PC Upgrades

InfoWorld writes about the looming massive upgrade of PCs that is taking place – more than 200 million computers in the coming 2 years:

Worldwide, PC makers will ship 186.4 million units this year, up 13.6 percent from last year, according to the latest projections from Gartner Inc. Out of those shipments more than half — nearly 100 million — will be replacements, and next year the replacement shipments will hit 120 million, Gartner said. Replacement shipments this year and next year will surpass the record replacement numbers seen in 1998 and 1999.

The optimistic figures are based on shipments so far this year, according to the research firm. George Shiffler, principal analyst for Gartner’s client platforms research, said a major factor in driving replacements isn’t the need for better performance or a desire for new features, but the expiration of Microsoft technical support for older operating systems. “More than 30 percent of installed PCs are now at least three years old,” Shiffler said. “Many, if not most of these PCs, are using older Windows operating systems that are no longer supported or are about to lose full technical support.”

Gartner sees the PC business continuing to look much as it has done, but on a longer upgrade cycle — perhaps four years rather than three — and minus the boost given by new market penetration. As a result companies are having to make radical shifts in their business models, putting the emphasis on an efficient supply chain and on maintaining the installed base, Shiffler said: “Companies are still adjusting to what’s going on.”

This could be a good opportunity for thin clients and server-centric computing. In developed markets, manageability is going to be a key factor in the coming years.

Local Search

Andy Beal chats with Arnaud Fischer, previously AltaVista product manager from 1999-2001 and currently leading search product planning for InfoSpace’s Search & Directory division. Excerpts:

Inktomi, Google, and others already serve country-specific search results today and geo-targeting at a more granular level will unlock a tremendous amount of value for local advertisers, in addition to serving more relevant content to end-users. The traditional yellow pages market is roughly a $25 billion a year global industry. Many small businesses are awakening to the efficiency and predictability of online marketing, increasingly shifting marketing budgets to Web search and Internet yellow pages. Unlocking that opportunity is no easy task, though.

Search engines are developing ways to disambiguate and adequately address location-specific queries. Geo-targeting Web search content, both organic and paid, requires search engines to better understand users and queries, inferring local intent by extracting geo-signals and leveraging implicit and explicit user profiles. Taking local search marketing services to market is also very different than selling paid listings to online businesses. The vast majority of local businesses still don’t have a Web site, nor the time and expertise to invest in managing sophisticated auction-type listing campaigns.

Sending local content such as yellow page listings, directions, maps and business ratings to mobile devices just makes sense. I remember looking up on my cellular phone the nearest ice-cream parlor from the park a couple years ago with my kid. It worked! The experience was far from optimal, though, scrolling through about 10 to 15 screens I could barely read. Personalization features, geo-based services, faster networks, better handset resolution and color displays should significantly improve the experience over time. The navigation schema, whether search or browse modes, will be critical to make cellular phones a viable platform for both end-users and IYP advertisers. About 90% of mobile phones will be Web-enabled by 2006, making it a more attractive platform for content providers, developers, and information architects to invest time on.

RSS Explained

Dave Winer has started a website to explain RSS 2.0. From the introductory post:

RSS is…

1. A format.

2. Content management tools that generate feeds in the format.

3. Aggregators and readers that subscribe to the feeds.

4. Search engines and utilities that crunch the information and ideas.

5. Services from technology companies like Microsoft and Apple.

6. Authoritative publications like the BBC, The New York Times, CNET, InfoWorld, PC World, Time, Wired, Salon, Yahoo, Reuters — that distribute news and opinion in RSS.

7. Many thousands of weblogs covering virtually every aspect of life on this planet.

8. A vast and growing community of thinkers, writers, educators, public servants, and technologists.

The revolution of RSS is what people are doing with it, what it enables, the way it works for people who use technology, the freedom it offers, and the way it makes timely information, that used to be expensive and for the select-few so inexpensive and broadly available.

RSS is the next thing in Internet and knowledge management. It’s big. A lot bigger than a format.

Google’s Impact on Niche Magazines

Ad Age writes:

Earlier this month at the annual conference of business-to-business group American Business Media, Pat Kenealy, CEO of tech publisher IDG, warned attendees about a foe he believed was underestimated. Google, he noted, could notch $2 billion in advertising this year — some analysts found this low — and said that tech-related advertising made up around 10% of that total.

The killer advertising app for Google — as well as its search competitors like Yahoo! — is its AdWords service, which allows marketers to buy paid-link placement next to searches conducted around keywords they identify. Marketers use AdWords to reach consumers with tightly targeted messages as consumers seek tightly targeted information, which is a decent thumbnail description of business-to-business publishing’s model.

“Google has created a revenue stream from being the card catalog or the newsstand, not the magazine,” Mr. Kenealy said. Those he addressed at the ABM convention “have spent less time than they should looking at what search does to the seeking and finding of specialized information.”

Others see the matter more bluntly. “If Google can slice and dice [information],” said one b-to-b publishing executive, “and give highly qualified users to very targeted advertisers, then what do you need a trade publication for?”

John Battelle responds:

Google will not kill specialized, niche publications. There will *always* be a market for them. Any executive in the trade publishing business that fears Google ought to take a hard look at the value they are creating and see if he isn’t blaming the wrong actor. The world needs editors and analysts. But paper? In many cases where paper has dominated in the past, the answer is no.

The question is whether that market needs or justifies the expense of paper. Paper has graduated to the place television was a couple of decades ago – simply too expensive a proposition (in a wholistic view – to manufacture, print, distribute, etc. ) save for very specific economics – mass market (ie the recent surge of celebrity crap) or highly adapted to execution in the particular medium (ie portability (daily newspapers), or design (Wired), or long form (TNY)). You knew this already, but the new paper – cheap, ubiquitous, malleable – is the internet.

Toyota in Europe

In my Tech Talk series on Good Books, I am discussing “The Toyota Way.” The latest issue of Business Week discusses Toyota’s European plans, where its “stylish models and an innovative, superefficient factory have Renault, Fiat, and other locals worried”:

Toyota, long a marginal player in Europe, is becoming a fearsome market force as it applies itself to winning a bigger share of the Old World’s roadways. Sales in Europe rose 20.6% in the first four months of this year, following a 10.4% leap in 2003, to 835,000 cars — a dramatic performance given that the European market shrank by 1.3% last year. Those gains, fueled partly by the redesigned Yaris, pushed Toyota’s market share in Western Europe to 5.3% in April, up from 4.5% a year ago, overtaking Mercedes and Audi and edging close to Italy’s Fiat. “Every point Toyota gains is hurting the others badly,” says Peter Soliman, partner at Booz Allen Hamilton’s Dsseldorf office.

Toyota is determined to snare even bigger gains in Europe. Its goal is to up its market share there to 8% by 2010. The world’s No. 2 auto maker spent the 1990s slowly acquiring a hefty 11% chunk of the $457 billion U.S. auto market. Industry experts say the Japanese giant has a good shot at becoming one of the leading auto brands in Europe and could well exceed its 8% target. “They are producing cars Europeans really want,” says Garel Rhys, professor of automotive economics at the Cardiff Business School in Wales. “Toyota will become a major competitive threat in Europe now.”

European auto makers have more to fear from Toyota than a handful of hot models. While the Japanese powerhouse was figuring out how to build cars attractive to Europeans, it was also bearing down on costs to wield the efficiency needed to prevail in one of the world’s lowest-margin auto markets. Toyota’s management asked engineers to propose an innovative, cost-saving design for the Valenciennes facility. The result, a compact, star-shaped factory, was a first at Toyota. It features a production area with limited space to store parts or components. The 2 1/2 hours’ worth of inventory on hand is lower than at any other Toyota factory in the world.

Toyota seems to be becoming the Dell of the auto industry.

TECH TALK: Good Books: The Toyota Way (Part 3)

Jeffrey Likers book The Toyota Way goes deep into Toyotas philosophy and operations. From the book description:

Fewer man-hours. Less inventory. The highest quality cars with the fewest defects of any competing manufacturer. In factories around the globe, Toyota consistently raises the bar for manufacturing, product development, and process excellence. The result is an amazing business success story: steadily taking market share from price-cutting competitors, earning far more profit than any other automaker, and winning the praise of business leaders worldwide.

The Toyota Way reveals the management principles behind Toyota’s worldwide reputation for quality and reliability. Dr. Jeffrey Liker, a renowned authority on Toyota’s Lean methods, explains how you can adopt these principles–known as the “Toyota Production System” or “Lean Production”–to improve the speed of your business processes, improve product and service quality, and cut costs, no matter what your industry.

Drawing on his extensive research on Toyota, Dr. Liker shares his insights into the foundational principles at work in the Toyota culture. He explains how the Toyota Production System evolved as a new paradigm of manufacturing excellence, transforming businesses across industries. You’ll learn how Toyota fosters employee involvement at all levels, discover the difference between traditional process improvement and Toyota’s Lean improvement, and learn why companies often think they are Lean–but aren’t.

The Toyota Way, explains Toyota’s unique approach to Lean–the 14 management principles and philosophy that drive Toyota’s quality and efficiency-obsessed culture. You’ll gain valuable insights that can be applied to any organization and any business process, whether in services or manufacturing. Professor Jeffrey Liker has been studying Toyota for twenty years, and was given unprecedented access to Toyota executives, employees and factories, both in Japan and the United States, for this landmark work. The book is full of examples of the 14 fundamental principles at work in the Toyota culture, and how these principles create a culture of continuous learning and improvement. You’ll discover how the right combination of long-term philosophy, process, people, and problem solving can transform your organization into a Lean, learning enterprise–the Toyota Way.

The 14 Toyota Way Principles discussed by Liker are:

  • Base your management decisions on a long-term philosophy even at the expense of short-term financial goals.
  • Create continuous process flow to bring problems to the surface.
  • Use pull systems to avoid overproduction.
  • Level out the workload. (Work like the tortoise, not the hare.)
  • Build a culture of stopping to fix problems, to get quality right the first time.
  • Standardized tasks are the foundation for continuous improvement.
  • Use visual control so no problems are hidden.
  • Use only reliable, thoroughly tested technology that serves your people and processes.
  • Grow leaders who thoroughly understand the work, live the philosophy, and teach it to others.
  • Develop exceptional people and teams who follow your companys philosophy.
  • Respect your extended network of partners and suppliers by challenging them and helping them improve.
  • Go and see for yourself to thoroughly understand the situation.
  • Make decisions slowly, by consensus, thoroughly considering all options ; implement decisions rapidly.
  • Become a learning organization through relentless reflection and continuous improvement.

    Towards the end of the book, Liker also discusses how other organisations can apply the Toyota Way to become better. (If only it were that simple!) The book is a great read full of ideas which can be applied. The Toyota Way evolved over many decades and is embedded deep within its culture. As we in India seek to build great organisations, we could do well to learn from, in Likers words, the worlds greatest manufacturer.

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