Leonardo’s Laptop

[via Brij Singh] Leonardo’s Laptop by Ben Shneiderman seems a fascinating book. From the introduction:

Ben Shneiderman’s book dramatically raises computer users’ expectations of what they should get from technology…He proposes Leonardo da Vinci as an inspirational muse for the “new computing.” He raises the intriguing question of how Leonardo would use a laptop and what applications he would create.

Shneiderman shifts the focus from what computers can do to what users can do. A key transformation is to what he calls “universal usability,” enabling participation by young and old, novice and expert, able and disabled…Shneiderman proposes new computing applications in education, medicine, business, and government.

I haven’t yet got the book, but will do so soon. I followed a link from the site to an interview with Shneiderman on Ubiquity (done about a year ago). Some excerpts:

The intellectual heart of the book is a new understanding of human needs defined by the relationships people have and the activities they carry out. Instead of trying to apply the latest new technology, we start by asking what is it that people want to do in their lives? This theory starts by recognizing that there are some things you do on your own. There are other things you do with family and friends, others with neighbors and colleagues, and yet others with citizens and markets. So the first understanding is how we would change applications that are built for personal use into ones that are for a small group of intimate trusted friends and neighbors, people who you have a shared knowledge with, who you will see again, and who wouldn’t harm you. Things like security are less important for that community. As you go out to larger circles, the neighbors and colleagues, and citizens and markets, issues of security and shared understandings become ever more important. The second dimension of this theory is human activities.

I separate the activities into four groups. The first is collecting information — the information superhighway concept. Next is forming relationships with people through communications media — e-mail and instant messaging and so on. The third category is making innovations — the creative works that you do, whether in science or art or commerce. The last category is disseminating. We need better tools for disseminating or donating to others in order to bring the results of our innovation to a wider range of appropriate people.

The book could be a good source of ideas for our Emergic vision.

HP’s SME Initiative

InfoWorld writes about HP’s USD 750 million Smart Office initiative for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs):

Among the pieces of the Smart Office initiative:

— HP Smart Finance offerings aimed at simplifying purchasing through HP and its vendor partners, trade-ins and recycling. HP will offer zero percent financing or no payments until 2004 for three months beginning Oct. 1.

— HP ProLiant servers with pre-installed Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2003, which supports 75 users out of the box.

— New desktop systems, including a health-care PC, and a space-efficient package with a slim-line desktop PC and a flat-screen monitor.

— A variety of new printers, including the HP Color LaserJet 9500, which HP touted as capable of creating professional do-it-yourself marketing materials.

— HP Care Pack services, a set of warranty packages including application support and data backup and recovery.

— An integrated support system that includes help from HP’s vendor partners, resellers, online chat and Web-based seminars.

HP will announce partnerships aimed at four small business vertical markets — accounting, medical offices, legal offices, real estate and health-care, added John Brennan, HP’s new senior vice president of SMBs.

The small and medium-sized business market for IT goods and services is about $460 billion a year worldwide and is expected to grow to more than $640 billion over the next three to four years, Brennan said. HP’s chunk of that pie is $21 billion a year, the number one company in IT sales to SMBs, he said.

This still seems to be quite heavily US-centric. SMEs in the emerging markets need even more affordable and integrated solutions. When will be the IT majors wake up to this opportunity?

Open-Source and Non-Profit Sector

[via Ashutosh and Tapan] Jonathan Peizer writes about realising the promise of open-source software and the non-profit sector:

The fundamental question to be answered is how one underwrites and sustains the development and continued maintenance of mission critical Open Source applications designed specifically for the non-profit sector? Applications for monitoring, case management, customer relationship management, advocacy, knowledge management, web publishing, analytics, etc. that support the unique missions of NGO’s. There are literally millions of non-profits all over the world with software application needs. How will Open Source assist in the development, implementation and maintenance of low cost, easily maintainable core applications that meet these needs? And how will these be underwritten long term?

The promise of the Open Source methodology satisfying these needs will not be met by a few narrowly subsidized initiatives. It will require some dedicated strategically defined public support over a number of years to develop a social source community and do the following:

  • Define the core mission critical apps that most NGO’s need.

  • Subsidize the base development of the core applications or at least open standards around these applications including the necessary documentation and training needed to implement them successfully.

  • Develop a programmer community around these applications along with some software development institutions that employ at least a few project leaders and senior developers to coordinate activities.

  • Tie them closely to the nascent non-profit technology support community that has arisen over the last few years so that the applications, once developed, can be both delivered and supported over the long term.

  • Develop a cost structure that is not prohibitively expensive for NGO’s but that supports continued maintenance and development of the core applications.

    This will not happen without a proactive, well thought out strategy by a collaborative of progressive funders, developers and technology service providers. The dynamics that underwrite the long term maintenance and costs of mass market Open Source applications simply don’t exist for the non-profit sector because they are not underwritten in the same way they are for the commercial environment.

  • One of the suggestions made by Jonathan is for a Social SourceForge, which acts as a:

    1) A home base for development activities designed to meet a broad base of prioritized, mission focused application needs.

    2) A place to actively foster a mission focused development community.

    3) A documentation and training material depository for all applications on Social SourceForge.

    4) The arbiter of open standards for the NGO sector across application platforms.

    5) A catalyst spawning individual development efforts conforming to standards.

    6) A place where individual developers come if they wish to interact with a vibrant mission focused developer community for support.