GPS Applications

Fast Company writes:

What’s remarkable is how quickly commercial and civilian applications of GPS have outstripped military uses. In 10 years, GPS has quietly become an indispensable tool across the U.S. economy. Truckers use it, of course, as do fishermen, hikers, and surveyors. But so do the terrestrial- and cellular-phone networks. Power companies and farmers use GPS, as do archaeologists, the Buffalo Bills, police departments, school districts, and concrete companies. NASA uses GPS to navigate spacecraft, construction firms use it to navigate bulldozers, and several big seaports use it to guide robotic cranes that load and unload shipping containers. Wall Street banks and brokerage houses depend on the satellites more than they depend on CNBC.

And the technology is just taking hold. It’s predicted that, in 2003, just as many GPS devices of all kinds will be produced as in the previous 25 years that the satellites have been in orbit — and that, in 2004, the number of devices will double again.

“This business is not about the cost of moving something,” says Chris Hance, a regional sales manager who just spent three years as a regional account executive for Con-Way NOW. “It’s about the opportunity cost of not getting it there when you need it.”

To a big manufacturer, spending a few thousand dollars to move equipment is nothing compared with letting an assembly line sit idle at a cost of $100,000 an hour. “We are Big Brother,” says Hance. “That’s what we are selling to our customers. They always know where the shipment is. We’ve got what it takes to let them sleep at night.”

Continue reading

How Linux beat Microsoft in Munich

USA Today has a detailed report on how Linux (through Suse and IBM) won a USD 35 million contract for 14,000 desktops in the Germany city, beating out a cheaper offer from Microsoft (via Prakash Advani).

The vote wasn’t just another win for Linux, as it continues to gobble chunks of the computer server software market — a market Microsoft does not dominate. Munich is about to become the largest tech user to deploy Linux for everyday use on desktop PCs, the wellspring of Microsoft’s profits.

The result in Munich shows that the world’s largest software company is again under attack from a powerful outside force. But this time the encroacher isn’t government antitrust lawyers or a rival tech giant.

Instead, Microsoft is defending itself against the open-source-code movement. In the past two years, dozens of government agencies and schools across Asia, Europe, Australia and the Americas, along with financial institutions and moviemakers, have helped establish open-source software on beefy computer servers that display Web pages and crunch numbers. Now they have begun embracing open-source software running on ordinary desktop computers.

”What’s striking about the Munich deal is the use of Linux on the desktop,” says Paul DeGroot, tech industry analyst at research firm Directions on Microsoft. ”It’s a threat to Microsoft’s real source of strength, the desktop, where it has no competition and is used to winning all sorts of battles.”

Continue reading

KeepMedia for Online Archives

WSJ reports about the new venture of Louis Borders, who had earlier founded Webvan:

Mr. Borders has formed KeepMedia Inc., an online newsstand that will make years of back issues of more than 140 magazines, including everything from the Economist to Esquire to Mother Jones, available through the Web. Users will be able to download and save as many of the articles as they like for a flat monthly fee of $4.95, much lower than for most similar services. To avoid hurting sales of the print magazines, KeepMedia won’t let users obtain current issues until they leave newsstands, unless those users are subscribers to the print versions of the magazines.

Interesting – I’d like to take a look at it. Though this may also mean that the current free online archives of many magazines may start disappearning. Guess we are having to a “pay more” world!

Wheels of Zeus is about Electronic Tags

NYTimes writes about the new venture of Apple’s co-founder, Steve Wozniak:

Mr. Wozniak described WozNet as a simple and inexpensive wireless network that uses radio signals and global positioning satellite data to keep track of a cluster of inexpensive tags within a one- or two-mile radius of each base station. WozNet, he said, will include a home-base station that has the ability to track the location of dozens or even hundreds of small wireless devices that can be attached to people, pets or property. The tags expected to cost less than $25 each to produce will be able to generate alerts, notifying the owner by phone or e-mail message when a child arrives at school, a dog leaves the yard or a car leaves the parking lot.

Wheels of Zeus, which has 17 employees, hopes that its low-power network will fit comfortably among other wireless technologies, including the cheap radio-frequency I.D. tags that are used in stores and factories, and the more expensive and higher speed Wi-Fi and cellular data networks.

While other wireless data networks strive for high speed, Mr. Wozniak’s network, which has data rates of no more than 20,000 bits a second, has been designed to transmit a very small amount of digital information through even radio-busy environments that are subject to interference.

All of the components of WozNet will be capable of receiving location information from global positioning system satellites.

Because the tags can report their location whether they are close to their home-base station or a neighbor’s, the company is hoping to seed Silicon Valley and other large suburban communities with enough base stations to make it possible to easily track objects, even when they move outside the range of the owner’s station.

Browser of the Future

Richard Tallent writes:

  • (IE) WinForms.NET support hosted directly in the browser, integrated with scripting languages. Fixed layout will be possible, so form elements, though on the canvas, become part of the application chrome without hacks like .

  • (Mozilla) XUL does the same thing. Someone will write a translation layer between WinForms and XUL. Mozilla still has two advantages: skins and speed.

  • (IE) Browser-side Javascript and VBScript are augmented with the browser natively hosting any CLR-targeted language, with full DOM access. This is not the same thing as current .NET methods for downloading and running WinForms apps from the browser.

  • (Mozilla) Mono is tacked on to provide similar functionality.

  • (Someone) Bookmarks/favorites replaced with a database that automatically sorts, files (in multiple categories), and retrieves links, offers related links, handles broken links, and adds location independence through web services (like the wonderful, transparent bookmark synchronization software/service offered by SyncIt.

  • TECH TALK: Reflections on Ideas and Entrepreneurship (Part 2)

    All big companies were once small. At the same time, when every small company starts up, it imagines itself to be a big company some day in the future. Yet, few make the cut. In our world of today, every company wants to the Yahoo, Amazon, eBay or Google of its business. Or, perhaps, more ambitiously, the Microsoft of the world. These are the companies which have captured our imagination. Yet, just a generation ago, Microsoft didnt exist. And the others werent anywhere on the horizon a decade ago. This is what gives hope that a small company today can in a few years become a global power. This is what drives entrepreneurs to dream about and work on inventing the future.

    Focus on non-consumption, not competition. A company is defined by its competition. I dont like competition because aggressive marketing and spending a lot of money is not something which I enjoy. I like to look for new, invisible markets and get there first. This gives me time to get things right because I know I am going to make some mistakes so might as well make them while no one else is watching! More importantly, the non-consumption market is typically much larger than the consuming market. It may not seem obvious, but as we will see in the Rurals idea, there are 3+ billion people in the worlds villages who are not being served enough by technology. That, by any benchmark, is a large market. It is just that it is spread out over 3 million villages and 150 countries.

    Build a platform and an ecosystem. I remember reading this in one of Tim OReillys articles: Platform strategy always wins over an applications strategy. If we see todays big winners, many of them have built ecosystems around them. So, can we try and do the same? How can we become the centre of this ecosystem? A platform approach is also helpful because it is not easy to win the game by oneself. One will need support from other complementors might as well as plan for them.

    Dont worry about todays pain points. These are markets which need to be cultivated and provided with solutions which they probably dont know they need. So, one is not necessarily existing pain points because the target segment seems to be getting along rather well without what the entrepreneur is offering. Seems contradictory, does it? Let me give an example. A few months ago, I did not even imagine that one day Id be getting hundreds of items from 100+ news feeds in my mailbox every day and end up wanting more! Then, I was quite satisfied to go to about 8-10 websites (and weblogs) daily. It wasnt really a pain after all, that was how things I had been doing things for many years. Whenever I wanted to search, I went to Google. But, something dramatically different can come along (in the form of our Info Aggregator) and made me realise the pain in the predays after I started using the service.

    Envision tomorrow. This is perhaps one of the hardest things to do. It is also the most important. Today is visible all around us. But how will all that is happening today make a difference a few years from now? Because that is the world which we are building for. We need to think about where all the developments of today are leading. It does not matter whether one is right or wrong at this stage if we succeed in creating the future, we will be proven right! Otherwise, it does not matter. We are envisioning the world of tomorrow, and also through our actions seeking to create that future. Having a sense of the endgame helps decide what intermediate steps need to be taken. It also helps us orchestrate the others into exactly the positions that we want them.

    Tomorrow: Part 3

    Continue reading