Palmisano’s IBM

Dana Blankenhorn writes:

It’s mainly about putting computing back into the background of business life. Gerstner’s era was about computing in the foreground — PCs, the Internet. Palmisano’s mantra is “on-demand computing” — power and results that flow like water from a faucet.

But there is a problem. Computing isn’t really a utility. It’s not water, not electricity. Every problem a computer faces is different. Hardware and software still lack the flexibility of the human mind. Will they that ever change? Not under the current silicon, on-off paradigm. There is no intuition, there aren’t enough links between data points. There is no ability for silicon and software, by themselves to say “ah ha!” They can beat a man at chess, but only by knowing the man. No one chess program can take on all comers.

Rather than calling it “on-demand” computing, perhaps you should think of Palmisano’s concept as “background computing.” It won’t produce stars. It will serve the business, not lead it.

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Databases being Commoditised

WSJ writes about how databases are next in line to be commoditised by open-source software. MySQL is to what Oracle what Linux is to Windows. A quote by Kevin Harvey gives the wider perspective: “The software business is being commoditized in a lot of ways. Areas that are ripe for change have three characteristics, all of which apply to database systems: They are in widespread use, the industry has settled on common standards, and new features are less important than price and performance. Like Linux, MySQL will first be used in new, Web-based applications and then be pulled by customers into more traditional corporate-computing functions. It erodes from the bottom up.”

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Joel Semeniuk writes about Microsoft’s InfoPath:

Right now, many organizations use Excel and Word to fill out all types of reports, from Status Reports, to POs, to Sales Reports, etc. All of this, of course, could be online using web forms. However, this doesnt work for many who only fill these forms out when on the plan or sitting on their deck drinking coffee in the morning. Whats more is that the underlying data for these Excel/Word based forms arent truly and immediately consumable ie they arent natively XML (and yes, I know you can write scripts to convert it into XML).

InfoPath is natively XML. It has optional sections, the ability to dynamically add rows and sections to your form, the ability to perform calculations, display graphs, communicate with back end databases or web services, implement business rules, and reside in a pure xml file stored in SharePoint or submitted to BizTalk.

I think we ought to look at the concept underlying InfoPath.

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TECH TALK: Dear NRI: The Family

Dear Non-Resident Indian,

I meet and speak with many NRIs in India and during my travels abroad. One of the most common reasons given for not returning to India is the family how will the kids adjust, schools in India are tough to get into and overload the children with so much homework, there is so much pollution, and so on. To me, this is an excuse for not upsetting the status quo, to stay in the comfort zone. Life for most of you is nicely compartmentalised into 48-50 working weeks, with 2-4 weeks of an obligatory vacation in India so the kids can get a sense of Indian culture.

What we forget is that we too are products of Indias education system the same one we tend to criticise now. Yes, the Indian education system focuses less on the creative skills than on memorisation. Yes, Indian school kids have plenty of homework thrust upon them everyday. But that is what is making us what we are smart, diligent, intelligent, ready to adapt to any kind of situation. The lack of creative outlets at school have not prevented Indians from excelling in other walks of life. What matters is the academic discipline the Indian education system instills in us. We have gone through it, and there is no reason why the next generation should not go in for it.

So, the family argument is one which holds little water. It is an excuse to not make tough decisions. After all, when life is going along reasonably comfortably, why disrupt it? And so life goes on, and another year passes. The India visits serve little purpose because you come as tourists. The India you know is the India you left behind when you went abroad. And that India, unknown to you, has changed beyond recognition.

I lived abroad for four years, and returned to India a decade ago. For me, India is home. Whenever I travel abroad, there is always a feeling of temporariness, a lack of ones roots. One can always look at the negatives, but there are plenty of positives now to look forward to. And those are the ones you should focus on after eliminating the option of returning back to where you came from.

Family along with personal opportunities is in fact one of the primary reasons for returning back to India. There is a support system in India with the extended family, which is always there no questions asked, no obligations expected. For the kids, there is a love from doting grandparents, and uncles and aunts, and many other siblings. In India, skin colour is not used to discriminate. We are all one Indians.

Tomorrow: Alternatives and Next Steps

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