Bangalore Talk on Wednesday

I will be speaking at the BangaloreIT.com-Nasscom event on “IT Innovation in India” on Wednesday (Nov 3). I have a 20-minute slot, in which I am planning to talk about what we are doing to make computing a utility. My session is from 3:15-4:30 pm and is entitled “Innovation in India : Challenges and way ahead”, and the event is at the Taj West End.

I was thinking about a presentation with slides, but I don’t think I will do that. I’ll speak without slides on what we are doing – I think I speak much better that way. Also, it keeps the audience attention focused on the talk rather than the slides.

My basic theme will revolve around the 4 key challenges that exist in creating computing solutions for the next billion users: affordability, desirability, accessibility and manageability. And the solutions (Emergic) that are needed and what we are working on to address these: network computers, the grid, applications and services, and Tech 7-11s.

I hope there will be time for questions and answers. Last year, at the same event, they did not have the interactive session. In these kinds of events, the audience interaction must be a part of the event.

Return of Building (vs Buying)

AMR Research writes:

Open source, new tools/technologies, and offshoring make building an application (rather than buying) an increasingly viable option.

While much of the focus for open source is on Linux and emerging for database technology, clever companies are beginning to supplement open source infrastructure technology (Linux, MaxDB, JBoss) with open source applications. For example, two of my clients recently swapped out purchased content management systems for their open source counterparts. They may have not had all the bells and whistles, but with a little bit of customization, the price was right, and my clients got what they needed.

The next leg of the trend to build is offshoring. One of the main (though not only) rationales of not wanting to build applications is the expense and amount of time it takes to create an application. The ability to significantly drop the labor cost of coding begins to remove one of the large impediments to looking to build. It does not, however, remove the costs and burden of long-term support.

Finally, if these two factors were not enough, the introduction of new tools using Web services technology promises to make customization even easier. An array of new tools has been introduced that is speeding development times. They range from delivering Web-service-based integration capabilities to composite application building tools that will assemble applications from a variety of customized and widely available application components.

Recommendations:
– Building applications is a real option. Application packages can be overkill for the functionality required. Start to explore what open source has to offer.
– Revisit application decision tree to build applications. It was never a no-brainer to buy rather than build applications. It is even less true now. Revisit old assumptions and economies of building applications. Dont forget to include total cost of ownership analysis as well as support costs.
– Investigate open source possibilities. While open source applications are in their infancy, the surrounding infrastructure and technology are coming up the maturity curve quickly. Look for opportunities to build uncommon applications around this technology base as well as to use open source applications for tactical, noncritical business processes.

Internet TV

Yahoo! News has a story from the Washington Post:

Now comes a fresh group of contenders for the Internet TV throne, all trying new twists on sending video over the global computer network. They carry funky names, too, like Akimbo, DaveTV, RipeTV and TimeshifTV. All are trying to exploit the increasing number of high-speed Internet links in homes and the declining costs for transmitting and storing digital video.

Some offer personalized entertainment networks, ones you or I create by mixing and matching niche programs that appeal to our inner couch-potato. Like TiVo (news – web sites), the digital recorder company, these services are trying to break away from the static program lineups that dominate today’s TV. Unlike earlier Web video networks — flops such as Pseudo.com and Digital Entertainment Network — today’s contenders collect content from other companies rather than producing their own.

Most of the new players are operating on the fringes of the Internet video free-for-all. That’s because virtually all the leading cable and satellite companies, along with the movie studios, are rushing to develop their own video-on-demand services.

What remains to be seen is whether the niche content from these start-ups — and others in the works — can attract audiences big enough to carry them through to an era when mainstream entertainment finally pops up on Internet video guides.

Social Software as Platform of the Future

Dare Obasanjo writes:

Social software is any software that enables people to interact with one another. To me there are five broad classes of social software. There is software that enables

1. Communication (IM, Email, SMS, etc)
2. Experience Sharing (Blogs, Photo albums, shared link libraries such as del.icio.us)
3. Discovery of Old and New Contacts (Classmates.com, online personals such as Match.com, social networking sites such as Friendster, etc)
4. Relationship Management (Orkut, Friendster, etc)
5. Collaborative or Competitive Gaming (MMORPGs, online versions of traditional games such as Chess & Checkers, team-based or free-for-all First Person Shooters, etc)

Interacting with the aforementioned forms of software is the bulk of the computing experience for a large number of computer users especially the younger generation (teens and people in their early twenties). The major opportunity in this space is that no one has yet created a cohesive experience that ties together the five major classes of social software. Instead the space is currently fragmented. Google definitely realizes this opportunity and is aggressively pursuing entering these areas as is evidenced by their foray into GMail, Blogger, Orkut, Picasa, and most recently Google Groups 2. However Google has so far shown an inability to tie these together into a cohesive and thus “sticky” experience. On the other hand Yahoo! has been better at creating a more integrated experience and thus a better online one-stop-shop (aka portal) but has been cautious in venturing into the newer avenues in social software such as blogs or social networking. And then there’s MSN and AOL.

The interesting thing about the rise of social software is that this data lock-in is migrating from local machines to various servers on the World Wide Web. At first the battle for the dominant social software platform will seem like a battle amongst online portals. However this has an interesting side effect to popular operating systems platforms. If the bulk of a computer user’s computing experience is tied to the World Wide Web then the kind of computer or operating system the browser is running on tends to be irrelevant.

Why WiMax

Technology Review writes:

Metropolitan area wireless networking at broadband speeds isnt new, but the specialized equipment that receives the broadband signals has typically been too expensive for everyone but large businesses. Now that U.S. computing and communications firms are gradually reaching consensus on the details of the WiMax standard, however, those prices could come down significantly. Industry agreement on details such as how to encrypt WiMax signals, which frequencies to use, and how to provide multiple users with access to those frequencies will finally allow companies like Intel to manufacture mass quantities of WiMax-enabled chips for use in broadband wireless equipment. And thats expected to eventually bring WiMax receivers into the $50 to $100 price range of todays DSL and cable modems, meaning that millions of users could eventually drop their current Internet service providersoften local phone or cable companiesand simply access the Internet over rooftop antennas at the other end of town.

WiMaxan acronym for Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Accessis little more than a long list of technical specifications intended to ensure that wireless equipment from different vendors can interoperate at high speeds. Also known as 802.16, the specifications have been under development since the 1990s as an alternative to technologies such as Ethernet and Wi-Fi. A single WiMax transmitter will transmit voice, video, and data signals across distances of up to 50 kilometers (assuming an unobstructed line of sight) at rates as high as 70 megabits per secondenough to support about 60 businesses at T1 speeds, or hundreds of homes at DSL speeds.

While the emergence of WiMax will give consumers, businesses, and people in hard-to-reach areas a powerful new way to connect to the Internet, it wont happen overnight. For one thing, it could take manufacturers some time to reach the economies of scale that would enable consumer-priced WiMax equipment. Then theres the cost of building a network of transmitters. People tend to think that you can put one WiMax tower on a hillside and beam around the entire city, and thats certainly not the case, says Intels Richardson. When you fill up a cell, you use up the capacitymeaning that providers will still have to add towers as demand grows, just as they do in traditional cell-phone networks.

HeavyReading has a WiMax report.

Internet and Disruptive Innovation

ACM: Ubiquity has an interview with Scott Anthony, co-author with Clayton M. Christensen and Erik A. Roth of the new book, “Seeing What’s Next: Using the Theories of Innovation to Predict Industry Change.”

UBIQUITY: What do you feel the role of the Internet has been in the whole disruptive process?

ANTHONY: When the Internet first began to appear on people’s radar screens they intuitively perceived that it was important and would do something substantial to business. Where people rushed to judgment was in saying that anything old is bad, anything old is dead, anything new that has this .com affixed to it is good and will ultimately triumph. A couple of things happened over time. One is people realized that the Internet by itself is neither good nor bad, nor is it something that’s constructive or destructive on the face of it. The impact of the Internet has depended on the specific business model of companies. To someone like the University of Phoenix, a provider of adult education, the Internet is a highly sustaining innovation and makes it easier for them to extend their business model and reach more working adults. But to someone whose business model is built on having integrated services provided at a centralized location, at least in the initial days, it’s less clear how the Internet helps them. My first notion is that the impact of the Internet is relative to the business model of the organization it’s impacting.

UBIQUITY: You said a couple of things have happened over time regarding the Internet. What is the second thing?

ANTHONY: The second thing that’s interesting is that a lot of things that happened in the 1996-2002 time period laid a foundation or groundwork. Now that the infrastructure is in place, you will see people coming up with novel business models that aren’t necessarily based on the Internet but take advantage of that infrastructure to do things that previously were extremely difficult.

TECH TALK: My Life as an Entrepreneur: Part 1

I got an email recently from Sean Fioritto asking me if Id like to answer some questions as part of his series on entrepreneurship. I agreed. This was the outcome. Sean is an undergraduate at the University of Arizona and is majoring in Computer Science and minoring in Chinese.

First, please tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? What is your field of expertise?

I am based in Mumbai (earlier called Bombay) in India. I have spent most of my life here. I am 37 years old and married to Bhavana. I did my Engineering education at IIT-Bombay, graduating in 1988. I then went to the US to do my MS in Electrical Engineering (Communications) from Columbia University. I worked at NYNEX in their Science and Technology Centre before returning back to India in 1992 to become an entrepreneur.

My entrepreneurial career can be divided into three phases:

  • The first phase lasted 2.5 years, and I failed in all that I started. During this period, I tried doing software development, a multimedia database and an image processing product. Nothing worked. So I went back to the US and spent a couple of months thinking about ideas for the future. This is when the idea of an Internet-based news and information service for Indians outside of India (Non-Resident Indians) emerged.
  • The second phase was 6.5 years. During this period, I launched IndiaWorld, Indias first Internet portal, in 1995. From its pioneering start, IndiaWorld grew to be one of the largest collection of India-centric websites, comprising Samachar, Khel, Khoj and Bawarchi. IndiaWorld was acquired by Satyam Infoway (now, Sify) in November 1999 for US$ 115 million in one of Asia’s largest Internet deals. I continued with Sify till early 2001.
  • The third and ongoing phase is as part of my current company, Netcore Solutions. I had started Netcore in 1998 to focus on Linux-based messaging solutions, a business that continues. What I am working now in Netcore is to build Emergic, a coommPuting platform for the next billion users in the worlds emerging markets.

    I write a daily technology weblog at Emergic.org – it covers the intersection of emerging markets, technologies and enterprises.

    My field of expertise is technology, especially software. I also have a good understanding of emerging markets. My aim is to blend the two together to create disruptive innovations which can make computing a utility so that we can build the digital infrastructure in countries like India. Here is my Emergic vision:

    Currently about 600 million users, mostly in advanced industrialised countries, can afford and use PCs and the Internet. There are an equally large number of potential users mostly in emerging markets who cannot afford the current PC-centric solution.

    Emergic proposes to bring comprehensive computing services to the next few hundred million users by making computing more affordable and relevant to their lives. The solution involves a centralised server-based computing platform–a gigantic computer of sorts–which hosts a wide range of software applications and content and which can be accessed by users remotely over broadband connections using very simple low-cost access devices.

    Emergic is built on and around the Internet, integrating computing and communications to make computing available as a utility. Not only does Emergic make computing easy to use (no upgrades, no downtime, no viruses/spyware), it also brings the cost of computing down to that of a cellphone – about $100 upfront and $12-15 per month (hardware, software, content, connectivity, and support).

    Tomorrow: Part 2

    Continue reading