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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Internet, Used Goods Sale, Bargain Hunting & Net Gain

Hal Varian finds that used goods sale at sites like eBay and Amazon are in fact a positive development for the industry. While Amazon is best known for selling new products, an estimated 23 percent of its sales are from used goods, many of them secondhand books. Used bookstores have been around for centuries, but the Internet has allowed such markets to become larger and more efficient. Consumers probably save a few dollars while authors and publishers may lose some sales from a used book market. Yet the evidence suggests that the costs to publishers are not large, and also suggests that the overall gains from such secondhand markets outweigh any losses.
There seems to be a double-edged impact of a used book market on the market for new books. When used books are substituted for new ones, the seller faces competition from the secondhand market, reducing the price it can set for new books. But there's another effect: The presence of a market for used books makes consumers more willing to buy new books, because they can easily Used books, the economists found inside Amazon, are not strong substitutes for new books. An increase of 10 percent in new book prices would raise used sales by less than 1 percent. In economics jargon, the cross-price elasticity of demand is small. One plausible explanation of this finding is that there are two distinct types of buyers: some purchase only new books, while others are quite happy to buy used books. As a result, the used market does not have a big impact in terms of lost sales in the new market. Bezos notes that the presence of lower-priced books on the Amazon Web site, may lead customers to "visit our site more frequently, which in turn leads to higher sales of new books."


Saturday, July 30, 2005

Software, Stress & Decision Making

Came across this interesting report finding - while it is apparent that software is so intertwined in our modern lives that it is virtually impossible to live without it -this research finding sort og fortfies the standing of software in the modern world. Penn State research finds that human teams aided by a software system can make decisions more accurately and quickly in time-stressed situations than teams of just people. The researchers tested their software in a military command-and-control simulation which involved intelligence gathering, logistics and force protection. When time pressures were normal, the human teams functioned well, sharing information and making correct decisions about the potential threat, according to the researchers. But when the time pressure increased, the teams' performance suffered, according to the researchers. Because there was no time to share information, the teams made incorrect decisions about whether to avoid or attack the coming aircraft. The researchers also learned that in contrast to human teams whose performance suffers from increased tempos, the software enables human teams to better maintain their performance at an acceptable level.While the simulation involved a military scenario, people on distributed teams in other areas such as emergency management operations also need information to make decisions in stressful situations. This software agent can help team members share information as well as identify salient information in uncertain environments.

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Salesforce.com As Microsoft Of The On-Demand World

I came across this report titled -"Salesforce.com As Microsoft Of the On-Demand World" authored by Tom Kucharvy of summit strategies. The report notes that Salesforce.com is now intent on establishing itself as the leading platform provider and solutions aggregator of the on demand world. It has already made significant strides toward laying the foundation for this goal. But it must go much further—and it must do so before larger, more powerful potential competitors—such as Microsoft, IBM, Google and eBay—stake their own claims to this mantle. The report set me thinking - I do not share the perception that Salesforce.com is a great success(not yet) in the enteprise software market - not atleast till 10% of Fortune 100 companies begin to use it and claim unique success and testify value generation. Some key points to be considered:
- Third-party software vendors in the fields of CRM, ERP (enterprise resource planning) and others can use the Salesforce.com platform as it provides a ready-made hosted data management-data sharing environment, provides the widely touted cost advantages of on-demand software, and can be readily customized to fit their needs.
- Salesforce.com is already heading in this direction because other on-demand software applications are linking up with the Salesforce.com platform. The report also says Salesforce.com is claiming that more than 150 add-on applications have been developed for its platform and that it serves an expanding community of more than 8,000 corporate and independent software vendors.

Some key thoughts here:
- Salesforce.com has a long way to go before it demonstrates that it really has a business strategy that can make it market-dominating company.
- Salesforce.com has not spelt out its vison or direction in clear terms - in terms of segment coverage it would own and what would be partner's space( I am not too sure what benefit partners may get - given that distribution and scale up is not a significant challenge in the on-demand world)
- It is not appealing to think that salesforce.com would begin to be as successful as Microsoft is in the on-demand industry given the fact that Salesforce.com hasn't even achieved the distinction of being the Siebel Systems of CRM in the ondemand world. Salesforce.com has substantial incumbents to take on - Oracel, SAP, Microsoft included.
- CRM itself is a niche application and even Siebel is struggling to outgrow the space - there are definitve views that the enteprise CRM market itself could be saturated.
- Broadbased platform is the key - develop some to fill in segments, acquire some to fill spaces and selectivey partner to make things work - thats the approach taken by winners in enterprise software segment.
- CRM is a specialised applications - there are several bigger, better CRM players than Salesforce.com and it has such a big journey ahead to be counted as a leader in the CRM space before looking at seemingly impossible stretch targets like being teh on-demand platform for all.
John Pallatto offers good perspective on this theme.
- On-demand itself has a long journey ahead to be counted as mainstream application for large corporations see my here- that means salesforce.com may have to compete with a myriad of dozen or so big enterprise players like SAP, Oracle etc to gain size and stature - not an easy journey even to think about.

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Contribution Economy & New Ecosystem

We had been regularly covering in this blog -the power of communities and collabaration in various posts like Web & User Generated Content. In a subsequent post we wrote about,Customers leading the charge of innovation and the economist article on user led innovation. The The rise of online communities, together with the development of powerful and easy-to-use design tools, seems to be boosting the phenomenon, as well as bringing it to the attention of a wider audience, says Eric Von Hippel of MIT. We also covered user collobaration enabling users in content sharing
and referred to the view that many of the fastest growing web sites of all time did this (or do it now): MyFamily.com, eBay, GeoCities, Xoom, Homestead, MySpace, Epinions, Hotshots, LinkedIn.com, Meetup.com, Friendster, and more.If sites are uses to get customers to blog,use message boards,upload photos or reviews, the effect shall be dazzling.With open source software (for message boards, blogs, uploading photos, and more) and with the cost of hard drive storage a tiny fraction of what it was five years ago, the time has never been better to try a user generated content strategy

David Kirkpatrick writes, The contribution economy, which in many ways can't easily be measured by conventional economic indicators like wages, prices, or savings levels. Excerpts with edits and comments from an interesting perspective:

- Ever since the Internet started to connect everyone to everyone else all the time, people from around the world can more easily contribute. Energy, ideas, and knowledge to joint project. Some of the more familiar examples of these collaborative efforts include blogs, open-source software, podcasts, and even the nonprofit online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

David calls this phenomenon the contribution economy and exlains the mechansim of how it works
- If a blogger posts a thought about something in the news, another blogger can add his or her own comment. Or when someone—anyone —modifies a listing on Wikipedia, value is created that benefits everyone. The economic value that economists have traditionally measured has been produced by businesses, which create products that are "consumed" by people or other businesses. In the contribution economy, companies can help people, people can help companies,
and people can help other people without exchanging any money. It is likely to be the case that the value that can now be produced through collaboration
is vastly greater than in the conventional top-down process
. Wikipedia, for instance, is bigger and more up-to-date than the Encyclopedia Britannica.Economists measure dollars. People generally assume that GDP and quality of life go up together. Maybe a chunk of the economy is going underground."Certainly, more and more companies are figuring out how to take advantage of collaboration.

David points to Yochai Benkler's view, notes that the standard economic view has been that individuals can be involved in productive activities either
as employees or consumers wherein Benkler explains that "we are seeing… the broad and deep emergence of a new, third mode of production in the digitally networked environment. I call this mode 'commons-based peer-production,' to distinguish it from the property and contract-based models of firms and markets." Earlier we covered Kevin Kelly's views where he wrote,"History will note that around 1995, humans began animating inert objects with tiny slivers of intelligence, connecting them into a global field, and linking their own minds into a single thing. This will be recognized as the largest, most complex, and most surprising event on the planet. Weaving nerves out of glass and radio waves, our species began wiring up all regions, all processes, all facts and notions into a grand network. From this embryonic neural net was born a collaborative interface for our civilization, a sensing, cognitive device with power that exceeded any previous invention. The Machine provided a new way of thinking (perfect search, total recall) and a new mind for an old species. It was the Beginning. After the Netscape IPO hysteria has died down, after the millions of dollars have been gained and lost, after the strands of mind, once achingly isolated, have started to come together".

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The Long Tail Of Aggregation

Chris Anderson writes, The three main Long Tail business opportunities are:

- Long Tail aggregators (that include both the head and tail of content and products)
- Niche suppliers/producers (who get aggregated by someone else)
- Filters (which help people find what they want)
Netflix, Amazon and iTunes, fall into the first of these categories, aggregation. The Long Tail is all about the shift from hits to niches. But aren't all those aggregators "hits"? They're not only the largest players in their category, but they seem to be getting even larger, gaining market share at the expense of their competitors. Raising the question - would this become a case of winner getting all in the mdium to long term?,Chris anderson points out that's certainly the way it looks now, but it won't last, or at least won't last as it is and provides google as the example

Google is a classic Long Tail aggregator, one that uses great filtering (its PageRank algorithms) to improve the s/n ratio of the tail. They aggregate the tail of information, the tail of advertisers and the tail of publishers. Taking Google as the example Chris ex[lains that the rise of the "vertical search" market is simply a case of slicing aggregation into niches, optimized for different needs. In fact,Google itself is already doing this, with Google Local, Google Scholar, Google Maps, Froogle, Google News, Google Print, and so on. Each has a specialized presentation and pulls from a subset of the information universe that gives more appropriate and useful results in that domain. Right now that's Google fine-slicing its own aggregation. An important post in the evolution of Longtail discussions.

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Friday, July 29, 2005

Mobiles : Next Frontier For Internet Companies

(Via IWeek) In the past six months, there have been increased efforts by other Internet companies such as Google, MSN, and Yahoo to offer better search capabilities on mobile devices. As mobile usage time increases,Internet companies are jumping on the opportunity by introducing more Web-browsing features to cell-phone users. As Internet companies look for new revenue streams and customers, they see particularly fertile ground among the millions of cell-phone users. Increasingly, cell phones are becoming highly customizable and personalized devices that can be used for more than just phone calls, including E-mail, video streaming, and even Internet browsing. Several vendors today offer mobile browsing capabilities on cell phones, including Access, Nokia, Openwave Systems, and Opera Software. Many of these browsers are based on the Wireless Application Protocol, which features the Wireless Markup Language, a simplified version of HTML for small-screen displays. But WML offers limited memory and limits the kind of Web pages that can be accessed on a mobile device because it's not true HTML, Forrester Research analyst Charles Golvin says.

Recent efforts by America Online and the Mozilla Foundation, have been geared toward making the Internet-browsing experience easier for cell-phone users. Mozilla this week released a technology preview of a mobile-phone browser that uses the same code base as its Firefox browser for desktops. Mozilla has developed a set of XML tags for describing graphical user interfaces. AOL is testing a suite of AOL Mobile Search Services that promise to give users access to all Web content, not just WAP-enabled pages. Search results also are formatted to the cell-phone screen and links are clickable. Mobile's reach if far more than the traditional internet - nopt only in terms of the number of users - but also in terms of the range of applications that mobiles can support.

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Kevin Kelly : We Are The Web

Kevin Kelly writing for Wired says We Are the Web - pointing that the deep enthusiasm for making things, for interacting more deeply than just choosing options, is the great force not reckoned 10 years ago. This impulse for participation has upended the economy and is steadily turning the sphere of social networking - smart mobs, hive minds, and collaborative action - into the main event. Kevin Kelly points out that the Netscape IPO wasn't really about dot-commerce. At its heart was a new cultural force based on mass collaboration. Blogs, Wikipedia, open source, peer-to-peer - behold the power of the people. Suddenly it became clear that ordinary people could create material anyone with a connection could view. Today the total number of Web pages, including those that are dynamically created upon request and document files available through links, exceeds 600 billion. That's 100 pages per person alive. In fewer than 4,000 days, we have encoded half a trillion versions of our collective story and put them in front of 1 billion people, or one-sixth of the world's population. The accretion of tiny marvels can numb us to the arrival of the stupendous. Today, at any Net terminal, you can get: an amazing variety of music and video, an evolving encyclopedia, weather forecasts, help wanted ads, satellite images of anyplace on Earth, up-to-the-minute news from around the globe, tax forms, TV guides, road maps with driving directions, real-time stock quotes, telephone numbers, real estate listings with virtual walk-throughs, pictures of just about anything, sports scores, places to buy almost anything, records of political contributions, library catalogs, appliance manuals, live traffic reports, archives to major newspapers - all wrapped up in an interactive index that really works.

In some 4,000 days, eBay has grown to support - 50 million auctions at any time. An estimated half a million folks make their living selling through Internet auctions. Amazon.com customers rushed with surprising speed and intelligence to write the reviews that made the site's long-tail selection usable. Owners of Adobe, Apple, and most major software products offer help and advice on the developer's forum Web pages, serving as high-quality customer support for new buyers. And in the greatest leverage of the common user, Google turns traffic and link patterns generated by 2 billion searches a month into the organizing intelligence for a new economy. This bottom-up takeover was not in anyone's 10-year vision. No Web phenomenon is more confounding than blogging - the near-instantaneous rise of 50 million blogs, with a new one appearing every two seconds has baffled even the most optimistic. The gift economy fuels an abundance of choices. It spurs the grateful to reciprocate. It permits easy modification and reuse, and thus promotes consumers into producers. The electricity of participation nudges ordinary folks to invest huge hunks of energy and time into making free encyclopedias, creating public tutorials for changing a flat tire, or cataloging the votes in the Senate. More and more of the Web runs in this mode. Coming out of the industrial age, when mass-produced goods outclassed anything you could make yourself, this sudden tilt toward consumer involvement is a complete paradox.. He conludes brilliantly History will note that around 1995, humans began animating inert objects with tiny slivers of intelligence, connecting them into a global field, and linking their own minds into a single thing. This will be recognized as the largest, most complex, and most surprising event on the planet. Weaving nerves out of glass and radio waves, our species began wiring up all regions, all processes, all facts and notions into a grand network. From this embryonic neural net was born a collaborative interface for our civilization, a sensing, cognitive device with power that exceeded any previous invention. The Machine provided a new way of thinking (perfect search, total recall) and a new mind for an old species. It was the Beginning. After the Netscape IPO hysteria has died down, after the millions of dollars have been gained and lost, after the strands of mind, once achingly isolated, have started to come together - the only thing we can say is: Our Machine is born. It's on.


Closed Standards, Open Standards, Ecosystems & Innovation

The ecosystem outpowering the individual supercharged pioneer in growing the market is an established trend in several industries. Bob Cringley brought the point in a different way when he wrote, Why No Single Entity is Capable of Dictating the Future. John J. Sviokla of Diamondcluster Consulting writes, Apple will soon lose its hold on the marketplace for both digital-audio players and digital songs. He sees that the iPod's features are being copied by Samsung, Dell, iRiver, Sony, and others. Competitors are adding tuners, cameras, gaming, and more to devices. They're rolling out a host of new music services. Meanwhile, the iPod has not changed much since its debut four years ago - and Apple's latest iteration, the iPod shuffle, has met with limited success. The competitors will win as they have created an economic ecosystem that powers innovation. The iPod, like most Apple products, is decidedly "closed." Your Yahoo music subscription won't work with iPod because Apple does not support Microsoft's WMA file format. More important, no one can improve on an iPod except Apple.

An ecosystem beats a product because its collective of competitors can explore and invest in many more ideas than any single company can muster. In an ecosystem, all the players share some key components. Devices that can read the Windows version of digital music (WMA) all share the song base, and almost all can use subscription services such as Napster and Yahoo's Music Unlimited. Many non-Apple devices, by contrast, can't use iTunes, just as iPods don't work with WMA. This closed system made sense for the iPod's launch phase, but once the music ecosystem has the capacity for far more experimentation - even Apple, a profoundly innovative company, won't be able to keep pace. Historically, open standards have enriched customers and fueled productivity. The Internet, with its open set of tools for communication and presentation, provides standard parts for knowledge work. The Internet ecosystem enabled massive value creation, both for incumbents like Microsoft and IBM and for new entrants like Cisco, Amazon, and eBay. But It was the ecosystem - not the market leaders - that radically expanded the market. He concludes, "Apple should be opening up the iPod and licensing iTunes to others so they can build out the ecosystem. If it doesn't, the iPod will lose, just as the brilliant Macintosh computer ceded market leadership years ago .The iPod and iTunes, like any closed system, can give Apple outsized profits - but only for a time and points out -Ultimately, no one company can out-innovate the market".I agree with him -only business models can be unique helping in market leadership but product domination through closed standards will never help a company to be at the top position for long. I am saying this despite being an ardent fan of Apple & Apple iPod.

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Thursday, July 28, 2005

India As A Global Agent Of Change

(Via Bweek)Nandan Nilekani sees India's impact on the U.S. economy, through globalization and outsourcing and says that the rules of the game are being rewritten by the India headquartered software service providers.The productivity focus is the strength of the US economy and ultimately, productivity is doing more things with less people. The US economy that makes and destroys millions of jobs a year- has a potential to unleash a huge productivity surge in the way companies are run. Digitization and the advent of IP technology, labour pool have made everything so simple. And the focus is now on designing more customer-facing and customer-empowering opportunities. Nandan rightly points out that there's also a huge amount of process efficiencies that aren't in large corporations yet. So in a few years you'll see most companies unleashing this massive productivity surge. When the dust settles, the firms will look very differently. They'll be global.

I wrote this morning that the asian threat to the US," is overblown and the US large corporations may have the best solution and answers amongst host of other factors that may influence the US competitiveness. I do not think that the US could be so easily overrun in the emerging world - given the reselience that the US has shown in the past and the depth of talent and corporate strength that the US possess -clearly tough times ahead -but we may see a lot more bounce from the US".Nandan here highlights, that the U.S. is the world's most dynamic innovation engine with a good innovation ecosystem with the world's great universities, venture capital & efficient caqpital markets. It's the adaptability of the society that's its strength. It's absorbing the changes. For other countries, creating the innovation engine is a much longer play. It's happening. But it will take a while. India is one of the agents of the change - the productivity surge. It's the big enchilada. Part of it is technology. Part of it is process globalization, so you leverage global resources and redesign things. Part of it is much more customer involvement - which the Web has enabled.


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Global Tech Driven Competition – US Unready

In my recent SQ flight trip read this article in fortune where Geoffrey Colvin writes,It’s a crisis of confidence unlike anything America has felt in a generation. "Can America compete?" is the nation’s new No. 1 anxiety. The question is almost right, but not quite. The real question is, "Can Americans compete?" The U.S. standard of living, after decades of steady ascent, could stall or even begin to decline. More worrisome is the chance that the US finds itself getting poorer rather than richer, some kind of domestic or even global political crisis could follow. The key issues at the core:
- The US is not building human capital the way it used to.
- The US preparedness today for the emerging global economy
, shows that the the US is not ready to compete with emerging giants.
For American workers, globalization is a radically dicier proposition - far more so than most of them realize. The fast-changing economy is exposing vast numbers of them to global labor competition, and it’s a contest millions of them can’t win right now.
Three main factors are changing the game:
- First, the world economy is based increasingly on information, bits and bytes that have to be analyzed, processed, and moved around. Examples: software, financial services, media.
- Second, the cost of handling those bits and bytes - that is, of computing and telecommunications—is in free fall. Wide swaths of economic activity can be performed almost anywhere, at least in theory.
- Turning theory into reality is the third factor: Low-cost countries - not just China and India but also Mexico, Malaysia, Brazil, and others - are turning out large numbers of well-educated young people fully qualified to work in an information-based economy. China will produce about 3.3 million college graduates this year, India 3.1 million (all of them English-speaking), the U.S. just 1.3 million. In engineering, China’s graduates will number over 600,000, India’s 350,000, America’s only about 70,000.
McKinsey figures that about 4.1 million service jobs will actually get offshored from high-wage countries to low-wage countries by 2008. It doesn’t make a forecast for U.S. jobs, but others have done so. Forrester Research puts the number at 3.4 million white-collar jobs by 2015.
In a world economy that threatens to pull down American wages, the key to fighting back is maintaining technological superiority - continually creating high-value new jobs that workers in the rest of the world can’t do yet. Without that advantage, there would be little to prevent living standards in the world’s interconnected economies from equilibrating. Combine all those trends and the picture isn’t encouraging for America. Immigration, education , technology & research investments may be the key for future competitiveness.
My Take: This will become a routine challenge for all nations in the globalised era. In future some asian nations/corporations may also face similar set of issues. Asian competition is a little overhyphed(to the extent of drowning US edge) as I see it - there are several asian big corporations that are struggling now for not being able to reignite themselves or move at the same speed that they used to in the past.Look at the fortune 500 list - exclude oil & Japanese firms - the list of asian corporations listed in there are still small. Even today Asia does not contribute more than 20 % for most of the mature global majors( non oil corproations) The decision making speed, propensity to take risks, the cultural shifts for very diverse nationalities - these are not things on which Asian corporations have found good answers to so far.In general,speed and direction would matter a lot more in fostering competitiveness. But to be fair -Labour arbitrage is not the reason for asian enterprise success – process, quality edge – good management strength and a globalised mindset along with cheap labour have brought success to the asian headquartered enterprises.The US large corporations may have the best solution and answers amongst host of other factors that may influence the US competitiveness. I do not think that the US could be so easily overrun in the emerging world - given the reselience that the US has shown in the past and the depth of talent and corporate strength that the US possess -clearly tough times ahead -but we may see a lot more bounce from the US.

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The Long Tail - Fortune 500 Vs Fortune 500,000 s

Jasson Fried writes, The most innovative software designed over the next 10 years will 1. be web-based, 2. will come from small teams - referhere, 3. will come from self-funded companies - refer here, and 4. will be for the “side-business” or 1-10 person business market.
The “long tail” is a buzzword. There are people who work for their employer during the day and then run their own side business at night, passionate hobbyists that generate some income (and even those that don’t). The elance economy is becoming more prominent.It seems everyone has one these days. A little something here, a little something there. Something they love to do, or something they have to do, but the trend is clear: Many people are building their own side-businesses. And they need software (just not too much).
The big office suites aren’t for them. The big project management apps aren’t for them. The big heavy spreadsheets aren’t for them. The bloated accounting and payroll apps aren’t for them. What they crave are low/no-learning curve, simple focused tools that let them get their work done quickly and then get out of their way. They’ll increasingly prefer that these apps will be hosted by someone else — who has time for IT, or installs, or update patches. The new breed of side-businesses don’t need scaled down versions of “enterprise” apps or “small business” apps (which are just scaled down versions of the big ones anyway) — they need new types of software. They need brand new thinking. They need apps that can’t be categorized. They need apps that break the rules that no longer apply. And these apps need to be smaller, simpler, less. It’s time to care about the Fortune 5,000,000. Forget the enterprise market.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Linux, Enterprise & Financial Sector

(Via Cworld) Open-source zealots may continue to play a part in instigating the spread of Linux across the European continent, - but private corporations and public-sector users in Europe typically cite pragmatic reasons for taking up the open-source operating system. They point to price and performance benefits. They want freedom to swap out hardware. They find the operating system reliable. They like its flexibility. Perhaps no single industry has tested Linux's enterprise mettle more than the financial services sector. Companies were facing mounting pressure to cut costs at the turn of the millennium. The Internet bubble was about to burst. Prices were fluctuating wildly. Order volume and data traffic were spiking in the wake of the electronic trading boom. Revenue was not. The number of stocks being traded was the same, and the rising cost of processing orders was becoming a big problem. When the market slump hit in 2001, that only exacerbated the trouble. Financial institutions had to think out of the box - fast -and Linux became an obvious alternative to consider. Several of the largest firms started to dump their proprietary Unix systems and shift to cheaper x86 hardware running Linux.

Linux enabled users to use a commodity platform. Trading in very expensive systems for much lower-priced commodity Intel systems was the biggest win. The Linux/Intel server combination would ultimately enable the firm to save "tens of millions of dollars" in IT costs across thousands of servers.Major financial institutions became one of the most powerful lobbies for Linux, pooling their clout to get their software vendors to support the operating system. They collectively urged their many software vendors to port applications to Linux. On the desktop, Linux support vendors continue to struggle for a high-profile success story that might drive adoption. Many projects have gone through the test phase only to encounter challenges with application support and integration when it comes time for the rollout.

"It's been the 'year of the Linux desktop' since 1998. It hasn't happened," says Chris Ingle, a London-based analyst at IDC. "You don't find CIOs saying, 'My biggest priority is changing all the desktops.' " Europe may outpace the U.S. with Linux desktop deployments, but even there, Linux captures only a small piece of the Windows-dominated market. And when it does, it's often thin-client or limited-function deployments, as opposed to the thick-client, knowledge-worker setups that Windows commands.

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SaaS & Future Of IT

Large corporations are becoming increasingly frustrated with the long deployment cycles, high costs, complicated upgrade processes and IT infrastructure demanded by traditional software applications. Many are realizing that the future of IT is moving away from data center, system and infrastructure management and more toward business process improvement. Software-as-a-service has become one of the fastest growing segments of the IT sector because it provides organizations with "turn-key" software solutions that can be implemented quickly, avoid incremental infrastructure costs and eliminate the ongoing administrative resources of traditional on-premise applications.

IDC predicts that the SaaS market will grow at a 21% (CAGR) during the next four years, reaching $10.7 billion worldwide in 2009. Leading Software-as-a-Service Vendors Form Consortium to Focus on Needs and Issues of Enterprise Customers. A broad-based consortium of leading "software-as-a-service" (SaaS) vendors are coming together to form the Enterprise SaaS Working Group, an to focus on the needs and issues of large organizations seeking to take advantage of on-demand technology solutions. By developing guidelines and defining the business case for enterprise- class SaaS implementations, the Working Group will help large private- and public-sector organizations better leverage on-demand solutions as part of their overall technology and business strategies. SaaS solutions are being broadly embraced by companies of all sizes for a variety of reasons - including reduced ownership costs, accelerated time-to-benefit, greater scalability, simplified remote access, and high availability. Larger enterprises, however, have specific requirements for SaaS implementations, ranging from security and regulatory compliance to integration and administrative control. The Enterprise SaaS Working Group will ensure that enterprise customers can find and effectively partner with SaaS vendors who can fulfill these requirements and thereby enable them to reap the significant benefits offered by hosted/on demand software solutions.

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Sunday, July 24, 2005

Getting Paid For Free & Business Models

Fred Wilson writes that from a free model to a paid model for value added services can actually be beneficial, - is really interesting and needs to be better understood. He cites Google giving away an incredibly powerful Internet search service every day millions of times a day & getting paid by advertisers who also get to run their text ads for free. The only time an advertiser pays is when the ad is clicked on. Free to use, pay for performance. It doesn't sound that different from the Red Hat model. Flickr is the best photo site on the Internet by a long shot. And its free. Turn pro means means a paying customer.You can get a really great free experience uploading and sharing photos on Flickr. But if you are like many of us who love taking and sharing photos, you'll turn pro in about a day.
Fred adds that his portfolio companies have an enterprise software/service that customers pay for. But there are huge network effects in the deployment of their service. The more users they have, the more value accrues to each user. They are thinking about the role of free code and data in their business. And well they should. Because free is a great way to make money. You just have to know how you are going to get paid for being free.
My Take: Several network effect raising suites may have seen growth – these have been huge but converting customers to the paid version - no matter how fast you build features and improve the customer experience—is an uphill task. Free is an excellent way to get immediate big band mileage, exposure, a7 create competitive differentitators but ahuge majority have failed trying to make this model a winnable one - Not everyone is a google or craiglist – there are several hundreds who have failed trying similar things. For a google - there is a failed altavista, for an adsense there is a Kanoodle that is failing to take off.In the medium to long term the competitive barrier for free services anyway melt away.

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Ajax Disrupts Web Analytics Industry

We had been covering the advent of Ajax, the new technology moniker, & speculations about what's next after Ajax, Fredric Paul highlights that traditional web analytics may be affected with increasing usage of Ajax. Excerpts with edits and comments:

Ajax is already befudlling traditional web vendors while relying on a mishmash of existing Web technologies to create a new breed of fast, highly interactive sites. These kinds of interactive apps continues to catch on, & they could force Web publishing, advertising, and traffic-measurement companies to change how they do business. Exemplified by Google Maps and Yahoo's Flickr photo-sharing site, Ajax is an umbrella term for a mix of JavaScript, Dynamic HTML, and XML used to reduce the need for Web clients to reconnect to a Web server every time they attempt to download information. The idea is for sites to update their contents in a background cache so that the next piece of information is ready to display as needed. These rich micro-interactions mean that the page itself doesn't have to reload, only the portion with fresh data actually changes. Less data needed to be transferred makes for faster downloads, which makes for a better user experience. Critical applications like The Sabre online reservations system, is reportedly starting to use Ajax to make it easier to deal with the database's huge data set.
While most of the focus lay on Ajax's threat to commercial Web development environments it may pose an even bigger challenge for Web publishers and advertisers and for the Web analytics industry – as it shatters the metaphor of a Web "page" upon which much of Web publishing and advertising is based. Most content management systems, for example, separate design from content – but this is not possible with Ajax. Web site traffic metrics are also affected. Most sites measure their traffic in terms of visitors and page views, but Ajax blows away the page-view metaphor & Click paths have to be measured differently. If sites track traffic and sell ads based on page view impressions, everything changes when users start interacting with the site and making multiple changes without ever refreshing a page. New higher order metrics may need to be outlined. For many, page views have long been the accepted way to measure traffic and sell advertising space. If Ajax applications continue to gain ground, Web publishers, advertisers, Web analytics companies, and everyone else affected will just be plainly affected and ust look at a new approach to work around the technology.

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Open Source : Maturity Journey

I have always been maintaining that open source requires more concerted growth and organsational support while covering Some Perspectives About Open Source, Open Source - Reality Check, Open Source Support Models

eWeek highlights that several product pitches - freely use the term "open source" in discussions, and occasionally in product marketing material, when the products involved aren't open-source at all. Many companies are really just talking about their products running on open-source platforms, such as LAMP, without actually taking the plunge. There are companies that say it has an open-source product, but there may be restrictions in the license about derivative work and the ability of a third party to sell this allegedly open-source software.
Besides the problem of semantics -open source description may have different intrepretations, the key issue is there are too many licenses, making it needlessly difficult for buyers to determine if a company really is freely licensing the technology. OSI has been wanting to reduce the number of licenses for sometime, and is promising that is working to do so. OSI says that it is making an active effort to make sure companies don't abuse the term "open-source" when they clearly are not. Right now, there are more than 50 OSI-approved licenses, when probably tem might do.
Michael Caton highlights (I strongly agree with his point of view) that in practical terms, the number of public licenses is likely well over a hundred because of derived licenses that include minor changes such as including developer credits. The industry as a whole should be considering standard ways to license products that fit the middle ground between restrictive EULAs and open source. The market would decide what is fair as much for the quality of the code as for how a product is licensed.

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Saturday, July 23, 2005

New Look

Divya designed and coded the new template that powers this site. She has tried to make this site very light and make it compatible on Firefox, Safari & IE. She has a portfolio of designs available here. The previous design ran for more than eighteen months and amidst my heavy travel & too tight work schedule - I had been long ignoring the issues faced in Firefox with the previous design until Divya promised to help me with this new design. Looking forward to reader's feedback about the new design.

Thanks Divya again – looking forward to the promised next design as well.


Web Users : Query Usage Patterns

A decade after browsers came into popular use, the Internet has reached into–and, in some cases, reshaped–just about every important realm of modern life. It has changed the way we inform ourselves, amuse ourselves, care for ourselves, educate ourselves, work, shop, bank, pray and stay in touch, says the recently concluded Pew Internet Report. On a typical day at the end of 2004, some 70 million American adults logged onto the Internet to use email, get news, access government information, check out health and medical information, participate in auctions, book travel reservations, research their genealogy, gamble, seek out romantic partners, and engage in countless other activities. That represents a 37 percent increase from the 51 million Americans who were online on an average day in 2000 when the Pew Internet & American Life Project began its study of online life. Still, the Internet has also enabled new kinds of activities that no one ever dreamed of doing before–certainly not in the way people are doing them nowForbes writes, after a decade of evolution, investment and growth, the Internet is still primarily used to find pictures of naked women and to learn how to cheat in videogames. The queries that you see the most do represent people looking for porn. WordTracker looks at search terms entered on search engines including Metacrawler and Dogpile confirms the trend. WordTracker removes explicitly sexual adult key phrases from its reports. But the team — a division of Rivergold Associates – says that if it left them in, they'd account for a full quarter of all search engine queries.

The top queries indicate that even when people aren't wasting time, they're still being stupid. "The only other things you tend to see are navigational queries, people searching for Hotmail or Google," says Danny Sullivan. Just look at WordTracker's rankings, and there it is; "Google," the tenth most-popular search term. There are people who simply do not understand the difference between a search box and a navigational bar." That's probably true, as evidenced by a study released this week, which showed the majority of Internet users are not familiar with Web terminology.

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Brad Feld’s Work –Life Balance Framework

I like Brad’s ideas and writing very much – a well known venture capital partner,powerful writer with strong ideas , his writings are always insightful – Here Brad Feld Writes, until about five years ago, he had absolutely no balance in his life - being on the road from Monday to Friday, arriving home exhausted at the end of the day Friday. Over the weekend –sleep a lot, spend time in front of my computer getting caught up on all the crap that one didn’t get to during the week, and when out, would always be tired and withdrawn. The burnout cycle continued; every six months I’d completely crash from the effort and says that he loved his work, but couldn’t see past it.
After deep discussions within the family, Brad & his wife created a set of well defined rules which he says have evolved over time. The rules evolved into a set of habits which – among others – include (1) Spend Time Away, (2) Life Dinner, (3) Segment Space, (4) Be Present, and (5) Meditate. Examples of each:
- Spend Time Away: Week long vacation each quarter where we completely disappear. No cell phone, no email, no computer, no conference calls - Completely unavailable for the week.
- Life Dinner: We have a standing date on the first day of every month that we call life dinner. Occasionally friends are invited; often it is just a family dinner. We spend the evening talking about the previous month and about the month to come, grounding ourselves in our current reality.
- Segment Space: We treat our houses as a retreat from the world and, while we do plenty of working at home, where we do this is separate and distinct from the rest of the house.
- Be Present: One of Amy’s lines to me is “Brad – be a person.” This is a signal to me that I’m not present in the moment, that something is troubling me, or simply that I’m tired. Whenever I’m not present, it only takes a short phrase to pull me back from wherever I’ve drifted off to.
- Meditate: Everyone should meditate their own way. Four years ago brad says he became a marathoner – the 6 to 10 hours a week run is the current form of meditation. A voracious reader and the 10 hours a week reading extends the meditation time. Brad emphasizes - Do whatever you want, but spend some of your time on yourself.
The habits have created a structure for life that not only encourages but reinforces a healthy work life balance. Work – which used to overwhelm everything else – is still a central part of life. However, it is no longer the singular focus, nor is it the most important thing to me anymore. The balance he adds has helped understand the value of other things, which has made work and – more importantly – life - much more rewarding.

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Friday, July 22, 2005

100 Million Chinese Internet Users - More Growth To Come

The number of Web users in China, the world's second largest Internet market, grew by 9 million people in the first half of this year to hit 103 million. The growth represented an increase of 18.4 percent over the same period last year in a market that still has vast potential for further growth, While more than 67 percent of the U.S. population, about 135 million, have access to the Internet, in China the percentage is only about 7.9 percent. State media previously predicted 120 Chinese million would be surfing the Web by the end of the year as computers find their way into more homes and domestic telecoms networks grow. Nearly 20 percent of China's Web surfers had shopped online, and Internet-based transactions in the six months of 2005 could total around 10 billion yuan ($1.23 billion), "Most of China's Internet users are well educated and have hefty purchasing power," analyst Lu Weigang was quoted as saying. The burgeoning online gaming market proved especially lucrative, with Internet gamers spending 4 billion yuan on virtual equipment for their online alter-egos in the first six months, it said. The Internet's explosive growth in China has come despite the government's stepped-up efforts to control of the medium, in which occasional pockets of free speech have appeared in chat sites and blogs.
We earlier covered the progress of internet in china wherein we pointed out The Chinese government has paved the way for Internet growth by investing $138 billion in telecommunications networks in the past five years. China's online revenue - which includes sales from advertising and from Internet gaming and wireless services - grew 35 percent last year and is expected to rise 30 percent in 2005.China is a giant market that's growing quickly. There's a lot more demand that can be satisfied.


Venture Capital, .Net & New Products

An interesting article from eWeek initiated a discussion is .Net Failing to Draw Venture Capital Loyalty. It is plain commen sense that only anything that is innovative, disruptive and capable of creating huge change effect in the system can bring investments in.

Ed Sim writes, Technology and platform decisions, should be thought in 2 separate buckets, the consumer market and the enterprise market. On the consumer side, one big value for Microsoft has been its hold on the desktop as, but as we move more and more into a web-based world its strength is diminishing. Look at Google, Firefox which are increasingly offering users more and more functionality through a web-based interface. Microsoft will get it right with Longhorn but it has taken way too long and many a more nimble, startup has out-innovated Microsoft and decreased its competitive advantage. While the OS is important, Microsoft has lost its complete and utter dominance as we move to a service-oriented world where broadband is everywhere, apps are in the cloud, and the browser becomes king.Funding decisions for a startup based shall not be based on whether or not it uses .Net. On the enterprise side, the only reason for a company move off an existing platform to .Net is if there was significant customer demand for it and if Microsoft would really provide the company with access to its channel. Microsoft really wants companies to develop vertical, industry-specific applications on the .Net architecture. In other words, many of these companies are nice businesses but not venture-backable opportunities where VCs can make big returns.

Tim Oren shares shares some important insights on this issue. He says that it's a reasonable simplification to say that VCs and venture generally makes those gains by betting 'on the change'. Static or stagnant markets and technologies are not VC’s meat (unless we can disrupt them). To the extent that there's an aggregate pattern in our investments, it is a sort of rough referendum on which technologies are driving or at least surfing the change. It's again likely fair to say that while there aren't a lot of overt bets against .NET per se, there also aren't a lot of markers down that require it to drive a market to get a win. He says that could say more strongly about Longhorn, and bit less strongly about Microsoft in the whole mobile arena and offeres three thoughts on the basis for this pattern of activity with respect to MSFT.
Longhorn is tactically and strategically compromised
- Longhorn is still fundamentally a play on the desktop. It's been a decade since a major change erupted as a consequence of innovation on the desktop PC. Intel has figured out that it can no longer rely on innovation on the desktop to drive the Moore's Law investment cycle, but Microsoft still seems to believe that its hegemony in that sector is a bankable asset.We covered this in a related post Microsoft unready for Web 2.0
- Strategic leverage as negative indicator. Its use of desktop dominance seems to be a negative indicator of success of late.
- Opportunity costs. The storage learning curve beat out even Moore's Law, so we just keep everything now. Binding those bits of our lives to a particular device or body of code seems pointless, we're now used to having our resources 'in the net'. The next wave is taking this already hideous management problem, and moving our user interface onto mobile devices with far fewer affordances.
Staying too close to the desktop has let entrants like Google move right onto the pain point of the market without opposition. MSFT has always treated services as a red-haired stepchild of its product culture. Microsoft has been a prime mover in the 'success failure' that is today's networked media user experience. It is time for Microsoft to show the readiness to change and thereby change the market.

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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Microformats : The Next Big Thing on the Web

(Via Knowledge@wharton) For a long time, attempts have been made to extend the web's basic presentation format to create a richer, more meaningful network of information. Internet users have envisioned a web that presents information that can not only be read by humans but also be understood by computers. This could usher in entirely new ways of doing business. The web could evolve from a collection of loosely linked pages to an enormous database that could be searched and filtered and re-assembled in new ways.
HTML tags used to display these items on the web don't describe what they mean. If one web site links to another, the link doesn't carry any information about why the sites are linked. But what if it did? And what if every event listed on a web page could also be read by software that could understand its date, time and location? Sites like LinkedIn and Friendster let their users explore social networks, but the users have to enter the information about the people they know at each web site. Why can't a search tool automatically build a social network from those links? The "Semantic Web." is supposed to provide an answer for this. A grassroots movement has emerged that seeks to attach intelligent data to web pages by using simple extensions of the standard tags currently used for web formatting - HTML (or XHTML, its more formally-structured cousin). These so-called "microformats" may change the way the web works. Tantek Çelik, senior technologist at Technorati, elaborates:
With microformats the emphasis is on visible data, instead of invisible metadata. The difference between a visible data system like hyperlinks and an invisible data system like meta-keywords is that with the visible system, there's this great feedback loop. There's also a penalty built in for people who abuse the system. One of the basic principles of a microformat design is to reuse rather than re-invent. And when you can't find a microformat to use for whatever purpose you want, you look at established standards - interoperably implemented standards. The basic concept of the Semantic Web that Tim talks about - about publishing more semantic information on the Web - is something anyone involved with microformats agrees with 100. The goal is to put as much semantic information as possible on the Web. Microformats are, in many ways, such a lightweight thing, that it's not clear that they need months or years in a standards body to make them work. In part, all this is still something of an open experiment on the Web. The community site - microformats.org is an attempt to showcase this. The next thing that needs to happen is to see an increase in the diversity of the participants, the kinds of microformats that are being developed, and an increase in the adoption.

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Some Perspective On The Future Of Open Source!!

Danny Bradbury shares his perspective on the future of the opensource. He highlights that like many developments in the IT sector, open source seemed to come out of nowhere. In the next five years, supporters expect the use of open source to grow for the cost advantage that it confers and also because it offers more flexibility. We have covered extensively about the shortcomings of open source in lack of business model for opensource, open source costly & litigatious, Open source - Reality Check, Open Source- Emerging Support Models & Open source - not yet ready for enterprise and several more.
"There's the flexibility that you have to prototype - if you don't like it you can throw it away. It doesn't have to cost anything." Statistics from Netcraft show that 70 per cent of web servers on the internet use the open source Apache compared to a share of roughly 25 per cent for Microsoft's Internet Information Server. Many governments around the world are recommending the use of open source in its performance review, following national governments across Europe who are developing a public sector love affair with open source.
This could have a cumulative effect,argues Brian Hanley, director of agile development consultancy Exoftware.
- First, companies who want to do business with governments will need to embrace open source.
- Second, as governments continue to show support of open source, we should see a knock on effect on the private sector
- Third, government systems are complex, which will force the open source community to innovate in line with more complex needs of government." Developments such as these are bound to leave Microsoft worried in the coming years.
Among the other views expressed include :
- If the open source model does continue to grow as much as its advocates suggest, its underlying development methodologies could change.
- Open source projects will adopt more structured traditional methodologies as its development matures. In the future more OSS [open source software] projects will employ traditional methodologies to code, control and coordinate the software development tree, and this will most likely be at an increasing rate as open source software projects become bigger.
- Supporters expect the number of significant and important OSS projects will have grown significantly in five years' time- this would reflect a maturing of the open source concept as it gains respectability, thanks not only to its adoption within the private sector but also its popularity among governments. I still think that opensource has a long way to go before becoing a mainstream mechanism inside enterprises above the basic stack in the landscape.

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Retail Pioneer Tries out New Technology

(Via eWeek) The Piggy Wiggly Carolina Co. chain of grocery stores is aong the first to open a supermarket – more than hundred years ago. Even now, Piggly Wiggly continues to seek ways not only to make shopping more convenient but also to find more customers. When Piggly Wiggly discovered that fingerprint-reading technology, after decades of development,had become cheap and reliable enough to be deployed on a broad scale, it recognized benefits beyond speed and efficiency and looked at it as the way to capture information about your customers while easing concerns about identity theft than with a payment process that lets shoppers seal transactions with their fingerprints.
While improving the shopping experience had been a long-standing goal of the company, the escalating cost of credit and debit card transactions has in recent years become a more pressing concern. Piggly Wiggly launched a pilot program to test Pay By Touch in a small group of stores last fall. The test run went so well it was quickly expanded to a companywide rollout. Shoppers who signed up for the new payment system were able to open accounts that linked either to credit card accounts or to checking accounts. They could link all Pay By Touch transactions to their store loyalty cards as well, so they could get credit for shopping at Piggly Wiggly without having to carry the loyalty card. Just months after Piggly Wiggly introduced the service, it is finding that between 15 and 20 percent of its noncash customers, or those who typically paid by check, credit card or debit card, now use Pay By Touch, said Postell. Among those early adopters is a surprising number of people who fall into a demographic thought to be fearful of technology- many seniors had been quick to switch to fingerprint payments, which upon reflection made sense. An excellent case study of a successful implementation of a new technology
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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

China Vs India – Digital Online Market

China is way ahead in the online market compared to India. Undeterred by China's restrictions, Yahoo, which owns the world's most-visited Web portal, invested $120 million in a Chinese search engine in 2003. Last year it started an auction site in China, where total online revenue hit $1.1 billion. India, an English-speaking democracy that allows freer flow of information, had online revenue of just $93 million. It does seem ironic that India, with its democratic government and free press, is so far behind China in developing its Internet market," says David Wolf, managing director of Wolf Group Asia, a Beijing-based regional consulting firm. The simple reason is that China has the infrastructure and India doesn't. The number of Web users in China has expanded sevenfold in eight years to 94 million. India, whose population of 1.1 billion is close to China's, has 24 million Internet users. Yahoo employs 600 people in China, 10 times as many as in India. The Chinese government has paved the way for Internet growth by investing $138 billion in telecommunications networks in the past five years. China's online revenue - which includes sales from advertising and from Internet gaming and wireless services - grew 35 percent last year to $1.1 billion and is expected to rise 30 percent in 2005.China is a giant market that's growing quickly. There's a lot more demand that can be satisfied. By contrast, India - generated about $93 million in online revenue last year, MindShare estimates. India's 24 million Internet users, are about a quarter of China's 94 million Web surfers. The teledensity is 1: 1.19 in china to 1:11 in India. Venture-capital firms made $177 million in Internet-related investments in China in 2003 and 2004, four times more than the $44 million India attracted.

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CIO's, Consolidation & Freak Acquisitions

We have been covering a lot about the Imminent Consolidation that is due in the enteprise software market. User community perception and feedback varies from a sense of relief to deep worry based on the commitments made thus far in their enteprises. To add to that integration of new companies/products are never easy - as we see in the case of Oracle and TIBCO - lot more cases abound. In general the technology industry has a horrible track record of managing large mergers. Bold Oracle has been executing multiple acquisitions. To make this fail, only one of those acquisitions has to fail miserably. For it to succeed, all four must work well. Even thought the Oracle deals make a lot of strategic sense, bunching them together makes CIOs nervous. This is true even though—and here comes the other hand—the SAP choice is not only just as risky, it's arguably more risky. Evan Schuman points out, The CIO’s difficulty lies in taking risks with other people's money - especially not the money of the people who control their salary. To make a major, multimillion-dollar decision here on a new enterprise system, in his view as CIO's see it - it is difficult to pick up Oracle because th e general fear of lack of statement of direction for Oracle worries them and more so potential migration hassles forces them to think that it's much easier to pick a strong competitor (Say SAP) – as one knows what one is getting into. Oracle's sin? Ellison's appetite for buying companies- It may take a tough man to make a tender offer, but it takes an even tougher CIO to ride it out until all of those acquisitions are figured out, rationalized and cleaned up.
CIOs know who Oracle has gotten into bed with. SAP's still dating, and what that combination—if it ever happens—will look like is a big mystery. SAP's is doing a brilliant job of spreading FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) about Oracle, while avoiding the issue that SAP's own future is arguably more clouded than Oracle's, although both are certainly murky. In some respects, that's the point. CIOs know that Oracle is going to endure the pain of multiple, simultaneous integrations while SAP's future is unclear. It's sort of like the "devil you know" argument reversed. They know Oracle is going through the integration pain. The problem is compounded if you look at the past - the way decisions are taken & implemented - more so if you look through the prism of Softwar.

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Information Discovery : Search Strategies

We recently covered every search engine is different wherein we covered the findings on variations in results of various search engines. We also covered the excellent guide to finding inforation search compiled by Phil Windley.

Came across this excellent list of search engine and the unique search value that each search engine brings to the fore. The complete list is available here.

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Retailing Optimal Mobile Plans

(Via BWeek)Mort Rosenthal's next venture: One-stop shops that simplify selection by offering all mobile phones and plans. The Mobile market is beginning to experiment new models of business. Buying a wireless phone plan is nearly as time-consuming and complex as shopping for a house. Most people end up visiting at least five stores - each owned by a different service provider - where they sift through a total of more than 300 plans and some 120 phones. Mort Rosenthal, sees an opportunity here - he wants to take the legwork - and complexity - out of selecting a cell phone and plan. His idea: Create a nationwide chain of one-stop retail outlets for all your wireless needs.

A new outfit modeled after apple electronics stores will sell all of US carriers’ plans and phone in one store. The plan is to roll out two to three stores in 2005, then take the business nationwide within a few years, says Rosenthal; The stores shall have three major areas.
- One, we call the "bar" area. In a bar-like setting, you can sit down and make comparisons between major carriers on a computer screen. The software is built so that no matter what question you're trying to ask, it's very easy to get an answer. "Bartenders," shall give customers phones to play with.
- Then, there's "the explorer" area, the part that will look like the Apple store - there will be three or four educational modules, about 10 feet each. One might be on wireless e-mail. It might have a BlackBerry, a Treo, and a Windows Mobile device [for you to play with] and offer comparisons on how all three of them do wireless e-mail. Those areas will change every few months. They might highlight music phones or new mobile video phones. Basically, they'll offer a glimpse of what the wireless world might look like some time from now.
- And the third area is the "learn" area. While you wait for your phone to be activated, we'll teach you how to use your phone: enter contacts, configure your e-mail, download ringtones and games. The store shall be trying to emulate attributes of many retailers: The expertise that exists in the Apple stores, the high level of service that exists at Nordstrom, and then there's Starbucks, a place where you're comfortable hanging out. Heightened competition, mass usage and a variety of services all open up new range of offerings and opportunities in this increasingly felt experience economy


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Enterprise IT Services & Outsourcing : Gap Between India & China Widening

We had been covering for some time different perspectives about the myth of the rise of chinese companies IT services and its future potential, wherein we covered wide topics China : resource scale-up disappoints, Chinese threat - years away, Indian headquartered company shall rule the IT Services market, China is far from the promised land. David Scott Lewis, president of IT-Estrategies has amazing insights about the chinese companies & their future potential and in equal measure about the chinese domestic market & infrastructure - My personal views are almost identical - absolutley on the dot. Excerpts & Key Insights from DSL views from Sandhill.com:

- The gap between China and India is not narrowing, it's actually widening, especially as the Indian globals and even Tier 2 firms move up the food chain and create new practices, such as verticals and strategy consulting practices. Chinese firms are trying to figure out what UML is; the Indian globals are launching practices to challenge IGS and McKinsey.

- It's often said that in software development China is only five or so years behind India and is catching up at a breakneck pace. Not true, as least not in the enterprise software or IT outsourcing sectors. In many consumer-related apps China may be ready – but the enterprise software market and the consumer software market are two different realities.

- In the offshoring world, even if India, Inc. were to sit on its hands for the next five years, there are too many reasons why it will take much more time for the domestic (in China) firms to mature to the current level of even the Tier 2 Indian IT outsourcing firms. For example, with very few exceptions (although there are exceptions), the domestic firms simply don't have a chance to build enterprise-class capabilities.

- Often the enterprise-class Chinese domestic contracts go IBM Global Services (IGS) - the majority of the contracts let for enterprise software applications integration go to a handful of companies. The Indian globals are also pursuing this space. Chinese firms might get a bit of custom applications development for a F500 company, although even this is rare. But it's a big jump from custom apps work to packaged apps integration. Java coding to a 150 page spec is not the same as integrating i2 with Siebel.

- Realities : Political & Cultural shall come in the way of China getting project management skills to manage large projects - China acknowledges India's superiority in software, but in reality, won't learn very much from India, Inc., sans NIIT training centers.

- China, Inc. does not compete against India, Inc., at least not in the IT outsourcing sector. For manufacturing, two thumbs up to China; for IT outsourcing, well, you've got to be kidding. China's best solution providers can play ball with their Tier 3 and Tier 4 counterparts in India, especially as China's best expand their development centers to Tier 2, 3, 4 and 5 cities within China, thereby having a significant cost advantage versus the Indian firms.

- In Asia, China faces only two competitors: Malaysia and the Philippines; China's solution providers can hold their own against the East Eastern Bloc. And this is the real opportunity: development. China can do better - and does do better - than low-level testing and localization. For custom apps, come to China compared to the East European States.

The more and more I read and reread this and reflect upon what is said - it is more and more clear - amazing insight and absolutely the correct view despite all the noises that we hear form a plethora of sources.

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Detroit, Hollywood , International Markets -Changing Balanace & Globalisation

Came across this brilliantly analysed article comparing Detroit & Hollywood.
- Commonalities : in Detroit - market share and miles per gallon. In Hollywood, they're box office takes and agents' percentages.
- In Detroit, silicon can be found in painstakingly engineered auto parts. In Hollywood, silicone can be found in painstakingly engineered body parts.
- Business Models : Both are discovering that the strategy and tactics that until recently brought them huge profits have led them to re-examine their business models.
- Big Threat : Hhealth insurance and pension costs while Hollywood studios are buffeted by rapidly changing technologies and consumer tastes.
- Competition : From upstarts - Japanese and Korean automakers for Detroit, television, video games and the Internet for Hollywood.
- Marketshare : The -Big Three control just 58.3 percent of the United States market. Last year, according to the Motion Picture Association of America, only about 10 percent of the population managed to make it to the multiplex each week, and the number of tickets sold slumped 2.4 percent to a little more than 1.5 billion. So far this year, according to Exhibitor Relations, attendance is down another 7.8 percent.
- Rising Costs: The auto industry, the price of hot-rolled steel increased from by two times in a gap of two years. For studios, the price of Hollywood prima donnas has been rising far more rapidly than the consumer price index. Last year, according to the M.P.A.A., the average cost of making and marketing a film was $98 million - up more than 10 percent from 2003. Surefire formulas to cope with burgeoning competition, globalization and technological change have failed to win the game for Hollywood. Moviegoers apparently are having a similar reaction to Hollywood's buffet of warmed-over dishes.
- Piracy :Hollywood frets over the quick availability of excellent copies of the latest "Star Wars" film; Detroit frets over the prospect of the Chinese car company Chery marketing its cheap QQ minicar, which GM contends is a brazen knockoff of the Chevrolet Spark.
- Profit Model : Both industries no longer depend on earning profits from selling the products they make through the established distribution channel (dealers for Detroit, theaters for Hollywood) but on related activities. GM and Ford routinely lose money on their United States automaking operations, but are bailed out by their finance arms. The studios are really merchants of DVD's, broadcast and pay-per-view rights attached to money-losing manufacturers of movies made to be screened in theaters. Thee Hollywood studios garner just 17 percent of their film-related revenues from theaters.
- Home Market Focus : While United States box office revenues stagnated, box office revenues outside the United States surged 47 percent in dollar terms. The number of international tickets sold rose 13 percent last year. Meanwhile, GM's sales in China have risen 19 percent so far this year, its market share in china has risen from about 8 percent in 2003 to 11 percent this year.
SFGate has an interesting analysis of the Hollywood economy.

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Monday, July 18, 2005

Web 2.0 Mashups Transcend New Frontiers

We had been regularly covering developments around Web 2.0, one of the hottest topics today. We covered several emerging developments around Web 2.0 here, here, here, here. IHT shows that Google and Yahoo recently published documentation making it significantly easier for programmers to link virtually any kind of Internet data to Web-based maps and, in Google's case, satellite imagery. Their uses have been demonstrated in dozens of ways by hobbyists and companies,that includes display of instant maps showing the locations of the recent bombing attacks in London. Microsoft plans to introduce a competing service, Virtual Earth, with software that will enable programmers to use it in similarly creative ways. Yahoo, Google and Microsoft are creating the services in the expectation that they will become a focal point in one of the next significant growth areas in Internet advertising: contextual advertisements tied to specific locations. Such ads would be embedded into maps generated by a search query or run alongside them. One likely model to profit could be that the programming tools would be licensed on the basis of a revenue split from the advertising generated by use of the maps. The new services represent a shift to what is being described as "Web 2.0," a generation of Internet software technologies that will seamlessly plug together in new and unexpected ways, much like Lego blocks.

These are small pieces loosely joined - creating new functionality by combining these different services. While location-based advertising revenue is only beginning to emerge from the new mapping services, the tools being made available, known as application programming interfaces, have already led to an outburst of innovative applications. Earlier programs were developed that made it possible to display real estate listings from the bulletin-board site Craigslist overlaid on Google Maps. The resulting ''mash-ups,'' as the hybrid Web services are called, can be viewed at housingmaps.com. The site has already attracted more than half a million viewers and now receives more than 10,000 visits a day. The new wave of consumer-oriented mapping services is shaking up the relatively staid market for what are known as geographic information systems, which for more than a decade have been tailored largely for business customers.

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Sunday, July 17, 2005

Blog Tools -Multiple Options Abound

Choosing from multiple options for blog publishing is always a contentious issue. A few friends pointed me to OJR's good analysis of the options available and an easy referenceaeble comparison chart.The Web publishing format is gaining popularity as a legitimate business and marketing tool. Technologically savvy businesses are using blogs, or weblogs, to build relationships with their customers by sharing information, corporate culture and expertise. Every new blog publisher faces the problem of selecting, installing and configuring blog software. The array of possible options and configurations varies widely. While all blog software involves a learning curve, the amount of customization possible means that selecting the right software is important for a quicker, easier start.
There are two kinds of blog software available to the hopeful blog publisher. The first is hosted blog software. A hosted blog is one where all data and the publishing interface reside on the server of the blogging software company. The alternative is independent blog software that must be downloaded from the blogging software company and installed on a Web server. There are pluses and minuses to both. In both cases, the blog is set up and controlled by a database that handles the posts and the way they may be sliced and diced for display. Nearly all blog software stores your posts in a database, which permits handy things like searching and archiving.The blog's appearance and layout is usually controlled by a set of templates that includes information about things like the background color and logo placement, as well as the formatting information for how many posts are displayed on the front page. The power of databased content and templates working together has produced the Weblog phenomenon – easily updated Web sites that usually display updated content from most to least recent, along with reader comments and feedback. The comparison chart is available here.

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Web 2.0 - Microsoft Unready

We had been covering quite often recently about the challenges that lay ahead of Microsoft Opensource & Microsoft, Microsoft loses API war, Bandwidth is microsft's enemy, Future of Microsoft.

Steve Rubel writes from being a Microsoft fan – he is now considering dumping Microsoft for meeting his needs. Steve reasons that today, the Web is where the action is. It's the new OS. This means one can safely return to - the Mac - and yet still experience most, if not all of the hot new applications that are being built on AJAX on G4 PowerBook. In addition, there is no need to put up with patches, viruses, spyware, slowdowns, bloated registries anymore. While Microsoft is beginning to embrace RSS, & Longhorn will be hot and it will get many more people using feeds. But by the time Longhorn comes out (next year?) Microsoft will be less relevant than before. More people will be gravitating to the new wave of Web applications built on AJAX. Many of these applications will suffice as a more than adequate replacement for the 2% of Microsoft's product features they use regularly. The success of Gmail and Backpack - not to mention Socialtext and Wikipedia show the dawn of a new world.
In essence, Steve thinks Microsoft needs to make big bet like in the past & suggests focussing a lot more on Web 2.0. So far, Microsoft has been largely absent from this party – and urges Microsoft to incentivize the best talent within and start embracing the Web as OS. MSN Virtual Earth looks like a good start - but lot more is needed . Steve highlights the new world that Yahoo(Through Flickr), Google( Ajax & other initiatives(guessing google office)is taking where Microsoft is not present at all.While this is more or less repeat of what several others are saying, the very fact that we are hearing more of such things definitely portend to a change that is happening - wherein Microsoft may not have an incumbent advantage nor seen to be the pioneer - forcing to fight in to find a place for itself. To be fair to Microsoft - they are trying - we recently covered Windows Desktop Search APIs –Mashups & Web2.0 - this is clealry a Web 2.0 related initiative - the point is these are small advancements compared to what others are doing and what perhaps needs to get done..

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The Mobile Market : Growth Shows Early Peak

As markets mature in the mobile phone industry, the double digit growth rates are declining and shipments of new mobile phones are likely to grow at just under 6% in the coming years says the Instat report tracking the mobile handset growth. The worldwide mobile phone market will grow once again this year, setting yet another record. However, the rate of growth will slow, according to this new In-Stat report. Manufacturers will produce nearly 720 million units, according to the report titled "Humming Along: 2005 Mobile Phone Market Forecast". That represents a 5.8% increase from a year ago, but is down from double-digit growth seen in recent years. Sales of these phones will generate nearly $112 billion in revenue, the report points out. New subscribers and steady replacement rates will fuel the growth. But the rate will slow due to high penetration levels in some mature markets, and weaker-than-expected growth in some emerging ones.
Mobilemag adds,India, China and Eastern Europe are being termed as the new emerging markets and mobile phone users are still being added as subscribers in these economies at a scorching rate. So will the US and Europe end up with the r&d leftovers from the Asian and Eastern European markets? Probably not, these markets are still huge, with growth or without. However a significant portion of their research efforts are likely to be diverted to ensure that the emerging market requirements are duly met by these top mobile phone manufacturers. Customization for the emerging markets has been language specific and extensive, user studies are bound to show some more areas of improvements in the near future. Very true - across the various markets - we are seeing handset makers and service providers really struggling hard to get more and more customers/subscribers - we are also seeing india centered initiatives like this, and the so-called budget mobiles - all are attempts to keep the growth engine on and help increase reach and penetration of the mobile into the packet of every affordable global citizen at the low end and enticing anfd improving the usage and new rollouts with value added features and services help to keep action moving at the high end of the market..
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The Community, Chaos, Creative Collaboration

Digital technology is providing people with the tools to produce and share content like never before, and it is set to throw the relationship between them and institutions into turmoil. At a time when companies are grappling with how to make cool new stuff, it is the rising tide of creative collaborators working through the channel and tools of the net that is showing the way ahead .In the TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conference in Oxford, UK.Clay Shirky is predicting 50 years of chaos, saying, "Loosely organised groups will be increasingly given leverage - Institutions will come under increasing degrees of pressures and the more rigid they are, the more pressures they will come under.”It is going to be a mass re-adjustment.
Among the examples quoted in support – Californians in search of a different bike created the mountain bike – almost 1-0-15 years later commercial enterprises moved in and today a 65% of bike sales in the US are mountain bikes now. Passion coupled with community and the net created creative collaboration of a huge scale. This throws up the challenge of how to organize and bind all these within an enterprise framework – but efforts such as Wikipedia show that people power can and does work.
In this digital age, the most important means and components of core economies are in the hands of the population at large
," explains Yale Law professor Yochai Benkler. Computation, in other words, is in the hands of the entire population. And those computing tools are getting easier to use, more approachable, as well as more powerful. Blogging, services, tag-based applications to help people find content, peer-to-peer ways of distributing content, grid computing, open source software, are all examples of how this is happening online now. Benkler describes this as a new "transactional framework" - it is essentially the first system of social production, sharing and exchange for a long time that is actually making companies sit up and listen, because they have to. Big companies are now seeing the economic opportunity of this kind of open, collaborative production, by the people, making social production a fact and not just a fad. I think that while the core message is right here - still feel that these would play at best a supportive but a significant role in the emerging ecosystem – that should not be confused to be seen as the only way – commercial and competitive frameworks have always provided the best progress to business and to human society at large.

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