Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas

Every year I look out for the Xmas e-mails and electronic cards. This year brought me all kind s of best wishes. A newsletter of the Instructors' Network was pimped up with Santa's hat (Thanks Robert Wierbizski).

Marcelo Sant'Iago, my Latin American friend, sent me the following story:
Some time ago a man punished his 5-year-old daughter for wasting a roll of expensive gold wrapping paper. Money was tight and he became even more upset when the child pasted the gold paper so as to decorate a box to put under the Christmas tree.

Nevertheless, the little girl brought the gift box to her father the next morning and said, "This is for you, Daddy." The father was embarrassed by his earlier over reaction, but his anger flared again. When he found the box was empty.
He spoke to her in a harsh manner, "Don't you know, young lady, when you give someone a present there's supposed to be something inside the package?" The little girl looked up at him with tears in her eyes and said, "Oh,Daddy, it's not empty. I blew kisses into it until it was full."

The father was crushed. He fell on his knees and put his arms around this little girl, and he begged her to forgive him for his unnecessary anger. An accident took the life of the child only a short time later and it is told that the father kept that gold box by his bed for all the years of his life. And whenever he was discouraged or faced difficult problems he would open the box and take out an imaginary kiss and remember the love of the child who had put it there.

In a very real sense, each of us as human beings have been given a golden box filled with unconditional love and kisses from our children,family and friends. There is no more precious possession anyone could hold.

Isn't that very touching. And there were many cards, some of them I put in a collage below.

For those who read Dutch, they should have a look at the site of the Mediawerkplaats. You get an invitation to pick your own avatar: Bush, Merkel and some Dutch VIPs. With my education in theology I took of course Pope Benedict XVI. You can add a favourite saying to it and send it in. You can click on the arrows and you will find my name with the message: I think I am happy with the many e-mails I get. It means that I have friends and enemies, who think about me!

(I will be off till December 31, 2005)

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Social impact games

In several blogs I have given my opinion about games. But the gaming industry is not a monolithic entity. There are console games and mobile games, single and multiplayer games, but also arcade games and serious games. On Wednesday the Dutch financial newspaper FD published an article with the heading: the Netherlands champion in serious games.

The article is interesting as it draws attention to established companies developing serious games such as Ra.NJ, V-step and IJsfontein. Ra.JN has produced Pool Paradise, which was a winner in the category of E-learning of the IJsfontein has also been nominated and a winner in the In the article Media Republic is also mentioned; they recently sold their commercial games arm to Sony, but still produce serious games. V-step developed a game to train firemen for disasters in the Amsterdam Arena soccer- and entertainment stadium. Also new companies are mentioned like OntdekNet, which has developed computer characters to take children through a learning track.

En passant, the article mentions that the Dutch creative industry comprises 220.000 employees. I wonder about this statement. Is this figure covering the digital creative industry, the former multimedia industry or new media sector. If this is the figure of the entire creative industry, the interviewee Mr Jurriaan van Rijswijk should look for better figures.

The article also mentions that the Dutch games market is good for 700 million euro. Spokespeople in the article estimate that social impact gaming is larger than entertainment games.

Developing serious games is cheaper than developing entertainment games. Prices range from 10.000 to 100.000 euro. As such there is more of a chance that Dutch companies can specialise in this sector.

In the meantime the Taskforce Innovation in the Utrecht region has taken up serious/social impact gaming as an innovation cluster. Utrecht University and the Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Utrecht (HKU) have started the Centre for Advanced Gaming and Simulation. At the HKU you can specialise in Game Design & Development. In this module a decision game for the Dutch railways was developed by students; their product was nominated for the

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Friday, December 23, 2005

Dutch banks are moving (slowly)

Dutch banks are moving, slowly. Internet banking has been introduced for PCs. Mobile banking has been introduced, but has not yet caught on. Next item on the list is Internet banking for TV. With the cable operator rolling out 2 million settop boxes, The Dutch Rabobank makes TV banking a reality.

TV banking is not new. Microsoft knows everything about it as it did experiment with TV banking in Portugal in the project TVCabo from 2001. Before this project left the laboratory phase, TV banking was tried out and the user reactions surveyed. This user survey was very interesting as it proved that people were doing their money business in front of a television.

I hardly can imagine that a family is going to sit on the couch and is going through the statements and payments. Of course educationally it might be interesting; on the other hand you would not like to show your kids the red figures.

Interesting is the development of the Rabobank of CommunityTV. This is a local TV platform for the bank, but also for an insurance company and other companies. Rabobank will use this platform for video communication between the user and the bank. Users can request video contact with one of the consultants of the bank by webcam or teleportation, a new kind of video conferencing (teleportation is being trialled by the other Dutch bank ABN AMRO).

I have been e-banking for a long time. In fact it has been almost 20 years that I stood in a queu in order to pick up some money. Soon I will be able to talk to the bankmanager. That will be a shock for him: people will not come to him, but he will have to link up with them.

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Market entry digital paper funded

This week the Dutch financial daily FD publishes an article on a management buy-out from a Philips spin-off dealing with digital paper. It is funny to see that paper speaks of an investment in electronic newspapers, while the article deals with electronic newspapers, e-books and e-manuals. A kind of professional deformation, I guess.

Philips has developed digital paper on the basis of E-Ink technology. It has started up a production factory for digital paper, named Polymer Vision. Another spin-off I-Rex Technologies is the application company. The company develops applications for the business market; the company names hospitals, education and publishers. (Funny again, as Philips is focussing on medical applications the spin-off is looking that way also). It has developed the I-Rex Reader, a reading tablet. But you can also make annotations on it. I-Rex has developed a system, which automatically change the information in pages; so there is no scrolling, but turning leaves.

Now ABN AMRO Capital and Main Capital are investing in the company I-Rex Technologies. The companies believe in the development of digital paper, especially as carrier of technical documentation. Yes here is the example again: manuals for Boeing as a replacement for the kilometre long row of manuals (I have used this example in 1986 for the use of CD-ROM!). Philips is not a shareholder, but does receive a royalty.

I-Rex has in the meantime a few thousand readers in the market for pilot projects. Close to the Netherlands the Belgian business newspaper De Tijd, a pioneer in new media, experiments with the distribution of news. Further away the Chinese are interested in the readers as the Chinese language is complex and the writing is time-consuming. The sale of the reader will start in April 2006; it will cost a couple of hundred euro.


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Big internet powerline project

The Texas-based utility TXU Electric Delivery, US sixth large electric transmission and distribution company and a subsidiary of TXU Corp., and CURRENT Communications Group, LLC have announced an agreement to transform TXU’s power distribution network into the nation’s first broadband-enabled ‘smart’ electric grid.

The CURRENT Broadband Power Line network will offer to Texas consumers broadband and wireless services, including the triple play of voice, television and high speed access delivered across the existing electric infrastructure into outlets in the home or business. Additional value-added services are planned, including service bundles that integrate both wired and wireless communications services. CURRENT will provide BPL network equipment and will also design, build, and operate the network, providing broadband services to 2 million consumers and businesses on both a retail and wholesale basis.

This project is one of the largest power internet projects in the world. In Germany power internet is distributed by in German cities like Mainz and Mannheim. In the Netherlands the Dutch electricity company NUON has performed a trial with 500 households but has stopped the development. Power Internet has also been trialled in the UK. The latest announcement came last August from Belgium, where the company Telenet will install powerline internet.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

UK Universities on ScienceDirect database

The UK Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and Elsevier, part of the Reed Elsevier Group, have announced the conclusion of a new agreement as part of NESLi2, the national electronic journals initiative for the higher education and research communities in the United Kingdom.

The new two-year agreement, which begins in January 2006, provides the framework under which the UK's universities and research communities will have electronic access to Elsevier's scientific, technical and medical journals through the ScienceDirect database. The journals include many of the most highly ranked and important journals in their respective fields.

The agreement is based on the NESLi2 Licence for Journals which ensures a consistent approach to access and use of these journals to allow teachers, learners and researchers to use them to their fullest potential in support of their activities.

It is interesting to see that see that Elsevier has digitised all their journals and mounted them in the ScienceDirect database. As the journals are digital now, a single university can negotiate the terms of a contract, but negotiations by a national institution are even better. It will boil down to a bulk price and definitely not to ppa (pay per article) price.


Monday, December 19, 2005

Beijing Multimedia Conference has started

Today the Multimedia Entertainment China Conference starts in Beijing. The conference will feature global industry visionaries, including Dr Michael B. Johnson who runs the moving pictures group at Pixar and Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the MIT Media Lab, among others. My Finnish friend Irina Blomqvist is one of the delegates. The Conference has been organised by CIMC Ltd and the Beijing Multimedia Industry Association (BMIA).

CIMC Ltd is a company based in Bejing and run by Mr Eldon Hylton (right) and his personal assistant Li Wang (left). When I was in Beijing in October 2004 she showed me around the forbidden city and the historical square of Heavenly Peace, where these days kites are being sold. The conference will be webcasted I am told on the Sohu website.

At the conference Nicolas Negroponte will speak on his baby, the 100 dollar laptop, which is being produced for the One laptop per Child campaign. In the past week the manufacturer of the 100 dollar computer has been named. It will be the Taiwanese manufacturer Quanta. So far Quanta was known for manufacturing parts for computer assemblers like Dell and Hewlett Packard. Quanta will be able to influence the design of the 100 dollar computer.

The first 5 to 15 million computers will be forwarded to China, Brazil, India, Argentina, Egypt, Nigeria and Thailand. They will be bought by the government or government agencies. Their colour will be frog green; the colour is selected in such a way that the computer always can be recognised as a computer belonging to the One Laptop per Child campaign and will not be stolen for commercial sale.

(When I was surfing for more information on this campaign I noticed that Alan Kay is on the board of the OLpC, the godfather of the laptops as he created the Dynabook, which defined the basics of the laptop and tablet computer, and is also considered by some as the architect of the modern windowing graphical user interface (GUI). In August 1972 he wrote the article A Personal computer for children of all ages.)


Sunday, December 18, 2005

Pimping up shopping windows

This week a reference to a window display showed up in a Dutch blog. The clothing chain C&A has a special shopping window at the Berliner Kurfürstendamm these days. It is an interesting marketing ploy. C&A co-operates with the German paper Bild, which normally present a girl on the first page. Now the Page1 Girl (Seite*1 Girl) is a scantily clad lady appearing in a film showing the Dessous underwear clothing line. But additionally a webcam is registering the reactions of the on-lookers and webcasting the reactions.

Personally I still like better the Interactive Window Display, first realised for Levi stores in London, Berlin, Paris, Barcelona and Lisbon by the Dane Lars Christiansen. Imagine, you are walking by a shopping window and suddenly someone is waving to you from a screen. You stop, start interacting with this person and talk to him via your mobile. The person, however, is not real but a video projection which shows a model in real size of the viewer. Hundreds of video sequences are used to make the model appear alive. If a viewer passes a movement sensor, a video sequence is played getting the viewers’ attention by using voice sound, gestures or signs. The virtual model is answering and asking viewers what they would like to get. The options may be: press 1 for music, press 2 for clothes or similar ones.

The Interactive Window Display was nominated in the category Cross media of the EUROPRIX Top talent Award in 2003. Lars now runs his own company TV Animation in Copenhagen.

If you want to see the movie of the interactive window display go to the Europrix site, select the category cross media, hit Interactive Window Display and play the video.


Saturday, December 17, 2005

Golden oldies

Some 43 days ago, I wrote about the music download service of the music department of the Rotterdam public library. All 3 million members of the Dutch public libraries were invited to start downloading more than 35.000 music pieces (songs and albums) for free on They can listen to classical music and jazz with Windows Media Audio. The collection has been expanded with the labels ECM, Pentatone and Dox. The rights have been coordinated by BUMA/STEMRA the collecting body and the national Library body. A DRM company has taken care of the technology. The music distributors see the downloads as teasers for the sale.

Now some statistics have been published. In less than one and a half month 100.000 music pieces were downloaded. Roughly 3.000 people use the service. I was curious to see the segments in the user population. The majority of the downloaders are library members of 60 years and older. Golden oldies for the oldies.


Friday, December 16, 2005

Spaink wins from Scientology Church

Today the Dutch High Court has upheld a lower court's ruling in favour of the Dutch writer Karin Spaink and ISPs and against the Scientology Church: freedom of speech prevails above copyright. In other words, infringement of copyright can not be used in order to block freedom of speech. The High Court did not expound on the lower court ruling and avoided an closer examination of principles. This ruling ends a 10 years old legal battle.

The case concerns the writings of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. Parts of the writings, published and unpublished fragments, have been put online by Karin Spaink in order to expose Scientology. The church body claims the copyright to the writings and has taken the position that Spaink and the ISPs have infringed the copyright and acted illegally. The Church is famous for persecuting everyone publishing official and unofficial material of and about their founder. As in every church, the disciples like to polish up the image of their founder. Disagreeable documents – in the case of Hubbard there are a few - are preferably kept under lock. But some became public in the Fisherman affidavit when the Scientology Church pursued a strayed disciple.

In a district court there was a ruling in 1999 deciding that Spaink had not infringed on the copyright of Scientology. In consequence the ISPs only act illegally when they know about the infringement by their users.

In a higher court the judge decided that Spaink infringed on the copyright of Scientology, but that freedom of speech justified this breach. So the claims against Spaink and the ISPs were not awarded.

Both parties did not agree with this judgement and went before the Dutch High Court. In his conclusion of March 18, 2005 the Solicitor General advised the High Court to reject the objections of the Scientology Church. Just before the official ruling the Scientology Church withdrew the case. Spaink and the ISPs protested this move as a clear ruling about freedom of speech above infringement of copyright. The Dutch High Court was advised not to abandon the case and rule on the case.

(There will be a victory party by the ISP defendant XS4ALL on 28 December 2005 at the Final Victory Festival)


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Telcos will and should not dominate content

My Dutch-Australian friend Paul Budde is driving home a point: “Telcos are arrogant on content industry", he says. "The telcos talk like they can dictate what happens with content in the triple play networks (fixed lines and mobile networks).

One of the reasons why the mobile content industry is hardly able to exploit its potential can be blamed on the primitive business model of the telcos with regard to the content providers. The content providers are being forced to relinquish almost 50 per cent of their revenues for the use of the mobile network; it should be less than 10 per cent).

The concept of broadband portals, where telecom companies want to monopolise certain content in exclusive models, is one of the examples of their dismissive and despicable attitude towards the more successful business models, which have been in use by the content providers for many a decennium (radio, TV, press, games, music, video etc.) The same disapproving attitude they convey towards clients who want to use access to content without paying twice (once for access and one more time for content).

Eventually the telcos will have to limit themselves to the distribution of services and naturally to the activities regarding the networks they use to do so.

Some observations:
- IPTV will be delivered by internet service providers and not by telcos;
- Tele-presence will be the application of the future;
- Triple play is an access product;
- Triple play means access to all kind of content and services;
- Content providers will fight back;
- The industry still does not deliver proper services to clients;
- Will internet service providers acquire telcos?”

Paul takes on a lot of content questions. But his basic observation that telcos are arrogant in having clients pay twice for content, is an interesting, but not a new situation. During the Stone Age days of online, light-years before the World Wide Web, the information providers - content providers these days - were forced to be happy with a small percentage. The host – ISP these days – took the lion’s share from revenues. Especially syndicators built up a comfortable margin in this way.

I still remember that the Dutch financial daily Het Financieele Dagblad started its database service and sold it directly to Dutch clients and through syndicators to foreign users. The revenues from the syndicators were minimal. Till a new manager made his way, stopped the agreements and demanded a higher percentage. And he got it. Eventually he ended up with more than 80 per cent. And this is the way it should be.

Of course there have also been other business models. The French minitel system demanded only administration costs from the content providers. So did the Dutch videotext service Viditel (5 per cent). And presently the i-mode service demands a small percentage: the Japanese service asks for 9 per cent, while the European i-mode services demand 14 per cent. These per centages leave a substantial part of the revenues for the information provider and make him more eager to explore more services.

It is clear that the content providers should be more demanding on telcos and rather hold back on offering their services if not properly rewarded. Telcos should start to valuate content properly.


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Telcos and content

In my mail I found an observation of Fred Kappetijn, one of the directors of content provider Mobillion, on the role of content in telecoms

"When discussing the roles of the different players in the field of electronic media in general, and the new TV services in particular, I think it is important to make a distinction between the roles of:

- the content owner (intellectual property right holder)
- the content producer (Hollywood, sports clubs, news media, etc)
- the content organiser/packager (TV stations, ISPs)
- the content distributor (telecom).

It is very clear that the telecom operators want to extend their business by playing the role of content organiser. They realise they have to organise, package, market and sell the television type of content to be sure that they will have a nice return on investment in the broadband networks.

I don''t see telecom operators moving into the role of content owner or content producer. It has been several years since telcos in Europe, the USA and Australia wanted to buy media companies. I don''t expect a similar strategy at the moment.

Publishing and broadcasting are totally different businesses from running telecommunication networks. Different periods for return on investments and different business cultures (rational technology people versus emotional content people) make it almost impossible to merge or to conduct both activities properly. The failed merger of AOL and Time Warner is a good and dramatic example of this wisdom".



Tuesday, December 13, 2005

World Broadband Market Grows with almost 10 per cent

According to the latest edition of the World Broadband report from Telecompaper, the number of broadband subscribers in the third quarter soared to over 187.8 million with more than 15.6 million new subscribers since the second quarter of 2005.

* Asia-Pacific region, with more than 71 million subscribers is still the largest broadband market South Korea has the higher penetration per 100 inhabitants with 24.50, but others are closing in. The Netherlands comes second with a penetration of 23.50, followed by Denmark with 22.23 percent.
* There are seven countries with more than 50 percent penetration per household, including Hong Kong, South Korea, Israel, Taiwan, Netherlands, Singapore and Denmark
* Europe added 5.48 million broadband subscribers, almost the same as added in the Asia-Pacific region (5.55 million) 187.8 million broadband subscribers at the end of Q3 2005

In terms of net subscriber gain at the end of third quarter of 2005, the number of broadband subscribers soared to over 187.8 million with more than 15.6 million new subscribers since the second quarter of 2005. Asia-Pacific, with 5.55 million, followed by Europe, has been the biggest regions in terms of nominal subscriber gain followed by the Americas and Middle East- Africa. At the same time the region has registered the lowest relative quarterly gain compared to the other regions. Europe, with 5.48 million net gains or 10.5 percent quarterly growth, is the second largest broadband market in the world. Europe is followed by the Americas with 4.39 million net gain and 8.44 percent quarterly growth.

Countries included in our research are as follows:
Europe: Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, Ukraine;
Middle East - Africa: Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Syria, Tunisia, UAE;
Asia-Pacific: Australia, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand;
the Americas: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, United States, Venezuela.



Monday, December 12, 2005

Reading Matter

Last week there was again news about digital paper. At the 12th International Display Workshop the company Plastic Logic announced that it has developed the world's largest flexible organic active matrix display. The display consists of a flexible, high resolution, printed active-matrix backplane driving an electronic paper frontplane from US-based E Ink Corporation.

The displays are 10" diagonal SVGA (600 by 800) with 100ppi resolution and 4 levels of greyscale. The thickness of the display when laminated with E Ink Imaging Film™ is less than 0.4mm. The backplane substrate is made from low temperature PET supplied by DuPont Teijin Films which is more flexible and easier to handle than alternatives such as thin glass or steel foil.E Ink Imaging Film is an electrophoretic display material that looks like printed ink-on-paper and has been designed for use in paper-like electronic displays. Like paper, the material can be flexed and rolled. The film only consumes battery power while the image is updated.The displays were fabricated using Plastic Logic's new 350mm by 350mm Prototype Line and its proprietary printed electronics process that is scalable for large area, high volume and low cost. Plastic Logic will partner with manufacturers to bring the process to mass production.

Platic Logic's digital paper is also based on E-Ink technology. The announcement shows that the screens are getting larger, up to 10” diagonally. So far the screen size in production with Philips has been much smaller, but good enough for the Sony Librié screen of 15 cm diagonally.

Looking at the photograph of Plastic Logic the digital paper is still showing a page in black/white, as the press release says in four grey scales. In the meantime E-Ink has already produced a coloured screen in their laboratory.

Digital paper on the basis of other technologies have been produced by Fujitsu and Siemens.

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Sunday, December 11, 2005

Dutch bits

In the past week a lot of things happened in the Dutch telecom, publishing and broadcasting sectors.

Government sells shares in KPN
Dutch government has sold 8 per cent of shares in KPN. Government still has 8 per cent, but will sell these before the end of the year. It gave up its golden share and veto right by which it could control decisions. The sale immediately sparked speculations about acquisition by equity companies or telecom companies as Telefonica or T-Mobile.

KPN acquires Nozema
The incumbent telecommunication KPN is allowed to buy Nozema for 75 million euro. Nozema was the infrastructure company for broadcasting. It possesses masts and controls the airwaves, but it was really interesting for KPN because of its digital broadcast company Digitenne. The sale has been opposed by some parties in the parliament and by the cable companies. KPN plays on all infrastructures except cable. The company recently started its own IPTV.

KPN introduces VoIP quietly
KPN has started VoIP, but has not announced it publicly. Subscribers to the telephone net, which is managed by KPN, can make a postcode check and take out a subscription. KPN has already competition from Tiscali and Wanadoo.

TV in Dutch train
The Dutch railway company, the RTL broadcast company and the telco KPN introduce NStv, laptop-tv in the train. Owners of a laptop will have to buy a card and a subscription. KPN will also deliver ADSL in the trains in the future.

Guerrilla to Sony
The Dutch game producer Guerrilla has been sold to Sony. The Dutch company with 95 employees, famous for its PSP game Killzone, was part of Media Republic and has been founded by Lost Boys. The company will stay in the Netherlands.

Media Republic not to Talpa
Media Republic was talking to the Dutch commercial broadcast company Talpa for a complete acquisition by Talpa. The talks have been cancelled after the sale of Guerrilla. The company works for Vodafone and Telfort and hopes to go international, amongst other with Eckky, a buddy in MSN. After the sale of Guerilla, Media Republic works with 45 employees.

VNU’s blues
It looks like my former employer VNU, which made the switch from publishing company to an information company, might be broken up in 2006. After abandoning the merger with IMS Health, two consortia of private equity companies are interested in buying VNU and breaking it up in a publishing part and an information division.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

A Dutch Harry Potter

On December 7, 2005 the Dutch langauge movie De Griezelbus (The Horror Bus) had its first showing in The Netherlands. It is our own local version of Harry Potter. The Horror Bus is the title of a highly successful series of books for youngsters, written by Paul van Loon. The Horror Bus has become a real cross media project. The books have been transformed into a musical, which got a lot of publicity. Religious groups demanded the performance to be cancelled as the theme was occult, without taste and immoral. The same objections made by some religious groups against Harry Potter books and movies. Now there is a movie, produced by the Hilversum-based BosBros. And a game is under development with the Amsterdam-based multimedia company IJsfontein.

This cross media policy is becoming common. Earlier two cross media projects were undertaken. A famous children book Puk van de Petteflet (Puk and his Tow Truck) by Annie M.G. Schmidt was turned into a movie and accompanied by a CD-ROM, also produced by IJsfontein. (It was a category winner in the 2005 edition of the

IJsfontein is often a part of the cross media project team. The company produced SketchStudio as part of the Klokhuis television program. Youngsters can use Sketch Studio to produce their own multimedia show. Before SketchStudio went online in November 2004, the website of the television show had 30.000 unique visitors a month. After the launch the visitors’ figures climbed to 95.000 registered visits. These visitors produced 400.000 sketches. The kids select a piece of scenery, from jungle to kitchen, and play with requisites like cakes, furniture. They direct persons, let them walk, dance, fall in love, quarrel and can give them voices. When the sketches are ready, they can be sent to the site.

Friday, December 09, 2005

RIP Anneloes Jenneskens

Anneloes (in white) during the pre-selection round of the

Today I found out that Anneloes Jenneskens has passed away on November 25, 2005. Anneloes was a member of the jury of the 2005 edition of the The organisation and the jury knew that she was ill at the time of the public jury. Before that she had partaken in the pre-selection of the nominees. She was critical, but would present her judgement with humour. On the day of the public jury and the awards ceremony she was ill and we missed her and her humour.
Anneloes leaves a partner and son behind.

The foundation likes to thank Anneloes for her input.

EU: 30 mln euro for AV search engines

Through my Finnish friend Cai, I got some preliminary information of a EU call for proposals. It looks like the call will be published on December 20, 2005. As far as I can see, this call is rather unexpected. I have not seen any mention of it yet, nor has any information about it been published. But the information comes from a good source.

Programme : IST
Budget : 140 million euro
Publication date: 20.12.2005
Closing date : 25.4.2006

Area and instruments
- Advanced Robotics, 37M€, STREP, CA, SSA
- Ambient Assisted Living AAL for Ageing Society, 40 M€, IP, STREP, CA, SSA
- Search Engines for Audio-Visual Content, 30 M€, IP, STREP, CA
- Accompanying actions in support of participation in Community ICT Research, 3 M€, CA, SSA
- International Co-operation on Digital TV Broadcasting and Interactive Applications, Target Latin America, 5 M€, STREP, CA, SSA
- International Co-operation on Digital TV Broadcasting / Mobile Convergence, Target China, 5 M€, STREP, CA, SSA
- International Co-operation on GRID Technologies, Target China, 5 M€, STREP, CA, SSA
- International Co-operation for eGovernment and eParticipation, Target Western Balkans, 5 M€, STREP CA, SSA
- Early warning systems for geo-physical hazards, Target Mediterranean countries, Indonesia, Thailand, India,Sri-Lanka, Japan, USA, Canada, New Zealand, 5 M€, STREP, CA, SSA
- International Co-operation Coordination Actions or Specific Support Actions, 5 M€, STREP, CA, SSA

This is the URL of the IST programme; but as said, you will not find this prelimenary information there:

The call is an interesting one with regards to two points. There is asearch engine for audio-visual content stimulation of no less than 30 million euro. Is this a hidden attack on the Googles and Yahoos of this world? Secondly there is money for an early warning system for tsunamis.

Keep an eye on the IST site and you might have found yourself a Xmas job with writing a proposal.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

iMMovator Café (2): Northern Wing

Preceding the iMMovator Cross Media Network Café discussion on making money with cross media, a former colleague of mine at TNO, spoke. Paul Rutten is presently professor at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, lector at the Junior college INHolland in Diemen and consultant creative industry at TNO in Delft. He dealt with a subject I looked into some years ago: the distribution of creative companies, in my case multimedia companies. I got onto this subject in 1997 during a multimedia workshop with Peter Leisink, now professor at the School of Governance of the Utrecht University, and Allan Scott, who wrote in that year the paper Patterns of Employment in Southern California’s Multimedia and Digital Effects Industry. In 2004 Allan Scott wrote the book On Hollywood: The Place, The Industry.

In 1999/2000 I got a chance to see how the multimedia companies in the Netherlands were distributed regionally, when I was involved in a survey of GOC with Peter Leisink and Jos Teunen (GOC), which was published as Multimedia: De Pioniersfase voorbij (Multimedia: Beyond the Pioneers’ Phase). We had the statistics translated into maps. From the mapping it was clear that there is a corridor from Haarlem, Amsterdam, Hilversum and Utrecht. I called it at that time the Amsterdam Multimedia Corridor (see map).

Paul Rutten took a closer look at what he called the Northern Wing, which appeared to correspond to the Amsterdam Multimedia Corridor. Northern Wing sounds less sexy than the Amsterdam Multimedia Corridor, but it indicates that there is also a Southern Wing. He took more distance by looking at the creative industry as linked with ict. (I personally think that the term digital creative industry fits better).

With INHolland he is looking into the opportunities for innovation in this area. Eventually this research should be translated into policy for the provinces and cities in the area. He produced some statistics:
- 34 per cent of all jobs are in the creative industry and ICT;
- 77 per cent of these jobs are the 10 largest Dutch cities;
- 32 per cent of these jobs are located in Amsterdam.
The growth in jobs in the creative industry and ICT in the Northern Wing is remarkable. In ICT there is an annual growth of jobs of 2,4 per cent for the whole country, but 3,8 per cent in the Northern Wing. Also a growth of jobs up to 3,8 per cent in the creative industry can be found the Nothern wing over against 3,5 for the whole country. Amsterdam was the fastest growing city in terms of jobs in the creative industry and ICT. Haarlemmermeer, the city around Schiphol Airport, is also a fast grower; this is probably due to the HQ of the magazine publisher Sanoma. Zaandam does hardly grow as far as the creative industry and ICT are concerened.

He also ranked the cities in the Northern Wing:
1. Amsterdam
2. Utrecht
3. Hilversum
4. Amersfoort
5. Haarlemmermeer
6. Haarlem
7. Almere
8. Nieuwegein
9. Amstelveen
10. Zaanstad

In this list Amsterdam, Utrecht and Hilversum are also the real content cities.

The maps are part of the report Multimedia: De Pioniersfase Voorbij (Multimedia: Beyond The Pioneers'Phase) written by Dr Peter Leisink, Drs Jos Teunen en Jak Boumans BA, MDiv. and published by GOC. The adaptations are based on the data by Paul Rutten.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

iMMovator Café (1): Making Money with Cross Media

The hall was packed with some 350 people last night. They had come for the Cross Media Café of the iMMovator Cross Media Network, an incubator or accelerator network in Hilversum, the broadcast city of the Netherlands. They all had been attracted by the title of the discussion: Making money with Cross Media. (Old hands know in the meantime that this type of title states an ideal to strive after, but that it does not reflect the state of art of business reality).

For the discussion three panellists had been invited: one from the print world, the newspaper De Telegraaf, and two from commercial broadcasting companies, RTL Netherlands and Endemol. No representative from the public broadcast stations was behind the table.

Michiel van der Meer, manager of the online classified section of the daily newspaper De Telegraaf, was fast in putting down the realities in the Netherlands by saying that, the Dutch company bought by eBay for some 300 million euro, had a turn-over of 12 million euro annually. The print section of the classified ads was still good for 30 million euro annually. In other words, the time window for the newspaper to get into internet and start competing with newcomers in the classified market is still open. De, the online companion of the print edition of De Telegraaf, the largest distributed daily in The Netherlands, was beyond a break-even point after nine years of operation. Fifteen months ago the Speurders section had been brought online. So far 3 million euro had been poured into the setting up of online classified ad exercise and it had only delivered 1 million in return in 2005. So far Speurders had aimed at market share and the section had gained 20 per cent. To make the site more attractive De Telegraaf was experimenting with video, not only for the newspaper site but also for the classified ad section.

The two representatives from the commercial broadcast stations were also charging away. Peter op de Beek, director RTL the Netherlands interactive, indicated that to him Teletext/Ceefax was the best cross media application in terms of turn-over and market range. RTL the Netherlands is active in moving from television programming to cross media. RTL has in the Netherlands now 230 sites, but it is clear that it is making more money with SMS/texting. It has bought a 50 per cent share in a SMS company and can keep control over the traffic. In program formats like Idols much material is used on internet and never shown on television. But the money is made with voting in rounds. With some envy he indicated that MTV was at present the most cross media broadcast company, earning 50 per cent from ads and 50 per cent from cross media activities such as internet, SMS, but also events.

Dick de Graaf, commercial director of Endemol, made it very clear that next year a lot of cross media activity will take place and that the commercial broadcast companies have two to three years to get their business models right. By that time the commercial broadcast companies will get 30 per cent out of cross media in their total turn-over. He agreed that for the time being SMS/texting was a money maker. The recent TV program Domino Day had generated no less than 1,2 million textmessages times 0,80 eurocents. But he expected a lot from 3G television. Presently 3G is a negligible factor. Although the fact that the mobile company Vodafone is putting a lot of effort in mobile television, there are only 7 to 8000 UMTS subscribers in the Netherlands at present. He hoped the number of subscribers would go up in two to three years. It is clear that he is putting his hope on 3G and less on internet, but he will need some millions of subscribers to make it an interesting business case. I am afraid that De Graaf is rather optimistic about 3G.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

No market failures in Dutch broadband market

Yesterday the Dutch central planning bureau CPB published a long-awaited study on broadband. According to the CPB the Netherlands scores well in comparison to other countries. The penetration is one of the highest in the world. Investments in innovation have led to ever higher download speeds for consumers against ever lower costs . This is possible due to the fierce competition between ADSL and cable providers.

As broadband telecommunication is seen as a source of productivity gains, the European Union and other regions are encouraging the deployment of a secure broadband infrastructure. In the Netherlands, there is some concern whether the supply of broadband capacity will meet the strongly increasing demand. This report analyses the broadband market and asks whether a specific role of government is necessary. The main conclusions are that presently, given current broadband policy, no considerable market failures exist. Firms have adequate incentives to invest in broadband, partly induced by specific regulation of access to the local copper loop.
Hence, there is no need for changes in current broadband policy. Market failures in terms of knowledge spillovers are taken care of by other policies. As the broadband markets are very dynamic, unforeseen developments may emerge such as the appearance of new dominant techniques and market players. The best strategy for the government, in particular the competition authority, is to continuously monitor these markets, making timely intervention easier when needed.

The CPB notes that there is no proof of market failure, which necessitates government interference. The present policy of of the Dutch government offer enough incentives for market players in order to invest in broadband. The CPB warns for the negative effects of a more active government influence such as subsidies. Implicitly there is a reference to the glass policy which the Dutch government and municipalities (Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam) are striving after. CPB indicates that government and municipalities might make the wrong technology, which the market does not like.

The report notes that there is no serious geographical digital divide in the Netherlands. Most households have access to either DSL or cable. To some extent, a social digital divide occurs and this finding is linked to labour market issues. Elderly people and low-income groups have relatively less Internet connections. In the course of time, this digital divide will diminish as next generations will be more and more experienced computer users.

The 130-pages study with great stats is in the English language with a Dutch summary and can be downloaded as a PDF.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Before Internet

For one of my projects I had to search Internet last night. I had to find information about the period before internet, between the sixties and 1990. Usually people will tell you that you have to search for ARPAnet, Roy Tomlinson, (the inventor of the @ sign in e-mail), Vince Cerf and Tim Berners Lee.

Not many people are aware that from the late sixties till the nineties there was online business, better known as information retrieval. In 1965 Roger Summit at Lockheed and Carlos Cuadra at SDC lead teams developing software enabling online database systems Dialog and ORBIT. By 1970 Carlos Cuadra at SDC developed the ELHILL software, to support experimental online database MEDLINE, the first dial up service in 1971. This was followed by Roger Summit in 1972 who made Dialog a commercially available online service with the educational database ERIC as its first offering.

These activities led to commercial operations in the US with names as Mead Data Central (MDC; later Lexis Nexis), Dialog, SDC and BRS. These services have large databases available for retrieval. These databases were classified as primary information sources, secondary information sources and numerical databases. The primary information sources were databases containing the full text of laws and news items. Secondary information sources consisted of so-called abstract databases, containing summaries of scientific and technical articles. The numerical databases contained series of figures relevant to the stock exchanges.

In the seventies Europe followed with some of these services. The European space organisation offered the service ESA-IRS. In Switzerland Data Star was set up as a commercial service. In France the government ran Questel.

The services were also referred to as ASCII service. ASCII was an abbreviation of American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII), the International Alphabet Nr. 5, which contained 128 characters such as capital and small characters, numbers and diacritical signs such as a hyphen. Late this character set was expanded to 256 characters and is known as the Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code (EBCDIC). ASCII was a reference to the presentation protocol. It meant that you saw on your screen characters in capital and small, numbers and diacritical signs like hyphens. The text started on top of the screen with a line of maximally 80 characters. The next line pushed the first line below until it reached the bottom of the screen.

Despite all the market experience, these information retrieval services had a hard time when internet came around. Internet was for many of these services a disruptive technology. Lexis Nexis became part of Reed Elsevier and it took Reed Elsevier some time before it geared up for internet. Dialog eventually ended up as part of the information services of the Canadian publisher Thomson. But a BRS just went down as online service, but transformed its experience with databases in a new information service Ovid, which was bought by Kluwer.

Carlos Cuadra was a quite prolific figure in the information retrieval world. He was the boss (CEO these days) of SDC, but he also founded Cuadra Associates, which developed the information management software Cuadra Star and produced for years a directory of databases and information retrieval services.

Last night I found Online Before The Internet. It is a nice series of 9 in-depth interviews with the pioneers of the information retrieval industry Carlos Cuadra, Roger Summit and Jan Egeland.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

EUROPRIX Top Talent Award nominees published

Cruising around my bookmarks yesterday, I noticed that the EUROPRIX Top Talent Award (TTA) nominations have been published. After days of hot sizzling debates, the TTA Jury of 20 experts have nominated 22 projects out of 411 eligible entries. Also 20 projects have received a Seal of Quality. At the TTA Festival from March 1-4, 2006, the winners will be announced.

The awards ceremony in 2004: the Dutch winner Anya Shapira receives her award for the Interactive Projection System

The nominees will have their work showcased around Europe. There will be a catalogue with descriptions and screenshots of the projects. Also a DVD will be produced and of course the EUROPRIX Top Talent website will contain information on the projects. The nominees will be invited to Vienna in March 2006 to present their projects at the Top Talent Festival. This is a great happening for the students, young professionals and multimedia instructors. It all culminates in the TTA Gala when the winners will be announced and 11,000 euro in prize money will be awarded. This year the EUROPRIX TTA Festival is part of the events in the framework of Austria’s European presidency.

The EUROPRIX TTA is a multimedia competition for students and young professional up to 30 years. The competition has been held for the 7th time since 1998, when it was part of the EUROPRIX AWARD as a students’ award, organised by the Austrian ministry of Economic Affairs and the European Commission. From 2002 the competition continued as an independent competition for students and young professionals up to 30 years of age. The Europe wide competition is still sponsored by the Austrian ministry of Economic Affairs.

I am quite envious of the interest that the Austrian government takes in the multimedia and content industry, not only in their own country, but also in Europe and the world. They have their own award, the Statspreise, and they shell out money to organise the EUROPRIX TTA as a European competition. In 2003 and 2005 they supported also the World Summit Award. They also stimulate their own industry and have a industry guide, a register of multimedia companies with their names and addresses as well as their specialties. In 1998, 1999 and 2000 The European Commission showed also such an interest, but this withered away as money was destined for million euro devouring Intergrated Projects. These projects do not take in starters and small enterprises as multimedia companies usually are. EU Commissioner Viviane Reding should organise such a Europe wide competition and festival through her Media programme.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

MP3/iPOD levy postponed

In the past week there was excitement about a levy on MP3 in the Netherlands. The collecting society Foundation Home Copy (Stichting Thuiskopie) had decided to put a levy on the MP3 or iPODs. It would make the MP3 player in the Netherlands some 10 or more euros more expensive. The collecting society wants to destine the levy revenues to music artists, after deducting administrative costs of 5 per cent.

A storm of protest developed. The Software/hardware association ICT~Office was against it. Consumer organisations protested against the levy as unfair, as a levy for downloading is already paid and a MP3 levy would be paid as an extra. Besides, people in the Netherlands would drive across the border to Germany or Belgium to buy a MP3 player or iPOD without levy. Political parties requested action of the minister of Justice; and as Germany or Belgium is maximally two hours from any point in the Netherlands, the amount of ten euro or more is easily saved. As the collecting society is not a governmental department, the minister can only influence the collection society’s board of directors. The minister indicated that he would talk to the society’s board of directors and talk with his colleagues in other European countries, so that a levy can be charged Europewise. Problem diffused for more than a year.

Part of the problem lies with the collecting societies. The Netherlands is populated with collecting societies. Most (in)famous is Stemra/BUMA for music, but there are also collecting societies to charge people and/or companies for playing a radio at work, for distributing video programs, for making copies on copying machines, for using articles in students’ readers. Use the word mechanical or database reproduction and a collecting society will present itself.

These individual collecting societies are incorporated as foundations and find their legal base in the national copyright act. The argumentation of the proposed levy is that illegal copies of songs can be made with this equipment. The levy is comparable with the levy on blank CD-ROMs and DVDs.

The collecting societies distribute the revenues to publishers and artists. This distribution is dubious. Magazine publishers receive repartition money for articles copied. Magazine publishers, which are members of the foundation, are obliged to divide this repartition money between the publishing company and the author. Only a few publishing companies transfer the repartition money; most companies keep the money using the excuse that they incorporate the money in their author's fee. When a publishing company is not a member of the collecting society, the author can apply for repartition money, but will have to go through a lot of red tape. Also in the music sector the repartition money is split between the music publisher, the distribution company and the artist. Unless you are an established artist, you will receive some money.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Timesharing the cuddles

Sometimes you get excited by a news item. Yesterday my attention was drawn to an article which has been published in the Singapore’s StraitTimes. The article was on the virtual cuddle. Yes, you are in the States and your loved one is tucked away in a small village in Holland and you can touch each other, virtually.

In reality, the article only projects the future possibility to transmit cuddles through internet. Presently researchers at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore are looking into transmissions of touching pets. A farmer who has gone to town can contact his farm and touch his pet chicken. The chicken has a coat with sensors, which can transfer the stroking.

This area of research is not new. You might remember the famous, magic bionic glove of years ago, which could move a piece on a chess board. This was a nice feat. But in the meantime research has moved on. Smart textile has become a serious development. When I was in Finland at Nokia’s research lab in Hermia near Tampere (Finland) a few weeks ago, a researcher told us that Nokia is working on textile with sensors, which can transmit signals such as the heart beat.

This type of research is often indicated as submersible experience. It is however still one-way traffic for the time being. The farmer can transmit the stroking to the chicken; the chicken, however, cannot pick in the farmers hand at the same time. It is like text chatting by MSN, but no video chatting yet. It is timesharing the cuddles. So it is not another product yet for the adult industry.

(In order to read the article in the newspaper you have to register with the online version of the newspaper. The article is also made available as a PDF by the university. The photograph is copied from the newspaper article.)

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Dutch broadband market to pass 4 mln mark in 2005

In the first nine months of 2005, the Dutch Broadband market grew by 21 percent, or 677.000 connections to 3.84 million broadband connections of which 59.4 percent were ADSL and 40.6 percent were cable. Quarterly growth picked up slightly to 5.6 percent, up from 5.4 percent during the second quarter. During the first nine months in 2004 the market added 945.000 new connection. Broadband penetration per Dutch household increased to 54.2 percent at the end of September 2005, up 13.4 percent compared to the penetration rate at the end of 2004 (44.8 percent). Penetration per 100 inhabitants increased to 23.5 percent at the end of Q3, 33.3 percent up from 17.6 percent last year, and 1.2 percent more than in Q2.

According to telecom analist Kamiel Albrecht the number of connections is set to pass the four million mile-stone before the end of this year. "Based on the current developments we estimate that the Dutch broadband market will grow its customer base by at least 5 percent to more than 4 million broadband connections at the end of 2005, representing a penetration rate of 57 percent".

Planet Internet is first ISP with more than 500,000 broadband customers

Planet Internet has become the first broadband ISP with more than 500,000 customers, ending Q3 with a total of 505,000. @home has passed Wanadoo to become the second largest broadband ISP with 496,000. KPN's hold on the Dutch ADSL market has increased to a market share of almost 60 percent due to acquisitions of Cistron, Freeler, and 60,000 Tiscali subscribers and the growth of Het Net and Direct ADSL. The total number of ADSL customers using a KPN ISP amounted to 1.305 million at the end of Q3 2005.

Casema, Direct ADSL, Het Net outperform against market growth

Three broadband ISPs continue to grow much faster than the market since they were introduced on the market. Two of them are KPN ISPs: Het Net and Direct ADSL and the third one is cable network operator Casema. Het Net is growing with at least 15 percent per quarter since Q4 2004 and has become the fifth largest broadband ISP in the Netherlands with 364,000. Direct ADSL reports a total of 162,000 on 30 September 2005. The no frills ISP's customer base grew with an average quarterly growth of more than 50 percent since its launch in Q2 2004. Casema reported 148,000 customers at the end

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Dutch mobile market grows 5.8%

In the first three quarters of 2005, the Dutch mobile communication services market grew 5.8 percent and generates EUR 4.44 billion in services revenue, up from EUR 4.20 billion in the same period last year, according to research from Telecompaper. Based on a strong performance for the second quarter, in combination with a reasonably good third quarter mobile services revenue will grow 6 percent this year, and increase to EUR 5.96 billion for the entire year 2005. KPN is the largest mobile operator with EUR 1,678 million and takes 37.8 percent of mobile services revenue of the first nine months. Vodafone follows with 28.1 percent with revenue of EUR 1,247 million. T-Mobile has revenue of EUR 735 million for a market share of 16.6%, whilst Orange and Telfort have revenue shares of 9.0 percent and 8.6 percent respectively.

Market shares of the Dutch mobile companies

The mobile customer base shrinks 1.0 percent to 16.55 million in the quarter, down from 16.70 million in June 2005. It is the market's first decline since the quarter ending June 2003. Despite price pressures on mobile voice services, revenue still grows in the third quarter to EUR 1.31 billion in the third quarter of 2005, up from EUR 1.30 billion in the second quarter of 2005. Mobile none-voice service revenue growth picked up considerably in the third quarter: on a q-by-q basis, and grows 13.1 percent to EUR 226 million, up from EUR 199 million in the second quarter. Postpay takes over from prepay as driver for customer growth, and quality of customer base approaches all time high. Vodafone turns in excellent quarter when it comes to net connections during the quarter, and both T-Mobile and Telfort advance market share in postpay market. Prepay market shrinks by 500,000 net connections, as KPN cleans up its customer database leading to a significant decline in their prepay customer base.

Source: Telecompaper

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Munich Model

I have spent my Sunday afternoon reading a thesis of a German student, studying at the Hochschule Mittweida (FH), University of Applied Science in East Germany, behind Dresden, close to the Czech and Austrian border. I have been in Mittweida in June 2004. It is a very small town, of which 40 percent of the population consists of students. And as every university likes to pride itself of a famous scholar, the inventor of the PAL TV standard was an alumnus of this university.

The author of the thesis is a student of Herr Prof. Dr-Ing. Robert Wierzbicki. Robert is a founding father and very active member of the Instructors’ Network. He has set up the website of this network of multimedia instructors and professors. He also organised the Swan Lake Awards in 2004 and 2005, a multimedia competition for the students at the Hochschule, named after the swan pond across the street from the Fach Hochschule. When I was there, it was the first edition of this Award. (It was during one or another soccer championship, when Holland played against Germany; can you imagine a complete hall of Germans against a one Dutchman.) The Award Gala was presented and recorded by people from the television section of the university.

The thesis in the German language contained a nice overview of knowledge management. Many models passed. The nice part of the thesis is that you get other references than you would get in the Netherlands. Usually the theories of some local Dutch guru’s like Wegman are presented, sometimes mixed with some American guru’s. But reading a German thesis you are presented with other authors and models. So I read about the Munich Model, which rests on four pillars: knowledge representation, use of knowledge, communication of knowledge and knowledge creation. This model has been developed by Gabi Reinmann-Rothmeier in the article Wissen managen: Das Münchner Modell (2001). The student combined knowledge management and virtual communities and even mentioned The Well. In the end she applied knowledge management and virtual communities to the Instructors’ Network. She had some worthwhile advice about running and boosting the community.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Agreement on digital newspaper clippings

The Dutch publishers and the government have reached an agreement in principle on digital newspaper clippings. Government officials can now legally distribute newspaper clippings from 12 national newspapers via their intranets. An agreement for the regional newspaper clippings still has to be worked out.

It took a court ruling of March 2, 2005 to make government realise that scanning newspaper, databasing them and distributing scanned newspaper clippings through their own internet networks was illegal without permission from the publishers. For copying printed articles and distributing these copies government had never permission nor paid any penny. Now the parties have reached an agreement with a reasonable reimbursement.

It is an old pain point which has now been solved at last. In 1996 I was the project manger of Central Station the Netherlands. This personal news service should have been a copy of the Belgian project Central Station. In this service publishers would deliver the text of their editions to a central database, from where articles were distributed to clients according to their profile. The Belgian service did go life but the Belgian journalists union went to court and requested a halt as the journalists did not receive any remuneration. In the meantime the Belgian service is active as Mediargus, as publishers and journalists came to an agreement. In the Dutch project we asked lawyers to do a profound study on the rights of journalists and copying of articles by companies and the government. In the study the lawyers told the project members (nine Dutch publishers) that the journalists had a right to compensation for the digital copy of a printed article and that consent was needed for copying digital articles. However the project Central Station the Netherlands never left the drawing board and the publishers only started to demand a fee for digital copies of newspaper articles after 2000.

Now almost 10 years after the legal study, the newspaper and magazine publishers can claim their remuneration. They have formed a small company for this purpose called Clip. This company makes agreements with clipping services, companies and the government. At last the government has recognised the right of publishers to request a fee for copying a newspaper article.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Baltics read newspapers online

Recently Eurostat published a report on Internet activities in the European Union. These are the following hightlights:
• 89% of EU enterprises actively used the Internet in 2004; 65% had a website.
• 47% of individuals had recently used the Internet. Those who did so were mainly looking for information and on-line services and used it for communication (e-mail).
• As was to be expected, by 2004 the playing and downloading of games and music was particularly popular amongst 16-to-24-year-olds; at the other end of the spectrum, Internet users of retirement age (65-74 years) frequently account for higher shares than the 55-64 age group.
• In Denmark, Germany, Estonia and Finland, around three quarters of Internet users who were unemployed at the time of the survey were looking for a job or sent a job application over the Internet.
• Internet-based banking activities were fairly widespread and performed by Internet users of all age groups, except for 16 to 24-year-olds.
• Reading and downloading on-line newspapers was a particularly widespread Internet activity in the Baltic States and Iceland. Playing or downloading games was popular in Greece, Cyprus and Turkey, but also in Finland.

The table below provides details of Internet users looking for specific information and on-line services. The category ‘Finding information about goods and services’ generally appeared to be the most widespread activity in the EU Member States, except for the three Baltic states, where ‘reading or downloading online newspapers’ was highest. This activity was also quite widespread in Iceland and, to a lesser degree, in Turkey.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Limiting anonymous messages

Four weeks ago Peter Olsthoorn (blond man in the middle), chairman of the Internet Journalist section of the Journalists Trade Organisation, remarked at the meeting Fill the Gap III that he was most irritated on Internet by anonymous messages. Yesterday the Dutch High Court delivered a ruling limiting anonymous messages a little bit.

The case in the high Court was brought by Mr Pessers, a professional stamp trader, trading amongst other through e-Bay. Mr Pessers received quite some flack about his way of trading; in an anonymous message on the review site of he got an negative review and was accused of fraud.
Pessers requested the hosting provider Lycos to close the website and pass on the personal data of the author of the review. Lycos refused and says only to deliver the data after being ordered to do so by a judge. Pessers goes to court and wins the first case. Lycos went to a higher court and lost again. Then it brought the case before the High Court which confirmed the ruling.

The ruling puts the interest of Pessers before that of Lycos and the anonymous author of the review, as Pessers will be declared an outlaw for this type of actions. Pessers can now start a rebuttal and a civil court case for damage. ISPs will have to review their policy on privacy now, as they have become liable to court cases concerning anonymous messages.

Some Dutch media claimed that anonymity on the Internet was past time from now onwards. They are misinformed. Never heard of anonymous re-mailers? But the ruling most likely helps a little bit.

The confirmation of the ruling is also picked up by Brein the Dutch piracy watchdog. With this ruling, the watchdog wants to go to court to get the names and addresses of music and video pirates

Friday, November 25, 2005

The Dutch gaming industry

Today there is a symposium about the Dutch gaming industry in Mediaplaza, a futuristic demonstration centre in Utrecht. For those who read Dutch see the announcement. The title Dutch gaming industry sounds posh, but it is in fact in its infancy.

The time tunnel at Mediaplaza (c Mediaplaza)

In the past year there has been a lot of talk about gaming and establishing a gaming industry in the Netherlands. A delegation of business people and education people went to San Francisco and Silicon Valley and visited the game developers. As one of the few game developers, Playlogic, is based in Breda, a junior college made a claim to fame and wanted to become the first gaming college. The college people had not really scouted the educational market as the HKU already has a department Game Design and Development; the department aims at the creative side of the gaming design. Also the NHL in Leeuwarden is already busy with gaming; the college is approved as developer for Nintendo and is develops also games for the mobile platform. (Coordination between educational institutes could help the development of a gaming industry).

The gaming industry has not a crystal clear structure. There is of course the problem as to platforms: consoles, PC, online, iTV and mobile. Consoles games are the most profitable sector. But it is a costly affair to develop games for the GameCube, Xbox and Playstation. Few Dutch companies like Guerilla succeeded with getting their games accepted for the Xbox and Playstation. Hot are presently the online games. Mobile games are difficult to develop as there is little standardisation in the mobile world. No standardisation means extra costs for converting the games to a particular platform. But there are a few developers like Ranj

Another difficulty is the distribution. For console and PC games a distribution network is needed. Game publishers like Electronic Arts and Infogrammes control these networks with outlets in PC shops and retail shops.

And of course development is not easy without venture capital. Games are expensive to develop. In 1995 I had the opportunity to visit the studio which produced Myst. At that time there that game had gathered 16 million US dollars for development. Whatever the eventual figure has been, I do not know. So games for consoles and PC require easily 10 million euro or more.

Looking for opportunities Dutch creatives look in the direction of mobile games as they are locally bound to the mobile telephone provider. Other games are casual games on PC like Tetris; these games can also be developed into viral games for marketing. These casual games are favourite with women above 30 years of age; the Dutch company Zylom is active in this field Another branch in gaming is now serious games, which are usually simulation and decision or business games.

Despite all these handicaps Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Breda and Eindhoven like to be the gaming hotspot in the world and get often local authorities involved. But these authorities should read up on their innovative cities literature with books of M. Castells (Technopoles of the World), and A. Scotts (From Silicon Valley to Hollywood) and read for example Innovation Strategy, the action plan of Helsinki, before commiting themselves to grand plans.

It is interesting to see that serious gaming is being picked up by Universities. At Delft Universities the subject is taught. At Twente University the Technology Exchange Cell (T-Xchange) was opened yesterday. It is a virtual lab where new innovation concepts can be tested in a game setting.

The T-Xchange Lab will be housed in this building

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Dutch cable conflict brewing

While the Telefonica entertainment company Endemol made its rentree on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange with a louzy 9 euro as introduction price, a real conflict is brewing between the Dutch telecom regulator and the European Commission, in casu commissioner Neelie Kroes, who is of Dutch origin, and Commissioner Viviane Reding. The Dutch telecom watchdog says in a letter, that the Commission’s investigation into the Dutch TV cable market is no good.

In the Netherlands there are 6,1 million TV cable subscribers or nine out of the 10 households have a TV cable connection. They are served by 3 large companies such as UPC, part of Liberty, and Essent and Casema, together serving 5.1 million households, plus a parade of small, regional and local companies. All these companies offer now TV by cable, internet and telephone, not as an integrated offer, but as separate products. Presently these companies are moving from analogue cable to digital cable and from analogue TV to digital and interactive TV. UPC recently started to roll out 2 million set-top boxes.

The companies have all their own territory and their monopoly. So in my home I can get only a Casema TV cable subscription at their price. With the digital wave coming up, it is necessary for the big companies to keep their territory and their monopoly. So far the only other option subscribers have is to subscribe to terrestrial broadcast, Digitenne; but Digitenne is only available in the west of the Netherlands.

The Dutch telecom watchdog OPTA had concluded that the three large companies have a dominant position in the consumer market. The European Commission concluded that it had grave doubt about the conclusion of OPTA. Given the fact that most of the parliament shares the conclusion of OPTA, the conflict might grow. And when it becomes a real conflict, Kroes might have to step down in this question as it concerns a national question.

Today and tomorrow the question will be discussed in Brussels. By January 3, 2005 the European Commission will make its final decision known.

(BTW Today is the deadline to hand in proposals in the framework of the e-ContentPlus programme of the European Commission. I am wondering how many project proposals will be entered. Given the fact that the IST programme lane has become more difficult to enter for small projects and for SME's, I guess that there will be some hundreds of proposals. To be awarded a contract will be Russian roulette.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The rise and fall of VNU

While I was in Tunis, a classic drama was enacted in the business world and in someone’s personal life: VNU abolished acquisition plans of IMS Health, while CEO Rob van den Bergh announced that he would step down. A few days later some venture capitalists announced that they would like to acquire VNU with a view of breaking it up. The IMS Health acquisition, which should have become a crown on the international expansion and a turn-around in the scope of the company, became a sword of division between the management and the share holders.

VNU was my first employer, when I started in 1970 in the reference department of its subsidiary Spectrum Publishing. At that time VNU (which is an acronym for United Dutch Publishing Companies) was just 5 years old and consisted of a conglomerate of magazine publishing and distribution companies, newspaper companies and book publishing companies. In 1975 the holding started a business press division by buying the controlled circulation weekly Intermediair. From 1979 till 1986 I worked in this group, which just started to look outside the Netherlands and Belgium. As the company realised that magazines and newspapers are dependent on the economy for advertising, a strategy of international expansion and change in scope was started.

International expansion
The UK was the first expansion outside the continent. VNU bought the computer publications of Hayden, a publishing company of the British politician Michael Heseltine. From 1981 till 1983 I was project manager there, flying back and forth from Amsterdam to London; from 1983 till 1986 I moved with the family to London. After London many acquisitions were done in Europe.
The international expansion in the US started with the establishment of the publishing company Arete, which published the Academic American Encyclopedia; it was not a real success and in 1983 sold to Grolier (thus becoming the first encyclopedia online). By 1983 VNU bought Disclosure, a company with information concerning companies, quoted on the stock exchange (I was in England at that time and had regularly to fly to VNU HQ in Haarlem to demonstrate the Disclosure database using the example of the US salary of KLM’s CEO Orlandini). And interestingly enough by 1983 VNU had picked up 50 percent of shares in IMS! VNU started to expand in marketing data.

When the marketing data business in the US showed its strong side of not being as dependent on the economy as magazines and newspapers, a turn-around move was set in from a traditional print publishing company to a marketing data company.
In order to realise this the company made the following corporate moves:
- buying and selling of the ITT World Directories Yellow Pages;
- (an emotional) sale of the magazines to the Finnish company Sanoma;
- sale of the newspapers to Wegener.
The profits of those sales were spent on acquisitions in the States like the acquisition of AC Nielsen and other companies. The acquisition of IMS Health should have become the crown on the turn-around.

The break-up of the company
After that VNU called off the acquisition of IMS Health, which looked more like a merger, Rob van den Bergh stepped down as CEO and over the weekend investment companies started to swerve as vultures around the corps. Apex and Cinven as well as the Carlyle Group and Candover formed consortia to take over VNU, break it up and sell it in pieces.

Next CEO
I met Rob van den Bergh in 1980 when he became a publishing director of Intermediair weekly in Amsterdam. He made his way into the hierarchy of VNU quickly. He became the youngest CEO of an international company in the Netherlands. As VNU collected more revenue in the States than of the rest of the world, Rob van den Bergh moved the corporate headquarters in the provincial Dutch town of Haarlem to its present HQ in New York (not Harlem, though). Also his family moved there also (not to Harlem, of course). Now that he has stepped down and the VNU’s fate is unsure, it is certain that he has been the last Dutch CEO of VNU.

(It is this year 40 years ago that VNU was founded and based its corporate HQ in Haarlem. At the occasion a commemorative book, Van Haarlem naar Manhattan (From Haarlem to Manhattan: 40 years VNU 1965-2005), has been published in the Dutch language. In the epilogue the merger of VNU and IMS Health is already taken for granted. The authors even mention that there is speculation in the market about a new corporate name for VNU.)

The jacket of the commemoration book, published by Boom Publishers

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Tunis: WSIS and WSA, part 10

I thought I could close the series on the WSIS and WSA in Tunis, but I found this press release of the WSIS organiser the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in my mailbox. It is clear that the ITU has a completely different evaluation of the event. I reproduce the press release without any personal comment.



The second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) closed after almost a week of intense negotiations, eight plenary sessions, 308 parallel events organized by 264 organizations and 33 press conferences attracting around 19,000 participants worldwide.
Hailed as a resounding success by national delegations from 174 States and participants from more than 800 entities including United Nations agencies, private sector companies and civil society organizations, the Summit was convened in Tunis to tackle the problem of the "digital divide" and harness the potential of information and communication technology (ICT) to drive economic and social development.

The two Summit outcome documents -- the Tunis Commitment and the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society -- were endorsed by world leaders at the closing plenary of the Summit on Friday evening.

Addressing delegates at the eighth and final Plenary session, Yoshio Utsumi, Secretary-General of the Summit, said it had been a long road and seven years since the idea for the Summit was first adopted by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Minneapolis Plenipotentiary Conference. "It is fitting that this stage of our journey ends here in Tunis, the capital of the country that launched the process", said Mr. Utsumi. "Uniquely, WSIS was a Summit held in two phases. Through this approach, WSIS took place in one developed and one developing country. This helped ensure that the full range of issues of the Information Society were addressed, while highlighting the critical need to bridge the digital divide."

He added that the two-phase process has enabled the development of a concrete plan for implementation at the national, regional and international levels, which will ensure commitments that have been undertaken are fulfilled. "In a very real sense, WSIS is about making the best use of a new opportunity and a new tool. WSIS reinforces the value of global dialogue and cooperation to address emerging issues in the twenty-first century. The Information Society can be a win-win situation for all, provided that we take the right actions."

Worldwide Commitment
19,401 participants took part in the Summit, including:

-- 46 Heads of State and Government, Crown Princes and Vice-Presidents and 197 Ministers/Vice-Ministers and Deputy Ministers;

-- 5,857 participants representing 174 States and the European Community;
-- 1,508 participants representing 92 international organizations;

-- 6,241 participants representing 606 non-governmental organizations
(NGOs) and civil society entities;
-- 4,816 participants representing 226 business sector entities; and

-- 1,222 accredited journalists from 642 media organizations of which 979 on site from TV, radio, print and online media worldwide.

Global Agreement on Crucial Issues
Three key issues dominated the preparatory process leading to the Tunis Summit: Internet governance, financing strategies, and implementation mechanisms for the Action Plan developed by the first phase of the WSIS in 2003, in Geneva.
Internet Governance
The breakthrough agreement on Internet governance brokered in Tunis acknowledges the need for enhanced cooperation to enable Governments and is based around a number of newly agreed principles and future mechanisms:
-- all Governments should play an equal role and have equal responsibility for Internet governance while ensuring its continuing stability, security and continuity;
-- nations should not be involved in decisions regarding another nation's country code top level domain (ccTLD); and
-- there is a need for strengthened cooperation among stakeholder for public policies for generic top level domain names (gTLDs).

This cooperation should include the development of globally applicable principles on public policy issues associated with the coordination and management of critical Internet resources. The process of moving towards such enhanced cooperation will be initiated by the end of Q1 2006.
Another important element of the Tunis output document is the creation of a new Internet Governance Forum (IGF), to be convened by the UN Secretary-General, to foster and enable multi-stakeholder dialogue on public policy and development issues. This Forum will provide a platform for discussion of cross-cutting public policy issues not adequately addressed by current mechanisms. The new Forum is expected to be established in the first half of 2006, with an inaugural meeting to be hosted in Athens at the invitation of the Government of Greece.

The IGF will facilitate the exchange of information and best practices, and help find solutions to issues of concern to everyday users arising from the use and misuse of the Internet, identify emerging issues and bring them to the attention of relevant decision-making bodies, and where appropriate, make recommendations. The forum will draw upon resources from all interested stakeholders, including the proven expertise of the ITU.
The IGF will have no oversight function and will not replace existing arrangements, mechanisms, institutions or organizations. It will have no involvement in the day-to-day running and technical operation of the Internet.
The principles and elements agreed at Tunis mark the turning of a new page in the ongoing internationalization of Internet governance. In the coming years, the continued reinforcement of regional and national Internet resource management will guarantee the national interests and rights of countries in managing their own Internet resources, while at the same time maintaining global coordination.

Financing Mechanisms
The WSIS outcome texts reaffirm the Geneva agreements that information and communication technologies are a key tool in national development strategies. For that reason, financing of ICT deployment is vital to meeting the Millennium Development Goals.
The document welcomes the creation of the Digital Solidarity Fund. It underlines the importance of providing quality, affordable communication access to all citizens, and notes the inequalities that presently exist.
It also identifies areas where existing financing mechanisms could be improved, and where ICT could be given a higher priority by both developing countries and their development partners, based on such existing financial commitments such as the Monterrey Consensus. While it is recognized that financing of ICT infrastructure cannot solely be based on public investment, it is also recognized that private investment and market forces alone cannot guarantee the full participation of developing countries in the global market for ICT services. Strengthened cooperation and solidarity is therefore encouraged, along with national development policies that support an enabling and competitive environment.

Way Forward: Follow-Up and Implementation
Tunis is not the end of the road for the WSIS. As the Summit of Solutions, the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society recognizes that it is now time to turn principles into actions.

Although more than 2,500 projects were undertaken to bridge the digital divide between the first and second phases of the WSIS, the Tunis output documents clearly emphasize that more needs to be done, and done quickly. Already, the ITU is managing the WSIS stocktaking process to create a database of ICT implementation activities. For the Tunis phase of the Summit, it also created a so-called Golden Book listing projects announced during the Summit. More than 200 projects have been included to date, many of which are multimillion dollar undertakings.
The 11 Action Lines in the original Geneva Action Plan set forth key elements in the building of the Information Society. The Tunis Agenda now establishes a specific list of possible moderators/facilitators for each of these Action Lines.
In the coming months, major efforts will be undertaken to organize the implementation of the Geneva and Tunis resolutions.

To coordinate this work -- and as requested in the Tunis Agenda -- Secretary-General Utsumi announced that the ITU will soon convene a meeting of Action Line moderators. This meeting will be organized in collaboration with UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), who, together, represent the three key pillars of the Information Society: infrastructure, content and development.

Work to implement the Action Lines will be complemented by ongoing ITU stocktaking work and on finalization of an agreed methodology for evaluation of progress in bridging the digital divide based on a common set of core indicators as well as the use of composite indices.

To facilitate the implementation of the WSIS outcomes, the Secretary-General of the United Nations is also asked to consult the Chief Executive Board (CEB), which consists of the heads of major UN agencies and meets biannually, to establish a UN Group on the Information Society. Over the coming months, a plan will be developed for the creation, functioning, objectives and work methods of this Group. This Plan will be presented to the next CEB meeting in Madrid in April 2006. The ITU, UNESCO and the UNDP are all expected to play a lead role in the creation of this Group.
In addition, through ECOSOC the UN Secretary-General will report to the General Assembly by June 2006 on the modalities of interagency coordination of implementation. At the same meeting, Yoshio Utsumi, as Secretary-General of the Summit, will also report on the outcomes.

In November 2006, the ITU will hold its Plenipotentiary Conference in Antalya, Turkey and on that occasion will continue to adapt its mandate to the demands of the Information Society.

Dialogue Continues
The world of ICT is characterized by fast-paced and non-stop technological change. The Internet of tomorrow will look very different from the Internet of today, as revealed in the ITU's new report, The Internet of Things, which was released at the Tunis summit.
The follow-up process established by the WSIS contains several built-in milestones to ensure that policy review and debate continue, so that the outcomes of the Summit can be shaped to changes in the world of ICT.
At the national level, all countries are called upon to develop national e-strategies as an integral part of national development plans and poverty reduction strategies. The deadline for this action is 2015, but many countries have already begun to implement such plans.
Affordability of access is a critical part of bridging the digital divide. As tasked by the Summit, the ITU will continue its efforts to study the question of international Internet connectivity as a matter of urgency.
The Tunis Agenda calls on ECOSOC to oversee the system-wide follow-up of the Tunis and Geneva outcomes. Consistent with the reform of ECOSOC requested by world leaders at the Summit in September in New York, the Tunis output calls on ECOSOC to review the mandate of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development, including the multi-stakeholder approach.
These efforts will culminate in an overall review by the General Assembly in 2015 of the implementation of the WSIS outcomes. This is the same deadline established in the Geneva Plan of Action to connect all unconnected communities.
Finally, the UN General Assembly is asked to declare 17 May as World Information Society Day. 17 May has traditionally been celebrated as World Telecommunications Day, so the ITU will collaborate in this process to give even greater magnitude to that event.

Addressing delegates at the closing of the eighth and final plenary session, Mr. Utsumi spoke of his satisfaction that the WSIS process has put ICT at the centre of countries' national development plans. "As a result of this Summit, world leaders are now fully aware of the critical importance of ICTs", he said. In the end, he continued, the WSIS is "not just about technology. It's mostly about people, and their potential."

The full text of the Tunis Commitment can be found at
The Tunis Agenda for the Information Society can be found at