Intel’s Future Pointers has some quotes from a speech by Jason Chen (president of sales and marketing) at Computex in Taiwan:

By 2006, the emerging-market contribution to overall market shipments will go to 40 percent; 1999 was only 20 percent. That’s a very significant signal to the industry.

Computing and communications devices will converge so that the two capabilities will no longer be separate. The trend is best embodied today at Intel by Centrino.

Wireless networking is growing fast. There are 12.8 million wireless access points today.

Esther Dyson Interview

Dan Bricklin reports on an interview by Scott Kirsner with Esther Dyson (of Release 1.0). Excerpts:

In India, with a billion people, outsourcing is a tiny thing. Talent is being used to serve outside of the country, with no direct benefit to the general population. They know how to market their talents to the world. The Russians are terrible at marketing, but 90% of what they do is for customers in Russia. There is more of a sense of building for the future now then there was.

When asked about the Internet, WiFi, et al, and the developing world: She reminds us of “lower technology” that is very valuable, such as sewing machines and water pumps. Cell phones are more immediately and locally important than the Internet because of cost and accessibility, which is more relevant for now than WiFi, but she noted that the best underlying backbone for communications is the Internet. It is important to know the price of cotton, which you can do via SMS — you don’t need a web page with fancy graphics. What it all does is change the balance of power. Those in power, and especially those abusing power, tend not to like transparency. Usually bad governments create poverty; poor people don’t create it.

The point about India that Esther Dyson makes is, sadly, right. The Indian IT industry has become too outward (dollar focused) and is unable to see the opportunities that lie within. Longer-term, we have to build a stronger, healthier domestic base – across our SMEs, schools and colleges and our rural areas. This is where IT can be transformational, but there just isn’t enough work happening on this front.

Knowledge Sharing

Don Tapscott writes that “in the traditionally opaque corporation, people hoarded knowledge, hoping it would bring personal power and success. Now individuals must be encouraged to share knowledge; corporate success depends on it.” What better way to do it than K-logs(knowledge weblogs).

RSS Utilities

Steve Outing writes about a collection of RSS tools:
Toolbutton: toolbar add-on for Internet Explorer to make subscribing to RSS feeds easier
Klips: an awareness and notification tool that utilises RSS
Quikonnex: a turnkey, soup-to-nuts publishing service
MyWireService: a Web-based RSS aggregator

On a related note, Nick Gaydos writes: “I’ve found that people are really asking for a method to share events, not a new calendar.” Roland Tanglao’s reply: “RSS is the event transport of the 21st century. Goodbye CMIP Event Reports, Apple Events, etc. RSS is it for now.”

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Solution Accelerators

Microsoft Watch writes about an interesting idea: “Solution Accelerators are a collection of methodologies, blueprints and other services aimed at customizing one or more Microsoft products for a particular vertical or horizontal audience. While Solution Accelerators are built with partners in mind, customers are also able to obtain and make use of them on their own…Microsoft officials claim the accelerators will allow companies to increase productivity, shorten business cycles, streamline business processes and eventually lower the overall cost of doing business.”

Adds “The first seven products from the Accelerator Program will focus on specific business segments and tasks: sales proposals, personnel recruiting, quality-management projects for Six Sigma (an efficiency theory made popular by General Electric), financial reports, compliance projects for new Sarbanes-Oxley Act accounting rules, business scorecards and financial scenarios.”

Joe Wilcox (Jupiter) has a point of view on this.

We should look at something similar for OpenOffice.

TECH TALK: Random Musings (Part 5)

Open-Source and India

I gave a presentation (PPT, 202 KB) recently in Pune on open-source at a workshop organised by the local CSI chapter. I cannot help but think that India is missing a golden opportunity when it comes to leading the world in the development of open-source software. India has the maximum to benefit, and yet we continue to hardwire Microsoft products in our tenders and curriculum. Piracy and non-consumption are not the solutions. What is needed for a few people to come together and provide leadership and co-ordination for the open-source community in India.

All it needs are a few people. Take a look at many of the revolutions that have been started. They all began with one, and others joined along the way. From Gandhi to Linux Torvalds, we have a lot to learn from these pioneers who beloved that it is possible to take on the establishment and bring about change. India needs these change leaders.

What is needed for one or a few to articulate a vision for what India should do in the field of open-source, articulate a roadmap and provide ways by which others can contribute in their own small ways. This needs top-down thinking and bottom-up execution. India and Indians should be at the leading edge in pioneering and championing the next software advances. We have the armies, what is missing are the generals.

Entrepreneurial Challenges

One of the best things about being an entrepreneur is the difficulties one faces and the working out solutions for each of these challenges. Entrepreneurship is about imaging the impossible and making it a reality. There are many moments which one wishes one could fast-forward, but life is not a VCR. Each moment, each scene has to be played through sequentially however unpleasant it may be. These are the true tests for entrepreneurs the crucible. Each of these challenges enriches and teaches in a way no textbook or management course can.

One of the things I have found useful when faced with challenging situations is to make to someone else. It is easier said than done, because few of us like to open up with people on the outside or like to seek help. But just the talking, just the brainstorming can help the answers come out from within ourselves. I would go to the extent of saying that it would be nice if entrepreneurs could pair up (somewhat like extreme programming.) The ideal companion would be someone who is also an entrepreneur, but is no way related to the business. One should be able to periodically able to talk openly to the companion, knowing fully well that there is no hidden agenda the other person has.

Life at the top is lonely. Everyone needs a friend. Maybe some of the social networks can help pair entrepreneurs together?!

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Sohu’s Turnaround

WSJ has a story on the remarkable turnaround at, one of the Chinese Internet portals – the company’s stock price has risen more than 1,300% since August 2002. How did it do it? By leveraging SMS.

Sohu’s strategy was simple: It moved much of its content, such as dating services and chat rooms, from the Internet to the SMS platform for mobile phones. That provided a basic but essential benefit to Sohu and other Chinese Web portals making the same move — allowing them to bill users for content by adding charges to their mobile-phone bills. Suddenly, the content that they had been giving away free on their Web sites could fetch a modest sum on mobile phones. At first, Sohu wasn’t very serious about SMS, but when the company saw the service’s earnings potential, it decided to pursue SMS users at full throttle.

At a cost of about a penny an SMS message, the service might not seem like a money maker. But the main reason SMS works in China is its low cost. An SMS message costs about 80% less than one minute of voice transmission. Another reason SMS proved so successful is that the dull-edge technology can be used on even basic wireless handsets, which account for more than 90% of the Chinese market.

While the rest of the world is investing in higher-value technologies, such as multimedia messaging or streaming video delivered over next-generation mobile networks, China’s infatuation with stodgy SMS shows no sign of cooling down. About 40 million of China’s more than 200 million cellphone users sent out more than 80 billion SMS messages last year, creating such a huge pie that even a small crumb can be enough to drive revenue.

In fact, the turnaround in the fortunes of the Chinese portals (Sohu, Netease and Sina) is perhaps the most remarkable Internet story of the past couple years. Their stock proces are up 40-100x in the past 18-24 months. Besides SMS, the other two factors have been an increase in Internet advertising and gaming.

Intranet Aggregators

Paolo Valdemarin writes:

The basic idea is merge to the same server contents coming from:

– internal sources (accounting, trouble ticketing, exiting document management applications, other data bases: we should be able to get a feed from any internal app)

– k-logs (every member of the group has one)

– external news sources (general news, weblogs, specialized sources, scraped pages)

The output of the aggregator should be both html that people can browser with their browser and more feeds which could end up in personal aggregators or funneled in other applications.

Centralized aggregators should not necessarily mean that every user has to read all feeds. There should be both the kind of personalization allowed by personal aggregators (deciding which feeds to subscribe to) but also added vaue services that would allow users to discover additional sources of information and anyway give different relevance to different kind of information snippets that are displayed on the page.


Dream Office

Joel Spolsky designs the Bionic office for his company. “There’s a lot of evidence that the right kind of office space can improve programmer productivity, especially private offices…Having drop-dead gorgeous, private, windowed offices makes it a lot easier to recruit the kinds of superstars that produce ten times as much as the merely brilliant software developers. If I have to compete at New York salaries against Bangalore salaries, I’m going to need those superstars, so when people come in for an interview, I need to see jaws on the floor. It’s about drama.”

The final word: “The monthly rent for our offices, when fully occupied, will run about $700 per employee…I suspect that $700 per person is on the high side for software developers throughout the world, but if it means we can hire from the 99.9 percentile instead of the 99 percentile, it’ll be worth it.”

Amazon becoming Shopping Mall

WSJ writes about the strategy shift at Amazon:

At Inc., a new strategy is taking root: The world’s biggest online retailer is trying to transform itself into a shopping mall.

This week, Amazon opened a sporting-goods department where retailers such as Golfsmith International Inc. can sell golf clubs, baseball bats and other athletic gear. Lands’ End and online luggage retailer Inc. have already set up stores in the apparel section. And Amazon hopes to roll out a gourmet-food store and health-and-beauty shop in time for the holidays, according to people familiar with the matter.

Amazon processes the orders for these departments, but the retailers fill the orders from their own warehouses. Amazon gets a cut of the sales — and can expand into different businesses without making a big investment in inventory. The retailers receive access to Amazon’s most important assets: its customer traffic, $1 billion investment in technology and Internet know-how.

But becoming a shopping mall is creating new tensions in Amazon’s business. Even as Amazon successfully recruits retailers to sell on the site, some popular manufacturers are worried Amazon’s emphasis on discounts might cheapen their brands. Nike Inc. is trying to get retailers to remove its products from the site, and Callaway Golf Co. has asked retailers not to sell its new golf equipment there.

At the same time, Amazon has to worry about risking its own reputation by putting the delivery of products into the hands of outsiders. And as it expands its stable of partners, Amazon finds itself managing relationships with hundreds of retailers, most of them with their own demands about how their blue jeans, shoes and other goods are presented on the site. Gap Inc. and other retailers, for example, have clamored for bigger, sharper pictures of their products on the site or for special features such as monogramming.

Managing Email

[via Corante] David Gelernter writes about the problems faced with email…

No one should ever have to do anything with a mail message except ignore it, read it, or read and respond. When I see people “cleaning up” their mail files, faithfully stuffing each message into a folder or otherwise file-clerking for a machine, acting as their computer’s loyal (albeit menial) employee, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. (Laugh is usually the right answer.)

As volume rises, more email conversations trail off into nothing for unknown reasons, the medium is devalued further, and the problem gets worse–people set even less store by a mail message, send one out on even less provocation, volume rises, more email conversations trail off into nothing for unknown reasons, the medium is devalued even further.

…and suggests a solution:

there is a way to counteract ever-higher volumes and varieties of online information: by making the interface far simpler and more uniform. Every digital item you own or ever will own will be stored in a single structure. (Various companies, including one I work for, are building this type of software.) This single structure with all your information inside will be accessible from any computer or quasi-computer anywhere. (Any cell phone, laptop, answering machine, TV, automobile.) It will be easy to display, to visualize, to manipulate. Thus, a sort of “information beam” that grows brighter all the time (as more and more information is added), but can be focused easily with pinpoint precision. To handle rich, varied, and voluminous information, you need a simple and uniform package. The book (the physical object–sheets bound on end) is the finest design in history for exactly that reason. A book might be about anything, but all books work the same way. When software design is a tenth as sophisticated as book design, we will be getting somewhere.

VoIP over Wireless at Dartmouth

NYTimes writes about what is perhaps the largest of its kind application at Dartmouth College:

This week, as classes begin, the 1,000 students entering the class of 2007 will be given the option of downloading software, generically known as softphones, onto Windows-based computers.

Using the software together with a headset, which can be plugged into a computer’s U.S.B. port, the students can make local or long-distance telephone calls free. Each student is assigned a traditional seven-digit phone number.

The software, supplied by a variety of companies, works on laptops and desktop computers alike. Over the next six months, the softphone platforms will expand to include Apple computers, as well as Palm and Pocket PC hand-held devices.

When running, the software appears on the screen as a phone with a dial pad. Phone numbers are dialed by clicking the numbers on the key pad.

Voice over Internet protocol is not new. But running so much voice over a wireless data network is.

“As far as I know, no one has done a wireless voice-over-I.P. network this large before,” said David Kotz, a computer science professor at Dartmouth.

The network is being phased in across the entire campus with plans to reach 13,000 people, including faculty and staff.

TECH TALK: Random Musings (Part 4)

Blogs and I

The importance of blogs in my life continues to increase. There are many things happening simultaneously. For one, my blog is attracting more traffic, which has increased the feedback I get from people and a responsibility to ensure that I keep the updates happening regularly. I am becoming an interactive private radio station. Second, I am making some good connections with people via the blog. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that most of the new people I am coming into contact with now are because of the blog. This is interesting because it is putting me in touch with people I would not have otherwise ever dreamt of being able to connect with otherwise. It would be fair to say that weblogs are the shortcuts in the social world of connections.

Third, I am reading more and more bloggers. Thanks to the Info Aggregator and RSS, adding a new blog to read has become a breeze: whenever I come across a blogger I like, I just add the RSS feed into my aggregator, and can then rest assured that the updates will flow right into my mailbox. At last count, I had 150+ subscriptions. And to think that barely a few months ago, I was reading no more than a dozen bloggers! I cannot help feeling that blogs and RSS are bringing about a dramatic revolution in the way we access, contemplate and distribute information. The implications are far-reaching: no technology in recent times has given me a 10X improvement in what I do in such a short time.

Writing a blog is a significant time investment. But I feel, the benefits are also immense. It takes time for the benefits to accrue, while the time clock starts from day one. I have been maintaining a blog now for over 16 months. The blog has its own value chain to write, I need to read, think and build my own view of the world. It also forces a daily discipline, especially if, like me, one decides that there should be something new every day. It is something I learnt when we were doing IndiaWorld by updating daily, a site can become a constant in the readers life.

I think each of us has something we are good at, something we are passionate about. It could be trekking, photography, fiction, cooking or designing. If we can take that passion and share it with others via a blog, we will find that over time, the community responds, and we get more back then we give. Of course, the receiving takes time that is where one needs to have the patience and faith. Blog daily as if you have a thousand readers, even though there may be none and over time, they will come. Blogs give each of us a voice. They are home pages come alive, and with personality. That is why I believe that blogs are not a fad, they are set to become a permanent, rich part of the web landscape.

Tomorrow: Random Musings (continued)

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River Person or Goal Person

Dina Mehta quotes from an article by Chuck Frey:

The late self-help expert, Earl Nightingale, once explained that there are two types of people: river people and goal people. Both types of people can experience personal fulfillment and success in life, although in different ways.

Goal People

Most of us are undoubtedly familiar with goal people. They are the individuals who write down their objectives and timetables for reaching them, and then focus on attaining them, one by one. By laying out a roadmap of future achievements in front of them, goal people give their creative minds a clear set of stimuli to work on. Their subconscious minds can then get to work incubating ideas and insights that will help them to reach their goals.

River People

River people, on the other hand, don’t like to follow such a structured route to success. They are called river people because they are happiest and most fulfilled when they are wading in a rich “river” of interest — a subject or profession about which they are very passionate. While they may not have a concrete plan with measurable goals, river people are often successful because they are so passionate about their area of interest.

River people are explorers, continually seeking out learning opportunities and new experiences. For river people, joy comes from the journey, not from reaching the destination — exactly the opposite of goal people.

Recognizing both qualities in yourself — Most people are a combination of these two personality types. I know I am. In my full-time job, I am expected to be goal oriented. I have specific personal and departmental objectives for which I’m responsible. At the same time, however, I get the most “juice” out of being an explorer, learning new skills, collecting information and writing about innovation and technology.

So beautifully written. I guess I am a bit of both, though the river person tends to dominate. What about you?


Reading Anil Dash on Google’s AdSense and its potential and problems made me wonder: how about a equivalent for blog content. There are many times when I feel I’d like to promote some interesting content I wrote on some appropriate blogs, and wouldn’t mind paying for it. Who knows – I may get some business leads or a few interesting people contacts or some ideas. There’s no easy way for me to do this. Given the growing number of bloggers this could be an interesting service to try out.

Search Engine Battle

Fredrick Marckini writes on the coming battle between Google and Microsoft in the search business:

Microsoft’s battle against Google will be waged not with technology or features, but with marketing and product positioning. It is a marketing battle, not a technology showdown.

Jack says Google is dangerously close to becoming the generic in the space. Should that happen, the company would be open to brand and product positioning attacks on multiple fronts.

“Microsoft has only one available strategy [to beat Google]: They need to position their new search service as the ‘next generation,'” Trout told me. Microsoft, he explained, should not try to claim its new search engine is “better,” because that won’t win. “The only way you beat Google is by being ‘what’s next.’ [Internet searchers] will switch to the ‘next thing,’ but Google already owns the current ‘best’ thing,” said Trout. “The Google offering must be positioned into a corner by Microsoft, positioned as the old product. If anyone could pull off this strategy, it would be Microsoft.”

Am wondering if the same idea of “next generation” can be applied to the desktop software market. [Scott Johnson has some ideas for the desktop.]

RFID hitting mainstream

TIME writes:

Radio-frequency identification is, in fact, already pervasive in our lives used to track everything from pets to prisoners to products. Cars zip through tollbooths thanks to payment systems using RFID. More than 50 million pets worldwide are tagged with RFID chips. At least 20 million livestock have RFID tags to follow them for possible disease breakouts. A museum in Rotterdam uses RFID to guard its Rembrandts and Renoirs. And for the past two years, Oscar-goers have been screened and tracked by RFID.

Now RFID is about to reach ubiquity, bringing its ability to track everything, everywhere, all the time from the factory right into your home. Spooky but incredibly productive, RFID is the basis of 6,000 patents filed for wireless payments, keyless entries, cosmetics mixing, laundry tracking and patient monitoring. Think of it as the me-generation successor to the bar code.

An RFID reader emits a radio wave to scan the chip via an attached antenna. Unlike bar codes, which have to be scanned one at a time, an RFID reader can theoretically scan every item in a shopping basket, case or pallet at one glance, at a distance, even in rotten conditions like inside a freezer or in a sandstorm. Place an RFID reader in a series of gateways, and it can follow supplies from assembly line to store shelves and right out the door with the customer.

Increasing PC Penetration in India

[via Prof. DB Phatak and Sameer Kochar] ICT3 Quarterly (Skoch Consulting) has an interesting roundtable on affordable computing in India. What is very interesting is the wheel of penetration for increasin IT usage in India.

Wheel of Penetration

Prof. Phatak makes an interesting point: “Here is a ‘teacher’s dream’ – that the next 500 million users hopefully in next five years are to come from these countries. The Indian population figure suggests that we should have a share of at least 100 million users, which means that penetration should be 20 million desktops per year over the next five years. Last two years published figures by various agencies including Skoch, suggests that we are in the ballpark of 2 million desktops per year being sold. So clearly, we need a big drive…In my opinion drivers could be of two types, one is a price driver, so if somehow industry can come together, solution developers, system integrators and make the total cost of ownership of any acceptable solution to one-fourth of what it is today, then I get 4 x advantages. Simultaneously, if the end-user – government, industry, banks, financial sector, educations institutions – quadruples their investment in IT, remember, in developed world the level of IT investment is 3.5% of their overall budgets is on IT. In India the percentage is very small. So four times is an essential investment, if you do that you get a 16x advantage, what we desire is a 10x advantage.”