Sendmail and Cloudmark

WSJ writes about a deal between the two companies, in an effort to combat spam:

Sendmail says its e-mail systems handle more than half the world’s messages, but many of those systems are running the free, open-source version of the software rather than the paid version. The company has had difficulty getting revenue from the former group of users, but will now, for the first time, sell antispam filters and other add-ons like virus protection to those users.

The pairing underscores the bitter competition in the antispam market, which has exploded along with junk e-mail. By some estimates, more than half of all messages sent are spam. The deal also is a big win for upstart Cloudmark, and a vote of confidence for its unusual method for spotting spam — using feedback from a network of volunteers who mark messages as spam or nonspam.

Yankee Group analyst Phebe Waterfield estimates the corporate market for antispam products this year is $66 million, with an additional $51 million in sales to consumers.

Sendmail will charge $7.60 per user for a company with 5,000 employees, a spokesman said.

“Antivirus is much bigger in terms of dollars,” said Ralph Pisani, vice president of strategic alliances for Sophos Inc., which sells both antispam and antivirus products and was also being considered by Sendmail. “But right now, antispam is the hot topic.” He said that the market is being driven by top corporate executives whose inboxes are being deluged by spam and “are saying, ‘I’m sick and tired of this crap,’ and throwing money at the problem.”

Cloudmark’s uniqueness come s from its technology:

Most of Cloudmark’s competitors use technological approaches to block junk e-mail, like automatically scanning text for typical words or patterns, or blocking messages originating from addresses known to be used by spammers.

But Cloudmark takes a different tack. The nearly 700,000 users of its SpamNet spam-blocking product, which works as an add-on to Microsoft Corp.’s Outlook e-mail program, mark each message as either spam or not spam. Cloudmark’s software transforms such decisions into blocking rules, so that if many people choose to block one e-mail, messages with similar wording sent to other users of the software will also be blocked. Other technology helps identify “mutations” of known spam messages.

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Dell gets into Support

Evidence of the shoft to services in the computer industry comes from this article in the Washington Post on Dell:

Traditionally, the computer industry has been divided into two categories: “products,” the boxes of plastic and silicon themselves, and “services,” a loose term encompassing jobs ranging from tech support to consulting. While computer firms generally offer a mixture of the two, the industry has consolidated, with companies moving toward either end of that spectrum. HP and IBM are nearer the services end, with each getting half its revenue from large, multiyear consulting jobs for corporate customers.

Dell, the leading maker of computers in terms of units sold, has always been on the product end of the spectrum. Where other companies have sought high-margin consulting jobs, Dell has stuck to exploiting efficiencies in its assembly lines.

Now Dell wants to be known as a services company, too. Dell founder Michael S. Dell has said he wants to expand his $4 billion services business, which mostly consists of tech support work, into a $10 billion operation.

Unlike the computer hardware industry, the services market is still fragmented. The top 10 companies hold only 25 percent of the worldwide services market. That market is a potentially lucrative one: While a little more than $240 billion was spent on hardware last year, the worldwide services market was worth about $557 billion, according to Forrester Research Inc.

“The services industry has long enjoyed thick margins and heavy growth,” said Eric Rocco, vice president at research firm Gartner Inc. “Dell is trying to take as much mystery out of the process as possible.”

Here’s Dell’s sales pitch: Customers of competitors often purchase their servers and workstations through resellers. Dell, by contrast, sells all its products through its Web site — and is able to keep records of every aspect of the computer or workstation it has sold to each customer.

If a Dell customer is having a problem with a product, the company can look up exactly what components went into it. Dell can even tell which worker assembled it. As a result, Dell said, it is able to resolve 75 percent of customer problems over the phone, compared with an industry rate of 45 percent.

With that sort of success rate, Dell hopes to squeeze more efficiency out of tech support services — and to turn support service into as much of a commodity as a processor or memory chip.

“In some cases, the product is becoming a service,” said Michael Dell. “We have customers tell us ‘We don’t want to manage our computers any more. We want you to do it.’ ”

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Joi Ito and his Blog

Fast Company writes:

Joi Ito has decided that instead of using a blog to make his life function better, he would change his life to make it work better with his blog.

When Joi is online (six or eight hours a day), a camera broadcasts him as he types. If you want him to invest in your company, he’ll point you to a discussion of his investment process and his standard terms, both of which are posted online. He’ll encourage you to talk to the CEOs of companies that he invests in (all just a click away). If you send him a proposal, he’s likely to turn it down, but he’ll encourage you to post it on the blog, participate in an online discussion, and see what the thousands of people who read it have to say. It will help sharpen your message.

It’s important, though, to not think of this as Joi’s powerful new network or Joi’s group. “Joi Ito is no longer a name, it’s a place,” he says. He coordinates a collective, one in which he’s a member, not the chief. He’s one of what he calls “a posse” of 70 or 80 people who are almost always hanging out in his blog’s chatroom, 24 hours a day, keeping order, doing research, responding to queries, and helping out. When I met Joi at a conference, he was blogging it, in real time, over the wireless network. Others in the group started sharing their questions with Joi, and he passed the questions on. Suddenly, it wasn’t 30 people on a panel–it was 110 people, all around the world. Some of those in the live group then opened their laptops and joined the online discussion instead.

Joi tells me that he’s more productive than ever. He doesn’t need employees; he has the posse. One day, Joi came up with an idea for a clever device called a Hecklebot. A simple scrolling LED display (the kind they have announcing the lotto results at your local 7-Eleven), it would be hooked up to his blog’s chat room. That way, any time someone wanted to make a comment to Joi or anyone with him, she could just send a message to the Hecklebot. Two weeks after Joi posted the idea, someone in the posse built one and sent it to him.

This is the virtual organization in action. It’s about people leaning into the Web, counting on it for organization, sustenance, and psychic and monetary rewards–and doing things with it that were inconceivable just three years ago.

This is not about faster or cheaper. It’s about very fast, very flexible, sometimes very deep links with strangers who share similar goals. The end result is something that’s hard to recognize as a logical step in our organizational development. But of course, that’s just what it is.

Lester Thurow’s Wake-up Call to India

Technology Review feature an interview with the MIT economist by Venkatest Hariharan. A few excerpts:

In the knowledge economy, Thurow says, countries that wish to stay ahead must pay great attention to education. “Ask yourselves this question30 or 50 years from now what job will an illiterate do? By that time you will have robots to do what an illiterate does now. Today, I can get a robot that can mow my lawn and does not cost more than an ordinary lawn mower. Very soon they will be cleaning the house and doing other household chores.”

Thurow emphasizes that the knowledge economy means more than just information technology and programming. “Every job will have a big knowledge component,” he says. A worker in a steel mill, he says, “is more likely to sit behind a computer screen than lift anything physically. When we are talking about knowledge workers, we are talking about any job that has a knowledge component.” And fewer and fewer jobs fall outside of that description, he says.

According to Thurow, the lack of widespread, basic education in India handicaps the country as it competes with China. “More people are in Chinese grade schools than are in Indian grade schools,” he contends. Thurow praises China’s approach of getting everybody educated up to the third grade, then to the sixth grade, tenth grade, twelfth grade, and so on. “The worst educated province in China is better than the best educated province in India,” he says. While conceding that Indian universities are superior to those in China, he says that India’s “top down” strategy for developing its high-tech workforce is not as good as China’s “bottom-up” approach. India “cannot allow this to continue in the long run,” he warns, adding that the country “better have a strategy that gets everybody educated.”

When it comes to globalization, Thurow says that India is ambivalent. “One of the big factors in attracting foreign direct investment, or FDI, is the speed of making decisionsand China pulls in 30 times the FDI that India does,” Thurow says. “The Chinese understand that you have to sell yourself to the foreign corporations as a good place to do business. The truth of the matter is that India has not yet come to that conclusion.”

Thurow notes that there were two ways for a country to acquire technology. One is to copy it, as Japan did in the past. But this strategy is becoming increasingly difficult because people are locking up their technology. The other approach is to attract foreign investment, which brings technology with it. “FDI is not just money,” he explains. “It’s about technology, markets, and hiring scarce managerial and engineering talent.”

Striking a cautionary note, Thurow says that India was quasi-left out of the global economy. Even the country’s much vaunted success in the IT industry needs to be put in perspective, he says. Indias software exports last year totaled around $10 billion while Microsoft alone was around $50 billion. If India does not carry its masses along with it, he says, it will not be able to succeed in the knowledge economy.

Mobile Multimedia

Russell Beattie writes:

Here’s why I think consuming multimedia on the phone will be a big hit: It’s about distractions. Every time I try to view a video or presentation on my computer, I get distracted. I start opening up other web pages, or get an email or something and lose track of the video or audio. On my TV that doesn’t happen because there’s only one thing going on, and I’m in a place that’s meant for viewing (my couch). Same thing for mobile multimedia: If I’m on a train or a bus or in a doctor’s office or driving down the street, that’s the place where I can be dedicated to a task such as viewing a video or listening to a recording. There’s little else to distract from the enjoyment of that experience. This is why mobile games are so popular now. When you have that extra moment, you play the game and you can focus on that game.

I imagine how mobile multimedia could be used very simply like this: You get to the clinic and there’s at least 4 people waiting ahead of you. You’ve got 20 minutes (at least) of cooling your heals. You could pick up a 3 month-old magazine and start flipping, or you can pull out your smart phone and see what sort of entertainment possibilities there are. Now, you can thumb through the commercial offerings – say the latest episode of Friends or reruns of old Seinfeld episodes – or you can check your aggregator to see which of the multimedia moblogs you follow have been updated. You see a couple titles which are interesting, so you stream them to your device, or if we’re not talking 2005 (which is when 3G will start to be common) you could click on the videos and request that they get downloaded in the background while you read some news. When you finally get the content, you sit and watch something which could have been created that very day, in less time than it’s taking me to write this post, but be just as compelling.

Mobile multimedia will be *big*. Not just in the sense that you can watch movies on a phone, but that you can watch movies *created* on a phone. The ease of use in creating and posting that the new devices allow and the fact that you can consume this content anywhere you go is going to combine to make it the killer mobile app. Also look for the telecom carriers to push it like *crazy* because they will eventually all realize that their business is simply selling Kilobytes and little more, and what better way to get people to start consuming those bytes but streaming multimedia?

TECH TALK: SMEs and Technology: Web Presence

Any discussion on technology within small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will be incomplete without the discussion of the Web presence. The website is perhaps the most neglected part of the IT infrastructure. Part of the reason is that it still remains quite a chore to update the website. As a result, most websites (if they do exist) are out of touch with the reality of the entitys business activities. Used well, the website can in fact be a very powerful asset for SMEs. It is a cost-effective way to reach out to customers nearby and prospects worldwide.

It is an irony in the world of content management that it is so much easier for an individual to update a weblog than it is for an organisation to update a website. (On a related note, blogs are also so much more readable than corporate websites!) This is the thinking which makes me believe that organisations need to present a more personal side of their business on the web. Think of marketing as a conversation, as the authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto suggest.

My ideal corporate website would have three parts to it, all built using a content management or blogging tool. The first part is the standard website as it exists today the about us, products and services, press section, contact us, and so on. This needs to be there because this is what most visitors are expecting to see. But the website needs to go beyond this with the addition of two new sections an Industry Outline and a Daily News.

The Industry Outline can be just a single page. It provides a list of resources and context for first-time visitors. It places the SME in the context of the industry, and highlights the various developments that are taking place. It becomes a kind-of ready reference for visitors. There are links, maybe a few comments on the news, statistics, events that are taking place, and so on. Much of this information is probably already known to people within the organization what I am suggested is that it needs to be made public, to make the page a fact-finder for others.

The Daily News is a weblog. It presents the whats new section with a personal touch. It should ideally be authored by one of the senior owner-managers, and thus should also be tinged with personal observations. It can also provide excerpts from relevant stories which have appeared elsewhere. It is the perfect complement to the Industry Outline, which provides the high-level view. The Daily News section provides a regularly updating collection of links, news and comments on relevant events as they take place. Reader should also be allowed to leave comments on the blog posts for everyone else to see. The weblog should also offer an RSS feed allowing interested readers to syndicate the content and receive it in their aggregator.

These two sections are not necessarily what one would expect to see on corporate websites. And that is precisely the reason they should be there! They help build a relationship with the visitor. They give a reason for a repeat visit. They provide a human touch to an otherwise impersonal presence. One side-effect of this will be that as others start linking to the site, the Google Rank will rise, making the site show up higher in the search rankings. Yes, there is a time commitment from management towards the online presence, and the benefits may not be immediately visible. But this is a differentiator which will provide a platform for the diffusion of ideas in a manner a late-coming competitor will find it hard to replicate.

Tomorrow: SME Wheel of Penetration

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