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Monday, February 28, 2005

SAP Gobbles Retek

SAP offers to acquire the well known retail solution provider Retek. Retek software suite provides inventory management software that lets retailers interact across the Internet with suppliers, wholesalers, transportation companies and other links in the supply chain."The global retail industry is large and represents a significant growth opportunity for SAP," Chief Executive Henning Kagermann said in prepared remarks. "Retek offers many software solutions to augment its existing presence and will enable us to offer the most comprehensive solution in the industry, from the point of sale through the entire retail supply chain."
My Take: Retek is among the most elite retail solutions. The Retek product portfolio spreads across demand forecasting and replenishment as well as, multichannel Point of Sale (POS) and order management product that supports transparent interaction between store, call center, and Web sales. The combined product cascades back into the supply chain for more collaborative activity, and up to the store giving interactive customer experience. By acquiring Retek - almost the market leader in this space, SAP is marching on quite magnificiently - the challenges of integration - not just the software but services and the support can not be underestimated. SAP has not announced a roadmap post integration (may be too early now) - key thing to watch would be whether the product would be integrated into SAP (very likely) and if so what do existing retek customers do and if they happen to be running oracle/JDE as well( I know of atleast one enterprise using this combination)and also what part of SAP retail would stay and what part of Retek would be integrated - Lot more issues arise - we shall try and cover these in the course of the week. Nonetheless, with this good move,SAP marches ahead - quite triumphantly. This is also a powerful message to SAP's principal competitor and also shows SAP's aggressiveness to after products that may fill a long felt gap in SAP's portfolio. I wonder what Retek specialised professional service firms would do - become part of the big brother gang? Looks like troubled times ahead for point solution vendors!! SAP is really muscling in - Look at supply chain and CRM space before SAP moved in - and look at the fate of the yesteryear market leaders operating in these spaces - its increasingly a losing battle for most of them. There are some blips in SAP's armour as well - for example, the much talked about SAP portal in my opinion has not taken off all that well - also Netweaver mindshare -to-marketshare ratio looks skewed - these are not to undermine the product strength or SAP branding. But....


Jeff Bezos On Amazon's Culture Of Innovation

I always find Jeff Bezos speech very rich and everytime he speaks, he comes with new metaphors and relates growth of amazon to ideas that prevail/prevailes all around. The graphical outlines that he used at the Legg Mason(unfortunately link not working!) is a solid example of his deep thought process framework.Venky Ganesan blogs about recent Jeff Bezos presentation at Stanford Entrepreneurship conference 2005. Excerpts :

Jeff Bezos of Amazon talked about historical innovations and innovators.Some of his examples were:
1.The guy who invented toilet paper
2.The woman who invented windshield wipers - prior to her invention people just stopped every mile or so and wiped the windshield
3.The woman who invented "white out" - she was an executive assistant who made a lot of mistakes while typing and was annoyed there was no quick way of correcting her mistakes. By the way "white out" was nothing but white paint - just shows you don't have to always invent cutting edge stuff to be successful.
Then he talked about Amazon and the culture of "innovation' within Amazon. He said the two important factors that help drive innovation at Amazon are:
Cost of Experimentation is low - its easy to run experiments in an online business and check to see effectiveness. Amazon runs experiments all the time and evaluates which of his innovations are more effective
Cost of failure is low - again another terrific element of online businesses is that the cost of failure can be controlled since you can run these experiments without a significant cost if it fails.
The combination of these two factors also result in an open non-hierarchical organizational culture at Amazon.Even front-line folks can run a experiment since the cost of doing and the cost of failure is low.
Venky points out that these two factors are not unique to Amazon, they apply to all online businesses and good online businesses take advantage of them. I agree - we have seen several reports of google encouraging employees to indulge in their pet projects and offerings like gmail are said to be a direct output of such efforts.


Strength Of Groups, Association & Partnership

Adam Rifkin, an entrepreneur in silicon valley writes,everything is intertwingled, an excellent article about how good associationship, partnership and community helps in creating and changing the world - outstanding compilation - must read for all in businesslife.


Sunday, February 27, 2005

RFID: Early Pilot Essential - Fast Follower Strategies Don't Mix

We recently covered Stephanie Stahl's perspective RFID at core of business processes and also covered -" Barely a day goes by that we don't hear about another application or service or middleware or chip reader that has come onto the market".Gene Alvarez,VP of technology research services at the Meta Group, writes about RFID adaption status and also discusses the approach towards RFID deployments.Excerpts with heavy edits and my comments added:

Many enterprises are standing on the sidelines amid concerns that RFID has been over-hyped. However selective progress is being made, meaning enterprises must keep pace with competitors while controlling investment costs with a technology that has many moving parts. RFID is not a technology that lends itself easily to a "fast follower" strategy, due to heavy infrastructure, as well as business process and application, requirements. A "Slap & Ship" model will remain the preferred model of compliance in the near future. Suppliers will deploy RFID internally as an enabler of process improvements and asset management based on knowledge gained from pilots to meet retailer mandates. Each enterprise's adoption rate and success will be a function of many variables, such as the percentage of R&D transformational spend within the IT budget, the types of products to be tagged, the enterprise's appetite for risk, mandate pressure or lack of mandate pressure. The impact on IT organizations created by current RFID case/pallet tagging schemes hits hard and at many levels of technology within enterprise IT portfolios. The initial entry into an RFID project requires IT organizations to support in-field pilots for setting objectives to test RFID tags, antennas and readers with pallets and cases to determine the impact to existing infrastructure and operational environments.
IT teams should initially assess the impact of RFID to existing infrastructure that is used for barcode-based data capture and determine reusable components such as wireless networks and application servers. Concurrently, many layers in the enterprise technology stack will require RFID impact assessments. These assessments include activities such as environmental surveys at each location to weed out sources of interference and to determine how RFID will perform, from that specific location all the way to the back office and business intelligence applications that run the enterprise. It will take enterprises two to three years to take on all the issues within the technology stack. Issues they must deal with include installation of readers, gates, light sticks, device management, case/pallet configuration, application server and networking upgrades, and integration with enterprise applications. RFID pilots will touch in-store systems, warehouse management, and back office systems and require physical infrastructure requirements such as power and network connectivity. Application infrastructure components such as application servers will require upgrades. These upgrades will enable RFID data aggregation and filtering of events from non-events, as well as control of RFID components such as readers, both handheld and gates, light-sticks, and alarms.The technology impact to applications should be assessed early instead of focusing on the limited scope of the tag testing pilot and determine how to leverage RFID data for business intelligence and data warehousing applications.My Take:We have earlier written that RFID deployment brings within enormous amount of transactional data,the need for a balanced middleware solution, need for realigning business processes, IT backup,tracking and reporting needs - all these are mammoth tasks requiring careful planning and lengthy trials and co-ordination - its imperative all potential RFID users begin testing RFID atleast for pilot with a full blown perspective in mind and define a roadmap for implementation within the enterprise,solidify implementation plans with a proven methodology,draw out program plans , create a good governance structure and aggressively move-in. Being where they are currentlty, and by not pushing, they run the risk of rendering themselves uncompetitive.


Tom Peters ChangeThis Manifesto On Being Successful

Changethis has published 100 Ways to Help You Succeed/Make Money - 50 short, wonderfully sweet nuggets of advice. Easy to read,very unboring yet so much packed in so few words - Only Tom can do this. Excellent read and must read for all wanting to move up in life.


Search Evolution : Vertical, Horizontal, Niche!!

An interesting report from Jupiter Research on search finds, Vertical search is industry developing in much the same way as the media markets before it. The report finds that Paid search spending in the U.S. is highly concentrated. Just four categories - retail, financial services, media and entertainment and travel - accounted for 79% of the $2.6 billion spent on paid search in 2004. Each vertical provides a rich landscape of opportunity and a blueprint for how other categories will develop.In the search market overall, rapidly rising keyword prices on broad-based search engines will soon stabilize and industry growth will depend substantially on the incremental value provided by vertical search engines.

My Take: I think that the analog of television news channel evolution to major search engines is correct- the internet world shall also follow the rule of three eventually – the rule of three broadly says that in any industry there shall be three all purpose main players followed by several niche players. I am not sure whether to call niche search engines( I strongly beleive that they have a role and a future) them horizontals as Tom Evslin would like to call as or Fred calls as verticals and originally supported by Searchviews.

But increasingly,I see myself beginning to use niche search engines more and more(though all niche search engine usage put together could be substantially less than any one general search engine usage). For example services with discovery mechanisms powered by specialized algorithms like Findory or Topix shall always find a special place in the internet world where the volume of digital content is swelling by the day.The view expressed in searchviews that"As advertising spending continues to swell in the search category, more and more marketers will diversify their "network" buys with small targeted placements on these specialized engines that potentially provide a better bang for the advertising buck".But the overall volume of business could be low but can provide with some significant stream of business. But Niche players need to provide more and more specialised offering and creating a new category of service that mainstream players may not be able to focus and provide - like Amex offering more than what traditional banks can offer -traveller's cheque convenience


Impressive Story About Google, Founders & Investors

The rise of Google is a tale often told as a Silicon Valley classic. Excerpts from John Heilemann's brilliant writeup. Two precocious Stanford grad-student nerds swept up in the fever of the Internet boom invent technology that profoundly changes the experience of the Web; they drop out and start a company (in a garage) that achieves iconic status; they stage a historic public offering, achieving vast wealth and fame. But beneath these familiar surface details, the Google story is more nuanced and compelling. It’s a story about the clash between youth and experience, more a messy ensemble drama than a simple buddy flick—one whose main characters have persistently deviated from any script, resulting in unexpected twists and turns that haven’t come to light until now.
Michael Moritz, the other venture capitalist behind Google,says,"Most people think that IPOs are the climax of a company’s story, but in fact they’re just the first chapter." He went on to say that a company’s genetic code gets set in its first eighteen months. "After that," he says, "companies are impossible to change; their cultures are hardwired in. If the DNA is right, you’re golden. If not, you’re screwed." Having repeatedly ignored the prevailing wisdom in Silicon Valley—inventing a search engine when everyone knew search was dead; building a business on Internet advertising when everyone knew it was impossible; antagonizing two revered VCs whose rings they should have been kissing—the boys have undoubtedly learned that conventional wisdom often isn’t wisdom at all. But salutary as that lesson is, there’s also a danger to it. As Excite founder Kraus puts it, "The risk is, they’ll think the hallmark of a good idea is that everyone says it’s dumb." Similarly, it would be easy for the boys to conclude that dissing Wall Street carries no penalty. In the IPO, they told investment bankers and investors to go pound sand—and they wound up happy billionaires. Today their message to shareholders remains: Trust us, or put your money elsewhere.
We've followed Google for years, and have heard most of the stories about its evolution –This is the best thus far.


The FUD-Based Encyclopedia - CBPP Framework

Aaron Krowne writes passionately about commons-Based Peer Production (CBPP).Excerpts :

CBPP refers to any coordinated, (chiefly) internet-based effort whereby volunteers contribute project components, and there exists some process to combine them to produce a unified intellectual work. CBPP covers many different types of intellectual output, from software to libraries of quantitative data to human-readable documents (manuals, books, encyclopedias, reviews, blogs, periodicals, and more).

Examples of successful CBPP efforts abound. The Linux kernel, the GNU suite of software applications, and the combined GNU/Linux system are prime examples of software CBPP. Slashdot.org is an important example of CBPP through submission of the news articles, and more importantly, the collaboratively-based comment filtering system. Kuro5hin.org is an example of a collaborative article and current-events essay blog, with an emphasis on technology and culture. Wikipedia is an example of a comprehensive encyclopedia.

Even commercial sites, such as Amazon.com, have significant CBPP elements nowadays. These manifest in Amazon as user-submitted reviews and ratings and interlinked favourites lists. The enabling dynamic of CBPP is that people are willing to volunteer a little bit of work and a large amount of knowledge to online community systems, and that when this force is properly harnessed, significant overall value can be created. Aaron postulates two laws about CBPP.

Law 1.) When positive contributions exceed negative contributions by a sufficient factor in a CBPP project, the project will be successful.

Law 2.) Cohesion quality is the quality of the presentation of the concepts in a collaborative component (such as an encyclopedia entry). Assuming the success criterion of Law 1 is met, cohesion quality of a component will overall rise. However, it may temporarily decline. The declines are by small amounts and the rises are by large amounts.


Saturday, February 26, 2005

IBM's Post Lenova Strategy : No Microsoft Code And No Place For Intel Inside The Box !!

We recently covered Software Will Determine The Success Of The Cell Processor echoing cringley's view that since processors do not drive applications, one does not find the announcement of a new processor all that simulating. Here's an update with missing piece of information governing IBM's strategy. IBM's Cell workstation (9 nanometer) prototypes are running both SUSE Linux and IBM's own AIX and represent IBM's post-Lenovo micro strategy – performance comparable to xeon processors - the dell price for xeon processors is 3000$ as against IBM’s 1000$. The IBM hardware strategy is to sell a box that contains no Microsoft code at all, and so requires no license payments to Microsoft and possibly no license payments to ANY company, including Intel. Any CIO / home user facing the forced upgrading of half or more of your PC-installed base immediately and probably the other half a year later, the opportunity to move away from Microsoft and toward IBM while saving money at the same time has to be compelling.
Microsoft’s anti-virus and anti-spyware products are aimed solely at users of Windows XP SP2. This has very different effects on both the user base and the software industry. For users, it says that anyone still running Windows 98, ME, or 2000 has two alternatives - to upgrade to XP/SP2 or to rely on non-Microsoft anti-virus and anti-spyware products. This forces 100+ million-PC owners to upgrade which is $10 billion in additional revenue of which $9 billion is profit - all of it coming in the next 12 months..If the upgrade options to XP/SP2 are not availed – then we have to rely instead on third-party products to protect the system. Microsoft , has transferred their entire support obligation for these old products to companies like Symantec and Network Associates without transferring to those companies any revenue stream to make it worth their trouble. Third party supporters by not being able to provide free support shall force users into the same upgrade from which Microsoft gains all the revenue.Cringley writes,"The objective of any Microsoft product upgrade is to stimulate sales. There are two ways to stimulate sales"- forcing users to pay for software upgrades or forcing users to pay for hardware upgrades that carry software upgrades with them. It would have been nicer had they taken the course of improving Windows to make it less vulnerable - a course that itself would have stimulated sales. A large segment of users who see themselves as having to get new hardware might well consider abandoning Windows at the same time.Definitely thoughts to ponder - we need real choices in terms of usinf software in the desktop and if IBM's strategy helps it - all the more merrier.


Mobile Suica Phones Board Japan's Rail System

Tokyo Consumers will soon be able to use their mobile phones for enabling travel related dealingson Japan's extensive railway network. Early next year,the East Japan Railway Company (JR East), is scheduled to launch a service named Mobile Suica, which will enable mobile phone users to conduct all ticket-related transactions such as reservations, purchases and fare collection. Moreover, Mobile Suica-ready phones can be used to pay for purchases in stores at JR East railway stations and other stores that support the service.
Major Japanese mobile phone carriers — NTT Docomo Inc., KDDI Corp. and Vodafone Inc. plan to support the service with handsets equipped with Felica contactless IC card technology. Mobile Suica is rooted in Felicia technology Sony has been developing since the mid-1980s. JR East has been offering Suica cards as prepaid tickets and commuter passes since 2001. An electronic cash function was added in March 2003. The service does not use an actual card, but rather embeds the Felicia chip inside a handset, which functions as an extension of the Suica service.Until now, more than 12 million Suica cards have been issued.

DoCoMo's i-mode FeliCa service combines two advanced platforms: DoCoMo's i-mode mobile internet service for data communications on the go and Sony's FeliCa smart-card platform for rapid, secure data transmission. The handset is a powerful, multifunctional tool combining mobile communications with diverse functions ranging from financial transactions to opening electronic locks. More than 2 million i-mode FeliCa handsets have been sold so far, reports mobiletechnews. JR East said it is negotiating with other public transport companies, including subways, private train companies and bus companies, to join its mobile phone network.


Implementing Real-World Structured Searches

John Udell writes, adding a little structure to HTML content elicits a knowledge management payoff. The reason that good Web searching that exploits structured content is not available can be attributed to non availability of easy-to-use writing tools to create well-formed XML content. So there aren’t many pools that can be plumbed with XML-aware search technology. Udell beleives,by implementing content-aware search against existing repositories, you can show people the tangible benefits of more expressive content. Mixing tags with free-text search can bring the promise of XML that much closer to reality.

In the early days of XML, smart search was often cited as a key benefit. Instead of just trawling for single-celled keywords in an ocean of undifferentiated text, the story went, we'd navigate islands of structure looking for more evolved creatures. While that vison has not materialized, a middle course between simple full-text search and of unwieldy tagging schemes and brittle ontologiesis beginning to emerge. The existing trend for tagging things - Flickr photos, del.icio.us, and Furl URLs - show that people are more likely to add structure to content. The pre-requisited for this would be:
- First, tagging must be easy
- Second, it must deliver both instant gratification and longer-term value to the person doing the tagging.
- Third and most important, it must occur in a shared context so that network effects can kick in.
Udell adds, some tags are implicitly woven into the fabric of our content.-like the tag for the recently concluded Demo event in Arizona. Blogosphere coverage of events, in future shall be dependent on the organisers picking a tag and promoting it.) John Udell writes about his own experience of using Mark Logic's XQuery-based XML database, Content Interaction Server, for pumping in the RSS feeds of all the blogs that he reads. Through a query that combines free-text search for items containing the strings "Demo" or "Demo@15" with structured search for items that contain links to demo.com. It yielded a nice list of Demo-related items that couldn't have built any other way. The service works by converting the HTML content of my feeds into well-formed XHTML, storing it in the Mark Logic database, and then using the XQuery engine to perform hybrid free-text and structured searches. Although the vocabulary of XHTML is not very rich, certain elements - notably links - carry a latent semantic payload. Work on indexing these ad hoc syntaxes be to collaboratively extendto work for the whole blogosphere, is the next area of research.Search is receiving fair amount of attention, seeing good researchfrom IBM's webfountain to individual efforts like above- with convergence technology pushing expectations- search will undergo radical transformations from what we are seeing currently.


Creative Common License Usage Exceed Ten Million!!

Updated yahoo index finds well over 10 million web pages that link to creative common licenses. A distribution of what licenses people are choosing, you can see the breakdown here, on this chart is available here. Lawrence Lessig points out,If that's right, then we were at 1,000,000 link backs in a year, 5,000,000 in two, and now over 10,000,000 in 2 1/2 years.


Yahoo! BB @Japan

Sadahiro Sato, GM of BB Phone Services, Softbank, makes an impressive presentation at the APRICOT 2005 annual meet, Asia Pacific Regional Internet Conference on Operational Technologies (APRICOT) is to provide a forum for those key Internet builders in the region to learn from their peers and other leaders in the Internet community from around the world, being help at Kyoto, Japan.Yahoo! BB has 4.4M subscribers now and 95% of the Yahoo! BB subscribers took up BB Phone services.Yahoo! BB has built a complete backbone – said to have been built through acquisition. Yahoo! B.B is planning to finally move into S.I.P . Yahoo is all set fo providing wi-fi services. Other key points highlighted:

- BB Phone offers very competitive pricing.
- Owing to SBB’s Softswitch and IP Backbone technology, BB Phone is the first nation-wide IP based voice service that achieves comparable quality to the PSTN.
- BB Phone is NOT "a Voice over the internet" Service. Rather, it is an enhanced voice service delivered over SBB’s IP-Based Broadband network.
- Customers require no additional expense or behavior changes on the part of them.
- BB Phone has Automatic Re-Routing Function to PSTN in the event of our network outage or CPE (Customers Premise Equipment) failure


Friday, February 25, 2005

Azul Set To Revolutinize Data Center & Middleware Processing

(Via Infoworld)On a recent tour of his company's new customer briefing center in Mountain View, California, the chief executive officer (CEO) of Azul Systems buzzed around rack after rack of his company's hardware, and demonstrated that no heat is getting dissipated. The system housed nearly 400 microprocessor cores. In the server world, this would normally generate enough heat to cook a meal. Azul plans to launch its first product, which is designed to speed up and simplify the processing of middleware applications. Azul shall be partnering with IBM, and it is also in discussions with Microsoft to bring the Azul technology to the .Net platform to bring the same sort of segmented virtual machine capabilities to the CLR (the .Net common language runtime) as in the Java world. The idea behind the Azul appliance is simple. Users install Azul's proxy software on servers running middleware products such as BEA Systems's WebLogic or IBM's WebSphere. The proxy software then transfers Java processing jobs away from the server that is running WebLogic or WebSphere and over to the Azul appliance. One appliance can work with a number of different applications at once. Azul envisions that the systems will be used to consolidate an entire data center's worth of application processing in one place, much in the same way that NAS (network attached storage) devices have consolidated file serving into one device. In addition, Azul's processor is designed to consume less power than conventional chips. "We run at a very modest megahertz range, not in the gigahertz," said DeWitt, CEO, Azul.
Azul has custom-designed its own microprocessor - a chip with 24 processor cores that is built to run many Java operations, called threads, at once. And the company has integrated a number of new technologies into its systems designed to speed up thread processing and reduce the performance bottlenecksin Java applications. Azul's first appliances, also designed in-house, will hold between 4 and 16 of these chips, meaning that they will be able to run as many as 384 threads at once - more than the large SMP (symmetric multiprocessing) boxes on the market - and at a cost that will be lower than a cluster of commodity servers designed to run the same number of threads.
One of the questions that EDS experimenting with Azul is trying to answer is how best to take advantage of optimizations that may be specific to a particular middleware vendor. A second concern is figuring out how to bill for the machine's use, when different departments or even different companies may be tapping into its processing power. Ultimately, the Azul appliance is one of a number of promising technologies that are reshaping the way that data centers are used, he said. "It's probably going to make the data center look like one big computer rather than a collection of various computers." .While the potential for Azul looks promising, we need to see some early demonstrable success. But the idea is a marketbeater and definitely full of potential and an important development to watch.


The Mobile Subscriber Number Keeps Growing!!

We covered recently that between China and India there may be billion mobile phone subscribers in the next 5/6 years.The World Bank reports,
The "digital divide" between rich and poor nations is narrowing fast
. In the U.N.'s World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS),the World Bank said in a report that telecommunications services to poor countries were growing at an explosive rate. "The digital divide is rapidly closing," the report said. "People in the developing world are getting more access at an incredible rate - far faster than they got access to new technologies in the past." Half the world's population now enjoys access to a fixed-line telephone, the report said, and 77 percent to a mobile network - surpassing a WSIS campaign goal that calls for 50 percent access by 2015. Widening access within the developing world to technology such as mobile phones and the Internet will help eradicate poverty and build stable democracies. The telecoms industry has already leapt into action to feed demand in booming markets such as Africa, where mobile phone growth has leapfrogged fixed-line communications, to help offset falling customer growth in more mature markets.We recently covered Mckinsey view onTelco's need to aggressively automate services to survive in the US, Europe and Asian Markets. To help fuel fierce demand for communications in countries which lack fixed-line alternatives, U.S. mobile phone equipment maker Motorola Corp announced this month it planned to provide an ultra low-cost mobile phone for less than $40 - aimed at emerging markets. "Developing countries are catching up with the rich world in terms of access," the report said. "Africa is part of a worldwide trend of rapid rollout. This applies to countries rich and poor, reformed or not, African, Asian, European and Latin American." Surely mobile phenomenon shall change the world- decisively for ever!!


Next Wave Of High Tech Outsourcing - BioTechnology

I met Kiran Mazumdar Shaw,(sometimes referred to as the richest woman in India)- CEO of Biocon,an India headquartered bio- technology firm in Singapore almost a fortnight back when she came to deliver the CEO series lecture under the auspices of India Club - In her well researched presentation, she was highlighting phenomenal opportunties for India in Biotech related outsourcing and she mentioned in the course of the talk based in trade industry trends related to purchase of some bio-tech chemicals for research, she felt that the activity in India exceeded that of China(both are anyway seeing huge growth in this area) in the last ten years.
Andrew Pollack, writing for the New York Times, covers a trend in the biotech/pharma business that I believe will become pretty significant in the next couple of years - offshoring research and development to India. As with IT, you can hire biotech and pharma experts in India at significantly lower costs.

The life sciences industry, with its largely white-collar work force and its heavy reliance on scientific innovation, was long thought to be less vulnerable to the outsourcing trend. The industry, moreover, is viewed as an economic growth engine and the source of new jobs, particularly as growth slows in other sectors like information technology. While life sciences jobs may be less vulnerable to outsourcing than jobs in information technology, industry officials say many companies are looking at that option as pressures mount to control drug prices and cut development costs. Fueling the outsourcing trend are Indian and Chinese scientists who obtained graduate degrees and work experience in the United States and Europe and are now returning to their native countries. In that sense, what is going offshore might be called "back laboratory" work, somewhat equivalent to the back-office information technology functions that have moved in the past. But there are signs that the biotech migration will go beyond low-level work.
The outsourcing of some life sciences jobs could be seen as evidence that American biotechnology companies, like their counterparts in other industries, are doing nothing more than building global connections that help make them more competitive around the world. There are some factors that suggest life science jobs will be slower to migrate offshore than those in information technology. For one thing, drug companies face less pressure to cut costs than, say, computer disk drive manufacturers because pharmaceuticals have relatively high profit margins. "We're not trying to eke out another percent of operating margin," said Kevin Sharer, chief executive of Amgen, the largest biotech company, which is based outside Los Angeles. Also, life sciences companies often prefer to be near the best university research, which, for now, is largely in the United States because of ample funding from the National Institutes of Health.


Thursday, February 24, 2005

Customers & Liability Demands On Software Product Companies

I came across this article published in WSJ on customers starting to press software makers assume responsibility to pick up costs for underperformance. Excerpts with edits and my comments added:
Major technology customers, due to mouting costs to fix problems caused by software flaws, are starting to press software makers to assume responsibility for the faults and pick up some of the costs. The moves are aimed at making tech companies rethink the way they write and sell software. Executives responsible for computer security at companies including General Motors Corp., AT&T Corp. and Alcoa Inc. say software vendors should begin to stand behind their products much as sellers of other products and services do. The word liability sends shudders through the software industry. Until now, most software makers have sold their products on the condition that they won't be held liable if flaws cause damage, be it from computer crashes or virus attacks that exploit the faults. The cost of repairing such flaws, or of reimbursing customers harmed by hacker attacks or viruses, could cost a vendor many millions of dollars.
Customers are challenging the traditional exemption in the hope that increased liability will force vendors to deliver more secure and reliable software. GM, for example, is attempting to get software and computer-services vendors to agree to penalty provisions in new contracts that could hold the vendors liable if they fail to meet security requirements. Customer expectations relate to an engineered automobile with high reliability rolling out of the factory. Each time a software maker issues a "patch," or fix, to repair a flaw "is in a sense a recall," says Alan Levine, head of global information security for Alcoa. Mr. Levine suggests that software makers should cover customers' costs for installing these patches, "or at least assist us in paying for it. Other customers are seeking to add liability clauses to their "service level agreements" with outsourced technology providers, which specify performance requirements such as how many times a computer system may go down. losses, we may have some kind of liability.
The push is part of a broader shift in the balance of power in the computer market, where slower spending and maturing technologies are increasingly giving buyers more power over tech vendors. Switching costs prohibit customers from acting against the vendors.
My Take: While empathizing with the customers – we have to differentiate between desktop applications, utilities , managed services. I totally agree that in respect of desktop applications and utilities – the customers are suffering – in a month I almost lose –a –day for my administrator to fix issues in my laptop – I always tell my administrator that I sort of think that I am sitting on the tip of a volcano when routine upgrades/maintenance do not happen in time. Coupled with internal security administrative measures- administrators have to spend more and more time given the fact that upgrades happen so frequently. In fairness, some measures have been taken in the industry like auto updates and remote diagnostics but we are far off from virtually managing desktops and laptops to the user’s satisfaction. In respect of managed services, it is fair to say that service level agreements need to be in place with liability lock-ins. However in respect of enterprise software rollout, the issues are different. The enterprise software is much more complex and the success of implementation is really dependent on various factors – management commitment towards implementation and change management, degree of success that has been planned for in terms of dollars, resources, quality of program management, maturity of internal processes already in place, degree of preparedness of internal organization to absorb new technologies and processes, synchronous delay management, escalation management, responsibility distribution and monitoring – all play a role in the success of a enterprise software rollouts. I have seen double digit million dollar software solution rollouts suffer on the dimensions of time/cost/quality on account of these seemingly simplistic issues. Several times customer organisations seriously underestimate the amount of energy that may be needed in rolling out solutions across the enteprise. One area where definitely the product vendors need to be held responsible is their claims on "Out-Of-The-Box" rollouts - In my experience, many of these are certainly questionable - also when a customer says either they know all or when they say they do not know anything - and therefore initiative should be driven by consultants - alarm bell rings in my mind. I agree with Jeff Nolan when he says,"It's not like buying a toaster or an electric toothbrush and plugging it into the wall".
Indemnification of the consulting company and product vendor would presuppose that the customer provides fair opportunity to roll out software in agreed upon manner that includes co-ordination of all activities in time in a qualitative manner – too often we witness that customers have a certain date in mind to roll out solutions and typically these get forced down – denying in the process opportunities to set solid things in place and too often consultants are forced to take a liberal view in terms of approvals not coming in time or the lack of it.several assumptions in respect of other systems that are in place getting busted and brain waves and flash thoughts of customer executives all infringe on the quality of the rollouts and the subsequent high cost of maintenance.


India & The US - Virtual Ties -Boom & Prosperity

We recently covered in this blog New Scientist magazine theme issue India - The next knowledge superpower - Today & The Way Forward,we are seeing increased coverage of India and its growth all over the world - various media from various perspective. Starting with the article, High returns push global VCs to make a dash for desi shoresincreased VC interest to covering the perspective India Worth More Than Outsourcing provides a quick view of the changes happening in India. Recently Chris Andersen wrote about his trip to india which received very tough reviews . I think the best of coverage of India started with Thomas Friedman who wrote,this is the age of globalisation, and the countries that succeed best at globalisation are those that are best at ‘‘glocalisation’’ — taking the best global innovations, styles and practices and melding them with their own culture, so they don’t feel overwhelmedIndia has been naturally glocalising for thousands of years. Om Malik provided a well studied insight into the opportunties in india titled India-New Opportunity-It’s a global economy. Quite recently, we covered Eric Keller's view where India Inc growing twice as fast as Japan Incand also covered the Indian industries perspective as articulated by G.B.Prabhat in the piece Across every industry spectrum, there is potential for knowledge work to relocate to India. David Kirkpatrick of Fortune magazine writes after a 9 day visit to India, The US and India are increasingly experiencing the consequences of full-time mutual virtual presence,thanks to the Internet. For U.S. companies, this has created the opportunity to have work performed remotely in that country. And for India, it has opened a wide window to the world, especially the U.S.. Kirkpatrick writes, "meeting young Indians who talked about their credit cards and computer foul-ups give some insight into how their society is changing in ways inconceivable even a few years ago. In the cities- Mumbai (formerly Bombay), Chennai (formerly Madras), and Bangalore—the presence and influence of the U.S. felt surprisingly strong. American brands were pervasive, indicating that India’s growing success will have lots of benefits for the US as well. Dell PCs, Ford Cars and were all over there& Citibank ATMs were almost as ubiquitous as in New York".
An impressive willingness to work hard is one of the main things that distinguished Americans in the last century and in India, workers have a comparable willingness to strive to get ahead. In Mumbai, David finds the energy of the people on the street resembling that of Manhattan. Messengers hustled around, commuters crowded into trains, and construction workers were building new structures all over the city. The urge of Indians to better their condition, both individually and collectively, was palpable. One major negative for the Indian economy was its decaying and insufficient infrastructure. But right after thinking such thoughts, walk into an office filled with fresh-faced young people and be so struck by their energy and enthusiasm that there comes a feeling that the infrastructure problems could somehow be overcome. The will to succeed there is strong. Yet for wealthy travelers, everything that India offers seems accessible. People from abroad are starting to travel to high-quality Indian hospitals for complex medical procedures like joint surgery, because the prices are so much lower than in the U.S. and Europe. Prices will very gradually rise as do incomes, but this place will remain very inexpensive relative to prices in developed countries for a very long time.
The Indian and American economies are going to become ever more intertwined, and that is probably a good thing. It helps that almost everyone in the country's commercial world speaks English. That makes it easier to get around in India than in places like China or Mexico, It’s possible to live an extremely comfortable life in India on relatively little money. David concludes by saying that his desire to retire in India while being connected with US remains a workable possibility


Retail CIOs Have The Hardest Job In The World

IT & telecom were the buzz words in the 80s & 90s.The begining of 21st century belongs to the retail industry. The supermarkets are getting bigger, malls are getting huge. Even the groccer around the corner is finding ways of storing more than just the veggies. Technology, experience economy and consumer spending is transforming the retail industry.Some believe that increasingly retail stores are beginning to look like electronic emporiums!.
(Via Silicon.com) The advent of new technology from RFID to revamped voice and data networks could see their roles changed beyond all recognition forcing retail CIOs with the hardest job in the world. Ian Hannah, COO of BT Expedite, said that being the head of IT in a retail organization means facing up to a series of unique hardware and financial challenges. "The retail environment is one of the toughest for IT.. they don't upgrade their till for at least 10 years while we change our PCs every three years; you've got no capital expenditure budget; and you have legacy systems that are disparate and they've come from mergers and acquisitions anyway. "It's probably one of the toughest IT jobs on the planet." The job is set to change beyond recognition,as the high street aims to upgrade consumers to more and more high tech systems. Connectivity will be one of the key drivers for retail, with converged voice and data networks revamping retail IT in the same way as the advent of broadband has in the past, with mobile consumers expanding retail's remit ever further into the home. “The high street will have to change.- the current design our [geography] around cabling and infrastructure," he said. Soon pure voice networks would be a thing of the past for retailers. "By 2010,only data networks would exist - No more voice networks”.
Already organizations are experimenting with a few retail technologies that it predicts will become the norm in the retail environment, including RFID smart shelves, shop kiosks with facial recognition, shop doors with Wi-Fi speakers and biometric log-ins for consumers to verify their identity when home shopping.RFID smart shelves and smart trolleys - which can act as a checkout or analyse and upsell from chipped items a consumer picks up - are gaining credence with retailers. Retailers ought to be factoring these developments into their roadmap.Some retailers have proved themselves willing to experiment with high-tech shopping. German retailer Metro Group is already trialling a smart shelf project in its Future Store, while one US supermarket now allows customers to pay by fingerprint. The expectations moving forward are that,"RFID technology will become so routine... this will come to the consumer en masse" and the reservation in mass adoption of RFID could be due to customers reluctance to submit to "Big Brother" technology holding back retail's high-tech rollover- but this situation is all set to change. Retail like telecom is massively embracing technology changes reaching the masses in large numbers.


Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Billion Mobile Phone Subscribers Between China & India By 2007

Nokia, the world's biggest seller of mobile telephones, expects China to soon overtake the United States as the company's biggest market. Sales in China account for 10 percent of Nokia's revenue, second only to the United States at 13 percent, but rapid growth in the coming years is likely to push China beyond that, Jorma Ollila, the chief executive, said during a visit to Beijing. "I would not be surprised to see China take up the No. 1 position in the next three years," he said.China was likely to account for a quarter of new mobile phone users worldwide over the next five years as its subscribers grow from 330 million to 700 million.Nokia executives said that India was likely to follow China's trajectory of booming mobile phone use. India's says that Nokia, Ericsson and Alcatel would invest as much as $800 million in India this year, and the country's telecommunications regulator estimated that the number of mobile phone users might grow fourfold to as many as 200 million by the end of 2007. Analysts said that while Nokia was well-positioned to take advantage of China's appetite for mobile phones, the country's expected introduction of a new, "third generation" mobile phone network soon was unlikely to be the bonanza that some investors and phone manufacturers expect. Customers entering China's mobile phone shops encounter a gaudy blizzard of choices; there are about 56 phone makers in China selling about 700 models. Many of these are made by ambitious local companies like TCL Communications Technology and Ningbo Bird, but in recent years, multinationals like Nokia and Motorola have been edging out their smaller domestic competitors.
Nokia's strategy is to capture new customers with cheap phones and then hold onto them as they become richer and more sophisticated..The ultimate goal of Nokia and its rivals is to capture customers as they buy new phones for China's third-generation network.


Telcos : Time To Automate Services

The telecom sector is one of the most exciting sectors to watch - partly because this changes so much and so visiby - very rarely, we see technology changing so dramatically as in telecom affecting so huge a population. we recently covered in this blog, Bweek perpectiveThe old phone companies are artifacts, and the new telecoms will look more like their counterparts in cable and computers Consumers and business will increasingly have their pick of new services from a bunch of providers that are fighting hard to win their business.But as that era fades,another is dawning. "This is the end of World War I - the Bells vs. AT&T and MCI,Now, World War II, among the phone, cable, and tech companies",is about to begin, as quoted therein.
Mckinsey quarterly has come with an impressive article, on the need for telcos to embrace automated self services. Excerpts with edits and my comments added:

In 2003, one major airline saved $200 million by selling more than half of its tickets over the Web, which for airlines is 90 percent cheaper than phones. Amazon.com has built a business model based on its customers' willingness to buy goods and to ask—and receive answers to—most service questions online. Surveys show customers prefer the convenience of Internet banking, e-retailing, wireless brokerage transactions, and online government license renewals. Telecom sector's pricing and margins have been under great pressure for a decade, while revenues for traditional voice services are expected to decline further amid intensifying competition between telcos and cable companies. Some telcos will need to cut as much as 20 or 30 percent of their current operating costs over the next four years to stay competitive. They can achieve up to 50 percent of the savings by e-enabling their sales and service functions.

Telcos who play a key role in e-enabling companies in other sectors have on the whole been slow to e-enable their sales and service. Most telcos have Web sites but don't leverage them aggressively; only a few have started to streamline and automate their back-office processes. A number of organizational impediments have slowed down progress in this area. Some telecom executives resist change because they still think that automated sales channels won't generate as much revenue as traditional labor-intensive ones do. Difficult organizational changes are needed because the costs and the benefits of e-enablement accrue to different parts of a company.Customers complain that they can't get full information without phoning a call center or visiting a retail outlet resulting in only about 10 percent of this sector's sales and service traffic going online in contrast to , consumers buying 30 percent of all airline tickets through this channel. For many telcos, customer calls trigger 85 percent of all incremental revenues. Whether the call is about a bill, service to a new address, a complaint, or an inquiry about new services, it becomes a sales opening; the call-center employee takes the opportunity to sell additional services, such as wireless, DSL, and even, in some cases, satellite television. One out of four calls leads to increased revenue for the company.
Telco executives know what some banks have achieved by automating up to 75 percent of all service transactions and simultaneously raising customer satisfaction. Yet they fear tinkering with the sector's lifeline—the direct call—despite knowing that it is an expensive way to sell. A typical call-center transaction costs $8 to $10; the same transaction online costs $0.15 to $0.80. Printed bills cost four times as much as e-bills, and customers can be served online 24 hours a day without significant additional costs. E-enabling sales and service involves comparatively small investments for companies that typically spend $1 billion or so each year on IT.But returns can be quite high – some , 300 percent in certain sectors. Organizational and managerial obstacles come in the way - only a committed and able executive can help a company overcome them. Given the complexities involved no single person can push these mega e-enablement initiatives, given the involvement of different functions: call centers, the network, billing centers, the Web site – this becomes the direct CIO leadership responsibility.
Telcos – both landline and wirelss all over the world can no longer afford a business model where customers pick up the telephone and talk with call-center sales and service staffs using old and inefficient systems. Customers dislike the slow, confusing, labor-intensive processes put in place in telecom companies. Telecommunications companies soon won't have the margins to support the current inefficiencies, in any case. To reduce costs and simultaneously improve service, these companies must persuade their customers to move to far more cost-efficient automated channels—the Web, automated telephone systems, or wireless transactions—and streamline their internal sales and support operations.


AMR Reasearch Announces The 2005 Innovation Award Winners

AMRResearch announces 2005 Innovation Award Winners. The winners designed to honor breakthrough ideas by small, midsize, and large companies are:

- Salesforce.com,(more than $100M): (Citation :"The ease of use and short implementation time is changing the game in the hosted CRM market..")
- TrenStar,($10M to $100M): (Citation:"First company to offer this combination of technology and services to support pooling of common, nonstrategic containers and other mobile assets...")
- T3Ci,(under $10M) (Citation:"The first vendor to provide RFID analytics" and
- IBM,(Citation:"Last year, IBM received 3,248 patents by the U.S. Patent Office and has topped the list for the most patents 12 years in a row..")

AMR says winners were selected from 150 based on criteria:
-Has a sustainable competitive advantage
-Is unique
-Addresses a key business issue
-Spurred new business for the company
-Has referenceable accounts

While, Trenstar and Salesforce.com are well known and I have been watching these two companies, I first read about T3Ci when Jeff Nolan wrote about the company's new wesbsite with information about RFID analytics recently. Jeff - you have backed the right horse- RFID analytics would be a key linkage in any business ecosystem- particularly when during implementation of RFID - very high volume data gets processed and increasingly all transactional data relating to material atleast may eventually be "RFIDed" and T3ci offering fits in very well in meeting emerging enterprise requirements.The analytics value gets amplified considerable as the technology canbe deployed among trading partners.. The concept is a surefire winner...


Cell Phones As Credit Cards

ABI Research says, the number of opportunities to use your cell phone and other small objects to make payments will grow rapidly this year and will keep growing in future years. Often called "contactless payments," the technology involves swiping an enabled cell phone, key ring or other small item near a point-of-sale terminal. The capabilities, which use RFID-like near-field wireless technology, are starting to gain momentum in Japan and are undergoing tests in the U.S. and Europe. Credit card companies have endorsed the technology. As consumers continue to use card-based transactions for smaller, traditionally cash-based purchases, "contactless payment capabilities make more sense, especially for card issuers looking to increase customer loyalty and convenience," Erik Michielsen, ABI's director of RFID and ubiquitous wireless research, said in a statement. While the technology has been around for a while and used in a small number of cases such as ExxonMobile's SpeedPass payment system, it will start to catch on big-time this year, Michielsen said. That's because those previous efforts didn't have the support of credit card vendors.
"What's lifting this to the next level is the expansion of contactless payment from these closed, branded systems, to open systems tied to bank accounts and major credit card issuers," Michielsen said. "These financial institutions now want a bigger share of what was in the past the cash-based economy." Michielsen predicted that merchants that typically have low-cost transactions, such as fast-food restaurants, will be among the first to switch to the system. McDonald's restaurants are expected to adopt the system in North America this year.

Increasingly the cell phone is beginning to act as your quick medical monitor, identification device and may be your electronic wallet!!May be we will soon see petro stations/airlines offering complementary cellphones with loyalty program.. Amex, Visa. Master, Star alliance .. rush to distribute cell phones!!


Out Of The Box- SOA & Needed Vendor Transformations

Service-oriented architectures (SOAs) are enterprise-led initiatives that over time represent the next generation transforamtion of IT in the endeavour to reduce cost, enhance business flexibility and improve ability to leverage human and technology resources. John Hagel in this OPED piece published for Sandhill,on SOA observes,"while there is pull from business to embrace SOA, the push from established vendors need more thrust and result orientation". Services-oriented architecture is re-defining the entire enterprise software business,from products to sales strategies to vendor positioning, everything would be influenced and states most of todays software vendors have not taken the necessary steps to remain relevant in the coming era of SOA-driven enterprise computing. Surprisingly, web services adoption is being driven by non-technology line business executives across a broad range of industries.

Hagel rightly notes,in the absence of architectural leadership - SOA’s look more like fragmented adoption of Web service technology & SOA "architectural vision to reality" is handicapped by the absence of a solidified migration path and notes that the power of SOA is amplified where an outside-in approach is brought in.The real challenge & opportunity - is to help bridge the gap that currently exists between the I.T. departments struggling to define a pragmatic migration path for SOA deployments and business executives seeking to harness the near-term business value of Web services technology. The new generation of software service providers like Salesforce.com in the CRM space are targeting major enterprise applications with a service model built on an SOA platform, in contrast to an earlier generation of Application Solution Providers that were trying to build service businesses with more hard-wired software technologies. While promising new companies like Talaris and E2open are targeting one of the most promising arenas for SOAs: Inter-enterprise collaboration. Talaris focuses on helping enterprises coordinate third party employee business services - everything from travel services to package shipping. E2open concentrates on helping companies in the high tech arena to coordinate multi-tier supply chain operations on a global scale. New generation vendors are focused on selling to business with good business cases as against selling to IT departments.
While the vendor landscape may appear to remain unchanged,Hagel expects to see a few large companies focused on defining and managing federation frameworks to effectively mobilize a much broader range of specialized service providers. The real sweet spots in the SOA landscape will involve specialized business policy repository and mediation businesses, third party auditing and reputation engines and collaboration hubs focused on supporting process collaboration across extended enterprises. These offer the potential for significant concentration and scale, and the resultant possibility exist to build and operate very large-scale enterprise software businesses, but they will operate with fundamentally different economic and organizational models.The future SOA vendorworld shall unfold based on actions taken by the vendors with end benefits in mindand not necessarily by existing marketand financial status.

My Take: John Hagel's analysis is brilliant to the core- he has assessed the transformations that may be needed by vendors to be ready to provide business value- while this is agreeable, I feel that lasting value for business shall come out of enabling entirely new sets of business models- those that can be configured on the fly,( for example integrating all eBay related operators in multiple ways),enabling lean,mean & efficient best in class processes with well designed performance measures,and also by enhancing the ability of the business enterprise in leveraging emerging technologies like grid computing,applistructures,powerful convergence technologies- many of the solutions today are aligned to delivering solutions in the conventional way but these may change.In future, businesses may be measured by how quickly their models of operationand processes can be configured and reconfigured, SOA architecture need to provide for this dynamic builds and rebuilds.For now though, SOA is a recognizable and mostly virtual plumbing exercise. Most likely, vendors will draw their strategy from the experience of customers, and will adjust accordingly. Not to overlook the fact that though the vendor community is trying hard to improve their SOA maturity,evolving standards and entrenched infrastructure mean more pilots and lab environments and more & more scope for innovations as adoption tends to improve..


The Telecom Landscape Getting Recast

We recently covered in the post Extracting Value from Digital Content knowledge@wharton's perspective on the effect of digital content and new technology on the entertainment and media industries as:
a) a devastating body blow;
b) a profit-spewing bonanza;
c) the creation of a promising market in its infancy.
depending on whether you are talking about the beleaguered music industry, the fortunate movie industry or the cable business's hopes for digital cable.As the convergence and changing technology are making sweeping changes, Businessweek writes,with AT&T and MCI going, the Bells will compete with cable and tech companies.

The takeovers of AT&T and MCI officially usher in the long-heralded Internet era.The old phone companies are artifacts, and the new telecoms will look more like their counterparts in cable and computers. Consumers and business will increasingly have their pick of new services from a bunch of providers that are fighting hard to win their business.But as that era fades,another is dawning. "This is the end of World War I - the Bells vs. AT&T and MCI," says Scott C. Cleland, a telecom analyst at Precursor Group in Washington. "Now, World War II, among the phone, cable, and tech companies, is about to begin." As the SBC-AT&T and Verizon-MCI takeovers go forward, they will be just the beginning of a massive transformation sweeping the telecom industry as the shift to digital technology gains speed. That's rapidly eroding the barriers between phone companies, cable providers, and other tech companies. The Bells are moving from the residential phone market they've dominated into a new set of digital ventures in wireless, data, video, and corporate services. Phone calls delivered over wires are becoming a commodity service that is under assault from wireless calling, e-mail, and Internet phoning over cable operators' wiresforcing the Bells to seek fresh markets.

Verizon and SBC have already announced ambitious plans to offer TV service over superfast fiber networks in residential neighborhoods. Now the purchases of AT&T and MCI help them accelerate selling phone and data services to corporations - beyond their traditional consumer market. Selling to corporations, which are less likely to change providers than fickle consumers, is seen as a source of potential growth and a hedge against the high-stakes play for residential video and other services via fiber. As Verizon CEO Ivan G. Seidenberg told Wall Street analysts on Feb. 14: "If we don't change, we'll be caught repricing old products."

The Bells are still building the fiber networks over which their TV services will run and lack the programming expertise that is part of cable execs' DNA. Verizon, which spent $1 billion to serve 1 million homes last year, plans to cover an additional 2 million homes this year. And SBC is spending $5 billion to reach 18 million homes in major markets within its 13-state territory by 2007. The cable industry,already has the ability to deliver TV, broadband, and phone service to 99 million households. Indeed, some smart money is getting behind cable. Over the past six months, Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. has doubled its stake in Comcast, to 10 million shares, now valued at $328 million. And late last year, George Soros made an initial investment of $51 million in Time Warner, according to government filings.

Competition in residential broadband will become even more vital as the telecoms and cable operators plan to sell more services on top of that basic fast Web link. Both want to move up the food chain to reap more revenues per subscriber, potentially putting them in conflict with others that need access to the same broadband pipes. Vonage Holdings Corp., for instance, is selling voice-over-Internet phone service over cable just as cable operators are entering that business, too. Regulators will need to provide safeguards so the phone and cable giants that control the broadband networks don't discriminate against service providers that they compete with.


Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Google Maps And GPS

Engadget writes,Australian developer Glen Murphy has created a GPS plug-in for the recently released Google Maps service. The tool currently requires Windows XP or 2000 (which means, of course, you need a full-size laptop hooked up to your GPS),it can be easily envisioned in future versions support for Palm or Pocket PC PDA. While this may never take the place of dedicated mapping software, the idea of getting your GPS to interface with the Web has its appeal; we’d like to be able to go a step further and be able to, say, run a search on Moviefone.com and have our GPS transparently plot a route to the theater without us having to punch in the address. My Take: Wonderful idea to have it work on mobile devices, like Pocket PCs and Smartphones, but it will never work until the browsers on those devices support enough javascript and DHTML to be able to use Google Maps, which they curently don't.Realtime traffic update and routing – this may appear a little more tricky given the communication hassles and also we have the issue of browser compatibility - Pocket PCs and Smartphones, may not adequately support enough javascript and DHTML to be able to use Google Maps.


The Changing Business Ecosystems & The Flattening Of Organisations

(Via Brad Feld). Tom Evslin writes about The Flattening of Almost Everything in organisations. Tom writes, "We used to need hierarchies because we had only primitive communication and information processing capability. Computers,electronic communication, and particularly the Internet have made it possible to flatten almost everything. Flat organizations, are necessary to deal with accelerating change.Large organization used to need to be hierarchical in order to accomplish the dissemination of orders and the collection of information. The more people there were at the base of any organization, the more levels of hierarchy were needed". In today's age even conventional communication like school sending to parensts can be done through school’s web site or an RSS feed or a mass email or a mass text message on their cell phones (or the kids’ cell phones) or something like that.
The Key issue as Tom sees is that hierarchy had plenty of drawbacks. Excessively hierarchical authority usually evolves with hierarchical command flow. Each layer in the hierarchy distorts directions and information going down and filters information and questions going up.A defective node can unleash catastrophe or make the communication ineffective.Horizontal communication outside of a local group is nearly impossible in an hierarchical organization because that communication needs to flow up and down the chain of command. Technology ensures that we do not need to be dependent on hierarchies for information anymore. Information flow generally follows the hierarchy and could be impeding. Tom argues, The frequency of disruptive technical change is increasing. Markets and competition are also changing rapidly. Flat organizations with non-hierarchical information flow are better able to survive or even thrive on change. Direct communication between individuals is both quicker and more accurate than nodal information flow.There is inevitable confusion of purpose between protecting the hierarchy and protecting the organization. Tom concludes by saying, to say that change is a constant is a gross understatement. Change is a fractal that only the flattest possible organizations with the best information flow can deal with. In a related posting, Tom writes on Complex Ecosystems and the End of the Dinosaurs saying the the dinosaurs disappeared as they were too successful for too long. Disruptive mechanisms like technology tests the strength of any ecosystem and the reality is the more complex and perfectly adapted the ecosystem was to the former environment, the more difficult it will be for it to adapt to the new environment. It isn’t just individual businesses that were threatened by steam power, by the railroads, by the automobile, the semiconductor, software, the Internet, whatever – it’s entire business ecosystems!
It happened to the hand-loom ecosystem, to the horse ecosystem, to the monolithic computer ecosystem, and to the old telecommunications ecosystem. It wasn’t just phone companies which defaulted on massive amounts of debt, laid off hundreds of thousands of workers, and erased zillions in stock market value; the same thing happened to the manufacturers who supplied the service companies. The unions which supplied the workers are shadow of their former powerful selves.
Any successful business MUST adapt to the ecosystem which exists or is forming – at the time. The pace of technological change – unlike the frequency of comet crashes – is increasing exponentially. Disruptive technologies like once in every couple of centuries earlier- but nowthey happen every couple of years. And the only thing which is predictable is the certainty that there WILL be a technology that disrupts whatever you earn your living at. You can predict that something will happen but you can’t predict what. Tom concludes brilliantly by saying that the only guidance that can be given is the gamblers adage "you gotta know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em." It also turns out that some generalized skills like curiosity, perseverance, and the ability to work hard are useful in moving from one ecosystem to its successor.
Brilliant Tom -disruprive technologies,processes and globalisation unleash a new wave of competition that had been unimagined in the past - every decade the fortune 100 list see churns - newer line of business, fresh business models, better marketcaps for more innovative and dynamic companies, easier flow of capital and global capital availability, changing demographics,rising asia all are interlocked to bring in a new sense of heightened competition - as Tom Peters says often -"Its not your father's world anymore" and the idea behind Jack Welch's famous statement -"The rate of change inside an organisation should always be greater than the rate of change in the ecosystem that it thrives on to remain successful" is becoming more and more relevant and true.


Ajax – Application Interface Approach for Richer Internet Applications

Jesse James Garrett has an interesting article on what Adaptive Path are calling AJAX, essentially the model that uses DOM and standards to provide richer internet applications (think Gmail, Google maps, Google suggest - think Google,.) among other things through state retention.

Ajax essentially serves as an intermediary between the browser and the server, and while we typically assume that addition of this intermediate layer may make things take longer, here, it's just the opposite. Ajax sends stuff to the server on demand and much of the time it can handle the request locally itself, providing for more immediate interactions and feedback that are so integral to the current web applications. On top of this based on the context and need when Ajax determines that it needs to engage the server for data/processing, this is effected in a non destructive way not affecting the flow of the user's experience.


Howard Anderson : No Opportunity For Good Investments In Software!!

Howard Anderson, is the well known technology expert and founder of the Yankee Group, a respected Boston forecasting firm, and Battery Ventures, the Wellesley venture capital partnership that backed Akamai Technologies and Nextel. These days, he is the managing director of YankeeTek Ventures, a Cambridge firm that makes early investments in start-up companies from a $60 million fund, Anderson has decided to opt out of raising a second fund for Yankee Tek Ventures. He acknowledges that the fund-raising climate for venture capital firms isn't great,but says his decision not to raise a new YankeeTek fund is "more about there being no good investments" in software and networking, two areas he has long specialized in. Anderson's bearish on the prospects for RFID and nanotech start-ups, and while he's optimistic about life sciences, but says that's an area where he has limited insight.

There may be a little more than beliefs governing the decision:
- In 1999, Anderson collected $60 million from several other venture capital firms, including Battery, Advent International, and Bain Capital, as well as a group of big tech companies like Novell, 3Com, and Nortel Networks. His objective was to invest in promising New England companies that made software, chips, and networking equipment.YankeeTek's track record hasn't been spectacular. Several early investments disappeared without a trace, like Lydstrom Inc., which was developing a home server for digital music, and a company called Global Electronic Markets. Anderson backed three companies started by Ric Fulop, a Babson College dropout with a powerful entrepreneurial drive. (Only one of Fulop's companies, Watertown-based A123 Systems, which is developing a new kind of battery, is still alive.)Another group of YankeeTek companies were sold off for undisclosed sums. The only two deals with dollar figures attached don't sound too sweet. One was Momentix, a start-up that made software that helped run trade shows. After YankeeTek and two other firms had invested $3.5 million, the company was sold for $100,000. AltaWorks of New Hampshire sucked in $35 million from firms including Prism Venture Partners and YankeeTek; it was sold for $3.5 million in October.YankeeTek's top prospect is Egenera, a Marlboro manufacturer of modular ''blade" servers that filed to go public in June but hasn't yet made its debut. It's one thing to be brilliant and clairvoyant, its another thing to be consistently successful - but there is nothing to be criticised here- after all enteprising attitude and the guts to dare drives the venture capial industry. I do not agree with the view that funding options are narrow in the software field - though challenging, opportunities continue to exist - in web services, grid computing, utility computing, RFID,Nanotechnology, Embedded Systems, Mobile applications etc..


Monday, February 21, 2005

Java, Mobiles & Content For Mobiles - Set For Exponential Growth

Jonathan Schwartz writes, Java is continuing to grow, and accelerate - on both the devices (and SIM cards embedded within them), and in the network infrastructure and points out to several interesting facts. There are now over 500,000,000 Java enabled phones in the world, and more than 60% of all new phones will ship, from the factory, Java enabled. The rush of new developers we're adding to the nearly 5 million Java developers are J2ME developers, folks creating the services (from commercial to social) through which the majority of the world will experience the internet. The majority of the world will first experience the internet through their mobile phones(Am not sure - may be more would access from the mobile). 10 times as many people bought handsets last year as PC's. There were a BILLION wireless devices sold last year, and around 100 million PC's.

Broadcast broadband content on mobile phone may become more prevalent than on the PC - and now that Nokia (and their peers) are the world's largest camera manufacturers the odds are far higher you'll even create broadband content on your handset. The CEO of Oberthur, predicts we'll see 1 GigaBYTE SIM cards by years end - that's right, a Gig on an interchangeable SIM card. What happens when a significant portion of that memory is executable? That's a mighty small computer. The net of all this - bubbles precede the buildout. And the buildout's clearly underway with mobile operators chasing revenue and value. With operators beginning to see a market driven by services and content, as seen in deals like Verizon and Discovery TV tieup, wherein,the Discovery Network shall act as a content partner for verizon's upcoming "FiOS " FTTP TV service. we recently covered mobile revolution is next only to PC revolution and Jonathan here says that the mobile revolution is all set to surpass the PC revolution quite comprehensively. With consolidation happening in the mobile service provider market - things can only look up in the mobile application space. We recently covered that mobile market shall begin to see chinese manufacturers making headway in mobile infrastructure and strong india headquartered software companies providing solutions in the mobile application space - we may even begin to see indian software players gearing to roll out mobile application products and with content being the king in the mobile internet world, avalanche of opportunities open up for content service providers and if there is any phenomenon, where we can see multiplier effect clearly - it is in the mobile market - virtually every facet of digital world needs to get ready - from hardware to process huge tranche of data, communication capacity providers, intermediation, DRM, content providers,Gaming applications, all service providers in digital and physical world( to gear up for offering services in the mobile),digital lifestyle players, on demand service providers - well the list is endless providing infinite set of possibilities and opportunities.


The Lowdown on High Tech Trends & The Ralph Revolution

(Via Businessweek) Forrester Research CEO George Colony deflates outsourcing, predicts Net links for billions of products, and sees GM's CIO as a pioneer. Here's George sharing his insightful perspective.

- The biggest growth area in technology right now is the physical-to-digital connection. The difference between 1994 and 2004 is that in that 10-year period, a piece of wire was created from every company to every customer - the World Wide Web. From 2004 to 2014, a piece of wire will be created from every company to every product they've ever made. Forrester predicts that we're going from 750 million devices connected to the Internet today to 14 billion by the end of this decade. RFID is a small sideshow in that whole trend. Wal-Mart is pushing ahead fast. Today the car, actually, has two tags in it- A toll tag, and also OnStar. With OnStar, GM has tagged 10 million or 15 million vehicles. When you have OnStar, GM knows every gauge in your car real-time. They know what CD you're playing, and they know what CD track you're playing. And, of course, your location and speed, how much gas is in your tank, et cetera. They aren't doing anything with it because they haven't figured out how to monetize it.

Trends in corporate IT - "Organic IT,"is the idea of cutting costs in the back end, using cheap back-end systems and servers, and then pushing the funds over onto the front end. Because a lot of companies haven't touched their Web site in three years -- it's just horrendous. This is a highly deflationary trend for Sun and HP. Sun and HP’s server business is having so much trouble due to this organic IT. George goes on to predict, “Fifty percent of US companies would not outsource” That's for security reasons, for regulatory reasons. And observes that it takes about 24 months from the point of decision for most companies to actually execute on offshore

And George thinks - Ralph Szygenda has done at General Motors as he has said:- forget the technology, there are only business processes at GM, saying, GM finance cars, does R&D, manufacture cars, ship cars,retail cars. Those are all the processes of GM. So he's not a typical CIO - he's organized his IT in process and not in technology. This is the "Process Revolution." Actually,it can be called "Ralph Revolution." These words of George are full of insights -must read for all concerned about future.


Holograms As Smart Labels Poised To Reveal Bio Data

Biosensors evoke images of tiny chips and wireless technology, but the next generation of biosensors may be: holograms costing only fractions of a cent, and the technology could usher in an era of "smart labels" that show when food is spoiled or when body glucose and alcohol levels are too high.Prototypes developed include contact lenses that monitor glucose levels, thin badges that detect alcohol levels, and sticks that can tell, instantly, if milk has spoiled or become contaminated. The technology promises to be quicker and cheaper than tests used today and can be deployed with minimal training.. A test showing that fuel has been contaminated with trace amounts of water reads "dry" or "wet." In a breath alcohol test intended for police offices, suspects breathe onto tiny cards that either show a green automobile or a red X, establishing whether a person is sober enough to drive.
The holograms can detect pH to four decimal places and chemical concentrations of hormones and other biologically important substances. The samples tested do not need to be pure: The holograms can work in milk or even in stool samples from newborns, said Chris Lowe, a professor at Cambridge University. The image that appears on the hologram is caused by silver particles on a "smart polymer," a lightweight material similar to everyday plastic. These polymers can be designed to change shape in different chemical environments. This shape change moves bands of silver particles, and patterns of silver particles control the brightness and color of the hologram. Thus, the hologram can be used to display a message, a numerical scale or other readout. Here is a related article explaining usage of hologram with laser diode.


Sunday, February 20, 2005

LG - Soaring Ambitions In The Mobile Handset Market

We recently covered about Glittering Samsung wherein we also covered Chinese enterprises are neither globally competitive nor technically superior and extended our coverage with another article titled Consumer electronics : china way behind.we also covered recent economist artile on Samsung saying it been a remarkable year for Samsung Electronics. Samsung was one of the stars at the giant consumer-electronics show in Las Vegas,concluded a few weeks back, where it unveiled a glittering array of new products. Among them was a notable first: a mobile phone that uses voice-recognition technology to convert speech into text messages, offering respite to people who find typing messages on their mobile's tiny keyboard frustrating.We also covered Businessweek's coverage on LG, another rising korean star. We also wrote threin,South Korean story itself is very inspiring. Like most other modern cities in Asia, I had been to Seoul and Busan several times and only find the Koreans becoming more and more competitive - at the moment the Korean economy is a little dull, but shall pick up shortly. For those who think that the chinese would dominate all sorts of manufaturing, my answer is a BIG NO..Korean enteprises amidst others shall be the key players that china should be wary off.
Park Mun Hwa is president and chief executive of Mobile Communications, a division of LG Electronics, in Seoul talks about LG’s global ambitions in mobile handset markets.Often compared to Samsung, its bigger rival, LG has already come on strong outside of Asia in the sales of advanced, third-generation handsets. Mr.park provides his perspective on growth( Via IHT):
On competition with 3G vendors: In both 2G and 3G, the product comes first. The main reason our company has sold a lot of 3G handsets in Europe is because of our technology leadership: Our longer battery life and the handsets' small size. We will carry the full line of 3G this year as well, entry-level phones to high-end products, to target all of our customers, from the small end-user to the business customer.

On how LG shall become No.3 globally next: LG has already achieved global No.1 status in CDMA phones [the dominant standard in the United States]. In GSM phones [predominant in Europe and Asia], we entered the market only in 2001, relatively late compared to our competitors. LG Electronics has the core competency to make a great business in handsets.LG has already made business for many years in a broad range of multimedia products, including LED, LCD, OLED, based on our electronics business
Mr.Park outlines three strategies that LG telecom would pursue:

- LG would definitely attain product leadership first. That means LG is going to develop new models including multimedia functions: 3G phones, game phones, navigation phones, DMB radio phones, music phones, camera phones.
- The second strategy is to satisfy our customers, the carriers, with customization and country adaptation in the local market. LG has established its overseas R&D laboratory in France in October 2004. The target is 150 engineers this year from the local work force because they know the local requirements.
- The third strategy is to strengthen our operational excellence.LG recently combined our two separate manufacturing facilities in Korea into one to add some factory automation and lower the cost. LG can make a jump up based on that because of supply chain management and quality control. Every available sign indiactes that LG shall get stronger in the mobile handset market.


Enteprise Software Sales,Opensource Aid In Sales & Do Developers Matter In Sales Cycle

Ed Sim writes referring to Jonathan Schwartz's article about the nature of developers,&why building a relationship with them is key to creating opportunities. Ed Sim writes,referring to a friend's conversation Developers don't buy things, they join things and adds,"The key, however, for any small company is to do this economically and efficiently". Many companies selling into enterprises end up going through some "pilot" or "beta" period where a sales prospect's developers and technologists get to use the software and deploy it on a trial basis. When a chief executive looks at a sales pipeline, he would always want to know who in the organization the company is selling into and why.More often than not it is seen that a number of early stage companies selling into enterprises but not selling high enough to the people with budget. The vendor spends an inordinate amount of time reaching out to the developer or technologist to set up a pilot and then leaves with no defined criteria on when the pilot ends and how it automatically converts into a sale.. The developer uses the product,uses lot of time and resources, and moves on to the next new technology. Ed writes with the advent of opensource technology ,"try before you buy" approach may work if users can download the software for free either on a trial basis, say 90 days, or if you open source a version of your product and build a real community

My Take: Ed Sim's post is too broad and wide regarding open source as a method to increase product acceptance. While it is agreed that developers are important for selling certain types of mundane software like utilities, dev tools, app servers, etc, are they important part of the sales process for enterprise applications?.The answer is a definite NO. The question is - should an enterprise product open-source their products to allow for developers install , configure and try with it? No. Enterprise products are sold based on vale propositions that would cover amongst other things – stability and maturity of product, product fit to adapt to various business processes, pricing and TCO etc. Business improvements matter a lot more when the product has become mature with a number of installations and good support framework in place. The idea for opensource may be good for desktop related software or some maintenance related software, entertainment software like games, utility tools like anti-spyware, messaging software and infrastructure software like- app server, database servers, email servers, messaging middleware. These are all product types where a developer could influence a small deal at any enterprise – small or large. Sales and Account management should focus on continually mapping the account – mapping influencers, buyers, naysayers, decision shy ditherers.

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