Reversioning Solutions

Seth’s Blog writes that:

there are entire classes of products and services (from charities to political parties to cars) that are about to be completely reversioned. The accumulating weight of new technology, new networking abilities and ecological and economic demands means that incremental band aid improvements cease to pay off and instead, wholesale replacement occurs.

Think iPod. The iPod is not a better CD player. It’s part of a totally new system. China has the luxury of starting from scratch (though it appears, based on the sales of Maybachs and Land Rovers, they’re blowing it the same way others have), but either way, it’s going to happen to just about every industry.

Imagine the network effects that will occur when your industry gets networked and rebuilt and reinvented.

He gices an example of what could constitute a car sold in China. We need a similar reinvention of the computing industry for the emerging markets.

Defining Success

Shrikant Patil quotes from the welcome address by Subroto Bagchi, COO of MindTree Consulting, to the Class of 2006 at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore: “Success to me is about Vision. It is the ability to rise above the immediacy of pain. It is about imagination. It is about sensitivity to small people. It is about building inclusion. It is about connectedness to a larger world existence. It is about personal tenacity. It is about giving back more to life than you take out of it. It is about creating extra-ordinary success with ordinary lives.”

Gartner on XP Starter Windows writes that Gartner’s suggestion is to “steer away.”

Gartner analysts Dion Wiggins and Martin Gilliland noted that missing features in the Windows XP Starter Edition would frustrate users and claimed that its limited software upgrade path would “likely increase software piracy.”

Targeted at first-time users, the operating system has had some features removed, such as file-sharing, print-sharing and support for local area networks.

In its report, Gartner agreed that such home-networking functions have “little relevance” to Microsoft’s target audience. However, it chided the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant for imposing other restrictions, such as allowing users to run only three applications at a time.

The research firm also cited security as an issue, particularly the provision of patches and updates for users with slow and expensive Internet connections.

“Many citizens who do not own a PC are already familiar with basic PC use from cybercafes and schools,” wrote Wiggins, vice president and research director of Gartner Research and Advisory Services. “Windows XP Starter Edition is likely to frustrate these users, as it is not delivering the same quality experience due to the limitations imposed.”

Amazon CTO Interview

Excerpt from the interview with Al Vermeulen:

InformationWeek: How would you describe Amazon’s services-oriented architecture? What are the components?

Vermeulen: There’s a host of them, probably 15 or 20, maybe more, and they range from components like personalization and search applications, to fulfillment applications, supply-chain services, and on and on. The basis is, let’s think about everything we do at and about how we break it up into individual pieces, smaller pieces. What we try to do is break apart a piece of the business. From a technology point of view, that becomes a service. From an organizational point of view, it becomes an autonomous team with their own mission, and then we work on defining the interface to get to that service. We try to solidify that interface and make it permanent and robust. It’s kind of a bottom-up, decentralized way of building your technology, as opposed to a top-down way where you try to make all the technology look like one piece.

Systems Builder

Richard MacManus points to a ComputerWorld article by Michael Hugos who writes:

got into the IT business because I love to design and build systems. After doing a lot of designing and building and watching others do a lot of designing and building, one of the most important things I’ve learned is that successful projects are always run by a certain kind of person. This person can speak both the language of technology and the language of business. This person understands the specific business issues that a new system is supposed to address and is always looking for simple and effective ways to use technology to get things done. I call this person the systems builder.

The competence of the systems builder goes a long way toward determining the success or failure of any development project.

Often, the systems builder comes up through the technical ranks and learns about business along the way. Sometimes the systems builder comes up through the business side and manages to learn about technology. Either way, this is someone who can clearly demonstrate skills in two main areas: designing systems and leading projects to build systems.

Michael discusses five skills that the systems builders needs:
– Understand the business operation.
– Create an inclusive process.
– Tolerate not knowing.
– Look for the simple underlying patterns.
– Use simple combinations of technology and process.

TECH TALK: Reinventing Computing: Looking Ahead

The computing industry has had a great run for the past two decades. With hardware and software working in tandem to get users to upgrade every four years or so, the resulting price dips have got a new wave of users each time. The result is that the worlds computer user base stands at about 600 million. That is no mean accomplishment.

Yet, the benefits of computing have been largely limited to the developed markets and the very top of the pyramid in the emerging markets. In India, for example, the installed base of computers is only about 10-12 million. Even though Indians are buying 300,000 computers each month, this growth pales in comparison to that of cellphones. About 1.5 million new mobiles are being purchased every month on a much larger installed base of 35 million. The story is quite similar in many other emerging markets, though other than China, the quantities are much lower.

More than the cellphone, it is the computer which has the potential to transform the future for the worlds emerging markets. Be it education or healthcare, governance or business, entertainment or communications, the computers versatility can help overcome some of the infrastructure gaps that exist in these markets, and open up new vistas for businesses, consumers and students.

Yet, computing for emerging markets suffers from four key problems: affordability, desirability, accessibility and manageability. Even as there are efforts to make computing more affordable (as hardware prices continue to fall and Microsoft considers lower-cost versions of its Windows operating system in local languages), the challenges in taking computing to the next users are much deeper.

Unlike most other industries, the computer industry has two giants in Intel and Microsoft which control the supply of two most important components. The rest of the industry revolves around Intels CPU and Microsofts Windows-Office combo. If computing has to be made available to the next-generation of users, this Wintel stranglehold needs to be broken.

Various visions of the future of computing have been put forward. From Mark Weisers ubiquitous computing dream to Don Normans information appliances as invisible computers to the human-centred computing ideas of Michael Dertouzos, Jef Raskin and Ben Shneiderman, there have been various efforts to define the future of computing. Many companies have also tried to create alternative platforms. The Network Computer and WebTV are two examples from the past. The Simputer is one effort from the present. AMDs soon-to-be-launched $200 Emma, Smartphones like the Treo 600 and Apples iPoD are, perhaps, harbingers of the future.

All such prognostications and products have suffered from two flaws. First, their primary focus has been on the developed markets where computers have a near-universal penetration. They tend to ignore todays non-users in the worlds emerging markets. Second, they have looked at only one or two dimensions of the computing ecosystem. As I will argue later, what is needed is a set of rainbow revolutions to make a difference.

To reinvent computing, six challenges need to be overcome, five goals need to be met, and seven revolutions need to happen. This is what will start the next 12-year tech cycle which will bring in the billion users across the worlds emerging markets.

Tomorrow: Six Challenges

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