Computing Platforms

Dana Blankenhorn writes:

For every decade in computing, the big story has been about a platform.

In the 1950s the story was the mainframe platform.
In the 1960s the story was the minicomputer platform.
In the 1970s the story was the PC platform.
In the 1980s the story was the network platform.
In the 1990s the story was the Internet platform.
This is about as simple as you can make a history of computing. So why should the 2000s be any different?

In this decade, I assert, the story is the wireless broadband platform. This platform is, like every other platform we’ve discussed, built on what has come before. This means combining the PC and network (Internet) paradigms to create something brand-new.

The key point: “When your access point is built on a modular, scalable platform, when it has the capabilities of a PC built-in, then you can build new capabilities right on top of the network, applications that live in the network, rather than in a PC or server on the network.”

This always-on world is the reason I believe thin clients will take-off. There will also be the need for a new information platform, and this will be centred around RSS and the Publish-Subscribe Web.

Technology Predictor Success Matrix

Tim Bray has begun a series to identify which technologies win and lose, and why. “: Which new technologies will make it, and which will fail? The TPSM is an attempt to approach this question systematically, by figuring out what the key success factors are for new technologies. The premise is that you use the past to predict the future.”

Winners: SQL/RDBMS, Unix/C, Open Source, PC Client, WWW, Java, XML

Losers: OODBMS, 4GL, AI, VRML, Interactive TV, Ada, SGML

The Nine Factors: Management support, Investor support, Standardization process, Technical elegance, Apparent ROI, 80/20 point, Compelling idea , Happy programmers, Good implementations.

Should be a terrific series.

Microsoft Business Framework

“The Microsoft Business Framework (MBF) provides programming abstractions and a prescriptive architecture suitable for the development and deployment of business applications based on a distributed, service oriented architecture.” Patrick Logan links to the presentation from PDC. It needs Powerpoint runtime viewer, so if you don’t have it, you can check out the slides.

The reason I am interested in it is because it is very similar to what we want to do in Visual Biz-ic — create a framework for business process modelling and design.

Drucker on India and China

Joshua Marshall has excerpts from a Peter Drucker interview in Fortune:

India is becoming a powerhouse very fast. The medical school in New Delhi is now perhaps the best in the world. And the technical graduates of the Institute of Technology in Bangalore are as good as any in the world. Also, India has 150 million people for whom English is their main language. So India is indeed becoming a knowledge center.

In contrast, the greatest weakness of China is its incredibly small proportion of educated people. China has only 1.5 million college students, out of a total population of over 1.3 billion. If they had the American proportion, they’d have 12 million or more in college. Those who are educated are well trained, but there are so few of them. And then there is the enormous undeveloped hinterland with excess rural population. Yes, that means there is enormous manufacturing potential. In China, however, the likelihood of the absorption of rural workers into the cities without upheaval seems very dubious. You don’t have that problem in India because they have already done an amazing job of absorbing excess rural population into the cities–its rural population has gone from 90% to 54% without any upheaval.

Everybody says China has 8% growth and India only 3%, but that is a total misconception. We don’t really know. I think India’s progress is far more impressive than China’s.

Joshua leaves us (and the policymakers in the US) with an interesting point to ponder: “Think how much of our broad, long-range foreign policy thinking rests on the premise that China is the rising economic and military power? What if the premise is wrong? Or what if India, nearly as large a country in population terms, is another rising behemoth?”

Yahoo vs Google

WSJ reports on Yahoo’s plans to drop Google as its primary search technology as part of a larger plan to take on Google:

First, Yahoo is expected to dump Google as the primary search technology on its site within a few months, a move that could come around the time Google is preparing a long-awaited initial stock offering. Some marketing firms, which help advertisers manage their online campaigns for search-related ads, say they have been told Yahoo will switch from Google to its own technology as early as the first quarter.

Second, Yahoo wants to combine personalization and customization features to extend the usefulness of searches. Third, it plans to expand its use of “paid inclusion,” whereby it frequently surveys a participating merchant’s sites for the most up-to-date information and includes those findings in users’ search results. Merchants pay Yahoo from 15 cents to more than $1 when visitors click on a link for that merchant.

The strategy is not simply to match what Google does now but to add features its rival can’t easily match. “We’re not going to beat the competition by being the competition,” says Jeff Weiner, the company’s senior vice president in charge of its search and marketplace services. “We’re going to beat the competition by being Yahoo.”

Yahoo isn’t discussing many of its search plans in detail. But some steps toward independence can already be seen on the shopping section of Yahoo’s site, which is now using Inktomi’s technology. Type in “digital camera,” for example, and the site shows pictures of specific cameras along with their prices, flanked by “shopping tools” that allow users to quickly call up price comparisons, fuller specifications and user reviews. By contrast, the same search on Yahoo’s front page, which still uses Google’s technology, returns a familiar text-based list of links, starting with those sponsored by retailers and followed by other camera-related sites ranked by popularity.

In the future, Yahoo officials say, searches could become much more personalized. They could be tailored to return results that reflect users’ past Web-surfing behavior, for example, or preferences or interests they list in a profile.

News.com has more on Yahoo’s search plans. Yahoo, Google and Microsoft are the three players to watch in the search engine space. The period leading up to Google’s IPO is likely to see a lot of action.

Gadget Action from Apple and Apex

Apple launched its iPod Mini, which will cost USD 50 less than its iPod. The USD 249 device will have 4 GB of disk space, enough for 1,000 songs.

WSJ adds: “The iPod Mini has a different look than the white-and-chrome case that has turned the iPod into a fashion statement. The iPod Mini, about the length and width of a business card, will come with an anodized aluminum case in one of five different colors — silver, gold, pink, blue or green. It will be available in the U.S. next month and world-wide in April…Apple faces growing competition in the digital player market from a range of companies, including Hewlett-Packard Co. and Sony Corp. Dell Inc., for one, offers a player with more than three times the storage capacity of the iPod Mini for the same price, though Mr. Jobs said he didn’t believe the Dell device was damping the appeal of the iPod. Still, in a move that could reflect competitive pressures, Apple boosted the song storage of its $299 10 gigabyte iPod to 15 gigabytes — enough to hold 3,700 songs.”

Some interesting stats from a News.com report about Apple:
– 730,000 iPods sold in the previous holiday quarter
– 30 million songs sold at Apple’s music store (70 percent of the legal online music download market)
– The rate of purchases spiked in late December, reaching close to 1.9 million songs a week
– Apple’s market share in the computer industry is at 5%

In another development, Apex Digital, a fast-growing seller of DVD players and other electronic gadgets, this week will unveil a console that allows users to play computer games on their televisions, writes WSJ. “The company’s new console, the ApeXtreme (pronounced “Apex extreme”), is designed to sidestep the biggest problem that has faced companies developing new game systems — a shortage of software titles. Though videogames tend to get more attention, a huge number of PC game titles are announced each year, and an increasing number support some form of online game play.” It uses Via’s chips and a slimmed down version of MS-Windows, and will cost USD 299-399. Elaborates News.com: “The device will sport a 1.4GHz Via processor, a 40GB hard drive and a Via DeltaChrome graphics processor, Brown said. It will run on Windows XP Embedded, Microsoft’s operating systems for limited-function computing devices. In addition to running Windows-based PC games, the console will be able play digital music files and DVD movie discs and to display digital photos.”

TECH TALK: Good Books: Mountains Beyond Mountains (Part 2)

There is a quote (in the last chapter) which captures the essence of Dr Paul Farmers work and philosophy: I have fought the long defeat and brought other people on to fight the long defeat, and Im not going to stop because we keep losing. Now I actually think sometimes we may win. I dont dislike victory. By losing, Dr Farmer is referring to the death of patients despite of their best efforts. He continues: You know, people from our background like you, like most PIH (Partners in Health)-ers, like me were used to being on a victory team, and actually whatre really trying to do in PIH is to make common cause with the losers. Those are two very different things. We want to be on the winning team, but at the risk of turning our backs on the losers, no, its not worth it. So you fight the long defeat.

Farmer adds: If we could identify losers like John [who died despite the efforts made by PIH], and not waste our time and energy on them, then wed all be good, as they say in the States. Right? But the point of O for the P [preferential option for the poor] is that you never do that. You never risk that. Because before you turn your back on someone like John you have to be really sure, and the more you learn about Johns family the more you realize that the whole family, their whole I mean, theyre basically extinct. He was the last kid

Tracy Kidder writes, after have walked for seven hours with Dr Farmer to see two families in Casse near Cange (in Haiti):

I am aware of other voices that would praise a trip like this for its good intentions, and yet describe it as an example of what is wrong with Farmers approach. Heres an influential anthropologist, medical diplomat, public health administrator, epidemiologist, who has helped to bring new resolve and hope to some of the worlds most dreadful problems, and hes just spent seven hours making house calls. How many desperate families live in Haiti? Hes made this trip to visit two.

I can imagine Farmer saying he doesnt care if no one is willing to follow [his] example. Hes still going to make these hikes, hed insist, because if you say that seven hours is too long to walk for two families of patients, youre saying that their lives matter less than some others, and the idea that some lives matter less is the root of all thats wrong with the world. I think he undertakes what, earliesr today, he called, journeys to the sick in part because he has to, in order to keep going. Thats when I feel most alive, he told me once, when Im helping people.

Doctoring is the ultimate source of his power, I think. His basic message is simple: This person is sick, and I am a doctor.

How does one person with great talents come to exert a force in the world? I think in Farmers case the answer lies somewhere in the apparent craziness, the sheer impracticality, of half of everything he does, including the hike to Casse.

Tomorrow: Mountains Beyond Mountains (continued)

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