Monday, March 31, 2008

BPN 1054 Media literacy, media literacies, media wisdom, media versatility

Last Friday afternoon I attended the conference Literacy in the age of new media. The word conference was perhaps too big for a seminar like happening on a Friday afternoon. The conference was organised by the Dutch Council of Humanistic sciences, an academic organisation which is part of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences.

In 2005 the Council had organised a conference on this subject. But this time it aimed at bringing together media scientists, language experts, representatives from education, book industry, the audio-visual sector and new media. The objective of the conference was to find a common instrument of analysis and terms to form a framework for social and educational discussions.

During the afternoon the terminology of new media literacy got in the way of the discussion. In The Netherlands the contradictory term media wisdom has become en vogue. It is a rather elite term striving after literacy and cultural background. Some of the lecturers recognised that there is not something like media literacy, but that there are literacies. And of course the term new media is posing problems. With new media you know that there is something new, but it is difficult to indicate the implications of the newness. Basically the transparency of the old media has gone. I would rather see the use of digital media as opposed to analogue media. IMHO the term digital media versatility does satisfy the need better as the discipline should strive after versatility in thinking and acting with digital media.

William Uricchio from MIT and Utrecht University gave his long view on new media literacies. His research is focussed on the transformation of media technologies in cultural practices, especially the part of (re-)construction of representation, knowledge and audiences. He sketched the development in media literacy from handwriting, through printing and the use of computer and noticed that the manuscripts were produced by writing in a scriptorium by persons. The phase of typesetting and printing was a corporate action undertaken by a publishing house. By using the computer anyone can publish online, which leads to disembodiment. Mew media literacies include according to William Uricchio: new forms of textuality such as hypertext, image words, relationships, the aesthetics of code; new literary genres such as blogs and mini-blogs; transformation of text and spelling as can be seen in texting; paradigma shift in the nature of cultural production.

The conference comes at a time, when the Dutch government is publishing a memorandum and setting up an expertise centre on media wisdom in a few weeks time.

Blog Posting Number: 1054

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

BPN 1053 You write Internet, I write internet

I am a member or better a lurker of the ONLINE-NEWS list, a rather established discussion list for journalists involved in online. And I smiled last week as an American journalist posed the question whether Internet and Web should be written with capitals. Who the hell could care almost 17 years after the introduction of the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee in Geneva (Switzerland). I had an attitude of who could care less, as long as you spell it consistently with a capital or without. But the question generated some 20 e-mails (or emails?).

(c) Jak Boumans, 2003

But it was fascinating to see that the argument of consistent spelling was not just going to make it. After posing the question, the first contributions went into the authoritative arguments of dictionaries – which are not always consistent in itself - and style books like the AP style guide. These reference works date usually some years back and write Internet and Web with a capital so we should follow them. All kind of grammatical arguments were added; Internet and Web are nouns, so they deserve a capital.

In the same line one of the contributors to the debate claimed to have received emails in the last few years from Tim Berners-Lee, Vint Cerf, Linus Torvalds, and other tech community leading lights with neither "web" nor "internet" capitalized. You could wait for it, by return mail the authoritative argument emasculated by the argument: Many techies barely capitalize anything.

But the authoritative argument was not over yet, as a contributor brought in an article in Wired from 2004. The article states in the first line that the editorial staff of Wired News will not capitalise Internet and Web any longer. The arguments given are not terribly academic, but run along the line of no longer capitalising Television (if that was ever done). But the argument in itself indicated that the medium was domesticated after a few years of capitalisation. The noun had become a generic word.

Just an extra argument in support of the lower case was that it saves a keystroke. This is a typical argument from the typesetting age. It was relevant for the linotype typesetters in the age of lead. But as this conscientious and knowledgeable guild of operators has died, who will keep up the standard and philosophy behind a consistent use of capitalisation within the editorial staff; certainly not the spell checkers.

I look back at my habit of (non-)capitalisation and found that I am rather consistent in not capitalising internet or web. To me the first shine has been rubbed off Internet a long time ago. It is no longer a noun, but a generic word. It has been a fascinating discussion with no winners. Only one of the contributors indicated that he will change the style book of the newspaper he is working for. Just as I abolished the term New Media/new media in favour of digital media for reasons of shelf life, I will continue the non-capitalised versions of the words internet and web as Internet and the Web have lost their innocence during the dotcom crash in 2001.

Blog Posting Number 1053

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

BPN 1052 Electrowetting from lab to production in 2008

Liquavista BV, a display manufacturing company based in Eindhoven, the Netherlands has secured 8 mln. euro to start its production of ColorMatch™-based products this year. Displays produced on the principle of electrowetting will move now from the lab into industrial production.

In the past years digital paper has changed displays drastically. The readability and power management have offered new opportunities. Liquavista is producing displays on the principle of electrowetting. The principle of electrowetting works differently from digital paper. In this digital paper display the film contains plastic spheres, which is the ink and according to the charge the symbols and grey scale changes. Electrowetting works on the principle of a film which contains water and oil and changes the symbols and colour scales according to the electronic charge. But the advantage of electrowetting is that the displays have been developed to use conventional LCD substrates. In fact, more than 90% of the manufacturing cycle use standard LCD manufacturing equipment and processes. A proprietary low cost, scalable fill process, performed at the bipane level, and patented by Liquavista, improves further on the standard LCD manufacturing cycle. Electrowetting displays use conventional modularisation, integration and drive techniques.

The major advantage is the colour scales and is video capable. (Digital paper is so far black/white and not capable of video). Besides it Liquavista displays are said to have very low power consumption in static and video modes and is bright in all viewing conditions, preserving colour saturation and contrast. It has unlimited view angles, without colour distortion and is capable of high resolution. The technology is robust (no water will spill on clothing).

The technology is in fact a step further than digital paper. It has a high readability, clear viewing in all lighting conditions, from a dimly lit office environment to the bright light of a sunny day and uses power management. But the colour scales and video capability will enable new displays and applications, ranging from watches, mobile phones and digital cameras to notebook computers as well as MP3 and DVD players and automotive applications.
In fact electrowetting has the potential to change to transform the whole display industry. But the technology is also interesting for the users. It is tailor-made for mobile multimedia devices, where users really care about long battery life and daylight viewability. People will use premium services on mobile devices much more if they are not concerned about running the battery down, so providers of software, services and networks will also win.

As the technology is largely based on standard LCD fabrication processes, the company can follow a very rapid path to achieve volume production. The company is currently installing its first production unit with an LCD partner in China to complement its process development facility in Eindhoven.

Liquavista was founded in 2006 by a team which originates from Philip Research Labs in Eindhoven. The spin-off company is now financially backed by Philips, New Venture Partners, GIMV and Amadeus. Early applications, which enable bright vibrant colours in simple displays, are expected to enter the market in 2008.

Blog Posting Number: 1052

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Friday, March 28, 2008

BPN 1051 Media aan de Maas offcially opened

There was a party in Rotterdam yesterday. The old sailors’ school in Rotterdam was re-purposed for digital media education, named Media on the Maas (river Meuse). In the building three courses into one media cluster are taught: communication and media design, Graphics media technology and Communication Digital Media.

It is a beautiful building, dating back to 1916. Seamen and sailors were educated there. It is a characteristic building with a tall tower, which was intended for observation of the starts, a discipline for former seamen, and a captain's bridge In front façade small terracotta medallions can be found, while the entry reminds people of a rock coast with beacons. By 1990 dilapidation of the building set in and it took a while before a new destination could be found. Media aan de Maas is now in the heart of creative arts and digital media area. The theatre school is in the neighbourhood; the music education centre is next door. And on the old harbour grounds a digital media house has been built. Besides the classes and lectures hall, the building has been adapted for digital media work with spaces for iMacs, a studio for photography and video.

The idea for the renovation of this building was conceived in 2005. By the end of that year I was on a trip to Finland with people from Universities of Applied Science, among which people from the HRO University of Applied Science in Rotterdam. Also the new managing direct and building responsible, Elsemiek Heins (see photograph) was present. We had talks about the building and longer talks about the possible integration of the three courses. And yesterday it was all reality. The building has been in use since September 2007 and the bringing together of the courses has been completed, while the real integration is coming on steam.

The school is also in dialogue with companies in and around Rotterdam. This has led already to an intensive co-operation between the Thieme GrafiMedia Group and Media aan de Maas. Together they are setting up Thieme Medialab, which will provide students with working experience in multidisciplinary projects. In Thieme Medialab research, concept development and realisations of prototypes will be done. One of the first assignments will be the creation of a portal for the buying and sale of modern art.

Spencer Kelly, presenter of the BBC programme Click On was the key-note speaker at the official opening of the Media aan de Maas building at the Pieter de Hoochweg. He basically addressed the students by telling them that they should start thinking 10 years ahead. Referring to the founders of Microsoft, Google, Last.fm and Facebook, he noted that all those people were just out of university and had already made so much money, that they never could consume it during their lifetime. Using trends like music, he showed that in most cases there was a paradigm change involved. So the students should start thinking ahead and look for opportunities to change patterns or business. Spencer hoped that by the time the students had set up their company, lived in a big mansion and had a private jet, they would come to pick him up for a ride.

Blog Posting Number 1051

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

BPN 1050 Dutch self regulation institute on journalism

These are hectic times for Dutch journalism. The islam debate is taken proportions in the media never known in The Netherlands. I wrote already on the Dutch politician holding the media in hostage for more than three months with a movie which has not been shown so far. In the meantime another anti-islam movie has been shown without any effect on the media.

But now an initiative has been launched in the Netherlands of a self instituted institution of self regulation. The people involved point to similar initiatives in the world and claim in a press statement: “In different countries efforts are made to try to raise the media standards. In the US the Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) was set up, using empirical methods to evaluate and study the performance of the press. PEJ, a non-partisan and non-political research organisation, is helping both the journalists who produce the news and the citizens who consume it to develop a better understanding of what the press is delivering. In the UK a Media Standards Trust is trying to have a fundamental debate on journalistic standards. In The Netherlands, the country with the longest tradition of press freedom in the world, an initiative has been launched to come to real self regulation in journalism.

The Foundation Media Ombudsman The Netherlands (MON) is set up by journalists to raise an authoritative voice from inside journalism about adapting standards of ethics and deontology on a national level for traditional and digital media as well. It is the goal of the MON-foundation to speak out about structural issues of ethics in journalism, to open a broadly supported debate about the ruling journalistic standards and the need for adaptation of existing or introduction of new standards for the news media, including the digital ones. The foundation wants to raise more awareness among journalists of their responsible role in a democratic society, hoping this will underline the importance of quality-journalism above infotainment and entertainment.

The MON-foundation does not have the intention to enter into competition with the existing Council for Journalism (RvdJ) or the Netherlands Association of Journalists (NVJ), but it is striving for cooperation and it merely wants to add up to the new need for self regulation of modern journalism. On a broad scale it will introduce scientific research into all relevant structural issues of media-ethics, cooperating with ethical specialists of different Dutch universities. Agreements have been made with the academics dr. Hans Renders (University of Groningen), dr. Jan Renkema (University of Twente), dr. Richard van der Wurff (University of Amsterdam), dr. Huub Evers (Fontys University of Applied Science department of journalism) and dr. Dolf van Harinxma thoe Slooten (University of Twente), who will take part in the research-activities of the MON-foundation.

The research into which the MON-foundation enters will focus on issues like
- the role of media-ombudsmen;
- the need for ethical standards;
- is there a need for a professional code for journalists;
- does the upcoming use of indecent language affect the image of the press;
- the importance of regional journalism for local democracy;
- is civil or citizen journalism a new part of the profession;
- the protection of privacy in the digital age;
- is embedded journalism acceptable;
- manipulation of images in the digital era;
- the notion of free speech etc.

The MON-foundation is a fully independent journalistic organisation. It is non-partisan, non-ideological and non-political. The ruling body of the foundation is the Executive board, merely consisting of professional journalists. Added to it is an Advisory board, presided by (the former politician, party leader for the VVD and minister) Hans Dijkstal, in which the academics mentioned above are meeting with senior journalists, editors in chief and public personalities who are committed to the cause of independent journalism. Within the foundation an ombudsman-office is incorporated, which will speak out, online and in print, on structural issues of media-ethics.

The foundation has acquired membership of the Washington-based Organisation of News Ombudsmen ONO, which assembles media-ombudsmen from around the world. It will seek cooperation with identical organisations abroad like the Swedish national pressombudsman and the American Project for Excellence in Journalism PEJ. It is striving after contact with the European Journalism Observatory EJO in Lugano. Cooperation will come in association with Chris Frost MA, active in media-ethics at the Liverpool JMU university in the UK”.

Blog posting number: 1050

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

BPN 1049 I-mode slowly closing up in Europe

KPN’s German subsidiary E-Plus has announced that it will stop its i-mode service. German i-mode subscribers will be offered a transfer to a flat fee data subscription for surfing and e-mailing for 5 euro a month.

Germany is the second largest market in Europe after the UK. O2 in the UK had already announced last year that it would stop with the service within two years. Also the Dutch subsidiary of KPN stopped its service quietly in the summer of 2007. It is not yet clear what KPN will do with the i-mode service of its Belgian subsidiary Base; but it is most likely that KPN will also terminate this service. KPN is presently withdrawing from participation in content services and putting more stress on ICT activities after the acquisition of the Ditch ICT conglomerate Getronics.

I-mode has been developed by NTT DoCoMo in Japan. It was launched in 1999 and attracted a lot of subscribers in Japan. Technically i-mode was a web service for GSM telephones, using compact HTML protocol for surfing and e-mailing on adapted mobile telephone devices with little memory. Interesting was the attention given to the part of content in this service. As the service needed specially edited pages, NTT DoCoMo organised content services within a walled garden. Anyone could offer his i-mode service outside the walled garden, but would not get the hallmark of the company.

In Europe KPN saw i-mode as the saviour for its company problems and negotiated a exclusive license for Europe, but they returned it and sold it only in Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium. Other European operators took a license: France (Bouygues Télécom), Spain (Telefónica), Italy (Wind), Greece (Cosmote), Israel (Cellcom), Ireland (O2), Bulgaria (Globul) and Russia (MTS). Outside Europe a license was given to Hongkong (3) and Taiwan (Far East Tone), Singapore (StarHub) and Australia (Telstra); but also this operator has announced termination of the service.

So after nine years i-mode is on its way out. The conclusion can bet hat it functioned as a precursor of 3G services. In history you can compare it to videotex as the precursor of internet. This rather rudimentary service lasted 17 years in The Netherlands and disappeared silently; nobody missed it. I-mode was also in a certain way a primitive service, which served as an intermediary service before the arrival of 3G/UMTS services.

Studies have been undertaken to explain the success between i-mode and other services like WAP. While WAP services became crap services i-mode was a success in Japan and not in Europe. The Japanese telecom markets are known to have certain characteristics that are not common in Europe. Among them are e.g. the strong grip of the operator on the whole value chain, the subsidizing of phones and the so-called positive feedback loop in which the success of on part of the value chain helps the other parts to succeed. Kari Jääskeläinen did a nice study and presentation on this topic. As indicated the editorial treatment of content by i-mode was part of the success compared to WAP services. Also the remuneration was an incentive for the information provider and was better than in other mobile services; but the European i-mode operators tampered with this the remuneration scheme for the information provider and lowered the percentage from 90 per cent.

Looking from the perspective of cultural usage of telephone services, it is interesting to see that the service was a big hit in Japan, while it was hardly a hot selling service in Europe. The service was attractive for Asians, but not for Europeans. The question is how much the cultural characteristics of Japan have contributed to the success of I-mode. One such characteristic is that the Japanese language is a language with graphic signs and not with western letters. Besides, the Japanese are known to be eager adapters of new technology. Another issue is that the daily rides by train to work can easily take 1-2 hour per direction thus giving a lot of time for surfing in the mobile Internet.

Blog Posting Number: 1049

Tags: mobile content, i-mode,

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

BPN 1048 Dutch hesitant on eReader

The Dutch are still taking a waiting attitude with regard to eReader, despite the advantage of digital paper. Recently the national quality paper NRC Handelsblad launched its daily ePaper on the iLiad and is now forwarding a daily feed to its 500+ subscribers through wifi. The launch of the daily newspaper created the occasion for the Dutch marketing magazine Adformatie to research the market for newspapers and magazines on digital paper. The bureau MSI-ACI held a survey and the main conclusion was that the majority of the 600 respondents (56 per cent) were hesitant and answered perhaps to the question whether they would shortly read a newspaper or a magazine on an eReader.

Roughly 36 per cent sees this never happen in their lifetime. In the age category of 18-24 the respondents, answering shortly or in a short time was higher than in the other categories, but not substantial. But the interest in an eReader is limited in this category.

Remarkable is the conclusion that with the launch of digital paper readers 81 per cent thinks that printed paper will never disappear. Only 19 per cent thinks that this will happen. The younger age group thinks along the same lines.

The high price for the eReader is a handicap for many people. NRC Handelsblad offers the iLiad with subscription for 699 euro and for subscribers to the printed paper the eReader for 499 euro; for those who have an iLiad the annual subscription is 189 euro, a reduction of almost 40 percent. Due to these prices 42 per cent will most likely not buy the eReader, while 45 per cent will definitely not do so.

Only 2 per cent will most likely buy the eReader; among the younger age category this is 4 per cent. If the Publisher bundles in the subscription to a newspaper or a magazine the 4 per cent will definitely buy the eReader and a subscription for two or three years; 16 per cent will likely do so. But a majority of 53 per cent will not or hardly buy it.

Of the 600 respondents 45 per cent has a subscription to the daily newspaper. In the lower age Group of 18-24 years that is 11 per cent, while in the Group of 55+ years it is 70 per cent. Of all respondents 41 per cent says that they daily read a paid newspaper; among the younger age Group this is zero, while among the seniors of 55+ years this is 68 per cent.

Is this survey relevant and does it reflect the mood of the Dutch people. I am not very convinced. A survey of 600 responedents in the Netherlands on such a techy subject is hardly representative. You need at least 1500 people for that. Yet the launch of the NRC Handelsblad in combination with the iLiad eReader has set off an awareness boost. In the first two weeks there were more than 500 subscribers to the ePaper. And on the site e-book readers a lively showing off (in Dutch) could be seen on the forum. Technology lurkers were now convinced by the A-brand of the newspaper and were surprised. Other techno freaks started to convert the feed for the Mobipocket format on Cybook. And on YouTube a first review was published, be it with Dutch comment.

On the other hand the results are not very promising. In fact they show that the marketing of this product existing of an eReader and a newspaper subscription needs a wider environment and that the offer needs inclusion of a range of books and blogs. Of course this requires a commitment of eReader manufacturers, publishers and system integrators.

BTW Electronic newspaper designers can now also study the design of NRC Handelsblad, by downloading the edition of March 6, 2008. AS far as I can see the design is smarter than the design of the newspaper De Tijd during its experiment in 2006 and also smarter than the vertical tickertape design of les Echos.

Blog Posting Number: 1048

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Monday, March 24, 2008

BPN 1047 A Dutch ICT pioneer, management guru and environmental hero died

Last week on Friday Eckart Wintzen died at the age of 68 years. He was a local Dutch ICT pioneer, management guru and environmental hero. I had the pleasure to meet him in the eighties.

Eckhart Wintzen was an ICT pioneer, who worked for Philips Computer Industry (PCI) and the European Space Agency (ESA). But he was and entrepreneur with a vision and 1976 he started up BSO, a bureau for computer development. But it was not just another computer company. His management style was remarkable. The company was not divided in a holding, divisions, subsidiaries and departments, but he promoted the principle of cell division. A company with 50 people was his ideal size for an independent company. As soon as the company grew beyond 50 employees, it would split into two companies. Creativity and independent thinking were hallmarks.

In 1990 BSO merged with the IT division of Philips into BSO/Origin. In 1996 the division Communication and Processing was added; the name changed to Origin. In 2001 Origin merged with the French company ATOS.

With the capital gained Eckart Wintzen started to keep himself busy with societal duties and projects. He was a frequent speaker, who could inspire the audience with his unconventional views. He was involved in the Dutch political circuit. But he started also social companies as the Benelux branch of the icemakers Ben & Jerry, He was partner in Greenwheels, a company for shared use of cars and in Advanced Immuni, an AIDS research company. In the ICT field his company Exo’vision produced the Jaguar amongst the real-time video phones.

I met him in the eighties at the BSO head office in Utrecht. I had come into contact with Toon Witkam, who was the head of one of his research projects. This project was concerned with producing a translation machine. At that time, there was only the machines translation software Systran; which did have the quality needed to serve as a rough translation for the corps of EU translators. Toon Witkam and his team designed the DLT (Distributed Language Translation) project. This project is aimed at a new, multilingual MT system in the 1990s, which uses Esperanto as an internal interlingua. We talked about the project and about an EC grant for the project. However, the system eventually never left the drawing table and was closed by 1991, leaving a trail of scientific publications and software modules. Toon Witkam became a professor at the Technical University in Delft.

Eckart Wintzen began as an ICT pioneer and a social entrepreneur. He was one of the strongest advocates for a countrywide glass fibre project, which in his views would reduce the Dutch disease of traffic jams. In that view also his real time video phone fitted. In the end he became a real green ICT pioneer with the Greenwheels project, a n urban car share project with a full automated reservation and administration system.

The Netherlands looses a flamboyant, creative and inspiring personality.

Blog Posting Number: 1047

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Green at Xmas and white at Easter




















Happy Easter, Happy Holifestival and Happy New Year to Sephar in Iran from Almere, Flevoland (tyhe Netherlands)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

BPN 1046 Dutch numeric domains partly in rebound

The Dutch domain organisation SIDN has reclaimed a large number of numeric domains from two companies. The numeric domains had been hijacked by using excessive computer power during the landrush at the end of February. The foundation SIDN got a lot of criticism from the ISP Association and from politician. There was even a call for removal of the managing director, who claimed that every thing had gone according to the rule book. The ISP Association held a survey among its members; 97 per cent of the responding ISPs though that the procedure was unfair and two third thought that the procedure should be redone. In the meantime SIDN started its own survey and has now reported on the results.

The SIDN examination contains the most important data and results of the analyses and survey, held among the participants of the landrush. The method for the landrush was chosen on the basis of a unanimous recommendation by participants of the Domain debate 2006. Previous to the landrush the interests of holders of existing numeric brands were guaranteed during a sunrise procedure. During the landrush in total 14.409 unique numeric domains were registered by 298 ISPs. The amount represents less than 0,5 per cent of the present .nl domains. However two ISPs did acquire major parts of numeric domains by using excessive computer power. One of the parties, MijnAlbum, had spent no less than 35.000 euro in computer capacity to capture 2.579 numeric domains.

SIDN has now made an agreement with the two parties to return a substantial part of the numeric numbers, acquired by the companies. 4060 domains, selected by SIDN, have been returned without the possibility of cherry picking. They will be re-issued among the participants of the landrush.

SIDN hopes to have solved this question to the satisfaction of the participating ISPs. It has drawn the conclusion that it will have to dictate more regulating and limiting measures against ISPs, acting as brokers, and will have to monitor the process more intensively with the possibility to interfere in the process.

SIDN indirectly admits that the procedure was wrong and has made amends by correcting the procedure. The remark of the managing director that the procedure had gone to the rule book, indicates that SIDN had not foreseen any hijacking. Yet the foundation hides behind the unanimous recommendation of the method by participants of the Domain Debate 2006.

From the SIDN report (which is only in Dutch) some funny facts appear. The most requested numeric domain was 007.nl; the domain was eventually awarded to FunBit in Leiden. Also 00.nl, 777.nl and 06.nl were sought after domains.

Blog Posting Number: 1046

Tags: domains, numeric domains, ,

Saturday, March 22, 2008

BPN 1045 Buying casual games

In the past week, I have been in contact with Juhani Polkko, XIHA's Chief Strategy Officer, from Finland. He sent me a press release on XIHA Games a digital games store which offers a selection of over a 1000 casual game titles. XIHA Games is part of the international and multilingual XIHA Life. The service is developed and operated by XIHA Ltd, a Helsinki, Finland, based start-up company. XIHA Life currently supports over 20 languages, and receives most of its traffic from China, U.S., Brazil, France and Spain.Casual games differ in many ways from other, so called 'hardcore' games, which usually require a high-end game console or a PC. But casual games are suitable for the whole family, and they are fun and easy to play. The games work on almost all standard PC and Mac computers.

XIHA Games store is powered by its user community - 1.2 million people visited the site during the 6-month beta testing period. Users are encouraged to write game reviews and recommend the games they enjoy playing on their personal profile pages. The site is based on the completely open, so called "social media" approach.

XIHA Games Top-10 selling titles for February 2008 were:
1. Jojo's Fashion Show
2. Sally's Salon
3. Paradise Pet Salon
4. Turbo Pizza
5. Jane's Hotel
6. Mystery Case Files: Madame Fate
7. Baby Luv
8. Cake Mania 2
9. Wedding Dash
10. Cradle of Rome

What caught my attention was the business approach. The games can be played for free, but the games can also be bought. The social approach helps marketing the games by means of peer reviews to game buyers. For third party game publishers, this minimizes the cost of advertising, as the games get promoted by fans to a global audience speaking over 20 different languages.

Another part of the business approach is to ease the buying process in the Single European Payment Area (SEPA), which consists of 31 countries. Within this area bank transfers have become faster and cheaper, and by 2011, they work just like domestic payments. XIHA Games offers free downloads on all its titles without mandatory registration. Games can be bought after the trial period by sending an order and paying the email invoice for example through electronic bill payment.

A comparison with the US market, makes clear that the European market can be very interesting. According to the US-based Casual Games Association, last year 74 per cent of the casual game buyers were female and 72 per cent were over 35 years old, whereas a typical hardcore gamer is 15-35 year old male.

A single payment method will perhaps give the European market an advantage on the US market, which depends on credit cards. Now the SEPA is still working with paper bank transfers, which take days to be handled. Yet you want instant gratification. But it looks like we have to wait till 2010 to get the electronic transfers working among the 31 countries. With this electronic transfer the casual games can be paid instantly. In the Netherlands we have now the iDeal payment system, absolutely ideal. It is an interface to your electronic bank account and completes the transaction instantly. If I order for example a book, the money transfer is handled instantly, complete with transaction number.

I wish the readers a Happy Easter. It looks like it will be a gaming Easter, as tther will be snow in The Netherlands. Would you believe: a green Xmas and a white Easter!

Blog posting number: 1045

Tags: casual games, payment,

Friday, March 21, 2008

BPN 1044 Sorry!

This posting is not an apology for whatever I have written so far. However it is going to be an explanation for the 300+ movie postings on YouTube bearing a backdrop saying Sorry.



The public debate in The Netherlands is being held hostage now for more than three months by a politician who has produced or still is producing a movie critical of the Islam. Newspapers and news broadcast keep referring to it in the frameworks of the debate on the integration of people from abroad and of terrorism.

The politician is Gert Wilders. He used to belong to the right wing of the Dutch liberal party (VVD). But his extreme opinions were even too much for his party colleagues; so they kicked him out of the party. But convinced of his opinions, he started a new political party PVV (Party for Freedom) and claimed 9 seats in the Second Chamber of the House of Parliament in the first election after the separation with the VVD. One of his hobby horses is the Islam. And now he claims to have produced or is still producing a movie critical of the Islam, called Fitna, in Arabic a word to describe "disagreement and division among people", or a "test of faith in times of trial" (Wikipedia).


In the Netherlands politicians have started a trend so far in using a movie for political comment. In 2004 a 10 minute movie, named Submission, was shown on Dutch television. The theme was on “Muslim women who have been abused in various ways. The film contains monologues of these women and dramatically highlights three verses of the Quran,(4:34 2:222 and 24:2) that authorize mistreatment of women”(Wikipedia). The movie was written by Ayaan Hirsi Ali (now a former Member of Parliament for the Dutch VVD). The movie was produced by Theo van Gogh, who was murdered later on in the year.

In the three months fear has been building up for an outburst of rage by certain Muslim groups. The Dutch government fears attacks, terrorist bombings and damage to its export. The Dutch premier has sought comfort and assistance from European counterparts, while the terrorism indicator has been raised. Protests abroad, amongst others in Afghanistan, have been broadcasted, but are (rightly) not taken seriously by the Dutch as they believe in the principle of freedom of speech with a proper judicial check afterwards, if needed.

Despite all excessive attention from the media, the politician has a problem in finding his audience to show his movie Fitna, whenever it is finished. Public television stations have been offered the showing of the movie, but have declined the offer, as it was conditional. Also a first showing in the press room of the Parliament was negotiated, but not agreed as the politician, who is being protected by the government, would have to pay the extra guards. Now the movie is said to have its first showing on internet, but there are technical problems with the forecasted amount of viewers and the potential attacks and hacks. The movie has been loaded with an ISP in the USA, who has become scared now.

In order to escape the hold of the movie that still not is, a campaign of desinformation has been started up by the social media company Mediamatic. The company has proposed to produce home-grown movies and put them on YouTube. Whenever the real Fitna will be published on YouTube it will be hard to find the movie by using disinformation tactics. The call for movies, saying Sorry, is also to make clear to the world that this is an opinion of one politician and his party in The Netherlands, but not of the rest of the Dutch population.

Blog Posting Number: 1044

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

BPN 1043 The 2008 eContentPlus call is out

Today I received from my good friend from Italy Marco Bergometti a message telling me that the call for proposals of the eContentPlus Programme has been published. The deadline for the submission of proposals is the 12th June 2008. A pre-proposal service has been started; this service can be used to test a project idea with the Commission.

The total budget earmarked for co-financing indirect actions is EUR 42,5 million. Participation in the eContentPlus Programme is open to legal entities established in the EU Member States plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway. Croatia, Turkey and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia can take part in a proposal, but will only receive funding if a bilateral agreement with the relevant country has been concluded to this effect.

The call covers three areas: geographic information, educational content and digital libraries. The grants will go to best practice networks and targeted projects and a thematic network for co-ordinating and supporting the European Digital Library

Some information days are planned:
Roma: 8th April
Copenhagen: 10th April
Warsaw: 18th April
Prague: 21st April
Malta: not settled yet

eContentPlus is a multi-annual Community programme to make digital content in Europe more accessible, usable and exploitable. The 4-year programme (2005–08), has a budget of € 149 million to tackle organisational barriers and promote take up of leading-edge technical solutions to improve accessibility and usability of digital material in a multilingual environment.

The Programme addresses specific market areas where development has been slow: geographic content (as a key constituent of public sector content), educational content, cultural, scientific and scholarly content. The Programme also supports EU-wide co-ordination of collections in libraries, museums and archives and the preservation of digital collections so as to ensure availability of cultural, scholarly and scientific assets for future use.

The programme aims at facilitating access to digital content, its use and exploitation, enhancing quality of content with well-defined metadata, and reinforcing cooperation between digital content stakeholders. It will tackle multi-lingual and multi-cultural barriers.

There is more information on this eContentPlus call.

Blog Posting Number: 1043

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

BPN 1042 1-in-5 Dutch internet users mobile online

According to the Dutch central statistics bureau (CBS), more than 2 million Dutch internet users went online with mobile devices, such as laptop or a smart phone, in 2007. That is almost 20 per cent of all the Dutch internet users. Especially male users and highly educated young professionals are mobile online. The internet connection is mostly made by 13 per cent of the internet users with a laptop, equipped with a mobile modem; 8 per cent use a smart phone and only 3 percent is using a palmtop.

Of the men going online 24 per cent accesses internet by mobile connection. Of women only 14 percent linked to internet by mobile. Men use mobile online more often than women, 12 per cent against 4 per cent. But more than 30 per cent of the highly educated professionals, younger than 45 years, use mobile equipment online over against 7 percent of older and low trained people. Of course this pattern in mobile online is also common to fixed line internet.

Mobile internet will be much helped by mobile broadband. Market research bureau Forrester published recently a report with a forecast: 2007 saw mobile operators upgrading their 3G networks to 3.5G. At the same time, mobile operators started to introduce flat-rate mobile Internet access on a wider scale. To see if consumers will sign up for these services, we updated our Western European mobile user forecast. To do this, we interviewed mobile operators and vendors about the state of the market and analyzed consumer data. 3G will take the lead over GSM-only and GPRS phones in 2010. By the end of 2013, one-quarter of mobile phone users will have 3.5G-capable device. By that time, we expect 38% of mobile subscribers to use mobile Internet services at least once per month.

But Forrester also noted that the growing popularity of mobile internet is deopendent on mobile broadband. It forecasts that in 2010 more smart phone with a UMTS- (3G) or HSDPA (3,5G) connection will be sold over the slower GPRS ones. Of course also attractive subscription for mobile internet will be helpful. The mobile companies should take care of lumpsum subscriptions, more relevant services and a better user experience.
According to the Forrester researchers, Austria, Italy, UK and the Scandinavian countries are the precursors. It is expected that in 2010 more than 60 percent of the internet users in those countries have access to a fast mobile broadband connection. In Japan, The Register noted that from 2012 onwards only 3G connections will be offered by the telco NTT Docomo. From January this year the telcos have stopped to sell devices using a slower access speed.

Blog Posting Number: 1042

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

BPN 1041 EC: DVB-H standard for mobile television

The European Commission decided to add the Digital Video Broadcasting Handheld standard (DVB-H) to the EU List of Standards, which serves as a basis for encouraging the harmonised provision of telecommunications across the EU. The addition of DVB-H which has been developed by European industry, partly with the support of EU research funds is a new step towards establishing a Single Market for Mobile TV in Europe that will enable all EU citizens to watch TV on the move. Mobile TV could reach a market of up to € 20 billion by 2011, reaching some 500 million customers worldwide.

An EU-wide adoption of DVB-H will provide operators/industry with the necessary market scale to launch mass Mobile TV services across the EU. A European common standard will also benefit consumers, who will be able to watch TV on their own phones or mobile devices at any time, anywhere across Europe. After publication of the Commission decision in the EU List of Standards in the EU's Official Journal, Member States will be required to encourage the use of DVB-H. This clear support to the DVB family of standards is also an important signal given to third countries about to take a decision on the technology for digital and mobile broadcasting, using DVB-T, DVB-H and DVB-SH.

DVB-H is currently the most widely used standard for Mobile TV in the EU. DVB-H is currently between trials and commercial launch in 16 countries. Commercial DVB-H services are already available in Italy, with further launches expected later this year notably in Finland, Austria, France, Switzerland and Spain.

A transparent intellectual property rights regime, based on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms and allowing low price of devices, is key to the success of Mobile TV. The Commission will therefore continue to closely monitor progress made towards the constitution of the DVB-H patent pool.

Efficient procedures for authorising Mobile TV operators are essential for the fast take-up of the service. In February 2008, the Commission discussed best practice for Mobile TV authorisation with industry and Member States, asking for contributions on the issue from all stakeholders. Guidelines on best practice are currently under preparation to help Member States to deploy Mobile TV without delay. Light-touch regulation and clear licensing regimes will give industry the legal certainty they need to launch their Mobile TV services without undue impediments.

The Commission considers 2008 to be a crucial year for Mobile TV take-up in the EU due to important sports events, such as the European Football Championship and the Summer Olympic Games, which will provide a unique opportunity for raising consumers' awareness and for the adoption of new services.

DVB-H is the only standard used worldwide; it is now being tested or commercially available in 16 European countries. IN The Netherlands KPN is using the DVB-H standard to deliver a mobile tv service. But other local standards are used in South-Korea, Japan , China and the USA (Qualcomm). But in Europe not all countries are happy with the DVB-H standard. Countries like The Netherlands, Germany and UK think that the market should make the standard and not governments or supra national institutes. Alternatively use is made of UMTS, a technology for which companies ever paid billions of euro in order to acquire a frequency. In the Netherlands for example public broadcast has experimented with operator independent UMTS for livestreams and on demand video of the skating world championships in Nagano (Japan). It is a run up to mobile broadcasts of the Olympic Games.

For more background: IP/07/1118, MEMO/07/298 and IP/07/1815.

Blog Posting Number: 1041

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Monday, March 17, 2008

BPN 1040 Sdu to sell off its educational activities

Another Dutch publisher is getting rid of its educational division. After VNU, Wolters Kluwer and Reed Elsevier sold their educational divisions, Sdu Publishers has indicated that their educational activity is up for sale. Sdu considers these activities no longer as core activities. In 2007 Sdu made a turn over of 5 million euro with these activities.

The educational title list consists of school books for secondary and higher vocational education in the field of ICT and technology; Sdu is market leader in those sections. However Sdu does no longer see those publications as core activity. Financially the activities are small in comparison to the company’s turn-over of 200 million euro in 2007. In terms of focus, the publishing house, the former government’s print office, profiles itself as a home for information professionals, especially in government. With the announcement of the sale, Sdu announced the acquisition of JobsRepublic.nl, an online job database operator for government, semi-government, provinces and municipalities.

Sdu is the latest Dutch publishing house selling its educational activities as non-core activities. VNU sold its educational division Malmberg to a private equity fund, which found a home for the company with the Finnish publisher Sanoma. Wolters Kluwer sold its educational division to Bridgepoint Ltd. Also Reed Elsevier sold off its educational division. These publishing companies have all chosen to be active in a specific field of professional information (VNU, now Nielsen in market data, Wolters Kluwer in legal and health, while Reed Elsevier is active in scientific information). Sdu has now chosen to disband the educational activities and focus on governmental information. Given its present composition of core activities it will mean that the section Business Information with a strong component of ICT will be the next section to be sold off. After the sale of Sdu’s educational activities, only the newspaper conglomerates PCM and NDC/VBK have educational divisions in their publishing mix. So far these conglomerates have not chosen for a specific focus and still have newspapers, books, including educational books and methods, magazines and capital intensive print plants.

In time and space, Sdu is late in abandoning the educational activities in order to grow to a more focussed publishing house. For PCM and NDC.VBK it will also be a question of time given the market size and politics in the Dutch educational market. There are roughly 22 million people who speak, read and write Dutch, mainly in The Netherlands and Belgium. Also politics is now meddling in publishing as the present government team intends to fund books for secondary school from September onwards; book packages will now have to be tendered according to European rules. This will make the marketing and selling of school books unnecessarily complicated; besides it will be difficult for small educational publishers to conquer a market share. It will also complicate the change-over from books to e-learning.

Blog Posting Number: 1040

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

BPN 1039 Zesko largest Dutch digital TV operator

The total number of Dutch TV connections grew by 10,100 to 7.73 million on 31 December 2007, with the digital TV growth only just off-setting the drop in analogue TV connections. The number of digital TV connections grew by 5.4 percent or 169,200 net additions during the quarter to 3.32 million on 31 December 2007, according to the quarterly update about the Dutch television subscribers market, by Telecompaper, an independent Dutch telecom market research bureau..

Both terrestrial and IPTV saw their market share grow on the Dutch digital TV market to 14.5 percent and 5.1 percent respectively, while cable and satellite continued to lose market share. The penetration of digital TV on the Dutch cable networks continued to grow, ending 2007 at 26.3 percent compared with 14.6 percent at the end of 2006.

The Dutch digital TV market's quarterly growth is expected to reach 7 percent during the first two quarters of 2008. The growth will be driven by KPN's continued effort to win as many as Digitenne customers as possible, and a steady increase of analogue cable TV customers changing over to digital TV via their cable network operator. Telecompaper estimates that the Dutch digital TV market will reach the 4 million user-milestone in the beginning of the third quarter of 2008.

On the digital TV market, Zesko became the largest provider by winning 87,000 customers during the fourth quarter, to end 2007 with 834,000 digital TV customers. Satellite TV operator Canal Digitaal lost its position as largest digital TV operator but continued its quarterly growth of around 3 percent to end the year with almost 800,000 customers. UPC saw its the number of digital TV customers grow by 18,900 to 550,300 on 31 December 2007, while KPN reported the highest growth of 20 percent to reach 497,000 subscribers on 31 December 2007.

The battle for the Dutch digital TV market has now four main players: the cable operators Zesko and UPC and IPTV operators KPN and Tele2. Zesko is the holding in which the cable operators Casema and Multikabel have been united.

Blog Posting Number: 1039

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

BPN 1038 Inscape: a creative storytelling package

Just as PowerPoint has enabled anyone to prepare professional-looking presentations, just as MIDI standard has democratised and revolutionised music by empowering home users to create ambitious music, INSCAPE’s vision is to offer creative people means to readily transform their ideas into appealing 2D and 3D interactive stories using a scalable and intuitive authoring environment. INSCAPE is a software suite for authoring, publishing and experiencing interactive multimedia stories and contents. INSCAPE is an EU project.

INSCAPE addresses the growing demand for virtual content in the domains of simulation, training, education, entertainment, animation, cartoons, marketing, cinema, television and live performances. It will allow digital content creators with standard computer skills to create complete interactive stories and simulations.
INSCAPE will generate and develop the knowledge in the emerging domain of Interactive Storytelling by researching, implementing, demonstrating and disseminating a complete suite of innovative concepts, tools and working methods tightly integrated in a homogeneous web-based framework and offering a full chain to people with no particular computer skills, from content acquisition and creation, organising, processing, sharing, and using all the way to publishing, from creators to "viewers".

INSCAPE will also address issues such as the acquisition, the creation, the management and the sharing of interactive stories or their real-time multi-sensorial rendering combined with natural agent behaviours and multimodal interfaces. It will also provide innovative natural interfaces and devices for intuitively creating or living interactive stories within multi-dimensional virtual, augmented and mixed realities.

By addressing this domain, INSCAPE goes beyond "standard" content creation research and technology development projects and will address scientific and industrial simulation, training, education, poetry, art, emotions, cultural and human context and diversity.

The specification of the project will be driven by an analysis of the needs of real world users participating in the project as partners or involved in the INSCAPE Open Community. Through the lifetime of the project, the INSCAPE integrated system are available in successive versions (alpha, beta, final) provided to the end-users, including the Open Community, for purposes of validation on real-cases, demonstration and training.

Consortium - Partners
CS Systèmes d'Information S.A, FR - Coordinator and Technical Provider Immersion, FR - Technical Provider
Digital Video S.R.L, IT - Technical Provider and End-user
Realviz, FR- Technical Provider
Zentrum für Graphische Datenverarbeitung, DE - Research Organisation
Mixed Reality Laboratory, Nottingham University, UK - Research Organisation and End-user
Centre for user-oriented IT Design, Kungliga Tekniska Hoegskolan, SE - Research Organisation
University of Aveiro, PT - Research Organisation
Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz Gmbh, DE - Research Organisation
Alterface, BE - Technology provider and End-user
Ecole Nationale Supérieure d'Ingénieurs de Constructions Aéronautiques, FR - End-user
International Centre for New Media, AT - End-user zVisuel SA, CHE - Technical Provider and an End-user
Culture Lab University of Newcastle, UK - End-user

Blog Post Number 1038

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Flash: NRC sells 500 iLiads

The Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad, part of the PCM Group, has announced that it has sold 500 units of the eReader iLiad in the first week after the launch of NRC Handelsblad ePaper. The publisher had hoped to reach this total one month after the launch.

BPN 1037 PCM re-launches news site En.nl

Eight years ago the Dutch newspaper conglomerate PCM suspended the cross-media internet news site En.nl. Now after eight years it re-launches the site, but now the site is a search for the best Dutch news site.

Around the turn of the century in the aftermath of Web 1.0, PCM was searching for a position in the internet landscape. All its newspaper had an internet extension to print, but the newspaper conglomerate had not made any impression with an internet service. In 2000 a special development group was formed independent of all the newspaper titles, which was going to function as a project group electronic publishing, known as PCM Interactive Group. The objective of the group was to offer the print subscribers electronic services and attract new subscribers. The platform was also intended to offer advertisers an electronic environment for advertising.

In 2001 PIM developed the flagship En.nl, a 24/7 news service, which was to be the PCM quality site on internet. The service offered news on internet and later also on mobile. En.nl had an editorial staff. The service became popular and generated many page views; in fact it was the fastest way to see the latest round up of news in convenient bullets. However the service did not have a long life. After four months, the service En.nl and in fact the whole PIM department were abandoned, as it did not bring in money. The then CEO Theo Bouwman spoke the famous last word that internet was no more than a television text service (Teletex) and did not warrant a separate company effort.

Mobile message of En.nl on 9/11.

Eight years later the title En.nl has been retrieved from the brand archive and is used for an experimental service. En.nl looks like the former service at first glance. But the new En.nl service is a straight forward newswire feed, in which the readership can participate. It should become a place where people can formulate their ideas about news, news related technology and design and can participate in creating a news site. En.nl should become the online service where you can create, customize, and share your own social network for free in seconds.

The new En.nl has no editorial staff, but has the audience, according to the publisher. Social merit systems and adaptation software have made inroads in the editorial process and on the web sites. “Sites as Digg, Wikipedia, YouTube and Flickr have introduced voting, sorting, aggregation and improving information.” For the time being only news items from the Dutch wire service ANP can be adapted. PCM is aware that users can bring in wrong information, but the company trusts, that other users will correct the information properly. No news items can be added by users, yet.

Although I believe that the service has been launched too early and should have stayed on the drawing board for more clear contours, it will be an interesting news experiment. However the question will be whether they can interest internet users to user the service differently from a news wire and how the new service can for example involve bloggers. I will keep you updates on the progress of En.nl.

Blog posting Number: 1037

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

BPN 1036 Vodcast by a cross/trans media expert

Yes she did it. Cross/Trans media expert Christy Dena realised a vodcast, a video podcast. The vodcast is available at UC101.com, while a large screen version of the interview is available at Blip.tv. Congratulations Christy.



It is interesting to see that YouTube has become a favourite channel for videos. You make a videoclip, you transmit it to YouTube to be mounted and you wait for your five seconds of fame. Despite the fact that Skype was available as a technology before YouTube, it has not been used as an interview medium in journalism. And I can think of many more applications with a major one of job interviews; not that you can hire someone straight after one Skype interview, but in the selection process it saves a lot of time, travel and money and gives you a better impression than a letter with a photograph or even a video, as the interview is interactive.

The vodcast with moviemaker Lance Weiler looks to me basically a Skype interview, which was recorded for the audio and video part with Skype, while the explanatory content segments were edited in later. You will see the interviewee in a large frame with the interviewer in a smaller frame in the right-hand side below. There is no change of frames. So the frame of the interviewer does not become large as in television interviews, except for the start and the conclusion of the vodcast. And the frame of the interviewer is always visible. So you see her straightening her hair and drinking from a mug during the interview.

The application is interesting from a journalistic point of view. The interviewer will not go to the house of the interviewee or to a public place to talk to each other. For a video crew no camera team has to be bussed to a place. With the Skype interview you set up a connection from your study and start the interview. Of course the preparations for the interview remain the same. And of course the editing of the interview and the material will be the same as a video interview. But over against a video camera interview a lot of time is saved in terms of travel and crew.

In the case of the Lance Weiler interview I thought that the quality of the recording was fine. Of course, the interview is not HD or television quality. But I think that you should not ask for that. You can make a glossy coffee table book for consumers, but when you deal with trade issues the paper can be of another quality. In this case the quality suffices.

Is this vodcast a good format? I definitely think that it is an exciting format. You see the persons, you see the interaction and you see content edited in. Would I like something more? Yes, I would like a transcription of the spoken text for reference. But overall I think that the first vodcast of Christy is a success and I look forwards to many more.

Just notice: this is the first embedded video link in Buziaulane! What a joy to have such a quality interview as a first.

Blog Posting Number: 1036

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

BPN 1035 EC authorises aid QUAERO

The European Commission has decided not to raise any objections under the EC Treaty state aid rules to the financial aid of EUR99 million granted by France to the QUAERO research and development (R&D) programme. QUAERO, which involves a consortium of 23 partners headed by the Thomson group, is concerned with the automatic processing of digital multimedia content.

Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes considers the objective of the QUAERO project to improve key technologies for processing digital multimedia content and she is confident that the positive contribution the programme will make to European research will outweigh any distortion of competition caused by the aid.

The QUAERO project was intended to be a French-German collaborative project to create the European competitor of Google. However, the German project manager of Bertelsmann and the French project manager on behalf of Thomson could not work together. The Germans stepped out in at the end of 2006. Germany has continued its own semantic search engine under the name THESEUS, while the French continued with QUAERO (Latin for I search). The programme was launched as part of the work carried out by the Franco-German "economic cooperation" task force, which was set up by the German and French Economic Affairs Ministers on 26 October 2004, specifically by the "research and innovation" sub-group and an announcement was made in 2006. Since the field covered is extensive and given the differing perception by the two consortia of the thematic priorities, it was decided to launch two independent programmes, QUAERO and THESEUS. QUAERO has retained the Franco-German dimension in that the programme involves German research enterprises and bodies aided by France. In addition, the teams of the QUAERO and THESEUS programmes have agreed to maintain a consultation structure and to collaborate on a case-by-case basis when the opportunity arises. The Commission approved the aid scheme set up by Germany on 17 July 2007 to support the THESEUS programme.

The French QUAERO R&D programme will represent a total cost of EUR199 million over five years. It will focus on technologies for the automatic processing of words, language, music, images and video. QUAERO will create new or much higher-performing solutions for carrying out automatic searches and interpreting digital multimedia and multilingual information in various different formats.

The programme is being coordinated by the Thomson group, a world player in the field of image technologies. Several French and German subsidiaries of the Group are collaborating with 22 other partners. QUAERO will ultimately enable Thomson to enhance its commercial range of Internet protocol audiovisual content distribution platforms (IP-TV, video on demand, etc.) and of digital multimedia content management systems. The clients targeted by Thomson are chiefly IP network operators, content distributors and film production studios.

Following an in-depth examination, the European Commission takes the view that the measure meets the conditions set out in the Community framework for state aid for R&D and innovation. In particular, it considers that QUAERO brings positive externalities for the Community as a whole. But the implementation of the project is not spontaneously underpinned by the market owing to divergent interests within the consortium and to uncertainties regarding the project's chances of success.

Furthermore, in the Commission's opinion, any distortions in competition produced by the aid should be limited since Thomson should not acquire any market power and its competitors are expected to maintain their investments in R&D. The support of the Industrial Innovation Agency is therefore an appropriate means of encouraging Thomson and its partners to manage the QUAERO programme.

Blog Posting Number: 1035

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

BPN 1034 Dutch soccer returns home to public broadcast

Dutch public television had something to celebrate last night: it acquired the rights to the premier soccer league. After an outing of three years with the commercial and in the meantime defunct television station Talpa, the premier soccer league has decided for certainty. In the meantime soccer lost 1 million viewers over the past three years and it will get less money for the games than the 35 million euro from the commercial TV station.

The public broadcast station NOS now has the rights to the television summaries on Sunday night and to the radio rights for 20 million euro. The premier league decided to keep the rights of live games to itself. The commercial broadcast companies RTL and SBS had also tendered, but their offers were rejected.

Now everything will return to the old format. On Sunday night 7 pm the tifosi will be in front of the television and watch the summaries without breaks and in the ranking of the competition. Talpa had changed the time, the order of the games and of course interrupted the broadcast with commercials. In the three years of broadcast, soccer lost one million viewers.

As to the rights of the live games, the premier soccer league decided to start exploiting their own channel. There were offers of Liberty Global’s Chello Media (channel Sport1), Tele2, KPN and the consortium Football4all, a consortium of the cable operator Zesko Holding and Canal Digitaal Satellite. Despite the offer of Football4all, the minimum financial warranties of 45 million euro as well as the HD broadcasts and interaction, the offer was rejected. This indicates that that the premier soccer league wants to get more out of their own channel. So far the premier soccer league thinks that it will pick up 70 million euro in the first three years. The aim is to get 600.000 to 700.000 subscribers.

In the months ahead before the start of the premier league in September, a lot of organising will have to be done. A consortium has been set up for this. Endemol has been taken aboard as a strategic partner and the Rabo bank is the financial partner guaranteeing the 70 million euro of the former deal. For the production an open tender will held, which probably will be a fight between Eyeworks and Endemol. Besides the infrastructure for financing and the TV production, the consortium will have to sell the distribution rights of the broadcasts on differnt platforms. So far the IPTV soccer subscription of Tele2 has an audience of 400.000 viewers, among which KPN subscribers; now Tele2 and KPN will be able to negotiate separately. Canal Digitaal satellite channel will bring in viewers. But also Chello’s Sport1 most likely will be an outlet for all the cable operators, unless Zesko starts to open up an outlet of its own.

The premier soccer league has chosen for certainty of the broadcasts of the summaries and the radio rights. It has also decided not to be depended anymore on third parties and has followed the US model of the NBA and other sports organisations by setting up a channel of their own to be distributed by third parties. Given the various existing distribution infrastructures such as IPTV, satellite and cable, it will be able to pick up substantial sums.

As to HD broadcasts of soccer games no statement has been made. The public television companies have decided not to broadcast the coming European Championships in HD. They will experiment with some games but will not broadcast them all in HD. This is a blow for the television shops as they will loose a strong argument for selling HD prepared television sets.

Blog Posting Number: 1034

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Monday, March 10, 2008

BPN 1033 BBC protects Dutch TV distribution rights

BBC fights with a Dutch dish contractor about the distribution of television packages for BB1 and BBC. Both parties are now involved in a legal case. The case was reported by Peter Olsthoorn in Emerce.

The Dutch dish contractor Hertzinger has grown into the media distribution business besides the installation of satellite receptors and glass fibre connectors in housing complexes and housing projects. Hertzinger picks up the satellite signals centrally and distributes them by glass fibre cables to homes.

Hertzinger competes with cable operators. In Amsterdam the company modestly competes for example with UPC; Hertzinger has some 10.000 subscribers to its services there. The difference between the Hertzinger and the UPC offers is that UPC installs, owns and operate the cable, while the satellite reception and connectors for the cable are owned by the organisation of home owners and home companies. Hertzinger delivers media services, for example, to the glass fibre operator Ons Net in Nuenen and to several other glass fibre networks.


Hertzinger delivers media packages or as it claims on its site, rights to media packages. It sells its service for a few euro under the price of the cable operators and even less in case of housing corporations. The company delivers for example 50 television channels and 30 radio channels for 14 euro.

Hertzinger claims that it is allowed to deliver BBC1 and BBC2 in the media packages and has the right to do so. But BBC does not agree on this point as the BBC has only an agreement with NLkabel, the Dutch association of cable operators, for the distribution of the BBC1 and BBC2 channels against an agreed tariff.

The whole affair started last year with an injunction, but this was suspended and in May 2007 converted into a full fledged legal case between the state company BBC and Hertzinger. The legalities of the case look easy. BBC is owner of the content and distribution rights, so a company should have an agreement with the BBC. On the other hand BBC1 and BBC2 can be received by satellite for free. In the Netherlands BBC1 and BBC2 are included in the media packages and the cable operators pay for this distribution right and charge subscribers for these channels. Problem is that BBC has an exclusive agreement (= monopoly) with the members of the cable operators’ association. When Hertzinger looses the case, it will have to negotiate with BBC or drop the channel from its package. Besides when Hertzinger looses this case, other television and radio channels might hand in a claim for payment. A ruling is expected in the coming months.

Blog Posting Number: 1033

Tags: television, distribution rights,,

Sunday, March 09, 2008

BPN 1032 Anything new about BPL?

Last week I received a press release over broadband over powerline networks. The headline said Finally the Digital Divide killer is here: DS2 introduces ALMA 4.0 Broadband over Powerline (BPL) solution. At last a sign of Powerline networks again. But is it a far cry?



In the press release DS2, a global supplier of high-speed powerline communications technology, announced the availability of a new networking solution for Broadband Powerline Communications (BPL) and Smart Grid applications.

The solution, available as a firmware upgrade, benefits from a new modular architecture that promotes code reuse and reduces the development cycle while allowing product developers greater access to advance on-chip features for customisation and product differentiation. Performance is enhanced by up to 20 per cent which increases average throughput in the network for Broadband applications and provides unmatched resilience to impairments, such as noise on MV and LV overhead electricity lines to meet the stringent reliability requirements of Smart Grid applications.

BPL technology is used to deliver broadband services, including Internet access, VoIP, Muni WiFi, video surveillance, traffic monitoring and air quality monitoring. Smart Grid technology is used by electricity utilities for grid management applications such as outage prevision and management, advanced metering, preventive maintenance, asset management and optimisation and load management and control. Both BPL and Smart Grid applications share the same electrical network and benefit from DS2's new Alma 4.0, specifically the unique frequency translation and frequency division repeating to support network planning requirements for large networks.

DS2 is the leading technology innovator and a global provider of high-speed semiconductor solutions for Powerline Communications and other wire-line network communications products. Led by a very strong team of former executives from IBM, AT&T/Bell-Labs, INTEL, Philips Semiconductors, France Telecom, Ericsson and Cisco we deliver state-of-the-art ICs and software solutions to manufacturers of consumer electronics, home networking and digital entertainment equipment and broadband access products. DS2 invented high-speed Powerline Communications delivering the first 200Mbps Powerline Communications IC to enable quality multimedia home networking, networked entertainment and broadband access applications to and throughout the home, office, or building, and to and throughout urban and rural communities. Enabling the hidden multimedia network behind the power outlet is the purpose of DS2.

The press release is impressive. But in the press release there is no reference to concrete projects, only to technology. If I look around in the Netherlands, nothing has happened since the suspension of the Nuon BPL in Arnhem. And reading the Wikipedia article on Broadband over powerlines is not too optimistic either.

it is a pity that in the press release such rambling wordings as BPL the Digital Divide killer have been used. BPL could contribute to the Digital Divide, if it was a widespread, trusted technology. But given the Wikipedia inventory of projects and suspensions, it is definitely not a Digital Divide killer. Be happy CEBIT in hannover is over; for the time being this is the end of rambling press releases

Blog Posting Number: 1032

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

BPN 1031 Dutch broadband market grows to 5.59 mln, fuelled by cable

For the first time since 2002, Dutch cable internet operators added more new broadband customers than ADSL ISPs. The cable internet providers sold two times as many subscriptions as the ADSL providers during the fourth quarter of 2007, according to Telecompaper's quarterly report about the Dutch broadband market. The Dutch broadband market grew by 10.8 percent during 2007 to end the year with 5.588 million connections. During the fourth quarter the entire broadband market grew by 2.9 percent or 159,200 net additions.

Key figures Dutch broadband market
Total broadband connections: 5.588 million
Of which FTTH: 72.085
Penetration households: 77.7 per cent (+ FTTH 78.99 per cent)
Annual growth 2007: 10.8 per cent
Annual growth 2008 (forecast): 7 per cent


Broadband (cable and ADSL) penetration per household increased to 77.7 percent at the end of last year, growing by 7.1 points compared with the end of 2006. When including FTTH (fibre-to-the-home), the household penetration reached 78.99 percent. Penetration per 100 inhabitants increased to 34.1 percent on 31 December 2007, compared with 30.8 percent on 31 December 2006, and when including the FTTH connections the penetration per 100 inhabitants amounted to 34.6 percent on 31 December 2007. Zesko (@Home, Casema, Multikabel), excluding Orange broadband cable users, saw its customer base grow by 93,000 net additions during the fourth quarter to reach 1.268 million broadband customers on 31 December. The second largest broadband ISP continues to be Het Net with 643,000 DSL users at the end of the quarter, after adding 14,000 customers in Q4. UPC is closing the gap with Het Net with 15,800 net additions in the fourth quarter, taking its total to 640,300 broadband customers on 31 December 2007. Tele2 continued to grow faster than the market average, with 22,000 new DSL customers during the quarter and passing the 300,000 users mark to end the year with 303,000. Its share of the broadband market grew to 5.4 percent, overtaking XS4ALL to become the sixth largest broadband ISP in the Netherlands.

Telecompaper forecasts a slower growth for 2008 as the market becomes saturated and the interest for broadband and Voip decreases. The market research institute expects that the broadband market will grow with 7 per cent in 2008, bringing the total of broadband connections to 6 million.

Blog Posting Number: 1031

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