Teoma’s Community Searching

Amn interesting article – Teoma vs. Google, Round Two elaborates on some interesting aspects of Teoma’s search engine. These ideas could be useful for us in BlogStreet.

Teoma offers three kinds of results for each query. On the left of the result page are “relevant web pages” that are similar to what other engines produce. On the right are two other kinds of results: “Refine,” a list of “suggestions to narrow your search,” and “Resources,” which are “link collections from experts and enthusiasts.”

Teoma’s underlying technology is an extension of the HITS algorithm developed by researchers at IBM several years ago. In a nutshell, the search engine goes beyond traditional keyword and text analysis and seeks out “hubs” and “authorities” related to your query terms — a “social network” of related content that forms a “community” about the topic.

The cool thing about Teoma is that its community-seeking behavior is both query-specific, and happens in real time. “Whenever you type in a query, we’re actually looking for the communities after you type the query,” said Paul Gardi, Teoma’s Vice President of Search. “We’re using a method called dynamic rank, because there’s a lot of information you can learn about that page by its friends.”

“We’re going into the communities, finding the link structure of the community using text structure as well,” said Gardi.

Blog Enhancements

Over the next few days, we will put up some of the enhancements we have been working in (through software) for this blog. One of them is making the monthly pages as outlines to give a quick glimpse of all the postings at-a-glance. This will make it easier to search for some of the older postings, especially for me!

A few other ideas:
– creating to listserv so that the daily updates can be emailed to people (no need to remember to visit emergic.org everyday!)
– adding a GoogleBox to show the top 10 links to emergic and perhaps other keyword searches (like in Jon Udell’s blog in the right column)
– showing access statistics every day in a blog post which is created at the end of the day. This way everyone knows how many people are reading and where people come from
– extend this “referer log” analysis to take it to the blog post level, and provide “backlinks” for each post (to provide an idea of who has linked to a specific post)

The aim is to over time build a “second-generation blog”, which combines many new ideas which we have seen around the blog world.

Personally, a big change in how I read is about to happen: we have built our own RSS Aggregator which can post to MovableType. We are also building (as part of the BlogStreet project) a blog categorisation engine with neighbourbood analysis. Now, we intend to add for each blog a link to its RSS feed, thus allowing a one-click subscription of the feed into my RSS aggregator. This completes the flow:
– I can search BlogStreet for interesting blogs
– I can add the blogs I like to my RSS feed
– The RSS Aggregator helps me view many items from various feeds on a single page, thus increasing the quantum of information I can process
– Post an item from the aggregator to my blog

This is the foundation of the Digital Dashboard. Next few steps:
– be able to make this entire flow a “service” so others can create their blogs
– enable it to work within the enterprise (as part of the Thick Server)
– create a super-RSS Aggregator to collect feeds
– build a search engine by “post” for the feeds (current and archives)
– enable subscriptions to the feeds
– enable filters to search all feeds (and not just the ones one has subscribed to). This is like the “subject-based addressing” concept as part of the publish-subscribe mechanism.

So, one can now imagine a “Blog Bus” where all blog entries are flowing (getting published) and there are “agents” for each of us, scanning these feeds and filtering them based on what we like (either by the source of the feed or its contents) and then posting them to personal RSS aggregators. From there, we can browse through the items and decide which we want to post on our multiple blogs (each of which may have multiple catgeories). Each blog publishes its own RSS feed which flows back into the system.

Take this a little further. The “Blog Bus” becomes an “Information Bus” with the entries being posted no longer limited to just blog entries from within and outside the enterprise, but any kind of “events”, coming from different sources like calendars, mail, enterprise software applications, and other programs. The rest of the system (RSS Aggregator and Blogs) is the same. What we now have is the Digital Dashboard for the enterprise. [Also see my recent post: RSS, Blogs and Events.]

This will dramatically change the way we process information. The best part of this is that it is all built on standards. Anyone can create an RSS feed from content they have. It is like the early days of the Web when HTML revolutionised publishing. What RSS will now change is the way information consumption.

Shortcuts

A Click Saved: Shortcuts Through Everyday Software:

Shortcuts are particularly handy with the modern Windows and Macintosh graphical interfaces. The icons and menus available on today’s machines may be easier to learn than the “command lines” of earlier computers, but they can nevertheless be cumbersome, requiring a fair amount of attention and hand-eye coordination. Shortcuts let you quickly dispatch frequently used commands.

Shortcuts will be important because they along with file formats are very big entry barriers in people adopting alternate operating systems like Linux. Shortcuts provide a certain familiarity to users. For the key Linux programs, it will be important to actually replicate the Windows keyboard shortcuts to break one of the entry barriers.

Blog Maps

An interesting idea: bloggers organised by subway station (New York Times): “New York City Bloggers aims to be a comprehensive list of New York blogs, grouped by subway stop…In its first week online, the site attracted 25,000 visitors, and more than 600 bloggers identified themselves by subway stop. (By yesterday, there were more than 1,000.)”

What is missing in the world of blogs are directories. There are a few, but none which take into account that there are people doing the blogging, and what is more important than the blog itself is the person. We need categorisations based on the bloggers, and not just the blog.

A blog is actually very hard to classify, because typically they cover a wide variety of topics. But by looking at the blogroll and the links embedded in the blog, it should be possible to get an indication of the “hub blogs” which the blog relates to. At the same time, bloggers should also “identify” themselves — their likes/dislikes. The two taken together could work well in helping a person find bloggers of interest.

TECH TALK: Rethinking Enterprise Software: Whole Solution for USD 20 a month (Part 3)

Much of the world has given up the battle for the desktop, and adopted Microsofts products Windows and Office. The aggregate cost of nearly USD 500 (Rs 25,000) has ensured high levels of piracy in many emerging markets. Enterprises using pirated versions are not born robbers, but do so because there isnt an effective alternative. Even companies like IBM which are very much pro-Linux have concentrated their efforts on the server. Red Hat has focused more on migrating the bigger enterprises from Unix or Windows NT to Linux. The Desktop has been handed over to Microsoft on a platter. This is what needs to change.

The solution lies in a Thin Client-Thick Server (TC-TS) combination. It is what Citrix has been promoting for many years. Citrix has done so using Microsoft technologies. What is needed is an alternative using Linux. Citrixs focus has been on ease of administration because support costs in the developed world are very high. The need in the emerging markets is for a low-cost solution support costs are not as important because salaries for the administration staff are much lower.

The Thin Clients need a collection of the minimal, common applications which would fulfill the needs for most employees. This set includes a graphical user interface, email client, web browser, word processor, spreadsheet and a presentation application. There are Open Source implementations which can put together all of these applications on the desktop KDE/GNOME as the desktop user interface, Evolution as the email client, Mozilla as the web browser and Open Office to match the triad of MS-Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The aggregate cost: zero.

The Thick Server resides on the LAN in the enterprise and supports the Thin Clients. It runs the Mail Server, Instant Messaging Server (Jabber), Database (MySQL or Postgres), Directory Server (LDAP) and Web Server (Apache). This comprises the Enterprise Core. On top is the Enterprise OS in the form of an Application Server like Jboss (or Suns Application Server, which has just been released for free). The enterprise software applications for ERP, CRM and SCM would run on top of the application server. The Digital Dashboard becomes the desktop on the Thin Clients. This is the new enterprise IT architecture.

As applications run locally on the LAN, the issues which have plagued ASPs (connectivity, confidential company information stored on remote servers) are not there. This is a near real-time infrastructure, since it means having to replicate data across locations the costs of a fully connected network are still too high for many SMEs to afford.

The Thin Client-Thick Server combination is at the heart of the effort to bring down the cost of computing and make it available to the enterprise mass markets. There are other side-benefits of this approach. The Thin Client (TC) is easy to manage it can be controlled completely from the Thick Server. If a TC gives a problem, a new TC can be put on the desktop since the users mail and files are all on the server, there is no downtime or loss of data. In addition, upgrades are easy theres only one instance of the software which needs to be upgraded on the server. Of course, the drawback is that the Thick Server now becomes the single point of failure. This can be taken care of by adding redundancy in some of critical components on the server.

Tomorrow: Whole Solution (continued)

Spam Attack

Spam: An Escalating Attack of the Clones in the New York Times:

Spammers are like fruit flies. They multiply. They are elusive. Worst of all, they evolve quickly. The most aggressive spammers have become very sophisticated, constantly varying subject lines, “from” addresses and body text.

Brightmail says the volume of spam it encounters has almost tripled in the last nine months. The company adds that 12 to 15 percent of total e-mail traffic is spam; a year ago, that figure was closer to 7 percent. Brightmail, which maintains a network of In boxes to attract spam, now records 140,000 spam attacks a day, each potentially involving thousands of messages, if not millions.

Spam is the biggest problem with email. NYT also has an article on tips to combat spam.

Lindows OEM Strategy

Interesting ideas from Lindows which we may want to keep in mind when we are ready with Emergic:

In order to increase the number of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), system builders, systems integrators and value-added resellers taking on its new desktop OS, the San Diego, California-based company is introducing subscription-based licensing for systems builders.

Instead of the usual per-unit fees, systems builders will pay a $500 monthly membership fee, which will entitle them to install the LindowsOS operating system on an unlimited number of computer systems. Lindows.com is also stating that there will be no volume commitments for system builders that sign up to the program, and no software activation codes requiring tracking and auditing.

The company points out that according to recent figures from research company IDC, 58% of the total PC market is provided for by “unbranded” PC computer vendors. This is a market that the company is eager to tap into with its version of the Linux operating system, which is designed to enable users to run some Microsoft applications unchanged. The company is also offering system builders immediate access to software, desktop customization, hardware burn-in tools, eligibility for LindowsOS certification and access to the company’s Click-N-Run Warehouse application library.

21st Century Notepad

News.com on Microsoft’s Tablet PC: “With its electromagnetic pen, touch screen and software that recognizes letters written on a screen, the Tablet PC hopes to be the notepad of the 21st century.”

I write a lot – 15-20 pages in my notebook a day, using pen and paper. Meeting notes, ToDos, ideas, personal diary, everything. Problem is searching the past archives. Something which can combine the ease of writing in a notebook with infinite capacity (so I only need to carry a single “notebook”) and wherein I can set keywords for quick retrieval would be very useful.

TECH TALK: Rethinking Enterprise Software: Whole Solution for USD 20 a month (Part 2)

There are three possible alternatives to bring down the cost of computers to USD 100-150, and thus target a mass market of users in the small and medium enterprises in emerging markets.

The first is to look at PDAs. The problem here is that we are changing what people are used to thinking of as a computer. A small screen and keyboard may look cute but it is not something that can be used for an entire day. For most employees, there is no need for mobility or portability in their computing device they are going to be working at their desk for the most part of the day.

An interesting comment by the CEO of Danger which has launched a platform for wireless devices offers a hint to the solution: When cell phones first came out, part of the reason they became so popular was because they were inexpensive and they worked the same way that your desk phone does. You have access to all the same content that you have for your desk phone. And there really hasn’t been a low-cost handheld device that offers that same kind of experience with what we’re used to on a desktop machine.

Replace cellphone by computer in what Dangers CEO says. The best way to provide the desktop experience is to provide a desktop itself. This brings us to the second possible solution.

We could try to create a new architecture for PCs from scratch to bring the bill of materials down to USD 100. The RD costs for this effort along with the time taken would be significant, even prohibitive. Even the most recent introduction of a computer by Wal-mart (from MicroTel, and running Lindows) is USD 299 (excluding monitor). There is no way I see how new (desktop) computers can be sold profitably at USD 100-150. The game of the future should be focused on software and marketing, rather than re-inventing the hardware. This brings us to the third solution.

We can look at providing second-hand computers to the masses in the enterprises. The developed world with its near-saturation adoption of computers is now disposing 3-4-year-old PCs by the millions. In fact, the US itself will see 45 million computers being disposed off in the next three years as corporates upgrade to newer desktops. In fact, in many countries the older PCs pose a recycling problem. These computers can be made available to the emerging markets. This is, according to me, the only way to get full-fledged PCs for USD 100. These PCs are targeted at a new set of users in the SMEs in emerging markets. For them, they offer the first taste of computing.

The computer has been the single most transformational invention of the past quarter century what we are doing now is making it available to the next set of 500 million users. This is the way to bridge the digital divide which exists between SMEs and the bigger companies, and between the emerging markets and the developed markets.

Whats different about these computers? The second-hand (used) computers should be stripped of the hard disk and CD-ROM drives. They need to be thought of as Thin Clients. What is different about them is the Software. They dont run MS-Windows on the desktop, but Linux. Think of them as Linux-based Thin Clients.

It is this third solution that meets Christensens two tests: of focusing on new markets, and disrupting competitors rather than customers. The new markets which are our target are the new users in the enterprises at the bottom of the pyramid. Customers are not being asked to change any habits they still get a desktop, albeit one that is a few years old.

Tomorrow: Whole Solution (continued)

Google and K-Logs

Searching for solutions in InfoWorld: “Similar to what Cisco did with routers, Google is looking to hit the sweet spot with a best-of-breed point solution, according to Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google.”

I have mixed feelings about Appliances. On the one hand, they offer an all-in-one solution. Plug-and-Play. On the the other hand, for a company focused primarily on software, its an additional hassle maintaining and managing the hardware. Perhaps, thats best left to system integrators.

I have a feeling, though, that we are going to start seeing more appliances in the enterprise.

On the same page, there is a very interesting sidebar by Jon Udell on “Google and Weblogs: best hope for KM”. Writes Jon:

Webloggers are becoming the guerrilla warriors of a KM (knowledge management) revolution.

Weblogs serve KM by making it cool to communicate. Before: “OK, OK, here’s my status report.” After: “Hey, look, I blogged my analysis of the requirements spec.” The presence of Google motivates in ways that go beyond the trendy appeal of Weblogs. Of course, posted items can be found later on. But more subtly, they participate in a status hierarchy.

The knowledge effects of Weblogging, or “k-logging,” go far beyond search-and-retrieval. A collection of Weblogs isn’t just a pool of documents. It’s also a knowledge network, where at each node human intelligence performs the routing function. The network’s architecture is publish/subscribe. Its protocol is RSS (Rich Site Summary), a simple, powerful, and popular application of XML. Bloggers tune into other bloggers’ RSS channels; they select and react to items flowing through those channels; they post items that also flow out on their own RSS channels. It’s a kind of Krebs cycle where the input is individual thought and the output is group awareness.

Very much what we’ve been thinking and I’ve been writing about. These are the underlying themes for the Digital Dashboard as the new Desktop.

WiFi – WSJ

WSJ on WiFi and the falling prices which is leading to increasing adoption:

A basic wireless network requires two devices, a base station (stores and retailers call it an “access point”) and a wireless card for a laptop or PC. In both cases, prices have been sliced by a third in the past 18 months. Base stations go for an average of $163, down from $245 in early 2001; wireless cards, which let laptops and desktops communicate with the base stations, have sunk to $74, down from $122, according to In-Stat/MDR, a research group in Scottsdale, Ariz. Consumers can find even better deals on the street. Gemma Paulo, an analyst at In-Stat/MDR, says she recently saw a wireless card on sale for $30 at a local electronics store. Aside from buying a base station and wireless card, the only additional expense is the monthly Internet connection, typically $40 to $50 for broadband access.

Microsoft and File Formats

Digital media: Will Microsoft win again?:

Microsoft hopes to use its Windows monopoly as a launching point for making its file formats the de facto standard for digital content, which is why the company gives away its authoring and serving tools with Windows 2000 server and its media playback software with Windows XP, Gartenberg said. Companies such as Apple and RealNetworks charge for some of these products.

“It’s the typical Microsoft strategy, where they use this almost as a Trojan horse to bring something into play,” Gartenberg said. “The more ubiquitous it can make its file formats, the more they think that will drive adoption rates. This is a critical, critical effort for them.”

Whoever controls the most popular file formats can harness them for selling server software. This is something Microsoft demonstrated with its Office productivity suite, in which the ubiquity of file formats is considered a major catalyst for driving Windows sales.

“Microsoft’s main goal with Windows Media services is to sell as many servers as possible,” said Directions on Microsoft analyst Matt Rosoff. “That’s why it’s only possible to host and stream and create Windows Media Format files on Windows servers.”

More than anything, control on file formats (DOC, XLS and PPT) is the biggest entry barrier for desktop alternatives.

Email Search Utility

Information Management for the Desktop: “I’ve wondered from time to time, however, how I might use the database to centralize all the information on my system. For example, I have some useful information floating around in e-mail archives, never to be read again. I suppose I could learn the search/grep commands that would let me revisit old e-mails, but that doesn’t seem productive to me. Now, if the old e-mails with useful information could be transferred to my database, I think that would be nifty. ”

Using IMAP is one possible solution. Posting important messages on to a “mailblog” can be another idea — it allows for quick scanning of messages (more than can be seen in a mail client at once glance).

Emergic’s Three Phases

An update to how I see Emergic evolving in the coming months:

Phease 0 is what we are currently doing with the Messaging Server MailServ. This is a Linux-based product which has been deployed at 100+ corporates in India at 300+ locations.

Phase 1 of Emergic combines Thin Computing with the Digital Dashboard. The two taken together put in place the underlying IT infrastructure in enterprises: a computer on every desktop at a very low cost. The Digital Dashboard (comprising RSS Aggregation and Blogs) also provides a different user experience in terms of getting access to information in a faster, cheaper and better manner.

Phase 2 is building Content and Community to bring SMEs together online. This envisages an SME eZine and getting associations to pool the brainpower of their members in a Slashdot-like manner.

Phase 3 is creating the Visual Biz-ic framework and the Enterprise Software components. Visual Biz-ic is the foundation on which the Lego-like software can be built by software developers to provide an integrated eBusiness suite for SMEs. Events happening in the enterprise are published on the “information bus” in the enterprise and can be subscribed to by people and other applications. The goal is to enables SMEs to become RTEs (Real-Time Enterprises).

RSS, Blogs and Events

Have been doing some more thinking on the Digital Dashboard and how it needs to be put together. The thinking has also been motivated on how best we can integrate the work being done internally by three different teams as part of the BlogStreet, Digital Dashboard and Enterprise Software projects.

What the user sees is the Digital Dashboard. For now, it is just a page in a browser with three tabs (Mozilla allows tabbed browsing, instead of opening three separate copies of the same application). The three tabs are for:
– the RSS Aggregator
– the home page of my Blog (Reading)
– the New Entry window (Writing)

The RSS Aggregator needs to have the following features:
– add/edit/delete RSS feeds
– show the items (viewing): this can be done as an Outline
– support for multiple pages, so I can segragate feeds
– automatically set up filters to route specific feeds
– stored in a database
– filter by source, time
– show only new items
– search in the archives of the RSS feeds (which means storing old items)

The interesting feature here would be the “auto-route” filters. One way to look at RSS feeds is to look at what we want to do with email. Filters are an important part of mail management. In the RSS case, the auto-route filters should be able to do more than just posting to a blog or re-sending to email/SMS. We need a simple language to take certain actions on the items coming in. Sieve used in the Cyrus IMAP Mail Server could be a good starting point. But we may need more rules than what Sieve provides.

Today, people can subscribe directly to an RSS feed. This may need to change, especially in an organisation. I should be able to restrict who can subscribe to my feed. This becomes somewhat like IM – both sides have to accept to communicate. This will enable me to distribute feeds selectively. A person’s email address may work as authentication (just like many listservs do for subscription to email newsletters).

It may also be possible to build an “RSS market / exchange” where RSS feeds are aggregated together from different sources. A market approach also gives the option of charging for subscriptions. It also enables creation of feeds and their availablity for sources which don’t have the feeds available at this point of time.

An interesting feature in RSS would be to “overwrite” an existing item if unread. For example, a sports website could periodically send updates of the score. It the last item hasn’t been read by the user, then the new item should “in-place” update the old item, so that the user does not end up with a lot of items. This is somewhat similar to the ideas that Zaplet had when it had launched its product (it did the updates in place in email).

The next key component is the Blog. I should be able to do the following:
– post to multiple blogs
– each blog should have multiple categories
– blogs can be individual or comunity managed
– posting should require some authentication
– each blog should publish its own RSS feed, with the entries and the comments
– in an enterprise, do blogroll and link analysis to automatically identify clusters
– upload the blog to another location for hosting

This is the underlying infrastructure for putting in place the Digital Dashboard. The one platform which comes close with many of these features is Userland’s Radio which costs USD 40 a copy. In the open source world, there are many components, but what’s not happened so far is the seamless integration of the entire chain.

Once this infrastructure is in place and users begin with feeds coming in from various news sites and bloggers (within and outside the organisation), it will be time to “switch on” the next upgrade: the ability to route events from business applications through the same RSS-Blogs network. This combination becomes the foundation for the real-time enterprise.

The Digital Dashboard ideas are akin to today’s Corporate Portals. The problem with the latter is that they are expensive and mainly focused on the bigger organisations. What’s needed is a simpler, grassroots platform the the mass market of enterprises.

This is also the way for the Linux Desktop to make inroads into the enterprises. By just asking people to switch applications (Windows to Linux, Microsoft Office to StarOffice or OpenOffice), there’s going to a huge reluctance because people are used to the applications, the keyboard short-cuts, etc. What’s needed is a change in the way people interact with information and computers – which really is what they are supposed to be doing. It is the way Nvidia is switching the game from CPUs to GPUs. The Digital Dashboard needs to become the new Enterprise Operating System, the new Desktop for people.

The Lens

All of us acquire a “lens” through which we see the world. This is based on past experiences, our readings, our interactions with people and our thinking. Multiple external inputs come together to create the lens for us. This becomes a frame of reference, the “context” in which we see the world. Once the lens is in place, our thinking crosses a “tipping point” giving increasing returns for the time invested. What is also important is to expose ourselves to multiple inputs so that we can have a richer and diversified lens.

The usefulness of having this lens in place becomes evident as we work on building our views on the future and imagining what tomorrow will be like. The lens helps us see elements of the future (and the present) which we would otherwise have missed. It helps us relate developments in other areas to what we are doing. It also helps us apply principles and ideas from segments which may seem quite tangential back to what we are doing.

This is, according to me, one of the ways by which we can make ourselves think innovatively. Aggregating and assimilating readings and writings from different people and viewing them through our unique lens can lead to new and different ways of looking at existing challenges.

TECH TALK: Rethinking Enterprise Software: Whole Solution for USD 20 a month

Real-time Enterprises, Software Components, Visual Biz-ic, Digital Dashboard all may seem as good concepts. So also do a lot of items in showrooms on Fifth Avenue in New York. The question is: how much is it going to cost?

Heres my answer to what is needed to make this a mass market: hardware, software, training and support for no more than USD 20 per person per month. For this price, an employee working in a company should be a given a desktop computer, all the software needed, the training needed to use it and the support to ensure uninterrupted usage.

By bringing down the total cost of ownership to USD 20 per user per month (pupm), it now becomes possible to look at making computing available to everyone in a company earning more than USD 200 per month, with the assumption that the computer will make that employee at least 10% more productive and thus pay back for the investment.

In the SMEs (small and medium enterprises) today, penetration of computers is limited to a few. In India for example, there are no more than 4-5 million computers in enterprises (small, medium and large), with the number increasing by 1 million each year. This is because at price points of over USD 1,000 (for hardware and legal software), desktops are given to only the top managers and a limited number of people in each department. This is what needs to change, and this is why we need to we worry about computing when we are actually talking about enterprise software.

Software needs to be sold on a subscription basis few SMEs will be able to make large up-front investments for it as most enterprise software of today demands. It is, therefore, important to increase the installed base of computer users. SMEs in the emerging markets need a whole solution so even as focus on enterprise software, the problem cannot be looked at in isolation.
The challenge is to realise Bill Gates vision of a computer on every desktop (and in every home). But this will not happen at the current price points of hardware and software. What is needed is a dramatic reduction in the cost of the desktop computer the hardware and the software. The objective should be to bring down the cost of the desktop to USD 100-150 (Rs 5,000-7,500) and the cost of software to USD 5 (Rs 250) per person per month.

As we think of the possible solutions, it is useful to keep the following excerpt from a recent Business Week special report on Innovations:

One of the most important rules of successful innovation is to develop technologies for new markets where industry stalwarts have no status quo to protect — and no need to steal someone else’s customer to succeed. In management-speak, this is called “taking root in disruption.”

One example [Clay] Christensen points to is the rise of the personal computer. The original Apple II computer was targeted at kids — the only customers willing to play around with such a dorky machine. But as PCs improved, parents started paying attention. By listening to these new customers, Apple and rival PC makers were able ultimately to unseat the computing incumbents, who were still focused on mainframes and other large, professional computers.

According to Christensen, a company with a new technology has only a 6% chance of success if it tries to make a similar but better product than an incumbent and sell it to the same customers. By contrast, he says, the chances of success for a “disruptive strategy” are 33%.

Equally important is the principle that new technologies should disrupt competitors, not customers. Too often, new technologies try to make customers change the way they do things. Instead, Christensen says, innovation should help customers do things they already do more easily, conveniently, and for less money.

So, what are our disruptive strategies to bring down the cost of computers?

Tomorrow: Whole Solution (continued)

Joel on Software

Joel on Software is a must-read for anyone in software development. Here’s a small excerpt from his Strategy Letter V:

All else being equal, demand for a product increases when the prices of its complements decrease. In general, a company’s strategic interest is going to be to get the price of their complements as low as possible. The lowest theoretically sustainable price would be the “commodity price” — the price that arises when you have a bunch of competitors offering indistinguishable goods. So, smart companies try to commoditize their products’ complements. If you can do this, demand for your product will increase and you will be able to charge more and make more.

The World of Bill Gates

Fortune story on Bill Gates and his interests in software, family and philanthropy. Never miss a story on Gates — there’s always a lot to learn.

Writes Fortune on Longhorn, the forthcoming OS from Microsoft:

Gates’ geeks are completely overhauling the operating system, they’ll also have to redesign most of the company’s other software products and services to take full advantage, including the MSN online service, its server applications, and especially Microsoft Office, the productivity suite that accounts for nearly a third of the company’s sales and profits. If this enormous undertaking succeeds, it will make computers more personal than ever. Equipped with Longhorn, your PC will keep track of how you work, whom you talk to, what sites you look at, how you make documents and whom you share them with, which data on the network are yours–making all those things easier.

Nokia – Business Week

Nokia’s Next Act is a story on how the company is responding to the challenges: “The mobile industry is in the midst of an historic transition driven by financial crisis and fast-changing technology. Cell-phone ownership is approaching saturation levels in the developed world. The wireless Web was supposed to spur demand for pricey new computerlike handsets capable of handling everything from real-time stock quotes to videoconferencing. But the introduction of so-called third-generation wireless services is running behind schedule. What’s more, financially strapped carriers are rolling back the generous subsidies that made it possible for new customers to take home $200 phones for $10. No wonder handset manufacturers lost money overall last year and should show only a modest profit in 2002.”