German Innovation Moves East

WSJ writes about why and how Siemens is designing its new cellphone in Beijing rather than Munich:

Siemens’ decision to turn east for engineering know-how represented a big gamble for a company that has relied on the ingenuity of its German engineers for more than 150 years. It also reflected one of Germany’s biggest economic challenges ever: The erosion of its dominance in engineering, long the lifeblood of the world’s third-largest industrialized economy and a source of cultural pride.

For years, Germany, like many other countries, lost manufacturing jobs to China and other low-wage countries in Asia and Eastern Europe. But its engineering sector remained a safe haven, one of the few areas where the country could hold its own globally. Highly paid German engineers proved their worth with a steady stream of innovations, including the world’s fastest train, designed by Siemens and ThyssenKrupp AG.

Now engineering jobs are beginning to move abroad as well. “If the Chinese can produce high tech at low cost, one has to consider where that’s going to lead,” said Siemens Chief Executive Heinrich von Pierer, who in May announced plans to hire 1,000 Chinese engineers this year and invest about $1.23 billion in China. “In Germany, we have to ask ourselves what we have to offer.”

Germany’s predicament shows how the flow of increasingly sophisticated jobs into low-wage markets is reshaping economies around the world. And the biggest winner — China — is not merely taking away existing work from industrialized nations, but is also creating thousands of new jobs.

WiFi Hubs in Landline Phones?

Tom Coates has an idea: “Given that it would seem to be a good thing to split the provision of wireless network access from computers, and given that we’ll still need an interface and given that we need a point in all the core rooms of a home and given that we need to connect this network to the telephone network in some way – isn’t the telephone itself the ideal appliance to be the heart of the home network? Unlike the television or the radio or the stereo, any place in a home where people are likely to spend a lot of time is likely to have a telephone point in or near it. They have small interfaces on them already – a numeric keypad for one and often a small LCD screen for recording input, and they’re already connected physically to the telephone network.”

On a related note about WiFi, here are two article links and discussions on Slashdot:
An 802.11 Router For 3G Internet Service
Pushing Wi-Fi’s Limits: Problems and Solutions

Apple’s Spotlight

[via Brad DeLong] Daring Fireball writes about Apple’s forthcoming desktop search utility and its focus on metadata:

Spotlight is much more than just the visible UI shown during Jobss keynote: the vibrant blue search field in the top-right corner of the screen, and accompanying search results window. Thats Spotlight, the user-visible keynote-demo-able front-end.

Under-the-hood, however, Spotlight is also a set of APIs accessible by third-party developers. Its an entirely new metadata database not replacing the existing HFS+ file system, but instead built on top of it.

One implication of Spotlights file-centricity is that its ability to search email might not apply to clients other than Apple Mail its the fact that the new Tiger version of Mail stores each message as a separate file that allows Spotlight to effectively return individual mail messages as search results. No other major mail client uses a one-message-per-file storage format.

Whats cool about this architecture is that Spotlights indexes will thus stay up-to-date automatically. All you need to do is save, move, or copy a file, and Spotlights metadata and content indexes will note the changes on-the-fly. Compare and contrast to the full-content file searching previously provided via Sherlock, which required periodic monolithic re-indexing of the content of your drives.

Subscription-based Business Models

TJ links to comments by Paul Allen: “I have concluded that the best and fastest way to build another billion dollar company is to create a subscription product that one million people will eventually pay $10-20 per month to use. A million customers paying $15 per month would generate $180 million in revenue. If the company had a profit margin of 25% and a P/E ratio of 20, the company’s market cap would be $900 million.”

This is exactly what we need to do in Emergic – provide hardware, software, content, connectivity and support for $15 per month to homes, SMEs and education markets.

Meta-Mail

Ed Brill writes about Esther Dyson’s Release 1.0 issue on Meta-Mail (available for $80). From the report introduction:

Indeed, data is relatively easy, and we have good tools for it: the calculator, the spreadsheet, and the giant financial number-crunching application. The spreadsheet gave users a tool not just to calculate, but to build complex models and, in fact, to do many things that previously could be done only by IT high priests. Better yet, the spreadsheet allowed them to build models that were intelligible to normal people. So-called power users could build the models, while other users could reuse or modify them, plugging in their own data and coefficients. Complementary graphing and other tools made the data more visible and meaningful to ordinary people who could not pick trends out of a sea of numbers. We also have the database, which acts as a back-end to those corporate applications and to the spreadsheets, allowing for easier sharing of data across applications and even among enterprises.

The first successful spreadsheet was called VisiCalc; where is VisiProcess?

This issue highlights some of the tools and applications in which users are finally getting tools to define and control processes for themselves, for teams and even in part for enterprises. Collectively, they will serve to make business processes easier to model and manage.

I bought and read the issue – it is excellent. Quite amazing that even after all the applications in the world, how much we end up doing in email. I have been thinking that in Netcore we need to look at a three-pronged email strategy for enterprises: managing bad mail (we have Emergic CleanMail), managing subscriptions (we have Info Aggregator), and managing good mail (we need solutions here).

TECH TALK: Tech Trends: India Action: Create STIM and PIN-News

In India, e-business has lagged primarily because of the lack of an Internet infrastructure in the country. There are signs that this is going to change in the near-term as cheaper computers combined with affordable always-on broadband connections will bring more consumers and businesses online. Indias current base of 17 million users is expected to grow rapidly and touch 60-100 million in the next 3 years. Add to this the rapidly growing mobile users (already at 35 million) and India could be set for a boom in e-commerce in the coming years. A harbinger of this was the recent entry of eBay into India via the acquisition of Baazee.com for $50 million. Given this context, there are two platforms which can help dramatically accelerate e-business in India: the creation of an SME Trade Information Marketplace (STIM) and PIN-News.

STIM is about helping small- and medium-sized enterprises build and maintain an online presence, and connect with each other. By using two-way publish-subscribe technologies (wikis, weblogs, RSS aggregators), it will become much easier for SMEs to get out of the marketing trap that they find themselves in and grow their business. Each business needs to have an online presence comprising of four components: an About Us page in the form of a wiki which can be easily edited, a Whats New page which has the new developments at the company both on the buy and sell side, a meta information page which gives contact and industry information and can be used by search engines to filter results, and a set of subscriptions based on keywords or topics which deliver the relevant updates from other SMEs, thus helping connect one business to other based on interest.

PIN-News is about building a bottom-up community information system. It is built around PIN codes. Neighbourhood events can be posted on to specific pages, organised in a weblog-format. By using standardized forms to do the post, it is possible to capture the information in XML format and use a matching engine to send out alerts to people. For example, if I am interested in book exhibitions or special offers, I can set up an alert on a few PIN codes around my home and workplace. When the book shops in the area do their updates (as part of STIM), I can be immediately alerted. PIN-News thus fills the gap in communicating dynamic information to people who are most likely to benefit from it.

Taken together, STIM and PIN-News can help make the Internet a utility in the lives of Indians and give the ones who do not have access a reason to get connected. It leverages the fact that much of our lives is spent in neighbourhoods and yet we know so little about it because our current media cannot get narrow enough to cost-effectively reach us. This is where the Internet and electronic information marketplaces can make a difference.

Next Week: Tech Trends (continued)

Continue reading TECH TALK: Tech Trends: India Action: Create STIM and PIN-News