Friday, March 31, 2006

Piping internet to the TV tube (1)

On Wednesday the Hilversum incubator iMMovator held a meeting on internet on the tube. Of course the meeting was held in a perfect spot in the heart of broadcast city NL. On the program a small exhibition and some eight presentations.

The happening reminded me of the early days of internet, when in 1995 the personal video recorder TIVO came around. Everything was going to change. Philips bought the license to TIVIO for Europe, but the company has never done anything substantial with it, as far as I can see. Besides the TIVO also the relationship between television and internet was explored. Bill Gates had already pointed towards the question of TV or internet as well as TV and internet. And consultancy companies speculated freely. So also a consultancy bought by the Wegener newspaper company, managed by Jan Jacobs. But by 1996 the speculation was all over and the broadcast world quietly set in on cross-media policy (of course the term was unknown at that time). But now, more than ten years late we are discussing piping internet to the tube.

Before the meeting there was time to look around at the small exhibition of boxes: the Lamabox, the P2Pod, PCzapper, Byton and Sitecom. I saw a lot of boxes and screens. The boxes differed, some screens looked similar. What astonished me was the un-professional touch of the small exhibition. There were hardly fact sheets and data leaflets. No canvas banners telling what brand of box and what functionality. Even a company like Alcatel came in with a portable PC, a beamer and a professional screen (I must grant). No banners and no leaflets; you just had to guess the company. Later on I understood that the research department of Alcatel was demonstrating and not the marketing department.

Of course the Lamabox drew lots of attention. These guys from the Dutch egg capital Barneveld have developed a box with a peer-to-peer system, which can pick up a lot of TV stations, movies, and radio stations. They started developing their box last years. They have the box in production now, but have problems upscaling to the demand and still have to deliver many a box. Typically a start-up company taken by success.

All in all, the small exhibition looked like a boot sale. Of course, this level indicated that internet on television is still in the beginning phase and is being handled by whiz kids and amateurs (in the good sense). The small exhibition signaled to me that professionalisation in this sector still has to start. So forewarned I went to listen to the lectures.


Thursday, March 30, 2006

Blogs in Cyberasian political activism

Merlyna Lim passed through Utrecht yesterday morning and I had a cappuccino with her. I have known Merlyna since 2003 when I met her as a member of the World Summit Award (WSA) Grand Jury in Dubai; I met her again in 2005, when she was in Bahrain for the WSA Grand Jury. Merlyna was in the Netherlands for a series of lectures and discussions and happened to pass through Utrecht, so we planned a coffee, before she moved on to Amsterdam, where she was going to present a lecture last night.

Merlyna Lim at the Central Station meeting point in Utrecht

She is a young, intelligent and sharp lady. She is a trained architect, who graduated from Bandung Institute of Technology. But she changed direction and moved from physical spaces to virtual public spaces on internet. She has written a lot of articles, as her bibliography shows. Her main work is in describing the part internet played in the politics in Indonesia. So she describes the period of the fall of Suharto and the rise of Jihad fundamentalists. Merlyna Lim received her PhD on online activism in Indonesia from the Dutch University of Twente and is currently affiliated to the Annenberg Center for Communication at the University of Southern California where she is extending her studies to cyber activism in Southeast Asia, Cyberasia.

During our chat she indicated that blogging in Indonesia has become an outlet for thoughts on society differently from the mainstream media, which are still acting in the hierarchical order and are politically correct. Bloggers are stronger in wording their position than in the traditional Indonesian oral tradition. Merlyna is hoping that blogging and other media should influence each other, as this would yield an unknown openness in public space.

It was interesting to see the webcast of her presentation in Amsterdam last night where she tried to answer the question whether Indonesian cyberspace still does facilitate critique on the political system the way it did before the downfall of the Suharto-regime in 1998.

The answer is clear from her article Cyber-Civic space in Indonesia:
The Indonesian experience clearly shows that the internet can be a cyber-civic space where people can mingle without state intervention. Under Suharto, the state’s system of control and surveillance constricted such activity in all other potential civic spaces, so political activation through the internet became vital to political reform. Yet, in the post-Suharto era, it is not clear whether civil society will flower in the liberated cyberspaces of the internet, or will instead succumb to communal resistance and the disintegration of civil society itself. If the latter situation comes to pass, Indonesia is likely to experience a severely weakened state and a fragmented society, risking perpetual instability. In such a situation, some segments of society might even reinvent the Suharto era as halcyon days of national coherence and prosperity, forgetting the daily suppression of civil society. If, on the other hand, a vibrant civil society with a stable government under the rule of law emerges to overcome communal resistances, Indonesia will be able to chart its own destiny in a global age. In the final analysis, the paramount question concerns how to retain the integrity of Indonesian society in
a way that allows for the continuity of the nation-state. Civil society must be an active force in the formation of political communities that can work collectively to resolve rather than foment social divides.

The presentation of Merlyna Lim and Isaac Mao will be stored in the Waag video archives.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Cable operator tests 100Mbps network

Last year in July, I wrote a blog on Dutch cable companies upgrading their speed by cable. This week the Essent made an announcement. Essent Kabelcom, the Dutch operator of the @Home internet service, is going to trial an internet speed of 100Mbps in 20.000 households in the Netherlands. The speed will be the same upwards as well as downwards. The technology will be delivered by the Finnish company Teleste.

The technology is based on Ethernet to the Home (EttH). Clients will not have a modem any longer, but will be able to link up their Ethernet jacket into the network. Essent hopes to find out what households do with such a speed.

This test is a follow-up of the technical pilot in Boxmeer, a town in the south of the Netherlands. In this technical pilot households had a speed of 10Mbps at their disposal. Especially the network was tested and more particularly the scaling up of the number of households. Now three years after the start of this pilot, @Home wants to offer a speed which is future proof.

It is interesting to see a Dutch cable company scaling up, where telcos are still offering low ADSL speeds (2 to 10Mbps), while Essent will offer on trial basis an SDSL speed of 100Mbps. This is different from the snail speed of 1025/512 Mbps offered by my provider Versatel. It is about time to start looking around for another provider. Can you imagine that in the Netherlands we left dial-up behind us some three years ago and now we are demanding speeds of 100Mbps. Where will it end?


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Encyclopaedia Britannica strikes back at Nature

It has taken a while, but at last the Encyclopaedia Britannica struck back. In a 20 page paper the Britannica staff has published a rebuttal of the comparative article of Nature on the Britannica and Wikipedia. Britannica even stated that the article was fatally flawed.

The Britannica paper highlighted several inconsistencies. Reviewers claiming that Britannica omitted certain information did so because they were presented with excerpts rather than the full entry. In another case, Nature rearranged and re-edited Britannica articles. A third complaint pointed out that Nature used text from the more basic student edition of the encyclopaedia.

Nature stated that it has no intention of retracting the study. 'We feel this was a reasonable characterisation,' the scientific publication claimed. It admitted that some of Britannica's criticism was valid, but replied that both Britannica and Wikipedia were treated in the same way and that any procedural inaccuracies would have affected both publications equally.

I have been surprised that a magazine like Nature was seduced to publish an article on the comparison between the Encyclopaedia Britannica and the Wikipedia. With a 10 year experience in the editorial departments of encyclopedia publishers, I am still astonished at the method of Wikipedia; the basic idea of Wikipedia being, that everyone can write an article and that the Wikipedia records the full knowledge of the mankind.

In the same vein, I have been amazed that the Dutch school network Knowledge Net has made an agreement with the Wikipedia organisation for use in the school and updates by the Dutch community.

Since the Nature article it has become clear that there has been fiddling with articles on American politicians. Now Wikipedia has put in controls, but this does not work at all. Just have a look at the subject of Iraq in Wikipedia. It is a clear disaster as too many people are cooking the article and no one takes real responsibility. It is pure politics, sometimes even with racists’ overtones.

It is unbelievable, but scientific articles have to be peer reviewed and with Wikipedia anyone can write something about the subject. Although the articles are being checked these days, the level of checking remains unclear. Of course Wikipedia is okay for fast reference, but you have to remain suspicious; of course with the Encyclopaedia Britannica you have also to remain suspicious and check more sources.


Monday, March 27, 2006

Particpatory, citizens' journalism

Last week the Belgian publisher of newspapers, magazines and books Concentra announced that it was launching the, a site for and by people living in the Belgian town Hasselt. The site is its first example of participatory journalism. The consumer is not only the source, but also the producer of the story, a spokes person said. Concentra said that it started the site as the regional section of Belang van Limburg was unable to score all the local news and put it into the regional section. Initially, the newspaper will have the site filled by 12 selected city reporters. Later on every inhabitant of Hasselt can contribute: text, photographs and movies. The site will exist next to the tip telephone lines, which Roularta started recently. The exercise is dubbed participatory journalism. The intention is to research whether there is a future in citizens’ journalism. Eventually the site should pay its own way.

There are more initiatives like around. In the Netherlands Wegener has started sites likes this in the eastern part.

A variation on this theme is the blogs started by newspapers and radio and TV stations. They start up blogs for readers, listeners and viewers. In my home town Utrecht the Utrecht radio and TV station has set up such a blog just before the municipal elections. Good timing; discussions guaranteed. For the newspapers and the RTV stations there is usually a pay–off in as far as they can publish from the blogs. So instead of the letters to the editor, they newspapers make space to publish from the blogs

Is this a contribution from online journalism to journalism in general? I am not too convinced that it will be a lasting contribution. In the first place is usually is an admission of weakness by the newspapers. The argument to start up such citizens’ site is that the regular newspapers can not cover all the regional news anymore. This is one of the arguments used by Concentra. First contribution they put on the site was photographs of carnival (Mardi Gras in New Orleans lingo) in Hasselt. Usually the editorial staff would have treated such an event by putting in one photograph. On the site they can now have many photographs and even movies, if they want to. By placing photographs and movies, they seduce people to go to the site and see whether they are in the photographs or the movies. So, it is basically marketing and not picking up news that they would have missed.

Of course these sites are moderated, usually implicitly. The site masters are not held to any accountability. So the newspaper or the RTV stations select. I think in the seventies we used the term repressive tolerance for this phenomenon.

Will it be a success? I guess I will return to issue a year from now and see whether the site still exists and whether it is a site for and by the citizen. I would be surprised if these sites have a different independent look from the newspapers and the RTV stations they stem from.

I am not saying that an independent site or blog will be a guarantee for success. In the Netherlands there is the Geen Stijl, an uncouth blog in the choice of its subjects, photographs, text and style. In fact it is a kind of anti-media blog. It has a large group of readers. But things are changing. Recently the editorial staff bought the news wire service of the national wire service ANP and the national newspaper De Telegraaf bought a minority share in the blog operation. Independence is no guarantee for success of citizens’ journalism.

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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Experiences with Google Book Search

Over the weekend, which is one hour shorter due to European Summer time, I read the experiences on the Google Book Search program by two Dutch publishers: Brill Academic Publishers and Amsterdam University Press. The experiences were written up in Vakblad, a trade magazine for Dutch scientific and trade publishers.

Matthias Wahls, business development manager for Brill, told, that Google pays for Brill the costs in order to digitise thousands of books of the scientific publishing company. Brill Academic Publishers is a publishing house with a strong international focus and founded in 1683. The company focuses on the fields of Ancient Near East and Egypt; Middle East, Asian and Islamic Studies; Medieval and Early Modern Studies; Biblical and Religious Studies; Classical Studies; Social Sciences; Science and Biology; Human Rights and Public International Law. By digitising the books, they now can be found online with Google. Although Brill started recently with the program and cannot prove extra sales yet, the company believes that the Google route can lead to additional sales. Another extra is that the visibility of the authors.

The Amsterdam University Press, another academic publishing house, started in November 12004 with the program Google Print, now changed into Google Book Search. They started with digitising one hundred books, a small selection of the English language catalogue. It took four months before the books were available on the net. AUP can talk now about the first results. Their books are consulted roughly 200 times every month with extremes to thousand page views. The percentage of the click though to the order process is between one and two percent on average; some books score even five percent.

I got curious by this report and went to Google Book Search and typed in my name. Having contributed to several books I would like to see what would be the result. Two books came up. E-Content: Technologies and Perspectives for the European Market, published by Springer, had been brought online. There were seven links. But further I could not go as I had not signed in and had a password. But I could see that the two chapters I wrote for the book were selected.

The second book was Webjournalistiek, a Belgian/Flemish book, I had not heard of. It is a book about web journalism in the Belgian context. In Google Book Search there is a link to page 172. From what I can make out from the top of the page, the link refers to a page on the Central Station project, a personal news service project from 1995/96, which started in Belgium, but did not succeed at first; now it works under the name Mediargus. I started to copy the service for the Dutch newspaper world, but the project never left the drawing table, regretably. So the link will refer to that project. It is interesting, I should buy this book.

Google Book Search seems to work and publishers look very happy. They even get sales of them, which can only increase in the future. So far they did not put in a penny themselves for the digitising and making the books available. Still I am convinced that, if they had set up a system themselves, like the German publishers are doing at present, they could have controlled their databases, offered them to Google and asked money for them.


Saturday, March 25, 2006

Dutch mobile market: speech still growing; data services slow

(press release) In 2005, the Dutch mobile communication services market grew 5.6% and generates EUR 5.94 billion in services revenue, up from EUR 5.62 billion in 2004, according to research report Dutch Mobile Operators 2005 from Telecompaper.

This report analyses the market's performance in the fourth quarter of 2005, including a year to date analysis. The focus is on mobile network operators including KPN (including Telfort), Vodafone, T-Mobile and Orange and their activities in the Dutch mobile services market. The analysis is based on Telecompaper's continuous research into the development of the Dutch communication services market.

The total mobile customer base, including customers of Tele2 Mobiel, UPC Mobiel and Scarlet, grows to 16.88 million at the end of December 2005, up 2.0% from 16.55 million at the end of September 2005, reaching a penetration rate of 103%.

Despite a relatively weak first quarter in 2005, growth picked up strongly in the second quarter of 2005. Performances in the third and fourth quarter were reasonably good, turned 2005 into a fairly good year in terms of growth. The results are in line with the market outlook we presented in November 2005. Mobile services revenue amounts to EUR 5.94 billion in 2005, up 5.6% from EUR 5.62 billion in 2004. Driven by a good second quarter in 2005 and reasonably good third and fourth quarters, revenue growth in 2005 is on par with the market's growth rate in 2004 (i.e. 5.6%).

The mobile customer base recovers from a dip in the third quarter, when the market declined 1%, and grows 2.0% to 16.88 million mobile customers at the end of December 2005. The mobile customer base is up 5.1% in comparison with the end of December 2004.

Mobile voice services revenue total EUR 5.1 billion in 2005, up 3.7% compared to 2004, when voice services revenue amounted to EUR 4.92 billion. The 3.7% growth rate is equal to the growth rate in 2004, when the market was up 3.7% compared to 2003. Including Telfort from 4 October 2005 onwards, KPN generates EUR 2.34 billion in annual services revenue and takes 39.9% of annual mobile services revenue. Vodafone follows with 27.9% (EUR 1.66 billion), and is slightly down from its performance in 2004. Thanks to a good performance in the fourth quarter, T-Mobile ends the year on a high with a share of 16.7% (EUR 992 million), slightly up from 16.6% in 2004. Orange is stable with a share of 9.1% and annual revenue of EUR 540 million. Telfort's share for 2005 drops to 6.4%, but its share is based on revenue for the first nine months of 2005. Non-voice services revenue grows to EUR 825 million in 2005, up 18.9% from EUR 694 million in 2004, but well below this market's growth rate in 2004, when the market grew 27.9% versus 2003. Given the high expectations for growth in this segment of this market, actual performance in this segment of this market is still weak.

Based on a strong second quarter in 2005 and reasonably good third and fourth quarters, and the fact that pricing pressures have eased somewhat following KPN's acquisition, we predict a growth rate of between 4% and 5% for 2006. Mobile data services will still primarily be driven by SMS services, but GSM- and UMTS based mobile data are expected to slowly but surely start to make more significant contributions to growth in 2006. It is also the main reason why we upwardly revise the 2007 growth rate to 3% to 4%, instead of between 1% and 2% as predicted in November 2005. Increased pricing pressures on mobile voice services are the main factor to drive the revenue growth rate down in 2007, compared to the 2006 growth rate. Pricing pressures on mobile voice services will continue in 2008 and increase pressure on mobile services revenue, but we expect that increased demand for mobile data services will push the growth rate back to the 2006 level (i.e. between 3% and 4%).

In the Netherlands there are 16.9 million SIM cards for 16.5 million people. So every Dutch baby is born with a mobile. On average every Dutchman has a 1.3 mobile unit; of course most have one and some have two mobiles.

The majority of the revenues (5.1 billion euro) still comes from speech, a growth of 3.7%. SMS and mobile data traffic are good for 825 million euro 16% of the turn-over; an increase of 18.9% over 2004.

GPRS and 3G services are not hot. Telcos still hope to yield more revienues from these services, but 40% of respondents to a KPMG survey indicated that they will not use nor pay for mobile surfing, mailing and chatting or even mobile television.

KPN changed this week its house style. The capitals of KPN in their logo have been exchanged for undercast letters. The word link is now at the center of the pay-off.

In the summary of the report not a word is said about the I-mode service. In 2003 it was a hot item for KPN. The company wanted to have the European monopoly on the service which originated in Japan. NTT DoCoMo even bought itself into KPN. But the service did not fly in 6 months. This week there was a bit of information on I-mode in Het Financieele Dagblad. Ludolf Rasterhoff, a KPN manager, indicated that active users of I-mode turn over 100 million euro. Whether this is turn-over for total KPN in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands or for the Netherlands is not clear.

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Friday, March 24, 2006

Break-through of digital movies in the Netherlands

At last the Dutch Film Festival is reading the signs of the time and starting the Dutch Online Film Festival (NOFF). All film producers of Dutch movies can participate in this virtual festival. During this festival movies will be shown in the categories of drama, documentary movies, experimental, animation and interactive. Movies can be entered now via the Dutch Film Festival.

The movies will be shown on internet. From July 1st, 2006 the first movies will be shown. New movies will be added every week. From September 1st, 2006, the whole program will be online. During the 10 days of the regular festival the internet audience can vote for the NOFF audience award. A professional jury makes its own selection and awards the NOFF Jury Award. Both Awards will be presented on October 5th, 2006. Both Award winners will receive 2.500 euro.

The Dutch Film Festival organisation collaborates for the NOFF with DutchView, POOL, Public Broadcast and Tiscali.

This initiative is good news. Eleven years after having used internet as a promotion site first, the Dutch Film Festival starts now using internet as a distribution channel.

As if it was planned, the NOFF can expect the entry of Elephants’ Dream, a computer animation film of eleven minutes. Tonight this movie will first be shown in the Cinema Ketelhuis in Amsterdam, where they have digital projection.

Elephants Dream is a story with quick-witted dialogue, tightly designed architecture and unusual sound effects. The main characters, Emo (a cool young trumpeter) and Proog (a confused – or maybe not? – loner) are each stuck in a world of their own. At a certain moment they cross paths with one another. The oddball Proog cautiously tries to introduce his young friend Emo to his world. When Emo realizes that Proog primarily wants to push his ideas on him, this leads to a conflict between them. But can Emo survive in Proog’s world? And can they overcome their conflicts, or will they each go their own way in life?

The Orange Open Movie Project Team worked for seven months under the roof of the Netherlands Media Art Institute to develop the story, the animations and the production of Elephants Dream. The movie has been made with the Open Source software program Blender. Open Source software can be downloaded and used for free, and is completely open for anyone to improve and distribute again.

Along with the film, a DVD with the ‘making of’ will appear, on which the whole production of the film can be viewed, and Elephants Dream will shortly be found on the internet in a downloadable version.


Thursday, March 23, 2006

Trade association for Dutch game producers

I have been rather pessimistic about the game industry in the Netherlands. But it looks like I should correct my opinion as the game producers are getting professional and organising themselves. Under the name Benelux Game Initiative (BGIN) Dutch producers of computer games start a trade association. BGIN will server the general and commercial interests of the industry by being a partner in talks with the government, international associations, investors, industry and institutes. The association will also pay attention to education and investment. Founding members of BGIN are Playlogic, Woedend! Games,and Streamline Studios in Amsterdam, Coded Illusions in Rotterdam, Zylom in Eindhoven, X-form and Utrax in Utrecht, Van der Have Media in The Hague, PMTC in Diepenbeek (Belgium) and the Foundation of Dutch Game Days (NLGD). The board consists of Alexander Fernadez (Streamline Studios), Pieter Slingerland (Coded Illusions) and Seth van der Meer (NLGD).

BGIN is open for all companies which keep themselves busy with gaming, simulation or interactive media as well as producers and supplier. Training institues and publishers are welcome.

BGIN puts that five to ten percent of the games which are developed worldwide come from the Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg). The turn-over of the game industry in these three countries is three to four million euro annually; including distribution the turn over will top the billion euro milestone. The city of Utrecht is becoming the centre of the gaming industry in the Benelux.

The Utrecht dome in playful green flood light during the Game Days 2005


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Broadband for all

The European Commission mobilises all its policy instruments to bridge the broadband gap. The Commission considers wide broadband coverage in Europe as crucial for fostering growth and jobs in Europe. This is why EU telecoms legislation, structural and rural policy instruments need to be mobilised in full respect of state aid rules in a joint drive to bring high-speed “broadband” internet access to all Europeans, in particular to the EU’s less-developed areas. This is the conclusion of “Bridging the Broadband Gap”, a European Commission Communication presented yesterday jointly by the European Commissioners for Information Society and Media, Competition, Regional Policy and Agriculture and Rural Development.

“Broadband internet connections are a prerequisite for e-business, growth and jobs throughout the economy. Competition and open markets are certainly the best drivers of broadband in the EU”, said Viviane Reding, Commissioner for Information Society and Media. “However, broadband connections must not be limited to the big cities. If the EU and its 25 Member States make a clever use of all policy instruments, broadband for all Europeans is certainly not out of reach by 2010. But the time to act is now.”

Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes underlined the importance of EU state aid rules in this respect: “Deployment of broadband may be hampered by market failures in rural and remote areas. In such cases, well-targeted state aid may therefore be appropriate, e.g. in the form of public private partnerships to support the construction of open networks. But we have to make sure that state aid does not crowd out private initiative, nor distort competition to an extent contrary to the common interest.”

Mariann Fischer Boel, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, stressed: “Thanks to our new Rural Development policy, money is now being increasingly focused on creating new business opportunities in the countryside. There is a particularly strong concentration on broadband and information and communication technologies, where we already finance projects under our LEADER initiative – from the north of Scotland to the south of Spain. We now want to put them into the mainstream of our Rural Development programmes. The Rural Development fund is worth €70 billion between 2007-2013, with national funding on top. I urge Member States to tap the potential of broadband in their national Rural Development strategies.”

Rapid progress in broadband take-up across Europe in the past three years can largely be ascribed to a combination of competing infrastructures and effective telecoms regulation. The broadband penetration rate at the end of 2005 is estimated at 13% of population or about 25% of households, reaching almost 60 million lines throughout the EU. Despite fast growth, broadband has yet to reach some of the EU’s less-developed areas because of low and uncertain returns on investment. In 2005, broadband was available to about 60% of businesses and households in the remote and rural areas of the EU15, and to more than 90% in the urban areas, but the gap is greater in the new Member States. Broadband speeds are often lower in the countryside too, which makes it difficult to carry the large volumes of data needed for e-business, e-government, e-health and multimedia content applications. Rural broadband speeds average less than 512 kbps, whereas urban ones are rising and now often exceed 1 MBps, permitting the use of rich services.

To accelerate the roll-out of advanced broadband communications in Europe, the Commission today proposes two main strands of action:
- strengthening national broadband strategies, which should set clear targets and reflect regional needs, including a strategic approach to making use of EU and national funding in less-developed or rural areas;
- stepping up the exchange of best practices, in particular by the setting up of a website that will act as a single meeting point for local authorities and industry players to exchange information and gather experience. The Commission will also hold a large “Broadband for all” conference at the start of 2007 to showcase the benefits of broadband services to the rural communities.

Broadband in the Netherlands passed the 4 mln milestone
The number of broadband subscribers in the Netherlands passed the four million mark during the fourth quarter of 2005, ending the year with 4.125 million, growing 27.6 percent compared with 2004, according to Telecompaper's Dutch Broadband 2005 report. Broadband penetration per household in the Netherlands increased to 58.2 percent at the end of 2005, up 13.4 percent compared to the penetration rate at the end of 2004 (44.8 percent). Penetration per 100 inhabitants increased to 25.3 percent at the end of the year, 30.6 percent up from 19.4 percent last year, and 1.9 percent more than in Q2.

Wanadoo and @home have joined Planet Internet by becoming the second and third ISP to pass the 500,000 broadband subscriber mark, ending the year with 505,000 and 531,000 user respectively. Planet Internet grew by 72,000 subscriptions in Q4, as much as the total net subscriptions during the first nine months of 2005, ending the year with 577,000 customers. KPN's share of the Dutch broadband market has increased to more than 35 percent. The aforementioned ADSL ISPs plus acquisitions caused the number of KPN ADSL customers to grow to 1.47 million in 2005. Telecompaper estimates that the Dutch broadband market will continue to grow driven by increasing demand for VoIP and IPTV services, and will reach the 4.5 million customer mark during the second quarter of 2006.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

European Digital Library

The European Commissions’ plan to promote digital access to Europe’s heritage is rapidly taking shape. At least six million books, documents and other cultural works will be made available to anyone with a Web connection through the European Digital Library over the next five years. In order to boost European digitisation efforts, the Commission will co-fund the creation of a Europe-wide network of digitisation centres. The Commission will also address, in a series of policy documents, the issue of the appropriate framework for intellectual property rights protection in the context of digital libraries.

Yesterday the Commission published an overview of the results of a major online consultation on the digital libraries initiative which had been launched on 30 September 2005. The 225 replies came from libraries, archives and museums (46%), publishers and right holders (19%) and universities/academics (14%). The replies generally welcome the initiative and see it as an opportunity for making Europe’s cultural heritage more accessible and usable on the Internet. They also show that opinions are divided on copyright issues, in particular between cultural institutions and right holders.

“Information technologies can enable you to tap into Europe’s collective memory with a click of your mouse”, Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding explained. “The European Commission will help to turn this into reality by co-funding centres of competence for digitisation and providing a truly European framework for protecting, accessing and using intellectual property rights in digital libraries. Member States will have to do their bit by providing the basic means for digitisation”.

This action is partly inspired by the Google action Google in print. Instead of leaving it to Google to scan the books, a Europe-wide network has been set up to scan six million books. And it will not be books only, but in the plan also television archives will be archived. Two million books, films, photographs, manuscripts, and other cultural works will be accessible through the European Digital Library by 2008. This figure will grow to at least six million by 2010, but is expected to be much higher as, by then, potentially every library, archive and museum in Europe will be able to link its digital content to the European Digital Library.

Today Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding named a high level Expert Group of 20 members. They come from all disciplines: libraries, publishers, movie archives. And surprise, surprise: Mr Nikesh Arora, Vice President of European Operations, Google UK Ltd. Viviane Reding must have thought that she better could invite Google and educate them about copyright rules than set them up against this massive project.

The High Level Group on the European Digital Library will meet for the first time on 27 March 2006 and will be chaired by Commissioner Reding. The group will address issues such as public-private collaboration for digitisation and copyrights.

The Commission intends to present a proposal for a Recommendation by mid-2006 to tackle together with Member States and with the European Parliament barriers to digitisation and online accessibility. Later this year, the Commission will also unveil its strategy for digital libraries based on scientific and scholarly information. Before the end of the year, a Commission Communication on “Content Online” will address broader issues such as intellectual property rights management in the digital age.


Monday, March 20, 2006

My Blog Influence

Last night I was pointed to Blog Influence by the blog Dutch Cowboys. Blog Influence is a site, where you can fill in the URL of your blog. Then the site starts spitting all kind of data, including a mathematical formula. The first group of data tells you something about Bloglinking, Post linking, Weblinking, Subscribers and Page ranking. Then come the big formula which shows the result of the formula with the blog influence meter. There are two more sections: graphs of Ice Rocket, Blog Pulse and Touchgraph as well as Buzz with Technorati, Technorati, Google blog search, Blogpulse, Ice Rocket, Google, Yahoo, MSN Search and

The section you look at first is the section with the Blog Influence Meter. It presents a ranking to you, but funny enough you do not know what it means. In the case of Buziaulane the Blog Influence Meter tells 224. Is this high in the order of 1 to 1000, for example or is it low. A typical case of a glass half full with water. Buziaulane should be compared with Slashdot, Engadget, Official Google Blog, Search Engine Watch Blog and Buzz Machine. Slashdot scores 3461370.6, while Buzz Machine gets the figure 1513144.8. My conclusion Buziaulane scores low. I should have more Bloglinking, Postlinking and especially Weblinking and subscribers.

I compared the results to another blog, I run: Content Market Monitor. It is more a newsletter than a blog, but it is promoted in digest form as a blog. Her the Blog Influence Meter was on 1, with only 1 weblinking and 0 pageranks.

It is an interesting approach. However the question is whether the linkings and the references are all processed. While I write daily a blog and tag my blogs since this year, Technorati or Ice Rocket refer only to a few blogs. The base for the selection is unclear. Whether it would help to boost the Blog Influence Meter is another matter. As I said it is an interesting approach, but whether it is the right approach?

It is like the site Business Opportunities Weblog. When I key in the URL of Buziaulane it generates the result: Your blog,, is worth $7,903.56. Wish I could cash this amount today. Again,it is a nice fantasy blog tool.

My blog is worth $7,903.56.
How much is your blog worth?

Well, after this electronic self-abuse, I should return the daily chores and no longer dream of influence and money.

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Sunday, March 19, 2006

New P2P software

Tribler is the name of the new software programme which optimises the exchange of digital television. The programme is based on Bitttorrent, but has been expanded and improved. The technology has been developed with grants by researchers of the four Dutch universities of Delft, Eindhoven, Twente and Amsterdam.

The open source programme is a peer-to-peer software (P2P) and has been developed to exchange data as efficient as possible. Tribler recognises behavioural patterns and can serve as a intelligent video recorder. You can invite friends with Tribler to a circle of exchange. The invitation is coupled to a identification code by which the invitee gets access to the files of the inviter. It is also possible to offer the files publicly. The software is based on the Choopan Rattanapoka’s Social-Based ABC client, which is the basis of Bittorrent. The official software version 3.3.4 can be downloaded.

The software has already spawned a hardware device, the P2Pod. Through this device of 150 euro the Tribler technology links TV to internet and provides protection for the content. Besides P2P content, the P2Pod receives 1.000 free TV channels and more than 6.000 radio stations, which can be played on TV in stereo. Dutch public television has already announced that it will start experimenting with downloading programs through the p2p network. In the end it will even broadcast live programs through Tribler.

The launch of the software has triggered a discussion about the legality of the P2P software. Bittorrent and Kazaa have legally been pursued and/or forbidden as carriers of illegal content. In the case of Tribler the development of the software has been funded with grants by the Dutch government and the question has been raised whether the Dutch government is aiding software which can be used illegally. The developers of Tribler point to the fact that users have an identification code and can be identified. In fact they argue that they put in safeguards for legal exchange. One of the developers said that users who exchange illegal content through Tribler would be rather stupid to do so: “We will do everything to prevent abuse”. The question is of course whether operators of an academically developed P2P software can manage the network and keep it free of illegal content.

The launch has also yielded an objection as to the distribution costs. It is argued that the Dutch public broadcast by using P2P software for distribution moves the costs for distribution to the providers. P2P cost more data capacity than any other distribution method.


Saturday, March 18, 2006

Creative Commons tested and approved

Last week an Amsterdam judge chaired a case brought by iPODfather Adam Curry against the Dutch boulevard magazine Weekend. The weekly had used photographs of Adam Curry which he had published on Flickr.

The weekly had the photographs copied from the site and published in the weekly without an indication of the source. Adam Curry put that the Weekend had violated the copyright rules governing the photographs. By publishing them on Flickr the photographs are ruled by the alternative copyright system Creative Commons license, created by Lawrence Lessing, an American law professor. Everyone can copy and use the photographs, unless they agree to the license conditions. But they can not be used for commercial purposes and the source has to be mentioned.

The commercial magazine Weekend had violated all these rules. It had copied photographs of Curry’s daughter and published them without mentioning the source. The judge told the magazine to stick to the Creative Commons license rules. In practice the commercial magazine is not allowed to use copy and publish the photographs.

It was the first time that the Creative Commons license was tested and approved in the Netherlands. The license was introduced in the Netherlands in 2004. The Dutch Institute for Information Law in the person of Professor Bernt Hugenholz, adapted the license for the Dutch situation.


Friday, March 17, 2006

NL online home shopping to 2,21 billion euro

Online home shopping in the Netherlands has gone beyond the 2 billion euro mark in the Netherlands in 2005. The turn-over of 2,21 billion grew 32 percent over against the turn-over of 2004. In the last 6 months of 2005 only the turnover slowed a little to 1.145 billion euro over against 1.065 billion euro in the first 6 months of 2005. This is one of the results of the Online Home Shopping Monitor 2005-2, a survey which is held by Blauw Research in cooperation with 300 members of the Online Home Shopping Association

Compared to the growth in the regular retail trade the market for online home shopping is growing faster. The regular retail trade showed a growth of 0,3 percent in 2005, while the online home shopping grew from 2,1 to 2,8 percent.

In the meantime 44 percent of the Dutch from 16 years up has placed an order online. The number of online buyers has grown to 5,1 million people in 2005, a rise of 29 percent in 2004. The main rise was in the first half year of 2005, due to In the second half of 2005 the number of new buyers went down from 800.000 to 500.000 people.

The annual amount spent has lightly risen from 424 euro in 2004 to 433 euro in 2005. The new shoppers are careful with ordering online and influence the average amount spent. However in online home shopping high amounts are spent in travels and insurance; in travel the average amount spent is 500 euro. In 2005 there was a boost in insurance due to a change in medical insurance.
The majority of the buyers interviewed indicated that 92 percent was content with the service. This indicates that the 300 online home shopping companies of the association have become professional.


Thursday, March 16, 2006

Tele2 first triple play mover in the Netherlands

Tele2 has started with the offer of triple play as first company in the Netherlands. The IP package contains telephone, internet and television. The television package contains 32 television and 21 radio stations; subscribers can also requests movies and television series on demand. BBC will not be available in the package. Subscribers will pay the first half year 40 euro per month and later 45 euro per month. This year the soccer games will be included, but in 2007 live images will cost 10 euro extra.

So far various telco and cable operators such as KPN, UPC and Casema have offered twin play with internet and telephone or separately terrestrial, digital television. Tele2 has now beaten KPN. This incumbent will offer triple play in one package by fast ADSL by the second quarter of the year.

The move of Tele2 is strategically. Tele2 moves with the experience of Versatel, which it acquired last summer for 1,34 billion euro. Versatel bought the rights to the highest division of the Dutch soccer competition. In the meantime it has gained experience in IPTV. But there is also another reason to be ahead of KPN, Scarlet and the cable operators. Versatel owns a glass fibre network, but this covers only 65 percent of the Dutch households. So it is essential for Tele2 to be the first mover.

Tele2 has learned from the Versatel experience. At the start if IPTV soccer Versatel boasted to have 100.000 subscribers before the beginning of 2006. It just reached 60.000 euro. For the triple play package Tele2 does not present a forecast, but the investors will not be happy with some ten thousands of subscribers, according to the operational manager Günther Vogelpoel.

It will be interesting to see how triple play will be accepted by the household. Looking at the first reactions to the news items and in blogs, people are not too positive. There are many negative reactions about the Versatel/Tele2 help desk, bad signals and complete non functioning set-ups. Bad signals are still a problem for all the operators. KPN recently had to recognise that there are still problems with IP telephone as telephone interfere with internet signals.

It will be for the first time that cable operators will get full competition from telecom operators. So far they have had almost a monopoly on the distribution of television. They were late with the distribution of internet, when around 2000 they started to take internet seriously. They have also been active in telephone, but not fanatically. Now they will have to compete with telecom companies for triple play subscribers.


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

NRC-Next: what's next?

Yesterday it was D-Day in the Dutch newspaper world. NRC, the evening quality paper of the PCM group launched NRC-Next, a morning paper. The tabloid positions itself between the free tabloids like Metro and Sp!ts and the paid newspapers Telegraaf, Volkskrant and AD. Yesterday the morning tabloid was for free. Now its will cost 50 euro cent and eventually 1 euro has to paid for the tabloid.

The positioning is curious, between fast reading, free tabloids and more exhaustive De Telegraaf and AD as well as the more intellectual Volkskrant. NRC-Next is typecast as the intellectual newspaper of 20 minutes for people between 25 and 49 years of age over against the 5 minutes Metro for youngsters and students. The intellect is coming from an editorial staff of 24 journalists, who write the articles for the printed newspaper and the internet site.

NRC-Next takes also a curious position within the PCM group. This newspaper conglomerate has de Volkskrant and Trouw as two full fledged morning newspapers. NRC-Next is partly related to AD, which is the product of a joint-venture of the PCM Group and Wegener.

Will the tabloid survive? The launch of the newspaper has been researched in the market extensively and the project manager claimed to have found an audience for the tabloid. In fact the newspaper should come up to circulation of 80.000 copies in three years time. The publisher of the newspaper gambles on two aspects: the intellectual quality image of its big brother, the evening paper NRC Handelsblad as well as the price of 1 euro. Personally I doubt whether these aspects will be enough to fill the gap between free broadsheets and extensive quality morning papers such as de Volkskrant and Trouw of more than 2 euro. I make a stronger assertion: THE TABLOID NRC-NEXT WILL NOT SURVIVE THE FIRST YEAR.

I am still flabbergasted at the strategy of the PCM Group. They have cut internet as this was just teletext journalism, according to the CEO Mr Bouwman. The company was supposed to publish a Sunday paper, which it has not done much to the chagrin of its investment company APAX. Its book division suffers blow after blow with editors and authors walking away, while after so many years there is hardly any synergy effects. Presently the company is expanding into TV and radio. The company needs guidance and integration. Perhaps these will come from the successor to Mr Bouwman, Mr Ton aan de Stegge, former CEO of the telecom company Telfort.

Further South, a political action has started to save the Limburg newspapers, which have been put up for sale by de Telegraaf Group. The governor of Limburg, a government official, has called upon a group of Limburg private investors to put up money and buy the newspapers in order to keep the regional anchoring. An offer of 140 million euro has been put on the table, it is rumoured. The newspapers should stay out of the claws of the British media group Mecom, which the governor qualifies as a pulp producer. The governor did not comment on the combination of the Belgian publisher Concentra and the North Netherlands NDC; the Belgian publisher covers also Dutch Limburg with some of its publications. Will be continued.


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Up to the TTA Gala 2006

The Top Talent Award Gala was postponed from the usual spot in November 2005 to March 2006. Reason for this was the Presidency of the European Unionby the main sponsor Austria, but the format was much like the TTA Galas before. Now that the TTA Gala 2005 is over, the preparations for the TTA Gala 2006 have started. The campaign to attract entries has started again. By August/September the jury will convene and select the nominees and winners. And by November the TTA Gala 2006 will be held again in Vienna. For more information keep track of the Europrix TTA site.

In the meantime there will be all kind of TTA events and publications. There are the EUROPRIX Top Talent Special Exhibition and the TTA Road show. The TTA has a permanent show at the Technisches Museum in Vienna, showing the fascinating new world of multimedia with the best of young multimedia contents of the current year. It is a showcase of the projects by the young talented producers from all over Europe. The EUROPRIX Top Talent Special Exhibition is part of the permanent exhibition of Medien.Welten (Media Worlds). This innovative show traces the development of modern media systems from ancient history to the present.

The TTA Road show tours Europe, bringing the best multimedia contents by young producers to selected destinations around the European continent. Together with the TTA’s partner organisations, the most active network in European multimedia the EUROPRIX Top Talent Road show brings new ideas and the most exciting innovations in multimedia to various European cities.

It might be new media, but of the EUROPRIX Top Talent Award projects a beautifully printed catalogue is published. There is also a DVD, which contains the projects of the nominees with video clips and extra information. Both can be purchased by e-mail order from

If you want to follow the activities of the EUROPRIX TTA for 2006, leave your e-mail address on for the TTA newsletter.

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Monday, March 13, 2006

TTA category Cross-Media

In the category Cross-Media projects are entered that are based on the use of many media (web, telephone, TV. Mobile, DVD etc.) for flexibility, media adequacy and high usability. This definition by the organisation is of course as debatable s every other definition of Cross-Media. In this formulation the multi-channel aspect is stressed. In the category were 36 projects entered from 18 countries.

Jumping Rope – Orna Portugaly, Daphna Talithman & Sharon Younger, Camera Obscura School of Art (ISR)MEMORY – Martin Bricelj, KD CodeEp (SLO)Mirror_SPACE – Brigitta Zics, Academy of Media Arts Cologne (GER / UK)

Jumping rope is an old kids’ game. This project has taken it up to produce virtually jumping rope. The two people turning the rop are projected on two screens, while the people who have to pick up the rhythm of the rope stand in the middle. You might find your grandma turning the rope, but also your cheating brother. It is an attraction for a virtual circus.

MEMORY is an electronic version of the board game. You have to find matching pairs of imagesas quickly as possible by using the touch-sensitive board. Players can even upload their own photographs and play with them. The producers have developed a new version MEMORY – A History odf Slovene Graphic Design.

Mirror_SPACE is a real-time communication system that projects a personal, virtual 30 mirror-image onto a screen by combining the viewer’s face with data collected simultaneously from the internet.It is an arty project, showing beautiful screen.

In this category MEMORY has been chosen as the category winner. I think I would not have made that choice as MEMORY is copyrighted by and a registed trademark of the game maker Ravensburg.

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Saturday, March 11, 2006

TTA category Content Tools & Interface Design

This category is about powerful content tools, content management systems and technological innovations concerning new methods in interface design. There were 34 entries from11 countries. In this category 3 projects were nominated.

- Coeno One – Jakob Leitner, FH Hagenberg (AUT)
- Supreme Auction – Carlo Blatz, Powerflasher GmbH (GER)
- Virtual Air Guitar – Teemu Mäki-Patola, Helsinki University of Technology (FIN)

Coeno One is a workflow project. It has the potential to transform the way how people share ideas in the workplace. It is a collaboration application with an augmented table-top for presentations and discussions. Participants can drag data from their laptop onto the the table or a wall for projection. Coeno One shows the creative potential of a digital workspace.

Supreme Auction enableds the creation, administration and direct transfer of eBay items to the e-Bay website for private and business traders. Instead of hit and miss, sellers can easily advertise their products with classy presentations, which should revitalise the auction service. It should take eBay out of the garage sales atmosphere.

Virtual Air Guitar offers an inspiring way to experience music and get that rock star feeling within seconds. Get your orange gloves on and let the audience believe that you are Jimi Hendrix. The distance between the gloves determines the the note and moving the hand along the imaginary guitar neck creates a slide.It is a real fun application.

The winner in this category was Coeno One, as it was quite innovative. The virtual Air Guitar did not make it to the top of the category, despite its amusement value.

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Friday, March 10, 2006

TTA category Interactive Computer Graphics

This category is the third most sought category in terms of entries; for this year the organisation received 59 entries from 23 countries. The description of the category is exciting: it explores visually explosive contents transforming reality and seducing users into virtual worlds of cyber world narratives. So given the quantity of entries and the quality expected, it is remarkable that there were only two nominations. So the jury was not impressed with all the work.

Nomination in the category Interactive Computer Graphics:
Randart DNS – Christian Male, FH Salzburg Studiengang MultiMediaArt (AUT) Strip Generator – Ziga Aljaz, Academy of Fine Arts, Ljubljana (SLO)

Randart DNS looks like a high quality graphic art generator, which delivers a funky poster one time and an intricate tattoo the next time.. The producer has researched the history of graphics and developed mathematical formulas which create unique and striking graphic designs every time. Randart DNS is designed by a student of Fachhochschule Salzburg, an upcoming centre of design. Last year they partook in the category games with beautiful graphics.

Always wanted to be a famous cartoonist? Well there is now the strip generator. It provides you will tools and graphics, while you create the content on the storyboard. No drawing skills are required, just an idea or a message. It is such a brilliant idea. I remember that when I was in boarding school I loved to draw cartoons, but my drawing skills were not outstanding. Yet, I managed to create a monk and made a cartoon with this figure. I will have to try again with the Strip Generator. Come to think of it, the Strip Generator would be a perfect machine for kids to make their own strip of Miffy by Dick Bruna.

The winner in the category was Strip Generator. To me, if I were a juror, the project would have been in close competition with the winner Guitar Shred Show.

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Thursday, March 09, 2006

TTA category Games

Games are hot. So you would expect many, many entries. But in reality this not true. The 2005 edition of the TTA received 34 entries from 17 countries. Top providers of games are UK, Germany and Ireland, followed by Austria and Bulgaria.

In this category three nominees were selected:
- Air Guard – Lubor Kopecky, SleepTeam Labs (CZ)
- Neon Racer: Augmented Gaming – Markus Weilguny, FH Hagenberg (Digitale Medien) (AUT)
- The Farm (Episode one) – Benedict Webb, Bournemouth University (UK)

Air Guard is a typical flight simulator. The producers have many different missions, two game modes and exciting sounscapes. The storylines are based on the second World War when the German Luftwadde attempted to gain superiority in the air.The heart of the game si a uniquely developed engine which creates open-air exteriors.

The Farm is the first episode in a series of downloadable games, which attempts to fuse interactive storytelling and animation with an adventure game. By solving puzzles and riddles a habitant of a health farm likes to escape from his incarceration. The graphic are beautiful; the humour, the satire and the absurdity is particular and challenging.

Neon Racer is a multi-user racing game for 1 to 4 players. It is played on a table top. Real physical objects are put on the table top in order to create a collission course. Spectators at the game can of course pick up an object and move it. The mission is to keep running avoiding physical objects for a certain period. The basic idea I saw before in the Red Bull Bar in Salzburg. When sitting at the bar one sees planes circling around; by putting a can of Red Bull on the bar, the planes avoid the object, while planes crash when a glass is put on the bar. As far as I understand the technology is different. Besides Neon Races produced a game on this principle, while the planes in the Red Bull Bar are a gimmick.

Neon Racer was selected as the category winner.

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

TTA category Mobile

The number of entries in the category Mobile is growing. There were 32 entries from 11 countries. Mobile is slowly penetrating in universities and junior colleges as a subject. There are not too many professors and lecturers who know something about mobiles in general and content for mobiles in particular. On the other hand the mobile companies notr the mobile content have not been out too these institutes to propagate the basic knowledge. It would of course be smart of the mobile telecom companies to set up a Mobile teaching institute together. However some universities in the UK and Austria (FH Johanneum) have already established a tradition and are delivering entries every year now.

In this category 3 nominations were bestowed:
- APCompass – David Wiltshire, University of Plymouth (UK)- iCoach – Andrew Devlin, Bournemouth University (UK)- RealReplay – GPS racing on your mobile phone - Andreas Jakl, FH Hagenberg (AUT)

All three projects use PDA and smart phones. APCompass contains a map of wireless network access points in a particular location. This map can be annotated with description of services and tagged by anyone, so that the next person can download the opdated map with services.

iCoach is a program to assist football coaches and players to plan and save match tactics, training sessions and post-match video analyses. This Mobile sport assistance is a favourite with students. In the TTA 2004 ther was a UK student who had developed a GPS driven electronic golf assistant. It was well researched and executed, but it was hard to sell to mobile companies, as they want to claim straight away the copyright.

In the same vein is the project Real Play. The application enables people to compete against each other in a time-trial, regardless of the presence. So you can race someone skipping time: running, cyccling, sailing or hiking.

Of these three APCompass was the winner.
I also like to draw the attention to one of the nominees of the Thesis Award. Louise Gumbrell of Staffordshire University (GB). She wrote the thesis Txt2Tug. It investigates the feasibility and development of an interactive SMS game for fans at live music events such as concerts and festvals. It is a kind of entre act when the stage is changed by which the audience is kept happy and can participate in a game of Tug of War.People in the audience can also win prizes and see their name displayed on the wide screens. The idea has been well worked out and tested in practice.

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

TTA category Offline/DVD

Again this year, the category Offline/DVD was the favourite category with 93 projects (111 last year) were entered. Despite all the internet opportunities and facilities, offline projects are still popular. But if the figures signal a trend, then Offline and broadband are getting closer to each other. Perhaps broadband might overtake next year. The 93 entries come from 29 countries; so this category has a broader geographical spread than Broadband/Online. I am wondering whether there is a relationship between the amount of entries and the telecom infrastructure. I have already remarked that these nominations came from Central and Eastern European countries.

Eventually, three projects were selected:
- Medianatomy – Kamen Anev, Hungarian University of Art and Design (HU);
- Pantha Rei – Judit Erdélyi, Hungarian University of Art and Design (HU);
- Sitka – Artur Jaros, Uniwersytet Wroclawski (PL).

Medianatomy is a journey into mass media through non-existing television channels and fictional news articles. The project is a way for people to learn to re-appreciate their own unique experiences instead of speaking from what they hear in the media.

Pantha Rei illustration

Pantha Rei is dreamy interactive animation film controlled by the child user. It is a story that immerses children with dynamic graphics and original, moving music. This project reflects the growing trend of re-invigorating traditional arts with interactive multimedia, writes juror Ania Bobrowicz.

Sitka is an extraordinary interactive magazine from the underground. It is fighting against the tide of mundane mass media. It is produced by a group of young people who prepare the various styles of graphics and report on parties. The graphics have some traces of Monty Python Flying Circus.

Of the three projects, Pantha Rei was a clear winner. It is interesting to see whether the project has commercial potential as offline products are more difficult to distribute through the proper channels and at a right price.

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Monday, March 06, 2006

TTA category Broadband/Online

There were 84 projects from 23 countries entered in this category. Eventually 3 nominations were selected:
- Amazing Croatian Fauna - Gorjan Agacevic, Design studio (R)evolution from (Croatia);
- Glassbox – Emmanuel Fréard, Paris 8 University (France);
- Guitar Shred Show – Mika Tyyskä, Lahti Polytechnic, Institute of Design (Finland).

As the nominations in this category concern themselves with online and specifically with broadband all entries can be viewed by the blog reader him/herself.

Amazing Croatian Fauna is a kind of a National Geographic site on Fauna in Croatia. It is a site with amazing photographs and movies about fauna. I had already seen this site as it was entered for the World Summit Award in 2005 and again selected as one of the five prize winners.

Glassbox is a very minimalist site. There are just a few lines which by moves of the mouse transpire into objects. The site has been made for the art gallery Glassbox. The site is arty and stylish. It leans on a tradition of French projects using minimalism as a departing point to bring a system in the chaos.

The Finnish project Guitar Shred Show is entertaining and interactive with attractive graphics, animations, interaction and of course rich music. Users play an active role in creating music by interacting with the keyboard or composing their own score. Even a five year old will react to the music by pressing the keyboard.

Guitar Shred Show was chosen as the absolute winner of this category, the overall winner and the winner of the Europrix Music Fusion Award, a triple whammie and a first in the history of Europrix.

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Sunday, March 05, 2006

The morning after the TTA Gala

The Sunday morning was nice in Vienna. It had snowed in the night. From our hotel room, close to the Sissy place of Schonbrunn we looked out over a court yard with a fountain covered with snow. But as it was the last day in Vienna, we had to pack up. That is usually a problem after the festival, as we take all kind of materials such as catalogues and DVDs for promotion purposes of our regional competition

A look at the Schonbrunn Palace grounds from the hotel

The morning after is always difficult. It takes some time for people to get started. So I started the meeting as chairperson with a few people and gradually the group grew. The group existed of members of the European Academy of Digital Media (EADiM), members of the EADiM Academic Network and some of the Top Talent Professors. It looks like people from various directions, but the group is more homogenous that you would think. EADiM is a kind of supporting group to the Europrix activities. The EADiM Academic Network consists mainly of professors, teachers and instructors in multimedia. The Top Talent Professors are a logical extension of this group.

We started the meeting by reviewing the Gala, the activities of the last days and the VociNet workshop. There were a lot of comments. But one of the most remarkable requests was to start a database of students work. This would be a real resource for researchers and lecturers. We will have to think about it together with ICNM and find the money. Bad thing is always, that we think it is a good idea, but are unable to get the money together. Just look at the idea which I dubbed Channel Gold. ICNM has executed national, European and worldwide competitions since 1998. Together with the related competitions such as the and the competition in Slovakia and Slovenia (a competition in Bulgaria is being set up by Basscom), ICNM has had more than 3.000 qualified entries from 168 countries. Just imagine that you put this online for research by students and academia, a sample database for professionals and a demonstration database for the general public. Such a database would be a showcase for the digital creative industry. Of course you would have to wrap the database into a good portal with an IPTV channel, where you could show the TTA gala or the ceremonies in the Netherlands, Slovakia or Slovenia. But where do you find the money?

Well it is back to the desk and finding solutions.

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Saturday, March 04, 2006

The night of the TTA Gala

One day before the Oscars, the EUROPRIX Gala takes place. The new world celebrates representatives of the old technology for linear storytelling on movie, while the old world bestows honours on the young talents for the new technology of digital storytelling.

The EUROPRIX Gala has a tradition. It is a festive occasion to celebrate the young talents and their works. From the beginning in 1998 the gala had a certain chique. In the first year it was held at the Technisches Museum in Vienna. It was a special occasion as the Museum had just been remodeld, but had not been open to the public yet. The gala vistors were the first audience, which was awaited in the multi colour floodlight lit building with steam engines.

After the Technisches Museum, there were galas in Tampere and in the North of Sweden (Lulea, my Finnish friend Cai adds). This was to express the European thought. The Europrix gala even was in Lisbon, organised by the Portugese juror Conceicao, and Cannes, as Cai remembers. But as the European contribution to the competition was reduced over time, it was not possible to cater to this European thought. (The EUROPRIX was at that time a travelling circuit of innovation and innovation in multimedia for the European Commission). So the galas came back to Vienna. Last year and this year the gala was held in the Museum of Military History in the Arsenal. It is a beautiful building with stained glass, sculptures and paintings. It is a perfect contrast to all cyber and virtual stuff shown at the gala.

The award ceremony was sizzling. You could feel the tension in hall as the ceremony started to come a climax. The presenter was Linus Felt, a Swede, who was himself a winner of the Europrix overall winner in 2002 with the childrens’ CD-ROM Pettson o Findus och mucklornas värld (Pettson and Findus and the Muckle World), and he did a marvellous job.

Broadband/Online: Guitar Shred Show – Mika Tyyskä, Lahti Polytechnic, Institute of Design (FIN)

Offline/DVD: Pantha Rei – Judit Erdélyi, Hungarian University of Art and Design (HU)

Mobile Contents: APCompass - David Wiltshire, University of Plymouth (UK)

Games: Neon Racer: Augmented Gaming – Markus Weilguny, FH Hagenberg (Digitale Medien) (AUT)

Content Tool and Interface Design: Coeno One – Jakob Leitner, FH Hagenberg (AUT)

Interactive Computer Graphics: Strip Generator – Ziga Aljaz, Academy of Fine Arts,Ljubljana (SLO)

Interactive TV & Video: No nominations in this category

Cross Media: MEMORY – Martin Bricelj, KD CodeEp (SLO)

Special Awards

ATI Award: Car Demonstrator – Alexander Peschke, Fachhochschule Salzburg (AUT) and 195/95 - Michal Balinski, Mark Siegel, Sebastian Spanache, Michal Staniszewski, Michal Witaszek, University of Lodz (PL)

EUROPRIX TOP TALENT THESIS AWARD: My Social Fabric- Steven Blyth, Interaction Design Institute, Ivrea (IT)

TOP TALENET AWARD FUSION AWARD: Virtual Air Guitar – Teemu Mäki-Patola, Helsinki University of Technology (FIN)

The Overall winners of the Europrix Top Talent Award as well as the Broadband/Online category and the Music Fusion Award for the Guitar Shred Show, produced by Mika Tyyskä and Liina Toiviainen, Lahti Polytechnic, Institute of Design (FIN), ready to leave with their spoils. (c) Cai Melakoski

Guitar Shred Show was the first triple whammy in the Europrix Top Talent Award history.

I will comment on all categories in the coming weeks.

The whole TTA Gala was streamed by Telekom Austria Streamingportal and will be archived; the whole show will be available from Wednesday/Thursday onwards. And I had a message from Damien this morning that he had looked at the show from Paris. The show will be archived and will be on the web available by (free) video on demand by coming Wednesday or Thursday.

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Friday, March 03, 2006

TTA: pitch day

The Friday is always a kind of a pitch day. The nominee teams get a chance to tell about the project. What the project is, why they made particular choices, what technologies they used, what problems they experienced. These teams were nominated in the particular categories:

Broadband/Online: Amazing Croatian Fauna - Gorjan Agacevic, Design studio (R)evolution (CRO)
Glassbox – Emmanuel Fréard, Paris 8 University (F)
Guitar Shred Show – Mika Tyyskä, Lahti Polytechnic, Institute of Design (FIN)

Offline/DVD: Medianatomy – Kamen Anev, Hungarian University of Art and Design (HU) Pantha Rei – Judit Erdélyi, Hungarian University of Art and Design (HU)
Sitka – Artur Jaros, Uniwersytet Wroclawski (PL)

Mobile Contents: APCompass – David Wiltshire, University of Plymouth (UK)
iCoach – Andrew Devlin, Bournemouth University (UK)
RealReplay – GPS racing on your mobile phone - Andreas Jakl, FH Hagenberg (AUT)

Games: Air Guard – Lubor Kopecky, SleepTeam Labs (CZ)
Neon Racer: Augmented Gaming – Markus Weilguny, FH Hagenberg (Digitale Medien) (AUT) The Farm (Episode one) – Benedict Webb, Bournemouth University (UK)

Content Tool and Interface Design: Coeno One – Jakob Leitner, FH Hagenberg (AUT)
Supreme Auction – Carlo Blatz, Powerflasher GmbH (GER)
Virtual Air Guitar – Teemu Mäki-Patola, Helsinki University of Technology (FIN)

Interactive Computer Graphics: Randart DNS – Christian Male, FH Salzburg Studiengang MultiMediaArt (AUT)
Strip Generator – Ziga Aljaz, Academy of Fine Arts,Ljubljana (SLO)

Interactive TV & Video: No nominations in this category

Cross Media: Jumping Rope – Orna Portugaly, Daphna Talithman & Sharon Younger, Camera Obscura School of Art (ISR)
MEMORY – Martin Bricelj, KD CodeEp (SLO)
Mirror_SPACE – Brigitta Zics, Academy of Media Arts Cologne (GER / UK)

Special Awards
ATI Award:195/95 – Michal Staniszewski, University of Lodz, Department of Mathematics (PL) Car Demonstrator – Alexander Peschke, Fachhochschule Salzburg (AUT)

My Social Fabric- Steven Blyth, Interaction Design Institute, Ivrea (IT)
Emotion and Acousmêtre for suspense in an interactive Virtual Storytelling Environment – Wendy Ann Mansilla, International School of New Media, University of Lübeck (GER)
Txt2Tug – Louise Gumbrell, Staffordshire University (GB)

Virtual Air Guitar – Teemu Mäki-Patola, Helsinki University of Technology (FIN)

The list of nominees is very interesting. You can look at from the technology point of view, but you can also look at it graphically. Looking from the perspective of countries, there are some interesting observations:
1. There were 411 entries from 32 European countries, including Turkey and Israel and 1 entry from Argentina. The EUROPRIX Top Talent Award is truly European.
2. The nominees in the 11 categories came from 11 countries.
3. More entries per country do not guarantee a nomination as is clear from this list:
Country:Number of nominations (number of entries)
Austria: 5 (32)
Croatia: 1 (21)
Czech Republic: 1 (6)
Finland: 3 (18)
France: 1 (17)
Germany: 2 (48)
Hungary: 2 (13)
Poland: 2 (10)
Slovenia: 1 (15)
UK: 4 (61)
4. There is an interesting phenomenon in the Offline category. All the nominations are from Central or Eastern Europe. The question may be asked: are the people in those countries strong on CD-ROM/DVD due to a lack of broadband? But if you look at the category Broadband you see a country as Croatia taking a nomination. I personally think that in those countries storytelling was always stronger and storytelling you can do on disc or through broadband.
5. Another remarkable phenomenon is the category mobile. Nominees come from the UK and Austria, countries that have strongly performed in the past. In the history of the EUROPRIX TTA in mobile the following countries have been strong: UK, Austria and Germany. No Spanish or Italian projects and no Finnish either.
6. In the category Interactive TV and Video there was no nomination. This category is a difficult one. It attracts the lowest number of entries (17 out of the 411) and they mostly come from the UK, one of the few countries where interactive TV is working. Theoretically there should be some entries from the Netherlands next year as UPC is rolling out 2 million set-top boxes. I personally think that interactive TV is a dead horse (famous last words). Channel 4 in the UK was right by pulling the plug on the interactive TV.

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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Off to the Top talent Award

Today is my 300th edition of the Buziaulane blog. It started on May 1, 2006 and has been published daily. However, from March 2nd till March 5th, 2006, I will be at the Top Talent Festival in Vienna, where I hope to report from the floor on the nominees and winners and on the VociNet workshop on Content on different platforms as well as the Inscape workshop on digital storytelling. The award ceremony on Saturday night will be streamed, so if you can not be present, join the award ceremony remotely. Here is my first report:

The festival started with a welcome package in the hotel room and a welcome party. The welcome package contains amongst others survival material for Vienn, but most teasured is the annual catalogue and DVD (the catalogue and DVD can be ordered from ICNM). The welcome party is at the Top Kino in the Rahlgasse, which is a trendy establishment, according to one of the hotel receptionists. When we arrived there were already a lot of Top Talent Teams presents as well Top Talent Professors and participants in the VociNet workshop.

The welcome party is the start of an impressive weekend for the young top talent teams. They get invited to the festival, trip and hotel for three nights paid for two members of the team. Also the professors and lecturers are invited and have received the honorary title Top talent Professor for the first time this year.

Twenty two teams have been invited; sometimes they come with more than they paid team members, but that does not matter. Roughly 100 people are involved for the long weekend. The party is a first get acquainted party. Where do you come from, what team are you in. There is a lot of information to exchange. The teams will hardly realise what winning the Europrix Top Talent Award will do to them. But they will hear the story of Adam Montandon and his team, who won the EUROPRIX TTA for Content Tools and Interface Design last year. He design for a colour blind man a system so that he could hear colours. It is a pity that the teams can not hear the story of Damien Marchi of Streampower, one of the Europrix jurors (in the student jury and one professional jury) who is up for the EMMY award this year at the MIPTV with the interactive show CULT.

At the party are also the VociNet workshop delegates. They are part of the EADiM Academic Network, formerly called the Instructors’ Network. These people are all working and teaching as professionals in universities and junior colleges in the field of multimedia. The network was started three years ago and has had some success already with workshops. The VociNet stream of workshops have been sponsored by the EU Media programme. Theone being held in Vienna is the third one in the series on Content for different platforms. The two other workshops were held in Salzburg (Digital Storytelling) and Tampere (Project Management and Design).

It was good to see the people of ICNM again, who organise this festival. Rainer Steindler and Fleur Weber are the account managers for this festival. Also Birgit Berger, the business manager of ICNM, was there. As usual, the auctor intellectualis of this festival, Professor Dr. Peter Aurelius Bruck arrived late at night, having attended some meetings.

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

e-Books need an industry champion

Digital books make a new start with the E-Ink/Philips technology. E-Ink has created a method for arranging tiny black and white capsules into words and images with an electronic charge. As no power is used unless the reader changes the page, devices with the technology are power consumption poor. The technology has been operationalised by Philips and is now commercialising the technology through licenses. Dutch publishers are catching the digital paper fever. Newspaper publishers will test the gadgets from april onwards and book publishers want their books to be included in the initial bundle. But to make digital paper a success it will need a champion.

The E-Ink/Philips technology is now spreading worldwide. iRex Technologies is a spin-off company from Philips, which has developed an A5-tablet and is experimenting with digital newspapers and e-Books worldwide. Jinke, a Chinese company, plans to sell into the education field in China and other markets. Plastic Logic Inc., a British startup, is working on a flexible display the size of an 8 1/2-in.-by-11-in. piece of paper that can receive books, news, or e-mail wirelessly; the company is partnering with Japan's telecom company NTT DoCoMo and plans to have a product (a pull-out extension to a mobile?) on the market by early 2008. These companies are new and innovative companies, backed by moguls like Philips and NTT DoCoMo, but do they have the experience to put e-Books in the business and consumer markets?

Industry champion needed
This type of device needs a champion company, which has oversight over the whole value chain and knows how to put a business plan together. In principle, all the pieces of the puzzle are on the table now. There is attractive hardware, there are loads of content and the equipment is more user friendly than its predecessors. The only problem is still the business model. The present situation in e-Books compares with the introduction of the iPOD. Apple developed a strategy for this gadget: attractive hardware; access to a vault of music and a user friendly machine. Of course, heart of the iPOD venture was the i-Tune business model: attractive prices, vast offer of content and less user restrictions. Comparing e-Books to iPOD, the e-Book sector has a problem: it does not have a champion like Apple. No traditional publishing company has put its money in the e-Book future like the music companies had not put money in the music download services. No computer and consumer electronics companies have so far been seen as the e-Book champion. Could Philips be the champion or Sony?

Philips is a consumer electronics manufacturer. It has dabbled in intellectual property assets like music with vinyl records and CD. The compact disc seduced the company, led by Jan Timmer, into the CD-Interactive venture in which they lost millions of euros. After the change of the guards in 1996, the new boss Cor Boonstra killed Philips Media and buried CD-Interactive as a consumer product. The clear line now is to have products and services and not intellectual content products. So Philips will not be a candidate, unless for medical, busines and technical manuals.

First generation of e-Books and a digital paper reader

What about Sony? This company hijacked in 1990 the term e-Book, created an E-Book reader of 450gr and with a blackwhite screenand used the mini disk as e-Book carrier. But it was a disaster in the USA and Europe. By 1995 and 635 public titles it was all over. But after a decade Sony is back for more. Sony is now the first major player to take advantage of the E-Ink/Philips technology for e-Books. It had a trial in Japan with a Librié with a digital paper screen and will now start with a newly designed reader in the USA. Sony’s e-book could go as long as 20 books between battery charges. The text also looks just as sharp as ink on a printed page, since each capsule is the size and pigment of a grain of laser-jet toner. And the price has been set for $350. Sony will offer a vault of some 10,000 book titles for download from its online store. But does Sony have the magic that Apple had creating the iPOD?

So, Sony has more experience with e-Books than anyone else. The first version of E-Book with a reader and mini-disc was a false start. For the present start the new reader looks attractive, is seen as user friendly equipment with an offer of 10.000 book content. All basic conditions look fulfilled by Sony. But there is a downside. There is the price for an e-Book. The price is not an easy one; of course like a DVD player it will go down when more people buy it. But the price is close to the price of an Xbox and is highter than Sony’s Play Station. How does the tablet compare to them? It is no more that the electronic cover for an e-Book with very few facilities. But there is another more serious problem: problems with (over)protecting intellectual content property: DRM technology problems on CD-ROMs and DVDs, while in the Japanese e-book trial time bombs terminated the reading of the book (if you want to finish the book you will have to buy it again). And producers are not happy with the proprietary production and DRM software (happily other e-Book manufacturers such as iRex Technologies offers an open production environment). So the conclusion will be, that Sony’s image is tainted in the e-Book environment and will not be a clear cut champion for e-Books like Apple was for iPOD.

Where is the white knight who will save the e-Book technology that has finally matured? Will it be Apple again, using the iPOD recipe, or will it be Google, using the experinece of the Google Print program?