Amida Simputer

News.com reports on the release of the Amida Simputer from PicoPeta:

The Amida Simputer, originally developed as a “poor man’s computer,” is now being pitched as a device that can handle a wide range of business and personal-computing requirements. The Linux-powered handheld combines the functions of an organizer and an MP3 player and has handwriting recognition capabilities.

The Amida Simputer is designed to enable scribbling and e-mailing of notes regardless of language, a key factor in the multilingual Indian market. It also has an on-screen keyboard for two Indian languages–Hindi and Kannada–with more languages to be added soon, the companies said.

The Amida Simputer comes in three models, with prices ranging from about $240 to $480 (9,950 to 19,950 rupees). It is powered by a 206MHz ARM processor and features 32MB of permanent storage, 64MB of RAM, a 3.8-inch touch screen and a smart-card reader. It can be connected to a landline or a Code Division Multiple Access phone for Internet browsing, and it doubles as an MP3 player.

Dana Blankenhorn had asked my thoughts, to which I had replied:

  • Most Indians don’t need a portable device; they need something affordable with the form factor of a regular computer
  • I think Simputer is trying to go after the global Linux PDA different. In doing so, they also want to address the domestic low-cost portable computer market.
  • Price points are still too high. Need to be USD 100 (Rs 4,500) or so.

  • Added Dana:

  • This is a remarkable achievement. India is not known for hardware, and this is hardware.
  • That said, Rajesh is right, in that it’s limited in capabilities and the price is high.
  • Linux is an interesting choice for an operating system, and the release of the Simputer may spur rapid development of Linux-based PDA applications.
  • Compare this to what you get today in a $100 cell phone. Then look at what such phones will look like next year, or in two years, and you see the difficulty Amida faces.
  • Both Rajesh and I may be underestimating the number of units that can be sold on patriotism.

    Sometimes it’s not how well the cat sings that’s at issue, but the fact that it sings at all. This is Version 1.0 Indian hardware. It’s out now. It’s a story well-worth following.

  • Emerging Wireless Technologies

    USA Today covers four of them – WiMax, 802.16e, 802.11n and UWB.

    WiMax: Unlike current Wi-Fi hot spots, which have a reach of about 300 feet, WiMax stations will be able to send and receive signals up to 30 miles away. This makes them ideal for the “last-mile” problem that plagues many neighborhoods that are too remote to receive Internet access via cable or DSL.

    802.16e: The downside to WiMax is that it is a “fixed access” system, meaning that customers must mount a dishlike antenna outside their home or office to access it. To get around this, researchers are developing an extension to WiMax called 802.16e. The goal of 802.16e is to allow consumers to connect to the Internet while they are “moving at vehicular speeds.”

    802.11n: Researchers expect 802.11n to increase the speed of Wi-Fi connections by 10 to 20 times. Although many home users won’t be able to benefit from the additional speed right away, because of limits on their cable or DSL connections, businesses are hoping the technology will allow them to forgo the burden of laying and maintaining Ethernet cabling throughout the building.

    UWB: Dubbed Ultrawideband, the technology is intended primarily for in-home use to connect computers, stereos and TVs to one another without wires. When it is launched in mid-2005, Ultrawideband also will let users stream MP3s from their computers to their stereos and record TV shows on their computers, as long as the devices are within 30 feet of one another.

    Flash in the Enterprise

    Jon Udell recommends Macromedia’s Flex presentation server to build rich Internet apps:

    After a decade of web-style development, Im sold on the idea of using markup languages to describe the layouts of user interfaces and to coordinate the event-driven code that interconnects widgets and binds them to data. The original expression of that model was HTML and JavaScript, but variations have flourished.

    Mozilla-based applications have been using XUL (XML User Interface Language) for years. The Laszlo Presentation Server uses a description language called LZX. Now Microsoft has previewed XAML (Extensible Application Markup Language) for Longhorn.

    Now comes MXML (Macromedia Flex Markup Language), the latest development in Macromedias ongoing quest to reposition the near-ubiquitous Flash player as a general-purpose presentation engine for rich Internet applications.

    As with the Laszlo product we reviewed last fall, Macromedias Flex is a Java-based and XML-driven presentation server. You can deploy it to an existing J2EE server on Windows, Linux, or Solaris, or use the included JRun server. Nothing about Flex inherently requires a J2EE environment, however, and Macromedia is working on an implementation for .Net, too. But for the time being, it only supports Java app servers.

    Technology Usage in Asia

    WSJ writes: ” Intel Corp. senior researcher Genevieve Bell makes a science out of being nosy. As a cultural anthropologist for the American microchip giant, she has spent the last two and a half years hanging out in 100 homes across seven Asian countries, watching how ordinary folks tinker with computers and gadgets…Ms. Bell has come to some conclusions with serious implications for technology makers and marketers: Globalization is not going to produce a globally uniform consumer, because gadgets such as cellphones and Wi-Fi laptops are being used in different ways around the world.” Excerpts from the interview:

    In Asia, people’s identities are not just about themselves as individuals….The self is part of a family and a lineage and a clan or a village. Often, technology is consumed at those levels rather than an individual level. And that has consequences from how you brand things, to how you accommodate multiple users on a single device.

    There are some usage models that we hadn’t very well anticipated. In Asia, there is much more of an emphasis on education, on family communication, on forms of social reciprocity, as a portal to your government, as well as around religion….It’s not about rational productivity or just entertainment.

    In China and India and across Asia, you will find a very different sensibility about how you use technology in public, and about the notion of publicly available and shared resources. It is totally unimaginable to Americans that you would have a public cellphone-charging station. All they can imagine is that technology sells them something that they can personally use, not access something which is publicly shared.

    Business Process Innovation

    Business World has an interview with SAP’s Shai Agassi on the growing importance of process innovation. Excerpts:

    Ten years ago the challenge was to reduce the time a market opportunity was spotted to the time a company was able to develop an appropriate product, get parts from suppliers and ship it to the customers. By and large we have brought that down. Companies can do that in two weeks to a month. The next phase will be about change management.

    The time between a CEO deciding on a strategy and the IT systems reflecting that strategy is what is a challenge today. Today there is a difference of at least a year or 18 months between a strategic decision and the IT systems reflecting that change. This is because a lot of time we are dealing with software code that is not in accordance with the business model. The main change you will see over the next three years is that software firms will move from shipping code to shipping executable business models.

    [The technological things that will make this possible are] the emergence of web services standards and what we call the enterprise services architecture. The enterprise service architecture will take existing engines like, say, finance or production, and repackage them by combining them to form new applications. (Thus, combine finance with production to get the optimum capacity utilisation.)

    This is a very big change – the creation of enterprise-wide platforms to get integration from one end to another complete with user integration, process integration, including data and knowledge integration, in one environment.

    This seems quite similar to the points made by Howard Smith and Peter Fingar in their book “Business Process Management.”

    Future of Grocery Shopping

    WSJ writes:

    Nancy Lafreniere has never worked in a supermarket but she can ring up groceries faster than the most seasoned cashier. Her edge: a wireless computer on the front of her shopping cart at the Super Stop & Shop in the Boston suburb where she lives.

    Ms. Lafreniere uses a hand-held bar-code reader called the “Shopping Buddy” to scan all of the groceries herself as she walks through the aisles. The computer keeps a running tally of her purchases, and since it knows her shopping habits, it also can offer appropriate instant discount coupons for items right on the aisle she’s cruising. All Ms. Lafrieniere does at the checkout counter is pay and go.

    Across the country, a small but growing number of supermarkets are testing a variety of high-tech gadgets designed to change the way people shop and the way stores promote their products. The technology goes way beyond the last wave of innovations such as self-checkout kiosks, which basically automate the familiar checkout process.

    Starting in July, customers at four Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co. stores in Charleston and Columbia, S.C., will be able to pay for their groceries by placing their finger on a scanner at checkout, eliminating the need for cash, checks or credit cards. The 123-store chain is testing technology by Pay By Touch, a consumer-payment service, that links shoppers’ credit cards or bank accounts with a digital image of their finger. The scanner doesn’t store actual fingerprints, but takes a set of images and then encrypts that data to create a digital identity. To use the new technology, customers must first create an account with the store by scanning their finger, entering an access code and providing a loyalty card, credit card or bank-account information.

    TECH TALK: As India Develops: ICT (Part 3)

    Much of Indias industry and institutions is still in the Dark Age of technology adoption, even as their competition is now global. Unless Indian industry achieves high levels of productivity and efficiency, it is difficult to see how they will compete with their international competitors. In India, we have also not managed to create a big domestic market for information technology solutions. All this needs to change.

    Writing in The Digital Hand: How Computers Changed the Work of American Manufacturing, Transportation, and Retail Industries, James Cortada explains the context in which computers became to the part of the fabric of the US economy through the second half of the 20th century:

    Businesses came to use computers not because they increasingly became less expensive but because they performed functions (applications) deemed beneficial or necessary for the enterprise. Declines in unit costs did not mean that overall expenditures for computers dipped; in fact, just the exact opposite occurred because as more systems came online, more programmers and other technical staff were needed to maintain and operate them, and more end users had to be trained and supported as well. Yet, overall economies of scale always counted as work shifted to computers and thus away from other sources of expense, or created new capabilities that had economic value. In short, computers made it possible for management to perform tasks less expensively than with earlier information technologies (e.g. adding machines) or manual operations and to do things not practically possible with previous methods (e.g. analyzing millions of customers for trends). Machines were now used to improve efficiency, to lower operating costs, to be seen as modern and to be competitive in an economy that increasingly relied on more, faster, and ever more precise technologies.

    In India, so far, the cost of labour has been far cheaper than that of capital (in this case, technology). We have preferred to use our labour and stay in the low-cost, low-quality quadrant in many industries. In this equation, if we can now bring in affordable technology, it should be possible for Indian entrepreneurs and managers to automate their businesses, achieve greater scale and be able to better compete on a global level. Only then can we create a positive, virtuous cycle of increasing domestic incomes and increasing consumption.

    What the affordable computing platform does is create a foundation for massive adoption of technology in India. Look at how cellphone usage has skyrocketed India is now adding more than two million users a month, and is expected to cross a user base of 100 million within the next years. As we have demonstrated, it is possible to bring down the price point of computing to that of a handset without any compromise on the versatility, functionality and form factor. By empowering individuals and enterprises with the right technologies at the right price points, India can build out its digital infrastructure in the next five years and create the necessary base for all-round development. The leads needs to be taken by Indias manufacturing sector.

    Tomorrow: ICT (Part 4)

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    Foreign Affairs on Outsourcing

    [via Dan Gillmor] Foreign Affairs is one of the most influential publications in government circles. It has an article by Daniel Drezner on what has rapidly become a hot political issue in the US:

    Critics charge that the information revolution (especially the Internet) has accelerated the decimation of U.S. manufacturing and facilitated the outsourcing of service-sector jobs once considered safe, from backroom call centers to high-level software programming. (This concern feeds into the suspicion that U.S. corporations are exploiting globalization to fatten profits at the expense of workers.) They are right that offshore outsourcing deserves attention and that some measures to assist affected workers are called for. But if their exaggerated alarmism succeeds in provoking protectionist responses from lawmakers, it will do far more harm than good, to the U.S. economy and to American workers.

    Should Americans be concerned about the economic effects of outsourcing? Not particularly. Most of the numbers thrown around are vague, overhyped estimates. What hard data exist suggest that gross job losses due to offshore outsourcing have been minimal when compared to the size of the entire U.S. economy. The outsourcing phenomenon has shown that globalization can affect white-collar professions, heretofore immune to foreign competition, in the same way that it has affected manufacturing jobs for years. But Mankiw’s statements on outsourcing are absolutely correct; the law of comparative advantage does not stop working just because 401(k) plans are involved. The creation of new jobs overseas will eventually lead to more jobs and higher incomes in the United States. Because the economy — and especially job growth — is sluggish at the moment, commentators are attempting to draw a connection between offshore outsourcing and high unemployment. But believing that offshore outsourcing causes unemployment is the economic equivalent of believing that the sun revolves around the earth: intuitively compelling but clearly wrong.

    Should Americans be concerned about the political backlash to outsourcing? Absolutely. Anecdotes of workers affected by outsourcing are politically powerful, and demands for government protection always increase during economic slowdowns. The short-term political appeal of protectionism is undeniable. Scapegoating foreigners for domestic business cycles is smart politics, and protecting domestic markets gives leaders the appearance of taking direct, decisive action on the economy.

    Protectionism would not solve the U.S. economy’s employment problems, although it would succeed in providing massive subsidies to well-organized interest groups. In open markets, greater competition spurs the reallocation of labor and capital to more profitable sectors of the economy. The benefits of such free trade — to both consumers and producers — are significant. Cushioning this process for displaced workers makes sense. Resorting to protectionism to halt the process, however, is a recipe for decline. An open economy leads to concentrated costs (and diffuse benefits) in the short term and significant benefits in the long term. Protectionism generates pain in both the short term and the long term.

    Two more stories on outsourcing:

    WSJ: “U.S. companies sending computer-systems work abroad yielded higher productivity that actually boosted domestic employment by 90,000 across the economy last year, according to an industry-sponsored study…The study’s premise is that U.S. companies’ use of foreign workers lowers costs, increases labor productivity and produces income that companies can use to expand both in the U.S. and abroad. It was commissioned by the Information Technology Association of America, an industry membership and lobbying group, which hired the economics consulting firm Global Insight Inc. of Lexington, Mass…The study claims that twice the number of U.S. jobs are created than displaced, producing wage increases in various sectors. The report takes a rather narrow focus, tracking the outsourcing of computer-services jobs, but not other work increasingly being done abroad such as manufacturing, call centers or medical X-ray reading.”

    News.com: “The U.S. technology industry’s demand for offshore services is apparently beginning to drive up pay rates in India, raising questions about the long-term benefits of outsourcing work to that country…India’s wage inflation, which approached an estimated 14 percent last year, is a natural byproduct of a classic supply-and-demand scenario.”

    A historical perspective on outsourcing is provided by another WSJ story:

    Losing skilled jobs to low-wage foreign competition is as old as the Industrial Revolution. In the 1830s, the British textile industry became so efficient that Indian cloth makers couldn’t compete. The work was outsourced to England, with disastrous consequences for Indian workers. “The misery hardly finds parallel in the history of commerce,” India’s governor general, William Bentinck, wrote to his superiors in London in 1834.

    As Americans grapple with the fallout of shipping hundreds of thousands of jobs overseas, history echoes with many similar episodes — and lessons. Trade and technology can boost living standards for many people, by creating lower-priced goods. But those same forces can destroy skilled jobs that workers thought never would be threatened.

    Competition from foreign labor hurt huge classes of American workers in the 19th century but eventually helped ease wage disparities between nations. And during these upheavals, history shows that politics can arrest what seems like unstoppable technological progress.

    Here are four lessons from history that help illuminate today’s debate:
    – Even high-skilled, good-paying jobs are vulnerable.
    – Trade liberalization often works with technology to undermine powerful interests.
    – Domestic workers are always vulnerable to competition from foreigners willing to work for less.
    – Politics can slow down the transforming effects of new technology.

    Tim Bray visits OpenOffice

    OpenOffice is what I use on the desktop. Tim Bray just joined Sun, and one whose blog I find fascinating reading. So, when there is a post about the combo, I have to read and blog it!

    Whats In the Package: A word processor, a slide show maker, a spreadsheet, a vector-graphics package, a database client; more or less what the competition has, minus a standalone database, plus better graphics.

    XML! The way that these guys store the data is massively, fiendishly, outrageously clever. They have their own XML tag set, which includes (in one namespace) all the basic word-processing, spreadsheet, and slide-show machinery. Then, for graphics they use SVG, for styles they use XSL-FO, for links they use XLink… you get the picture, theyve invented the absolute minimum possible.

    As if this wasnt clever enough, they wrap up documents in a zipfile with a manifest and a MIME type and separate chunks of XML for the data and metadata and styles and and manifest and so on. So the size is moderate, it loads fast, and its all in a single handy blob.

    An idea from Tim: “It turns out that OpenOffice already comes with a doohickey that will produce an XHTML approximation of most documents (Lauren tells me its shaky on tables); plus its got a nice HTTP library and APIs out the wazoo. Can you see what Im thinking? Theres no reason this sucker shouldnt have a ‘Blog this’ button that XHTML-i-fies whatever youre typing, lets you preview, and then lets you ship it out via one of the existing blogging APIs or the Atom API.”

    ODP, RSS and OPML

    Dave Winer writes:

    The Open Directory Project is going to do something with RSS, not sure what, but it’s a good sign, if only just a start. Here’s what I would like them to do.

    1. Associate a feed with a level of the hierarchy, so someone can subscribe to a category, and anything that appeared in that category would show up in the reader’s aggregator as new.
    1a. Associate a feed with a level in the other direction, so that news can be routed to a category in the directory. So, to the left, you’d see the stuff that doesn’t change often, and in a box to the right is the new stuff.

    2. Let an author maintain a whole level of the directory with RSS.

    3. What about more than one level? We thought of that too, it’s called OPML.

    4. After adopting RSS and OPML, implement inclusion, meaning you can point to an OPML file anywhere a node can appear and the content of that OPML is included in the directory as if it were part of the directory.

    5. From there, the whole thing will be unbundled, let the search engines understand an OPML file and display the as Yahoo-like directories.

    I had written about how some of these elements taken together could be used to construct the Memex.

    Convergence 2.0

    Om Malik points to a post by Christian Lindholm on some lessons from Cebit:

    1. It is getting possible to build the life recorder: Integrating voice, image, video and text is becoming possible in an uncompromised form factor known to the broad audience as a mobile phone.

    2. The Laptop is becoming a personal communications tool: The integration of Wi-Fi totally changes to nature of a laptop. Laptops are now powerful enough and small enough to really become communications tools.

    3. The Home server, rebranded as an entertainment center is the future of the Home PC: Intel was showing off the “Kessler” concept which integrated PC, Wi-Fi, RAID and lots of other technology I still do not understand, but it left a permanent impression on me.

    Om calls it Convergence 2.0 and Marc Canter calls it Digital Lifestyle Aggregation. It is also part of the vision of Dana Blankenhorn’s Always-On World.

    Social Software

    Jon Udell writes:

    Computer-mediated communication is the lifeblood of social software. When we use e-mail, instant messaging, Weblogs, and wikis, were potentially free to interact with anyone, anywhere, anytime. But theres a trade off. Our social protocols map poorly to TCP/IP. Whether the goal is to help individuals create and share knowledge or to enrich the relationship networks that support sales, collaboration, and recruiting, the various kinds of enterprise social software aim to restore some of the context thats lost when we move our interaction into the virtual realm.

    Whatever the mode of communication, the primary goal, says Adam Hertz, VP of technology strategy at Ofoto (and a Socialtext user), is to create group memory. Chris Nuzum, CTO and co-founder of Traction Software (infoworld.com/1054), echoes that theme. Traction describes its offering as enterprise Weblog software, but Nuzum says that a typical Traction project is more of a group effort than an individual journal. As such, a lot of the social interaction that would otherwise occur in e-mail moves into the comments and discussions attached to the project.

    Building group memory and team awareness has always been the goal of KM (knowledge management), of course. But most people, Nuzum says, have never had the benefit of mechanized institutional memory. One reason for this limitation is that KM systems have tended to ask people to dump knowledge into databases without regard for social incentives, habits, or consequences. These are central concerns for social software in all its various forms.

    TECH TALK: As India Develops: ICT (Part 2)

    What India needs is an affordable computing platform to build out the digital infrastructure across its enterprises, homes, education institutions and government. So far, the high cost of the computers and even higher cost of software (relative to income levels) has hobbled adoption of technology in India. Luckily, the elements to construct solutions at price points which are 70-90% lower without sacrificing performance are now available.

    Thin clients are computers with limited local processing and storage, which are both centralised on servers. The client should be able run an OS (Linux ,for example) along with VNC (virtual network computer). VNC is a remote display protocol, much like RDC from Microsoft and ICA from Citrix. Using this approach, thin clients can be, theoretically, assembled for less than Rs 2,250 (USD 50) in component costs, excluding the display. A refurbished 14-inch monitor will cost under Rs 2,000 (while a new one will cost about Rs 3,500). TV can be a possible display option also, though one will have to sacrifice the viewing quality. Thus, it is possible to put together the user desktop for no more than Rs 5,000.

    Server-centric computing is just like the mainframe and minicomputers of the past. Terminals managed the local input/output while all the computing and data storage took place on the server. A return to a similar model is essential if one has to dramatically bring down the cost of computing. In todays world, there are two things working in our favour: networks (local and wide-area) have become fast enough to enable data to be transmitted rapidly across from the server to the client, and Moores Law provides for huge server processing capabilities at much lower price points. So, it should be possible to centralise computing at a cost of no more than Rs 2,500 per user (for a minimum of 10 users on the LAN) or a fraction of that if being offered as a hosted service by broadband operators to homes.

    Open-source software is the third leg of the affordable computing. For almost every commercial software there is a free, open-source equivalent. For the desktop, Linux compares well with Microsoft Windows, OpenOffice with Microsoft Office, Ximian Evolution with Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla with Internet Explorer. For the server infrastructure, it is possible to put together the complete infrastructure of a mail server, proxy server, firewall, anti-virus software, anti-spam, database server and file/print server software with open-source components. In addition, there are thousands of other open-source applications available for specific needs.

    Taken together, thin clients, server-centric computing and open-source software offer an excellent platform on which to build an alternate environment which can dramatically reduce the cost of computing for the next markets. By leveraging a handset-like business model, service operators (think of them as tech utilities) can start offering hardware, software, networking, connectivity and support for as little as Rs 500-600 per month, bringing the cost of computing down to that of a cellphone today. This is what is needed for building out Indias digital infrastructure.

    Tomorrow: ICT (Part 3)

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    Why Skype is No Different

    Om Malik has an article by Aswath Rao providing an alternate view of Skype, the P2P VoIP company: “Skype shares the same functional architecture with other VoIP providers. It shares the same business plan and outlook. But they have artificially cloaked it in a proprietary system. I guess this is their economic moat to use a Buffett term. From a consumer point of view, the beauty of VoIP is that there is no moat and current technology is sufficient to realize direct IP Communications that does not require any intermediation.”

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    Friedman’s New World

    Thomas Friedman writes about what he’d like to wake up and read in the morning:

    I want to wake up and read that President Bush has decided to offer a real alternative to the stalled Kyoto Protocol to reduce global warming. I want to wake up and read that 10,000 Palestinian mothers marched on Hamas headquarters to demand that their sons and daughters never again be recruited for suicide bombings. I want to wake up and read that Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia invited Ariel Sharon to his home in Riyadh to personally hand him the Abdullah peace plan and Mr. Sharon responded by freezing Israeli settlements as a good-will gesture.

    I want to wake up and read that General Motors has decided it will no longer make gas-guzzling Hummers and President Bush has decided to replace his limousine with an armor-plated Toyota Prius, a hybrid car that gets over 40 miles to the gallon.

    I want to wake up and read that Dick Cheney has apologized to the U.N. and all our allies for being wrong about W.M.D. in Iraq, but then appealed to our allies to join with the U.S. in an even more important project helping Iraqis build some kind of democratic framework. I want to wake up and read that Tom DeLay called for a tax hike on the rich in order to save Social Security and Medicare for the next generation and to finance all our underfunded education programs.

    I want to wake up and read that Justice Antonin Scalia has recused himself from ruling on the case involving Mr. Cheney’s energy task force when it comes before the Supreme Court not because Mr. Scalia did anything illegal in duck hunting with the V.P., but because our Supreme Court is so sacred, so vital to what makes our society special its rule of law that he wouldn’t want to do anything that might have even a whiff of impropriety.

    I want to wake up and read that Mr. Bush has announced a Manhattan Project to develop renewable energies that will end America’s addiction to crude oil by 2010. I want to wake up and read that Mel Gibson just announced that his next film will be called “Moses” and all the profits will be donated to the Holocaust Museum.

    Most of all, I want to wake up and read that John Kerry just asked John McCain to be his vice president, because if Mr. Kerry wins he intends not to waste his four years avoiding America’s hardest problems health care, deficits, energy, education but to tackle them, and that can only be done with a bipartisan spirit and bipartisan team.

    What would you like to wake up and read?

    X1 for Hard Disk Search

    Walter Mossberg writes:

    It’s often easier to search the vast reaches of the Web than to quickly and accurately search your own stored e-mail. This is because the most important e-mail program in use today, Microsoft’s Outlook, really stinks at searching. If you have a sizable amount of stored e-mail, searching within Outlook e-mail is painfully slow, and often inaccurate.

    To address this problem, a number of companies have developed add-on programs that search Outlook e-mail. I’ve been testing a new entry in this category, a $99 product for Windows users called X1. This search product doesn’t just do a great job of finding things in Outlook e-mail. It also can rapidly search for any word within e-mail attachments and Outlook contacts.

    But that’s not all. X1 also searches for words within e-mail in Outlook Express and the Netscape and Eudora e-mail programs. And it can rapidly search for terms in most types of files you have stored on your hard disk outside of your e-mail. These include word-processor documents, spreadsheets, slide presentations, graphics, database files and more.

    X1 handles these file searches much faster and better than the built-in search feature of Windows XP, which I find to be slow and inaccurate, and which can’t search within e-mails.

    X1 is a very valuable tool for rapidly unlocking all the precious information on your hard disk, and especially in Outlook e-mail.

    HP Revvs Up

    Barron’s writes on HP’s progress two years after it merged with Compaq:

    CEO Carly Fiorina was only warming up. She went on to deliver a whopping $3.5 billion in promised cost-savings — and a year ahead of schedule. Lately she has started to boost the performance of two key units that have been holding back the technology giant: personal computers and corporate computing systems. Along the way, H-P has amassed a surprisingly large, $6.5 billion cash horde.

    Fiorina is making two major pushes. She is trying to take advantage of H-P’s revered brand and potent retail channels in anticipation of the digital home — where the flat-panel TV in the family room, for instance, will routinely be linked to the PC in the den. In efforts aptly named Big Bang I and II, H-P launched more than 150 consumer products over the past two years, ranging from digital cameras to sleek personal digital assistants.

    In addition, Fiorina hopes to use H-P’s newfound scale to sell innovative, customized products and services to big corporations. A new partnership with Starbucks, for example, allows customers to burn compact discs in their stores using H-P devices for a fee. H-P consultants worked with Starbucks to create this setup, using H-P servers, storage gear and more.

    “The history of every industry, including technology, demonstrates that companies that can make markets and lead markets are the most successful,” Fiorina says. It has yet to be seen whether H-P has what it takes to truly lead all of its markets.

    I was among those who was skeptical about HP’s future after the merger. Nice to be proved wrong!

    Blogging and Calendaring

    Michael Sippey has an interesting experiment with his Timeline (example):

    A couple of years ago I started keeping simple timelines — “major” personal events over the course of a year, to make it easier to scan a period of time without being bogged down in the dozens of weekly appointments that clog the day-to-day calendar.

    I’m in the messaging business. Focused — today — on email. But lately I’ve been interested in how messages (of all stripes) could more effectively be integrated into where we best process specific types of information. Your average inbox is not great at organizing time-oriented material, especially reminders about events that will take place in the future — calendars are obviously better at that. And with iCal (the format, not the app), it becomes reasonably brainless to publish individual events and/or a stream of events out to users. Case in point: it was probably less than one day of effort for the engineers at Expedia to add a downloadable calendar event to your online travel itinerary. But the fact that I can automagically pop my flight info into Outlook is at the top of my list of reasons why I’m loyal to Expedia.

    So, anyway. Sippey.com/timeline is the result of some noodling on those two issues. A single page view of a year. Which is also rendered in calendar form, and made available for layering on top of your calendar. It’s hindsight publishing, of course (this did happen on this day, instead of this is going to happen on this day). But calendars are not only planning tools, they’re rememberance agents. And layering information like major news stories, weather (a la Jerry’s story about his old DayPlanner habits), sports scores and even personal bloggish notations could be an interesting use of the iCal format.

    This is a small part of an idea Ramesh Jain has talked about – the EventWeb.

    Visual Programming

    Phil Windley points to a post by Sean McGrath, who says: “Visual programming is largely pointless as long as the predominant programming paradigm remains imperative logic. Now, switch to a data flow oriented, SOA world and visual programming makes a lot more sense in my opinion. Picture logistics infrastructures. Picture aviation hubs. Picture model railways. Now imagine business folk constructing visual models of how their data flows through messaging pipes and hubs and flows through data transforming ‘services’…. Once we switch paradigm from algorithm-centric (programmer friendly) to data-centric (business friendly), we can start to talk the same language and – irony of ironies – this type of “talking” is much easier to visualize.”

    Adds Phil: “Sean McGrath has a tough time seeing the case for visual programming languages in a predominantly imperative programming model. I think he’s on the mark. But Sean thinks SOA will change this. This is already true, to some extent. Several of the Web services intermediary products I’ve reviewed recently use visual prgramming tools, notably Grand Central Communications and CommerceOne’s Conductor.”

    We want to create a visual programming environment for business process with our Visual Biz-ic, which is currently under development.

    TECH TALK: As India Develops: ICT

    Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have been the dominant factor for the productivity growth in the developed markets. The problem with the current ICT is their cost the dollar-denominated pricing makes it affordable to only a small segment of the business and consumer segment in India. While competition has ensured that talk on cellphones is now among the cheapest in India, the same is not the case in computing given that two virtual monopolies (Intel and Microsoft) control the two most critical components.

    For India to develop, there is an increasing emphasis on the need to build out the physical infrastructure roads, ports, airports, power and the like. But there is the need for a parallel digital infrastructure high-speed networks, access terminals, software and content. While the telecom carriers are now building out the high-speed networks, not enough attention has been paid in the other areas. This needs to change.

    What India needs is an affordable computing and communications platform, one that dramatically brings down the cost without compromising on the performance or utility. Luckily, many of the components are now coming together to make this happen. What is needed is for us to adopt these innovations to build the equivalent of tech utilities which make commputing (as Om Malik put it) a reality for the next markets.

    The connectivity front is an easier problem to address, thanks to competition, the tens of thousands of optical fibre that have been laid across India, and technologies like WLL, DSL and WiFi which can help bridge the last mile. The challenge lies on the computing front.

    Consider India and its present installed base of 10 million computers. In the next 12 months, that figure is expected to rise by about 4.5 million. But it is still not good enough. India needs a much faster adoption of computing technology. There is a potential for 100 million computers in the next few years 3 million SMEs need an average of 10 computers each (30 million), 40 million Indian homes need one each (40 million), 1 million Indian schools need 10 each (10 million), 100,000 colleges need 100 each (10 million), and rural areas and the government need 5 million each. These are the next markets for computing.

    While it is tantalising to think of the cellphone as the computer (or perhaps commputer), in reality, portability and mobility is a requirement for only a small segment of the markets. The display size and the limited data entry capabilities of the cellphone make it more useful as a last-mile, always-on bridge rather than the primary computational device. We still need the desktop computer but at a fraction of todays price points. In some segments, we can consider using the TV as a display, but a refurbished monitor costs about the same and gives a much better resolution.

    In short, what India needs is a next-generation computing platform for todays non-consumers, which makes affordability as its primary objective, and at the same time leverages the plethora of software and content that is already available. Think thin clients, server-centric computing and open-source software.

    Tomorrow: ICT (Part 2)

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