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Sunday, August 24, 2008

iPhone check

Total strangers sidle up to the iPhone owner with a look of wonder and start asking questions about the gadget… Among friends and colleagues, the iPhone owner assumes the mien of a knowledgeable conjuror, wowing everyone with the neat tricks the gadget performs.

That’s not entirely surprising, given the extent of media coverage that the July 2008 global launch of the iPhone 3G has received in international media: stories of mile-long queues outside stores, across countries and continents, have routinely made headlines.
But can it cook? check out this popcorn!

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Like it for a colleague

Students at Minho University in Portugal are working on developing better interaction between industrial robots and humans, and apparently the first step involves designing a machine that would likely become the first androidcide victim of workplace violence. Here's a video demo of the bot doing some assembly work in cooperation with a human partner, and as you'll see, it manages to embody all the qualities of the worst lab partner or cubicle mate you ever had: It points out your mistakes in a condescending and irritating voice, it's interminably slow at completing its own tasks, and at the end of the job, it offers insincere thanks. Understandably, there's a long way to go here. Maybe next they can get it to inject random political opinions and gossip about other robots.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

IT sanctuaries

India’s IT companies becoming sanctuaries for visually challenged. The initiatives are certainly charitable and let’s not go into IT vendors’ workaday compulsions arising from acute talent shortage, spiraling wage costs, dire predicaments resulting from high levels of attrition and a seemingly endless economic turbulence that urges them to cut corners to survive.

Just as an aside. Any let ups in SLA non-compliance by these IT vendors will now likely merit a compassionate review by clients, as well. Just kidding! Here is Michael Krigsmann listing out twelve early warning signs that signal IT project failure. You can see he is compassionate already :-)

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Where Microsoft scores over Google...'s a war !
If you wanna see how wartime Georgia looks, don't go to Google Maps, at least for now. At the moment, it is no more than a blank slate. When the war broke out, some folks noticed this for the first time and suspected that Google had removed the map data for some reason. Not so, says Product Manager Dave Barth. It's just that Google wasn't happy with the map data it could come up with and has been holding off until it gets something better. User feedback has now convinced the company that some data is better than no data, said Barth, and updates are in the works.

Microsoft's Live Search Maps is a much better bet, right now.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Have it in the cloud, will burst !

When we rely so much on the internet for our daily dose of email and other web applications, we are exposing ourselves to its fallibilities also. For the web-obsessed amongst us relying way too much on email, blogs and wikis through the day, a couple hours of outage is indeed our idea of hell. Now imagine enterprises that expose themselves to the vagaries of cloud-based computing services? That clearly means loss of business. Apple's MobileMe service was down for a few hours yesterday, and access continues to be sketchy for some, representing the most unfortunate kind of consistency over the past month.

Google found itself apologizing for its Gmail outage yesterday: "Many of you had trouble accessing Gmail for a couple of hours this afternoon, and we're really sorry. The issue was caused by a temporary outage in our contacts system that was preventing Gmail from loading properly. Everything should be back to normal by the time you read this." And an online storage service called The Linkup (formerly MediaMax has closed up shop after losing an unspecified amount of customers' data.

That triggered another round of commentary from the blogosphere about how dicey a proposition it is to trust your data and services to the cloud, especially your business critical applications. But while trouble in the cloud carries the added annoyance of feeling powerless while someone else works on a fix, these outages are just a vaporous extension of what we know to expect with more tangible, earthbound systems, indeed with every device, appliance and service we use. Why don’t we just say, stuff breaks? Systems are going to go down, it’s a fact of life. What’s important is to be prepared when those systems go down which is a major reason that some kind of offline access should be built into systems like email. In theory we’ll reach a time when the cloud really is always on, but we’re not close and it may never happen Maybe it breaks less if you pay enough money, but it breaks. With that as a given, especially so with complex or newer technologies, any plans to use the cloud also require plans to do without it if need be. The advice from the Department of Redundancy still holds: back up. Because the alternative is on-premise enterprise software with its huge license fee, maintenance and hardware costs, frequent upgrades, revisions, consultants and system integrator fee besides long process breaks entailed by complex installation protocol.

Don’t you know there is a liquidity crisis crippling global business sentiment? Economics will win hands down anyday. Never mind the outage…

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Strategic innovation at AMD - Go Fabless

Call it surrendering before the big brother Intel or just plain survival strategy, AMD is likely to outsource its chip making activities. After losing money for seven quarters, AMD needs a long-term strategy to keep pace with its deep-pocketed rival and to cut red ink. It will henceforth be just a chip designer saving enormous investments in inventory and maintenance of fabrication units, joining the league of the other Fabless smarts like Xilinx. AMD presently owns manufacturing plants in Dresden, Germany, and has an option to build a plant in New York. It already has experience with outsourcing. Its ATI graphics chips are made by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing and it works with IBM at an IBM factory to develop future chip production technologies.

But will it work? Is it ok to expose chip making to outsourced chip makers? How reliable will the outcome be? What about impact of policy shifts? Too many pertinent questions. But when a brand new chip making plant will cost upwards of $3.5 billion and if the company is short by one half, it can’t have the luxury of choice. Not the least when the lead competitor- Intel - has 8 times free cash in its balance sheet.

Ok AMD, all that’s best… Here’s to your success - Go, get a life!

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Swap Twitter for 12 seconds?

So-called microblogging changes form. As Twitter(2006) gains traction amongst compulsive narcissists with bad writing skills and companies compelled to observe broadcast economics, technology abuse has become widespread. Without a care in the world, these tools allow that old war game called ruthless intrusion without notice. The excuse is you opted in. The receiver of a tweet message is bombarded with tons of silly nuggets and many subscribers opt out after a few hours. It has come as a boon to many a tribe that often contemplates committing suicide by reading a self-written passage; now they text a firm one-liner thro Twitter and put the blame squarely on the 140 character constraint enforced by the tool. They gave it a name “microblogging” – to give it part legitimacy of a blog. It covered plenty of ass.

Now what if you are bad at even that one-liner? Enter video version – 12 seconds, a San Francisco [Alpha] startup. The concept is borrowed from Twitter of course, but Soi Lipman the founder believes video is more engaging than text. Here is the best part that states its purpose "If I'm at the bar with my friends, I want to show us having fun at the bar, not just text it."

So there you go. But I like 12 seconds more because it’s time consuming for upload and download and not many will opt in. Intimate friends and family might be interested and that’s ok. That’s not inane broadcast of all things silly. That questions the moot point of its scalability as well. But if outside programmers are allowed to develop applications on its platform, it may have far better utility that drives commercial viability where Twitter tries hard to get.



Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Annuity contracts - are they safer outsourcing bets?

Visible effect of slowdown or even recession proofing – India’s IT sector focusing on smaller clients (shedding their dependence on large contracts) and craving for annuity type (plain vanilla BPO) contracts.

“Indian IT firms would have been better off garnering more large traditional outsourcing type contracts. These would have provided annuity type revenue and therefore more resilience during a recession,”
explains Siddharth Pai, Partner and Managing Director, TPI India, an outsourcing consultancy.

Oh, really? Now that even the large banks write down billions of dollars in losses, how can an outsourcing vendor ensure a steady stream of revenues since the solvency of the client itself is questioned? And then the bigger question – hedging outcomes of IT vendors themselves against their receivables in foreign currency and the derivative bets and mark-to-market (MTM) thunderbolts. WIPRO getting hit by a Rs.934 crore ($250 million) whirlwind. TCS, Infosys, Satyam, HCL Tech have all borne the brunt as well.

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