Emergic Freedom for SMEs

Am beginning to think about an Emergic Freedom market which we have not thought much of: small and medium enterprises (SMEs). This is in a way a full circle – this was how I had originally started, but then somehow I was sidetracked into thinking of the larger companies (more users => more savings).

SMEs (esp, owner/manager/proprieter-driven) will like the cost savings, and more importantly we get to the top people. Most MIS/CIOs are not particularly friendly – they see Linux as low-tech and low-cost PCs as a No-No (reduced IT budgets). At the same time, CEOs/CFOs (the ones whose money us getting spent) like the solution – they are willing to go for a 80-90% solution if it saves them costs. Also, there are many things SMEs need – website management, listserv, support / AMC, etc – which could all be packaged together. Virus is a big concern for SMEs, and we have a winning proposition there.

Maybe we need like an “SME Cookbook” – 21 ways to make technology work
for you (a book and the hardware/software solution put together). Look at the activities that SMEs do and see how we can get technology like Emergic Freedom (or more broadly, Emergic) to make a difference.

With SMEs, the issue is always how to reach them on the marketing front. That is one of the reasons we don’t think much about selling to SMEs. I need to spend some time thinking this through.

Continue reading Emergic Freedom for SMEs

Next Killer Apps

The Harrow Technology Report has an interesting collection of ideas for the next killer apps (which readers to the report wrote in). The report is worth subscribing to (it’s free). From the introduction:

In a recent issue, we explored how, in about eight years, commodity CPU chips may be running at 15,000 megahertz (15 gigahertz) and be powered by one-billion transistors. That’s some SERIOUS commodity computing power.

Considering that in Nov, 2002 the latest and greatest will be performing at 3,060 megahertz (3.06 gigahertz), and that most of us would be very hard-pressed to use all of that power (excluding scientific and power users, and gamers), I suggested that what we REALLY need to rekindle the “PC Revolution” is a set of new “Killer Apps;” their features will be SO compelling that, once again, we’ll all be on the edges of our seats waiting for the next notes of Moore’s Law to hit the shelves.

But what will those Killer Apps be? And so far, the software industry hasn’t come up with a new one for quite some time.

So I asked YOU what applications YOU think might again light up the PC world, so that your ideas might spur software developers in these direction. Your responses have been, well, ‘bountiful’ to say the least, and I’m going to share a selection of them with you here.

Some wonderful ideas to stir the imagination!

Answer this Question

Steve Guttman asks a question every entrepreneur and product needs to ask and answer:
<blockquote?
What problem does this product solve?

This simple question is the central issue behind product success or product failure. And it’s one that company executives often can’t answer coherently. They’ll often talk about how their software provides a smoother, more efficient interface, and how users can attack more sophisticated problems with its abilities. For businesses, there are only two problems that need solving: how do I increase revenues; how do I decrease expenses?

Your software can beat mosttwo steps removed from those issues to be viable. If it makes users more efficient, that efficiency needs to be directly translatable to increased sales or cost savings. If it lets users address more complex issues, make sure those issues affect profits. Features don’t sell software; benefits don’t sell software; measurable effects on the bottom line, do. Products that are only”nice-to-have,” have limited potential.

My answer for our Emergic Freedom solution: we cut computing costs by 75% as compared to the MS-Windows-Office platform. The money saved goes straight to the bottomline. The savings could also be used to grow the penetration of computing in the enterprise. For most users, the Linux desktop we offer is more than good enough for everything that they need to do.

IBM rediscovers the Desktop

Writes News.com:

IBM has charted a course to revive its position in the market by developing software designed to substantially reduce the costs of managing desktops.

Client Rescue and Recovery, one of the applications likely to debut next year, for instance, will let a person connect to the Internet and run diagnostic tests even if a PC hard drive is disabled and cannot boot the Windows operating system. Another application in development, Instant Connect, will simplify the process of establishing an out-of-office network connection.

IBM’s overall effort began about a year ago with the release of ImageUltra and RapidRestore, PC recovery tools. ImageUltra essentially simplifies the process of loading software onto fleets of PCs, often a time-consuming task for large companies. So far, customers can use ImageUltra only on IBM PCs, but the company is expanding it so that most of the functionality can be used to apply software to other brands of computers.

With RapidRestore, if a virus fatally cripples a desktop, a person can voluntarily wipe out the active parts of the hard drive by pressing the F11 key. An identical copy of the software and any data the person chooses to back up–all hidden beneath a partition in the hard drive–will then be recovered.

Client Rescue and Recovery is a more polished version of RapidRestore, Connors said. People can still wipe out the contents of their hard drives above the partition, but there are also less-drastic measures to take. If problems occur, a person can run diagnostic tests to determine the problem. Web connections can also be made without booting up Windows. Client Rescue and Recovery is tied to the BIOS (basic input-output system), so it does not depend on Windows.

Co-workers can also “jump start” one another’s PCs by sending over a copy of Client Rescue and Recovery. The stalled PC then functions like a thin client: It connects to the Internet because it can channel through the PC that is loaning it software.

Meanwhile, another upcoming software tool developed by IBM called Distributed Wireless Security Auditor lets administrators use PCs to detect unwanted wireless access points. With the application, every PC with 802.11 capabilities periodically sniffs for unlawful access–often wireless access points set up by employees for their convenience. Through geographic triangulation, the access point can be detected.

The wider angle: “IBM’s desktop revival is part and parcel of the “computing-on-demand” strategy laid out last month by new CEO Sam Palmisano. In the future, according to IBM, computing capabilities will be delivered the same way utilities such as electricity or gas is: Instead of building and running their own computer departments, companies will hire third-parties to deliver a variety of on-demand computing power for fees. Computer systems will also increasingly begin to monitor and fix themselves, or at least give administrators better warning about the problem, and advise them on how to repair it. ”

Wireless Opportunities

Writes Forbes: “It is the bitter irony of America’s skies: Open airwaves are everywhere, yet the people desperate to use them cannot….Radio spectrum may be the most valuable natural resource of the information age, carrying every form of wireless communication, from FM radio to television to cell phone calls to Wi-Fi to military radar.”

Some of the new wireless technologies:

COGNITIVE RADIO: Today’s wireless devices jam up when they come across other signals. Cognitive radios can sense interference and jump to an empty frequency.

SOFTWARE-DEFINED RADIO: Most radios can receive and transmit one type of signal at one range of frequency. New gadgets can build basic functions out of software-a cell phone could regear to tap an incompatible network, and then turn itself into a garage-door opener or TV remote.

ULTRAWIDEBAND: By transmitting very low power radio signals across a huge range of frequencies, new gear can do an array of cool tricks, such as peering through solid objects (without the X ray’s radiation issues). Earlier this year the FCC passed new rules allowing limited use of ultrawideband devices.

MESH NETWORKS: This approach relies on cognitive radios to intelligently adapt networks, depending on how many people are onboard. As more users join in one area, their gear would cooperatively pass along signals to cut congestion.

RADIO-ON-A-CHIP: Intel just unveiled the ability to make full radios-from antennas to amplifiers-out of the same silicon wafers used for microchips. Intel hopes to have a radio in every chip it makes in five years.

Continue reading Wireless Opportunities

Business Usage of Computers

Writes David Wessel: “It isn’t how much a business spends on information technology that spurs productivity. It’s how it uses it. Across the economy, businesses are trimming computer budgets. But the late 1990s productivity spurt persists because they’re figuring out how to get more out of the technology they’ve already purchased. That’s bad for chip maker Intel Corp.’s bottom line, but good for the economy.”

He adds: “A report to be released next week by the consulting firm’s think tank, the McKinsey Global Institute, comes to a conclusion that sounds obvious, but was overlooked by many chief executives during the 1990s computer-buying spree: Buying computers isn’t an end, it’s a means to executing a smart strategy. Too many companies bought one-size-fits-all solutions that didn’t fit. Now, management consultants always conclude it’s the strategy (their product) not the technology (someone else’s product), but they see enough botched projects to have insights worth pondering.”

Mass-Market XML

Writes Jon Udell (InfoWorld):

We’ve known for many years that most of our vital information lives in documents, not databases. XML was supposed to help us capture the implicit structure of ordinary business documents (memos, expense reports) and make it explicit. Sets of such documents would then form a kind of virtual database. The cost to search, correlate, and recombine the XML-ized data would fall dramatically, and its value would soar. It was a great idea, but until the tools used to create memos and expense reports became deeply XML-aware, it was stillborn. XML did, of course, thrive in another and equally important way. It became the exchange format of enterprise databases and the lingua franca of Web services. Now Office 11 wants to erase the differences between XML documents written and read by people using desktop applications, and XML documents produced and consumed by databases and Web services. This is a really big deal.

The first beta of Office 11 doesn’t include any demonstrations of the new XML features, but the Office team put together some examples for us, and Jean Paoli talked us through them. We started with a rsum template written in Word 11. Today we use such templates mainly to control the appearance of documents. If we also want to control their content, we can ask developers to write macros that enforce business rules. In principle, a company could publish a rsum template that would, for example, require job seekers to describe past experience in terms of a controlled vocabulary. In practice, that rarely happens. Procedural code to enforce such constraints is hard to write and even harder to reuse. With Word 11, you can attack this problem by defining a schema and mapping its elements to a rsum template.

In the rsum example, we associated a schema with a sample rsum, using the Templates and Add-ins dialog. A new task pane called XML Structure then appeared, displaying a single root element named Rsum. We selected it, and chose the option Apply to Whole Document. Now subelements named Objective, Experience, and Education appeared in the task pane. Mapping these to regions of the sample rsum revealed deeper structure until the entire schema was finally mapped.

Another example illustrated the same scenario for Excel. Here, the fields defining an expense report were captured in a schema, then mapped to an expense report. Once we saw how it worked, we were able to apply the same concept to our existing InfoWorld spreadsheet. After writing a simple schema, we dragged elements from the XML Structure pane onto the spreadsheet to bind named schema elements to numbered cells.

Continue reading Mass-Market XML

TECH TALK: India Post: Ideas for Tomorrow: The Story of Nayapur (Part 3)

Pitaji also logs in to the local agri-exchange website, after receiving an alert in the email that the seed prices have fallen in the past week below the threshold level he had set. He thinks that this is a good time to buy. He makes the purchase, requesting for delivery at the Nayapur Post Office. At the same time, he gives the Post Office the permission to debit his account for the transaction. Pitaji is happy that he now no longer has to go through agents who somehow never would give him the right information or the best price.

At the Post Office, Pitaji meets Kishan and Mohan. Kishan is his friend Sharmaji’s son. Until a few months ago, Kishan used to just while away his time doing little of consequence. Now, he, along with two of his friends, were the local System Administrators. Together, they managed the local India Post network, and the other computers deployed across the village. Pitaji remembers being amazed at the transformation in the trio. The computers had opened up a new world of opportunities for them. They were now even learning programming via the courses available over the Internet. Mohan is Pitaji’s nephew, and has come to the Post Office to pick up his new orders. Mohan is an excellent craftsman. He makes wonderful pots. Ganga had once shown Mohan SamacharGifts.com once, and helped Mohan set up a web page for his pots and skills. Now, Mohan regularly gets orders via the Internet, and uses the Post Office to send his products and receive payment for them.

Pitaji remembers the time when the railway had first come to Nayapur. It had changed the mental geography of people in Nayapur. People felt they had mastered distance. For the first time, they knew what mobility meant. Ordinary people’s horizons expanded. Now, the computer and the Internet via the Post Office had brought about the magic of e-commerce for people like Mohan. For them, the Internet and the Post Office had eliminated distance, becoming windows to the modern world.

Just as Pitaji is leaving, he sees Gauri and her friends coming in. School has just got over for the day. Gauri and her friends want to see the new multimedia presentation, a copy of which is there on the local server. Gauri uses computer to take a History test, getting ready for her coming exams. Gauri also checks her email she uses India Post’s mail service, which downloads her email automatically to the local server in the Post Office, thus providing her very fast access. Just before leaving, Gauri and her friends take up positions on different computers to test out the latest multi-player video game.

On his way back home, Pitaji stops by the hospital for a check-up. The local hospital is quite small. Medical care earlier had been almost non-existent in Nayapur. Now, the computer at the hospital regularly uses the Internet via the Post Office server to consult with the specialists at the city hospital. Reports are emailed and at times, even a live video conference can be set-up with the patient. This way, the Internet has addressed one of the biggest issues in healthcare that a hospital in a rural area was unable to offer specialist services.

Tomorrow: The Story of Nayapur (continued)

Continue reading TECH TALK: India Post: Ideas for Tomorrow: The Story of Nayapur (Part 3)