TiE On-Demand Panel in Bangalore

I am part of a panel on Entrepreneurial Opportunities in an On-Demand World being organised by TiE in Bangalore on December 8. Other panel members are Steve Savignano, Chairman & CEO, Ketera Technologies, and Venkat Panchapakesan, CEO of Yahoo! India. Here’s a brief about the discussion:

With the promise of lower capital investment, rapid ROI and lower Total Cost of Ownership, on-demand business applications are rapidly changing the face of the enterprise software market, challenging incumbents, and bringing hitherto large enterprise solutions to the price-points that target mid-market and smaller enterprises.

While established players like Yahoo! have offered applications such as Web-hosting and email challenging the likes of MS-Exchange, startups like Ketera, Salesforce.com, Intacct and Netsuite are offering business applications like eProcurement, Spend Management, CRM and Accounting applications, challenging the likes of Ariba, Siebel, i2 and other enterprise software companies.

This panel discussion examines the industry move to on-demand from several aspects, notably:

* What constitutes an on-demand business application
* The value proposition of on-demand
* What applications are most conducive to on-demand delivery
* The role of consulting services
* Case studies
* Opportunities for entrepreneurs

I plan to talk about “commPuting” in the context of emerging markets like India – centralising software and content delivery to thin clients to reduce TCO and also tackle complexity.

Wisdom of Crowds

Dave Pollard offers some insights based on James Surowiecki’s book:

Just to restate the basic principle: Many cognitive, coordination and cooperation problems are best solved by canvassing groups (the larger the better) of reasonably informed, unbiased, engaged people. The group’s answer is almost invariably much better than any individual expert’s answer, even better than the best answer of the experts in the group.

The reason for this superiority is that each individual brings to the problem some valuable unique knowledge or perspective, and any errors in that knowledge or perspective are balanced off against those of others in the group, so the collective wisdom of the group is likely to be extremely accurate, reliable, knowledgeable, and predictive. If you’re skeptical, please read the book — Surowiecki presents dozens of examples to support this thesis. The average prediction of one such group, the Iowa Electronic Market, over the several months before the election, was that Bush would win by a comfortable 3% margin and that Republicans would make gains in both houses of Congress. They were exactly right.

My ‘Collective Intelligence’ model realizes (a) that there are some things that crowds can’t do (they need to be given a problem with a discrete or quantifiable set of possible answers from which to choose), (b) that care must be taken in the ‘qualification’ of the crowd to meet Surowiecki’s conditions of nonbias (they must understand the problem, be diverse in their perspectives, independent of groupthink tendencies and each able to bring a bit of unique knowledge to the problem, and (c) that there needs to be some incentive for people to participate in the crowd (those guessing correctly the number of jelly beans in the large jar at least win the jelly beans).

Open Source + VoIP

Indexed Forever writes:

Asterisk is an open source Linux-based PBX, that is feature equivalent to six figure PBX systems. Like RedHat they sell compiled bundles for a few hundred dollars. But, again, we are a start-up, so my co-founder made Debian recognize the card (Asterisk requires a $100 card for PSTN phone or use of a $60 internet phone) he installed in our beige box PC. Then he configured Asterisk to talk to a couple VOIP termination providers, which is as easy as providing your static IP address. The ones that charge even take PayPal. The most time consuming aspect of setup was going through the configuration screens as there are so, so many features.

Now we have every conceivable telephony feature (ok, no RSS enclosure feed for voicemail, but its open source – we could add it). Look at a small/medium business telephony features list we have that and much more.

And the cost? Free. In coming calls? Free. Outgoing calls? $0.013 per minute to the US. Unless we are contacting another Asterisk installation, then? Free (talk about network effects!). So our global telecommunication costs about $10 a month for VIOP, $15 to SBC for a voice line we dont use, $50 for DSL to an ISP (who pays something to SBC for using their lines). Instead of $75 per line, SBC gets about $40 total.

So Open Source disrupts the equipment providers, and VOIP plus Open Source disrupts the service providers.

EContent 100

EContentMag lists the 100 companies that matter most in the digital content industry. An interesting note on how they did it:

This year, our process was enabled by Groove Networks. When I discussed using Virtual Office with the company, I said that theyd better feel pretty confident about it since not only would the product be under intense scrutiny for inclusion on this list, it would be making an impression on more than a dozen of the industries thought leaders. Well, we put Grooves Virtual Office through its paces and it made the list. But for me, using Virtual Office reinvigorated my enthusiasm about how digital content enhances the way we think, learn, and do.

This time around, rather than suffering through an email bombardment and an endless cut-and-paste process, we interacted in real time (or as we found time) via IM chat, discussion boards, file sharing, and a custom-built voting applicationall of which I am able to archive and refer to as we go to press and later, when companies inquire about why they did or did not make the list.

Solar $100 PC

Slashdot points to the $100 Solar PC – SolarLite. From the press release:

The SolarLite is a fully featured, book sized (9″ x 7″ x 1.75″) machine that weighs approximately three pounds. It features a rugged no-moving-parts design that includes a Compact Flash drive loaded with dozens of software programs, plus links to free development software and educational programs.

The design and construction of the SolarLite is consistent with the goal of an environmentally friendly computer. It uses a lightweight, recyclable, aluminum case that has a 20-year warranty. Its VIA chipset based “long-life” motherboard is a “green” lead free product. Like all SolarPC computers, the SolarLite operates on 12 volt DC power and can be run from a solar panel, car battery, or human powered (with a bicycle-based generator). The cool and quiet SolarLite uses approximately 10 watts of energy, just a fraction of what a standard PC consumes.

TECH TALK: Tomorrow’s World: A Day in the Future

To create the future, one needs to envision it first. Some time ago, Atanu Dey and I just did that. We wrote out a small story of what life could be.

Her name is Meena. She lives with her parents and her younger brother, Anil, in a modest two bedroom apartment in a middle-class neighborhood in a small city in India. She goes to a junior college where she is studying pre-med.

It is early in the evening. Entering the living room, she switches on a light and then pushes a button on a little blue box the size of a shoe-box sitting next to a monitor. The monitor lights up immediately displays what looks like a PC desktop. A little dialog box blinks “Who is it?” She types her login name “meena101”. “What is our secret word, Meena?” She responds.

In a flash the desktop changes to resume where she had left off earlier that day when she had accessed “MyComputer” at the school computing center. An ad appears in a little window. It lasts for about 10 seconds informing her of a sale on school supplies going on in her neighborhood supermarket. She clicks on the “ToDo List” and makes a note in there to buy some stationery and dismisses the ad window.

She checks her inbox and quickly responds to an email. She is in a hurry to get to her assignment from the biology class done which is due by 10 pm tonight. She has already done most of it earlier that day at school. On the desktop, that file sits exactly as she had left it. She googles for some more information on ‘platypus’ and after a bit finishes her assignment. She is satisfied with it and she mails it off to the teacher.

Now comes the part she really enjoys. She is learning French. She clicks an icon and a streaming video resumes from where she had left off a few days ago. It is a multimedia course and it is world-class and on top of it all, it is free. She takes a little test in the end and is satisfied with the results.

Meena is in the middle of editing her cyber-club newsletter when her mother calls her to come help. Without a second thought, she clicks on an icon “Bye now” and then pushes the button on the little blue box. Meena’s session on the NetPC is done for now but she can restart exactly where she left off from school or from the neighborhood computing center. Anil wanders in from play and switches on the NetPC and logs in and plays games and does some chatting with friends. Since he is very young, his parents have set his profile to Minor which means that his surfing of the web is severely restricted to age appropriate content.

Later their father logs in and balances his checkbook, pays a few bills, and makes a call to his brother in the US. Then he changes profiles and the desktop switches seamlessly to be what he uses at his small business. Without having to carry a briefcase, he is able to check on his work from home or anywhere around the country.

Tomorrow: NetPC and NetGrid

Continue reading TECH TALK: Tomorrow’s World: A Day in the Future