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”.

Microsoft’s Nightmare

News.com writes that Microsoft’s nightmare is inching closer to reality.

As early as May 1995, three months before Netscape Communications’ initial public offering sparked the dot-com boom, Microsoft executives were worried that the nascent World Wide Web could one day become a significant threat to the Windows franchise.

In an extensive memo called “The Web is the Next Platform” that was introduced as evidence in Microsoft’s antitrust trial five years ago, Microsoft engineer Ben Slivka described a “nightmare” scenario for the software giant.

“The Web…exists today as a collection of technologies that deliver some interesting solutions today, and will grow rapidly in the coming years into a full-fledged platform (underlined for emphasis in the original memo) that will rival–and even surpass–Microsoft’s Windows,” Slivka wrote.

Microsoft, however, didn’t heed the warning. Instead, it embarked on a strategy–championed by Jim Allchin, who today heads up development of the next version of Windows–that was fanatically focused on the operating system.

Fast-forward 10 years: The nightmare is inching closer to reality and Microsoft execs are apparently paying attention to the decade-old alert. As part of a management shuffle, Microsoft said Tuesday it would make hosted services a more strategic part of the company and fold its MSN Web portal business into its platform product development group, where Windows is developed.

OneWebDay

Susan Crawford has an interesting idea:

The internet has revolutionized the lives of people all around the world, who treasure the interaction and cultural richness they find online. Because the internet is made up of machines, people sometimes think of it in a mechanical way and, often, as a machine that needs to be fixed. But the internet is as interesting and diverse as society itself. It is also fragile.

Just as we have an Earth Day to celebrate and focus on the health of the Earth, we need a day to celebrate the health and diversity of the internet and our interactions online. OneWebDay, planned for Sept. 22 of every year, will provide a chance to do that.

But OneWebDay is not just about pictures. Its about action. Well be encouraging global efforts to wire villages, connect schools, put up more hotspots, build collective online artworks, write and perform collective online music, show days on the web, and many other barn-raising and creative and connecting projects. We will have a major offline component, with people telling stories about how the web has changed their lives, and showing each other special OneWebDay artifacts. Theres no limit to what will happen on OneWebDay every year.

Business Ideas

Business 2.0 offers many entrepreneurial business ideas as part of its $50 million giveaway (via VCs). One of them:

$5M SUBSCRIPTION PCS FOR SENIORS

WHO: John Zagula, Ignition Partners, Bellevue, Wash.
WHO HE IS: As a top marketing exec for Microsoft Office from 1992 to 2000, Zagula helped it grow from a $50 million product to a $10 billion industry standard. In 2000 he joined Ignition, which manages $300 million in venture funds.
WHAT HE WANTS: PCs tailored for senior citizens, who would rent the machines on a monthly basis.
WHY IT’S SMART: By far, seniors make up the fastest-growing demographic in the United States; their numbers will swell to more than 70 million by 2030, when they’ll make up 17 percent of the population. They’re also going online in record numbers, despite the fact that many seniors find PCs too complex to use.
Zagula thinks the answer is a stripped-down PC that runs on Web-based applications, each tailored to make the most popular features — e-mail, instant messaging, photo sharing, bill paying, gift shopping, prescription ordering — as easy to use as hitting the “On” button. Leasing the machines for $30 or so per month would be attractive to seniors who are reluctant to buy. Retirement communities might lease them en masse (as part of tenants’ monthly fees), and the AARP could offer them to its members at a discounted rate. “Any easy solution will be hugely differentiated, given how much the software industry seems addicted to adding complexity,” Zagula says. “My mother-in-law is the customer. She’s a terrific person with ample discretionary income. And her need is clear: She wants a better means of gossiping with all her friends.”
WHAT HE WANTS FROM YOU: You and a team of four or five programmers need to develop a handful of Web applications with a senior-friendly format to make them irresistible. Zagula expects the initial funding to pay for limited trials.
SEND YOUR PLAN TO: info@ignitionpartners.com

TECH TALK: Rajasthan Ruminations 2: Timeout

For the last nine years, the Rajasthan trip has been pretty much the only time out that I take during the year. Most of my travels always combine a little bit of pleasure with a lot of business. It also gives me time to think away from a routine of emails, phone calls and meetings.

I still remember my first visit in this series in early 1997. Bhavana had suggested we make the trip to Nakodaji. Those were difficult times for my business. I had reluctantly agreed. It was on that trip as we drove back from Nakodaji to Jodhpur that we thought up all the Indian names which later became our portals khoj (search), khel (cricket), samachar (news), bawarchi (food), dhan (finance), manpasand (favourites). Since then, every year, I have always kept a list of things to ask the Gods for!

All these years, it had been just Bhavana and me making the trips. Id sit in the car on the long drives thinking about work, and what was going right or wrong. The trips become a good time for introspection because I got near-infinite, uninterrupted chunky time. It is hard to get that in our modern, always-connected world (except on international flights). Even though I would have my mobile with me, I would put it on Silent mode for the entire trip choosing to ignore incoming calls and messages. I was on my mini-vacation.

This year, it was different, thanks to Abhishek. He was the object of all attention. He managed rather well, sleeping for the most part through our road journeys. We had rented a Toyota Qualis, so it was quite comfortable. The roads were somewhat bumpy at times, though! Traveling on single-lane or two-lane roads which are semi-tarred can slow you down fair a bit.

I always keep a small diary in my pocket and a notebook (the paper variety) with me for making notes. I write down all my thoughts and ideas as they come. Writing helps me think better. As thoughts flit in and out of the mind, I capture them on paper so the mind can move on, uncluttered and not having to worry about remembering the previous thoughts.

Vacations are not something I am used to. It takes a day to get used to a very different pace of life. Time seems to pass ever so s-l-o-w-l-y. But it is good to experience something different. As I was telling Bhavana towards the end of the trip, I would love to spend a week or so at one of the temples completely cut-off from the world with just a few books and my thoughts for company.

Tomorrow: Water Problem

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