Product Development 2.0

Dion Hinchcliffe writes: “What is Product Development 2.0 exactly? It’s an informal term I’m applying to something that online startups and traditional businesses both are increasingly doing: leveraging of mass user contributions, providing open architectures for others to build on as they like, and even handing control over key product decisions directly to users. The reasoning behind doing this is simple: Satisfied customers have always been essential to having the most successful business, both online and offline. But how best can you ensure that they get exactly what they want from you, as customized and quickly as possible? This is where the scale, new tools, and business models of Web 2.0 have stepped in, giving us the potential to provide our customers with better, rich products, much more quickly, and with more of what they want. Taken as a whole, it’s increasingly clear that there are new business models afoot that are just now being well understood.”

Intentional Programming

The New York Times writes:

Charles Simonyi, the chief executive of Intentional Software, a start-up in Bellevue, Wash., … wants to overthrow conventional coding for something he calls intentional programming, in which programmers would talk to machines as little as possible. Instead, they would concentrate on capturing the intentions of computer users.

The method begins with the intentions of the people inside an organization who know what a program should do. Mr. Simonyi calls these people domain experts, and he expects them to work with programmers to list all the concepts the software must possess.

The concepts are then translated into a higher-level representation of the softwares functions called the domain code, using a tool called the domain workbench.

iPod and Musicphones

Tomi Ahonen suggests that the reign of the iPod is over.

A massive 309 million musicphones were sold in 2006 (you read it right, today musicphones outsell iPods at almost 7 to one!). And those who say “but they don’t consume music on phones” – wrong. Several global studies now prove that the vast majority of musicphone owners listen to – and buy – music to – their phones. The game is totally, utterly, irreversably, permanently over. The iPod is a niche product today with rapidly diminishing market share. The mass market belongs to the phones. That is why last week Apple was forced into announcing the iPhone, inspite of not even owning the iPhone name.

Google as our Internet

Robert Cringely writes:

Google intends to take over most of the functions of existing fixed networks in our lives, notably telephone and cable television.

The Internet as we know it is a shell game, with ISPs building their profits primarily on how many users they can have practically share the same Internet connection. Based on the idea that most users aren’t on the net at the same time and even when they are online they are mainly between keystrokes and doing little or nothing when viewed on a per-millisecond basis, ISPs typically leverage the Internet bandwidth they have purchased by a factor of at least 20X and sometimes as much as 100X, which means that DSL line or cable modem that you think is delivering multi-megabits per second is really only guaranteeing you as much bandwidth as you could get with most dial-up accounts.

This bandwidth leveraging hasn’t been a problem to date, but it is about to become a huge problem as we all embrace Internet video. When we are all grabbing one to two hours of high-quality video per day off the net, there is no way the current network infrastructure will support that level of use. At that point we can accept that the Internet can’t do what we are asking it to do OR we can find a way to make the Internet do what we are asking it to do. Enter Google and its many, many regional data centers to fill this gap.

In a follow-on post, Cringely writes that the only way to compete is through P2P networks.

if there is going to be an alternative to Google, that will have to be us, too.

It’s pretty simple, really. As more and more video hits the web, ISPs will find themselves crushed by demand that will drive up their backbone costs until all profit is driven from their businesses. Google will come to the rescue with regional data centers that will peer with local ISPs and relieve them of much of that burden, allowing the ISPs to actually cut back their backbone connections and run fewer servers, though at the cost of losing the big movie studio and TV network business deals those ISPs currently think will eventually make them rich. If we look at what Google will be offering, it is bandwidth and server power. So to compete with Google will require bandwidth and server power.

Mobile Social Networking and GPS

WSJ writes:

Many young people are obsessed with two things: social networking and their mobile phones. Companies have been trying to cash in on combining them, but up until now, nobody has found an approach that has really caught on. News Corp.’s MySpace and Facebook Inc. recently launched offerings that help people connect to their Web sites from their phones but the services don’t allow users to do much more than they could do online.

Now, GPS technology is adding a new dimension to wireless social-networking services, letting cellphone users find each others’ locations — just as GPS-equipped phones are becoming more prevalent, partly in response to federal rules that require carriers to make it easier for emergency officials to locate cellphone users. An estimated 63% of mobile phones sold in North America in 2007 will have GPS or assisted GPS functions, up from 55% of phones sold in 2006, according to market researcher Gartner Research.

TECH TALK: When Bad Things Happen: Vanishing Website

I remember another incident in late 1996. The company hosting our IndiaWorld website suddenly decided to shut down our servers. Some demands were made, which I could not obviously meet. I was stunned. I could see my entire business collapsing in front of me. Without our flagship website, what would we do? For an entire day, I sat still and nearly motionless. All I could see was Failure written all over. Given that this was not the first time I was failing in a business, I began to question myself and my abilities. I descended into a spiral of negative thinking.

It was then that my wife suggested that I do what many others do when they are in trouble: Pray. Until that time, I was not much of a believer in God. I would do the periodic obligatory visits to temples without much feeling. Not seeing much of a choice in the situation (and being one of those who believe that the Wife is Always Right), I went and prayed. A rational mind still refuses to believe what happened thereafter. But within a day, things started looking up. While we lost our domain, it was not all dark and bleak. VSNL helped me host our servers in India. NCST (yes, the same institution which had terminated my Internet connection just over a year ago) moved quickly to give us the domain. And we were up and running again in a matter of 24 hours. We had to rebuild our customer base from scratch, but at least we had the website running now.

There are a couple of lessons to be drawn from this. Faith in God is one of them. To this day, I make it a point to visit the temple daily. I cannot and do not want to make a causal link, but there are some things best left unanswered. The other lesson I learnt is that an entrepreneurs Passion can create Friends. As I sat in front of the GM at VSNL, all I could convey is my vision and passion. He believed in what I was doing and ensured that we would get all the help we needed to get our service operational. At that time, VSNL did not even have a formal policy on hosting and pricing. Different people helped us en route as we tried to rebuild the business click by click.

Tomorrow: Seeing The Good

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