Smart Client

David Hill has a nice overview (in the context of software applications):

The term Smart Client was coined to highlight the differences between the typical “Rich Client” applications of yesteryear and the next generation of client applications.

Key capabilities now exist which mean that we can take full advantage of the rich client model, providing the user with an excellent user experience, while at the same time reaping the benefits of centralized deployment and update. In short, this new generation of client applications, the so-called “smart” clients, provides the best of both worlds and adds the intelligence to manage data and connectivity to produce an extremely compelling user experience.

While smart clients provide the benefits of a rich client model with thin client manageability, they also provide much more flexibility than the traditional rich client applications. For example, smart clients need not be designed as monolithic desktop applications. Smart client solutions can be developed that are composed of functionality from more than one client application, with each application collaborating with the others to provide just the right functionality to the user. Such “composite” applications integrate client-side software resources into a coherent solution, or extend the functionality of an existing application to provide smart client features.

In addition, the client platform has moved on in the past few years and now includes many different types of client devices, not just desktop PCs. Such devices include PDA’s, SmartPhones, Tablet PCs, Laptops, set-top boxes, automotive devices, retail terminals, and so on. Smart client applications can be built to take maximum advantage of the features provided by the host device and tuned to provide the best user experience for the typical users of these devices.

If a client application displays these characteristics, then it can be said to be smart:
– Utilizes Local Resources
– Connected
– Offline Capable
– Intelligent Install and Update
– Client Device Flexibility

Future Ideas for Search

John Battelle talks to Jon Kleinberg, “professor at Cornell who some credit with work that inspired PageRank, though he’s far too modest to accept that mantle. He says he’s proud that in academic citations, his work on hubs and authorities is cited alongside PageRank as seminal to the current state of web search.”

[Jon] agrees with the consensus view that search is in its early days. The really hard problems – natural language queries, for example, have yet to be solved. “It’s kind of interesting to see how far search has gotten without actually understanding what’s in the document,” he noted. In other words, search has gotten pretty sophisticated using keyword matching, and link/pattern analysis. But search technology still has no idea what a document actually *means* – in the human sense.

Kleinberg outlined one of his core frustrations with search engines, one I am sure all readers have experienced: the inverse search. In this scenario, you know there is a core term or phrase that, if typed into Google, would yield exactly the set of pages you’re looking for. But you don’t know the term, and your attempts to divine it continually bring up frustrating and non-relevant results.

Other areas where Kleinberg sees improvement in the next five to ten years: The addition of a time axis in search results, Local/Personalized/social networking search, “wordbursting”-based search and analytics (a la Feedster/Technorati).

India as Manufacturer and Exporter

For India to develop, it needs to get more into manufacturing. This WSJ story on Tata Motors shows what Indian companies are capable of and should be doing:

MG Rover Group Ltd. is aiming to import 20,000 cars a year from India’s Tata conglomerate, a century-old industrial empire. The deal illuminates an arresting change in the world’s second-most-populous country. Its vast manufacturing sector, long sluggish and inefficient, is becoming a new global force. By seizing upon economic reforms and tapping the country’s cheap labor and engineering talent, top manufacturers are taking the nation’s economy beyond its well-known strengths in technology and back-office outsourcing.

India’s Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd. is becoming one of the generic-drug industry’s fastest-growing players. An Indian auto-parts company, Bharat Forge Ltd., gobbled up a German firm to become the world’s second-largest forging concern. The Tata group’s own Tata Iron & Steel Co. has become one of the world’s lowest-cost producers, selling specialty steel to Toyota Motor Corp., Hyundai Motor Co. and other multinationals.

Mr. Ratan Tata and his team put engineers at all levels to work on designing the small passenger car that would become the Indica. (The name combines “India” and “Car.”) One team designed the Indica’s parts. Another division developed the conveyors for the assembly line. Yet another group built the machines to stamp the parts, and another churned out the software.

Tata Motors developed the Indica for $350 million. An equivalent project in the U.S. or Europe would have cost at least three times as much, says V. Sumantran, a 16-year veteran of General Motors Corp., who now heads Tata Motors’ car business. A good part of the savings are in salaries. Indian engineers typically earn a small fraction of the pay that their counterparts in the U.S. do.

In 2002, Tata Motors found an eager buyer for the Indica in MG Rover, which was seeking to add a small car to its stable of vehicles. MG Rover looked first in China but signed a deal on the Indica because of its low cost and high quality, according to an official from Rover’s parent company.

When one looks at outsourced services, the real benefit goes to be outsourcer, who saves 50-70% on costs. The benefit on the local (Indian) economy is marginal. This is not the same as in manufacturing. What India needs is more of FDI (foreign direct investment) which goes into creating assets on the ground, and benefits a much bigger section of the community.

Microcredit in India

The Economist writes:

FOR the poorest of India’s poor, the securitisation of financial assets might seem arcane, remote and irrelevant. Yet a new approach to microcreditthe lending of tiny amounts of money to people with even tinier assetsis applying the technique to village life.

ICICI, an Indian bank, has just completed two such deals in the state of Andhra Pradesh. In the larger one, it has paid $4.3m for a portfolio of 42,500 loans from SHARE, a microfinancier. ICICI’s Brahmanand Hegde concedes this differs from the more familiar process of securitising car-loans or home mortgages in a number of important ways.

First, SHARE will be responsible for collecting the loans. Nor will the securities be asset-backed, as is usually the case with car and house financing. The buffaloes, handcarts and other small-business wherewithals that the loans were spent on will remain unencumbered. ICICI will have as collateral instead a first loss guarantee of an 8% deposit of the total from the Grameen Foundation, an American charity devoted to propagating microcredit.

Third, there is, as yet, no secondary market for the securities, though ICICI is talking to Crisil, a credit-rating agency, about the prospects for its rating the paper, and is hoping that over time other banks will enter the market too.

SHARE’s boss, Udaia Kumar, secures a new source of funds, off SHARE’s balance sheet, at a cost that is three to four percentage points cheaper than it pays for a bank loan. This will help him meet his aim of increasing his number of borrowers from under 300,000 now to 1m, a target that will, he reckons, require $62.5m in new funds. He says that 99% of his clients have never tried to run a business before, and are uneducated and illiterate. Their children may have better luck.

Here are some additional details on SHARE.

RSS Top 55

Robin Good has a list of 55 sites (blog directories and RSS submission sites). The list includes our BlogStreet at No. 18: “Directory of existing RSS feeds. BlogStreet operates also Info Aggregator, an outstanding software-free service lets you subscribe to RSS feeds and have posts delivered via email.”

Adds Robin Good: “Until now the web was populated by Web sites and other HTML-based content pages, and the main vehicle for reaching content has been the large use of major search engines and directories…As a rapidly increasing number of content sources, new and old, migrate or add RSS as a key distribution channel, and as more people utilize RSS newsreaders and aggregators to keep themselves informed, the ability to maintain high exposure and visibility is gradually shifted from a complete attention to major search engines and content optimization techniques to an increasing awareness of RSS feed directories and search tools.”

Exiting Deanspace

Clay Shirky has a brilliant analysis on Howard Dean’s campaign:

The easy thing to explain is why Dean lost the voters didnt like him. The hard thing to explain is why we (and why Dean himself) thought hed win, and easily at that. The bubble of belief, which collapsed so quickly and so completely, was inflated by tools that made formerly hard things easy, tricking us into thinking that getting votes had become easy as well we were all in Deanspace for a while there.

It was also inflated by our desire to see someone get it right, a fact that made us misunderstand the facts on the ground we suffered the same temptations as the campaign workers to regard our fellow citizens as definite supporters, even when we ourselves were supporting a movement rather than a campaign.

Its been a shock, but it doesnt have to be a fatal one. Lowering coordination costs and making it easier for citizens to create media and distributing fundraising to the masses are all good things. This year, however, to the surprise of many of us, pasting those things on to relatively traditional campaigns has worked better than the Dean campaigns organic strategy did. The biggest difficulty for whatever version of next time comes around will be remembering not to believe our own PR.

TECH TALK: Technology and the Indian Elections: Campaigning (Part 2)

By making available all the relevant information on the Internet, we are ensuring that the limitations posed by traditional channels and media is overcome. It is not easy for newspapers, magazines, radio and TV channels to drill down to the constituency-level in providing information and updates. This is where the Internet with its infinite capacity to store and deliver information can play a key role. An extension of this role lies in facilitating interaction between citizens.

Discussion forums and personal (or group) weblogs can help frame the issues and arguments at the local and national level. For those who have little time to go for political rallies, the Internet can be a sounding board for airing their views on topics that are of concern. Of course, care has to be taken that these discussions do not just become slander matches between supporters of different candidates. This is where the ability to use wikis and weblogs and provide RSS feeds of the updates can get just the information that the voters want into their news aggregators.

An important aspect of any democracy is the role of the media. In India, in the past five years, a multitude of powerful TV channels have emerged and coverage of issues has also become much more strident. As literacy rates have increased, newspapers and magazines too have seen their circulations increase. Media can play a strong role in influencing public opinion. All media coverage should be made available on the Internet with RSS providing the update streams. In addition, trackback can be used to facilitate two-way flow of information.

The Internet can also be used by the political parties for two additional purposes: fund raising and managing the field force. Individuals can contribute to campaigns via electronic payment systems this can give a major boost to eCommerce in India! An Intranet can be leveraged by political parties to co-ordinate the activities of the various individuals at the field level across states. Internal bulletin boards and weblogs can help distill trends emerging from the grassroots. Learnings of whats working (and whats not) can quickly be disseminated to the rank and file via email, IM and SMS.

For the voters, the Internet can thus work as a source of information and interaction. It can also be used to create games on the lines of an Indian Political Stock Exchange much like the way the Hollywood Stock Exchange (HSX.com) helps predict the collections of movies. I can imagine many corporates willing to sponsor this to make elections fun, exciting and rewarding for everyone!

Applying the twin open-source software principles of distributed collaboration and user customisability, there is thus a potential to build a rich platform for information aggregation and distribution via the Internet, making for an election campaign which is more transparent and interactive. That is also the secret to getting Indias youthful population more involved in a decision that will shape the nations future.

Tomorrow: Counting

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