Internet Security

Security is one of the biggest concerns we face – with viruses, spams and worms intruding into our space. The Economist discusses this issue further and considers what lies ahead:

The issue boils down to the question of how much anonymity society can tolerate on the internet. Drivers’ licences and registration plates dramatically reduce the incidence of hit-and-run accidents. Crack cocaine is never bought by credit card. If everybody on the internet were easily traceable, people would think twice about hacking. I’m kind of a fan of eliminating anonymity, says Alan Nugent, the chief technologist at Novell, a software company, if that is the price for security.

The internet is heading in this direction already. Enrique Salem, Brightmail’s chief executive, says that all e-mail in future will either be authenticated or be sent into a quarantined in-box where few will dare to click. The sender’s authentication may well be tied to a driving licence, social-security number or passport. An entire industry has sprung up to work on other forms of identification, such as the biometric scanning of irises or hands.

The reality, however, is that the internet is already balkanised. Companies and governments have intranets, where users’ privileges depend on their log-in. Virtual private networks (VPNs) traverse the public internet like guarded convoys. For example, employees at Merrill Lynch, an investment bank, cannot check their Hotmail or Yahoo! e-mail accounts while surfing the internet at work.

The proper analogy for what the internet might evolve into, says Novell’s Mr Nugent, is a public library, a place where readers can browse in relative anonymity, but only until they take a book out, at which point they have to identify themselves. The degree of traceability varies with what one does in such a place.

Converged Mobile Devices

Kevin Werbach writes in an article entitled “The Triumph of Good Enough”:

Subtle improvements can have huge consequences. The same is true when it comes to functionality. A torrent of incremental advances are now producing converged devices that are “good enough” at each of their primary functions. This will have significant consequences for both device manufacturers and operators.

In the mobile handset world, we’re already at the point where a camera is a standard element of new phones. Analysts predict 100 million cameraphones will be sold next year. Unless privacy fears create a market for camera-less phones, handsets without that functionality will soon become anachronisms. Meanwhile, Motorola’s latest fully integrated phone module for hardware manufacturers measures 16 by 20 by 1.4 millimeters. That’s about the size of a US nickel. We’ll see phone functionality popping up in handheld gaming devices, portable music players, and other places that used to be completely different markets. When converged devices were either hulkingly large or pitifully incompetent at some of their functions, they were the domain of gadget freaks and early adopters. As the “good enough” threshold is passed, they will become the baseline standard.

The rise of converged devices will have a huge impact on operators. More functionality in devices at the edge of the network makes it harder to monetize the network in the middle.

In the new world, the money will be in applications on the edge devices, hardware sales, and of all things, dumb connectivity. The first wireless operator to execute the Dell/Wal-Mart model — being the efficient commodity provider, with a great brand — will make a killing. (Partly because they will kill their competitors.) Not that this is an easy task. Legacy billing systems and legacy culture are huge hurdles to overcome, and the ideas of “owning the customer” and “delivering value-added services” are deeply embedded in operator DNA.

The hard truth is that devices are evolving faster than networks. Wide-area wireless connectivity will be just another function that a “good enough” converged mobile device provides, albeit an important one. Put together a series of little things, and that’s the inevitable result.

Creating Hits

Rich Karlgaard (Forbes) writes:

In business the future is real-time supply chains. This development is made possible by a new wave of technology: radio-frequency ID chips the size of pepper grains, broadband wireless and Web-based “dashboards” enabling monitoring and management. Because smart supply chains can be done, they will be done. In fact, they are being done. Manufacturers and retailers now deploying smart supply chains will jump the learning curve and become the Wal-Marts and Dells of the 21st century. Don’t imagine that you can withdraw from this arms race. Smart supply chains are becoming the sine qua non of modern business.

Yet for all the recent progress in supply chains, a weak link remains–the link between product development and manufacturing. You see, it’s not enough to manufacture quickly and cheaply and get your products into the stores just as the big ad campaign is breaking. Your products have to be desired by buyers. You want hits, not dogs.

Affluent, informed people want more than mere adequacy in the products they buy. They want products that satisfy deep desires and make emotional connections. To get this response from customers, you must generate a flow of hit products.

Supply-chain technology also will march in the direction of standards and ubiquity. (Think of personal computers.) At that point, decisive advantage will go to companies that use their supply chains to boost their rate of hit products.

Nokia’s Jorma Ollila Interview

Excerpts from a WSJ interview with Nokia’s CEO on what’s ahead: “The important thing will be the camera industry converging into mobile phones. We have seen it take off in Japan and also in Europe. Expressing emotions with pictures, where everyone has a suitable device, just makes so much sense. In terms of PDAs, there will be an enterprise segment that will be wanting the PDA functionality integrated with good phone capability. [Cellphone gaming] will take a year or two. When you have a new game platform introduction, as with mobility, it needs digestion time. There also will be more in media consumption and music. People won’t start looking at films on mobile devices, but they will [watch] sports, news and other things, together with music.”

Internet Trends

John Patrick maps out some of the trends: one-demand e-business, autonomic computing, always-on broadband, WiFi, SIP, Web Services, Linux, Security. The bottomline: “The potential of the Internet is much greater than meets the eye. As the Internet evolves, it will become so pervasive, reliable and transparent that we will take it for granted. It will be part of our lives and, more importantly, begin to simplify our lives.”

India needs to focus on Solar Power

Atany Dey explains why India should develop a comparative advantage in solar technology:

The case for India to invest in R&D for solar technology is so plain that I find it incredible that everyone and his brother is not shouting about it. Consider the following facts. First, India is conventional fuel poor. We do not have oil and have to import a good portion of our current needs. We cannot afford to rely on the whims of foreign oil producers. There is one 800-lb gorilla in the oil market and it has cornered significant sources of the global oil market. So for strategic reasons, India must reduce its dependence on foreign oil to meet its energy needs.

Second, rich nations have the resources to pay (one way or another) for the oil they consume, India cannot. For instance, the US pays for oil by directly paying the producers and indirectly by maintaining a huge military and using force strategically.

India is blessed (?) with a lot of solar energy delivered free. The sun shines too hard most of the time and very few people are making hay.

Finally, any desired technology can be developed if you throw sufficient money at it. That is a basic fact of the modern world. Everything that is theoretically possible can be developed given sufficiet commitment in terms of time, effort and resources.

India needs solar power. It has a very large market for cheap solar power. India should invest in developing solar power. If India invests say $10 billion, the return on investment would be mumble billion $. First, India would save on energy imports. Then India would develop comparative advantage (and perhaps competitive advantage) in the field. Thus India would be able to sell that technology to other countries. There is a first mover advantage in being the leader in this field. Fortunately, the US and other developing countries are not taking the development of alternative energy sources very seriously. So the field is not crowded and India has a tremendous advantage.

My policy recommendation is simple. Set up a national goal to make India the Solar Power SuperPower (SPSP) in the next 10 years. (Pres Kalam, are you there?) To achieve that goal, spend Rs 500 billion (approximately $11 billion) to get an R&D started at space travel speed using the best brains that exist anywhere in the world. Hire the best scientists and pay them so much that they would not consider working on anything else. Create programs in all the Indian research institutes and reward people with sacks of gold or whatever floats their boats to get them to devote all their talents to that one aim of making solar energy technology in India so good that we don’t have to import a single drop of oil and can tell our Arab friends to take a hike. Indeed, once the demand for oil falls, they would have to take a hike because they would not be able to afford cars.

TECH TALK: An Entrepreneurs Attributes: Blogging, Liking

Blogging Winning the Ideas Game

I have come to the belief that every entrepreneur must blog. There are many reasons for this. The most important is to build brand and win mindshare. A weblog helps the entrepreneur win the ideas game, which is perhaps one of the most important battles. How does a small company, a start-up get its viewpoints across? Via the entrepreneurs blog: one which holds back nothing, one which reflects the personality of the entrepreneur, and one which outlines the vision for change that the entrepreneur has and the progress made en route.

The weblog charts out a territory for the entrepreneur. In my case, it has helped me garner some mindshare in a few areas: affordable computing for SMEs, rural development and the publish-subscribe web. When I started my weblog, it was about inculcating a discipline in my reading, and also sharing ideas. I call this sharing open-source company. Over time, this transparency in writing about what I am thinking of and are doing has helped me make more contacts than I have made in any other way in so short a time. I think of the weblog as a non-linearity in the social networks space. By writing about ones ideas and actions, one is inviting readers to get in touch on how they can contribute. I met Atanu Dey, who manages the Deeshaa project, via the weblog through Reuben in New York.

Yes, there is a significant time investment on blogging. But for the entrepreneur, it must become all in a days work. The entrepreneur must create a discipline such that there is something new everyday on the blog making it a daily habit for readers. This is time which will pay back well and big over the life of the venture. Entrepreneurs must think of blogs as the equivalent of personal broadcasting radio station wouldnt each of us like to have one?

Liking Enjoying the Ride

Most of all, the entrepreneur needs to enjoy each day of the business. Yes, there will be more down days than up days, but that is the path the entrepreneur has chosen. Maintaining ones enthusiasm levels through the good times and especially through the challenging times is very critical for the morale of the rest of the team. This can only happen if the entrepreneur deeply believes in the mission of the venture, for it is only this inner faith that can create that strong liking for what one is doing. A test is to ask oneself what one looks forward to a Monday morning or a Friday (or Saturday) evening. In fact, for an entrepreneur each morning must be looked forward to as a ray of hope, a step in the direction of eventual success. The joy must not be just in reaching the destination (few entrepreneurs do so), but in the journey, where each new turn has its own magical views. It is a journey of choice, and one which must be a joy-ride.

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