Today in Tech: Gmail's new inbox; Ten trends from McKinsey; Phaneesh Murthy

NS Ramnath
Updated: May 30, 2013 03:59:32 PM UTC

I have been with Forbes India since August 2008. I like writing about ideas, events and people at the intersection of business, society and technology. Prior, I was with Economic Times. I am based in Bangalore. Email: ns.ramnath@gmail.com

Gmail's new inbox Google says its mail service's new inbox (which is rolling out gradually) will organize your emails better. In my view, Gmail is already better than its rivals in filtering out spam. Sometime back, it offered to sort mails based on its importance, which was not great, but an improvement over the earlier version.

And now this: "the new inbox groups your mail into categories which appear as different tabs. You simply choose which categories you want and voilà! Your inbox is organized in a way that lets you see what’s new at a glance and decide which emails you want to read when."

One can argue that it's responding to market needs. The hype around iPhone app Mailbox clearly showed that email is not just about the size of inbox, it's also about productivity. This seems to be one step towards that.

These improvements also raises an interesting issue: the same algorithm behind this feature is also behind the-sometimes-useful but always-intrusive ads. How we balance these two will be a big question we need to answer in the coming years.

 

Ten trends from McKinsey
McKinsey talks about 'Ten IT-enabled business trends for the decade ahead'. Here's the list.

  1. Joining the social matrix
  2. Competing with ‘big data’ and advanced analytics
  3. Deploying the Internet of All Things
  4. Offering anything as a service
  5. Automating knowledge work
  6. Engaging the next three billion digital citizens
  7. Charting experiences where digital meets physical
  8. ‘Freeing’ your business model through Internet-inspired personalization and simplification
  9. Buying and selling as digital commerce leaps ahead
  10. Transforming government, health care, and education

In journalism, I know many reporters who look down upon 'trend stories', partly because they are rarely as exciting as a 'breaking news' (in other words, there's always a suspicion everyone's aware of it in one way or the other) and also because many of these trends lose steam half way. ('Three is a trend' is a journalistic dictum; but what if it never grows beyond three?).

For business leaders, the challenge is different. One executive I spoke to said, the first challenge is in choosing from among the many options, and the second is in managing the risks involved, for it's mostly about the future. McKinsey doesn't always get it right. (Its completely off the mark estimates of mobile phones is widely known). Yet, businesses go to McKinsey not so much for their final recommendations, as they do for the arguments and reasoning. It's for the same reason the piece is worth reading.

 

More thoughts on Phaneesh Murthy affair
The big lesson I learned from listening to people talking about Phaneesh Murthy affair is that there are as many reasons (to criticize or support) as there are people. These reasons touched on issues as varied as personal morality and corporate governance, lifestyles of modern executives and deeply entrenched ideas of social norms. One common strand was the question of consent given that both were adults. And quite a few framed the problem as if they were discussing a fair exchange in a free market. It's not. It was also about the power structure.

It's often easy to appreciate issues better by considering extreme examples. Here's one from a lecture Michael Sandel gave at Oxford.

"It (argument from coercion) points to the injustice that can arise when people buy and sell things under conditions of severe inequality or dire economic necessity. According to this objection, market exchanges are not necessarily as voluntary as market enthusiasts suggest. A peasant may agree to sell his kidney or cornea in order to feed his starving family, but his agreement is not truly voluntary. He is coerced, in effect, by the necessities of his situation.....

 

 

The argument from coercion draws on the ideal of consent, or more precisely, the ideal of consent carried out under fair background conditions. It is not, strictly speaking, an objection to markets, only to markets that operate against a background of inequality severe enough to create coercive bargaining conditions. The argument from coercion
offers no grounds for objecting to the commodification of goods in a society whose background conditions are fair."

The example, of course, has very little in common with what happened at iGate, but the same principle applies.

Also of interest

  • Google Challenges Apple With ‘Hero’ Phone | FT
  • Apple TV's market share | Fortune
  • Open University: Coursera partners with 10 major state schools | Fast Company
  • Mary Meeker's presentation | KPCB

 

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