Case for Thin Clients

Dann Sheridan writes: “Why businesses continue to buy high-end workstations for knowledge workers is beyond me. Thin clients are the way to go for most knowledge workers. You just can’t beat the prices. Mobile users will always need laptops. Engineers engaged in design work, software development, and other CPU intensive work will need workstations. Mobile users and those engaged in CPU intensive work in most businesses make up a very small percentage of an overall user base. Besides the price, thin clients have a number of security advantages over workstations which may save company millions of dollars a year in prevention and response to a virus or attack. If I were in on a project deciding what technology to next deploy on desktops I’d be taking a serious look at think clients.”

Writing a Credible Investment Thesis

HBS Working Knowledge has an article by David Harding and Sam Rovit:

Every deal your company proposes to dobig or small, strategic or tacticalshould start with a clear statement how that particular deal would create value for your company. We call this the investment thesis. The investment thesis is no more or less than a definitive statement, based on a clear understanding of how money is made in your business, that outlines how adding this particular business to your portfolio will make your company more valuable. Many of the best acquirers write out their investment theses in black and white. Joe Trustey, managing partner of private equity and venture capital firm Summit Partners, describes the tool in one short sentence: “It tells me why I would want to own this business.”

A credible investment thesis should describe a concrete benefit, rather than a vaguely stated strategic value.

Using Del.icio.us

Jon Udell writes about Roland Piquepaille’s use. “What Roland Piquepaille is doing here, like what I’m doing here, begins with self-interested personal information management. We categorize our own items first and foremost for our own benefit, so that we can find things more easily and so that we can better understand how new items relate to our collective works. But del.icio.us is also a social system. The tagging I do is also potentially useful to you…This will enable metadata vocabularies to converge in a decentralized way. Think ‘cornucupia of the commons’: self-interested use leads to collective abundance.”

Interesting way to think about the Memex…

Rethinking Phones

David Weinberger writes:

Voice over IP is a misnomer. It only looks like voice now because it’s replacing a voice-based technology. But it’s really about calls.

Why assume that phone calls have to be audio only? That’s an artifact of the current infrastructure. If you were starting from scratch and didn’t have lines that only knew how to carry sound but could carry any type of bit you’d build something far different. It’d integrate with other applications on your phone device. It’d know who’s calling from where and spin up a web page to show you the relevant information. It’d link to everything the Net knows. It might assume an open mike not a two-person conversation as the default. It wouldn’t assume that each phone call is essentially separate from every other; it would assume they can cluster into threads the way emails do. Or perhaps it’d find a more natural lumping than threads, including joining with other types of communication. It’d provide IM as a backchannel for multiperson phone calls. It’d give you visual bits as well as audio ones. It would do things that no one can predict because the genius of the market hasn’t yet invented them. But it is in the process.

The Second Messaging Architetcure

Tim Bray looks at the other architecture (aside from store-and-forward) – Post-and-Poll: “The arrival and insanely-fast growth of syndication/RSS technology brings a New Thing to the Internet. Until recently, there was only one messaging architecture known to work at Internet scale. That was store-and-forward, as in how email works: I send my message to a computer near me, which stores it and sends it to another computer near you (with retries and so on as appropriate), which stores it, and you retrieve it from that computer. Syndication has proven that a different model, post-and-poll, scales up too. It works like this: I post some data which contains either messages or message pointers to a public place, and you poll periodically to see whats new. The difference is that store-and-forward supports anybody-to-anybody message traffic, while post-and-poll assumes separate communities of senders and receivers. People who are designing message interchange frameworks that might need to become Internet-scale should consider this, and be careful of architectures that dont fall into one of these two baskets, because nothing else has yet been shown to work.”

TECH TALK: Tomorrow’s World: Independent Thinking

India and Indian companies have an amazing opportunity ahead of them to build the digital infrastructure of tomorrow’s world. India, like China, is a large enough market get things right here or in China, and you have some heft to drive standards globally. We can expect little help from the government. A perfect example of this is the most recent broadband policy announced after a hundred days of thought. With a deep desire to put the interests of two government telecom incumbents (BSNL and MTNL) and their employees, the government has demonstrated that it cannot be expected to make decisions in the greater interest of hundreds of millions of Indians. One can spend a lot of time and energy being critical of our decision-makers. That path is not going to get us anywhere. We need Plan B. And luckily for us, there is plenty of help at hand.

Technological innovations are going to do what the Indian government has singularly failed to enable in the past decade: make India the hotbed and testbed for cutting-edge technologies which can dramatically transform lives in India. After all, the problems we face are not small in magnitude ensuring that 200 million Indians have access to quality education, getting millions of information workers access to technology so that they can do their work more efficiently, providing new forms of edutainment to the growing middle-class, and lifting much of rural India out of its poverty. What is needed is the potent mix of technological innovation and Indian entrepreneurship to build solutions for the middle and bottom of the pyramid here, and then take them out to others like us across hundreds of nations globally.

Once we decide that the government is not really a factor in decision-making, life becomes easy. Consider what we are already doing: voice-over-IP is already happening inspite of a government ban, wireless hotspots are starting to proliferate even as the government only now is starting to open up spectrum, and low bit-rate wireless data networks exist in hundreds of Indian cities connecting lottery terminals, ATMs and credit card authorisation terminals to centralised data centres. Indians have solved the problem of expensive software by using a mix of piracy and open-source software. Solutions like Skype and Vonage are edging into computers and Indian networks, and there is little anyone can do to control or regulate them. Technological innovations have made geography irrelevant from the viewpoint of their own diffusion.

Armed with cash, flush with recent successes, and powered by entrepreneurial zeal, Indian companies have the ability and opportunity to now build out the model of tomorrow’s world. So what if the local loop is not going to be unbundled and the last mile is a challenge? Let us use wireless broadband. So what if Intel does not enable lower-cost computers? Think network computers. So what if Microsoft still insists on dollar-denominated pricing? Think open-source software. So what if collecting money is a problem? Think pre-paid.

For the first time, the future of India is in our own hands with the government being irrelevant. We can choose to experiment with and adopt new technologies and architectures. Some ideas will fail, but a few will succeed big time. We are about to make India a laboratory for trying out new solutions to construct the platform for the New India.

Tomorrow: Five Dimensions

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