The Innovator’s Solution on the Web

Renee Hopkins has a compilation. I too am reading the book. Everyone just has to! Disruptive Innovations are a way of doing business, especially for the smaller companies.

Had an idea: it would be nice to have a weblog focused just on Christensen’s model for disruptive innovations, where people can give their problems (scenarios) that they are facing, and then readers can give suggestions on possible solutions. It would be built around Christensen’s terminology, so it would be easy to understand for anyone.

What about low-end Linux?

Dana Blankenhorn writes about the impact of the recent Linux developments.

Linux is no longer a FREE operating system. But those enterprises who want to buy Linux, so they have a vendor they can beat on, now have two good choices in Novell and RedHat.

The vital point from here is that the GPL and licensed Linuxes must remain compatible. If Novell or RedHat decide to tweak their software, making it incompatible with the GPL for any reason, the advantages Linux has over Windows disappears in a puff of smoke, and we’re back to the status quo of 10 years ago.

If the various Linux movements can work with application developers (and now Novell and RedHat will have the heft to do that) life will get very interesting on the high end. Whether you’re running IBM, H-P, Sun or Dell hardware, you will be able to build an enterprise system, based on licensed software, that competes well with what comes from Microsoft.

Meanwhile, those using GPL need to keep pushing the envelope, creating new capabilities on new devices — especially devices costing under $500 — which will extend Linux’ lead. When cheap devices support an operating system and have the capabilities of running all applications built for it, while keeping their low price, that’s when Microsoft gets into trouble. Especially given the fact that China is pushing as hard as it can toward the GPL.

Is there an opportunity a free/low-cost Linux distribution for SMEs? News.com has more: “For the business world, the deals seemingly confirmed the corporate role for the communal operating system. However, many Linux enthusiasts worry that the Linux community may have lost its two most popular distributions–Red Hat Linux and SuSE Linux–in a corporate equivalent of a one-two punch…The moves could return consumers to a choice of Linux distributions from smaller companies–such as Mandrake, Xandros or Lindows–or from community projects such as Debian, Fedora, Gentoo and Slackware.”

OpenOffice Usage

SearchEnterpriseLinux.com has an interview with Solveig Haugland, an OpenOffice.org and StarOffice instructor. Some good points on making the switch from MS-Office to OpenOffice:

— Get to know the print settings for spreadsheets. In the spreadsheet, choose Format/Page and get to know the settings in the Page and Sheet tabs. This combined with making sure the printer itself is set up correctly in your operating system settings will take care of virtually all spreadsheet printing issues.

— Don’t set up OpenOffice to automatically save in Microsoft Office format. This seems like a good idea when you still interact with people using Microsoft Office files. However, on some versions of the software, the print settings and formatting settings aren’t saved when the OpenOffice document is saved in MS without being saved first in OpenOffice format. So, avoid that setting (in the Tools/Options window). If users need to send a document to someone who’s using MS Office only, it’s simple to just save the document as a Word, Excel or PowerPoint file (File/Save As).

— Get to know the data source features. OpenOffice has exceptionally powerful abilities to connect to just about any data source: Access, Oracle, a simple spreadsheet, and anything in between.

— Get to know the features for creating and printing mail merge letters, envelopes, and so on. For example, use the Synchronize Contents check box in the Options tab of the labels setup window – you can then make any changes to one label in the resulting labels document and then make all other labels adopt those changes.

Here’s another example: Make sure you’ve got the right label type selected in the Labels tab of the setup window. For envelopes, just choose Insert/Envelope and fill in the setup window. The key thing is to make sure that your printer is set up to print the same size envelope as the envelope document you create.

Finally, to create a mail merge document like a letter to several customers in your data source, just choose File/Autopilot/Letter. Then to print, in versions prior to 1.1, just choose File/Form Letter. (In 1.1, it’s just File/Print.)

PC’s Future

Business Week has a special report on tomorrow’s PC. Four key changes it identifies are:

– The Cooler, Faster Computer

– Redefining the Computer: “As devices with PC-like capabilities proliferate, they’ll increasingly specialize in such tasks as playing digital music and movies and handling Internet communications. As that happens, makers of PCs or consumer electronics may end up catering more to niche markets with devices that are similar inside but look wildly different on the outside. The spread of these niche devices has already started in the examples above of PCs that don’t look like PCs and other systems.”

– The Network Becomes the Computer: “The upshot is that consumers at home and businesspeople on the road will soon be able to get a fast signal almost anywhere. That will make it possible for them to do things that now require a PC without one — since every terminal will become their personal PC. They could plug their PDA into a jack and grab all the data they need from their home PC 2,500 miles away — just as corporations have been doing for some time with network drives and centralized mail servers.”

– Storage, Storage Everywhere

A related story looks at Linux’s growing use:

Each organization has its own reason for moving to Linux — the software with core code that’s open for all to see and adapt. For Dr. Echt, it’s a question of lower price and long-term flexibility. In China, the government claims national security as a reason to move to open-source code, which it trusts because, unlike with Microsoft’s proprietary code, it permits engineers to make sure there are no security leaks and no spyware installed by wily foreigners.

In Munich, the move was largely a political gambit to break Microsoft’s lock on the desktop market: “With this trend-setting decision, Munich secures itself as the first major city to have a major portion of its IT infrastructure be supplier-independent. [It] also sets a clear indication of more competition in the software market,” crowed Mayor Christian Ude at the city announcement in May.

A shift to Linux desktops, particularly by governments (which market researcher IDC says account for 10% of technology spending), could slow growth in the battered PC business, since Linux requires less powerful — read lower-price — PCs. “I think we’re finally succeeding at commoditizing the desktop,” says Bruce Perens, co-founder of the Open Source Initiative.

India plans USD 2.7 billion IT Investment

I somehow missed this news in the Indian media (had heard it on BBC News). InfoWorld writes in more detail:

“You do not want to get into a situation where information and communications technology, and its progress create social chasms and economic chasms between the haves and have-nots,” said Rajeeva Ratna Shah, secretary for industrial policy and promotion in the federal government.

As part of its investment in technology and infrastructure, the government plans to introduce a voice-based information technology device that and can be used by Indian villagers regardless of the language they speak. “(The device) should be able to take commands orally,” Shah said. “There must be total interactivity and literacy should not act as a barrier. Language should also not be a barrier. We are moving towards that.” Shah did not however disclose the technical specifications of the device.

This is not the first time engineers in India have attempted to design a low-cost computer device for rural use. However, the Simputer, a Linux-based handheld mobile computer, with a target price tag of about $200, failed to take off because of insufficient interest in its target market. A number of nongovernment organizations, multilateral aid agencies, educational institutions and state governments have also launched projects for bridging the digital divide in India, where more than 70 percent of the population live in rural areas where literacy levels are low and poverty is grinding.

The investment Shah outlined Sunday is the first time the federal government has put its weight and considerable funds behind such an initiative. A pilot project on broadband connectivity for rural areas is already under way in the state of Uttar Pradesh, according to Shah. In another trial project near Delhi, postal employees are downloading e-mail on wireless handheld devices and delivering them to villagers, who then use the devices to reply to the e-mail, Shah said. The government also plans to introduce a government-to-business portal, which will allow foreign investors to interact directly with the government, and “enable us to cut corruption,” Shah said.

Have to get more details on what they want to do…

Mobile Phone Uses

[via Veer] Mobitopia has a nice graphic on the various possible uses of a cellphone: in office, as a reamote, as a gateway, for media, as a wallet, and for navigation. Writes Anil de Mello: “The role of mobile phones in the ubiquitous network society is going beyond that of an enhanced communication tool…The handsets and applications are available, the networks are almost ready, but the integration is far from ready for mass usage. What we need is a new type of service : Mobile Ubiquity Integration (MUI).”

TECH TALK: SMEs and Technology: SME Wheel of Penetration

For entrepreneurs, the small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) represent a double-edged sword: SMEs are numerically very large in number, and account for a huge portion of the IT spend; yet, they are hard to reach, and even harder to please! I believe that SMEs represent the next frontier for entrepreneurial IT companies to target and capture. But to carve open the SME market will require efforts from a number of players across a wide spectrum of segments. In the last two columns in this series, I will discuss the set of co-ordinated actions that are needed to increase usage of IT across in SMEs. Think of this as the SME Wheel of Penetration. Each of these presents potential opportunities for visionary entrepreneurs.

1. Affordable Hardware

SMEs need low-cost hardware if they are to provide a computer for every employee and realize the vision of 1:1 Computing. This means thin clients or low-cost, low-configuration desktops. It also means servers in each enterprise, each of which should be pre-loaded with the software, so that the server is an instant-on. In fact, the server can be thought of as software-in-a-box.

India would do well to eliminate all import duties and in fact give tax breaks (for example, 100% depreciation) for SMEs using IT. The paper losses sustained would be more than made up by the increase in individual and industrial productivity.

2. Integrated Software

Software integration needs to happen at two levels: not only does it need to be integrated with the hardware so that SMEs see a single-point solution, but also the various software components need to be integrated among themselves so that information is handled only once. Open-source can be the foundation for many of the software needs for SMEs.

Software providers also needs to recognise that we are now moving to a wireless world, and as much users may want access to their data not just from their desktops but also from their cellphones. Utility pricing of software, which would include updates and upgrades, would also help in speeding up adoption. Local language support in India would also go a long way in ensuring proliferation. There are also some interesting opportunities to create richer desktops be it microcontent clients, web services browsers or next-generation personal information managers.

3. Channel

The link between the hardware and software producers and integrators on the one hand, and the SMEs on the other hand, is the channel. In India, this channel consists of the few thousand assemblers and Genuine Intel Dealers, each of whom has a database of SMEs it caters to. So far, the channel has only sold hardware, peripherals and annual maintenance contracts. Software has been either pirated or not used. The role of the channel needs to change from just being a box-seller, the channel needs to migrate to selling solutions. They also will be called upon to provide the first-level support to SMEs. The channel will thus play an increasingly important role in the SME IT value chain.

4. ISVs

There are many small independent software vendors and developers. As the SMEs absorb IT, they will need business applications which cater to their unique industry or business requirements. This is where the ISVs come in. Their domain knowledge can help them create software products which now can find distribution via the value chain to SMEs across wider markets. Platforms like Visual Biz-ic can go a long way in simplifying the development process for ISVs.

5. Training and Education

This has to happen at multiple levels top management of SMEs needs to be made aware of the need for IT, end-users need to be shown how IT can make them more productive in all that they do both at the individual-level and as part of groups, and support staff needs to be trained to provide assistance to the SMEs for the solutions they use. There is an opportunity for SME IT Academies to be set up in every neighbourhood. These points-of-presence can also double as demo centers, showcasing the various IT solutions for SMEs.

Tomorrow: SME Wheel of Penetration (continued)

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