Open-source Application Servers

News.com writes about how Java-based open-source application servers like Tomcat and JBoss are commoditising the space and making life difficult for companies like BEA, IBM and Oracle.

The popularity of open-source application servers is just another force pushing providers of Java application servers to offer simpler, cheaper versions of their software. For many applications, businesses need only a relatively simple server to deliver Web pages to customers, obviating the need to invest in more robust–and expensive–features.

The trend toward J2EE application servers increasing becoming a commodity has prompted the emergence of what market researcher Gartner calls “application platform suites.” These suites are a bundle of applications that run in conjunction with a Java application server and include specialized integration software and corporate portals, which present corporate information through a browser.

Local Web Search

From News.com:

Momentum is gathering for location-based navigation among search engines and mobile device makers. Web search technology companies are working with wireless phone companies to power mobile search that can benefit from locally targeted results. In addition, wireless Internet devices are more often equipped with GPS technology that can track the user’s physical whereabouts. Both parties want to localize Web search to make it more relevant and draw more regional advertising dollars.

What would be useful here is if businesses start using the SMBmeta idea of Dan Bricklin to better specify their location. This can make the work of search engines much easier, and also help businesses generate more traffic in the physical world.

Chips in Toys

Toyland is buzzing with smarter toys. Writes Business Week:

From talking dollhouses to plush toys that sing and dance, more than two-thirds of the roughly 5,000 new products being introduced at this year’s annual toyfest incorporate a sensor or electronic chip, figures Frank Catalano.

Toy executives view gee-whiz electronics as the front line in their war against “age compression.” That’s industry-speak for the fact that today’s kids outgrow toys at an ever-younger age.

Oh, to be a teen again!

Stultz’s Letter to Microsoft

David Stultz, a Microsoft veteran, recently left the company. He posted his farewell letter on the Net, talking about Microsoft and the commoditisation of software. A few points he makes:

Most core Microsoft products missed the Internet wave, even while claiming to be leading the parade…Microsoft developer tools have yet to embrace the loosely coupled mindset that today’s leading edge developers apply to work and play.

Microsoft’s reluctance to adopt networked ways is understandable. Their advantaged position has been built over the years by adhering to the tenet that software running on a PC is the natural point at which to integrate hardware and applications. Unfortunately, network protocols have turned out to be a far better fit for this middleman role, and Microsoft, intent on propping up the PC franchise, has had to resist fully embracing the network integration model.

Will Microsoft continue to convince its partners that software is distinctly valuable by itself? Or will the commodity nature of software turn the industry on its head? The hardware companies, who actually manufacture the machines, smell blood in the water, and the open source software movement is the result.

If Microsoft is unable to innovate quickly enough, or to adapt to embrace network-based integration, the threat that it faces is the erosion of the economic value of software being caused by the open source software movement.

Open source software is as large and powerful a wave as the Internet was, and is rapidly accreting into a legitimate alternative to Windows.

There is a new frontier, where software “collectives” are being built with ad hoc protocols and with clustered devices…Useful software written above the level of the single device will command high margins for a long time to come.

The last line says it all: “Stop looking over your shoulder and invent something!”

eGovernance Talk

I am giving a talk next week to one of the state governments in India on how new technologies (like low-cost PCs, open-source software, WiFi) can make a difference in eGovernance. Was wondering if any of you have any ideas on this topic – basically, the state is looking for a strategy for eGovernance. Here are my thoughts as of now.

The key objective
– “intelligent, real-time government” (just like a real-time enterprise).

The focus should be on 3 set of areas:
– eServices: for citizens and business, to reduce pain points in government interactions
– Intranet: information flow in and out for government staff
– enablement: in three key areas – Education, Healthcare, Employment

The building blocks for these:
– low-cost PCs (building on my ideas of the 5KPC Ecosystem)
– Linux and open-source software
– WiFi for connectivity
– local language support
– weblogs for knowledge sharing – within govt, between citizens
– telecentres as “touch-points”

Cold Tech List

Following up on my post about Cold Technologies, I came across this list in the recent issue of UBS Warbug’s weekly tech report of cold technologies that “have neutral revenue or even anti-revenue attributes”, as opposed to a hot technology which “has the potential to generate revs” :

1. ROI
2. Linux
3. China Supply Chain
4. Slammer
5. Security…Trustworthy computing
6. On Demand
7. IP Lawsuits
8. Spam…content filtering
9. Virtualization…CIM, Bluefin
10. UNE-P
11. Web Services
12. Blades
13. Batteries / Cooling
14. Tablet PCs + SPOT
15. Moore’s Law expires

Am surprised they didn’t add Outsourcing to India in the list (probably not a “tech”). Can think of a few more: VoIP, WiFi, Enterprise Software ASPs. Any other suggestions?

TECH TALK: The Rs 5,000 PC Ecosystem: Telecentres (Part 2)

Continuing with the functions that Telecentres equipped with the Rs 5,000 PCs (5KPCs) can perform:

Instant Business Office: Kinkos is a chain of stores in the US in most urban and office neighbourhoods which serves as an outsourced back office for individuals and small businesses offering computers, printers, photocopying machines, fax machines, binding services and more. For small businesses, it is an extension of their office. Similarly, telecentres can combine Kinkos-like features to offer services to the small and medium enterprises in the neighbourhood. The model is the same: shared ownership brings down the unit cost for all.

Wireless Access Point: The Telecentres have an 802.11 (WiFi) wireless access point, which enables them to provide connectivity to the 5KPCs in the vicinity. Thus, homes, businesses, kirana shops (the neighbourhood grocery stores like the 7-11s to be found in many Asian cities) can be equipped with just the 5KPC embedded with a wireless card, which can connect to the server in the telecentre through open spectrum. Connectivity speeds would range from 11-54 Mbps, while the range would be a few hundred metres (perhaps higher, if there is line-of-sight available). What these access points do is enable instant and cheap connectivity for the end-users, eliminating the need for everyone to have a high-speed Internet connection. They also bring down the price for the endpoints (the computers) with the caveat that they need the presence of a network to light up. From the telecentres point of view, they create an additional income source beyond the limitations of the telecentre real estate.

E-Governance Front-end: Another important role for the telecentres is as the touch-points for various citizen-centric services offered through the various e-governance initiatives which are being implemented by governments and municipal corporations worldwide. As the backend computerisation of governance takes place, what is missing is the mechanism for citizens to get access to these services. This is where the neighbourhood telecentres come in by making it possible to use a connected computer to access the various services. This is the route which will reduce pain points in the lives of the citizens be it renewing driving licences, checking land records, inquiring on the status of submitted applications, paying bills or even voting. In fact, in Andhra Pradesh in India, one of the services started by the government is match-making!

Software Distribution: There is an amazing array of open-source software available. Lindows lists over 1,700 Linux applications. Many of these applications are large in size and require a lot of time for downloading over low-speed connections. This is where telecentres can come in. They can offer these mirrored applications which can be run by users to get a feel for what they do, and if there is interest, the application could be copied on to a CD for use by the individual or SME for a small fee. Thus, the telecentre becomes a software distributor (or replicator).

Thus, the telecentre is much more than just a single Internet kiosk or a cybercafe. It offers multiple facilities. It opens up new possibilities by providing high-performance computing in the neighbourhood. It brings information, communication and software to the doorsteps of consumers and enterprises, and can facilitate many new application areas.

Tomorrow: Telecentres (continued)

Continue reading