India goes to Polls

Its election time in India. The first phase of polling has begun. This is the largest exercise of its kind in the world – the voter base is 650 million. Four phases of polling will elect 543 members of Parliament, with a few states also going to elect their legistlative assemblies. The interesting thing this time is that electronic voting machines are being used across the country. Counting begins on May 13, and results are expected within a day.

India Today and Outlook both have opinion poll results in their latest issues. Both predict a slim majority for the ruling NDA (BJP and its allies). The performance of the Congress is seen to be improving (as compared to a few months ago) after its various alliances, but it is unlikely that the alliance will be be able to muster up more than 165-170 seats. Coalition politics, which has been the norm in India for the past 8 years or so, is here to stay in India, with the BJP continuing to be the single largest party.

Software Marketing Handbook

Joel Spolsky recommends Rick Chapman’s The Product Marketing Handbook for Software. From the pitch: “The 4th Edition of The Product Marketing Handbook for Software is the definitive guide to successful software marketing. Completely up to date, the Handbook is read and relied on by software publishers, entrepreneurs, and software product managers worldwide, including such companies as Bentley Systems, Cognos, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Inso, Miacomet, Microsoft, Ulead, and many, many others. The Product Marketing Handbook for Software is written and edited by industry insiders. It discusses the industrys special challenges, uses your language and provides solutions specific to the task of marketing and selling software. From blogs through to E-mail and webinars, if you want to succeed in marketing and selling your software, you cant afford to be without it!”

Micro-Workflow

Patrick Logan points to Micro-Workflow. Looks interesting. Writes Dragos Manolescu: “Workflow technology and process support lies at the center of modern information systems architectures. But despite the large number of commercial workflow systems, object-oriented developers implement their business, scientific, or manufacturing processes with home-made workflow solutions. Current workflow architectures are based on requirements and assumptions that don’t hold in the context of object-oriented software development. This dissertation proposes micro-workflow, a new workflow architecture that bridges the gap between the type of functionality provided by current workflow systems and the type of workflow functionality required in object-oriented applications. Micro-workflow provides a better solution when the focus is on customizing the workflow features and integrating with other systems. In this thesis I discuss how micro-workflow leverages object technology to provide workflow functionality. As an example, I present the design of an object-oriented framework which provides a reusable micro-workflow architecture and enables developers to customize it through framework-specific reuse techniques. I show how through composition, developers extend micro-workflow to support history, persistence, monitoring, manual intervention, worklists, and federated workflow. I evaluate this approach with three case studies that implement processes with different requirements.”

Software Models

As Dan Bricklin thinks about what to do next as a software entrepreneur, he thinks about the different models for sofwtare development:

There is the traditional proprietary software model, where each copy of a product is distributed directly or through a reseller for a fee, and the software is maintained and modified only by the original developer. I’ve done that many times over the years. Marketing and sales costs can be quite high, and it doesn’t lend itself to the type of simple utilities I plan to start with, nor benefit from the lowering of marketing and distribution costs possible with the Internet.

There are the shareware (please pay me if you like it) and trialware (it stops working if you don’t pay after a while) models. They have been successful for various utilities and fits well with the Internet. They do, though, not seem to be put together that much with open source that can be read and modified by the user.

There is the “free open source with paid service model”, shown to be viable by companies like Red Hat and IBM. That looks good, but as a small company, I’m not sure (after having just spent years in a business that had a very high service component) that the needs of providing on-demand and 24×7 service will fit with the company size and lifestyle I want.

Another model is one used initially by SixApart with Movable Type, where they had a somewhat open source product (you got source and could make your own modifications, but were not allowed to redistribute it), no fee for noncommercial use, and a fee for commercial use and some simple services (help with installation). I like the idea of identifying those who benefit financially from a product and have a business model themselves which involves income and expenses, and having those people pay. I don’t like, though, the restriction on distribution that keeps the product from being improved or distributed by others. . Listening to Clayton Christensen, I want to help leverage the work of others who have their own motives, even if it’s profit, to widen distribution.

Searching in the Third Dimension

Wired News writes:

The mind-boggling speed and reach of Internet search engines mask a severe limitation: They are powered by words alone. But the world is full of objects and patterns. Now computing researchers have developed search engines that can mine catalogs of three-dimensional objects, like airplane parts or architectural features.

All the users have to do is sketch what they’re thinking of, and the search engines can produce comparable objects.

“The idea of information and knowledge, and retrieval of knowledge, has been something I’ve been intrigued with for a long time. This gives it a more solidified meaning,” said Karthik Ramani, a Purdue University professor who created a system that can find computer-designed industrial parts.

Ramani expects his search engine will serve huge industrial companies whose engineers often waste time and energy designing a specialized part when someone else has already created, used or rejected something similar.

With the Purdue search engine, designers could sketch the part they need and instantly see dozens in inventory that might fit the bill.

If an item seems close, but not quite right, designers can see a “skeleton” of the part and manipulate it on their computer screens — make it longer or shorter or curved, for example — and then query the database again.

So how can computer programs look for objects? The breakthrough is the voxel.

Digital camera owners are familiar with pixels — the basic element of a digital image. Each pixel is a tiny grain of color.

Similarly, a voxel is the basic element of a three-dimensional object that is represented in a computer. Each voxel represents the volume of the object at any given point.

In Ramani’s program, for example, stored CAD designs and entries sketched by users are converted into voxels. Then voxel patterns are compared for similarities. Because the voxels represent volume rather than just shape, the program can sniff out, say, a coffee cup, which is mostly hollow but might have a solid handle.

TECH TALK: As India Develops: Putting It Together

In this series of articles which started two months ago, we have looked at seven key factors to aid the development process: Education, Microfinance, Market Access, Information Access, ICT, Energy and Distribution. For the most part, the focus has been on two sectors which can be the twin engines for growth: the small- and medium-sized enterprises of India, and rural India. This is not to say that there arent others. Indias problems and challenges are many, and so will be the solutions. But the key point is that there are many solutions which need to come together and happen simultaneously to leapfrog India to a different orbit.

The India Shining campaign and the 10.4% GDP growth in the last quarter of 2003 make us feel that we have arrived, and India is well on its way to becoming a developed nation. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, many sectors in India are booming, and there is a great sense of optimism, especially among some of the urban people (and probably more so, in the Western media). The development of India is an exercise which needs all-round progress not just for the top 5-10 percent of our billion people but for everyone. It is as much about growing incomes as it is about providing opportunities for a better tomorrow. It is about giving birth to an Indian Dream.

There is no denying that there is, after many years, a confidence that tomorrow in India will be much better than today, and that the destiny of India is less dependent on the whims of the government and more on us. Whether it is the peace moves with Pakistan or the boom in outsourced services, whether it is the good monsoon of 2003 or the Golden Quadrilateral project, whether it is the performance of the Indian cricket team or the Sensex, there are many reasons to be happy about. But this is only the beginning the first baby steps of what is a long journey.

We simply do not have the time for incremental, sequential solutions. We cannot take a generation to solve Indias problems we have already lost two since Independence. The Indian transformation needs to happen in the next 5-10 years. The pressing imperative: Indias relatively young population. This is Indias tomorrow. They need to see opportunities. They have energy and enthusiasm, and if this can be channelled properly, they can help engineer Indias growth. We cannot fail them.

Another segment of Indians which can play an important part in Indias development are the Non-Resident Indians. Once upon a time, they left India in search of better opportunities. Now, the better opportunities are in India. They have seen and experienced life globally. Now is the time for them to consider applying those learnings to help catalyse and capitalise upon Indias development.

So, as we look ahead, what will be the other catalysing factors to accelerate Indias development? Think Vision and Will, Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Tomorrow: Vision and Will

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