Infosys’s Next Frontiers

Business 2.0 writes:

[Infosys CEO Nandan] Nilekani’s consulting gambit exhibits both in abundance. It’s based on a premise that Infosys’s outsourcing model is not only a cheaper mousetrap but also a better one. “Like Dell, like Wal-Mart, we’ve created a genuine business-model innovation,” he says. “We’ve created a new way of organizing workers without regard to distance.” Having firmly established Infosys’s back-end credibility in code writing and system integration, Nilekani sees the front end — consulting and services — as its next frontier. “It’s like Wal-Mart getting into groceries or Dell getting into printers,” he says. “On top of our global delivery model, we’re adding these new capabilities at the point of customer contact.”

It would be easy enough to conclude that Nilekani is suffering from delusions of grandeur. IT consulting and services are people businesses, in which perception and reputation matter greatly. They are businesses dominated by the likes of Accenture, BearingPoint, and IBM — large, powerful, deep-pocketed outfits with armies of experienced professionals and sprawling networks of relationships in boardrooms around the world. A number of Infosys’s Indian rivals, such as Wipro and Tata, have already attempted to seize a chunk of this lucrative territory. And what they’ve learned so far is that gaining ground is much simpler said than done.

Yet while grandeur may be one of Nilekani’s goals, deluded he is not. He knows just how crucial the human factor is. That’s why, in launching Infosys Consulting, the first thing he did was hire an all-star team to run it, full of consultants from Deloitte, EDS, and IBM. He’s also aware that, nevertheless, Infosys faces what he calls “a difficult road ahead.” But he can and does take comfort from the fact that the incumbent IT services giants face a rocky road themselves. “They have the relationships and domain knowledge,” he says, “but their delivery models are obsolete. For them the challenge is to retool, to adapt to our model, to take costs out of their supply chains. And we think that transition will be more painful for them than ours will be for us.”

Nilekani may be right about that, but Infosys has more than one transition on its hands. In India, where the company has long had the pick of the litter when it comes to hiring engineers — every year Infosys receives an astonishing 1 million job applications — competition for talent is intensifying and wages are rising. At the same time, countries such as Russia and China are likely to emerge as players in the worldwide tech economy, undercutting India as a provider of low-cost engineering. Finally, there’s the possibility that this year’s outsourcing controversy in the United States was only a mild preview of a full-scale backlash to come — one that could include protectionist measures designed to kneecap Infosys and its compatriots.

Exploding TV – Contd

Jeff Jarvis adds:

Learn lessons from the explosion of the print industry thanks to the advent of online:

Many of the big players will be new players — video Googles, Yahoos, Netscapes (RIP), eBays, Amazons, CraigsLists, and so on. Oh, there’ll be money made by the old guys in addressable video; they’ll make it sooner. But eventually, the subsversive companies will do to video what, for example, CraigsList has done to papers.

Walled gardens (AOL = cable MSOs; Pathfinder = oldstyle networks) will not prevail. Open, distributed, ad hoc networks will win.

Interactivity won’t mean pushing a button to get “more about this” while you watch a TV show (as ITV is now defined, insultingly and boringly). Interactivity will mean recommending TV shows to the rest of the world, remixing TV shows, making TV shows: citizens’ TV.

New tools and citizen producers will reduce the cost of producing TV to a comparative nil and there goes the barrier to entry to video.

Christensen on Microsoft and Linux

Slashdot points to a ZDNet article:

Management guru Clayton Christensen has a paradoxical answer for Microsoft to the challenge posed by open source: invest in Linux applications for handheld devices.

Open source is a clear disruption to Microsoft and the software industry in general, Christensen told attendees at the Future Forward technology conference here on Thursday.

“Where Linux takes root is in new applications, like Web servers and handheld devices. As those get better, applications will get sucked off the desktop onto the Internet, and that’s what will undo Microsoft,” he said.

The software company can respond to this market disruption by setting up a separate business that will “kill Microsoft,” Christensen said. If it doesn’t react to the rise of Linux desktops on handheld computers, it will miss a coming wave of new applications and market opportunities, he said.

In Microsoft’s case, Linux applications on handheld devices are a threat to its lucrative business of selling desktop PC applications for its Windows operating system.

“As computing becomes Internet-centric, rather than LAN (local-area network)-centric, their stuff runs on Linux, because it’s all new,” he said. He noted that people increasingly leave their laptop PCs at home when they travel and instead rely on handheld devices, such as Research In Motion’s BlackBerry.

Linux also provides a cheap, commoditylike alternative to Windows — the basis of Microsoft’s business. Although Linux didn’t use to be as functional as Windows or Unix, adoption of the operating system grew rapidly because it met the needs of simple applications and is relatively cheap. A similar dynamic is now occurring in the database market with open-source products such as MySQL, Christensen said.

Christensen said that Microsoft should move progressively into Linux applications over the next six or seven years, because that sector will offer better opportunities for growth than operating systems or databases. He suggested that Microsoft acquire Research In Motion to accelerate the move, rather than continue to invest in making Windows run better on handheld devices.

“As the BlackBerry becomes more capable, applications will get sucked onto it. Those are kind of places where growth is,” he said. “If Microsoft catches it, they’ll be all right.”

Content Networks Deliver On-Demand Apps

InfoWorld writes about how Akamai and Speedera are “shifting focus to tackle the on-demand delivery of distributed applications”:

Akamai’s new Web applications, offered through its EdgeComputing service, address common computing-intensive services such as site search and processes including user prioritization and registration.

Through an existing partnership with IBM, Akamai runs WebSphere app servers on its distributed overlay network of servers. This enables the Akamai network to take on Java application processing, said Kieran Taylor, director of product management at Akamai.

Other offerings for on-demand computing address scalability and processing, Taylor said. Akamai’s ability to push application processing closer to end-users overcomes a key issue of performance, he said.

Speedera’s new FlexComputing service allows enterprises to deploy applications on its distributed network, tapping the benefits of capacity on demand, and increasing scalability and reliability. In addition, dynamic content can be created on application servers at Points of Presence on Speedera’s network. FlexComputing lets businesses plug into an application utility, which provides bandwidth, and storage on demand, with pricing based on usage.

What we are seeing is the emergence of the applications grid.

Red Hat CEO Interview

Exceprts from an InfoWorld interview with Michael Tiemann, who was in India recently:

IDGNS: Are you seeing a lot of participation in open source development by Indian developers ?

MT: There is no question that there are Indian developers participating in open source, and Red Hat certainly has a number of them. We are localizing Fedora (the free open-source operating system project) for six different Indian languages, and we are getting a lot of participation from the community on that. At the same time, I dont see as many people in leading positions in India wanting to be known as open source developers. Maybe it is a little bit like the way things were in the U.S. maybe 10 years ago. People work for companies, they feel loyal to the company, and what some people dont understand is that one can be loyal to the company, and at the same time develop open source.

IDGNS: What is the biggest challenge for the open source community ?

MT: The biggest challenge right now is that there are not nearly as many open source developers as there could be. The biggest challenge right now is getting more people excited (about open source development). The open source community is a challenging environment to work in. Opinions are very strongly held, and it is not really who you are, but what you can do (that counts). Some developers respond positively to the meritocracy of open source, and some do not at all.

Telecom’s Future

WSJ has an interview with Sprint’s CEO Gary Forsee:

WSJ: How will the average American household get its phone, wireless and Internet service 10 years from now?

MR. FORSEE: What’s going to happen more over time is the experience will be the same between devices — whether you’re mobile, or whether you’re fixed in the home or in the office. The typical home will have broadband access from the cable or the phone company. And there will be a device that will work across [networks], so that experience is the same: When the phone gets into the home zone, that phone will work over that broadband facility. Obviously, there’s going to be a lot of users with only one device that will have cut the cord and all their usage will be satisfied by that mobile device.

WSJ: In what ways might we see telecommunications converging with other technologies?

MR. FORSEE: One that really is significant is the ability [to have] integrated access to work. If you’re in your office or if you’re in a Wi-Fi hot spot, or if you’re traveling using one of our air cards [in a laptop], then the network and your laptop or PDA ought to be smart enough to seek out the best network. We have that product, [and it] will be out in the fourth quarter. We want to provide a more integrated experience, which we’re uniquely positioned to do because we own those two networks.

WSJ: How long will it be before all, or most, voice is over wireless?

MR. FORSEE: Over 40% of the long-distance minutes are now going over wireless. That’s an incredible number. If you take a typical household, I think in the next 10 years, 50% of the voice traffic at a minimum will be carried over wireless. And my guess would be that in that 10-year period of time, 30% of households would be wireless-only households.

TECH TALK: Massputers, Redux: AMDs $185 computer

This week, AMD will launch its Personal Internet Communicator (PIC). Priced at $185 (without monitor) and $249 (with a monitor), it is aimed squarely at the next users of computing. First, a look at the details:

InfoWorld: AMD estimates that more than 200 million households around the world with sufficient incomes to support a PC have yet to purchase a system. These potential users might not even realize they can afford a computer until they are presented with a low-cost product like the PIC, the company said. The PIC is a small form factor desktop designed for simplicity and affordability. A customized version of Microsofts Corp.’s Windows operating system and basic application software ships with each system. Most of the software settings are locked in before the system ships in the hopes that users won’t break any applications, and service calls can be kept to a minimum. AMD’s Geode GX500 embedded processor powers the bare-bones system. It also comes with 128M bytes of DDR (double data rate) SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM), a 10G-byte hard drive, four USB (Universal Serial Bus) ports for the USB keyboard and mouse and a monitor. The PIC machine also includes a modem. [AMD] also specifies a version of Microsoft’s Windows CE operating system, fitted with Windows XP-extensions, allowing it to provide consumers with a graphical interface, e-mail, Web browsing, instant messaging and word processing. The PIC machines will also be able to play multimedia files and show PDF and PowerPoint files, AMD said. The performance (of a PIC machine) is very robust, said Steve Howard, an AMD spokesman. It boots in 25 seconds, and, once loaded, the browser performance is very snappy and word processing and spreadsheet is equivalent to what you’d see in a PC today.

The Wall Street Journal adds: One key to the AMD effort is the Geode, an inexpensive line of chips purchased from National Semiconductor Corp. The chip in the communicator draws just a watt of power, a fraction of the power consumption of AMD and Intel Corp. chips that use the same software. The other key element was assistance from Microsoft Corp. The software company worked with AMD on an operating system that is based on the Windows CE product line for hand-held computers — enhanced with elements of the Windows XP software for PCs — offered at a low price AMD isn’t disclosing. The communicator also comes with a word processor, spreadsheet and other simple application programs, licensed from a German company that Mr. Gino Giannott of AMD declined to identify. The devices are designed to be limited in function, so users can’t accidentally erase important files or add software that would keep the system from operating normally, he said.

Here is a look at the wider view on AMDs strategy: The machine is geared toward families who make the equivalent of between $1,000 and $6,000 annually. Three companies in India and Latin America will be among the first to market versions of the machine, an AMD representative saidAMD will introduce the PIC as part of an effort it calls 50×15, which aims to raise the percentage of the world’s population that has Net access to 50 by 2015. Right now, only about 10 percent of the global population can access the Net, the company says. Reaching the next large group of computer and Internet users–people in countries such as China, India and Russia–has become a major focus of many of the big names in computer technology. Most of those companies appear to agree that lower-price personal computers will help them sell more products.

WSJ: AMD doesn’t plan to market the device itself. Rather, it hopes to take orders from telephone companies and Internet-service providers, which will put their names on the communicator and sell it to customers — perhaps as part of a bundle with Internet access or telephony. Besides targeting India and China, the company plans to aim at Brazil, Mexico and Russia. We are not interested in being in the system business per se, said Gino Giannotti. We are interested in providing an opportunity for people to improve their lives. Although it intends to steward the low-price PIC into the market, AMD isn’t getting into the business of manufacturing computers. The company drew up the plans for the PIC, but tapped Solectron to build the first run of the machines. The chipmaker plans to go forward by essentially licensing the PIC design to local companies, including telecommunications or Internet service providers, allowing them to use local contract manufacturers and control distribution, marketing and pricing of their PICs. Thus the companies will sell PICs under their own brand names and be free to subsidize the machines’ cost to lower the price consumers pay.

AMDBoard has some pictures and specifications, while Slashdot has a discussion.

Tomorrow: Emerging Market Realities