RSS Ecosystem

Steve Gillmor starts off a discussion on RSS advising Microsoft that “the opportunity is RSS” adding that “Outlook’s anti-spam tools could easily be converted to proactive filters for an RSS routing engine” and “email will become a subset of the RSS space.” He gives more suggestions to Ballmer:

Adam Bosworth created Trident, the Internet Explorer engine. Marc Lucovsky created Hailstorm, a Web services decomposition of the Exchange mail, calendar, and schedule engine. And David Stutz created Rotor, the standards-based .Net engine. Add these toold together and you should have been able to create a browser-hosted read-write tool for sharing and routing information.

But IE’s edit control competed with Word, Hailstorm with Exchange (and eventually SQL Server) and .Net–well, with Windows. So after the Allchin Tax was applied, IE is now finally sucked into the OS where it belonged all along. Yukon will merge Exchange, SQL Server, and eventually the Windows FIle System, and .Net turns out to have been Windows all along.

We’ll get the long-promised Universal Canvas, but sorry folks it will have to be Windows end to end. IE will finally get a credible edit control because it’s now firmly part of the underlying OS. IE, Outlook, InfoPath and OneNote will converge into a powerful RSS information router for the Windows platform.

One small problem: not before 2005 or 6.

Steve, that’s a long time. Way too long for those of us who see an RSS-aware container as not just a killer app but a killer platform. Not long enough to stop Sun and Apple from combining forces and bringing NetNewsWire, Rendezvous, Hydra, Safari/Mozilla, and the J2SE runtime together.

Of course, this scenario depends on the power of RSS to compress time and drive productivity in the exchange of ideas and information. It’s the next step in iterative development: self-selecting groups of users and developers in a regenerative mesh network. Microsoft’s RSS engineers are already hard at work–they need buy in from the leadership and a core authoring object that plays fair across the XML blogosphere.

Dave Winer disagrees that email and RSS should be combined stating: “I absolutely don’t agree that the most powerful application of RSS is to flow it through mail readers. Then it’s just email (why not send the bits around by email if that’s how you’re going to read it).

Robert Scoble, who works at Microsoft, takes this discussion further:

First of all, Outlook is far beyond just email now (Dave uses Outlook Express, and doesn’t have access to a corporate information system where Outlook is used — Outlook, when combined with an Exchange Server, is far deeper than just Outlook Express).

I’m playing with five RSS News Aggregators. I’ll write a review soon. The upcoming FeedDemon (standalone Windows app), Sharp Reader (standalone Windows app), NewsGator (which runs in Outlook), Radio UserLand (runs on Windows or Mac), and RSS Bandit (standalone Windows app).

They all have their advantages. I do have to admit, I’m getting most used to NewsGator since it runs in Outlook. This means I can post to my blog without leaving Outlook. I greatly prefer reading RSS feeds there to reading them in the browser.

Dave asks what makes that different than email? Very easy: no spam.

Email’s signal-to-noise ratio sucks.

Oh, also, email is hard to post to a public site (yeah, I know, with Radio UserLand, I can do it). But, with NewsGator, I can read a news post, then post it myself to my weblog. Very cool. I’m just starting to play with this internally at Microsoft.

As for me, I do think that RSS aggregators as a separate category will not survive for long – they will get integrated into email. This is what we have done with our Info Aggregator. This entire post was created through the various items that I got in my email box via the aggregator. Its been a long time since I visited a weblog directly in a browser – the Info Aggregator takes care of getting me all the feeds which I can go through in my email client (be it Outlook or Evolution).

In fact, RSS is indeed the disruptive force – if only we start looking beyond news and weblogs. It can be the platform for a wide variety of publish-subscribe information services. For example, it could be used by enterprise applications to deliver status updates, alerts or notifications to users – the apps can publish RSS feeds to which users can subscribe. The alternative of providing perioidc reports is not good enough – the focus needs to be on the exceptions, rather than the normal. This is the thinking about the Emergic Topsight suite we are building made out of Traction, DigitalDashboard, Info Aggregator and Events Horizon.

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SMEs and Rural India

For those seeking for entrepreneurial opportunities, they need to look no further than SMEs and Rural India. This is the theme of my Tech Talk series this week. The opportunity lies in understanding two basic questions: why are SMEs small and why is rural India poor? If we are willing to not take this as things which cannot be changed, then plenty of ideas can come up for what can be done.

At a level, both have very similar characteristics:

– they are both very large markets – invisible for the most part

– they both suffer from co-ordination failure – the various elements to provide appropriate solutions are there,but they need to be aggregated together simultaneously

– there are huge information asymmetries – meaning inefficiencies – which can therefore offer room for innovative solutions. Small things can make big differences because these segments are not optimised.

– technology can play a positive role in bringing about change, but services should come first. Think not what technology can do, but what are the services that are needed and then what are the most appropriate technologies which can be used.

– once the solutions work in India, we can take them to other emerging markets

There are plenty of entrepreneurs in India looking to do both good and well. Spend some time thinking about these two spaces and one will be able to see the entrepreneurial opportunities that are there.

TECH TALK: The Discovery of India: A Changing World

Take a look of some recent technology headlines:

  • IT Doesnt Matter, Harvard Business Review, May 2003

  • Coming of Age, Paradise Lost The Economist Survey of the IT Industry, May 10, 2003

  • The Software Party is Over, Business India, April 28 – May 11, 2003

    Even as the worldwide recession in technology continues, the leading Indian software companies are witnessing an erosion of margins and a reduction in profitability. As Ludwig Siegele wrote in The Economist: “So far, information technology has thrived on exponentials. Now it has to get back to earth.” So, is this the end of the technology story?

    The answer is Yes and No. Yes, this is the end of reckless technology spend. Yes, there is a slowdown in the absorption of technology by the developed markets of the world. No, innovation in technology continues. No, the worlds emerging markets beckon.

    Wrote Kevin Werbach in News.com:

    Linear progressions, such as the consistent improvement in processing power heralded by Moore’s Law, are fundamentally boring. They are like driving for hours on a straight, featureless highway: You know you’ll eventually get to where you want to go, but the trip itself becomes a blur. If instead the path forward involves stair-step transitions, through which the entire ecosystem reconfigures itself, life is far more exciting. Change is no longer measurable by one variable. It arrives in waves of interconnected developments whose relationship we only dimly discern.

    That’s what’s happening today. The technologies and concepts generating buzz at industry gatherings like PC Forum, O’Reilly’s Emerging Technology Conference, and Supernova include social software, the semantic Web, Web logs, rich Internet applications, Web services, unlicensed wireless, grid computing, digital identity, broadband media. The more one looks at these developments, the more hidden connections appear. They are pieces of a larger whole, which we don’t yet have words to describe.

    Even as a new world beyond the PC and beyond the Web emerges in the developed markets of the world, others like India and China comprise the worlds next markets. As income levels rise, technology can be the force that helps them take not incremental, small steps but giant leaps. This is where the next set of opportunities lie.

    Lets look at India. We call ourselves an IT Superpower. An IT Superpower? With annual sales of 2 million computers about 1.5% of the world total? With software piracy levels exceeding 70%? Where is the domestic consumption? Where are the software products with a Made in India tag? Where are the visions for tomorrows world from Indian tech leaders? No, IT Superpower we are not. We may be a Global IT Services Provider, but Superpower we are not.

    Indian technology companies have a significant opportunity ahead of them to take up leadership in the global technology marketplace. Let the existing set of software and services companies focus on the worlds developed markets. We need a new crop of firms that can focus on solving the problems of the domestic market in India and then take these solutions to other markets like ours. Let us first discover India, and then conquer the New Emerging World.

    How do we begin? Here are three questions whose answers each lead to large potential markets. How can we make a connected computer accessible to every employee in India? How can we make software part of the DNA of Indian engineering colleges? How do we transform rural India?

    Tomorrow: SMEs