Dashboard: Aggregation, not Integration

I have also been thinking about the Digital Dashboard comments received. There are some very interesting ideas emerging from (a) the comments received (b) our early internal protoypes. Need to write more on this, but it will take me a few more days to think things through.

One point that I wanted to briefly mention in the context of the dashboard work we are doing is that there is a difference between aggregation and integration – we are not trying to create a universal workspace to replace everything else. We want to provide an aggregate view of all that is happening in one’s world. In the past, we had just a couple ways to receive and send info. Now, these have multiplied, along with the flow – email, IM, blogs, websites, SMS. We are reading and writing in multiple spaces – each a silo as of now. That is where the digital dashboard can make a big difference – speed up the information we can process in the same time, while leveraging (and not replacing) existing applications.

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Ideas Come Back

As I was writing this week’s Tech Talk series (a look back to the mid-1990s through magazine articles), I was struck by how some ideas which may have seemed out of place at that time can make a comeback later. The “teleputer” (Internet PC) idea which was still-born then maky actually make sense in the context of a LAN in emerging markets. This is what our thin client-thick server work is all about. The object-oriented programming and software components ideas are quite similar to the Web services ideas of today. I think its important for everyone to spend some time reading or thinking about ideas that failed in the past – just because they failed once does not mean they should be written off. It could also mean that they were ahead of their times. History has a lot to teach us, if we are willing to learn.

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Holistic Web Services

Writes Jeremy Allaire:

It’s really important that we move beyond the back-end and out to the user experience and realize that the broader vision of “software as service” requires a reset in how we create and deliver desktop software over the Internet.

The original idea of “software as service” emerged before the current hype around web services. It was the notion that applications would run in the network. That the user interface could be downloaded and used on the fly on any Internet-connected device (most likely a PC), and that substantial portions of the application — in particular those that were focused on logic and data — could be exposed and used by other applications easily.

I love the idea of being able to use a high-quality, desktop-like, media-rich software application over the Internet — to have a means to have that application cached on my local computer; to work offline; to synchronize new versions when needed, and the ability to easily consume and integrate logic and data in other applications on the network.

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Software Platforms – Ozzie

From Ray Ozzie’s Software Platform Dynamics:

Software platforms have the potential to create increasing returns as a function of ubiquity, and thus tend to exhibit natural geometric growth patterns until they reach the point of practical market saturation, at which point their growth pattern becomes at best highly correlated with the overall market.

The more that the platform’s leverage directly and positively impacts the platform’s ultimate end-user (e.g. the more “visible” it is), the more rapid the geometric growth pattern will be. The same is true of other levels of the value chain, e.g. demand at outer levels of the value chain accelerates growth far more than “embedded” platforms whose demand at inner levels may be suppressed by the time it gets to outer levels.

For any platform to attract a sustainable ecosystem, it is required that the entity building the platform additionally and directly invest in building nontrivial “layered offerings” on that platform, in order to gain experience with the costs would be to ecosystem partners, and in order to ensure that the platform’s capabilities are complete enough to provide actual value to the ecosystem partners. This is later guaranteed to catalyze ecosystem conflict, but it is a necessary cost of driving a successful platform.

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Software as a Service

From InfoWorld:

Salesforce.com’s Marc Benioff stressed that more and more applications will be outsourced. “Enterprise software and software as it exists today will be completely gone” by 2012, he said.

Software is moving to a utility model in which enterprises outsource software applications, similar to the way that the hotel where the conference is being held outsources services such electric power, telephone, water, and sewer services, Benioff said.

“I think this fundamental shift that’s happening now means that you’re going to see everything become a utility,” he said.

“Every Web site that’s out there is really a service,” said Benioff.

– Also see Software as a service: The resurgence of ASPs (InfoWorld forum)

Email’s 11 Commandments

From HBS Working Knowledge:

1. Use e-mail only when it’s the most efficient channel for your need.

2. Never print your e-mail.

3. Send nothing over e-mail that must be error-free.

4. Never delete names from your address book.

5. Never forward chain e-mail.

6. Never send e-mail when you’re furious or exhausted.

7. Don’t pass on rumor or innuendo about real people.

8. Nor should you do so about companies you work for or may work for one day.

9. Never substitute e-mail for a necessary face-to-face meeting.

10. Remember this hierarchy: first the meeting, then the phone call, then the voice mail, then the e-mail.

11. Your e-mail is hackable and retrievable, and it can be used against you. Use only when absolutely necessary.

Science’s 10 Most Beautiful Experiments

Writes NYT:

When Robert P. Crease recently asked physicists to nominate the most beautiful experiment of all time, the 10 winners were largely solo performances, involving at most a few assistants. Most of the experiments – which are listed in this month’s Physics World – took place on tabletops and none required more computational power than that of a slide rule or calculator.

What they have in common is that they epitomize the elusive quality scientists call beauty. This is beauty in the classical sense: the logical simplicity of the apparatus, like the logical simplicity of the analysis, seems as inevitable and pure as the lines of a Greek monument. Confusion and ambiguity are momentarily swept aside, and something new about nature becomes clear.

The 10 experiments are:

1. Young’s double-slit experiment applied to the interference of single electrons
2. Galileo’s experiment on falling objects
3. Millikan’s oil-drop experiment
4. Newton’s decomposition of sunlight with a prism
5. Young’s light-interference experiment
6. Cavendish’s torsion-bar experiment
7. Eratosthenes’ measurement of the Earth’s circumference
8. Galileo’s experiments with rolling balls down inclined planes
9. Rutherford’s discovery of the nucleus
10. Foucault’s pendulum

It’s nice to read about these experiments – I must have last thought about them in school!

PC as Tech Driver?

From Bizipoint:

The personal computer’s role as the primary driver of semiconductor technology is finished, according to an IBM Corp. executive. PCs may once have been the key driver during the past decade, but it no longer is, according to John Kelly, senior VP and group executive of IBM’s Technology Group. Kelly was a speaker at the Albany Symposium on Global Nanotechnology in Lake George, N.Y.

“We’ve seen the end of the PC as the driver of the industry,” he said. So just what will drive semiconductor technology next? “The grid — the Internet — is the backbone of future computing,” Kelly said. “Also autonomic computing, computers that can self heal (much like the body’s autonomic nervous system.)” He said key enabling technologies and capabilities include Linux and other open software systems, open middleware standards, wireless standards, fiber bandwidth evolution, powerful devices linked to backend infrastructure, security, and reaching the last mile to the end user.

TECH TALK: The Years That Were: 1995

Times May 1995 special issue on Cyberspace led with an article by Philip Elmer-DeWitt:

The Internet is far from perfect. Largely unedited, its content is often tasteless, foolish, uninteresting or just plain wrong. It can be dangerously habit-forming, and truth be told, an enormous waste of time. Even with the arrival of new point-and-click software such as Netscape and Mosaic, its still hard to navigate. And because it requires access to both a computer and a high-speed communications link, it is out of reach for millions of people too poor or too far from a major communications hub to participate.

The Internet is changing rapidly. Lately a lot of the development efforts and most of the press attention have shifted from the rough-and-tumble Usenet newsgroups to the more passive and consumer-oriented home pages of the World Wide Web a system of links that simplifies the task of navigating among the myriad offerings on the Internet. The Net, many old-timers complain, is turning into a shopping mall. But unless it proves to be a total bust for business, that trend is likely to continue.

The more fundamental changes are those taking place underneath sidewalks and streets, where great wooden wheels of fiber-optic cable are being rolled out one block at a time. Over the next decade, the telecommunications system of the world will be rebuilt from the ground up.

Its not just the Internet surfers who are crying for more bandwidth. Hollywood needs it to deliver movies and television shows on demand. Video game makers want it to send the kids the latest adventures of Donkey Kong and Sonic the Hedgehog. The phone companies have their eyes on what some believe will be the next must-have appliance: the videophone.

As a rule of thumb, historians say, the results of technological innovation always takes longer to reach fruition than the earlier champions of change predict. But when change comes, its effect is likely to be more profound and widespread than anyone imagined.

Fortunes issue of July 10, 1995 had a cover story on Intels CEO Andy Groves dream of making your PC more important than your TV. Intel was on track to ship 35 million Pentium chips in 1995, with projected revenues of USD 16 billion and profits of USD 3.6 billion. Wrote Brent Schlender:

The PC is it, Grove says. We can make it superb as an entertainment machine, and so vital as a communications medium for both the home and the workspace, that it will battle with TV for peoples disposable time.

US consumers last year spent more on PCs than on TVs. These eager newcomers are shelling out big bucks for multimedia bells and whistles and multimedia means high-powered chips. Unlike most businesses, which have already invested vast sums in software for older, feebler machines, consumers are free to buy the hottest new boxes.

Grove now aims for Intel to define a global standard for consumer companies. He envisions machines that will incorporate, as standard equipment and at much lower cost, all the features of todays best multimedia PCs: crystalline stereo sound, crisp digital video, gymnastic 3-D graphics, rich fax, voice and data communications. How? The key is to use supercharged Pentium or P6 processors to handle chores that now require additional hardware.

Grove charges that [Microsoft] doesnt share the same sense of urgency to come up with an improved consumer PC. The typical PC doesnt push the limits of our microprocessorsIts simply not as good as it should be, Grove complains.

Tomorrow: 1995 (continued)

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