Software as Cold Technology

Phil Wainewright writes that software spending over the coming years will likely be decimated. This makes software yet another example of a “cold technology“, which instead of increasing tech spend reduces it.

A combination of factors mean that businesses today should be going into deals expecting to pay at least one-tenth the price they previously assumed for the same software functionality. That’s what I mean, quite literally, by decimation. Among those factors, these are the main ones:

  • Open standards and open source reduce if not eliminate the cost of software infrastructure
  • Service re-use through shared infrastructure makes it possible to get an order of magnitude more productivity out of existing software and infrastructure assets
  • Globally sourced composite functionality drives down the cost of easily outsourced operations through brute-force competition

  • Wider RSS Usage?

    In writing about Upcoming, an event calendar, Ray Ozzie makes an interesting point: “Each fall, as I manually enter the entire Celtics season schedule, my company’s holidays and my childrens’ school calendars into my own personal calendar, I am again reminded how ridiculous it is that The Net has not yet ubiquitously embraced the everyday exchange of virtual objects so basic as calendars and as vCards – which can also likewise be subscribed-to, aggregated into Contact Lists and auto-updated via personal RSS feeds.”

    I can’t help thinking that we have been using RSS too narrowly, and haven’t looked much at standardisation of content formats and syndication enough.

    Increasing Blog Readership

    Phil Wolff writes about the impact of Moreover making its recently-lanuched blog search available to Oracle customers through MyYahoo:

    Distribution channels and customer relationships matter
    – 16,000 big companies is a lot of customer access.
    – If they average between 1000 and 5000 employees per customer, that’s 16-80 million potential weblog readers
    What percent of those become bloggers themselves?

    Mediated blog content is becoming a feature
    – Keep up to speed with those bloggers who seem to know everything

    Integration with existing information delivery systems, like portlets, is among formal purchasing criteria.

    The blogosphere may become an alternative to premium content services.

    Free Software in Education

    Frederick Noronha (Linux Journal) writes how free software can make a difference in education:

    Free software has a big role to play in general education at all levels in India, and here are ten good reasons why:

    1. Not by bread (money) alone: Because free software evangelists are not motivated by money alone, chances are they work in areas that have high social need and not only those areas that cater to the affluent. It’s no coincidence that education is high on free software evangelists’ agendas, within India and abroad.

    2. Some of the best brains are here. The strong sense of community makes it very easy to share software, ideas and solutions.

    3. Anyone can get involved. Entry barriers to contribute to free software are low. Educators can and are shaping this movement and how responsive it is to the world of education.

    4. Indian concerns, Indian developers: if we don’t solve our own problems, will a giant corporation in the US do it for us? FLOSS makes it easy for anyone with motivation and a bright idea to contribute to an exciting global network. The free software world also shows us that people contribute their skills and work reasons other than money. They do so out of altruism and a desire to share knowledge. They do it for fun or because they like the challenge. They do it to develop new skills and even in anticipation of indirect rewards, such as improved job opportunities.

    5. Affordability: Free software is not about price, it’s about freedom. Yet, in cash-strapped countries such as India, the affordability of this tool makes it particularly suitable for deployment in education.

    6. Support the worldwide community: To scare off people from using free software, one argument says few firms are behind this global campaign. Yet, once a region builds up its skills–and we’re fast getting there in India–they spread quickly. Dozens or hundreds of mailing-lists and newsgroups exist that offer support from a worldwide community of users and programmers.

    7. Indian-language solutions: If there are a handful of volunteers, it is possible to make rapid strides in “Indianising” software. This concept also applies to narrowly used languages that proprietary software might not see as viable interests. We can’t restrict computing and technology to a handful of English-language speakers in this part of the globe. Networks such as the Indic-computing-users mailing list are doing interesting work on this front.

    8. Adapt, rebuild, reuse: You don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Anyone interested can adapt existing software for specific needs. In tiny Goa, located on the Indian west coast, the local chapter of ILUG (India Linux Users Groups) rebuilt a distribution to make it easier and more uniform for untrained people to install Linux in schools.

    9. The interest is here: In India itself, a number of groups already are working to adapt free software to education. One on these groups is called LIFE; you can join the list by sending e-mail here.

    10. If this won’t work, nothing will: In the software world, the FLOSS movement has shown its ability to produce results. This is one area of life where the alternative is proving to be really good. Maybe better than the real thing, that is, the dominant model of software production.

    The irony in India is that much of the education system is still hardwired to Microsoft. Instead of saying word processor or spreadsheet in tenders that are put out for purchase of software, they explicitly state Microsoft Word and Excel. The Indian central and state governments needs to be at least vendor neutral if not directly favouring free and open-source software.

    Stateless Transnationals

    [via Reuben]Business Week writes:

    [A] new breed of high-tech companies is defying conventional wisdom about how corporations ought to operate. While most large companies have extensive worldwide operations, these companies go much further — aiming to transcend nationality altogether. C.K. Prahalad, a professor at the University of Michigan Business School, calls this the fourth stage of globalization. In the first stage, companies operate in one country and sell into others. Second-stage multinationals set up foreign subsidiaries to handle one country’s sales. And the third stage involves operating an entire line of business in another country.

    What’s different about these outfits — call them transnationals — is that even the executive suite is virtual. They place their top executives and core corporate functions in different countries to gain a competitive edge through the availability of talent or capital, low costs, or proximity to their most important customers.

    An example: Trend Micro, whose “financial headquarters is in Tokyo, where it went public; product development is in PhD-rich Taiwan; and sales is in Silicon Valley — inside the giant American market.” India’s Wipro is also mentioned in the article.

    Past, Present and Future of Blogging

    Nico Macdonald “puts Weblogging in the context of the history of online publishing, explaining its novelty and value, and indicating where it needs to innovate. He concludes with a proposal encouraging publishers to properly embrace the Weblogging model.” A few interesting points:

    Another challenge presented by the proliferation of writing is how we readers and writers might document, manage and use this profusion of information. It is certainly a step forward that Weblog posts have permanent links. But there are so many Weblogs and so many posts that they are impossible to contextualise, at least in their current format of endless scrolling lists. RSS readers are a step forward in that they allow readers to review Weblogs and posts using hierarchical structures, get an overview of unread posts, and hide those that have been read. We need to find ways to categorise posts to bring the kind of structure that Yahoo! brought to Web sites and the seeds of this concept can be seen in Moveable Type, NewsMonster and other tools. We also need to find ways of assigning priority to posts based on who wrote them (often referred to as reputation management) and where they were posted. Gillmor recognises this issue. Discussing current newsreaders he notes that [t]hey assign equal weight to everything they display. So the headlines and text from Joes Weblog get roughly the same display treatment as material from, say, the New York Times. Instead he would like more flexibility, more nuance, such as the ability to highlight by topic, by writer, by popularity and other measures.

    At a presentational level we need to find ways to visualise the blogosphere (and not just the blogosphere). We need to be able to use our chosen parameters and employ the visual axes of typography, size, colour, and spatial relationship to help exploit our underemployed visual powers to aid our understanding. We also need to employ reader interaction to assist with navigation and organisation of the blogosphere.

    TECH TALK: Random Musings (Part 2)

    Mumbai and Pune

    I was born in Pune, and spent the first few years of my life there. I have regularly visited the city (192 kilometres from Mumbai), though in the past few years, the visits have been few and far between. Most of my journeys have been by train. I find train travel (like air travel) gives me the freedom to think – as long as I am travelling alone! Recently, I took a taxi (a Cool Cab) back to Mumbai, riding along a sparsely trafficed Expressway. On the way, I couldnt help thinking how improving infrastructure is changing the dynamics of life and business between the two cities.

    The first thing the expressway has been is made travel time between the two cities flexible and predictable. This is very important. One can reasonably easily predict that it will take about three hours to travel between the two cities at any point of time either via car, taxi or bus. Even the train journey time has been reduced the Shatabdi now takes under 3 hours to cover the distance. This is bringing the two cities closer, with the result that Pune is enjoying a mini-boom of sorts.

    Software companies are expanding or setting up shop, many people are returning from abroad to live there (quality of life being better than Mumbai something I dont necessarily agree to!), real estate projects are sprouting up everywhere, the outer boundaries of the city are widening, and the service industry is growing rapidly in the form of malls, multiplexes and restaurants. Pune also has a historically strong education base like Bangalore, and this is likely to serve it well in the years to come.

    What is fascinating to see is how cities evolve. A decade ago when I returned back to India, it was hard to imagine how places will change. Now, all around, symbols of the change and optimism abound. The Mumbai-Pune expressway may just be hundred kilometres of concrete, but for a generation, it is a symbol of the New India.

    For long, India has lacked the appropriate infrastructure to ensure that simple things get down quickly. This is now being built slowly. But I hope, we can do things right. A point Atanu Dey makes often is the need for standardisation. Take an example. Finding places given an address is so difficult. If we had clearly marked numbers on the road for the plots, it would be so much easier. More often than not, we give directions saying it is near this place or opposite that place. As we do the new things that need to get done, let us make sure we also do them right. Let a few think and set the standards, so others can follow.

    Tomorrow: Random Musings (continued)

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