Archive for July, 2009

Yahoo and Microsoft to join hands in search space

July 30, 2009

On 29th July, 2009 Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced their decision to collaborate in the search space. Microsoft Bing will start powering Yahoo search; Yahoo will get 88% of advertising revenue from search Ads

Yahoo got what it needed most; access to steady revenue that has been on the decline; Microsoft got a way to gain hold in the search and search-based Ad market where Google was so dominant.

It is good for the companies. Is it good for the end consumers? Only time will tell

Interestingly, it is a very different approach by the two companies, unlike the hostile takeover bid of Microsoft for a whopping $ 48 billion in early 2008 that eventually failed!

IBM acquires SPSS for $ 1.2 billion

July 29, 2009

In an interesting and sudden development IBM announced its take-over of SPSS – a company originally started in 70’s by two professors of the Department of Public Opinion of the University of Chicago. SPSS was extensively used by Social Science departments all over the world; the scientific community had BMD and the corporate sector had SAS.

It is good to see the value of statistical software getting recognized.

Many of us had used SPSS in 70s and 80s; with SAS getting traction in corporate sector we shifted to SAS but kept track of SPSS that started its operations in Bangalore in late 90s.

Bill Gates receives Indira Gandhi Peace Prize 2007

July 26, 2009

On Saturday July 25, 2009, Indian President Pratibha Patil handed over the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace (2007) to Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation at an impressive ceremony in Delhi.

The prize was received by the  Chairman of the Foundation Mr Bill Gates, the legendary Chairman of the hugely successful Microsoft Corporation. 

Speaking on the occassion, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh mentioned that among the 23 receipients of the Prize, it is the first time a business leader is receiving the prize; he also talked of the transition the visionary leader has undergone –  from a CEO of a hugely profitable company (currently with an annual turnover in excess of $ 60 billion) to a leader with a missionary zeal to wipe out the poverty particularly among under-developed countries; and, the goal of the Foundation – to provide equal opportunities to the children of the under-developed countries at the same level that children in developing countries enjoy – something as futuristic as the vision of Mr Bill Gates way back in 1976 when he co-founded Microsoft – to put a computer in every desktop!

ISACA Keynote Address – my views on Information Security in India today

July 24, 2009

Good morning friends

It is indeed an honor and privilege to be invited to deliver this keynote address. My respects to the distinguished Chief Guest and the organizers; greetings to the participants.

Information is entering the center-stage of all our human activities across government, education, industry and media. With the electronification of processes across the spectrum, the issue of information security assumes further importance. It is in this context the 12th Annual Karnataka Conference of ISACA assumes importance.

I am indeed sorry I could not be present personally; I would try to meet you all on Saturday after the UGC Committee visit is over.

As part of this keynote address let me bring three key issues to your attention

1       The banking sector is going through a tremendous transformation, thanks to technology introduction through core banking software. Internet-banking, tele-banking, SMS-banking and ATM are supplementing the traditional channel of bank branch. These new channels pose unprecedented challenges in terms of security; often the issues are not fully addressed. The tech-savvy youth of India are “lapping up” the new generation of services looking at the convenience aspects; the under-served rural population too is equally enthusiastic. While such a development is definitely welcome (particularly when several users in many countries display techno-phobia), it is a definite challenge that must be fully addressed. We should not get into situations that other industries faced – fire accidents in cinema halls or escalator accidents in shopping malls – introduction of technology without due attention to safety aspects.

2       The government sector is seeing large-scale introduction of technology, thanks to National E-Governance Plan (NEGP) with a budget running into tens of thousands of crores. Once again, it is a welcome development; for the first time, millions of citizens will have direct, easy, friendly and affordable access to government. Projects like e-Sewa in Andhra Pradesh or Bangalore One in Karnataka are stellar examples. Care must be taken to ensure that government services are delivered fast without compromising on privacy or security.

3       Healthcare is another area where there is large-scale induction of technology. Tele-medicine is taking “fancy” hospitals in major cities to far-flung rural India (India and Bharat are getting “bridged”). This is once again a welcome development. The privacy and security aspects of the health information of individual citizens should not be compromised in our enthusiasm to “reach out”.

These are just three instances I want the outstanding information security professionals assembled here to address, over the next two days. For a large and diverse country like India, security of information in the delivery of services is as important as hygiene is to the delivery of healthcare.

Thanking you once again for giving me this honor and apologies for not being physically present amongst you and learn from the stimulating deliberations over the next two days.

(Keynote Address at 12th ISACA Karnataka Conference in Bangalore during July 24-25, 2009; I had to get it read out as I got sucked into UGC Review Committee that was visiting IIIT-B during July 24-25, 2009)

Nandan Nilekani takes charge as Chairman, UID Authority of India

July 23, 2009

July 23, 2009 is a special day. Nandan Nilekani assumed charge on that day. This is truly a transformational project; Nandan is an outstanding “doer” who can get many people to work together.

We all look forward to the unfolding of this exciting project over the years

Interestingly July 20/21, 1969 is the day that Apollo 11 team accomplished the “man landing on the Moon” milestone.

40 years of Moon landing

July 20, 2009

July 21 (IST) we celebrate the 40th year of the the unusual milestone in scientific endeavor – landing on the Moon surface by human being. As part of the Apollo 11 project of NASA, two American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin set their foot on the lunar surface on this day in 1969.

For many of us it is also a special day; we all remember vividly as college students hearing the extra-ordinary Radio broadcast of the famous statement “One small step for man; a giant leap for mankind” live from the Moon that is quarter million kilometers away; at our age when I was just 17, that moment made deep impressions on us.

I went to Purdue University in 1976; Neil Armstrong is an alumnus of Purdue University; more interestingly, I was at the School of Industrial Engineering that was physically located in Grissom Hall (along with Aeronautical Engineering School) – named after another astronaut Grissom!

I joined IIT Kanpur in 1979; I was pleasantly surprised to find a sample of Moon soil carefully kept and displayed in the IIT Kanpur Library (as part of Indo US scientific exchange)

Tata Nano reaches the end customers

July 17, 2009

Tata Motors delivered its first Nano car in Mumbai.

Ashok Raghunath Vichare, Ashish Balakrishnan and Kores India Limited were the first three “lucky owners” of the world’s most affordable car. The keys were handed over by Mr Ratan Tata himself 

The cars rolled out of Pantnagar Plant in Uttar Pradesh

John Hopcroft on the future of Computer Science

July 15, 2009

It was nice listening to Turing Award (considered as Novel Prize in computing) winner and Cornell Professor John Hopcroft at Infosys today (2:15 – 3:15 PM on July 15, 2009).

The erudite professor well known for his contribution to theory of computing (and the widely used books on Automata Theory) was emphasizing the need for Computer Science researchers to look at the challenging problems of tomorrow i.e., next 30 years and not  remain comfortable with computer science of yesterday, i.e., past 30 years.

As far as the learned professor is concerned, operating systems, programming, networks and databases belong to yesterday’s computer science, while random graphs, giant computer networks, sensor networks are some of the topics of tomorrow’s computer science.

He also talked of the way publishing will change; he cited the example where young researchers refusing to publish in journals that did not allow indexing by search engines (Google & Yahoo) forced the publishers to allow indexing by search engines.

He gave examples of future search options.

It was an enjoyable event; it was nice to see the large hall overflowing with several people sitting on the floor (including me, though after a while Tan Moorthy, Head, E & R, found a seat for me)

Internet, Information and Indians

July 14, 2009

In an absorbing talk on this topic Dr Prasad Ram of Google Bangalore took the audience into an amazing tour all guided by just one principle

Cutting edge computer science research in India addressing problems that make sense to Indians.

He took us through several products in the Labs that include

  • India News (including newspapers of the past 200 years)
  • Local search
  • One step search
  • Voice search
  • MapMaker
  • Consumer translator (with access to Wikipedia publishing)
  • Transliteration for 22 Indian languages.

Two very specific topics he discussed were the

Notice board project and the Internet Bus

Interesting and exciting ideas indeed

(IEEE Computer Society, Bangalore Section Monthly talk on July 14, 2009)

9th Convocation of IIIT-Bangalore today

July 12, 2009

131 M Tech students received their degrees from Mr. NR Narayana Murthy, Chairman Infosys and Chairman of IIIT-B’s Governing Council.

Dr Madhavan Nair, Chairman ISRO was the Chief Guest; he gave a truly inspiring talk. He recounted his personal joy when ISRO vehicle could place an Indian flag on the soil of the Moon. Hearing it from the “Moon Man” was a touching experience; knowing about the mission being the lowest cost mission, yet achieving several new global milestones, makes every Indian proud. 
Mr. Ashok Soota, Founder & Chairman of Mindtree was the Guest of Honor. He talked of his ten years of Mindtree (something that IIIT-B shares with Mindtree) and also some lessons to learn from successes and failures. Coming from the man who was “bitten by the entrepreneurial bug” at the age of 50 (after being Wipro President for 15 years) was so convincing.

Chairman Mr. NR Narayana Murthy in his inimitable style talked of the need for youngsters from India to dream big, take on the challenge of bringing the benefits of high quality education to the 300 million Indians who are steeped in poverty; he also asked the graduating students to “give back” to the “alma Mater.

It is an interesting coincidence that the four students (Ritesh Nayak, Ashwin, Jayant and Harsha) who won the Google Product Prodigy contest decided to give away their entire prize money of Rs 2,50,000 to their Alma Mater IIIT-B