Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A Dream Come True?

In 2002, after leaving NTT/Verio, amid the ashes of 9/11 and the dot com bust, I continued in the business selling security solutions, and at some time, as part of the effort we developed a business concept with a working title of My Virtual Computer, aiming to provide a hosted personal working environment with superior security features. One of the driving concepts was that managing PC hardware and software is a constant challenge for more than 99% of the population, and too often data is lost, due to hard disk crashes, system changes, and God knows what all. Also, the reality is that people often times share hardware, and existing technologies are hopelessly inadequate to do that effectively. People also want PRIVATE access to their personal data from the office, or anywhere for that matter. Therefore a professionally managed service, accessed over the web would be the answer.

We conceptualized this in two flavors, for broadband and for dial-up, and we worked for a while with a development company which provided secure email, which was also developing a sort of personal desktop which embodied the key ideas we had for the service. When I explained the initial concept to my partner Roger, he exclaimed: "Rogier, I KNEW you had it in you!" Still, for various reasons, both technological and business, the plan did not come to fruition, but my conclusion was that the idea was too logical, so that inevitably someone, some day would figure it out and make it a reality. This blog was actually started once I gave up on ever realizing this idea myself, and decided instead to just share some of my thinking on appropriate IT with the world. The central notion was about Personal Computing, as opposed to Personal Computers.

Unbeknownst to me in Cyprus a developer by the name of Stephen van Zutphen was working on the very idea we had been talking about here in New York, and actually he was able to implement it. Apparently he first thought of lawyers, appointment calendars, and time billing, and he should be forgiven for that, since he is a lawyer himself, so he can't help it. Fortunately however events took a different turn and the product is now being launched as a consumer service under the name of Kanosis, and later will be re-released for the corporate market.

As of this writing we are still working with a pre-release version of the Kanosis service, but I will sum up some of the basic functionality here, however I will also preface this by saying that I think the solution is BRILLIANT because of its simplicity. Stephen van Zutphen's vision was that of a "Personal Operating System," as opposed to a computer operating system. I see that as another way of expressing the ideas of Personal Computing vs. Personal Computers. Most PC software suffers from featuritis, and complexity, which tends to grow out of control until a competitive software arrives and takes the old champ down.

Kanosis is a paradigm shift centered around the idea of Personal Information Manager, (PIM), but delivered over the net as an ASP, or Software As A Service (SAAS). The brilliance of the design is in the integration of features, combined with the effectiveness of facilitating collaboration among users of the service. In effect it provides on a membership basis a collaboration platform to beat many of the best corporate platforms, which are available only to employees or business partners of said corporations. From a marketing standpoint he adoption will strongly benefit from the network effect, and supporting that with an appropriate multi-level compensation plan was another brilliant move.

An example of this was during my visit to the Cingular store this morning to upgrade my phone. The salesman pushed me towards a PDA, and I rebuffed him, describing how I used this new on-line service which I use for managing my contacts, and scheduling, etc. and that I found it kind of pathetic how people around me are constantly synching their Blackberry. To me it seemed like more hassle than it is worth. He listened up, and he already wants to join Kanosis. And that's just one aspect of the service.

What Kanosis is in full is:
- a live, on-line, and cross platform (java-based) Personal Information Manager (PIM): contacts, schedules, task management, including organizing files by contacts.
- a communications center: email, chat, internet telephony, video conferencing/video mail
- a secure on-line storage facility with 5Gb of personal space
- low-cost international financial transactions, including an on-line account in up to twelve currencies, along with a company debit card.
- a store for video and audio downloads, which will reportedly have the largest on line movie inventory yet starting from the launch date of May 1st.
- a business opportunity which allows consumers sales ONLY by members, and on a personal level those are the best sales people, because as users of the service they are eminently qualified to sell it to others.

In short, if simplicity sells, this service will be hugely successful, and it will cut a wide swath through the territory of Salesforce.com, the Outlook/Exchange franchise, Google, and others. I think the KISS principle is likely to win out, and win big. One of the fascinating aspects of the service is also that it provides better security, in creating a VPN like environment between the IPV6 compatible clients and the central server, so that users enjoy above average security and privacy by collaborating through this platform. For the moment access security remains limited to username and password, but hopefully better alternatives for that will be provided in due course as well.

Last but not least I can only say that on the whole that if Kanosis is an implementation of the idea for My Virtual Computer, they did a far better job than I was envisaging, and I salute Stephen van Zutphen for his vision, and all the other people involved for ultimately realizing this idea and bringing it to market in the form of Kanosis.

Besides the competitive issues discussed here, I also think that this service will make it easier for people to switch to a Linux desktop. In fact, I would suggest a small business could get by with a Linux PC, Open Office, GnuCash, and Kanosis. In short, this service is going to change the landscape, and help close the digital divide just a little bit, by providing appropriate technology, device independence, and ease of use.

By clicking on the title to this article you will find a link to the Kanosis website, which will show that you were referred by me. Have at it, have fun, join the revolution... I'm sure I will write about this again, for I enjoy seeing an old dream realized in this fashion, and I enjoy technological revolutions and paradigm shifts, and this surely is one of those!

Copyright © 2006 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.

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