New Web Services Specs

Writes News.com:

Microsoft, IBM and BEA Systems plan to announce new specifications on Monday that the companies hope will help drive adoption of Web services.

The first specification–called Business Process Execution Language for Web Services–is a programming language for defining how to combine Web services to accomplish a particular task. WS-Coordination describes how individual Web services within that task interact. A software programmer, for example, can stitch together Web services into a sequence of operations to accomplish a particular task. The third specification, called WS-Transaction, is used to ensure that transactions all complete successfully or fail as a group. Web services are emerging methods of writing software that allows businesses to interact via the Internet.

A travel Web site could use Web services to connect to airlines, hotels and car rental agencies, allowing a traveler to book an airplane, hotel room and a car at the same time. If all three reservation requests are successful, the traveler can complete the transaction. But if the airplane request is not successful, the computing system can undo the hotel room and car rental request–and ask the traveler to submit another travel request.

What may be especially interesting for us is the first one – the Business Process Execution Language. As we go about putting the modules in place using web services for enterprise applications, we must adhere to standards. Anything that can streamline business processes will be useful. Need to see how it fits in with RosettaNet Basics.

Trellix adds Blogging

Writes News.com: “Trellix, which sells software designed to simplify Web site development, is announcing that its tools now support the creation of Web logs.”

It quotes Dan Bricklin, Trellix’s CTO and entrepreneur-par-excellence: “It’s a market that’s been huge for some time, and it’s growing. There are people who want to read (blogs). And it’s OK if only a few people are reading it. It’s useful for public discourse. For small businesses, it’s a great way to have a personal face to the public.”

We think much the same way. Thats where the Digital Dashboard comes in. Weblogs are one of the three new WWWs (with WiFi and Web Services).

SAP’s new boss

Economist.com writes about Henning Kagermann, the person likely to take over as head of SAP:

His professorial past shows most when he explains trends in IT. A good illustration of the current shift in enterprise software, he says, is the difference between classical and quantum physics. The former deals with separate systems, just as enterprise software traditionally was about separate applications. In quantum physics, everything is deeply linked. Similarly, with the help of the Internet, applications are growing together, both within companies and across industries. Enterprise software will increasingly be about stringing together entire business processes. Naturally, Mr Kagermann sees SAP as the ber-integrator in this real-time economy.

Today, SAP can consider itself lucky that it was late jumping on the Internet bandwagon (with an ill-fated investment in Commerce One). If firms spend money on new software these days, they prefer established vendors that offer integrated packages – something that plays to SAP’s strengths. What is more, SAP has made some shrewd moves. It opened up its applications, for instance, making it easier for customers to connect them with competing products.

Yet SAP is not about to take over the world. It still has to prove that it can offer the right kinds of products and services for all types of businessfrom easy-to-use programs for small firms to complex solutions for large companies. It is making some headway on both fronts: it recently released a new software package for smaller companies, called Business One, and on July 31st it announced a deal with Ford, worth at least $40m, to streamline the car maker’s distribution of parts.

These days, Mr Kagermann says, one can’t simply sell a big idea without being sure it can be properly implemented. Customers want to understand what works and what doesn’t. Tech talk is out, he adds, and competence in.

InfoWorld on Microsoft .Net

Here. Says InfoWorld:

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s office is issuing the marching orders, and the company is working to more tightly align business units. Using XML as the rallying cry, Microsoft is driving its .Net and Web services initiatives to solve problems associated with what it calls “customer scenarios.”

In a three-part series, InfoWorld examines the impact of Microsoft’s strategy across three core technology areas: application development, .Net servers, and client applications. The first part, published July 29, investigates Microsoft’s efforts to keep its loyal following of Visual Basic developers on its side. The second part, published August 5, details Microsoft’s plans to unify its .Net server architecture. The final story, on Aug. 12, will draw together Microsoft’s .Net strategy from the client application perspective.

Microsoft doing just fine

WSJ.com comments:

Amid the recent stock-market bloodbath, Microsoft’s longtime control of the still-lucrative market for desktop operating systems has become even more glaringly evident, economic specialists and fund managers say. It has played a big role in allowing Microsoft to ride out the recession and even raise prices for customers, these people say.

“When things slow down, [Microsoft] is just in a different kind of fight,” says Walter Casey, an analyst and portfolio manager at Banc One Investment Advisors. “These guys are just churning out copies of Windows and getting upgrades from the existing base” of customers, instead of having to search out brand-new customers and hit them up for big sales, he says. “To an organization, their software is almost like water or something … replacing all of that would be very difficult.”

“They’ve got a situation where it’s almost impossible for anyone to break into that market,” says Hal Varian, an expert in the economics of software and dean of the School of Information Management and Systems at the University of California at Berkeley. Mr. Varian says Microsoft benefits from a classic “positive feedback” loop, with unit costs dropping as more products are sold, and the popularity of Microsoft’s products making them more attractive to new users.

The upshot: Most customers still don’t really have a choice of desktop software, analysts say. Competing products are on the market, but most aren’t yet viable.

We need a Linux Thin Client on the desktop for the world’s emerging markets. This is what Emergic will provide.

Surging eBay

eBay continues its incredible growth, according to the WSJ:

eBay Inc. Chief Financial Officer Rajiv Dutta said that having more international transactions and putting more types of products on sale will drive revenue growth.

He said growth “will come by expanding the categories of businesses we are in and the geography across that whole host of categories.”

Ebay had 145 million items listed for sale across 18,000 product categories in the second quarter, he said, and a base of 50 million registered users.

In the second quarter, gross sales of transactions was $3.4 billion, or an average sale of $432, said Mr. Dutta. He said eBay typically makes $1.50 to $1.65 on each transaction. Transaction revenue was 88% of total revenue in the second quarter. Total revenue in the second quarter rose 47% to $266.2 million from a year ago.

Relatively new categories such as the company’s “Motors” section are showing rapid growth, making eBay “arguably one of world’s largest used car sellers in the world,” Mr. Dutta said. Plus, more traditional categories are seeing strong growth.

We need to create a eBay for used technologies (like PCs) targeted at the emerging markets of the world. Or perhaps use eBay itself.

Europe works less

Writes WSJ:

Europeans are well known for a more balanced lifestyle than workaholic Americans. But these days, Europe has never worked so little. While the Continent worked as much as the rest of the developed world 20 years ago, it has steadily cut back on work weeks while lengthening vacations, a trend that has gathered steam in recent years.

Without realizing it, Europe has embarked on an unusual experiment in an era of globalization: trying to become more competitive while working less.

So far the economic results are not promising. Two years ago at a summit in Lisbon, European Union government leaders set the goal of becoming the most competitive economy in the world by the end of this decade. But with unemployment rising and nearly no growth in consumption, Europe’s fortunes appear tied to a U.S. turnaround more than ever.

I don’t understand this. While the rest of the world appears to be working more, Europe wants to work less. They are going to lose out to the hungrier, emerging markets in the times to come.

TECH TALK: Tech’s 10X Tsunamis: Networks: Bringing Good Links to Light

Networks are everywhere. You are reading this page over a network. Telephones, road and rail, airlines, electricity, family and friends, LANs and WANs they are all examples of networks. Networks help us connect to people, to places, to computers, to utilities, and even to memories hidden deep inside the ultimate network of them all, our brain.

Consider for a moment our social networks and how theyve changed in the past few years. For most of us, there are now hundreds of people in our address books, more than that we could have imagined or managed a decade ago. High-school buddies, classmates from college, ex-colleagues from previous jobs, or simply family and friends email, IM and cellphones connect us to them. Geography and distance have become irrelevant as technology helps us manage 10X the relationships.

Networks and connections are nothing new; they have existed since time immemorial. Its not networks that are the 10X force, but our understanding of how networks work which is the real tsunami. Bringing networks to life is what a series of recent books have done: Malcom Gladwells “The Tipping Point“, Steven Johnsons “Emergence“, David Weinbergers “Small Pieces Loosely Joined” and above all, Albert-Lazlo Barabasis “Linked“. Each addresses a similar set of issues, but from different angles. Gladwell looks at how epidemics spread, Johnson looks at how the whole can be much greater than the sum of the parts, Weinberger considers the Internet and Web, while Barabasi examines the underlying science of networks.

Barabasis book delves into the formation of networks. He talks of scale-free networks networks in which power-law degree distribution applies. The degree distribution of random networks follows a bell curve, with most nodes have the same number of average links, and nodes with a very large number of links dont exist. The highway network can be thought of as a random network (with cities thought of as nodes, and the connecting roads as links). On other hand, in scale-free networks, most nodes have only a few links, held together by a few highly connected hubs. The air traffic system is an example of a scale-free network.

Barabasi goes on to say that real networks are governed by two laws: growth, which means that new nodes are continuously added, and preferential attachment, which states that new nodes prefer to attach to the more connected nodes a rich-get-richer kind-of phenomenon. Taken together, these two laws govern the evolution of scale-free networks, and result in the emergence of a few highly connected hubs.

Barabasi also introduces the notion of fitness, the ability to make friends relative to everyone else in the neighbourhood, a quantitative measure of a nodes ability to stay ahead of the competition. Googles success is an indication of the fit-get-rich behaviour of networks. Microsoft is an example of winner-take-all, meaning that the fittest node grabs all the links (a state described as the Bose-Einstein condensate), a situation where the network develops a star topology.

Barabasi also applies the learnings to the world of business: In a network economy the hubs must get bigger as the network grows. To satisfy their hunger for links, nodes of the business web learn to swallow smaller nodes, a novel method unseen in other networks. As globalization pressures the nodes to grow bigger, mergers and acquisitions are a natural consequence of an expanding economy.

Where do we go from here? Answers Barabasi:

The answer is simple. We must remove the wrapping [that surrounds networks]. The goal before us is to understand complexity. To achieve that, we must move beyond structure and topology and start focusing on the dynamics that take place along the links. Networks are only the skeleton of complexity, the highways for the various processes that make the world humTo understand life we must start looking at the reaction dynamics along the links of the metabolic network. To understand the Internet, we must add traffic to its entangled linksWe have learned the laws of web cartography, allowing us to draw new maps whenever we are faced with new systems. Now we must follow these maps to complete the journey, fitting the pieces to one another, node by node, link by link, and capturing their dynamic interplay.

The connections are there, and have always been there. What Barabasi and his colleagues in the academic community are doing is throwing light to make these relationships visible. As we understand networks better, so will our knowledge of the complexities of the connected world become richer.

Next Week: Techs 10X Tsunamis (continued)