A friend of mine passed on this report titled “Out There Presentation” (pdf). The report attempts to discuss the characteristics and behaviour of people, taking active participation in online activities and in building virtual communities. The report examines the growing openness through the evolution of online communities and how the notion of privacy takes a subdued role. No doubt the internet has unleashed unimaginable amounts of openness and has influenced and reshaped the ability of people and enhanced the propensity to share information hithertho classified as “private”. The report profiles the set of these "out there" people and in the process discusses some aspects of their behavior. Everyone recognizes that enterprises need to respond to the growing body of employees who are of the "Internet generation” and several organization tries to play a facilitating role therein.
The Out There report claims that a large portion of the population espouse values that are “out there.” How to spot them? The report says that these people are more likely to:
– Value fame as an “asset” – Willing to share certain types of sensitive information on the web – Believe it is appropriate to criticize their organizations on the web
Or in other words the contours of the emerging trend herein are that – these people do not think twice when they get a chance to share their opinions. Incidents like this are good examples of this trend. Today, it is assessed,that about a third of the population feels its OK to criticize their organization online. This is a radical departure from the hackneyed sense of privacy, & righteousness. And they get heard!! Clearly enterprises need to have well defined and effective mechanisms to tackle the menace!! Or leverage the fast spreading movement. Today reality TV & Tabloids anyway encroach upon privacy, but when it comes to online , the ability to collaborate and distribute increases manifold times and all these can happen in real time from Sydney to SFO & that’s why organizations need to have a good handle on this. People have different thresholds for what is appropriate to share on a blog or website.The research finds that half of all business professionals are at least moderate level participants in online communities. The sense of appropriateness as espoused by workforce a decade back may not hold good today and in future this may get felt more and organizations need to manage this – Today!!
One thing is certain for developed countries – and probably for the entire world – we face long years of profound changes. It will no longer be possible to consider entrepreneurial innovation as lying outside of management or even as peripheral to management. Entrepreneurial innovation will have to become the very heart and core of management.
Innovation would count as the most important thing that tech organizations around the world would be going after in the new year. If innovation is the single most important thing that organization shall be going after, so what constitutes innovation? As I wrote here, a recent Booz Allen Hamilton report titled smartspenders found that the high-leverage innovators distinguish themselves not by the money they spend, but by building strong capabilities in the four principal elements of innovation: ideation, project selection, product development, and commercialization. High-leverage innovators listen closely to their customers across the entire innovation cycle. Google, for example, is known for generating new ideas with blistering speed. Toyota excels at developing its products and processes far more efficiently and effectively than most other companies. And Apple is noted for its well-honed capabilities in project selection and customer understanding. In the list of 1000 companies analyzed, Ford tops the list on R&D spend and everyone will agree that Ford is hardly seen today as an innovative company. As Michael Scrage noted growing market competition, not growing R&D spending, is what drives innovation. For the tech industry, once the bets for the year are made in terms of what to go after, Innovation in ideas, in delivery, in business models etc would characterise its growth. Innovation should be seen as bringing creativity to a commonplace- ‘back to basics’ philosophy in place of looking at it as a glorified & high risk strategy. But above all as I wrote here, this increasingly services led world, enterprise’s future growth and competitiveness depend more than ever before on attracting qualified workers - an increasingly scarce resource - and helping them work efficiently together within the organization. Its widely accepted that business success today revolves largely around people, not capital. I work in an industry where welcoming several hundred new faces as colleagues every week is an accepted norm. Organizations need to look at talent horizontally across the business classified as per the roles and not necessarily as per the organizational norms and this would be the key in effectively harnessing talent inside enterprises. The differences ought to be expressed in terms of talent valuation - that is, such attributes as knowledge, experience, skills, and personal interaction capabilities - and not in terms of organizational structures (such as business units) or in human resources management terms (such as age, education, seniority, or compensation). In an age where the rules and procedures of an organization can be an obstacle to segmentation and a force for “averaging” the treatment of individuals’ roles, and in a situation where organizations need to offer very specialised services, definitely a radical new look at the way talent gets categorised, nurtured and reviewed are called for and on an ongoing basis, needs to be reviewed to provide a definitively fresh and dynamic approach. After all winning the people war is a crucial determinant of success for any organization. In most of the knowledge business, the future value of enterprises are centered on building seemingly intangible assets vs the coneventional measures of capital assets. Thats where good, capable people, well aligned team, well conceived strategy and top quality leadership matters. With all these in place, the cutting edge would from innovation - in all its forms starting from management innovation to disruptive innovation to innovation of the incremental kind. The ability to recruit/ mould the leaders that will be able to create the future innovations that will make enterprise more successful is a major responsibility & talent management will determine the organization’s growth as much as the overall business strategies will. This will shape organizations in a significant way and if organizations get this right along with purposeful innovation models, competitiveness increases and success would follow.
Blake Ross, one of the co-creators of Firefox comes with a note captioned - “Tip: Trust is hard to gain, easy to lose”. Google's new "tips" that direct web searchers to Google owned properties like Picasa. These appear as a tip while searching for keywords like "calendar," "blog," and "photo sharing." The concern here is whether this is an acceptable business practice or whether Google is muscling in and taking unfair advantage of its own platform. The issue is that a small sized icon appears alongside the search query results –in the hypercompetitive search engine advertising this may be seen to enough to turn away other sponsored ads.(I checked searching against a variety of keywords and found that Google products without doubt appeared as a TIP , each and every time.) Blake argues that this reflects not only a sense of unfairness over competing offering s besides admitting that their search may not yield the primary place for its products.(Though in reality Google can tune their search returns to place their products at the top – which it has been claiming for sometime that it would not try such gimmicks). Basically Google is giving itself preferential treatment for it’s own sponsored links. This may turn off advertisers. Google’s potential monopoly power is less threatening than Microsoft’s because changing operating systems is hard. Blake argues that in many ways, Google’s new age “bundling” is far worse than anything Microsoft did or even could do. Microsoft threw spaghetti at the wall and hoped it stuck, and likewise there’s nothing wrong with Google’s arbitrary front page ads. The difference here is that Google knows what users want and can discreetly recommend its products at the right time. Matt Cutts & Mike Arrington come out with their well thought out and right meaning perspectives on this issue. Come to think of it - It is an irony as Google’s ads in the past were less intrusive ( and seen to be so!) – while moves like above may help it to advertise its offerings, in the medium to long run, the advertisers(who pay dollars) may gradually begin to look elsewhere. This makes dent into Google’s image as a poster child of honest and ethical businesshouse. TIP: Moves like this would catapult Google into the category of yet another silicon valley company and may begin to get avoided by users as it staddles into offering new and different web solutions.
We are seeing a lot of consolidation amongst the vendors operating in the ECM space- Hummingbird+Opentext, Filenet+IBM etc following the successful Documentum +EMC combination. It is an interesting thing to see how the smallest of the combined entity looks to the future. IBM announced Filenet acquisition post Opentext buying out Hummingbird. Open Text is now left to compete with some of the largest consolidated players in the market, including IBM, Oracle, and EMC. Open Text’s CEO John Shackleton shares that compliance across all industries and geographies as the driver for ECM adoption. For compliance, it’s about every industry from Sarbanes Oxley but also things like Basel II, the financial services industry, and OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] standards in the manufacturing industry. Emphasizing the collaborative abilities of Open Text, John adds, the ability to store unstructured information, to find that information but also tie it to structured information, its ability to get control over things like email and instant messaging, Word documents, contracts, etc., and tie that to any transaction that might be going on in any kind of company are amongst its key strengths.
Q: Is there any other trend or event that will happen in the future to drive more growth? A: The key drivers are legal issues in Europe, MiFID [Markets in Financial Instruments Directive] compliance around brokerage houses that will drive a lot of business, but the other piece will be more and more IM, voicemail, email. Most CIOs have to scramble to be able to control these things, and the mass of information is overwhelming to anybody.
Q: What about newer technologies like blogs and wikis? Will they also drive growth for content management software? A: I think they will be legal documents, so you’ve got to be careful about what is in there and how long it is retained and will proliferate in the market.
At the end of reading the interview, I sort of felt that John was missing on a few things. While his targets seem to be number centric, his dismissal of competitor’s newfound strength post acquisitions and underemphasis of blogs & wikis( for a company/product touting management of unstructured content as its core strength) looks downright bizarre. His view that Hummingbird integration is complete stumped me. While an organizational integration might have been completed(I do know that lot of Hummingbird salesforce was allowed to leave), product fusion and future roadmap are all faraway targets. I would have loved to see him talk how the new organization would build on the individual organization's strengths and address opportunities such as those covered herein. Sometimes an outside-in approach towards assessing competitive strengths may help and I think OpenText needs a strong dose of that & NOW. I am keenly watching the post acquisition/consolidation of enterprise software players and find that a clear message on post consolidation benefits increasingly appears to be missing and where present less convincing. I have seen a platform company buying a portal sofware company and selling two portal software, a business application software company with an existing CRM offering buying a CRM company,Ditto with search engine( should I say eDiscovery! to make it look more sophisticated) acquisitions. In general, the consolidation and repositioning or lack of it of enterprise software players should make customers beware of the future roadmap and perspectives of the vendors.
Of late, I note a lot of traffic coming onto my site from Google’s blogsearch facility and I do not notice traffic coming from the likes of technorati in equal measure and this left me wondering what was happening. Google Blog Search overtakes Technorati in traffic, so says Hitwise data. Technorati scores well on features( tagging/targeted search etc) but throws inconsistent result whereas blogsearch throws out faster and consistent result. Hitwise data suggests that blogsearch.google.com has overtaken technorati.com in traffic. It finds that approximately 60% of Google Blog Search's traffic has been coming directly from Google News, compared to less than 1% before the change ( a link to google blogsearch was was introduced recently) . Blogger Blog Search has been receiving about the same amount of traffic as Technorati, although it has dropped since Google Blog Search took off. Interestingly, Hitwise Demographic data show that Google Blog Search has attracted a younger audience than Technorati. Only 10% of visitors to Technorati were in the 18-24 age group, while 34% of visitors to Google Blog Search reached that tech-savvy group. In contrast, Technorati has been doing very well with the 45 and up web users. Both sites skew male, with 55% of Technorati visitors and 61% of visitors to Google Blog Search. Interesting that a late entrant to blog search like Google could match and overtake a specialist blogsearch facility like Technorati, category leader. Assuming that Google can sustain this lead( at the moment the lead is slender,as the graphs may show), it adds another feather to its cap, given that it has not done much to improve the functionalities of Blogger.com. I hope that Google focusses on that as well but overall with the blogsearch triumph, clearly it demonstrates the power of Google and their superb execution skills. My bet : Next Google would move more aggressively into the mobile space.. Watch out.
Venture one estimates show that in the first nine months of 2006, VCs sunk $455 million into Web 2.0 companies & this is thrice as much money as such startups received in the same period last year. WSJ has an interesting discussion on whether Web 2.0 is another bubble, featuring Todd Dagres, a founder and general partner with Spark Capital, and David Hornik, a general partner with August Capital.
Todd Dagres makes very interesting points. He starts by saying that Web 2.0 is a bubble for 3 reasons:
1) There is far too much money chasing Web 2.0 deals. Too much money means too many companies getting funded at higher valuations. 2) There are virtually no barriers to entry in Web 2.0 and therefore the ability to develop a unique solution and sustain a competitive advantage is virtually nil. Therefore, it's difficult for Web 2.0 companies to build long term value. 3) There is very little liquidity in the market for Web 2.0 companies.
The argument against the web 2.0 hype is centered on the fact that the hype is sustained as private markets are far less efficient than public markets and without the regulations that bind listed companies, the private companies need not be so transparent and they are inherently illiquid and risky. Strange things happen this way - Private Web 2.0 companies with negative cash flow and little revenue valued above public companies with stronger operating results and predicts that web 2.0 space will have a higher mortality rate than other segments of the overall media and technology industries.
David Hornik puts a weak defence in favour of Web 2.0 business but he points out that even assuming that the vast majority of the Web 2.0 companies fail, the amount of capital that is going into all of them combined is a pittance compared to the Web 1.0 bubble & this is a relatively small portion of the overall capital being invested by the VC community on an annualized basis. The key to note he argues is that they are innovating around things that matter to consumers today & are being appropriately valued, not just by potential acquirers but by the consumers themselves.
I agree with the view that gifted entrepreneurs shall start disruptive companies that look for what will be hot rather than what is hot. So the best of the entrepreneurs may not necessarily be looking at Web 2.0 ideas in its classical sense, but today any idea can be stretched to be called a Web 2.0 business.As I wrote here, I am not so unduly optimistic about the Web 2.0 movement – I had been calling for a realitycheck for some time. But the enthusiasm shown in building this movement is indeed amazing and some of applications show promise of success. I do know that this web 2.0 is managing to attract a new bunch of entrepreneurs who are generally well regarded for their capabilities and enterprise. Sure the list in the Web 2.0 hall of shame will be longer than the Web 2.0 hall of fame, but still the movement needs some positive consideration. The concern should,in my view, should revolve around excessive media hype about Web 2.0, as in the overall equation, a few good success stories are sure to bubble up and purposeful enterprise at any time needs to be looked positively, given that the financial flow is not much - this is not to support/cover up mindless wannabe and dreamy eyes millionaires chasing ordinary web 2.0 ideas.
The fibre even survived the Tsunami two years back. Yesterday's quake in Taiwan has disrupted the internet services in Singapore,a major landing station for Asia. A 7.1-magnitude earthquake off the coast of Taiwan on Tuesday night, which was followed by several smaller quakes in the region, apparently damaged the vast network of underwater cables that enables modern communication. In fact major parts of Asia has been affected. South Korea said all six undersea fibreoptic cables off Taiwan were hit, causing major disruption. All services, except for exclusive business lines, returned to normal shortly afterwards as they were switched to other systems. Thailand and few other countries reported net outage. The worrying part is that it may take a long time to fix this (not in a matter of days is the immediate official reaction). In this net economy, this disruption assumes gigantic importance. Changes in undersea systems have taken place on a giant scale - not since the initial building of these networks 150 years ago have we seen such activity, mainly driven by the increase in data traffic. Experts report that systems that were built as late as 1998 proved to be inadequate for the demand in capacity required a mere 18 months later. Within a period of a few short years, there were ... at least 1,000 long-distance carriers and 10,000 ISP (Internet service providers) requiring global connectivityHopefully redundancy and continuity planning would receive its due in future. Nature is indeed the most potent force and it proves it repeatedly though in a deadly way.
Years back eBay outage made international headline news. Things have substantially improved ever since. Have you ever wondered how these massive sites are built, maintained and improved. The evolution of the eBay architecture captured as a set of slides by Randy Shoup and Dan Pritchett makes interesting reading. As much as I like the architecture and its continual evolution, I like the presentation style as well - cut to the chase and after a long time seeing a technical presentation thats without jargon.
Look at eBay's scale and complexity. It manages 212,000,000 registered users with over 1 billion photos, 105 million listings at any time, eBay users worldwide trade more than $1500 worth of goods every second. Clocking 1 billion pageviews every day, eBay is a modern day miracle. eBay is said to be storing 2 Petabytes of data – 200 times the size of the library of congress and the platform handles 3 billion API calls/month. A sense of the dynamism involved is best illustrated by facts about scale and complexity of eBay operations like as under: - 300 + features per quarter - 100,000 LOC rolled out every two weeks - >26 billion SQL executions/day
A very interesting talk for anyone who is working or wanting to work on architecting big websites.This is the sort of wisdom that mere formal education won’t provide. This is distilled wisdom based on years of experience. I can relate to the massive efforts(knowing very well how very large sites are built, maintained and extended, I can relate to every word there in the slide and am amazed at the efforts that have gone into the metamorphosis of the architecture – its to be noted that the architecture is slated to further evolve – indication of good characteristics there.) that go in maintaining such megasites and continually rearchitecting over a period of time.
Joe Gregorio sees similarity in the approach with that of Google as can be seen here. Greg Linden points to similarities with Amazon architecture. eBay, Google & Amazon are not only internet business model pioneers but are also technology icons – the very fact that they keep innovating architecture while working on changing business models( a very commendable engagement) make them special icons in the world of business.
Zogby International survey finds that only one in five Americans believe that the “next Bill Gates” will come from the United States.The Zogby/463 Internet Attitudes poll found that: - Practically half of all Americans (49 percent) believe that the next great technology leader will come from either China or Japan. - Twenty-one percent believe that “next Bill Gates” will come from the United States - 13 percent believe he or she will come from India. I am a little surprised. I don’t think Americans need to be so pessimistic. Innovation & Entrepreneurship dominates in America. This can never be matched in the next decade by anyone else. Asia is quite promising but it may not be the terrain where ideas are scaled full blown to create a legend like Bill Gates in the process. The US leadership in Web 2.0 is a case in point. No doubt that in the services field India has really created leaders but there is no credible basis to think that future Asian tech leaders would eclipse future American tech leaders. America needs some change in their approach towards business as brought out here. But still the land of opportunities will continue to generate new leaders while China & India also present better leaders. It may not be a complete reversal –its co-existence but nothing to suggest that the US may lose out in the process.
Last week while travelling bought the book, “The Writing on the Wall: Why We Must Embrace China as a Partner or Face It as an Enemy”. Am halfway through when I bumped into a good friend and an industrialist with global ambitions – he was returning from Tiecon in KL when he said that he would never look towards investing in china as one can never take returns out. In the book, Will Hutton, the economics editor of The Guardian performs a thorough analysis of the U.S. and Chinese economic policy, sounding the alarm that "the implications could not be more profound" should Western superpowers fail to shape China into a workable model of democracy and enlightenment.
Lets look at china – Today it's characterized by a galloping forex, excessive dependence on exports and FDI(like other asian tiger economies), a high savings rate(increasing from a small base), a dull domestic consumption , horrendous misallocation of capital, rising inequalities(shenzhen, shanghai lifestyle vs rural). Many westerners/outsiders overlook the fact that corruption and a stifled private sector (around three fifth of its exports and nearly all its high tech exports are made by non-Chinese, foreign firms) make it so unique – this is unlike a Taiwan or Korea – these put limits on the extent to which the existing chinese political-economic model can be sustained. An ever supportive west tends to overlook these issues and comes with an occasional note of concern – primarily on currency valuation does not rally help the cause – the imbalances and uncertainties loom large. Bloomberg’s William Pesek finds that China isn't likely to slide into crisis in 2007, though the number of issues that may come to a head is daunting. On the one hand, China needs to create millions of jobs to spread the benefits of rapid growth. On the other, it must slow things down to avoid overheating - something it didn't do in 2006. He points out that the china's economy isn't like others and complicates the efforts. It lacks a liquid bond market, limiting the central bank's influence. It also lacks a cohesive, national fiscal policy centered in Beijing. It's a bit like trying to control a speeding car without decent brakes or reliable steering. Add in to the mix worsening pollution and rising rural discontent. The coming year could be a watershed year. I was speaking to a very influential central banker - one point that took me by surprise - of what use is the country reserve beyond a certain level of providing import cover and a check on currency fluctuations. Just a psycological cushion? Puttting excess reserve money into the country creates excess money supply and goes against the grain of monetory supply control. A recently released IFC paper captures the economic issue at hand so succinctly. No doubt the middle nation has clocked huge growth but the moral here: Old models won't work for long - look soon for new approaches to emerge either from within or influenced by others.
David Kirkpatrick writes that the entire world is hungry for technology. He observes that in coming years we will see an explosion of new technologies for broadband, for mobile computing, for education and health care - and the first place in the world many of these will take root will be in developing countries where there is no legacy system problem, no installed base - just a huge mass of hungry eager people. The next five years will be the beginning of a golden era for technology to empower the poor.
I agree. The developing markets shall be the engine of world growth.A casual observation of some notable trends would confirm this. IDC data suggests that the US accounts for a smaller percentage of global PC sales. 66 million of the 226 millions sold globally in 2006.
Motorola’s Padmasree Warrior points out that the mobile will be the first "computer" that billions of people will use in the next 10 years. The sheer volume and growth of mobile device usage will do a lot to balance the connectivity equation that the PC could only dream of. A lot of the functions we see in other portable devices are now getting incorporated into "the device formerly known as the cell phone". The phenomenal growth rate of mobiles in china and india are mingboggling. They each add connectivity every month equivalent to the subscriber base of a Denmark or Finland. The mobile phone has now surpassed bicycles as the number one selling consumer device in India. No wonder Vodafone is considering acquisition of the fourth largest mobile service provider for what insiders claim to be more than US$16 billion. Studies show that 36% of Internet users are now in Asia and 24% are in Europe. Only 23% of users are in North America and Asia would be adding more internet subscribers in the days to come. The impact of wireless, next generation communication hubs, politics surrounding Ipv6, Icann, explosion of content in asian languages- all these need to be factored in while discussing the future of internet. There is no doubt that the world is becoming a different place. Education, technology & capital are becoming the biggest equalizers in this unequal world.
Almost every TIECON KL participant that I bumped into asked me what could be happening to offshoring in the coming year. I was in and out of KL twice this week. While some were concerned about the much talked about economy slowdown in the US, my feeling is that it is normal and not seeing specific indicators to suggest a slowdown(atleast in offshoring services). Just listen to the IT majors quarterly calls and the forecasts – nothing of this kind is expected to hit them. A recent JPMorgan sector report talked about growth of global service companies that they are tracking at 6% Y/Y in 3QCY06 & noted the acceleration after muted growth for the past 3 quarters. The report also noted that the US IT spending grew by a decent 6.6% Y/Y in 3Q2006.
I shall try to summarize the various things that I see happening in 2007 in global offshoring. This is not an exhaustive list covering all tech trends(saving it for a different occasion). The Key trends 2007 for global offshoring:
1. There is a wave of capital chasing new ideas centering in offshoring and several small and medium enterprises, are actively pursued by various class of investors. We shall see the hithertho conservative players investing significantly in various things and mature into significant players in grabbing offshore deals. 2. Single vendor sourcing (for offshoring) may become quite limited and multivendor sourcing may become the norm, The mix may see a shift – Tier 1 offshore vendors and LOB/Horizontal Tier II vendors may become the combined winners in this mix. 3. The sourcing conundrum may become more complex – the crunch in resourcing and the resultant margin effects shall be felt more in the coming year 4. While opportunities in demand side may abound, supply could become a bigger bottleneck 5. The captive model for offshoring may see a significant change – the business model of the captives from being a cost center in some cases may change to be treated as full fledged business units including some spin-off possibilities. 6. Flush with cash/ access to cash, and spurred by constant pressure to grow faster, all firms irrespective of their tier status would announce overseas acquisitions in 2007. Global players shall increase their offshore sale aided by big ticket acquisitions. 7. Amongst the hot areas for growth include infrastructure management, offshore product development, healthcare, retail&logistics. FA0 & HRO would scale up significantly. The cliched term -KPO may drive increasing levels of business. 8. India shall continue to be the undisputed leader in offshoring for ITO/BPO. Other asian/eastern european countries significantly lag behind in this game. Phillipines shows promise to be No.2 behind India in BPO. 9. Service organizations may see more and more restructuring to align along tech practices/geography and verticals. 10. Large accounts/deal chase teams of offshore firms staffed by executives of global majors may be strengthened further – we may see large infrastructure wins recorded by offshore majors. Mega BPO deals may get announced. Europe shall also begin to offshore more volumes, while US shall remain the single largest market and a hot one at that. 11. Offshore majors would work on coming out with a viable approach towards offerings centered on disruptive technologies like SaaS. Global majors may work hard to demonstrate better value add to their customers leveraging their offshore presence. 12. New breed of offshoring players with different business models shall spring up.
Electronic records management as part of enterprise content management is a high spend area across verticals. We are also seeing a lot of consolidation amongst the vendors operation in the space- Hummingbird+Opentext, Filenet+IBM etc following the successful Documentum +EMC combination. John Mancini points to the findings of the recent study : Electronic Records Management: For Most, It’s Still “Waiting for Godot”. A very interesting study with abundant insights: - Managing Electronic Information Still #2 Priority in Most Organizations (vs. Paper) - Many Records Management Programs Just Cover the Tip of the Iceberg - Organizations—Especially Medium Sized Ones—Are Vulnerable to New e-Discovery Rules - In Searching for an Electronic Records Solution, Organizations Stress the Basics - RM Outsource Opportunities Exist, Especially as RM Requirements Grow More Complex Another interesting finding therein : There is significant variation in how vertical segments view these market drivers. Those in the public sector—perhaps because of the close link between these systems and their ability to satisfy constituent demands—clearly understand the link between effective records management and efficiency and customer service. In an earlier post Mancini points to this survey result titled -11th annual "top ten challenges" survey and points to the higher rankings of top 10 technologies list, where the ECM industry is well represented - RM and DM at #4, KM at #7, and E-mail at #9, up significantly from their 2005 rankings.
State and local employees are clearly on the front lines when it comes to the customer impact of their records management system choices. The drivers for the private sector respondents were significantly more focused on avoiding risk than improving service. This I believe is all set to change. I liked the detailed survey methodology therein – a good coverage of sector,issues and vertical needs.
Jeremy Allison controversy again opens up issues centered on open source. Keith Harrison-Broninski writes about the current stir around open source software. After speaking with various people engaged in producing and/or using open source software he points to concerns centered on issues such as the following: • Growing and retaining a developer team • Growing and retaining a user base • Maintaining code consistency and quality • Preventing feature cherry-picking by competitors • Monetizing products • Retaining control over products A closer look at this list would reveal that there is nothing at all in the above list to differentiate open from closed source. All software vendors have these issues and therefore, by association, so do their customers. Many people seem to view open sourcing software as a solution in itself - both a solution for vendors (to gain a community) and a solution for customers (to lower costs). This would not happen as in every area of life, you get what you pay for, and enterprise software is no exception. Complex issues of software development and use don't magically go away - they just pop up in slightly different forms. He raises the question what what it means to say software is "open source". It can’t be just about access to program code. Enterprise customers of commercial software vendors have always been able to get hold of program source code if/when they need it, either by licensing it or by arranging for it to be held in escrow against the supplier going out of business. He sees that open source" is (or was) truly about is the community model of development, in which people from outside the boundary of a single organization actively contribute to the application, and engage with the developers to test it. This model is breaking down. Most successful open source applications these days are entirely controlled by a single commercial vendor - Sun (Java), IBM (Eclipse), RedHat (JBoss), and so on. Nearly all, if not all, "committers" to such open source projects work for the company concerned. So how are such applications genuinely different from Windows or WebSphere? The pendulum is already swinging back, away from open source and back towards more old-fashioned models of software production. It is quite possible that as we go forward, it will mean less and less to label a software application as "open source". Another hype going down the hill.
The changing contours of globalization, technology and demographics characterizes the changing nature of the world. Robert Reich writes that The nationality of the corporation is becoming less relevant. Far more relevant are the skill sets of the people within a geographic area or nation, and their capacity to continuously add greater and greater value. Companies are rapidly going global. Companies are selling and marketing abroad, and producing and manufacturing abroad. They are parking their savings abroad too; they are becoming global in terms of being global investors. The competitiveness of any place in the world, including a place called the United States, depends less and less on the profitability of companies headquartered in that location, and more and more on the capacity of the people that live there to add value to this increasingly integrated global economy. More Americans are working for companies that are headquartered outside the U.S. He expects that in the US, the demand for IT professionals shall continue to exceed supply and warns that it's going to be harder and harder to get the quality of IT professional that American business needs. The future areas of application of IT shall be in the area of "relational capital" to leverage the relationships across various people inside organizations. Companies need to utilize IT so that everyone in an organization can take maximum advantage of everybody else. As other entry barriers are dropping so fast, we need IT systems that rapidly connect the right people to each other so that there are real synergies.
Its clear – seeing from the advancements in the workplace in the coming years, with advances of technology and globalization taking more roots, location where work gets done may not matter at all – the core differentiation between organizations may boil down to talent levels inside organizations. Clearly the human capital and assets of an organization shall provide the winning edge – its not history, geography or capital.
“Despite the power and rich UI that desktop applications offer, it's obvious that the move to Web applications is accelerating. For many people, the ability to access your data through any browser clearly outweighs the benefits of desktop software. Despite the enormous graphical improvements and other advances in Windows Vista, downloading and installing software is still too scary for non-technical users”
How true : Practically everyday I keep facing one or other problem with my desktop application(s). The problem seems to be worsening and not otherwise. Web apps also gives some creeps once in a while, but we are lot more forgiving and their overall score on reliability and performance keeps improving. For some strange reason, I also notice that changes, updates and innovation are seen much better with web based apps. I am fond of telling my friends – if aircraft software has the same reliability as desktop applications, 99% of air travel would be unsafe. I am very surprised that with the Wintel block pushing the limits of processing, speed & capacity the reliability levels of desktop applications are not keeping pace. Practically every computer user in the world would echo similar sentiments and still they have adjusted to this stark reality!!. Its not a question of technical, advanced or non technical users. Every software installation is an adventure – one would have to keep wondering which part of system would start malfunctioning in unexpected and most bizarre ways. The best part is install and uninstall methods do not conform to standards – one would not know for sure the completeness of the process in some instances. Its one thing that legal immunity provides with manufactures with some cushion and mass apathy another type of cover, this is unsustainable and plainly ugly. Overall bizarre..Clearly it is time for the next wave of applications.
Paul Strassmann once wrote that his Information Productivity studies suggest that there is not a shred of evidence that massive investments in information technologies have increased US productivity performance. The best one can say is that computers may have prevented further deterioration than would have otherwise taken place.Andrew McAfee comes out with an excellent article commenting on Robert Norman’s perspectives on IT spending and its correlation with productivity.
Andrew writes that as per Gordon based on recent analyses by Jorgenson, Stiroh, and others it is found that essentially all the increased IT capital deepening that took place was over by 2000. In other words, since the turn of the century we've fallen back to the same rates of IT capital deepening as existed prior to 1995, when productivity growth was so sluggish. This isn't too hard to believe, given the sharp slowdown in IT spending that occured after the Y2K 'crisis' passed and the dot-com bubble burst in early 2000. As a result, Gordon argued, it's reasonable to conclude that IT couldn't really have been responsible for the strong productivity growth increases we enjoyed between 2000-2004. After all, we weren't adding IT to the economy during those years any faster than we were from 1973-1995. Gordon's explanation for the 2000-2004 increases in productivity growth centers on ruthless corporate cost-cutting and high-powered incentives (i.e. stock options) for good performance. He asked us why an IT-based explanation still made sense, given reduced IT capital deepening and reduced need for ever-faster computers.
In fact recent reports indicate that IT spending (the central IT budget, controlled by the CIO) is not growing proportionately to revenue in most industries. - IT spending is more negatively affected by revenue declines and reacts less positively to revenue increases. - Even in organizations that experienced a 10% growth in revenue, most did not increase IT spending beyond 5%. - The business continues to place increasing demands on IT. Increased capacity needs negate the financial benefits of Moore's law. While storage cots come down, organizations' needs for more storage capacity mean that many are still spending more on storage today than they did in the past.
Andrew provides a good counterview : Even in such a successful, well-managed, and IT-friendly company there were still significant opportunities to use technology to drive out inefficiency and redundancy and not adding IT to the economy as fast since 2000 as we were from 1995 to 2000. But that doesn't necessarily mean that pace of IT-based business transformation has slowed down; it just means that the pace of hardware and software buying has slowed down. Given what we know about the long time lags between the purchase of enterprise IT and its impact, it's easy to believe that the systems we were buying in the late 1990s delivered their value earlier this decade. Previously purchased IT might well also have been delivering part of the kick. Also to note is the fact that Re-engineering efforts that don't involve IT often fail because people simply ignore the new methods and keep doing business the same old way. IT can be used to remove this option. Andrew concludes that there's also an intriguing possibility that IT's benefits are now showing up elsewhere in the productivity statistics. It seems quite plausible that the measured-but-unattributed catchall category is where IT's productivity benefits are now showing up. Steve Ballmer while pointing out to a new era of productivity and growth writes that the free flow of information, goods, and services that resulted has given rise to an era of unprecedented productivity and innovation that has had a profound impact on the global economy. As The Economist magazine recently noted, "the first decade of the 21st century could see the fastest growth in average world income in the whole of history."
The point is lot more innovation centered on technology is happening all around and like earlier investments have taken time to reap benefits, we would see that IT shall bring about transformative effects in future. We are seeing right in front of our eyes the significant change that’s happening owing to social network phenomenon and as these take the rightful place inside enterprises, the benefits shall begin to unfold. The other day I pointed to online ticket sales exceeding offline sales numbers and virtually every service industry going online is benefiting out of technology investments. Essentially the upside is wherever business model changes by taking advantage of investments in IT - the benefits are overwhelming.I remain more optimistic about tech powering innovation and productivity in the days to come.
I recently wrote about the surging confidence of Indian headquartered players in the consulting & services industry. The sustaining lead that these players are getting are indeed quite telling.
Forbes has an interesting article titled the consultants from chennai. The article starts by pointing out that Indian firms are moving into high-value strategic advice faster than anyone had expected. From being purely providers of cheap call-center services and payroll processing, they are moving up the value ladder. They offer product design, software design, chip engineering and the kind of corporate asset-deploying advice once the sole domain of Western firms like McKinsey & Co. and Booz Allen Hamilton. Forrester's Stephanie Moore thinks that a lot of consulting deals won by the Indians in the last few years have really shocked the industry – IBM, EDS & Accenture’s have not come to terms with this.
Look at a few cases that demonstrate this : Northeast Utilities in Hartford, Connecticut consolidated three customer information systems into one, and six call centers into two. Global firms and Indian headquartered firms competed for this opportunity. The usual providers of this kind of advice are firms such as IBM, Capgemini and Accenture , the well-known shops that sponsor golf tournaments and run ads during the Super Bowl. These firms bid on the aforementioned projects, but they lost. The winners came from Bangalore and Chennai, firms such as I-flex Solutions, Mphasis BFL Group, Infosys Technologies and SlashSupport. In the case of Northeast Utilities, Infosys got the strategic advice business while IBM got left with the scut work of moving the company's 2 million customer records from the old system to the new. Seven years ago GE Appliances entrusted Satyam to prepare only engineering drawings and blueprints for its home business. Four years later Satyam was doing tear-down analysis of all its products and its competitors' products. Now it's the only point of contact for GE Appliances' vendors and components suppliers, and it has also taken over the design of nearly all new product features. Multinationals are relying on Indian firms for fundamental missions.
Well, as I see it, adaptability and speed of operations have always characterized their growth in the last decade – the important thing is to not lose sight of humongous opportunities that lay in front and go after them as aggressively as they used to do while growing. Its still not game even -the gap may seem to be narrowing but even then, Indian HQ players have a lot more advantages sitting on their side but this is not to underrate the significant strides that multinational players are making with their India centric plans. The collective share of the offshore players business in the global outsourcing industry is still very small, but they are gaining marketshare rapidly. The services industry is by itself a very different type of industry governed by an entirely different set of drivers and progressive measures like these make the offshore headquartered companies more strong.
Time magazine named ‘You’ as its Person Of The Year, with a lovely cover designed to reflect the importance of - the rise of citizen journalism, blogging user-generated Internet content as a driving force in the modern world. You," in this case, refers to people who create content to put on the World Wide Web - so it may actually not be you, personally. User-generated content on websites such as YouTube has proved the latest twist in the Internet revolution, with the site attracting millions of users and earning its founders $1.65 billion when it was bought by Google earlier this year. The citation for the awards says, “for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, TIME's Person of the Year for 2006 is you”. The editors write that they chose to put a mirror on the cover because it literally reflects the idea that you, not them, are transforming the information age. Though this may be seen as hyping and said more for effect than reflecting reality, I like the decision of the editors. Yes, am indeed aware that activities like blogging are perhaps about to peak now. With 100,000 blogs being created every day 1.3 million blog posts being written, this is a phenomenon by itself. .
Not surprising – the year 2005 saw podcasting as the word of the year and blog was declared the word of the year in 2004 and some called the last two years as year of the blogs!! One needs to note that just about Vista is about to be released, when designers want to say "technology" with style, they choose Apple. Two decades back, few years after the PC was launched, the editors of TIME magazine christened it as their choice for person of they year. How correct they were. TIME is right that the phenomenon if user generated content and related mechanisms are indeed a revolution, but not many may see this - as in a sense we are just seeing the beginning.
Came across the findings of this interesting report capturing the change that’s happening in the online travel world. The findings are quite insightful and a telling view about the coming dominance of the online infrastructure in the services world.Amongst the findings :
- Suppliers (e.g., airlines, hotels and car rental agencies) have been outperforming online travel agencies (e.g., Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz and Priceline) since 2000, this interesting report finds that the growth rates for the two channels will converge by 2008. - While the pressure that travel suppliers put on intermediaries has at least partially spurred significant ownership changes among three of the largest players in the industry: the private equity buyouts first of Cendant (renamed TravelPort) and now of Sabre Holdings, as well as TravelPort’s purchase of Worldspan, the suppliers’ online advantage is disappearing as the majority of travel transactions move to the Web. - While the U.S. represented just one third of total online and offline travel bookings of the combined North America, Western Europe and Asia Pacific markets in 2005, the U.S. share of online bookings was over 60 percent of all online bookings. The emerging markets are witnessing increasing action as well. - Growth of dynamic packaging - the ability of consumers to easily combine airline, hotel, rental car and other product purchases online - is projected to slow significantly from 51 percent in 2005 to 18 percent in 2008. - The advanced level of the U.S. online travel market creates an atmosphere in which many innovations such as dynamic packaging, metasearch and user-generated content incubate in the U.S. before expanding to other global markets. Many of these innovations include the new online capabilities that PhoCusWright has termed Travel 2.0 (In line with the 2.0 hype seen all around)—the travel industry’s application of Web 2.0 practices empowering the online consumer. Every aspect of service industry is getting influenced by the power of the web in fundamental ways -it's obvious that the deflationary effect of internet is beginning show up and influence business, indications are that more and more of this would be felt in the coming years.
John Hagel comes out with an excellent post on the leading internet companies approach towards future. He rightly warns that without a clear and differentiated sense of long-term direction, everything else would count for little in terms of sustained value creation. Watching the moves of all the major Internet players – Google, MSN, Amazon, Ebay and AOL – he gets the sense that have lost their sense of direction and differentiation. Rather than carving out and rapidly enhancing areas of distinctive advantage, these major players appear to be leaping like lemmings into the red ocean. He points to several traits like focus on aggregation of services, going after the dangerous narcotic-advertising revenue rather focus on value-add to users, emphasis on building infrastructure as against building services and merely replicate what the other one is doing ( sometimes it can get as insane as this) as concern causing. While admitting that these could be good strategies in mature industries, the internet industry can support much more innovation amidst its increasing usage. Observers see the rise of “Internet conglomerates” where the assumptions seem to converge as leading companies will be vertically integrated and horizontally integrated, offering a broad range of their own resources to users who will “settle” into their spaces. Warning against this skewed view of future, john argues that internet business shall face the same set of challenges as the traditional business and need to confront the reality of unbundled corporation(s) and the sad reality he argues is that none of the Internet leaders appear prepared to confront these choices yet. Instead most of them seem to be going after an array of choices that lay in front of them. The Irony is that this approach stands in sharp contrast to the strategies that enabled the Internet leaders to carve out their leadership positions in the first place. Unlike the thousands of other dot.com start-ups that embraced hustle as strategy and speed without direction, the founders of these companies started with a very clear, even though high-level, long-term destination in mind. It helped them to make difficult choices in the near-term and to launch waves of initiatives that cumulatively built very large and successful businesses. It has stood them very well in the first decade of their business and now they are on the verge of undoing all of these and seem to have lost is any distinctive long-term view of what kind of business they will need to build to remain successful in a rapidly evolving business landscape. That’s where the business model matters a lot. As in the traditional industry corporations should be built in such a way that on their pursuit of their vision they should strive to adapt for the present and build for the future.
The web world is always interesting. This once takes the cake. First Jeremy Zawodny accuses Google of copying Yahoo's UI for the IE7 splash page. Matt Cutts while admitting that Google might have copied this points out how Yahoo used to copy adword styles and number of characters as well. Interesting indeed -innovative icons accusing each others of copying each other's UI's.
Tim O'Reilly points to The Economics of Disaggregation wherein the contrast between the benefits of disaggregation from both the consumer and producer point of view comes out so well. In essence the argument goes to say that at multiple levels this phenomenon can be observed. Look closely - disaggregation in essence refers to the unbundling of product for consumption, such as the ability online to purchase single songs rather than full albums, or individual articles from journals instead of buying the full journal/newspaper. William Bulkeley's piece in the Wall Street Journal, The Internet Allows Consumers to Trim Wasteful Purchases provides ample examples from both the music and publishing industries. Look at the way consumers were treated in the pre-internet age: the photographic film industry, encyclopedia publishers, the music industry, and the advertising industry feasted on buyers by forcing them to purchase things they didn't want - prints of all 24 shots from their camera or a whole album to secure one favorite song, for example.He writes,
Eastman Kodak and Fuji Photo Film had a highly profitable duopoly for 20 years before digital cameras came along. They never dreamed customers would quickly abandon film and prints. But customers are happy to pay for new digital cameras because the cameras let them pick the good pictures without having to pay to print out a roll of mostly mediocre shots. Now film sales are dropping 20% or more a year and Kodak has reported losses for eight consecutive quarters while closing plants around the world and laying off thousands of people
Today, the digital cameras, the Web, iTunes, and search-related advertising have simply stripped those industries of their power to charge for everything together. Joe Esposito points out that Apple and iTunes is instructive: the disaggregated $1 song requires you to purchase a $300 iPod every couple of years.
Lets look at this – what does the big guy, who just collates get out of this : The principal benefit for the aggregator of huge content is not the actual revenues of long-tail purchases, instead it’s the attraction of capturing a potential huge hit that otherwise would be captured by competition. Sandra points out that the ability of consumers to bypass high-valued homepages to individual stories from search engines means that news publishers will need to consider how they, as 'producers' can benefit from the phenomenon of disaggregation. So in essence this means that it needs to be seen as a something related to managing portfolios. Provide for including all sorts of contents and enable users to find everything on your aggregation platform. As Bulkley points out timely recognition and immediate counter action can only save enterprises to tide over and in some cases encash on the changing landscape.
Mass collaboration, social networking, co-creation, consumer experience are amongst the buzz words in 2006. In this fast changing landscape Businessweek comes out with a set of books focussing on innovation and design published in the year. Am amazed at the variety and the tapestry that all these try to weave (though I have not read all the books listed therein - but surely they go into the to-buy list) Reaping the Rewards of Innovation is an important aspect to furthering innovation. The book “Mavericks At Work” - offers a wide-ranging case studies of managers and companies willing to think and do different. I like the description about the book - In a business world plagued by risk aversion, conformity, and copycat benchmarking. Edward Tufte’s information design, wherein he digs more deeply into art and science to reveal very old connections between truth and beauty—all the way from Galileo to Google. Wikinomics talks about MySpace, Second Life, and YouTube—as well as mature icons such as IBM, BMW, and Best Buy, and international examples that show how, for instance, peer production has made China the world's leader in motorcycle production. The list is indeed impressive:
- Designing Interactions by Bill Moggride - Worldchanging by Alex Steffen - Payback by James Andrew and Harold Sirkin - ZAG by Marty Neumeier - Beautiful Evidence by Edward Tutfe - Open Business Models by Henry Chesbrough - Wikinomics by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams - Mavericks at Work by Bill Taylor and Polly LaBarre - Juicing the Orange by Pat Fallon and Fred Senn - Spectale by David Rockwell and Bruce Mau
Microsoft takes a big leap and hires Jon Udell, the well known name from Infoworld. John Udell announces that he is joining Microsoft. The leading edge alpha geek, says that he would continue to function pretty much as he is doing currently, Viz blogging, podcasting, and screencasting on topics that I think are interesting and important; it means doing the kinds of lightweight and agile R&D and it means brokering connections among people, software, information, and ideas.
Jon has over the years evangelized a bunch of things to the alpha-geek crowd: Internet groupware, blogging, syndication, tagging, web architecture, lightweight integration, microformats, structured search, screencasting, dynamic languages, geographic mapping, random-access audio, and more. The Purpose : in his own words, the augmentation of human capability in these sorts of ways isn't just some kind of geek chic. He adds that it's nothing less than a survival issue for our species faced as such with really serious challenges. His solution : To figure out how to work together in shared information spaces. His choice of Microsoft is owing to its scale, the resources, and the business incentive to help him empower a lot of people to learn how to do that. Jon Udell is amongst my favourite when it comes to technology evangelism – Microsoft as indeed got a prize catch. Jon is a straight shooter – see his earlier view on testing in windows before trying out Linux covered here. Now we should see Jon display the same zeal and enthusiasm. I am sure, he would. No doubt, a great find for Microsoft, both for its image make up and Jon can be a big asset in mashing alpha geeks & civilians.
Adam Bosworth well known as the key figure in the evolution of VB development platform, Internet Explorer etc now writes about Google’s approach towards solving heathcare problems. As he sees it, one key part of the solution to heathcare problems is a better educated patient. If patients understand their diseases better - the symptoms, the treatments, the drugs, and the side effects, they are likely to get better and quicker care - before, during, and after treatment. We have already launched some improvements to web search that help patients more easily find the health information they are looking for. The solution reasons out Adam is to put the patients in charge of their health and medical information. The idea is to build a system which puts the people who are sick in control. For every single medical and health-related event, let’s make sure that patients can effortlessly retrieve and share their information in its totality and then use it to ensure that they get the best quality of care possible. It is their health. The people who treat, diagnose, test or dispense medications to patients should be required to deliver, instantly, over the net, at the speed of light, that information to those patients to use as they see fit. Using the Google Co-op platform, Google and the health community have labeled sites and pages across the web making it easier for users to refine their health queries and locate the medical information they need. Do a search on Google about a medical issue or treatment like diabetes or Lipitor and you'll see some choices for refining your query, such as "symptoms," "treatments," and so on. If you click on "treatment," your search results are refined and reordered so that sites that have been labeled as being about treatment by trusted health community contributors are boosted in the rankings. Note that how trusted a contributor is - and thus how much they affect your search results - is dependent both on Google's algorithms and on who the user decides they trust. For example, if my doctor is a Google Co-op contributor and I indicate to Google that I trust her, then when I search, the sites she has labeled as relevant will show up higher in my search results. Nick points to his recent speech on this theme. John Batelle sees this as Google trying to bite more than what it can chew. As I see it, it is an uphill task. The internet & medical field intersection is becoming a focal area. Google has substantial wherewithal to do this. I like two things here :
One - that Google is seriously thinking to address problems affecting common man using its platform.
Two – Given that Google has publicized this – we can expect hundreds of similar initiatives that would get attempted by startups/competitors all around – this can only help the cause better.
Yahoo streamlinesits disparate operations into three core groups focused on its Web site's audience, advertising network and technology.
- Audience Group - focused on building the largest and most valuable audiences and relationships on and off the Yahoo! network, creating more unique, tailored and engaging experiences for Yahoo!'s valuable users. - Advertiser & Publisher Group will lead the transformation of how advertisers connect with their target customers across the Internet, with the goal of driving more value for more advertisers and publishers than any other company. - Technology Group will continue to support the entire organization
While its claim about recent accomplishments - strategic partnership with the publishers of more than 150 U.S. daily newspapers to deliver search, graphical and classified advertising to consumers in their own communities; - encouraging feedback on the roll-out of its new search advertising platform, known as Project Panama; partnership with Vodafone to create a new mobile phone advertising business; release of the beta version of its graphical advertising platform for the mobile Web in the United States, international expansion of Yahoo! Answers looks impressive – the market perception remains pretty much to be desired. I also noticed that the peanut butter manifesto has not been taken too seriously. Come to think of it,If Yahoo can undergo this turmoil, fate of the innumerable web wannabe's are best left to the imagaination of their backers.
Update : Terry Semel believes that Yahoo has the largest and most engaged audience in the world. He is looking to tap the thirty billion in advertising dollars will come online globally over the next five years and believes that Yahoo has the right strategy, the right structure and the right people to provide the best experiences and results possible to its users, advertisers and publishers. We have to wait and see.
The definition of what a CTO is and how this person should contribute to an organization varies widely. In some cases, this variation is driven by unique business needs or by the evolutionary path that created the position within a specific company. In other cases, the variation is a result of a misunderstanding of the role of the CTO or of simply mimicking the role used in other companies. Roger Smith points out that very little research has been done to define the CTO’s responsibilities, methods of evaluating the person’s performance, and the skills that the person should bring to the office. He finds five dominant patterns of the CTO position labeled as the Genius, Administrator, Director, Executive, and Advocate.
• Genius – A wizard, often one of the founders of the company focused on the core technology that launched their product or service. • Director – Large companies have strange organizational roles. The CTO is not usually a "doer", but a director of what needs to be done. He/she may be very technical, but spends their time managing product development or research labs. • Executive – Oragnization design may be such that the CTO may be a member of the executive staff and spend their time on strategic directions for the company. The focus is not on creating technologies, but on creating strategy. • Advocate – He is focused on the customer experience with the product or service. • Administrator – Charged with scheduling optimal deployment of the product and strategizing best licensing deals for software products. • Void – typically no man’s land . This is dangerous for the company.
Gerard Baker points out that In the last five-years, the US currency has fallen by about 18 per cent against those of its main trading partners. This seems to have been driven in large part by America’s indebtedness to the rest of the world. The US is running a current account deficit of roughly $800 billion, or about 7 per cent of its total national output. He does not think that this means the American economy is doomed. He is right in pointing out that the exchange rate merely reflects the changing premium that investors demand for investing in the US. Investors may have grown more concerned about placing their money in the US in the past year, especially as European and Japanese performance has improved and that this simply means they demand a lower price for investing there to protect them against further dollar depreciation. The dollar surely needs to keep on falling. What matters is that its drop is an orderly and stable one, not a sudden collapse – that may hurt China, the most important trading partner of the US with a trillion dollar in surplus most of which are invested in dollar/dollar denominated financial instruments!! As I see it, the US was not so pushy when it came to enforcing Yuan float – its huring them and would hurt them more in future, if this continues. The budget and trade deficits of US running into trillion plus dollars is not a casual affair that can get self corrected or ignored – this needs a strong willed and concerted effort to correct this. The deflation of the dollar is further accentuated by the sagging interest in the housing market – with first and second mortgage leverage tied ot those assets. Gerard is right - Uniquely in the modern history of international financial markets, the world’s most important currency is underwritten by the economic policies of another country – if I may add only to a significant extent –I agree with Rich Karlgaard that the US economy shall definitely bounce back – courtesy the entrepreneurism, optimism and resilience of the Americans –the world’s economic engine won’t get spurted that easily and for long- it will humm back more strongly with some policy driven lubrication. I am optimistic about this happening.