Leadership’s Lasting Lessons

Knowledge@Wharton writes about a new book – “Lasting Leadership: Lessons from the 25 Most Influential Business People of Our Times.”

Lasting Leadership also identifies eight attributes of leadership, each of which has its own chapter in the book, that are evident to varying degrees in these individuals.

1. They are able to build a strong corporate culture.
2. They are truth-tellers.
3. They are able to find and cater to under-served markets.
4. They can “see the invisible” – that is, spot potential winners or faint trends before their rivals or customers.
5. They are adept at using price to build competitive advantage.
6. They excel at managing and building their organization’s brand (which in some cases may be their own name).
7. They are fast learners.
8. They are skilled at managing risk.

VoIP Applications

ACM Queue wirites that VoIP is much more than just “an IP version of telecom-as-usual”:

Network and service providers see VoIP technology as a means of reducing their cost of offering existing voice-based services and new multimedia services. Service providers also view VoIP infrastructure as an economical base on which to build new revenue-generating services. As deployment of VoIP technology becomes widespread and part of a shared competitive landscape, this second goal will become more important, with service providers working to increase their market bases.

Most current and envisioned VoIP services are so-called converged services, integrating features and functions from multiple existing services. Often, features from conventional voice-based telephony services are combined with those found in data network services. For example, click-to-dial services allow users to control telephone calls from Web browsers running on their personal computers. Converged services may also provide users with new media integration. For example, multimedia conference services allow users to interact with each other through calls in which they exchange both audio and video information (i.e., new versions of videophones).

The growing opportunities for converged telephony-Web services are motivating convergence of telephony and data networks. VoIP services are also driving another network convergence: integration of wireless and wireline networks. More general network convergence seems likely. Because IP networks can be relatively inexpensive, network providers are encouraged to build common IP core networks surrounded by various access networks. These access networks (wireless, wireline, cable, etc.) can share the IP core resources, and thus reduce the costs of providing common services to customers with different access devices.

Many engaging VoIP services are already available, and service providers are planning even more exciting services. Continued deployment of IP networks and IP endpoint devices will enable further development of new services. Also, as the processing capacity of IP endpoints increasesallowing them to deal directly with network access controls, multiple data formats, and transformationsmore innovative and convenient services will become possible.

Jon Udell has more.


Wi-Fi Networking News points to a recent Economist article:

UWB has been around for many years in various forms. But in the next few months it will finally make its first appearance in consumer-electronics products. This ought to be cause for rejoicing, for UWB is a low-power technology that supports data-transfer rates measured in hundreds of megabits per second over short distances (such as between two devices in the same room). UWB thus has the potential to do away with the spaghetti behind computers and home-entertainment systems. It will allow camcorders and digital cameras to beam images directly to televisions or PCs. It could even enable your computer to update your portable music player with your latest downloads automatically as you walk past.

Unlike conventional radio transmitters, which transmit on a particular frequency and which cannot be picked up if the receiver is slightly mistuned, UWB devices broadcast at very low power over an extremely wide band of frequencies. This has the advantage that UWB signals can be picked up by suitably designed receivers, but resemble background noise to conventional radio receivers, which are listening on one particular frequency. Conventional and UWB radios can therefore coexist. And that is why America’s telecoms regulator, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), ruled in February 2002 that UWB devices could operate across a broad swathe of the radio spectrum, from 3.1GHz to 10.6GHz, without requiring spectrum licences.

This unusual approach makes UWB very different from Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, two other unlicensed radio technologies. Rather than operating (as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth do) in unlicensed garbage bands, the radio equivalent of unused wasteland, UWB devices operate across frequency bands that are already licensed for various other purposes, including satellite broadcasts, global-positioning systems and telematics. By keeping power levels low, however, UWB devices can co-exist with these existing systemsan approach known as underlay access. Where Wi-Fi exploits the radio equivalent of wasteland, UWB is like being able to build underground. Its novel approach liberates huge amounts of hitherto untapped transmission capacity.

HP’s SME Services

InfoWorld writes about HP’s plans to make “commPuting” a utility:

HP will begin selling managed IT and communications services next year to small and medium-size businesses in three continents, offering Internet access, servers, voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) and help desk calls at fixed monthly rates, an HP official said.

The service, called HP Ready Office, has been in pilot in France since May. It will be rolled out there in the first half of next year, in partnership with France Telecom SA, which provides the communications services, and Alcatel SA, which provides IP telephony equipment.

HP is betting that smaller businesses — those with up to about 1,000 employees — would prefer to “lease” servers and IP phones for a fixed fee, and have their equipment managed remotely by an experienced IT provider. Mateo cited having a single point of contact for all support calls as a key benefit. In France, France Telecom will receive the calls, with the IT queries handled by HP behind the scenes.

The services will be offered in a variety of packages. A help desk component is 24.90 ($20.26) per employee per month. It includes support calls for desktop applications, as well as remote management and diagnostics of desktop PCs, including non-HP systems.

For 48.50 per month, customers receive a HP Proliant Server with an 80GB hard drive running Microsoft (Profile, Products, Articles) Corp.’s Windows Small Business Server 2003. The price includes the hardware itself and remote management services. Customers must sign up for a minimum of three years. A similar server with two hard drives and RAID is 62 per month, Mateo said.

The VOIP component is 17 per line per month, with services hosted by France Telecom on Alcatel’s PBX equipment. A DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) connection from France Telecom’s Olane business is 59 per month.

PMC Sierra’s Open Source Network Computing Initiative

PMC-Sierra press release:

PMC-Sierra, Inc. announced its Open Source Network Computing (NC) initiative to enable rapid commercialization of low power thin client solutions for education, enterprise, self-service kiosks, retail displays, Internet cafes, and advanced video-on-demand. PMC-Sierra’s open source NC solution, the PMC Xiao Hu(TM) (pronounced ‘Sha hu’, meaning “Little Tiger”), is a commercially available single board thin client solution co-developed with China’s Tsinghua University, MIPS Technologies, Inc., and ATI Technologies, Inc. The combination of the PMC Xiao Hu board with Linux software and MIPS-Powered(TM) processor achieves significant reduction in power and costs compared to the traditional desktop PC approach:

— 90% reduction in power
— 70% reduction in IT administration costs
— 50% reduction in hardware costs

The PMC Xiao Hu solution is an ideal computing platform for classrooms, Internet cafes, smart terminals, point-of-sales terminals, video kiosks, security cameras, and robotics.

The PMC Xiao Hu is a Development Kit containing a working prototype of an open source network computing system along with fully documented hardware and software reference designs. The hardware reference design comprises schematics and PCB layout; the software reference design has build instructions for a boot loader, Linux kernel and thin client protocol applications (see Figure 2). The PMC Xiao Hu Development Kit is available now and priced at $199 per kit.

Interesting. Could make a good platform for $50 network computers.

For Macromedia, the Future Belongs to Non-PCs

Knowledge@Wharton spoke to Macromedia CEO Robert Burgess:

Burgess: Now we see a huge new trend happening in which we’re very involved – which is making products for “non-PCs.” A lot of people are calling that the “mobile” market – including us – but it’s so much more than mobile. It involves TV sets and DVDs and game machines and educational toys – as well as phones and PDAs.

We just had NTT DoCoMo in here this morning. The Japanese mobile telecom company is one of our biggest customers. Some 13% of Japan’s population today has a Flash-based phone, and we got going with them just a year and a half ago. DoCoMo ships almost a million phones a month – all of their two-and-a-half G and 3G phones.

The content ecosystem that is developing in Japan around Flash is absolutely phenomenal. There are several thousand web sites now supplying Flash content, and it’s simply because, as human beings, we’re multi-sensory creatures. To the extent you get more senses into the game, people like [it] more – cognition happens more quickly. So now, on the trains, it used to be that people would be banging away on e-mail. Now they’re banging away on games. It’s phenomenal.

Japan is the earliest business opportunity for mobile. The phones are more powerful there, and the networks are more powerful. DoCoMo was the first major mobile operator to make Flash part of its strategy. They had Java in their phones, and then they decided to differentiate with Flash.

Knowledge@Wharton: If the CD-ROM drove the first wave of your growth, and the Internet drove the second wave, what is going to drive the third wave of your growth?

Burgess: Non-PCs – and it’s the biggest of them all. It is all of these devices. Pick up any magazine today – filled with all the gadgets and TVs and DVDs. I expect that we will have relationships with consumer electronic companies where they will be buying copies of Flash in the hundreds of millions. I expect Flash to be bundled into devices of all different sorts. It’s already starting. The value proposition is so clear – great experience, low bandwidth, millions of developers that can target that platform. And all from a company that is non-competitive with them.

TECH TALK: The Network Computer: Making It Happen

My belief is that the likes of Intel, Microsoft, Sun, Oracle and Google are not the ones who will build and capitalise on this new platform. The company or the set of companies to build the network computer and the grid will emerge from the developing countries.

For the likes of Intel and Microsoft, the network computer is a disruptive innovation. Their existing customers in the developed markets are not asking for it. These companies, even though they have the greatest resources at their disposal, are unlikely to want to upset their gravy train of billions of dollars in profits from today’s users of computers each of whom is well ensconced in an upgrade cycle that delivers new hardware and software every few years.

Intel doesn’t really have an emerging market strategy. It offers its dollar-denominated chips to these markets with the belief that as the economies grow, adoption will increase. And so it has been happening. Growth is 30-40% in countries like India and China. The irony is that it could be many times that if the network computer were integrated with the rest of the ecosystem (grid, broadband, software and content).

Microsoft’s emerging market strategy seems to be low-cost, limited functionality, local language versions of Windows XP (called Starter Editions). This is a flawed approach, as I wrote recently on my weblog: Microsoft is caught between piracy, non-consumption and Linux in the developing markets. Rather than low-cost, reduced functionality Windows, it should look at reducing cost of the desktop computers (think thin clients) and running Windows off centralised platforms, with a pricing of $1 per month. Not just the limited versions, but the full-featured versions. But this requires Microsoft to think not like a monopoly but like a utility company. [Also see some of the comments from readers as part of this post.]

Google is the other option. It has the reach and the cash to bring such a strategy to market. But it will not focus on devices. It will continue to focus on software, and will probably opt for the browser as network computer approach. It will build out services on its computing platform and work on delivering them to desktops, cellphones and other devices via a Google-branded browser. Google is after all a media company, and is focused on increasing the space that it has to serve its ads. [One could argue that controlling the virtual desktop on the network computer would be the ultimate prize of them all.] What Google lacks, like Intel and Microsoft, is an understanding of emerging markets.

The opportunity then is for a new network of companies, each focused on key elements of the emerging computing ecosystem. This company has to be born in the emerging markets because these will be the first markets. Local context is important, and it is hard to get this when management is sitting a few timezones away. This is the opportunity for entrepreneurs in India. So far, we have been offering services on computers to global companies. The time has now come to offer computing as a service to our own brethren and their ilk across the developing countries, the middle and bottom of the global pyramid. Can we do it?

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