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Saturday, April 30, 2005

Hunderds Of Channels In Mobile Phones!!

(Via Pondering Primate). Cableworld writes, "The Weather Channel's mobile content experiment has ended - Now it's a mobile content business. We went from thinking that wireless is a secondary and somewhat experimental platform, to a primary platform for us," says Louis Gump, VP, mobile products and services, for The Weather Channel Interactive. The growing number of handset devices capable of delivering data and video has convinced the network that it could generate substantial returns on what Gump calls a "major investment. The "lightbulb moment" for Burgess was the realization that there are a billion cell phone users around the world. "To me, that's a confirmation of the significance of the mobile phenomenon," he says
The Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association estimates there were more than 182 million cell phone subscribers at the end of last year. Consumers spent $111 billion on mobile services in 2004, according to the Yankee Group. About 5% of that, or $5.5 billion, was spent on wireless data services, a figure expected to grow to $14 billion by 2008. Thirty percent of that data revenue will be generated from entertainment, the research firm predicts. That includes graphics, games, ringtones, interactive. Some of the biggest cable operators, including Time Warner Cable and Cox, have made no secret of their desire to add a mobile component to their voice, video and data bundles. Fears of cannibalizing existing revenue streams appear to be no deterrent. As Burgess at NBCU says, "You're really trying to reach viewers in places when they're not at home." Burgess is interested in working with cable operators to adapt mobile content to the larger screen."Cable is expert at packaging and subscription-based relationships," says Greg Ellenoff, director of voice product management at Adelphia. "[Mobile content] is great example of doing that." As the biggest operators incorporate wireless into their service bundles, mobile content likely will be included as part of the packages.

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Friday, April 29, 2005

Siebel Getting Into Oracle Fold?

Kate Gibson writes about, Oracle's discussions to buy Siebel - Looks a little too radical to say the least - how easy it is for laggards in the CRM space to monopolise stack elements and unleash financial power in a tight situation to acquire new companies -in the process cannibalising and killing their own half grown babies.I am increasingly beginning to feel that Siebel may go the i2 way before running the risk of fading away– I that Siebel missed out on opportunity to make acquisitions of the basic stack elements to strengthen itself – even now there’s a chance for Siebel to make whole range of judicious acquisitions and actually get stronger(may be a tough journey but still feasible). Earlier, I wrote, about Oracle's recent acquisitions
New Peoplesoft = Peoplesoft + JDE
New Oracle = Oracle + New Peoplesoft
New-New Oracle = New Oracle + Retek
The challenge for new-new-oracle is the roadmap for integration.There are now four code designs and schema to be harmonized. Different classes of cutomers and multiple varieties of implementations to be supported and upgraded. Customers need to be convinced of the integrated roadmap.The transition challenges are indeed phenomenal in the design of the new platform and less said the better about the migrations that customers need to spend on. Would this be a good opportunity for external service providers and oracle consulting – some may think that this may cause nightmare to service providers.The appaling casual approach towards integrating multiple major applications – evolving from data, xml level integration, overlooks the complexities in process level integration is a whole new ball game – the very basis of having integrated applications are to master the complexity of integrating process and data.Come to think of it – there are not many companies in the world who have succeeded in integrating products with huge customer base all that well. During the acquisition proceedings of Peoplesoft, Oracle was predicting huge maintenance revenue stream – irritating some customers. Microsoft’s acquisition of Great plains and performance of companies like CA/DIVINE which acquired a lot of product companies have not been anything to write home about. More clarity may emerge after May 5 when Siebel will meet with financial analysts at which further details on Shaheen's turnaround plans are anticipated.


Dave Pollard On Continual Environment Scan

Continuous Environmental Scan is about using modern technology's radar to harvest a lot of ideas about what is happening in the world in interested areas (geographical, intellectual, or commercial). The best manifestation of this is the RSS Aggregator,allowing one to "subscribe" to newsfeeds, weblogs, newsletters and additions to websites, and have all the content appear on a single, continuously updated, page. Another approach to doing this are through Alerts or Profiles, which allow you to register keywords with a search engine and get daily e-mails sent to you of all news items and new articles containing those keywords.To set up a comprehensive Continuous Environmental Scan, Dave recommends that it needs time, money and lots of hard work. He describes a nine-step process that he evolved to do this that includes the like of:

1.Determine Your Information Universe: Spend some time (and brainstorm with others) to identify the universe of different sources you want your Scan 'radar' to capture. Note that Google News doesn't capture all news sources, and most other news aggregators capture only a very few select media sources. Some useful sources may not be available online, and others are only available for a fee.
2.Discover Infomediaries: Find ways of working with others who are already aggegrating some of the interested content. Trade and industry associations often present relevant news on their websites and newsletters. There are many specialized bloggers. There are some excellent cross-disciplinary e-newsletters out there as
3.Tap Into the Stuff Inside Your Organization: If you have tech-savvy staff with a lot of material on hard drives, consider setting up 'public partitions' on each employee's hard drive that can be canvassed and archived by the Intranet and made available to others. Consider setting up, and tapping into, employee weblogs.
4.Add Together, Stir and Sift: Now you have all the content for the top of the funnel. The next step is to filter it. How you do that will depend on the format it is in and the tools at your disposal. If there is an RSS feed of the source, use it to capture the whole feed, then use keyword searches to filter just the articles you want to read. Keyword filtering takes skill and practice: Learn to use phrases and boolean symbols to eliminate 'false positives'.
5.Add Value: Often your context-rich interpretation of 'what it means' or 'what it could mean', can be more valuable than the article itself. Putting down your analysis, interpretations and insights can not only make it more valuable for others, it can help 'make sense' of it in your own mind.
6.Don't Forget Serendipitous Reading: Sometimes important ideas and disruptive innovations just come out of left field.. Use the reading time to read selected magazines that cast a wide net, make you think, and focus on what's next and what you can do about it, rather than just rehashing useless news.

Dave emphasises there's no set way to acheive this -concludes,it takes a lot of practice. Many large organizations are doing virtually nothing to make use of the immense amounts of interesting and useful information 'out there' in a disciplined and organized manner. It's left up to the individual, and most individuals have neither the time nor the skill to do it. It's a missed opportunity in many companies, and perhaps one of the reason for the dearth of innovation in our world today.


RSS -Revolutionises The Web World!!

RSS is heralding a major revolution in the webworld.When pointcast was introduced people expected the demise of the web browsers.That did not happen.RSS seems to be be the killer protocol for push media. RSS, which stands for Really Simple Syndication, makes it easy to extract chunks of text from web pages and feed them into a news reader installed on a PC, PDA or cell phone. (The news reader can be a standalone program or it can be built into a browser, an e-mail application, or an external web page.) Feeds subscription and updation are based on user preferences. The feeds can be blog posts or wire-service headlines or magazine articles or book chapters or sports scores or product descriptions - you name it. The great thing about RSS (or alternative formats like Atom) is that it's a push medium that's not at all pushy. You control what you read and when you read it. And it's efficient. The Internet now needs a simple, automated method for assembling and delivering information as it never has before.

Nicholas points out, RSS used by by some 6 million Americans - may pose the biggest challenge yet to the livelihoods of print publications, particularly newspapers. It introduces a whole new way of aggregating news and other information, controlled by readers and customized to their particular needs and fancies. No wonder google is looking at monetizing feed services. Traditional publishers are going to have to think hard about the consequences not only for their print editions but for their web sites as well.


Asian Economies : US Consumer Dependent!!

Stephen Roach,writes in an extremely provocative but well analysed article, more than ever,externally led Asian economies remain a levered play on US consumption. Asia’s biggest pitfall: If the American consumer ever fades, Asia could be headed for serious trouble. The coming US current account adjustment offers good reason to worry about just such a possibility.

Asia has learnt that many of the painful lessons of the last decades financial crisis, and has done a very good job of repairing its balance sheets and reorienting some of its most misguided policies. This shows up in current account deficits have giving way to surpluses.Foreign exchange reserves have been rebuilt in an especially dramatic fashion. All of these developments are unequivocally good news for for the most dynamic region of the global economy. Backward-looking fixes are no guarantee that new and different problems will be avoided in the future. The region’s unbalanced growth model - an externally led macro dynamic that is still lacking in meaningful support from internal private consumption. In a US-centric global economy, that spells one thing - over-reliance on the over-extended American consumer. Should the US consumer cave - a distinct possibility in the event of a long overdue current account adjustment - Asia would be toast.
A decomposition of the sources of Asian growth clearly demonstrates the region’s lack of autonomous support from internal demand. Chinese private household consumption falling to a record low of 42% of GDP in 2004 as against US 71% of GDP. China remains very much an export-driven growth machine, with the export share of GDP having soared from 20% in 1999 to 35% in 2004. Moreover, China’s investment bubble - with fixed investment likely to exceed 50% of GDP this year - is also an outgrowth of outward-oriented industrialization and infrastructure. Lacking in domestic consumption growth, Asia has had little choice but to go back to the well and do what it has long done best - opt for another dose of externally led growth. With US imports fully 61% higher than exports (as of February 2005), the only conceivable way to correct the external deficit is by a reduction in consumption-driven imports.For Asia, that spells serious trouble: If US current account adjustment happens, Asia’s most important growth prop is about to meet its demise. Mr.Roach - that adjustment within US can never happen in isolation - the US consumer shall not consume less - nor can the US get away from deficits - and Asia is key in decision - aferall the current account deficit of the US is financed mostly by Asia.But no disputes on the fact - the US consumers are the key in any global economic equation.


Reforming The US Education System - Learning From India & China

( Via NYTimes) Thomas Friedman writes, the time to reform american education system is now.Bill Gates said,"Training the work force of tomorrow with the high schools of today is like trying to teach kids about today's computers on a 50-year-old mainframe. The American high schools were designed 50 years ago to meet the needs of another age. Until the American educationists design them to meet the needs of the 21st century, this will keep limiting - even ruining - the lives of millions of Americans every year."
"For the first time in the US history, the country is going to face competition from low-wage, high-human-capital communities, embedded within India, China and Asia," In order to thrive, "it will not be enough for America to just leave no child behind. Indeed, we can't rely on importing the talent we need anymore - not in a flat world where people can now innovate without having to emigrate. In Silicon Valley today, "B to B" and "B to C" stand for "back to Bangalore" and "back to China," which is where a lot of our foreign talent is moving.
Strategists John Hagel III and John Seely Brown in their new book entitled "The Only Sustainable Edge" argue that comparative advantage today is moving faster than ever from structural factors, like natural resources, to how quickly a country builds its distinctive talents for innovation and entrepreneurship - the only sustainable edge. Economics is not like war. It can always be win-win. "But some win more than others," Mr. Hagel said, and today it will be those countries that are best and fastest at building, attracting and holding talent. There is a real sense of urgency in India and China about "catching up" in talent-building. America, by contrast, has become rather complacent. People go to Shanghai or Bangalore and they look around and say, They're still way behind us, Mr. Hagel said. "But it's not just about current capabilities. It's about the relative pace and trajectories of capability-building”. India and China know they can't just depend on low wages, so they are racing us to the top, not the bottom. Producing a comprehensive U.S. response - encompassing immigration, intellectual property law and educational policy - to focus on developing our talent in a flat world is quite a task cut out for American leaders.


Thursday, April 28, 2005

Apple's Tiger - A Home Run!!

Most of the reviews compare Apple's new Mac OS X Tiger operating system to what Microsoft has shown and talked about for Longhorn, the next version of Windows. In his review the Wall Street Journal's Walter Mossberg makes the Longhorn comparison but also compares Tiger against Windows XP. A highly impressed Mossberg writes,"Tiger adds to the Mac's general superiority over typical Windows computers as the best choice for average consumers doing the most common computing tasks". Apple's hardware already was the best in the business, and Mac OS X has, so far, escaped the virus and spyware problems that plague Windows. It may look little odd to compare,but XP is the Microsoft operating system that will compete against the new Mac OS in the market for the next 18 months, until Longhorn debuts. Overall, Tiger is the best and most advanced personal computer operating system on the market, despite a few drawbacks. It leaves Windows XP in the dust."The new Apple system boasts some key capabilities Microsoft won't introduce for another 18 months or so, Tiger is a beautiful and powerful operating system that advances personal computing. It is a big gain for Mac users right out of the box. If Apple can wring out the delays, it will be a home run.

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The Internet TV – Enterprises & Viewers

(Via Wash Post)Open Media Network(OMN) exemplifies the mini-stampede underway as entrepreneurs rush to exploit what they see as the dawning of the Internet TV age. The network is owned by a nonprofit foundation and offers mostly free content. It is designed to eventually be self-sustaining by taking a small commission on fees that video producers charge for premium content. An audience rating system is in the works to help users discover shows that other people have liked - and to help filter offensive content such as porn and pirated material. The system runs through central computers that will allow managers to track and take down unauthorized copyrighted material.
With Internet TV startups the cost of distributing video over the Internet for a program is much lower than broadcasting shows to millions of homes simultaneously, regardless of who actually sees them. Many special-interest shows might prove economical for the first time, while others already recorded might find fresh audiences. The audience-rating tools OMN is developing and software it has planned to let video producers offer subscriptions and pay-per-viewing looks very interesting. Producers will be able to limit the number of times users can watch a show or copy it to portable devices, using Microsoft Corp.'s digital-rights-management software. Startups like ManiaTV offers live streaming video on the Web for several months and plans to launch an on-demand download service next month. Traditional broadcasters, telephone companies are, developing their own systems for delivering TV shows over the Internet. MTV this week launched a channel of streaming video at its MTV.com Web site called MTV Overdrive
The big challenges facing Internet TV ventures are attracting quality content and finding the right audience. Search engine leaders, Google and Yahoo, are trying to match Internet videos with viewers. Trial video search engines have been already launched. Google recently announced plans to host video files on its computers, potentially laying the groundwork for its own Internet TV network. In all a new segment is opening up in the entertainment industry - this can become a very powerful channel down the line.

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Homepage Is Dead, Every Page - Hub & Portals!!

Steve Outing writes, thanks to blogs, aggregators, RSS feeds, and other options, fewer and fewer readers are entering news sites through home pages.We recently covered about the increasing RSS traffic for all websites, in some cases the traffic level exceeds the online site visits. More and more people bypass news Web sites' home and section pages, instead entering a site at the article-page (or "inside-page") level.The home page - where Web designers and editors have for so long poured so much of their effort - is no longer the be-all, end-all. While home page needs attention, but equally important these days is the template used for article pages. It may be that the best approach is to create an article-page template that serves as a sort of secondary home page. It appears that more than half of the people who see something on the site will not see its home page. At the article level, it may be good to give users enough choices to guide them to other important content elsewhere on the site.

The Globe & Mail, Canada's national newspaper,reports,41% of globeandmail.com visits now begin on non-hub pages (that is, all but the home page and section pages such as Sports, Business, etc.). These are site visitors who come to article pages via search engines, news aggregators (like Google News), RSS feeds, news alerts, e-mail newsletters, notes from friends, and the like.Other news sites report similar user behavior. CSMonitor.com, the Web site of the Christian Science Monitor, tracks only 23% of its visitors' sessions coming in via the home page, with the rest entering at the article level or other page. A quick tour of article links found on Google News, shows that the majority of news sites offer little on article pages beyond some basic navigation to other sections of the sites. There's clearly room for improvement. But within the news-site industry, there's plenty of variation.
There are plenty of options for addressing the problem of article pages that don't lead visitors to the rest of a website - and increasing overall site traffic by fixing it. Ironically, the first step is to admit the existence of a problem in the site traffic patterns.


Novell & Open Source Ambitions

Martin Tobias writes about his conversation with Jack Messman, CEO of NOVELL and notes two important points:
1. Most of his staff would say that Google is their #1 competitor, although he would prefer Microsoft. Jack believes Google could whip up an OS anytime they wanted. Martin Tobias writes it may not be easy. We wrote recently, It is widely speculated that Google is in the process of building an operating system platform and as Rick Skrenta points out Google has the most amazing talent on OS today.Martin is perhaps alluding to the fact that an operating system can not be developed in total secrecy - other desktop vendors would need to develop applications that may run on it - so far no evidence of any desktop application vendor having been shown/ given a peek into the vision/prototype of the mysterious killer operating system that Google may be working on.

2. Open source stack support companies like Spikesource (KP funded) and SourceLabs (Ignition funded) will have a tough time getting to market as Novell (through Suse) and others (Redhat) will just implement partner programs and the need will be gone. Jack argues Vendor consolidation around trusted brands. Martin says, one can argue about if Novell makes that cut, but would tend to agree in principle. We covered less than 24 hours ago while commenting on the NYTimes article on VC funding of opensource that broad distribution, which is critical to the service model, is still quite rare in the opensource industry and wrote that any investment would demand reasonable results and VC's are there to fund promising ideas which funded well can reap very high returns. Well differentiated strategies, value propositions, strength of the ideas, capability of the management team, marketforces by and large determine the suceess of any investment and certianly not whether it is opensource or otherwise - sectoral investments are for central policy planners - VC and high tech investments are for sharply defined ideas, focus and execution abilities. With the software market consolidation happening faster, lot more forces thatc can complicate investment decisions come into interplay.. The opensource sucess recipe is getting more and more difficult to guess!!

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Onto A Whole New Internet!!

Janice Fraser writes,we are onto a whole new internet.Something is happening right now, and the developer community has an electric gleam in its eye. Curious, inventive people are making cool stuff again. There’s been a notable shift, and it’s incredibly exciting. We’re nearing the tenth anniversary of the Netscape IPO, when a flood of capital launched the Internet into mainstream culture. After dotcom burst, the Internet development community entered a period of refinement and reflection with a deep appreciation for business basics. Pragmatism dominated, and we focused on delivering effective outcomes. Instead of invention, we were more inclined to think about sunk costs, resource allocation, and maximizing value.
The Ajax approach detailed out recently removes the redraw-refresh paradigm for interacting with web applications. The firestorm of excitement around the idea took us all by surprise. In mere days, the "Ajax" meme was solidified. It was a tipping point. It is exciting to think of the potential of folksonomy on enterprise web applications? Invention inspires invention. Ideas are collapsing into each other, recombining, and having powerful effects. The Internet has always been a medium for democratization, and by reconnecting with our idealism we’re once again uncovering its poetry, nobility, and transformative power.Things are about to change in a very big way. Add the reach of mobiles and usability – the power of influence multiplies. With long tail, new media, social software, software-as-a-service getting more significance - the internet is really getting a mighty phenomenon!!

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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Technology Outpacing People's Ability To Use Meaningfully!!

Computer storage technology is getting so cheap a person could record every conversation of a lifetime and decades of photographs, but experts must improve search systems so users can make sense of such mind-boggling amounts of information, Microsoft is focusing on working with cutting-edge gadgets - for predicting traffic jams, for example, or turning countertops into full-blown computers. Richard F. Rashid of Microsoft says, technology in some ways is outpacing people's ability to use it meaningfully. Button-sized computers of the future could be worn on a shirt and equipped with cameras and other sensors to record all a person's movements, activities and conversations. The challenge would be in perfecting the ways to store the vast amounts of information generated over a person's lifetime and still permit them to retrieve important details later. Researchers are automatically recording hidden details associated with a piece of information, such as the geographic coordinates where a digital photo is taken, that can be used later to help retrieve it. A family could call up vacation photos by typing the name of the state where they went camping.Prototypes of life-recording gadgets already are used by patients with some types of memory-loss ailments, who frequently benefit from keeping detailed logs of their activities. He also said police departments, which use dashboard cameras to record traffic stops, are interested in using shirt-pocket recording devices to protect and monitor cops on the beat. Few things may not change - computers will use traditional keyboards even 10 years in the future, despite enormous investments by Microsoft and others in handwriting software and speech-recognition tools to let users dictate to their computers. The worry for the US research community is the expected drop in interest in computer science enrollments in academic world. Many advanced countries have ageing population and are increasingly relying on usage of technology to manage issues like healthcare, funds management etc.

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VC's Open Their Wallets For Open Source Startups!!

(Via NYTimes) Marc Fleury cold not succeed in raising money in 2000 for his idea based on opensource, as his business idea was based on open source - but four years later, his business, still based on the same idea, invited competition amongst VC's for financing. NYTimes writes, Venture capitalists are again embracing open-source technology companies. JBoss, was one of 20 such businesses that raised $149 million in venture money in 2004. At least three open-source start-ups raised $20 million last month alone. But given some spectacular open-source failures in the late 1990's, a natural question may be whether some of these venture capitalists have perhaps lost their minds. In 1999 and 2000, according to VentureOne, venture capitalists invested $714 million in 71 open-source companies. Most of those projects collapsed.
A big difference between then and now is the increased adoption of open-source software by corporate users. Another is the relative success of Red Hat. Red Hat has become something of an inspiration to open-source businesses and their investors as it shows that it is possible to base a lucrative services business on giveaway software. Red Hat also gives its customers a guarantee that a long list of popular applications will work on its edition of Linux. The company had $125 million in revenue in 2004 and now has a market capitalization around $2 billion. Red Hat's success in selling support services has created the business model for virtually every open-source entrepreneur. Venture capital firms have become so enthusiastic about this approach that they seem eager to support practically any open-source company just to have a stake in this hot area. But broad distribution, which is critical to the service model, is still quite rare.
My Take: Very surprising. VC's cant be funding a movement. Any investment would demand reasonable results and VC's are there to fund promising ideas which funded well can reap very high returns. Well differentiated strategies, value propositions, strength of the ideas, capability of the management team, marketforces by and large determine the suceess of any investment and certianly not whether it is opensource or otherwise - sectoral investments are for central policy planners - VC and high tech investments are for sharply defined ideas, focus and execution abilities. With the software market consolidation happening faster, lot more forces thatc can complicate investment decisions come into interplay..
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New Generation Startups Springing Up

eWeek reports that post the .com bubble burst, industry consolidation and job changes, still new generation of startups are beginning to roll out. At the Software 2005 conference there were signs that a new generation of startup software companies is emerging with new ideas and products to replace at least some of the jobs lost through earlier business failures and mergers.Some of the companies/products/offerings look unique and attractive.Intellext Inc., with a new context-based search system called Watson; ActStream Technologies Inc., with a new version of its rich-media communications hosted service; BDNA Corp., with an automated IT asset inventory system; and Surgient Inc., with automated software testing routines are among the companies are among the companies that debuted their products.
- Intellext's goal is to make search more effective, relevant and timely. The suite, will integrate with any content management system or search technology a Web publisher uses so all users who access the site can run context-sensitive searches.

- ActStream Technologies' provides a hosted service for delivering rich media communications across the Web. ActStream allows users to integrate audio and video with basic e-mail messages for sales and marketing campaigns, mass e-mailings, or any type of community building and support. People only retain 20 percent of what they see and 30 percent of what they hear. However, information retention goes up to as much as 80 percent when people view messages that integrate text, video, sound and graphics –that’s the benefit that Actstream wants to provide to users.

- BDNA, provides corporate IT departments with a way to more accurately track the diverse computer hardware and software assets deployed across even the largest global organizations. As high as 70 percent of manual IT inventories are inaccurate and obsolete because things change all the time. The suite allows companies to save money by tracking what assets are under-utilized, discovering computing capacity that can be redeployed or finding whether the company is getting full value from the software licenses it has paid for. It is refreshing to see fresh set of startups continue to spring up with new products and offering - unique as they appear to be - it appears that the barrage of investment,innovations can't be stopped for sometime to come - pace may slow,quantum and range may reduce but this phenomenon of new set of startups and products - the very essence that characterised IT industry would continur to exist for times to come!!

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Rich Karlgaard's Ten Laws Of The Modern World

Rich Karlgaard writes in Forbes, on the Ten laws of the modern digital world. Excerpts with edits:

Moore's Law. This has transcended silicon chips and has become a way of saying that all digital stuff, from PCs to cell phones to music players, get twice as good every 18 to 24 months-at the same price point.
The Back Side of Moore's Law. This says that digital stuff gets 30% to 40% cheaper every year-at the same performance point. It's why hundreds of millions of Chinese and Indians now own their personal portals to the global economy.
Andy and Bill's Law. It went like this: "What Andy giveth, Bill taketh away." It meant that every time Intel brought a new chip to market, Microsoft would upgrade his software and soak up the new chip's power. Moore's Law constantly enables new software. Often the new software is just an incremental improvement. But every few years there’s a wild breakthrough-graphic computing in the 1980s, Web browsers in the 1990s, fast search engines today. Next? Surely something amazing.
Metcalfe's Law. The usefulness of a network improves by the square of the number of nodes on the network. Today, the Internet, like telephones, grows more valuable as more join in. Ebay grew so profitable so fast due to this.
Gilder's Law.The best business models, waste the era's cheapest resources in order to conserve the era's most expensive resources. When steam became cheaper than horses, the smartest businesses used steam and spared horses. Today the cheapest resources are computer power and bandwidth. Both are getting cheaper by the year (at the pace of Moore's Law). Google is a successful business because it wastes computer power-it has some 120,000 servers , just 3500 employees and generates $5 billion in (current run rate) sales.
Ricardo's Law. The more transparent an economy becomes, the law of comparative advantage rules the day. Then came the commercial Internet, the greatest window into comparative advantage ever invented. Which means if your firm's price-value proposition is lousy, too bad. The world knows.
Wriston's Law. Wriston predicted in a networked world,capital (meaning both money and ideas) when freed to travel at the speed of light "will go where it is wanted, stay where it is well-treated.…" By applying Wriston's Law of capital and talent flow, you can predict the fortunes of countries and companies.
The Laffer Curve. Arthur Laffer proposed - Cut taxes at the margin, on income and capital, and you'll get more tax revenue, not less. Application of the Laffer Curve is why the U.S. boomed in the 1980s and 1990s, why India is rocking now and why eastern Europe will outperform western Europe.
Drucker's Law. The greatest results in business and career are acheived if you drop the word "achievement" from the vocabulary & replaced with "contribution". Contribution puts the focus where it should be - on your customers, employees and shareholders.
Ogilvy's Law. Ogilvy's russian nesting doll had a message inside - It read: "If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants." Ogilvy knew in the 1950s that people make or break businesses. It was true then; it's truer today. Amazing compilation - well articulated and deeply insightful indeed!!


Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Standardisation At The Application Level

In futhering the consolidation in the software industry, Charles Phillips, President of Oracle makes some important trendspotting and announcements. At software 2005, Charles says standardisation at application level as the next step in oracle's roadmap. Excerpts:

- Although the old battles such as TCP versus token ring and the use of JDBC drivers are over, the acceptance of Java is still working its way through the industry. Traditionally, packaged applications used proprietary stacks- but Java is now finally becoming the de facto standard for applications.Oracle is still in midstream in the conversion over to Java for its applications. In addition, the industry is in the midst of standardizing on the expression of APIs with XML, standardizing on Web services, and designing component-based architectures.

- Beyond standardization, the next big move in the industry is toward vertical packaged applications rather than horizontal applications.

-The third major direction of the software industry is its move from being process driven to cross-process driven. Companies realize if they had the same data model across processes the quality of the information would be much higher. As Oracle owns so much of the stack, applications, middleware, and the database, it will intensify its efforts to create best practices around configurations that it will also certify.

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Blockbuster : Options Ahead

(Via CFO.com)Blockbuster took over several neighborhood stores to become the leader in the fast-growing video-store industry. Today, emerging technologies and delivery systems threaten the demise of video stores altogether. Video on demand and digital downloading threaten to make its business proposition obsolete. History shows, it is easy to get entrenched in existing technology— even when change is bearing down. The cost to move to an industry-changing technology can be prohibitive to the company—and to its shareholders. While chief competitor Netflix is investing aggressively in pay video-on-demand (VOD) delivery, Blockbuster is mostly focusing on extracting every cent from the home DVD-rental market—seeking acquisitions, boosting its online DVD-rental services, launching a subscription program similar to Netflix, and creating a DVD trade-in program.DVD rental instead of VHS tapes and the shopping experience is helping Blockbuster to stay aflot. What happened in the interim is something that gives Blockbuster a lot of comfort in the future.
In the DVD-rental market, this uncertainty is compounded by the fact that the two category leaders, Blockbuster and Netflix, are betting on what a feeder industry—in this case, the movie studios—will do. Studios make 50 percent of their gross profits on DVD sales and $2.5 billion annually from DVD rentals, a revenue stream guaranteed by well-guarded distribution channels. Blockbuster is staking its future on traditional DVD rentals in stores and online. Blockbuster receives new releases before VOD services, it has a bigger library of titles than VOD, and its DVD technology offers higher production values than VOD movies. Most important, movie studios don't think VOD is a big revenue generator. "The studios would have to hope for a fivefold increase in VOD rentals before VOD would really become a viable channel for them," says Zine, CFO.
The key to survival in a contracting industry, is "to become diversified and to evolve as your customers evolve. Define yourself broadly enough to develop other products, some of which may make your older products obsolete." This means CFOs must put aside some of the cost-cutting and EPS-boosting tools they use to pull companies through tough times in more-robust industries. They must make the argument to shareholders and to Wall Street that long-term investment in emerging opportunities is more important than short-term stock price. In the case of Blockbuster, advances in broadband, DRM, encryption & choose-to-devices like Tivo would gain prominence and make blockbuster lose ground – looking at the advances being made by Comcast in reaching more people – the days are not far off when there is a huge change in the home-DVD rental landscape. There’s no escape from that.

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The Age of Engagement - Global Internet Thesis

Mary Meeker has come up with an excellent snapshot and trendspotting of the growth of the internet and the digital economy. Some key highlights from her research:
The Internet globally is experiencing huge growth reflected in:
• 10-15% user growth
• 20-30% usage growth
• 30%+ monetization growth

Some Knowns about the Internet

Yahoo! — 917MM streaming video (mostly music) sessions (CQ4);
• <10% preceded by streaming ads (rising to 50%, in our view) with compelling CPMs
• Korea — TV channels allow users to download shows for ~$1
• Google — launched upload.video.google beta (4/05)
• Digital Music — 300MM iTunes / 16MM iPods sold
• Digital sales could rise to as much as 25% of global music sales in five years…
• At long last the threat has become the opportunity… - IFPI, Digital Music Report, 2005
• PayPal — 72MM accounts (CQ1); 22MM active users; 110MM payments with
• $6B in volume; 3-8% of iTunes
• Online Paid Content — $1.8B US revenue in 2004 per OPA
• Unleashing great, easy-to-access content (videos…) to 900MM+
• Internet plus 1B+ mobile phone users with low prices / high CPMs?
• Importantly, content ownership / rights create adoption governors.
• But, perhaps content owners can make it up on volume

Upward Rise
Google Net Revenue per Unique User
• Yahoo! Net Revenue per Active Registered User
• eBay Payments Revenue per Active Account

Top 5 Global Internet Market Cap Leaders
Google + Yahoo! + eBay + Yahoo! Japan + Amazon.com
• $ 2B = market value — pre-2000 IPO
• $178B = market value — Nasdaq peak – 3/10/00
• $ 32B = market value — Nasdaq trough – 10/9/02
• $197B = market value — 4/22/05

The top five Internet companies - what they were worth before 2000, before they went public, what they were worth at the highest point in the market, what they were worth at the lowest point and here's what they are worth now - so there is more worth there now than before the crash. It's one of many angles on 'recovery' in the tech sector
•Wireless Internet 196MM messaging subscribers (CQ4) in China, No. 1 in world
• VoIP 33MM registered Skype users (4/05) - fastest product ramp ever?
• Shanda Networking
• 2MM peak concurrent online gamers (+69% Y/Y, CQ4) in China
• PayPal 72MM accounts (+57% Y/Y, CQ1); 22MM users (+52%)
• Mobile Payments Dutch Railways rolling out SMS ticketing for trains
• Global N. America = 26% of Internet users in 2004; was 46% in 1998
• S. Korea Broadband penetration of 70%+ - No. 1 in world
• China - More Internet users < age of 30 than anywhere

There are some more data points to consider when thinking about the various online, mobile, phone, data, wireless, etc. markets around the world. Loking at different countries, PC and mobile installed base and growthand the ratio of the two. The U.S. has the lowest ratio, China has the higest. The relative prominence of phone vs. PC as platforms for daily info-living, and as opportunities for innovation, etc. are extremely different in these different markets. The full presentation is available here. A good read for gaining a snapshot perspectve of the intenet - well presented and analysed as well.

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Web Readiness Index Of Nations -Europe Dominates!!

(Via eMarketer) The Economist Intelligence Unit has rated countries around the world for Web-readiness, and this year Denmark retained the number one position among 65 nations.Overall, the Sixth Annual E-Readiness Rankings Report, was upbeat, stating: "For perhaps the first time since the technology bubble burst, the global economy is beginning to feel comfortable in a digital skin. Spending on information and communications technology (ICT) is growing again with some buoyancy in developed markets. In emerging markets, expansion of connectivity - individuals' and organizations' access to voice and data communications- continues on a rapid ascent. Broadband Internet access, meanwhile, is reaching critical mass in several countries and becoming a catalyst for other improvements in the digital economy." The Rankings:
1. Denmark
2. US
3. Sweden
4. Switzerland
5. UK
6. Hong Kong
7. Finland
8. Netherlands
9. Norway
Europe dominated the listings. Only one Asian country finds a place in the top 10 - Emerging markets are making progress, but usually some of the components of a digital economy — infrastructure, security, transparency, innovation and skills — are still missing. India (49th) and China (54th) remain on the lower rungs of the e-readiness ladder, but are making growing contributions to the global digital economy on the strength of a strong ICT skills base (India) and a prodigious ICT manufacturing sector (China).


Tags - Do They Matter? Yes, No Doubt

Tim Bray questions the value of Technorati Tags, he asks:
Are tags useful? Are there any questions you want to ask, or jobs you want to do, where tags are part of the solution, and clearly work better than old-fashioned search? I really want to believe that tagging is big, a game-changer, but the longer I go on asking this question and not getting an answer, the more nervous I get. The question can be rephrased as whether tag-based searches have the potential to give better results than keyword-based queries.
My Take : Do tags matter? Yes. The utility of the Technorati tags feature appear very limited, while optimistic view suggests its bright and useful future. There are clear benefits to the tag approach, as this either enforces or encourages voluntary efforts providing linkages between content generation process and category and nature of content. Tag is one way to rationalize information in the blogosphere. Conventional search have seasoned technologies - as technology and implementation are having their birth pangs. Tags propose unique value propositions and can be of immense value when used judiciously. For instance popularity rating mechanisms can be altered with tags. Technorati recently launched associated tags - we wrote therein, Technorati should publish details and explain the generation and revisions of related. This is like creating the taxanomy structure- so have got to be done very carefully and also we may need to bring different categories of association. One approach could be to create a wiki of related tags. A comparative analysis between technorati and full blown search engines show the quality of results to be far more relevant on technology related topics.

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RMS On BitKeeper

Richard Stallman writes, there are thousands of non-free programs, and most merit no special attention other than developing a free replacement. BitKeeper became infamous and dangerous was its marketing approach: inviting high-profile free software projects to use it, so as to attract other paying users. Larry McVoy made the program available gratis to free software developers. This did not mean it was free software for them: they were privileged not to part with their money, but they still had to part with their freedom. They gave up the fundamental freedoms that define free software: freedom to run the program as you wish for any purpose, freedom to study and change the source code as you wish, freedom to make and redistribute copies, and freedom to publish modified versions.
McVoy's great triumph was the adoption of this program for Linux development. No free software project is more visible than Linux. It is the kernel of the GNU/Linux operating system, an essential component, and users often mistake it for the entire system.The use of his program in Linux development was powerful publicity for it. A free kernel, even a whole free operating system, is not sufficient to use your computer in freedom; we need free software for everything else, too. Free applications, free drivers, free BIOS: some of those projects face large obstacles - the need to reverse engineer formats or protocols or pressure companies to document them, or to work around or face down patent threats, or to compete with a network effect. Success will require firmness and determination. A better kernel is desirable, to be sure, but not at the expense of weakening the impetus to liberate the rest of the software world. Whether one likes it or not - RMS is always a pleasure to read.

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Video Search : Next Frontier In Search

(Via Wired)The internet can be a convenient resource for finding much-talked-about events on video. Video clips of high-profile moments have sent millions of net users scrambling to search engines for footage. Internet users who don't patronize peer-to-peer sites had few options for tracking down video content outside of entering a query in a standard search box.Large net portals and a handful of smaller sites are looking to change that. Yahoo, Google and MSN have each rolled out services designed to make it easier to upload or locate video online. The portals' rollouts come as a handful of startups and independent film sites are creating tools to make putting video online nearly as simple as publishing text. Yahoo launched a beta version of a service called Media RSS that lets anyone with footage submit videos for distribution. This year, Yahoo is projecting that the number of videos streamed over the web will grow by nearly 50 percent from last year. Net users are expected to stream more than 21 billion videos in 2005, up from 14.2 billion last year.
Google is currently running a beta version of an upload program that lets anyone submit videos electronically to its Google Video site, so long as they own the rights to the work. The company said the videos will be made available on its video search site, but has not specified a date. Meanwhile, Microsoft's MSN, which launched its own video search site last fall, has been steadily beefing up its film offerings. Earlier this month, the company announced an agreement to publish videos distributed by streaming provider Ifilm. People are now adding videos to dating site profiles, uploading homemade movies, and putting film snippets on social-networking sites like Myspace.com at an ever-accelerating pace. However, he believes that programs for editing video and publishing it online are not yet user-friendly enough to appeal to most internet users. There are some groups working on solutions to make uploading a video as easy as blogging.


Monday, April 25, 2005

21st Century Television Networks in the Convergence World

Delloite has come up with an excellent report on the 21st century television networks. The report is set in the context that the conventional business model for television networks around the world was simple: produce programs, broadcast them across a national network of owned and affiliated stations to a mass audience, and sell access to that audience to advertisers based on viewership.Today, however, the situation is much more complex — and is likely to become more complex still. Conventional "television content" is now being burned into DVDs, time delayed by Personal Video Recorders (PVRs), broken into fragments, piped on demand over the Internet, downloaded into mobile devices and syndicated around the globe. Such changes are having a profound effect on the structure, dynamics and future of the global broadcast television industry, both private and public.
The most significant imact of this transformation is audience fragmentation. Content is being consumed across an expanding array of media, channels and devices. This, in turn, is steadily eroding the once dominant position of television broadcasters andmajor networks. The massive audience once enjoyed is scattered along with content and the ability to charge premiums to advertisers are diminishing. The threat of audience fragmentation is on account of content explosion and media growth .Agile broadcasters, content providers, and television companies that can redefine scope, shape and scale of their network to capitalize on the changes would survive and the rest would fall apart.The report examines the evolution of the incumbent television network model; assesses where the industry currently is; examines the impact of consumer behavior on the sector's transformation; and, offers a few ideas to help television companies grow a critical mass of viewers, advertisers and revenues in a market of fragmenting audiences. An excellent read with good charts.

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Living Room Wars – The Players & Potential Winners

(Via WSJ) The living room is the Ground Zero of the information revolution. Telephone giants, cable titans, computer companies and consumer-electronics makers are all vying to provide the next generation of high-tech entertainment - a single network of gadgets that lets you view photos, listen to music, record DVDs and tune into whatever TV programs you want to watch, whenever you feel like watching them. This convergence of computing, communications and entertainment is becoming real now and the open question is who is going to be in control.
All the major players have their advantages - and weaknesses.
- Computer companies say the processing power and adaptability of the PC gives them an edge in delivering innovative services to the living room.
- Consumer-electronics giants, tout the reliability of their extensive line of home-entertainment devices.
- The big Baby Bells are investing heavily to deliver a nearly unlimited supply of broadcast and on-demand programming over their broadband optical-fiber networks.
- At the moment, though, it's the cable companies, that have the edge over rivals. In some sense, there are really two separate match-ups: cable vs. telephone to deliver traditional and on-demand television programs, and PC vs. consumer electronics to provide the hardware in the home-entertainment system. But to an increasing extent, everybody wants a piece of everything.. It is indeed the mother of all digital battles and clash of titans - all with deep pockets!!

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The Emerging Thumb Wars!!

(Via WSJ)Wireless email space is now the epicenter of a battle between some of the tech world's biggest players.Excerpts with edits and comments :

More than 42,000 organizations have a BlackBerry e-mail server and 2.5 million people keep the gadget within arm's reach. RIM commands a $12.4 billion market valuation Awakened by RIM's achievement,tech giants and hungry upstarts are responding with an arsenal of gear aimed at cracking the BlackBerry's stronghold. Consumer-electronics companies such as Nokia Corp.,Motorola Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. are rolling out competing e-mail devices. Meanwhile,rivals are providing network software designed to intercept or block the revenue RIM generates from handling wireless e-mail traffic.
RIM now faces a classic technology-industry problem: Young companies that launch popular products aren't always the long-term winners. Netscape Corp.'s Web browser was superseded by a late alternative from Microsoft Corp. Google Inc.'s Internet-search service eclipsed early offerings by Yahoo Inc., and now Google itself faces intensifying counterattacks. For RIM, which started life developing electronic signs for auto plants, the challenge is particularly acute. The still-nascent market is being attacked by a phalanx of competitors at multiple points along BlackBerry's food chain. Companies are developing software that allows wireless e-mail to work on a series of rival hand-held devices. Others are creating networks to handle e-mail traffic in competition with BlackBerry. Being a pioneer, RIM developed a wireless e-mail system in fits and starts and in a way that makes it largely incompatible with devices made by other companies. RIM makes BlackBerry devices and helps wireless phone companies take care of the e-mail service, for a fee. It's not easy to get BlackBerry service on anything but the company's own hardware, a problem RIM is attempting to remedy.
Microsoft has included a free wireless e-mail feature on the latest version of its widely used e-mail server software. That gives phone companies the freedom to offer wireless e-mail services on handsets made by a wide range of companies, not just RIM. Today, 100 wireless carriers sell BlackBerry hand-helds and service and 80 more will start this year.. For its fiscal year ended Feb. 26, 2005, RIM had net income of $213 million on revenue of $1.35 billion. RIM's is focused on addressing criticism that BlackBerry technology doesn't work well with other systems and devices. RIM last summer announced plans for Motorola to launch a phone and e-mail device that could hook up to the BlackBerry system. No doubt, Blackberry is a technology marvel, the productivity improvements that Blackberry brings to work is probably immeasurable. Blackbery looks years ahead in technology - but still fact remains there are overwhelming limitations of the device - the device is cranky, the software malfunctions, the user interface is pathetic, the phone facilities are so poor - for example in my blackberry , I can't even send a businesscard from a Blackberry device - features are very limited and hot keys are not intuitive. But with all this can i live without Blackberry - having used to it - no way, but competition and improvements are highly called for - after all the allegiance is to the technology and not necessarily to the company.

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Sunday, April 24, 2005

Software Market - Siesmic Shifts Ahead

M.R.Rangaswamy in an extremely well researched and thought out piece writes, "Many software vendors will not be able to hang on during the coming tumultuous five years. The survivors will operate in an entirely new landscape – with new models for business, hiring, development, services, marketing and so on. The enterprise software business of the future will be more dynamic, innovative, efficient and business-driving than ever before. A look at the enterprise software landscape reveals the market is shifting along four fault lines".

1) Proliferation - Consolidation : MR points to the paradox - while software startups abound and finding increasing for them, big company mergers are becoming more frequent. Enterprise customers are spending more on the large software vendors, leaving a smaller budget for software from young independent companies. Startups exit strategy will most likely be one where they sell themselves to a larger vendor and focus on quickly being part of the target acquirer's eco-system: using their development platforms and products, targeting their customers, and so on.

2) Proprietary - Open : Open source is impacting the enterprise software industry in many ways. Vendors are leveraging the robustness of the open source stack in their product development. He cautions on not violating licenses.

3) In-house - Outsource : The offshoring wave shall become more powerful and India has emerged as the largest beneficiary of this trend. But the offshore market is also in transition. He also sees movement of work to different geographies – even back to rural parts of the U.S., where costs are lower and time zones similar. The range of outsourcing increases from the likes of support, to product development and are exploring areas like accounting and BPO. The vast resources and relatively low cost of many offshore endeavors will reinvigorate the industry and make it more innovative and adventurous then ever before as the propensity to take more risks are seen at both the sides.

4) Product - Customer : Business is witnessing the transition to more prudent spending and more conservative technology strategies seemed to happen overnight. Many software companies are complying with customers felt need of service or subscription offering. Software companies need to work harder to ensure their buyers are pleased. MR concludes by saying, the market shifts bring new opportunities for vendors, customers and investors alike.

My Take: MR has done a very balanced assessment of the transition and growth of the software market and is brilliant in his assessment of the fault lines- I have had almost similar views on the changes in the software market - I recently wrote on the topics Enterprise Software Market - New Powerhouses & Major Shakeup Ahead? and a brief perspective of Software market consolidation echoing similar sentiments. However MR is bullish about the opensource movement(I am little conservative in declaring that the opensource movement will gain more prominance -to me opensource is a niche play affair). But MR goes far beyond endorsing the rise of opensource - he is calling for a LBO for building an opensource based technology stack - this is indeed an excellent idea I should say - one of the concerns for business in any consolidation is the fear of the monopoly/duopoly - opensource stack may provide that comfort of an alternate and improve in the overall development of the technology market.There are also views that have been expressed that this industry requires outside intervention to break the nexus between investors, executives and partners to artificially keep alive half dead companies(I have known nasdaq listed software product companies making around 10 millUS per quarter sale for the past three years still floating around -imagine how much companies like this can spend on product development on an ongoing basis)- If opensource stack could be that outside intervention - most welcome. One important question lay ahead -what happens to all the investments made by the customers made in the licenses of promising software products, services and applications that have been built - reconfiguring most of them associated with change management issues shall create enormous pressure on the customers place and wallet. But with all this, consolidation is inevitable and bound to happen. MR's article with good ideas, backed up with solid data provides a good perspective about the changes that are to come.

Disclosure: I am a resident blogger of Sandhill.com of which MR is the co-founder.
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Skype -Vision For Global Technology

I Just finished posting Tom Evslin's view on Telephony, when I came across this Niklas Zennström-(CEO & CO-Founder of Skype) presentation delivered at VON Canada. Niklas presents lucidly on the topic saying,as broadband becomes ubiquitous, most voice calls will migrate to the Internet using free software, on the edges of the Internet, that remove barriers to more natural forms of communication. This means that moving forward :
- Many Networks Become One
- Phones Are Becoming Computers
- Telephony Is Becoming An App
And concludes
• Voice is becoming a software application
• New rules with software
• No benefits of regulating VoIP
. The full presentation is available here. The presentation looks good and provides a good pointer to the future - some more explanation of broadband and skype relationship may help.

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In Future, Telephony Business Model Shall Imitate Email Business Model!!

Tom Evslin writes,"We can predict the future business model of voice calling by observing the past of email. Voice will be free regardless of location and duration".In fact with Skype or Vonage or a number of other services, calls between VoIP users are free today. "Free" is a great marketing word but it’s not completely accurate.If email were free, there’d be no such thing as the digital divide because poor people would be able to afford it.
In order for you to use free email, you or someone else needs to pay for:
1. Internet access
2. Hardware
3. Email software to run on the hardware
4. A host service which is willing to let you use its mail server to send and its storage to receive and save

Each of these four elements costs somebody something. Yahoo or Google or MSN/hotmail will host your email "free". There is no incremental cost for sending (or receiving) a second email once you have the capability of sending the first message. And, if you already have a computer and Internet connection for other purposes (or because your employer provides them),there may be no incremental cost at all for email. email usage has grwon substantially and become a mainstay of communication on the wealthy side of the digital divide. If we assess what is needed for "free" Internet phone calls, the following stands out:
1. BROADBAND Internet access
2. Hardware
3. VoIP software to run on the hardware
4. A host which is willing to let you use its VoIP server to locate the people you want to talk to and perhaps provide other services

As with free email, what really mean when we talk about "free" phone calls between VoIP users are calls that are free of any incremental cost once the initial investment has been made. There is no one who charges you for each email you send. There are no monopolies in email. Looking at how email works and is paid for is a great way to figure out how voice calls will work and how voice calls will be paid for and goes to conclde that the Retail Telco of future shall

- Look more like Skype or Vonage than AT&T, SBC, MCI, or Qwest
- Charges hard or soft dollars for services provided
- PSTN connectivity
- VM
- Identity
- Access charge collection and disbursement

The complete presentation is available here. Tom is brilliant and like most of the occassions, he is spot on here.The mistake of the telco biggies was to under evaluate the power VoIP will have as competitor to the voice line.As it is sometime that we know about VoIP ( and the big monopolies are using it since long) but not so long that the hardware have become cheap and the quality of voice is astonishing. Now reality is dawning upon them -slowly I should say.

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Blogs - Business & Media

Jeremy Wagstaff, WSJ columnist writes,listening to some eminent former FEER(Far Eastern Economic Review - the weekly ceased publication recently) personnel talking, that three things go into a publication like FEER, if you ignore distribution, financing, marketing and the non-editorial side. And it’s worth considering, from a blogger’s point of view.
- First is material. You’ve got to have good material.
- Second, editing. Common wisdom is that material is no good if it’s not written and edited well. This includes writing style
- Third, production. A lot of time is spent on layout, fitting stories to length and making everything look nice.
If you look at this from a post-print, blogging perspective, only the first remains a necessity. Editing? If we can write ok, who cares if it’s brilliantly written? The last thing: production. Blogs, by their nature, involve very little production. In fact, part of the beauty of blogging is not just the lack of effort in producing something (write it up, post it. If it needs editing again, edit it). Blogs, well most blogs, actually have strong production values built in. It’s hard for a blog not to look nice on the page.
The bottom line is: Blogging is a powerful publishing force, not just a voice. Blogging has established a way to publish on the net and be noticed, without huge capital and design resources. Traditional media need to look at that and realise that the battle is not going to be over allocating resources to the second and third elements of the game, but the first. It’s going to be about material. It’s not going to be about the medium. Blogging — and the Internet — has already won that round

Businessweek has a cover story abot blogs saying Blogs Will Change Your Business (The blogoshpere is full of reference to this - it is a businessweek coverstory!!). Excerpts with edits and comments:

There are some 9 million blogs out there, with 40,000 new ones popping up each day. The overwhelming majority of the information the world spews out every day is digital - photos from camera phones, PowerPoint presentations, government filings, billions and billions of e-mails, even digital phone messages. With a couple of clicks, every one of these items can be broadcast into the blogosphere by anyone with an Internet hookup - or even a cell phone. If it's scandalous, a poisonous e-mail from a CEO, for example, or torture pictures from a prison camp, others link to it in a flash. And here's the killer: Blog posts linger on the Web forever. The printing press set the model for mass media. the world of mass media, and the blogs are turning it on its head. Set up a free account at Blogger or other blog services, and you see right away that the cost of publishing has fallen practically to zero. Any dolt with a working computer and an Internet connection can become a blog publisher in the 10 minutes it takes to sign up. The divide between the publishers and the public is collapsing. This turns mass media upside down. It creates media of the masses. Blogs are different. They evolve with every posting, each one tied to a moment. So if a company can track millions of blogs simultaneously, it gets a heat map of what a growing part of the world is thinking about, minute by minute. E-mail has carried on billions of conversations over the past decade. But those exchanges were private. Most blogs are open to the world. As the bloggers read each other, comment, and link from one page to the next, they create a global conversation. The blogworld is like the biggest coffeehouse on Earth. Soon we may need some independent way to assess the maturity and standards of blogsites - there are far too many now - we need to know about the trust factor and quality, reliability levels established in the blogsophere. An Interesting read.

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BBC Series - Triumph Of Technology

Paul Kedrosky points to BBC Series titled, "Triumph Of Technology". Lord Broers,Distinguished Engineer,President of the Royal Academy of Engineering and Chairman of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee presents the lecture in five parts Viz, Technology will Determine the Future of the Human Race,Collaboration , Innovation and Management, Nanotechnology and Nanoscience,
Risk and Responsibility
makes very interesting reading and is very insightful( The lecture series is primarily meant for british audience but the coverage and treatment appeals to global audience. Excerpts with edits:

- Today, technology is sidelined and undervalued - we become defensive about it and would rather retreat into the past, or into fundamental science, than to strive to stay in the race. The cost of this major social failure will progressively disadvantage all of us. Technology is determining the future of the human race. We need it to satisfy our appetite for energy, perhaps through nuclear power; to help us address hunger through plant breeding throughout the world; to monitor and find the means for avoiding global warming so that we can rescue our planet for future generations. Technology can improve our health, and lengthen our lives. This lecture series is aimed at acting as a wake up call to humanity. Technology will determine the future of the human race. We should recognise this and give it the profile and status that it deserves.
- The technology dynamics has already been grasped in India and China which is pleasing because after all technology is the means by which the developing world can increase its standard of living but if western nations do not join the race to advance technology we face serious consequences not least that we will fall behind in our own intellectual, social and material development.
- Most modern technologies are created by bringing together and evolving capabilities which already exist. The genius lies in the way they are brought together and improved. The long sought mobile phone was made a reality by bringing together mathematical concepts of cellular networks, advanced ultra high frequency radios, low power microprocessors, and improved batteries. It was not invented, although buried within it are innumerable inventions, and several of the genii who design the world's best cell-phones do so just south of Cambridge. The hybrid car combines the efficient modern internal combustion engine with pollution free electric drive and systems that recycle the energy dissipated in braking. The modern jet airliner combines innumerable individual capabilities in mechanical design, aerodynamics, jet engines, electronic communication and navigation systems, and the airports that they serve are wonders of modern civil engineering. Other examples include the modern dental surgery, flat-screen TVs, medical scanners, the ubiquitous scanning electron microscope developed in this laboratory, electronic stock exchanges, Dyson's vacuum cleaner, the apparatus used to decode DNA, the IPod, and so on. All of these new technologies came about through a process in which established capabilities were evolved and combined in new ways. They were the result of engineers seeking solutions to practical problems and human need.
- The world of product and process creation has become wholly international. To be only nationally competitive is to be not competitive. The pace has also accelerated to the extent that those who do not thrive in a stressful environment had better find something else to do. In the oft quoted words of Andy Grove, - "Only the paranoid survive". This is a fast moving and ultra-competitive world. In the last decade of the 20th century we lived through what was in effect a new industrial revolution. Companies ceased to make entire products themselves and became assemblers of the world's best, and to do this they had to know the world - both its technologies and its peoples. And these trends are only going to accelerate as the emerging powers of India and China enter the world of innovation as powerfully as they entered high technology manufacturing. It is immensely exhilarating to be a player but there are no places reserved for amateurs.

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Saturday, April 23, 2005

Credibility & Authority Of Information Sources & Ranking Synthesised Information

We recently covered the topic Independent Publishing Social Networking & EPIC wherein we covered the perspective - "Newsmasters will be the key news directors and producers of the future.They will be able to connect,filter and prioritize information for every media-consumer on the planet,using a single source of media content that contains everything that anyone could possibly ever want to know about. That single source is called EPIC: The "Evolving Personalized Information Construct".Some of the likely things to happen form this perspective runs like this:In future people shall have access to a breadth and depth of information unimaginable in an earlier age". We also covered in the post Future Of RSS In The Covergent World where we wrote,"Anybody watching the AP - Googlenews fracas must be concerned - Conventional media ought to be concerned,as aggregators can pick up news at no cost/min cost - web technology proponents must be concerned, as technology adoption for innovative advancements are geting blocked. We are moving to a world where - from a single interface - we can keep tabs on many, many, many more sources of all different types of information (as long as we can understand the set up procedure)".
Ramesh Jain raises the issue of ranking by Popularity, Credibility & Authority in the search and synthesis mechanisms that are currently in place. He starts by asking,"When we are looking for any information on a topic, we usually want the information to come from a source that we can trust. But trust alone is not enough". Source trust may not reflect on depth in topic coverage which may not correlate to popularity. Search engine also collects all information on the links from one page to the other and all statistics related to that that could possibly be collected. Now that the search information database has all this information how can it provide authoritative, trustworthy, popular information?The current search approaches based on page ranking do good job in judging the popularity of a page. But what about trustworthiness or about authoritativeness? Is there any relationship between the credibility of the page? Can we say that this page is from an expert or is it just a commercial? How can we bring those elements in ranking pages? Can we really develop a measure based on some objective approaches, as has been done for page ranking based on popularity, for other trust and authority?
Ramesh highlights that social filtering approaches and recommendation engines don’t even go in that direction. As the popularity measures that are easy to implement, not enough effort has been made to measure authority and credibility. A professor from Harvard is seen more an more authority than a professor from other universities; and a story in New York Times more credible than in National Enquirer. I agree with Ramesh - Efforts to classify data and arrive at such emerging inferences in the online world is an absolute imperative given the central role that the online world are set to achieve.

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Computer Books Sale Data- Trend Indicator Of The Industry Vibrancy

(Via O'Reilly Radar) Tim O'Reilly writes,data from Neilsen Bookscan, on aggregated point-of-sale data about computer books from about 70% of US bookstores, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, and many smaller chains and leading independent bookstores, show that the computer book sales, which have been falling by about 20% a year since 2001, have stabilized, and started to climb again. Apart from giving some interesting technology trend indicators (C# is gaining on Java, python is gaining on perl, InDesign is eating Quark's lunch), the data may also give us some intriguing insight into other economic factors. The industry suffered from a three year trend. 2003 was about 20% below 2002, which in turn was down about 20% from 2001 - it's been a tough couple of years for the computer book market and the industry as a whole.
The market appears to have hit bottom, with the 2005 graph overlaid neatly on 2004. In fact, 2005 was ahead of 2004 in seven of the thirteen weeks. This is really good news for book publishers and the whole computer industry, as the sales rate of computer books is likely a good indicator of an overall increase in industry activity.Several major software products, including Mac OS X, Photoshop CS, Flash MX 2004, and Dreamweaver MX 2004, had been released late in 2003, and book sales on these new products was just peaking in the first quarter of 2004. By contrast, sales of books on these products are all depressed in the first quarter of 2005 as users await upcoming software releases later this year.Several of the big decliners were directly related to recent new software release in the 2004 numbers: Mac OS X, down 39%, Photoshop CS, down 6.5%, Dreamweaver, down 16%, and Flash, down 14%. All of these categories are expected to rebound significantly later this year along with new releases of those software products. A number of categories that showed a surge (or decline) without any new software release to drive sales: books on web development (HTML, CSS, and other general books on creating web pages, up 39%), Excel (up 19%), and Quickbooks (up 63%) all showed substantial gains. These are core categories for business, perhaps indicating some kind of rise in small business creation. Powerpoint (up 16%) was also a gainer in the business applications category.
Another really interesting technical trend data point to: The Red Hat book market took a huge fall with the introduction of Fedora, from which it hasn't recovered. The Red Hat book market is down 29% from the same period in 2004, while Linux as a whole is up 32%. The strongest part of the market is now once again distribution-agnostic Linux books. Interesting, with lot of dynamism - good news so long as the trend shows upward rise!!

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Adobe + Macromedia + Firefox! + Others!! - New Block??

A friend persuaded me to look at the Adobe+Macromedia merger from a different perspective and pointed to the Knowledge@wharton article on the merger Some of the key points highlighted in the article and my comments can be found alongside and in the bottom:
- The new Adobe Systems will emerge with an array of products commonly used in publishing content in the print, web worlds and have essential elements to building web sites. Since these are sought to build into platforms to deliver web-based content, their combined efforts will bring them head-to-head with Microsoft.
- Macromedia needed size and scale and for Adobe, the deal can swing huge future growth opportunities. Seen from this perspective, there seems to be a strategic intent to the merger.
- Adobe has a broad product portfolio, but Macromedia provides a pathway to the future. Adobe has a strong publishing position, but that's being eaten away by the web. The PDF is a bridge from paper to the web that may not always be needed. Flash is in mobile phones and is the rich interface in Tivo boxes and airport kiosks.
-Mobile phone market was the biggest driver for this merger. There is an explosion of digital information and a variety of ways to access it. Both Macromedia and Adobe have good presence in this arena. Together they are stronger web content player as communications increasingly go wireless and technologies such as Flash and PDF are bundled together. The mobile phone market could represent billions of dollars in revenues for the new Adobe over the next decade and the big race is to become a standard. Mobile phones are becoming intelligent devices and content will need to be created for them & If Flash becomes a mobile phone standard, Adobe could make money the way Qualcomm does by licensing its technology to phone makers.
- Adobe Systems will be well positioned as the next generation networks are rolled out in the U.S. Both Adobe reader and Macromedia's Flash are embedded in NTT DoCoMo handsets. The combined mobile product suites may be more appealing for the additional wireless carriers and handset manufacturers.
- With two of the three major non-Microsoft platforms that are critical in web applications - Flash, PDF and Java coming together now, Adobe will increasingly bump into Microsoft and its Office products. Microsoft could develop products that compete with PDF and Flash and bundle them in with Longhorn.

My Take: Adobe has moved sometime back from the desktop vendor player to enteprise vendor.For sometime,Adobe LiveCycle product line is offered as a server based enteprise offering enabling enteprises to use it as a secure document format helping in the full lifecycle information management sans direct storage facility - capture, collabaration & compliance. The average enteprise generates 300,000 business-critical documents a month, and is said to be promptly losing track of about 25% of those. 70% of Acrobat seats are now sold to businesses through Adobe's licensing division, not the traditional shrink-wrapped boxes. Adobe recorded 17 mln downloads of Reader 7, which represents 40% faster uptake than recorded for Version 6.In its new form, Acrobat becomes the hub between people, processes and policies as they commit business-critical information to the PDF format. Adobe is making this standard interoperable and may try and repeat the enteprise strategy with Flash. Though there were concerns about the pricing, net-net, Adobe seems to have gained more strength to explore emerging future opportuniites.The mighty challenge will be maintaining momentum & volume traction in software bundles, licensing, channel conflicts and direct sales and if I may add interoperability issues, middleware and browser access(Flash & Acrobat together looks attractive to imagine) – in all these arenas – independent initiatives like firefox, novell, some macintosh third party software providers,other open standards etc are taking shape to challenge Microsoft presence(often as an extension to windows or as embedded within). An opportunity presents itself for these forces to come together and form a formidable alternative. For this to happen, as in any other situation – its not only technical capability - it would be the vision and the speed at which the execution happens that would matter a lot - afterall my blackberry device does not support flash or acrobat while I can use MS word & excel!!.

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Email Destroys The Mind Faster Than Marijuana!!

We recently covered Om Malik's writing on Internet Anxiety Disorder The Guardian reports about an interesting study on the impact messaging technology and usage have on human cognitive abilities. Excerpts with edits:

Modern technology depletes human cognitive abilities more rapidly than drugs, according to a psychiatric study conducted at King's College, London. The distractions of constant emails, text and phone messages are a greater threat to IQ and concentration than taking cannabis, according to a survey of befuddled volunteers. Doziness, lethargy and an increasing inability to focus reached "startling" levels in the trials by 1,100 people, who also demonstrated that emails in particular have an addictive, drug-like grip. Productivity at work was damaged and the effect on staff who could not resist trying to juggle new messages with existing work was the equivalent, over a day, to the loss of a night's sleep. The average IQ loss was measured at 10 points, more than double the four point mean fall found in studies of cannabis users. The most damage was done, according to the survey, by the almost complete lack of discipline in handling emails. Dr Wilson and his colleagues found a compulsion to reply to each new message, leading to constant changes of direction which inevitably tired and slowed down the brain. Manners are also going by the board, with one in five of the respondents breaking off from meals or social engagements to receive and deal with messages. Although nine out of 10 agreed that answering messages during face-to-face meetings or office conferences was rude, a third nonetheless felt that this had become "acceptable and seen as a sign of diligence and efficiency".In fact, it is a recipe for muddled thinking and poor performance and Companies should encourage a more balanced and appropriate way of working by avoiding email traffic during holidays. How true.. A couple of days time off from this constant barrage of intrusion makes one fee as if we enter a new life - particularly the blackberry technology makes people almost look insane!! The damage to our system is really true - no escaping from this fact - the sooner we find a solution to this menace - it is good for the individual and the society.

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Friday, April 22, 2005

Amazon Adds Text Concordances And Stats

(Via Nathan Torkington) Amazon has added text concordances and statistics to all the books it has full text for. They have the statistically improbable phrases, which work well to tag the book, but they also have reading level, most common words, and even words-per-currency unit. The information is very much a "by the way" side page, and not a primary navigation tool the way "best reviewed", "bestselling", and so on are sort options when viewing book search results.In the near future it can be easily imagined that the "tags" (aka statistically improbable phrases) feeding into the category hierarchy and search results. It would be insightful to try out this text analysis mechanism to assess Amazon’s collaborative filtering, personalization and recommendation features.

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Forbes Ten Must-Read Tech Stories

Top Ten Must-Read Tech Stories - Forbes.com.Some interesting stories here worth taking a read. These four I liked very much:

1. Security Issues In FireFox - After a honeymoon period in which the alternative Web browser has been lionized by the technorati, The Inquirer says it felt compelled to quell the camp's growing "we're the best in the world" attitude by delineating its top ten flaws.
2. Digitizing Library - Google's plan to scan millions of books and put them online by no means spells the end of libraries, according to MIT's Technology Review. Though librarians are concerned about the possibility of privatizing the world's literature, they're also hopeful that making so much information available to the general public means we'll need experts to help us sort through it all.

3. Pod People - This article highlights how podcasting is following blogging's march into the media's mainstream and the challenges accompanying it.

4. On Einstein's thought - An entertaining series of articles from MSNBC.com illuminates how Einstein's theories precipitated most every modern technological convenience and annoyance out there.

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Sadagopan's Weblog on Emerging Technologies, Trends,Thoughts, Ideas & Cyberworld
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