Negotiation, Negotiation, Negotiation

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Another step forward for customer choice.

Posted by Mark Harrison on August 7, 2007

As you may know, both and run on servers that run something called Linux.

Linux is an alternative to Microsoft Windows, that started on the premise that there were two ways to develop software:

  • Either pay a bunch of programmers to do it, and exchange your money for their time. Generally, this software is sold on a “usage” basis, in that customers have the right to run it, but not to modify it.
  • Get a larger bunch of programmers to get involved on a voluntary basis, because they were willing to put in their time to improve products. The “contract” as it were is that everyone can have the right to make improvements to the software directly, provided they share those improvements back with the community.

Companies like Microsoft,  and Lotus took the first route – Microsoft employs an awful lot of programmers. Other groups took the “large numbers of volunteers” route.

That was now a long time ago. Over the last 10 years, more software companies have taken the view that there are some real benefits to using and improving, so-called Open Source Software, to the extent that a lot of “free software” is actually coded by paid employees – their employers having decided that it’s cheaper to modify something free than to buy in an expensive licence.

While most of the Internet’s servers now run in Linux, it’s also true to say that 98% of home PC users pick Windows. Linux was an alternative that, until relatively recently, always appeared to lag behind in functionality and ease of use.

More recently, however, a company called Canonical have sponsored a version of Linux called Ubuntu, which does seem to be a head-on competitor to Windows. Earlier this year, Dell started selling laptop and desktops with Ubuntu installed instead of Windows.

As of tomorrow, Dell are going to offer these products in Europe as well.
More information here at the Ubuntu website.


Posted in MyThingE,, Wikinomics | 3 Comments »

An insurance revolution

Posted by Mark Harrison on May 24, 2007

Back in December, I wrote that I was concentrating on a new role at a technology startup.

Well, the “non-disclosure period” is now over, and has launched (authorised and regulated by the FSA.)

The principle is simple – we replace searching for quotations with a free-to-use, competitive process that puts you firmly in the driving seat.

Rather than just showing you a few standard quotations from a limited number of insurers, we provide your requirements (but not your personal details) to a range of FSA-approved insurers, and allow them to bid against one another for your business, typically over a week-long auction. By allowing insurers to bid against each other, rather than “quote blind”, we ensure that you get the best pricing (and of course, if it does turn out that your current renewal notice is the cheapest option – then you are under no obligation to go ahead with any of the bids through our system.)

Your insurance data is only available, securely, to approved FSA insurance providers registered with . but your personal details (name, house number, phone numbers) remain confidential until/unless you accept a bid, at which point we reveal them to your chosen provider only.

We’re launching with three types of insurance:

  • Car insurance
  • Motorhome insurance
  • Property insurance (buildings and contents, including insurance for landlords – not just owner-occupiers or tenants )

(and more coming over the next few months.)
As you might imagine, while the concept is simple, the devil has been in the detail – ensuring that we’re providing all the information that insurers need, while traversing the minefield of regulation and getting our FSA approval has not been a quick or easy task.

However, with new insurers coming on board every day this week, the competition is getting fiercer, and that’s driving down prices.

It’s been a great six months for me – I’m Chief Technology Office (CTO) – the business has managed to blend my IT background, my experience in the financial products that surround property, and the buzz of working with a great team has been fantastic, and stretched my entrepreneurial creativity.

Registration is fast and free – for more details.

Posted in Car Insurance, Home Insurance, MyThingE,, Property Investment | 8 Comments »