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Friday, March 31, 2006

The Debate On Corporate Blogging

Werner Vogels, Amazon's CTO, asks the question to Robert Scoble and Shel Israel, Why should corporations blog? Warner Vogels writes,"We( Amazon.com) have a long history of promoting customers to use their voice about our products and our operations, so if you come to Amazon to tell us our business is going to really suffer if we do not blog, you better be prepared to defend your ideas with very strong arguments and hard evidence. We expect that from anyone, externally or internally, who wants to promote an idea within Amazon. This was my approach with challenging Shel and Robert at our lunch meeting. I wanted them abandon their fuzzy group hug approach, and counter me with hard arguments why they were right and I was wrong. Instead they appeared shell-shocked". He adds,"Beyond "a more human face" and "conversations with individuals from Amazon" there was no real response how blogging will make the product named Amazon.com better for our customers given all the techniques we already use from soliciting customer feedback to discussion forums to snooping weblogs and comments sites, etc."

I like blogging, I support blogging initiatives – but fuzziness in promoting blogs may not help anyone. Scoble and Shel have responded back on the Amazon presentation. Werner Vogels has clearly provided a refreshingly blunt viewpoint.In general, the influence of blogs are certainly bound to increase over time. Scoble and Shel – this would only help in improving the blogosphere effectiveness,take it in the strides and things can only get better.

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Feedreaders Compared

Mike Arrington’s Techcrunch publishes a comparative analysis of the major feed readers. The note says underscores the extremely competitive atmosphere surrounding this industry’s development. On a feature-set basis only, two companies stood out: Rojo and Bloglines. He writes that Google Reader and FeedLounge won the subjective feed-load test, which determines how well the application pulls up a particular feed. The test consisted of loading five feeds and taking the average of the load times and rating the reader on a five-point scale. While bloglines continues to be my favorite, I see that Rojo’s Mojo , feed tags and Google’s labels. The study finds Feedlounge & Google Reader scoring 4/5 and Bloglines scoring 3.5/5 & recommends, Google Reader and FeedLounge score the fastest in performance, Bloglines and Rojo are the best choice for a feature rich application (and Rojo blows Bloglines away on “web 2.0″ type features). I see that Bloglines is improving and would continue to use it.

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Morgan Stanley & Email Revelations

I saw this news item months back. InformationWeek writes about some alleged questionable behaviour inside Morgan Stanley. The magazine also carries an article on some mail exchange that is said to have happened with Morgan Stanley that relates to doing business with Wipro. I have read the article thoroughly and do not find anything incriminating about these two companies. I do know based based on market sources that this is at best a symbiotic relationship – both of them as far as I know do not enjoy exclusive relationships – they continue to pursue opportunities to work with each other competitors as well. What I found interesting in the article is the CXO level mail blocking that has happened there – so that CEO Phil Purcell, would receive E-mails from only their direct reports and Morgan Stanley board members. I find this obnoxious, so to say & am keen an answer comes to the question –“Whether cordoning off E-mail access in this way is a breach of Sarbanes-Oxley financial transparency rules – that appears to me as the only point to get discussed. (Some customary declaration :All that is written in this blog are purely my personal views).

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Basab Pradhan Joins The Blogosphere

I recently wrote about Basab Pradhan & co launching Gridstone. Courtesy of Kaps spotted his newly launched blog. Subscribed. I only hope that lot more senior members of the india headquartered IT service companies begin to blog.

As I wrote earlier, Basab has created a new impetus inside the various IT companies where senior executives are wanting to start on their own. I definitely expect in the coming days lot more action happening in the the Indian venture capital industry.

A. New entrepreneurial forces emerging out of the Indian offshoring enterprises (I expect more activities - strongly pronounced,to emerge from this ecosystem moving forward)

B. Acceptance of US bases Angel’s, VC’s and financial investors of the emergence of such streams and backing them.

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Thursday, March 30, 2006

10 years to Figure Out The Right Way To Use XML

This is indeed an impressive show. FeedBurner service is used by more than 145,000 bloggers, podcasters and commercial publishers reaching 10 million subscribers in more than 190 countries. There are more than a quarter of a million feeds (including 43,244 podcasts). COO and Co-Founder Steve Olechowski shares his vision.As he sees it, "it’s taken the Internet industry, 10 years to figure out the right way to use XML. It started out with all sorts of proprietary formats and usage patterns and finally settling for simplicity". Echoing Joe Kraus, he says the new web movement has been helped by opesnource software( today the infrrastructure software is almost free), as well as the falling costs of hardware, hosting, and bandwidth. It’s allowed companies to start a business without a lot of outside capital. Now the growth & revenue model :FeedBurner makes money by creating incredible value for feed publishers. They in turn either pay us to use our services via buying service licenses or revenue sharing. FeedBurner is not a feed aggregator per se, but a feed management service, representing publishers and provide services for feed publishers. Simple and nice read and by the way Feedburner's imressive growth while offering very reliable service is an important thing to watch. Its perceived success ought to be attributed to its clear positioning and good execution and not just as bein in the growth area in the rigt time

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Nissan : From Sole Source To Multiple Sources

Close to GM announcing it's much expected outsourcing decision, Nissan announces significant changes in approach towards IT services outsourcing. Nissan outsourced its entire operations to IBM in 1999, but is now returning its business analysis, architecture and other strategic IT functions in-house and is hiring new workers. The decision seems to resemble in many ways but not entirely like the decision that J.P.Morgan took on outsourcing almost an year back. Robert Greenberg recognized that the world has changed pretty substantially since the original outsourcing was done, both in terms of the competitiveness of the outsourcing marketplace and the increased use of offshore vendors. He shares his perspective –"One of the things that also took place with the original outsourcing to IBM was we probably outsourced too much. when you’re outsourcing: how much to outsource is always a contentious point". In his view, Nissan had outsourced a lot of the business analysis activity, the program management activity and the application and infrastructure architecture activities in addition to the physical execution & has now decided to bring those back internal and are now going though a fairly large hiring effort at the moment in order to do that. Besides, Nissan has made a decision as well to move its corporate headquarters from L.A. to the Nashville area. In terms of the deal constructs, as he sees it, there are very significant savings. In terms of what Nissan gains from a business linkage standpoint. I am not adding any comment( for obvious reasons) on this except for saying this approach looks interesting

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Growing BPM Space & Players Therein

Gartner’s Jim Sinur is quite focussed on the BPM industry and here he makes some
insightful observations on the rising BPM industry, industry benefits and the strength of the players therein. The whole interview is a great read –particularly his assessment on where the BPM industry is headed. I particularly liked what he had to say about the BPM players.

IE : To some, the big platform vendors blending SOA and BPM are looking very dominate. Would you agree?

JS: That jumps to the conclusion that scale is going to win, but my conclusion is this is disruptive technology, and if it's big vendors trying to extend their platform only, they may very well miss the boat. Microsoft is going to be late to the game. SAP is going to be late to the game. IBM and Oracle are there, but there is so much demand that other players like Lombardi, Pegasystems, Global 360, Ultimus, Savvion and others are going to pick up a certain amount of the business because the big guys aren't ready.

IE : All sorts of vendors are claiming to support BAM. How do you define it?

JS: If you're driving down the road and you're looking through your rear-view mirror, you have BI. If you're looking through the windshield and anticipating where you have to turn off next and where the holes are in the traffic so you can move around slower traffic, that's BAM. It lets you know what's happening on the road, while you can still make decisions and optimize as you thread your way through the traffic.

Great stuff, I should say. I recently wrote about the rising spectre of BPM and covered the perspective –" parameters distilled from actual operations can be fed back into the process model to begin the next cycle of performance improvement”.

Writing on the fact that best-of-breed players are leading in the BPM space, I wrote,

The BPM space winners are surprisingly not the big players but the best-of-the breed lot. It is time that we begin to recognize the players based on their capabilities and general strengths and not necessarily look at the big players for all types of solutions – Big players need to be grilled a lot more in their ability to provide emerging cutting edge solutions on specific niche areas– while they may be the starting posts for any enterprise procurements – as things evolve it may become the case that they may not be seen near the end posts in evaluation post everytime. Therein may lay the solution for the growth of the enterprise software sector and the ability of business to overall extract better value from IT. Bryan Stolle once wrote there is still much innovation to be done, especially as the market gets more and more vertically focused. With the current moods however many innovative vendors will have to shut their doors before they get the chance to be the next Salesforce.com. Big vendors also need to begin to get measured on new parameters like innovation /innovation absorption, to ensure that they stay along the curve of progress. As I wrote recently I do not see how the large platform players can overake the super special players( there are many of them - some have existed for decades - though a majority of them for just under a decade) or provide justice with specialized smaller companies like rules engines, collaboration systems, content management systems, document management systems, procurement solutions, business intelligence etc. Clearly there shall be several smaller companies that would co-exist as part of the larger enterprise ecosystem. Big vendors may not be the only choice for connecting all the dots in enterprise space(while unarguably they shall hold the central place there) - other specialist/niche players also hold a legitimatley well earned space - the sooner this is understood and get reflected in thoughts and actions - the better it is for the complete enterprise ecosystem - without further straining the already near fatigued corporate buyer sentiments.

Innovation, nichefication and superior value add still has its place in the enterprise software industry.

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Jupiter Research Gets Acquired By Kagan Research

Courtesy of Tekrati saw the announcement of Jupiter Research & Kagan Research coming together to create JupiterKagan, as a major provider of research, consulting and thought leadership in the areas of media, telecommunications, the Internet and emerging consumer technologies. The new firm is expected to have the scale, depth and breadth necessary to help clients at a time of rapid evolution of the media and telecommunications industries, as the influence of the Internet on business continues to accelerate. Jupitermedia, the parent of Jupiter research has sold Jupiter research to Kagan Research. Where’s the fitment here -David Schatsky says that Kagan is a storied research brand, known for its rigorous, data-backed analysis of the media and telecommunications industries and its team of heavy-hitter analysts. And JupiterResearch, is the research company focused on the Internet and emerging consumer technologies. The rationale for the merger: combine the complementary assets (Jupiter’s syndicated research & Kagan consultative and appraisal strengths) and build a bigger, more influential research and consulting powerhouse that can advise clients at every phase of the media and technology lifecycle, from appraising a deal to programming content in a multi-platform digital world. The analyst ecosystem is undergoing a major churn( the changes happening here appears to be far more swifter than the main technology ecosystem) – its clearly becoming a bipolar sort of world –one which can accommodate big players like Gartner & Forrester on one side and the other side we shall see the emergence of specialist players and an interesting set of bloggers, all set to become a formidable force. While summarising Software 2005 deliberations, held almost an year back, I echoed one of the oft repeated view there - Internet’s disruptive power is bringing to the fore, questions of real value add by analysts given the fact more and more information is beginning to be freely available. A new type of analyst firm based on a different business model needed to emerge.Clearly somewhere customer expectations and awareness are triggering a series of changes in the analyst research ecosystem.

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Bill Gates Outlines Industry Megatrends

Microsoft has a highly well integrated vision and it is one that resonated among the customers attending Convergence. Its weakness is that it relies on a broad and deep application and infrastructure stack that Microsoft is struggling to deliver, as illustrated by the most recent Vista and Office 2007 delays. Gates identifies five technology areas that are behind the development of role-based productivity across enterprise and desktop applications:

User Interface: First, the need to provide a familiar interface modelled on the specific role of the user, via new Vista-based user interfaces. The forthcoming Office interface, does away with hierarchical drop-down menus and introduces the concept of context-sensitive "ribbons" to navigate through processes, and transparent "glass panes" so users can see how they got to their current page without cluttering the screen with multiple windows.

Service Oriented Architecture: The second area of development focuses on delivering service-oriented applications. The applications are gradually moving towards the service-based .NET architecture, as part of Microsoft's overall goal to deliver a unified code base embracing currently disparate applications. Gates warned of some dangers, cautioning that SOA in the consumer world, delivered over the internet, has been over-simplified and can be lacking in the areas of security, reliability and scalability, so it was important to design SOA for a business-class environment.

Collaboration : This is an important component and here Windows SharePoint Services will provide the foundation to enable a transparent organization where employees, partners and suppliers can access data at all times in a secure manner. In practice Gates believes SOA and collaboration developments will be important in crossing the boundary between structured applications and human based communications, which is where business transactions go awry.

Business Intelligence : The fourth technology pillar is business intelligence and the need to make it available beyond the traditional group of specialists and here tools like the previously announced SQL Server Reporting Services are key enablers, allowing users to be automatically presented with information relevant to their role.

Composite Applications : Finally the ability to rapidly develop composite applications is driving design and will play an important role in spanning the boundaries between structured and unstructured data while also tying together formal processes with ad hoc workflow.

Microsoft is aiming to deliver tools that will enable software developers to rapidly compose and manage web service based composite applications, based around the Windows Communications Framework. Its approach is heavily role-based but that should not be taken to mean that it is just looking at superficial screen-based integration or presenting Office as an alternative to a portal; its integration strategy goes deep into the stack and across the applications. The vision is there - The key question is where and when would the delivery happen.

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The Future Of The Internet

While the framework of governance continues to evolve there is a widespread belief that along with the growth of the internet, more and more problems such as spam, viruses and "denial of service" attacks that can cripple large websites shall begin to be felt. It seems reasonable to assume that the number of devices on the network will continue to multiply in new and unforeseen ways. So researchers are starting from the assumption that communications chips and sensors will eventually be embedded in almost everything, from furniture to cereal boxes - "hundreds of billions of such devices". While today's internet traffic is generally initiated by humans- as they send e-mails, click on web links, or download music tracks- in future, the vast majority of traffic may be "machine to machine" communications: things flirting with other things – all ready to be connected wirelessly, and will move around.

The Economist has a related article titled Reinventing the Internet. Asking the question if a can a “clean slate” redesign of the internet can ever be implemented.
Few solutions float around:
- One is “trust-modulated transparency”. The network's traffic-routing infrastructure shall judge the trustworthiness of packets of data as they pass by and deliver only those deemed trustworthy & dubious packets might be shunted aside for screening. The whole system would be based on a “web of trust”, in which traffic flows freely between devices that trust each other, but is closely scrutinized between those that do not.
- Another idea is a new approach to addressing, called “internet indirection infrastructure” - It would overlay an additional addressing system on top of the internet-protocol numbers now used to identify devices on the internet. This would make it easier to support mobile devices, and would also allow for “multicasting” of data to many devices at once, enabling the efficient distribution of audio, video and software. With Activenets or metanets, devices at the edge of the network could then dynamically reprogram all the routers along the network path between them to use whatever new protocol they wanted.
While the research is still on there some hopes of making some progress on the technical front – but It may well transpire that the greatest impediment to upgrading the internet will turn out to be political disagreements like this , this, over how it should work, rather than the technical difficulty of bringing it about.
The OECD hosted a workshop titled The Future of the Internet in Paris on 8 March 2006. Some of the presentations look good and a few of them make a compelling reading.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The SaaS Hype : Insider’s Take

Phil Wainewright recently brought out issues of information misrepresentation between two SaaS players – Salesforce.com & Entellium. I did not want to comment on this as I have seen on numerous occasions product companies play dirt and exchange slinging muds.In the process, some thing interesting has opened up - a new insight,coming directly from the insider camp. Courtesy of Dennis Howlettsaw this insightful assessment from one of the SaaS insiders. Entellium’s marketing director Natalee Roan lists the key issues that customers need to be aware of while embracing SaaS. Some key points with edits and my comments in brackets :

• Need to sign long-term agreements and pay upfront for a 12-month contract. Somehow hosted CRM companies get to market a monthly fee and then charge a year or more before you even get started. (I think that with awareness & skillful negotitation, the contractual terms may be changed but its indeed a telling statement.)

• They turn the sale into a "features-functions" war rather than take the time to understand what you need. (Absolutely agreed - in general, enterprise CIO's may begin to find this approach dificult to digest)

• The SLA management frameworks are loaded in favor of the service provider. The best of them o say nothing about back-up schedules, downtime notifications, incident resolution times….all critical items in Software as a Service, or hosted solutions.
( Lets give time - The industry is quite young - but seen from a buyer perspective, this is alarming)

•The industry seems to intentionally avoid standardization just to keep their high prices in tact, with hundreds of partners waiting to take a bite out of the unwary buyer. The ploy is to make the buyer believe your business so special that this extra work is needed in the name of "customization". The entire industry is a feeding frenzy on the customer. (Am not too sure on this front – most of the SaaS products are state of the art in terms of technology – Web Services & SOA standards are in reasonable shape now. However Integration brings forth complexity of its own kind – process level, data level, technology centric like that of legacy systems and under optimized topology & architecture would force efforts – not to defend anyone here. I would also like to know if some one can point me to big oodles of money made by service providers in implementing hosted solutions)
In summary,

even with hosted CRM companies that advertise "No Software" –You buy more features then you can possibly use, on a long-term agreement that you pay for up-front, with no service guarantees if something goes wrong. Further, you wind up paying them to support their own product, and needing them or someone else to make the product work the way they told you it would before you signed on the dotted line in the first place

Is this acceptable to you? A clear NO is the answer here.

We recently covered Matt Miller saying,SaaS is only at action the press level and even CIO’s tending to agree that the perpetual license model is dead, have not committed any big dollars to subscriptions. I wrote about this several months back – SaaS : Overwhelming issues coming in the way of adoption , concluding that not a very easy path lay to embrace Software-as-a-Service model. I think that the conditions have not changed much in the last few months after this got published.

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Sandhill Group's Software 2006 Conference

I am attending the the Software 2006 Conference on April 4/5 in Santa Clara. Looking forward to meet a lot of interesting people. This time, the list of speakers look very impressive - Ray Lane, Shai Agassi, David DeWalt besides very rich set of breakout sessions. I will be blogging the event as well.

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Monday, March 27, 2006

Microsoft & The 50 Million Lines Of Code Heavyweight

Microsoft’s shipping problem is well known. Steve Lohr & John Markoff write, "The strategy of bundling more and more features into its dominant Windows desktop operating system to thwart competition and stifle innovation is now affecting Microsoft - it turns out that Windows is indeed stifling innovation - at Microsoft". Vista is getting more and more delayed. Windows XP, the previous version is now about five years old .In those five years, the authors point out thatApple has turned out four new versions of its Macintosh operating system, beating Microsoft to market with features that will be in Vista, like desktop search, advanced 3-D graphics and "widgets," an array of small, single-purpose programs like news tickers, traffic reports and weather maps. The problem is not lack of talent or other resources, but it seems, is largely that Microsoft's past success and its bundling strategy have become a weakness. Due to enormous reach, each new version of Windows carries the baggage of its past. Windows Vista is a sprawling, complex software construction project with 50 million lines of code, or more than 40 percent larger than Windows XP. Microsoft does not want to delink the past and destabilize the windows ecosystem – part of the reason for its popularity but could slow down progress and stifle innovation. Some argue that the key to vista’s success may be to delink the past and start afresh as Apple did by retooling and tailoring the Next operating system into what became Macintosh OS X. Apple does not have to worry about a massive business ecosystem which Windows carries. Now the question is can Apple come out with a game changing innovation – that could give some credible competition to Microsoft – in the process providing customers with choice.

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Nick Carr, Robert Scoble & Blogging Etiquette

Nicholas Carr finds Scobeleizer as the bully of the blogosphere. In some parts I agree with him and in some parts, disagree with Nick. Nick is right in pointing out that it is very important for someone to keep cool and project a dignified image about the company and keep corporate language in the blogs – normally associated with corporate. I disagree with him in trying to sanitize the blogs with a framework for bloggers from the corporate world – I think the blogosphere movement has its own trajectory and focus – after all scobeleizer is not running something like the Mini-Microsoft blog ( which manages to get international attention anyway in large numbers) .

I fully endorse Nick’s view(made in response to Scoble’s claim that the blog is his own and not that of Microsoft) that if one’s intent is on indulging oneself with an own blog, it is better to refrain from blogging about one’s own company. Being an employee always requires curbing one's self-indulgent instincts. Scobeleizer is also an important member of the blogging movement. In my view his contribution far exceeds the blips that I might notice in his recent writings. So net effect – easily excused but Nick’s point is noted and deserves definite consideration. After all this is a fast evolving media and perhaps less than five years old – viewpoints and perspectives like these would always help in the growth of the blogosphere.

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Saturday, March 25, 2006

Leadership And Vision For The City

All of us know leadership is all about vision and orchestrating the troop towards fulfilling a shared vision. I came across this nice piece by Bruce MacEwen, the creator and host of "Adam Smith, Esq." a widely followed site which addresses the business side of the practice of law writes on the difference between implementers, managers and leaders. I can not resist quoting him. Excerpts:
- Implementers worry about "capability:" They're focused on the pavement.
- Managers worry about "viability:" They're focused on the layout of the street grid.
- Leaders worry about "culture:" They're focused on The Vision For The City
Implementers and Managers have to agree on Requirements: Which and How
Managers and Leaders have to agree on Objectives: When and Why
And in the process of managing change, Leaders focus on The Market, and what signals it's giving out about the need for change, while Managers focus on the Leaders. No wonder, leaders are hard to come by.

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Unsustainable Web 2.0 Momentum – Look For Realistic Options

Caterina of Flickr.com, fame writes, it’s bad time to start a (Web 2.0) company now. In a scenario where everyone starting a company and managing to get funded she writes,

You've got $5 million in the bank, and they do too. Their VCs want them to succeed every bit as much as your VCs want you to succeed. This gets you into a horse race, which no one wants: it's exhausting and expensive". She adds,” Web 2.0 isn't all that – she adds its not a rising tide lifting all boats here & points put that Web 2.0 is not the magic bullet some people seem to think it is either. It ain't the features, it's that AND the business

My Take: These views are similar to what I echoed several weeks back. As I wrote weeks back, its time for a reality check on Web 2.0 movement. Web 2.0 is clearly getting disproportionate coverage in the blogosphere. Web2.0 share in the real world as delivering value to business and society is indeed limited - if we look at the enterprise software – they directly are responsible for making the business machines hum and improve- be it airline scheduling, dispatching crude oil or treasury management or powering the stock exchanges of the world. I sort of agree with the view web 2.0 movement lacks meaning & magic. I am fine with already established players like Amazon & Google getting web2.0 tagged – am also fine with finding a productive niche to thrive in the information value chain. Moving forward like in the e-business space, we need to have the wisdom and mechanisms for cross-integrating/leveraging web 2.0 applications for larger benefits – this calls for standards in development, build & integration blocks – all this would come only out of a solid base of web 2.0 apps that get built beneath – truly a tall order given the fragile nature of several web2.0 entities. In this overcrowded and overhyped market, clearly if one is building a product for just the Web 2.0 community, its likely to be headed nowhere- in a small crowded market, the means to get out of the niche segment looks quite difficult. We can definitely see a petering out of the web 2.0 momentum as we see it now and several entities would disappear – but one hope is that out of this something robust and strong might emerge – but we have cut through the hype. In the enterprise software segment, we are now beginning to see good ideas getting funded and enterprises are getting launched. As Ray Lane recently wrote in respect of enterprise software companies, opportunities exist for companies pursuing the innovate – dominate paradigm. Managing to wim angel and VC funding on selling hype alone won't assure a strong business model - essential to success of every enterprise.Moving forward, I believe in general that good companies with robust business models will always get funded and would swim through tides to make it – cool websites with presentable fonts are not necessarily ones with good business models.

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The US Internet Backbone & Net Neutrality

Courtesy of Information Aesthetics, came across the map of the internet backbone of the united states. The map shows all the 134,855 of routers in the extremely detailed map of the US Internet backbone. The colors represent who each router is registered to: red is Verizon, blue AT&T, yellow Qwest, green is major backbone players like Level 3 & Sprint Nextel, black is the entire cable industry put together, & gray is everyone else, from small telecommunications companies to large international players who only have a small presence in the U.S. It needs to be noted that while AT&T & the likes may own the pipes, the internet infrastructure ownership appears to be a different thing. Here's the link to the detailed PDF map. Ben Worthen has an excellent post covering the details. As one can see the net neutrality issue - which concerns the carriers, the content dealers and infomediaries is more complex an issue that it meets the eye. Not a great news for the incumbent Telco’s. The future of several VoIP players revolve around this.As a recent OECD workshop on internet infrastructure discussed, the top unsolved problems in internet operations & engineering are still rooted in economics, ownership and trust (EOT). As i wrote earlier, The principle achieves this by adopting the basic principle that broadband operatorsshould have full freedom to "police what they own" (the local network) while restrictionsbased on inter-network indicia should be viewed with suspicion. This non-discrimination principle works by recognizing a distinction betweenlocal network restrictions, which are generally allowable, and inter-network restrictions,which should be viewed as suspect - More on this topic can be found here. The issue looks tricky with logic and reason telling that telecom and cable players may prevail but history tells that innovators and swift players move fastly and more cleverly and establish themselves.

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Friday, March 24, 2006

Power Law : Moore’s Law Of Shaving Razors

Courtesy of Businessinnovationinsider saw this article on the power law for razors.

The Economist has a hilarious article on the trend of increasing number of blades inside shaving razors.
For those who think that Gillette's five-bladed Fusion is the end of the road for razor-blade escalation – the surprising news is that more blades may seem impossible for the moment—though strictly speaking the Fusion has six, because it has a single blade on its flip-side for tricky areas—but anyone of a gambling persuasion might want to examine the relationship between how many blades a razor has, and the date each new design was introduced. The relationship chart suggests shavers are going to get more blades whether they need them or not. The article wonders whether just like Moore's law — the observation that computer chips double in power every 18 months or so—it seems that technology as well as marketing determines the rate at which new blades are introduced. If mathematical trends can be relied upon, then power law shows there may be a 14-bladed razor by 2100. Was just wondering how much of software and silicon would also get inside a razor by then! And we all know that the spate of recent innovations here are anything but a hyperbole.

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The India Metaphor & Billion Reasons To Care

Here's an interesting little video profiling the current mood and the momentum for growth of India. The video quotes one of the often repeated view that get heard within the country – "the economy grows while the government sleeps". While customarily capturing (customarily like what every other western media crew does) the abject poverty rampant in the country, the video shows C.K.Prahalad as saying this is the "India Metaphor" – "What you see outside is not what you get to see inside" – pointing to ambitious and enthusiastic people embracing technology and education under seemingly tougher circumstances.

Pointing to the fact that the country currently has several hundred million people under age 25 (the number of english speaking people in the country exceed the population in the US), the society known for its 3000 +year reverence of knowledge has mastered the art getting things done – finding some method behind all the madness. Thomas Friedman captures the mood in the country beginning to release several decades of pent up energy – In his words to visualize the mood in India –"You want to know what India feels like, its really quite simple. Pull out a champagne bottle, shake it for an hour and uncork it. You wouldn't want to get in the way of that cork!". The most pro American country outside the US & the largest democracy in the world is just relaunching itself – there are one billion reasons to watch it – a fact that Clyde Prestowitz amply brought out recently.

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Business Models & Tiered Services

While in a conversation with a serial entrepreneur , I asked him the question when he narrated a new idea for a venture – where’s the revenue model here – he said forget it – build the traffic- we can figure out the revenue model. Of course, I was flabbergasted – but in this new age world, that is anyway the norm. Fred Wilson writes about his preferred business model - "Give your service away for free, possibly ad supported but maybe not, acquire a lot of customers very efficiently through word of mouth, referral networks, organic search marketing, etc, then offer premium priced value added services or an enhanced version of your service to your customer base".He adds that the best examples of this business model are when the customer implicitly understands why the paid service has to cost money. More storage costs for photos or virtual storage are good examples. Termination costs on other carriers networks in the Skype model are another. When it is just additional features that don't carry an incremental cost to offer, it may be harder to convert free users to paid users. But if your free service is loved and you do a good job articulating the value that comes with the paid service, you can convert to paying users with good results

While these principles may appeal to be a common denominator of ingredients meant for success, I think true success would go beyond these basic things – the combination of ideas, process, innovation, execution efficiency, branding, timing etc. all such things matter a lot.If we are to look at the major market segments and see how these can marry online technologies - while various options come on top of the mind – in reality, if you study closely, only such entities which have scored well on most of the above factors have tasted success. Seem from a growth perspective, this model’s handicap would become apparent –
I. when everyone follows It .
II. When the market sees no differentiated value for like services

Creating tiered services may also be difficult to maintain – like the to be discontinued yahoo plus! service saga shows. Nichified early adopters may see an intital edge , but in this dynamic world where acquisiions are becoming more normal. The success of the enterprise needs a more delicious recipe. The answer is clearly ability to ass differentiated value to customers, offered through innovative means.

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Ajax Write : Sensationalism Alone Won't Suffice

Michael Robertson launches Ajaxwrite via his note titled –“Bye Bye Microsoft Word, Hello ajaxWrite”.

A quick review of the aplication shows may striking disadvantages : First of all feature richness appears to be low and as Tdavid points out this can not be used mostly while inside an aircraft (not yet widely available). Michael writes,"My plan is to replace bloated, expensive PC software with a system that dynamically loads software to your computer when you need it and at no cost. Want to write a document? One click and you'll have a word processor at your fingertips. Need to create a financial model? Click, and a spreadsheet program is at your service. The software will always be up to date and run on any Mac/Win/Lin computer". Laudable goal indeed. But looking at the average bandwidth used by internet users around the world, connectivity issues may crop up. My experience in trying to connect was successful after prolonged trial and the minimal features therein disappointed me. When the world becomes full of services, things may change – that’s far away as Jeff points out. Ajaxwrite may be used selectively and sparingly by a set of users but unlikely to become a mass force capable of dislodging or fighting Microsoft Word. No doubt that Office/Word needs to be less bloated, more open & economical is undisputed – we need a credible alternative for that. No doubt the world is waiting for that,openoffice seems to have that potential – but clearly it has not mounted that credible a challenge so far. My feel is any such competing product needs the wholehearetd backing of a very big player - this is a high stakes game. This needs size, reach and substantial resources to win the mass market & therefore, it really requires a very big player to mount such a challenge - whether in the on premise world or in the on demand world.

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Advances In Science Towards 2020 : Microsoft Perspective:

In an age where people ask questions like -"What if a great man of the last century – Gandhi, say – had had access to the communications networks of our age when he made one of his most important speeches?" The result is 'Telecom Italia Gandhi', an astonishing 60-second spot that has just started airing in ItalySuch an ambitious project with such a high-profile director needed the very best in VFX support, and Framestore CFC were delighted to fill that role. The result is the video titled, Telecom Italia Gandhi. If people can think about yesteryears and relate to current day technology anc could come up with such interesting stuff, what if the current hero's(technology)advance could look like say 15 years from now. On a serious note, some answers/indicators are coming out. Kevin Schofield points to microsoft research's recently released report called Toward 2020 Science, a painstakingly written report from a wide body of experts in terms of a broad look at how computing is going to affect the sciences over the next 15 or so years.
Excerpts from an interesting article titled : Everything Everywhere :
Computers could go from being back-office number-crunchers to field operatives. Twenty-four hours a day, year-in, year-out, they could measure every conceivable variable of an ecosystem or a human body, at whatever scale might be appropriate, from the nanometric to the continental. These new computers would take the form of networks of sensors with data-processing and transmission facilities built in. Millions or billions of tiny computers — called 'motes', 'nodes' or 'pods' — would be embedded into the fabric of the real world. They would act in concert, sharing the data that each of them gathers so as to process them into meaningful digital representations of the world. Researchers could tap into these 'sensor webs' to ask new questions or test hypotheses. Even when the scientists were busy elsewhere, the webs would go on analysing events autonomously, modifying their behaviour to suit their changing experience of the world. These sensor webs will frequently be just single layers in a stack of data-collecting systems. These will extract information at different temporal and spatial scales, from satellite remote-sensing data down to in situ measurements. Managing these stacks will require massive amounts of machine-to-machine communication, so a major challenge is to develop new standards and operating systems that will allow the various networks to understand each other. Sensors and networks of sensors will need to be able to communicate what their data are about, how they captured and calibrated them, who is allowed to see them, and how they should be presented differently to users with different needs. The roadmap with the findings of the document is available here

(Image Courtesy : Microsoft Research)

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Apple Talent Show

(Via John Paczkowski)Google Video rocks. A former Apple customer service representative shows what he feels led to his dismissal. Here’s the link to the funny video. This follows the widely circulated video of how the iPod would like if Microsoft had designed it. Both are highly enjoyable videos to watch. Google Video's mauy be rewriting the rule - the new rule - say it with vidoes - after all the age of pictures are passe!!

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The Rising Levels Of Venture Capital Activities In India

NYTimes sees signs of shift toward high-value work to India are becoming more visible. Silicon Valley Bank executives find twice as many Indian start-ups looking for capital investment than even a few months ago. The article adds, Bangalore is becoming a hunting ground for venture capitalists looking for promising investment opportunities. As I wrote earlier, in the early-stage investing business, there are a few small funds that are local to India but have not done too many deals and highlights venture money goes into early stage, pre-product or pre-revenue companies in the US , while a majority of the private equity is going into late stage businesses in India.
Matt Marshall quotes legal expert as saying, “"In the 1990s, money was coming from all over the world to be invested here," he said. "Now investors are using us to raise funds to spend abroad. It's the exporting of U.S capital to those countries." Over the past several weeks, he's wrapped up four venture firms focused on India, and two focused on China”. These type of hype are far from reality – while no doubt the activity levels are increasing with every passing day – even am hearing of 2/3 new pitched being made for investment, the ground situation as I see it remains what I recently wrote:
Would the next Google come out of India? ( we saw earlier Google Finance engineering work started in India).Truth is that in general most indian enterprises are hardly innovation chasing entities, and the framework for VC entry & exits are poorly defined. Coupled with limited VC activity in the past and archaic regulations – these make it a tougher breeding ground for enterprises like that of what is seen in the valley. VC’s and Angel’s may find it difficult to spot the next Flickr coming out of India. Angel investments and VC are so close to each other – the absence of one hurts the other very badly. The big company boards in India are mostly filled with family members and friends. The investor activism is very limited – the culture in general cascades across the ecosystem – the concept of family acting as passive investors leaving the running of the enterprise to professionals are quite limited in numbers and where in vogue it is mostly within well defined spheres of activities - in such cases direct compensations are better and not necessarily linked to sweat equities. Correspondingly the spark needed to work on innovative ideas aided by sweat equities for key employees second to many levels down mostly does not exist. The ecosystem inside India is also tough where job market dynamics at senior levels are less active compared to what we see in the western markets. The talent levels inside India continue to be very high – all it requires is a vibrant ecosystem - but not many recognise the issue here - talking india's growth for granted may be the biggest mistake - the country can't afford. Sridhar Mitta’s observation may be somewhere closer to reality – the situation in hotspots in India maybe at best comparable to that of Austin or Boston area in terms of opportunities that get funded. Things are getting better and is certainly poised to improve further.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Microsoft Vista – Delayed Again

The next chapter in the remaking of longhorn is already published. Now comes the announcement that the consumer launch of Windows Vista operating system was supposed to happen in the second half of 2006, but Microsoft will now ship this in January 2007.
Bob Cringley and several others predicted early this year that Vista launch may not happen in 2006 at all. No doubt the PC makers waiting to cash in an upgrade upturn may be concerned in a big way as they are not only seeing this getting delayed – it could also potentially affect their Christmas season sale plans. Apple must be pleased.

Microsoft’s last reorganization was aimed at driving greater agility in the execution of its software and services strategy. It claimed that its re-organisation is aimed at strengthening its planned release for the next eighteen months in core areas. From sep 2005 –work forward – eighteen months close by DFeb2007 and this new launch date is Jan 2007. As a matter of fact, Microsoft chopped off most of the real features from Vista to get it out "on time". Some critics argue that this could be akin to a cosmetic upgrade and even here Microsoft has delayed the launch further. While Microsoft’s legendary shipping problem is well known, and some have had questioned its future, there had always been the recognition about its unmatchable capability in churning out large doses of software. It may be another matter that today, the leaders of the indian headquartered offshore firms may lay claim that they write more code than others. Hopefully they would stick to this date for the promised launch – delayed by several years till now.

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IDC’s Top Ten Predictions For SaaS - (Read Do Not Waste Time Reading This Report)

IDC believes that these types of disruptive business models will ripple throughout a variety of software markets in 2006 & the role of SaaS delivery in the software industry continues to grow. Traditional software players have recognized the importance of SaaS and numerous SaaS-focused companies are entering the marketplace.

- Large ISVs Will Spin Off On-Demand Versions of Products
- Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Remain a "Tough Nut to Crack"
- Microsoft Strengthens SaaS Resolve
- Software on Demand Providers Focus on Partnering
- Mini-Ecosystems Emerge to Extend the Reach of Software on Demand
- SaaS Enablers Continue to Aid Availability of On-Demand Offerings
- Merger and Acquisition Activity Continues
- SaaS Providers Concentrate on Improving Offerings and Customer Experience
- Hosted AM [application management] Becomes a Stepping Stone Towards On-Demand Delivery
- SaaS Will Help Drive a Software Industry Transition to Subscription Licensing

Jeff Nolan rightfully says that with predictions like this and for the price tag, IDC owes the people who actually paid for this report at least 5 freebies.As I see it the report findings are thoroughly disappointing and evidently has no depth or meaning nor there are any great revelations based on the ten titles listed. Some of these may be disputable as well.I see that analyst community seems to be the only one that can go on and on without established means of checking how much were their original thinking /prediction and how much of them became true. Guys – impossible for such parties to go on .

In contrast look at this Infoworld article - more insightful - particularly the conclusion -"The ultimate disruptive effect of the “services wave” may well resemble that of the dot-com era, when companies that were smart about leveraging the Web exploited unforeseen growth opportunities. As the viral growth of Web 2.0 mash-ups and walled gardens like AppExchange make clear, every true SaaS application is potentially part of an XML-driven ecosystem. The SMBs that figure out how to tap into the power of those ecosystems could become the enterprises of tomorrow". While one may differ with the finding, the depth and reasoning atleast looks lot better- even if it is based on selective -first pass reading.Signs of changing times!!

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Enterprise Architecture And New Technologies

R.L.Narain has invited my views on James McGovern's post on non-suitability of Ruby for enterprises.

My Take: Amongst many things that James has said, his view that a very small percentage of enterprise architects must have read about Ruby and in general enterprise CIO’s are more overwhelmed and busy thinking about the strategic intent of their own enterprises appear quite on the mark. The point is - enterprises are in general risk averse and their set of concerns on new technology absorption are very different. See my post on a related topic. More often than not,it is change management and organization’s pace and ability to absorb newer technologies /processes that would determine the choice and success of the initiative. In doing so,CIO’s of large enterprises naturally look for references, endorsements, depth of talent that is generally available with their chosen/preferred service providers and the views of influencers that the organizations would listen to – consulting firms and analysts. While technically it might be the case the Ruby can facilitate agile development, the buzz around Ruby in so far as I have seen across the world looks limited. It may not be a valid argument to look at .WS* and other more "sophisticated" SOAP as detined to solve more complex issues than REST based services. Ruby, PHP – these are all really capable, robust tools helping in creating good apps quickly, maintaining and extending those to serve as distributed application systems - generally startups may prefer this. The established enterprises deal with technology selection in different ways – key consideration includes impact on all elements of their ecosystem – legacy technologies, resident skill sets , the way IT is perceived within their enterprises, partner communities, enterprise architecture etc. One can’t take a simplistic view that as X,Y,Z can do this, then by extension, all enterprises can do so. Besides different set of considerations – some of which I have touched upon above – key issues may also revolve around costs – if is very difficult to arrive at a normalised TCO for newer technologies across business entities – which could be as different as chalk and cheese. Narain - while your views on changing architctural standards look valid, in reality what’s applicable to dot.com /web2.0/on-demand companies may not apply to the Walmarts and Chevron Texaco's of the world.

Update : Had erroneously referred to James McGovern's post as that of James Governor's post earlier - apologise for any inconvenience this could have caused to both James McGovern & James Governor.

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The Google Finance Portal

The official Google Blogsite has some interesting details - It all started as a small project led by a few engineers in Bangalore and later joined by more engineers and finance enthusiasts in Mountain View and New York. It points out that one need not remember the ticker symbol, interactive charts that enable you to zoom through different time periods, headlines mapped right on the charts and are based on Google News, which means you're seeing unbiased and relevant results from more than 4,500 English-language news sources
Om Malik writes that it is obvious that it will be a long time, and I mean long time in Internet years that is, before Google Finance really catches up to Yahoo Finance, which in fact is the gold standard. Bambi Fransisco points to various interesting features like cool chart and news mash-up. Google has taken its charts and news and integrated them so that readers can see where the stock was trading as particular news hit. She points out that people do this all the time look at news, and the time it hit, and then go to a chart and pinpoint the time. Also inclusion of blogs related to the company’s quote appears novel. On differentiation however, there are key questions, - besides an interactive chart, there is nothing innovative or certainly spectacular about the new service. Where's the related video? Where are the open application programming interfaces, or APIs, so that techies can add maps and other neat tools that Google hasn't thought of? asks Bambi Fransisco.

The launch has to be seen from multiple perspectives - Google has moved well beyond its search-engine roots and competing with different players on multiple fronts and needs vertical portals like this to attract more readership. Google is today on an overdrive to lauch new services/offerings. As I see it, the portal is actually very cleanly done. Page-to-page comparison shows that there’a a great deal more information available on a single page on Google Finance than there is on Yahoo Finance. Ofcourse over a period of time, things would improve, but do not to look away from the fact that google has done a neat job of assembling and rendering information( one will have to only see clumsy and poorly organised sites - the likes of Hoovers( paid site and focussed on corproate finance news to appreciate what Google has brought out). Granted it lags behind Yahoo finance but tomorrow or the day after could tell a different story.

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Ballmer - Some Sensible Arguments

Too often Microsoft gets bad publicity – for a change lets look at some of Steve Ballmer’s recent interviews – sensible, it appears to me.

In a recent interview, he highlights that Microsoft may have a TCO advantage over open source software.There’s little innovation happening in the opensource world to empower people & improve productivity. I have to agree to a large extent ( if we agree to exclude google apps from the list) – look at opensource share of applications in desktops – it is getting increasingly hard to spot any clear winner(widely accepted – not within in a community). I have long felt that for opensource movement to succeed,it needs many killer apps in the desktop world – this is the world to gain mass acceptance and if anything mass reach is assured mostly in this segment. Where are the widely accepted and used opensource equivalent of Microsoft office, mail server etc with million and millions and downloads and having 1/3rd share like that of Firefox – mind you these are not innovative products – we are talking about products that are in mass use.

In a News.com interview, he points out, "The truth is that the way information technology decisions are made in a company is really complicated. You really have four points of view, and we have to work with all of them- end users, central IT, line-of-business executives, and then the business leaders, who could be the head of sales, finance or operations". Very true – talk to enterprise software vendors – these are definitely the key stakeholders in any enterprise software decision. Ballmer is spot on – too often , we see that enterprise vendors are focussed on just a fewer number of the constituencies that come into interplay in the process of decision making. We see differing focus in established industries where business relies too much on vendor talk ( too often their trust in IT is low- as their mail sever clean up did not happen very well, or the last roll out got delayed , or the nth departmental extension could not get supported, or plainly its the case, competition is showcasing adoption of sophisticated technologies etc..) In contrast we also see smaller/new age enterprises focusing too much on technology with very little concern about the outside world/business. Software vendors give differing/skewed emphasis to these constituents – the affected/ignored lot would work overtime to slow down/ damage the initiative. While on paper, good management and governance could help overcome these – in reality they are far more costly solutions. So its time for vendors to look at All Constituent Satisfaction (ACS) as a measure to focus on just as talking about Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).

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Monday, March 20, 2006

High Class Talent,High Growth Economy & Global Growth

There is so much buzz going around centered on India in the last few days. Starting with IBM announcing the setting up of global solution center,a development watched around the worls with considerable interest. Dell’s recent announcement to double the headcount of its employees and begin to locally manufacture, are all indication of the increasingly felt depth of talent and a sense of bullishness about what the future holds for it in India . Businessweek recently covered Nokia focusing on locally manufacturing to tap markets in chindia. Rightfully so, the recent visit of President Bush to India was seen as attributable to its growth potential. Demographics is favouring India big time – half the population of India(that’s about 600 million) are under 25, when every economy including china’s are expected to get impacted due to ageing population. This is also helping fuel some globally noticed developments like Novatium's low cost PC's. Before I begin to get hate mails about jobs getting stolen and some going ahead and predicting that few more years these investments and jobs would migrate to Africa hollowing out new asian beneficiaries, I want to just point out that trade works both ways. Just saw a Toyota ad in businessweek claiming that it has created around 400,000 jobs in the US and dig deeper – you may find that on account of the expansion of the Indian economy , it is that theglobal banking players like Citigroup & BoA are increasing their presence in India.

As I wrote earlier, do not read these as the signposts for end of the road for the west : No Way - Most leading Western companies are turning toward a new model of innovation, one that employs global networks of partners. These can include U.S. chipmakers, Taiwanese engineers, Indian software developers, and Chinese factories. IBM is even offering the smarts of its famed research labs and a new global team of 1,200 engineers to help customers develop future products using next-generation technologies. When the whole chain works in sync, there can be a dramatic leap in the speed and efficiency of product development. The US is the economic engine of the world – lets hope that it continues to innovate faster, better and emerge stronger. Collaboration in innovation is always a workable solution. Together with the Asia let more innovation blossom and let the world prosper a lot more - innovation and prosperity are closely related. Free trade, good economics are an expansive win-win for all around the world.

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Speed & Business Success

In Blur, the speed of change, Stan Davis & Christopher Myer wrote about the three factors in the wired world-speed, connectivity, and intangibles, that are driving the increasing rate of change in the business marketplace. They predicted that blur should be embraced because it will only increase over a period of time. Its not without reason that Bill Gates talked about business@speed of thought some years back.
Businessweek writes , speed is emerging as the ultimate competitive weapon. Some of the world's most successful companies are proving to be expert at spotting new opportunities, marshaling their forces, and bringing to market new products or services in a flash
. That goes for launching whole new ventures, too. In many realms, the time it takes to bring a product to market has been cut in half during the past three or four years.It's all being driven by a new innovation imperative. Competition is more intense than ever because of the rise of the Asian powerhouses and the spread of disruptive new Internet technologies and business models. Companies realize that all of their attention to efficiency in the past half-decade was fine - but it's not nearly enough. If they are to thrive in this hypercompetitive environment, they must innovate more and faster.
Not everything needs to be fast
. Seth Godin writes that decay can be slow. He writes most businesses, don't fail dramatically.They do it slowly. Organizations fail slowly. They often succeed fast, though. That’s where the remarkable comes in. So, if I had to summarize it: You take a big step up by being bold. But you avoid a slow death by getting every little thing right. My take : slow or fast battle is clearly getting settled in favour of speed but speed alone wont ensure success -it’s the business model and the strength of management that matters in the long term.

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Sunday, March 19, 2006

Knock, Knock. It's Indian Comfort Food.

The NYTimes has an article on Indian lunch served to offices in the bay area and around the world.The lunchtime scene of office delivered Indian food is being played out each weekday in the United States in metropolitan areas with large South Asian populations.They depend on delivery workers to bring them the home-cooked foods of their upbringing, often prepared by cooks working from home. Having such a lunch is a way of life in Mumbai, India, where dabbawallas or tiffin-wallas (men who carry tiffins, the containers that hold the food) use an elaborate, 120-year-old system to transport lunches to workers at mills, shops and offices. The Mumbai’s amazing dabbawlaah’s are well known around the world. Hold – there’s a small difference though - Remember - The dabbawallah originated when India was under British rule: many British people who came to the colony didn't like the local food, so a service was set up to bring lunch to these people in their workplace straight from their home. Nowadays, Indian businessmen are the main customers for the dabbawalas, and the service includes cooking as well as delivery. This is delivery of food cooked from respective home/ dabba’s and not just food bought for money alone ,distributed for eating. The BBC has made documentaries on Dabbawallah’s,top business schools have made it a case study. Anycase it is interesting to see new (lightweight) food chains emerging around the world. But it should be studied as to how long do these new US based chains continue to exist - from longeivity perpsective ( too often linked to owner interests/passion)- may be there is a case to instituitionalize such food chains across the world/continents. How about a membership that can be useful in any major metro in the world!! Personally speaking,for me - however it would be less appealing - I am not a home food carrier and thats right from the time when I was out of school!! Today, it is almost out of question, considering my busy schedule and working days that are literally packed with so many meetings at different places and my travel takes me to on average 2/3 cities a week. However, no doubt there is no real substitute for home food/regular food from trusted sources - there exists the business opportunity. Scale up opportunities - think aloud.

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Saturday, March 18, 2006

Open Issues On Open Source

The Economist has a nice overview on the open source movement and its apparent limitations


"New business models are being built around commercializing open-source wares, by bundling them in other products or services. Though these might not contain any software “source code”, the “open-source” label can now apply more broadly to all sorts of endeavor that amalgamate the contributions of private individuals to create something that, in effect, become freely available to all"


The article rightly points out,it is unclear how innovative and sustainable open source can ultimately be. The open source method has vulnerabilities that must be overcome if it is to live up to its promise. For example, it lacks ways of ensuring quality and it is still working out better ways to handle intellectual property and the potential risk of abuse as anyone can contribute. Even if the cracks in the management of open source can be plugged, it might nevertheless remain only a niche activity—occupying, essentially, the space between a corporation and a commune. There are two doubts about its staying power.
- The first is how innovative it can remain in the long run. Indeed, as some sees it, open source might already have reached a self-limiting state
- The second doubt is whether the motivation of contributors( mostly available at no cost) can be sustained. In all a nice article ,reinforcing our earlier points, on lack of business models, and how the whole movement is ripe for a reality check

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The Global Innovation Outlook: At The Intersection Of Business, Technology & Society

With innovation occurring at the intersection of technology, business and society, there is a fore of compulsion to look at the emerging trends in these three dimensions in a concerted way. For GIO 2.0, IBM assembled 248 thought leaders from nearly three dozen countries and regions, representing 178 organizations, gathered on four continents for 15 “deep dive” sessions to discuss three focus areas and the emerging trends, challenges and opportunities that affect business and society. This time the principal focus areas have been taken as future of the enterprise, transportation & environment. It answers some key questions on the focus areas like with the future of the enterprise centered on the new foundational structures and organizing principles and their impact on competition, management, research etc., On transportation – assessing the impact of mobility and balancing advances of conflicting forces and their impact on the growth of global economy and on the focus area of environment the report assesses sustainability issues , regulation and technological innovation. The complete report is available here and a summary of findings is available here.

Amongst Key Findings: Increasingly, the motivating force that brings people together for work is less the enterprise itself (a business organization) and more the collective “enterprise” (a joint endeavor or undertaking). If this trend accelerates, it will have profound implications for how companies think about everything from leadership to managing and motivating global talent. It will change the ways they approach innovation itself. The result : Forget about free enterprise.Think enterprise-free exhorts the report.
In the section of transportation, the report notes that increasingly planes, trains and automobiles are becoming intertwined with the Information Age. Rather than remaining relatively simple mechanical devices, they are increasingly imbued with sophisticated software, sensors and chips that turn them into complex mobile information technology devices. The real opportunity for innovation is tapping into these connected vehicles to deliver an entirely new breed of services built around information and technology. The A380 has billion lines of code and GM predicts that a car in 2010 would have 100 million lines of code. Concerns over security, and the inevitable rise of hacking and viruses once these vehicles go mainstream, also emerged. Of course, where some saw risk, others saw economic opportunity: In the same way that the Internet gave rise to the antivirus software industry, entirely new industries will likely emerge to maintain and protect the next generation of connected vehicles. In the focus area of environment, the report finds that while the discussions about the environment tend to place preservation on one side and business interests on the other. But in reality, notions of ecological responsibility and business responsibility are similar. It’s easier to imagine a world in which environmental protection and economic prosperity are not only compatible but simultaneously attainable. Irving has a detailed coverage on the evolution , coverage and findings of the report.The themes, conversations and insights are compelling – all the more so as it is based on deliberations across different parts of the world- what emanates out of this is like the wisdom of crowds pondering on the intersection of business, technology and society – an excellent report and a commendable effort from IBM.

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Friday, March 17, 2006

The VC Mood In The Valley : Paper Bullishness & The Cold Reality

While the esteemed Ray Lane & the well known Matt Miller keep publicly exuding increasing confidence of investors to back new initiatives in the more challenging enterprise space , many tell me that the risk propensity shown by the VC’s in general are coming down. Sramana Mitra captures its best : As she sees it, “In 2006, the classic venture capitalists have pretty much shunned the notion of risk capital, in favor of growth capital”.
Selective Excerpts from her post : “Today, there is a lot of activity in very early-stage, built-to-flip venture capital, where from the get-go, the assumption is not to build a company, but to focus on making a quick million or two. The entrepreneurs out there who have the ambition to build a real, large, multi-billion dollar company - should know that Silicon Valley has changed fundamentally. Highly speculative, capital intensive deals that require 5-7 years to build, are less popular these days. Especially, if you have a contrarian, one-of-a-kind business idea that goes against the grain of the prevalent trends, investors will ask you to find ways to either diminish the capital requirements, or reduce the startup risks. Today’s norms are to find some in that category of “Built-to-flip” or “Built-as-an-accident” deals, from which you weave together a private equity backed – “ Venture Buy-Out quilt” “.
To my mind, these are applicable only to the beleaguered enterprise software segment,the Web 2.0 world seems to be exempted from all these desings.Obviously funding fuzzy things are perhaps more glamorous and attractive returnswise. fully agree with his view that technology investors are excited about consumer opportunities now( In fact I recently wrote briefly questioning the rationale behind this excitement – but no doubt excitement remains), but enterprises want innovation. And enterprises continue to spend billions on IT products year after and there are still many unsolved problems in business computing & notes that there is a lot of innovation to come in this industry & predicts that the enterprise software companies that move to innovate and dominate today will be the most successful companies five years from now

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Making Sense Of Recent Acquisitions

A nice perspective about the recent spate of internet acquisitions. The article points out that post the tech bubble burst, old-media businesses are rushing back to the Web, planting their flags on-line as the Internet eats away at newspaper and television audiences. "It's a cognitive shift for the media sector that's only starting to register with many companies. Media companies are hunting for so-called sticky sites that have little to do with news content or programming, but offer enough gimmicks, such as photo publishing, music broadcasting or community networking. They want sites that keep people surfing longer and exposed to more advertising". Interactive websites that allow people to post their own content and connect with other users are the prize most companies seek.
My Take: While I agree with the need for the old media to move into embracing newer waves of technology to survive - see my coverage on the future of news, also see from the other side : This may be the best exit roué for internet companies for the foreseeable future. With less than favourable IPO market conditions for now, skyrocketing cost for talent and listing getting more and more cumbersome to maintain – this is god send gift for most of them. Also in a way this is the eloquent demonstration of the fact that building communities could be the best form of ability to make value- add happen coming true.

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Taking Research(ers) To Masses

Besides being the pioneer of offshoring, GE is more famous for its fabled management strength of management, GE is also one of the highly regarded all time innovators and relies on heavy duty research in a concerted way. Not for nothing that GE tops the list of most admired companies. Courtesy of Heather Green, saw this : GE’s Researcher’s Blog - Edison’s Desk. This is marvellous. 100 plus year old GE research has been a major force in pushing the frontiers on many arenas – from medical imaging to jet engines to lighting. GE has always been a pioneer or early adopter of new ideas and its researchers are now ready for interactions vis blogs. This should be very interesting considering that GE’s forte runs into every major scientific discipline and constantly pumps out game changing technologies to the market. To give an idea of how significant this is – IBM, the largest amasser of patent regularly publishes research journals (so are Intel, Sun etc.)– highly acclaimed they are – but are in the old format only, mostly HTML/PDF files or printed on glossy papers – In my quicksearch, I could not find a corner within the IBM world where there is an exclusive blogspace for its researchers ( mostly working on basic science). Another pioneering move – so to say – taking research to the masses !!!

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