Yesterday, I had a wonderful meeting with John Robb of Userland. John is one of my favourite bloggers, and it was a delight meeting up with him. We had a great 2-hour session on the world of blogs and software. He has posted his summary of our discussion on the K-logs Yahoo Groups (you must join it if you have interest in knowledge management or weblogs). Have reproduced it in its entirety here.
Yesterday, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Rajesh Jain, the CEO of India’s Emergic, at my home (in the midst of a double birthday party for two of my lovely daughters). Rajesh is working on building a desktop for the 80-90% of people working at corporations in developing countries that don’t have PCs yet.
The problem is that in order to extend PCs to the vast majority of employees at these companies, the cost of software and hardware needs to come down to around $200 a desktop. He is already working on sourcing older PCs that cost $150 a pop. By putting Linux on them, they are nearly as powerful as new PCs we buy today with Windows (Windows has a lot of overhead that radically slows the performance of a PC). Next, he needs to be able to build almost every type of application people would need on a PC for under $50 a year. He needs Swiss
The solution of course is to build applications as websites on the desktop. Given that people he is selling to don’t have a legacy problem (they aren’t already using existing last generation apps like Office, ERP, CRM, e-mail, etc. from the major vendors nor are they likely to), the opportunity is to provide them a new, more functional experience. His idea, which I think is wonderful, is to put K-Logs at the center of the desktop for these employees and surround them with digital dashboards that connect them to the data they need to do their job. Search, very much like a Google on the desktop, would tie it all together.
Basically, the K-Log would serve as the routing system for employee data entry. This means, that employees could enter data into the system using a browser-based interface and route the data to where it needs to go (to one app
or multiple apps). This creates a single point of data entry for KM K-Logs, ERP, CRM, financial, and e-mail. All entries would be logged on a personal K-Log (a time-organized back-up brain). Some entries would be published to a central K-Log on the Intranet for general consumption by other employees (KM). A digital dashboard would enable employees to see data on sales, financial performance, e-mail, supply information, news, etc. All of that data would arrive as RSS subscriptions or Web Services delivered in real-time (all data displayed could be easily subscribed to ala carte — also data could be annotated and added to the K-Log through a simple post procedure).
The advantages to this approach are too numerous to list.
Although initially, much of this may be centralized, the longer term vision is to totally decentralize it. So, in five years, the standard PC used by a large percentage of the employees in the world may be running Linux, Radio (which includes a database, content management system, development environment, and web server that runs on the desktop — Swiss army software), and web apps powered by centralized Web Services built by Emergic.
Note: It was so great to talk/work with someone that really didn’t care about all the buzzwords spewing out of the big technology companies. We are all so overmarketed in the states, particularly in regards to software, that most of us don’t realize how really bad or nonfunctional most of what we buy is. Buzzwords, jargon, branding, etc. totally cloud our judgement. Legacy systems and mindsets freeze us in place. Unfortunately, I think we are stuck with it. Rajesh is planning to build a system to allow companies in emerging markets to leapfrog us in terms of the productivity, flexibility, and functionality of their information systems. I expect tales of woe in five to seven years about how America missed the opportunity to reinvent software but didn’t. Fingers will be pointed, particularly given the billions that were spent. It would be interesting to see Microsoft, IBM, and Sun treated like GM, Ford, and Chrysler were 17 years ago when Japanese imports crushed their marketshare.
John has summarised Emergic’s Vision better than I ever could have!