India Outsourcing Grows Up

Business Week writes:

Like almost everyone, Indian operators dislike dealing with abusive customers frustrated by shoddy service. But more important, India’s leading outsourcing shops say their U.S. corporate clients continually try to ratchet down prices, which inevitably drives down the quality of service they can provide. So lately, Indian outsourcers have begun turning down call center contracts, preferring better-paying deals for processing mortgages, handling insurance claims, overseeing payrolls, and more.

Call centers are becoming a less important feature of the Indian business landscape. In 2000, they represented 85% of the total back-office business; now they’re about 35%, according to Nasscom, India’s outsourcing industry trade association. And while call centers are still growing in India, the business is expanding at about 30% annually, compared with 60% growth for nonvoice back-office work, Nasscom says. “The intellectual value of India is not at this low end, but with taking large and complex processes and improving them,” says T.K. Kurien, chief executive of Wipro BPO.

Mobile Users: Search vs Locate

Marek Pawlowski writes:

M-Spatial, a location-based services provider, has also released some figures which shed light on how users are searching for real world shops, restaurants and facilities from their mobile devices. This is a particularly important area for mobile user experience because it bridges the gap between whats happening virtually on the screen and actual interaction with the physical environment.

On a macro-scale, mobile devices are becoming increasingly influential on their surroundings – whether it is a teenager walking down the street playing music from the speaker on their phone (has anyone else noticed how many people are doing this?) or a user scanning a screen-based barcode to gain access to a turnstyle (recently trialled by O2 at Twickenham Rugby stadium) – handsets are becoming remote controls for the real world.

PC’s 25 Years

The Economist writes:

The PC has created wealth on a massive scale. The combined stockmarket values of PC hardware and software firms exceed half a trillion dollars. Cheap computers have boosted the productivity of individual workers. And hundreds of millions of people have benefited from access to word-processing, spreadsheets, e-mail, file-sharing and cheap phone callsto say nothing of the riches of the web.

The PC is under threat as the primary platform for which software is written, as software starts instead to be delivered over the internet. You can call up Google or eBay on any device with a web browsernot just a PC. People have been saying it for years, but this could finally allow much cheaper web terminals, or network computers, to displace PCs, at least in some situations.

Microsoft and the Internet

The New York Times writes:

Internet search, according to Microsoft, will increasingly become seamlessly integrated into the Windows desktop operating system, Office productivity software, cellphones powered by Windows and Xbox video games.

Search will not be a destination, but it will become a utility that is more and more woven into the fabric of all kinds of computing experiences, said Kevin Johnson, co-president of Microsofts platforms and services division.

ThisNext for Shopping Discovery

GigaOM writes:

ThisNext CEO Gordon Gould describes the companys idea for Shopcasts as a list of top-ten-style products from online influencers like chefs, and professional rock climbers. The shopper can click through to buy the item and the influencer gets paid. I checked out ThisNexts site, which is in private beta and will launch August 21st, and played around with the discovery and recommendation features. Im a sucker for products recommended by sites like Coolhunting and Dailycandy and ThisNext sounds like an easier more powerful way to access that type of data.

The interesting part is the technology behind the service that creates a set of metrics based on which recommenders have the most influence, among other things. Gordon compares some of the features to Flickrs Interestingness.

TECH TALK: Mobile Internet: NTT Docomos i-mode

The digital infrastructure in Japan in 1999 was somewhat similar to the urban Indian market of today. There were more mobiles than computers. It was a somewhat saturated market for mobiles. Broadband infrastructure was not very good. It was in this context that the largest mobile operator, NTT Docomo, launched its I-mode service in 1999. Wikipedia has more: In contrast with the WAP standard, which uses WML on top of a specific protocol stack for wireless handheld devices, i-mode borrows from fixed Internet data formats such as C-HTML based on HTML, as well as DoCoMo proprietary protocols ALP (HTTP) and TLP (TCP, UDP). It became a runaway success because of the well-designed services and business model, as well as the strong demand for mobile email services which are part of i-Mode.

Business Week (Jan 17, 2000) wrote about the technological underpinnings of I-mode and how the ecosystem approach made the service click:

With packet systems–as opposed to circuit-switched phone networks–there is no need for each user to receive an exclusive radio channel. That means many users can access the network at the same time. The packet model also reduces costs, since charges are based on the volume of data sent and received.

Takeshi Natsuno devised the business model to make this system work. First, he dictated that i-mode should serve as a portal site and lined up content providers that users could access directly from i-mode’s menu bar. Then he set up a billing method whereby DoCoMo would reap a commission for the services rendered by this first tier. Other content owners would be encouraged to code their Web pages for i-mode as well. But only those belonging to the licensed first tier could be accessed by the menu bar. ”People say the Internet has to be free, but we’re charging for it,” says Natsuno, 34. ”This is a model for the mobile Internet that others now want to emulate.”

Tachikawa, president and chief executive since 1998, insisted on a cheap pricing plan to guarantee the widespread adoption of i-mode. Subscribers pay about 4 cents to send a 250-character message, and half that to receive a message of the same size. Tachikawa also insisted that the functions be as simple as possible. ”I can access DoCoMo’s share price in just two clicks,” he says.

Asiaweek wrote about i-mode in January 2000:

DoCoMo has discovered a formula for making money off the Internet, something few companies have achieved. That’s partly because the company has managed to get Japanese, and particularly Japanese teenagers, to pay for specially-tailored wireless content even if it is only a few dollars a month for the right to use a cartoon character. Some i-mode sites provide crude online games, some sell horoscopes, others stock quotes. There are news services, e-mail, virtual-reality girlfriends. There is even an i-mode language, a growing collection of on-screen symbols called emoji Japanese for “picture words” meant to convey messages to other users in a keypad stroke or two.

DoCoMo charges a monthly subscription fee, which gives users access to myriad free sites. The carrier also charges for the amount of data a customer receives, not according to airtime. Users are always connected to the wireless Net as long as the phone is turned on an advantage over clunky Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) services offered elsewhere that require customers to dial up sites and then wait minutes for connections to be made. Another big reason for DoCoMo’s success: it eliminated the sticky issue of online payment that has slowed the growth of e-commerce on the wired Internet. The phone company keeps track of purchases and simply adds them to customers’ monthly bills.

Tomorrow: NTT Docomos i-mode (continued)

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