Media Player Battles

NYTimes writes that the next battleground in consumer software is the digital player, with Real Media and Microsoft in the race.

The media player resides on the user’s computer or other device and opens a portal to what the industry calls rich media — movies, music, video — delivered over the Internet, just as the browser is a portal for viewing Web pages. The media player takes on additional importance because it seems to be the likely vehicle for some of the vital technology in the emerging field of digital rights management — a fancy name for piracy protection.

The media-player market today looks quite similar in some ways to the browser market in, say, 1997. An early media-player leader, Real Networks, is under pressure from Microsoft, just as the commercial pioneer of the browser market, Netscape, was then.

Microsoft bundles its digital media software with its Windows operating system, a monopoly product running on about 95 percent of all personal computers. As for user acceptance, at the moment Microsoft’s player is neck and neck with Real Network’s Real One Player, with each having more than 300 million registered users.

Emergence of Ideas

It is fascinating to see how ideas emerge. Blogs have exposed me to a much wider variety of ideas in the past year. Earlier, one could only see the end result in terms of press announcements or product launches. But now, thanks to the blogs, one can see how ideas get formed. In the process, one can match wits against the best in the world. One has to be quick on the draw. Ideas could be in the form of comments on an event. Its one of those things whih make us go “Why didn’t I think of that?”

I have felt this often as we’ve thought about what to do in BlogStreet and the Info Aggregator. As I tell our team, we cannot be out-thought in this world. We have a great opportunity to build something fascinating and world-class, and we just have to do it.

The good thing about the blogs are that one knows to whom and why one has lost out. The journey now becomes as exciting as reaching the destination.

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BPM

Line56 discusses business process management:

Despite the various BPM definitions, and existing engineering that dates back to Henry Ford and beyond, Hammer insists this is an entirely new way of thinking. “Most senior managers at organizations have a limited set of tools for improving performance,” and he lists them. “There’s financial management, organizational redesign, strategic refocusing, M&A, but the idea of using processes as the critical lever to improve performance is an up to the minute idea at most organizations. Our collective responsibility is to help organizations understand the power of that.”

“When [technologists] talk about BPM they talk about transactions and pipelines,” Scheer says. “When we talk about BPM we think of the organizational processes of a company and when we develop tools, they are focused to the organizational layer and not to technical things.” Indeed, IDS Scheer’s consulting practice is augmented by its ARIS software tools look at things like organizational process design, simulation, and activity-based cost (ABC) analysis. The plumbing beneath is an enabler, Scheer says, but there is danger when the discussion of BPM moves to the technology layer.

so what is the mechanism to effect process change?

It’s a massive commitment for an organization in which measurements, rewards, cultures and careers will change, Hammer says. Waving a wand won’t get it done but there is, yes, a process that starts with the big boss. “It involves identifying processes, appointing process owners, establishing metrics, picking processes to focus on, coming up with new designs, implementing in a phased approach, then putting in instrumentation and technology to support it,” Hammer says.

“There also has to be a bottom-up approach because people in the organization have to accept new ways of thinking and working,” Scheer says. Once processes are described, systems can be assigned and aligned to support them. Better tools for workflow will make this easier and more process will become embedded in the future, he says.

The likely source for process owners are the senior managers who are already engaged in making things happen and moving projects forward, says Tim Sloane, an Aberdeen analyst attending the conference. “How can they not understand process?” he says. “The hardest part is going to the individual working at the higher level and make it come clear to them. It’s pretty easy to gauge the audience and how well the thinking will track with them.”

TECH TALK: Constructing the Memex: Three Elements

As we have seen, the three primary building blocks for the Memex are the ecologies around weblogs, RSS and OPML. Let us now put these elements together with some of the ideas from ants (stigmergy and emergence), social relationships (small worlds) and biology (memes) to put together the Memex.

The Memex ecosystem actually comprises of three elements:

  • MyMemex: This is by, for, and of the individual a personal knowledge management system. It consists of the persons blog and directory. It can also have a visualization engine for a richer display of the embedded relationships and easier navigation.
  • OurMemex: We all belong to groups be it in social circles or in enterprises. This Memex is constructed jointly by members of the group. Another way to create it is by simply specifying clusters of bloggers in which case the result is an aggregate of the individual Memexes.
  • MemexCentral: This is the back-office of the Memex ecosystem. This is where the analytics takes place. It can also play host to the personal and group Memexes. It should be able to offer its services using the web services protocols.

    We can think of an equivalent analogy in the messaging ecosystem. MyMemex is equivalent to our individual mailboxes. We can have separate IDs for personal and for work purposes. OurMemex is akin to the group mailing lists. These could be simply aliases which bounce messages to various people (in our case, a Memex created by specifying a collection of bloggers) or specially created mailing lists like Yahoo Groups (akin to a Memex jointly and explicitly created by members).

    MemexCentral finds its counterpart in the messaging world in the various software tools (like Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Notes and Groove), the hosted services (Hotmail and YahooMail) and accessories (the spam filters). The role of web services is played by the SMTP protocol which allows for the exchange of messages between various mail servers.

    The blogging world offers analogies (no surprise, since blogs are one of the key cornerstones of the Memex). The blog creation tools like the desktop-centric Radio, server-centric MovableType and hosted Blogger.com mirror the possible approaches that can be taken for the creation of MyMex. Group blogging platforms like Slashdot, Traction and TypePad allow multiple people to participatively build up content.

    The MemexCentral mirror comes in the form of aggregation services like Weblogs.com, which lists recently updated blogs, and sites like Blogdex, Daypop, BlogStreet, Technorati, Popdex and BlogShares, all of which capture some flavour of the blogosphere.

    Tomorrow: MyMemex

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