Open Tech Today - Top Stories

Thursday, February 22, 2007

South Africa Recommits to Open Source

Today the South African Cabinet issued a new policy for technology in government, deepening its commitment to open source and open standards.

In its statement, the Cabinet said: "All new software developed for or by the government will be based on open standards, and government will itself migrate current software to FOSS."

Smartly, the South African government avoided setting any timetables or quotas. Instead, it focused on the benefits that open technologies afford the government and the country: lowering costs (for agencies, schools, communities and homes), enhancing IT skills and streamlining local software development.

It will also establish a project management office dedicated to implementing its new policy and expanding adoption of open source across government.

The government-wide move on open ICT follows quickly on the heels of a a decision by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to adopt the open document format (ODF) as its default document format.

Categories: OpenSource, SouthAfrica, government

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Google, Microsoft and Disruptive Business Models

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer admits that he's worried -- less about competitors and more about being blindsided by a new business model. He should be worried about the combination -- an innovative, resource-rich competitor building a new, disruptive business model (and the infrastructure to deliver it).

In a recent interview, Ballmer noted that Microsoft is playing catch up in search. That isn't news. Google has effectively won that battle. Ballmer also mentioned open source as a worrisome threat. That isn't news either, though it is not only the pricing pressure created by open source that should worry him. Open source has other powerful drivers behind its adoption globally.

However, Microsoft should be most worried about plans accidentally revealed during a Google presentation. Google is building the capacity for "infinite storage" -- meaning the ability to mirror someone's hard drive online and store all of their files, every e-mail, photo, mp3, web history, bookmark, and make them accessible on demand, anytime, anywhere, from any device.

Now that would be a disruptive business model.

Categories: Microsoft, Google, business

Monday, February 19, 2007

Are Newspapers Dying?

The Internet is killing newspapers. It is not a sudden demise, but more a death of a thousand cuts -- loss of readers (eyeballs, in online lexicon), classified ads and subscriptions. Is there any way for newspapers to compete against Craig's List and the headlines-on-homepage habits of consumers?

One newspaper publisher in Norway found an answer, and makes piles of money online. It did have the advantage of moving fast online in a small market, quickly becoming a big fish in a small pond. But it also did other things right -- including, most importantly, re-inventing its business model and hiring managers from outside the newspaper business. It built or bought links with other publications. It started giving content away for free and moved its classified ads online.

There are lessons here for other newspapers, other businesses and even governments in how to adjust to life (and business) in an online world ...

1. New leadership and management is often needed -- people not tied to the organization's old business models. The Consumer is king, not your old business model.

2. Recognize that you are selling services more than content.

3. Trust remains a key asset. Consumers prefer to source information and services from people (and brands) they trust. This is especially true online given the amount of garbage and scammers on the Internet.

4. Use trust to get online visitors coming to you directly, and not just through a search engine. Partnerships linking you with other visited sites can help get visitors through your front door, as opposed to the back door via a search engine.

5. Keep costs down. Providing services online can be very profitable, provided you take advantage of the cost savings that business online allows.

Categories: consumers, media, Internet