Archive for March, 2005

World Class AND World Scale

March 31, 2005

Indian software Companies like Infosys, TCS and Wipro made India proud through “World Class” quality services (as measured by the highest number of SEI CMM Level 5 software companies located in India). What is heartening is the fact that they are moving to “World Scale” as well! TCS became a Billion Dollar company in 2002-2003; they will cross $ 2 Billion in 2004-2005. Infosys became a Billion Dollar company in 2003-2004; they should cross $ 1.5 Billion in 2004-2005.

What is more heartening is the fact that many other companies in India (outside IT sector) are getting to “would scale”; the list includes UB Group becoming the second largest brewery in the world (after Shaw Wallace acquisition), Moser Baer being No 3 globally in optical media production, Hero Honda becoming No 1 in scooters & motor-bikes in addition to being No 1 in cycles production, Essel Propak being No 1 in packaging (of a particular type), Bharat Forge being No 1 in Forge & Foundry category, Sundaram Fasteners emerging as No 2 in fasteners (after recent acquisition), Tata Tea being No 1 in global Tea Trade (after acquiring Tetley Brand last year). I am sure their products are world class too; soon they will start investing in design of new products, R & D, file patents, license technology, influence standards and create brands – the usual route for leadership in Knowledge Economy

Designing Businesses for 24/7

March 29, 2005

For decades most businesses were NOT run on 24/7 mode; this includes those in Government, Industry and Academia. Of course, some businesses have been running 24/7 for ages, including Indian Railways, Department of Telecom, Media folks and Balaji Temple!

With the arrival of the Internet and the “e” phenomenon starting 1995, everything could become 24/7 – Government could become e-Gov or Government Online, Education could move to e-Learning and online university and Industry embraced e-Commerce (with e-Bay to electronic payments and even e-Pray!)

IT as the underlying architecture, made many of these possible. With every organization getting a Web Site, 24/7 is needed by all!

In summary more and more organizations will move to 24/7; every organization will have some 24/7; the world will use India to run many such services for the world

(Talk given at on 28th March 2005 at Bangalore)

Tatas to make “low-floor” bus models

March 28, 2005

It is refreshing to note that Tata Motors will make low-floor bus models to suit the needs of School children and Airport passengers. It is very welcome.

So far, thanks to a flawed Government Policy, truck companies were allowed to make only chassis and the “small scale” industry was to build bus bodies. One could never get “designed” bus models. Only Volvo in recent years could offer “designed and built” Bus models in expensive (Rs 45 Lakhs) segment.

Tata Motors plan to launch low-floor models in Rs 15 Lakhs category. It will lead to bus models designed “for India” in India. This would make School children travel safely. It will also lead to safe and comfortable journey for passengers at Indian Airports (that either do not have aero-bridges at all or like Bangalore Airport, does not use the two aero-bridges, forcing airlines to use buses to transport passengers)

Oracle finally acquires Retek for $ 640 Million

March 27, 2005

March 2005 was an interesting month for retail software company Retek. On March 1 SAP announced that it is acquiring Retek for $ 496 Million. On March 9 Oracle stalls the acquisition by announcing a higher bid for $ 504 Million. After a war between SAP and Oracle for 2 weeks, Retek goes to Oracle for an all-cash deal of $ 640 Million on March 21.

Considering that Retek has just 525 employees and an annual revenue of $ 174 Million it is a bonanza for Retek investors.

Enterprise software market is going through a tremendous consolidation. JD Edwards folded into PeopleSoft; in turn PeopleSoft went into Oracle belly. It will be interesting to watch this development over the next four years. In the hardware industry Digital was acquired by Compaq; in turn HP acquired Compaq. But after four years HP fires the CEO Carly Fiorina who master-minded Compaq acquisition

Another interesting development is the industry alignment of enterprise solution; Retek has a demand planning, supply chain execution and optimization, data warehousing, analytics etc., fine-tuned for Retail; it also launched the world’s first Java-based PoS (Point of Sale) terminal. What does it imply for enterprise software products?

Retek has 200+ customers including my favourite “Best buy”. Started by three Aussie engineers in 1986 Retek went for an IPO in 1999

Indian Software Exports – Confusion is good for India

March 21, 2005

There was a Edit Page Column in Financial Express today quoting Digit Magazine that US Commere Department talks of $ 1+ Billion import from India while NASSCOM, CII and others talk of 5-10 times larger; indirectly it was hinting that software story is all “bogus”.

It is unfortunate that the Magazine, as well as the learned Columnist did not understand the dynamics. Let me explain

We all know for years that Indian IT is getting lot of attention from many serious people; it is all not for nothing. Deep players know that there is a significant under-reporting; no errors, no scams but the very nature of operations is such. Many MNC’s develop software products here; what should be reflected is the value of the software NOT the wages paid. That is why our software revenue is small (2-3% of global software business).

But it is GOOD for India.

We should be in “stealth” mode. It will help to deflect any anger due to job loss; more important, it will ensure that our young software professionals do not develop arrogance. Also, it will avoid any misguided politician or official starting to bleed the industry by false taxation.

In summary, let million people think we are too small; that is the ONLY way to grow big.

Kiran Karnik had the best reaction “Let Americans think that we export ONLY $ 1 Billion. It suits us”

This year’s Computing Nobel Prize Winners – Vint Cerf & Bob Kahn

March 20, 2005

ACM (Association of Computing Machinery) announced that the Turing Award 2004 will go to Internet pioneers Vinton Cerf and Robert Kahn.

Announced every year in February-March and awarded in the ACM Award Banquet in June, Turing Awards represent the most prestigious award in the broad area of computing and Information Technology and widely considered as the Nobel Prize equivalent. This award is given to individuals whose technical contribution is of lasting nature. There are 49 individuals who have won Turing Awards since 1966 when the first award was given.

The awards are named after the British Scientist Alan Turing (1912-54); considered the father of modern Computer Science, Turing was a mathematician, philosopher and a visionary. Turing visualized the famous “Turing Machine” that forms the “model architecture” for all digital computers that have been built over the past fifty years. Turing was also known for his “Turing Test” that forms the foundation of Artificial Intelligence.

The Turing award is given by ACM, that is considered the “First Society” in computing and Information Technology. Founded way back 1947 (coincidentally India’s Independence), and with its 78,000 members spread across the globe, ACM has major contributions to computing by way of dozens of high quality journals, transactions, magazines, SIG (Special Interest Group) Newsletters, a Portal and a rich Digital Library.
The Turing Awards carry a cash prize of $ 100,000 sponsored by Intel Corporation.

Interestingly David Tennenhouse, Vice President in the Corporate Technology Group and Director of Research, who was the Intel Representative in the Press Conference where the Award was announced in late February in the United States was in Bangalore on March 10, 2005.

This year’s Award winners Vinton Cerf and Robert Kahn were recognized for their contribution – TCP/IP the Internetworking Protocol – that has far reaching impact on the growth of the Internet and the wide-spread acceptance of applications (used by common man and woman across the world) that include Web Browsing, e-mail, Instant Messaging, P2P, Internet buying & auctioning and collaboration tools.

Dr Vinton Cerf completed his Undergraduate studies in Mathematics at Stanford University and moved to UCLA for his PhD program. Dr Robert Kahn did his Undergraduate studies in the City College New York and finished his PhD from Princeton. After teaching at MIT and working for Bell Laboratories & BBN, he moved to DARPA (Defence Advanced Research Project Agency) of the United States and planned the ARPANET, the computer network for DARPA that became the test bed for several innovative ideas in computing. Cerf and Kahn were contemporaries for several years at DARPA.

Kahn and Cerf started their work in DARPA experimenting with the idea of inter-networking three independent networks. They demonstrated the first Inter-network running the e-mail application in ICCC (International Computers and Communications Conference) in 1972. Their paper on TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) appeared in 1974; this protocol was “open” and proposed a philosophy of separating the content into packets, sending the packets (datagrams) to the destination based on headers (“to” and “from” addresses). Subsequently, in 1978 the TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocol) was published, where the headers are used to “route” packets of data using IP, clearly separating the “contents processing” from “routing”. This twin protocol was robust, scaleable and independent of the underlying hardware, networking and operating system; over the past three decades, they have become near “universal”. Most other “proprietary” protocols from computer vendors like IBM and DEC have fallen by the way side. In fact, a standard protocol OSI (Open System Interconnection), proposed by ISO (International Standards Organization) has also withered away, and the TCP/IP Protocols have become the dominant protocol today.

Interestingly, TCP/IP is getting increasing traction not only from computer industry, but also the telecommunications industry (many high-end models of Nokia phones can take an IP address). With the proliferation of IP networks, IP is getting into the voice world as well in the form of Voice-Over-IP (VoIP); soon, Video will also get routed over IP.

The TCP/IP protocol itself is moving to the next generation IPv6 that has a much larger addressing capability.

Obviously, the research works of Cerf & Kahn are far-reaching and lasting contributions to the IT community.

Dr Cerf is currently with MCI; Dr Kahn is the Founder & CEO of CNRI (Corporation for National Research Initiatives).

(Financial Express – Look at IT March 18, 2005)

MIT Media Lab Asia and Media Lab Ireland to close down

March 15, 2005

It is unfortunate that the internationalization experiments of the highly successful Media Lab at MIT did not go well.

Media Lab Asia (MLA) was started in India with lots of fanfare (I wrote a piece on this in Economic Times in April 25, 2002)

None other than the high profile IT Minister Pramod Mahajan was driving it. Several IIT Professors were involved. More than Rs 100 Crores were budgeted in the three years (the full project was a Billion Dollar project over a decade). Very interesting projects (such as Internet Thela – bicycle powered Internet Kiosk with Wi-Fi connectivity) were executed.

Unfortunately there were some “impedence mismatches”; IT Minister Arun Shourie was rubbed on the wrong side

In the February 28, 2005 budget MLA got a quiet burial!

Just last week, there was news that the Media Lab in Ireland (the seed for a larger Media Lab Europe) is also closing down.

It appears that academic Institutions attempting to set up global centers need to do far detailed homework before they can be successful.

Many Indian Institutions (IIT’s and IIM’s) in their global march, will be better off, if they learn from MIT Media Lab experiences.

IIT’s starting to grow

March 12, 2005

It is heartening to see that at least three IIT’s are planning to increase their student strength in Under Graduate Programs in Sciences & Social Sciences. It is a welcome sign.

IIT’s need to grow into much larger size; typical American Universities (Research Institutes like MIT and Stanford or the State Universities like UC System, Rutgers and Purdue) have 10,000 to 100,000 students. Size is a big advantage in our ability to “influence” inteelectually.

With services growing all non-academic services can be outsourced. Of course, we need to master the ability to “manage” large systems without “muddling”.

We can learn several lessons from the Indian Software Companies

Of course, one hopes it is not a “diktat” from the Government. Institutions should not be “planned and administered” from politicians, beueracrats or even scientists. The growth must be self-driven

Ray Ozzie joins Microsoft as CTO

March 11, 2005

Microsoft acquired Grrove Networks on March 10,2005 and decided to induct Ray Ozzie as CTO. It is an interesting development, due to a number of reasons

Ray is a very respected professional

Ray founded Iris in 1984 that created Notes that was acquired by Lotus (of 1-2-3 fame), which in turn got acquired by IBM in 1995

After leaving IBM in 1997, Ray started Groove in 1997

Microsoft Office will get a “killer feature“; Microsoft Live Meeting will get a “killer upgrade” through Groove

It will be an interesting development to watch; it will be equally exciting to see Ray in his new role as CTO, driving Microsoft

Apple Macintosh designer Jef Ruskin dies

March 11, 2005

Jaf Ruskin who originally designed Apple Macintosh died on Feb 28, 2005

Jef had three design goals

    Logical Interface
    Price under $ 1000

The outcome was Apple Macintosh that he designed during 1978 to 1981. He named it after McIntosh Apple fruit.

His interace was logical and simple – in fact the ultimate GUI, though Apple Macintosh that came three years later to the market had a price tag of over $ 2100! But it was a Killer Machine in 1984

Unfortunately, he left Apple Computers due to differences with Setve Jobs (not with Steve Wozniak the other co-founder of Apple).

Even later he was designing Canon Cat (pun on mouse) an amazing Information Appliance (though it never was a market success)

In a sense, he was the ultimate GUI deigner though he may never get credit for what he did (hopefully he will posthumously!)