Olongapo Telecom & Information Technology

Monday, January 19, 2009

An Internet era ends as technology icons exit

Steve Jobs exiting the Apple stage, perhaps not to return, signals a close to an Internet Age era with roots stretching back to the radical hippie movement of the 1960s.

His departure for health reasons comes some seven months after his renowned rival Bill Gates retired from Microsoft to devote himself to philanthropic work.

The two culture-changing men were seen as leaders of rival camps: personal computer lovers versus the cult of Macintosh computers.

Technology allegiances were the stuff of fierce debates in coffee houses and other Silicon Valley social settings, with vitriol spewed by all sides.

Macintosh devotees were passionate underdogs standing up to PC faithful whose confidence was cemented by the fact more than 90 percent of the computers in the world are PCs running on Microsoft operating systems.

The dueling technologies had faces at which people aimed praise of scorn. Gates was the PC. Jobs is the Macintosh.

Jerry Yang, the very public face of Internet pioneer Yahoo!, was replaced as chief executive this week by Carol Bartz and it seems he has already faded into the purple and gold woodwork at the firm’s California headquarters.

“In many ways we are stepping out of the age where the people are defining the company,” said analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group in Silicon Valley.

“We talk about the Google kids, but are the founders truly icons. I argue not. We seem to be moving away from the age where there is a face behind the company; a larger-than-life human component.”

Ironically, while Google and other modern Internet superstars use private data about their millions of users to target ads, their founders tend to vigilantly protect their privacy.

“In many ways, Internet companies are losing their personalities,” Enderle said. “Ever-changing brands in a constant sea of surging names.”

Jobs and Gates, both born in 1955, grew up during the socially rebellious 1960s and bear its mark, according to Peter Friess, a historian who is president of The Tech Museum of Innovation in the heart of Silicon Valley.

Gates and Jobs both dropped out of college to pursue dreams of building computers for people.

Before Jobs and his friend Steve Wozniak made the first Apple computer, they crafted a “blue box” to get around paying for long-distance telephone calls.

“They came out of a time when culture meant a lot to all of us,” Friess said.

“It was a revolutionary time. It is always a time that creates people. Now, Google, Facebook and others align much more with the system. Social networks don’t change the world like Jobs and Gates did.”

Bringing personal computers to the masses fulfilled a hippie mantra of “Power to the people,” according to Friess.

While the first PCs and “Macs” were sold by Gates and Jobs before there was a Web to surf, the men led their respective companies to glory in the Internet Age.

“In time, I suppose we might look back at the leaders of big search companies in a similar way, but it really feels like a thin comparison,” said University of California, Berkeley, information school assistant professor Coye Cheshire.

“If only because all these fantastic information services only became practical and truly useful once we had the PCs, Macs, iPods, Xboxes, Zunes, iPhones, etc. in our lives.”

Crises with climate change and wars fought for control of oil have set the stage for new iconic visionaries in the molds of Gates or Jobs to rise in the area of renewable energy, says Friess.

“Putting personal computers in the hands was really giving power to the people,” Friess said.

“I’m waiting for someone in the renewable energy world with the same vision Jobs had in the computer world.”

In a rare joint appearance, Jobs and Gates reminisced on stage at an All Things Digital conference in California two years ago. The men joked that their rivalry was misunderstood.

“We’ve kept our marriage secret for over a decade now,” Jobs quipped, eliciting raucous laughter from the audience.

While Jobs and Gates “personified the dispute” between Apple and Microsoft, the two companies are unlikely to change their ways without their iconic founders, according to analyst Michael Cherry of Directions On Microsoft.

“No one wants to die . . . and yet death is the destination we all share,” Jobs told a stadium packed with students during a 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

“Death is possibly the single best invention in life. It clears out the old to make way for the new.” -- AFP

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RP to benefit from Satyam scandal, lawmaker crows

Instead of urging local BPO players to check their books to avoid a repeat of Satyam fraud scandal here, a lawmaker chose to point out that the Philippines may stand to benefit from the debacle that hit one of India’s outsourcing giants.

Catanduanes Rep. Joseph Santiago, the chairman of the House information and communications technology committee, said in a press statement that Saytam’s freefall may drive outsourcing traffic to the country.

"The Philippines is in a superb position to capture whatever outsourcing business that India stands to lose on account of Satyam’s troubles," Santiago stated.

The Indian firm’s woes started on January 7, 2009 when chairman and co-founder B. Ramalinga Raju admitted massive irregularities in the company’s accounts, listing assets that were actually non-existent.

Satyam’s entire board has since been fired, while key executives, including Raju and his brother, were arrested and charged with various criminal offenses under Indian laws.

Santiago said the Philippines is fortunate not to have experienced a scandal of similar magnitude.

"This could be due to higher corporate governance standards and more rigorous controls here," he said.

But, while initial reactions point to the Philippines as a potential beneficiary of Satyam’s misfortune, it could also be that the local BPO market may be adversely affected since Western companies may hold back or avoid outsourcing altogether because of the exposed irregularities.

Financial Insight, an advisory firm owned by IDC, said there’s a slim chance that Satyam may survive even with the dire prognosis.

"Essentially, in the short term, it should be business as usual. IDC believes that it would in the best interest, both financially and as a business continuity measure, for organizations to continue their existing relationship with Satyam," it said.

The analyst firm said that if a couple of the big organizations panic and decide to discontinue with Satyam, it would not only delay, halt, or hamper their existing projects and result in massive unplanned cost, it would also subject them to the torment of finding another equally large services partner, qualify them, negotiate with them, and thereafter go through the arduous training process with the new team.

In IDC’s opinion, Satyam may eventually be put up for sale and is likely to be acquired in its current state by the highest bidder.

As for India’s vaunted outsourcing industry, IDC said the future still looks good. "There is no doubt that further questions will be asked of the India-based players, as well as the long-term viability of the offshore model, but IDC believes that Outsourcing India will emerge from this scandal with its reputation tested, but better for it." By MELVIN G. CALIMAG - Manila Bulletin

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