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Thursday, March 31, 2005

Tech Talk With Bill Joy

News.com publishes an an interesting conversation with Bill Joy, now with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Excerpts wit edits:
Bill once wrote,The Future Doesn't Need Us saying,Our most powerful 21st-century technologies - robotics, genetic engineering, and nanotech - are threatening to make humans an endangered species. Bill's current view on key developments centered around technological advances, innovation and entrepreneurism:

- There has to be a balance between the profit motive, which drives a lot of creativity and ethical behavior, and the responsibility to manage things, which can be abused. That balance is usually through the laws and regulations in the scientific societies, and it's important to emphasize that that balance needs to be maintained.
- Technology can be a force for incredible good. We face a lot of problems that we'd like to address with technology, such as the threat of the flu endemic.
- On tracking the multidimensional developments that technology should factor while planning for the future, Bill says,"It's not the case that any one person can deal with the consequences of what they're doing necessarily when they're doing it. It has to come from a collective responsibility. For example, in biology, where a lot of new powerful techniques are being created, it's very important that everybody pays attention to the work in their field and comment on different things in their field-not just their own work".
-In general, technology is a very powerful force for openness and change. Any rearguard attempts to limit what people can read will ultimately fail. There's a lot of creativity out there right now.
- There were a number of years where PCs were the thing, and then networking was the thing, and then the Web was the thing, and so on. But now there are really many different themes...there's a raft of different innovation going on in different areas. One can't pin it down like you could in the latter part of the '90s.

Category :

Guide To Finding Information: Search Engines

Phil Bradley has complied an excellent list of search engines with their best of utility value identified.This is a collection of search engines and similar resources that phil says he uses on a regular basis when looking for different types of information. Excellent list indeed.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

A Perspective On Software Market Consolidation

This is an abstract of a brief note that I wrote for sandhill on Software Market Consolidation.The new economy software startups measured on different parameters are beginning to realize that earnings have replaced revenue growth as the new measure of success on Wall Street. This shift in outlook and measurements are creating pressures – these shall trigger a powerful wave of consolidation throughout the industry over the next few years.
The grouping may be along the patterns of:
- Platform Players Forcing Consolidation:
- Basket of Best Of Breed Players:
The general trend toward consolidation is already felt. Big time acquisitions are already happening. This phase of growth may be stepped up in the coming days:
- Acquisitions across the segments including application, systems, infrastructure players ;
- The maturity lifecycle of the industry and the more mature players ready to leverage acquisition opportunities to improve their future standing;
- Slow pace of innovation facilitates the identification of acquisition players and acts of acquisition.
In general, consolidation needs to be driven with the objectives:
- To grow market share (limited value to customers)
- Technology upgradation (Short term attractive – over a period competition may catch-up)
- To expand domain expertise- Offers long-term benefits to the vendor and customer.
Every vendor needs to choose what’s most important depending on the state of its business and the industry. Smaller vendors shall become part of ecosystems centered around key players and to survive. please read the full article at Sandhill.

Category :.

Saying No In Business

Saying No in business is becoming an art and is an absolute must. Bill Burnham captures this succintly when he writes about saying NO to entrepreneurs. Bill writes it is essential while saying no to be:
Honest: It’s tempting to use a convenient excuse, but you and the entrepreneur are both better off if you are upfront and honest. .
Specific: To the extent that you can be specific, you owe entrepreneurs the real reasons for why you are saying “no”. Not only is this the right, professional thing to do, but it will also help force you to make sure you are making the right decision.
Quick: A fast "no" is much better than a long draw out “no”, both for the entrepreneur and for you.

( Via Slacker Manager) Skip writes in CTO’s corner about Jim Collins saying "Great" companies have a better sense of focus of their execution is the idea to start putting together a "Stop doing" List and lists common areas where this can be tried out in business.
"The customer is always right." - Slogan used often in reference to providing good customer service. But, what if the customer is wrong? What if you are providing a product or service and they just don't understand how it intended to be used and uses it incorrectly? They need to understand where you are coming from.Too often, we react to customers' need too quickly and don't understand what their real problem is (which usually isn't the problem that they are communicating).
"Every customer is a good customer"- While it is true for profit-based companies to have customers in order to stay in business, there is such a thing as having a bad customer. Find out how this potential customer treats their other vendors as well as their particular customers. You can learn a lot about how they will treat your organization. If they are coming from a competitor, really try and understand why they are leaving them and coming to you. There are bad customers who can become high maintenance and take service away from the rest of your customers. How will your other customers feel about that?
"Every opportunity is a good opportunity". This kind of goes along with the previous statement, but focusing on what products and services you provide to which industries. Diversification and ability to service and nichefication strategies are important and should be factored in. Getting into the wrong opportunities not only takes you away from the good things that have kept you in business but could come with costs that could hurt the bottom line of profitability and possibly end your business. Opportunities come with risks, just make sure you understand what they are and if it is worth the gamble.
Motherood goody goody statements are fine- but bottomline- here are times to say YES and keep on your "to do" list. There are also times where it is best to say no and add to your "stop doing" list.Saying NO is never easy but has to be done.


Jingles & RFID Tags

New Scientist reports about RFID tags that come with Jingles.Florian Wesch, a computer science student from Durlach in Germany, has worked out a way to store a tune on the radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags now attached to most goods. To squeeze a jingle onto a tag's 1-kilobyte memory, Wesch used the compressed music format employed by the Commodore 64 home computer of the 1980s.When the tag is scanned at the checkout, it would send the tune to be played by the tag reader.Interesting, may be this is a sign that RFID is moving into mainstream fast!!

Category :.

Software Industry Consolidation -Role For Outsiders?

Mike Nevens, Ex Mckinsey managing partner opines,interests of executives, board members, bankers and private equity firms is coming in the way of the"Interlocking overdue restructuring and consolidation in the software industry". Excerpts with heavy edits:
The hyped up demand for software is gone. Some of the software companies are investing for a future they can never reach. They need to be restructured – downsized, merged, acquired or liquidated. The consolidation has begun but the problem is that it is not happening fast enough or at sufficient scale. The biggest constraint is that management and directors of many companies are not thinking clearly enough about the reality in front of them. These small coalitions are self-interested & despite their modest size, these coalitions can change the course and pace of progress. They slow down decision making, introduce complexity, and often lead to increased constraints on thought and action that limit the range of options open for consideration by the senior management and boards of the companies infected with these informal coalitions. Many private equity firms are caught in the same informal web of these informal, self-interested coalitions. They depend on the cooperation of managers and executives for ideas for deals and for the management talent to run these ventures.

The potential benefits of consolidation are substantial. Restructuring could spur the software industry to do a better job for its customers. Customer spending will likely pick up only when enterprises become convinced they can get distinct benefits from their IT investments. Customers need solutions that are tailored to their industry and their current state of internal capabilities, and help in changing organizations, business practices, policies and processes to become more productive. The myriad of small tech companies cannot deliver this value proposition. They simply throw more technology at the problem –which exacerbates the situation. Mike concludes by saying,"As it happened in the energy sector, people and firms outside the circle that formed around the prosperity of the 1990s will lead the reform of high tech". I actually wanted to point to this a little later but could not resist. My views on software industry restructuring(written before Mike's view appeared),slightly different in expected outcome but, in total agreement on the basic facts and on overdue consolidation could be published shortly,as part of this series. More on this topic next week here.

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Open Source & IT Management - Next Wave

Jeff points to an interesting article on Opensource & IT Management that appeared in Linux Journal. Excerpts with edits and comments added:
- The four platforms that now dominate the IT management market-from BMC, Computer Associates, HP and IBM all were designed for the upper echelon of the Fortune 100. The result is an overload of capabilities and features that the majority of companies don't want or need. Many Global 2000 firms now pay license costs for IT management software that are very high.
- Deployment and system administration of these proprietary systems are even more expensive tasks, typically costing five to eight times the initial software-licensing fee.
- Key concern of IT teams using commercial IT management frameworks is the inherent difficulty in customizing and configuring these proprietary systems. Getting standard products configured and deployed often takes months, even years in many cases. Once the system is installed, users face rigid vendor lock-in scenarios and difficult/costly upgrade paths.
-Much like Apache during its initial rise to prominence in Web servers, open-source IT management products, such as Nagios, have matured rapidly and now offer competitive functionality and greater flexibility over proprietary platforms at a fraction of the cost.
- In 2005, however, the dynamics of the user market are shifting. With companies such as AOL, Cingular, Siemens, TicketMaster and TimeWarner Cable already embracing and relying on open-source IT management products, the category of open-source IT management solutions is poised for mainstream adoption.
- In the opensource world, product upgrades and expertise needed to maintain are more economical and lot more quicker. Opensource IT management solutions have three core characteristics that make them well-suited to the task of monitoring and managing heterogeneous IT environments:
- they provide open interfaces;
- they are built on component architectures that are highly configurable; and
- the open-source code is transparent and designed to be modifiable.

This combination makes an open-source IT management solution an ideal "manager of managers." Most companies have several different IT management systems in place already, each monitoring different aspects of the network at any given moment. One system monitors application performance, for example, while another focuses on databases and still another manages routers and other network devices. By providing a consolidated view across the entire IT infrastructure, this manager of managers approach enables better IT performance and more timely IT decision-making.
Open-source solutions lower both the upfront cost and the long-term TCO of IT monitoring and management in several ways:
-No licensing fees
-Lower deployment costs:
-Low system administration overhead
-Low hardware costs:
-A Growing Open Source Ecosystem

A number of opensource IT management products are gaining traction, including Nagios--660,000 downloads since 2001-for availability monitoring; MRTG (Multi-Router Traffic Grapher) for network device statistics; Nmap for network scanning and discovery; Ntop for network traffic analysis; SyslogNG for log file analysis; and Cacti for SNMP analysis and performance graphing. These products provide strong core functionality for an enterprise-class monitoring solution. A growing ecosystem of companies is now in place with a track record of delivering professional consulting, integration and support services that many CIOs require before making the move to open-source IT management.
My Take:Opensource is a mixed bag in terms of user adaoption thus far - paradoxically , the adoption and usage appears higher in system admin area - typically the arena of techies. Opensource need to move into the desktop and mobile market - to make its presence felt -only when millions and millions begin to use it over and over again, the movement would stop unstoppable momentum. The opensource bodies should look at the mass market segment seriously - if inroads can be made there -I beleive it is certainly possible- then it shall become the real force that could fundamentally alter the technology world.

Category :.


Technology Changes The Art Of The Possible

(Via Knowledge@Emory) Being able to read the signs and able to read the signs and stay ahead of the curve is an invaluable skill for business professionals. Benn Konsynski,a well known expert on the role of information technologies that transform enterprise and market practice, has turned his future forecasting skill into an art. Recently he spoke to a public forum in Atlanta as part of Emory University’s Great Teachers Lecture Series.
Key points in the speech:
-Science is the study of what we can know, while magic is about shaping nature to our will. Figuring out the way magic works and replicating it is the way that technology is conceived - technology is magic revealed or understood. "Magic brings the will, aspiration and purpose to conceive technology."
- Information, relates to commerce and commerce practice. The first is that information is the only commodity you can give away and still have, and second, that information is imminently recombinant. It can be ripped apart, elementalized , unbundled and recombined in new ways.
- CEOs who study history in general, and specifically the history of their company and market, have a head start in tracking what is to come. Those who try to see ahead without looking back have a poor sense of what is possibleand miss out on spotting trajectories from key events.
Assumptions to be challenged in future thinking.
- First—the myth of total revolution. "During second world war days, nuclear technology was expected to impact everything . The same hype structure killed the early stages of the Internet," he suggests. Emerging technologies need to be carefully evaluated as to which changes are viable and which are not.
- The second myth is the myth of social continuity, meaning we assume nothing is going to change. Streetlights and Air travel prove that small initiatives can become significantly big. Perceptions that narrow or limit the expectations of emerging technologies need to be challenged.
-The third myth is that of the technological fix. "Focusing on a solution to a societal ill or perceived problem limits the prospects of understanding the strength and opportunity in a particular technology," warns Konsynski, who relishes the implications of the "boiled frog" story.
Some of his thoughts about what lies ahead:
Goods will be delivered to drop points on the routes you drive, because the house is less safe and work is not convenient. Strip malls may become waypoints for pickups.
Sensor and identity technologies will be everywhere. Nanotech sensors will testify to the integrity of pharmaceutical packaging and alert us to tampering, transport schedules and mishandling.
Goods may be tracked from the second they are created until the second they are destroyed. Rules of “ownership” may change. Networks of "things" form where inanimate objects can communicate. When they disengage the network ceases to exist.
RFID (radio frequency identification products) is only the tip of the iceberg. Motes, smart dust and mesh net technologies, which are emerging right now, will proliferate and have a profound impact down the road.
The small and the many will dominate the large and the few. This is already true in building super computers. Once these were monolithic engines, now we cluster many computers and link them together. This will be especially true in nano and micro technologies.
The passive shall be active. Things will have minds of their own. Documents will want to be processed, packages will "demand" to get to locations or to people, “things” will know their rights and seek enforcement.
Commerce is based on authentication and attestation – who are you and what decision rights and authorities do you have?
Things shift from place to person, as has already happened with the cell phone. Where once calls were made to a location, now calls go to a particular person.
Country club-like commerce nets will emerge. The idea of the open network will diminish as small digital universes become more important. These will be members-only forums where you will play by the stated rules.
Technologies need to come to people and adapt to personal cognitive styles and practices, not the other way around. Up until now people have had to come to technology and everyone has needed to approach it the same way.Indeed thought provoking - speech fully ridden with powerful ideas and relevant exapmples.

Category :.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Making it easy to evangelize usability

Jakob Nielsen provides guidelines and a key word for evangelizing usability within your company.

The key word for early evangelism is to be opportunistic in allocating your scarce resources. You can’t follow the recommended usability process in all its glory because your organization lacks the commitment required. Instead of fighting windmills, go for the easy wins. Paradoxically, the more successful you are at evangelizing usability in your organization, the higher the likelihood that you'll have to change your strategy. The approach that takes your company from miserable usability to decent design is not the one you'll need to get from good to great. Typically, usability becomes "established" in a company without giving the usability group the power to fully own the total user experience. The usability group is often viewed as a service organization that supplies usability expertise to project teams at their managers' request. At this point, usability groups rarely have enough resources to supply all projects with the services they need to meet the recommended UCD process.A company progresses through a series of maturity levels as usability becomes more widely accepted in the organization and more tightly integrated with the development process.And that’s the key, being opportunity driven (and creative) instead of being resource driven.


Snapshots Or Videos

While assessing competitive scenarios, we always say speed wins- After attaining a critical mass, between competing enterprises or locations, all other things being equal – pace of advancements and speed of execution makes the difference.

John Hagel points out, "Western executives often make a big mistake in assessing offshoring and outsourcing options. They undertake a detailed comparison of current capabilities and then make their decisions based on this snapshot. But snapshots miss the point. This approach misses the fact that many offshore locations, especially in China and India, are building capability at a much faster pace than comparable companies in the U.S. and Europe. It's relative pace that counts - executives need to watch videos, rather than staring at snapshots.

He points to the Economist magazine writing in Jan saying this about Huawei: Yet the true extent of Huawei's international reach is hard to gauge and pointed to its waek technology base. Three months later The Economist quotes third party survey results as saying,Huawei's ascendancy is "astounding" and says it has already surpassed several incumbent vendors in perceived market leadership.As a result,incumbent western firms should be "very scared" of Huawei. He wonders that three months have made a difference a year in the case of the Economist. And concludes that western executives need to figure out how to position their companies in these offshore locations in ways that enable them to leverage this significant difference in relative pace.
John is perhaps right in admiring the pace of change of technology related things in China & India and the west should leverage this capability while working in Asia – while I agree with him on this – I must also say that many mainstream publications including the Economist always write with limited understanding of issues when it comes to Asia and also have no compulsion to be consistent or seen to be right in hindsight.


Using RSS For Data Integration

John Udell writes,RSS helps blur the boundaries between human network and process networks. He writes about using RSS for data integration and outlines how he has configured his blogsite to use A9's opensearch capabiliites.Excerpts with edits and comments:

Amazon's OpenSearch API demonstrates the power of RSS for process-to-process communication.
- Step one was to add an alternate interface that would return results as a lightly modified RSS 2.0 feed.It differs from a vanilla feed only by a couple of A9-specific tags. These are neatly encapsulated in an OpenSearch namespace, and they demonstrate a fact about RSS 2.0 that has been too little known and exploited: It’s extensible.
- Step two was to register the service, which can be done by pointing A9 at a document written in an A9-specified XML format.
OpenSearch is interesting in lots of ways, but the focus here is on its use of RSS. A9 doesn’t subscribe to the search-results feed in the way feedreaders would. It doesn’t poll for changes.Instead it sends a request to the site when an A9 user with an active InfoWorld column performs a search. The response packet sent back just happens to be formatted as RSS 2.0, but from A9’s perspective, it could be any XML format.
RSS 2.0 creates network effects that go way beyond the point-to-point relationships between A9 and its search partners. RSS 2.0 search results served double duty. It accomplishes the integration with A9, but it also dramatically expanded InfoWorld’s RSS surface area. Now, for the first time, one can subscribe to any InfoWorld search in a feed reader.
Most people nowadays use RSS for person-to-person communication. You know the pattern: When a publisher posts a blog item, subscribers are alerted. A growing number of folks are also using RSS for process-to-person communication. Subscribing to searches is the best example of this pattern. A9’s use of RSS for process-to-process communication represents a third pattern. We’ll be seeing a lot more of it. Not because RSS enables process integration in special ways - it doesn’t - but rather because RSS helps us blur the boundaries between human network and process networks.

Category :

Sunday, March 27, 2005

SOAP : From Brain Dead Onto Real Death!!

Carlos Peres in a series of postings says, writes SOAP is Comatose But Not Officially Dead. Carlos writes," SOAP is comatose, but hasn't declared legally dead by either IBM or Microsoft. SOAP is supposed to be the underpinnings of Web Services. Between 2002 and late 2004, despite the knowledge of SOAP’s tight coupling approach, the industry by and large persisited with SOAP.
With the rise of REST and the fall of SOAP, denial has been now replaced with panic". Carlos adds, "The RESTful approach has now born fruit. Applications like BlogLines, Flickr, Mappr, Del.icio.us and 43Things are revealing that proof is in the pudding. All of these have shunned SOAP in favor of more RESTful designs. Carlos demonstrates through a no. of blog posts the disdain with SOAP by various people in different contexts. Some of the writins include the likes of - Distinctions between enterprise and "consumer" are breaking down. REST is evidently where that convergence is being played out, not WS-I".
While examing SOAP’s interoperability- Carlos writes, "Of course, the last 2 tips are the most revealing of all. If everything is sent over the wire as a XML document that is described by an XSD then it all boils down to how easy you can work with these documents. That is working with XML api's like DOM and XPath. The enclosing envelope should be irrelevant to the concerns of the average developer; it should be treated like just any other transport protocol. All that extra machinery provided to support the SOAP envelope is precisely that, extra machinery and has never been shown to improve interoperability. Therefore, in terms of effort, interoperability via SOAP is not any easier than doing it in REST. In fact, its actually more insidious because a developer is all too easily lulled in the fallacy that an object is the same as the XML document" and concludes SOAP is brain dead..

In a follow through posting, Carlos writes,The last nail may have been when Yahoo announced its Web Services. REST was awarded the design win over SOAP. The Yahoo! Search Web Services are all REST services. That means you can easily construct request URLs that will work in your browser, on the command line, and in your code. Carlos concludes,"The day REST is synonymous with "Web Services" is the day SOAP is truly dead, and that day may have arrived a day too early for many".There is no doubt that SOAP has failed to live upto its promise and the industry is now pushing REST in a big way.

Category : .

Amazon, Technology & Winning Ways

Amazon.com has one potentially big advantage over its rival online retailers. Excerpts with heavy edits and my comments added:

While competitors have detailed systems for tracking customer habits, critics and boosters alike say Amazon is the trailblazer, having collected information longer and used it more proactively. Amazon has collected detailed information about what its customers buy, considered buying, browsed for but never bought, recommended to others or even wished someone would buy them. It has built ever-more sophisticated tools to recommend more purchases, direct your searches toward products it thinks you're most likely to want, or even stop the forgetful among us from buying the same book we purchased five years ago."In general, we collect as much information as possible such that we can provide you with the best feedback," said Werner Vogels, Amazon's chief technology officer.
More recently, Amazon has launched a Web search engine, called A9, with ability to remember all individual searches - and the site reserves the right to share that information with its retailing arm. Amazon also funds a Web site called 43 Things.com. It seeks to link people with similar goals, such as getting out of debt. There are questions whether A9 is worth the hefty investment.A9 ranked 41st in popularity among search engines in February, attracting only a fraction of visitors to Google or Yahoo.
Manber, A9’s chief says,- there are no current plans to link customer's Web searches with their Amazon shopping habits, even though data from both sites are stored using the same customer log-in. Amazon's backing of 43 Things potentially gives it an opening into social networking. At the site, people list personal goals and find out who else shares their ambitions. Many internet companies, including Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Google Inc.,are investing in technology that seeks to build communities.

My Take: A9 seems to give me-too results like other search engines, but with a more complex interface- we have to see how this finds users regularly reusing the search engine.I see clear synergies and definite value add for amazon to develop such networking sites such as 43things.com. Amazon’s collaborative filtering and recommendation mechanism is definitelt miles ahead and all set to improve further and reap bigger rewards for amazon. The technology coupled with Amazon’s process gives it an unparalled edge even attracting rivals to use the Amazon platform.Technology edgethat can accurately anticipate a customer's greatest desires is going to be a differentiator in the growing competition with Internet-based upstarts and traditional retailers moving online, - customer relationship centers around this.Amazon may need to get more explicit and understand the sensitivities involved.

Category :.

Inc Magazine Selects 26 Most Fascinating Entrepreneurs

Inc. magazine goes behind the scenes with 26 entrepreneurs who best exemplify the extraordinary drive, creativity, and passion of American business. In the top 26 list, one for each year of Inc., spans the gamut of the entrepreneurial world, from well known names, such as Richard Branson, Michael Dell, and Martha Stewart; to Tony Lee, a former janitor who bought out his steel manufacturing employer; to Craig Newmark, who has been almost the antithesis of a dot-commer with his no-frills Craigslist site. Inc. says, no matter what the accomplishment, each entrepreneur profiled here offers a fascinating case study in what it takes to thrive in today's economy. Interesting list indeed - when the fad now is to to a fault focus only on high tech industry, the selection looks balanced.

Category :Entrepreneurs.

Swami Vivekananda's Chicago Address in MP3

(Via Reuben) Divyesh of Desigeek has put up MP3 versions of Swami Vivekananda's famous speech at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893. The quality looks good indeed given the fact that these were originally recorded in 1893. The links:
Part 1 and Part II.


The Future Of Microsoft?

Thomas Hazlett writes a provocative article titled Is Microsoft toast? Excerpts with heavy edits, cross references and my views added:
Apple, finally price competitive with PCs, and offering software used interchangeably with other programs, the company is staging a run. Apple’s share of the US desk top computers market was up by half from 2003 to 2004.That share is still low – just 3 per cent for desk tops, about twice that for notebooks – but a much bigger run may be in the offing. Apple, with its tight, integrated interfaces cinching hardware to software has proven powerfully resistant to viruses and spyware, the poisonous infections of the Internet. Microsoft users scramble to update their software with the latest patches, frantically downloading anti-viral software, running and re-running spyware disinfectants. With the Mac offering equally proficient word processing, presentations, spread sheets, web browsing and email, along with the standard multi-media applications, many look at Apple as a credible alternative.
A new "browser war" has been launched in the form of Firefox.We covered the viewpoint Firefox is to IE, What IE was to Netscape,wherein we covered the raise of Firefox. Customers are embracing Mozilla because it navigates the web faster than I.E., is free to download, and resistant to spyware.The threat, just as with Netscape (and its embedded Java script) a decade ago, is that valuable functions will gradually shift away from Microsoft’s domain – including, in the end, the operating system itself. This application creep happens so easily – like Google -providing a new and improved search engine, splices in a few well-targeted ads, and is now capitalized at $50bn. Microsoft, despite ‘owning’ the software on which the applications run, did not get here first. We also covered the threat perception to microsoft in the piece Bandwidth is microsoft's enemy where we looked at the challenges and opportunities for Microsoft in the high bandwidth world.The range of product innovation chipping away at the large, increasingly vulnerable incumbent is impressive, and the diversity of organizational innovation more so. Apple is today on the upsurge because its personal computing systems have been vacuum-sealed, and because the company has – to the point of fetish – delighted in producing its own devices. Its dominance challenged, Microsoft is trying hard to come back – with a new, more bug-resistant Internet Explorer web browser, with vastly expanded email (Hotmail and MSN) offerings, and an array of intensive counter measures. This looming competitive Armageddon may well rock Microsoft to its core, it most certainly will produce a new bundle of benefits for consumers.
My Take: Microsoft appears to be losing customer centricity and their cultural DNA seems to be moving away from incremental innovation –particularly with the windows platform and their inexplicable delay in rolling out Longhorn are clear indications of losing steam. Microsoft will take decades to be out of business as their product basket of offering is wide – and some niches may still save the company- We have written earlier that Microsoft has made impressive strides in the CES market- we covered Russ's viewIts game over for microsoft's competitors in the CES space, but also note that they are not able to shine in the areas of search, blogging etc.. We also covered earlier Microsoft dropping the passport initiative clearly a demonstartion of not being able to make it work well enough despite its size and pursuing a powerful idea at hand. I am still baffled why Microsoft (other than for being selfish about its interest) as to why Microsoft is not considering providing a hosted solution - when enteprise application software vendors are beginning to provide and stepping up aggression in pushing. Microsoft may end up to be a palse shadow of its present –that would be sad indeed – but the risk is indeed high for Microsoft. Microsoft is lucky that currently there is no one alternative that can dislodge it in key arena's - starting particularly in the desktop segment..

Category : Microsoft

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Mobile In Gas Stations - Anatomy Of A Techno-myth

The Economist writes, The debate over the safety of mobile phones has little to do with science. Excerpts with edits and comments:

Adam Burgess, a researcher at the University of Kent, in England answers the question- Can mobile phones cause explosions at petrol stations?. For the concern rests not on scientific evidence of any danger, but is instead the result of sociological factors: it is an urban myth, supported and propagated by official sources, but no less a myth for that. Mobile phones started to become widespread in the late 1980s, when the oil industry was in the middle of a concerted safety drive. A precautionary ban on the use of mobile phones at petrol stations was imposed,in large part, a response to the Piper Alpha disaster in 1988, when 167 people died in an explosion on an oil platform off the Scottish coast. The worry was that an electrical spark might ignite explosive fumes.
By the late 1990s, however, phonemakers—having conducted their own research—realised that there was no danger of phones causing explosions since they could not generate the required sparks. But it was too late. The myth had taken hold.Despite the lack of evidence that mobile phones can cause explosions, bans remain in place around the world, though the rules vary widely. Such concerns are part of a broader pattern of unease about mobile phones. There is a curious discrepancy, Adam Burgess notes, between the way that such phones have become indispensable, and the fact that they are also vaguely considered to be dangerous. The safety of mobile phones would appear to be not so much the province of the hard science of physics, as of the soft science of sociology. Some belief's are indeed very difficult to dislodge!!.


Yahoo – The UnGooGled & The New Bridge Between Silicon Valley & Hollywood

Michael S.Malone writes, "For sometime Google has been the yardstick by which business and technology success is measured". Excerpts with heavy edits and comments added :

The indignity to Yahoo is unfair as Yahoo's numbers show: 165 million registered users, 345 million unique visitors a month, $49 billion market cap, and a 62 per¬cent increase in revenue last quarter, bringing 2004 total revenue to $3.6 billion. Yahoo makes more money and has more patents, services, and users than Google. Given Yahoo’s recent financial results and the expected growth in its business- Yahoo may very well be the most valuable business on the Web. Yahoo is the biggest consumer Internet company you may almost never think about.
Yahoo is everything on the net - offers specialty services,mass appeal, narrow and wide,shallow and deep – its both horizontal and vertical," COO Dan Rosensweig says, rather unhelpfully. Terry Samel has revived one of the great Internet brands using a classic tool of old-world business, M&A, and simply by giving the customers what they want. He has spent money in acquiring Web companies like Inktomi and Overture. As Om Malik points out –"Yahoo’s Overture division is finally getting its act together and rolling out its small-publisher service. By buying Flickr earlier this month and OddPost last year, Yahoo has bought into the open-standards, web services business model, something which has gotten it much love from the bloggers. Adding RSS and blogs to My Yahoo first makes them cooler than the other two - MSN and Google. In an effort to beat Google, the company has upped its free email storage to one gigabyte. Yahoo offered desktop search tool, just like Google. It is launching a blogging-meets-social networking tool, Yahoo 360".

Yahoo believes in horizontal scalability - As an Internet company, it's possible to continually add products and services based on market demand without worrying about shelf space or distribution. Yahoo has the technical capability to build most anything- recent additions like video search, desktop search, and RSS reading are shining examples. Yahoo has the cash to buy anything it chooses not to build. Each service becomes more valuable in concert. This effect is only amplified by broadband.
- Google is focussed on technology while Yahoo says their focus is in understanding what customers want.
- Google invents for markets that don't exist; Yahoo goes after markets it wants to own. If that means a state-of-the-art search engine, so be it.
- In short, while Google was busy becoming what Yahoo! used to be, Yahoo! has become what AOL should have been.
- After Yahoo delinked Google from search early indications are that - Yahoo! is actually gaining ground in Google's core business. These findings, along with the fundamentally different approaches to business, would seem to point to an epic clash between Yahoo! and Google.
Yahoo and Google are headed in different directions. Google is on its way to battle Microsoft later this decade, while Yahoo is looking towards Hollywood. Yahoo wants to delivering rich content to any Web-enabled device at any time, a vision that could make Yahoo the obvious next step in Hollywood's Internet strategy. Yahoo doesn't just want to deliver movies. – but wants to provide more personalized experience. Customizing the site down to the neighborhood level will make it more appealing to users and indispensable to advertisers.Powerful forces driving the business holding great potential for Yahoo’s business. Technological change and further customization will be constants. Jerry Yang says, "Access isn't sufficient. It's not enough to search. You also have to find - and then share with others. That's where this company is going" Yahoo has really come back with a bang – its proof that solid companies with dynamic plans and nimble footed decisions would win in this internet 2.0 age as well.


The Clash Of The Business Models - The iPod Phone - When? If Only!!

(Via Businessweek) Mobile carriers such as Verizon and Cingular are hesitant to sell the Apple-Motorola gadget. Excerpts with edits and my comments added:

The iPod mobile phone looks irresistible than a device combining the digital-music prowess of Apple Computer with Motorola's expertise .The launch is delayed apparently due to lack of support from such giant cellular operators as Verizon Wireless and Cingular. The wireless companies are reluctant to promote the Motorola-Apple phone. Behind the clash are two very different views of the future of music on mobile phones. Motorola and Apple would let customers put any digital tune they already own on their phones for free. That would help Motorola sell more phones, and it would help Apple expand its dominance of digital music. Verizon, Cingular, and other wireless operators want customers to pay to put music on phones. The carriers have no interest in conceding the booming digital-music market to the tech players. Carriers are seeing, Apple as "a competitor not to be embraced, but to be rejected."

For the 99¢,paid by customers for iTunes,Apple only gets about 4¢ of that, after paying the record company and others- Apple says iTunes is only a breakeven business. Verizon and others typically subsidize the phones they sell to customers, One way would be for U.S. carriers to follow the in Europe where carriers such as Vodafone Orange, and O2 have set up their own digital-music stores, letting customers download music tracks over the cellular network to their phones. Carriers get a slice of the $2.80 customers pay per song. Wireless players also could offer customers subscription services, with access to thousands of songs for a flat monthly fee of $15 or $20.

U.S. carriers hope to position themselves as major players in digital music and swipe the spotlight from Apple. Their ideal scenario would be for customers to use their mobile phones as digital jukeboxes, plugging in headphones to listen on the go and dropping the phone into a cradle attached to stereo speakers at home. While Apple and Motorola may object, wireless operators can buy music-downloading handsets from phonemakers that are willing to play by their rules - perhaps aggressive Asian players such as Samsung and LG. "There is a sweet spot in mobility and music," says James Ryan, Cingular's vice-president for consumer data services.

Smaller rivals, such as T-Mobile, may peddle Apple to gain ground on the industry leaders. Motorola says it's working out ways for carriers to profit from digital music, and it expects to launch the phone with that support this summer. Motorola and Apple could also bypass carriers altogether and sell the phone via retail stores or their own Web sites.
My Take: Interesting battle ahead – battle of business models and we have to wait and see how the consumer pull factors weighs in here against aggressive push by dominant players – is there a role for any additional regulation here not that one asks for – but can wireless carriers be legally right in refusing to sell new models of phones that consumers may like? Consumers may also want to ask the question why should the wireless players want consumers to pay almost three times more than what Apple in charging for downloading music? Apple should get more aggressive and may be open its treasure chest a bit to muscle in. Apple should also try and penetrate non-US markets- Apple is traditionally late entrant in the the international markets - more so when mobile market is growing fast particularly in Asia - where music is also a very significant medium and it may be easy for Apple to tie up with different mobile carriers in the fragmented asian markets.

Category :Emerging Technologies, :Business Models

Websites As Public Digital Content Repositories

We recently covered Paul Allen's view, Fastest Growth Sites Are Built on User Generated Content. Paul writes,one of the most powerful ways to develop web site traffic is to enable users to share their content through your web site with others-to create community around user generated content.Many of the fastest growing web sites of all time did this (or do it now): MyFamily.com, eBay, GeoCities, Xoom, Homestead, MySpace, Epinions, Hotshots, LinkedIn.com, Meetup.com, Friendster, and more.If sites are uses to get customers to blog, use message boards, upload photos or reviews, the effect shall be dazzling.With open source software (for message boards, blogs, uploading photos, and more) and with the cost of hard drive storage a tiny fraction of what it was five years ago, the time has never been better to try a user generated content strategy.

Siliconvalley reports, websites aiming to become repositories and clearinghouses for a wide variety of digital content created by the public tapping into a growing interest in so-called grass-roots media, are getting launched. Ourmedia, is offering a central place for people to upload and store any digital media they want to share with the world, including video, audio, images and text files. The service is free.The service could help content producers find new audiences for their work. And it could become a cultural archive for researchers and future generations of Internet users wanting to view history through an alternative media lens. Grassroots media has enjoyed an explosion of interest in the past year, fueled by the increased credibility of bloggers and the growing popularity of video and audio tools such as camcorders and editing software.
Content is proliferating. A video blogging Internet discussion board - which had only about 50 members in December - now has about 5,500. Podcasting has spawned thousands of amateur Internet radio shows.The Internet Archive, building its own massive digital library, has agreed to host the Ourmedia files on its Web servers. Ourmedia's free hosting is a boon to video and audio artists, who can face costly storage and bandwidth fees when they upload large media files to the Web.
The organization eventually plans to release the source code of its Web site, potentially spawning an array of similar Web sites and media repositories. The group also is talking with companies such as Yahoo and Google about hosting media files on their own servers. It wants third-party developers to build their own interfaces to its content. And the group is exploring peer-to-peer technology that would allow Ourmedia to become a gateway to media files stored on individual personal computers
Much of Ourmedia's vision is shared by another site called NowPublic, allowing everyday people to act as editors, reporters and photographers. A user submits "assignments" requesting information about a particular topic or event, and others upload video, photos or text to complete the story.With increased web activity, lowered bandwidth costs,plummeting storage costs and advancements in webservices technology coupled pioneering initiatives like this, the voluntary digital content movement is all set to grow rapidly.
Category : Emerging Technologies.


Remixes & The Long Trail

Someone mailed me today to say that all blogs are remixes and packaged rehashes - I have enormous respect for him and his idea.While I see his point, I disagreed with it completely.The Long Tail is now Big Business. .Brian Dear writes,about the Long Trail. "Remix" is the theme of the Etech conference "Remix your hardware", "Remix your software", "Remix your web".The thing about remixing is that it makes something new out of something old. The act of remixing itself is nothing new. Remixing even in media is nothing new. Remixing in music in particular Mash-ups, remixes, all that stuff has been around for decades. The path hewn by the pioneers of remixing goes way back. It's a long trail.
The Long Trail is about the unevenly-distributed future. Stuff that's coming on your radar today came on someone else's radar days, or weeks, or months, or years, or decades, ago. Stuff being presented at the ETech conference is for the most part remixes of work done over the past years to decades. This isn't necessarily bad, but it is interesting when the conference is called "Emerging Technology". Thanks to blogs and a saturation of news and technology websites, one knows a lot of what's going on.
Pito Salas offers an excellent perspective with a counterview saying criticisms that new products getting launched are similar to doctoral thesis published long back miss the key point that,sometimes the kernel of an idea came from some other project. Often things are invented simultaneously in different domains. while certain products 'perfect' what was done already in a more primitive way - A'successful' product has a relatively small bit of 'science' or 'invention' or 'creativity' and a ton of great engineering, not to mention marketing, sales and business strategy. So there's nothing new under the sun, it's all just remixes. But that doesn't necessarily make it unimportant!
My Take: I totally agree - not everything need to be fresh creations, nor we should always overlook what currently exists - part of new growth shall be extensions of what exist and intersection of what currently exists would lead to newer ideas or products - so i think we should never underestimate to ability to build on what exists and by all means encourage looking over the shoulders of giants and the ability to build on others thoughts. Innovation would not come out of vaccum.

Category : Emerging technologies

Friday, March 25, 2005

Technology & Our Changing Daily Lives

David Kirkpatrick writes,as technology becomes more pervasive in our lives, we seek out other less obtrusive gadgets to protect us from all the noise.Excerpts with heavy edits and my comments added:

In this device centric age, technology is increasingly defining usage of time.The amazingly small and light iPod is giving new insights into how technology is changing our daily lives. With the iPod shuffle, it's infinitely easier to live in a world of music. Subway riders are quieter than they once were. David thinks that as many as 25% of all the commuters either in the cars or on the platforms are listening to music, an audio book, or a Podcast in NYC. In the Tokyo subway, almost all the commuters pull out cellphones or other electronic devices and peck at their miniature keyboards, sending messages or playing games. In Korea,Taiwan,Singapore, Hongkong - things are not far different.

David thinks that this is something the music industry needs to fully appreciate We can now simply listen to more music. That's why downloading music has got to be an unalloyed good for the industry. The music companies probably have to figure out different pricing models, but there's no question that the industry's opportunities are growing, not diminishing, as people have easier access to music and listen to it more often. David reckons one reason that music could be becoming more centric to us in digital lifestyle has to do our exasperation with the other technologies -cellphones, PCs, BlackBerries, laptops, etc. With all these devices, we're wired and ready to receive telephone calls, e-mails, IMs, and instant everything all the time. The email is particularly annoying– with each passing day its more and more debilitating. David writes, email is becoming a curse, not a blessing.with increasing numbers and too time consuming. Music soothes the frazzled beast,helping to sooth frayed nerves!! David’ further goes on to discuss about the cellphones and playstations – well reflected thoughts and quite insightful. So more technnology and more innovation is clearly the answer to the ills of technology.

My Take: Mobile in its present form may also become as unpopular as today's email.It is clear that over the next five years with more and more digital devices integrating into our daily lifes and more and more digital infrastructure getting installed - life is never going to be the same- it is as if a new world, true in its physical sense as well - is getting created. Huge opportunities await those who sense and take steps to leverage this massive emerging tecchnology and applications

Category : ,

Web Services Mash -Up @ETech

There's much excitement around the public web services springing up from big players and not-so-big players alike: Google, Amazon, eBay, PayPal, Salesforce.com, Alexa, Technorati, Flickr, del.icio.us, etc. The possibilities when you string these services together are indeed amazing. Alan Taylor of Kokogiak,and associated with "Amazon Light", an early example of what could be done with Amazon.com's Web Service platform,Erik Benson of erikbenson, associated with 43things.com and allconsuming.net and Cal Henderson of Ludicorp come together to make an oustanding presentation titled web services mash-up. Some of the key tenets outlined include:

•Complementary data is your friend
•Overlaps, Intersections, Keywords, Tags, Categories, etc.
•Use a common "key" to fetch multiple results (technorati tags)
•Chain results together, building on each call (Google Categories -> Flickr tags)
•Add your own information into the mix

Some Considerations to be thought through include:
•Terms of Use, Attribution/credit/licensing
•Acting conservatively (when using others' resources)
•Reliability/Graceful failure (esp. when results are chained)
•Caching (wisdom of and methods of)
•Using RSS as an API, screen-scraping
•Encourage opening up other APIs, make it business-wise.

The presentation is also made available here.

Category: Webservices, Emerging Technologies.


Patterns - Picture & Word Fusion

Jonathan Harris launches TenByTen.An interesting site that works with the process that every hour, 10x10 scans the RSS feeds of several leading international news sources,primarily Reuters, BBC & New York Times and performs an elaborate process of weighted linguistic analysis on the text contained in their top news stories. After this process, conclusions are automatically drawn about the hour's most important words. The top 100 words are chosen, along with 100 corresponding images, culled from the source news stories. At the end of each day, month, and year, 10x10 looks back through its archives to conclude the top 100 words for the given time period. In this way, a constantly evolving record of our world is formed, based on prominent world events, without any human input.When you open 10x10, you will see a grid of the top 100 world images that hour, ranked in order of importance, reading left to right, top to bottom. Along the right edge of the screen are listed the corresponding top 100 words, one for each image. 10x10 is built using Perl, MySQL, PHP, and Macromedia Flash.Wordcount is a related Site of the 86,800 most frequently used English words arranged as a single sentence. Clearly finding patterns make the difference - if through this well engineered implementations powered through uniquely designed algorithms, if we are able to find new patterns in words and pictures, we have advanced in technology with possibilities of potential breakthrough in fields like Pattern Recognition and Artificial Intelligence.

Category : Emerging Technologies

Dr Gernshenfeld & Fabulous Fabrications

(Via Economist)Dr Gershenfeld,the director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Centre for Bits and Atoms believes the world is poised for a personal-fabrication revolution,- a way to help inventors in poor countries realise their ideas. He hopes Fab lab will, be part of it.In his opinion,just as computing power moved from million-dollar mainframes to hundred-dollar PCs, industrial-scale machinery is, beginning a transition to the desktop. While personal fabricators will not replace mass production, he believes that within the next few years they will allow individuals and small businesses to customise products to their needs. At $20,000 each—the fab lab may indeed release an outpouring of frustrated talent.
Just as Startrek had the replicator—a device that could assemble any object, atom by atom- The Nutri-Matic vending machine concocted drinks molecule by molecule in, personalising them by analysing an individual's taste buds, metabolism and brainwaves, with moderate success. Neil Gershenfeld,has built version 1.0 of the personal fabricator, and it is already being deployed around the world.The "fab lab", as Dr Gershenfeld has nicknamed his invention, is a collection of commercially available machines that, while not yet able to put things together from their component atoms, can be used to make just about anything with features bigger than those of a computer chip. Among other tools it includes a laser cutter that makes two-dimensional and three-dimensional structures, a device that uses a computer-controlled knife to carve antennas and flexible electrical connections, a miniature milling machine that maneuvers a cutting tool in three dimensions to make circuit boards and other precision parts, a set of software for programming cheap computer chips known as microcontrollers, and a jigsaw (a narrow-bladed cutting device, not a picture puzzle). Together, these can machine objects with a precision of a millionth of a meter. The fab lab's purpose is to endow inventors—particularly those in poor countries who lack a formal education and the resources to implement their ideas—with a set of tools that can translate back-of-the-envelope designs into working prototypes.
Fab labs to create sensors meant for measuring fat are being deployed in Indian In Ghana, people have used the labs to produce a cassava grinder, jewellery, car parts, agricultural tools and communication equipment such as radio antennas. Solar-powered items to harness the relentless local sunlight are in the works. In Norway, Sami animal herders are using fab labs to make radio collars and wireless networks to track their charges. In Boston, the residents of a mixed-income housing complex are using the fablabs to create a wireless communication network.This opens up the opportunity in infinite ways for technology to reach the mass - helping the poor and underdeveloped in the process.

Category : ,

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Evolving Blogging Platforms

Jeremy writes after Yahoo’s acquisition of Flickr and launch of yahoo 360- He sees that the blogging market falling into fairly well defined places- there is a already a well defined split between the hosted services that offer blogging capabilities (Blogger, TypePad, Y! 360, LiveJournal, etc) and the "host it yourself" model.That second group is the ecosystem that MovableType and WordPress currently dominate and these may continue to do so. If you further divide that into "corporate/enterprise" and "personal/non-profit" groups, both products will find their respective roles.
WordPress will come to be the de-facto choice in the world of self-hosted personal weblogs and low-end webhosting "value added" package. MovableType will be the blogware of choice in the corporate blogging world, both for internal weblogs and those that face the outside world

My Take:I agree with Jeremy's view thus far,( he has avoided discussing about blogger at length,considering it is the markestshare leader - I can well agree - Google has done little with blogger so far and service is worsening!), for personal projects that are self hosted - I think WordPress appears to be the best choice. For managed solution TypePad and MoveableType may need to be considered. Though Movable Type, appears to be losing its edge.These prefeences can change. Over time, competition will intensify and new players would try and get into this space. The hosting solutions like blogger and typepad are going to grow increasingly popular as more and more people begin blogging. WordPress has a lot of momentum behind it.

Category : Blogging Tools.

A Brief Perspective On Offshore Outsourcing & American IT Service Enterprises

A brief piece on the topic of offshoring written by me has been published at Sandhill. While not covering all dimensions of offshoring, have tried to cover a few key factors. Excerpts with edits:

Every form of digital data – creation,transformation and reporting is up for grabs in the offshoring world. But as Daniel Drezner points out,"Close to 90 percent of jobs in the United States require geographic proximity. Such jobs include everything from retail and restaurants to marketing and personal care - services that have to be produced and consumed locally, so outsourcing them overseas is not an option". There is also no evidence that jobs in the high-value-added sector are migrating overseas. The parts of production that are more complex, interactive, or innovative - including, but not limited to, marketing, research, and development - are much more difficult to shift abroad.Outsourcing would affect less than 2 percent of employed Americans. I refer to Paul Strassman’s views that there is no direct evidence to support the frequent predictions that U.S. firms will tend to outsource in order to increase profits and thus eventually leave America with a "hollow" economy.

Who will win the offshore race? The US IT services firms are under tremendous pressure from their customers to demonstrate better value for money focing them to be provide delivery from global centers. The legacies between India headquartered enterprises and traditional IT services companies are different- It’s the Southwest Airlines Vs United Airlines legacy difference. Having talented employees trained to deliver services is not enough. Leading offshore service providers have developed tools, methodologies, processes, and the management expertise for providing services to clients across geographies. India headquartered vendors think of focus on speed, imagination, and excellence in execution as a sustainable competitive differentiator. The already established western service providers often tout domian knowledge and well entrenched relationships as their edge –Empirical evidence suggests that this is not an exactly inimitable edge. If you find this abstraction interesting -please do visit sandhill.com and read the full piece.

Category :


Blogosphere - Readers Survey Findings

Henry Copeland has published the results of this years blogosphere survey. Some Interesting results:
- Year over year, some figures are remarkably stable. One reader in five is a blogger. As was the case last year, exactly 1.7% are CEOs. Almost the same number (44%) spend more than $500 for air tickets. 86% purchased music online, last year and this. Last year, 79% were men. This year, 75% are men.
- Clearly the blogosphere is crawling with certified grade A opinion makers.
- The blog readership appears quite broadbased with readers from all industries - Computer professionals constitute just 8% and just about 10% people from the computer related industry.
- Almost 88% of readers find the blogosphere to be between useful and extremely useful in providing news and opinion.
- More than 70% do not use RSS readers for reading blogs and that 90% plus readers never listen to a podcast every week.Interesting details.

Category : Blogs

Ideas for Corporate RSS Feeds

Elizabeth Albrycht shares some good ideas for deploying RSS in corporations -i nternally as well as part of your employee communications, knowledge management, content management, and other systems. Excerpts with edits and comments:

1) RSS offers a way for users to organize incoming information - to overcome spam related issues around email– on their terms (since this is user subscription based). While ads are increasingly entering RSS feeds, but they remain relatively free from spam at this point.
2) RSS provides a great channel for delivering press releases to the journalists and analysts covering your company without clogging up their email inboxes. This channel can be used to deliver information that might not be worthy of a press release, but which you deem could be interesting to press/analysts nonetheless. Some companies using feeds successfully for their newsrooms include: Cape Clear Software ,IBM, Intel etc
3) RSS can be used to keep partners informed. It would be a good idea to add an RSS feed to extranet or partner area and keep it populated with press releases, announcements, product detail, meetings, etc.
4) To Keep your customers informed : Besides news, one likely target is product support information. Product tuning, specs, troubleshooting and security updates are just a few of the topics that companies like IBM, Oracle, Microsoft and UserLand Software provide in their RSS feeds.
5) Provide specific informational categories to enable users to receive what they are most interested in. There can be distinct feeds for different products / Geographies or services.
6) Resource centers/online libraries could be made dynamic. RSS can be used to inform audiences of new case studies, white papers, and presentations. By providing a feed specific to your library, people don't have to visit the website to see what's new.
7) RSS feeds can be created for each event planned, as well as a general event feed that keeps your audiences up to date on where and when your organization will appear.
8) RSS feed can be setup to capture and publish everything that is being said the organization online, and audiences can be kept up to date on the buzz in an automated, easy-to-manage manner. This also provides a great way for employees and executives to listen to what people are saying about the organization.
9) RSS feeds can be set up to feed for special promotions. Limited-time only product discounts, early-bird specials to events, prizes and more to key customer sets can be provided.
10) RSS feeds can be created using private (password-protected) RSS feeds as public ones. These can be a great way to keep employees, partners, customers informed of company happenings, events, promotions, office closings, and other information you don't necessarily want widely available.A feed can also be used for a final press release distribution 24 hours before it hits the wire, - to comply with SEC regulations. Well thought out - with RSS feeds getting more and more popular - corporates need to embrace feeds in a big way - in as many ways as possible.

Category : Feeds.

Music To Knowledge : Rapid Strides

Paul Lamere writes about the field of Music Information Retrieval (MIR)- a fairly new field, rivalling and perhaps even exceeding the field of speech recognition in terms of the technical challenges. Excerpts with edits:

Successful MIR researchers typically need to master signal processing, machine learning, symbolic representation, search techniques, pattern classification as well as music theory. Advances in speech recognition over the years have been aided by the availability of a number of freely available toolkits such as HTK, ISIP and the Sphinx family of recognition engines. Just as with speech recognition, the availability of good tools will help advance the state of art of music information retrieval. M2K is an open-sourced Java-based framework designed to allow Music Information Retrieval researchers to rapidly prototype, share and scientifically evaluate and has been just released.

M2K comes with a large set of MIR specific modules, (currently oriented toward audio-content-based analysis), as well as a number of sample itineraries (an itinerary a task-oriented configuration of modules). M2K builds upon the D2K data mining framework developed by the Automated Learning Group at the NCSA. M2K is open source, the code is well written by folks who understand MIR. M2K provides bridges to other toolkits such as Marsyas, and Matlab. Perhaps most important, M2K has a tie-in to the IMRISEL which will soon be hosting a large collection of music (in audio as well as symbolic form) that will serve as a resource for MIR researchers. This is key to MIR researchers since getting access to large bodies of music can be very difficult and expensive. The Music and in general entertainment industry is making rapid advances and research and tools like these would help improvements in a significant way.

Category : Entertainment

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Paul Graham On Startups

Paul Graham, author of the book Hackers & Painters gave a talk recenetly at the Harvard Computer Society about building Startups. Excerpts with edits:

- You need three things to create a successful startup: to start with good people, to make something customers actually want, and to spend as little money as possible. Most startups that fail do it because they fail at one of these. A startup that does all three will probably succeed.all three are doable. Hard, but doable. And since a startup that succeeds ordinarily makes its founders rich, that implies getting rich is doable too. Hard, but doable.

- You don't need a brilliant idea to start a startup around. The way a startup makes money is to offer people better technology than they have now. But what people have now is often so bad that it doesn't take brilliance to do better. Google's plan, for example, was simply to create a search site that didn't suck. They had three new ideas: index more of the Web, use links to rank search results, and have clean, simple web pages with unintrusive keyword-based ads.

- An idea for a startup, however, is only a beginning. A lot of would-be startup founders think the key to the whole process is the initial idea, and from that point all you have to do is execute. What matters is not ideas, but the people who have them. Good people can fix bad ideas, but good ideas can't save bad people.

- It's no coincidence that startups start around universities, because that's where smart people meet. It's not what people learn in classes at MIT and Stanford that has made technology companies spring up around them. If you start a startup, there's a good chance it will be with people you know from college or grad school.

- If you work your way down the Forbes 400 making an x next to the name of each person with an MBA, you'll learn something important about business school. You don't even hit an MBA till number 22, Phil Knight, the CEO of Nike. There are only four MBAs in the top 50. What you notice in the Forbes 400 are a lot of people with technical backgrounds. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, Michael Dell, Jeff Bezos, Gordon Moore. The rulers of the technology business tend to come from technology, not business. So if you want to invest two years in something that will help you succeed in business, the evidence suggests you'd do better to learn how to hack than get an MBA. There is one reason you might want to include business people in a startup, though: because you have to have at least one person willing and able to focus on what customers want. Some believe only business people can do this- that hackers can implement software, but not design it.There's nothing about knowing how to program that prevents hackers from understanding users, or about not knowing how to program that magically enables business people to understand them.

-The difficulty faced in a startup would not be more than you'd endure in an ordinary working life. It's probably less, in fact; it just seems like a lot because it's compressed into a short period. So mainly what a startup buys you is time. That's the way to think about it if you're trying to decide whether to start one. If you're the sort of person who would like to solve the money problem once and for all instead of working for a salary for 40 years, then a startup makes sense.

- Starting a startup is not the great mystery it seems from outside. It's not something you have to know about "business" to do. Build something users love, and spend less than you make. How hard is that?

Category : Startups.

Mark Fletcher On How Bloglines Was Built

Mark Fletcher, on his experience in starting Bloglines.

• Passion - because it will consume your life
• Cheap technologies - great time to start an Internet service.
• Hardware/software is getting cheaper
• Keep it simple
• Release early and often
• Moonlighting limits risks
• Free services - less pressure
• Hire a lawyer
• Web services APIs are a good thing
• Find good help (especially sys admin)
• Outsource to eLance.com (you can outsource all kinds of stuff. Have contractors bid for your work)
•Architectur 101: Front-end (web, mail servers); Backend (user dbs, other dbs, storage)
Software choices :
• DBJ (http://cr.yp.to) qmail djbdns daemontools
• ClearSilver (web templating package)
• Berkeley DBs
• Linux/Apache
• C/C++/bash/python
• Skiplist data structure
• Avoid NFS
• Avoid table-level locking in MySQL
Hardware choices :
• Two choices: dedicated servers vs. buying/hosting. Dedicated server route – costs are less
• Design for cheap hardware
• eBay - hardware cheap
Architecture choices:
• Copying files vs. client/server
• Calculate on the fly vs. cache
• Relational DBs vs. Flat Files (all blog articles are stored as flat files)
• RAID vs. Redundant
• Linux software RAID 1 - rock solid
Sysadmin choices
• DNS round robin for web
• Hot back-ups for off-line processing

Andrej points out,the size of the company was under ten at the Ask Jeeves acquisition. Marks presentation is available here.


The Inmelt Revolution @ GE

GE under Jack Welch focussed on super efficiency drives, financial engineering, process centricity - all these made wonders in yesteryears- The new GE is moving into a performance framework of hard-nosed, investment, incentive and penalty laden with heavy emphasis on risky but with potential high return to fule high growth "Innovation & Imagination Breakthrough" projects. Inorganic growth is out and new portfolio management principles come into place.This the new GE. Businessweek writes Jeff Inmelt is turning GE's culture upside down, demanding far more risk and innovation. Excerpts with edits and comments added:

Jeffrey R. Immelt admits to two fears: that GE will become boring, and that his top people might act like cowards.He worries that GE's famous obsession with bottomline results - and tendency to get rid of those who don't meet them - will make some execs shy away from taking risks that could revolutionize the company. Immelt, is clearly pushing for a cultural revolution. For the past 3 1/2 years,he has been on a mission to transform the hard-driving, process-oriented company into one steeped in creativity and wired for growth. He wants to move GE's average organic growth rate - the increase in revenue that comes from existing operations, rather than deals and currency fluctuations - to at least 8% from about 5% over the past decade. The new imperatives are risk-taking, sophisticated marketing, and above all, innovation.

Inmelt is throwing away long-cherished traditions and beliefs. Immelt has welcomed outsiders into the highest ranks, even making one, Sir William M. Castell, a vice-chairman. That's a serious break with GE's promote-from-within past. He is pushing hard for a more global workforce that reflects the communities in which GE operates. Immelt is also encouraging GE managers to become experts in their industries rather than just experts in managing. Instead of relying on execs who barely had time to position a family photo on their desk before moving on to the next executive assignment, he's diversifying the top ranks and urging his lieutenants to stay put and make a difference where they are. The GE chief is tying executives' compensation to their ability to come up with ideas, show improved customer service, generate cash growth, and boost sales instead of simply meeting bottom-line targets. As Immelt puts it, "you're not going to stick around this place and not take bets."

Globalizing research has allowed GE to get closer to overseas customers.Most of GE's growth will come from outside the U.S. Immelt predicts that developing countries will account for 60% of the company's growth in the next 10 years, vs. about 20% for the past decade. Over the past 18 months, Immelt has agreed to invest $5 billion in 80 projects that range from creating microjet engines to overhauling the brand image of 3,000 consumer-finance locations. The hope is that the first lot will generate $25 billion in revenue by 2007 - cheap, if it works, when you consider what it would cost to acquire something from the outside with that level of sales. In the next year or two, Immelt expects to have 200 such projects under way.To Immelt, the best managers are great marketers and not just great operators. That's a rethinking of GE's long-held bias that winning products essentially sell themselves. Immelt is also looking for more leaders who are intensely passionate about their businesses and are experts in the details. "I want to see our people become part of their industries," he says. For him, reinventing GE is the only way to make his company dominate this century, much as it led the one before. As Tom Peters points out, "Kudos to Welch on talent development: All three of the finalists for his job—Jeff Immelt, Bob Nardelli at Home Depot & Jim McNerney at 3M are going gangbusters!".

Category : Change Management & Growth.

Oracle -Tough And Exciting Times Ahead??

New Peoplesoft = Peoplesoft + JDE
New Oracle = Oracle + New Peoplesoft
New-New Oracle = New Oracle + Retek

Not Sure what would follow. This is not an exercise in tautology.
The challenge for new-new-oracle is the roadmap for integration.There are now four code designs and schema to be harmonized. Different classes of cutomers and multiple varieties of implementations to be supported and upgraded. Customers need to be convinced of the integrated roadmap.The transition challenges are indeed phenomenal in the design of the new platform and less said the better about the migrations that customers need to spend on. Would this be a good opportunity for external service providers and oracle consulting – some may think that this may cause nightmare to service providers.
Come to think of it – there are not many companies in the world who have succeeded in integrating products with huge customer base all that well. During the acquisition proceedings of Peoplesoft, Oracle was predicting huge maintenance revenue stream – irritating some customers. Microsoft’s acquisition of Great plains and performance of companies like CA/DIVINE which acquired a lot of product companies have not been anything to write home about. But oracle might have assessed all the downsides before plunging into this. Here’s wishing new new oracle and its customers all the very best.

Category: Mergers & Acquistions.

Gates : The PC Era Is Just Beginning

We recently covered in this blog, Nicholas Carr's views titled, "requiem for the PC" wherein he wrote that the the PC is the engine of computing, in business it's just a cog and not even a particularly important one anymore. In Nicholas Carr's mind, PCs dispersed the power of computing to individuals, spurred ingenuity, and boosted personal productivity. They made companies leaner and smarter and they sped the development of networks, leading ultimately to the establishment of the Internet as a thoroughfare of commerce. But the rise of robust, high-capacity networks has also made the desktop PC less essential. Computing resources - from processing power to storage capacity to applications can increasingly be provisioned to users from afar.To gain economies of scale, companies are consolidating their hardware and software assets in central data centers or even renting the capabilities they need from far-flung utility suppliers and this could potentially mean the end of the PC Era.

Bill Gates, in his counter viewpoint says Although critics claim the desktop is passé, its greatest potential and that of other computing devices is still ahead. Gates viewpoint in summary:

-When PC was launched, only big companies could afford bumb terminals hooked to central units. Computing resources were scarce and costly. The advent of PC changed it.

- At economical levels, companies can now empower their workers with raw processing power providing quantum leaps in productivity, communication, and collaboration with PC technology.

- The PC is now a rich ecosystem encompassing massive PC-based data centers, notebook and Tablet PCs, handheld devices, and smart cell phones. It has expanded from the desktop and the data center to wherever people need it - at their desks, in a meeting, on the road or even in the air.

-Single-purpose applications like word processors and spreadsheets have evolved into rich collaborative tools that help teams share information and work together efficiently. Web services are enabling companies to unlock the knowledge of an organization, empowering individual workers to make more strategic decisions, and turning a company's most valuable asset into a strategic tool that drives competitive advantage.

- The Web-services revolution blurs the distinction between information, applications, and services on PCs and mobile devices, on a company's intranet, or on the Internet - offering customers seamless computing and communications wherever they are.
- In technological terms, a lot of intelligence is moving to the edge of the network. Managing a diverse ecosystem of connected servers, PCs, and mobile devices is a vastly different task than managing the relatively static and disconnected networks of the past, and software tools are evolving in turn to enable systems that increasingly manage themselves.

- Computing will change our lives more in the next 10 years than it has in the past quarter-century - and that the PC, in all its forms, will be the centerpiece of this new wave of innovation.

My Take: The PC is no doubt facing massive challenges - challenges in the form of raise of pervasive devices, advances in telecom bandwidth and consequently the advent of hosted solutions as a serious option( Gates has not touched upon this) and we are not seeing any findamental changes in the PC operating systems and collabaration is taking new forms which Windows family is not able to catch up with. Most of the criticism about the PC comes from the operating system's fundamental instability and poor reliability. I think that PC's contiuned use depends to a large extent on the speed and featured in future windows rollout and to an extent the increased reach of the functionalities of the mobile and the PDA.Afterall the PC sale volume is very less compared to the mobiles which are selling several times over.

Category: Personal Computers.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Bill Burnham On 2005 Software Top Trends

Bill is spot on when he writes, XML is at the heart of almost every significant trend in the software industry from Service Oriented Architectures, to Message Aware Networking, to Composite Applications, to Data Abstraction. Bill writes, for all its importance though, XML has always played second fiddle to HTML. However 2005 may well be remembered as the year in which XML eclipses HTML in terms of overall importance to the web. That’s because XML is now the de facto language of machines-to-machine interaction on the web and such interaction is exploding thanks to adoption of web services and the proliferation of web-capable devices. Now XML is evolving to the point where many new XML-based standards seek to embed within XML aspects previously only associated with complied code, such as business logic and state. In this way XML messages are now becoming free standing bits of code and integral parts of applications. In essence, XML messages are becoming software. I also concur with Bill in his reading Sofware as a service where he writes, 2005 may very well turn out to be the year that software as a service goes from being an alternative means of delivering software to being the preferred means. I can already see a groundswell of favorable opinion about this with small enteprises.

Bill's 2005 Top 10 Software Trends:
#1 XML
#2 Open Source
#3 Software As A Service
#4 Service Oriented Architectures
#5 Message Aware Networking
#6 Inter-Enterprise Applications
#8 Composite Applications.

Category : Emerging Trends

Long Tail Or BOP : Nicheification Or Commoditization

Chris Anderson writes on the topic Long Tail Vs. Bottom Of The Pyramid and comes with some insightful observations:
- The BOP like the Long Tail, is about finding ways to efficiently address sub-economic markets. BOP is talking about how to sell goods and services to the world's 4 billion poor, for mutual benefit. Chris earlier wrote aboutThe Biggest Market Is In The Smallest Sales. The natural thing is to relate the bottom of the pyramid & the Long Tail.

- The similarities are notable. Both theories are based on the notion that if you break the economic and physical bottlenecks of distribution you can reach a huge, previously neglected market. They both recognize that millions of small sales can, in aggregate, add up to big profits. And they're both focused on ways to lower the cost of providing goods and services so that you can offer them at lower price point while still maintaining margins.
- There is a key difference between them that makes them fundamentally incompatible. The Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP) argument is essentially based on commodification. Take existing goods and services and make them an order of magnitude or two cheaper, either to buy or to make but ideally both. Typically, this means reducing goods to their bare essentials and delivering them on a massive scale.This requires:
- 1) low price points;
- 2) minimal marginal costs (reduce consumables and packaging to the bare minimum);
- 3) "de-skilling" services so non-experts can deliver them;
- 4) the use of local entrepreneurs
The canonical example is the 1 cent single-serve shampoo.The BOP model is focused on taking a single product or service and finding ways to make it cheap enough to offer to a larger, poorer, market. Chris think - so this is essentially about commodification.

- The Long Tail, on the other hand, is about nicheification. Rather than finding ways to create an even lower lowest common denominator, the Long Tail is about finding economically efficient ways to capitalize on the infinite diversity of taste and demand that has heretofore been overshadowed by mass markets. Affluent and rich (those comparable to those in the head) find themselves in the tail.Indeed, they are often drawn down the tail by their refined taste, in pursuit of qualities that are not afforded by one-size-fits-all. And they are often willing to pay a premium for those goods and services that suit them better. The Long Tail is, indeed, the very opposite of commodification.
- The Long Tail is made up of millions of niches. The Bottom of the Pyramid is made up of mass markets made even more mass. Both lower costs to reach more people, but they do so in different ways for different reasons. Chris concludes, They're complimentary forces, but fundamentally different in their approach.
My Take:Both ideas are about expanding the market. It's just that they represent different but complementary approaches. The idea is to create a different financial structure enabling a wider choice of portfolio at lower price points. Some questions remain though:
- Can a same organisation or business model benefit from both the long tail and the bottom of the pyramid?.
- Can commoditization or Nicheification provide entry barrier to competition and if so how easy is it to get past them?.
- Would these models inherently suit one industry segement over other - say would The Long Tail be more adaptable to say services and commodification to manufactured goods etc , or suit different geographies differentl say nicheification in the US and commoditisation in the Africa's?.
- What impact these approached would have on say the new economy industries over the traditional industries.
- The economic benefits - while BOP has already demonstrated some attractive economic returns - we need to analyse the economic returns from the Long tail as seen from different players - volume or variety need not always contribute positively to profits - the data needs to be studied in more detail

Category: Longtail
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