During my Singapore visit, I had met with ThinSoft. They have some very interesting solutions which can reduce total cost of ownership in computing. A couple of product reviews: PC Magazine and Small Business Computing.

Says PC Magazine:

Microsoft designed Windows XP so that only one user at a time could access a given PC, either via the local desktop or a remote Terminal Services client. But the OS and today’s hardware can easily accommodate more concurrent users, especially for typical office chores. Enter WinConnect Server XP, a program that lets three remote users log onto a Windows XP system while someone is using the host machine locally.

WinConnect exploits Windows XP’s built-in Terminal Services based on Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) 5.1. All of the application logic runs on the host machine; the client machine simply processes display updates and relays the user input to the host.

Small offices can run critical business applications on a WinConnect-equipped PC as the server and send them to remote desktops. Linux shops that need to run Windows programs occasionally can set up a Windows XP machine and have users access it via the WinConnect RDP 5.1 client for Linux ($99). And home users can unlock the shackles of a Smart Display device, which disables the local desktop when the mobile display is in use. With WinConnect, you can have multiple Smart Display devices accessing an XP machine without locking out local access to the system.

A neat idea!

Tim O’Reilly on Open Source

When Tim O’Reilly speaks, we should all listen. Excerpts from an interview in InfoWorld:

Basically, we’re really seeing the development of something that’s analogous to hardware with the IBM PC. If you look at what happened to the hardware business, there was a transitional period where everybody tried to play by the old rules. It wasn’t until Dell figured out that, no, the rules really are different, and the business levers are different, that we saw somebody figure out how to really leverage commodity hardware.

Ian Murdock, the guy who started Debian, and now runs a company called Progeny Linux Systems is right on track with this. Instead of seeing Linux as a product, he sees Linux as a set of commodity software components he can put together for different purposes.

If you look at the history of the PC, the Compaq strategy didn’t fail. It’s just that the Dell strategy was marginally better. The whole essence of the Dell approach was build to order, and I think we’re going to see the emergence of that business model for Linux.

The value will be driven up the stack to data. For this I go back to my Amazon and Google examples. Google may have less of a lock. They probably have more of a traditional software lock in that they’re just better at what they do. But there’s not much difference between and in the software they have. What are different are the customers they have, and the amount of customer contribution to their data.

With eBay it’s even clearer. The fact is, it’s the critical mass of marketplace buyers and sellers and all the information that people have put in that marketplace as a repository.

So I think we’re going to find more and more places where that happens, where somebody gets a critical mass of customers and data and that becomes their source of value. On that basis, I will predict that — this is an outrageous prediction — but eBay will buy Oracle someday. The value will have moved so much to people who are not now seen as software suppliers.

Amazon is the furthest along this path, in a lot of ways. Amazon really understands that they are becoming a platform. They are becoming the e-commerce engine of an awful lot more of the Internet than people realize. It’s not just a site, but they’re running e-commerce for other people, they’ve built Web services, so people are building applications that (Amazon doesn’t) control that use some of their back-end services.

Two key takeaways:
– use open source commodity components to put together solutions for different purposes – “build to order” software
– build a platform which aggregates data – that is where the value lies

We want to do both in the context of SMEs:
– create solutions for SMEs based on open-source (an SME Tech Utility with 80% standard components, and 20% customisation for a price)
– build an SME information marketplace using RSS, Wikis, Weblogs and publish-subscribe

Blogs in the Workplace

NYTimes writes:

a growing number of businesses, government organizations and educational institutions are using Web logs to manage and improve the flow of information among employees. These blogs, not accessible to the public, typically allow many people to contribute entries that can be read by others in the organization.

It may be too soon to tell whether the corporate blog will emerge as a genuinely useful tool for business communications or simply another way for bores and blowhards to blather. But a growing circle of adopters swear by their blogs.

The telephone and wireless giant Verizon Communications uses a Web log to collect news and intelligence about the industry and competitors. “We used to spend lots of time e-mailing articles around but not keeping track of them,” said Sean Byrnes, the lead architect on Verizon’s project for Wi-Fi wireless Internet access. His group now consolidates such information in a series of topic-specific blogs.

Linus on Linux

San Jose Mercury News has an interview with the creator of Linux, Linus Torvalds. Here’s his response ot a question on how Linux evolves: “It all boils down to hundreds of different groups. A group can be a huge company that has an agenda. Or it can mean one person at a university working on a research project. They have their own thing they want to fix. All of these people make their modifications, and not all of them are accepted. I see it as a kind of ecosystem. You have survival of the fittest. Some changes work better. Sometimes it is for purely technical reasons. It’s just the right thing to do. Sometimes it is for personality reasons. Some people who push their changes are more likely to get things done because they are nicer about it. It’s not really centralized. I am at the center, but I don’t direct any teams. All these people are trying to pull me in different directions. Some groups pull together in the same direction. It’s a very dynamic situation.”

RSS and Infoglut

Chad Dickerson of InfoWorld echoes my thinking: “When I started using an RSS newsreader daily, some remarkable things happened that I didn’t necessarily expect: I began to spend almost no time surfing to keep up with current technology information, and I was suddenly able to manage a large body of incoming information with incredible efficiency.”

In case you want to get started, we have an RSS service called Info Aggregator.

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Ideas on Entrepreneurship

Excerpts from a speech by John Bogle of Vanguard:

While entrepreneurship is often thought to involve an idea that requires an incredibly creative leap of the human mind, followed by its implementation through a remarkably clever marketing scheme, never underrate the power of a simple idea with energetic implementation. Indeed, my own career is a monument, not to brilliance, but to simplicity.

Pursue your vision with energy and with persistence. Why? Because energy and persistence conquer all things, as that timeless epigram of Founding Father Benjamin Franklin reminds us.

The true purpose of entrepreneurship is service to our community and our world…As you budding entrepreneurs go home this evening, dreaming your dreams of today, even as you realize that youll likely have new and even bolder dreams tomorrow, I urge you never to stop dreaming and creating. Never underestimate the majesty of simplicity and the beauty of common sense. And never give up. Never, never, never, never, never! All it takes in this world is energy and persistence, although, confession being good for the soul, having a few lucky breaks is likely to do you no irreparable harm.

TECH TALK: Dear NRI: The New India

Dear Non-Resident Indian,

The next time you are in Mumbai, take a drive down Senapati Bapat Marg (Tulsi Pipe Road). Two decades ago, it housed many of Mumbais mills. It was an area of poverty and squalour. Some of that still exists. But in the past decade, this area has begun a transformation which would have been unthinkable. A few chimneys still remind onlookers of its heritage.

Today, Phoenix Mills is better known as the home of Big Bazaar (a Wal-mart clone). The crowds on weekend evenings need to be seen to be believed. It is not just the Indian middle-class shopping there; the affordability theme in Big Bazaars prices has cut across income levels. In the vicinity, there is a Planet M (a music store), Barista (a Starbucks clone), McDonalds (with an Indianised menu), a bowling alley, two restaurants serving everything from North Indian to Mexican to Lebanese to Chinese cuisine. Coming up soon: a multiplex. In the same mills compound are plenty of offices and two tall residential towers.

A little walk down, there is Morarjee Mills, which is transmogrifying into Peninsula Corporate Part. The glass buildings have a shock-and-awe effect on visitors. The complex now houses the Mumbai headquarters for Orange, Airtel (Bhartis cellular band), J Walter Thompson (Indias leading ad agency), an insurance venture from the Kotak Mahindra group, along with ICICIs BPO business (ICICI One Source). Two more buildings are coming up, with parking for a thousand cars to be available in the basements. Go a little further down and there is Kamala Mills, now Kamala City. It is a huge sprawling complex, which has more big names.

The scene is being repeated across India Whitefield in Bangalore, Gurgaon in Delhi, and an equivalent in every other city. The New India is emerging even as the old India co-exists side-by-side. A Barista selling coffee for Rs 50 shares walls with an Udipi restaurant selling filter coffee for a tenth of the price. In fact, on the other extreme, Bangalore pubs would even lead some to re-evaluate the meaning of Western culture! One can argue about the impact and the merits, but urban India is globalising rapidly, and irreversibly.

Restaurants are sprouting up everywhere offerings all varieties of cuisine, as incomes rise. International-quality schools are coming up. Dozens of car models are available to choose from. Indian ads are getting acclaim worldwide. Television channels are aplenty and real cheap too (a hundred channels for less than Rs 300). Indian fashion is going global even as international brands are coming into India.

The New India is rising. The elephant is finally stirring. And the emergent effect is such that no government, no politicians can stymie this revolution. More than five decades after Independence, Indian entrepreneurs are showing the face of what India can do. It is for us the New Generation to help build the New India with our ideas and innovations, our energy and determination, so that the Next Generation can grow up in a Developed India.

Tomorrow: The Family

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