Off the Shelf provides a platform for Retailers and Consumer Packaged Goods companies to discuss and gain insights on the pressing problems, trends and solutions.

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October 28, 2013

Can Foldit change the Retail supply chain landscape?

On behalf of : Majush Koshy Philip

Will you ever approach a gamer for a planning strategy task? Or will you ask crowd to help you with retail problems?" No." if this is probably your answer, you may be wrong in near future. Recently a group of gamers playing a game called "fold it" has proved that they have the potential to replace computers and scientists by solving problems which computer took many years to solve . The question here is if Crowd (read as gamers) can replace computers in various high skilled activity, why use them for optimization of retail supply chains or planning activities in general?

Foldit is a game devised by the University of Washington Game science and Biochemistry departments. The aim of the game is to fold the protein into a chemically stable structure with lowest energy. Every kind of protein folds up into unique shape which is the most stable state it can adopt. Compare the energy of all the different ways a given protein can be folded and find the most efficient and the minimal one wins. This game is played by anyone who can register at foldit site. The best ones are shared across for further improvement. The new algorithm independently discovered by scientists and by Foldit players outperforms previously published methods. Thus, online scientific game frameworks have the potential not only to solve hard scientific problems, but also have abilities to strategize new algorithms.

What is the relevance of this in retail? Let's think in another way - What is the retailer trying to achieve? He wants to maximize or improve the profit function (revenue, profit, inventory, more delivery) minimize the cost function (Out of stock cost , inventory cost , delays , travel etc.) subject to constraints. How is a gamer trying to score points in foldit? He wants to fold the protein structures to a low energy one, adhering to the rules of chemistry. If the game can be set in such a way that it mimics the cost/profit functions without being overly explicit, it will bring out the power of crowd.

An example
Delivery center DC1 has to deliver shipments to 30 stores in the shortest possible route; yes it is a modified travelling salesman problem. This can be modeled in different ways. Distance from each stores can be maintained as a table and Game can be thrown to crowd for optimizing the route. The art here is to hide the retail problem as a game (say ... help Tom to reach home after meeting all his friends in the shortest possible route). Only the Game designer knows Tom is the DC Truck and friends are shops it should cover.

Advantages
The first advantage is that you get more diversity in ideas, opinions and solutions. This may also happen with lower cost. This is a type of crowdsourcing a.k.a crowd planning - is not a work of single person or a single thought process. The gamers involved think differently and each of them are using different algorithm to modify solution. Foldit researchers asked the winning teams - what was their logic behind acting/ folding in that particular way. Many had logical answers some had just one thing "intuition- I felt that way". This is something only human intelligence is capable of.

Risks
Are there any risks involved? Obviously no one will be willing to make the retail problem public.
This is where the Game part plays the role. This decouples the actual issue and masking the real problem with a suitable game. The 'non-public' or 'privacy' aspect depends on how well a game is devised which can prevent the world from peeping into actual issue. Remember, everybody talked about insecurity in cloud when cloud was first presented.

Future
The time is not far when the supply chain product vendors conduct online games to improve the algorithm efficiency of their optimization techniques. Overall this got a huge scope and it all depends on how the retail community views it.

October 23, 2013

Next Generation Call Center to continuously connect with Customers in the Mobile Internet Era

On behalf of : Vijey Rao
Calls centers have been a critical part of an organization's customer engagement process since their emergence in early 1970's. Over the years call centers have matured in the functions carried out by them to cover sales prospecting, enquiry, complaints and technical support. However the activities performed hasve not changed much over the years with the vast majority of call center processes/activities driven by static prepared scripts to execute inbound or outbound calls to prospects or customers.

The convergence of Web 3.0(social media, mobile internet), SAAS applications and ubiquitous /affordable internet access provide organizations with the capability to create continuous and sticky customer engagement. Call Center s can be described or imagined as the pointy end of this evolving continuous engagement framework.

The Next Generation Call Center platforms provides robust, enterprise ready call center execution and analytics capabilities. The Call Center can be rapidly customized and deployed to provide cross channel customer service capability covering (i) Inbound/Outbound Telephony, (ii) Web Self Service, (iii) Email, (iv) Web Chat and Co-Browse, (v) Social Media including Twitter, Facebook. The SAAS platform allows for flexible user management to meet the organization's distributed usage and changing needs.

Consider the following scenarios:
1> A large global processed food supplier discovers that some of its popular product lines are adulterated and require rapid product recall. These products are sold via multiple big box retailers and thousands of smaller "mom-pop" stores across multiple countries.
In such a situation; the company needs to react swiftly and in a coordinated manner to manage its brand reputation, stakeholder perception and reduce collateral impact. The next generation call center capability across multiple channels is the force multiplier to successfully manage this critical scenario.

2> A large global consumer brand company is launching a new product to coincide with an international sport event and wants seamless x-channel experience.
The brand positioning and advertising strategy will be enhanced by proactive marketing, brand and trade promotion aligned to the key themes. The next generation call center enables the organization to achieve continuous and dynamically changing engagement with consumers across channels - telephony, portals, social, mobile.

Look out for my next Blog describing the building blocks of this Next Generation Call Center and how Infosys can help our clients.

October 18, 2013

Promoting the Feel factor - The Future of Online Retailing in India

On behalf of : Soumyendra Kumar Mohanty

India's new generation is making purchases online. Although it is convenient, when they do not like the product, they return it. But would they have returned it if they had 'tried' it out beforehand? Maybe not. So what was missing? I would like to call it the 'feel factor'.

The human ability to try and feel the product is at the core of human psyche and it cannot be completely written off in the online retailing world. Let's glance through the options that can provide this feel factor:

1. Virtual Studio or Virtual Trial Room
2. Try Samples and then Buy Product
3. Order, Try and then Buy

The first option, Virtual Studio or Virtual Trial Room is applicable to products like eyeglasses or sunglasses where you can take a picture of yourself from the webpage and try on the frame. The Indian retailer Lenskart provides three options of virtual try on. The user can upload his photograph, take a picture on the web cam or select a similar looking model on the webpage and do a virtual-try on with the frames. Also, since it is a 2D feel and not a real-life 3D feel, few people purchase using this medium.

The second option, Try Samples and then Buy Product - can be used for products like premium brands of shampoos where the retailer offers you a sample based on which you may choose to try the product. This model has additional complications- is the manufacturer willing to bear the cost of this 'sampling exercise'? Is there a way to send samples to a sharper target audience? These are some of the questions that the online retailing industry has to address. Indian retailer TrynbuyIndia.com has adopted an interesting approach. Their paid members can order a monthly 'Trybox' - a box of samples with no shipping charges. If members like a sample they can buy the product on the site. TrynbuyIndia.com encourages members (both free and paid) to provide feedback or answer market research questions, earn points and avail applicable benefits.

The third option is Order, Try and then Buy - The Indian online retailer Lenskart has a 'Home Try On' program. You can book an appointment by paying a fee of INR 100. Their representatives will come to your home or office and conduct an eye-checkup. They also carry a selection of 200 - 250 of their best selling frames for you to choose from - you can select the frame and place the order. The challenge however is that the cost of maintaining the van and the employees has to break-even with the revenue from the number of orders. As of now it is being offered in 13 cities only. As people get acquainted with this kind of service and as the demand grows, more cities are likely to be added to the list.

Now, say you want to purchase shoes. But you cannot try it out in the virtual world like the eyeglasses and decide on which one to purchase. Few innovative online retailers like yebhi.com allow you to order for the two models but pay for only one. The delivery guy can wait for you until you try out the two pairs of shoes in the comfort of your home or office and take a call on which one feels better. How you pay the differential or get a refund is still an evolving process. This approach has additional costs. The retailer has to pay the delivery guys additional sum of money for this 'waiting time'. This approach may still hold true for shoes. What about, say for example, two sets of formal suits? Can the courier guy wait outside long enough for you to try out two sets of suits, and match your tie and shirt? May be not. But if they drop the suits at your place and come back the next day to pick it up, will you be ready to pay an additional amount for this service? Probably yes, when the try-n-buy culture evolves over time.

In India, the malls are getting over-crowded and the commute to shopping centers painful because of the absence of good public transport and soaring vehicular pollution. Also as the Indians become more and more busy managing their work and life, this service is likely to be welcomed with open arms.

October 15, 2013

"Rethinking the Supply Chain Strategy - Adding colors and sizes to smart phones"

On behalf of : Manish Thukral

The pioneer and leader of the smart phone industry set a new trend by introducing colors to the look and feel of smart phone. The company gained its highest revenue in the first week of its launch in comparison to its earlier launch. The industry had already introduced size as a characteristic for smart phones like xPad, min xPad, xPhone 4 inc. in height and xphone 5 inc, in height etc.to serve different user preferences. Adding color to the design allows customers to make a style statement to augment their choice of apparel. For example, a person carrying smart phone with gold or velvet red color adds uniqueness to the personality and puts him to different class of people.

However as the time passes, what may leave buyers of smart phones unsatisfied is the limited number of colors/size options available. What about the buyers who would like to carry smart phone in colors different than the few launched in the market? The feel factor a customer gets by carrying a smart phone with colors of his choice is similar to that of wearing apparels in colors of his/her choice. Imagine if Levis Strauss provided jeans in only four different colors and sizes! If a buyer needs a different color/size, he would move on to a competitor, say Lee Cooper. The choice of the color is regional too- flashy and bright yellow/blue colors can drive high demand in North American markets but not so much in the Asia Pacific region. Smart phones are generally expensive and reflect the personality of the user and availability of colors/sizes can make or break the deal. I personally delayed the decision to buy a smart phone because it did not come to the market in a size which competitors have.

It is very exciting to see the new trend of colors and sizes in smart phones but this has left customers wanting for more. Smart phone makers will have to do increase the catalogue of colors/size for choice. This market demand for more options in design will call for rethinking the supply chain strategy for profitable growth to make and deliver the products as per the customer's choice.The demand planning techniques for smart phones will have to adopt the approach of characteristic based planning. Smart phones or more generically 'speaking gadgets' have adopted two more characteristics to its planning i.e. Size and Color. Choice of colors is seasonal too, that adds another factor of seasonality to the demand plan.

The supply plan need not build an inventory of each color/design that the company can offer to the customer in store. The strategy can be to keep the high demand colors in stock, in store whereas low demand colors may be ordered online with the shortest time to market lead time. Manufacturer's should also look at allowing buyers to configure their smart phone- for example, one customer would like 4 inc, gold color and 5 mpeg camera whereas other customer may pay a higher price for 5 inc., pink color and 8 mpeg.Sony enjoyed the success of its Sony Vaio laptops that come in a range of color options and the ability to configure the laptop as per the customer's requirement.

These are just my initial thoughts and would be glad to hear the reader's views on this new trend of adding colors and sizes to the smart phone, what the customer would want next and how the supply chain strategy should be re-aligned to meet the demands tailored to each customer choice while driving profitable growth in the market.

October 10, 2013

The hunt is over for the Best Digital Innovation - 2013

Guest Post by

Anil Venkat, Marketing Manager, Infosys

The Infosys Digital Innovation Award, created with IGD - global retail and consumer goods trade body, celebrates organisations using digital technology to push the boundaries of consumer engagement. The search for the inaugural winner of the award was completed on Oct 8 after receiving entries of over 30 ground breaking projects from global Retail and CPG companies.

The finalists - ASDA, Coca-Cola, Heineken, Tesco and Wm Morrison - shared a common thread.  Innovation is almost always about improvements for the consumer. All these finalists demonstrated that they are prepared to think outside traditional frameworks and try something new.

The winner, Asda, was able to demonstrate more than any other, a clear definition of purpose with defined metrics across multiple areas of their business. Their innovation came from clever use of data and technology,  transferability to other campaigns and business areas and a long-term impact in terms of future marketing strategies and business planning.
The customer defined approach that Asda has taken to creating the Asda smartphone app has been recognised as stand out from their competitors and worthy of the  award. The app achieved the highest user rating of any supermarket chain and helped increase mobile sales to double the company's original target. 

Asda's entry is a case study for how retailers should think about and execute digital innovation in the future.

Congratulations to ASDA,  inaugural winner of Infosys Digital Innovation award 2013

 

Competitive Strategy in a digital world

On behalf of : Rahul Bindlish

Multi-channel commerce is exploding and it is a no-brainer to have a digital presence and a digital strategy. Every retailer has one, or is in the process of defining one for its business. Most of them treat it as a marketing / channel strategy and it makes sense for many of them - with sales from mobile / ecommerce channel only a small % of the overall sales. For eg. the largest retailers - Walmart, Target, Kroger, Safeway, Home Depot, Lowes, etc. have only a small (low single digits) percentage of sales coming from the digital channels. However, there is a big risk with this - as retailers may not completely understand the impact of the digital strategy on their competitive positioning.

Developing the digital strategy through the lens of marketing / channel strategies alone is not sufficient. It is important for retailers to understand the trends in the industry, conduct a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis, evaluate their competitive positioning and develop a digital strategy that enhances their competitive positioning in the industry. A retailer may be a low cost / low price leader in the market, or it may be differentiating itself in the market place through its merchandize, service, etc. - its digital strategy has to enhance that positioning in the market place. Doing this will enable retailers to strengthen their business strategy and improve their sales and/or profitability compared to competition.

Amazon has changed the retail industry with its innovation in online experience for the shopper combined with a strong network of distribution centers and logistics to deliver goods as promised. Many retailers attempt to copy it. Instead they should look at doing things differently leveraging their strengths to enhance their competitive position. There are several examples of retailers doing this well. For eg. Nordstrom has extended the high level of service that it provides its customers in the store to its web by providing free shipping and free returns - always. My wife loves the ability to order a dresses that she likes on the web, and returning them to the nearest store if they are not as good as the image looks - with no questions asked. Target gives me the ability to check availability of items I am shopping online at the nearest store - giving me the convenience of getting it now rather than waiting - extending the promise of a better shopping experience.

Digital space will continue to evolve quickly, and unpredictably. It is important that retailers continue to innovate but in a manner that strengthens their competitive positioning, and brand in the market place. Those successful in doing this will be benefited by increasingly loyal customers, higher sales and greater profitability.

October 3, 2013

Omnichannel Retailing: A vision of utopia or a realistic proposition?

Posted on behalf of : Atanu Nath

In an era driven by the digital revolution, the concept of omnichannel retailing is becoming increasingly relevant. Not very long ago, the idea of ubiquitous presence across all available shopping channels would seem far-fetched & difficult to envision strategically & implement operationally. However, with the increasing proliferation of the internet, both in developed & developing economies, omnichannel retailing no longer seems a utopic proposition but more of a reality.

There are various changes, which we are witness to lately, that necessitate the adoption of an approach aligned towards e-commerce. A few interesting changes are as follows:

On-line vs. In-line: On-line retailing has ushered in new dimensions of convenience & simplicity of transactions. A customer can browse through a plethora of choices available, and at the same time validate whether his need will be adequately met by the purchase that he is about to make, courtesy of reviews & endorsements. There is a flip side created by the absence of instant gratification or ownership however the fact that he no longer needs to be in-line (brick-and-mortar stores) and can complete the activity from the comforts of his home is a big win proposition.

Mobility & Apps: We are now part of an app driven world characterized by "true" mobility & sophistication which have revolutionized how a purchase decision or a purchase event happens. There are many retailers who now provide gift coupons in a QR code format for a specific amount of in-store purchase. These coupons can be scanned onto a mobile device & redeemed via a mobile app on the online store. Now when such offerings are coupled with access to exclusive merchandise, sometimes targeted for specific customer groups, it creates incentive enough for the buyers to indulge in a never ending cycle of repeat purchases in-store & subsequently on-line.

The Power of Social: It is widely believed that most of the buying decisions today are being completed before actual engagement with a retailer. The need evaluation to decision making cycle is being strongly fed by information available in the social media. Peer endorsements & discussions in known social circles are playing the role of opinion makers. e-influence, as it is popularly known, is changing the dynamics of consumer purchasing in the retail space.

Disruptive Technologies: The arrival of a number of new technology capabilities in recent times has resulted in unsettling changes to how "value" customers are identified, communicated with & finally serviced. Big-data analytics for e.g. will allow retailers to create customer segments based on well structured & actionable business rules. This in turn will ensure the delivery of highly personalized communications to the target group addressing their core need & thus eliciting a more favorable response towards the retailer.

Notwithstanding the obvious impact that e-commerce can bring into a retailer's business, it is always important to tread with caution while embracing new channels of distribution. A retailer needs to make a careful assessment of his offerings portfolio & evaluate the best channel fit. For e.g. products that are bought often & consumed routinely may not be an immediate choice to be sold online. Staples, as they are more commonly referred to, offer minimal or nil differentiation and usually compete on the price factor alone. Hence it might make more sense to leverage the in-store channel option for such cases.

In addition, there needs to be a close examination of whether the choice of channel is in alignment with the overall organizational vision & business goals. More importantly, if the organization is equipped & sufficiently enabled to deliver over the chosen channel. A simple encapsulation of the discussion is, in order to achieve long term profitability & be the preferred choice of the consumer; channel selection is a key strategic decision for any retailer. Having said that, the power of digitization & mobility can't simply be overlooked in today's age.

October 1, 2013

Food Industry and Quality Control

 

In a news scoop provided by in San Francisco affiliate of NBC, there was a grainy video coverage of large multi temperature trucks dropping food supplies at a shade to be picked hours later up by pickup trucks. This caused widespread reaction in the food and food service industry starting from complete outrage to utter disbelief. What's the big deal, you ask? Well, how would you react if you realize that the gallon of milk that you bought from your local supermarket yesterday, was left out in the sun for three hours before it was picked up by the store clerk and put in the freezer section? It's the same.

Since then, the company in question has taken multiple steps to make sure that this does not happen. The drop zones, which are expected to be temperature controlled have been discontinued. But this begs the question of how do the suppliers, distributors and retailers maintain the quality as required at various transition points. This is especially true for perishables like fresh poultry, dairy and produce.

Typically, the suppliers pick and pack the goods in a temperature controlled environment, label it for expiration date and temperature zone. Then they are transported to different distribution centers in a dry, cooler and freezer trucks as applicable. Each truck is equipped with a thermometer, which records the maximum and minimum temperature during the trip. At the conclusion of the trip, before the goods are unloaded to the staging area, the temperature on the truck is audited. If the temperature is beyond the tolerance for the good being supplied, the items are discarded.

The goods are taken to the temperature controlled warehouse and stored there. Once it is ready to be moved to the customer location, temperature, days to expiration and route duration are calculated. The good is picked to be shipped if all the conditions are met.

Typically, goods are shipped either in multi temperature trucks are single temperature trucks based on the volume of supplies. During drop-off, the driver takes the temperature again and adds to the audit log. This is added to the BOM that is provided to the customer along with the goods.

Any deviation is very strictly dealt with and punishable by hefty fines as well as bans in most of the states. FDA (Food and Drugs Authority) does random audits of the warehouse as well as the drop-off trucks to ensure that the process is complied with.

After all, we love our morning cereals and milk and that milk better be good!

Posted on behalf of Aruni Acharya, Sr. Principal

Big Data Considerations in Retail

 

In today's Digital age, Retailers are choking on data which has grown exponentially over the years. Big Data solutions provide a platform for seamlessly analyzing large volumes of structured and unstructured data at a fraction of cost and time using a very scalable infrastructure and generating meaningful business analytics and is poised to transform the Retail world beyond anyone's imagination. How do you beat this combination - An intelligent Data Warehouse (not following any particular schema!) plus incredibly powerful yet cost effective array of distributed processors with built in DR , generating meaningful analytics? As an example, with Big Data solutions, Retailers can now predict demand by combining purchase history, social media trends, online browsing behavior, market data and also personalize shopping experience for the customers. Another example would be analyzing POS transactions for understanding effectiveness of promotions or predicting network fault, failures proactively. An emerging trend is "Data Sandboxes" where Business users can analyze and mine the data relationship and determine if it yields meaningful insights prior to publishing it to the Data Warehouse. Big Data has emerged from the need to analyze terabytes and petabytes of data across various channels which otherwise would be extremely complex and expensive. Big Data solutions should not be seen as a substitute for the organization "think tank", it is an enabler or an engine which provides data to the business to make right decisions. A good Big data solution should be able to handle high data velocity (high input rate), data variety (structured, unstructured), large data volumes, complexity ( cloud, on premise, hybrid), be cost efficient and scalable. Organizations have to carefully charter their Big Data Strategy which requires involvement of both technical and business teams. The focus should not shift from solving a business problem to technology in isolation.

 

Posted on behalf of Thomas Mathen

Managed Services - Avoiding Pitfalls

 

Managed Services is a key enterprise strategy to reduce IT opex costs. There are some obvious and avoidable pitfalls which the enterprises need to be aware of before embarking on this journey. The crux of managed services is managing by outcomes versus by resources. The mantra is to move the commodity services to low cost centers so that high cost resources can be leveraged for strategic initiatives. The biggest pitfall in a managed services program is the mismatch between IT and business expectations. A critical support ticket may have an SLA of 4 hours and in 95% cases (per SLAs ) the IT partner may be meeting these SLAs but this may not be enough from business perspective. Let us consider an example - A truck waiting on the docks, waiting for the manifest to be printed may seem as just another IT ticket which got resolved per SLA but the criticality from lost revenue and productivity was not measured here. End result is that IT feels that it is doing very well (per the metrics) but we have a highly dissatisfied customer (the truck was waiting for almost 2 hours without a resolution!) This is the gap which proves to be the Achilles' heels for the support program. So how was this being done prior to Managed Services? Well, by an experience IT person who was with the enterprise for over 15 to 20 years , who understood the technical as well as functional landscape and was also tightly engrained with the business needs and expectations. How do we bridge this gap ? For one, a proper transition and handshake. IT companies should ensure that the knowledge base in the team is constantly maintained. i.e. plan for attrition. Knowledge base should be covering both technical and business aspects. IT companies can also invest in business partners versus technology partners at onsite locations. Enterprises can also put IT partners in check by baking business SLAs into the contract and drafting rewards/penalties by business specific areas. Enterprises should also plan for their SMEs to visit the IT team on a periodic basis thereby bridging the gap between IT and business. Managed Services may include niche areas which do not fit the typical commodity services work , these are onsite intensive and very difficult to source (high hourly rates). Early identification of such areas and de-scoping them is preferred otherwise a new rate card for such areas should be negotiated with the client. This can seriously impact overall program margins. Being fixed price in nature, there could be some operational challenges where optimal staffing may not be happening across towers (i.e. onsite heavy , high number of onsite contractors, less aggressive onsite offshore ratios) at the pretext of improving customer experience. An operational improvement plan should be drawn which clearly addresses

these gaps. IT organizations should also invest in smart tools to measure and monitor real time SLAs and enable collaboration across the support structure (L1, L2, L3)

Posted on behalf of Thomas Mathen

Next Gen Infra Monitoring

 

A dedicated Infra Monitoring group for the enterprises can essentially act as the first line of defense for all infra outages. The team ideally should be equipped with an intelligent infrastructure monitoring landscape (achieved via 3rd party tool automation) which not only monitors alerts at an element level (servers, networks, DBs) but also correlates the alerts to pinpoint the failure origin. The alert thresholds can be set up by the team to proactively detect issues. As an example - The server alerts can be setup at 65% utilization. When the utilization crosses 65% , the Infra Monitoring group gets an alert. The team analyzes the alerts and attempts to fix it (using SOPs, Knowledge documents) before reaching out to L2 and L3 Infra teams. This way the team has made an attempt to fix a potential issue proactively.

The Infra monitoring group is tightly coupled with the Service desk and all major outages, maintenance windows are proactively communicated across. Another important function the Infra monitoring group can perform is that of a command center. So, essentially whenever there is a critical or a major Infra incident, the Infra monitoring group can take up the end to end ownership of the ticket- which will involve opening conference lines, initiating major incident process, communicating the status of ticket to all key stakeholders, reaching out to L2, L3 POCs , 3rd Party Vendors etc. This way the tickets are not lost and there is complete accountability and visibility in the system.

The Infra Monitoring group can be a 100% remote team. It is a combination of Eyes on the Glass and basic triaging skills. Solution fix is driven through SOPs and anything more detailed or technical is passed on to L2 and L3 teams. The Infra monitoring group structure ensures that expensive and skilled L2, L3 resources are utilized in an optimum way. This team can also be shared across several clients (permitting client permission) and is cheap and scalable way of improving customer satisfaction.

The success of this model is heavily dependent on successful setup , configuration and rollout of the monitoring tool stack. This has to be handled as a separate IT program and should be driven from the top (client side). The tool automation can also enable rollout of business dashboard

(mapping the health of IT infrastructure to Business functions) as well as tie with other monitoring groups like NOC (Network Operations Center), SOC (Security Operations Center)

Posted on behalf of Thomas Mathen

End of the PC Era?

 

PCs are getting fast replaced by very cheap tablets and smart phones. PCs are bulky, occupy space and consume energy. With the advances in internet technology we do not need to store data locally anymore, cloud is a much cheaper option and once a data is in the cloud it can be accessed from anywhere. All the leading mailboxes as an example have now migrated to the cloud. Remember the times when PC games were so popular - not any more. Gaming experience has grown out of the PCs to smarter/dedicated and more powerful boxes.

Most of the people into browsing, social media find tablets and smart phones more usable and efficient. Smart phone brings several technologies together - phone, camera, video camera, browsing, printing, fax machines, gaming, credit card, personal wallet and the list goes on. This convergence of technology coupled with ubiquity of internet (cheaper and faster) has proven to be the nemesis of PCs.

Almost all software applications are hosted today, eliminating the need of machines with heavy processing and storage needs. Cloud application development is also becoming popular and is agile. Several enterprises have launched BYOD programs which essentially let employees carry their personal laptops, tablets to work, making work PCs redundant. Another significant reason playing against the PCs is that it has too many moving parts - Monitors, mouse, keyboards - resulting in more failures and services calls.

Versus writing off the PCs completely do we have an opportunity to hook them together over an internet backbone to create a huge distributed computing engine/server framework which can essentially do complex calculations? Essentially, make PCs part of the cloud, as an enabler

Posted on behalf of Thomas Mathen

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