Game Consoles as Trojan Horses?

Game Makers Explore New Services for Home Video Sets — A New York Times article on gaming consoles as Trojan horses: “Just as the personal computer has pushed its way into dozens of industries, a chameleonic video-game player could infiltrate the cable and satellite television industries, play CD’s and DVD’s and even take over some of the functions of an Internet-connected PC.”

In our case, I’d like to think of the Thick Server as the Trojan Horse for the Enterprise.

Emergic Update

Monday mornings are a good time to reflect on the progress of Emergic. Should do this every Monday.

BlogStreet: we have the basic directory of 150 blogs and search on the index pages of these blogs. We have been also putting in place a backend system for handling updates to the directory, with some code clean-up. The foundation has to be solid before we build too much on top. The plan for the coming week is to (a) grow the blogs to about 300+ (b) ensure daily updates on the Blog Daily (c) begin work on the BlogRoll analyser — given a URL how can we ge the blogroll (d) put in place a Blog Simulator, which helps us create the logic for analysing the world of blogs, identifying clusters and the like.

Digital Dashboard: Last week, we did the sharing of outlines between users. A little stuff still left on this, which should be done in the early part of the week. So, users will then be able to create outlines and then share various nodes with others. The next idea: make this a Web Service. So, I should be able to give a text file and get back an outline either in OPML or in a renderable format. This will give us exposure to XML and SOAP, and also make our Outline code a software component which can be used by, among others, this blog for the categories page and BlogStreet for showing more detailed listings (eg. we could use the RSS feeds to show the new stories integrated with the blog directory listings). Next on the agenda: explore blogs. We’ll probably only get to this next week.

Thin Client-Thick Server: The Server stability issues seem to have been resolved — it no longer crashes. We have 5 TC users and that environment seems quite stable now. What we’ve been working on is (a) Load Testing: how many TCs can a TS support; can we ensure that only a single copy of the app is spawned even when multiple users want to run it (b) Auto-identification of the TC Network Card (to get the MAC address) and the Display Card, so we can create the boot floppy for the TC and feed the same info on the TS (c) making all the necessary front-ends to do “single-click” addition of new machines and users, thus simplifying the life of the Admin. This week, hopefully, we’ll finish on these tasks, so we can add another 5-6 users who are already using Linux to the TC-TS world. After that, the migration of Windows users to TCs.

Enterprise Software: We’ve done the basic specs for an Accounting-Sales software system. Have also met with some clients and development companies. This thinking has still been too conventional. Some re-thinking on how we can make enterprise software using business rules in English to describe business processes, and then generate the necessary objects. I’ll be writing about some of these ideas in the Tech Talk series this week. I remembered a Red Herring article I had read in late 2000 (which I found) on Versata, which had business rules software for automating business processes. Doing some study on this.

Messaging: Making some progress on getting channels to sell. One idea we’ve been thinking on has been to ease the process of giving demos. Use a notebook to give demos. This eases the process of giving demos: walk into companies, connect the notebook on the LAN and integrate it with a test domain, and “show off” the product. Later, this some platform can be used for doing the Thick Server demos.

Personally, this week, I want to put in place more detailed plans for each of the above activities. We’ve been thinking on a daily basis what to do so far. Now that we’ve treaded into the waters and have a feel for it, we can look at swimming in slightly deeper waters. I also want to go through my notes of the past 2-3 months to consolidate many of the ideas together. Doing the Emergic picture helped in providing a nice view of our activities.

The one missing block in that picture is Services, and perhaps WiFi Communications. We’ll work on that sometime later.

HBR on Business Models

The May issue of Harvard Business Review has an article by Joan Magretta on “Why Business Models Matter”. Business models, according to Joan, are “stories that explain how enterprises work”. Creating a new business model is a lot like writing a new story. Joan gives many examples in the article — American Express (Traveller’s Cheques), Walmart, Eastern Exclusives (coupon-based direct marketing) and Dell.

We often mistake business models and strategy. Strategy, explains Joan, takes into account competition. Business models are about making the pieces of a business fit together. In that sense, according to me, putting together a business model is a lot like writing the screenplay for a movie. It takes time, there has to be continuity, the loose ends have to be tied up, and above all, the story has to be great.

Telling a story is what a weblog helps to do well. This has been one of my learnings in the past two weeks of writing the weblog. I am actually thinking aloud the business model of Emergic. It would be good if more entrepreneurs actually did this. It will allow us to learn from each other. It allows us to look back at our decisions and why we made them and then reflect on whether we did the right thing or not. Its like a real-time case study!

TECH TALK: Rethinking Enterprise Software: Microsoft’s Forays

The recent purchase of European software maker Navision by Microsoft for USD 1.3 billion has focused the spotlight on software for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Microsoft had earlier bought Great Plans, which primarily targets the US mid-market companies, for USD 1.1 billion just over a year ago. SMEs represent the next big opportunity for software companies. There are millions of them worldwide and many of them have just gotten started with using software for automating business processes. Between the consumer mass market and the large enterprises, SMEs represent a huge opportunity and one which has been largely untapped so far.

Microsoft hopes to use its mass market approach to software to do to SMEs what it has done to consumers and the corporates through MS-Windows and MS-Office offer integrated suites for low-prices. Write Aaron Ricadela and Jennifer Maselli in InformationWeek (May 20, 2002):

Microsoft wants to sell small and midsize companies low-cost, ready-to-assemble enterprise resource planning, supply-chain, financial, and other run-the-business applications. The blueprint calls for Web services to weave them all together. Not coincidentally, Microsoft’s Office XP desktop applications, Visual Studio.Net development tools, and Windows operating systems also are important elements.

Smaller businesses should snap up integrated applications for customer-facing and back-office operations in the same way they did Microsoft’s do-it-all desktop suite, chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates said in an interview with InformationWeek.

As Gates envisions the world, desktop and business applications will be woven together via Web services to let IT departments mix and match applications across networks, with less middleware, custom integration, and consulting work. Microsoft officials give the example of an Excel spreadsheet user accessing inventory data from a supplier’s remote server. This desktop-to-back office architecture, seamlessly linking people and systems within and across companies, will provide an IT backbone for collaborative business, Gates says. The linchpin will be XML, the development language and Web-services standard, incorporated in development tools, databases, and the apps themselves.
Microsoft is also working on its own CRM software suite, which is due out at the end of the year. It is expected to cost USD 500 per seat, one-tenth that of Siebel, according to Information Week. According to Aberdeen Group, less than 15% of the 5 million to 6 million U.S. companies with fewer than 500 computer users have CRM software installed.

Microsoft already has a great platform because of its MS-Office presence on most corporate desktops. It is also planning to make the next-generation version integrate with enterprise applications. In addition, according to News.com, [Microsoft] is considering an optional subscription version tied to Web services based on Extensible Markup Language (XML). Those services, which could include some of the online calendaring and collaboration features envisioned for .Net My Services.

Microsofts entry has galvanised the mid-market enterprise software, especially in US and Europe. But there are problems with the approach being taken by enterprise software makers.

Tomorrow: The Problems