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Wednesday, June 30, 2004

"The Constant Challenge" at eBay

Commerce, community and change makes life exciting for Meg Whitman at eBay. Meg says,"It's this unique blend of commerce and community. The community of users is endlessly interesting and endlessly surprising. That's what I love the most.Second is the constant challenge. It is one of the fastest-growing companies of any scale. Every week, there is a different set of issues, a different challenge, something new to think about. Probably at least a couple times a week, I go, "Huh! I didn't know that."" Amazing zeal and enthusiasm - definitely making the difference here.

Grid Confusion by major IT companies

All the marketing from major vendors appears to have left IT executives more confused than ever about grid computing. Grid computing is not well understood and the vendors have not helped matters in positioning this well. Lack of standardisation contributes to the confusion further. The industry leaders have a responsibility to make this potential technology clear and usable to all users.

Why Did We Invest in NewsGator? by Brad Feld

The investment in NewsGator is based on just the outlook based RSS aggregator. While the most popular product from NewsGator is currently their Outlook-based aggregator, what really attracted the investor into NewsGator as a potential investment is NewsGator Online Services (NGOS). Greg Reinacker's vision is much broader than simply an RSS aggregator - his goal is to provide RSS content on any device. NewsGator currently provides clients for Outlook, the Web, POP email, mobile devices (web-based and wap), and Microsoft Media Center (how cool is it to get an RSS feed on your TV?).Brad Feld writes,"the misperception that NewsGator is simply an RSS reader for Outlook (although it is a damn good Outlook-based RSS aggregator!). Let me move on to why we invested in NewsGator. When I started really digging into RSS and blog technology, I began by actively playing with and trying as many different products and services as I could find. I had three goals: (1) figure out which were the most interesting products available today, (2) determine what the segments of the RSS / blog universe were, and (3) determine the "analog analogs" from the evolution of other segments (publishing, email, web, and ecommerce).The first was fun for me as its appeal to my inner-nerd was very tactile. In many of the market segments that I invest in (such as IT infrastructure software products - companies like Cyanea, Newmerix, Oxlo, Rally Software and Xaffire) I can't actually use the software in a sustained way. Sure - I can look at demos - but I'm not the target customer or user - so any real use case is contrived. In the RSS / blog universe I could set up a blog, read blogs, use RSS syndication, explore the tools, look at and think about my stats, and play with new search and advertising technologies as they appeared. Once I got into this, I ran across a number of interesting new companies.Once I became "a user" (meaning I was no longer in demo mode, but I was actually using this stuff every day), I starting figuring out which segments each company fit in and correspondingly began to rank the companies in terms of my perception of their future potential. The segments I came up with in hindsight are not that surprising, so I'm happy to share them here (and take constructive feedback from anyone that's bothered to read this far). The segments I identified are content management systems (CMS), readers (aggregators), tools, hosting, content, search, analytics, and advertising. There is obviously overlap between these segments (e.g. a company could be in more than one segment - search and advertising are a natural pairing, as are readers, tools, and analytics).I decided that rather than try to find one "ultimate investment" in RSS that spanned all the segments (I don't think this will exist), I wanted to make investments in several segments. I've been working closely on this with Ryan McIntyre who was previously a founder of Excite and knows many of these segments well from his experience there (and - hence - another view on the analog analog). We identified several companies in different segments that excited us and have been systematically exploring working with / investing in them. In several cases these companies overlap in various segments, but when in the same segment (e.g. search), they are complementary to each other rather than competitive.In fact - today - NewsGator (through the Outlook client as well as NGOS) has capabilities that cross all four segments. Clearly the emphasis is readers and tools - but if you dig into NGOS - you can see how NewsGator could be very complimentary to other companies that have their emphasis on search and analytics. Very perceptive comments and a key investment indeed.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Apple Putting More Focus on Simplifying Searching via NYT

The problem of searching for information on a personal computer is one of the most troublesome issues facing the computer industry, and one that Apple - which today has only 5 percent of the PC market - will be the first to solve."Search is a problem for every personal computer company," Mr. Jobs said in an interview at the Apple Worldwide Developer conference. "It's easier to find a document in a million pages on the Web using Google than it is to find a document on your hard drive."With Tiger,Apple's search solution, that will no longer be the case, Mr. Jobs said, because Spotlight will be able to find data stored on a hard drive regardless of the type of file it is hidden in.The function is based on technology used in iTunes that permits users of Apple's music service to organize and search through song collections. Spotlight will show up as an icon in the top right corner of the screen, much like the search buttons that show up on Web pages. By incorporating roughly 150 new features in Tiger, Apple is "clearly going after Longhorn". Apple dazzles the industry by being the first to acheive new things - a trait that it has demonstrated consistently for several years. Truly commendable -Mr.Jobs

The CNET phenomenon via Bweek

Shelby Bonnie is a man with a brand plan. The CEO of CNET Networks is betting heavily that the brand he's building in tech news and information will turn to gold as advertisers realize that the Net offers more than search-engine ads. CNET has impressive credentials - CNET ads have boosted direct referrals to Sony's (SNE ) e-commerce Web sites by 225% since the beginning of last year, according to Patrick Vogt, senior vice-president of Sony E-Solutions, the online direct-sales arm of the consumer-electronics giant. Vogt spends 30% of his annual online ad budget with CNET, a sum worth millions. What's more, referrals from CNET sites are more likely to make purchases, vs. click-throughs from other venues. "You do get a very high-quality lead when you advertise there," Vogt says. Traffic growth is also impressive. CNET claimed 76.5 million unique visitors in the first quarter of 2004, a 27% year-over-year increase. Some of that growth comes from its strength in two of the hottest areas in technology: games and consumer electronics. And News.com is the leading tech-news site on the Web in terms of traffic. In 2004, CNET won the coveted National Magazine Award for general excellence online. That, plus further hiring at News.com has quieted chatter that Bonnie would shutter or sell the news division CNET's CEO viewpoint -"As we're able to grow the top line, we can translate that into wins on the bottom line," he says. "If more people consume our news stories or read our reviews, it doesn't require much additional resources from us.Our job is to position and grow our properties to get ahead of those dollars so we're in a position to capture them over time. We have been growing our visitors and usage. We have a model that is very leveraged to translate revenue growth to the bottom line." CNET is one the sites that I regularly visit for the past several years - I could see CNET improving qualitatively year after year consistently . I firmly believe ( and hope) that CNET has a very bright future.

SAP's billion dollar bet

It's a future that looks markedly different from SAP's heritage as the company that defined the market for enterprise-resource-planning software. Though SAP is the world's third-largest software vendor, with more than 22,000 customers in 120 countries and $8.9 billion in revenue last year, the company is thinking bigger. It's remaking itself into a platform vendor that will sell everything from application servers to middleware to Web services. It will offer slivers of applications--called composite or "snap-on" apps built using services from other SAP apps--up to full-blown business-process sets such as cash management.As it considered making NetWeaver a bigger part of its strategy, SAP leaders weren't at all sure the degree to which the company could move its applications to NetWeaver and what the vendor calls its Enterprise Services Architecture, which exploits all of NetWeaver's Web services to enable an integrated system where business processes can be assembled on the fly. "The bar is very high for SAP.Its software has to scale to extraordinary degrees. Web services in a very complex, robust application environment were an unknown entity. Nobody had ever approached that." The gutsy undertaking has played a big role in the massive NetWeaver project, the 32-year-old company's largest development effort ever. It's bigger than the project that put SAP on the software map--the retooling of its mainframe-based R/2 software to its client-server R/3 apps. NetWeaver and the Enterprise Services Architecture have so far taken the equivalent of 250,000 days of work spread across engineers in Bulgaria, France, Germany, India, Israel, Japan, and the United States, at a cost of more than $1 billion. And it's not yet complete, with a target date of 2007 for SAP to retool its entire software suite to run on NetWeaver and the Enterprise Services Architecture. SAP engineers still are researching better ways to build applications from the ground up on its Web-services architecture. SAP's mission -"To become the platform for businesses' growth."

Monday, June 28, 2004

Sun Moving to Underscore New Strategy via NYT

Sun is making concerted efforts to recover back from its lost marketshare and selective loss of leadership in chosen segments. Sun needs to win here - it is very important to have a credible server player outside of IBM and HP - all the more so when people like Dell are beginning to move into server marketspace.

What the New Asia Means for Multinationals via HBSWK

Asia is remaking itself, and that means important strategic rethinking for Western multinationals doing business there.Many of the Western multinationals operating in Asia have a head start when it comes to achieving the potential benefits of cross-border integration. They already have an international reach that spans the region through established subsidiaries and experience of how to adapt to local conditions. But arguably the presence many multinationals have established in Asia is more suited to prospering in yesterday's competitive environment rather than being well attuned to winning in the next round—especially against the new breed of Asian multinationals that seems likely to evolve as Asian companies rise to the challenge of inter-nationalization.
When compared with the demands of Asia's changing competitive environment, the limitations of Western multinationals' existing bases in Asia typically lie in three areas: the "long, thin arm" problem, lack of cross-border integration within Asia, and the belief that it is sufficient to "think global and act local."The role of the Asian units was to execute functions directed from headquarters or to apply a business formula already perfected back at home base. Just as the fingers on a hand execute commands from the brain, Asian subsidiaries acted like the end of a long arm of the corporate center. The arm was also "thin" in the sense that the breadth and complexity of knowledge that flowed along it was constrained. Thinking global, acting local often means that best practices and innovations generated in the course of adapting a global business formula to a local market remain imprisoned locally: They don't get propagated across Asia and the world. While this remains the case, Western multinationals in Asia won't be able to fully exploit the learning they are accumulating inside their Asian operations. The long-term consequence of this failure will be an inability to keep pace with their Asian cousins as they become increasingly capable of taking what they learn in one Asian country and deploying that learning elsewhere. In short, while Asia remains a recipient and implementer of best practice within Western multinationals rather than a strong contributor to global improvement and innovation, their competitive advantage will erode relative to Asian rivals capable of milking what they learn in Asia for all it is worth. Well written article, correaltes to my professional experience in dealing with various western multinationals out of Asia.


Sunday, June 27, 2004

Bill Gates may start blogging via Seattle Times

Yes, the world's richest man may start his own blog, one of those online diaries that have been the rage among techies for the past three or four years.Bill's blog won't be all business, either. He's expected to share personal details such as tidbits from recent vacations, according to tech pundit Mary Jo Foley's Microsoft Watch newsletter. Citing unnamed sources, she reported yesterday that Gates is about to start blogging "real soon now."Microsoft spokesman Mark Murray would not confirm the story, but left open the possibility, saying, "Bill would love to do his own blog at some point in the future, time permitting."Murray noted that Gates talked up blogging at gathering of executives in Redmond last month. Several microsoft employees are currently active in the blog circuit - just under a week back, a microsoft employee got a positive mail reply from Bill Gates to a question whether he likes her blogging. Seriously Gates spoke highly of blogging potential in his recent address Microsft CEO summit 2004 last month.At last month's Microsoft-sponsored CEO Summit, conceived as a forum for chief executives to network and discuss business issues, Gates said blogs are useful for sharing information, particularly because they can notify people when new information is added."And so if I do a trip report, say, and put that in a blog format, then all the employees at Microsoft who really want to look at that and who have keywords that connect to it or even people outside, they can find the information," he said, according to a transcript of his talk.

Vendor Alliance Boosts Hudson's Bay Co. Clout via Optimisemag

By sharing practices with its key vendors;and getting preferred treatment in return;the giant retailer - Hudson's bay co. optimized its partnerships. The alliance turned a competitive relationship into a win for all.To survive as one of Canada's oldest companies, Hudson's Bay Co. has learned that traditional approaches don't always work. Being nimble in a fiercely competitive retail industry requires strong IT relationships and the help of many hands.
Well into the 1990s Hudson bay's use of technology wasn't competitive: IT supported the business but didn't advance it. We had disparate systems and high support costs, and we weren't gaining efficiencies across our various stores. Additionally, Hudsoncouldn't tap into the valuable information collected about a majority of Canadian consumers, nor could we pull information together to fully mine it. To fix all this, Hudson required a great deal of technology support in the stores and supply chain. As part of an analysis of business performance in 1998, Hudson shifted from a traditional mainframe-centric approach to one that matched the company's product and customer needs and moved to applications and an infrastructure that advanced the business rather than simply replicating the existing functionality with newer technology.While IT has many capabilities that are critical to the overall strategy, the innovative approach to working with key vendors has helped Hbc get optimal business results more quickly and cost-effectively, says theit IT head Hudson actually built a collabarrative alliance consisiting of traditional rivals to sevice their needs by making IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Cisco and also brought in a new culture where the alliance members were seen as true partners and not as adversial suppliers - Interesting article - Read on..

Saturday, June 26, 2004

The Importance of Being Linux by John Dvorak

John Dvorak writes,There are mixed feelings about the open-source movement, mainly because its most popular component, Linux, is offered by over 100 vendors, each of whom has a slightly different product. Other than Linux, all the other open-source projects move along at a rate best described as glacial. Even principals in the community are sometimes shocked at the slowness of open-source development. This probably is a function of how motivation and lack of fear work among open-source developers. Often they're motivated like hobbyists. And there is no fear to drive anyone to do anything—no fear of getting fired or yelled at by a mean boss. He adds,"Still, many of the results from the open-source community have been impressive. My Web site and e-mail subsystems run almost entirely on open-source technology, starting with the standard Linux/Apache lash-up and incorporating all sorts of open-source spam-filtering mechanisms and IMAP software".Linux has not created a new kind of software, but a new kind of IT professional—the guy who actually can save a company money. There is a new generation of IT/sysop types who have been raised in the open-source environment and who've made this knowledge part of their career paths.The only way Microsoft will ever stop this trend is by keeping it underground and marginalizing its importance, which the company has apparently been unable to do. In fact, Microsoft does just the opposite, by continually fretting about Linux and making public pronouncements about the threat from this operating system. If Linux is a threat, then it's suddenly something worth looking into, isn't it? Someone needs to get me the numbers on exactly how many Linux experts there are. They must be growing like mad. The importance of this cannot be lost on Microsoft, which many people now think is responsible for the money behind the desperate SCO attempts to thwart Linux through legal threats.

"Peer-to-peer is key" says Nicholas Negroponte via Bweek

Peer-to-peer is key,in every form conceivable: cell phones without towers, sharing leftover food, bartering, etc. Furthermore, you will see micro-wireless networks, where everyday devices become routers of messages that have nothing to do with themselves. Nature is pretty good at networks, self-organizing systems. By contrast, social systems are top-down and hierarchical, from which we draw the basic assumption that organization and order can only come from centralism.Some negrponte talk in the interview include, "innovation comes from those who stand to lose the least from it.Historically, four places: government labs, big corporations, startup companies, and research universities. Government labs are shrinking (in the U.S., at least). Big companies are looking closer term, and even the most technological companies spend less than 1% of sales on research. Startups have suffered the burst bubble.Asia is already gaining great strength in the wireless industry, and the Asians dominate consumer electronics. As computing makes its way into the living room, Asian companies willwin there too.Kids five years from now will know Samsung as the premier consumer-electronics company". Overall, a very interesting interview with a very impressive personality on a very exciting theme - must read for all business and technology enthusiasts.


How to slay America's monster trade gap via Economist

America’s trade gap is growing again. Worse, it may be extremely hard to close it without causing much economic pain—and not just for Americans.America’s willingness to spend more than it could strictly afford on other countries’ manufactures was welcome at a time when most of these countries’ economies were sluggish. But deficits of over 5% of GDP in America’s current account could not be sustained. Having carried the world economy through the first, crucial leg of recovery from the slowdown of 2001, some economists felt it was time for America to “hand over the baton” to the rest of the world and pause for breath.But America is refusing to let go of the baton. It continues to import much more than it exports while investing more than it saves. According to figures released last Friday, its current-account deficit, having narrowed to 4.6% of GDP at the end of last year, has widened again in the first quarter of this year, to 5.1% of GDP. In some countries, a swift depreciation of the exchange rate has worked wonders. A fall of 20%-plus, in real terms, in the Swedish krone after 1992, for example, turned a deficit of more than 3% of GDP into a surplus of about 4%. But Sweden is a relatively small economy. Providing it remains outside the euro, it can depreciate, gaining competitiveness against its neighbours, without beggaring them. The United States, on other hand, is such a crucial destination for the imports of so many countries that they may struggle to find alternative sources of demand.To narrow the deficit by two percentage points by the end of the decade, they reckon the greenback would have to lose about a quarter of its current value (as measured against the currencies of America’s major trading partners) by the end of this year. Since China and Malaysia peg their currencies to the dollar, and many other Asian countries track it closely, Japan and the euro area would bear the brunt of the dollar’s fall. They would not bear it easily. America is such an important export market for both that neither would cope easily with such a loss of competitiveness. The European Central Bank (ECB) has some scope to ease the blow by cutting interest rates but the Bank of Japan has already cut them as low as they can go. As a result, the strengthening yen would cut Japan’s output in 2009 by more than 2% and condemn the country to another six years of falling prices, the OECD study reckons. As Europeans accuse the United States of throwing the world economy off balance, Americans accuse an arthritic Europe of holding the world economy back. Europe’s firms and workers are too cosseted, they argue, and as a result the continent’s economies are unable to pull their weight in the world economy. America is prepared to hand over the baton; but Europe must be ready to take it up. A major global economic turbulenceis clearly ahead of us.

The hidden dangers of the informal economy via Mckinseyquarterly

Governments suppose that the gray market creates jobs and relieves social tensions. Academics think it will disappear of its own accord. Neither idea stands up to scrutiny.It's no secret that some companies operate partially or wholly outside the law by underreporting employment, avoiding taxes, ignoring product quality and safety regulations, infringing copyrights, and even failing to register as legal entities. The problem is particularly acute in developing countries, but it is widespread in some developed nations too.The World Bank estimates that this informal economy1 generates 40 percent of the GNP of low-income nations and 17 percent of the GNP of high-income ones.2 In some industries, such as retailing and construction, informality can account for as much as 80 percent of employment. Over the past ten years, MGI has studied informality within a variety of industries in a range of different countries, including Brazil, India, Poland, Portugal, Russia, and Turkey. MGI found that the substantial cost advantage that informal companies gain by avoiding taxes and regulations more than offsets their low productivity and small scale. Competition is therefore distorted because inefficient informal players stay in business and prevent more productive, formal companies from gaining market share. Any short-term employment benefits of informality are thus greatly outweighed by its long-term negative impact on economic growth and job creation.For many people, the informal economy means street vendors and tiny businesses, and it is true that informality is pervasive among small, traditional concerns with low levels of technology, scale, and standardization. But it is hardly unknown among larger, modern enterprises in developing countries, where MGI has found informal supermarket chains, auto parts suppliers, consumer electronics assemblers, and even large-scale industrial operations.Three factors contribute to informality. The most obvious is limited enforcement of legal obligations—a result of poorly staffed and organized government enforcement agencies, weak penalties for noncompliance, and ineffective judicial systems. A second factor is the cost of operating formally: red tape, high tax burdens, and costly product quality and worker-safety regulations all prompt businesses to operate in the gray market. Finally, social norms contribute to the problem. In many developing countries, there is little social pressure to comply with the law. In some, many people see evading taxes and regulations as a legitimate way for small businesses to counteract the advantages of large, modern players.Informality's deleterious effects - A.The low-productivity trap B.Curbing legitimate companies c.The social cost.Persistent myths keep developing countries from addressing the informal sector. Yet diminishing its size would, in almost every case, remove barriers to growth and development and generate sizable economic gains. Reducing the level of informality is no easy task and carries risks that are not inconsiderable. But by addressing the root causes of informality—weak enforcement, the high cost of operating formally, and injurious social norms—governments can attack the problem and reduce the possibility of further social disruption.


Friday, June 25, 2004

Airlines call for end to paper tickets via News.com

An association of world airlines agreed recently to cost-cutting measures such as full electronic ticketing by 2007, as part of a bid to save up to $3 billion a year. The move comes as the industry is faced with soaring fuel prices and mounting competition. Airlines have racked up more than $30 billion in losses in the past three years because of the effects of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, the deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, and the Iraq war.With global passenger traffic in the January-to-March quarter about 6.5 percent above the levels of 2001, the industry was expected to post combined profits of $3 billion in 2004. But it now faces another year in the red because of soaring oil prices.Aside from eliminating paper tickets,the airlines agreed to work on an industry standard for check-in terminals worldwide. The airlines also plan to replace magnetic stripes with bar codes on boarding passes so they can be printed by passengers at home to cut costs and check-in times. The industry also agreed to use RFID (radio frequency identification) technology to replace bar-coded baggage tags.Another case of technology coming to the rescue of business , more so in highly competitive sector like airlines industry.


Will RFID Spark the Next Revolution in Retailing? via Knowledge@wharton

Wal-Mart is introducing radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to its products - small devices that emit radio waves containing information about product size, price, etc. Though this scenario is still far in the future, such tags could let the world's largest retailer add up the prices of purchased goods as shoppers leave the store and deduct the tab directly from their accounts. Whether such futuristic practices materialize or not, one thing is certain: RFID has begun to acquire a buzz that positions it as the next revolution in the world of retailingFans say that RFID technology promises to revolutionize the supply chain through real-time item tracking. Its goal is to keep goods on the shelves, garner more efficiency through better inventory management, enhance safety through smart recalls and cut theft, known as "shrink" among retailers. This is made possible by the fact that when RFID tags emit radio waves, that information is absorbed by a reader, which can then compile and share it with a company's enterprise software. Suppliers can benefit from real-time inventory management that keeps goods on the shelf. Consumers may not immediately see a lot of major changes, but they would certainly benefit from better in-stock levels."RFID could put more goods on the shelf," says William Cody, managing director of Wharton's J.H. Baker Retailing Initiative. "It would certainly be better than having a skeleton crew walking around filling empty shelves. You could eliminate goods being lost in the back room."Today, inventory processing requires line of sight for bar code scanning. Bar codes aren't going to disappear, but they do have disadvantages compared with RFID. Notably, bar codes introduce human errors, can only encode limited and static information, don't offer read/write capability and cannot read multiple codes.Cohen explains the difference between current inventory management and RFID enabled systems this way: In current systems, you may know there are 10 items on the shelf, and that information is compiled in an enterprise planning software system. With RFID, you know there are 10 items, their age, lot number, expiration date and warehouse origin.“It’s like knowing there are 1,000 people in a city,” says Cohen. “With RFID, you know their names.”Most of the benefits from RFID at present will be tied to the supply chain and within three- to five-years electronic tags carrying product specific codes should be common, according to EPCglobal, the organization creating standards for the electronic product codes carried on RFID tags. Currently, RFID mindshare is the highest and is perhaps the most talked about technology today in business circles - we have to see in Jan 2005, when walmart partially rolls out this technology in a large scale. The potential benefits are unquestionable for business. I reckon that once this technology is seen to be commercially viable, i foresee a major IT investment push in upgrading and modifying the enterprise systems - not just the retail systems - RFID's reach would change the way all resources including men get utilised and may lay out new level of process structures and efficiencies across the enterprise necessitating substantial changes in the technology systems and infrastructure. The upside could be similar to the Y2K upgrade felt by several service providers


The CIO Of The Year(2003) JP Rangaswami

Deploying disruptive technology, keeping a wary eye on outsourcing and defending IT makes JP Rangaswami of DrKW our Top CIO of the Year, said THE 2003 WATERS EDITORIAL AWARDS TEAM .The CIO of Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein isn’t afraid of disruptive solutions, doubts the benefits of outsourcing, and has seen technology go from ‘poster child to whipping boy’JP Rangaswami is not one to shy away from strong metaphors. "Over the last three years, the IT industry seems to have gone from poster child to whipping boy," says the CIO of Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein (DrKW). "We’re under pressure on all fronts: budgets, delivery, reliability, and security."Like his peers, Rangaswami has seen his budget and staff slashed in the last three years. His IT budgets is down 40 percent and his staff has been trimmed 43 percent and now numbers at just more than 1,000 employees since he started as CIO. "It’s not about doing less with less, but about doing more with less, which is what technology should be about," he says.How has DrKW’s CIO managed this feat? For starters, he and his firm are driving harder bargains as they are no longer held ransom by their IT vendors, and they are demanding plug-and-play products rather than ones that require expensive customization as they did in the late nineties. Rangaswami continues to champion open source technologies, and he estimates that approximately 43 percent of DrKW’s Unix user base is on Linux. DrKW also, for example, makes use of the JBoss open source application server environment rather than pay proprietary fees.But has IT become a utility, as a controversial article argued last May in the Harvard Business Review? "Absolutely not," says Rangaswami. In order for technology to become a utility, he says, it has to reach a level of standardization, which it has failed to do. Furthermore, while certain aspects of IT have reached a point of commoditization and "could be a utility, the industry should be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water," he says. Technology can still provide a distinct advantage, he says, but it’s an argument bolstered by the recent technology patent battles raging in both financial services and other industries. "Throwing that away is like being told that Amazon’s one-click model is not distinctive and did not give them any advantage," he says. I read this article just recently and thought that it is good enough to be referred in this blog - very insightful and straightforward comments - peraps working in financial services and equity research enteprise helps one to think more clearly and be more articulate - enjoyed reading this article.


Collaboration: The supply chain reaction via silicon.com

Modern supply chains are highly complex systems. The proliferation of just-in-time manufacturing and stock minimisation strategies means that companies all along the supply chain need to accurately forecast demand to meet supply. It's for these reasons supply chain management (SCM) systems became so de rigueur during the 1990s.Optimising the supply chain does not cease at SCM, however. Increasingly, collaborative working tools are helping to find even more efficiencies.The most successful supply chain initiatives have tended to be driven by the largest player in the value chain. According to Nikos Drakos, research director at market analyst house Gartner: "The relationship is often uneven and there is usually one dominant partner and they will insist that processes are done a specific way. Their partners have to accept the terms of engagement if they want to work with them."Among other things, collaboration helps retailers and suppliers accurately judge their stock requirements and forecasts.The next step up from collaborative forecasting is vendor-managed inventory, an approach being adopted by many big retailers. "The technology is straightforward, but changing the business process is difficult," says Bamber. "There is the very real issue of trust, because you are exposing commercially confidential and very valuable information to your suppliers." Collabaration adds a new dimension in enhancing the capability of supply chain solutions - come to think of it from a process perspective, collabaration is anyway always a key element of supply chain planning. technology enablers are beginning to be made widely available to support this and innovative use of these tools are beginning to get reported.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

"Business Model" Explained via Fool.com

A solid understanding of the "business model" concept is definitely needed to assess enteprises and evaluate potential investments.A firm's business model is simply the method by which it makes its money For example, part of Wal-Mart's (NYSE: WMT) business model was initially to establish profitable stores in small communities that other discount chains had dismissed. (It's now establishing itself even in large cities.) Coca-Cola's (NYSE: KO) business model involves using its secret formula to manufacture syrup that it supplies to bottlers. By distributing its beverages through stores, restaurants, vending machines, and more, it's attempting to make its drinks easily available to anyone. Very important in differentiating enteprises, more so service enteprises like consulting where differentiation and value addition directly gets related to revenues and in providing stable growth trajectories.

The coming IT fiscal squeeze Via Optimizemag

CEOs, other senior business executives, and corporate CIOs are insisting that financial discipline return to the enterprise management of IT. That's causing a fundamental shift in the basic premise of directing and managing business technology, creating a division between the haves and have-nots, with clearly defined vertical-industry leaders emerging. Those leaders--companies demonstrating staggeringly efficient funding and use of technology--are prompting almost every company in their markets to make difficult choices about how they budget for and finance their business-technology needs. The relative efficiency of their IT expenditure is forcing many businesses to rethink their IT strategies. Simply increasing funding for every IT opportunity that seems to have a proven ROI isn't guaranteeing a company's chances of being a winner in its category.striking findings from the interviews:Most companies are looking for a 15% to 20% reduction in their overall IT spend as a percentage of revenue; these executives say they can drive the base cost of existing IT down by 10% to 15% per year.Many of the executives feel that IT deployment is limited by business users' ability to participate in the process and absorb new capabilities. Therefore, they believe they should be limiting new initiatives to a level that will create no more than 8% to 13% new IT spend annually. Information-intensive companies tend to be at the higher end of the range.Most CIOs expect their overall IT spending to be flat or down on a year-to-year basis. If companies can cut existing IT base cost by 10% to 15% per year and also deliver new business-absorbing IT initiatives amounting to 8% to 13% of new IT spend, then the result can be a cut in overall spend by 1% to 5% per year. As revenue increases over the planning period, they should reduce IT as a percentage of revenue by the desired 15% to 20% overall.There will still be leeway at these companies for funding critical, business-driven technology initiatives.Clearly, companies in severe catch-up or aggressive breakaway mode would follow a different multiyear IT financial pattern.The respondents all agree that IT spending as a percentage of revenue is a controversial metric. However, they feel more comfortable when they understand their budget or spending boundaries. Also, such a metric provides the CIOs with a rational mandate for not spending on any and all projects they think may pass an ROI test. As one CIO said, "It's OK to be prudent once again." Redirecting IT to an affordable-IT set of premises may be essential to move ahead constructively.


The Best Things In Life Are Free via FC

In an excerpt from his new book, Free Prize Inside! , Seth Godin shows how anyone can champion new ideas. Seth Godin, in his previous book wrote that If your goal is growth, the only way to achieve it is to market a product or service worth talking about--a purple cow . Here he elaborates means to acheive these in a very simple and straightforward way.Interesting read.

Dalian has become the Bangalore of China by Thomas Friedman via NYT

Dalian, a port city in northeastern China is not just impressive for a Chinese city. With its wide boulevards, beautiful green spaces and nexus of universities, technical colleges and a massive software park, Dalian would stand out in Silicon Valley.Dalian symbolizes how much China's most modern cities — and there are still plenty of miserable, backward ones — are rapidly grabbing business as knowledge centers, not just manufacturing hubs. No, Toto, they are not just making tennis shoes here. Try G.E., Microsoft, Dell, SAP, H.P., Sony and Accenture, which are setting up back-room operations here for Asian companies and software R.& D. centers.Because of Japan's long colonization of this area in the first half of the 20th century, Dalian has a pool of people who know Japanese. And because of its proximity to Japan and its abundance of Internet bandwidth, and parks and golf courses that attract knowledge workers, Dalian has become the Bangalore of China — the center for outsourcing by Japanese businesses that want to tap China's low-cost brainpower. Japanese companies can hire three Chinese software engineers for the price of one in Japan, and still have change to buy a room full of call-center operators. Indian cities and Banglaore symbolise the fact,"The rule of the market economy is that if somewhere has the richest human resources and the cheapest labor, of course the enterprises and the businesses will naturally go there,"

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Cisco's Second Act via Informationweek

Cisco Systems celebrated its 20th anniversary not long ago, a milestone CEO John Chambers noted by reflecting on his company's "rich history of enabling the Internet." Yet, before the candles cooled on Cisco's cake, Chambers was looking ahead, as well he should, given the company's continued reliance on a maturing networking business that, in its most recent quarter, still accounted for 70% of revenue. For future growth, Cisco is aggressively branching into six new lines of business--and Chambers is planning for even more. The networking leader is looking for growth in new markets such as security, wireless, storage, and telecommunications. Last year, Cisco spent $3 billion on research and development--more than 15% of its $18.9 billion in sales in 2003. Forty percent of the R&D budget went to what the company calls advanced technologies. So far, the vendor has targeted six such areas--security, optical, IP telephony, home networking, wireless, and storage--which now account for 15% to 20% of revenue. Chambers believes each of those six segments could grow into a billion-dollar business on its own, and has indicated he would like to expand into four to six more new areas over the next several years.Increasingly, Cisco is packaging its products for companies with industry-specific requirements. In addition to targeting telecom companies and Internet service providers, Cisco tailors products for health care, financial, energy, government, retail, and manufacturing companies. Chambers says,"You'll see more product announcements this year from Cisco than you've seen in any year before by a factor of two, most all of it from organic growth. It's the best product pipeline I've ever seen as CEO, across all product lines," Cisco, is a class act -in what it has done in the past, in what it is doing now, and in what it intends to do in future.

Minimizing the Risks of Leadership via HBSWK

Leaders become the focus of an organization's results. When things go right, leaders get the credit, glory, and money. Jack Welch receives the praise, but his accomplishments took 305,000 employees twenty years to produce.When things go wrong, leaders can take the fall. The Middle East peace process is regularly derailed by disgruntled people largely acting alone, and it sets back the efforts—and eventually credibility—of the leaders by decades. A good article - the article concludes by saying, "leader will always be responsible for the sins of the followers. Alas, that's the nature of the job. We can tell people the rules, but we minimize our risk through values as well as rules. By modeling clear values, discussing them, and incorporating them into the way decisions get made, we can make it much more likely our organization will do the right things".

The Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation

A Powerpoint presntation of Lincoln's address complete with speaker notes and contact information Petr Norvig asks, "Doesn't he realize this presentation is a waste of time? Why doesn't he just tell us what matters and get it over with?" How many times have you heard (or muttered) that? How many of of us have been frustrated at seeing too many presentations where PowerPoint or other visual aids obscure rather than enhance the point? His barb at powerpoint presentations - I agree with Peter about the abuse of the powerpoint technology by various people. Several people substitute hardwork and insights with good or sometimes not-so-good powerpoint slides.

Peoplesoft wants to overtake SAP

Almost one year on from the acquisition of JD Edwards, PeopleSoft president and CEO Craig Conway claims his company is still on course to topple SAP from its number one position in the enterprise applications market.Conway said SAP's market lead is under real threat following the PeopleSoft acquisition of JD Edwards and compared the battle to airline manufacturer Airbus' steady challenge that saw it overtake the dominant Boeing."We're gaining market share every year against SAP," said Conway. "We will be the largest provider of enterprise applications in the world." Not sure where that 5 billion usd/year extra sales is going to come from.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Fast Times Demand Flexible Systems via ITUP

HP moves more than 100 businesses off mainframes to other servers.The mainframe has served well for many years. But with the velocity of change in IT systems today, enterprises were having a hard time keeping up
There always seems to be a void between business and IT, so we wiped the slate clean and are going forward now with what's really a business strategy. A significant happening - many cling on to mainframes wondering how to put all processes into new systems- a change in this mindset is quite discernable.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Google's Growth Engine by Warren Bennis via CIOinsight

Google's engineers, founders and CEO have all the earmarks of a Great Group—a talent-driven organization or enterprise, filled with people who set out to do something extraordinary and succeed in doing something that's never been done before. And like other Great Groups, Google has a few unique twists of its own.Google, whose revolutionary approach to search dominates the field, seems to have the ingredients that have produced greatness in the past. Whether commercially successful or not, all our Great Groups were daring innovators who were convinced not just of the importance of their work but that they were all but on a mission from God. All were carefully chosen collections of extraordinary talents who worked on their world-changing projects with an obsessive brio that often made them forget to eat or sleep—and occasionally doomed their marriages. However brilliant, they all believed, at least for the duration of the project, that "None of us is as smart as all of us." The closer you look at how Google operates, the more you see signs that founders Sergey Brin, 30, and Larry Page, 31, and their 48-year-old CEO, Eric E. Schmidt, are doing the right thing to make greatness possible. Like many other creative enterprises, Google encourages the kind of experimentation that, even if it ends in failure, identifies what won't work before the company has invested too much into an idea. The fact that Google can float new features on its site—such as its controversial e-mail service Gmail—and constantly evaluate user response, gives the company an enormous leg up in deciding which applications users like.
Just as important, Google has an organizational structure that encourages creativity instead of stifling it. Rather than being assigned tasks, engineers are guided by a company-wide "Top 100" list of projects, though the actual list numbers twice that many. And to make sure ideas are not shot down before their time, some on the list are marked with an S, for Skunk Works, to make them safe from critical battering. Google's head of engineering, Wayne Rosing, told Fast Company magazine that when he first joined Google, in 2001, its engineering department had managers. But, as Rosing put it, the managers tended to tell the engineers, " 'No, you can't do that.' So Google got rid of the managers." Now most of the staff work on projects they choose; engineers form three-person teams, and members take turns acting as leader. Great Groups are famously averse to heavy-handed management; members often respond to it by walking out the door. The unusual decision to eliminate managers is the sign of a company that is inventing itself as it goes along. Google never fails to amaze me, everytime, I read about it - Warren Bennis here gives his view of Google's greatness.

Outsourcing Could Get the Better of India, Too by David Kirkpatrick via Fortune

A top offshoring CEO worries about U.S. tech expertise and competition. The IT service industry is just another commodity business. Eventually, more sophisticated business-process outsourcing—which could, say, involve taking over the management of customer records for a retail company—will become the attractive and profitable center of the industry. "The IBMs of the world will give the Infosyses and me a run for our money," says Naren Patni,founder of Patni computers, "because they have a lot of industry expertise and that's what counts in the long term."In Patni's view, outsourcing started with manufacturing—slowly, over many years. Then services started to move offshore. The distance between America and India, however, meant projects were delivered months later. "But now time and distance have collapsed," he says. "This has come on us very quickly. What people haven't realized is that now services can be traded. We are just seeing the tip of the iceberg so far, but society hasn't had the time to adapt. It's all happened in the last two to three years." What's made the difference, he says, is business's increasing acceptance of the web as a place to do business, agreement on various web standards for exchanging data, and a rapid increase in the quality and reliability of global telecom services even as prices plunged. "This has nothing to do with India," he says. "This is a bigger global change, when societies worldwide can trade services in synchronous mode. This can as easily go to China or Jordan as to India." Parts of what Mr.Patni said is correct - I do agree that this is commodity business, indian enteprises may be taken over - but what these companies are doing can be replicated by countries like china or others just like that is not true - expertise and relationship built over two decades can not be washed out overnight even in this fast age.

Shooting for the Moon by Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble Via FC

Aspirations -- like leadership skills -- aren't always enough. Leaders must do more than motivate; they must manage,says the noted authors about modern day leadership.Aspirations are crucial because organizations never outperform their highest ambitions. Not setting a high aspiration is the same as making a commitment not to achieve anything grand.One of the most fundamental questions that managers must address is "How are things going?" If things are going well, you keep doing what you are doing. If things are going poorly, you make changes.The question of how things are going is always answered by comparing an outcome to a goal. And that is where the value of aspirations is limited. Aspirations represent very distant goals, and judging progress against them is very subjective.When a management team is unable to clearly answer the basic question of how things are going, emotion takes over. This is common in new ventures, particularly when discussions about how things are going focus strictly on aspirations. As time passes, investments increase, pressure to deliver results rise, and emotions gather force.Such emotions tend to be polarizing. Some team members will be driven by ambition. Others by fear. Some will focus on what can go right. Others will focus on what might go wrong. Suddenly, there are only two options on the table. In essence, the options are "full speed ahead" and "abandon ship."Avoiding this pattern of decision making requires that long-term aspirations are coupled with short-term expectations. The aspirations inspire, and the expectations guide. I liked this piece for its simplicity and fortrightness in the message - Vijay always fnds a way of expressing himself very clearly.

IBM regains supercomputer bragging rights via News.com

IBM has regained dominance on a list of the 500 fastest supercomputers and has also landed two unusual prototypes in the top 10. The TOP 500 Supercomputer Listing-Jun 2004 IBM has built 224 of the 500 fastest supercomputers and hopes its Blue Gene/L design will carry it to the No. 1 spot within six months.Big Blue believes its designs should allay concerns that the United States is losing its supercomputing edge to Japan. And low-cost clusters of machines now account for more than half the systems on the list.The top system--NEC's long-dominant, 5,120-processor Earth Simulator--can perform 35.8 trillions of calculations per second, or 35.8 teraflops.Some comfort for all -supercomputer power is growing and the US dominance is not coming down, US company producs are indeed putting up a good show in these tests.


Blogging With The Boss's Blessing via Bweek

More companies are helping employees to speak freely -- and bond with customers Increasingly, execs see employee blogs as a way to transform a transaction with a faceless behemoth into a personal relationship with an employee. Blogs are also hyper efficient at driving product innovation. And they create loyal audiences. Once people get hooked, they keep coming back for more. This is nothing less than revolutionary.It's revolutionary because companies have usually been more concerned with controlling their message than conversing with customers. Blogging changes that by establishing a connection through real human beings speaking like real human beings, which is something companies have forgotten how to do.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Services Take IT Back To Basics via optimizemag

A service-oriented achitecture can enable innovation and ease complexity.the forefront of CIO challenges are issues about implementing and managing highly complex, distributed, and heterogeneous systems. Their priorities include overall stability, managing frequent changes in the network and desktops, and achieving adequate server and application reliability.the forefront of CIO challenges are issues about implementing and managing highly complex, distributed, and heterogeneous systems. Their priorities include overall stability, managing frequent changes in the network and desktops, and achieving adequate server and application reliability.service management across global networks is a critical success factor for today's businesses. And IT departments have become service providers, whether they're organized for it or not.Service-oriented architecture (SOA) and software developed as services should be viewed as an opportunity to ease these problems and improve business productivity. Although definitions vary, an SOA is basically a distributed-computing model that uses services as fundamental elements for developing applications. Services implemented as Web services are self-describing, open elements that support rapid composition of distributed applications. The services interoperate at run time to achieve the system's objectives.Services can become the basic building blocks with which new applications are created. Service composition combines services to achieve a business goal, solve a technical or scientific problem, or provide new functionality.


Reinvent or Die via CE

How to radically reorganize your company—before it’s too lateReal restructuring breaks apart business processes and systems—from sales forecasting to IT infrastructure—that need to mirror the company’s new form.Throughout the reengineering process, though, exquisite care is needed to avoid disrupting something that is invisible to many managers: employee working relationships. It is easy to underestimate the effect of the aggregate knowledge and experience presented by groups of people who understand how to deal with one another to accomplish tasks.Many chief executives say it’s easier to pull off a radical restructuring when an organization realizes it’s in a crisis. It may be harder to do when the ranks of managers and workers don’t believe they need to transform how they operate. Yet in many cases, that’s precisely what’s needed to avert even more draconian measures further down the road.

Globalisation and democracy - Indian conundrum Via Yaleglobal

The debate between democrats and globalizers is often too stylized. "The constraints on democracy, in reality, stem from the political structures of states themselves," Mehta, the author of this paper says, while "As part of a rhetorical battle, globalization gets saddled with causing ills it is not patently responsible for." Yet despite the sometimes dubious arguments made against globalization, he argues, the recent elections in India remind us that voters who protest globalization at the polls are "asking legitimate questions about the distribution of risks this process entails. Why should particular classes of labor be made more vulnerable by globalization than holders of capital? Why should the low-yield, but risk-averse farming strategies of an Indian farmer with a small plot of land give way to large-scale commercial farming that takes the land away from him?" These compelling questions deserve the attention of people at all levels of society, he says, and their democratic resolution could benefit a citizenry's economic and political life.Proponents of democracy and supporters of globalization are mutually suspicious of each other. Globalization is often opposed in the name of democracy, and democracy is often bypassed for fear that it may slow down globalization. Globalizers often argue that integration into the world economy will inevitably bring democratization in its wake. Is it an accident that only a third of regimes are now classified as authoritarian compared to two-thirds a decade ago.Like most debates, this confrontation of globalization and democracy is too stylized. The constraints on national policymaking that we attribute to globalization are not as strong as we often believe. A robust measure of self government is still possible. The constraints on democracy, in reality, stem from the political structures of states themselves. As part of a rhetorical battle, globalization gets saddled with causing ills it is not patently responsible for. In India, for instance, globalization is often blamed for everything from starvation deaths of farmers to scarce power and water. But what is it about globalization that prevents a government sitting on stockpiles of food from distributing it to its citizens? And if more is not invested in health care or water supply is it because of the constraints of globalization, or is it because states are captured by vested interests that divert resources to their own good? If anything, states stymie democracy more than globalization. And often those who oppose globalization in the name of democracy themselves have contempt for representative institutions; they ground their authority in that nebulous entity called civil society, rather than formal mechanisms of political authorization.


Saturday, June 19, 2004

Telecom investments -Into Thin Air via Forbes

Phone calls now flit over Wi-Fi networks at little or no cost to the callers. It is the story of the telecom industry--hundreds of billions of dollars are evaporating into the ether.
The new technology of wi-fi heralds a telecom future that is both brilliant and bleak: fantastic devices and free services for consumers, disappearing dollars for telecom companies and their long-suffering investors.
In 2000, after fiber-optic cables whittled the price of carrying a call to just about zero and new competitors flooded the market, the long-distance industry had peaked and begun a steep slide. It has since seen a third of its annual revenue vanish in four years--$35 billion, poof!--and the future is grim.Now the same kind of destruction, courtesy of the omnivorous Internet, is engulfing the local phone monopolies and even threatens the cell phone industry. It promises to transform the phone system with new competition, plunging prices and a passel of new features. This next wave begins with "Voice over IP," which means zapping phone calls over the Internet (or private networks built like the Internet). It continues with "Voice over Wi-Fi," Wi-Fi being a free wireless on-ramp to the Net.This, of course, will speed the demise of their mainstay business of voice traffic In a world of Net phones, local monopolies and duopolies will no longer exist; Internet consumers will have every telco in the country competing to win their business. You can now deliver service without owning the connection to the customer, and that is probably in the end the most important change.

Search Engine Mania by John Dvorak

The Internet is getting to be more and more like Hollywood. Successful movies spawn numerous copycats, and this is now happening with search engines as well. Since Google is making money and is expected to bring in big bucks in a midyear IPO, suddenly search engines are the next big thing. But unlike in Hollywood—where the spin-offs, rip-offs, and clones are seldom as successful as the movie that spawned them—search engines just keep giving users better and better tools. John Dvorak writes,"Google began with a unique page-ranking concept that determined page popularity by looking at the number of references from other sites. Before Google, the top engine was arguably AltaVista, which went south after Compaq bought Digital Equipment Corp., the company that maintained it. Before and after AltaVista, a slew of interim hotties came and went. The original progenitor was WebCrawler. Among the popular search engines was the still-popular Yahoo!, which took the directory approach and provided search as a secondary mechanism. Yahoo! will probably be the only company unscathed in the upcoming battles, unless it chooses to associate itself with the looming mess". He concludes by writing,"However this shakes out, at least one thing is certain: We'll have a lot of different search choices, and that's pretty much the only way we can navigate all this information". Very impressive analysis of the growth of the search engine players and expected developments in this space in the days to com.

Detroit's big three in the slow lane via Economist

America’s big three carmakers are still struggling to halt their steady loss of customers to foreign—especially Japanese—rivals.The continued rise of the Japanese carmakers, especially Toyota, has been remarkable. Foreign-branded cars now account for half of all passenger cars sold in America. Detroit ceded this territory to the incomers, choosing to concentrate on more profitable niches such as sport-utility vehicles (SUVs, also known as four-by-fours), light trucks and minivans.The big three are lumbered with pension costs and health benefits for their armies of retired workers. GM now has no fewer than 2.4 retirees for every worker, and reckons that these cost the equivalent of $1,000 for every vehicle it makes. GM had to plug a $19 billion hole in its pension scheme last year, largely by issuing bonds.In contrast, the Japanese have much lower pension and health-care costs than the Detroit big three. To counter Congress’s protectionist tendencies, they have sensibly established American manufacturing plants. And they have put them in the South, far from the citadel of union power that is Detroit. They also seem to be better at designing cars that customers want to buy, since their marketing costs per vehicle are about a third of what the big three have to spend to shift their models off the forecourts. Not surprisingly, Toyota makes profits of $1,500-2,000 per car in America.Last year, Toyota sold more cars than Chrysler in America. This year, it overtook Ford as the world’s second-biggest carmaker, behind GM. Its stockmarket value already exceeds that of the big three combined. Can it be too much longer before, in terms of units sold, Toyota also has GM in its rear-view mirror.


The strategic value of moving to Linux

Novell has released a very good report on the issues related to moving to Linux A good framework for moving to Linux- several occasions, the fear of change related issues makes organisations contiune doing what they do - while there is a considerable interest/intent to migrate to Linux, proven migration strategies still do not exist - this paper attempts to bridge the gap.

Intel Is Aiming at Living Rooms in Marketing Its Latest Chip via NYT

For decades, the Intel Corporation has expanded its core business by making computer chips that are faster and by lowering their cost. Next week, however, the company plans to shift gears; it will mute its traditional speed message and focus instead on an array of consumer-oriented features to bolster growth.Intel is planning to announce its newest foray into the home computing market, blending performance, wireless capability and multimedia audio, video and image features into a set of chips that will be at the core of the next-generation personal computer.The new three-chip suite, which has been code-named Grantsdale, is also the clearest expression of the "innovation and integration" strategy of Intel's rising star, Paul S. Otellini, the chief operating officer. That strategy is both a plan to lure consumers and a bet that Intel can create a new wave of growth in consumer electronics. "Intel has changed its design paradigm to start not just adding gigahertz, but to adding features that users demand.,"The new chips will make possible higher-speed computing, more reliable storage and more advanced audiovisual standards and will represent fundamental change in the internal structure of the standard PC. Intel's focus is not just on technology leadership but on how people will use it.The challenge for Intel's plans to make the PC the home's entertainment media server,is that wireless data standards are not yet ready to move video data seamlessly around the house.

SAP, Microsoft and the Coming Consolidation in Software via Knowledge@wharton

Microsoft, the world’s largest maker of software for personal computers, last year had approached Germany’s SAP, the world’s leading business-software company, about a potential merger, but the preliminary talks were discontinued this spring, said the dry-as-dust announcements.The coming consolidation in software will involve companies in the three chief categories of software for both businesses and for consumers. They are: applications (software that handles a slew of administrative tasks for corporations, such as financial management, procurement, human resource management and order processing, as well as for desktop computers); platforms (the so-called “middleware” systems on which some software applications run and which coordinate different software programs); and system infrastructure (the operational software that keeps computers running). These three categories are breaking down as both consumer- and business-software companies eye new markets for growth and as the open-source software movement grows.The trend is toward consolidation. It would be very, very difficult to start another Oracle or another Microsoft today because the industry is maturing. Of course, software features and capabilities are profoundly important. But so are sales and distribution and brand.There are enormous returns to scale and the emergence of a much more concentrated software industry. It will take a long time for it to happen because there are literally thousands of companies. But it will be hard to stay independent.

Buying and Selling Tickets Online

StubHub.com is a site where you can buy or sell tickets to sporting events, concerts and theater (100% guaranteed). Unlike eBay, StubHub.com handles all the payment processing and shipping details, tracks your tickets at every point in the transaction process, and offers live customer service 7 days a week. The role for web based intermediaries is set to increase in terms of range and utility. Right business model and superior and consistent service is the key to success.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Just in Time Meets Just Right via Forbes

Toyota is making its lean, predictable manufacturing schedule absorb special orders from customers.Toyota has spent the last six years revamping its ordering, manufacturing and distribution to make it easier for dealers and customers to make changes right before production A customer recently asked Toyota of Orange, in Orange, Calif., for three white Tacoma pickups. Fleet sales manager Robert Householder had none on his lot, a situation that in the past could have meant telling the customer he'd have to wait a long time and losing the sale. But this time Householder hit a few keys on a computer that links to Toyota's factory in Fremont, Calif. and changed the tan, silver and red Tacomas that were about to be built for him. Two weeks later three white pickups arrived at the dealership.The goal is to reduce from 70 days to 14 the average time between dealer order and delivery from Toyota's North American factories. That would not only make customers happier but also cut dealer inventory costs and the need for Toyota to spend on rebates for slow-selling vehicles. It's also a nice marketing advantage, now that many other automakers have caught up with Toyota's quality edge.


A streetcar named prodcutivity via Mckinseyquarterly

Bus and train systems habitually run at a loss. But public-transit agencies could lower costs and raise the quality of service by emulating best practices from around the world.From Delhi’s famously overcrowded buses and the legendary Paris Métro to the waves of commuter trains rolling into Manhattan each morning, transit systems are as different as the cities they serve. Most, though, share one unfortunate characteristic: chronic operating deficits. According to a recent McKinsey benchmarking study of 48 public-transit operators around the world, the average transit agency covers less than 70 percent of its operating expenses with passenger revenues.In cities around the world, high-performing transit systems seem to offer the only route away from traffic congestion and toward a more civilized environment. But public resources are scarce, and if transit managers are to maximize the value of what public money they do receive, they must look closely at the underlying drivers of performance and cost-effectiveness. They will then be able to make informed choices among the many trade-offs involved in providing quality service at low cost to the millions of people, in hundreds of cities, who depend on public-transit systems every day. A very important study undertaken by Mckinsey

The Quiet Giant Speaks via CE

As most CEOs of public companies scramble to reduce exposure to market volatility, terrorism and shareholder suits, America’s largest private company boldly heads into markets others fear to tread. Who else could invest in Russia as its economy collapsed into bankruptcy, or quietly control almost a quarter of U.S. beef production as mad cow disease flared up around the world? Cargill, for certain—and its long-term bets have consistently paid off. The Minneapolis firm, controlled by eight surviving members of the original founding Cargill and MacMillan families, grew revenues 19 percent last year, to almost $60 billion, which would have ranked it among the top 20 largest U.S. companies if it were public—bigger than Procter & Gamble, Boeing or Johnson & Johnson. In a rare interview, Cargill’s conservative, down-to-earth CEO Warren Staley shares some of his thoughtswarren staley says, "When there’s a lot of volatility, you need a lot of discipline and other people looking over your shoulder, keeping you intellectually honest. Most people who trade or manage risk at Cargill have a limit as to how much of that they can do. Every morning before 8 a.m., we roll off hundreds of risk limits around the world. That’s when our [oversight] committees kick in and I’ve elevated it to my level with other senior people just to review the process.But at the end of the day, it’s about people being honest. We’ve all read about the trader who stuck a trade in the drawer and didn’t register it. That hardly ever happens here. Our owners came from Scotland [in 1865] and just set the tone. At Cargill, it’s much more important how you behave … than how much money you make for the company."

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Coffee, Tea Or Broadband via Forbes

Most Wi-Fi hot spots offering wireless high-speed Internet connections have failed to find a sustainable business model, since it's hard to make people pay for something they often get for free. Fee-based Wi-Fi on airplanes, however, looks like it is taking off.The onboard connection is not as fast as a land hot spot, either. Boeing figures it delivers 20 megabits a second from the ground to the aircraft, and one megabit a second back to the ground. Since the service is shared, individuals get about 100 kilobits a second each.A long plane flight full of anxious business travelers, however, is a very different marketplace from McDonald's. "People on planes want full Internet access--not just e-mail--and they're willing to pay for it," says Henry Harteveldt, travel analyst at Forrester Research. "Airlines, which pay probably $500,000 a plane to get Wi-Fi, would not do this if only 2% of people will pay. Our research shows something like 38% of frequent travelers will pay for this." For its part, Boeing anticipates running a profitable business on an uptake rate of 6% of total travelers.For Boeing, running a consumer service company is a break from tradition as well. Discounting the brief period after World War II when underutilized machine shops turned out bedroom furniture, this is Boeing's first consumer business. Carson says Boeing contracted out virtually all the hardware--the onboard antennas linking the plane to a satellite, which then feeds data back and forth with a terrestrial server, comes from Japan's Mitsubishi Electric, and the internal Wi-Fi gear is from Cisco Systems. Boeing wrote software, managed the project and interacted with some 22 airlines, most of which Carson expects to sign up over time.


The Big Blue Muzzle - IBM & Open source movement future

"Free as in freedom" used to be the rallying cry of the open source movement, back in the day when volunteer hackers did the programming. Now, with big companies writing most new open source code, will some of that freedom go away? Will the movement be co-opted? Maybe it already has been. The open source movement leaders think that IBM could use its arsenal of patents to muzzle open source movement.In recent years, IBM has scooped up some leading Linux developers, including Greg Kroah-Hartman, one of the closest lieutenants to Linux creator Linus Torvalds. Kroah-Hartman oversees development of device drivers for Linux, reviewing submissions from developers and making decisions that affect hundreds of companies. In this role, Kroah-Hartman is supposed to act independently of IBM. Yet when contacted by a reporter, Kroah-Hartman said IBM would not allow him to talk about his work. Paradoxically, IBM is the biggest, powerful and most important proponent of Linux in the world today.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

The computer's hidden history via Signal vs.Noice

It’s common knowledge that the origin of computers was in mathematics, but what’s less commonly known is that the computer was invented to shed light on a philosophical crisis in the foundations of pure mathematics. Here’s a summary of what happened, with Wikipedia links a’plenty for your perusal. A very well researched article. Definitely worth reading.

Fred Smith of FedEx is the 2004 CEO of the Year via Chief Executive

FedEx is at the heart of how the American manufacturing base is globalizing, allowing all manner of parts and products to arrive from mostly Asian destinations in a just-in-time way. “In the high-tech and high-value-added sectors in particular, but also in the lower-value-added sectors, the location of production is almost irrelevant,” Smith says. “It’s simply a cost/time trade-off. That’s all.”Not coincidentally, FedEx is at the bleeding edge of how companies are targeting supply chains and logistics as the key to competitiveness. Companies don’t want to carry one more penny’s worth of inventory than they have to. They don’t want to have to deal with multiple suppliers to ship documents, parcels and larger loads. They want all that to be integrated, and they want to be able to find out, at any time, where things are. FedEx literally invented that capability. Fred Smith provides several insights into the way Fedex is operating and the areas that it is focussing for inventing the future.The profundity of the Internet is only beginning because it is providing, for the first time in human history, a standardized, low-cost, written and visual medium that people can use to sell and source things without regard to time and place. That’s never been the case in human history. And when you look at the numbers that we’re achieving now in our intercontinental business, I mean that’s not just happening by accident. It’s happening because people can look at everything there is to buy and sell in their segment or sector any place in the world, cross referenced by Google or the search engines.

Convergence isn't going to 'accelerate' the rate of technological disruption - Via bubblegeneration

This breathless article by BW gets it all wrong - convergence isn't going to 'accelerate' the rate of technological disruption; it's the other way around. Convergence is a nice example of the constantly increasing rate of change of disruption, because there are increasing returns to innovation. This is like a Moore's Law for disruption; except it was formulated by sociologists at the turn of the 20th century. A very nice altenate perspective.

Consulting group: Send more jobs offshore

Go offshore, industrial company.That,in a nutshell, is the conclusion of a report released Tuesday by The Boston Consulting Group, the latest organization to weigh in on the controversial topic of shipping work abroad."Despite the challenges, the real question now is not whether to go global but how much and how fast you can move," the report said. "The largest competitive advantage will lie with those companies that move soonest and make the strongest commitments."The report also argues that lower costs and other advantages in countries such as India won't tail off for at least the next two decades--and may widen. Even if labor rates jump more quickly in low-cost countries, it argued, the gap in real wages could increase because of the countries' very low base wages. For example, a 100 percent increase in a factory worker's $1-an-hour wage still only raises the company's costs by $1 per hour, while a 10 percent hike for a $30-an-hour factory worker in the West costs a company $3 per hour.


How can Google grow? by Philip Greenspun

If Google is to reach and sustain a Microsoft-style valuation perhaps the best way for them to do this is by providing alternatives to what Microsoft provides. Microsoft is the kind of desktop applications. You buy software from a store and install it on your machine. If a new version comes out you figure out how to buy and install an upgrade. If you get a new computer you spend several days reinstalling all of your applications, probably buying new copies of the ones whose installation CD-ROMs you can't find anymore. If you're traveling and need to edit a document or spreadsheet, tough luck. All of your data is trapped on your home or office computer. Greenspun is predicting that," while Microsoft is trying to replace Google with MSN Search, Google will be trying to replace Microsoft Office with Google Web-based Office".


Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Capturing the Upside by Clayton Christensen via ITconversations

Every company needs to grow, and innovation is the ticket to sustainable and profitable growth. What decisions can managers take to increase their probability of successfully building innovation-driven growth businesses? Many are convinced that it is impossible to predict with confidence whether an innovation will succeed, so they feel they need to place a number of bets with the hope that some will be winners. Others believe that the best way to create new growth businesses is to meticulously search for detailed quantitative data to identify opportunities and develop a rigorous plan to attack those opportunities. But many times conclusive data is only available after the game has already been won. Professor Clayton M. Christensen of the Harvard Business School has another way. He suggests using theory. A theory is a statement of what causes what and why. Whether managers know it or not, they are voracious consumers of theory. Every action a manager takes, every plan a manager makes is based on some belief of cause and effect.Managers have historically struggled to successfully manage innovation. They get a bewildering array of often conflicting and confusing advice. What has been lacking is a collection of well-grounded theories that explain the actions managers should take in particular circumstances. Through his recent research, Professor Christensen has developed a set of theories to help guide managers as they seek to answer seven critical questions when trying to build new growth businesses, again and again: How can I beat powerful competitors? How can I connect with customers? How integrated should I be? How should I set strategy? From whom should I get funding? Excellent piece of work and an outstanding presentation - rich with data and amazing power of inference

Microsoft's Tom Phillips on the emerging trends in PC hardware via Bweek

PC performance has come a long way in three decades, but their design hasn't. But behind the scenes, the industry is looking to change that The Windows Hardware Experience Group exec talks about the many ways PC design can be improved to make the machines easier to use.Microsoft is leading some of the most innovative research, including ultrawide, high-resolution displays that allow workers to see several applications running at once and futuristic workstations that integrate cradles for PDAs, tablet PCs, and voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) phones into one sleek desktop.Microsoft showed off its latest prototype: a hub for highly digitized households of the future dubbed the Windows Home Concept PC, designed along with Hewlett-Packard (HPQ ). Among the system's features are high-definition audio and video output, wireless music and video streaming, voice command capability, and personalization through biometric identification.Instead of a keyboard, which would hardly seem at home in the living room, it has a tablet PC and a Bluetooth remote control, both of which do double duty as screens for displaying information like caller ID or the subject line of an incoming e-mail. Maybe the best part: an "instant on" feature means the PC is up and running in just a couple of seconds. Here Tom Phillips expands on the emerging trends - It has been a longtime since something substantial has happened in the PC hardware design and a major change looks imminent- convergence, pervasive usage and dramatic improvement in software all are pushing hardware design to its edge currently.


An open-source shot in the arm , for medical research via Economist

Medicine: The open-source model is a good way to produce software, as the example of Linux shows. Could the same collaborative approach now revitalise medical research too?CAN goodwill, aggregated over the internet, produce good medicine? The current approach to drug discovery works up to a point, but it is far from perfect. It is costly to develop medicines and get regulatory approval. The patent system can foreclose new uses or enhancements by outside researchers. And there has to be a consumer willing (or able) to pay for the resulting drugs, in order to justify the cost of drug development. Pharmaceutical companies have little incentive to develop treatments for diseases that particularly afflict the poor, for example, since the people who need such treatments most may not be able to afford them.Open source is a decentralised form of production in which the underlying programming instructions, or “source code”, for a given piece of software are made freely available. Anyone can look at it, modify it, or improve it, provided they agree to share their modifications under the same terms.This interesting article explores whether or not the open-source software movement can be applied to pharmaceutical drug development. This highlights a couple of areas where such collaboration might be effective--drugs whose patents have expired (other uses for aspirin, for instance) and diseases that affect small numbers of people or are mostly found in poor countries.There are a number of other similarities between biomedical research and open-source software development. First, both fields attract the same sort of people. Biology, like software, relies on teams of volunteers, notably graduate students and young professionals, who have an incentive to get involved because it will enhance their professional reputations or establish expertise. Both medical biologists and computer scientists aim to improve people's lives and make the world a better place. And as the human-genome project showed, both cultures respond strongly to grand projects, not just financial incentives—possibly because they are generally highly paid to begin with. Dissimilarities also abound

Monday, June 14, 2004

Bear stearns latest research report on Supplychain & RFID

Jeff Nolan has made this latest RFID report from Bear stearns available to the publicA very detailed report with progress status updated on all developments.

Online Product Catalogs on the rise via NYT

HIGH-SPEED Internet connections are more than just a boon to Web surfers. Internet retailing executives love them, too. Now that most people have at least some access to high-speed Internet lines, online retailers can finally dust off features they had shelved, lest they alienate the click-and-wait set.A case in point is the re-emergence of online catalogs, an idea whose time first came in the late 90's when catalog merchants began their counteroffensive against Web-only merchants. The original idea was simply to take all those slick photo spreads shot for companies' regular catalogs and splash them across a Web page. Customers' jaws would drop, wallets would fly open and conventional catalog companies would bump their Internet-only rivals from the headlines and from stock portfolios.Virtual catalogs are nearly identical to their print counterparts, except that readers click to turn pages, and the photographs are roughly one-third smaller. Customers can print out pages, zoom in for item close-ups or click on the buy button adjacent to the photo.The main advantage, the retailers believe, is that online catalogs grab the attention of newer Internet shoppers who may be more comfortable with the familiar catalog format. Experienced online shoppers still much prefer the grid system found on many Web sites like Amazon.com and Gap.com.Given the versatility of virtual catalogs and the growing tendency of catalog recipients to buy online, one might expect catalog companies to reduce their reliance on paper catalogs, which can cost $1 or more each to produce. But many companies remain convinced of the paper catalog's power as an advertising vehicle - so much so that many businesses that started out as Internet-only companies now mail catalogs, too. And, of course, they offer virtual versions.Its not curtain down for paper catalog's - not now!!

Chinese censors block access to Wikipedia via ITWorld

Chinese censors have blocked access to an online encyclopedia called Chinese Wikipedia that was created as a free and open source of information for Chinese Internet users, according to several contributors to the site.Chinese Wikipedia (http://zh.wikipedia.org) is a Chinese-language offshoot of Wikipedia, an online English-language encyclopedia that is also available in several other languages. Wikipedia is a wiki, a term that is derived from the Hawaiian word for "quick" and used to describe Web sites that can be edited by any reader, including anonymous visitorsAll versions of Wikipedia, including the Chinese-language version, employ a policy that enforces a neutral point of view for all entries and the content is copyrighted under the GNU Free Documentation License, a license for free content developed by the Free Software Foundation.Chinese Wikipedia, which has not previously been blocked by Chinese censors, had been held up by observers as an example of openness on the Internet in China. In addition, the site, which has had a low profile and a relatively small group of regular contributors, was seen as a gauge of government tolerance for the free flow of information on the Internet in China.Now Wikipedia has pushed that tolerance to its limit!!

Its Brief Fling With Microsoft Makes SAP Almost Famous via NYT

With this news, SAP is no longer just the No. 1 supplier of back-office software to big corporations, SAP has become something more: a hot property.SAP, he asserts, can be one of the giants, even without a merger. It controls 54 percent of the global market for enterprise software, compared with 13 percent for Oracle and 11 percent for Microsoft. Yet Microsoft's recent overture has left no doubt that it, too, intends to expand its position. For SAP, with less than a fifth of Microsoft's market value, that cannot be a comforting thought.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

The father of 'www' finally gets his due via IHT

Tim berners lee, is awarded the world's largest technology prize, the Millennium Technology Prize from the Finnish Technology Award Foundation. The E1 million, or $1.2 million, prize for outstanding technological achievements that raised the quality of life is supported by the Finnish government and private contributors.If Tim Berners-Lee had decided to patent his idea in 1989, the Internet would be a different place.Instead, the World Wide Web became free to anyone who could make use of it. Many of those who did became rich: Jeff Bezos (Amazon.com), Jerry Yang (Yahoo), Pierre Omidyar (eBay) and Marc Andreeson (Netscape).But not Berners-Lee, 49, a British scientist working at a Geneva research lab at the time.The Internet has many fathers: Vinton Cerf and Robert Kahn, who came up with a system to allow different computer networks to interconnect and communicate; Ray Tomlinson, the creator of e-mail; Ted Nelson, who coined the term hypertext; and scores of others.But only one who conceived of the World Wide Web (originally, Berners-Lee called it a "mesh" before changing it to a "web"). Before him, there were no browsers, no hypertext markup language, no "www" in any Internet address, no URLs, or uniform resource locators.Because he and his colleague, Robert Cailliau, a Belgian, insisted on a license-free technology, today a Gateway computer with a Linux operating system and a browser made by Netscape can see the same Web page as any other personal computer, system software or Internet browser.If his then-employer, CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory in Geneva, had sought royalties, Berners-Lee believes the world would have 16 different "webs" on the Internet today.


The Reality of Real Time

RTE can deliver an immediate and measurable impact in reducing operational and transaction cycle times, especially across supply chains. But its ability to strategically affect a corporation and its supply chain is unproven.The RTE concept has been around for many decades. The goal of early information systems was to capture transactional and operational data as it was created and share it instantaneously across the enterprise and its supporting supply chain. But technology limitations made RTE elusive. And although RTE technologies in some form or another have been around for a while, their use has been limited to a specific customer service function — such as credit verification at point of sale. Even then, paying by credit card in certain parts of the world can take anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes. (Lacking real-time connectivity to a credit verification bureau, a store clerk must phone a credit bureau to get approval for the purchase.)Now, the increasing availability of affordable high-speed network connectivity and extensible markup language (XML) and its derivatives is letting certain functions within the enterprise interact in real time. The business drivers for RTE technologies continue to drive adoption: Reducing the amount of time it takes for information to be transmitted between functional areas within an enterprise and its supporting supply chain will yield significant business benefits. RTE ideally would provide these business benefits at the operational, managerial, and executive levels. Although finding areas where RTE technologies can deliver operational efficiencies and cycle-time reductions will be relatively easy, discerning where real-time information can assist managers and executives in their decision-making processes will be much tougher.RTE technologies promise meaningful and measurable business benefits — as long as the focus is on reducing cycle times and improving operational efficiencies. In some instances, especially in service industries, RTE technologies also can deliver managerial benefits by automating routine decision-making, such as credit authorization and approval. For manufacturing enterprises and supporting supply chains that have been exchanging information using traditional mechanisms such as EDI, RTE technologies will have to demonstrate a clear ROI from incremental time reduction to zero latency. Until the difficult problems of data cleansing, integration, and supplier relationships are solved, strategic benefits from RTE technologies will be limited

Merriam-Webster - Top 10 Favorite Words

The top ten words entered in merriam websters website. I use just four words in my regular usage.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Mini framework to develop strategic thinking

Paul Schumann of The Innovation Road Map Travelogue Weblog, outlines four abilities that you can develop to enhance your capability to think strategicallyIn the latest edition of The Innovation Road Map Magazine (Vol. 1, No. 2) Gregg Edwards describes the four abilities that develop the capability of strategic thinking:
1. Visionary time frame, or the ability to see the true potential of ever-larger new enterprises and then tenaciously actualize that truth.
2. Perspective, or the ability to cull from ordinary impressions the most consequential patterns of events and to evaluate their significance from many perspectives.
3. Comprehension, or the ability to quickly assemble all salient factors into strategies and to understand their implications at many levels.
4. Flexibility, or the ability to strategically organize both action and learning – to take advantage of and be responsive to unknowns as they become known.
However, as Edwards points out, it is not just these four abilities, but the four taken together as a whole that creates strategic thought. The synergy of the four, taken together, when actualized create results that appear to many as “magic”. The four abilities are not sequential but simultaneous and strategic thinkers constantly interplay the results of the four types of thinking with each other, almost in realtime. Edwards describes the development and application of strategic thinking to businesses, economic development and nonprofits.

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