Low-Cost PCs for the Enterprise

Datamation writes about the various initiatives, including Novatium:

# Novatium Solutions Pvt. Ltd. of Chennai, India, is making the Nova NetPC 1000. Priced at under $100 (monitor not included) this thin client device connects to Windows, Unix and Linux servers. It uses the Linux operating system and Mozilla browser. It comes with keyboard, mouse and Webcam as standard equipment. Connection options include TCP/IP, Bluetooth, 802.11b, USB. 10/100 Ethernet and DSL.
# Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif., is making the Personal Internet Communicator — AMD began selling this three-pound device last year through ISPs in the Caribbean and India. It uses the AMD Geode GX processor, integrated DDR memory, has a 10GB hard drive, four USB ports and an internal 56K modem. The system runs on the Windows CE operating system and comes with word processor, spreadsheet, email, messaging, browser and other applications preinstalled. Prices are set by the ISP, with Cable and Wireless selling it for $238 with a 15-inch monitor or $185 without.
# Encore Software Ltd. of Bangalore, India, has the Mobilis — Encore has created three versions of this computer, at a price from about $230 to $450. There are two mobile versions, one with a built-in keyboard, and both with 7-inch LCD touch screens for stylus input. One of them is wireless. There also is a desktop model called SofComp. All models run on Linux and have open source word processing, spreadsheet, scheduling, email and other applications.
# $100 Laptop Project — This project, started by MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte, has the goal of manufacturing hundreds of millions of Wi-Fi enabled Linux laptops for sale in bulk to education departments for distribution to students. He is working with the Brazilian and Chinese governments. AMD, Brightstar, Google, News Corp, and Red Hat are supporting the project. The specifications call for a 500MHz processor, 1GB of storage and a 1-megapixel display, with software scaled down to run on the system. Production is scheduled to begin in 2006.

Collaborative Intelligence

Scott Rafer’s talk at AC2005 can be summarised as: “Collaborative Intelligence will prevail over Artificial Intelligence.”

New online social applications, specifically blogging, tagging, and social networks, are lining up to provide an astonishing improvement in how the Internet provides information to you and me. The services well have by 2008 will make todays best pale in comparison and Im thrilled with the whats available so far. The improvement is the result of aggregating the online gestures of millions of broadband humans in very simple ways. For instance, Im a habituall reader of Delicious Popular. Certainly, all the technology links which flow through it are helpful professionally, but that doesnt involve me emotionally. Its times like today when the most beautiful things appear which addict me at a far deeper level.

For Wireless Ink, its the gestures of mobile web users. Dave and I think that we can make the mobile web transparent to broadband Internet users in ways it never has been and needs to be. At Delight, its the gestures of women, assembled in savvier ways than Ive seen elsewhere. The Collaborative Intelligence of mobile web users and women will teach us all a lot.

Big Media Cos. and the Internet

WSJ qrites:

Companies like Viacom Inc., News Corp. and Time Warner Inc. worry that they will miss the rapid expansion of Internet advertising while their own, more-traditional sources of revenue growth are slowing. Some hope to directly challenge the giant portals like Yahoo Inc. and Google Inc. — Web sites that serve as gateways to the Internet. Others are transferring some of their most valuable content to online sites, even though that risks alienating their traditional distribution partners.

“There is an awakening occurring at the traditional media companies,” says Larry Kramer, president of Viacom unit CBS Digital Media.

Although it’s too soon to say whether the media industry’s latest approach will bear fruit, the companies are finding some areas more fertile than others. They have been investing heavily in youth-oriented Web sites, like gaming, and less in areas like prime-time entertainment programming that is still a cash cow for the television networks. They’re also mostly avoiding the pay-per-view model, which hasn’t yet gained traction online.

Text to Video Shift

NYTimes writes in a story about Yahoo’s TV plans:

Mr. Semel and others are finding that the long-promised convergence of television and computers is happening not by way of elaborate systems created by cable companies, but from the bottom up as video clips on the Internet become easier to use and more interesting. Already, video search engines, run by Yahoo and others, have indexed more than one million clips, and only now are the big media outlets like Viacom and Time Warner moving to put some of their quality video online.

“The basis for content on the Internet is now shifting from text to video,” said Michael J. Wolf, a partner at McKinsey & Company. “This allows advertisers to take advantage of the kind of branding advertising they are used to on television.”

Mr. Semel thinks that his approach combining content and technology could well make Yahoo the place people go first when they decide what to watch, as well as where to surf.

“You are not going to have 1,000 channels, you will have an unlimited number of channels,” Mr. Semel said. “So you aren’t going to use a clicker to change channels.”

TECH TALK: Rajasthan Ruminations 2: Bright Spot

There was one ray of hope that I saw as I travelled across the state. Since my last visit more than 18 months ago, the biggest change was in the availability of telecom. Mobile phone coverage and usage has skyrocketed. The state-owned BSNL has set up towers all over the state and that has resulted in an explosion in the number of mobile phones. Our car driver too had a phone that was the only way people could be in touch with him. My Orange (Hutch) mobile worked in and around most towns with a population of 15,000 or more. What surprised me was not just the availability of voice and SMS, but also GPRS. (The speeds were significantly better than what I get in Mumbai perhaps I was the only user out there!)

Mobiles have been a phenomenal success story in India. Growing at the rate of 2-3 million a month on a current base exceeding 60 million users, India is now amongst the fastest growing global markets. By end of 2006, we will have about 100 million mobile users. This ability to communicate is so fundamental that it is hard to fathom the damage we did to our own growth prospects over all these years by bottling up telecom in a web of state control and regulation.

Unfortunately, we have still not learnt from the past. That same stifling is now being seen in broadband. We delight in calling 256 Kbps as broadband when countries like Japan and South Korea talk of speeds 10-20 times higher. This is where we lack imagination. We think of broadband as just a high-speed data line when it is really a fundamental building block for tomorrows world. Whether it is education or healthcare, we have to reinvent processes and workflows if we have to make up for all those lost decades and a state-of-the-art digital infrastructure is one way to catch up and leapfrog.

I was heartened to see the adoption of mobile phones in Rajasthan. I have great confidence in the human spirit. If only we can put the right platform in place, we will see a thriving India not just in the cities, but also in small towns and villages. After this visit to Rajasthan, I have a little hope, but I am still mostly disappointed. We have to get out of the time warp that large parts of India are still enveloped in. It is not going to be easy, but that should be the top priority of the government and thinking people in India.

We need a Grand Vision for a Great India an India that includes the hundreds of millions for whom life has barely changed over a generation. Our leaders have failed us consistently (but then it is we who elect them). We can wait for the Messiah to come and lead us to the Promised Future or we can try and use the emerging technologies to create a New India, bottom-up. For example, a mobile phone will be available with every tenth Indian. How can that be used as an agent for change and development?

As I made my way back to Mumbai, I thought once again of Rajasthans temples. They withstood invaders and nature. Today, their past is what attracts the modern travellers. Do we want India to be known for its past or for its future? That is a choice we have to make.

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New Tech’s Rapid Evolution

Knowledge@Wharton writes:

TiVos and Treos and BlackBerrys. Wi-Fi and HDTV and plasma screens. Picture phones, digital cameras, iPods and now iPod cell phones. Using sophisticated products and keeping pace with their new features requires significant time, interest and a certain amount of smarts on the part of consumers. It also takes a lot of energy to sort out the bells and whistles you really need from those you sort-of need and those you don’t need at all.

Complexity among consumer technology products has never been greater — a good thing if the complexity means product improvement. But Wharton experts say new bells and whistles pose challenges to businesses and consumers alike. Complexity — along with choice — can have a big impact on how firms make and market new and improved gizmos, and on the decision processes of the people expected to buy them.

Apple’s Nano’s Mega Margins

Business Week writes about iSupply’s analysis: “Market research firm iSuppli set out to satisfy the curiosity by buying the $199 2-gigabyte version of the Nano and tearing it apart. The verdict? It costs Apple $90.18 in materials to build the unit and $8 to assemble it, leaving a profit margin before marketing and distribution costs of about 50%. That’s consistent with the margins on earlier iPod versions and serves as a reminder of what a profit machine the iPod family of products has become for Apple since it was introduced in 2001.”

Google’s Secret Garden

Mitch Ratcliffe writes:

I’ve decided that what Google is doing is the Web services-version of AOL’s once-formidable “walled garden” strategy.

In the walled garden, users had to log in and stay within the AOL servicemaking the challenge for AOL one of constantly adding new features to entice loyal usage, a virtually impossible task when the Web was exploding with new voicesand the wall was slowly torn down by the diversity of destinations a user selected to visit while online.

In Google’s “secret garden” strategy, the company hopes to engage users through a variety of free services that allow it to collect information about individuals in order to better target advertising. The secret is the fact that your explicit relationship with Google, that is the times you search and create an ad-placement opportunity, is orchestrated by all the non-explicit contacts you provide Google to information about you. It slowly extracts your information, building a portfolio of value based on that information and leaving you a ghost of your former private self that is unaware of the deep dependency on Google for access to information.

2005 Asian Innovation Awards

WSJ lists the winners:

Gold Winner: Motorola Asia Pacific Ltd., for a method of sending text messages in China using the finger to draw characters on a pad.

Silver Winner: Dr. Paul S.F. Yip and the Hong Kong Jockey Club Centre for Suicide Research at the University of Hong Kong, for the “Little Prince Is Depressed” Web site that helps young people cope with depression.

Bronze Winner: Agilent Technologies Inc., for a color-management system for backlighting LCD TVs.

Honorable Mention: Professor James Goh, of the National University of Singapore, for a prosthetic socket system for amputees.

Global Entrepolis@Singapore Award: The Journal also presents the Global Entrepolis@Singapore Award, which honors a company that has a strong business model and the potential to become a global market leader. The award, presented in association with Singapore’s Economic Development Board, goes to Hong Kong Broadband Network Ltd., for its high-speed residential broadband service.

Here is a previous story about the finalists.

Microsoft’s Vista and Google’s Apps

Preston Gralla writes:

The real danger to Microsoft isn’t from another company overcoming it with a rival operating system. It’s from Google, which is taking an end-around, and building applications on top of the Internet, which in essence has become the world’s largest operating system, dwarfing even Windows.

Google’s applications are simple, lean, and elegant — everything from Gmail to the Google Toolbar, Google Maps, Google News, and more. It may ultimately even build Internet-based applications like a word processor. And there is plenty of evidence it may even be launching a national Wi-Fi service, and appears to be building what may be the world’s largest backbone network.

Microsoft, meanwhile, slaves away on Vista, and fumbles every time it tries to create a Web-centric service. Does anyone remember Hailstorm from several years back? Enough said.

Google appears to be proving that in an Internet-centric world, the operating system may not matter. Internet-focused applications do. And so despite all the hype about Vista, what’s really important may be Google applications like blog search and whatever else the company is cooking up in the labs. Vista may be pretty and powerful and useful, but it may be a look backwards, not to the future.

TECH TALK: Rajasthan Ruminations 2: Water Solution?

One option which emerged as I talked with local people in Rajasthan is the interlinking of rivers project proposed by the Vajpayee government. Many environmental concerns have been raised around the project. But that was also the case with the Narmada Dam. The people I talked to were of the opinion that the Narmada Dam has made a big positive difference in Gujarat.

Lives will be affected in either case whether a dam is built or not. At this time, people in Rajasthan wait for miracles from the sky in the form of rain which rarely comes. So, it is year after year of drought. Without external intervention, I can see little hope for the much of the desert state and its people.

I came across this August 2003 note on the interlinking of rivers from the Governments Press Information Bureau:

Interlinking of rivers in India is expected to greatly reduce the regional imbalance in the availability of water in different river basins. Surplus water which flows waste to the sea would be fruitfully utilized. It is assessed that the inter-linking of rivers will provide additional irrigation benefits to 35 million hectares (Mha) -25 Mha from surface water and an additional 10 Mha from increased ground water recharge- which will be over and above the ultimate irrigation potential of 140 Mha envisaged from the conventional irrigation projects.

Construction of storage dams as proposed will considerably reduce the severity of floods and the resultant damages. The flood peaks are estimated to reduce by about 20 to 30 per cent in the Ganga and Brahmaputra basins.

The benefits of drought mitigation from inter-basin water transfers will accrue to an area of about 25 lakh hectares in West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

Hydro power could also be generated on a massive scale by the storage dams proposed under the interlinking of rivers. Hydro power development has not kept pace with the potential and requirement in our country. Against a potential of 84,000 MW, only about 22,000 MW capacity for hydro power generation has been developed so far. For an efficient working of electrical energy generating system, the mix of thermal to hydro should be about 60:40. In our country it is about 75:25. The storage dams proposed under interlinking of rivers will greatly improve this situation. The total hydro power potential of the interlinking systems is estimated to be 34,000 MW.

I am not an expert on this subject. What I see is a problem where the non-availability of water stagnates an entire region. India needs disruptive innovations and big thinking to get its regions on the development path. I see a government that seems more interested in outlays rather than outcomes. I also see a country whose coffers are filling up (at last count, India had $145 billion in forex reserves). What we lack is imagination to think big and make things happen.

What can explain the fact that after all these years the government is still not able to provide the fundamental building blocks (clean water, continuous power, good roads, quality education) to a significant number of its citizens? Indians dont want dole in the form of employment guarantee schemes or anti-poverty programmes. What they want are opportunities to get control of their own life to make things better. People are naturally resilient and entrepreneurial they will build their own bright futures. What they need are the basic building blocks. Is that too much to ask from the government?

Tomorrow: Bright Spot

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Exploding TV

Jeff Jarvis writes:

TV networks will not die. But neither will they grow – and in business, isnt that as good as dying? Their audiences have been steadily falling away for a decade. Network ad revenue is now flat and a host of new gadgets compete for viewers attention.

Yet its not technology that ultimately will challenge big medias monopoly. Its the audience who will do that, for now they – or rather, we – can produce, distribute, and market our own content at a cost media giants cannot beat. Three important developments come together now to make this possible:

Thanks to new tools, anyone can make a show. Just as blogging liberated publishing, cheap gadgets and ever- easier software can turn anyone into a broadcaster.

The internet enables us to distribute what we make to the world. No longer do we have to beg the guy who owns the broadcast tower for time.

We can now market via links. That is how some blogs have built audiences the size of midsize newspapers. That is how podcasts and vlogs (video blogs) will grow.

There is the real revolution in media: The one-way pipe that was broadcasting is giving way to an open pool that everyone owns, where anyone can play. The end of the network era isnt just about losing audience or revenue or profits. Its really about losing control.

Blog Reader Wishlist

Alex Bosworth wants a different kind of blog reader:

What I really want is to use something takes the isolated blog, single page for all posts concept that bloglines pioneered, but gives me a lot more control than clunky left navbar folders.

Instead I want tabs. I want to keep all my blogreading on a single page organized by tabs. If I have too many tabs, I should be able to merge them into folder-tabs.

When new posts arrive in a blog, the tab should change color, and possibly indicate the number of new posts. My selecting the tab would indicate I had paid attention to the entries.

I should be able to set up rules on my tabs as well. If someone mentions me in a blog, or something interesting I care about, for example a good deal on RAM on Slickdeals.net or a post about Ajax, the tab could highlight in a different color or even send me an email or sms.

The last thing i’d like to do is be able to comment within the blogreader. As it stands now, I never ever want to leave my blogreader. Half the sites whose blogs I read, I’ve never even seen their webpage. If I want to make a response, or see other peoples’ responses, I want to stay in my blogreader.

Knowledge Workers

ACM: Ubiquity has an interview with Thomas Davenport, who has written a new book: “Thinking for a Living: How to Get Better Performance and Results from Knowledge Workers.”

UBIQUITY: So then what does it take to develop a good knowledge worker?

DAVENPORT: Well, the approach adopted by most organizations in the past is that all you really had to do is hire high-quality people in the first place I refer to this as the HSPALTA syndrome (“Hire Smart People and Leave Them Alone). Of course, it’s always a good idea to hire smart and capable people, and so it’s always a good idea to put a lot of energy into attracting the right kind of knowledge workers and retaining them; but in my book I really focus on what are the kind of interventions you can make into making knowledge workers more effective. These include technological interventions, managerial interventions, workplace interventions, and social interventions.

Web 2.0 Explanation

John Hagel offers an explanation: “an emerging network-centric platform to support distributed, collaborative and cumulative creation by its users.” His post elaborates on each of the words.

Dion Hinchcliffe writes:

Imagine:

1) Using the entire Internet as your API for new applications. The leverage and reuse possibilities are probably boundless.

2) Permalink requirements make your Web 2.0 applications stable, even when they’re based on a dozen underlying services all over the Web.

3) Trust becomes a critical service in the Web 2.0 platform (which is the entire Web). Leveraging Wikipedia entries, Google PageRanks, Amazon Reviews, del.icio.us bookmark counts, and many others makes collective trust a measurable, quantifiable, and so vitally, a reusable service in the Web 2.0 stack.

4) Remixing data with high quality Web 2.0-friendly sources yields new possibilities and value. This is one of the bigger concepts that would help many organizations leverage Web 2.0 the most. When they ask: Why care about Web 2.0? Tell them: You may only be realizing a fraction of your potential. Read the Wikipedia entry article link above to see how remixing information can quickly add vast value to your IT infrastructure.

TECH TALK: Rajasthan Ruminations 2: Water Problem

Rajasthan like its temples seems to be frozen in time. I get this feeling every year as I travel through the state. There are incremental signs of progress, but it is too little to get a state on the road to development. The root cause is the lack of water. Without water, power is a challenge. There is little agriculture and development taking place. Industry is also hobbled.

Talking with some local people during the trip, it became clear to me that the only solution lay in the major government plan of interlinking of rivers. That is the only way water can be made available across the state. The Indira Gandhi Canal has made some progress, bringing regular supply to Jodhpur. But a lot more needs to be done.

I was reminded of my travel a year ago through Californias Central Valley. That part of California also lacks water, but the state fixed the problem through the Central Valley Project. Here is a brief on it:

California’s Central Valley Basin includes two major watersheds–the Sacramento River on the north and the San Joaquin River on the south–plus the Tulare Lake Basin. The combined watersheds extend nearly 500 miles from northwest to southeast and range from about 60 to 100 miles wide.

The basin is surrounded by mountains, except for a gap in its western edge, at the Carquinez Straits. The valley floor occupies about one-third of the basin; the other two-thirds is mountainous. The Cascade Range and Sierra Nevada Mountains, on the north and the east, rise to about 14,000 feet, and the Coast Range, on the west, rises to 8,000 feet. The San Joaquin River runs northward and most of its tributaries generally run east and west. These two river systems join at the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and flow through Suisun Bay and Carquinez Straits, into San Francisco Bay, and out the Golden Gate to the Pacific Ocean.

The Central Valley Project, one of the Nation’s major water conservation developments, extends from the Cascade Range in the north to the semi-arid but fertile plains along the Kern River in the south. Initial features of the project were built primarily to protect the Central Valley from crippling water shortages and menacing floods, but the CVP also improves Sacramento River navigation, supplies domestic and industrial water, generates electric power, conserves fish and wildlife, creates opportunities for recreation, and enhances water quality. The CVP serves farms, homes, and industry in California’s Central Valley as well as major urban centers in the San Francisco Bay Area; it is also the primary source of water for much of California’s wetlands. In addition to delivering water for farms, homes, factories, and the environment, the CVP produces electric power and provides flood protection, navigation, recreation, and water quality benefits.

This multiple-purpose project plays a key role in California’s powerful economy, providing water for 6 of the top 10 agricultural counties in the nation’s leading farm state. It has been estimated that the value of crops and related service industries has returned 100 times Congress’s $3 billion investment in the CVP.

So, what is the solution for bringing water to Rajasthan?

Tomorrow: Water Solution?

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Software-as-a-Service

Amy Wohl writes why more software is being offered as a service:

This represents a clear change from a few years ago when software services were still considered oddities, reserved for something special, or to address a market that it was hard to sell traditional, packaged software to.

In the meantime, several things occurred:

(1) We became much more familiar and comfortable with using the ubiquitous web.

(2) We got a lot smarter about how to write software that exploited the Internet (rather than merely trying to repurpose software written for traditional implementation onto the Internet).

(3) We discovered that customers were willing to make a different set of trade-offs in purchasing software:

— Lower prices could justify less customization
— Instant (or nearly instant) implementation and immediate usability could justify less control
— Being able to outsource non-critical applications could free up scarce IT resources for higher priority projects

(4) The idea of where an office is or who’s on a team changed radically. Today, offices can be anywhere, from the brick-and-mortar offices of the past to cars, hotel rooms, and desks at home. Teams are not just fellow employees, but may also include contractors, suppliers, and customers. In both cases, providing them with common on-line workspaces and access to applications and data is much easier in the flexible, dynamic world of a Software Service than in the behind-the-firewall world of IT, with its necessarily tighter security rules and project lag cycles.

Mobile Phone As Home Computer

Philip Greenspun writes:

What would you call a device that has a screen, a keyboard, storage for personal information such as contacts, email, documents, the ability to play audio and video files, some games, a spreadsheet program, and a communications capability? Sound like a personal computer? How about “mobile phone”?

A mobile phone has substantially all of the computing capabilities desired by a large fraction of the public. Why then would someone want to go to the trouble of installing and maintaining a personal computer (PC)? The PC has a larger keyboard and screen, a larger storage capacity, can play more sophisticated games, and has a faster communications capability.

This is a plan for building an appliance into which a mobile phone plugs and that extends the phone’s capabilities without requiring the consumer to become a system administrator or be aware that he or she owns more than a phone. In the rest of this document we will call the new device “The Appliance”.