Sforce: Amazon of Enterprise Applications?

InfoWorld has an interview with Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff who comments on the new release of Sforce which can host any enterrprise application:

As a developer platform for customizing and integrating Salesforce.com, we recognized it really could be used for more than just Salesforce.com, it could be used for other applications also. And that became the second part of it. That is when we said “we need to really let people know we have this whole platform that you can use: a database, a document server, an operating system, an application server, all these various things, but its all online, its all on demand.” Its a fantastic alternative to the traditional on-premise server.

much in the same way that Amazon has become a platform for companies to do e-commerce — you can build a Web site, the front end is Amazon, you dont know youre using Amazon — also you can do that with Salesforce. That is what is exciting about Sforce. You can integrate Salesforce.com between Salesforce and Oracle, SAP — or whatever your internal or external system is, or Amazon itself — and you can customize, you can build new forms, whatever. But now you could also do that independently. We took it to another level with Sforce-to-go in basically three areas. One, custom objects: Now, not only can you use our existing tables but you can create your own tables. Thats exciting for database developers. We gave them also a query language based on our objects in our database. Its object query language. And we also gave them this concept of an S-controller, an Sforce control, which is the ability to store their code in our server and then we call it on demand when they want it and run it inside Salesforce.com. That is, they can really modify our screens using a lot of different types of code, and that was a huge breakthrough for us.

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Traction Release 3.0

We resell Traction in India, so it was nice to see their new release being mentioned in InfoWorld:

This week Traction Software plans to roll out Release 3.0 of its TeamPage Weblog software, with additions such as extensible authentication, Web services support, and enterprise search-engine compatibility.

“[Weblogs are] a different way of partitioning a substantial chunk of collaboration functionality and reorganizing it to use Weblog-style capture, reporting, and communication,” said Greg Lloyd, president of Traction.

TeamPage 3.0 provides Java code for LDAP and Active Directory plug-ins and the ability to connect to SSO (single sign-on) and micropayment offerings. Other new features include expanded language support, customizable user interfaces, compatibility with enterprise search engines, and SOAP binding capabilities.

Weblogs are going to be used increasing in enterprises – that is the real market opportunity.

PCs and Home Entertainment

NYTimes writes about the Wintel plan to make PCs at the heart of entertainment and the digital home:

Leading the computer industry’s invasion is a new device known as the Media Center PC, with a processor designed by Intel and software created by Microsoft. It was introduced last year, and new and improved versions are being marketed this season by personal computer giants like Gateway, Dell Computer, Hewlett-Packard and Sony.

The new machines are not just the biggest hope for a computer industry that has been plagued by flat sales and eroding profit margins. They are also the standard bearers for an all-digital crusade the PC industry is waging to break open the satellite and cable industries, undermine powerful consumer electronic giants and restructure both Hollywood and the recording industry.

But consumer electronics makers question whether the PC industry’s grand vision is one that many Americans will want to embrace. Even family-friendly personal computers are still far more complex than today’s home electronics devices, they argue.

The competition is likely to come from the consumer electronics and gaming console companies, with Sony in both camps.

Social Networking Business Models

VentureBlog reports on an IBD Under the Radar event which had presentations from four social networking companies:

LinkedIn — subscription (eventually) service to input and manage one’s own contacts to search for connections.
Spoke — deeply integrated enterprise solution extracting contact data from enterprise applications (e.g. Outlook, Notes, etc.) to establish and leverage connections.

ZeroDegrees — Outlook plugin and related service to input, manage, prioritize and search connections.

VisiblePath — social networking software engine for prioritizing and understanding connections for integration into traditional enterprise software applications (SFA, CRM, etc.).

The audience preferred the model described by Ben Smith of Spoke, while the panel collectively preferred the business described by Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn.

ICT and Development

Atanu has written three posts as part of a series [1 2 3]. Key points:

What exactly is the role of ICT in any economy? The answer can be succinctly stated as: It reduces transaction costs.

What, you may ask, is transaction costs? The answer is this: pretty much everything is transaction costs, with a little bit of physical stuff thrown in.

Transaction costs are ubiquitous. Consider what happens in any organization, say a car manufacturing firm. Cars are produced by people using machines to transform steel and other stuff. If you add up the costs — labor, material, and machines — the car would not cost all that much. But when you add the fact that there are other people employed by the car firm who have nothing to do with the manufacturing of cars, you realize that they represent transaction costs. For instance, you have managers, and accountants, and secretaries, and human resources divisions, … the list goes on. They all represent transaction costs. And the greater the transaction costs, the higher the cost of production. Why do firms exist? Because they reduce transaction costs.

Ultimately, one can explain pretty much all organizations as an attempt to systematically reduce transaction costs. Economies of scale, scope, and agglomeration themselves arise from the reduction of transaction costs.

Turning to the issue of developing countries and the use of ICT, the matter central to our discussion. Developing countries are resource constrained and therefore reducing transaction costs is a great way to stretch resources.

A high-quality always-on widely available affordable communications network is an absolutely essential part of the infrastructure for any economy, especially a developing one. Since this requires significant fixed costs and since there are immense positive externalities (network and consumption externalities), the market will underprovide communications networks. Therefore, the provision of a communications network should be subsidized for achieving the socially optimal solution. Conversely, taxing the provision of a communicatins network would have negative consequences. And that is what short-sighted money-grubbing developing country policy makers do: they tax the sector instead of subsidizing it.

Need for Messaging Model?

Patrick Logan writes:

I am not convinced that what Linux needs is a WinFS-like file system.

But one of the open source world’s strengths is the number of programmers who are free to pursue many ideas. A large corporation with a significant cash cow like Windows or SQL Server will always make decisions that leverage those legacies.

I am convinced the hardware, wireless, and Internet platforms are slowly entering their own new level. And there are already object models that run on the most significant platforms. One is Java, which is as good as it needs to be. The innovation needed for the future is above the basic object model.

The next most significant object models are Python and Smalltalk. I don’t think we need one object model. And above a narrow band of componentry, the future is almost certainly not to be based in an object model. A simple message passing model will do fine.

TECH TALK: An Entrepreneurs Attributes: Multitasking Switching Context Rapidly

One way to go through a day is to focus on one thing at a time, complete it and then move on to the next. An entrepreneur needs exactly the opposite attitude. This is because challenges do not come sequentially. The next problem does not wait for the previous one to complete an entrepreneurs life is not a PowerPoint presentation.

Multitasking is at the heart of an entrepreneurs day and life. The phone rings and needs to be answered, an urgent email needs a reply, a team member needs a map of the way forward, a customer is unhappy, a sales call needs to be made all pretty much at the same time. In this scenario, one can throw ones hands up or smile, and jump right into it. In doing so, an entrepreneur needs the ability to switch from one context to another rapidly.

Think of the computer. It gives the illusion of doing multiple tasks simultaneously, even though a single processor (in the pre-hyperthreading days) can handle only one task at a time. It is working on one activity, and a priority request comes in for another activity to be done. The current work has to be offloaded on to the stack, the new context has been loaded into memory and executed. When the task is done, the previous work on the stack can be taken up again unless there is some other interrupt that has come in.

Such is the activity sequence of an entrepreneur. Many may deride the entrepreneurs lack of focus or inability to delegate effectively. The reality is that the entrepreneur has no choice. This is not necessarily because the entrepreneur is a poor operational manager and therefore a critical resource and perhaps a bottleneck. It is because the entrepreneur has the compass and the landscape in the minds eye. It is not easy to translate this to everyone, and so the others need a guide, a torchbearer who leads the way. In doing so, the entrepreneur thus ends up having to manage multiple activities, especially at the early stage of a venture.

My typical day has context switches between Pragatee, Emergic, Deeshaa and BlogStreet. There are times when I wonder if I am trying to do too much. Maybe, I should try and focus on just one activity. But then I wonder how I would live through a single-track day. The diversity itself is an activity amplifier making connections between them, seeing the similarities and the differences, and learning from one and applying to another. It is the only way I can imagine living and working.

One either likes context switching or not. It is not easy to do. But when at the end of the day, the entrepreneur sits back and thinks for a moment about the day, there will be a sense of satisfaction, even a little smile irrespective of how the day went. And then, as the eyes close for a night of sleep, the entrepreneur is already looking forward to the list of tasks that already await the light of the next morning.

Tomorrow: Deciding

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