Emergic Quarterly Update

An interesting quarter, with work happening on multiple fronts:

Thin Client-Thick Server: We’ve got a good stable product ready for taking to trials. Waiting for Customer No. 1. Doing trials at a few places. Getting the brochures ready. We are also planning a series of seminars to get people to better understand the product. Also setting up a small lab in the office with about 10 TCs and a TS so that when people come we can give them a hands-on feel of the Thin Client Desktop. The key will be convincing channels and getting partners. Should talk to companies like Intel, AMD and Via (which benefits from sale of CPUs/motherboard on the server, and even on the TCs), IBM, HP and Sun (who can benefit from increased server sales), the large tech spenders, and the channels (software resellers and systems integrators). Need to find the “innovators” and “visionaries”, who can be our early adopters. This quarter must begin our revenue streams. On the tech front, one clear challenge is to get Windows and DOS applications to run on the TC-TS platform – its something we run into in nearly every company we meet.

Digital Dashboard: The past few weeks have given us a much clearer idea of what we need to do. In about 7-10 days, we will be able to launch it for internal use and that should be good. K-logs are already being used internally for sharing information. The Dashboard is critical because it becomes a very important differentiator in what we are doing. Our aim is to have it into a beta-able stage by the end of the December quarter.

Enterprise Software: We’ve been working on identifying the various building blocks that we need to put the internal information management system in place. Have looked at various open source applications. Narrowed to a few of them: Ofbiz, OpenCRM, SQLedger with JBoss and PostgreSQL as the underlying building blocks, and Java as the development environment. We’ve also done some work in defining various business process flows for enterprise activities. This quarter should see in make headway in architecting “Emergic Enterprise”.

BlogStreet: We launched BlogStreet as a neighbourhood analyser in August and got some very good feedback. After that, we did not innovate because (a) I wasn’t sure how it fit into what we were doing with Emergic (b) limited resources on the engineering front. However, seeing the positive feedback that we’ve received, have decided that we will build on it. It will, hopefully, get us some recognition in the blogging community. Best of all, it gets us relationships with people we did not know before. Immediately, we are putting a search engine on the 10K+ blogs that we bot regularly. The next few weeks should see some interesting enhancements on the site.

My Blog: We have continued to extend MovableType to add some nice features. We now want to package these together and contribute it back to the community.

Messaging: We had one good month in terms of revenues and two not-so-good months, so overall, a somewhat disappointing quarter. We could have done better. But some key orders have been a little delayed in coming, so hopefully, we can make up in the coming quarter. On the tech front, we are now working on MailServ version 4 (V4) which should be ready for launch by December.

So, in a nutshell, a quarter where we consolidated the good development work on the TC-TS front into a product which can now be sold, and took small but important steps on the other fronts. We are on the right track with Emergic. I look forward with great enthusiasm to each day (and hope my team does so too). There’s a lot to do ahead, but I think we’ve now left the plains behind and started climbing the mountain.

Previous Quarter Update(July 1)

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Emergic Software Factory

One way to think about our business is as a software factory, where we work with channel partners who do the hardware integration around the software we provide. There’s no one really offering “software processors” at the lower-end and we can be that. 80% open source, 20% proprietary.

This idea came up as we talked to our MailServ (messaging product) channel partners. Their feedback was they wanted to see the TC-TS and Messaging product bundled both in terms of running on the same server (hardware) but also in pricing. Then I realised they were looking at us as a “software objects” supplier. So I thought maybe we can do more. There is a lot that exists in open source, its just that no one tries to integrate it all together across the entire platform. Thats the opportunity – put it together at 1-10% of what the big so-called SME vendors sell their software for. Start at the bottom of the pyramid and then move up.

Emergic Vision

Emergic is about bringing down technology costs by a factor of 10, and thus become the computing platform of choice for the next billion consumers and other 20 million small and medium enterprises (SMEs) who have not been able to fully leverage expensive and proprietary dollar-denominated technologies.

Emergic is about the other 90% – the people and organisations in the worlds emerging markets. This is where technology has not yet penetrated deeply. Yet, for this 90%, technology offers perhaps the last opportunity to better integrate into the worlds value chain and improve the standard of living for their people.

Emergic is about realising the vision of a computer on every desktop and in every home in every developing country of the world, at price-points they can afford.

Detailed note (written on August 24)

Emergic Software Architecture

Here’s something I put together as a possible software architecture for Emergic:

Emergic Dashboard
Next-Generation Desktop
RSS, Publish-Subscribe, Outliners
Personal and Enterprise Events
Amplify Information Processing by 10X

Emergic Enterprise
Integrated eBusiness Suite
Visual Biz-ic, ERP+CRM+SCM
Web Services, Business Process Standards
Enable the Intelligent, Real-time Enterprise

Emergic Intranet
Collaboration, Content Management
Personal and Group Publishing via K-Logs
Share and Manage Tacit Knowledge

Emergic Freedom
Thin Client Desktop-Thick Server OS
Server-centric Computing and Storage
Desktop Applications, File and Print Servers
Reduce Cost of Computing by 75%

Emergic MailServ
Identity Management, Email, IM
Enable Real-time, Integrated Messaging

Emergic Central
Proxy, Firewall, VPN, Anti-Virus
Secure and Connect the Enterprise

Local Language Support
Build on Open-source Software base

Information Visualisation

The latest Release 1.0 is on Information Visualisation. An excerpt from the introduction:

Businesses and individuals alike are drowning in data, and lack robust tools with which either to see overall patterns or to dig up specific pieces of information from this glut. Information visualization offers useful techniques to help solve this problem.

Whereas most of the visual tools we use are designed for presentation of known objects or quantities, information visualization is more open-ended. It is a way of using graphical tools to see things previously unseen: structures, relationships or data obscured by other data. The techniques used make it easier to handle multi-variate and dense sets of data in a comprehensible way, and offer presentation methods customized for particular domains and densities of information.

Information visualization tools give the user a greater degree of freedom to explore underlying relationships in the data set, producing something no spreadsheet can: the gestalt of the data. They also offer novel solutions to the problem of search by presenting the user with richer ways of browsing volumes of data, and by giving them better tools for building complex queries.

As I was reading, I began to think of the Digital Dashboard work we are doing as an Information Visualisation problem. The desktop that we currently see helps us visualise the files and folders that we have. The Dashboard that we are working on must do more than just information organisation. How can we make the Dashboard visualise our digital workspace and relationships – more to the point, how can it place the events that keep happening in the right context? It is not just a matter of putting a few links and boxes, but much more deeper. We need to create a rich interactive envrionment so that, as Clay Shirky puts it, we can have a “conversation with data”.

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Free Software Business

Writes Tim O’Reilly:

I don’t think that free software is a handicap, even in business. It’s a strategic advantage, when applied strategically! It’s a handicap only if applied dogmatically.

This is my whole point to the list: the secret of being a successful FSB is to use free software where it’s appropriate, and not to use it where it isn’t, and to understand the dynamics of the markets it creates.

Free software and open source tend to:

1. Fill niches where commercial vendors haven’t yet identified a market. (This is my alpha-geek argument). Hackers build tools that vendors don’t yet supply. When the market gets big enough, vendors go after it with tools that make it accessible to a wider audience. If the vendors were blind long enough, then the free software may have become too widespread to displace, in which case the dynamic below kicks in.

2. Commoditize markets. (The open design of the IBM PC is an even better example than Linux, which hasn’t yet succeeded to the same level.) In commodity markets, brand, being the lowest cost provider, and supply chain management become more important advantages than controlling IP.

3. Allow people versed in computers to share information more easily, lowering the barriers to entry and advancing innovation. This is open source as the late 20th century equivalent to the long tradition of scientific publishing.

These are the three most important dynamics around free software/open source. There are a couple of conclusions I’d draw from these three principles if I were starting an FSB:

If you’re trying to leverage principle #1, you can run a nice cottage business staying ahead of the big guys, surfing the wavefront of innovation.

If you’re trying to leverage principle #2, scale matters.

If you’re trying to leverage principle #3, you’re probably not doing this strictly for business purposes (unless you’re in a business that has product derived from knowledge flow, like I do).

Excellent points, in the context of what I just wrote on thinking of Emergic as a software factory.

Open Spectrum

Writes Lee Gomes (WSJ):

[Open Spectrum] argues that modern technology allows us to build “smart” transmitters that don’t interfere with each other. Such transmitters could listen to the airwaves and then change the way they transmit based on what they hear. If one part of the spectrum is busy, for example, they could use another.

With no interference problem, there would be no need to divide up the spectrum. And with no divided spectrum, the bandwidth-scarcity problem vanishes. That’s because the total usable spectrum is so vast it could accommodate everything anyone would want to do.
What could happen with more spectrum? The sky is the limit, backers say. They cite the many serendipitous things happening with “WiFi” wireless networks, which were designed to connect machines in a home or office but now link whole neighborhoods.

Imagine a camcorder in an Open Spectrum world that not only recorded your kid’s school play but also sent DVD-quality video of it to the grandparents’ TV — live.

The children in this play are probably not yet born. An Open Spectrum world is still five or 10 years off. But children of that brave new world would surely regard their parents’ tales of the old days, when cellphones had sound but not video, as something simply too primitive to be believed.

TECH TALK: The Years That Were: 1997

From Forbes 80th anniversary issue (July 7, 1997):

What has taken steels place in our measure of economic power? Software, drugs, computers, mortgage securities. All these things have in common the fact that they dont weigh much and are cheap move, even over long distances. They are, in essence, products of the human mind rather than of the earth and blast furnaces. A 300-Megahertz Pentium II chip from Intel is worth more than weight in gold. A program sold by Microsoft weighs nothing at all. It can be shipped instantaneously to any point on the globe.

The Internet will make it easier for newcomers with a design or price advantage to break into established markets; financial muscle and established market shares will still count, but for less than in the past. The Internet will bring costs down further and create huge profits and top-paying jobs for those who can figure how to use it to bring buyer and seller closer together.

But take nothing for granted. Examine every premise. Intels Andy Grove set the tone foe this exciting, frightening era when he called his 1996 book Only the Paranoid Survive. Happy paranoia.

From a Business Week cover story (August 25, 1997) on Silicon Valley:

20% of the worlds 100 biggest electronics and software companies have taken root here. Indeed, the $450 billion market value of the publicly held companies in and around the Valley is approaching that of the entire French stock market. The resulting wealth is staggering. Last year, on average, a Valley company went public every five days, minting 62 new millionaires every day.

The Valley and the rest of the US must remain vigilant. Left unconstrained, giants such as Intel and Microsoft could yet despoil the Valleys virtuous cycle if they become so successful that they either buy up or squeeze out too many small competitors. Such an outcome, while unlikely, would eventually foul the fertility of the region. Alternatively, a deep recession combined with a big drop in the stock market, could kill off a lot of small companies and dry up the influx of capital.

From Forbes (October 6, 1997):

The new law of the photon says that bandwidth triples every yearAs competition grows in world telecommunications and national boundaries fall, David Payne predicts, there will be no cost difference between a call around the world and one to the corner grocery shop. By todays standards, communication will be ridiculously cheap. Which is precisely why we will be spending more money on it than we do today and why the telecom business can only grow and grow and grow.

From Forbes ASAP (December 1, 1997):

Its 1997 and command and control is dead. The chip and the Net have killed it. IBM is worth half of Intel. The Soviet Union has passed away, and network television seems determined to follow. Even the CIA gets its news from cable television and the InternetSingapore, Malaysia, Thailand the soft authoritarian miracles of yesterday have all slammed into hard walls. Japan-style corporatism is mired in 1% annual growth. Europe wobblesEverywhere you look today, command and control is in retreat. What is on the march? The chip, the Net and us.

Tomorrow: 1998

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