Sun’s Mad Hatter

News continues to filter out on Sun’s thin client-thick server solution. InfoWorld: InfoWorld has more:

Java, it turns out, will form an important part of Mad Hatter, and Sun’s Jonathan Schwartz emphasized its synergy with Linux. “If you think of where Java and Linux are going, they tend to go hand in hand,” said Schwartz.”They all require the infrastructure that runs on the back of the network… Linux opens up the network and makes huge applications relevant,” he said, adding that this was good for Sun’s business.

Mad Hatter desktops will use JavaCards for authentication and will include a Java virtual machine, as well as open software including the Gnome (GNU Object Model Environment) desktop interface, the Mozilla browser, the Evolution personal information manager, and the Gaim instant message client.

Mad Hatter’s JavaCard is one of the product’s “most valuable assets,” Schwartz said. Sun provides the specifications for manufacturers to make JavaCards, which are smart cards designed to run Java. Schwartz predicted that, more and more, clients and servers on the network will come to depend on the JavaCard to trust and authenticate to one another. “I expect to see every single vendor of every device that touches the network authenticating with JavaCard,” he said.

Another important Mad Hatter component will be StarOffice, Sun’s open source desktop productivity suite, which has now shipped over 40 million copies, according to Schwartz. “We think this is actually coming to a point where we’re going to have a pretty interesting market opportunity,” he said, adding that Sun had now signed up over 60 OEMs to distribute the software.

Mad Hatter’s official launch will happen at Sun’s SunNetwork conference in San Francisco, which begins on Sept. 16, Schwartz said. He predicted that Sun’s desktop will cost 80 to 90 percent less than a Microsoft desktop, in a press conference after his keynote.

Gets interesting!

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Expanding Markets for PDAs

WSJ writes on the new frontiers for hand-helds:

To date, consumers have been the biggest buyers of hand-held computers, also known as personal digital assistants. But increasingly, companies and government agencies are buying them for employees to improve how they do their jobs.

Sales of hand-helds to corporations and organizations, which now represent about 25% of total sales, are at least holding steady. Some predict these sales will take off as more of these devices are equipped with wireless connections.

For some, the devices already have proved an effective tool and a cheaper alternative to laptops for employees who either spend a lot of time out of the office or need to roam through a store or factory.

Presence and Jabber

Jabber, Inc. has a white paper on Presence and a press release on their intention to “introduce an advanced product suite designed to add presence and real-time communication capabilities to wireless devices and services.”

An extract from the white paper:

One of the most overlooked aspects of the Instant Messaging (IM) experience is presence. Presence is one of the key differentiators of IM
from the e-mail experience, along with low-latency transmission. It allows my friends and co-workers to know if I am attached to the network before trying to communicate with me. Presence is what makes IM feel instant.

Presence is not just for IM, though. This whitepaper discusses the attributes of XMPP presence that are applicable across a wide variety of applications. By the end, we will see that XMPP is a global infrastructure for presence.

Kenamea and Composite Apps

InfoWorld TechWatch has a note on Kenamea, which is quite interesting in the context of enterprise software:

Kenamea this week is making a push in composite applications, which are applications conducive to the Web’s zero-client, cross platform environment and an alternative to client-server systems.

The Kenamea Composite Application Suite features a development and runtime environment that extends the company’s existing infrastructure with a component-based platform for building Web-based composite applications. The suite features three core elements of modern application design – service-oriented architecture, asynchronous event-driven design and component-based development, the company said.

Kenamea composite applications deliver:

  • Real-time coordination, for integrating real-time information and control components from multiple data systems, applications and Web services into a single application.
  • Event-driven interactivity, featuring user interfaces allowing users to view key perform-ance indicators, receive alerts and take action when critical events occur.
  • Fast time to market, in which applications are assembled from loose aggregations of application components.
  • Universal availability, in which the composite applications are available on any device or network without complex installation and management.
  • Kenamea’s site has more.

    A News.com article adds:

    Kenamea says the Composite Applications Suite “encapsulates the three core elements of modern application design,” which it defines as service-oriented architecture, asynchronous event-driven design, and component-based development.

    “Business owners need applications that give employees, partners, and customers a complete real-time view of business processes and allow them to accurately and collaboratively respond to events as they occur,” Kenamea CEO Tom Lounibos said in a statement.

    Lounibos believes the Kenamea suite is the first set of composite software tools to deliver this kind of functionality using any Web browsing software, and without demanding any custom coding.

    Kenamea representatives believe the Composite Applications Suite offers a range of potential benefits including the ability to integrate information and control components from multiple data systems, applications and Web services by way of a single interface. The applications can be made available on any sort of computing device and rarely fall prey to issues such as network errors or unavailability, according to the company.

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    The Quest for the Next Big Thing

    Business Week has an extensive report and identifies four tech waves: Utility Computing, Sensors, Plastic Electronics and Bionic Bodies.

    Writes Robert Hof: “Did I find the Next Big Thing? Truth be told, not exactly. But maybe, just maybe, I unearthed some trends that seem likely to produce something big. It will spring, I believe, from the proliferation of single-chip computers, tiny sensors, ubiquitous Internet connections, and even new tech-driven social movements envisioned by futurist Howard Rheingold. Together, they’re forming a global digital nervous system whose potential impact seems almost limitless…To make a real difference, ultimately, technologies must transcend gadgetry and become part of the social fabric.”

    Howard Rheingold, who was among those interviewed for the article, has his own views on the next Big Things:

    First, radio-equipped sensors networks. [PARC Principal Scientist Feng Zhao’s group] aims to create a sort of World Wide Web for sensors, because, like computers, they’re most useful if they can communicate with one another. With a search engine he calls a “Google for the physical world,” a store manager might log on and type in, “How many rolls of Charmin are left?” and get an instant answer from the sensor network. They might even be embedded in roads to measure traffic or in building materials to detect flaws.

    Then, wireless networks. [Yogen Dalal, a managing partner at Mayfield Fund] has funded a new company, PacketHop. Its technology lets people and companies create ad hoc networks by turning any mobile device into a data relay station. It sounds like yet another piece of my puzzle: something that lets people take network technology into their own hands and run with it wherever they will.

    And in the end, social networks. Surfing the Web, I happen upon an article by Howard Rheingold. The veteran tech observer and author has a new book, Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution, that links nearly all the things I’ve been tracking and much more.
    Says Rheingold, who thinks this wave will be as big as the PC and the Net: “The killer apps of tomorrow will not be hardware or software, but social practices.” It sounds a little scary. But maybe that’s a mark of something big.

    My view: the next big thing is not as much about technology itself as it will be about the empowerment via technology of those who have been left behind by the digital divide. It is about the SMEs and the people living in the rural areas of the world’s emerging markets. How can we use the newest ideas and technologies to make a difference to them? This is the question I seek to answer through the work that I do now.

    TECH TALK: IT’s Future: Carrs HBR article

    An article in the May issue Harvard Business Review by Nicholas Carr provocatively entitled IT Doesnt Matter has been at the centre of a lot of discussion in business and technology circles. In this series, I will look at the points made by Carr, some of the other opinions expressed on the article, and end with my views on it.

    The key points made by Carr, a former executive editor of HBR and now an independent business writer and consultant, can be summarised thus:

    As information technology has grown in power and ubiquity, companies have come to view it as evermore critical to their success; their heavy spending on hardware and software clearly reflects that assumption. Chief executives routinely talk about information technology’s strategic value, about how they can use IT to gain a competitive edge.

    But scarcity, not ubiquity, makes a business resource truly strategic–and allows companies to use it for a sustained competitive advantage. You gain an edge over rivals only by doing something that they can’t. By now, the core functions of IT data storage, data processing, and data transport have become available to all. Their very power and presence have begun to transform them from potentially strategic resources into commodity factors of production. They are becoming costs of doing business that must be paid by all but provide distinction to none.

    Information technology is best understood as the latest in a series of broadly adopted technologies that have reshaped industry over the past two centuries – from the railroad to the telegraph to the electric generator. For a brief period, as they were being built into the infrastructure of commerce, all these infrastructural technologies opened opportunities for forward-looking companies to gain real advantages. But as their availability increased and their cost decreased – as they became ubiquitous – they all became commodity inputs. From a strategic standpoint, they became invisible; they no longer mattered.

    That is exactly what is happening to information technology today, and the implications for corporate IT management are profound. Seeing IT in this light reveals important new imperatives for the corporate management of information technology. IT management should, frankly, become boring. It should focus on reducing risks, not increasing opportunities. For example, companies need to pay more attention to ensuring network and data security. Even more important, they need to manage IT costs more aggressively. IT may not help you gain a strategic advantage, but it could easily put you at a cost disadvantage. In brief, executives need to shift their attention from IT opportunities to IT risks – from offense to defense.

    The article is important not just because of its timing coming as it does when there are signs of a small revival in the technology industry, but also because it makes the point that IT has been commoditised and that there is little organisations can do to gain a competitive edge using IT. We will discuss the article from the point of view of organisations in the worlds emerging markets like India, where domestic IT penetration has only scratched the surface. But first, we will delve deeper into what Carr says, followed by the points and counterpoints of some others.

    Tomorrow: Carrs HBR article (continued)