E-Commerce Hubs and APIs

Information Week writes: “For Amazon and eBay to grow, these hubs of E-commerce need to open their Web sites to a community of developers who will give their customers the tools they demand.”

Amazon and eBay, in turning themselves into software-development hubs, are once again expanding the possibilities–and increasing the pressure–for any company that wants to be a center of E-commerce. As Amazon and eBay popularize the use of programmable Web sites, other E-businesses might find they, too, want to open their Web sites up to a community of developers–be they independents, or programmers from customers or business partners who want to add their own innovations to a site. “There’s no reason we can’t have thousands of developer communities for thousands of different Web sites, even on a small scale,” says Jeff Barr, Amazon’s technical program manager. Other businesses will find the hard part isn’t exposing the inner workings of a site as Web services but establishing a business model that works with it. “There has to be real sound financial return for doing these things over the long term,” he says.

Google Inc., the search-engine powerhouse that’s preparing for an initial public stock offering, publishes on its Web site an API that lets users write applications that incorporate Google’s search engine. The company doesn’t have formal developer programs like eBay and Amazon do, but it’s a start.

To make this hub-of-development concept work, Amazon and eBay needed to learn how to inspire clever programmers to work on their platforms. They’re succeeding in part because they have the kind of user numbers that interest programmers. But they’re also presenting programmers with a new challenge in the world of Web services: tools and technology for integrating Web platforms. The companies are fast movers when it comes to exposing the capabilities of their platforms at a time when many companies still are cautious about Web-services technology. They’re showing that opening up some of their technology vaults can spur the creation of other software apps that expand their market reach.

Data over IM

Bill Burnham writes:

The heaviest users of instant messaging are about to become computers themselves. In the beginning, IM communication was strictly a human-to-human affair. A few years ago companies starting sending alerts (and increasingly spam) via IM making it a computer-to-human affair. Now, with the advent of Data over Instant Messaging (DIM) technology, IM is rapidly set to become a computer-to-computer affair.

Why send data over IM? One reason is that IM infrastructures have solved a lot of tough technical problems such as firewall traversal, multi-protocol transformation, and real-time presence management. Sending messages over these networks allows applications to leverage the investments made to solve these tough problems. Another reason is that many companies already have IM friendly infrastructures which means that all the necessary firewall ports are open, the clients are already certified and installed, and operations infrastructure like logging, back-up, and even high-availability are already in place. Thus by using IM for computer-to-computer communication, developers are able to hijack all the valuable investment made in IM and use it for a purpose that its creators likely never intended.

ITtoolbox Blogs

Here. “ITtoolbox now features professional blogs, providing viewers with a revealing look into the daily challenges faced by real world IT professionals. Follow along as this select group of authors share their unique perspectives and firsthand experiences from the frontline. Corporate politics, resource constraints, technology challenges . . . what would you do? Learn how these proven experts navigate a challenging terrain to reach success on the job.”

Looks like a nice collection.

Mobile Social Software Apps

elastic space has a list. A sampling:

Jabberwocky / Familiar Strangers: This research project explores our often ignored yet real relationships with Familiar Strangers. We describe several experiments and studies that lead to a design for a personal, body-worn, wireless device that extends the Familiar Stranger relationship while respecting the delicate, yet important, constraints of our feelings and relationships with strangers in pubic places.

Mamjam: One of the first location-based instant messaging platform for mobile phones. Asks the user to input location, and then creates links to others in the same space.

Dodgeball: Tell us where you are and well tell you who and what is around you. Well ping your friends with your whereabouts, let you know when friends-of-friends are within 10 blocks, allow you to broadcast content to anyone within 10 blocks of you or blast messages to your groups of friends.

Blackberry and Beyond

The New York Times writes about the competition:

Today, the BlackBerry faces formidable competition. A well-financed Silicon Valley start-up, Good Technology, has developed software that is arguably superior to BlackBerry’s. It is the first to continuously and wirelessly synchronize every module of Outlook, needing no cradle to connect gadget to computer. The BlackBerry has yet to catch up.

Most significantly, Good has written its software to run on an array of phones and hand-held devices – whatever runs Palm or Microsoft software. Danny Shader, Good’s chief executive, compares his company with the BlackBerry this way: “We’re a Windows application – they’re the Macintosh.”

PalmOne has provided Good with its first major opportunity to become better known with the introduction of the much-praised Treo 600, which offers a terrific phone, a personal digital assistant running the familiar Palm applications, a qwerty keyboard and the option of Good software. A tiny Web browser and a camera are included, too. The Treo is the same length as a BlackBerry and only a half-inch narrower, but it looks svelte.

New users, without a vested interest in a BlackBerry, are likely to choose an e-mail-capable smart phone instead, as soon as prices fall substantially. Ken Dulaney, an analyst with the Gartner Group, predicts that smart-phone buyers in the future will outnumber BlackBerry purchasers 10 to one.

TECH TALK: A Tale of Two Summers: A Personal View

When I look back to 1994, it was an extremely difficult and testing summer. The business I was running had failed and it took a lot of time to accept that. Things that we did then to extricate us out of that business only made us sink deeper into the quicksand. I was at a loss to know what to do then. I had lost confidence in my ability to think and do the right thing. But as they say, there is light at the end of every tunnel. Even in those depressing days, rays of hope started emerging as I started thinking from scratch on what I wanted to do next. When things are not working, one can either spend time brooding over all that has gone wrong, or begin to start looking ahead at what can be done. As an entrepreneur, one has to accept that success and failure are two sides of the same coin. One journey had ended, and another was about to begin.

Of course, it is much easier to analyse things in hindsight. That same objectivity is harder when one is living through it all. So, as I look at the recently elapsed summer of 2004, in some ways, the challenges are similar. There is a current business which we have struggled to make profitable over the past couple years, and at the same time, there are many new ideas which we have explored in parallel. While few of these may have worked to our liking, my approach tends to be to accentuate the positive and see the things that dont go right as learnings. And of these, there have been plenty of late. But once again, in the far distance, one can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Only time will tell whether that was a mirage!

As one seeks to build out new worlds, it is very important to envision the future and imagine it to a Disneyland-like level of detail of what it can be. Where others see air, one has to see wireless transmissions of voice and data. Where others see tables, one has to see keyboards and screens. Where others see pain points, one has to see opportunities. Where others see past inventions that did not work, one has to see innovations that were stepping stones to the real thing.

It is at times like these that one has to turn inside to ones Gut, ones Intuition. Just like when Madhuri Dixit talks about love to her friend in the movie Dil To Pagal Hai that one will know from the inside (the heart) when one meets the right person, so to is the case between the Entrepreneur and the right idea/vision. Ones inside tells the outside. So it was for me in 1994, and so it feels now.

Tomorrow: A Rainbow of Revolutions

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