The Bloomberg Story

Fortune writes:

There are 250,000 installations of this product around the world, for each of which customers typically pay $1,500 a month. On the floors of large financial institutions, there will usually be seas of Bloombergs, used for trading, research, investment banking, arbitrage, you name it. But they can turn up anywhere: on the desks of attorneys, in the homes of private investors, in the offices.

The Dow Jones vs. Bloomberg saga is a stunner. In 1982, when Bloomberg the company entered the scene as a gnat, Dow Jones was America’s uncontested and proud king of financial information. It had the Journal and the Dow Jones ticker and also a glimmer that the future was technology. So in the late 1980s, Dow Jones bought a leading electronic product, Telerate, for about $1.6 billion. But Telerate simply supplied financial information to its customers – period. As they say at Bloomberg, “Telerate didn’t do anything with the data,” never providing the software that would magnify the usefulness of its information. And in 1998, struggling with both Telerate operating losses and shareholders furious about them, Dow Jones sold the company to Bridge Information Systems for $510 million, more than $1 billion less than it paid.

Vikas Goel and eSys

Inc has an inspiring story of how Vikas Goel built eSys.

Goel is the 36-year-old CEO of a Singapore-based company called eSys Technologies, which he founded in 2000. Born in India, he had arrived in Singapore in 1996 with no capital and no contacts. Four years later, he launched eSys with one employee and a part-time staff member working in a one-room office. On the surface, his timing could hardly have been worse, since right about then the bottom dropped out of his chosen line of business, the distribution of computer components.

But where others saw potential disaster, Goel saw opportunity. And by 2005, the company had sales approaching $2 billion, 112 offices in 33 countries, and four manufacturing plants where its employees assembled the products it had begun to sell under its own brand name, including a PC that went for about $250 at retail. Goel had accomplished this, moreover, without taking on any long-term debt or bringing in any outside investors–and while operating with a gross margin of as little as 3 percent.

Google’s Power

Business Week asks in a cover story if Google has become too powerful.

To the consternation of many of those companies and more, Google is now using that market cap, along with its $11 billion hoard of cash and investments, to storm a wide range of traditional markets. It’s selling ads in newspapers, magazines, radio, and, in a trial program, television. In February it fired a torpedo at the software industry with a suite of online office software it is selling for a small fraction of the price of Microsoft Corp.’s (MSFT ) Office. It’s spooking the telecom industry with fledgling efforts to provide free wireless Internet access. Google’s phenomenal ad machine, in short, has the potential to vaporize the profits of any industry that traffics in bits and bytes and to shift the economics to the advantage of Google, its users, and its cadre of partners. “It’s Google’s world,” shrugs Chris Tolles, vice-president of marketing at Topix Inc., which makes money from running Google ads on its news aggregation site. “We just live in it.”

Googlezon, GoogleWorld, just plain Googlewhatever you call it, it’s scaring the wits out of everyone from the power lunchers of Hollywood to Madison Avenue ad moguls to Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. Now, after years of hand-wringing and thumb-twiddling, some of them are pulling out the heavy artillery and firing one round after another on the Googleplex, the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.

Command Line Interfaces

Don Norman writes about what he thinks will be the next UI breakthrough:

The new command lines are far more flexible and robust than those of the past. Word order is not critical, often we can use synonyms or even related terms. Spelling accuracy is not even required, for the systems can use its own knowledge to correct spelling errors, or at the least, to suggest spelling variants. Search is never anything I want to do. I don’t want to search — I want to know something. I want an answer engine, not a search engine. The new command line interfaces still have a way to go. They have appeared serendipitously, as system developers slowly expanded the capabilities of search tools. But now it is time to recognize them for what they are and for how much better they could become.

Command line interfaces. Once that was all we had. Then they disappeared, replaced by what we thought was a great advance: GUIs. GUIs were and still are valuable, but they fail to scale to the demands of todays systems. So now command line interfaces are back again, hiding under the name of search. Now you see them, now you dont. Now you see them again. And they will get better and better with time: mark my words, that is my prediction for the future of interfaces.

TECH TALK: Creating Indias New Cities: Flashback (Part 2)

By Atanu Dey

It began with a simple realization that no one is as smart as we are. That is, a collection of very smart people is smarter than any one person however smart. Experts and expertise matters, and therefore amateurs and novices cannot be as good in figuring out the choices that confronted them. The collective wisdom of a group of smart people articulated a vision and an associated roadmap.

Who were they?

The best. From every field such as industry and business, development, economic growth, urban planning, resource management, science, technology, governance, finance, etc, they got the best from around India and the world. They got the most successful entrepreneurs and business tycoons to add to the group of experts. They got the most respected academics. The challenge to this group was simple: what is the best way for a large economy to transform itself given the resources available? The expert committee took their time and in one year came up with a recommendation.

How much did it cost, this bunch of experts? And why experts? Dont we know that amateurs do make amazing contributions?

That was the problem. India was stumbling around because every amateur and his brother was coming up with vision which with 2020 hindsight we can say was how shall I put it amateurish. It had become a cottage industry of sorts. Sit around, write a book, and there was the so-called vision. That changed when a few industry leaders said enough is enough. They got together and put in I think some paltry sum, I guess around $10 million to convene this panel of experts. And then they aggressively sold the goal to the country. Of course, they did not do it for altruistic reasons. They all became fabulously wealthy from the accompanying growth. But that is another story.

Surely, $10 million is not paltry?

Actually it is. If you consider that the spending was crucial in generating more than $10 trillion of wealth which would not have otherwise happened, that is what makes it paltry. Do the arithmetic.

And the recommendation was?

Like I said, cities. Transform India by building new cities designed and built using the best planning. Just by credibly committing to build these, it engaged every resource available. Recall that India was a very young country demographically. The people came from there. The capital came from everywhere. Businesses around the world realized that here was a market that the world had never seen. There was a mad rush to invest in India. On average, US$1 billion a day was the foreign direct investment for the last 10 years. India mopped up a significant part of the investment that used to flow into the US and China. So it was not just internal resources but global resources that flowed into India.

But why didnt that happen before?

India was there at the right time. The demographics were right. But until the credible commitment to actual economic growth was made, there was no reason for investors to invest in India. So when that commitment was made, it galvanized everyone. See, the thing is that wealth is created by human action. But human action is goal directed. Setting a good goal requires deep thinking, not political amateurism. If the person doing the thinking for the country is an illiterate scamster, you are in trouble.

But if skilled people put their minds together and set the agenda, then the goal is interesting enough, difficult enough, rewarding enough to channel all sorts of resources to its fulfillment. It creates it own dynamic, like a forest fire. The more it grows, the more resources it sucks out from the surrounding and grows even more. The wind feeds a forest fire while the same wind would snuff out a candle. To make use of the winds of change, we needed a forest fire, not a candle which we were protecting from the wind that far.

So how does one start a forest fire?

Tomorrow: Think Big

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