or shows with a keyboard, but even without it, it has a keyboard and pointing and then there is just one device in life". Bosworth's thought is quite interesting. Adam Bosworth, a software industry icon, visionary and architect of several products including Borland Quattro, Microsoft Access, Microsoft Internet Explorer, BEA WebLogic application server and Workshop, and now with Google is somebody to listen to. I just thought that with so many technology advances happening and in the iPod generation, shouldn't we think of things more composite - all things bundled into one - may be too crazy but the direction may have some appeal.

Websphere/Java technology compared with .net technology

[Via Scobleizer]This endeavor is a massive study that compares IBM WebSphere / J2EE against Microsoft .NET on a number of dimensions: developer productivity, manageability, reliability and application performance.The Middleware Company assembled two independent teams, one for J2EE using IBM WebSphere, the other for Microsoft .NET. Each team received the same specification for a loosely-coupled system to be developed, deployed, tuned and tested in a controlled laboratory setting. The WebSphere team developed two different implementations of the specification, one using IBM's model-driven tool Rational Rapid Developer (RRD), the other with IBM's code-centric tool WebSphere Studio Application Developer (WSAD). The .NET team developed its single implementation using Visual Studio.NET as the primary development tool. The report details out
The approach, methodology and terms of the study
The physical architecture of the system developed by the two teams
The tools each team used to develop and tune their implementations
The developer productivity results and the experiences of the two teams in developing their implementations
The configuration/tuning productivity results and the experiences of the two teams in configuring and tuning their implementations for testing
The performance, manageability and reliability tests performed and their results
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