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Saturday, December 31, 2005

Bidding Goodbye To Microsoft Monopoly

Between Jan 1 2005 & Jan 1 2006, Microsoft appears less and less powerful - hardly looks like the tiger getting stronger - but looks increasingly challenged on several fronts. Slashdot's Roblimo has written an interesting essay titled - Is Microsoft Still a Monopoly?. He writes,"Microsoft Windows still dominates the desktop. But in many other areas, including Web servers and supercomputing, Microsoft is just one player among many, and often a weak player at that. On the gaming side, despite the latest xBox getting all kinds of media buzz as "the" console to buy, Sony's Playstation outsells the xBox at least two to one, and many analysts expect Sony to widen that gap even more when Playstation 3 comes out in the Spring of 2006. On the Internet, MSN and MSN Search are so far behind AOL and Google that it isn't funny. And even on the desktop, Linux keeps getting stronger, while Mac OS X is commonly accepted as more reliable, secure, and user-oriented than Windows. He has assessed various factors that are making Microsoft dance and concludes that - “No matter what Microsoft does, it will never have a software monopoly again. Nor will any other company". The barriers to entry in the software business have become too low for that to happen, and too many skilled software developers are learning that they can earn at least as much working for themselves as they would by working for big software companies”.
My Take : Microsoft has not been able to show its strength in the enterprise segment - look at the status of Project Green, its impact with .NET(limited success), Biztalk, in the BPM space etc - all shows that it is another type of corporation with massive strengths no doubt - but certainly can be competed against successfully. I certainly agree with most of Roblimo's observations – except on opensource. First of all – Roblimo is putting so much emphasis on the opensource movement’s ability to roll out worldclass applications out of garages in different parts of the world – I am not so convinced –as I wrote here - am yet to find a credible response to the query where’s innovation in opensource. Secondly – the battle ahead lay in terms of who would control the standards in web services – for instance search patterns, information usage/dissemination patterns, digital footprints etc. Microsoft is vulnerable on multiple fronts – it lost significant hold when it lost the api war. After all it was felt months back that bandwidth is microsoft’s enemy. Most of Google initiatives for the desktop have really diminished the hold of microsoft in the desktop, but still the much expected WebOS or office killer app are yet to arrive – these are awaited for several months(the delay itself clearly highlights the challenge of even coming with good alternatives – let aside dislodging microsoft. Moves like that of Apple are yet to make an impact – some said that microsoft would anyway benefit out of this. Microsoft is also fighting back admirably – look here, here. Roblimo – if you ask me is Microsoft monopoly closer to an end – most probably yes –but that would be in large measure due to efforts of competitors and changing business dynamics and opensource is only a very small part of it – but clearly Microsoft has a bumpy road ahead. But I sincerely hope that when we close the new year 2006 – we are able to say with credibility and confidence – Goodbye to Microsoft monopoly (through field proven alternatives) – in all aspects – This is definitely possible - all it requires is very concerted action through tighlty bound corporate initiatives at this stage and not through loosely coupled free-form initiatives.

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Online Intersections With Traditional Media

USA Today ran a story about U.S. music album sales. Get this: 2005 album sales were down 7% from the previous year while digital downloads of music doubled! U.S. album sales were down about 7% as 2005 drew to a close, but the budding market for music downloads, which more than doubled over last year, helped narrow the revenue gap. The article goes on to note that this isn’t particularly bad news for recording companies, but “it doesn’t bode well for music retailers.” Combined, album and singles sales fell about 8% over the same time last year. More than 95% of music is sold in CD format. Downloaded tracks from online retailers soared to 332.7 million this year, compared with 134.2 million in 2004, an increase of 148%. Download sales increased by 350% over the prior year. Michael Hyatt predicts, a big enough slice of the book reading public will opt for digital delivery and that will have a significant, disruptive effect on the entire industry. As he sees it, 5-10 percent reduction in sales would wreak havoc. It’s already happening with newspapers and magazines. On the other hand, publishing companies that anticipate this shift and prepare accordingly will prosper.He is spot on when he sees that when technology shifts happen – quality does not matter beyond a certain level - The quality of MP3 files is not as good as the quality of CD tracks. Yet, customers are switching in unprecedented numbers. The trend of having 10,000 songs at your fingertips in a device that can fit in your pocket is intoxicating—at least to millions of people.
Apple has 84% of the legal download market and has sold 600 million songs to-date and has more than 10 million customers. If we look at the publishing industry as Michael sees it – may not portend the death of traditional book publishing, but it will mean a significant shift, perhaps a seismic shift. But this calls for a radically different business model for book publishers. Like the USA today combining e-newsroom and print media. I hold a slightly different view in respect of online presence for major media - online presence advances easy reach and more sales - numerous studies suggest that several consumers look at websites - before making the actual purchase either online or offline. Recenty Dow Jones announced more profits from online compared to traditional media(This in my opinion reflects two things: Online making traditional media reach to larger people and rise of online world can't be resisted - better embrace it -Indications are that combined strength of both online and offline readership of WSJ is larger than traditional print media readership).Retailers can definitely experience that buyers of all trendy and unique things surf online, do their research before any purchase - In the online world through comparison shopping, targetted advertising, promotional schemes, personalisation and preference patterns all provide unique value that can potentially drive offline sale as well quite significantly. Add mobile technologies and online world - the combination can really create deep impact in the offline world.

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Steve McConnell : Good Read

Steve McConnell is one of my all time favourites – in fact he distills rich experience into very well articulated set of advise – I keep telling all software developers that all Steve McConnell’s writings are a must read – I think that he has the right flavour and mix in discussing various software engineering concepts – all embellished in simple, direct and practical terms. So when I came across the online version of his classic mistakes enumerated, I can not resist making mention about it here. Here are some types of the 36 classic mistakes that McConnell describes in detail:

- People Related Mistakes
- Heroics
- Adding people to a late project
- Politics placed over substance (etc.)

- Process Related Mistakes
- Abandonment of planning under pressure
- Planning to catch up later
- "Code-like-hell" programming (etc.)

- Technology Related Mistakes
- Silver-Bullet syndrome
- Overestimating savings from new tools or methods
- Switching tools in the middle of a project (etc.)

With most of the professional service enterprises scaling up very aggressively and with the average experience coming down, the writings and experience of the likes of Steve Mcconnell are highly relevant. A must read for all interested in software development.

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Friday, December 30, 2005

Web 2.0 : Time For A Reality Check

Web 2.0 is clearly getting disproportionate coverage in the blogosphere. Web2.0 share in the real world as delivering value to business and society is indeed limited - if we look at the enterprise software – they directly are responsible for making the business machines hum and improve- be it airline scheduling, dispatching crude oil or treasury management or powering the stock exchanges of the world. Mike Arrington lists out a set of Web 2.0 applications that he sees as quite essential – the list has within it - some well known names – Technorati,FeedBurner, Bloglines, Flickr, Memeorandum, del.icio.us, skype & WordPress etc. The enthusiasm and the excitement shown for Web 2.0 apps amazes me – as these defy long held priniciples of wisdom. Its high time that these so called Web 2.0 companies are examined from the first principles viz. Business models – merely becoming attractive to be bought over by Yahoo’s & Google’s of the world would not be sufficient. If you see closely even the valuations of bought out firms have been very moderate.No doubt advances in technology to develop and distributed services off the web is an important landmark – most of Web 2.0 apps germinate out of this. The reigning mantra seems to be - "build it first and figure out how to attract visitors – they will anyway come” business model – the underpinning hope is that once a critical mass of visitors are achieved, revenues can always be generated. AdSense funds the operational cost of several web 2.0 enterprises. Surely not the way to build a scalable & enduring business . I sort of agree with the view web 2.0 lacks meaning & magic. I am fine with already established players like Amazon & Google getting web2.0 tagged – am also fine with finding a productive niche to thrive in the information value chain. Moving forward like in the e-business space, we need to have the wisdom and mechanisms for cross-integrating/leveraging web 2.0 applications for larger benefits – this calls for standards in development , build & integration blocks – all this would come only out of a solid base of web 2.0 apps that get built beneath – truly a tall order given the fragile nature of several web2.0 entities. We can definitely see a petering out of the web 2.0 momentum as we see it now and several entities would disappear – but one hope is that out of this something robust and strong might emerge – but we have cut through the hype.

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Offshoring IT Services : Signals Getting Stronger

Ronna Abramson finds that an increasingly huge pool of global demand makes it a good bet for India's top IT outsourcing firms to outrun their larger rivals in 2006. The year ending Mar 2006 will mark a milestone for Indian offshore outsourcing firms - Infosys and Wipro, as their revenue crosses the $2 billion mark. Satyam has already crossed the billion dollar run rate this year. Ronna finds that the streak will continue in part because Indian firms have just scratched the surface of potential demand. The statistics related to offshore outsourcing makes an interesting reading.
Goldman Sachs estimates suggest that the offshore model has penetrated less than 10% of Global 500 IT budgets for core application maintenance and development work and as the Indian companies are expanding into new areas such as network and data-center management, consulting, and business process outsourcing of such departments as human resources and accounting. As far the multinationals leveraging offshore, analysts widely believe there's so much offshore opportunity that the multinationals will have little effect on Indian firms' revenue.The growth may hinge upon the ability to attract talent. Richard Schroth, a senior fellow with Katzenbach Partners, also believes that the multinationals already have so many moving parts that adding offshoring to the mix is likely to be challenging. I earlier wrote about this - you can find them here, here, here and here.
And the multinationals still have far fewer employees in India than do the local companies. Offshore has fully moved into the mainstream from the demand, as well as delivery capability perspective and demand will likely remain very robust.Goldman Sachs has done an assessment of India's Net Workforce Growth - worth a close reading.Clearly , one can look to India to continue to remain the sweet spot of offshoring. The recently released Mckinsey -Nasscom report puts it so succintly: In the next five years, Indian IT services shall generate US$60 billion in revenue and perhaps sustain 9 million jobs and adds in terms of importance -like oil for saudi, cars for japan, services could be of such importance to india. Now many ask me how to differentiate the offshore majors( remember the core focus area amongst offshore players may vary) based on these data – all other things being equal – look at the data with this perspective:
- Long-term: Head count growth correlates 90% to 95% revenue growth (factor average pricing and pricing trends as relevant)
- Short-term: Utilization drives revenue and margin
- Operating margins seldom change drastically once stabilized.
- Look at EBITA margin & AR numbers & their correlation.
- The crucial differentiation would be Human resources and depth of talent – including attrition and lateral recruitment efficiencies
- Always ask for the depth of talent – for eg- ask for average years of experience with the organization and also ask for average experience of consultants in the IT industry – I suspect that surprisingly in most cases both are going downwards – not a healthy trend though
- Assess sensitivity for revenue mix shifts

(Image Courtesy : Thestreet.com/Goldman Sachs research)

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The Fortune 500 Blogging Index

Chris Anderson writes about a wiki created collaboratively developed together by between Socialtext & Wired magazine that tracks which of the Fortune 500 is blogging. The list finds that only 3% of the F500 are doing so. Microsoft blogs, and Apple doesn't. Sun blogs and Intel doesn't. GM blogs and Toyota doesn't. In a meeting with Doc.Searls the question arose and Chris writes in the eyes of Doc - the risks and uncertainties of public business blogging are so great that big companies only do it under duress, when their traditional corporate messaging has lost traction. So companies on the way up don't want to mess with their success by introducing a new lens on the enterprise that isn't controlled by the PR department. But companies on the way down are willing to try anything to regain the confidence of their customers.This site has a list of F500 companies with blogs – both internal and external are listed here. The NewPRwiki also has a list of CEO blogs. This spreadsheet lists the Fortune 500 blogs & he finds that the average trailing 12-month share performance of the blogging members was +5.7%, while the non-blogging members was +19%. A commendable effort in compiling the list. This Fortune 500 Business Blogging Wikiis created to expand the list. Somehow I could not find in the excel sheet - noteworthy IBM blogs from the likes of Irving Wladawsky-Berger, Amy Wohl, Grady Booch and countless others from the IBM stable.what may be seen as extending things too far, Chris says the idea is to make the list robust enough to create a business blogging index!!!

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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Morgan Stanley on Outlook for India -2006

While it is fashionable to be bullish about the growth of Key countries in Asia, Morgan Stanley takes a cautious view about the outlook for India in 2006. An acceleration in GDP growth over the last two years to 7% pa has been one of the key factors focusing investors’ attention on India. Although we have been positive on India’s long-term growth outlook, we believe that the recent acceleration in growth was driven largely by cyclical external stimulus. Given that these favourable global factors now appear to be reversing, we believe India will face a pullback over the next 12 months in the form of a slowdown in growth and tightening liquidity conditions. A large part of the recent growth in industrial production and to a lesser extent services sector growth has been driven by cyclical global factors. This strong global liquidity spillover into India has allowed the government to pursue relatively loose monetary and fiscal policy, pushing domestic consumption growth to a new high. Acceleration in consumption growth has largely been driven by a rise in borrowing rather than income growth. India’s share of goods exports to the US has not seen any significant improvement over the past two years, and therefore most of the acceleration in India’s export growth appears to be largely a reflection of the demand cycle - this is important as asian economies are in general dependent on exports to US.The report also says china is about to suffer from an export fatigue. Although the Indian economy continues to benefit from relatively low global interest rates and stronger global GDP growth, the government has cushioned the economy from the attendant cost of higher oil prices.

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Enterprise Predictions for 2006

These are the comments that I posted in Vinnie’s site upon seeing his 2006 enterprise software predictions. In general, buyers are more cautious and would not easily get sucked in vendor speak – lot more detailed evaluations and price negotiations, clarifications can be expected – the average sales cycle may also increase for enterprise players – not shorten as expected due to consolidation effects.
Point 1 – Agreed on the marketing fronts– But I expect a much more renewed aggression from SAP in the marketplace and Oracle sharpening its focus given that the whole world is looking at how they are going to move forward – I believe that both SAP & Oracle shall be forced talk more about architecture in the new year – Agreed Oracle’s emphasis could be a heard more. In fact I expect Web Services/SOA to get more pronounced inside enterprises – agreed that these need not be just centered on SAP/Oracle.
Point II – Integration of RFID,RSS & GPS would certainly happen – but not sure if we shall see Ver 2.0 now – the fatigue of enterprise s/w overspend is still felt by CIO’s at all levels.
Point 111- Fully agreed- BPO shall see more and more push . Already financial services are beginning to look at leveraging social networking media aggressively
Point IV – Not sure – may not happen that fast – not in 2006
Point V – Agreed – we shall see the re-emergence of small super specialists – The world would see more of the E2opens and likewise new model consulting & service firms.
Point VI – Fully agreed – If I may add customers would begin to demand the benefits of offshoring /global delivery that these yesteryear big guys so eloquently talk about. Indian headquartered vendors would be moving/growing faster then ever into newer arenas. here as well.

On the rest of the points : China would see more of global / Indian HQ big players leveraging it for supply – but volume growth may just be gradual – am skeptical about chinese service firms making acquisitions oversees and growing – certainly not in 2006. On SaaS – I find that the vendor offerings would improve –the movement has succeeded in creating mindshare amongst buyers - now it the time for the SaaS players to step up aggression – many of them have not scaled up in terms of their reach and may need to be step up engineering and sales efforts much more significantly to tap the opportunity. Storage management, asset digitization would see lot more spend in 2006. Compliance management and benefits are getting debated already – but are bound to become more shrill – with so much money going in there – Surprising that enterprise vendors and service firms are not visibly lobbying for its continuation/making it more tight – given that they are the best beneficiaries of this. I also see the consolidation efforts amongst small software product players ( some of them walking dead) continuing to happen in the new year and some consolidation happening in the mid to tail of the Indian headquartered offshore service vendors and small product vendors leveraging offshore lot more aggressively for engineering works. New technology absorption/offerings in the enterprise space shall continue to be felt at the small product player levels before the big guys begin to embrace- to that extent the ecosystem shall remain vibrant. You can see the comments here.
I would like to add a few more things related to the post here:
A. The big guys would also be pressurized to share the price benefits of engineering getting offshored and I expect atleast one major announcement of support price coming down due to offshoring.
B. We shall see the enterprise guys making investments/acquisitions in new age technologies like RFID – The SME market segment opening up shall see a new equation emerging in the enterprise space – the traditional No.1 /No.2 may not necessarily hold good.
C. I also see that the best-of-breed vendors talking a decisive position in terms of offshoring most of their engineering or close to near full co-option of India HQ service firm consultants masking as their PS arm.
D. I see greater adoption of BPM solutions amongst large and medium enteprises.
D. I anticipate far more adoption of web services and SOA in the new year - not necessarily centered on offerings from establiched players

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Alaska Airlines #536 - Anxious Moments

Jeremy Hermanns, a passenger in the Alaska airlines flight bound for Burbank, and a GA-VFR pilot, writes about the Alaska Airlines cabin depressurization and panic at 30000 feet. Seattlepi reports that an aviation expert finds that the jet was probably struck by a baggage cart while at Sea-Tac and the incident was not reported before the plane took off for Burbank. The damaged area of the plane would have been weakened by the ramp incident and the aluminum skin then likely ruptured once the jet neared its cruising altitude. All this happened due to a non-unionised member probably damaging the fuselage!. Oh God.. Now I realize how valuable the words - "travel safely" and "happy landing" means. I did not see any press release in Alaska airlines website on this incident. Look at the saftey numbers and also this impressive document on safety fromBoeing.Also good to know that no one was injured in this - aviation safety, is in many ways an important driver for global economic engine to keep humming - the more and more that we can make it safe - all the more better.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Microsoft : Looming Challenges Ahead

While some beleive that Micosoft shall have a good year ahead, Ray Ozzie's perspective about what microsoft could be doing in the year ahead - there are some important area where Microsoft's progress shall be monitored in the coming year.This list provides a good summary of key themes that Microsoft needs to go after in the new year.Besides taking Vista to the boardroom- microsoft needs refresh its online strategy. Itslatest online strategy is to match Google’s every move in hopes of raking in more advertising dollars, while taking yet another stab at subscription services. 2005 saw a lot of motion—leaked memos, blog buzz, reorgs, and a new "Live" brand—but little progress in terms of service improvements, audience share, or dollars. I agree that Microsoft’s online strategy must start to gel in 2006, or the company will find Google continuing to steal headlines and rake in the advertising bucks—or worse, building online services that begin to compete with Microsoft's core software franchises.

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Korea & Convergence

Japan and Korea have always been the trendsetters in the mobile and convergence segments. Korea'sbroadband advances are amongst the most recognised about the nation. Courtesy of Smartmobs saw this assessment of the status of convergence in the Korean market. I had been to Korea several times and in many ways associated with several developments there – and it is interesting to note that indeed the telecom market was dominated by
developments related to digital convergence. Video-on-the-go services, dubbed digital multimedia broadcasting (DMB) as a cross between telecom and broadcasting, commercially debuted in May. Amongst the most notable initiatives include -landline access speed to a wireless terminal, pilot run of the broadband convergence network (BcN) project, an ultimate network integrating traditionally separated telecom, Internet and broadcasting pipelines, seamlessly switching over to a wired or wireless connection. BcN, which promises a speed of 100 megabits per second (Mbps), about 50 times faster than current broadband norm of 2 Mbps, has been touted as a mainstream network of the future. Satellite DMB, became popular this year - enabled by a signal beamed from satellite, lets folks on the road to enjoy crystal-clear video, theater-quality audio and data through in-car devices or handheld terminals like cell phones. IP TV has failed to be adopted,as in other parts of Asia and fixed-line telecom carriers are struggling to find the right time to market the futuristic services. today in the world - the number of mobile phones exceed the number of landline phones available- all this has happened in less than 15years –in korea, 80 % population are mobile subscribers as against 60% population subscribing to landline. Spurred by saturated local market, telecom operators are desperate for growth in digital convergence segments. Korea is all set to lead us into newer and newer developments in this convergence age.

Category :Convergence,

The Rise Of KPO

Several months back I wrote,Every form of digital data – creation, transformation and reporting is up for grabs in the offshoring world. Eric Keller was indeed right when he wrote, took Japan more than 30 years to obtain a strong position in key U.S. industries, such as Automotive and Consumer Electronics and that It will take half as long for India to do the same for service-oriented industries with IT leading the charge. Britton now writes, "Get Ready for Knowledge Process Outsourcing". As he sees it, the next wave of offshore outsourcing will revolve around high-end knowledge work. It may also have important implications for companies engaged in customer analysis and intelligence initiatives.
Different waves of outsourcing – from manufacturing to IT to business process have all been quite beneficial to business by and large and the upcoming trends is about knowledge process outsourcing (KPO) - outsourcing meets customer intelligence. KPO refers to knowledge-intensive work that involves specialized domain expertise. High value processes that fall into this realm: valuation; research; investment researches; patent filing; and legal and insurance claim analysis. That would certainly include customer analytics and related processes. Some see KPO business in industries such as pharma, biotech, management services, financial services, technology research, engineering. But other skills that are directly relevant to those engaged in customer intelligence work have been mentioned including financial analysis, data integration, and research and analytics.
As we echoed G.B.Prabhats's view,Across every industry spectrum, there is potential for knowledge work to relocate to India. In fact numerous studies/ discussions with industry CIO's have confirmed the firm arrival and growth of knowledge process outsourcing, A paper prepared by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) reveals that KPO would grow at 46% to reach a staggering US$ 17 billion by 2010. India’s transition from being a BPO destination to a KPO destination is imminent. The paper lists areas with significant potential for KPO include pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and ICT, besides legal support, intellectual property research and design and development for automotive and aerospace industries. India stands to gain from its inherent strengths in the healthcare sector, pharmaceutical and biotech sector and ICT sector. India could emerge as a global KPO hub as the business requires specialized knowledge in respective verticals and the country's large number of engineering and technical institutes are geared to address the manpower demand. Clearly as in IT Outsourcing India is emerging the clear favourite here. India: The next knowledge superpower - Today & The Way Forward covered a widescope perspective about the readiness of the nation to offer such sophisticated services. New Scientist wrote sometime back ,there's a revolution afoot in India. Unlike any other developing nation, India is using brainpower rather than cheap physical labour or natural resources to leapfrog into the league of technologically advanced nations. Every high tech company, from Intel to Google, is coming to India to find innovators. But the revolution is not confined to IT. Crop scientists are passionately pursuing GM crops to help feed India's poor. Some intrepid molecular biologists are pioneering stem-cell cures for blindness,while others have beaten the odds to produce vaccines for pennies. From a beneficiary perspective, like early IT services offshoring inititors gained more through IT outsourcing, in KPO as well, early movers would stand to gain a lot more.

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Portals To Choose Insurance Advisors

We have so far seen chat being used interactively for customer services - online customer interaction has never really gone beyond in a sustained way.Just as internet banking empowered customers online shopping experience, Insurance companies are trying to innovatively make use of the internet and collaborative platforms to provide better interaction experience with the customers. ING Vysya Life has borrowed the blogging concept to provide an online presence to its top insurance advisors who can use the portal to increase their strike rate for converting their business from a larger number of potential customers. The platform provides the prospective customers the facility to select from the 27 advisors in six cities featured on its Web site and interact with them to get comprehensive information on insurance products. The interactive service will not eliminate personal meeting to clinch the subscription but is aimed at helping in sharper advisory capabilities to target the right products to the right customers. ING maintains that this service could be scaled up globally if found successful. . This is quite noteworthy. I would typically like to see the kind of tracking that the fedex uses to trace status - ideally service companies should be in a position to track and expose progress of the movement within the department to let stakeholders know about the progress. This should happen eventually.


Paul Graham On Time Management & Procrastrination

Several people ask me repeatedly , how I manage things amidst so much of travel. I do not know whether I am all that good in managing things in time – most of my friends think that I can do better!! However I see some colleagues who do much better on this front – with so much travel they accomplish a lot more.Time management doesn't begin with managing time, it begins with finding our own individual purpose, establishing our mission, and setting our goals to achieve that mission. Paul Graham, points out that there are three variants of procrastination, depending on what you do instead of working on something: you could work on (a) nothing, (b) something less important, or (c) something more important. That last type, is good procrastination. Type-C procrastinators - put off working on small stuff to work on big stuff. Good procrastination is avoiding errands to do real work. The mildest seeming people, if they want to do real work, all have a certain degree of ruthlessness when it comes to avoiding errands. The reason it pays to put off even those errands is that real work needs two things errands don't: big chunks of time, and the right mood. If inspired by some project, it can be a net win to blow off everything else to work on this for the next few days to work on it. Yes, those errands may cost more time when you finally get around to them. But if a lot get done during those few days, you will be net more productive. In fact, it may not be a difference in degree, but a difference in kind. There may be types of work that can only be done in long, uninterrupted stretches, when inspiration hits, rather than dutifully in scheduled little slices. Conversely, forcing someone to perform errands synchronously is bound to limit their productivity. The cost of an interruption is not just the time it takes, but that it breaks the time on either side in half. Years back Steven covey’s book First things first defined a minor framework – to classify criticality of time management

1. Important and Urgent (crises, deadline-driven projects)
2. Important, Not Urgent (preparation, prevention, planning,
3. Urgent, Not Important (interruptions, many pressing matters)
4. Not Urgent, Not Important (trivia, time wasters)

Paul’s advise is certainly good – “the way to "solve" the problem of procrastination is to let delight pull one instead of making a to-do list push thing. Work on an ambitious project that one really enjoys, and sail as close to the wind &leave the right things undone.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

2005 : The Year Of Google

As the year comes to an end - amongst several enterprises that made news for the moves made - Google stands out - one gets a felling as if the year thats about to end should be christened THE YEAR OF GOOGLE.The Google of yesterday is different from the Google of today and with several new initiatives like this – and moreover there are several initiatives - some known, most unknown, the Google of tomorrow looks more interesting. Some see google as privacy time bomb, some see it as an evil and some hold even more radical views about Google. This post captures all the
acquisitions that Google has made in recent times.
Different people see google and its role in defferent ways. One perspective highlighted the role of Google as ultimate demand generator - saying Google is in the demand-generating business. It is essentially a sales channel to the Internet
. Google's purpose is not to get you to a website. It wants to get you to your solution. And along the way, it generates demand directly, using AdWords and Froogle, or indirectly, using AdSense. These very specialized actions prevent Google from being a portal. A perspective examined how Google could become as dominant as Walmart. Unarguably, Google has the best talent on OS on its rolls. Some see it as amongst the most innovative of all companies. FT names Google founders as men of the year-2005. Google is becoming almost synonymous with internet – watch all these acquisitions and make mental mash-ups of the intersections of these technologies coupled with advances in RFID,GPS, Wi-Fi could bring forth.

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Mark Fletcher, Bloglines & Blogworld

Mark Fletcher,who earlier wrote about his experience in starting Bloglines – one of the most notable success in the blogworld – real startup, garage mindset & launched with the philosophy to keep things simple but allow for scaleup is indeed a phenomenon in the blogosphere. His presentation on bloglines startup experience is a must read for all those interested in entrepreneurism and the evolution of the blogosphere. Mark and Bloglines are clrear trendsetters and consistent winners - even after Askjeeves acquisition,it is really an achievement of sorts to have retained the old look and feel and maintain the same user experience . Mark writes about his experience in moving bloglines infrastructure recently – aimed at moving the Bloglines service to the main Ask facility, as it would be easier for operations, it would be easier for to quickly expand in the future, and it would be easier to tie into other parts of Ask Jeeves.
Some peep into bloglines architecture : The Bloglines back-end consists of a number of logical databases. There's a database for user information, including what each user is subscribed to, what their password is, etc. There's also a database for feed information, containing things like the name of each feed, the description for each feed, etc. There are also several databases which track link and guid information along with the system that stores all the blog articles and related data. There are close to a trillion blog articles in the system, dating back to when we first went on-line in June, 2003. Even compressed, the blog articles consist of the largest chunk of data in the Bloglines system, by a large margin. It reckoned that during transfer the blog article data needed to be moved ahead of time, the other databases could be copied over in a reasonable amount of time, limiting our downtime to just a few hours. Blog articles are not stored using We traditional databases - a custom replication system based on flat files and smaller databases is employed as it works well and scales using cheap hardware. While big enterprises can afford to spend millions and millions to build, experiment and grow, what Bloglines has accomplished in large measure owing to Mark’s vision with limited budget but with better vision and neat execution, is really commendable. Bloglines is indeed a phenomenon.

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Monday, December 26, 2005

Indian IT Labour Shortage

A McKinsey -Nasscom study finds,If India doesn't take urgent action to reform education and build modern infrastructure, the nation could fall far short of its potential as an outsourcing haven. The first inklings of a tightening talent supply are already visible in rising staff turnover and skyrocketing wages. If offshore outsourcing work grows as rapidly as expected, the study predicts, in five years India will have a shortfall of 150,000 IT engineers and 350,000 business-process staff. Software houses shall have to face this problem in several ways - that may include leser margins as well.The problem is not non -fixable - with concerted efforts from Government, educational instituitions & corporates - Read the specific recommendations( thought they look geneic - the roots of the solutions anyway lay there) to overcome the shortfall and once can easily relate how this fully doable. Am uplodaing from airport and hence very brief - shall write on this is in detail a litte later

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Open Source : Outstanding Issues Galore

Several months back,while writing a brief note, on opensource, I concluded that that from a technology, economic and sociological perspective, there is no compelling reason for the open source model to succeed and become dominant. We can assume at best - a niche role for open source in the IT industry. A few months later, I wrote opensource is not yet ready for the enterprise and pointed out that I tend to take a dim view of open source relevance - see Open source -where is the business model, Opensource : Costly & Litigatious and also covered Kim Polese view business models of the open source support companies – where the contours of what need to be done to support open source components become quite clear and a not seeing several players in the opensource world thinking along these lines – it would be a major impediment to consider adoption of opensource in enterprises if the support model is not made widely available and the economics and technology upgrade rate demonstrated as beneficial. I also recently wrote about FOSS movement winning the hearts & minds of the Indian programmer & highlighted the need to have a robust instituitional and infrastructural support for the movement to gain support from offshore developers. James McGovern is urging opensource analysts to provide details of talent search mechanisms, non-technology corporates interest in opensource, vertical solutions using opensource solutions, details of opensource competing and winning against commercial software, best practices in opensource contributions and the like. Look carefully at the set of issues that he has raised – very essential to build up any movement – daring to challenge well established notions of software – Like James , I shall await for pointed responses to these.( Disclosure – Have tried in the past – with limited/no success to get such specific, credible details).

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Blogherald's Blogosphere Watch

Along with the observation that Time has dropped Blogs of the year award this time around, ( it is becoming a little difficult - we need to admit given the huge explosion of the blog population and the cacophony of voices and the various themes around which ideas are expressed.)Blogherals publishes the list of top ten interesting people in the blogosphere. Among the ten, I certainly find these four very interesting.

1.Matt Mullenweg, WordPress -The rising star of the blogosphere took a few blows from supposedly friendly folk this year, and yet bounced right back with the launch of a new company, and took the mantle of the blogosphere’s most popular DIY blogging script WordPress. This relaunch is taken very seriously by the Blogshere..
2. Jason Calacanis, Weblogs Inc., (AOL) - For legitimising the value of blogs as a serious and profitable media play by selling Weblogs Inc., for a rumored $25 million to AOL - If you take care to overlook his crazy predictions for 2006
3. Rupert Murdoch, News Corp - he now owns the largest blog provider on the planet: MySpace, with around 40 million + blogs. Murdoch knows his stuff and he doesn’t usually make stupid acquisitions. Expect his influence over the blogosphere to increase in the comming year.
4. David Sifry, Technorati- he turned around the nearly terminal Technorati into a fast, useful, and once again much loved search portal of choice for the blogosphere - we can see some more dramatic action in the forthcoming year centered around Technorati.
For these and countless other bloggers from the core blogsphere - the infrastructure providers - if I may say so as against those who use the medium to articulate their thoughts on various issues - congrats - you guys have really created, sustained and are growing a social pheneomenon with powerful reach- unthinkable even a few years back. To understand the reach, look at the range of topics from the list of what was considered hot in the blogosphere in 2005

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The Internet Explosion & Changing Dynamics

Ten years ago, the net was mostly used by geeks; now it's the default way to do business in many countries. Some time in 2005, a dramatic milestone was reached in Internet history: the one-billionth user went online. Because we have no central register of Internet users, we don't know who that user was, or when he or she first logged on. Statistically, we're likely talking about a 24-year-old woman in Shanghai. Morgan Stanley estimates, 36% of Internet users are now in Asia and 24% are in Europe. Only 23% of users are in North America. Om Malik was amongst the first to talk about this. Jakob Nielson points out that it took 36 years for the Internet to get its first billion users. The second billion will probably be added by 2015; most of these new users will be in Asia (The clickz report finds that this can happen much earlier – it talks about adding another 750 million people by 2101). The third billion will be harder, and might not be reached until 2040. Jakob predicts that e-commerce sales will at least double from their current level when more of the current billion users start shopping online. We previously noted that online monetization continues to rise. Jakob Nielson highlights some key things to note amidst this growth: The billion-user Internet is a highly diverse environment that has moved far beyond the elite in Silicon Valley and other global technology hubs. There are hundreds of millions of old people online, and there are even more users without fancy graduate degrees. The difference between elite and mainstream users is getting bigger every day. In another ten years, Americans will be less than 15% of Internet users and will likely account for about one-third its value (Americans typically spend more than other users). The fact that two-thirds of Internet revenues will come from other countries highlights the growing importance of global reach of the internet.Putting aside the details of how to make the multi-billion-user Web work, the very fact that it's realistic to expect a second billion users points to interactive media's compelling value. People all over the world are experiencing unprecedented levels of empowerment: being able to do things is why the Web has grown so fast, and will continue to grow for years to come.

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Technology, Internet & Aviation Industry

Airlines, Internet & New Economics is an interesting area to watch. Around the world airlines are trying in different ways to make the internet work for them. Electronic ticketing now accounts for 38 percent of tickets sold worldwide and IATA wants the 265 airlines under its wing to achieve 100 percent paperless ticketing within two years. IATA says that there are roughly 350 million tickets printed annually. By 2007, IATA believes that paper tickets may not be needed any more. The benefit – estimated annual savings of three-billion-dollars for the industry, while wider use of new electronic technologies for self service check-in, luggage handling and freight could offer even more in years to come. The beauty is this is not a revolutionary technology but this promises savings and improved convenience all the way down the line to the passenger.The arrival of the Internet booking engine gave self service centre stage in the travel industry besides rediced fares. From 40 million people users of internet in 1995, last year there were an estimated 870 million Internet users, according to the International Telecommunications Union. About 400 million travellers are expected to book online direct with airlines in 2005 - the Internet has also changed the operating environment for established airlines. Across the world, the adoption is showing huge progress. In countries like India, 25% Of Travel Business get done through the internet. Budget airlines by embracing e-ticket initially scored over mainstream competitors .The Internet has helped drive down airlines' costs but it has also fuelled price competition, damaged yields, and exposed the weakness in legacy computer systems in supporting pricing and increasingly complex distribution channels. The industry is scurrying to secure other types of electronic gadgetry to speed progress - and cut costs - on the ground. After the introduction of electronic check-in kiosks by some airlines, moves are now afoot to establish a common technical standard that will allow airports to install the same self-service equipment for all. The Internet is also allowing the development of check-in from home, which is expected to emerge in 2006. Passengers are promised "flash bag drops", stress-free travel and less queues on their way to their flight, while radio frequency electronic tags - RFID - could cut down on lost luggage. As we noted earlier, the rise of the ATK says far less about ruthless “reductions in force” and more about airlines’ desires to mass-produce just-in-time convenience. The traveler experience is getting more and more attention - While inside airports travellers need not think. Mindlessness is a mantra for every Executive Platinum flier.. Continental Airlines’ mean time for automated check-in is 66 seconds. You only have carry-on bags? Barely 30 seconds.As a promoter of mindlessness, the ticketing kiosk’s superi¬ority to the ATM is obvious. With an ATM, you think about how much money you need and how much you actually have. In contrast, an ATK (airline ticketing kiosk) presents you with choices you either have already made (your itinerary) or don’t need to think about (are you carrying any firearms onto your flight?). In all next the internet’s reach to commoners are best exemplified by its leverage by the aviation industry – but the key thing to watch is – more and more of these are all set to happen.

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Sunday, December 25, 2005

Amazing Amazon.com & Its Process Edge

Think technology & holiday season, Amazon has top of the mind recall. With its unmatchable process edge, Amazon.com seeks to be Earth's most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices.
Businessweek covers indepth the warehousing and distribution mechanism of Amazon – capturing live how the world's largest online retailer ensures that gifts get delivered on one of the busiest shopping - and shipping - days of the year. Stephen Graves of MIT sees Amazon getting better and better at orchestrating the work and they're doing it with an increasingly complex product line. Amazon has been building up inventory since the end of summer in preparation for the all-important period between the start of November and Christmas Day. Shipments of new merchandise that people have ordered keep coming in, of course. But the whole idea this time of year is to sell and ship all the items Amazon has been stockpiling for months. Amazon’s warehouse is a book browser's dream, but a librarian's nightmare: The books in these "pick modules" aren't stocked Dewey Decimal style. Instead, they're placed randomly and their location is recorded with a handheld scanner, so pickers with scanners can more easily and efficiently find them later when an order comes in. Amazon’s internal turnaround time : Down to a couple [of] hours per multiple-item order. Read the article and look at the pictures carefully and readers will acknowledge why I keep emphasising the supremacy of process in business competitiveness.

(Image courtesy : Businessweek)

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RSS Reader Becoming Integral Part of Outlook

Bill Burnham once wrote that in the contest between E-mail & RSS,the former easily wins. Addressing the blogger’s constituency, he added that given the almost ubiquitous reach of e-mail and its "push" nature, for reaching users, one should probably make e-mail the preferred means of subscribing to any blog. Sometime back Microsoft announced that it is baking RSS into Vista – at the platform level itself. Microsoft’s belief is that RSS is so powerful that it needs to be in places other than RSS readers and browsers. Microsoft is focusing on three things in Vista around RSS :
- First, making it easy for users to find, view and subscribe to RSS feeds;
- Second, making it easy for developers to put RSS in their applications and enable new classes of RSS applications;
- Third, creating a set of extensions for RSS, known as the Simple List Extensions, that can be used to enable Web sites to publish feeds that represent ordered lists of items, such as a wish list or top 10 lists.
Michael Affronti, program manager, Microsoft Outlook writes, RSS Aggregation in Outlook is aimed at providing the user with a consistent look, feel, and experience while interacting with RSS feeds and related information. While RSS can be a complex technology to interact with, Outlook will merge the complexities and cover it with our friendly user interface. From the beginning of interacting with a feed using the subscription process through managing your feeds, their associated folder hierarchies, and potentially sharing feeds with others, Outlook will cover RSS in those situations from end-to-end. Interacting with RSS feeds will be extremely similar to managing the mail items now. Since RSS live shall be within the mail module the standard look and feel of folders, hierarchies, and the drag-and-drop shall be maintained the same. support RSS items will be a derivation of the IPM.post message class, so compliance with ZOOM and related core technologies will be easy to implement/strong>. Roaming support will enable Exchange users to have their feed items follow them from machine to machine, keeping their RSS items with them at all times. Another reason to firmly beleive that the blog ecosystem is becoming an integral part of the mainstream applications. Do note that Outlook is baking RSS much ahead of other web based email players providing such neat faciltiies - what currently exists is more of a limited RSS reader facility made available ( say inside yahoo mail or gmail).Any guess about the future of standalone RSS readers?

(Image courtesy : Michael Affronti)

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Om Malik’s E-Book Of His Best Posts

To celebrate the crossing of publishing 5000 posts, Om Malik, has created an e-book of the top 20 posts. Om Malik is an evergreen favourite and clearly an inspiring name in the blogosphere. I follow his postings quite regularly and am delighted to see the e-book presented as Christmas gift. Among the posts included in the e-book include ,Om Malik’s well known posts like
- Telecom’s death spiral
- How Yahoo got its mojo back
- The Huawei factor
- Internet Anxiety Disorder

I would have loved to see three more postings( All these actually remain fresh in my mind after several months of getting published – Testimony to the power of ideas discussed therein) of his in this e-book – one titled - The global internet shift, Asia is where the action is where he made the famous statement –“The axis of technology has shifted to south china sea” & the widely read posting on internet’s deflationary effects with guest post by Robert Young titled Google – the ultimate deflator. I also like his post on learning to peel onions at home.. His blog is always improving in its content and layout and here’s wishing Om Malik all the best in his future endeavors and more readership for his blog.

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Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Digg Phenomenon & Its Robust Ecosystem

We recently covered the phenomenon called digg. Digg started with the notion of how to leverage the collective mass of the Internet in various ways: applying it to content, using it to rank content, using it to make content more palatable to the masses. Automated systems take time to crawl the net. Editorial systems have the human factor. They may decide they're not interested that day, or they'll do it tomorrow.
In Digg’s case, there's no barrier. The larger the critical mass of users and the collective wisdom applied to digg, the better and more relevant the stories get. Alex Bosworth writing about the Digg phenomenon finds an interesting ecosystem at play behind the scenes.
There are five groups of people who make digg.com what it is.
- Readers : an educated guess would be that probably ten to twenty percent of those ever click 'digg', they are mostly just there for the end product of the digg machine: an array of interesting news and links often presented before the other news sources.
- Diggers: some percentage of the readers, probably ten to twenty percent. They bother to vote for the stories on digg.com, which changes the numbers next to the stories and enables stories to get to another queue - the diggnation podcast.
- Hardcore diggers : people who sit in the queue of submitted stories and watch for breaking news that should make its way up to the front page, or report stories as being spam or irrelevant.
- Submitters: people who post fresh stories. It's difficult to post a fresh story to digg at this point, it's a competition for who can submit it first.
- News publishers : often bloggers who want to get readership for their content.
The really interesting about these groups is that each of them is required for the system to function, they all came together relatively quickly, and each of them have different and complementary rewards for what they do. That’s how the power of user generated content and economy of people is exemplified by Digg. Without these people, digg would cease to function: nothing would make it out of the link queue. Overall, with blog publishers creating content they want dugg, submitters scouring the net for stories they can add to their 'published on the homepage' list, digg queuer watchers looking for cool links before anyone else has seen them, and digg readers reaping the benefits and creating a powerful digg.com frontpage readership, digg has come a long way very quickly. As digg tries to go into other fields to live up to their venture valuation, such as perhaps political news, general news, or more innovative areas, it will be interesting to see if they can keep this same ecosystem going or if they have to try to invent new dynamics.
As an aside - look at the two charts comparing traffic between Digg and Slashdot taken in a gap of few weeks – Don’t be confused – they are on different logarithmic scales and therefore look different – Earlier we have seen that statistics can lie and perhaps now pictures can also mislead – at first sight!!

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Web 2.0 : Brickbats Galore But Hope Persists

The Blogosphere is getting to see a lot more strong views on Web 2.0. Not withstanding the galloping progress seen, Richard McManus called Web 2.0 is dead and Russel Shaw wrote web2.0 doesnot exist. Dave Winer provides the best perspective. As he rightly sees it - there are two schools on "Web 2.0."
1. Tim O'Reilly and John Battelle and their VC friends. What they're doing is slicing up Google's PE ratio, tiny slivers of it, and apportioning it to small companies they either buy stock in (that's Tim's strategy) or consult for (that's Battelle). Basically the updraft from Google's stock is so strong it can turn those tiny slivers into tens or hundreds of millions of dollars. It's a good business model as long as Google's PE ratio stays high. (Note : More than Google – Yahoo has bought a lot more Web 2.0 enterprises – Del.icio.us acquisition , Flickr acquisition.)
2. There's the Mike Arrington version of Web 2.0 – He sees it as all about the web coming out of a nuclear winter and bursting forth in a fit of chaotic growth
Let's discount the web2.0 - province of a set of people who neither make huge piles of money catching bits of Google Wind™ in their sails, nor understand the connection between the various products. They just like to be "in" on the latest stupid tech buzzword, to go to conferences and calling people evil who dare to criticize the stuff that they're so hip to.
I sort of tend to agree with Fred, when he writes, Web 2.0 encompasses many of the technological changes we’re seeing happen. It means a new way to look at web applications, services and (more importantly in my case), user experience. Web 2.0 puts the user in the center of the action and activity. If it hadn’t become a movement, many of the services emerging now would have never existed. If it didn’t have support from the right people, it wouldn’t be, effectively, changing the face of the web. It helps to keep going as long as we’re still working towards a user-centered web, better uses for data, more service integration and more simplicity. I believe that evolution requires such branding, packaging and new definitions – so for me –web 2.0 is clearly changing the face of the web & as I wrote earlier, Web 2.0’s impact shall be felt more with the emergence of platforms for the development of rich Internet applications and services. Ajax is enabling the creation of plug-in free Web apps that rival the performance of client-based desktop applications. These developments represent the very tip of exciting innovation to come — innovation that will require a new approach to venture investing led by a new breed of angel and venture investors that are able to successfully balance irrational exuberance with prudent funding to fuel the creation of new platforms for growth. Come to think of it – would Web 2.0 have become so popular without the blogosphere – it looked to me that web2.0 was blogosphere’s posterchild for several months in a row!!

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Geoffrey Moore, Strategy ,Business Models, Long Tail & Optimization

The latest issue of Harvard Business Review, has an article titled, Strategy and the Stronger Hand written by Geoffrey Moore, where he talks about two distinct models of businesses. As Geoffrey sees it, there are two kinds of businesses in the world – knowing what they are and which one your enterprise is – will guide you to the right strategic moves. In the complex systems model,enterprises can service large customers and can gor the customer base with large deals centered on mimimal number of transactions. 1000 customers provide a billion dollar business.In the other kind of business, the model is entered on volume operations – here the enterprise is on a hunting mode and strive to acquire millions of customers with significant number of transactions – Say FMCG enterprises.

These two models are world apart and have a different approach along the classic value chain. When enterprises try to mix and math both the approaches it creates strain on the managerial mindset and habits, analogical to the handedness – left or right hand dominance and he points out that industries with ambidexterity with due recognition of missed opportunities could pursue such an option but staying along the stronger hand would ensure lot more success. Talking about the education and heathcare sectors, Geoffrey highlights that the complex systems model is not scalable to the needs of a large society.The only model that scales is the volume operations model - It does so by transforming unique relationships into standardized transactions. It is not driven to achieve excellence but rather to meet minimum quality standards as economically as possible.For any society/enterprise, the constructive path forward begins with abandoning any expectation of providing broader access to the complex systems model and instead focusing our creative energies on raising the standards of the volume operations capability as much as possible. If we look at chris anderson’s much talked about long tail – where does Geoffrey’s postulation fit in – the long tail essentially means a large volume model. On close examination the value chain difference between the two models opens up some space for disruptions and scope for realignments(niche services/offerings) – that’s where the complex system model can accommodate a little more without sacrificing on its core idea of delivering high value to chosen customers.

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Friday, December 23, 2005

Gamechanging Blogs, Future, Maturity & Pulitzer Price

Sramana Mitra writes, "with the advent of such phenomena as blogs and podcasting, a new era of democratic electronic media publishing has arrived". Excerpts with edits and comments added: Democratic new media publishing enabled at the click of a post-and-publish tab with relatively easy-to-use software wherein text, photo, and video blogs are the most popular forms.The nerds have suddenly set free the liberal arts types in droves. The phenomenon is well at work, and it will change the rules of the game for creative professionals world-wide. It will also change the rules for marketers and brand-builders. It expands the reach and ability to communicate with this universe exponentially, literally within minutes and help in monitoring trends and have other experts participate and contribute; the net effect being a richer and deeper knowledge base. With time, more people will take advantage of these democratic new media publishing opportunities. More serious writers and creative professionals will learn to market and sell their work using the Internet. Micro-payment mechanisms will mature, ad-supported business models will improve, and auctions of good work will become possible. A quality evaluation system will start to emerge as we go along. Good writers, good audio broadcasters, and good filmmakers will be able to monetize their work abundantly and creatively. She boldly goes ahead to predict that there will be the equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize for Internet content—equally prestigious, equally well respected, equally well-regarded. Quality content that's published, managed, distributed, and marketed through blogs, video-blogs, photo-blogs, and audio-casts, is a macro-phenomenonA well written note – and if I may add, with the dizzying growth of the blogsphere the distinction between the big, high-traffic blogs and the rest of the world of blogging will be increasingly sharply polarized. Somebody predicted the end of the individual blogger- though it has not yet happened in a pronounced way. There would come a day when we can see where top bloggers won’t be just viewed as mere bloggers but would be seen as doing something very different from the rest of the folks..

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FT Names Google’s founders As Men of the Year

Google’s founders may have conquered the internet world in 2005 – but given their outsized ambitions, this may only be a start. Sergey Brin and Larry Page are named as Men of the Year by the Financial Times, harbour hopes that reach well beyond their search engine business to “make the world a better place”. Applying the vast computing power that lies behind Google’s internet search engine to solving other complex problems in fields such as microbiology could be one area for expansion. The Men of the Year recognition reflects the effect the company created by Mr Brin and Mr Page only seven years ago has had on internet users, as well as the worlds of business and technology, in the past 12 months. Already a darling of the wall street, it has a stock market value of nearly $130bn, almost neck-and-neck with IBM and behind only Microsoft and Intel in the technology industry. The men, who are only 32, see plenty of scope to improve Google’s core product. “It’s clear there’s a lot of room for improvement, there’s no inherent ceiling we’re hitting up on.” There can't be any one more fitting than this duo for this years award. Here's wishing them the very best of success in the years to come.

Image Courtesy : AFP/Google-HO/File
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FOSS Movement : Winning The Hearts & Minds Of The Indian Programmer

Gervase Markham highlights that the US companies, being squeezed by low-cost, high-work-ethic competition from Asia, are looking to cut overheads by outsourcing their IT jobs – most of these go to India, as the country leverages the widespread knowledge of English, a legacy of its colonial past. In terms of the global IT landscape, it is perhaps more significant. As it is becoming uncontestedly clear that NPDI efforts shall be outsourced more aggressively in the coming months, there is also an invisible battle that is going in to win the battle for the hearts and minds of those tens of thousands of Indian software developers. Just as in the American market, on one side are the large commercial enterprises like Microsoft, hoping to tempt them with visions of a smoothly-integrated development system from a single vendor. On the other side is the free software movement, talking about the importance of liberty, unrestrictive licensing and control of your own computing environment. At stake is the ability to harness the brainpower of an entire subcontinent of hackers. During his recent trip to India, Bill Gates talked about recruiting top class Indian talent through innovative competition – this created huge publicity. By contrast, the FOSS.IN conference, a week beforehand in the very same venue, received comparatively little publicity.
My Take: Cultural factors are said to be preventing FOSS’s ability to attract a lot of Indian talent that could flow into major projects. While these may be attributed to some hazy factors like the difficulty of Indian developers to engage with the community, education system not encouraging creativity all that much, Indian developers mostly most comfortable with a structured work plan and clearly-defined boundaries ( While this may appear to be true to an extent – the perception needs to be examined more closely – typically when opportunities for personal advancement are there – this may not be all that pronounced, also note that most of product development happening in the country are for western companies – where by nature the system calls for such a conformance). This style of working is not a good fit for the self-motivated, somewhat chaotic style of the free software bazaar. I think that the FOSS movement needs to be lot more serious in its organizing abilities – marketing, events, sponsorships and in bringing order of magnitude better publicity in terms of their presence & products – India is also a very brand conscious market (talking of the educated elites – FOSS can make a dent here – only by doing this). The country itself offers huge opportunities for deploying technology in the mass market, rural areas, SME and large enterprise segment – cutting edge products/solutions developed and deployed here by the FOSS movement would certainly enhance their ability to attract more talent – High visibility initiatives are certainly needed – that has to go beyond mere philosophical talks – In fact the FOSS movement should even go the extent of setting up a big institutional base in India, where the mass developers could come from - make the country’s FOSS movement responsible for some flagship initiatives, to galvanise the movement and bring in a sense of heightened importance – failing which it runs the real risk of being sidelined in its quest to attract top class talent. Bill Gates recently said that, "a time will come when revenues from India in Microsoft will be in proportion to its population in the world". The FOSS movement need to create such powerful forward looking statements – how about a statement like - 30% to 40% FOSS efforts could happen out of India in next three years, FOSS movement should capture one-third of opportunities in the Indian market - I am also told that Indian service majors are not doing much to promote FOSS movement - while I can’t talk on their behalf or comment on this – I can definitely tell two things – The service majors are largely led in their focus by what they sense as the needs of their customers – today and tomorrow & they have the constant challenge of retention related issues. That’s where the FOSS movement as an instituition becomes a crying need – enough ecosystem components exist in the country – high tech instituitions, lot of home returned high class talent. At the moment, The SAP’s, Microsoft’s, Oracle’s,IBM’s, Intel’s and the Amazon’s besides the Indian majors are getting way ahead in the race to attract Indian talent.

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Microsoft & Opera Browser

John Dvorak sees in Microsoft's announcement that it wouldn't upgrade the Internet Explorer for the Macintosh, leaving that market segment to apparently languish and gravitate towards the Safari browser and Firefox as to be watched carefully . Microsoft does not give up markets with a whimper. Something is brewing. The smart move for the company would be for Microsoft to discard the entire code base of Internet Explorer and buy the Opera browser (from Norway) outright and use it instead. Cooltechzone reports that an insider reported that both Microsoft and Google were trying to bid on Opera, but in the end, the software maker took the lead... Perhaps the most desirable feature that Opera has to offer is its mobile version of the browser. Thus far, it’s the best mobile browser currently on portable devices, and it will surely give Microsoft an easy entry into the mobile market, especially as that market continues to flourish gradually. John is right in his assessment that regaining momentum in the browser business is important to Microsoft since the browser has quietly become the mechanism of choice to lead people into search engines If this happening, the biggest loser might be Mozilla Firefox since many consider Opera to not only be the best browser available, but the fastest and the one with the best page rendering engine.
My Take: Despite all these positives, I still think that Microsoft may not be buying a browser - considering the various operational issues it is having across the world with different regulatory environments in bundling/unbundling the browser from Windows. IE has not lost any significant marketshare. Unless Microsoft wants to keep it as a standalone browser - not an easy option to consider.

Update : Opera denies any takeover talks ever happened.

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AMR On Enteprise Software Trends In 2006

AMR’s Bruce Richardson has a set of predictions for 2006 in the enterprise software industry.Predicting a strong year for the enterprise software and services market – he points to five major growth themes for the coming year.

1. Continued vendor consolidation –that may include the BI space (Agreed)
2. Office 12 becoming a dominant player - the Office franchise will be the foundation for many of the future composite apps for inter-enterprise collaboration I can only partially agree - Also read my note here. Microsoft CRM long way to go)
3. Google economy gets stronger (Agreed)
4. Collaborative apps (Agreed)
5. Limited SOA adoption (Agreed)

To make the list more rounded let me add enterprise applications encompasing Web 2.0, enterprise Mobile applications, VoIP integrations with enterprise applicatons, ESB/BPM and Offshore product development/engineering getting stronger as other major themes that could be felt lot more in 2006.

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Wink Launches Search Engine That Combines Tag Results

Courtesy of Techcrunch saw this annoucement of the launch of Wink. Wink has launched the public beta of its search engine that incorporates tag results from multiple sources including del.icio.us, Digg, Yahoo!My Web with search results from Google. Wink provides results as two halves - the first one comes from these communities, while the second one comes from Google. The results can be bookmarked & associated with del.icio.us. Wink searches across the Tagosphere and allows users to tag results directly its search results. The way it works is a result can be starred and recommended & tagged. Through tags, you can aceess the link during future searches. Wink Blogexplains that while Google and Yahoo are great for the whole Web, and we’ve integrated Google search into our service, but the Wink results - those are a measure of what people are thinking right now, based on their bookmarks and tagging. This is a very interesting one to watch.

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Sadagopan's Weblog on Emerging Technologies, Trends,Thoughts, Ideas & Cyberworld
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