Microcontent Client

Anil Dash has a very interesting idea: “The microcontent client is an extensible desktop application based around standard Internet protocols that leverages existing web technologies to find, navigate, collect, and author chunks of content for consumption by either the microcontent browser or a standard web browser. The primary advantage of the microcontent client over existing Internet technologies is that it will enable the sharing of meme-sized chunks of information using a consistent set of navigation, user interface, storage, and networking technologies. In short, a better user interface for task-based activities, and a more powerful system for reading, searching, annotating, reviewing, and other information-based activities on the Internet.”

This is a terrific article. It is long and has quite a few contextual links, so set aside some time to read it and then think about it.

A few thoughts from my side after reading the article:
– the ideas dovetail nicely into what we are doing on the Digital Dashboard
– the microcontent client could be a “killer app” on the Linux desktop
– the Mac is where there is some innovative work happening on the desktop
– many of the components already exist: the key is integration, not invention
– the 3-pane approach present in apps like Outlook Express is the way to go
– the microcontent client is an idea whose time has come: we have to do it


Napster Co-Founder’s New Venture is Plaxo: “a consumer-oriented tool to help end users “securely update, maintain and access” their contact lists, the free beta version of Plaxo integrates with Microsoft Outlook for Windows.” Adds Wired:

Here’s how it works: A Plaxo user sends plain-text e-mails to friends and colleagues requesting contact information updates. Recipients can reply to the request by updating their info in the template provided or by e-mailing free-form text, which Plaxo parses using natural language processing technology.

The key to Plaxo’s success appears to lie in its virus-like nature.

“As more people receive update requests and begin to recognize Plaxo’s value,” said Parker, “some will be motivated to download the application themselves.”

Those who download the software stay in sync with each other automatically through a Plaxo update center that runs behind the scenes, updating users’ address books when members change their information.

What is still not clear is Plaxo’s business model.

Migrating to Linux – One App at a time

From E-Commerce News (in an article on OpenOffice):

One of the most compelling reasons to use OpenOffice, according to the project’s supporters, is that it can serve as a testing ground for an eventual switch from Windows to Linux on the desktop.

Once users have migrated to OpenOffice, the reasoning goes, switching to Ximian Evolution, a free e-mail and group calendaring application, and Mozilla, an open source Web browser, becomes easier. And once those transitions are complete, removing Windows entirely and replacing it with Linux becomes less of an issue.

This is a very good idea: make it step-by-step rather than one dramatic change.

Gartner: Linux desktop will fail

From ZDNet Australia:

Despite a recent surge in interest in Linux, it will fail to make much of an impression on the desktop, claims a Gartner analyst.

Linux will be deployed on no more than five percent of desktops over the next two to three years because of a lack of viable applications, claimed Gartner research director Phil Sargeant on Thursday evening at the Gartner Symposium and ITXpo.

“There’s quite a lack of tools in that particular space,” said Sargeant. “We are going to need to see more tools if it’s to make any inroads.” He cited StarOffice and Open Office as examples of the few good tools available.

I think what Gartner overlooks is the emergence of new users. Rather than looking at just the overall installed base, one needs to look at what the new users decide to have on their desktop. Right now, this may be Windows for almost everyone, but this is where Linux has an opportunity because most of these new users come from markets which cannot afford the high costs of software.

What is unfortunate is that there are few Linux software companies focusing on these new users and emerging markets, in order to make a serious play on the desktop.

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TECH TALK: India Post: Ideas for Tomorrow: A Presentation

Recently, I was invited to make a presentation to India Post (the Department of Post), as part of a conference co-sponsored by the World Bank and the Invest Indian Economic Forum on India Post 2010. The focus was on new opportunities for India Post in the coming years. Consider some of the amazing facts about India Post: 154,000 post offices (of which 116,00 are in rural areas), 600,000 employees (making it the third largest employer in the country after the defence forces and the railways), 16 billion mail items handled annually, 110 million savings accounts, USD 44 billion in deposits in the Post Office Savings Bank. Among the ideas of the services that India Post could offer in the future (some of these are already happening): payments system functions, e-governance functions, front-end for the financial sector, information dissemination and front-end for e-commerce.

Here is the presentation I made to India Post. I focused more on the how what does it take for us to make these ideas a reality. The key underlying theme of my presentation: India Post as a utility, an e-Business utility. India Post should use its ubiquitous presence across the country to build an even deeper relationship with Indians. The trust that everyone has in India Post can be leveraged to bring about the computing revolution that India truly needs.

The four technology building blocks I identified which could make a big difference and help build India Post 2.0 were: Low-cost Computers, Open-Source Software, WiFi and Tech 7-11s. Low-cost (or low configuration) computers using Linux and other open-source software could create a mass market computing infrastructure. WiFi could extend this to the neighbourhood, making the incremental cost of a computer (connected to the TV as a monitor) under Rs 5,000 (USD 100). In essence, a part of the post office would become like a Tech 7-11, open from 7 am to 11 pm, and serving as an essential element in peoples daily lives, just like the 7-11s which dot many Asian cities.

As I prepared for the presentation, it occurred to me that rather than just making a conventional presentation on technology and leaving it at that, it would help if I could think about some scenarios on how technology could make a difference in the lives of people, especially those in rural areas. Along with some of my colleagues in the office, I put together a note for India Post on how peoples lives could be changed using existing technologies. This weeks Tech Talk is about this peek into a Tomorrow in New India, centred around the next generation post office.

Tomorrow: The Story of Nayapur