Desktop Web Services

Writes John Robb, on how to manage and edit web services on the desktop, with an example:

A section for creating a new page on a digital dashboard like “add a page to my dashboard.” Select “add a service” and select the services you want to see from a hierarchical drop down menu (for example sales, inventory, financial, server stats, etc). Set the allowed parameters for the service (like all sales over $50,000 or sales by a specific salesman). Then associate the service(s) with a page. Click publish and the data appears in a preformated webpage on the desktop served by a content management system / dashboard application that gathers the data a preset interval in the background.

This type of simple digital dashboard approach is what people want. They want to crack open corporate apps and get the data they need out. Why? People either hate the current overly complex client they are provided or can’t afford to extend clients to all of their employees (given that they would need only a subset of the data).

The Digital Dashboard, enabled with XML and Web Services, can also work as the bridge between personal and enterprise information, unifying them both on a single screen.

Enterprise Portals

In an article entitled Microsoft and the Portal, Line56 discusses the pros and cons of enterprise portals, which “are the new hotspot of information delivery strategies designed to help businesses cut through the clutter and home in on corporate raison d’ etre through defined business roles and processes gained through a single user point of access.”

Picking up from criticism of the portal framework by a Microsoft .Net strategist, the article focuses on 4 questions:

1. Is the portal a harking back to centralized mainframe computing, a dumb terminal, one-way flow of information?

2. Do portals have Rube Goldberg developer environments with random presentation frameworks and developer tools?

3. Are portal deployments unreasonably costly and service-laden?

4. Are portals bogged-down integration projects that provide poor business returns?

One of the points mentioned is that Microsoft’s gripes seems to be because the portal can create an alternative desktop. This is exactly what we want to do with the Digital Dashboard.

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The New Three Cs of E-Business

The earlier Internet era 3Cs were Content. Community and Commerce. Now, the new 3 Cs, according to a Line56/AT Kearney research are Cost, Customer, Connectivity. Writes Line56:

The new economic reality is driving companies to review the building blocks of their e-business strategy. Companies are shifting away from Internet era initiatives by adopting a back-to-basics approach and focusing on the three levers of cost, customer and connectivity to build a value-focused platform for growth. The focus on cost is driving slower growth in e-business budgets, as companies make fewer, more focused investments with an emphasis on areas that yield the highest returns.

By aggressively pursuing cost reduction initiatives and improving connectivity, companies are gaining efficiencies and generating cost savings. These savings are being redirected towards value-generating initiatives aimed at building improved customer relationships and future growth strategies. With continued investments in CRM initiatives, companies are experiencing an increase in customer satisfaction, loyalty, and retention. Web Services are also emerging as a key area of investment, fueled by the desire to connect discrete elements of the companies’ value chains, thus improving customer relationships, while streamlining operations. The ability of companies to continually drive the new C’s of e-Business will ultimately determine the success or failure of their e-Business investments.

Jim Allchin on XML

Allchin is group vice president at Microsoft. He is very bullish on XML and says so in this News.com interview: “People love this XML Web services stuff–I mean they really love it. It’s really awesome. Today, you have a home page; and you may think you’ve got some customization, but it’s really pretty weak. Weak in the sense that somebody else has designed what areas of the screen you can put things and what things you can choose–like weather can go in this area, and you have to add stock quotes in this particular area–when you could build it yourself, choosing from any of a myriad of sites, and build your own portal, if you will.”

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Computing’s Present State

Writes Charles Copper (News.com):

Whom do we blame for our current computing state? The early industry was basically handed blueprints by Microsoft and IBM some 20 years ago. Then it was left up to those who followed to figure out how to make the best of what was a pretty ungainly attempt at human-computer symbiosis.

However, there have been some nice tweaks along the way. The Macintosh user interface and the personal digital assistant are some of my favorites, but we’re still a world away from where we should–or could–be.

With everyone looking for the next killer app, here’s a hint: Make it easy. While a voice-activated “Starship Enterprise” interface might be nice, it’s still a pipe dream. This much I can guarantee: The first company that figures out how to free us from our collective computing straitjacket will strike financial gold.

My ideas for the killer apps: universally, the Digital Dashboard (the theme for next week’s Tech Talk), and layered on it for the enterprise – the integrated eBusiness suite, and for the home – the personal video recorder, integrated with the PC.