SMEs and IT

The Economic Times had an article yesterday which had a few quotes from me:

If you were an SME, you almost certainly managed all your business processes manually, the way it has been done very smoothly thank you very much for almost a century.

But now, it is almost safe to say that IT is becoming mandatory even for SMEs. There is a lot to gain by doing it with IT, and IT is becoming affordable.

But like every other investment, one needs to understand the ‘WHY’ and ‘HOW’ and whether ‘WHY’ is greater than the ‘HOW’ meaning whether ‘returns’ justify the ‘investments’.

How would you manage your operations differently if everybody in your organisation had a computer, is the question that Rajesh Jain, MD, Netcore, wants every SME to ask itself. It is not just the automation of flawed processes, but the potential to re-engineer every business processes and the benefits that come along that needs to be considered.

Rajesh points out that there are almost 4m SMEs in India and they employ close to 40m people. But the number of computers in the SME sector is hardly 4m. This means only one in 10 personnel in the sector has a computer.

This hinders collaborative use of IT. Rajesh strongly believes that intense deployment of information technology will help small organisations to grow business and become mid-sized organisations.

And mid-sized organisations, on their part, could deploy information technology to bring in efficiency and cut costs.

One should choose a technology that delivers required functionality at the lowest cost. SMEs should deploy CRM type applications to grow their business, advises Rajesh.

He says that ERP companies are realising that their next growth potential is in small and middle level enterprises and, hence, are tailoring their offerings to suit the SME sector. These typically cost as low as Rs 5 lakh and are certainly affordable.

Vendors, both hardware and software, are gearing up their offerings so that SMEs can spend on IT as if it is an operating expense and not a capital expense. Of course, SMEs have an option to get software developed by an independent software vendor too.

When getting customised applications developed, the focus, Rajesh advises, should be to get the information on the change happening, and not report the norm. The need is to distil information and get the right kind of information. Another good examples of keeping IT costs on the lower side is Crossroads mall and Piramyd group of stores.

Rajesh says that the vendors should gear themselves up to provide hosted IT services to SME clients. SMEs should be able to receive one bill that includes the use of hardware, software and communications.

He says that while the ASP (application service provider) model failed a few years ago, as it focused on organisations that already had IT infrastructure, there is a clear case for redeploying ASP.

E-Commerce Gets Smarter

Technology Review writes:

The business jargon for this model of integrated retail sales is multichannelingthat is, fusing digital services with in-store, mail-order, and telephone sales, and with any other retail channels. The digerati have called it clicks and mortar since the Internet boom of the 1990s. No matter the term, it is now the driving force in retail. For while the Internet works fine for some types of goodssuch as books, computer products, and musicmany shoppers dont want to purchase and pay shipping costs for things like canoes, cars, clothes, and entertainment systems without trying them out, trying them on, touching them, or maybe even talking to a knowledgeable salesperson.

New technologies and ideas are allowing retailers to remove the wall between online shopping and in-store shopping, and to make the gathering of customer data both easier and more valuable. Advanced data-mining and Web analytics techniques now examine not just what you bought online but what you viewed, helping retailers design promotions that will entice you to shop online and in stores. These enticements will themselves arrive over multiple channelsthrough magazines, regular mail, e-mail, the Web, and wireless transmissions to your car or shopping cart. By looking at just a few of a customers purchases, a retailer will even be able to predict how much shell spend over her lifetime, and adjust the deals and promotions it offers her accordingly.

The ultimate goal is more-customized, personal service. The best retailers have always striven to provide the most-tailored service possible; however, as more and more retailers expand nationally and even internationally, building close relationships with customers is increasingly difficult. Retailers cant do that now because they have millions of customers all over the country, says Dan Hopping, senior consulting manager for IBMs Retail Store Solutions Division. So they use technology to make the connection.

Web-based Real-Time Group Outliner

John Robb has a wish: “Here’s a product I would like to use. When I was at UserLand we used a group instant outliner to coordinate our efforts. It was very, very helpful. The only problem was the desktop to desktop synchronization. One way to fix that would be to offer a group outliner as a subscription-based Web service. A group instant outliner that works like Google Maps (as an example of the real-time, responsive, visually intensive Web service) would be amazing. Let me say it again: it would amazing.

Information Organisation

David Weinberger writes:

We’ve organized knowledge into trees, from Aristotle to Linnaeus to Dewey. You get a tree by doing the basic thing of lumping and splitting, and then splitting the lumps until you get to a lump that is too unitary or miscellaneous to bear any more splitting. But lumping and splitting has been constrained by physical limitations. For example:

1. A thing has to go in one pile or another. For Aristotle, this was expressed as the Law of Identity (A is A and A is not not-A), a pretty basic rule.

2. The way we lump and split is the same for everyone: If you own a clothing store and separate it into men’s and women’s departments, it’s separated that way for everyone who enters.

3. The lumping and splitting is done by experts.

4. The person who owns the stuff also owns the organization of the stuff. You can’t come into the clothing store and rearrange it the way that suits you.

5. Lumping and splitting results in a neat and clean order. It’s clean-edged.

But now we’re digitizing information, resulting in a third order of order in which we break the rules of real-world order:

1. Things can go in more than one pile – You put your e-store’s hiking boots under shoes, men’s and women’s apparel, outdoor wear, popular items, items on sale, etc.

2. The arrangement can be different for each person.

3. You or your social group are the experts.

4. Users get to control the organization of the stuff.

5. Messiness is a virtue on the Web.

You can see much of this in the rise of tagging: Users create the metadata and anyone can figure out how to sort through it and organize it. It’s out of the hands of the owners of the stuff being classified.

So, what I’m saying is that we’re moving from thinking that the right way to arrange and understand things is to figure out the taxonomic tree ahead of time. Instead, make a big pile of leaves, each with lots of metadata, and allow users to add more metadata and to sort and categorize it as they need.

But there are problems with this, especially with regard to tags:

– One word can have many meanings, and one meaning can have many words. As tagging gets more popular, that’ll be a bigger issue.

– If we form social groups based around how we use words, we run the risk of fragmenting ourselves further, this time around semantics.

– Folksonomies can reinforce homogeneity.

David also blogs about an eTech talk by Clay Shirky on related topics. There is another post about a folksonomies panel discussion.

Web to Mobile Search

Russell Beattie writes:

Imagine if we applied a message queue system to search. Your phone regularly uploads a small index file of the contents on your mobile, then searches are applied against that, not the original data. Then if a match is found, a request is sent back to the phone asking for the file to be uploaded as soon as possible.

Imagine this: If I can tell your phone that I want a piece of info dynamically, there’s no reason I couldn’t add a bit of security on top and then “check it out”, right? So, I want to listen to the latest Brittany Spears song. I don’t have a copy of it, but my friend does. Now, it’d be illegal for me to copy it off his phone since we could conceivably listen to it at the same time then. But what if I wanted to just “check it out” (like from a library) for just that amount of time. Would that be illegal? Now imagine if this was world wide? I can check out my songs to anyone, one person at a time, on a global scale… all accessed via a simple web search.

All this goes back to my epiphany about search a few weeks ago. It’s really about asking for anything and then getting it. To me search isn’t just about finding stuff that’s been indexed on the web, it’s the Quicksilver type interfaces as well: Ask and you shall receive. Now the rest of the problem is just figuring out 1) How to find the data (where ever it may live) and 2) How to get it back to the person who’s asking for it. With mobile phones, this means jumping through some hoops because of bandwidth and use cases, but it can be done, right?

TECH TALK: The Future of Search: Information Dashboards Rationale

Let us first summarise the discussion leading up to the Information Dashboards, and then we shall consider what lies ahead. Ill begin by condensing my key points in this series so far.

There have been three versions of search engines in the Internets first mass-usage decade. The first search was actually Yahoos directory with sites handpicked by editorsThen, along came Altavista which used a crawler to get web pages and run indexing algorithms on them. This allowed for keyword-based searching Google improved on the relevance of results PageRank technology which ranked pages based on incoming links a measure of authority. From Yahoo to Altavista to Google, the focus has been on providing the most relevant results in the quickest possible time to information-hungry users.

In the five years or so since Googles launch, there have been plenty of new developments in the world and Web around us. The five most important developments in recent times have been: user-generated content, RSS, mobile phones, broadband and internationalisation.

User-generated content: Beginning with do-it-yourself publishing via weblogs to image capture via digital cameras and mobile phones, new content is now being created by millions. While the earlier model was that of a few creating for many, it is now many creating for few.

RSS: RSS can be used for making available incremental updates available. Interested users can subscribe to be alerted when the updates are available, and can view the updated content in an RSS Aggregator.

Mobile Phones: The PC is now no longer the only personal device in our lives. The mobile phone has usurped the personal space. Mobile phones are moving beyond just voice communications and becoming part of the primary information platform in our lives.

Broadband: What always-on, broadband does is fundamentally change our expectations of content in three ways: the network is always-available and so we turn to it for even the most trivial of queries, the content offering can be beyond text and combine the rich media elements, and it allows consumers to also become producers of content.

Internationalisation: The Internet was for long the domain of the English-speaking developed markets. No longer. Even as content in other languages has grown, we are now seeing millions in countries like China and India get online. English is no longer the first language of the Internet as the non-English-speaking world goes online.

The Four-Web Model: The Search game played so far has only focused on the Reference Web. My Incremental, Archived and Community Webs have yet to be tapped effectively The Reference Web is built on the work of others. The other three Webs (Incremental, Archived and Community) is built by us. The Reference Web is a database of all that has happened (and been published). The other Webs are a snapshot of whats happening more of a real-time datastream rather than a database, more here and now than then and there. The Reference Web is about information. The other Webs are about Events, Insights and Experience. And therein lies the opportunity to build the next-generation search engines.

Tomorrow: Information Dashboards Rationale (continued)

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Brazil, Open-Source and Cheap Computers

The New York Times writes:

Since taking office two years ago, President Luiz Incio Lula da Silva has turned Brazil into a tropical outpost of the free software movement.

Looking to save millions of dollars in royalties and licensing fees, Mr. da Silva has instructed government ministries and state-run companies to gradually switch from costly operating systems made by Microsoft and others to free operating systems, like Linux. On Mr. da Silva’s watch, Brazil has also become the first country to require any company or research institute that receives government financing to develop software to license it as open-source, meaning the underlying software code must be free to all.

Now Brazil’s government looks poised to take its free software campaign to the masses. And once again Microsoft may end up on the sidelines.

By the end of April, the government plans to roll out a much ballyhooed program called PC Conectado, or Connected PC, aimed at helping millions of low-income Brazilians buy their first computers.

Under the program, which is expected to offer tax incentives for computer makers to cut prices and a generous payment plan for consumers, the government hopes to offer desktops for around 1,400 reais ($509) or less. The machines will be comparable to those costing almost twice that outside the program.

Buyers will be able to pay in 24 installments of 50 to 60 reais, or about $18 to $21.80 a month, an amount affordable for many working poor. The country’s top three fixed-line telephone companies – Telefnica of Spain; Tele Norte Leste Participaes, or Telemar; and Brasil Telecom – have agreed to provide a dial-up Internet connection to participants for 7.50 reais, or less than $3, a month, allowing 15 hours of Web surfing.

100 Megabits at the Edge

Om Malik’s blog has a guest coumn by Robert Young :

What happens when you have 100 megabits per second connections on the edge of the network? In your homes, or in your pockets, or in your cars an always-on 100 megabit per second pipe that wirelessly networks your life. No, we are not talking about fast pipes to the Internet, but simple easy networks all around you.

Starting next year (2006), millions of people will begin to equip themselves with computers and portable devices capable of swapping files at a speed of 100Mbps, all wirelessly (WiFi/802.11n and UWB). Think about that 100Mbps!! Thats about a hundred times faster than what the average broadband user in the U.S. is accustomed to today.

More specifically, what Im talking about here is short-range computer2computer, device2device connectivity directly between people in close proximity of one another (think: Rendezvous).

The Way We Live Now

The New York Times has an article by Christine Rosen:

Today’s personal technologies, particularly the cellphone and the digital video recorder…are marvels of individual choice, convenience and innovation; they represent the democratization of the power of the machine. Our technologies are more intuitive, more facile and more responsive than ever before. In a rebuke to Marx, we have not become the alienated slaves of the machine; we have made the machines more like us and in the process toppled decades of criticism about the dangerous and potentially enervating effects of our technologies.

The near future promises even more of these ego-casting technologies, which offer us greater control and encourage the individualized pursuit of personal taste. Soon we’ll carry cellphones that double as credit cards, toll passes, televisions and personal video cameras. At home, we’ll merge the functions of these many technologies into a single streamlined machine that will respond to the sound of our voice, like the multimodal browser being developed by I.B.M. and Opera. This expansion of choice and control will foster the already prevalent expectation that we can and should be able to have anything we want on demand.

Rather than turning on, tuning in and dropping out, we might perhaps do better, individually and socially, to occasionally simply turn our machines off.

Social Environment

Bill Burnham writes:

While Friendster represents the previous social networking othodoxy of having the social network itself be the application, MySpace, and now Yahoo 360, reflect the new understanding that social networking will be just one aspect of a fully encompassing online “social environment”.

MySpace, has arguably blazed the path in the creation of a social environment. Rather than focus soley on networking, MySpace early on tried to make its site a complete “social experience” by sponsoring real world parties and encouraging interaction within its membership. MySpace has been particularly aggressive in using music as a way to bind and organize its community. To that end, it has aggressively pursued bands to have them launch and maintain fan sites on MySpace and it has encouraged fans of bands to launch their own sites, blogs, and discussion threads about music. This emphasis on music makes tremendous sense given that music tastes are one of the key ways that young people often segment themselves. Thus, MySpace’s social network is a actually a multi-dimensional experience that not only connects people who know or indirectly know each other, but links groups of people together by their interests/hobbies/passions. It’s no wonder then that MySpace now generates far more page views and time-on-site than Friendster: people on MySpace actually have something fun to do.


WSJ writes:

Four years ago, Jimmy Wales launched a free online encyclopedia that anyone could edit. Now, Wikipedia is one of the most popular sites on the Web, and Mr. Wales is building on its success with a new venture. This time, he intends to make a buck.

Mr. Wales’s closely held company Wikia Inc. has begun promoting its first for-profit endeavor, an ad-supported site called that is based on the concept behind Wikipedia. Through Wikicities, groups of Web users can create their own free Web sites and fill them with, well, nearly anything. Among the topics being discussed on the nascent site: Macintosh computers, college hockey and real-world cities like Los Angeles, Beijing and Calgary.

TECH TALK: The Future of Search: Yahoo 360

Yahoo 360 is a way to keep connected to friends with blogs, photos and more. It combines a personal portal with social networking. Charlene Li of Forrester Research had this to say after a preview of the service:

Central to the whole service is the concept that you want to communicate and connect with the people that you already know, rather than try to meet new people. To this end, your home page on the service shows the most recent content published by people within your network. This might be a blog post, a photo album, review, or an updated profile item. This page is constantly refreshed as the people in your network update the information on their spaces. This fundamental concept of linking people through their updated stuff is what makes Yahoo! 360 unique and inherently will drive usage of the service higher than traditional social networks. In essence, the content is being pushed to you by the service.

The profile page contains the usual features from social networking sites friends, profile, lists of things you like to do, where you work/went to school, and groups that you belong to on Yahoo! Groups. But it also excerpts content youve created that you want to share with your network. This includes not only a blog, but also photos from Yahoo! photos, reviews created on Yahoo! Local, and LAUNCHcast Stations.

The ability to leverage your network to get something done is what gives Y! 360 the real potential to become something even bigger. At the beta launch, users will have the ability to look narrow local business reviews by their network a recd from someone I know counts for a lot more. Of course, this assumes that people will start creating reviews (a clever way for Y! Local to jumpstart reviews on the service). In the future, I can imagine new modules for job searching, dating, travel planning (What hotel in Paris would you recommend?), car buyingthe list is extensive. Yahoo!s (as well as MSNs and AOLs) advantage is being a one stop shop in terms of leveraging your networks knowledge across multiple categories.

The last few years have seen the growth of do-it-yourself publishing on a large scale. Whether it is writing text or sharing photos, podcasts, screencasts and even videos, individuals and groups can now publish and share content easily on the Web. What hasnt changed significantly, though, is how reading (or viewing) takes place on the Web. While RSS aggregators have made headway, they still remain a niche. MyYahoo has been around for a long time, and now supports RSS. But fundamentally, what is needed is a new way to view the content. This is the direction I was heading in with the Information Dashboard.

Tomorrow: Information Dashboards Rationale

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Mr. Moore in the Datacenter

Ryan McIntyre writes:

The cost to deliver an application to an end-user has dropped dramatically for these companies and the cost to operate their data centers therefore has much less of an impact on their costs of operations and capex budget than it used to, which means their gross margins for delivering their product have improved significantly since 1995. For companies like Yahoo, Google and more recently, Technorati, this means the cost to deliver a page view or search results page has gone down dramatically, while the average size of a search-results page is perhaps only marginally larger since 1995. Even considering the size of a search index (Google’s 8B pages today vs. Excite’s 10M in 1995) has grown nearly one thousand-fold, the costs of computing power and storage have accommodated this expansion while bandwidth costs and rack space have fallen nearly tenfold.

For enterprise-focused companies like, Postini, Quova and Rally, the story is similar. Add in a subscription-based recurring revenue stream and you have a business model that has all the benefits of a dependable revenue stream and profit margins that can approach those of a traditional software company. Thanks to the low cost and high performance of today’s hardware coupled with an elegant service architecture, Postini is able to process several hundred million email messages per day for its customers with an extraordinarily light hardware footprint and does so quite profitably as a result.

Yahoo’s Comeback

Om Malik writes: “A handful of blog-evangelists, a couple of key buys and some libertarian friendly moves have turned Yahoo from a dot.has.been to the new darling of the chattering classes. It is only a matter of time when mainstream media rediscovers Yahoo, and a stock market resurgence follows.”

Ten Trends for 2005 has a list of trends with implications for software companies. One of them:

10. Enterprises Increasingly Demand Flexible Solutions
“We are about to enter the age of the ASP where software – nearly any kind of software – is available as a service. Not a service you buy and pay for by the enterprise, by the year, but rather a pay for usage model, where a user can buy as little as a single picture or the one-time use of a special font – or budget software for his 20-person company for the next three months, extendable at will.” Amy Wohl, President, Wohl Associates

“Companies that invest in technology solutions will increasingly order ala carte and/or on an as-needed basis. The technology vendors that create pricing models that meet these requirements will win business from the competitors who do not.” Glenn Gow, President & CEO, Crimson Consulting Group, Inc.

“More companies will implement Open Source solutions.” Vamsee Tirukkala, Co-Founder & EVP, Zinnov

Implications for Software Vendors:
1. Deliver a la carte, pay-as-you-go solutions
2. Utilize best-of-breed solutions incorporating Open Source
3. All things are becoming digital think about how your product can incorporate them (e.g. telecommunications, scheduling [PDA], entertainment [Ipod], etc.)

I think ASPs are set to make a comeback. Will write more about this in a tech Talk series soon.

Virtual Collaboration

Dave Pollard answers the question: “What do you do if you need or want to collaborate, but you can’t do so in person? What purposes are best served by weblogs, wikis, and other types of online collaboration tools, spaces and media?”

Ideally, using a combination of

1. Skype (free global VoIP telephony),
2. White-boarding (everyone online can see what anyone posts to the white-board),
3. Document-sharing and
4. Mindmapping or some similar session annotation tool (everyone can see what the group’s ‘scribe’ has documented as the findings, decisions and next actions from the collaboration)

would be a close approximation to an in-person collaborative session.

Building A Better Brain writes:

Jeff Hawkins and Donna Dubinsky, creators of the Palm and Handspring personal digital assistants and the Treo smartphone, have formed a software company built around a powerful and unorthodox vision of how the human brain works. In its early stages, they hope to create predictive machines useful for things like weather forecasting and oil exploration. Further out–much further, says Hawkins–they plan to lay the basis for cosmologically attuned robots that conceive and reflect on the universe itself.

Okay, it is a big idea. And so far the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company, called Numenta, has built what the creators say is a set of tools for creating pattern-recognition software capable of “learning” shapes and events, with a goal of foreseeing what the pattern will next create. Yet these tools draw on decades of work that Hawkins has done on how the brain works. If it pans out–and there is an attractive logic to much of his thinking–Numenta may certainly oversee the creation of embedded software that adapts and improves its own performance.

TECH TALK: The Future of Search: The Messy Web

Let us start by considering what Adam Bosworth wrote recently, describing a web John Battelle termed as the Messy Web. Here is what Adam Bosworth had to say:

I’ve been complaining about two things on the web for years. Think of the web as the worlds best communication machine. Then the promise should be that anyone can connect to any information or application or anyone else and that any application can connect to anyone or any application or any information. We got anyone to anyone early in the form of email and more recently in the form of IM and of Blogs. IM adds real time communication and presence and Blogs add broadcasting to the world along with a dialog with the world. We got anyone to any application from the esteemed Tim Berners Lee in the form of HTML, HTTP, and URL’s which changed our world. I say applications because there wasn’t any standard way to ask for information. We got, unfortunately, any application talking to anyone (we call this spam). Web services in one form or another are letting applications access other application although, as I’ve said elsewhere, I think that the standards are too prolix and that a lot of the action will come out of REST and RSS.

But we didn’t get two things. We didn’t get a standard way to get information (e.g. a standard query model for sites). And we didn’t get people working together in communities to create and construct things with one interesting exception, message boards/groups. Mail was the interface, not the web and not IM.

With [Amazons] Open Search the lack of standard ways to get information is, for the first time, beginning to change. There is now a simple but de-facto standard way to start querying sites for information. That’s hugely exciting. The current standard is limited, but a great start. And the web is now rapidly becoming the place for people to collaborate. Wiki’s are growing like wildfire. Folksonomies(tagging) are causing people to quickly and in an emergent bottoms up way, come together to build taxonomies that work for them and surprisingly rapidly become stable.

To get a glimpse of the future, one need look no further than Yahoos soon-to-be-launched Yahoo 360.

Tomorrow: Yahoo 360

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Innovation in India

[via WorldChanging] Science Magazine has an essay by Raghunath A. Mashelkar, director general of the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), a chain of 38 publicly funded industrial R&D institutions in India:

India can similarly become an innovation hub for global health. Its reputation as a low-cost manufacturer of high-quality generic drugs already is high. Now discovery, development, and delivery of new drugs to the poor is another area in which India is becoming stronger. By following alternative paths rather than beaten ones, India is aiming to develop drugs at prices that are more affordable to more of the world’s people. For instance, India is trying to build a golden triangle between traditional medicine, modern medicine, and modern science. By culling clues from traditional medical practices, researchers here are doing a sort of “reverse pharmacology,” which is showing great promise. Our recent program on developing a treatment for psoriasis through a reverse pharmacology path (presently in phase II human clinical trials) is expected to take 5 years and cost $5 million. If successful, the resulting treatment will be priced at $50, quite a step down from a new $20,000 antibody injection treatment developed by a western biopharmaceutical company! The opportunities that are unfolding are breathtaking.

As I see it from my perch in India’s science and technology leadership, if India plays its cards right, it can become by 2020 the world’s number-one knowledge production center, creating not only valuable private goods but also much needed public goods that will help the growing global population suffer less and live better.

Simplicity is More Critical than Complexity on Mobile Phone

[via Dana Blankenhorn] Slashphone has an item about a speech given by Nicholas Negroponte:

“The killer application in mobile service is decided by response time, Professor Nicholas Negroponte at MIT said during an interview in the middle of the LG Technology Forum.

In his keynote speech, “The Future of Wireless,” Prof. Negroponte emphasized the right direction of change for mobile handsets. He insisted that any new function of handsets should be downloadable, but phone makers are just adding new functions in the device like inserting new tools into Swiss Army knife.

About the power efficiency, he said, future mobile handsets should be designed to be inserted in shoes so that people can use their phone while they are running or the battery system should be simple so that users have only to shake their phones to recharge them.

He emphasized simplicity, saying the industry always talks about easy-to-use interface, but nothing has been done; the smaller the handset gets, the thicker the manual becomes. He cited Swatch as an instance of the way the future wireless devices should take. According to him, although Swatch is widely known as a famous watch brand, it is the concept of “second watch” that the company has pursued. Likewise, he recommended, the handset industry should try for the “second handset.” Selling more handsets at lower price will lead to large profit, the renowned professor added.

Dana adds:

Future hardware designs must make it easy to connect, hands-free. Software must have intuitive user interfaces, as simple as speech. Services need to be spur-of-the-moment.

A lot of the mobile services I see today violate these principles big-time. They’re based on Web interfaces, and thus have a limited time horizon. The key is to get inside the phone, so you’re bought as soon as the customer thinks of buying.

Rather than thinking of a browser as something you look at and type at, as is done with even the best mobile browsers, how about a browser you talk to?