Browse to Search to Subscribe

[via Robert Scoble] Charles Fitzgerald (general manager of platform strategy at Microsoft) writes:

The browser jumpstarted mainstream Internet use and made browsing the user paradigm. You could type in a URL or follow links and it worked pretty well as long as you knew where you wanted to go or someone else had the foresight to provide a link to where you might want to go. But this approach couldnt keep up with the hypergrowth of the Web. Even if you surfed all day long, the unknown was growing exponentially faster than the known.

Enter the search engine. Instead of being limited to what you knew about or could find a link to, search engines allow you to query across millions of Web sites and billions of Web pages. Search makes vastly more of the Web accessible, but it too has limitations. Simple queries return preposterous quantities of links (as opposed to answers) while complex queries go unanswered. Personal relevance and understanding user intent are, to be charitable, in their infancy.

Both browsing and searching are about discovery, but have little to do with consumption. Discovery is work. You navigate and enter queries. Consumption is when you get something valuable. Browsing or searching by themselves are just a means; the end is consumption. The way these terms get used everyday reinforces this gap. Can I help you? No thanks, Im just browsing. Did you find what you are looking for? Nope, Im still searching.

The subscribe model allows software to act on our behalf and significantly improve consumption. RSS is obviously the first successful taste of the subscribe model (well conveniently forget the whole “Push” episode of the late 20th century). Subscribing doesnt replace browsing or searching any more than searching replaced browsing. Both will remain common activities with continued growth and innovation. Theyre probably how you will find most of the things you subscribe to.

RIM’s Partnership Model

Technology Review offers a case study on Research in Motion: “Corporate customers have loved Research in Motion’s BlackBerry since its 1999 launch. But as the popularity of the device increased, so did the number of the company’s critics, many of whom believed Research in Motion was too small to maintain its dominance. When the company began to license its software in 2002, many saw this move as a drastic change in course. Instead, it was an object lesson in smart partnering.”

Conquering Complexity

Dan Farber writes:

After years of assisting customers in building increasingly more complex, real-time IT environments, Gartner has targeted “conquering complexity” as the theme for Symposium/ITxpo 2005 in San Francisco. Peter Sondergaard, Gartner head of global research, attributed complexity to the constant search for a silver bullet to solve all problems, the implementation of point solutions and short term thinkingno architectural approach.

Executives tend to push complexity into IT departments, asking for solutions that arent easily delivered. No big revelation. Most IT shops end up with pockets of complexity trying to keep up with the demands of employees, partners and customers. Just look at the nest of wires in a server room or the number of disparate components required to deliver a piece of information to an end user in the field.

Armed with the new theme, Gartners 700 analysts can now deliver its advice in a neat complexity wrapper. Its Gartners new service-oriented architecturelook at IT through the lens of managing complexity. (Heres a transcript of the keynote presentation.) The research firm even came up with a value of complexity metric, which posits that you can get value from systems by adding more complexity, but only up to a certain point (somewhere around the top of a Bell curve), beyond which you get negative returns. No surprise there

Presence and Push-to-X

Paul Golding writes:

The point about presence is that it brings us closer to the contacts in our address book. Instead of a name being just another passive entry in the address book, it now becomes something nearer to the person it represents. Instant Messaging users will already know of the “sensing” phenomenon. When we see a buddy “online” in the contact list, we sense (feel) the person at the other end, simply because we know that they’re there.

The urge to communicate (or connect) will be greatly enhanced by the new breed of “push-to-X” services. PTT will undoubtedly become commonplace, but others will follow hot on its heels, such as push-to-view, which is instant image sharing. The point here is that these services are instant – just one push of a button away. This new modality for mobile communications is going to prove irresistible.

Presence and push-to-X are generic service modalities that will have major impact on mobile device usage in the coming years. It is currently my view, along with others, that these capabilities, perhaps more than any other currently being introduced, will have the greatest impact on the transformation of mobile devices from telephones to personal-networking devices.

Attention Importance

Jonathan Boutelle writes:

Attention is a hot topic on the internets. Most of the metadata that is used in cataloging and searching the web is very labor-intensive to create.

Google made it’s first quadrillion by being the first to use the metadata inherent in hyperlinks to catalog the web. This was, of course, awesome. But the only people allowed to contribute metadata in a google-based world are web publishers.

Del.icio.us and Flickr have made it easier for people to play along at home. Instead of using links, they use tags, which require much less effort to contribute. But lets face it, the people tagging are, for the most part, the same people who are blogging.

Attention is the general idea of paying attention to what people _read_ on the web, and using that to give better search results.

TECH TALK: Shift-Ctrl: India

Back in India, I started wondering how the US missed the mobile opportunity. This is the next big thing. And the US is not at the forefront. In fact, during the conference, there was very little mention of the US computing and Internet kings Microsoft, Intel, Yahoo and Google.

I can think of three reasons why the mobile opportunity is not going to be driven from the US but from Asia. First, US is perhaps the only country in the world where there are more computers than mobile phones. So, SMS hasnt taken off as people prefer to email each other. Second, the operators exercise a great deal of power on what the users do on their mobile phones and they have every interest in keeping them within their walled gardens. Third, commuting in the US is more by car than by public transport. Add to this the fact that most Asians cannot afford desktop computers or laptops for them, the mobile is the first (and perhaps, only) computer they will ever have access to.

Back to an excerpt from what I wrote in the Business Standard:

For us in India, we have a very good mobile infrastructure. What is needed is for the operators to alter their mindsets and open up their walled gardens to third-party content and applications developers much like the way NTT Docomo did with i-mode in Japan when they launched in 1999. More than voice and person-to-person SMS, future growth will come from an array of lifestyle and business services and for that the need is to build an ecosystem.

The broadband situation in India is nothing short of a disaster. Whereas countries like South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong talk of multi-megabit connectivity, we are stuck in the kilobit world. India needs cheap, reliable, high-speed, ubiquitous broadband access for homes and businesses. (Anyone who thinks 256 Kbps at Rs 350 per month with download caps is broadband should visit to one of our Asian counterparts.)

This will spur our content and software developers to innovate and build services for the domestic market and potentially extend them to others globally. South Korea did that very well and the result is not just companies like LG and Samsung, but also online gaming innovators like NCSoft. India has the creative talents in both story-telling (Bollywood) and software. The combination is what can help build out the next-generation killer services.

The scale of Indias developmental challenge needs big, bold decisions. Technology can play a small but critical part in this process. State-of-the-art mobile and broadband networks can help India address the challenges of education, health and governance. Removing obstacles to their buildout should be a national priority.

The big Internet winners Yahoo, Google, eBay and Amazon have emerged from the US. In telecom equipment, Chinese companies like Huawei and ZTE are making an increasing impact. While India has done extraordinarily well in the software services and business process outsourcing space, a bigger opportunity is emerging. This lies at the intersection of mobility and broadband.

The next generation of services content and software need to be built for this world. Yes, the PC-Internet companies can do it. But this world needs fresh, innovative, legacy-free thinking. India has the opportunity to make this happen. Just as the mobile phone is helping Indians leapfrog the wireline world and jump to an always-on, always-available world, so can Indian companies jump into the new world of teleputer services for a world where connectivity is persistent and pervasive. We may not be the first to enter this world, but we are early entrants.

Will this new world see the emergence of the Indian multi-mobi-nationals? All those interested would do well to keep these words from Peter Vesterbacka, founder of HP Mobile E-Services Bazaar, in mind: All people are mobile, even when they work. They have needs all the time, either private or professional. They need access to services and information all the time, wherever they ware. The devices they will use to access these services can be wired or wireless the people are mobileMobility is a natural state of being, not a niche market. The Internet is a subset of the mobile market.

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