Microsoft, Bandwidth and Grids

A number of friends and readers have pointed to Slashdot and the article by Mike on Why Microsoft Should Fear Bandwidth. Mike writes:

At present, we find ourselves in a situation unprecedented in all history the average person, in charge of a machine of such complexity that it can calculate anything he or she would want to know in mere seconds. This is almost an untenable situation; this average person often has no idea how to fix the computer when it breaks, and no idea even how to perform the most basic maintenance on it to prevent such breakage. Its also vulnerable to hackers, phishing schemes, and hosts of other plagues.

With caching, smart usage of bandwidth, latency reduction strategies, etc., most users would hardly notice the difference between an application being provided remotely over a high-bandwidth connection and being provided locally by a spyware- and virus-infested home PC with inadequate memory.

In a world of unlimited bandwidth and remote applications, the operating system doesnt matter, and theres no lock-in. In such a world, Microsoft loses its monopoly, and the consumer wins. This is why bandwidth should scare Microsoft more than any other foe out there right now for once bandwidth increases beyond a certain level, remote application provision is inevitable, and then Microsoft is on very shaky ground, indeed.

Mike has a follow-up post in which he adds:

Im not asserting that every client will be some dumb terminal straight out of 1973. We have far too much processing power and storage capability for that to make much sense. It makes sense to distribute it, though, and allow something more manageable for users and companies. Both glean benefits from a more-centralized, less complex approach.

The users can handle what they are good at keeping track of their data, storing files locally, deciding what software they want. And companies can handle what they are good at keeping their networks spam-free, virus-free, firewalled, backed up and provide secure, constantly-updated applications. Most users dont care all about security, or learning anything about it. This more-centralized system opens up a measure of control for corporations that I, and many other people, are not comfortable with, but it has many advantages, as John points out especially if it is marketed correctly.

John Zeratsky adds: “Distributed computing is already here. Most day-to-day tasks of average computer users are online. And it works.”

Interestingly, Slashdot has another pointer to an eWeek (speculative) article on Microsoft’s distributed computing efforts under the codename BigTop, “which is designed to allow developers to create a set of loosely coupled, distributed operating-systems components in a relatively rapid way.”

I have written extensively about the opportunity to reinvent computing in a world where communications exists. This is one revolution which will begin not in the developed markets but in the emerging markets. It will also integrate computing and communications. Our Emergic vision is about making it happen, and bringing in the next billion users to services built around a centralised “commPuting” platform.

Tomorrow’s World (Nov 2004)
CommPuting Grid (Nov 2004)
Massputers, Redux (Oct 2004)
The Network Computer (Oct 2004)
Reinventing Computing (Aug 2004)
The Next Billion (Sep 2003)
The Rs 5,000 PC Ecosystem (Jan 2003)

RSS in Science Publishing

Tony Hammond, Timo Hannay, and Ben Lund

RSS is one of a new breed of technologies that is contributing to the ever-expanding dominance of the Web as the pre-eminent, global information medium. It is intimately connected withthough not bound tosocial environments such as blogs and wikis, annotation tools such as, Flickr and Furl, and more recent hybrid utilities such as JotSpot, which are reshaping and redefining our view of the Web that has been built up and sustained over the last 10 years and more [n1]. Indeed, Tim Berners-Lee’s original conception of the Web was much more of a shared collaboratory than the flat, read-only kaleidoscope that has subsequently emerged: a consumer wonderland, rather than a common cooperative workspace. Where did it all go wrong?

These new ‘disruptive’ technologies [n2] are now beginning to challenge the orthodoxy of the traditional website and its primacy in users’ minds. The bastion of online publishing is under threat as never before. RSS is the very antithesis of the website. It is not a ‘home page’ for visitors to call at, but rather it provides a synopsis, or snapshot, of the current state of a website with simple titles and links. While titles and links are the joints that articulate an RSS feed, they can be freely embellished with textual descriptions and richer metadata annotations. Thus said, RSS usually functions as a signal of change on a distant website, but it can more generally be interpreted as a kind of network connectoror glue technologybetween disparate applications. Syndication and annotation are the order of the day and are beginning to herald a new immediacy in communications and information provision. This paper describes the growing uptake of RSS within science publishing as seen from Nature Publishing Group’s (NPG) perspective.

Hiring 101

Adam Rifkin aggregates advice:

– The most important rule about interviewing: Make A Decision.
– The initial few moments of an interview are the most crucial.
– Interviewing is about creating a dialog with the candidate.
– Interviews are about the past.
– Always check references; whether a reference is forthcoming or reserved, you should pay attention to what’s not being said.
– It is more important than ever to develop people into high performers.
– Too often hiring managers focus on a candidate’s skills and qualifications rather than on who s/he is or her/his personality.
– Never hire anyone who doesn’t wear a watch. [This I don’t agree with — I am one of those who doesn’t wear a watch!]
– Don’t ever, ever hire somebody just like yourself.
– Hire the very best, act as if your life depended on every person you bring on your team, and put a ton of cycles into finding, referencing, recruiting, and retaining those people.

Nokia, Preminet and Brew

The Register writes:

Java has suffered as a mobile content platform, compared to Qualcomm Brew, by having a fragmented channel and a confused economic proposition for developers. Nokia aims to change that with its new Preminet aggregation, download and billing framework. Although operators can brand the service themselves, reflecting the shift away from handset branding, in the longer term Nokia could sideline them by accelerating the creation of open IP portals. Nokia aims to stay out of the battle of content branding and ensure that it controls the underlying software and relationships, giving it the critical position whatever trends drive mobile applications in future.

Despite the rapid growth of mobile Java and the strengths of the industry forces ranged behind it, Qualcomm’s Brew platform has clung on stubbornly in the hearts and minds of carriers and content developers. Brew may have had to adapt to Java’s presence (and will run on Java platforms now), but it has not been crushed by the Sun-driven technology. Of course, Qualcomm has made a business of standing against the industry standard with its own technology, but Brew does have some genuine advantages over Java, which Nokia is now seeking to neutralize with the creation of, in effect, the first real ecosystem for J2ME. In so doing, it could achieve a huge level of control over how mobile content is handled, and further its goal of gaining power through software.

If Preminet becomes the main framework for J2ME content download, and therefore the dominant one on the whole GSM/GPRS/3G system, it gives Nokia a hugely powerful position in the cellular market. It is one that fits perfectly with its recent goal of gaining influence and revenue through software, taking the Microsoft approach of providing the guts of a system and making itself indispensable, thus making concessions on handset design less painful.

TECH TALK: On Watching Swades: The Story

First, the movies story. This is what the films official website has to say:

Set in modern day India, Swades is a film that tackles the issues that development throws up on a grass root level. It is to this India, which is colorful, heterogeneous and complex that Mohan Bhargava (Shah Rukh Khan), a bright young scientist working as a project manager in NASA, returns to on a quest to find his childhood nanny.

The film uses the contrast between the highly developed world of NASA, which has been at the forefront of advances in space research, and this world back home in India, which is at the crossroads of development. Mohan’s simple quest becomes the journey that every one of us goes through in search of that metaphysical and elusive place called “home”.

Jitesh Pillai writes in The Times of India:

Right away, you’re drawn into the life of Mohan Bharghava (Shah Rukh Khan), a project manager at NASA. He’s busy devising strategies to help make the world a better place. Mohan works on a rainfall monitoring satellite which is lifted into orbit. But in the throes of launching a brand new satellite, other pangs gnaw at him. He wants to visit India which he hasn’t visited in ten years, to meet Kaveri-amma (Kishori Balal), his childhood nanny and surrogate mother. When he returns to the village called Charanpur, it is more than just a return to his roots. Much to his chagrin, while the world is making rapid strides to the moon, Charanpur doesn’t have electricity and is plagued with the ills of casteism, a moth-eaten morality and an abject lack of basic amenities. Here he encounters the idealistic Geeta (Gayatri Joshi), who practices what she preaches but is a tad too upright for the easygoing NASA scientist.

Mohan’s journey through the countryside is a metaphor for his own inward voyage. Slowly but surely he becomes a convert. And then comes the moment of epiphany. His idyll is shattered when he sees a child sell a glass of water for 25 paise. Back in Charanpur, Mohan rallies the villagers and harnesses a water reservoir and restores electricity to the hinterland.

Duty calls and Mohan returns to America with a heavy heart. But his country beckons again. Does Mohan Bhargava listen to the pull of his purse-strings or does he march to a different drummer’s beat? Thank God, Swades is not Lagaan. Lagaan was winning against all odds, about good triumphing over evil. Swades is a farewell to materialism. It’s about creating a better life. It’s about the choices we make.

Tomorrow: Directors Cut

Continue reading