The Ecology of Mobility

morph writes:

Our technologies have been well-established in the landline and wireless worlds: afterall the telegraph and telephone are our traditional landline systems, and radio and television are original consumer wireless receivers.

In these models, we are either tethered to the network in the wired world, or to the receiving device in the wireless model the tv is a fixed receiver.

But systems are evolving to provide more sophisticated mobile transmitters and receivers. And where industry has placed the correct infrastructure, we are able to receive and transmit communications while we are in motion. We are in a mobile world where advanced wireless services allow both transmitter and receiver to move and to keep in touch with complex information services that, in some measure, we get to define.

Consumer choice: that is what a mobile media world gives me. Personal networking. I choose what I want to get or what I want sent to me, and I can choose how it comes to me as audio, text, graphic, photo, or video. And in some cases, I can transmit messages too, in a variety of media, easily to another individual, and less frequently to a mass audience.

It may be better to give than to receive, but in the mobile tech world, it is easier to receive than to give. Mass mediated information is delivered from a corporate hierarchy. Information flows down from the gatekeepers at the top of the pyramid. Consumers at the bottom can get a wide range of information. But try to influence the gatekeepers and send information up the pyramid and you have a difficult climb but it is only at the top that you can send your message down to reach a lot of recipients. But if you want simply to interact with others on your level (peer-to-peer, one-to-one) your infrastructure and distribution choices may reach a more targeted audience that you define, or that is composed of confederates who gather at a fixed electronic community location.

The $100 PC

The $100 PC discussion has suddenly become hot. David Berlind writes:

Over the recent year, theres been a lot of talk about the so-called $100 PC. Last fall, during Gartners Symposium in Orlando, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer talked about why “we” need a $100 PC. In certain parts of the world parts that Microsoft sees as growth opportunities now that other markets are saturated Microsoft has been selling Windows and Office (in some cases, stripped of certain features/functions) at cut-rate prices in hopes of stimulating demand. Last month, in an interview with CNET News.com, AMD CEO Hector Ruiz claimed the $100 PC is on the way. In fact, Ruiz went as far as saying that the PC would be a laptop PC. Said Ruiz in the interview, “I dont think a $100 computer is out of the question in a three-year time frame. A lot of people forget that the first cell phones came out at $3,000 to $4,000 dollars and today are free. I think theres going to be some of that same kind of movement with computing and communications devices..I think, within three years, its not at all unreasonable to think of a $100 laptop for that segment.” But is $100 achievable, particularly when you take the cost of a decent monitor into consideration?

SaaS Success Factors

Britton Manasc writes about a report by TripleTree, an investment banking firm, and the Software & Information Industry Association (SIAA), on the key factors of success for software-as-a-service:

Scalability and Critical Mass. Above all else, SaaS firms must maintain their focus on building their customer base and scaling to profitability, since payment streams are considerably smaller at the outset when compared to the traditional licensing modelOnce a threshold is reached, the SaaS can enjoy the benefits of stable revenues and predictable cashflows butreaching critical mass can be asignificant challenge

Narrow Solutions and Quantifiable ROI. Due to the investment required to reach scalability, the SaaS firm cannot afford to run the risk of being “all things to all people.” As a result, many of the successful SaaS firms have carved out niches in the market to address particular “pressure points.” We believe this narrowly focused approach that quantifies a ROI for a client is an effective go-forward strategy.

Client Acquisition & Retention. Strong customer acquisition and retention metrics are vital to Saas firms, as their business model requires a rapidly growing customer base with minimal turnover. These firms must achieve contract renewal rates of at least 90%, and probably higher, in order to achieve positive operating margins. In addition, we believe many SaaS firms will find a more lucrative customer base as they move upstream into larger enterprise accounts.

Sales Channels & Partnerships. Many SaaS firms find traditional indirect sales channels with major systems integrators somewhat restricted, since their rapid implementation cycles eliminate large sources of revenue for the service firms As a result, effective direct sales or alternative channels to the market are important for SaaS firms In addition to direct channels, numerous SaaS firms have sought business alliances with mid-tier consulting firms, VAR/OEM relationships, and even private labeled hosted offerings with third parties as a way to achieve more market visibility.

Educating the Market. Moving beyond the “base case” for software as a service, which brought the traditional arguments for IT outsourcing down to the application level, the new approach is centered upon replacing the usual software vendor relationship with a new relationship that creates value in terms of both technology and service. This includes a focus on customer service, rapid and significant ROI, and vertical and business process specific functionality.

eBay and Craigslist

The New York Times writes about what eBay can learn from Craigslist:

These days, triple-digit annual growth rates are rare among major Web sites. Meet that rarity: Craigslist.

Exceptional, too, is the ability to draw 10 million unique visitors each month without ever relying on venture capital and equity markets. Or the ability to attain fourth place among general-interest portals without ever spending a penny on marketing.

One way is to use its technology infrastructure to improve classified advertising. Hani Durzy, a spokesman for eBay, says its core business is a “transaction marketplace,” in which the sale is completed online with a binding contract.

In contrast to the “transaction marketplace,” classifieds merely enable private parties to get in touch. Viewed in terms of technology and legalities, Craigslist provides nothing more than the newspaper classifieds. To consummate a deal, you’re on your own.

But that seems to be all that its large and ever-growing base of fans desires. The offerings of Craigslist have never been more appealing, even though – or maybe because – it is retro in look and retro in its online technology. EBay uses an elaborate feedback apparatus to allow strangers who will never meet in person to feel safe doing business with one another. Craigslist does not need that apparatus. It is for locals only, and it is the one place that can fix you up with an entire life – job, shelter, furnishings, lover – at one stop, with minimal intermediation.

Ajax Mistakes

Alex Bosworth provides a list for developers because “Ajax is also a dangerous technology for web developers, its power introduces a huge amount of UI problems as well as server side state problems and server load problems.”

1. Not giving immediate visual cues for clicking widgets.
2. Breaking the back button
3. Changing state with links (GET requests)
4. Blinking and changing parts of the page unexpectedly
5. Not using links I can pass to friends or bookmark
6. Too much code makes the browser slow
7. Inventing new UI conventions
8. Not cascading local changes to other parts of the page
9. Asynchronously performing batch operations
10. Scrolling the page and making me lose my place

Alex has a second post with more Ajax mistakes.

TECH TALK: Dotcom Nostalgia: Memories and Experiences

There are many moments that have frozen in my mind.

  • The day we launched (March 13, 1995). I stayed up all night waiting for people to show up on the website!

  • The day, a few weeks later, when The Times of India carried a front-page article about Laxman’s cartoons being available in cyberspace. I had spent quite some time at the Times office in Mumbai discussing the Internet and what it would do and why it was so important.

  • The first big order that we got from Kotak Mahindra. It was for a website with a portfolio manager and the works. It came six months or so after we launched IndiaWorld. The day it came, I was in Nasik, doing a seminar on the Internet.

  • Doing the Headline News daily early morning and late night. We wanted to make sure we had the freshest news. There were times when I’d see a breaking story at night on TV and I’d rush across to the computer at home and update the site. On many occasions, IndiaWorld readers globally got news before people in India since at that time, we relied mostly on the morning newspapers! (When I would travel, my wife would do the news updates. Which meant that during the early years, we never could go on away together!)

  • Our first ad deal in March 1996 from Amul. I got a call from Anand in Gujarat Amul wanted a banner ad on the cricket site the next day for an important match. Overnight, we got the Amul website ready with their topical as the banner ad during the next day’s match. From that day, Amul’s topical was a constant fixture on the IndiaWorld home page for many years.

  • The regular writings I used to do then in Express Computers. The column was called Internauting. 1,500 words every two weeks. I guess that started off my tech writing.

  • Sitting up late and covering the elections and we plenty of them in India during that period! We’d watch TV, get the results, and then update it on the site. Every election saw us improving the software to provide a richer interface for people to explore the result details. We even had a game once the Indian Political Stock Exchange.

  • Presentations to VCs. I used to do plenty of those because I figured that even if I wouldn’t get money, I’d get some external inputs (and pointers to think, based on the questions they asked). Well, as it turned out, I never did get any money!

  • The low of October 1999 and the high of November 1999. October saw a term sheet we had from a VC expiring without a deal and investment. As I wondered what we would do next (since a lot of our competitors were raising capital), almost out of nowhere, two deal options materialised. And then came the Sify deal.

    As I start thinking, there are many more moments that come alive in my mind. Words here do not do justice to the emotional ups and downs (and they are many more downs than ups) that an entrepreneur goes through. Those moments have to be lived through. That is what toughens the entrepreneur. That is when learning happens.

    That was the dotcom era. Many entrepreneurs experienced the highs and lows (some, in the wrong order!) – and those are moments which will always stay on in memory. What the dotcom boom and bust did in India is create lots of dreamers people who would be willing to chuck away the job they were doing to try something different. Some had the passion, some were in it for the money, some for the thrill. Whatever be the reason, what the dotcom era did was compress many lives into one for those who got on the train.

    That is why I wish it had lasted a little longer. We would have a lot more battle-hardened entrepreneurs willing to set failure aside, and ready to take on the world with big, bold ideas. Unfortunately, in India, it ended all too soon. Unlike China.

    Tomorrow: India and China