RSS2Mobile

We have launched RSS2Mobile as part of the growing set of RSS-related services on BlogStreet. RSS2Mobile is an RSS-to-WML service. It lets you read a RSS feed in your WAP enabled mobile. Benefits: read your favourite blog on the go, read any RSS feed, and no software download.

I think services like these will make digital wireless devices (PDAs, GPRS cellphones / smartphones) more valuable, especially when they can start connecting with enterprise data. RSS is the connecting glue.

One of the ideas we had after seeing this service was to integrate this with the Info Aggregator and Events Horizon software that we have developed. The Events Horizon module generates RSS from any ODBC-compliant database through automated SQL queries, and the Info Aggregator provides RSS to IMAP. Now, all that the cellphone has to do is support IMAP. If that happens, then the Info Aggregator mailbox can be the repository for two types of feeds:
– enterprise events delivered through the Events Horizon-Info Aggregator “info refinery”
– external (Web-based) feeds from news sites and blogs directly via the Info Aggregator

An IMAP2Mobile service could then provide access to the centralised store of the RSS feeds – which would always be in sync because of IMAP. So, I can access this from an email client, via a Web-based interface or via a cellphone.

Mozilla Support

News.com reports about the decision by the Mozilla Foundation to offer fee-based services. One of these is offering customer support at $39.95 per incident.

Am thinking” why cannot Indian BPO/IT services companies get into this space – offering support for Linux and related products from India. I am sure we could do it at a much lower price. Support is one of the bottlenecks in the adoption of new technologies, and affordable support would go a long way in increasing usage.

Utility Computing Model Flaws

Jeff Clarke of Dell points out some of the flaws in the comparison of IT to electricity:

For starters, the utility analogy assumes every company uses technology in the same way. We know that is not true. Some companies invest most of their IT resources on development projects that accentuate their competitive advantage. Others are slower to adopt new technologies but have customized infrastructures that enable better service for their industry.

In a utility model, the first company would have to accept the same service level as the second–something that would be unacceptable to both. An alternative composed of a proprietary mix of the services is sure to cost more and be less likely to change with the dynamic business world.

Another assumption is that companies are willing to give up the keys to their technology infrastructure to an outside company. That leap of faith assumes outsiders will know the business as well as the insiders and will be similarly motivated to protect critical data and applications. As with the failed service provider model, we know that most customers simply don’t buy this approach.

A third flaw in the argument is the assertion that the economics of IT and utilities are the same. The reality suggests otherwise.

While utilities may develop around products that require large capital investments to achieve optimal cost-efficiencies, you don’t find many companies building their own private power plants. Most enterprises cannot use more than a fraction of the capacity of an optimal-size power plant. It is simply more economical to purchase electricity from an electric utility.

In contrast, IT infrastructure is increasingly being built on industry-standard building blocks that provide more capability at ever-decreasing costs. This means that almost any enterprise can achieve a cost-efficient infrastructure dedicated to their exclusive use.

Of Maps and Compasses

I had first read this in a book by Warren Bennis – “Geeks and Geezers”. Bennis makes a point that many times, one does not have a map to move ahead. One needs to use a “compass” since one is travelling in unchartered territory. Of late, I have getting this feeling more and more.

Many of the things that we are doing have little precedent – trying to create low-cost computing solutions, protoyping a model to transform model, creating solutions around RSS for the Publish-Subscribe Web. I don’t really have an operational plan in any of these areas – decisions are made rapidly as long as they are consistent in the general direction that we are moving. It is something I have done for most of my entrepreneurial life. Of course, it cannot always be like this – one will have to have a specific plan soon. But that can only come once we have charted out a territory well enough.

This is perhaps what I like most. There are days when one feels good because there is that inner feeling that we have advanced closer to our destination. There are other days when one feels disappointed – that “I am lost” type of feeling. As long as there are more of the first type of days, I think we are doing fine!

I believe in one thing: that as long as we are determined, we will reach our destination. Patience and experimentation are both important attributes in this journey. We also have to have the faith in the vision – course-correct if necessary, but keep the overall goals in mind all the time.

It is an exciting journey, not necessarily fun all the way. And, for me, it has been the only way I can imagine living and working!

Single-Chip Computers

News.com reports on Sun’s CTO Greg Papadopoulos’s statement that microprocessors are dead.

As new chip manufacturing techniques converge with new realities about the software jobs that computers handle, central microprocessors will gradually assume almost all the functions currently handled by an army of supporting chips, he said.

Eventually, Papadopoulos predicted, almost an entire computer will exist on a single chip–not a microprocessor but a “microsystem.” Each microsystem will have three connections: to memory, to other microsystems and to the network, Papadopoulos said.

He predicted that as more and more circuitry can be packed onto a chip, not just a single system but an entire network of systems will make its way onto a lone piece of silicon. He dubbed the concept “micronetworks.”

The ubiquity of networks is driving some of the changes, Papadopoulos said. In the past, the hardware to connect a computer to a network cost about $100. Now, it’s a few dollars, and soon it will be just a few cents, he predicted.

Along with that, software is increasingly built as a collection of services available from many systems connected to the network rather than a monolithic application that runs on a single computer.

Replacing a hodgepodge of individual hardware systems are two software technologies, Papadopoulos said: Java, invented by Sun; and .Net, invented by Microsoft. Those types of software services typically require hardware that juggles many threads simultaneously, he said.

M2M Opportunity for Mobile

Silicon.com writes:

research from e-principles reveals that M2M (machine to machine, man to machine or machine to man) revenues could reach $20bn by 2008 and could mean up to $74bn in service provider revenue.

Just as the traditional mobile quickly became pretty much unavoidable and indispensable, M2M has the potential to go the same way, according to the Cellular M2M: Generating Profits from Business Opportunities report. Users are already dipping their toes in the M2M water by installing the technology in cars to monitor drivers’ behaviour for their insurance, monitoring crop and water levels, as well as checking on goods on the move.

As well as making wireless companies very happy and giving them a few extra coppers to play with, M2M may actually start shaping the world of technology as we know it.

Unlike its consumer mobile equivalent, M2M means sending small volumes of data, often and making it universally available and it’s these requirements that will mean a radical overhaul for mobile providers, as new services and systems spring up to make sure the right data finds its way into the hands of the person who needs it at the time they need it.

TECH TALK: SMEs and Technology: New Technologies and Trends (Part 4)

10. Web Services: Software as building blocks just like Lego which can be assembled together for mirroring business processes: this is the promise of web services. Integrating disparate enterprise applications and their information bases is one of the big challenges in the modern enterprise. Even though small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) may not be directly impacted by web services, they have the opportunity to use applications which use web services to get past the application and information integration issues that require the bigger enterprises to spend huge amounts of money on consultants and patchwork software.

11. Business Process Automation: The enterprise is increasingly being viewed as less a cluster of functional departments and more as a collection of business processes. This is giving rise to business process management and automation software, and standards like ebXML and RosettaNet which promise to simplify information exchange between enterprises.

12. RFIDs: Radio Frequency Identification is now coming to the fore. These miniature electronic tags have fallen in cost enough to make businesses consider using them in products to track them digitally. RFIDs can change the way retail business is done. For SMEs, the potential is that RFIDs can make for efficient supply chains with reduced inventory levels and less capital being wasted because of lack of information. Wal-marts recent decision to get it suppliers to start using RFIDs has given a big boost to this nascent technology.

13. Utility Computing: There are various names being used to define the promise of computer power and applications delivered on a need-basis over the Internet: grid or utility computing, on-demand computing, adaptive enterprise. The promise is the same: organizations do not need to invest in and manage their own technology infrastructure, and can rent out the IT they need on a pay-per-use basis from utility providers just like they do for their electricity and telecom needs. The first utility providers are already there in the form of the hosted application service providers (ASPs) like Salesforce.com and NetSuite.

14. Social Networking Sites: This is an interesting trend that has come to the fore recently with sites like Friendster, Ryze, LinkedIn and Tribe.net. While dating and job-hunting drive these social connectivity sites, it is not hard to imagine that electronic information marketplaces can help connect SMEs to other SMEs, just as they do with individuals now.

This new world of technology holds promise and pitfalls for SMEs. The promise is that SMEs can now adopt many of the same technologies that the big boys have used for long, to improve their business processes and productivity. The pitfall is that, unlike the larger companies, SMEs are largely on their own as they make the technology decisions on what to deploy. This is where there is a need for defining a reference IT architecture for SMEs to simplify their decision-making. This IT architecture should provide a framework for hardware, software, connectivity and support decisions, products and services for SMEs. The SME IT value chain is in for a upheaval. Affordability, Utility and Standardisation will be the defining watchwords for their solutions.

Tomorrow: The Need for Reference Architectures

Continue reading