RSS-Data

Jeremy Allaire has proposed “a simple data language that can enhance RSS 2.0 applications, expanding it’s role into a much broader range of data-oriented applications, rather than it’s current, predominant focus on news and content-oriented applications.” The hope: “RSS-Data will open up a much wider range of data syndication applications layered on top of RSS. Whether it be a calendar data exchange format, or a better way to do trackbacks and threaded comments, RSS-Data has the potential to make RSS much more powerful than it is today.”

I think this is a good idea. We have been looking at how RSS can be applied to enterprise events. We have also built a software bridge called Events Horizon, which can generate an RSS feed from any ODBC-compliant database. This lets an enterprise set up regular updates/alerts which can be delivered to users via the Info Aggregator.

Some further discussion:

Jeremy Allaire’s additional comments

Mitch Ratcliffe: “If this were to take shape rapidly, without the requisite wrangling between competing providers of syndication tools, it should provide a foundation for organizing a wide range of data types (text, audio, video, Flash, voice connections) into a syndication feed for coherent consumption by users who would not need to manage multiple applications to access all ‘the stuff’ in the feed.”

Russell Beatie: “Okay, now turn this around. Now what happens is instead of having a server that’s waiting for method calls via a push, your client sits and *pulls* the method calls via RSS. You can have a local method called addAlarmToCalendar(Datetime date) among others, then listen to an RSS feed for updates. When an RSS item has that method call embedded into its XML, when your aggregator sees that item it will trigger the call and set an alarm locally for you. You could set up these types of events, triggers, and even “chain” methods – i.e. once my alarm method is called, I can then put write out the call into another RSS feed which will alert other clients, etc…It’s quite an interesting idea. If the format is kept as compatible as possible with XML-RPC, I should be able to strip out the call from RSS automatically and pass it to Apache’s XML-RPC library (using Java of course) without having to mess with a thing. Method calls become like namespaces using the data becomes much more flexible. You could have multiple ‘plug-ins’ into your aggregator which understand various calls as they are developed.”

Changing Face of IT

The Economist writes about how the world of infotech is changing:

Steven Milunovich, an analyst at Merrill Lynch, thinks that the tech industry evolves through waves lasting 10-15 years, as innovation leads to a burst of spending on new technologies, then to a less exciting period of assimilation. In the 1970s and early 1980s, for instance, firms stocked up on the new thing at the time, mainframe computers. IT spending soared from less than 2% of GDP to about 3%. It then stayed at that level for almost a decade, as firms worked out how to get the most out of their machines. In the 1990s, they started investing again, this time in the new technology of client-server systems. By 2000, tech spending was almost 5% of GDP.

Since then, it has fallen back to about 4% of GDP as IT managers have repented of their bubble sins. Their penance is now pretty much done. Even so, reckons Mr Milunovich, firms have now entered a phase of assimilation, with the emphasis on making tangible returns on their technology investments, past and present. As a result, he says, IT spending is likely to grow only as fast as GDP for a few years.

Pip Coburn, an analyst at UBS, calls this environment cold techin contrast to the bubble era, when tech was hot. Firms now spend on different things, such as software to make their expensive bubble-era systems work together. Antivirus software and firewalls are other big items. Some companies are moving their IT functions to cheaper places such as India.

The hottest cold technology is Linux, an operating system that comes free, except for maintenance costs. In March, Forrester, an IT consultancy, found that 72% of corporate IT managers were intending to move their server-computers to Linux from Microsoft and Unix software.

What is missed out in these calculations is the potential for small- and medium-sized enterprises from emerging markets to spend on IT. But they need simpler, affordable solutions, along with education on how computers and the Internet can make a direct, tangible impact on their productivity and business. This is a market which exists but is not being seen by most of the IT companies, who are too focused on (a) the top of the pyramid, and (b) the developed markets.

John Sculley Interview

Sculley was once CEO of Apple. Now, he is an investment firm in a VC firm. A few comments from an interview with News.com:

We’re going through a systemic, secular change in high technology. We saw, in the 1990s, the commoditization of hardware. Now, we’re going to be seeing the commoditization of almost everything, including software and services. This makes a lot of sense because, as the technology world moves from being computer-intensive to communications-intensive, you have to have open standards, which means innovation is going to have to take place in different parts of the value chain. The things that we used to think of as the areas for “wow” technology, like computers, have become commoditized and even transparent, as they are embedded into systems. The innovation now is taking place with things that are largely being driven by market opportunities and customers.

I think where the amazement is going to be is in the ability to do things with information and content that was never possible before. There are huge opportunities for search technologies to deal with information, and they are increasing in orders of magnitude over the next decade. If you take something as simple as sensor devices, like RFIDs (radio frequency identification), and, if Wal-Mart put RFIDs on every item on their store, it would generate something like 7.5 million terabytes of new data every day. So as we move to real-time systems and sensors and robots, and all of these things that have been kind of like experiments over the last decade are turned into things that can be productized over the next 10 to 15 years, the world of real-time information, and how it becomes incorporated into more parts of their lives, is going to be where the amazement is going to take place.

I am personally interested in high-definition television, and multichannel VPNs (virtual private networks) are going to be very practical within the decade. I think we’re going to see a lot of innovation in the areas of television being reinvented, a huge opportunity with mobile wireless. In fact, I think wireless is the biggest landscape for innovation and business creation. I am personally involved in two mobile wireless companies, and I can see that while we are successful in what we are doing, we’re at the very beginning of the possibilities.

Small Business Stats

A News.com article has some interesting stats: “[Microsoft’s] Ayala said the market, made up of businesses that have fewer than 1,000 workers, currently accounts for more than $420 billion in spending, with that figure projected to reach more than $690 billion by 2008. The figure includes hardware, software, services and other IT spending. According to the company, two-thirds of small businesses have more than one PC, but only about one-fifth of such companies has a server. According to the company, two-thirds of small businesses have more than one PC, but only about one-fifth of such companies has a server.”

Microsoft is launching a simplified bundle with its Windows OS and Exchange software. We will be doing something similar next week – it is called Pragatee. More soon!

World Development Report 2004

Here. From the introduction – the eight Millennium Development Goals:

With starting points in 1990, each goal is to be reached by 2015:

1.Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Halve the proportion of people living on less than one dollar a day. Halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.

2.Achieve universal primary education
Ensure that boys and girls alike complete primary schooling.

3.Promote gender equality and empower women
Eliminate gender disparity at all levels of education.

4.Reduce child mortality
Reduce by two-thirds the under- ve mortality rate.

5.Improve maternal health
Reduce by three-quarters the maternal mortality ratio.

6.Combat HIV/AIDS,malaria,and other diseases
Reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS.

7.Ensure environmental sustainability
Integrate sustainable development into country policies and reverse loss of environmental resources. Halve the proportion of people without access to potable water. Significantly improve the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers.

8.Develop a global partnership for development
Raise official development assistance. Expand market access.

We hope that the RISC project that we are doing can help make a difference in achieving some of these goals.

SAP’s NetWeaver

News.com has an interview with SAP’s rising star and possible future CEO, Shai Agassi, who talks about NetWeaver as being the future platform:

I think NetWeaver is our next foundation–just like three-tier client server was our foundation 10 years ago. NetWeaver is our foundation for the next 10 years.

One of the things we’re doing this time is we’re bringing in our technology platform, which is sort of our secret sauce for how the applications are so robust and scalable. But we’re opening up the platform so that people can build with it, including other players in the industry, such as integrators or developers.

Agassi also talks of integration and web services:

What’s new is we’re starting to see the emergence of very few players that have all the integration facets in one platform. It’s almost like the car industry. We go from the thousands of players to very, very few–five or six–that can actually put in one platform, fully pre-integrated. And that is a very big change, because when you get to a complete solution, you move from early adopters to people who like to dabble and build to the Main Street–the people who have to have it. And we look at five to 10 times growth in any market when that happens.

That means that instead of seeing ERP, CRM, SCM (supply chain management), PLM (product lifecycle management), HR (human resources) and you name it–all these buzzwords in the application space, shipping as separate entities–you will see a collection of services–in the vicinity of tens of thousands of services.

For the techies, this creates a whole new wave of innovation. They can build on a whole new platform. The CEOs are excited for a very simple reason. It changes the total cost-of-ownership equation. Integration has become the highest cost of IT in most of the companies you see today in any industry. If you can find the formula that actually reduced the cost of operation through preintegration of these layers, then you save a lot in operational costs that you can then invest back into innovation.

A lot of people talked about the improvements in supply chain–cutting four of five days out of a 16-day process. But you look at innovation in product definition and product design, and you may actually cut three to six months out of a 12-month cycle. The impact on a company is significantly bigger.

We’re moving now into a well-defined process that allows me to do it in a predictable and sustainable way across my businesses, across the world–from the design to the launch of a product, from recruiting people to a postmortem on projects, from premerger deal rooms to a postmerger reorganization. There are all these processes that we’ve never done before.

As we do the development of Emergic Enterprise and Visual Biz-ic, we need to keep these points in mind. Learn from companies like SAP, and apply these ideas in the context of small- and medium-sized enterprises in the emerging markets.

Search Engine Battle, Part 2

Fredrick Marckini continues his write-up about the coming Google-Microsoft war. [Part 1]. A couple of interesting suggestions:

Divide and Conquer: Search behavior is migrating. Many book searches already occur on Amazon. Many travel-related searches have migrated to Expedia or Orbitz; health-related searches are conducted on WebMD and MerckSource. In terms of a “what’s next” strategy, Google should consider testing vertical search sites, preferably not Google branded…Google owns “search” but not “sports search” or “medical search.” The trouble with line extension, according to Trout, is short-term effects are often the opposite of long-term results. Line extensions almost always work near term, but finally fail. Temptation will be strong to leverage a powerful brand name. Google must resist, or suffer the consequences. In attacking its own domination and possibly distributing it across a variety of vertical search brands, Google could reduce the size of the pie for a new mass-market search interface, while increasing the size of several new categories it can dominate. A larger search market may result. The first vertical? The lucrative travel sector. Google could literally redefine search and move the target. It’s much harder to hit a moving target.

Downloadable Search App: Google offers a free downloadable toolbar that allows users to launch a search from their browser without visiting Google’s site. It could offer an updated toolbar that doesn’t require a browser launch, a floating search window that launches with the OS. This provides always-on, always-on-top search. Perhaps Google could innovate some other indispensable desktop search utility. If it offered something new, interesting, valuable and free, history proves users will download and install it. Any such app may slow Microsoft and force it to compete with an adopted utility. Google has only a small window of opportunity to execute such a strategy.

TECH TALK: An Entrepreneurs Early Days (Part 5)

Teenager

As the venture starts growing, the choices before the entrepreneur start increasing. There are many roads ahead. There is a world full of opportunity. Just like the teenager who feels he can do no wrong, so does the entrepreneur. This is, therefore, also the most dangerous period in the life of the entrepreneur.

As a teenager, one feels one can have it all. No one else knows more. The world is at ones beck and call. These crucial years lay the foundation for how adulthood will be. There is tremendous energy that lies within, waiting for an outlet. So, too for an entrepreneur. One has gone through the early, tough days, and there is a latent volcano waiting to explode on the scene. This is the time when the entrepreneur has to most careful for the choices one makes now will determine the course of the future. In business as in life, there is no Undo or Edit button.

Choices there are many recruiting the second-tier management team, the first markets to tap into, the partners to ally with, the activities to do. This is the time when temptation of doing everything is abundant. This is when judicious decisions need to be made on what not to do. This is the harder choice. Entrepreneurs naturally feel that they are capable of doing everything at the same time.

This is the time when the entrepreneur has to show more maturity that is normal, by deciding on the few things that need paramount attention. There will be multiple competing strands vying for attention. Resources are limited, opportunities do not seem to be. There is a sense that if one does not capitalise on something now, it will be gone forever. It is the world of Now and Must-Have for the entrepreneur. The choice must therefore be on What Not To Do simply because there is no way that everything can be done well at the same time.

In my first venture, I tried to do many things at the same time from developing object databases to image processing or software development to multimedia presentations. I failed trying to get anything done properly. There was a momentary high of doing all these things the myth of the entrepreneur as Superman. In my second venture, I sequentialised things while there were many ideas, with a small team, we could only do one web portal at a time, since there was also the need to ensure a steady bread-and-butter business via web services.

Now, I am again at the crossroads in my third entrepreneurial avatar. There are many ideas, many opportunities that lie ahead. Each path seems so exciting just what I wanted to do. It has taken two years of exploration to getting us here. Where do we go from here? These are the entrepreneurs dilemmas that I wrestle with every day knowing that the choices I make (or eschew) will make or break what we are trying to do. This is as exciting a chess game as any that has been played. This is the thrill of the entrepreneurs journey.

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