IT’s Changing Geography

The Economist captures the changes in the technology business:

Welcome to the new geography of the IT industry, one that is no longer centred on Silicon Valley. It is the result of two distinct shifts that are reshaping the business. For some time, its centre of gravity has been moving away from the Valley to places such as Redmond, Austin, Armonk and Walldorf (in Germany), where four industry leadersMicrosoft, Dell, IBM and SAP, respectivelyare based.

At the same time, large parts of the business are migrating offshore, mainly to India, but also to such places as China, Russia and Vietnam. This is already being likened to what happened to manufacturing in the 1970s and 1980s, when companies in the rich world moved many of their operations overseas. The IT industry is now developing something that it has not had before (except in hardware manufacturing): a fully operational, international supply chain.

[This] is the result of three separate trends that will increasingly become one, as the boundaries between software, IT services and business processes become blurred.

The article also discusses the prospects for Indian software firms in the changing scenario, and also what lies in store for Silicon Valley.

What Linux Needs

Joe Barr writes about the ten things Linux needs now, on the basis of an unscientific poll:

1. Applications
2. Ease of use
3. OS preloaded with desktop hardware
4, 5. Drivers and Games
6. Name recognition
7. Easier installation of applications
8. Better Microsoft Office file filters
9. Better documentation
10. Hot plug-and-play

Joe’s conclusions:

The list holds three surprises for me. First, I was surprised to see preloads ranked so high. I think that’s a very astute observation. It’s also very un-geeky. Maybe that’s why it surprised me. Ditto for the awareness shown by the respondents of the value of name recognition. It’s interesting to me that both of those are of the “rising tide lifts all boats” variety.

My biggest surprise came when I thought about what is not on the list. The great anti-Linux mantra is gone. It has disappeared. Not one of the more than 60 responses mentioned a need for easier installation of the operating system. Kudos to everyone who helped to make that happen. Let’s hope the same thing happens to all the critical needs on the list.

Finally, I think it is worth pointing out that almost all of the items on the list are focused on Linux as a desktop platform rather than simply as a server. In this pundit’s very humble opinion, the “not ready for the desktop” mantra will be the next one to disappear.

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Dashboard and Aggregation

Viswanath Gondi writes in a post entitled “The Next Killer App”:

The information aggregator? Dashboard, an open source project, similar but more advanced than taskpane in windows. You will have a pane on your desktop which will keep track of your context and provide services from different databases. For example if you come across a url on your main app, the dashboard will search for related sites on google, find weblogs bloging on that url through technorati, get the information about the person incharge of the site through FOAF, etc. Bill Gates also mentioned something like this on UsaToday. An app called scope is prototyped at microsoft reserch. Also, digital dashboard at talks about the same thing. Is it the next killer app? A notification service for the mixture of email, IM, aggregator, search engine and all the webservices available on the servers. Primarily the personal agent that has been in the future for soo long. Which UI form will it take, file browser, system tray, taskpane or like the google toolbar. How is its interface going to be on cell phones?”

I think we are moving to a world of microcontent, which we will subscribe to, and which be delivered on our desktop via a dashboard, in our email client via an RSS-to-IMAP service (like the Info Aggregator), on our cellphone via SMS – however we choose to receive it. There will be a shift from searching and surfing to getting the relevant, incremental content delivered from the sources we choose to receive it from.

I need to write more on this…the basic theme is: “”From Website Searching and Surfing to Microcontent Syndication and Subscription: The Birth of the Publish-Subscribe Web and Creation of Information Marketplaces.”

Shirky on Groups, Ozzie on Mobility

Two articles I should have liinked to a little while ago: Clay Shirky’s Shirky: A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy and Ray Ozzie’s Extreme Mobility.

Shirky: ” This talk is in three parts. The best explanation I have found for the kinds of things that happen when groups of humans interact is psychological research that predates the Internet, so the first part is going to be about W.R. Bion’s research, which I will talk about in a moment, research that I believe explains how and why a group is its own worst enemy. The second part is: Why now? What’s going on now that makes this worth thinking about? I think we’re seeing a revolution in social software in the current environment that’s really interesting. And third, I want to identify some things, about half a dozen things, in fact, that I think are core to any software that supports larger, long-lived groups.”

Ozzie: “New programming, storage and interaction models will take us places we’ve not yet imagined. The PC is shifting from tethered personal productivity and document management toward mobile collaborative productivity, interpersonal communications, and media collection sharing & management. The phone is shifting toward mobile interpersonal communications and awareness, coordination and notification, as well as media playback, recording, and ‘squirting’….It’s going to take a new breed of software and services to get us from here, to there. Software born into a new era – designed specifically to emphasize media, communications and mobility. Built on top of platforms specifically created to enable these new capabilities…I believe we’re currently in a transition period for personal computing: from a tethered, desk-bound, personal productivity view, to one of highly mobile interpersonal productivity and collaboration, communications, coordination.”

Mobile Internet Comeback

William Gurley writes in his latest newsletter:

Something extremely exciting is emerging in the cellular world. In the past twelve months, the cellular phone began to prove what many of its hardcore supporters have voiced for years – that the cell phone can be a leading platform for interactive entertainment services. What’s more, it could be much bigger than you realize, perhaps even bigger than the PC industry.

As an alternative to other potential interactive platforms (game consoles, PCs, GameBoy), cell phones have some unique advantages. First and foremost, they are pervasive. The installed base of cell phones worldwide is around 1.3 billion. Second, most people carry them wherever they go – this is a real plus for interactive games as well as communication oriented features. Cell phone games can entertain during “stolen moments” – the times that would otherwise be wasted. Additionally, cell phone carriers have been much more adept than say Internet portals in deploying billing or “wallet” like features. You can “buy on a click” much easier on your phone than the Internet – an example of the carrier leveraging its previously existing billing relationship. Lastly, because all current cell phones have both a global phone number and an IP address (with your carrier acting as the ISP) you already have a directory-enabling structure that allows any phone to easily link to another.

analysts peg the worldwide installed base of active PCs to be between 500 and 750 million. However, the active installed base of cellular phone users is once again, approximately 1.3 billion. Looking forward, this gap is likely to increase. The IDC-reported number for annual PC sales is approximately 150 million. The current estimate for worldwide cellular sales is more than 400 million. Turn your eye to developing countries and the gap is even larger. In China, the installed base of cell phones, at 200 million, is already ten times the size of the installed base of PCs.

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eBay’s New Directions

Meg Whitman points out the changing nature of eBay from just an online auctioneer:

Nearly 26% of our sales were settled in a fixed Nprice format, called Buy it Now. This feature allows sellers to attach a price to their auctions.

Another thing that not everybody knows about eBay is that its a very flexible channel for large sellers. We have made a tremendous amount of progress enabling big sellers to sell in volume.

Many small businesses, for example, are finding eBay to be a very attractive place, both for selling their products and for outfitting their offices. And were looking at new areas. Services is a new marketplace on eBay.

Another thing thats important to know about eBay is that were a global marketplace. We now have operations in 27 countries around the world.

A lasting point: “The need for online trading communities seems endless.”

From the first part of the speech: “What we see with eBay is a community of users who adapt this online marketplace to their particular needs. I think it is one of the most flexible platforms Ive ever seen in terms of making it just right for buyers and just right for sellers. Thats why weve succeeded.”

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TECH TALK: Useful Concepts: The CEOs Temptations

Patrick Lencionis The Five Temptations of a CEO was recommended to me by Shrikant Patil. It is a small book 134 pages of well-spaced out text and doesnt take much time to read. It is written in the form of a story, a leadership fable. This is one of those books whose cost in India works out to Rs 10 per page! The message in the book is more than worth the investment.

Many of us run are CEOs of a company or even a division. If we are not, we perhaps aspire to be CEOs at some day. The book talks about the mistakes that CEOs make. After reading the book, I can say that these are mistakes just limited not just to CEOs of big companies, but many of us who manage other people. It is easy to fall prey to the five temptations, and therein begin a download spiral.

These are the five temptations: choosing status over results, choosing popularity over accountability, choosing certainty over clarity, choosing harmony over conflict, and choosing invulnerability over trust.

Advises Lencioni:

Make results the most important measure of personal success, or step down from the job. The future of the company you lead is too important for customers, employees, and stakeholders, to hold it hostage to your ego.

Work for the long-term respect of your direct reports, not for their affection. Dont view them as a support group, but as key employees who must deliver on their commitments if the company is to produce predictable results. And remember, your people arent going to like you anyway if they ultimately fail.

Make clarity more important than accuracy. Remember that your people will learn more if you take decisive action than if you always wait for more information. And if the decisions you make in the spirit of creating clarity turn out to be wrong when more information becomes available, change plans and explain why. It is your job to risk being wrong. The only real cost to being wrong is loss of pride. The cost to your company of not taking the risk of being wrong is paralysis.

Tolerate discord. Encourage your direct reports to air their ideological differences, and with passion. Tumultuous meetings are often signs of progress. Tame ones are often signs of leaving important issues off the table. Guard against personal attacks, but not to the point of stifling important interchanges of ideas.

Actively encourage your people to challenge your ideas. Trust them with your reputation and your ego. Trust them with your reputation and your ego. As a CEO, this is one of the greatest level of trust that you can give. They will return it with respect and honesty, and with a desire to be vulnerable among their peers.

This is a book which deserves to be read and whose message need to be absorbed and lived by one and all.

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