The Great Work

Atanu sent me this quote by Tony Kushner, which is worth repeating here and imbibing: “At every moment in every person’s life there is work to be done, always work to be done, some of it small, some of it Great. The Great Work, in a sense, always has to do with healing the world, changing the world, and, as a necessary predicate to that, understanding the world. You rise every morning aware that you are called to this work. You won’t live to see it finished. But if you can’t hear it calling, you aren’t listening hard enough. It’s always calling, sometimes in a big voice, sometimes in a quiet voice.”

e-Cinema

[via Atanu] Business Line (via i4d) writes about how a transformation is taking place in Indian cinema viewing in interior India:

e-Cinema is a very simple and efficient solution, using digital technology, to cut the problem of film piracy. Adlabs Films Ltd, the country’s largest film processing company, have already helped 130 cinema halls to upgrade to `e-cinema’ using digital projection. The investment required per screen is Rs 10-12 lakh and is done entirely by the Adlabs. The cinema owner is only required to share revenues for the next three years.

One of the main reasons for film piracy in India is the time that it takes for Bollywood films to reach smaller towns. Given the total number of cinema halls in the country at over 16,000, it takes six months to a year for the last cinema hall in the chain to get a new release. Adlabs digitises every new film and downloads it into the servers of 130 cinema halls that it has helped retrofit with digital projectors and servers. That enables the viewers in small cities to watch the movies at the same time as their counterparts in the metros.

Soon, the process is set to become faster with the company tying up with VSAT (very small aperture terminal{rcub} operators to download the content via satellite directly into the cinema hall’s servers.

It has another benefit. If you don’t want to shell out Rs 100 for a movie in a top multiplex all the time, opt for e-Cinema theatre. The highest ticket cost at an e-cinema is Rs 22.

The company has not only upgraded halls in smaller towns in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and West Bengal, it is also taking the concept to metros where people are not willing to shell out in excess of Rs 100 to watch a movie at a top multiplex. Accordingly, two e-cinema halls have been opened in Mumbai.

Combine this with the multiplexes coming up to cater to urban audiences and you have a completely different viewing experience across the board in India.

BlinkX

Om Malik is excited about BlinkX which combines desktop and Internet search:

While Google is all about keyword search, BlinkX is all about contextual search. Let me explain. Say you are reading through a big Microsoft Word document, on I dont know European Union policies on data transfer, the BlinkX bar at the top of the page, will retrieve relevant news item links with brief summaries (only visible when a mouse moves over the link) and other important links. At the bottom of the results a tiny ad which is in a color different from the results, so that you always know it is a paid advertisement. The software basically reads the entire document and builds a contextual link database on the fly.

It can do the same for a web page you are reading. For instance, if you were reading my piece on Cisco buying Procket, you would get links to all relevant news articles on the web, and links to Cisco and Procket homepages. However, the fun begins when you open the client software (which sits in the system tray.) It has a simple entry window. Lets say you put Napa and Sonoma County. It searches and brings back the web for news, Amazon for books, websites of relevance, e-commerce links and but more importantly any documents, emails etc related to that subject on your desktop.

Salesforce.com

The Economist writes about the company’s emergence as a harbinger of a new model for software:

Although their audiences are differentthe sales departments of companies for Salesforce.com, consumers all over the world for Googletheir technological visions are similar. Both have achieved success by finding new and simple ways for people to use their web browser. Google has done this by improving the way that people find information; Salesforce.com by enabling the salespeople of companies to access and manage all their information on clients’ accounts, and to market through a simple web page that intentionally looks a bit like Amazon’s or eBay’s.

The second generation of ASPs is different. When Salesforce.com signs up a new client, it simply creates an account on the software platform that ties together its farms of server-computers. In investor jargon, it therefore has huge operating leverage: the initial start-up costs for hardware and software were high, but since break-even each new client’s revenues have been almost pure profit. Salesforce.com made its first profit, of $3.5m, in the fiscal year that ended in January. It has signed up 9,800 firms with 147,000 subscribers.

Although still small, Salesforce.com has already caused an upheaval in the CRM industry. Rival start-ups with similar business models have emerged, such as RightNow Technologies, NetSuite and SalesNet. The CRM industry’s leaders, Siebel Systems and PeopleSoft, have lost some momentum to Salesforce.com and have belatedly started offering their software as a service through the web. This leaves them awkwardly praising their fledgling web offerings while at the same time preaching that the old model of selling software, their revenue mainstay, is still the best way for most customers.

They use two main arguments against the ASPs. First, software as a service is much harder to customise for the special needs of big firms. Second, it is harder to make it work with a firm’s existing software applications. Companies want their CRM to integrate with their billing system and everything else, says George Ahn, the CRM boss at PeopleSoft. Salesforce.com’s mottoNo Softwareis thus hot air, says Mr Ahn, because it takes lots of software and fiddling to get it to link to the rest of a client’s systems. There is no magic pixie dust that makes integration go away.

Mr Benioff shrugs. The evolutionary advance of the second generation of ASPs over the first is precisely that customers can now customise their pages, as easily as consumers arrange their Yahoo! or AOL pages to their liking. And the task of integration too has been solved. In fact, argues Mr Benioff, clients can do themselves a favour by letting Salesforce.com worry about hooking their various systems together. Increasingly, the vision says, all that users need to understand is how to navigate a web page, leaving them to get on with life. That is the same for Salesforce.com as for Google.

How can Google Grow?

Philip Greenspun writes:

If Google is to reach and sustain a Microsoft-style valuation perhaps the best way for them to do this is by providing alternatives to what Microsoft provides. Microsoft is the kind of desktop applications. You buy software from a store and install it on your machine. If a new version comes out you figure out how to buy and install an upgrade. If you get a new computer you spend several days reinstalling all of your applications, probably buying new copies of the ones whose installation CD-ROMs you can’t find anymore. If you’re traveling and need to edit a document or spreadsheet, tough luck. All of your data is trapped on your home or office computer.

In the Internet enthusiasm of the 1990s various people predicted that desktop applications would be replaced by Web-based applications For most users this has come true in the case of email. If you’re a Hotmail or Google Mail user you can read email from any Internet-connected computer in the world. There are a fair number of Internet-based photo sharing and database services. What is then left on one’s PC? Word processing, spreadsheet, and PowerPoint documents. If Google were to offer a private database service and a suite of reasonably powerful application programs usable from a Web browser, this might be a serious competitor to Microsoft Office.

So that’s my prediction: while Microsoft is trying to replace Google with MSN Search, Google will be trying to replace Microsoft Office with Google Web-based Office.

TECH TALK: Tech Trends: 1. Digitisation

The fundamental driver across the technology landscape is digitisation once things move from atoms to bits, or analog to digital, it becomes possible to do a wide array of transformations which previously were not possible. For example, take music. For a long time, as the industry has shifted to digital content, it has become possible to not only time-shift consumption via customised playlists on devices like Apples iPod, but also to distribute it via the Internet for nearly zero-cost, fundamentally undermining the business model of the industry. Something similar is happening in telecom with voice-over-IP. Traditional telcos are realising that the ability to digitise voice and transmit it not over proprietary networks but over the Internet threatens their core business and customer relationship.

The digitisation of information and business processes means that countries like India can use their low-cost advantage to offer outsourced services to global organisations. The process that began with the availability of the personal computer a quarter-century ago is now cutting across the value chain, creating an end-to-end integrated digital flow. From our homes to enterprises, digitisation is the starting point for many disruptive innovations as part of creative destruction, driving significant changes across industries, bringing not just change but also opportunity in a world thats becoming smaller and smaller.

Thomas Friedman wrote recently in the New York Times about Globalisation 3.0:

The first era [of globalization], from the late 1800’s to World War I, was driven by falling transportation costs, thanks to the steamship and the railroad. That was Globalization 1.0, and it shrank the world from a size large to a size medium. The second big era, Globalization 2.0, lasted from the 1980’s to 2000, was based on falling telecom costs and the PC, and shrank the world from a size medium to a size small. Now we’ve entered Globalization 3.0, and it is shrinking the world from size small to a size tiny. That’s what this outsourcing of white-collar jobs is telling us and it is going to require some wrenching adjustments for workers and political systems.

Globalization 3.0 was produced by three forces: First is the massive installation of undersea fiber-optic cable and bandwidth (thanks to the dot-com bubble) that have made it possible to globally transmit and store huge amounts of data for almost nothing. Second is the diffusion of PC’s around the world. And third (what I missed most) is the convergence of a variety of software applications from e-mail, to Google, to Microsoft Office, to specially designed outsourcing programs that, when combined with all those PC’s and bandwidth, made it possible to create global “work-flow platforms.

Tomorrow: Digital Convergence

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