Saturday, March 31, 2007

John de Mol playing chess

While the newspaper and book publisher PCM is looking for a new strategy, John de Mol’s television station TIEN (ten; formerly Talpa) is in trouble. De Mol is now playing chess on more than one board.

John de Mol is in principle a format creator and producer. So when he started the broadcast station TIEN more than a year ago, everyone was looking with anticipation. It was not the first time that he started a commercial television station. In the nineties he had started SEVEN, but this became a disaster due to broadcast politics in The Netherlands. This time the forecasts were better. He hired a star-studded stable of presenters, bought the soccer rights to the premier league, laid on some new formats for entertainment and news, formulated a new policy for commercials and started. The public broadcast companies rethought their radio and television policies and the commercial broadcast companies like RTL and SBS anticipated with new programs.

But the game is over for the broadcast station TIEN. At least that is the way it looks. For weeks already rumours are flying around that John de Mol is talking to RTL and SBS. The talks have been confirmed, but no comments have been made about the direction of the talks. Key in the talks will be the soccer rights. John de Mol bought them and paid a lot of money for it. If the station TIEN stops, the rights go back to the soccer association and principally would come up for auction. But as the soccer season has not ended yet, the soccer association will most likely co-operate with a transfer to another station. Most likely John de Mol will be able to decide which ones as that company will have to buy the rights for the remaining part of the contract. And the station that gets the rights can be assured of high viewing figures on the Sunday night.

In the meantime the troubles of TIEN have not stopped John de Mol of playing on another chess board: Endemol. This entertainment company, for 75 percent part of Telefonica, is up for sale and by the beginning of April a decision will be taken by Telefonica’s board about the offers. John de Mol is one of the parties involved. His investment company is forming a consortium with the Italian Mediaset of former Prime Minister Berlusconi to buy Endemol. The consortium is not the only one making an offer. The former owner of the French division of Endemol is making an offer; a private equity consortium is putting down a bid. And in the last days the Italian media company De Agostini has shown interest. If John de Mol wins the bid, he will be back in his former company, which includes his name.

And if these two major actions are not nerve wrecking enough, John de Mol is buying shares in de Telegraaf Media Group (TMG), not to produce a newspaper, but to influence SBS, in which TMG has shares. He also is investing in smaller companies, oriented towards internet such as Bright, an internet site and magazine and in an internet advertising company Spotzer Media.

Oh well: you win some, you loose some. The John de Mol story continues

Blog Number Posting: 710


Friday, March 30, 2007

Never a dull moment at PCM

Hardly has the private equity company Apax closed the door to the premises of the publishing company PCM and made off with their financial spoils or the new owner, who was the owner before Apax, let the world know that they are in charge again.

Apax is out now. And the other shareholders, foundations, are in charge again just like they were before Apax was invited in. Those shareholders will look back at the Apax era and most likely shake their heads. What did it do for the newspaper and book publishing company?
- is only tangible product, which just celebrated its first anniversary;
- One board member went out during the Apax regime: Mr Theo Bouwman;
- Two new board members came in during the Apax regime: Ton aan de Stegge and Philip Alberdingk Thijm;
- A free daily was announced in cooperation with a free daily which has been published in the meantime; PCM is now working on its own free publication;
- For the rest, Apax has financially reshaped PCM, but the company will have to pay off the loans for a long time.

So now the foundations are in charge again and they let it know to the world. They sent off Mr Alberdingk Thijm immediately. He had successfully operated at the Dutch financial daily Het Financieele Dagblad, where he shaped a cross-media operation, with print, radio and internet. According to the foundations he was unable to pull off the same trick for PCM. But he walks off at least 2 million euro richer, but of course his name in tatters. And also Mr Aan de Stegge will be slaughtered. He has been asked to stay on for another half year until a new chairman has been found.

All this turmoil normally leads to a period with no strategy or a strategy recalled. Mr Aan de Stegge had already announced that newspapers and education were the spearpoints of the strategy. The book division, except the educational section, could be sold, he said. But surprise, surprise PCM (read the foundations) are negotiating a merger with NDC/VBK, a newspaper and book publisher. Their profiles are quite similar. Both are in the newspaper and book business. PCM is in the national newspapers, while NDC/VBK is in the business of regional newspapers. Both companies have a book publishing division. PCM is heavily mortgaged, while NDC/VBK is well financed. The company have been in talks already for months and are already talking about board members. Rumour has it that the chairman of NDC/VBK, Jan de Roos, will be named the new chairman.

But these merger talks could take some time. Discussions about the cross-ownership in the media are certainly coming up. The competition watchdog will have look into the matter. It might be that the watchdog will ask to sell particular parts. In this way the company would become a conglomerate of national newspapers, with regional newspapers in the North of the Netherlands. But the book divisions would be a problem. Putting the two book divisions together would produce the largest book publishing conglomerate in The Netherlands. There will be two reactions to this. The competition watchdog might ask to sell some companies or some book publishers might step out of the conglomerate and start their own company, as happened with the PCM book publishing companies.

For the immediate future there are two operational projects. PCM will finally launch their own free newspaper, named Dag (translated Day or Goodbye). There are high expectations about the project as PCM is working together with the incumbent telco KPN. PCM will produce the paper and be involved in the internet site; KPN will be involved in the internet site, but mainly work on the exploitation of the mobile/PDA and interactive television side. Another project will be the digital paper project by de Volkskrant and by NRC Handelsblad. As I remarked in the flash item of yesterday: this has been on the drawing boards for long. But now it seems to become reality. I personally would have combined it with the launch of the free newspaper Dag and experimented with day-parting. We will wait and see. I am eager to hear the price PCM is going to ask for the e-Reader and the subscription to the newspaper. Besides, with the merger of PCM and NDC/VBK, an expert company on e-Books and digital paper would be included: Pinion.

For the next half year there will not be a dull moment at PCM.

Blog Posting Number 709

Tags: , ,

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Flash: Two Dutch dailies to test iLiad

The Dutch PCM-newspapers de Volkskrant and NRC Handelsblad, both national dailies, will start testing the iLiad reader with digital paper. This rumour has been going around since the end of 2005, but it has now been confirmed by Mr Hans Brons, managing director of iRex Technologies.

Blog Posting Number 708


Cross country for cross-media (6)

The discussion about cross-media is fascinating. While we were discussing the term at CMID07 in Lapland (Sweden) and most of the particpants (see photograph of all the participants)were treating cross-media as a new phenomenon, it was during a X-Melina workshop in Tampere (Finland) in 2004 that there was a discussion whether the term cross-media was sustainable. So during the debate I made clear my stand (see photograph below).

During that workshop Mr Koopee Hiltunen of the Finnish cross-media company Haukion puts forwards the thesis that intuitively many people in the trade know what the term means. In fact, cross-media is hardly made explicit as a definition. Cross-media is part of the media universe; cross-media has become the default mode of making media. Users are so accustomed to cross-media, that they do not notice its presence; but they will notice its absence.

For professionals cross media will put some burden on their skills. They will need a wide understanding of the whole media universe. Project management skills will become highly valued. Ideas will be valued greatly. Digital story telling becomes prominent. Design (visual, structural, narrative, usability) will be one of the greatest challenges in cross-media productions. Looking at the industry, Koopee Hiltunen predicts that marketing communications and games and the combination thereof will be the driving forces behind cross-media.

Following Mr Kopee Hiltunen’s line of thinking, I believe that the term cross-media will not survive explicitly but implicitly. The term is not really sustainable. But Mr Kopee Hiltunen made some worthwhile observations. He stated that the term is part of the media universe, in fact the default mode of making media. In other words, cross-media is an operational term for creative production networks in companies and in the economic context.

In this light it is crazy to use the term to readers of the Dutch newspaper as Celebrating their first anniversary (will there be a next year?), the newspaper management stated that it wants to be a cross-media information brand. Presently the newspaper has an internet site and plans to have a television channel internet. Is this really cross-media or is it multiple media or are internet and the television channel just extensions? I would be impressed if they used day-parting in this so-called cross-media strategy.

Is cross-media a discipline. No. It is a way of thinking in media and communication. I personally believe that the term cross-media will survive as a professional term for media educators, for media makers (publishers, marketers, education) internally and for city or regional planning in order to describe the interaction between various creative disciplines.

Blog Posting Number: 707

Yesterday Christy Dena spoke in Leeuwarden at the Noordelijke Hogeschool Leeuwarden, where Eric Voigt and Maykel Hanekamp run the cross-media minor. In less than two days the students had arranged the venue for the guest lecture and a debate afterwards with Christy, monique de Haas, myself and the students, the invitation, the catering and the filming of the event. Excellent job!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Cross country for cross-media (5)

It was for the first time that CMID07 was held. And as observed before, the majority of the participants were involved in interaction design. They experienced cross-media as a new area of research. Given this situation it is not uncommon that there was a search for common ground. Liam Bannon had explored the terrain. I had looked from the media angle. Christy had approached the subject of cross-media with a view of a chain. Monique de Haas took the route from the audience.

Monique starts from human/interactive angle and has done so for a longer time as is clear from her paper in 2005. In the CMDI07 presentation she puts it: humans are the central starting point and driving forces for cross-media communication. If we want to design interesting cross-media formats, we need to get a better understanding of what people do and want from media in certain contexts, at specific times. So, in a specific context, what is their media usage, and what is their mode of reception or interaction (laid back, lean forward, on the move, -inter-active) and how does this differ, at which specific point in time of the day.

Monique is now actively working on touchpoint analyses to investigate and report typical everyday behaviour. This will give better insight in the context. She is of the opinion that cross-media enable and empower people to tell their stories anytime, anywhere and gain the interest/critical mass that every story deserves.

She stresses that we need to get grip on what is relevant in a certain context at a certain moment in time. Technology that supports social behaviour and enhances social strength has the best chance of being adopted. Looking at a model for getting to grips with behaviour in social networks, requires thinking about social currency in these networks. This may better enable conversion of social interaction into economic value. Cross-media projects need cross-over business modelling. Getting your audience hooked in the story is still the key to get the message across. Story will be dissected to smallest narrative units to flow over media channels inviting people to follow and interact with the story across the channels.

It is clear that media value chains are changing fast. Cross-overs are made, new levels of interaction emerge, which strengthen social behaviour. Collective intelligence or crowd sourcing is emerging as away of cooperating and co-creating in social networks. We need a better understanding of the forces that drive human behaviour on these levels of interaction.

The remarks of Monique de Haas at CMID07 have set me thinking about the communication science theory. This model basically works with a model of sender, a channel and receiver. But in the digital media the receiver is no longer passive; he/she will be able to react to the message sent. The model of channel weaving regardless of the presence of meaning can be dispended with. Another model is in the making, but does not have a clear shape yet.

Blog Posting Number: 706

Tags: , ,

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Give your wifi bunny a second life

Give your Nabaztag a Second Life! Place this virtual bunny on your land and it will notify your real Nabaztag if you have visitors. Similarly, if people chat to the virtual bunny, your real Nabaztag will pronounce the chat!

Why not change your wifi bunny in a virtual bunny for Easter. You will find the instructions for free on the page of RJ DeSantis.

Cross country for cross-media (4)

At the conference I really started to understand that this was a conference on Cross–Media Interaction Design and not just concentrating at the phenomenon cross-media. I was surrounded by people who had an interest in the human computer interface discipline (HCI).

And this really hit home when Liam Bannon started his presentation. He is Director of the Interaction Design Centre and Professor of Computer Science, Department of Computer Science and Information Systems at the University in Limerick (Ireland). He is interested in improving the utility, usability, and desirability of the computational artefacts we design. He has been involved in examining alternative conceptual and methodological frameworks for understanding human activities, and their mediation by various technologies. This quest for more adequate explanatory frames has lead him to examine aspects of activity theory, ethno methodology, and phenomenology. Liam takes an understanding of use as being a prerequisite for design, and wishes to understand human practices. He also wishes to encourage a more participative approach towards the design field. Liam emphasizes the cooperative nature of human work and its implications for design.

His lecture contained several landings by references or quotes to position Cross-Media Interaction Design. He did not intend to clearly delimit the area and the content of the discipline. His thoughts were a scouting trip.

But I like the discussion around his starting point. What are we talking about:
- Cross-Media Interaction Design;
- Cross-Media Interaction Design;
- Cross-Media and Interaction Design.
For the discussion he would not allow a half-hearted point of view of juxtaposing cross-media and interaction design as if cross-media was just a new field for action on which interaction design could be applied.

Of course I come from the business side of the media and personally I felt that cross-media interaction design is not a proper term. It disregards the influence of the cross-media area. Interaction Design has existed for computer services, for videotex for CD-ROMs and it was never dubbed: CD-ROM interaction design. So why should the practitioners of interaction design claim cross-media as a special stand of the discipline.

Of course one could argue that it was for a lack of a better term. But for me the perspective has changed. Cross-media is busy with a combination of analogue and digital media. Interaction design has been active in the field of digital media only. But with cross-media designing has become a different discipline. Designers will have to activate also people who happen to consult an analogue medium. In order to activate them, a designer will have to use tricks like using a telephone number or asking people to take a photograph with their mobile camera of a particular sign on a billboard. Given this line of thought I would prefer Cross-media Interactive Design.

Continuing on the discussion Monique de Haas of Dondersteen, expanded the idea in a way I had not thought of. She put that interaction design is a closed area for designers; they deliver the actions for the desigital media and that sit. But as cross-media is basically building an experience with various media blocks, the term interactive design would also leave room for the cross-media audience to participate with actions and react to the experience.

Blog Posting Number: 705

Tags: , ,

Monday, March 26, 2007

Cross country for cross-media (3)

The first paper that was presented at CMID07 was by Christy Dena, an Australian consultant who works in the field of Media and Entertainment and has a blog named (surprise, surprise) Cross-media I had heard of her and I had seen links in the Dutch cross-media blogs, but I had never met her before.

She has a lot to tell about cross-media and can go from a helicopter view to details. She sports a schema about cross-media and entertainment, which covers the five angles: content, marketing, business, audiences and technology. For each angle she works out the points to be considered. At the conference she worked out the content angle with examples in a fascinating way.

There are five ways to prepare content for cross-media. By repurposing content, one can republish the same content on each platform e.g. Someone comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town. A second way of preparing content for cross-media is by ttechnical Adaptation, whereby the content is edited and redesigned according to the affordances and limitations of each platform. Another way is art form adaptation by remaking a message to fit the tropes of a particular artistic genre. An example of this is the Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy, which has been moved from radio play to book to computer game and mobile (I still have the Commodore 64 version in its original wrapping, including a book). Another form is augmenting: providing additional, complementary & contradictory information in different platforms like in MTV’s Laguna Beach, where the world depicted in the TV series is augmented with Second Life. Stretching is the last way. Transmedia series contain self-contained episodes like in Homicide: Life on the Street, a police series whereby the TV series stops with a cliff hanger, while the investigation continues and is closed on internet; in the next TV installment a new case is opened. A transmedia serial will have dependent episodes, including, discussions with other participants, webcam video sessions and telephone voicemail.

And just like she drills in the content, she also drills in the other aspects. The model is very applicable in entertainment, but could also be used for interactive marketing.

The content section did remind me of Christian Fonnesbech, CEO of the Danish company Congin, who coined the method of dramatic content engineering. He produced years ago the internet soap Anders og Henrietta as an interactive marketing tool for a bank.

But the main contribution of Christa is that she looks from five angles to a cross-media project, from content creation to audiences and is able to lay out a strategy. The way she marries content to technology, but also content to audiences and technology to audiences is done very profoundly.

It was great to meet Christy and team up with her for somne days. She will be in The Netherlands for a few days and will present a guest-lecture at the HNN in Leeuwarden on Wednesday, March 28, 2007.

Blog Posting Number: 704

Tags: , ,

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Cross country for cross-media (2)

The conference is almost over. There is still a morning session and than we will pack up and fly to Amsterdam again. We still have sometime to kill in the afternoon, but with the white mountains in the neighbourhood there will be enough to see and enjoy.

Yesterday we have started to discuss the term cross-media. The term cross-media has been used by many people in various ways, which made it hard to understand each other. It was almost like the use of the term multimedia. To publishers this term means multiple media: a newspaper with an internet site and a book with a CD-ROM. For digital media buffs the term means the integration of digital media types like text, sound and images into one stream, upon which the user can act upon. The same confusion exists in the cross-media world.

In my ACTeN essay of 2004 I have produced a description rather than a definition. To me cross-media involves;
- more than one medium, ranging from analogue to digital media or digital media only, which all support each other with their specific strengths;
- aims at an integrated production;
- is delivered /accessible on a range of devices such as PCs, mobiles, TV, iPODs and PDAs;
- the support of one theme/story/one purpose/one message, depending on the type of project;
- more than just the juxtaposition of different devices, but finds its relevance when the common message/story/goal is spread on different platforms and target groups and when the supporting interaction takes place in these different platforms and target groups.
Essential to the concept of cross-media is that there are more than one media/distribution devices involved which support the central theme of the project from their own strength.

The discussion is still in full swing. In the morning session we will discuss the terminology as it has some consequences to for example terminology like cross-media interactive design. I will come back to the issue.

I will write installments about the basics of cross-media as well as the use of it in games, education, environment and to print products. By midday the conference will be over, but will the discussion rage on, while messages between the participants will fly back and forth.

Blog Posting Number: 703

Tags: cross-media

Saturday, March 24, 2007


It is my first in Lapland. I have been to several Scandinavian countries before, but I have never been so close to the Northpole. It is another first in my globetrotting experience.

Eric Voigt and Monique de Haas hold the Saami flag

Yesterday afternoon we went from with a group of 10 people to a Saami reindeer farm. It was some 30 kilometres up from Hemavan. We were greeted by a Saami in traditional clothes with his four winds hat on.
He told about the Saami people, the lack of recognition as an indigenous people by the Swedish government and about the life of the Saami.

The Saami farm had a small herd of reindeer; about 40 animals. This is in stark contrast with the herds of 1500 to 2000. But on this Saami farm they still like to know the animals. Some tourists were volunteered to carry two buckets with pellets and into the reindeer compound as well as hay. We also practised lasso throwing to train for catching the reindeer in the future.

Christy Dena preparing to throw the lasso and she succeeded

The visit was closed off with a Saami meal consisting of smoked reindeer meat with traditional bread and a cup of coffee.

Cross country for cross-media (1)

On Thursday I flew to Hemavan in Sweden. It is a mountainous ski resort (I hate snow), but there will be a conference on cross-media. In full the conference is dubbed the 1st conference on cross-media interaction design; shortened CMID07. It is organised by the Charlotte (photograph) and Mikael Wiberg of Umea University, in the Swedish part of Lapland (see my postings and photographs of my visit to the Saami).

At first glance it is a strange place to have a conference as it is rather off the regular conference spots. But I guess for the University of Umea it is a way to profile itself and dive deeper in the subject of cross-media interactive design.

Last year I received an invitation from Catharina Nora with the invitation. I put it aside as the mail was not very specific and it looked like other invitations which are usually soliciting your participation. But Catharina did not give up and send another message to persuade me to come. The only arguments I had against it were the date and the snow. And as I was available, I had to forget the argument about snow. I send on the information on the conference to people and publicised it on my blog.

And yes here we are with a delegation of four Dutch persons. We met that morning at the airport: Monique de Haas, Eric Voigt, Maykel Hanekamp and I. At Stockholm Airport, we had three hours to kill before flying on to Hemavan. And within half an hour we were busy talking about cross-media, the digital media situation in the Netherlands and the ideas (Monique had to go outside several times to get her nicotine shot).

The conference organisation had booked seats on the plane, but people did not know each other till they were in Hemavan and were welcomed by Catherina. At the first night there was a short introduction to the conference and a presentation, followed by a dinner at the hotel.

All in all there are roughly 40 people present, including people from Umea University. It is a smaller conference audience than one would expect for the subject and I could think of people that should have been there like the Dutch people of the NRC-Next who are working on a cross-media paper project.

The organisation got immediately points for the welcome bag with the proceedings and some goodies and guides. The proceeding (in print) gave an idea of what was to come. And if I had any hesitation, I could see from the proceedings that it was going to be an interesting event, full of serious discussions and fun. Is cross-media a serious subject or should it be crossed out? Debating such an issue is more interesting with 40 people than with a crowd of 200 or even more than 1000 people. The fun would be in the afternoons: a visit to the Saami, the indigenous people of Lapland, skiing, snowboarding, sauna, hot tubs and of course the meals with deer and reindeer.

I will devote a couple of postings to the issues discussed. In a separate posting I will transmit some photographs of the visit to the Saamis.

Conference Program - CMID 07 22 - 25 March 2007 in Hemavan

Time Thursday 22 March
16h00 Welcome to CMID´07
16h30 Charlotte Wiberg, Umeå University, Sweden, about Crossmedia Interaction Design
17h00 Claes Nilsson, AVID, Sweden, "Film, TV and editing. Where are we and where are we going?"
18h30 Presentation material and equipment testing
20h30 Dinner at Hemavan´s Högfjällshotell

Friday 23 March
09h00 Christy Dena, University of Sydney, Australia, *Patterns in Cross-Media Interaction Design: It’s much more than a URL… (Part 1)*
10h00 Kalle Jegers, Umeå University, Sweden, "Usability Evaluation and Cross Media Entertainment"
10h40 Coffee
11h00 Tommy Strandvall and Susanne Sperring, Åbo Akademi University, Media City, Vasa, Finland, "Set-Top Box Interactivity vs. Mobile Phone Interactivity in an Interactive play-along TV game show"
11h45 Lunch
12h45 Free time
16h00 Jarmo Röksä, Midgard Lab, NTNU, Trondheim, Norway, "Trends in computer games design"
16h45 Johan Bornebusch and Mattias Arvola, Södertörn University College, Sweden, "Early explorations of interaction design for nature experience"
17h30 Break
17h45 The National Library of Norway, Mo i Rana, Norway
18h20 Eric Voigt and Maykel Hanekamp, Noordelijke Hogeschool, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands, "The Ins and Outs of the Minor-CrossMedia"
20h30 Dinner at Hemavan´s Wärdshus

Saturday 24 March
09h00 Liam Bannon, University of Limerick, Ireland
10h00 Karin Danielsson, Umeå University, "Cross-Media Learning: Design of an Entertaining Educational Computer Game - a case study"
10h40 Coffee
11h00 Mattias Löw, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
11h40 Tommy Strandvall presents "The Space Trainees" Edutainment format for language training
12h00 Lunch at Stella Polaris in Fjällparken
13h00 Free time
16h00 Mikael Malanin, Helsinki University of Technology, "New paradigms of print - associating print media to the digital media and user generated community products"
16h45 Jak Boumans, Electronic Media Reporting, Almere, The Netherlands, "Cross-media: an operational term for city and regional development policy"
17h30 Break
17h45 Charlotte Wiberg, Umeå University, Sweden
18h20 Heather Desurvire, Behavioristics Inc. CA, USA, "Master of the Game: The Crucial Role of Accessibility in Future Game Design"
20h30 Dinner at Hemavan´s Högfjällshotell

Sunday 25 March
09h00 Mikael Wiberg, Umeå University, Sweden, "Midgets: Exploring the Design Space for Truly Liquid Media"
10h00 Monique de Haas, Dondersteen Media, The Netherlands, "How to get a story across"
10h40 Coffee
11h00 Panel debate
12h30 Conclusion by Charlotte Wiberg
13h00 Lunch a Stella Polaris in Fjällparken

Blog Posting Number 702

Tags: , ,

Friday, March 23, 2007

Flash: Presentations and reports Australian trade mission to The Netherlands

Paul Budde, the organiser of the Australian-Dutch trade mission has put all the presentations online and has written reports on the Dutch situation on Fibre to the Home and one on Digital Media. He also wrote a European travelogue of his exploits before and after his stay in The Netherlands.

Fibre to the Home
Digital Media
European travelogue

Aussies and Kiwis sampling Dutch broadband (10)

The Australian organiser of the trade mission, paul Budde (see photograph; Budde, right, plus the Dutch organiser Fred Kappeteijn, left) looks back at the visit and wrote this comment:

At the conclusion of the Broadband Study and Trade Mission to the Netherlands the participating countries, Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands, resolved to further explore the various applications related to the new media.

Each of these countries already has in place advanced programs that can benefit organisations on both sides. The governments involved have also indicated that their policy focus has shifted from broadband access to broadband applications.

These are some of the outcomes of the four-day Mission, which took place in mid-March 2007, in Amsterdam and its neighboring Almere. Built on reclaimed land, this latter city of 170,000 residents didn’t exist 30 years ago. It is the fastest-growing city in the Netherlands, and, along with Amsterdam, leads the national developments in broadband. Both cities have experience with fibre-to-the-home (FttH) networks and are now in the process of commercial deployment.

While FttH was an important element of the Mission, from the beginning the focus was on digital media.

The official welcome, hosted by the Australian Embassy, took place in ‘De Waag’ a former city gate complex dating back to 1461.

The reception took place in the very room where Rembrandt learned about anatomy. Today, the ‘De Waag Society’ focuses on the new media developments in that 550-year-old building, which is now linked to a 10Gb/s network.

On Monday the Mission was hosted by the City of Amsterdam. Here the delegates discussed the FttH rollout to 400,000 households and businesses. They visited and discussed digital media activities with leading content providers in the Netherlands:

Fabchannel - live online concerts from the avant-garde Paradiso theatre.
AMS-IX - the world largest Internet exchange, servicing 226 carriers and content providers and a daily throughput now reaching peaks of 250Gb/s.
The Culture Factory and the Beamlab - this is a facility where the best software developers can work with other disciplines to develop the latest applications. The 10Gb/s connection to the venue allows for national and international collaboration. Designers can book time and space to work in the Culture Factory.
Media Guild - an ideas incubator that brings together artists, media people, software developers, hardware manufacturers and small and larger businesses.
CineGrid - based on the next generation of High Definition, around the technology known as ‘4’.
Salto - the local broadcaster in Amsterdam, which allows open access for organisations to produce their own radio and/or TV shows - catering for over 150 local community groups
Locative - a company for mobile content developers.
On Tuesday morning the Australian Minister for Communications opened, via video, the Australia-Netherlands Broadband Roundtable in Amsterdam. Dr Beverley Hart, Chief General Manager Strategic Development and Regional DCITA, thanked the Dutch Government for the invitation and introduced the Minister to the conference delegates.

The Minister discussed the many similarities between the two countries such as population size, lifestyle, education, their views on global affairs and also their no-frills straightforward way of doing business. She referred to the historical links, dating back 400 years to when the Duijfken (Little Dove) landed on the coast of Australia, near Weipa.

That event was commemorated in 2006 when a Dutch delegation visited Australia. During their visit the first Broadband Roundtable between the two countries took place in Sydney.

The Minister also highlighted the difference in size between the two countries, and in that context she spoke of the commitment of her government to invest in broadband infrastructure, especially in regional and rural Australia.

For the full content of the Minister's address - Senator Coonan recorded address to the Dutch-Australia Broadband Roundtable.

The delegation was welcomed on behalf of the Dutch Government by Mr Jos Huijgen, Deputy Director ICT and Applications of the Ministry of Economic Affairs. He drew attention to the change in focus of government policies - from access to digital media applications - ensuring that the new services that are being offered via broadband will be available to all citizens. These include healthcare, education and social and cultural services.

Other items that were discussed on that day were:

Driving sustainable business through services and partnerships
Broadband projects in Australia
Fibre in Amsterdam
Telecom regulation in the Netherlands (All-IP networks)
Broadband in Dutch schools
Broadband in New Zealand
Business opportunities in Australia and Asia
Broadband networks and science.
Dutch participants at the conference picked up on the Minister’s introduction in relation to the rollout of broadband infrastructure, and showed interest in participating in the various projects that are being launched in Australia. The possibility that these new projects could benefit from the expertise the Dutch have built up over the last five years was explored, and the opportunities in relation to municipality networks, especially, was a hotly debated issue.

Of course, the conference ran out of time, concluding with a lively, interactive Roundtable at the end of the day.

The plan now is to bring together the cutting-edge new media leaders of Australia and the Netherlands, in a telepresence conference. Cisco has already offered its telepresence centres in Sydney and Amsterdam for that purpose.

The conference was hosted and sponsored by the Dutch Government. Cisco in the Netherlands provided the venue and Cisco Australia sponsored the lunch. The Mission was organised by Kappetijn ICT Strategies and BuddeComm.

Paul Budde

A full report on the Mission is currently being produced.

Blog Posting Number: 701


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Flash: Posting Number 700

Posting Number 700 has been launched. This blog has been posting now daily since May 1, 2005. It has attracted more 15.000 pageviews since June 2006, generated more than 10.000 unique vistors from 105 countries. We like to thank you for visiting this blog.

Aussies and Kiwis sampling Dutch broadband (9)

When you think about Australia and New-Zealand you think about cities and farming, especially with the New Zealand lambs. Talking about broadband, you start wondering how the Aussies and Kiwis tackle such a problem. Are they going to upgrade the fixed line to the farm or are they going to roll-out fibre to the farm (FttF). Of course they also could think of wireless or combinations of fixed line networks and wireless, while WIMAX is still in the wings.

The subject was not treated in one of the presentations, but Mr Jaap van Till, professor at Amsterdam University mentioned that his students were studying the development of a farmers’ network. They have been busy doing inventories. They met great enthusiasm not just with the farmers, but also with entrepreneurs who have remodelled the farm houses to recreation farms or shops and consultancies. The need for broadband is as great as in cities.

However, there are practical problems with laying fibre networks to the farms. The distance from the major backbones will make it costly connections as digging has to be done over a long distance. But one of the suggestions from the farmers is that they start digging the trenches themselves. They have the digging equipment and the experience. Besides in woody areas one of the solutions is to lay fibre through the Trees (FttT).

The project Fibre to the Farm has not been launched officially yet; it is still under study. But the prospects look good.

Blog Posting Number: 700

Tags: ,

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Aussies and Kiwis sampling Dutch broadband (8)

Cisco was the host for the Australian and New Zealand Trade Mission in Amsterdam. And out of courtesy Cisco was put on the program to say something about the company. And I - thought that we were going to hear a lot about the boxes they sell. But the Cisco representative Mr Nicola Villa, director public sector; Internet Solutions Group of Cisco Systems International, had a surprising story.

He started from the broadband end. He distinguished three phase in the development of broadband:
- backbone focus with connectivity problems;
- access focus with upgrades to Fibre to the Home and wireless;
- content services focus with the scaling up of services.
Geographically phase 1 takes place in Catalunya (Spain), Italy and Greece. An exception to this situation in Italy is FastWeb in Milan, which offers access services to 0,5 million users: internet; soccer and sports; video surveillance. In the Netherlands we are moving from the access focus to content services. Stockholm (Sweden) has reached phase 3 and is working on financial sound, social and sustainable content services.

Presently Cisco finds itself in phase 3 and is developing content services and other services in the field of mobility, technology and environment. Cisco wants to use broadband to solve environmental problems. To that end Cisco has associated itself with the Clinton Global Initiative, connecting urban development with environment. One of the initiatives is the carbon to collaboration program. Cisco has set 20 million US dollar apart for 5 years to reduce carbon in the cities of Amsterdam, Seoul and Los Angeles. Cisco aims at reducing 60 percent of the carbon output it produces amongst others with travelling. For this reason it has developed its tele-presence solution, which eyes like you have all the people in the meeting on the same table. At the same time the company will invest 20 million US dollar in collaborative software to make tele-working more effective.

The idea of the program is to reduce energy consumption. Together with the municipality of Amsterdam an attempt will be made to empty six buildings by an integrated policy of nomadic working (working at home or at tele-presence centres, traffic management, using public transport, smart communities and new urban business. In Singapore every car has a RFID used for road charging, but also congestion. In Paris Public transport is using wifi to optimise the use of buses. And there are more green models under development, which move from a centralised to a distributed situation. Problem is often that governance is missing. Once projects in the Clinton Global Initiative are working, they will be copied to other cities.

Blog Posting Number: 699

Tags: broadband, environment, RFID, ,

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Aussies and Kiwis sampling Dutch broadband (7)

Now there are three presentations available about:
- Amsterdam Internet Exchange
- Amsterdam CityNet
- Almere Smart City
The presentations can viewed and downloaded from
Budde.Com.AU website

(c) Elaine Sullivan

As said before education is one of the key areas in broadband development. It was interesting to hear Mr Toine Maes, managing director of KennisNet (Knowledge Net/ ICT at School). It is an ICT support organisation with 160 FTE and a budget of 35 to 40 million euro. The organisation exists since 1997.

He immediately put down a statement: it will take three to five years to marry broadband and education. This was rather a shock. But he made clear that educational models change due to broadband. Of course broadband is fine for the teacher to select resources for the classes. Yet the educational model will change to the learner’s model, where by the pupil goes after learning resources.

Another reason why it will take long before broadband will be accepted in school is the present acceptance of computer in schools. Pupils might play till the moment that they go to school in the morning and start again when they arrive at home again. But at school they will not use these media for a lot of different reasons. So for the pupils and teachers it is difficult to make a total shift.

Primary schools have now roughly 30 to 40 PCs per school. The telecom company KPN provides 75 percent of the 8.500 schools with broadband connections of 2Mbps. There are 750 primary schools using fibre up to 100Mbps.

That broadband has the potential to shake up education is clear. It creates unlimited access to learning. Pupils use already resources YouTube, Delicious, Wikipedia, Flickr and Friendster. Comparable to this the educational broadcast company Teleac has developed Teleblik, a collection of contemporary and historic resources from the archives of the public broadcast companies and Polygoon Journal. It contains thousands of hours, from full programs to custom made fragments of a few minutes. The teachers can use the material to spice their lessons, while pupils can discover subjects. Besides these audio and video resources, a distant expert is needed, who can be called upon when a pupil gets stuck.

It is clear that education is on the move and that the basic position in The Netherlands is not bad. Yet innovation is slow and broadband innovation in education will take up to five years. Yet broadband and education are really closely related. Most challenging will be an innovative cooperation project by which pupils create content by themselves.

Blog Posting Number: 698

Tags: ,