Mozilla as Platform

Salon writes about Mozilla becoming an platform:

Scores of developers are now talking about using Mozilla as a “platform” — that is, using Mozilla’s underlying code to build non-browser applications, like calendar programs and e-mail programs and even Linux desktops. You don’t need to download Mozilla to use these apps, as some are distributed with their own stripped-down version of Mozilla’s engine.

Jakob Nielsen’s dream browser would “use the network” in its core processes, so that, for example, if you misspelled an URL it would auto-correct it to what you probably meant (the way Google does with search terms). Your browser could tell your search engine every page you’ve been to before, so that you could restrict your search to the sites you’ve seen in the past. Or, instead, he’d get rid of the browser altogether and come up with a “digital control panel,” something integrated with e-mail and other network applications, that updates you when things change on the Web, tells you when someone comes online, and follows your favorite listservs and alerts you when you need to pay attention.

The article quotes Mike Potter of OEone: “What I think is going to happen is that all these people who’ve been making Web sites for all this time are going to get bored with it. The guys who are running advanced sites — they don’t know Java. They know Javascript and style sheets, and that’s all you need for Mozilla. So they’re going to start programming in Mozilla, because it’s simple. They’ll be writing little programs for Mozilla and you’re going to go to somebody’s page and download this program. It will just be part of the Web page…Eventually, [webmasters] will integrate their content into these programs, so you won’t visit the golf Web site, you’ll start up the golf program…The browser’s not even going to matter.”

Salon’s article also talks on OEone’s HomeBase Desktop, a new GUI for Linux.

  • Slashdot thread

  • All-in-one Travel Adaptor

    This Go!Con gizmo costs USD 28, and according to InfoWorld, “actually fits an entire set of plugs into a single device smaller than a pack of cigarettes. It changes its shape like a Transformer toy to fit your laptop plug into outlets in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas.”

    The device doesn’t convert the international 220-volt, 50Hz standard into the 110-volt, 60Hz found in the United States. But the power supplies of most laptops already handle this voltage conversion automatically, adds InfoWorld.

    Looks like a must-have!

    Microsoft Longhorn

    Two articles on what to expect from Microsoft’s next OS codenamed Longhorn, which will be released in 2004-5:

  • InfoWorld quotes Jim Allchin: “You’re really designing systems that will live not five years but 10, 15, 20 years based on a Windows architecture that will be modular and componentized…It’s pretty amazing when you think about it. You can get presence information, you can get notifications, and you can sort of integrate the front office and consumer applications with what’s happening in the backroom.”
  • Yahoo News – Microsoft’s Next Must-Have Operating System: “One report has indicated that Longhorn will use a new application programming interface (API) framework, code-named Avalon, as the core of its new information access architecture. The structure is intended to let users share and organize information in a more intuitive way than in previous versions of Windows. The platform, according to reports, also is designed to tie into a .NET environment.”

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  • Unified Messaging

    Unified messaging combines e-mail, fax, voice mail. The concept has been around for a long time, but however appealing it may seem, has floundered. Writes The Seattle Times:

    Two area companies, Active Voice and Captaris, face that challenge as they try to sell unified-messaging systems, telecommunications products that let users receive voice mail, e-mail and even faxes in one inbox.

    “The quantification of this business case is a bit tricky,” said Ronald Gruia, an analyst with Frost and Sullivan. It’s hard to convince companies they’ll save enough from greater worker efficiency to justify buying unified messaging, he said.

    [Unified Messaging’s] growth is tied to the assumption companies will invest more rapidly in new internal telephone systems that use Internet protocol (IP), Gruia said. The protocol is the same technology that moves data efficiently through the Internet, and some companies are using it to replace an older switch technology, which runs typical voice-communications services.

    Companies that do migrate to IP are likely to consider upgrading their voice-mail systems, which are tied to conventional switch technology. The logical step is to choose unified messaging instead of a new voice-mail system, the vendors said.

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    Leveraging Technology

    An interesting commentary by David Wessel in the WSJ in an article entitled Technology Users Cash In, While Its Makers Founder:

    One notion is surely dead now: that the people and places who produce information technology will get ever richer, while the rest of us languish on hold waiting for “technical support.” Auto dealers are making money; companies that make fiber optics aren’t. Shares of ace computer-user Wal-Mart Stores Inc. are down about 6% so far this year; shares of Internet-gear supplier Cisco Systems Inc. are down about 30%.

    The biggest benefits from information technology, it is increasingly apparent, often go to those who use it cleverly rather than to those who make it. The computer hardware and software businesses are sexy, but some parts of it are very competitive. That is squeezing profits for producers and cutting prices for consumers.

    Look at the personal computer that $1,500 buys today.

    Therein lies a lesson for countries and communities who lust after sparkling high-tech factories. The surest path to prosperity isn’t exporting computer chips or software.

    It is deploying them.

    That is exactly how users and enterprises in the emerging markets should look at technology. Rather than trying to re-invent the wheel, look at leveraging what’s there. Using technology smartly across the spectrum offers the greatest opportunity to raise income levels and the standard of living for the world’s developing countries.

    High-speed Internet in Trains

    From WSJ:

    Amtrak said it plans to test a system for offering passengers high-speed Internet access on its trains. In a test scheduled for next month, riders in a cafe car on an Amtrak line with stops in Harrisburg, Pa., Philadelphia and New York will be able to watch movies and television shows, check e-mail or shop online using interactive touch screens.

    The interactive wireless entertainment and communications system will be installed on the back of Amtrak train seats and have a touch-screen display. The screens allow passengers to connect to the Internet using a new high-speed wireless network.

    “Passengers can tune in for work or play, and advertisers gain access to a highly affluent, captive audience,” said Carlos Garcia, chief executive of NRoute Communications, the network’s provider. If the tests succeed, NRoute will install and maintain the equipment at no cost to the railroad, and Amtrak will get a small share of ad revenues.

    The business model as highlighted in the last paragraph could be how we approach hotels to offer Thin Clients in their rooms for guests to get Internet access.

    Why SMS Rules

    Writes Jeremy Wagstaff (WSJ):

    SMS is a great way to communicate without actually committing to anything. You can SMS someone you barely know, safe in the knowledge that while it opens up all sorts of possibilities for flirting/business/gossip/extending your circle, the social cost is low. As Rich Ling, a sociologist in Norway, points out, sending a message like ‘How ya doing?’ initiates contact and invites a response, but isn’t half as hairy as walking across a dance floor/pub/funeral parlour and striking up a conversation with a hot stranger. Similarly, the recipient has plenty of wiggle-room, ranging from ignoring the message entirely — claiming, if it ever came to court, that they never received the thing — or taking their time to phrase a suitable reply.

    In general, the 160-character limit is a blessing, giving the texter room only for a couple of pithy sentences, perhaps a joke and a disarming smiley character. As social observer Sadie Plant has pointed out, this has a liberating effect since it encourages SMS users to be candid, frank and informal, breaking ice without risk of embarrassment.

    Indeed, there’s an intimacy to SMSing that other forms lack. Despite it being a mobile medium, there’s little chance of eavesdropping as both sender and recipient can exercise a good deal of control over where and when their dialogue takes place.

    It’s also a great way to sustain links with close friends, relatives, spouses, colleagues and others that share a shorthand. Communiques such as “I’m 10 minutes late/Lunch?/Order more beer” don’t really require a voice call, and fit the SMS format neatly. Indeed, now that cross-border SMSing is the norm, friendships can be maintained on the cheap.

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    TECH TALK: Rethinking the Desktop: The Building Blocks

    The key theme for rethinking the desktop is to build it around the notion of a Dashboard.

    A dashboard may have been an oft-used term when it comes to computer interfaces. So far, it meant being able to show today appointments, to-do lists, recent emails and documents, and perhaps the latest news headlines. In the enterprise, it could also mean showing key parameters aggregated form different applications like a scoreboard (as part of a corporate portal). Even this by itself is actually much more than what we are used to seeing today. Start up the computer and most of us will see a collection of icons to choose from. The closest we ever come to a dashboard is in the car!

    So, then, what is the Digital Dashboard all about? Think weblogs, RSS, publish-subscribe, outlines, open source, XML and web services, IM/SMS and some value-added aggregation. Lets start by looking first at some of the components, and then well see how these can be aggregated together to conjure desktop magic.

    Weblog: Think of a weblog as a time-based categorisation of ones writings, each of which can be referenced through a web browser by a unique URL (think of it as a permanent link or permalink). We write emails, send out instant messages, create and edit documents, update appointments in a calendar, and create to-do lists. Today, much of this stays in the silos they were created in. The weblog collects all that we write so we have access to not just what we have written but also what we have read and commented on. The weblog gives our writing a context. It mirrors our thinking and builds upon our reading. The effort that we need to do is to write, to narrate, to tell the stories of our work and day. This may be easier said than done, but this is the effort that we will all individually need to make. Vannevar Bushs As You May Think might as well have been As You May Blog.

    RSS: Writing is fine, but to be effective, it needs flow. This is where RSS (which stands for Rich Site Summary) comes in. RSS is a special XML format which is readable by computer programs. It has been mainly used for distributing news content. Weblogs can publish an RSS feed, while at the same time aggregating RSS feeds from other sources. An RSS Aggregator can thus pick up various feeds from different information sources and make it available in a single application for processing the way we deem fit. As we post some of the items from the RSS feeds to our blog (perhaps, enriching them with our comments), our blog itself can re-publish an RSS feed. This two-way use of RSS is what creates the flow. RSS has value much beyond just news, links and comments publishing: you could be in a hotel room using a computer, with shops around the hotel publishing RSS feeds with their offerings and specials, which could be flowing into your RSS aggregator. The combination of blogs and RSS facilitates the creation of a mass-market two-way publishing ecosystem.

    Tomorrow: The Building Blocks (continued)

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