India and China in Software

The New York Times has an interview with Dale Fuller, president and chief executive of Borland Software, about the relative strengths of the two countries:

Q. Is India still the country where Western companies look when they outsource technology work?

A. It is clear today that India has the leadership, in terms of market share, for software development and outsourcing. The reason for that is that they had an early jump start. They began by being more Westernized and having more English speakers. A lot of guys who came over here from their institutes of technology and got trained here have now gone back. A lot of the start-ups during the Internet bubble were Indian, and a lot of the resources here in Silicon Valley were the holders of H-1B visas, who also transferred back after the bubble burst.

Q. But the Chinese are catching up?

A. Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen China really put the pressure on by bringing their skills sets up. They have the language barrier. But their president made the statement that everyone will be speaking English within 20 years. They’re making some really big strides.

Q. Is it a question of costs, or do Chinese workers have some skills that are in particular demand?

A. China is a little bit lower-cost than India. But I don’t think that will last for long. Both countries have what we would classify, over the next 10 to 20 years, as inexhaustible sources of human capital.

Q. Are both countries basically in the business of writing code, or of something more sophisticated than that?

A. Between the two cultures, there are some distinct differences. One is that we see more and more services going into India, the complete service, everything from consulting services to a full customer center where you have your phone systems set up with people answering them. It’s all tied together. Having been established for a while, the Indians have a methodology and a process that’s very familiar to those of us in the Western world. China hasn’t really used that and is just now beginning to adopt it.

Q. Does China’s very different political system help it compete against India?

A. China does have a lot more resources subsidized by the government. For example, it is doing something unique to accelerate its ability to compete against India. They are publishing a list of the authorized software that any Chinese-sponsored agency or company that is subsidized can buy. If you want to do business in China, you have to have a development arm in China to build your applications or your software. China is using their muscle to say, “Hey, Mr. Microsoft, or Hey, Mr. Borland, if you want to sell to our companies or our government, you have to be based here.” That will accelerate China’s growth.

Q. Does China have any other advantages?

A. India has processes and methodology from the 90’s. It’s old. China gets to look at all the mistakes of the Indian outsourcers and learn from them. And China gets to use the new technology that we and others have developed over the past year, but India is handicapped. China did the exact same thing with wireless technology. They were so far behind that they said: “We’re not going to lay copper lines all over China. We’re going to go wireless.”

So they are closing the gap. They will catch up. They are three to five years away.

Technology and Medicine

Business Week has a special report. One of the articles looks at the prospects for digital medical records:

Evanston Northwestern has realized the dream of the U.S. health-care system, a future where no one uses paper, test results move from lab to doctor to the medical records quickly, and where docs, nurses, patients, and insurers can easily swap info electronically. It’s a future where neurosurgeons can read X-rays and test results at home and decide whether a case merits emergency surgery before rushing to the hospital. And for a host of technology companies, it’s a future where hospitals and doctors become big tech buyers.

Today, that future is still more vision than reality. Annual health-care spending in the U.S. will hit $1.8 trillion in 2004, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid. But less than 5% of that will go into information technology — far short of what’s found in financial institutions and most other service-oriented industries.

Today, health care is paying a price for its miserly tech spending. Disparate computer networks at hospitals, doctors’ offices, and health insurers are incapable of sharing information. Highly trained, highly paid personnel spend significant portions of their days performing manual chores, such as writing by hand in case files and dictating case histories for transcription.

The latest issue of the Economist has a survey of healthcare finance. NYTimes has a story of GE’s growing influence in the healthcare industry.

2004 US Elections Coverage Wishlist

Susan Mernit writes about what she’d like to see:

The New York Times or the Washington Post and Technorati or Feedster=Vox Populi
Why don’t we see a major media outlet that will file lots of stories during the election find a way to work with Technorati or Feedster so they can have almost real-time links reflecting people?s comments on–and links to–the stories–right on their web site?

Advance Publications or Tribune and Topix.net=Local depth
Why doesn’t a large regional newspaper player, like Advance or Trib, team up with Topix to provide a more complete index of local news stories related to election topics? This would be a great way to complement their coverage–if they could stand linking out to other entities, of course.

MTV and Orkut and Live Journal=Community
Why doesn’t Rock the Vote tape into the social network space and affiliate with a large, viral network and a youth-oriented blogging service to add more resonance, depth, and community to their program?

Fox News or CNN with Blogger and Picasa or Typepad=Citizen Journalism
Why doesn’t one of the larger networks and their local affiliates work with a large blogging service and their photo/mobblogging capabilities to create local citizen/journal reporters who can moblog local campaign and election events and do man on the street interviews?

All news entities with Internet Archive and Creative Commons licensing
Why not create an open source media archive for the 2004 election? What if all the major news players decided to cooperate with the Internet Archive and build a multimedia archive for the 2004 election season? And grant a Creative Commons license for use of the materials?

Yahoo or MSN or AOL plus Bloglines or Rojo = Election newsreader
Why doesn’t a news-focused portal site team up with one of the new web-based newsreader services to offer a customized and branded newsreader customized with political feeds–a My Yahoo or MSN or My AOL for the elections?
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Business Week on Sun’s McNealy

Business Week has a fairly critical report on Scott McNealy’s management style, calling it a “CEO’s last stand.”

It’s a classic management tragedy, and to a striking degree the responsibility lies with the 49-year-old McNealy. His greatest strengths — the uncompromising determination, sharp-tongued irreverence, and unblushing idealism — turned out to be critical flaws. Through interviews with 38 current and former Sun executives, including nine departees on the record, BusinessWeek has learned that as Sun’s situation deteriorated, McNealy was bucking not just the counsel of outsiders but also that of his own lieutenants. After the tech industry went into its long slide in late 2000, virtually his entire management team, including Chief Scientist Bill Joy and President Edward J. Zander, pleaded with McNealy to scale back his vision and adjust to meaner times.

Time and again, McNealy refused. An economics major during his days at Harvard University, he was convinced that the economy would snap back quickly from its slump, insiders say. Plus, he believed that the Net was so critical to companies that they couldn’t hold off buying gear for long. “The Internet is still wildly underhyped, underutilized, and underimplemented,” he said in early 2001. “I think we’re looking at the largest equipment business in the history of anything. The growth opportunities are stunning.” Preparing for the next upturn, he felt, was much more important than whittling expenses for a brief lull.

Time and again, McNealy refused.

As time wore on, the losses piled up, and McNealy’s high-minded resolve began to look to others like simple-minded obstinacy. One by one, his team lost faith and departed. All told, almost a dozen of McNealy’s most trusted lieutenants have left over the past three years, including Zander, Joy, and John Shoemaker, chief of the server business. Like many others, Masood Jabbar, Sun’s longtime sales chief who retired in 2002, says he admires McNealy’s courage. But the standoff became counterproductive. “The fight just didn’t seem worth it anymore,” says Jabbar. “It was an untenable situation.”

Now some investors believe it’s time for McNealy to follow his former execs out the door, or at least give up the CEO post and retain only a chairman’s role. Says analyst Andrew Neff of Bear, Stearns & Co.: “It’s pretty standard that if the ship keeps going toward the iceberg, you change the captain.”

I am not so sure. I think Sun still has some opportunities – but they are not where it is looking. Sun’s opportunities for its network computing platforms will be found in the emerging markets. McNealy needs to spend some time in countries like India and China to see first-hand the ground realities – and the opportunities. What they need is “computing reinvented” at price points a tenth of what the developed markets are prepared to pay.

JBoss’s Plans

News.com writes:

Open-source company JBoss is looking to expand into integration and business process automation software, potentially through acquisitions, a company executive said Friday.

The company is evaluating a plan to purchase an existing infrastructure software, or middleware, company and make its product available for free under an open-source license, Bob Bickel, JBoss’ vice president of corporate development and strategy, told CNET News.com.

“We intend to have an entire middleware stack under a professional open-source business model and grow it on an incremental basis over the next one or two years,” Bickel said.

JBoss is looking specifically to open-source, standards-based integration software, called an enterprise service bus, and business process management (BPM) software, which is server-based software for automating complex business processes, Bickel said. Currently, enterprise service bus and BPM software are offered by both large commercial software companies and smaller, specialized ones.

This will be good if it happens. SMEs need something like SAP’s NetWeaver – something we are working on with our Visual Biz-ic.

TECH TALK: Tech Trends: 7. Collaboration

Productivity emerges from teams of people working together to achieve a common goal. Even as computers have made individuals more efficient, it is only now that software is emerging to make teams work much better together. Categorised as social software, these solutions are using bottom-up knowledge sharing and management solutions like weblogs and wikis to ensure that the whole organisation is greater than the sum of its parts. The Economist had this to say about wikis recently: Wikis offer a middle ground between e-mail and a conventional web page, which makes them useful for collaborative projects, particularly those involving far-flung teams. Rather than maintaining multiple copies of a document and sharing ideas by e-mail, a wiki allows members of a team to pool their thoughts more easily. Blogs and RSS, an XML-based syndication format, even found a mention in a talk given by Bill Gates to CEOs recently. Gates said that blogs could be a good way for firms to tell customers, staff and partners what they are doing. He said blogs had advantages over other, older ways of communicating such as e-mail and websites.

Jon Udell, writing in InfoWorld, wrote about the social enterprise:

We are social animals for whom networked software is creating a new kind of habitat. Social software can be defined as whatever supports our actual human interaction as we colonize the virtual realm. The category includes familiar things such as groupware and knowledge management, and extends to the new breed of relationship power tools that have brought the venture capitalists out of hibernation.

Computer-mediated communication is the lifeblood of social software. When we use e-mail, instant messaging, Weblogs, and wikis, were potentially free to interact with anyone, anywhere, anytime. But theres a trade off. Our social protocols map poorly to TCP/IP. Whether the goal is to help individuals create and share knowledge or to enrich the relationship networks that support sales, collaboration, and recruiting, the various kinds of enterprise social software aim to restore some of the context thats lost when we move our interaction into the virtual realm.

In networked environments, everything we do can be monitored. Absent the natural cues that establish social context its hard to see groups form at the water cooler or hear voices in the hallway through e-mail or IM social software systems ask us to strike a bargain. If individuals agree to work transparently, they (and their employers) can know more, do more, and sell more.

Making groups more productive is the next big challenge that is being tackled by many companies. The focus now has been on tools that make writing individually and in teams easier. This is where blogs and wikis are rising in popularity. They do away with the rigidity that the previous generation of collaborative and knowledge management solutions had. A term used by Jonathan Spira of Basex to describe the new set of solutions is CBK: Collaborative Business Knowledge is the intersection of Knowledge Management and enterprise communities and collaboration tools. Basex invented the term because KM wasn’t broad enough (KM does not emphasize the collaboration aspect enough) nor was communities (which doesn’t emphasize enough the capture of knowledge.)

Tomorrow: A Dream Workspace

Continue reading TECH TALK: Tech Trends: 7. Collaboration