Narain is the founder & CEO for 360 Degree Interactive, a web services firm based in Chennai, India. This blog is about his personal views on Web 2.0, RoR, Social networking,Digital media, interactive advertising, SaaS, Service Oriented Architecture, India Inc, rural education, Web standards, mobile 2.0 and more.

Thursday, September 29

Making of Flash 8

It seems like the team in Macromedia really worked hard enough to bring in Flash 8. The recent Making of Flash 8 Video presentation in MM site gives you the behind the scenes look of what went in developing Flash 8. Surely and certainly, this is a nerve-wrecking exercise when you have achieved a cult status on the web in terms of how visual the web can be. All over the world, designers, developers are raring to go on the next version of the authoring system with new capabilities, faster development time, it is surely are hair-picking days for the development team.

Hats off to all the engineers in Macromedia US and India. On a sidenote, i believe, the Macromedia Flash Player 8 is developed in their IDC in Bangalore. That's my 2 cents.

Watch the video here | Download Flash 8 Trial | Download Free Flash Player

Category: Flash 8, Macromedia

Wednesday, September 28

What is Web 2.0 mindset ?

Sadagopan blogged it about John Hagel's perspective of Web 2.0. He argues about Web 2.0 being a mindset. Web 2.0 is not technology. Web 2.0 is a state of mind. Web 2.0 is a platform. John Hagel neatly summarizes this "state of being" Going by the discussion i think like God you can only explain the characterstics of Web 2.0 and not actually what it is. Of all the important features of Web 2.0 distribution, collaboration and participation are the keys to create realistic, people-friendly web.

John Hagel's take
Platform. Platform is an important concept because it suggests a foundation that is meant to be built upon rather than self-contained.

Emerging. It is emerging because it supports extensions to itself, facilitating a bootstrapping process to create very complex functionality from very simple building blocks. Web 2.0 is far from a finished product, it is a rapidly evolving platform.

Network-centric. In contrast to other technology platforms like PCs or mainframes, it is not a standalone platform, but instead Web 2.0 is built upon an open network, making it pervasive, extending across the entire globe. As a network-centric platform, it is device-independent – it is meant to be accessed by devices of all kinds, ranging from PCs and mobile phones to RFID tags and bio-sensor devices.

Creation. The ultimate purpose and significance of the platform is to support creation, not just communication or participation in sharing of interests. This is what makes it truly distinctive relative to previous generations of networks. We’re also not just talking about creation of media or digital products and services – this platform is becoming central to the creation of a broad range of physical products as well.

Users. Rather than viewing creation as a highly specialized activity, this platform encourages users of all types to become involved in the creation process. The well-established boundaries between producers and consumers and professionals and amateurs are rapidly eroding.

Distributed. Because it is pervasive, Web 2.0 facilitates distributed creation – it doesn’t matter where the individuals or communities reside, they can access the platform.

Collaboration. Because it is built upon a network, it also enhances the potential for collaboration. We are not talking about isolated nodes of creation, but instead the ability for individuals and communities to connect together in the creative process in ways that were never possible before.

Cumulative. Perhaps the most important aspect of this platform is that it encourages cumulative creation. This stems from the modularity that is a key design principle of Web 2.0 and it has profound implications for creative activity. It means that wherever and whenever creative activity occurs, it can be appropriated and built upon by others, further strengthening the bootstrapping process. Since what is being created is meant to be shared, it becomes less and less useful to think of the output as products and much more important to view the output as services that in turn support the creation of other services.

Category: Web 2.0

Tuesday, September 27

Generation: Roaming

2006 may mark the beginning of round 2 of the great Internet era. Whatever today's tech evangelists speak about are same old wine packaged in a new bottle or a good wine receipe years before not implemented properly now being implemented with panache. Business 2.0 covers this perspective which i have been thinking for quite sometime. Like fashion, where Retro is uber design today, re-enginner an old idea and present it to the VCs with cash and voila you hit the success formula.

World will be a better place if anyone can do anything anywhere without the need for any special/proprietary softwares & hardwares. May be a far-fetched vision but truly achievable. Ajax gives you the functionality of the desktop to your browser. E4X will take away the treachary middleware required for simple information sharing between two interesting individuals. Blogs are now, uberly titled as citizen journalism. Wikis are collaborative knowledge sharing. RSS is the new "Bookmark" & Reference. VoIP is the new larger EPABX for enterprises. Modern day technology allows people to perceive their hidden subconscious mindset of being a Gypsy or a hippie. Roam anywhere without any worries about what you can do for living.

The very reason Web 2.0 is debated, discussed in detail is the mental shift of working from an office to working anywhere. As Apple proclaims, Random is the new order, similiarly Mobility is the new Chair. Like the aboriginals we are now species fond of roaming. So every modern day comfort should be available while we roam. Our GIS,Hybrid Mobiles, iPods, Ajax applications, Wiki's are all based on the simple principle of mobility.

Modern Web is like a pickle. It needs time to gain more value before it tastes so good. I believe the pickle is getting its due for now.

7 Technologies that change everything

Credit goes to Om Malik. He has written an extensive article on the "new found" love affairs in technology. His list includes Ajax, Biogenerics, Deep web search, HD Audio, Hybrid cell phones, Micro Fuel Cells, and WiMAX. What's interesting is Om Malik valiantly gives a definition in less than 2-3 sentences for each technology, when the whole world is crying to define what is Web 2.0 :-)

To me the missing link here again is games & distributed learning [Wiki] and of course there are few rappid alication development frameworks liks Ruby & Django.

Read Om Malik's blog | Business 2.0 Article

On a side note, Malik also notifies the demise of Palm as we know it. From yesterday, Palm pulled its plug from their proprietary OS and moved into Windows OS for handhelds. Microsoft wins eventually with Palm.

Thursday, September 15

Ajax Apps & Changing face of applications

We recently completed an web application for one of our client here in Chennai. Having understood the importance & functional value of Ajax (for the uninitiated, it is Asychronous Javascript and XML) I specifically instructed the development team to use Ajax wherever it will provide value to the client. Having said that, the world is slowly ajaxed in all cornors. I have reported about Writely, a neat Ajax-based web application some time before.

With Om Malik on myside, let me introduce Meebo, a web-based Trillian like all IM combo in one single screen. An Ajax-driven IM Client, Meebo cut thru a lot of things like installation of various messengers, rights of installation in user's machine, administrative controls and so on. Presently with Meebo, you can use your AOL, Yahoo!, MSN & ICQ IMs. Surely, the world is embracing the browser with much love. Try out Meebo (still in the alpha stage!)

Zimbra is another innovation on top of the browser. Zimbra is an open source, Ajax-driven full featured, i repat, full featured email client. Absolutely a delight in knowing someone has developed a complete email client in the likes of Outlook, Thunderbird, iCal running inthe browser. I haven't downloaded the collaboration suite yet. But going by their hosted demo, I can visualise where they are looking at. Infact, with the proliferation of Ajax-driven, browser-centric, no-server-troubling apps, we can depend more on your browser than to install/uninstall and do whole sorta nonsense on every crash. Download Zimbra Collaboration suite source.

Wednesday, September 14

Google BlogSearch goes live

Looking at this location from the morning, i found it went live. Read the complete FAQs.The search looks cool. It gives you the information of the blog, last updated timing and relevant keyword highlighting. For "CSS" it shows 81,139 results.The advanced blog search tab looks great, with the option of post dates, selected post timeline and by author. If you have a blooger account, the new blog search tab is visible in your Dashboard. Blogger's blog search is here.

My recommended features in the future would be,

1. Based on the keyword search, Google needs to provide something similar to subscribe with bloglines or My Yahoo!
2. With selective results, i should be able to build a opml list to be used in my desktop RSS aggregator or push things as a live bookmarks in Firefox
3. Like Pluck, Google can come out with a small web-based RSS aggregation application, and blogsearch results can be directly integrated with that.

For now, it looks good. The likes of icerocket will have a tough competition ahead for now.

Microsoft Office 12 Core Applications UI

This via SVN [aka Jason Fried]. With the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference 2005, Microsoft unveiled the sneak peak of next version of Office tagged as "Office 12 Core Applications". Office 12 comes with an altogether different UI. With Microsoft PressPass's interview, Microsoft is seriously thinking of changing their fuddy-daddy image of providing gray bars with highlighted icons. The Office 12 Core application's UI is more matured with larger icons, functional grouping, user-centric groups and so on. The one feature which is strikingly different from the earlier UIs are offlate, Microsoft understand the proper usage of colors, graphics & sequential groupings for better customer experience. Although, still not matching the bubbly icons & UI elements of Apple, Microsoft this time has moved certainly few inches ahead.

Some of the UI improvement in the words of Larson-Green, group program manager for the Office User Experience at Microsoft.

There are far too many features to describe in any detail, but here are a few of the key innovations. The main part of the user experience is code-named the “ribbon.” It’s the one place you go to find the commands that are all about authoring –creating the document, the presentation or the spreadsheet you’re working on. There’s no longer a stack of task panes and menus and toolbars to look through. There’s just one place to look for commands.

Another feature is “galleries.” Galleries give you a visual representation of the kinds of formatting choices you can make in your document without needing to set a number of individual elements to achieve it. For example, if you want your margins to be wide or narrow or short or tall, you can go to a gallery for a visual image of what that would look like all at once instead of needing to changes several items in a dialog box. The galleries also offer “live previews” in many instances, so you can see exactly what the document is going to look like before you make the choice, which makes it easier to experiment. For example, with something simple like fonts, you can select the text in your document, go up to the font drop-down menu, and by just rolling down the menu you can see the font change happen simultaneously in the document before you’ve selected the font you want. It makes it easier to create a document that looks the way you want it to look. These live galleries are almost everywhere in the product – it’s a try-it-before-you-buy-it kind of thing that cuts out lots of steps.

A feature code-named “Super Tooltips” integrates Help topics into the product in a new way. One of the main problems that people have with Help topics today is that they don’t know the terms used to describe features. Super Tooltips are integrated Help tips that provide quick access to information about a command directly from the command’s location in the ribbon. The tooltip itself will usually give you enough information about what that feature does so that you can use it.

Another feature is the “Quick Launch Toolbar,” which allows you to customize the UI by adding as many commands as you like to a toolbar. It’s a place where the user can collect the specific set of commands they use frequently. There’s also a feature code-named “Floatie” which is a formatting tool that presents the most common text formatting features on a tool panel that “floats” over the selected text - improving formatting efficiency by eliminating mouse trips to the command area. So, for instance, if you’re in the picture tools and you notice that your heading needs to be bold, the Floatie means you don’t have to switch all the way to another tab just to make that change.
Have a look at the screenshots Word screenshot here. Excel screenshot here. Powerpoint screenshot here. Read the full interview here.

Tuesday, September 13

Acquisitions ahoy!

In a normal monday morning, sometimes you suddenly get vibrant shocks. Yesterday is one. Two acquisitions made the headlines for today's newspapers. eBay, argubly world's largest community based e-commerce platform acquired leading VOIP provider Skype. Sadagopan has a detailed analysis of how this acquistion will strengthen eBay. eBay already acquired PayPal, which is a payment facilitation website. With Skype in their kitty, eBay creates a larger ecosystem for buyers & sellers worldwide. Although my wish of Apple buying Skype is deeply buried into the ground, this acquisition makes a lot more sense for eBay, although still i believe the price eBay paid is way too much. Skype's official news release here.

In an another interesting move, Oracle agreed tp buy Siebel at $5.85 billion dollars. With already PeopleSoft in its hands, Oracle wanted to dominate the entire chain of CRM market. Considered as a best move for both the customers & companies together this deal puts a lot of pressure on for being aggressive moves on the internet. With PeopleSoft, Siebel with Oracle's back-up, Customers worldwide will have an end to end solution from them. Oracle's press release here. This acquistion already kindled a lot of interesting views around the world. Marc Benioff[CEO,] commented this as "Dinosar mating" and his full internal memo to his staffs are available at Zdnet's David Berlind's blog.

In India, Oracle acquired Iflex solutions for solutions & software development sometime back and the reason goes like this. CitiBank is IFlex's biggest customer and IFlex's software runs with Oracle database. With a solution company, Oracle will push end-to-end solutions for customers in the banking,financial & insurance verticals.

Interesting comparisions here. Skype has been acquired at a price of $2.6 billion plus eBay stock, total worth of around $4 billion dollars. Siebel's cost to Oracle is $5.85 billion. One is a web-based, internet driven application whose lifetime is hardly 24 months. Siebel on the other hand considers to be enterprise CRM software application provider with 4000 application customers and 3,400,000 end customers. Skype adds 150,000 customers everyday and presently has 25 million subscribers to their rolls. This clearly symbolises that web applications will grow faster, larger and slowly becoming smarter. The world moves towards creating strong web applications whose value is greater than enterprise applications. This may be a vague comparison but world requires more and more simplified web based applications with ease of use than complex desktop driven applications.

With Microsoft, Yahoo, Google are sharpening their strategies on the VOIP solutions, it is very interesting & a hot game to watch on how Skype will evolve. In the same magnitude, it will be doubly interesting how enterprises will cope up with a single monster goliath like Oracle for enterprise applications. World surely is getting hotter even without global warming.

Thursday, September 8

Web Dev. Trends for 2006

Anil is spot on. He has written in detail about the foreseeable future for the web development industry for next year. Mobile Web is what is missing in its packaging. I am seeing large sites (atleast provides mobile specific solution within their existing web development framework. Mobile Web or Web sites for devices will see more light in 2006. Overall it is a very good trend forecasting.

Tuesday, September 6

Why Microsoft can't beat Google?

In his weblog, Phil Wainewright of Zdnet argues the above point. His point of focus is desktop is dead, where Microsoft is the king. I second that opinion. Computing & connectivity is considered more important than merely having a box sitting on top of your table. Desktop from the traditional point of view is lingering for life. All our communication & interaction happens via Internet. Like my yesterday's post, more & more softwares are finding their way online. To tell you the truth, we are seriously considering using ThinkFree online for our business, rather than investing on Microsoft office in our office. The world is surely moving towards an integrated online experience, where like we say today "we are online", tomorrow we will say "we are offline for next few hours" . Internet and connectivity will be everywhere. It's upto us to make use of it. Wainewright rightly argues on why Microsoft is history.

"Google's turf is the Internet. It's not interested in devices that don't
connect to it — Microsoft is welcome to that market. It simply wants to extend its reach to any device that does go online.

Meanwhile, Microsoft's focus on desktop capability is the crux of why it can't possibly succeed against Google (or any future Google equivalent). It's focusing on yesterday's market. Microsoft's dominance of the desktop is as relevant to the future of computing as Union Pacific's dominance of the railroads was to the future of transportation in the twentieth century.

Here's a sampling of reasons why Microsoft is history:

  1. Microsoft wants everyone to have a rich desktop experience, Google wants everyone to have a rich Internet experience.

  2. Microsoft's business model depends on everyone upgrading their computing
    environment every two to three years. Google's depends on everyone exploring what's new in their computing environment every day.

  3. Microsoft looks at the world from a perspective of desktop+Internet. Google looks at the world from a perspective of Internet+any device.

  4. Microsoft wants computers to help individuals do more unaided. Google wants computers to help individuals do more in collaboration. In the Internet age, who wants to work alone any more, when all the unexplored opportunity is in
    collaborative endeavor?
In a few year's time, who's going to still be working at a desk anyway?"

Monday, September 5

Office-on-the-GO: Web based Office productivity Apps roundup

When I first saw the HTML Text formatting tabs on blogger, I was wondering, why not somebody extend this functionality to create a small word pad kinda application. With the launch of Google Talk, I believe certainly that some will work on the office. Microsoft Office is the defacto toolset for office productivity worldwide, although there are attempts like Star Office, Open Office, 602 Text and couple of other small players. Since Microsoft's Word file format (.doc) is the most widely used file format, and Microsoft notoriously being a closely locked proprietary technology company, the file format transformation on the web is difficult. I am brutally proved wrong by 4 companies.

1. ThinkFree - ThinkFree is an organisation using JSP & Java Server has created a desktop equvilent of Office and they are offering a free online version of their product ported on to their Java servers. To use the functionality you need to have a free signup and you are asked to download J2SE from Sun Micro Systems to be installed in your machine. Once you installed and restarted your machine, you are on. I dont' any difference from a desktop version in comparison with the web version. It's flawlessly done. Known UI, faster working and even provides a 30MB free storage of your files. You can create word documents, spreadsheets, presentation, pdf files and even post it to your blogger. Amazing piece of work. Online version is in beta.

2. gOffice - gOffice, I thought for a second is from the Google's staple. gOffice provides Word, Spreadsheet, Presentation functionality. Developed in .NET environment, gOffice utilisese the typical HTML based Editor kinda working environment for opening, editing, creating and saving documents. Free Signup and provides a $1 business usage fee. Only Word processing is available presently and others are not available for public. Free Signup

3. Writely - Writely is a web application developed. Using ASP.NET with .NET server functionality, Writely has prepared a online collaborative tool for Word. You can create, open, edit word files and share it with other users for reviewing, tracking and cross checking. Not available publically yet. Online version is in beta. Free Signup

4. InstaColl - I have written already about the poster boy of Indian internet era, Sabeer Bhatia's new found company. InstaColl is not exactly a Office suite, but it integrtes well with Microsoft Office to offer collaboarative features like reviewing, tracking, remote desktop management and so on. Although this is not a Office suite replacement, instaColl chat sessions are more powerful than writely's tool, since they are real-time and provides remote desktop management. The catch I see is you need to download and install the InstaColl chat manager. Download InstaColl

This gives you a fair idea of Office alternatives available presently online. I still believe, Open Office can certainly go in for a web model and provides certainly better functionality and releases API's. With that I believe, developers can write additional functionality and integrate with the online version and provide better working atmosphere online. It's one more time, Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates needs to go back to their drawing board.

Friday, September 2

Design in Flight (DIF) is back

The webdesign PDF magazine Design in Flight seized production sometime ago. As a subscriber, I can assure it was a wonderful attempt with knowledgeable articles. When it closed the door, I felt dejected to say the least. When surfing thru the talented Cameron Moll's blog, I saw this and jumped from my chair. Yes, the DIF is back now as a blog cum zine cum feed cum article cum information.

Go check out now - DIF

Legal Music Downloads on Mobile in India

Rediff India, claims that they give India's first legally downloadable tracks. Rediff, one among India's bigger portals, associated with Sanjay Marro on this latest attempt. Selling at a paltry Rs.9.99 [$0.43 cents] the tracks are cheaper than the regular polyphonic ringtones. When I try to reach for the microsite of this attempt, it is not moving beyond the flash intro stuff. India still needs to go a long way to have something like iTunes.

10 Steps for successful Web 2.0 Company

Web 2.0 is here. You can smell that in the air surrounding you, the likes of BaseCamp, Blinksale, Flickr, Socialtext, and so on makes life much more simpler. Charlie of "this is going to be big" blog has given Ten commandments for the Web 2.0 companies. It's an interesting read, although some of the points he raise can be debated.
  1. Solve the smallest possible problem (that is still big enough to matter) for the user and know exactly what problem you're trying to solve.
  2. Get a responsive and chatty audience using the product
  3. Launch. Now. Tomorrow. Every day.
  4. Distribute. Distribute. Distribute.
  5. Don't hold users against their will.
  6. Be mindnumbingly simple.
  7. Get people hooked on free.
  8. Don't waste any money on marketing.
  9. Don't overfund.
  10. No one sucks.
Read 10 Steps to a Hugely Successful Web 2.0 Company

Google Wallet ?!

It is always fascinating to guess What Google will do next? Afer a slew of launches last month the most talked about feature now in Google is "Google Wallet". With Froogle, Google has already got themselves into comparative shopping. It will be a logical extension for Google to offer a secured Payment gateway for the advertisers who are advertising in Froogle. In addition to it, with Wallet, Google with their extensive search algorithms, Google can offer specific products, based on Gmail. [with certain amount of datamining, as they already feature Ads]and can provide better environment for their Scholar programs, where you need to purchase a lot of papers, or Books and so on. Surely, keep your fingers crossed on this.