Saturday, June 30, 2007

History of Tien (2)

The Dutch TV station Tien has a history of two years.

- Beginning of May 2004, John de Mol leaves the tv production company Endemol, a subsidiary of the Spanish telecom Telefonica after a row about the appointment of a Spanish governor.

- De Mol starts talking to the owner of the childrens’ channel Nickelodeon about filling the evening hours. On 9 October 2004 the soccer game Macedonia vs Netherlands is broadcasted on Nickelodeon. With the game De Mol drew attention to his new TV station.

- On November 2004 Talpa (Spanish for mole) is awarded a broadcast license by the Commission for the Media.

- In December John de Mol is awarded the summary rights for the premiere soccer league.

- In the first part of 2005 more and more names of starts, supposed to start to work for De Mol, are leaked to the press. His sister Linda de Mol is followed by local Dutch starts. The name Tien (Ten) for the stations is used but has to disappear as the station SBS claims the name rightfully. The name Talpa is used for the time being.

- On August 13, 2005 Talpa broadcasts its first evening filling program.

- In October Talpa announces to aim at is more important target group of 20 till 49 years old and wants a market share of 10 percent.

- From the beginning the viewing statistics were dramatically bad, except for soccer programs, a soap and a local stars series. Especially the early evening programs scored badly and were several moved around. The soccer programs scored okay, but the format was different from the public broadcast, which broadcasted the soccer games in a different format formerly.

- From October 2006 the name Talpa changes into Tien (Ten), after an agreement was reached with SBS Netherlands, which had the rights to the name Tien. Talpa Media Holding, the holding company of De Mol, insists that a second station with arise along station Tien.

- Towards the end of 2006 and the beginning of 2007 station Tien is often in the news, but negatively. The intended torment show The Golden Cage evoked a lot of commotion. It looks like this was a major mistake in the marketing of the station.

- In the second quarter of 2007 rumours have it that station Tien will not be part of the new TV season programming, despite better viewing statistics due to the European Soccer Championships under 21 and Deal or No Deal.

- On June 26 John de Mol announces the end of the Dutch TV station Tien. Programs of the station will be integrated into the programming of RTL Netherlands. This company will start a new station RTL8 next to RTL4, 5 and 7.

Blog Posting Number: 799

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Friday, June 29, 2007

John de Mol kills off his Dutch TV station Tien (1)

It was bound to come: the end of the Dutch TV station Tien, formerly known as Talpa. It had taken some time to negotiate a proper transfer of the assets of the station: programs, stars and rights. Last Tuesday the announcement could finally be made and the owner, the Dutch TV entrepreneur John de Mol, did it himself. For the second time he had to close a TV station.

After two years the TV station has failed to make a lasting impression on the Dutch television market. Most of the programs, stars and the rights to the premiere soccer league will be transferred to RTL Netherlands, a subsidiary of the RTL empire. John de Mol will receive a 26,3 percent of shares in RTL Netherlands in return.

Why did it fail? In an interview with the Dutch daily financial FD, John de Mol speculated that it was an imago problem, partly with himself and partly with the station. He is seen as an arrogant guy in the market (while he is a figure in the background), while the station was star studded. And the Dutch do not like arrogant people and are not easily impressed by stars. There was an imago problem, which is true, but this is not the whole truth. For a starting TV station, it is most important that you are found. And apparently a lot of people could not. Did the public broadcast company easily gather 2 million viewers on a Sunday night for soccer broadcasts, Tien only picked up half. Of course another reason is the hostile politics between public and commercial TV companies, fed by protective legislation and politics (this while the airwaves are no longer a scarcity, but have become a commodity).

But being a shrewd entrepreneur John de Mol negotiated his way out. He was in talks with SBS, but with no result. I suspect that the company was unable to formulate a real offer as the holding company was in the process of being taken over by Premiere. New masters, new policies and this was limbo. But the deal John de Mol made with RTL Netherlands is probably better that continuing his own station. He will be able to transfer the soccer rights; combined with the rights to international soccer games of RTL Netherlands, the station is now the soccer station and the viewing audience will increase to old proportions. Programs like the Golden Cage will be broadcast on RTL channel 4. RTL Netherlands will get star presenters like the sister of John de Mol, Linda de Mol. But RTL Netherlands will make a jump in the viewing statistics and become a real threat to the fragmented public broadcast companies.

Of course some stars will see their contracts suddenly terminated as will back-office staff people. But John the Mol might look a hard-nosed entrepreneur, he is loyal to his stars and staff; in fact he promised the staff who started with him two years ago a full year’s pay, despite his belief that 90 percent of them will have found a job in a few months.

It is the second time that John de Mol has to close a TV station. In 1996 he announced the start of a sports station, named Sport7. The station was to broadcast sports events and should have become a pay-channel. Again it was star studded. And again John de Mol had to close it, even before it really came on stream. The second time around, however, he broadcasted programs for two years. In fact, he did more. He became a real cross-media producer, who, for example, gathered a community around the program The Golden Cage. The program was daily on TV for half an hour, including commercials and 24/7 on internet on the basis of a subscription.

John de Mol now will throw himself into the production company Endemol with the knowledge that he will produce guaranteed programs for RTL Netherlands. And in the meantime he will invest in new ventures.

Blog Posting Number 798

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Dutch ICT sector finds creative industry (at last)

At the iMMovator meeting last Tuesday not only Breednet (Broadnet) was presented but also the CREATE platform, which stands for Creative And Technology Exchange. It is a network project between ICT companies and the digital creative industry. The network consists of the association of IT, Telecom, Office and Internet companies, ICT~Office, with 500 members, which turn over 30 billion euro annually, and of creative networks like Design Connection Eindhoven, iMMovator, MediaGuild and V2_.

The ICT sector in The Netherlands has discovered the creative industry. Two years ago it started to look into membership for ISPs. Following all the attention for the creative industry as a sector of growth and the Creative Challenge Call of the ministry of Economic Affairs and ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the sector is now looking closer at cooperation in the form of the CREATE platform. The purpose of CREATE is to economically generate added value for the creative industry and the ICT sector. The idea behind the CREATE initiative is that the creative industry can make a contribution to the innovative force of the ICT sector, while the ICT sector can function as a leverage for the creative industry in the development of products and services.

The ICT sector has been slow in adapting to the market convergence and certainly to the media convergence. On the other hand the creative industry has problems with marketing and sales as they are usually small companies, working in a fragmented market. Natural business networks are lacking and matching mechanisms are lacking. So, it is not surprising that synergy is under-resourced.

The platform has now set up a number of activities.
1. Network meetings. These meetings are planned in various cities and are hosted by local creative platforms (Amsterdam with MediaGuild; Hilversum with iMMovator; Rotterdam with V2_; Eindhoven with Design Connection Eindhoven/region)
2. The match. ICT companies challenge creative companies to make a pitch for an assignment.
3. Manager traineeships. During these traineeships, managers in the ICT sector will spent time in a creative company and vv.
4. Techno Master classes. During these master classes creatives can upgrade their knowledge about technology and discover new possibilities for their products and services.
5. Best practice cases. Best practice cases concerning cooperation between ICT companies and creatives will be presented.
6. Online environment. The platform starts with a site online, but likes to built out this site to an exchange platform of supply and demand.

The platform looks good. At last the ICT sector takes a serious interest in the creative industry. It has taken some time for ICT companies to take an interest in the smaller creative companies. Usually the ICT companies aimed at corporate for subscription and payment management and later on for running internet sites. But the companies did not move into the creative side of products and services. I personally think that the platform should organize, besides pitches, also an annual competition, showing the Dutch creative products and services and promoting them abroad. But that is my hobby horse, I guess.

Blog Posting Number 797

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Dutch Northern Wing gets broadband infrastructure

Broadband developments succeed each other rapidly in The Netherlands. Yesterday I was present at the presentation and the signing for a new broadband infrastructure for business, Breednet or translated Broadnet. The objective of the project is to offer affordable broadband connections for companies with fiber to the office at 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps. Fourteen municipalities, all located in the Northern Wing (see dar area on the map), will cooperate. The project will sponsored by the ministry of Economic Affairs, which will double the amount of money by the municipalities to 3,5 million euro, and will last 2 years.

The Northern Wing is in the Netherlands the region which clustered around Amsterdam. It has also been called the multimedia corridor. In the crossmedia study last year, it became clear that the Northern wing was a fast growing area in the field of creativity. So a project of digital market places was set up, but with Broadnet the focus has been re-directed. The basic idea is now to connect all existing local broadband networks with each other. So the Hilversum Glass fiber network will be connected with the Almere broadband network. So instead of routing data through internet connections participants in one local network can directly connect to participants in another local network. The basic idea is that new services will originate.

Target group of Broadnet are companies and institutes. In the Northern Wing there are 35.000 ICT and creative companies and institutes, which employ 178.000 people. The first groups are ICT companies and creative companies and institutes. Eventually there will be cross-overs from ICT to health care, education and trading. Basic effect will be the scaling up of the broadband network; a larger area for service companies and flexible and superior B2B traffic. Just think about the movie distribution company which forwards weekly 3 terabyte in movie content and now travels from a town without a glass fiber network with a load of 50 hard disks to Amsterdam Telecity to store the latest offer from Hollywood.

The project is a private public cooperation (in Dutch the acronym PPS is used). The private sector takes care of investing in the last mile; the public sector will bring together the demand and supervise the projects. The public and private sector together will offer services and communication/promotion of the project to companies and institutes.

Broadnet is seen as leverage for business. Companies and institutes – in first instance ICT and creative companies and institutes – can work faster and more securely. The project will also generate new business models and new services. Broadnet will offer new and powerful combinations of services. Some of these new services have already been demonstrated on local networks such as Fabchannel on the Amsterdam CityNet and the Institute for Image and Sound on the Mediagateway, but also tele-consultation in health care and camera surveillance in Utrecht.

Of course the last question is always what a connection will cost. Statements are always made about a reasonable price. In this case companies will pay 250 euro for a 100Mbps sync connection. Of course faster speeds such as 1Gbps will have another price tag. It is clear that the Broadnet project will have an effect of speeding up the uptake of broadband in the Northern Wing, to start with the ICT sector and the creative industry.

Blog Posting Number: 796

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Flash: Talpa TV terminates broadcasts

Talpa TV or Ten TV, the telvison station of John de Mol will end its broadcasts in The Netherlands. After an operation of two years the station has negotiated a deal with RTL The Netherlands. About 100 staff will be layed off with very favourable conditions. RTL The Netherlands offers in return 26,4 percent of shares. Sports programs like soccer will be transfered. Some entertainment programs will be sold to other stations.

Later this week I will present a history of Talpa TV or Ten TV.

Anne Frank's Diary published 60 years ago

Today it is 60 years ago the Diary of Anne Frank was published for the first time, containing the story of a Jewish girl in hiding. The diary has been translated at least 65 times, amongst others in Chinese and the Cambodian language Khmer; the latest translation is in Dari, an Afghan language. The book has become the most translated book from Dutch origin.

The cause of Anne Frank is still of interest to many people. Visitors to Amsterdam stand in line to visit the house that served as a hiding place. In Spain a musical is being prepared which will open in the theatre Calderon in the Spanish capital Madrid. In Paris a garden in memory of Anne Frank was opened in the Jewish neighbourhood Marais. And in Poland they have their own Anne Frank, in the person of fourteen year old Rutka Laskier, who wrote a diary in the ghetto in Bezdin before she was sent to Auschwitz. Recently more than 12 metres of archive was added to the existing archives in the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, when Buddy Elias, a nephew of Anne Frank, handed over letters, documents and photographs of the family Frank.

The diary of Anne Frank has been the subject of movies and musicals. But it has also been a subject for digital media as CD-ROM and internet; there is even a blog these days. In both media, the Anne Frank House is the centre piece. It is the house on the Prinsengracht in Amsterdam, where Anne Frank wrote her now world-famous diary Het Achterhuis (The Annex) during the Second World War.

For the CD-ROM, the Anne Frank House was specially arranged to correspond to the way it was during Anne's period in hiding. This CD-ROM, designed for adults and young people, gives - in clear language and using unique images and film material - a complete picture of everything involving Anne Frank, her family, the House, the Second World War, and hiding from the occupying forces.

You visit the front and rear parts of the House (known in Dutch as the voorhuis and Achterhuis), and go back in time to the Second World War. For the CD-ROM, the Anne Frank House was specially laid out as it had been during the time that Anne was in hiding. It seems as if you yourself are actually in the House and, by moving the mouse, you can view all around and also move through the building. You are at the centre of a sphere and can turn 360 degrees and look upwards and downwards as well. Doors open for you and you can zoom in on all kinds of objects that you encounter. You can request supplementary information on these items. You get acquainted with the people involved in the story: Anne, her father Otto, her mother Edith, her sister Margot, and also the other people in hiding and the helpers such as Miep Gies and others. The CD-ROM tells the story of their lives during the war, and contains unique images and information: including eye-witness reports and pictures from the Frank family album. You will learn history in a unique and personal manner. What actually happened in the Second World War? What do anti-semitism and persecution mean? Why did people have to go into hiding? What are concentration camps? The facts are narrated by means of multimedia techniques involving slide shows, photographs, video fragments and spoken language. The story is told in a way that appeals to both adults and young people.

The CD-ROM contains unique photographs from the Frank family album, including more than 1000 historical photographs and comprising 15 video films including the only moving pictures of Anne Frank. It contains also more than 300 slide shows. In all with a total of almost 4 hours' of spoken text and other audio effects and music; an explanatory list of words and a comprehensive Help function is included.

I got to know the CD-ROM when I was a jury member of the Europrix 2000. The disk made a deep impression on the jury and was selected as the winner in its category and the overall Europrix winner of 2000 of all seven categories.

Blog Posting Number: 795

Monday, June 25, 2007

A trip to Finland coming up

As you have seen, forwarding a blog from an Irish pub in the middle of Brussels works perfectly. Just order a pint of lager or stout and you can start blogging or picking up your e-mail. I felt like an urban nomad sitting in the pub, being looked at as a veteran nerd; which is not true at all for those who know me better.

In Brussels I met my Finnish friend Jarmo Viteli at the European Commission premises. I met him in 1998 for the first time, when we were members of the Grand Jury for the first Europrix in Salzburg. It was fun, but also interesting. Jarmo is involved in the Hypertext Lab of Tampere University. It is one of the first institutes taking content seriously as an academic study topic.

We met later in the same year with our spouses for the big Gala in Vienna. The Gala was impressive. People were dressed up for the occasion. The then EC Commissioner Bangemann was there and the whole Award ceremony was broadcasted; but to whom I can not tell (no one told me later that they had seen Gala). After the Award ceremony there was a lounge for the award winners, the organisers and the jury members to chill down. At a particular moment my partner, Mary, Jarmo’s wife Ariana and the partner of Joachim Jorge were standing together, getting a lot of backlight; since that time I call them the Vestal Virgins. I have no photographs to show the scene. (BTW I also met Jorge Joachim in Brussels).



















Reception of MindTrek delegates and the Dutch delegation at Tampere Town hall in 2005

I talked with Jarmo about the upcoming trip to Finland that my partner Hans Sleurink of Media Update and myself are organising. We did organise a trip before in 2005 to Tampere during the MindTrek conference. With 38 business people and people from educational colleges we travelled to Tampere, had a loaded program of lectures and a visit to one of the Nokia labs. This year we are organising the trip again. This time though, we were early with organising it, but getting the program straightened out is a hell of a job. But we have nice people on the Finnish end, quite prepared to help us out. As Jarmo is also involved in the organisation at the Finnish end it was a great occasion to talk to him; besides it is always good meeting a old friend. I am sure that we will hammer out the last details about the trip together. It was a pity that we did not have time to meet and have a good pint of Lager (Skol, kipis, heulekekoleke; cheers in respectively Swedish, standard Finnish and, although my Finnish is still very rudimentary and the writing is incorrect, I have also toasted in popular Finnish).

Blog Number Posting: 794

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Dutch Open Source consulattion (13)

Further suggestions
In the concluding suggestions and comments the thought prevails Not words, but deeds and the need for a clear framework to build policy around. Some highlights:
- In the government there is not enough insight in what open sources and open standards are. This need improvement if you want to progress, certainly on the practical decision level. Higher maths you can leave to independent experts from science and the social level, but you need to support them.

Government needs to know what she does not know and leave that to experts. Make money available so that people with knowledge of the matter can participate in standardisation bodies (and do not do this yourself as government). ICT policy needs a change. Now the situation marches along the old ICT lines (closed source, not web based, no input from users, specifications on paper which no one can oversee, old purchase rules in which only companies with a big turn-over can compete). The thinking about ICT has to change, says Margot Lagendijk.

- For users of not-open desktop platforms such as Windows, a complete transition in one go might be an organisation handicap, which leads in many cases to unnecessary delays and postponement. Realistic plans, small steps, but moving ahead. Introduction in phases will built up confidence.

One should slowly start superseding Windows as a standard with open source software, so that the transfer to open desktop will be easy, says Kees Lijkendijk, ISC Police Netherlands.

It should not be considered as a technical (and thus a civil servant) issue, but also as a political subject, and thus one for parliamentarians and governors. Pressure on suppliers is very important; a clear choice of the government (as a big client) forces purchases to become open. Without such a clear choice nothing will happen, says Michel Klijmij, member of the municipal board for the Green party in Gouda.

There should be recognition that ICT is more than just an enabler. ICT is an strategic issue for our society, in the economic as well as the social respect. Keeping and maintaining control over ICT is crucial for our future. This is impossible without open technology. Another problem is that by the scant attention and negative signals from the sector about lay-offs, outsourcing, near sourcing and more of that kind there are only a few ICT students This is worrying, says Jo Lahaye, president of Holland Open

More openness and freedom with regard to information and information technology leads to more (digital) sustainability and willhave eventually a positive effect on the economy and the society. To reach that open standards and open source software is needed. It can only be hoped that that direction becomes policy and that we (the policy makers) will have ourselves lead by indolence and the big money, says Frits de Jong.

To use a conclusion which well represents why it is important the fight the fear for cold fee ton the execution level, and which has been able to suppress the motion Vendrik so far:
Only live experience can convince people and can really help to enlarge the camp of ambassadors and experts of free software and open standards, says Mr. C.A.M. Segers of Avans College, Academy for ICT & Media in Breda.

(This is the last installment in the mini-series on the Dutch Open Source consultation).

Blog Posting Number: 793

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Dutch Open Source consultation (12)

Quick gains
Looking at quick gains was the introduction of ODF as standard exchange format for documents between the government and the citizen. This would present a real effect in the short term and would offer future reliability, expandibity , better price and performance as ell as a higher innovation character of open source for the office environment to the government.
Other suggestions for quick gains:
- To offer OS software development environments and stimulate trainings;
- Adaptations for of tender rules so that small open source suppliers can also participate;
- Standardisation of municipal kiosks. Financial administration software should be available over the whole of government departments, by which it is easy for the departments to conform to the conditions of accountants in an easy manner/ Also the transparency would become optimal and certifiable..
- OSS for patient files.

Furher suggestions
In the final considerations the slogan No words but deeds dominate and the need for a clear framework to build policy. Some highlights:
-Within the government there is a great lack of insight in open source software and open standards. This has to change if we want to move to a practical level of decisions. Complex maths you can leave to indepent experts in science and the social field, but they need support from the government;
- The government needs to know what she does not know and leave that to the experts.

Make money available so that people with knowledge can join standardization bodies (and do not do it yourself as government). ICT policy needs to get another approach. Now the old ICT (closed source, not web based, no influence of the users, based on paper specifications which can not be overseen by anyone, old purchase rules, which lead to a comfortable turn-over for old style software companies). The thinking about ICT will have to change, says Margot Lagendijk

For users of non-open desktop platforms, like Windows a complete change over at once would lead to organizational problems, which in some cases will lead to unnecessary delays. Realistic plans and small steps will help the movement further in phases and create confidence.

A slow start to build open software into a standard above Windows is preferred so that the change over to a open desktop will become easy. It should not be seen as a technical story and one of government officials, but as a political question for parliamentary representatives and governors. Pressure on suppliers is most important, a clear choice of the government (as a big client) forces suppliers to become open. Without a clear choice nothing will happen, says Michel Klijmij municipal bord member of Green Left in Gouda.

The recognition that ICT is more than enabler:
ICT is strategically important for our society, economically as well as socially. Directing ICT is crucial for our future. This is impossible without open technology.
Another problem is that due to the low attention and negative signals from the sector regarding lay-offs, outsourcing, near shoring and the like ther are only a few students, which is extremely worrying,
says Jo Lahaye, president of Holland Open

More openness and freedom with regard to information and information technology leads to more digital sustainability and has eventually a positive effect on the economy and society. To reach that open standards and open source software is needed. It can only be hope that open source software and open standards will become policy and that we will let us lead by easiness and big money, says Frits de Jong.

To wrap up with a conclusion which renders properly why it is important to expel the fears existing on the level of execution and which have been able to push away the policy intentions like the motion of the Dutch parliamentary politician Vendrik: Only own experience will convince people and support the ambassadors and experts with regards to free software and open standards, says Mr. C.A.M. Segers of the Avans College, Academy for ICT and Media in Breda.

Blog Posting Number: 792

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Dutch Open Source consultation (11)

Priorities
Policy in the ICT field due to the historical lack of attention for open standards and open source is complex as it has built up chain decencies and the so called lock-in effect. A change needs agreements and a simultaneous approach in several policy areas at the same time, and strategic choices in order to set the process in motion.
The five most mentioned priorities:
- a clear choice of specific open standards and open source, where possible. So that software producers can start working on it. New to develop or to purchase software should conform to open standards. Use of non-standards should be frozen, and no new closed formats should be allowed. Multi-platform should be worked on and enforced;
- The inventory, development and stimulation of factual migration strategies and open-source applications and platforms within the government should be enforced;
- Raise the expertise level in the central and decentral ICT services; presently there is a knowledge lack in the execution level;
- An injection is needed in education to start with the secondary and college levels;
- Cooperation projects between municipalities and other government departments will profit from financial incentives in the form of extra grants, while on the other hand sanctions should be applied if government services do not comply with reasonable requirements as to interoperability and access;

The fact that these matters are intertwined is clear from many reactions and shows that various government departments have their own priorities.

An example:
Education is an absolute priority for the mid term and long term. If that is not tackled OS/OSS will always remain in a set-back position compared to closed commercial solutions. When new software is solicited or existing licenses should be renewed, a transfer should be made to OS/OSS. If there are open standards for a particular purpose, this software enjoys preference. For custom made software the slogan is: standards first, according to Gait Boxman of TIE.

Complexity is no reason to do nothing. My slogan is to pick up easiest things first as this will stimulate a further usage, according to Hans Janssen, alderman Economic Affairs for the political party CDA in Tilburg.

In order to realise a proper approach of the mentioned priorities there are often references to countries abroad, amongst others to Germany and the European IDABC. Several respondents suggest to appoint a separate ministry of ICT or information provision as a coordinator as there is a lack of expertise in the present structures. This is most likely not possible anymore in the present cabinet, but certainly should be an issue for the next government, if still relevant.

Blog Posting Number: 791

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Dutch Open Source consultation (10)

Education (continued)
According to a majority of the respondents ICT education has become mainly learning tricks and skills and is the focus mainly on learning tricks of particular software packages. With disdain the respondents look at the computer driving license (or ECDL) for which there exist no book ‘text processing’, but a book ‘Word’. This will establish an insufficiently solid base for the rest of someone’s career.

The skills learned by the pupils/students during their education should not be limited to the software of one supplier. In no single area a student should not work with the package of one single supplier for mote than 50 percent of his/her time (unless the package is so specific that no other package is fit for the task). The student and the pupil need to have a broad background in various packages, says Olivier Sessink of DTO

Influencing the market from government appointed organisations, which promote actively only commercial closed software through schools via cheap educational licenses. Should be ended or at least open source providers should be given equal government support.

The government should also make funds free to chart the market demand for open source competencies by thorough research. A thorough survey is presently undertaken by bureau OSOSS, but this project is endowed with too little resources and capacity. In this way education would get a clear and loud signal with which it can harmonise its curriculum.

The respondents think that something of the culture of open source should penetrate into the essential trajectory of education, for example by having students and instructors participate in the knowledge creation process around content. The government could perform by stimulating usage by investing money and resources, so that educational institutes could make use of new ways of cooperation and innovation. In ICT education this is stronger.

Instructors should gain knowledge of open source and open standards. There should be instruction material which clarifies what open and closed software and standards are and there should be open instruction material. The open source community does not have the support of a marketing department, which makes the software beautiful and glossy. However this is needed if you want challenge closed source. But start at the basis: education, says Margot Lagendijk.

A last point of attention is that much knowledge disappears in closed electronic educational environments, like the Blackboard. The consequences of this can not be overseen in the long term. A suggestion to create OSS special schools on all educational levels, which get extra money in order to stimulate a fast transfer to OS and OSS; with the obligation to disseminate the knowledge to other education institutes.

Blog Posting Number: 790

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Dutch Open Source consultation (9)

Education
In education the next generations will establish their basis for later ICT skills. Open standards and open source software should belong to the educational package, exactly as these are not products but means of production, of which school, teacher and student have full control. This digital socialization is seen as very important.

The choice for software starts during childhood. Big commercial software manufacturers offer large discounts to schools. When we want to make The Netherlands an OS/OSS apt innovation country, pupils and students will have to be confronted with OS/OSS. This will mean that schools will have to be actively stimulated to fully choose OS/OSS in purchasing, training and available software, says Gait Boxman of TIE.

Respondents prefer without any exemption when the government requires from the publishers, that they should produce platform independent software for schools, using open standards.

It looks to me logical that educational institutes and the government will make platform independence a requirement in the purchase and development of the software, says Matthieu Paapst of the University of Groningen

Requiring platform independent software and the use of open standards are an absolute must in education. Education is delicate when it comes to financial and organizational means and too limited in its possibilities to steer the market. The result is that education, which is the future of The Netherlands, is at the will of the powerful market parties, which will keep the prices strategically low. The results are known: a closed learning environment on the basis of closed standards. This offers too little of a fundamental challenge to adequate ICT knowledge. Due to the use of open standards and software the ICT education market has also been locked up. From the point of view of education and the market that is also unacceptable, says Sanne te Meerman of the Open Source Advisory group.

Blog Posting Number: 789

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Dutch Open Source consultation (8)

Cooperation of governmental departments
The island culture which exist in the field of ICT of governmental departments on the governmental, provincial and municipal level are a bottleneck in using open standards and open source software, the majority of the respondents says; this bottleneck should be turned into a saving grace to enforce cooperation.

Governmental departments like to preach that cooperation is good and especially for others, while in their own organizations all kind of opposition exists. Enforcement should be executed only if proven business and social advantages are to be gained, says Hans Sleurink

Many respondents are of the opinion that drastic enforcement of open standards will already have an important effect. When the proper conditions are set, all parties will benefit from the cooperation and cooperation will be established earlier.

By instituting open standard and indicating a preference for open source software, a situation will be created in which it will be easier and more logical to work together. By using open licenses there are less problems connecting the different systems of the various parties, says Bjorn Wijers of the Open Media foundation.

Reaching common conclusions and conditions – or central framework conclusions as Dr Marco de Vos, director R&D ASTRON calls them – which make open standards and open source software into a necessity, is seen as the best means to cooperate.

Enforcement should be a last means. It is better to start with clear official guidelines, which the governmental services should follow in the framework of the IY development. Cooperation and a search for uniformity should be incorporated as an important subject in these guidelines, says Mr. Cees Segers of Avans College, Academy for ICT & Media in Breda

Furthermore it is suggested that common measures should be taken or a common purchase or development company should be set up. In this way the citizen can be helped by every department in the same way and increase the possibilities and interoperability many times more, against lower costs. Certainly in the longer run, this is seen as an important development.

Blog Posting Number: 788

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Dutch Open Source consultation (7)

Standardisation
According to a majority of the respondents the Dutch government should play an active part in the changing international field of standardisation in order to get a better return on investments on ICT investments in The Netherlands. This is recognition of the fact that the most important ICT standards do not get established within the ISO framework, represented in The Netherlands by NEN, but also within NGOs as OASIS, W3C, OGF and IETF. The official policy of the government should be aiming at defending its interests instead of following the standards once they are decided upon.

Open source as intermediate product
From the consultation it is clear that the government should play a more active part in the development of the open source software relevant for its operations. On the one hand to develop or have developed open source software by its own departments; on the other hand it should contribute to the quality and reliability of open source software used. The choice of open source software is usually not dominated by price motives, but by quality conditions.

In general it is said that in time the government should work with a standard method for purchasing and developing of open source software. In that way the government gets more of a say in its own ICT affairs and promotes it competition without sacrificing stability or quality.

Yes the government should make funds available for developments. It invests too little now in ICT resulting in a waste of money, says Kees Lijkendijk of the ICT-Service Center Police, Justice and Security.

Within strategic planning and ICT management in government organizations it is not often considered that the government is able to steer the developments of open software itself. This is not surprising as the real knowledge about open source is lacking. The open source culture is looked at with suspicion in government circles. Here is a great problem. In other words , open source technorati will certainly not start working for the government, says Drs. Gabriel Hopmans, CEO Morpheus Software

The suggestion to obligatory reserve a percentage of the ICT budget of the government for strategic open source applications (in the words of the Tilburg alderman Hans Janssen a budget incentive) was very welcome. The reasons for this vary from guaranteeing the identity of the government, increasing the return on investments to improved innovation power. Part of the respondents is of the opinion that this can be an effective instrument to structurally increase the national component of the ICT expenses; to build up global top knowledge in The Netherlands; to stimulate the local economy in a transparent way without unexplainable grants and other artificial means. At the same time money can be saved which is now wasted on a badly functioning software market.

Blog Posting Number: 787

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Dutch Open Source consultation (6)

Practical ICT policy of government departments
For the setting up of minimal conditions, a framework, the government can count on the support of a majority of the respondents. This is seen as an important condition for fostering open standards and open source software in the IT policy of the government.
When deciding a preference should be expressed for open source software and for an insistence on open standards, says Björn Wijers of the Open Media foundation.

In decision processes there is not automatically a part to ply for citizens, the majority of respondents states.

Strict limiting conditions on main issues should be transparent. Selection processes should be taken step by step with transparency on main issues and exceptions or deviation should be declared. Of course changes should be made in the purchasing procedures. I do not believe in citizens’ participation as the disciple of computing is too complex for lay people, says Jo Lahore of Holland Open.

The government should institute a policy in which there are conditions to be fulfilled like using open standards for storage and communication. The government should also stimulate a policy of openness and regionalism, says
Duco Dokter of Wyldebeast & Wunderliebe.

Input of the citizens in this phase is not hardly interesting as 90 percent of the citizens can only push buttons and knows software only as their desktop, says Kees Lijkendijk of ISC Police Netherlands.

(My comment: I do not agree with this last remark. It sounds arrogant to me. Since internet many citizens have gained a good knowledge of software. An example of this is the Dutch action group which is protesting the software used in voting machines.)

Blog Posting Number: 786

Tags: OS,

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Dutch Open Source consultation (5)

Decide centrally about desired file formats
The majority of the respondents agree that the government should play a role in the introduction of open standards. A vast majority thinks that the government should set up a list of desirable, less desirable and not desirable file formats, like the Germans have done. At the same time the government should maintain and stimulate the list. A majority also believes that the government should contractually oblige software companies to comply with the desirable software, if they want to be considered for an assignment.

Government software and open source
Asked whether software especially manufactured for Dutch government services should be available without any exception as open software, the answer was positive. Relatively many respondents point to the themes of democratic control and vigilance and plea for openness and transparency. The fact that tax money is being used is for a number of respondents a reason to see this as a moral duty of the government to offer the software as open source.

On the other hand there are also respondents who think that not all software needs to be published as open source. There are situations possible in which closed software could be used. An example is software related to national security or strategic issues.

Not without exceptions. There are situations in which open source software for whatever reason is not the best choice. This is possible as all aspects should be taken into consideration; there should not be a blind choice of open source software. But having said that, every time a decision has to be made open source software should be weighed against a closed format in the light of the objective and the interests of the software, says Alex van der Wolk.

In principle yes; but there are most likely situations in which another choice is more desirable. So it is yes, unless
.

Blog Posting Number: 785

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Dutch Open Source consultation (4)

In the parliamentary motion of Mr Vendrik of 2002, a fixed date for the enforcement of open source software and open standards is put down. That date has passed. In the consultation round the majority of respondents insisted on enforcing a date.

The participants of the consultation round are worried about the execution of the policy on OS and OSS. It is characterized as weak, not strong, insufficient, too soft and not structurally. There are worries about the ministries and their associated IT departments. The Netherlands takes a backwards position with regard to the introduction of OS and OSS in comparison to the surrounding countries. And the respondents are very unhappy as to the execution of the motion Vendrik since 2002. A date should be set in order to enforce OS and OSS, if needed coupled with sanctions. A fixed date is the only way to enforce result.

The lessons we have learned in the years since 2002 are clear. The Dutch government is not able to work with forceful measures. We should look at the Belgian Federal ICT government which has set some priorities like the introduction of ODF, says Wouter Tebbens of SELF.

The time has come that after all the talk actions are taken. Setting a date means that steps will have to be taken instead of offering empty promises. Where it is not possible to introduce open standards, an exception can be made. But this should not be an exception to the rule. Bjorn Wiers of the Open Media foundation.

Which open standards
Asked what the most important open standards are for the government to start with, a majority prefers to start with ODF, the standard for preserving and/or exchanging of text files, calculation sheets, graphs and presentations. No precise reasons re given, but it is a fact that the standard is already in use in the surrounding countries. Also the open mark-up languages like XML and HTML and the not entirely open PDF, standards for digital documents, are favoured. The comments of the respondents on this subject are inspired by the wish to accessibility in communication between government and citizen.

The government should conform itself or state in a clear definition what an open standard is. With this guide line one can establish the present and future standards or whether they are open enough. Listing open standards is a logical follow-up, says Bjorn Wijers – Open Media foundation.

Open standards should be the first ones to be introduced in the communication between government and the citizen. This means that correspondence and information provision should become available for everyone; in this way the citizens are not forced to pay obligatory licenses or other costs, says Alex van der Wolk.

Blog Posting Number: 784

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Dutch Open Source consultation (3)

Yesterday (with a beer and a cottage pie), I posted the summary of the Dutch OS/OSS consultation round. It presents in a helicopter view the reactions which have been sent in for collection in the consultation documents. In the next days I will translate the reactions on several subjects. The first extended reaction is on the policy making of the Dutch government over the past years.

The Open Standards and Open Source Software (OS/OSS) has been a Dutch government policy issue in the past. Not that the government put much effort in it. In November 2002 the Dutch politician Mr Vendrik called upon the government to get serious and support OS/OSS policies. Since that motion, little has happened; the government just executed the policy in a lacklustre way. It is no surprise that there is some government bashing over execution of the OS/OSS policy in the last four years.

Michiel Klijmi, a alderman in Gouda says: It works only with small steps and the government misses grip on its own ITC in order to implement OS/OSS. Execution remains fragmented and small scale, so that big projects remain based on closed standard software.

Robbie Blom of ObesiX is stronger in his reaction: There is not enough support from ministers and IT departments; there is no clear courage to put out directives.

The managing director of R&D Astron, Dr Marco de Vos, says: There is no structural policy and there is not enough understanding with policymakers in order to develop an effective policy of stimulation. Policymakers do not realize enough that steps have to be taken pro-actively towards government services and that it is not enough to speak nice words on a central level.

The setting up of the OSOSS programme by the government is seen as a positive point. The programme has familiarized people with Open Standards and Open Source Software among government services. The influence is modestly felt. Government are getting familiar with OS/OSS and they are more prepared to work with it. says Mr C.A.M. Segers of Avans College.

This project OSOSS has delivered good work with the production of definitions, producing listings of standards. Also information sessions have contributed to the understanding of Open Standards and Open Source Software, says Hans Sleurink, the editor and publishers of the Dutch Open Source Year Book, published by Media Update.

This mixture of rather harsh and mild comments by the participants of the consultation round echoes the complaint that the mandate of OSOSS was too limited and that the programme was seriously handicapped by a low budget and limited manpower.

Blog Posting Number 783

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Dutch Open Source consultation (2)

I received a summary of the Dutch Open Source consultation document today. In the coming weeks I will make summaries of the individual contributions. I received also a general summary which calls upon the government not to drag its tail any longer.

The government has to set a date when the introduction and the use of open standards should be enforced, even in combination with sanctions. That is one of the most important conclusions of the public consultation about the government policy ICT & OS/OSS, organized by the Dutch chapter of the Internet Society (ISOC.nl), the foundation Livre, Media Update and foundation Holland Open. From the consultation round it has become clear that an overwhelming majority (86%) thinks that the government should oblige its contractors to fulfil a list of desirable, less desirable and absolutely undesirable database formats. A majority of 90% thinks that the Dutch government should contribute to the standardization work such as W3C, IETF and OASIS; the government should also play an active part in the development of relevant open source software for its own activities. Government should be reserve a percentage of its ICT budget to track, develop or have developed as well as stimulate open source software.

In education individual closed commercial applications should be stopped and the digital socialisation should be started up seriously. Many respondents think that the present ICT education consists of training people to execute tricks in certain software packages and not in the teaching of real skills.

The most important priority should lie in a clear choice in favour of specific open standards and open source software, where possible, so that software manufacturers can produce the needed software. Software which should be developed or new to install software should make use of open standards. Use of non-standards should be frozen and new closed formats should not be allowed. Besides, a multi-platform should be enforced. When this is not happen, robustness, safety, innovation power and economic interests of The Netherlands will be harmed.

Blog Posting Number: 782

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Dutch Open Source consultation (1)

I am not in The Netherlands, but I wish I was there today. This afternoon a consultation document about Open Source was presented to the Dutch vice-minister of Economic Affairs. It is not the hottest thing on the list of the vice-minister, but he wanted to make time for it as he considers it an important subject.

And he better considers it an important subject as in the past years lip service was paid to the subject, but no real actions came about. So some months ago the idea came up to organise conference around the theme of Open Source. This was not new, but it would have been a great occasion to explore the opportunities in government and democracy. The idea of a conference was not very welcome with civil servants, who had received the task to write a document for parliament telling about the priorities and plans for the future.

This was in fact unbelievable. In an open source environment civil servant do not push citizens to participate in writing a policy document on Open Source and the future of it in The Netherlands and Europe. At that time the idea came up to use internet and start a open consultation and offer this to a cabinet minister. And thus the open consultation round came about. Together with the Dutch ISOC chapter, the foundation Livre and Media Update and foundation Holland Open a press release was sent out.

Of course the initiators were afraid that no one would jump to the opportunity, except for one lonely heart, deploring the negligence of the past cabinets. But to their surprise the anxious expectations were not met. More than 30 documents arrived with surprising proposals and potential policy measures. So the vice-minister of Economic Affairs - and not of Internal Affairs as planned - did accept the document.

So the ball is now in his court. He will have the document of the civil servants, but also a document of concerned and well informed citizens. In principle he has now everything in his hands in order to set out a policy for the coming cabinet period and execute it; for that was what was lacking since the policy document and motions of 2002.

It is too simple to say that Open Source would save the country a lot of money. But is is certain that Open Source would generate a lot of useful software for government, schools and libraries as well as for citizens.

Blog Posting Number: 781

Tgas:

Monday, June 11, 2007

Hello Brussels

Yesterday I left for Brussels in Belgium, the unofficial capital of the European Union. I will be here for two week on assignment for the European Commission.

It is a funny day to travel to Belgium as the county is having elections today. It looks like the present coalition is going to be voted away. Belgium is finished with the purple cabinet of socialists and Christians. In Belgium citizens are still obliged to go and vote. Those not going without a valid excuses risk a fine. This sounds like a package of measures from last century. But with a complex country like Belgium with a federative political and multi-lingual structure, I guess that you need such an obligation.

I named Brussels the unofficial capital of the European Union. Sometimes the French city of Strassbourg would like to claim that position also as it is the alternative seat to Brussels for the European Parliament. It is just an expensive way to keep France happy, but it requires 200 million euro annually for all the politicians and their staff to move back and forth between Brussels and Strassbourg. This money spilling exercise should be abolished.

I will not analyse the European politics about the constitution. In 2005 France and The Netherlands voted against a full European constitution with flag and hymn. It was a clear signal that the European Union is not nor should be a supra-national body. Besides it was a signal to tell that the European expansion was going to fast. The Union went from 15 countries to a union of 25 countries with other countries like Turkey waiting in the wings. It looks like the chiefs have received the signal and have started to draft a new minimalist treaty, which will not upset citizens.

I have taken my PC along and hope to be able to keep up the blog from my hotel room. Not this time. The hotel near the Stockmarket Exchange does not have wifi nor did the receptionist know anything about it. When the word internet fell I was referred to a phone company with phone and internet boxes. The guy behind the counter had never heard of wifi. Happily enough a guy, who just came into shop, understood my problem and told me to go the Irish pub on the corner of the Stock Exchange square, the Belgian version of Wall Street. And indeed the Irish pub O’Reilly has a wireless network. So with a beer close to my computer I will keep up blog.

Blog Posting Number: 780

Tags: Belgium, wifi

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Digital households

The digital households in the Netherlands can be characterised with five types of internet users. That is the result of a long running survey for Sanoma magazines and online services. The survey consists of a quantitative and a qualitative part. In the qualitative section members of households are questioned, while a camera is running.

The five types of internet users are:
- help seekers: these people use internet sparsely, need help from other people; they usually have an older type of computer and use a dial-up connection;
- fun internet users: for these internet users internet is a source of entertainment. They play simple games, download music and sometimes a movie;
- functional users: these people use internet for directory information, e-mailen and internet banking. They do not use internet daily and they turn off the computer after having used it;
- frequent surfers: these users are active on internet, but watch also TV and listen to radio. Frequent surfers use internet functionally, but also for fun. They have an ADSL connection;
- technofans: young men with an affinity to technology. The computer is relatively new and the center of life. The computer is never closed and used for all kind of applications. Technofans speak through internet via comments, polls and reviews. They have no problems with online buying, even from unknown web shops.

The last group consists of active, hard nosed internet users; usually young men. Technofans influence the buying habits as they put product reviews online. Dutch people like to read these reviews before a capital intensive purchase. Some 45 percent of Dutch people have abandoned a planned purchase after reading a negative review.

The segmentation in five groups is of importance for marketing. A site prominently used by functional users should be different from a techno fan site. For functional users perhaps cross-channel communication should be used. The level of internet experience and the way in which internet is used is relevant for the way internet users can be addressed on a website. It will also influence the creative process, choice of medium and title of publication.

Blog Posting Number: 779

Tags: digital households

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Western European 16,5 days a month online

The comScore World Metrix study reveals that on an average day in April 2007, there were 122 million Europeans age 15 or older online, versus 114 million in the U.S. The average European accessed the Internet from either a home or a work computer an average of 16.5 days in the month and spent a total of 24 hours viewing 2,662 Web pages.

The comScore study compares activity across the 16 countries where comScore tracks Internet usage with panel-based measurement and highlights the differences in Internet development by country. This harmonized view of European online visitation reveals the following:
- The Netherlands and Scandinavian countries have the highest percentage of their populations using the Internet, ranging from 68 percent to 83 percent.
- Germany has the largest online population: 32.6 million people age 15 and older.
The U.K. has the most active online population, with the highest average number of daily visitors (21.8 million), the highest usage days per month (21 per user), and the highest average time spent per month per user (34.4 hours).
- European users average 16.5 usage days per month. Countries that have usage days below the European average are Russia (11.4 average usage days), Austria (12.0), Italy (12.9), Ireland (13.0), Portugal (13.4), Norway (14.7), Denmark (14.7), Switzerland (15.1), Belgium (15.5) and Finland (16.4).
- The average Swedish user views 4,019 pages per month and views more pages than any other country – 51 percent above the European average of 2,662 pages per month.

The study also revealed that Google is the most popular property in 13 of the 16 countries, followed by Microsoft in most countries. Yahoo! remains the 3rd most popular property across Europe, despite making the top 3 list in only three countries – Ireland, Italy and Spain.

The comScore study is the bureau’s first survey of Western Europe and Russia. The study limits itself to 16 countries: 15 Western European countries and Russia. It differs on figures from the half year reports of EUROSTAT, the European statistics bureau, which researches 25 European Union countries.

Blog Posting Number: 778

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Historic parliamentary records added

From today onwards the proceedings of the Dutch Parliament from the period 1814 till 1995 will be brought online retrogressively.

Many a country was already able to consult the proceedings of their legislative bodies. The historical records of the proceeding of the House of Representatives and Senate in the US have been available online. In the UK the Hansard has been available online since the early eighties.

I was surprised to find that in The Netherlands we did not have the records of parliamentary online. In fact I thought that they were already online. In the eighties there was the government agency of PARAC. This agency used mainframes with Stairs search language to make the records of the Second Chamber (House of Representatives) accessible; but as Stairs was not easy for lay searchers, you needed an intermediary for the search. A university group of the Parliamentary Documentation Centre started to use videotext in order to disclose parliamentary information of the First Chamber (=Senate).

From September 1995 the parliamentary records were published by the SDU, the then governmental printing house and publisher, in OPmaat, a paid service on Internet. Since that time all the parliamentary records and official publications have been made accessible for the public. Later on the basic parliamentary information became free and the records were accessible through the search system Parlando.

Since 1815 the meetings of the Second Chamber (House of Representtaives) were public. The First Chamber (Senate) meetings were public since 1848. The collection of the proceedings of both chambers is known as the Acts. All the Acts will be digitised over the coming years. From today onwards the Acts of the period 1990-1995 will be available. Successively the period of 1975-1990 will be made available online in 2008, the Acts of the peiod 1950-1975 in 2009 and the Acts of the period 1814-1950 in 2010. The project is a joint-venture the Second Chamber (House of Representatives) and the National Library. The bad state of the printed Acts was the reason for digitisation.

Blog Posting Number: 778

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Publishers ambivalent in Book Search

It has been silent around the book scan project of Google. But now there is the announcement that Google expands its service Book Search. Publishing companies can now add Book Search to their own site, either the entire service or a customization of their own publications. In this way interested readers can search on keywords for a publication, find the bibliographic data, read a few pages and run to the book store or library to get it. And people on the internet can not read or download the complete book online. Publishers should be happy with this marketing tool provided by Google, you would think.

Google started the service in 2004. By now Google has scanned more than a million books. There are books scanned, which are in the public domain and are copyright free; these are usually provided by libraries. Recently the university library of Gent in Belgium signed a cooperation agreement with Google to scan its special collection from the Book Tower; the books in this collection came into the library with the French revolution when convents and abbeys were confiscated, but brought together in valuable and unique collections. There is not really a discussion about these books as they are in the public domain and hardly handed to readers. In this way more people can enjoy and study the books. So far no trouble, certainly not for the publishers.

But Google also scans copyrighted books. Some times this is done with permission of publishers. The publishers see an opportunity for marketing their publications in this way and like to participate. The Dutch academic publisher Brill for example has agreed to scan all it publications, current and out of stock. People can search on terms and Google guarantees that it will never let a reader read the entire book online or have it downloaded. No problem there; in some cases the publishers have even the courtesy to inform authors of their books being scanned and have them decide to have it scanned. In my case the Dutch publisher Boom ask permission for one of my contributions to a book.

But there are also scans of copyrighted books which are made without the permission of the publisher. In this case libraries offer their collection for scanning to Google, not only books in the public domain, but also copyrighted books. And in this case libraries - usually libraries of universities such as Harvard, Stanford and Oxford, but also public libraries like the one of New York - have not asked published for permission to have its books scanned. And that is where the problems start. Google takes the position that it can scan anything in the world, regardless of copyright issues, as it only scans for search terms. Publishers think that Google scans books and keep the entire book in cache, regardless whether it is a collection of search words or key words or the complete text.

This situation brings many publishers into an ambivalent position. On the one hand they give Google permission to scan copyrighted books. On the other hand publishers might find themselves in court with Google fighting over copyright abuse. One of these cases is McGraw-Hill. On the on hand the publisher uses the Google Book Search service on one of its sites, while on the other hand it fights Google in court together with the American Association of Publishers (AAP).

Altogether this project did not win a beauty contest, not for PR nor for principles. Yet it is a nice marketing tool for publishers. On the other hand, there is still an unchartered territory about search engines and copyright, which should be cleared.

Blog Posting Number: 777

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Mobile content is a white lie (2)

Having written Monday’s posting on mobile content it looks almost like a coincidence, that I received a (commercial) message from Paul Budde of the telecom research bureau Budde.Com on mobile marketing. Paul writes:
I find it unbelievable that ten years after my presentation on the dotcom event First Tuesday, the mobile hype still exists. At the event there, where hundreds of dot com people were present, I launched the controversial slogan WAP=CRAP. I still remember the rumouring going around in the audience after my presentation and the passionate discussions afterwards. Now I am pretty certain that m-commerce, m-payment, mobile video and mobile marketing will flourish at a certain time. But this will only happen when industry is ready for this. The basic principles of mobile marketing are so bad, that a fast turn around is impossible.
That does not look very promising for the mobile industry in general. The remarks of Paul Budde reminded me of article by Joachim Jorge from 2003, when he was an assistant professor at Lisbon University. He wrote for the Content Market Monitor an article on UMTS and content. His basic conclusion was: not content will drive 3G, but speech. At 2007 the article is still valid.

Communications, not content drives 3G
Third-generation services, combining data, video, Internet and wireless technologies, were supposed to bring about a brave new era for communications. Instead, rising scepticism about their prospects, governments’ and managers’ greed together with the huge sums paid by operators in the form of 3G licenses, helped bring about the great telecoms crash of 2001.
However, this story may yet find a happy ending. The unexpected killer applications of UMTS may likely be personal communications enhanced by multimedia features of the new generation, not content. Voice was the killer application of first-and second-generation systems, and the emergence of new services based on personal communications is likely to please investors as well as foster effective competition to established local telephone companies.


It can be argued that people do not want entertainment from their cell phones [Odlizko’02]. They want to be connected and engage in social experiences with others. To this extent we should note the success of simple text messaging and the failure of Wireless Access Protocol, which was supposed to be about content. The good news is that UMTS higher bandwidth can provide for higher-quality personal communications and maybe better service, through more reliable connections.

How is this possible in a market that is approaching saturation? In many European countries cell phone penetration has surpassed 80% of the population (such as in Portugal, Italy and Finland in 2002) with a high of 99% in Luxembourg. Even if we count for the substitution market, new subscriber rates will be slower for 3G than they were during the heyday of GSM in Europe. However, penetration rates do not equate intensity of use by subscribers. Operators are focusing on new services as a way of increasing revenue by subscribers, but the fact is, people have not been talking enough on their cell phones.

As a symptom of this we can look at average usage of cell phones per day: this is less than five minutes in the UK versus eight in the USA [Odlyzko’02]. This may be related to more generous pricing plans in the USA, such as the flat fee for 500 minutes introduced by AT&T in 1998. Europe’s declining rates of revenue per costumer suggest that operators should take a better look at volume usage versus unit cost trade-offs.

This is where the author sees an opportunity for 3G mobile communications. Instead of focusing on content, we believe that operators should look at using the greater bandwidth of the 3G network to provide enhanced person-to-person communications. These have proven to be the mainstay of all communication networks ever since the inception of the postal service, several centuries ago and we believe they will continue to provide for the bulk of traffic of next-generation networks.

We believe operators should be looking for ways to change customer usage patterns, to offset lower prices by higher volume of communications. If prices go down by an order of magnitudes, but usage goes up by two orders of magnitude, revenue will increase tenfold.
Operators, who stick to current pricing policies, will be caught in a loose-loose situation, given that average revenue per costumer has been steadily declining in the past few years.
We believe that the turning point for telecommunications operators in UMTS will come about by a combination of three factors: a) Innovative pricing strategies such as volume discounts and block deals. b) enhanced and innovative personal communication services such as multiparty calling and personal video-conferencing (we believe that streaming video would be of sufficient quality for these applications) and c) a focus on communications rather than content.

The biggest gains, will come from more non-business use. In a fascinating book, "America Calling," Claude Fischer showed that the phone industry entered a new high-growth phase in the 1920s when it abandoned the attitude that phones were for important commercial purposes only and instead started encouraging "frivolous" social uses. These served to make telephones an indispensable part of people's lives, and raised usage (and total spending) far beyond the levels envisaged by the industry's pioneers.


Blog Posting Number: 776

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The municipality of Brunssum in the South of The Netherlands (see coloured area in black oval) is one of the last of the cable Mohicans. It will offer its cable network for sale. Presently the network has 13.500 connections. Reason for the sale it the high costs of upgrading for the network.

Brunssum is one of the last municipalities in The Netherlands which still possesses and operates its own cable network. In the past fifteen years almost all municipal networks have been sold to regional operators like UPC, Casema and Kabelcom/aHome/Essent. These companies have been able to invest in triple play (television, telecom and internet). The present network of Brunssum badly needs an upgrade, if it wants to compete with these regional cable operators. The local network can not offer digital television. So the municipality will put it on the market.

This has been the trend for the last fifteen years and in this way regional operators are growing by threading municipalities in particular regions. This is the way UPC, Casema and Essent grew into cable operators with millions of users. The real high time was at the end of the nineties when regional cable operators paid 2250 guilders (roughly 1125 euro) or more for every subscriber. Brunssum expects revenues from the sale of the network for 10 million euro; this would be 740 euro per subscriber. The regional cable operator could earn that sum back easily – so was the reasoning – by offering digital TV, telecom facilities, internet and security services. But these days cable operators have to compete with new glass fibre consortia. So UPC is fighting the Citynet consortium in Amsterdam and in Nuenen UPC lost the majority of its subscribers to Ons Net, the private glass fibre consortium.

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More than 1 million households in The Netherlands have a television subscription combined with an internet subscription. Source: Vecai
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It is interesting to see that many of the fibre glass projects are also initiated by the municipalities. In the past they ran a cable network to avoid forests of antennas. Now they get involved in high speed networks for their own municipal services, education and hospitals; but their involvement is not that of an operator. They take shares in the private companies in order to have a say about the connections to their services and insure that the inhabitants get the best network possible. I guess that once glass fibre networks are common, up and running, that municipalities will sell their shares again to invest in other citizens’ services.

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Talking about internet by cable. I have a UPC subscription to Internet, Chello Classic, a package of 8 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up. That package is no longer sold; they never informed me by letter or e-mail. But what you get back or as compensation is not told on the webpage. On the webpage they guarantee the same optimal service, but lately they have been fiddling with the speed, as you can see from last month’s speed recordings through Speedtest.

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Blog Posting Number: 775

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Mobile content is a white lie

I picked up a press release from the UK Informa company, a publishing and research company in the field of telecom. An Informa Telecoms & Media report (their link!) shows UK mobile content market is on the cusp of becoming multi-billion dollar industry (beautiful word: cusp). However you will not get excited jJust reading the press release and comparing it with a European report of five years ago.

The report concludes that the UK mobile content and services market is on the verge of becoming a multi-billion dollar industry provided the sector can tap into an addressable market approaching 50% of UK mobile users, a report shows this week. In the study, entitled "UK Mobile Content Survey: What Consumers Want almost 2,000 mobile subscribers in the UK participated.

Results from the survey reveal that the UK mobile content market was worth £661 million in 2006, with 50% of revenues coming from the "mobile cash rich" 25-34 year olds. Those revenues look set to skyrocket should the wireless industry generate a more consistent spending behaviour. This conclusion is based on an analysis of the present usage. In the UK one-fifth of the respondents purchase a minimum of one item of content every three months; the report calls this a regular buyer. The survey uncovers a further 30 percent of occasional consumers that will purchase at least one item of content per year. They are called occasional spenders. If the wireless industry can encourage these occasional spenders to regularly consume content, the addressable mobile-content-market spend over a three-month period will expand by 150%

Almost 50 percent of respondents said mobile content prices were too high, but that they were willing to spend 5 GBP as the optimum figure consumers are willing to spend per month on top of their voice and messaging fees. Services and content priced above the 5 GBP monthly threshold will appeal to less than 5 percent of UK mobile users.

The report also indicates that TV on mobiles could cannibalise revenues from other services within the mobile content ecosystem, mobile advertising might subsidise mobile content and inflate the mobile content user base. Besides, side-loading music and ringtones on a mobile from a PC will not help either.

It is clear that mobile Internet has grown from a slow and clumsy monochrome experience into a tool for news, entertainment and other services on the move, in colour, with movies and photographs and graphics. But the mobile industry has been slow to eliminate the financial and technical barriers and will have to come up with smart pricing, incentive technical solutions and innovative partnerships.

Is this report valuable for the UK mobile content industry or the European mobile content industry? It basically tells the mobile content industry and operators that they still have a long way to go to convince consumers and business people to use mobile content services. It tells the operators that they should stop introducing the next fabulous thing such as TV on your mobile and first spend time on introducing teletext like services, followed by internet like services. And think about mobile TV whenever they have solved the technical problems and business propositions.

So far mobile content services have been a white lie. For years the services figured as much promising services. In 2002 the EC published a special report about mobile content. This study was carried out between May 2001 and December 2001. Thirty-three interviews with market players were performed. The results were validated by a Steering Committee of 12 members covering a large part of the mobile content industry. Basic conclusion: News, services and entertainment delivered to our mobile phones could be the next big thing, but only if all the partners in an increasingly complex business can find ways to co-operate. Mobile services will only become popular if the companies responsible for content can make enough money to be able to do their jobs well. But a key problem, says this report prepared by Arthur Andersen Belgium for the European Commission's Information Society DG, is that European mobile network operators are being greedy. Desperate to recoup the huge sums spent on licences and technology for next-generation services such as GPRS and UMTS, they are reluctant to pay realistic rates to the companies whose job it is to provide content such as news, games and transport information. With little high-quality content to attract users, it is not surprising that mobile information services are proving unpopular.

It looks like nothing has changed in the mobile content industry except technology.

Blog Posting Number: 774

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Colour digital paper around the corner

Last week digital paper was in the news again, when the French financial newspaper Les Echos announced two propositions for e-readers for its subscribers. One of the propositions is the iLiad, a black and white e-reader, manufactured by iRex Technologies, a spin-out of Philips. When talking to people a black and white e-reader is seen as a drawback; why is there not yet full colour digital paper. Of course such people forget that it is not just a black and white e-reader, but one with sixteen grey tones. So its not just a four grey tones like for example STAReBOOK. But yes, it would be great to have full colour digital paper.

The development of coloured digital paper has been started long time ago in laboratories. Last year Hitachi and Bridgestone showed an example of digital paper which could render colour for 40 percent of the entire survive. The colour prototype has a diameter of 13 inch, a resolution of 352 times 512 pixels. But it is not just a colour problem to solve, but also a power management problem. During the process of turning a page, the machine consumes energy. When a page has been turned and is definite, .no energy is consumed. This power management leads to a different way of programming.

Last month LG Philips showed full colour digital paper. It was an A4, 0,3 mm thin, thin and showing 4096 colours. Just like the iLiad has 16 grey tones, so this coloured paper has 16 colours per red green and blue channel, making up 4096 colours. This is contrary to a conventional screen , which renders 16,7 million colours with 256 channels in red, green and blue.

It looks like it will take some more years before colour digital paper will be to an acceptable level. And for colour books it will be acceptable. But the digital paper will not be able to render video yet. Uploading of images takes a lot of energy.

Of course colour digital paper is not only interesting for newspapers and books. But digital paper will also be usable for screens of smart mobile telephones as Readius of Polymer Vision, another Philips spin-out, is demonstrating. Other applications have not left the laboratories yet.

20070607: Check an article by Reuters

Blog Posting Number: 773

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Amsterdam glass fibre still not convincing to EC

EC Commissioner Kroes in the EC responsible for market competition still has great doubts about the way the municipality of Amsterdam is investing in the glass fibre project. There is still a question about the way the city of Amsterdam has invested in the glass fibre project linking 400.000 household. Ms Kroes suspects the city of Amsterdam of subsidizing the large-scale broadband project to the detriment of private telecom companies and cable operators. She is also calls the plans over ambitious.

From the beginning of the project there has been opposition to the way the municipality has handled the project. The municipality was already warned by the announcement of an investigation last December. Kroes scrutinises the position whether the municipality of Amsterdam is partaking as a private investor or whether is subsidises the project. If so, she says, it looks like the municipality did not make the investments simultaneously with the private investors nor under the same conditions.

Now it appears that Ms Kroes sent a letters formulating several questions to be answered. The press release about the investigation came as a public announcement and as a not very welcome Christmas present for the Amsterdam municipality. The letter with questions was confidential. Amsterdam claims that it has answered all the questions. Kroes claims that 18 months after her first request and several reminders she finally has the information.

The business plan is also criticised; it is too optimistic, Kroes says. In the first phase 37.000 households will be connected; eventually 400.000 households have to be linked up. The business plan is seen as over-ambitious and optimistic, while the connecting time and the amount of households do not square. The penetration in the minimum scenario is optimistic.
The in-depth investigation stems from complaints filed by telecom company UPC and the association of cable operators VECAI. UPC has been excluded as a partner and investor at an early stage; the company serves the Amsterdam area with analogue and digital television, internet and fixed and mobile telecom. The Amsterdam glass fibre project is not only competition for the cable operator UPC, but also for the incumbent telecom operator KPN; KPN is involved in the project in the meantime.

The VECAI considers the protest of the cable operators as valid, as it is not just one question the municipality of Amsterdam has to answer to the EC, but at least five or six. The municipality has not made public statements about the investigation, but has continued with its activities (connecting the first households and the promotion of the project as was seen during the Australian New Zealand trade mission). The question does not move fast; since the public announcement of an inquiry more than 5 months have passed. This does not bode a positive decision fro Amsterdam.

Blog Posting Number: 772

Tag: glass fibre

Friday, June 01, 2007

Living memory at the cemetery

The funeral industry is catching on with innovations. Recently I attended the funeral of a deceased loved one. I was confronted with an innovation at the funeral parlour, where you could rent an apartment for some days to stay with the deceased; shower, tea and coffee included. But the smartest innovation was the trip with a funeral bus; a special coach in which the coffin is put, around which the children can sit. In this case there was a requiem mass celebrated in a church in the centre of a city. As this place was very hard to reach by car and as it was even harder to park a car in the neighbourhood, a bus was chosen for transport from the funeral parlour to the church and later to the crematorium. The bus followed by another coach with mourners drew quite some attention from the shopping public.

But now funeral industry has entered also the digital era. On internet there were already sites, devoted to the memory of a deceased one, and condolences sites. A Dutch funeral service even set up in Second Life. Now the tomb stone industry has discovered the digital era and has designed a tomb with a screen to keep the memory of a loved one alive on the cemetery. The screen, working on sun energy, shows movies and pictures. A security system, consisting of special batteries or a remote control, can activate the screen system for family and relatives.

The idea comes from Mr Henk Rozema, who got the idea when he made a DVD for his 65th anniversary with scanned photographs. He showed this DVD to his family and friends during the celebration, many people present asked a copy of the DVD "for later". This gave Rozema the idea to combine a screen with a tomb stone. Together with a tomb stone constructor Steenhouwerij Rijtink he realised the tomb stone with screen.

This is private narrowcasting on a cemetery. Although movies can be played in the screen, the developers expect that next of kin will produce a series of photographs, covering the life of the deceased. Movies will be too emotional the developers think. Of course a new series of photographs or movies can be loaded in at any time.

This might be a start of a new branch to the funeral industry with programmers, content producers and (remote) system managers.

Blog Posting Number: 771

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