Saturday, March 22, 2008

Keep The Radio Alive

Listening to radio is one of the strongest memory I have while growing up in India. Music, regional programming, news and sports - All India Radio's Vividh Bharthi had a little of everything for everyone - even children's programming. The radio medium was not open to the private sector then but the programming was comprehensive and the quality was rich. The memories like listening to the program dedicated to song requests by people from the armed forces are etched in memory. Many of the family Sundays and late night with friends have the sound of the radio in the background.

Radio as a broadcast medium has declined in popularity since then. Television has dominated the late 20th century. Internet is fast becoming the new kid on the block with the ability to let the audience engage and interact with the content. In fact, Internet is becoming the platform for delivering all media including TV and Radio. The much awaited media convergence is around the corner.

Regardless of the new media that come along, radio has some special qualities that make it my favourite.

  • Simplicity & reach: It is really easy to understand the medium and consume it. Radio technology is not threatening to the consumer. Even the technophobes are at ease with it. Listen to radio in a remote village, while travelling in a high speed train, while cruising in your car or relaxing at home.
  • Element of surprise: You can never beat the feeling of learning something unexpected while driving to work. Or the feeling of nostalgia that hits you when you hear a song that refreshes a golden memory.
  • Quality of programming: Radio has to engage the audience only through their sense of hearing. The bar for quality of content is very high because you can't supplement it with visuals. Quality of programming on NPR and Vividh Bharthi are a testimony to this.
  • Voice as the great equalizer: Have you ever felt that you have known a person for a long time without ever meeting the person? Radio can do to you. A specific personal experience was listening to Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air. The association caused me to read "All I Did Was Ask" but the voice on radio and the conversations are just so much more memorable. When you are listening to someone, you are focused on the content and not judging them on their race, religion, sex, or looks.
  • Listening skills: Radio helps developing listening skills in people. In our education system and in the corporate world listening is a very underrated and underdeveloped skill.

There is a lot I am discovering about radio as a part of social culture in different parts of the world. Listen to an old recording of "The Jack Benny Program" from your local library or the vibrant Radio Mirchi while you are stuck in traffic in Mumbai. Radio is an interesting window into our history and culture.

Two very interesting and relevant innovations on the Internet are Pandora (radio from the Music Genome Project) and Mercora (radio using peer-to-peer technology). I hope such innovations keep the beautiful medium of radio alive and interesting for a long time.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Greatness And Consistency

What makes someone or something great?

There is no simple answer to this question. For different people and in different contexts it may mean different things. There is an excellent book by Jim Collins called "Good to Great" that explores this topic.

But here is my take on it.

The stand out attribute that separates the good from the great is consistency. It doesn't matter what the context is. Here are some diverse examples:

  • Warren Buffett the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway - Anyone can pick stocks and can make good investments. His consistency in applying his investment evaluation principles makes him great.
  • Apple, the company known for it's breakthrough innovations - There are many companies that innovate with one product and maintain leadership. Game changing innovations and raising the bar for it's competition through innovation consistently is what makes Apple great.
  • Sachin Tendulkar one of the greatest cricketer in the history of the game - He is widely regarded as one of the best batsmen the world has ever seen. But what separates him from other good player is his ability to consistency influence the game through his great sense of the game. Michael Jordon, Roger Federer and Tiger Woods are few others in that league.
  • Foreign Affair - This is a small Santa Clara business that specializes in Honda, Acura, Toyota and Lexus service. The consistency in honesty and customer delight in their service separates them from the rest.

If you can do something well then doing it consistently is the road to greatness.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The next big innovation in SaaS

One of the biggest technology innovations in the coming years is going to be how to protect information regardless of where it resides. Software as a Service (SaaS) has come a long way and technology advances have made the complete SaaS eco-system viable. Some key elements that have transformed this space:
  • The access points: Multiple access points providing information anytime anywhere.
  • The network: The spread of broadband and wireless internet access at affordable prices headed in the favorable direction.
  • The backend infrastructure: This is a complex domain and the success depends on building an infrastructure that can scale infinitely. Companies like Amazon, Google, Microsoft and T-systems are on the forefront of the innovation here.

In all of the above, the innovators already know what it will take to serve the next generation and have set things in motion.

Perhaps, the most important innovations in this area have yet to come. Today companies and individuals alike are paranoid about keeping their data in the cloud. Three big factors that will determine success in this area:

  • Trust: There are various trust issues related to data storage, processing and access. Providing flexibility and access to information while protecting the information is a non-trivial challenge that needs to be solved. The solution needs to be end-to-end. It is not enough to protect the data stored on the server.
  • Education: Today, it is too complex to understand how data gets protected at various levels.
  • Simplicity: The key to mass adoption is to make it simple – simple to understand and simple to use.

There is a lot of ground to be covered in this area. If there are innovations in this area that can win trust and are simple to understand and use, we will look back and call them the ones that put SaaS adoption on the fast track.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Story of Stuff

Nicely made presentation. You may have a different view point or want to question some facts. But this one surely gets high marks on how it is presented - really well done to make these complex issues simple for everyone.