Ever since the iPad was announced, the internet is clogged with updates, analysis and impressions on iPad. But I saw very little talked about what this means, or how this could affect the way we do business. The guys with the biggest megaphones are either reporters or tech gurus, who are far removed from the trenches of enterprise application development.

Full disclosure

The only Apple product I own is the iPod touch. It rocks, itunes sucks.

Initial impressions

I was a bit underwhelmed and I doubt I will acquire an iPad. But that does not stop me from believing that it will be a big hit.

What could be better?

Personally, I would have loved the device if it came with multi tasking and maybe a camera. But this post is not about it.

Then what is it about?

This is about the big disruption the entire tablet computing movement could cause to the current state of art. How the relatively low price, the interactivity and the right size makes it suitable option in a lot of never before situations. And about how, Apple could leave a gaping hole for another Microsoft to capitalise on.

How so?

By not allowing custom built apps from being installed on the iPad. This will rule out iPads adoption in the enterprises and also cool new ideas and mashups. Large companies could use an iPad for several clever niches, but needing to install custom IP on to the iPad via the app store is out of question.

Are there any examples?

Sure, several.

  • Team of financial advisors carrying a tablet for explain various insurance or investment options to average Joe. Imagine how good the apps could be made to look and how interactive they could be. It would go a long way in closing the sale.
  • A restaurant replacing the boring menus with interactive ones on a tablet. Hell, they could even just ‘add to basket’ then and there. If there is a waiting time, people can pre-order their food and also surf while waiting.
  • Replacing the dull and expensive kiosk with a 350$ tablet. This might still happen, but by playing a keynote presentation.
  • How about the classic ‘travelling salesman’? Does he really need a laptop?
  • Medical staff carrying a tablet instead of the physical patient files.
  • I haven’t even begun to think about industrial applications

I think you get the picture. Not only can the tablet replace a laptop, but also paper in several cases. People more creative than me will find several more creative uses of a tablet. This brings me to mashups.

What about them?

The thing about mashups, they are obvious in hind sight. But it takes a creative mind and an open ecosystem to dream and create one. But I can imagine a few hacks / mashups surly.

  • How about a tablet controlled robot or speed boat?
  • A tablet replacing the entire instrument panel of a car
  • Tablets used in performing arts
  • Tablets used in science and education
  • Tablets used by NGOs in rural upliftment

The possibilities are limitless. But the artificial limitations imposed by Apple, will leave the door open for a highly hack-able, maybe android based, tablet provider. Whether that’s a known brand like Asus, who spearheaded the netbook revolution; or an unknown startup like NotionInk remains to be seen.

Sure, Apple will sell millions of these devices and make tons of money, but saying that there is no room for another player is a false assumption.

I am surprised that I haven’t come across a voice based classifieds system. Well creating one from scratch and reaching critical mass is difficult, but leveraging social media and Craig’s list should not be difficult at all. So, here’s the idea.

  1. User calls a premium number and speaks the advert.
  2. The server processes the voice and tries to understand the message.
  3. If the message is correctly understood, it will post an appropriate ad on Craig’s list, with the user’s phone number and an auto generated email id.
  4. If the message is not fully understood, it is passed to a call centre for transcription.
  5. The message is then transcribed and posted to Craig’s list.
  6. Any email received on the auto generated email id is sent as text message to the caller.

The above set up allows the user to place a classified ad in under 2 minutes with no unnecessary steps required. The calls are placed to a premium number thus generating revenue.

I am surprised no one has thought about it or maybe I didn’t dig into it enough.

photo_verybig_110295[1]With Copenhagen behind us, it makes me wonder is there something we as individuals do to help the climate? On one such thought tangent I wondered if it possible to teach kids about climate using a simulation game like Civilisation? On cursory search I could not find anything that could entertain and educate kids.

What would it be?

An empire building game that needs to balance technology, way of life and climate to achieve sustainable conditions. The players will need to move from stone age to iron age to industrial age to knowledge age. All this is well covered by games in the Civilisation series. The difference is, to advance in the technology tree, they will need to consume resources and they need to understand that resources are limited and that consuming them is not without consequences.

Learning

A game that will show the interdependence of several factors like:

  • Exploitation of natural resources (wood, coal, oil, gold, diamonds, animals, fishes etc)¬† for technical progress and their costs in terms of environmental impact
  • The long term implication of the such impact
  • Investing in technology to achieve sustainable development
  • Also the flip side of not consuming natural resources and it impact on growth and empire building
  • The need to consume resources to ‘unlock’ next levels of technical innovation
  • Trading of resources amongst empires which have surplus of something
  • I would probably underplay the option of war and more of foreign trade as a means to acquire scarce resources.

What next?

I am not a game developer so wouldn’t know how to get about doing it. But may be some like minded people will come together and look at it. Maybe Freeciv can provide a starting point. Maybe it even becomes successful and makes some money for the creators.

Every micro ISV needs several standard things to get started. Few of them are:

  • A web host
  • A web site, including a blog
  • A store front
  • Email
  • Customer support infrastructure like forums, CRM, Chat, etc.
  • Bug tracker
  • Source Control
  • Build environment

Apart from these, some software related bits

  • Common controls / Custom controls
  • Framework things like:
  • Installer
  • Auto updater

And if your software is not open source, then

  • Obfuscater
  • Software copy protection
  • Licensing
  • Payment provider

And some marketing related:

  • Software submitter
  • Ad network

What I could come up with so far are:

I would update the list as and when I find more resources.

Is anything available integrated out-of-the box for a micro ISV to jump start, drop a comment below.

In the second interview, I get to interview Mr. Sudhir of vfreshers.com. He runs a website that provides info about fresher jobs.

Introduction

Q. In your own words, who are you and what is your business?
A. I am an IT Professional having worked in Software industry in India & USA for 4-5 years. I have been working on Vfreshers.com along with my wife who is a law graduate and left her career to pursue my dream.I have also left my full-time job 3 months back. Vfreshers.com is a platform for all the fresh graduates in India.
Q. How did you come up with the idea for your business?
A. I myself used to look for this kind of information when I passed out of University. Initially, I started with a website on Walk-in Interviews and then later on started Vfreshers.com
Q. Is this your first business?
A. Yes

Continue reading

In a planned series of interviews with Indian entrepreneurs, here is the first one. I got in touch with Kishore, an old friend and associate, and talked to him about his venture fullhyd.com.

Introduction

In your own words, who are you and what is your business?
fullhyd.com is a local content and local search company, currently focusing on Hyderabad, India, and planning to scale to all Indian cities soon. We help people find comprehensive details about various businesses and services in their neighbourhood, and help them interact with the businesses, and with each other about the businesses.
We also cover life in the city – events, movies, shopping & sales – and serve as a local community organizer, apart from being a guide for tourists.
Our revenue/business is focused on providing unprecedentedly low-cost advertising solutions to small and medium business enterprises, by helping them reach customers in their neighbourhood, and pay for just that.
How did you come up with the idea for your business?
Through reading about the Internet and the way it is likely to evolve. I felt geographic communities are quite likely to be big.
Is this your first business?
Yes.

Continue reading