Saturday, July 19, 2008

The A380 Experience!

On the 8th of July, I had my first flight aboard the new Airbus A380 aircraft. The Singapore Airlines flight was from Singapore - Changi airport to Tokyo -Narita Airport. Singapore Airlines being the only operator that uses A380 at the moment, you have to be traveling to or from this part of the world (Asia) in order to Experience this.

The Super Jumbo : An A380 in the terminal 3 of the Changi Airport - Singapore

First thing that you feel could be the relative quietness of the aircraft, compared to Boeing 747-400s or Boeing 777s that Singapore airlines operate. The economy class seats that I flew onboard the A380, were very spacious and they were more like the Business Class seats that that can be found in some Airbus A330 aircrafts operated by other airlines.

Onboard A380 : Economy Class seats in the Main Deck have more space
The Airbus A380 is a double-deck, wide-body, four-engine aircraft. It is designed to carry 555 to 840 passengers. This is about 35 percent more than the Boeing 747. There were many manufacturing delays in the A380 project and it appears that EADS have finally got hold of the control of project. The early manufacturing delays were said to be mostly due to problems in the cabin wiring system.

Boeing responded to the challenge posed by A380 in a different way, by moving ahead with their 787 Dreamliner project which is also currently plagued by production delays. The 787 is supposed to be a is a mid-sized, wide-body, twin engine aircraft.

The two Aircraft Manufacturers have different strategies to meet the future demand for Air Travel. Due to the size of the A380 aircraft it is capable of flying large number of people between major hub airports. Singapore Airlines already fly to London, Tokyo and to Sydney from Singapore. However Boeing have put their faith in carrying relatively less number of passengers between many smaller airports frequently.

Making the aircraft fuel efficient remains one of the key priorities common to both the programs. In this aspect Boeing has an edge due to the fact that in order for A380 to be fuel efficient it has to fill up most of its seats. Even a small number of empty seats could raise the amount of fuel consumed per passenger. This was probably the case in the flight I took.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Google Earth on Web!

In my blog post created on the 15th of April 2008, I highlighted that Google has an opportunity to make browsing of Geographic Information (KML) and Web Content seamless. This was after they standardized their Mark-up language for Geographic Information Representation KML.

On the 28th of May 2008, Google announced the availability of a Plug-In which enables web browsers to run Google Earth 3D application inside browsers. This opens up new opportunities for software developers to make the web more interesting by creating Mash Ups that include Google Earth. Currently “Google Earth Web” provides a limited set of features that can be found in Google’s proprietary Earth Browser. However in the long run, I believe that Google will provide the full functionality found in Google Earth over the Plug-In.

This also opens up exciting opportunities for Google to deliver Google Earth to mobile phones, in a manner similar to which they deliver Google Maps for mobiles. In order to make this a reality Google has to certify the Plug-in (Modify if necessary) for Mobile browsers.

O’rielly provides an interesting article about new Google Earth features and the video below was released by Google demonstrating some possibilities.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Innovation and the “Quarterly Company”

Trying to meet Wall Street Analyst’ targets, by focusing on the short term goals can do much harm than good for technology companies. This is mainly because of the fact that sustainability of a technology company is highly dependent on the innovation it brings to the marketplace. If a company loose the focus on the long term strategy due to “external influences”, a company might find itself running the company from “quarter to quarter” - and effectively becomes a “Quarterly Company” with hindered innovation .

Recently there was a good discussion provoked by ZdNet’s Larry Dignan related to the influence that the Wall Street has on the technology companies. However it should be stressed that it is futile to say that shareholders should not be taken seriously. Ultimately it’s shareholders money that companies are spending. However it helps to have at least some majority shareholders who have a sight in the long term strategy of a company. Keeping them enlightened about innovation and R&D strategies of companies is one way of getting the buy-in of such shareholders.

However companies like Amazon and Google have more luxury than some of the small time tech companies to invest more in innovation. Apart from that they have the power to withstand the pressure / criticism of the Wall Street when pursuing high risk long term goals. A recent BusinessWeek magazine’s interview (April 28th 2008 issue) conducted with Amazon’s Jeff Bezoz clearly indicates this fact. Bezoz claims that“I believe you have to be willing to be misunderstood if you're going to innovate”. The mis-understanding stems from the fact that when you are innovating you do not have the freedom to enlighten all the stakeholders of the companies on your strategy in an in-depth manner. If you do so this can very well help your competition. Adding to that there is no clear cut path that leads to innovation as well. This makes it even more complicated to spell out a strategy.

At the same time Google does not guide the investors on their future earnings and yet apparently earns the respect of majority of investors. The article titled “No More Earnings Guidance? Hallelujah” provides a brief insight into the “No Guidance policy” of Google. The Reuters article “No guidance" policy jolts Google investors again” echoes the sentiment of some sections of the Wall Street with regard to the said policy.

At the same time, there are examples of companies who got a beating in the innovation side trying to focus on the short term profits. Introducing Six Sigma to increase the efficiency of 3M Corporation was one such example where the creative culture was put on a back foot while attempting to increase the short term profitability.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

KML Standardized by Open Geospatial Consortium

The Open Geospatial Consortium (OCG) has accepted KML (Keyhole Markup Language) as an international file standard for representing Geographic Information. As a result of this the OCG will take over further development of the file format and Google will no longer own it.

KML initially gained wide popularity with the release of Google Earth. I believe that in the long run with KML gaining wide acceptance and popularity, browsers used to view geo-spatial information will be integrated with standard web browsers. May be this would be an opportunity for Google to integrate standard Web Browsing to Google Earth browser they already own. This would enable seamless browsing of HTML and KML files.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

More information revealed about Societe Generale

Today International Herald Tribune has made some startling revelations about the trading fraud at Societe Generale. The article contains information related to warnings made to the bank in November 2007 by the surveillance office of Eurex one of the biggest European exchanges. Please find the informative article here.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Societe Generale and Risk Management 101

The corporate world was in for a total surprise when Societe Generale uncovered the massive trading loss of EUR 4.9 billion (USD 7.2 Billion). This loss is termed as the largest such loss in the banking world.

If we put this figure into perspective, it would be interesting to observe that, the net income of the corporate and investment banking division of Societe Generale was only EUR 2.3 Billion and the banking revenue of the same unit was only EUR 6.9 Billion in 2006 (Click here for details accounts from the web site of the bank ). It is similarly interesting to note that this loss caused by a single trader dwarfed sub prime write offs announced by Societe Generale which was a “mere” EUR 2.05 Billion.

The biggest question is how a single rouge trader could have done such a damage unnoticed to the immediate supervisors or the top management of the corporate and investment banking unit of Societe Generale. Considering that this fraud has been going on for last 3 years, one would get a reasonable, doubt about the auditors who certified the financial records of past years as well.

However Societe Generale did have a bigger responsibility in its hand to prevent such losses by enforcing the needed system controls. Amid these developments one might think that more sophisticate software systems are needed to detect such frauds which apparently have involved fictitious companies/trades. However as an IT professional I believe that even a simple system control would have detected this fraud in the very beginning of it. In my opinion if the total volume or total amount of transactions that can be executed by a trader was restricted by the bank and if the supervisors had access to reports of individual traders’ performance, it would have been much more difficult for the rogue trader to carry on executing the fraudulent trades. However it is hard to imagine that the software used by Societe Generale did not have the above mentioned functionalities which are nowadays built into most financial transaction handling software. Although the investigations are underway, I would rather form the hypotheses that these controls were not strictly enforced by the bank authorities, which essentially is a fundamental human error. Although the bank has been using apparently sophisticated risk management software (See a related report here ) , it is surprising how they might have managed to neglect 101 of Risk Management.

While the investigations are going on related to the uncovered fraud, it would be a good idea for Societe Generale to re-evaluate the accuracy of write offs previously made with regard to the US sub prime exposure, and undertake a thorough investigation of all its futures and other trades which used similar management control systems. Hopefully this would help to avoid future surprises.