Device and Cloud Software

Richard MacManus writes: “In the Web 2.0 world, Microsoft wants its software to control as many internet-connected devices as possible. Whereas Web 2.0 companies such as Google and Yahoo look to dominate on ‘the cloud’ (i.e. the Web), Microsoft is aiming more at the device-level (PC, phones, set-top box, etc).”

This is a topic I’ll be exploring more in the Tech talk starting today on centralised computing.

The Rise of a New News Network

Business 2.0 has a commentary by Om Malik:

Weblogs, which started out as online diaries, have morphed into reporters’ notebooks. The information is raw — and perhaps unpolished when compared with news from more established outlets — but it is nonetheless news.

I think what we are seeing is the rise of a new kind of news network, thanks in large part to technology. Average Joes and Janes are now armed to the teeth with technology that can capture and distribute news almost anywhere. A smartphone like the Nokia 6630 has more processing power and is more connected to the Internet than a circa-1995 PC. The high-speed connections, coupled with easy-to-use newsreader software from startups like FeedDemon maker Bradbury Software, Ranchero Software, and Videora, make it a breeze to gather and read all the news in real time.

Linux Inc

Business Week has a cover story on Linux: “Put bluntly, Linux has turned pro. Torvalds now has a team of lieutenants, nearly all of them employed by tech companies, that oversees development of top-priority projects. Tech giants such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Intel are clustered around the Finn, contributing technology, marketing muscle, and thousands of professional programmers…The result is a much more powerful Linux. The software is making its way into everything from Motorola cell phones and Mitsubishi robots to eBay servers and the NASA supercomputers that run space-shuttle simulations. Its growing might is shaking up the technology industry, challenging Microsoft Corp.’s dominance and offering up a new model for creating software. Indeed, Torvalds’ onetime hobby has become Linux Inc.”

Gaming Interfaces in Corporates

John Robb has an idea: “I do think that a gaming interface/environment can be ported to the corporate world. A corporate game interface/environment, if done correctly, would generate amazing productivity improvements and internal competition/cooperation. The best games already include IM/e-mail / auctions / trading / (with add-on)voice / competition / ad-hoc groups(guilds and parties) / rankings / status /professions / etc.”

Omidyar Network Reputation System

Joi Ito points to an interesting experiment: ” When you join omidyar.net, you start with a feedback bank of 10 points. Your feedback bank can be given away, one point at a time, as either positive feedback or negative feedback to any member, workspace or discussion…As you use omidyar.net, your feedback bank will increase, based on how you use omidyar.net, and what you do. You basically get more “credit” in your feedback bank the more you contribute. If you simply “lurk,” which means you don’t ever post a comment or start a discussion, etc., your feedback bank will grow far more slowly. If you are an active discussion participant, and you contribute to a group’s workspace, your feedback bank will grow more quickly. In fact, even the act of giving feedback will help your feedback bank grow. If someone gives you positive feedback, both your score and your feedback bank will increase by one.”

TECH TALK: Microsoft, Bandwidth and Centralised Computing: Mike on Microsoft

In early January, more than a dozen friends and blog readers forwarded me a link to a commentary by Mike on Why Microsoft Should Fear Bandwidth. While I did a brief blog post on it, the article and the ensuing discussion that followed is very relevant for the future direction of computing, especially in the context of emerging markets. This is one perspective that has not really come out in the discussion not surprising that most of us are top of the pyramid users. My interest has been in envisioning and constructing solutions for the next billion users. So, while the issues raised by Mike are very relevant, some additional points need to be considered in the context of todays non-consumers of computing tomorrows markets.

Let us start with Mikes post and consider the key points that he makes. Mike discusses centralised computing and remote applications [ASPs: application service providers] in a world awash in bandwidth. Users would like this because it frees them up from having to become administrators of their own machines. In this world, the brand of the operating system does not matter, and there is no lock-in on Windows. This causes Microsoft to lose its monopoly.

This is what Mike wrote:

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 added: The network is the computer was a false start because the bandwidth was not there. Now, it is getting to be there — and with spyware, adware, malware of all stripes dominating the news, and the average users computer, people will be much more inclined now and in the near future to use an ASP model. Its not for everyone, but for the 80% of users who do little more than surf, check their e-mail, and check the odd stock quote, the ASP model makes a great deal of sense.

A subsequent post by Mike summarized his key points:

1) Many people have no desire to administer their machines and for them, a PC is nothing but a source of frustration. Judging from my user base at work, this is probably 80% of users.

2) As bandwidth increases, remote application provision and remote administration will become increasingly attractive to this segment of the market.

3) This breach with the Windows upgrade hamster wheel gives the companies doing the ASP providing and the administration freedom to use whatever technology best suits the task, and to switch users all at once to a better/different platform at any time much more easily.

4) This is an opportunity for free and open source software to step in and prove its mettle.

Tomorrow: Mike on Microsoft (continued)