Enterprise Mobile Development

Mobile Enterprise Weblog points to an article in Integration Developer News:

Special attention must be placed on three key factors, the panel said:

1. The nature of the “occasional connectedness of a device (and whether that device will need to operate independent of a wireless connection to a host);
2. The value of documents being accessed and/or passed; and
3. The special demands of constrained mobile device resources.

Importance of Platforms

Dana Blankenhorn writes:

A product based on a reference design may hit the market faster. It may cost less. But if you have to replace it next year, and the next year, and the year after that, there’s no value.

On the other hand, if you buy something baed on a platform, you can build on it. What you buy next year and the year after can work with what you have now, seamlessly.

You only get that with a platform.

The PC was a platform for the 70s.

The network was a platform for the 80s, built on the PC platform.

The Internet was a platform for the 90s, built on the network platform.

I think the next platform will be a service-centric platform, built on the Internet and assuming the presence of computers and cellphones.

A9 Yellow Pages and AOL Search

John Battelle wrote recently about Amazon’s local search which tries to blend search and ecommerce. This post is from Business 2.0:

[A9 CEO Udi] Manber & Co. (urged on by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who Manber says was “very involved”) strapped GPS-enabled digital videocamera-cum-terabyte server rigs to the top of a bunch of SUVs, and drove them around the commercial districts of major U.S. metropolitan areas, recording what became composite still pictures of entire cities, one address at a time. Tens of thousands of miles later, they had more than 20 million images of over 14 million businesses in 10 cities, and they aren’t done yet. A9 then created a local search application it calls Block View. It’s pretty darn cool, incorporating a lot of Javascript and other tricks to let you “walk” up and down the block. (You can’t turn a corner yet, but you can look at the other side of the street.) A9 then integrated Block View with Yellow Pages listings (from Axiom) and voil — local search with a visual cue. You have a picture of any business you’re looking for. “It lets you see the Yellow Pages, as opposed to just reading them,” Manber told me.

As one might expect from Manber, there are a lot of cool features here, including Click to Call, which automatically connects you to the business you are looking at (though you have to give A9 your phone number). Click to Call presages a pay-per-call business model, but for now A9 is not making any money on it.

Ramesh Jain writes on this launch: “This is an interesting approach. I see this as beginning of bringing in experiential information along with abstract text information in search results presentation environment. Compare this to Google’s recently announced video search in which results for video search are presented only in text form…This may have interesting uses for people who will search on phones. An interesting question is will it be useful to use your phone to take a picture of a shop and try to search for similar shops in some other area? Effectively if there are all these pictures and their locations stored in the databases, how can one use the camera-phone to do something useful?”

An earlier post by John discussed AOL’s plans:

AOL is adding a lot to its search play. First they have a new and much improved interface. Probably most impressive, at least in concept (I have not played with it) is the “SmartBox” feature which is sort of like Yahoo’s “Also Try” or Google’s search suggestion tool, but in real time as you type a query. Cool idea.

They’re adding clustering, via a deal with Vivisimo. They’re adding pay-per-call, via a deal with Ingenio (I’d love to write more about this, but I’m beat, it’s late, maybe later in the week!). They’re adding those smart boxes I was talking about. They’re adding search history – but only your last 50 searches. I think that’s lame, but Campbell told me the average AOL user searches just 20 times a month – same as your typical web surfer. They plan to watch that and possibly add more. And they’re planning on adding robust local search that integrates some of their properties – MapQuest, Moviefone, Yellow Pages, City Guides, etc.

And, of course, they will be adding desktop search, through a deal with Copernic, which is, I hear, a great desktop search tool.

Soon, Campbell told me, they plan to add localized indexing, so you can search just the part of the web that is in your region. That will be through a partnership with FAST.

And, oh yeah, they will be integrating vertical search, travel, shopping, etc. Oh, and they have added the ability for “AOL partner advertisers” to buy their own trademarks as ad terms, boxing out others. Hmmm, that smells a bit opportunistic given all the legal stuff swirling around trademarks, but hey, gotta make a buck.

An additional point made by Ramesh Jain: “Finally digital convergence is arriving. Information will be the focus rather than medium. All search engines and similar sources will slowly focus on the message or information rather than the medium used to communicate the information. And this definitely has significant implications.”

Mobile and Open

[via Anish Sankhalia]Howard Rheingold writes:

A future where mobile media achieve their full economic and cultural potential, requires:

That people are free and able to act as users not consumers: Users can actively shape media, as they did with the PC and the Internet, not just passively consume what is provided by a few, as in the era of broadcast media and communications monopolies. If hardware can’t be hacked and software is locked away from individuals by technology or law, users won’t be free to invent.

An open innovation commons: When networks of devices, technological platforms for communication media, the electromagnetic spectrum, are available for shared experimentation, new technologies and industries can emerge. The way intellectual property is defined by international law, the kind of political regulations that govern spectrum use, the degree of extension of the rights of corporations to control the use of creations of individuals and to exert control over what others can create or distribute, will determine whether a cornucopia or a tragedy of the anti-commons occurs. (The tragedy of the commons is the despoiling of a shared resource because there is no way to exclude individuals from consuming it; a cornucopia of the commons emerges when aggregated individual self-interest of many people adds up to something that multiplies everyone’s resources instead of subtracting from what everybody has access to; and the tragedy of the anticommons renders a shared resource worthless by allowing too many interests to exclude others.)

Self-organizing, ad-hoc networks: Populations of users and devices have the power, freedom, and tools to link together technically and socially according to their own inclinations and mutual agreements. In their zeal to punish thieves, the music and motion picture industries are trying to criminalize all file-sharing, and so far they are winning the legislative and judicial battles. That’s the legal-political side of it. The techno-political battle is whether widely embraced open standards dominate, a proprietary monopoly emerges, or many competing proprietary standards contend.

TECH TALK: Multi-Model Minds: My Mind

So, what can we do to think better and right? Firstly, we need to fix the education system in India. Secondly, we need to fix our own thinking. Fixing the education system requires systemic changes to the way we are educating our youth. The problems are two-fold: changing the way teaching is done and learning happens, and also ensuring that no child is left behind. Educating a mass of nearly 200 million students requires disruptive innovations quickly if India is not to become, as Business Week speculated, a nation of dropouts. We will discuss the education challenge shortly. Lets start with our own minds.

When I look back at my formative years, I think I was lucky to have parents who encouraged me to read widely. We didnt have the Internet in the 1970s and 1980s. But they did ensure that I was exposed to a wide variety of books and magazines from different areas. We could economise on other expenditures, but not on knowledge. My father, a civil engineer by profession who ran his own structural engineering consultancy, also bought a computer in the office in 1982. He had no idea how to use it himself. But he had a belief that it would be very important in the future and that emanated from his own thinking. He encouraged my mother and me to learn how to use it.

It was this multi-dimensional view of life as seen through different lenses which has helped me at different stages in my life. When I struggled with an existing business in 1993-94, it was my reading which helped me make an early bet on services delivered via the Internet. For the past few years, the discipline of the blog and the daily Tech Talk columns have helped provide a birds eye view of the technology world and a sense of how different things fit together. It has also helped connect me to people whom otherwise I would probably never have been able to meet in the normal course of life.

Atanu Dey is one such person a direct result of the blog and a connection made by Reuben Abraham. Atanu brings a different set of mental models which have helped influence some of my thinking. Also, for the past three years, a monthly Book Club meeting with three brilliant minds (Abhay Bhagat, Chetan Parikh and Karthik) has helped widen what I read and how I think.

As I think about my own mental models, the past four years have seen me expand on these and have helped build a framework to think about the next platforms for computing. What I want us to do in Netcore and its allied ecosystem companies is nothing short of reinventing computing for the next billion users. I am able to think along these lines because of the multiple mental models that have coalesced in a single space. Whether I succeed or fail is besides the point. (Obviously, Id prefer success over failure!) The key point is that because of the magnitude of the problem that we are addressing, it is important to have the right mental framework because even a small decision can be quite fatal for an entrepreneurial start-up like ours.

Tomorrow: What We Can Do

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