Linux Desktop

eWeek’s article on the lack of corporate acceptance of a Linux desktop quotes Andrew Care, CIO for Air New Zealand: “What is needed before we consider moving is an office productivity suite that has functionality and applications comparable to Microsoft Office. But, even more importantly, any Linux desktop will have to be completely compatible with Office and be able to translate and read all documents, templates and spreadsheets 100 percent.”

Also from the same article:

Nat Friedman, co-founder and vice president of Linux desktop developer Ximian Inc., of Boston, agreed that interoperability with Office is the biggest issue in corporate adoption of the Linux desktop.

“For a long time, usability was the big issue, but that is no longer the case. Microsoft protocols and file formats are. It takes us two years to write compatibility with any Microsoft product into ours,” Friedman said.

I don’t see anyone worrying about the next set of computer users. Windows and Office have won the battle with the first 500 million computer users in the first two decades of computing. In the next decade, we are going to see another 500 million users adopt computing. They are the ones whom the Linux desktop should be aimed because they cannot pay USD 700 for a PC and USD 500 for Windows and Office – they can afford a fraction of that. They are in the world’s developing countries.

BEA Liquid Data

Writes on the launch of BEA’s new product, “which glues together all types of business information stored in various locations, allowing people to search and view that data as if it were stored in one location”:

The problem is as old as the computer industry itself. Despite years of development in database and infrastructure software, it’s still difficult–and sometimes impossible–to search across a corporate network for all e-mails, documents and spreadsheets related to a specific project, for instance. Searching through video, audio and image files is kludgy at best.

“So why is everyone trying to do this? It’s an age-old problem: Old data never goes away. It hangs around forever. So as you keep adding new applications and new databases, it gets more complex to try to make information integrate,” said Mike Gilpin, an analyst with Giga Information group. “Customers today have a concern with the difficulty in doing data integration. Its complexity is always an obstacle. It’s in the interest of IBM, BEA and others to remove those obstacles.”

This seems to be more of what a Digital Dashboard and Information Refinery should be doing. Would be interesting to see what BEA is doing, because we are trying to solve similar problems at a much smaller case for the smaller companies. Blogs are going to play a key part in this future.

Gawer on Linux and Innovation

Ubiquity (ACM) has an interview with Annabelle Gawer, the co-author of “Platform Leadership”. She talks about innovation and Linux:

[Openness] increases tremendously innovation that complements what was previously written. The old school of thought about innovation was that you had to protect everything in order to prevent substitute innovation. If you protect your innovation by a patent, it becomes unlawful to come up with a substitute during the time of the patent. The idea is a fundamental insight of economics, which is that you should protect the incentives of the innovator, because it’s very hard work to innovate. There’s a lot of trial and error, but once you’re done it’s easy for someone else to imitate you. If there were no protection then the innovators would stop trying to innovate because they would not have economic benefit. This philosophy underlies our whole patent system. Now, what the Linux story uncovers in a blatant way is that there are other kinds of incentives to innovate. It shows that you can open things up and not stop innovation. It might stop competitive innovation, but it doesn’t stop collaborative innovation. Those are the pluses of the Linux story.

The minuses are: How do you maintain such a product over the long run? Who is going to ensure the maintenance, which is less exciting than being a wonderful hacker inventing genius code? You need to have sound commercial organization behind it, and for that kind of thing to happen you need to have the traditional business incentives and therefore you need to protect from imitation. How do you reconcile openness and closeness? How to reconcile creativity and maintenance over the long run hasn’t been resolved yet. But I think the Linux story has expanded our understanding of the phenomenon of innovation.

Also see: my earlier post on this topic.

Free Databases

Writes Bloomberg: “MySQL and others are starting to eat into the $8.8 billion market for database software dominated by Oracle, International Business Machines Corp. and Microsoft Corp., users said. Yahoo, which uses MySQL to run the Yahoo! Finance Web site, may replace some Oracle databases with MySQL, said Jeremy Zawodny, a computer engineer at the Internet company.”

Among the other free databases is PostgreSQL. I think MySQL is not under GPL so one cannot bundle it commercially for free, while PostgreSQL is.

TECH TALK: Tech’s 10X Tsunamis: Business Process Standards: Enterprise Connections

While businesses are by definition collaborative (in the sense, that every transaction has a buyer and seller), the way businesses have been run has been very individualistic. Every enterprise, small or big, has its own ways and means of managing its people, products, accounts, customers, partners and suppliers. Like fingerprints and snowflakes, no two businesses are alike.

What this means is that a lot of time is spent in defining and implementing business processes. While the big businesses may be justified is using their unique business mechanisms as a source of competitive advantage, for many small and medium enterprises (SMEs), figuring out the right business processes (concomitant with the right information flows and activity sequences) can be a source of pain a kind of trial-and-error until one gets it reasonably right.

This is what is about to change. For the past few years, many industry consortia have been working together to define business process standards. One of the factors which has made this easier has been the increasing adoption of XML for data and document interchange between enterprises.

Among the various business process standards initiatives, the one which is perhaps the most significant is RosettaNet. By its own definition, RosettaNet is a non-profit consortium of more than 400 of the world’s leading Information Technology (IT), Electronic Components (EC), Semiconductor Manufacturing (SM) and Solution Provider (SP) companies working to create, implement and promote open e-business process standards.By establishing a common language — or standard processes for the electronic sharing of business information — RosettaNet opens the lines of communication and a world of opportunities for everyone involved in the supplying and buying of today’s technologies. Businesses that offer the tools and services to help implement RosettaNet processes gain exposure and business relationships. Companies that adopt RosettaNet standards engage in dynamic, flexible trading-partner relationships, reduce costs and raise productivity. End users enjoy speed and uniformity in purchasing practices.

While RosettaNet may seem to have a focus on just a few industries, the standards it is developing can work across industries, especially for SMEs. RosettaNet defines PIPs (Partner Interface Processes), which are specialized system-to-system XML-based dialogs that define business processes between trading partners. Each PIP specification includes a business document with the vocabulary, and a business process with the choreography of the message dialog. PIPs apply to the following core processes: Administration; Partner, Product and Service Review; Product Introduction; Order Management; Inventory Management; Marketing Information Management; Service and Support; and Manufacturing. Of special interest is the set of standards covered by RosettaNet Basics, a set of core PIPs that help in simplifying implementation for the smaller enterprises.

A recent development is RosettaNets merger with Uniform Code Council Inc., best known for introducing the bar-coding system to the retail world. Together, they hope to hasten the adoption of B2B integration standards by organisations worldwide.

Taken together with Web Services which enable the creation of software components, the activity in the standardisation of business processes will streamline intra- and inter-enterprise interactions dramatically in the coming years, laying the foundation for real-time enterprises. The opportunity is greatest for the SMEs who can now use existing libraries of processes to connect into the supply chains of their larger customers.

Additional Reading:

  • Tech Talk: Web Services and Business Processes (June 5, 2002)
  • RosettaNet website

    Next Week: Techs 10X Tsunamis (continued)