Tech’s Cutting Edge

Business Week has four interviews on nanotech, genomics, web search and robotics, which “are all rising stars that will play increasingly crucial roles in the way humans interact with technology. All hold the promise to improve human life in dramatic ways.” From the article on information retrieval which discusses IBM’s Web Fountain and talks to Dan Gruhl and Andrew Tomkins:

After several years in stealth mode, last year IBM unveiled a self-described “sense-making” technology it calls WebFountain, which is designed to filter information in a highly re sophisticated way.

Instead of scouring Web pages for keywords and links, as most search engines do, WebFountain aims to spot the opinions presented on the pages. Rather than merely asking for information about a Sony CyberShot digital camera, for example, a Web surfer could feasibly ask: “What do people think about the new Sony CyberShot digital camera?”

Just as intriguing, WebFountain is attempting to bring a time axis to Internet search. Today, search engines provide a snapshot of how the Web views a certain topic. But it’s largely a medium without a memory. That makes it next to impossible to spot trends or easily analyze how things shift over time — which could be compelling information. Imagine the value a marketer would get from an answer to the question: “How have mentions of my brand changed over the last six months?”

Gruhl: What we do is so much more. We call it “sense making.” Search presents a tourist’s view of information. It’s a great way to start. But it’s not the way to keep you up to date, show you trends, or help you understand the world around you. [IBM’s technology tries to answer the question:] What does the landscape look like? And, more importantly, how is that landscape changing?

Open-Source in Canada

CATAAlliance surveyed Canadian IT decision-maker perceptions of open source software and its applicability to their organizations. The findings:

Open source is becoming an explicit component in enterprise IT strategy and architecture. Only 13% of respondents do not include open source in their strategy. The majority acknowledged open source as both an:

– Implicit component such as a default option for the web, e.g. Apache (55%) or part of commercial hardware or software (30%)
– Explicit component such as open source business applications (50%) or custom in-house code (51%), for the purposes of both middleware/interoperability and business solution functionality.
– Almost half of respondents have defined formal policies and practices for both internal open source development , and only a quarter for external sharing back to the open community.

The maturity levels of open source for enterprise use are perceived to be:

– High for web (server, development, browser), database, and directory.
– Medium for application servers, operating systems, desktop productivity applications.
– Low for enterprise software (ERP, CRM), collaborative software etc.

The ease of introducing open source given current installed (COTS) bases was considered to be:

– Very easy for the web,
– More challenging for mainframe operating systems, and
– Very difficult for desktop productivity solutions.

The key overall decision criteria in making strategic and architectural decisions were identified as, in order of priority: 1. Reliability, 2. Performance, 3. Price, 4. Security, 5. Interoperability.

The biggest concerns and irritants with open and other (COTS) source were:

Open #1 – Intellectual property concerns
#2 – Time-consuming to research and assess
Other #1 – Pricing and licensing costs and policies
#2 – Security

Offshoring

News.com ran a 4-part series on offshoring this week:

  • U.S. needs reforms, not rhetoric: Government officials, business leaders and academics agree that the future of America’s technology complex depends on education, professional training and research investment.

  • Companies guarding ‘secret sauce’: Although many U.S. technology businesses are contracting or considering some form of foreign outsourcing, they are adamant about keeping intellectual property at home–for now.

  • How India is handling backlash: In stark contrast to the heated reaction among many U.S. workers, the country that is most associated with offshoring is both subdued and puzzled by the opposition that has arisen.

  • The next technology battlefields: Rather than trying to reverse the outsourcing wave, the best way for America to fend off foreign competition is to invent technologies that will drive a new industrial cycle.