Ozzie on OHIO

Writes Ray Ozzie, commenting on Steve Gillmor’s article (which I had blogged earlier):

Steve Gillmor talks about spam and collaboration models, and says that pointing at a single copy of data from multiple spaces violates the OHIO principle. In fact, a good OHIO architecture might involve using a tool that – as a side-effect of content creation – posts a single copy of the content to a public store. Then, assuming uniform visibility, people can collaborate with one another in private spaces, referencing the public resource.

In fact, this is largely the picture painted by John Stenbit (from whom I learned the term OHIO, btw), whose vision is to migrate the DoD to a world of more effective information sharing by giving power to the edge, as opposed to leaving it locked up within the stovepipe where the originating entity might potentially keep it from being acted upon by someone else. Publish, notify … discover, collaboratively analyze, decide, act.

Which is why I’m such a big believer in client-side tools that work the way that people want them to work. If you work on your documents naturally in a personal environment tailored to a certain natural workstyle – e.g. Radio, or the “shared canvas” of the Groove transceiver – a ‘bot’ in that space can move or stream it automatically to the Web, SharePoint, to Siebel or SAP, or to your repository of choice. If someone had to “post” the information as a separate step, they won’t.

We have to see how we can apply some of these ideas to our Digital Dashboard project.

Sun and Linux

Writes NYT on Sun’s embrace of Linux: “The company will introduce its LX50 server on the opening day of the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo, which starts on Monday in San Francisco. The price of the server, which is based on a standard 1.4-gigahertz Intel microprocessor, will begin at $2,795. The pricing is aggressive, analysts said, making Sun quite competitive with vendors like Dell Computer. A similarly configured system from Dell running the Red Hat version of Linux costs about $3,700.”

Adds NYT:

For some time Sun has pursued a strategy of “thin clients,” using very inexpensive terminal devices on the desktop and centralizing computing on its powerful servers. Now, however, the company has begun to sketch out a strategy based on Linux and its inexpensive StarOffice software suite, which provides typical business functions like word processing and spreadsheeets.

Sun’s new executive vice president for software, Jonathan Schwartz, says that with this new strategy, Sun will approach large corporate computing installations and try to persuade them to break away from Microsoft and its Office applications.

“Our target is the telephone-call center that wants to put software on 10,000 desktops,” he said.

Ozzie on Software Platforms

Writes Ray Ozzie: “If you care about getting software out to your users as quickly and as broadly as possible, the code beneath you that you can leverage makes a world of difference. When it comes to time and money, leverage counts. It’s not a commoditized environment: things like the choices of OS, tools, and environments like .NET do indeed matter.”

Ozzie is right from his viewpoint. But from where I sit, we cannot give up the desktop battle. We cannot hand it over to Microsoft. That is where the Linux Thin Client comes in. Money is precious in emerging markets and for emerging enterprises. They need to get the greatest bang for their buck. Thats the market we will cater to. But we need to present them with the best of the new ideas in software – a software equivalent of “Reader’s Digest” as it were, with value-added aggregation.

India, Pakistan and GE – Friedman

Thomas Friedman has an interesting viewpoint on how the IT industry staved off a possible war between India and Pakistan. He writes:

Two months ago India and Pakistan appeared headed for a nuclear war. Colin Powell, the U.S. secretary of state and a former general, played a key role in talking the two parties back from the brink. But here in India, I’ve discovered that there was another new, and fascinating, set of pressures that restrained the Indian government and made nuclear war, from its side, unthinkable. Quite simply, India’s huge software and information technology industry, which has emerged over the last decade and made India the back-room and research hub of many of the world’s largest corporations, essentially told the nationalist Indian government to cool it. And the government here got the message and has sought to de-escalate ever since. That’s right – in the crunch, it was the influence of General Electric, not General Powell, that did the trick.

This story starts with the fact that, thanks to the Internet and satellites, India has been able to connect its millions of educated, English-speaking, low-wage, tech-savvy young people to the world’s largest corporations. They live in India, but they design and run the software and systems that now support the world’s biggest companies, earning India an unprecedented $60 billion in foreign reserves – which doubled in just the last three years. But this has made the world more dependent on India, and India on the world, than ever before.

Friedman’s book “The Lexus and the Olive Tree” is an excellent book – read it if you haven’t. Its on the impact of globalisation. India is now very much a part of the global supply chains.

Email, Spam and Information Router

Another good Steve Gillmor article from InfoWorld: “Spam will go away — with the death of e-mail.”

Gillmor then talks about collaboration technologies:

With the explosion of the Internet and the Web, collaboration gained a ubiquitous connected presence and its attendant real-time technologies: instant messaging, peer-to-peer file sharing, and videoconferencing. Lotus moved Notes to the Web with Domino, opening the data store to URL addressability, and Microsoft soon followed with Exchange 2000’s Web Storage System.

Suddenly three data types were available from the same store. Notes had previously merged e-mail and Lotus Organizer’s scheduling and calendaring features. Now Exchange 2000 added Office and other documents to the mix, all accessible via the browser. The long-sought vision of an information router seemed closer.

With Notes essentially cloned and the original Ozzie team resurfaced at Groove Networks, Microsoft shifted its attention to XML Web Services. With Microsoft’s investment in Groove, collaboration RD is now focused on the intersection of Groove’s decentralized peer-to-peer model and Microsoft’s centralized STS (SharePoint Team Services).

The first fruit of this collaboration is the STS integration kit, which lets a Groove user create a shared space, populate it with an STS connector, and input the URL for the target SharePoint site. The result: a Groove shared space that maintains a private copy of the SharePoint data and synchronizes additions in both directions.

The SharePoint editing tool (aka Internet Explorer) remains a crippled subset of Word, Excel, and Outlook. Excel has already been updated, but we have to wait until Office 11 for real XML support in Word and Outlook.

In a universe where documents are made up of the same underlying DNA (XML), e-mail, Word documents, and Outlook messages share a common data type with extensions appropriate to their unique tasks.

With identity as the base on which business logic is built, access privileges and the location of the data can be offered by the “sender” rather than pushing a message out. Instead of playing the digital equivalent of dodge ball with spam, we can now market our identities and barter degrees of access in return for services, products, or information.

A lot of food for thought there. The key is Identity Management, according to Gillmor. Interestingly, the last issues of Release 1.0 have dealt with Identity Management – need to think and understand this more.

Also read: Jon Udell’s article on “Putting People first for a change“. He writes:

Every day, we pour an ocean of information into Outlook e-mail messages, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and Web pages rendered in Internet Explorer. The sum of all this data vastly exceeds what is stored and managed in databases, and essentially none of it today has anything to do with XML.

Strategies that aim to change that include shipping .Net to the desktop, upgrading SQL Server’s XML engine in Yukon, and converting the Windows file system to an XML object store in Longhorn. But focusing on these future plans deflects attention from what was already feasible several generations of Office ago. The .Net Framework only recreates, in managed code, the XML parsing, validation, manipulation, and transformation technology that has been standard in Internet Explorer, and therefore the Windows OS, for at least three years. Office hasn’t exploited this stuff because Microsoft has been in no hurry to commoditize the proprietary file formats on which the Office empire was built.

The turning point may finally be at hand. Last month, Office czar Jeff Raikes showed Word 11 working with schema-valid XML. The enthusiasm that bubbled up on the developer Weblogs that registered this event was a measure of the pent-up demand. Users aren’t clamoring for XML writing tools, but they do respond to the concept videos, and developers know that deployment of those tools will help them deliver the goods.

One deliverable Microsoft isn’t promising for Office 11 is the universal canvas touted in the 2000 .Net rollout. This notion pushes embedded OLE objects to their logical conclusion. All data is represented as XML; application boundaries dissolve; users create or annotate any piece of data in any context; the self-describing XML data says which tools can manipulate it. This can’t happen any time soon, Raikes told InfoWorld, because the applications’ storage and retrieval algorithms are optimized in ways that preclude working with live XML storage.

The way to think for the future, according to Udell: “ad hoc peer-to-peer networking, instant messaging, presence, Weblogs, and publish/subscribe notification”.

TECH TALK: Tech’s 10X Tsunamis: Intellectual Capital: Wealth of Knowledge

In his book “The Wealth of Knowledge“, Thomas Stewart talks about the three big ideas of the past two decades which have fundamentally changed how organisations run. The first two were Total Quality Management and Re-engineering. The third, he says, is Intellectual Capital. He writes:

At its core is the simple observation that organizations tangible assets cash, land and buildings, plant and equipment, and other balance-sheet items are substantially less valuable than the intangible assets not carried on their books. Among these are hard intangibles like patents and copyrights, information-age assets such as databases and software, and most important of all soft assets such as skills, capabilities, expertise, cultures, loyalties, and so on. These are knowledge assets intellectual capital and they determine success or failure.

A companys processes, the knowledge which is there in its people, the brand value which makes consumers pay a premium, the patents a company owns, the software systems that govern its business they are all part of intellectual capital. Intellectual capital has increasingly become the biggest differentiator in business. As knowledge-intensive industries like infotech and biotech permeate more of the world, the challenge before organizations is going to on how to build and grow their intellectual capital.

More than ever before, information and knowledge have become the centerpiece of business. For example, when we courier a package, we implicitly assume that the courier company has its transportation logistics in order and that the package will get to its destination. What we really want to know is the information about the package when was it delivered, who signed for it. In supply chains, inventory is the result of inadequate information. As companies use technologies like web services to break down information barriers, it is increasingly clear that information and knowledge derived from it is becoming a very important source of competitive advantage.

One of the key elements in the origins of intellectual capital is an Idea. Ideas are what drive entrepreneurs in fact, all that entrepreneurs have when they launch their business is their intellectual capital: their vision of how the world can be different. Ideas are powerful, ideas transform the ordinary into the extraordinary, ideas drive innovation. Says Jack Welch in Stewarts book:

An idea is not necessarily a biotech idea. Thats the wrong view of what an idea is. An idea is a error-free billing system. An idea is taking a process that used to require six days to do and getting it done in one day. We get 6 percent and 7 percent productivity increases routinely now, mostly because of ideas like that. Everyone can contribute. Every single person.

As intellectual capital becomes increasingly important for success, survivability and profitability, we should keep these words by Stewart in mind:

Organisations are complex human beings. They can adapt, grow and improve the way human beings do without having to be taken apart, their parts spread out over the garage floor by a consulting mechanic. Organisations are not so much collections of parts as they are connections of brain cells, nerves and sinews. To discover this is to discover the power of knowledge set free and of technology made human. It is to discover that its possible to improve not only a companys performance today, but its responsiveness, its repertoire of skills and its capacity to deal with the future.

Many of the technology tsunamis that we are talking about here are going to make a direct impact on the generation, processing and management of knowledge. This is the tsunami which the emerging enterprises in the world need to leverage as they target new markets. The organisation of tomorrow is going to be the ultimate information refinery. It is a theme we will return to soon when we discuss weblogs and RSS.

Tomorrow: PCs for USD 100