The Essence of Business

800-CEO-READ Blog has a quote from a forthcoming book by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers entitled “Return on Customer.”

Businesses succeed by getting, keeping, and growing customers. Customers are the only reason you build factories, hire employees, schedule meetings, lay fiber optic lines, dispatch service trucks, stock inventory, file for patents, operate call centers, negotiate contracts, write software, or engage in any other kind of business activity whatsoever

Without customers, you dont have a business. You have a hobby.

Voice Messaging

Stuart Henshall writes:

The future is voice messaging, not voice mail. Voice messaging only comes into its own when matched with “presence” applications like Skype. It’s an important distinction, for voice messaging will be used differently.

Voice Mail is typically a voice message that was left when there was a communications failure. The intended recipient either wasn’t near the phone or didn’t want to answer your phone call. You leave a voice message you have no sense of timing. We call this telephone tag.

By contrast the “voice messaging option” on Skype doesn’t require that you try calling the person first. You have their presence, you know at what level of importance you want to put the interruption. In this world the voice messaging function is different. A voice message is less invasive, less disruptive to workflow.

Tomorrow’s Programming Environment

ACM Queue writes:

In his keynote address at OOPSLA ’98 (Object-Oriented Programming, Systems, Languages, and Applications), Sun Microsystems Fellow Guy L. Steele Jr. said, “From now on, a main goal in designing a language should be to plan for growth.” Functions, user-defined types, operator overloading, and generics (such as C++ templates) are no longer enough: tomorrow’s languages must allow programmers to add entirely new kinds of information to programs, and control how it is processed.

This article argues that next-generation programming systems can accomplish this by combining three specific technologies:

-> Compilers, linkers, debuggers, and other tools that are frameworks for plug-ins, rather than monolithic applications.

-> Programming languages that allow programmers to extend their syntax.

-> Programs that are stored as XML documents, so programmers can represent and process data and meta-data uniformly.

These innovations will likely change programming as profoundly as structured languages did in the 1970s, objects in the 1980s, and components and reflection in the 1990s.

TV on Phones

The Economist writes that both fixed and mobile telecoms operators are getting into television:

The cable companies are entering the telephony market, so the telecoms providers have got to do something, says Andrew Cole, of A.T. Kearney, a consultancy. In some countries, including France, Italy, Britain and Japan, incumbent operators also face competition from insurgent operators (Iliad, FastWeb, HomeChoice and Yahoo! BB) offering triple-play bundles over high-speed phone lines.

To compete, the incumbents need to get into TV too. TV is no longer optional, says Ford Cavallari, of Adventis, a consultancy. If they don’t do it, someone else is going to.

Mobile operators, in contrast, see TV as a nice to have rather than a must have service. Technical trials have shown that mobile TV is possible. Market research suggests that consumers might pay up to 12 ($16) per month for it, says Carolina Milanesi of Gartner, a consultancy. Unlike complex 3G data services, which are proving to be a hard sell, mobile TV could have mass appeal. Everyone gets it if you say mobile TV’, says Richard Sharp, at Nokia’s multimedia division.

Desktop Search

Cathleen Moore of InfoWorld writes:

Microsoft has won the browser battle, and owns most of the operating system and productivity software landscape. But Google has emerged as king of Web search, which has proved lucrative for contextual advertising and fertile ground for other services. Turns out those keywords we use to search on Google are great for selling ads.

The newest battleground is taking shape at the desktop. Today most people fire up their Microsoft Internet Explorer browser and search the Web through Google. But, if Google Web search is available from your desktop, why open IE at all? If access to the web is now at desktop Microsoft wants at least some of those millions of Web searches to go through MSN.

According to Timothy Hickernell, Vice President of Technology Research Services at Meta Group, commercial search vendors such as Google and Microsoft are likely at some point to try link indexed personal files to their ad-serving networks, in an attempt to further increase the contextual relevance of ads and paid search listings.

Obviously this could pose problems for enterprise users of desktop search systems. But corporate workers are clamoring for easy and effective ways to find files and documents on their PCs.

Furthermore, the benefits of tying desktop search to larger enterprise search infrastructure include letting remote users conduct offline searching of content that is synchronized with enterprise repositories, according to Hickernell.

According to David Burns, CEO of desktop search vendor Copernic, the Web keyword search business is exploding, and some of that overflowing to the desktop.

“People view the desktop as next big source of keyword inventory. Web keyword inventory has been wrung out over past five years,” Burns said. “Now we have powerful PCs and high bandwidth. This could be the next great place second to the browser or desktop applications where people spend a lot of time.”

TECH TALK: The Best of 2004: Education

10. Atanu Deys series on Reinventing Education (December)

Atanu is a colleague, and we are working together on building out the Emergic vision. For some time now, Atanu has been looking at education and how it can be done differently given the new ICT infrastructure that is available. Atanus perspective is unique because he combines multiple models in a single mind.

Education today faces a challenge. Part of that challenge arises due to its past successes. I call it the “supply-side” part: the stock is too huge already and the flow seems to be exponentially increasing. There is a complementary “demand-side” challenge: there are immense numbers of people who need to be educated. The combined effect of two increases the cost of education.

There was a time when the supply-side problem was non-existent. About 2,000 years ago, an individual lifetime was more than sufficient for a person to learn all that was essentially known about the world. One could potentially know all that was known in the sciences, the arts, politics, medicine, and philosophy. On the demand side, the number of people that needed to be educated was also manageably small. Now no one can even imagine knowing more than a vanishingly small fraction of one narrow field of human knowledge. The best one can do today is learn the basics of a small set of general subjects such as a few sciences, some social sciences, some basic mathematics, and a little bit of biological sciences. Then one has to specialize into being an accountant or an engineer or a plumber or a programmer.

The present education system was developed during a time when both the supply- and demand-side problems were non-existent. Therefore it is not surprising that it is unable to confront the new realities. Futhermore, the present model matured when the powerful tools of information and communications technologies (ICT) did not exist. I argue that because there are new problems, the education system has to be reworked so that it can successfully confront the new realities. I further argue that the advent of ICT tools force us to radically rethink how the structure of our educational institutions.

It will become very clear that the old structure that was built to satisfy the core objective of education is no longer up to the challenges it faces. There is a core invariant aim of education. The invariance is relative to the structure we have built around it. It is time to tear down that structure and build a new structure. My contention is that the new structure has to incorporate within it the use of ICT tools. It is my aim to show that merely plugging in the new technology into the existing structure will not work.

Tomorrow: Simplicity

Continue reading TECH TALK: The Best of 2004: Education