Sunday, May 18, 2008

Pictures from Manama














These three photographs have been taken from my hotel balcony of the Seef area, a area with reclaimed land (by the Dutch dredging company Van Oord) for development, mainly offices, but also tourism along the seaside. The first photograph shows the new HQ of mobile telco Zain with a shopping mall in the foreground; the second photograph shows the building of Citibank and the third one shows in the back the new financial centre buildings downtown and an immense area still to be developed. (To enlarge click on photograph)











The second three photographs are taken at the other side of Manama, the capital of Bahrain. The first photograph is of the Gulf Hotel, where I stayed last year. The second one is a view of one of a large mosk. The third picture is of the Prime Minister's Palace.

BPN 1102 2008 Global Digital Media - Advertising and Marketing

The Australian consultancy BuddeCom has pus published a report on Advertising and Marketing. It contains BuddeComm’s analyses of the current market and the future for marketing and advertising in the digital media era.

In the digital media era the traditional media companies have made quantum leaps in comparison to the telcos in terms of advertising and marketing. While the Internet companies (ie, Google) have clearly been the leaders to date, media companies are now making great progress. New advertising models, permission-based marketing and premium sales activities are being used to attract people to events and services. New video applications are also emerging as the Internet media companies seek to exploit the added speed and capacity of broadband infrastructure.

The most significant change broadband is bringing to the market is that it is opening up consumer markets. For decades, only corporate users have been able to afford data services. The Internet quickly used this new data development to create an enormous number of consumer applications. Broadband improved the quality, allowing for video-based applications, and, just as importantly, it made access to digital media affordable to the mass market.

The rise of the Internet, mobile phones and other digital media is forcing marketers and their suppliers, including ad agencies, to adopt new business models and broaden their offerings. Although the Internet still only accounts for a small percentage that will be spent on media advertising in 2008, its influence spreads much further than that. It is changing the way consumers are exposed to and interact with advertising.

To date, traditional ad agencies have been accustomed to mass media advertising, with its one-way flow of communication. Digital adverting however will be led by the consumers; they will more or less have full control of the information that they wish to receive and the format will look nothing like traditional advertising. It will be highly personal and highly interactive. Mass advertising will not disappear. There are still good reasons for it to continue, but over time its role will be eroded. The trend will be the democratisation of advertising, necessitated by changing consumer behaviour in favour of the digital media
.
We are seeing the emergence of new advertising models as the industry gains confidence; driven primarily by the phenomenal growth in online advertising revenues. Online advertising formats can involve searching, games, online directory listings and other permission-based models. Video-based services on broadband and interactive digital TV networks are also becoming a whole new area for advertising opportunities. Social networks have also gained much attention in recent years, but in 2008 questions are beginning to be asked about the true potential of advertising over this medium. Personalised media and one-to-one communication will be the predominant mode on the Digital Media.

Location Based Advertising has had a revival with the development of Location Based Services over mobile devices. Put simply, LBA is when advertisements are strategically communicated based on a consumer’s location. Mobile LBA is slowly becoming a reality with services starting to roll out around the world, particularly in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific. In addition to the marketers, major players in the mobile and Internet fields are also taking great interest in these developments.

Key highlights:
- The biggest growth in advertising for the next ten years will come from digital media and this will most certainly involve massive changes for the traditional ad agencies.
- It is expected that by 2015, 65% of all New Media revenues will be based on permission-based marketing..
- The online advertising market stalled during the dotcom era, but a significant recovery began in 2003 and today online advertising is flourishing with over $60 billion to be spent worldwide in 2008..
- A reflection of the growing digital advertising market has been the growth in Internet advertising across Europe, which is taking an increasing share of total advertising spend.
- Four of the major Internet media companies in the US capture over 60% of US online advertising revenues.
- In South Africa, Vodacom has started selling text ads to be placed on the 20 million free ‘Please Call Me’ SMS that are sent through its mobile network every day.
- There is a small but fast-growing band of new digital marketing houses in Australia who are promoting their ability to deliver an end-to-end solution..

Blog Post Number: 1102

Tags: marketing

Saturday, May 17, 2008

BPN 1101 Movie week in Cannes

It is movie time again in Cannes. And as usual the European Union will be present with 14 EU-funded films, representing in total over €900,000 of co-funding. On May 19 there will be a Europe Day at the 61st film festival at Cannes. Besides European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, EU Media Commissioner Viviane Reding, EU ministers for Audiovisual policy will discuss international film cooperation.

I have taken up more interest in movies since I was asked to be part of a film festival board and since I invested (a small sum) in the movie The Butterfly Tattoo. The movie has a fascinating history. A very young team of people wanted to make the movie, based on the book by Philip Pullman. This author is rather popular as his book the Golden Compass was filmed for 16 million euro. Yet the team was able to get permission from the author and went on to the next hurdle: money. They made a budget and started to solicit money from people. In no less than two days they had collected 200.000 euro.thanks to an interview in the Dutch financial daily, Het Financieele Dagblad. The movie has been completed and it has become a typical British movie (see trailer). Now distribution talks are being held with movie distributors; the team will also be active in Cannes.



President Barroso will open the Ministers' meeting on 19 May under the multilingual banner "Cinema, Dianying yan, Kino, Chalchitra, Cine: Building a world of exchanges". Ministers, filmmakers and film business participants will discuss how to intensify audiovisual exchanges between EU countries and take advantage of new cooperation and trade agreements between the EU and other regions of the world. They will also explore ways to stimulate joint initiatives between film distributors , cinema operators and training centres from Europe and other countries.

No less than 12 Ministers have already confirmed their participation, notably ministers from France, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Portugal, Slovenia and the United Kingdom. Croatia, which became the first candidate country to join the MEDIA programme earlier this year, will send its Minister of Culture to the meeting.

In the evening of 19 May, the film "Douro, Faina, Fluvial" (1930) will be shown at the Croisette to honour the Portuguese film maker Manoel de Oliveira.

The 14 EU-Funded Films at Cannes 2008

Official Competition:
Gomorra directed by Matteo Garrone (EU funding from MEDIA: €45,000) – A Neapolitan mafia drama based on a novel by Roberto Saviano.
Delta directed by Kornél Mundruczó (€100,000) – Mihail comes home for his father's funeral. He meets his sister for the first time and they fall in love.
La frontière de l'Aube directed by Philippe Garrel (€50,000) – A young photographer sees a vision of his ex-lover, an actress who committed suicide after he cut her out from his life and who has now come back to haunt him.
Le silence de Lorna directed by Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne (€202,500) – An Albanian woman marries a drug addict in order to obtain Belgian residency.
The Palermo Shooting directed by Wim Wenders (€50,000) – A German photographer decides to take a break in Palermo where he meets a young woman and her completely different way of life.

Special Screenings:
Sangue pazzo directed by Marco Tullio Giordana (€111,600) – Renowned actors of Fascist cinema, who were part of the Salò Republic, were accused of collaborating and torturing and shot by the Partisans after the country was liberated.
Entre Les Murs directed by Laurent Cantet (€30,000) – The story of a French teacher at a secondary school in a difficult area.

Un Certain Regard:
Tulpan directed by Sergey Dvortsevoy (€40,000) – Bulat has done military service in the Russian Navy and returns to the Kazakh step to become a shepherd. For that, he has to learn the shepherding trade and get married.

Directors' Fortnight:
Eldorado (aka Léa) directed by Bouli Lanners (€51,500) – Yvan grows a strange affection for Elie, an adolescent who breaks into his house, and decides to drive the teenager back to his parents.
Elève libre directed by Joachim Lafosse (€82,500) – Jonas' dreams of becoming a professional tennis player are dashed when he fails his exams. He turns to Pierre for support. Their paternal, master-student relationship gradually becomes a complex and ambiguous one of dependence and manipulation.
Salamandra directed by Pablo Aguero (€26,000) – Six-year-old Inti has been living with his grandmother when Alba returns to drag him away on a crazy trip to a legendary valley in Patagonia.
Les Bureaux de Dieu directed by Claire Simon (€16,000) – Day-to-day functioning of the family planning centre where women come to inform themselves about a choice they have or want to make.

International Critics' Week:
Better Things directed by Duane Hopkins (€90,500) – A group of young people grow up together in a rural community in the Cotswolds, experiencing sexual awakening, boredom, and drug use.
Home directed by Ursula Meïer (€50,000) – The story of a handful of people gradually cut off and disconnected from the world, who end up shutting themselves in.



Update 25/05/2008: Entre les Murs has won the Golden Palm of the 61st fim festival in Cannes.

Blog Posting Number: 1101

Tags: film, movie

Flash Bahrain press release

DEPUTY PM CHAIRS ICT SUPREME COMMITTEE MEETING

date: 13 05, 2008


MANAMA, MAY 13 (BNA) DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER AND CHAIRMAN OF THE SUPREME COMMITTEE FOR INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND COMMUNICATION SHAIKH MOHAMMED BIN MUBARAK AL KHALIFA TODAY CHAIRED THE MEETING HELD BY COMMITTEE.
THE MEETING REVIEWED THE PREPARATIONS FOR THE BAHRAIN INTERNATIONAL E- GOVERNMENT FORUM (BIEF) TO BE HELD FROM MAY 19 TO 21 UNDER THE PATRONAGE OF DEPUTY PREMIER SHAIKH MOHAMMED. THE FORUM COINCIDES WITH THE FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF LAUNCHING THE KINGDOMS E-GOVERNMENT STRATEGY. IT IS ORGANISED BY THE E-GOVERNMENT AUTHORITY IN COOPERATION WITH THE BAHRAIN SOCIETY OF ENGINEERS AND THE BAHRAIN IT SOCIETY. THE FORUM WILL HOST INTERNATIONAL, REGIONAL AND LOCAL EXPERTS AT THE AIM OF EXCHANGING KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE. GULF E-GOVERNMENT PROGRAMMES WILL ALSO BE HIGHLIGHTED AT THE FORUM. THE COMMITTEE ALSO REVIEWED THE AWARENESS PROGRAMMES THAT WILL BE HELD ON THE SIDELINES OF THE BIEF. DETAILS OF THE EGOVERNMENT EXCELLENCE AWARD TO BE PRESENTED TO WINNERS ON THE OPENING OF THE BIEF WERE ALSO DISCUSSED AT THE MEETING. JURY PANEL HEAD JAK BOUMANS, THE SECRETARY OF THE EUROPEAN ACADEMY OF DIGITAL MEDIA, GAVE A PRESENTATION ON THE CRITERIA FOLLOWED FOR THE SELECTION OF WINNERS. THE CATEGORIES OF THE AWARD ARE: BEST ESERVICE AWARD, BEST EMATURE MINISTRY (READINESS), APPRECIATION AWARD, BEST ICT SOLUTION PROVIDER AWARD, EECONOMY AWARD, BEST ECONTENT AWARD, BEST EPROPOSAL AWARD, EPARTICIPATION AWARD AND THE ECITIZEN AWARD. THE AWARDS WILL GO TO WINNERS FROM MINISTRIES, GOVERNMENT BODIES, PRIVATE SECTOR ESTABLISHMENTS AND CITIZENS. THERE HAVE BEEN 79 CONTESTANTS FOR THE PRIZE FROM THE VARIOUS MINISTRIES, GOVERNMENT BODIES AND THE PRIVATE SECTOR. THE JURY, MADE UP OF INTERNATIONAL AND LOCAL EXPERTS, ARE CURRENTLY VERIFYING THE APPLICATIONS COMPLIANCE WITH THE SET CONDITIONS. THE EGOVERNMENT EXCELLENCE AWARD AIMS AT SPREADING AWARENESS OF THE E- GOVERNMENT IN BAHRAIN. IT ALSO FORMS AN INCENTIVE TO MINISTRIES AND CITIZENS TO AVAIL OF THE E-SERVICES AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES AVAILABLE AND SEEKS TO ENCOURAGE THE PRIVATE SECTOR TO OFFER FURTHER STATE-OF- THE-ART IT INITIATIVES. THE JURY ALSO LEARNED ABOUT THE PROMOTIONAL AND AWARENESS-RAISING CAMPAIGNS DUE TO BE CARRIED OUT BY THE E-GOVERNMENT NATIONWIDE. THE ICT COMMITTEE WILL HOLD ITS NEXT MEETING IN JUNE TO FOLLOW-UP ON RECOMMENDATIONS. HMQ 13-MAY-2008 22:24

Friday, May 16, 2008

BPN 1100 Indigo new head sponsor for WSA

While I am in Bahrain, I have to go back in my mind to 2005, when the island was the venue of the World Summit Award (WSA). The local government and the local ISOC chapter generously hosted the WSA Grand Jury, an international group of 35 digital media experts who spent a week scrutinizing entries from 168 countries. In 2005 the WSA Gala was in Tunis.

Peter A. Bruck, Chairman of WSA, and Ramón Alberto Garza, President & CEO of Indigomedia, during the signing of the sponsorship contract

In 2003 the WSA Grand Jury had been in Dubai and the WSA Gala was in Geneva. In 2007 the WSA Grand Jury was in Croatia and the WSA Gala was celebrated in Venice. For 2009 it looks like the WSA Grand Jury will be held in Venezuela, but the venue for the WSA Gala has now been fixed. The Gala will be held in Monterey, Mexico, the home base of Indogomedia. This media company won at last year’s global contest in the e-Entertainment category with its product Indigomedia – Brain Media, an interactive broadband digital magazine, based on the premise of providing entertainment and understanding.

Each week, Indigomedia offers a unique experience addressing a range of issues including politics, economics, culture, society, sports, and many more. In a manner that is at once deep and entertaining, Indigomedia captivates the reader and creates synergy between the digital and analogue worlds. The platform allows for full interactivity through a variety of tools including video, animation, and audio. The result is a media experience in which users read, see, hear, touch, and feel each article through the most up-to-date, cutting-edge technology. Every Friday readers can enjoy the Indigo experience free of charge. For all these reasons, Indigomedia constitutes a new form of expression within media one that looks for minds willing to be transformed. This is why it is not mass media, but brainmedia.

Indigomedia is a very ambitious company. It is working on bringing the formula of Indigo to the States. This will not only be for the Hispanics in the States, but the company also wants to translate this formula for the American English market. The company is already active in the States.

Indigomedia will not only act as the host for the WSA Gala events in 2009, but will also financially support the WSA Office in order to create several e-Content related events and start working on the organization of the global contest and the preparations of the Gala and Winners Conference in Mexico. Additionally, Indigomedia will act as the liaison of WSA for the Mexican Government to ensure that official representatives will attend the WSA events.

(I just declare interest in the WSA as I am one of the members of the Board).

Blog Posting Number: 1100

Tags: competition

FLASH: Microlearning 2008 conference

Research Studios Austria is organizing the microlearning conference which will take place in June in Innsbruck, Austria. The conference pursues the eLearning sector and the use of digital technologies to enhance skill levels and build human capacities in educational organisations and countrie. Research Studio Austria cordially invite to the international conference MICROLEARNING2008.

Microlearning2008. Microlearning & Capacity Building June 25 to 27th, 2008, in Innsbruck
- sponsored by Intel Education and in co-operation with University of Innsbruck

Participants from all of Europe, the US, Asia the Arab Region and Africa are expected and feature the most diverse backgrounds: IT architects and university graduates, eLearning practitioners and educators, knowledge managers and corporate trainers, large enterprises and small start-ups, e.g. This exceptional blend as well as the relaxed, intimate atmosphere present opportunities to make new contacts and lead inspiring discussions which would otherwise not have have been possible.

If you are interested in participating check the preliminary program http://www.researchstudio.at/downloads/preprogram_mai08.pdf and register online (http://www.microlearning.org/index.php?catid=51&blogid=1&skinid=17).

(This is a non profit announcement)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

BPN 1099 ilse gives up in favour of Google

The Dutch pioneer search engine ilse has lost the search engine battle in favour of Google and will no longer be the heart of Startpagina, the starting pages for Dutch language sites. The company ilse media is defining a new strategy.

In 1996 ilse, the first Dutch search engine, was launched by Wiebe Weikamp, Merien ten Houten and Robert Klep. ilse grew at an amazing rate and quickly became the market leader in Dutch search engines. Two years later in 1998, a group of friends, under the supervision of Durk Jan de Bruin set-up Startpagina. This site with site pages per subject, including all daughter sites (respectively 1,500 and roughly 5,000 pages) quickly grew to become the biggest Dutch internet portal. By 1999 Google appeared on the scene. In 2000 VNU magazines, now Sanoma magazines, acquired both companies and put them in ilse media B.V.

The search engine became the stimulus for the development of a digital publisher company. By now ilse media has a network of 150 websites, of which Starpagina is the largest. It has a news site and a weblog site. IN 2005 ilse media started a cluster of youngsters and youth sites under the name newrulez. Ilse media also manages the women and home sites of Sanoma publishers and the site TVGids.nl, an electronic television guide, for the public broadcast stations.

From the beginning the search engine ilse was a popular site for the Dutch language searchers. When Google started its activity, ilse was on its height and has been going down ever since. In the last year there was a discussion about the search engine. Most people thought that the engine had come at the end of the cycle. And this became clear from the penetration rate, which went down to 5 per cent, while the real use for searching went down to 2 per cent. Presently users of Startpagina use Google five times a week, while the search engine of ilse media is used five times a week.

Of course Google will bring in extra revenues. But the management of ilse media will have to contemplate the use of the search engine. The company is adamant in stating that the dismissal of their own search engine ilse is the beginning of the end. Ilse media is working on a new strategy for the search engine. One way will be to use the search engine for vertical sites like the women magazines of Sanoma.

On May 8, 2008 ilse media announced a new site, familii.nl, a family and relatives sites, which offers tools for keeping contact with family and relatives and for mapping the relatives. Familii.nl has a few competitors in the Dutch market: Verwant.nl, familieband.nl and familiepagina.nl. Verwant.nl is the Dutch version of the popular German Verwant.de and is run by De Telegraaf.

Blog Posting Number: 1099

Tags: search engine

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

BPN 1098 Middle East telecom competition

While I am in Bahrain there is great excitement. Batelco, the incumbent telecom company, eyes a 4 billion US dollar acquisition, while the Bahrain government will assign the third mobile license by the end of the year. Telecom competition is heating up outside and in the Middle East.

Batelco is a Bahrain state-owned company by origin. It has expanded to Jordan, Yemen, Kuwait and Egypt, while it ha a bid for a license in Quatar. Batelco has been an incumbent company, but it has gotten competition in the past years, as also the Gulf States are opening up competition. Especially the fixed line business is under fire with the incumbent companies. With opening up competition, the states are setting up authoritative regulatory bodies, like the OFCOM in the UK and OPTA in The Netherlands. In Bahrain this body is called the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA). Batelco has quite some fights with this body and has commenced legal and arbitration proceedings. On the other hand the company has recently invested in the migration of a new generation network. The migration will start later this year.

Looking for expansion Batelco is looking outside the Gulf area and in fact outside the Middle East. It considers the Middle East no longer as hunting ground, as the companies have grown too expensive. The only areas left In the Middle East are Lebanon and Syria. Now Batelco looks to Asia and the Asia Pacific into countries Malaysia and Indonesia. It looks like Batelco is picking up a big company, as it has reserved 4 billion US dollar in its coffers.

Batelco will also have to seek revenues outside Bahrain, as in the field of mobile telephony there is more competition coming up. Batelco has 3,3 million subscribers in its present international footprint; it has 704.000 subscription in Bahrain, which has 1,05 million inhabitants. In the mobile field there is competition as Zain has a second license. Zain bought Netherlands-based Celtel for 3.4 billion US dollar in 2005 to expand in sub-Sahara Africa and operates now in 20 countries in the Middle East and Africa. Presently the penetration rate for mobile services in Bahrain is 110 per cent and the overall growth in 2007 was 13 per cent.

Now no less than seven local and global companies are eyeing the third mobile license. This is the result of an action by the TRA seeking expressions of interest. The third operator will be selected through bidding by the end of the year. The selection of a third operator will mean that lower prices will start to reach consumers.

Blog Posting Number: 1098

Tags: telephony, mobile

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

BPN 1097 Back from the PM Palace

I am just back from a presentation at the Prime Ministers Palace (see photograph) in Manama, the capital of Bahrain. There was a meeting of the Supreme Committee for Information and Communication Technology, a government body of 11 ministers headed by H.E. Sheik Mohammed Bin Mubarak Al Khalifa, the Deputy Prime Minister. This body is the steering committee for amongst others the Government strategy in Bahrain. I had been asked to talk about the value of an eGovernment competition. I had prepared a PowerPoint presentation. It was an official meeting, which was filmed in the framework of the eGovernment Forum.

Bahrain has been working on eGovernment since the beginning of this century with a group of young civil servants. Most of them studied abroad in the Gulf region, Europe and the USA. They started to use internet and apply it in government. One of the first e-services was the portal for the ministry of commerce. This one won an award of the World Summit Award in 2003.

In the meantime the separate eGovernment actions has been converted in the eGovernment strategy and the Bahrain government is ambitious. They want to be number one in the Gulf region, but really want to compare themselves with European and North American countries. They realise that they will need an eGovernment competition in search for excellence and to establish good practices. And the competition is not just one element. eGovernment needs a complex of elements such as forum, competition, annual report, resource network and exchange network.

Among the documents which were distributed , was a document on the developments in eGovernment in The Netherlands. As key initiatives were listed the following programs:
- Digital identity initiative, the Dutch DigiD (Digital Identity) online identification system, introduced in 2005;
- eForms program to facilitate citizens and businesses to complte forms online, using a single set of questions, that suffice to serve a number of information chains;
- Contact centre initiative, Post box 51, the Dutch governments centre for public information, which distributes information through toll-free calls, letters, e-mail and websites;
- Personalisation initiative, program giving citizens their personal internet page. The program has started in 2006 and will be fully installed by 2011;
- Enterprise integration and interoperability framework a metadata standard for public-sector websites, based on the Dublin core.

Tonight we will start with the jury deliberations of the eGovernment competitions. There are more than 50 entries. We have four days to reach a selection of nine winners. The jury consists of six persons, external to the government ministries governmental agencies.

Blog Posting Number: 1097

Tags: eGovernment

Monday, May 12, 2008

BPN 1096 Bahrain eGovernment

I am in Bahrain since Friday. It is my fourth time on the island and every time I am astonished about the construction works going on and the land reclaim program. The financial centre, which was just started in 2005 is now completed and part of the new waterfront. My hotel, Mercure, is the same as in 2005, when the World Summit Award Grand Jury deliberations were here; the hotel was just opened and the Grand Jury was the first large group to be entertained. Very spacious rooms, good food and a swimming pool on top of the building. When I look down from my room I look at a large shopping mall and this is only one of the four malls in the immediate vicinity. From my hotel room I look at the tallest building in the Seef area. Bahrain will be the place for me in the coming fortnight.

I have been invited by the eGovernment Agency (should be Authority, I am told) to chair the eGov competition of 2008. It is a new competition, set up by the newly formed Agency in 2007. The competition is combined with a forum on eGovernment. It generates a healthy competition among the government services and yields interest among the citizens; roughly 1 million people, of which 250.000 original inhabitants. In the region the competition will give off the signal that Bahrain is working on the transparency of government and can be trusted. This will generate economical welfare and stamp them as a leader in the region

And this eGov program is not just a program of loose projects. No, it is a well thought out strategy. For the citizen services are initiated from the cradle to the grave. Also for business a life cycle has been worked out with the appropriate eServices. The 32 government agencies offer 350 analogue and eservices. In 2007 there were 35 eservices; by the end of 2008 that will be some 100 hundred eservices, which number will eventually grow to 167 eservices, if not more. And the eGov program is not only about pumping up eServices. Strategic priorities have been set and identified for implementation. This happens at three levels:
Channel enablement, implementation of four service delivery channels: National contact centre, Common service centres, Mobile Government and eGovernment Portal.
Service enablement, ranging from Customs and Ports to procurement.
Implementation of the key enablers with international eGovernment benchmarking and international eGovernment Awards as well as marketing and awareness services.

I am sure that I will be going to meet a lot of interesting people in the coming 13 days.

Blog Posting Number: 1096

Tags: eGovernment

Sunday, May 11, 2008

BPN 1095 The unwirelessed iLiad

It was a surprise last Thursday to come home from the lecture in Utrecht and find the announcement of iRex Technologies, that they have now a light edition of the iLiad as a dedicated book edition, including 50 classics. This all for the price of 499 euro. To tell you the truth, I had not expected an emasculated ereader; a price cut on the wireless iLiad was more in line with my thoughts for more than one reason.

I had been wondering about the strategy of iRex Technology. They have started on the top floor of eReaders with a device, including wireless for 650 euro. In the meantime they have gotten competition, at least in the US, from the wireless Kindle, which sells for the tempting price of 399 US dollar (237 euro). You wonder what makes the real difference between the iLiad and the Kindle. It just can not be the materials and the functionalities. I guess that it is the production and the marketing.

Another difference is still the reach of the Kindle. In the US it is sold as a package deal with a telco. It is basically the iPhone strategy and it works in the States. But in a fragmented continent like Europe this policy will not really work. See the iPhone business in Germany. I still believe that in Europe you should team up with a publisher. That is why I think that Penguin should team up with Amazon, bundling in a selection of their 5000 books.

But now iRex has taken the strategy to make a light version of the iLiad. Not a light version with regard to weight, but a light version by taken the wireless out. In this way the new eReader can compete with the Hanlin, Jet, Sony, Cybook and other still to come. This area will be crowded soon by readers destined specifically for books.

But the price iRex put to their light book version of 499 euro is the highest of the eBook readers. All the other readers are available at a price of just above, but mostly under 300 euro. So what is the real competition with a difference of almost 200 euro. Again iRex is again on the highest price floor of the specific ebook readers. There is only one saving grace for iRex in both cases of the wireless eReader and the specific eBook reader: iRex can still go down with its prices, while the other will feel the competition as far as the price is concerned.

But iRex is also learning. Did they offer the iLiad in 2006 with only an electronic version of the user manual, now iRex has bundled in with the light iLiad ebook reader no less than 50 classic books. Of course it is not the latest hot novel; in fact the offer contains 50 books of which the copy right is in the public domain. In other words you can get them for free from the internet; but the light iLiad buyer will not have to download the books himself.

Will the light ebook version of the iLiad stimulate the sales of the wireless iLiad? I do not think so. First of all, your pockets are lighter as you have paid 499 euro for the eunuch version of the iLiad and saved 150 euro on the wireless version. Besides the light version does not contain any stimulus (eg a wireless program on a card) to upgrade the ebook Reader.

My conclusion is that the wireless iLiad will remain the Jaguar under the wireless readers. Kindle is already the Volkswagen in price and sales numbers. But also under the ebook readers is the light version of the iLiad the top in price, competing with many Trabant cars (which used to be a cheap East German family car). The marketing odyssey of the iLiad continues.

Blog Posting Number: 1095

Tags: ebook, ereader, digital paper

Saturday, May 10, 2008

BPN 1094 Test drive new web content acessibility guidelines

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Working Group has announced the publication of WCAG 2.0 as a World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Candidate Recommendation on 30 April. WCAG 2.0 explains how to make Web sites, applications, and other content accessible to people with disabilities, and many elderly users.

This stage is for developers and designers to"test drive" WCAG 2.0 to demonstrate that the guidelines can be implemented in Web sites.

Candidate Recommendation (CR) is a major step in the W3C standards development process; it signals that there is broad consensus in the Working Group and among public reviewers on the technical content of WCAG 2.0. The W3C Process stages are described in How WAI Develops Accessibility Guidelines through the W3C Process.

The primary purpose of this CR stage is for developers and designers to "test drive" WCAG 2.0 to demonstrate that WCAG 2.0 can be implemented in Web sites. WAI encourages a broad range of Web sites and Web applications to use WCAG 2.0 at this stage, and share implementation experience. For information on submitting your implementations, see WCAG 2.0 Candidate Recommendation Implementation Information. If you plan to provide implementations, please let W3C know your intentions by 23 May 2008. Actual implementations are due by 30 June 2008.

It is important to note that some WCAG 2.0 requirements are at risk; that is, they may not be included if there are not sufficient implementations. Items at risk are listed under “Items at Risk” in http://www.w3.org/TR/2008/CR-WCAG20-20080430/#status_risk.

While the focus of this stage is to collect implementations, the comment form and email address are still available from Instructions for Commenting on WCAG 2.0 Documents.

The different WCAG 2.0 documents that the WCAG Working Group updated with this publication are introduced in Overview of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Documents.

A key tool for using WCAG 2.0 documents, which was previously called the "Quick Reference", is How to Meet WCAG 2.0: A customizable quick reference to WCAG 2.0 requirements...

For more information about the Candidate Recommendation status of WCAG 2.0 and the changes since the last publication, see "Status of this Document" section of WCAG 2.0.

WCAG 2.0 is part of a series of accessibility guidelines/standards developed by WAI, which are listed in WAI Guidelines and Techniques .

Related Information: W3C press release

Blog Posting Number: 1094

Tags: accessibility

Friday, May 09, 2008

BPN 1093 Training a media versatile journalist

Yesterday, the LunchTalk at the Faculty of Communication and Journalism (FCJ) in Utrecht was interesting as students took notice of eReaders and eBooks. But around the LunchTalk some breaking news for the Faculty was happening. In a very short time television screens had been installed for narrowcasting within the HU University of Applied Science and especially in the FCJ. Besides, the journalism students started to register the LunchTalk, did an interview, edit these streams and bring them online.

It is a small revolution in communication that is happening at the FCJ. So far the faculty had computer screens hanging around, offering information about the schedule, lectures and events. The technology used was teletext-like: text in colours with rudimentary graphics. A few years ago also a tickertape newsbar was installed on the outside of the FCJ. The intention was to show the outside that the FCJ was about news. The small computer screens inside the building make place now for large screen television screen with flashy video, direct link–ins with guest lectures and interviews. Undoubtedly there will be text information, but the image of communication will change in a flashy video pictures.

To fill these screens with video and other information, the journalism students will run video- and audio productions. This is remarkable. Although there has been a change over the last years, the education towards media versatile journalists was not yet really integrated. Students who can work in teams and can produce text, audio and video are still rare and much sought after. It was great to see the students at work linking up their Macs to internet and streaming. After the lecture an interview was done as a summary to the lecture. Slides, photographs and movie parts were split into the video. Besides the registration, the Power Point presentation and the two historical movies will be online on the intranet of the FCJ.

The registration of the LunchTalk lecture has not been edited yet, so I cannot put it by an embedded link on my blog. But as soon as it is online, I will put an update to this posting.

Blog Posting Number: 1093

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Flash: iLiad Book version

iRex Technologies launches a book version of the iLiad from tomorrow onwards. The eReader will not have wifi connectivity, will cost 499 euro and comes with 50 English language classics. In the UK Borders will sell the book version of the iLiad.
See press release.

BPN 1092 eReader does not add value to journalism

Today I was a guest speaker at the Faculty of Communication and Journalism (FCJ) in Utrecht. I had been invited by Job Twisk, the almost the last editor in chief of Planet Internet before the incumbent telecom operator KPN withdrew once again from content. The subject of the guest lecture was Goodbye print, Hello e-Reader. It looks like the introduction of a new medium. When CD-ROM was introduced the software developer Dataware had a poster saying: Goodbye Gutenberg, Hello CD-ROM. But media introductions have more customs have their particular publications such as Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in the USA, the Bible in the USA and Europe and encyclopaedias (Grolier amongst others). For the introduction of the eReader I have not discovered Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, the Bible or an encyclopaedia. So something might be changing in introducing digital media.

The presentation was dubbed a LunchTalk, a lecture during the lunch break, which students can attend at their own wish. The audience consisted of journalism students. And as the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad has recently introduced the iLiad as an eReader for its ePaper, I was asked to give a short historical overview of the development of the eReaders, the added value to journalism and the present scene. For the historical overview I had taken along my small eReader museum of the Sony EB, the Rocket Softbook and the iLiad. And I had found some historical movies: one on the Sony EB, produced for the Netherlands E-Book Committee, and I had been able to get converted the video tape of The Tablet. Not top quality videos, but good enough to understand the development.

It was great to show the development and failure factors in the first three waves of eReader technology. The first wave, the Sony EB of 1991, had a gadget with a screen too hard to read, a short battery life, it was too heavy and Sony used its own authoring software. The second wave with Rocket Softbook used internet as a distribution means, but the eReader had also a bad screen, it was too heavy and had a short battery life. The third wave has hardly taken place with an eReader on a mobile phone, although Nokia thought about it. But with the digital paper eReader there is definitely a break through; whether this is the ultimate break through can be doubted. Yet the digital paper is very readable

But the real discussion was of course whether an eReader brings added value to journalism. My position was clear from the beginning: the eReader takes out the distribution out of the production cycle. In other words, we do not need delivery boys any longer. Of course for the newspaper marketing people, the eReader might a special delivery device for profiled advertisements and sales of related products (review plus an excerpt of the book) and perhaps for a personal newspaper a la Ohmynews. So it might take out the expensive distribution link and add profiled advertisements and sales, but the eReader will not add to the journalistic process.

On May 29, 2008 the publisher of the NRC Handelsblad ePaper, Gert Jan Oelderik, will give a presentation. I am eager to hear his figures, but also his opinion whether the eReader brings added value to journalism.

After the presentation a team of future journalists recorded a video of an interview; however the interview is in Dutch.



Untitled from HUmedia.nl on Vimeo.

Blog Posting Number: 1092

Tags: newspaper, eReader, e-Book, digital paper , , , ,

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

BPN 1091 Games lead to defective brain development

Yesterday’s posting on stress relief by casual games yielded criticism. Hans Sleurink, my business partner and developer of a minor on media education, wrote me that he had serious doubts about the wholesome effect of videogames. I translate his message: "What is the relationship between the university and games producer? Many universities are dependent on private donations. The second point of doubt is the dominance in the techno-culture in the USA. In such an environment with such a strong spirit of times – which I call the invisible prison – there is no critical gravitation when it comes to such results.

My doubts are even larger now that the British neuro scientist Susan Greenfield has published a study, showing that repetitive use of (a certain kind of) digital games by children will lead to a defective development in the brains. Central is the issue of an over production of dopamine, which has an effect on the defective developement of the pre-frontal cortex; this part has to do with the development of identity and the power of empathy. Greenfield argues that the lack of empathy plays a role in the unbridled violence, which is more often part of youth life. And from here she makes a link to the computer games".

Susan Greenfield is a professor at Oxford University, chair person of the British Royal Institute and a key researcher for remedies against Alzheimer and Parkinson. In her book ID: The Quest for Identity in the 21st Century, which will be published on 15th May by Sceptre (Hardback, £16.99), she warns that computer addiction will influence the development of the brains differently, which means in her terms ‘less well’. The brains have a great flexibility, but an important change in our environment and our behaviour will have inevitable consequences for the brain, she argues. This will lead to negative consequences like replacement of real contacts for virtual experiences, the influence of pre-cooked menu choices instead of a free choice or communicating with texts without verbs and other elements necessary for a complex reasoning.

The baroness attacks games and especially against the dominance of procedure over content. The more time, she argues, is spent on gaming, the less time is left to learn specific facts and learn the links between the facts. In this way the next generation is no longer able to elaborate on conceptual frames, which are the basis of our education and our individual identity.

This debate will continue, I am sure. It is not only a scientific debate between a USA university and Oxford University, but I guess also a fight between cultures. On May 19 there will be a survey taken among 600 children living in The Netherlands from the age of 8 to 12 years. I hope to be able toi publish the results as soon as the report is out.

Blog Posting Number: 1091

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

BPN 1090 Casual games relieve stress

East Carolina University (ECU) reveals the results of a 6-month randomized, controlled study that confirms positive health benefits of so-called "casual" video games. The study was conducted between October 2007 and April 2008 and included a total of 134 subjects. The family-friendly puzzle / word games used in the study - Bejeweled 2, Peggle and Bookworm Adventures - are made by PopCap Games, whose customer surveys last year indicated similar casual gaming benefits.

ECU's study yielded significant findings and identified potential therapeutic applications of casual games as a means of addressing serious mental and physical disorders. The study will be published in a peer-reviewed journal and full results will be presented at the Games For Health Conference by Dr. Caremen Russoniello, associate professor and director of the Psychophysiology and Biofeedback Center at ECU.

Bejeweled 2 was found to reduce stress activity by 54%
compared to the control group. Peggle and Bookworm Adventures did not reduce subjects' physical stress levels significantly but did affect psychological tension, depression and other aspects of mood, in some cases dramatically (see below).

Mood was measured in six different categories (broken out below). Cumulatively, these categories are called "total mood disturbance," - a decrease in total mood disturbance being a positive change in mood. Peggle had the greatest affect, improving mood by 573% across all study subjects - with Bejeweled 2 at 435% and Bookworm Adventures at 303%.

1. Psychological Tension
Peggle had the greatest affect, with study subjects who played that game averaging a 66% reduction in psychological tension.

2. Anger
Bejeweled 2 and Peggle were shown to reduce anger by 65% and 63% respectively. Among female subjects, Peggle produced the greatest anger reduction (86%) while men experienced the greatest reduction of anger while playing Bejeweled 2 (63%).

3. Depression
All three games had similar affects on depression, reducing depressions levels by 45% (Peggle), 43% (Bookworm Adventures) and 37% (Bejeweled 2). Dr. Russoniello says: "If these games can reduce depression this significantly among a population of people who are not diagnosed with depression, the potential for positively affecting the mental state of someone who is in fact depressed is very significant."

4. Vigor
Bejeweled increased Vigor by an average of 210% among subjects who played that game.

5. Fatigue
Peggle reduced fatigue by an average of 61% among subjects who played that game.

6. Confusion
Subjects playing Peggle saw confusion drop by an average of 486%, while those playing Bookworm Adventures (462%) and Bejeweled 2 (426%) also experienced sizable reductions.

Blog Posting Number: 1090

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Monday, May 05, 2008

BPN 1089 Volkskrant wants to partner Het Gesprek

Talk television station Het Gesprek (The Conversation) is in exclusive talks with the PCM morning newspaper De Volkskrant. De Volkskrant wants to partner Het Gesprek, but Het Gesprek wants only to welcome De Volkskrant, when it brings along a lot of money. The talks should deliver by summer 2008.

Het Gesprek started in October 2007 as a talk television station, of which the broadcasts are distributed by internet and cable. The station has made a toilsome start in attracting an audience. In the viewing figures of the Dutch television stations, Het Gesprek did not show at all. The talk station can presently be received in almost the whole of The Netherlands in analogue and digital modes. A public broadcast station, KRO, started some co-operation, but the station needs more to be regularly viewed. This is where De Volkskrant comes in; the newspaper should push Het Gesprek with its progressive and intellectual audience, consisting of a large group of singles. Het Gesprek will be able to strengthen its position in the field of content of the programs and marketing.

In the stern wave of De Volkskrant follows the television producer Harry de Winter, who has been an advisor to De Volkskrant in setting up its own television channel, codenamed Oase. De Winter wants also to partake with his company WinterMedia.

The exploitation of Het Gesprek costs 4,5 million euro, according to one of the founding fathers, Ruud Hendriks. De Volkskrant will have to pay 3 million euro for a minority share. And this is a hefty amount within the conglomerate of PCM. Recently De Volkskrant adopted the daily free newspaper DAG and pays 7 million euro for that adventure. Now De Volkskrant wants to pay 3 million euro for a minority on top of that.

Within the holding PCM there is doubt about these financial investments, but De Volkskrant considers the investment in Het Gesprek as an impulse to its multimedia strategy. De Volkskrant has already invested a lot of money in its website and in a video staff, and it produces television programs together with the public broadcast stations VPRO and MAX. Besides the financial problems of De Volkskrant, PCM has to deal with other multimedia projects. Last week PCM stopped the citizens’ journalism site Skoeps and it has a dubious citizens’ journalism experiment going in EN.nl.

Blog Posting Number: 1089

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Sunday, May 04, 2008

BPN 1088 Google cancels appointment

Yesterday it was the Day of the Freedom of the Press. It was celebrated in The Netherlands with a conference for which a representative of Google had been booked as a speaker. However he has cancelled the appointment for a lecture. The conference was organised by the Dutch Journalist Union (NVJ). Central issue at the conference was the situation in China.

Peter Fleisch, vice president of Google and responsible for ethical policy, was asked to explain the decision of Google to launch its site in China earlier this month. The agreement of Google to the censorship in China was met a lot of criticism worldwide. It is unclear why Google has retracted from the conference. It is not clear either whether business relationships have requested Google to stay away from the conference. The cancellation was motivated by Google as pressing business in the States. No replacement was offered nor was a video conference link offered. I guess that the Google vice president ethical policy, was afraid to face an audience of critical journalists.

At the occasion of the Week of Freedom of the Press, Freedom House published its annual report Freedom of the Press 2008 Survey Release. Global press freedom underwent a clear decline in 2007, with journalists struggling to work in increasingly hostile environments in almost every region in the world, according to a new survey released today by Freedom House. The decline in press freedom—which occurred in authoritarian countries and established democracies alike—continues a six-year negative trend.

While the survey indicated that setbacks in press freedom outnumbered advances two to one globally, there was some improvement in the region with the least amount of press freedom: the Middle East and North Africa. The survey attributes the gains in the Middle East and North Africa to a growing number of journalists who were willing to challenge government restraints, a pushback trend seen in other regions as well.

Out of 195 countries and territories, 72 (37 percent) were rated Free, 59 (30 percent) Partly Free, and 64 (33 percent) were Not Free, a decline from 2006. However, the study found that declines in individual countries and territories were often larger than in years past.

Key regional findings include:
- Central and Eastern Europe/ Former Soviet Union: This region showed the largest region-wide setback, with Russia, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan, and several Central European countries, among others, showing declines. Only 18 percent of the region’s citizens live in environments with Free media.
- Middle East and North Africa: More unrestricted access to new media such as satellite television and the internet boosted press freedom regionally. Egyptian journalists showed an increased willingness to cross press freedom 'red lines,' moving the country into the Partly Free category.
- Asia-Pacific: Restrictions on media coverage were imposed in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, and Vietnam’s government cracked down on dissident writers.
- Americas: Guyana's status shifted from Free to Partly Free, while Mexico's score deteriorated by a further three points because of increased violence against journalists and impunity surrounding attacks on media.
- Sub-Saharan Africa: The region accounted for three of the year's five status changes: Benin declined from Free to Partly Free, while the Central African Republic and Niger moved into the Not Free category. Political conflict and misuse of libel laws were key factors behind a number of country declines.
- Western Europe: The region continued to have the highest level of press freedom worldwide, despite declines in Portugal, Malta and Turkey, the only country in the region ranked Partly Free.
The survey assesses the degree of print, broadcast, and internet freedom in every country in the world. The 2008 ratings are based on an assessment of the legal, political and economic environments in which journalists worked in 2007.

The key trends that led to numerical movements in the study include:
- Unrest and Upheaval: Media played a key role in covering coups, states of emergency and contested elections in countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Georgia, and as a result, journalists became prime targets during government crackdowns.
- Violence and Impunity: Violence against journalists and, in many cases, corresponding impunity regarding past cases of abuse was a key factor in determining press freedom in countries as diverse as Mexico, Russia and the Philippines.
- Punitive laws: Media freedom remains seriously constrained by the presence and use of numerous laws that are used to punish critical journalists and outlets.The abuse of libel laws increased in a number of countries, most notably in Africa.
- New media: Satellite television and internet-based news and networking sources are an emerging force for openness in restricted media environments as well as a key target for government control.

The world's worst-rated countries continue to include Burma, Cuba, Libya, North Korea, and Turkmenistan. In 2007, Eritrea joined the ranks of these exceedingly bad performers, while a crackdown in Burma worsened that country’s already repressive media environment, leaving its score second only to that of North Korea worldwide.


Blog Posting Number: 1088

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Saturday, May 03, 2008

BPN 1087 Skoeps to be discontinued

Returning from my break in Belgium, there awaited me a rude awakening. The Dutch user generated content site Skoeps, the Dutch version of Ohmynews, will terminate its existence by Monday May 5, 2008. The joint venture with the newspaper conglomerate PCM and Talpa Media/Cyrte investment will end their co-operation. The conclusion is that Skoeps can not exist commercially.

I had my last contact with Skoeps, when I told the management that they were not a prize winner in the World Summit Award 2007 competition; but they were one of the eight Dutch nominees. I had also suggestions about their internationalisation. At the celebration of its first anniversary, the management told that it was cash flow positive. But soon there was an omen of things to come when the team that brought Skoeps into the world, soon after the anniversary was changed completely. And I noticed that something was wrong, as e-mail messages were not answered and appointments postponed one after the other.

Skoeps had the ambition to make of every Dutch man a reporter. The site published photographs and movies of amateurs, who witnessed a newsworthy event. The management succeeded in this ambition as the site contains now 7500 registered Skoeps reporters, who send in 100 to 1500 news items a month. The site did not exploit the reporters, as it shared revenues from sold photographs and movies on a fifty/fifty basis.

The basic problem of Skoeps has been to attract a regular base of users to the site. And Skoeps had a lot of competition. The PCM free daily DAG has a full page of user generated content photographs, while NU.nl has a site Nu.jij; there is also the site Dumpert.nl. Internationally of course Flickr and YouTube dominate this scene.

Skoeps had also an international ambition. It sold the concept abroad. There was an English version in the Netherlands, filled with Dutch items as well as a German version. Negotiations with UK and German companies were on the way. Foreign services did not necessarily bear the name and logo of Skoeps. The concept and technology were both available as white label as well. For example Zoom.in produces the Flemish and French Belgian sites. Skoeps provided the infrastructure for Africa Interactive Foundation, which runs the news service Voices of Africa in Ghana, Mozambique and Tanzania. This initiative will continue, according to a spokes person. One of their international ambitions will not be realised: the attendance at the Olympic Games, sponsored by a consumer electronics company (not Philips).

The investing companies, PCM and Talpa Media/Cyrte, have indicated that they service is no longer strategic to them. Talpa Media stepped out as it no longer is involved in digital productions and PCM is experimenting with another citizens’ journalism project EN.nl, which is still a project without any real direction (and in my opinion heading nowhere). The Skoeps staff point Skoeps reporters to the free daily DAG, which is busy to produce an alternative site for the active reporter

Media companies have looked at the site as a take-over target. However they shied away once they saw the costs involved for beefing up the site. Yet the initiator of Skoeps, Michael Nederlof, said in a comment that the disappearance of Skoeps, is a pity and unnecessary. According to Nederlof a broader roll-out has lacked, internationally and in categories.

Blog Post Number: 1087

Tags: ,

Friday, May 02, 2008

BPN 1086 Re-release of Dutch numeric domains

Recently I wrote about the mess of the distribution of the numeric domains in the Netherlands. After many evening sessions, the method of distribution of a landrush was selected, the first one reaching the servers gets the numeric domain. The landrush was organised by the Dutch domain authority SIDN. On February 28, it turned out that thousands of the numeric domains were taken by a few ISPs. By using special developed software they were able to log in, log out and again log in without anyone else interfering.

There were protest and even loud cries for the management to resign. Of course the management washed their hands in innocence as the method had been the result of a consultation. But the management also saw that something had gone wrong badly and needed correction. Especially ISPs like Blixem and MijnAlbum had enlisted the help of extra mail servers were able to attain more than 4000 numeric domain names; MijnAlbum was able to pick up 1.719 numeric domains in, Blixem 2.341 numeric domains.

From April 11 till 21 the 136 participants of the landrush for numeric domains could vote via an online survey for the new method to be followed. In total 136 votes were cast with the following result:
94 (69%) votes in favour of a draw;
16 (12%) votes for the runner-up;
4 (18%) votes for a landrush;
2 (1%) votes for an auction.
The voting pattern is similar to the preference of the ISP members of the ISP Association during an evaluation of March 31, 2008.

Now a new draw will be organised. Almost 4.000 numeric domains have been returned and will be drawn among the participants of the landrush. Companies like Blixem and MijnAlbum have returned 3.944 numeric domain names, but they are free to participate. The list of the 3944 numeric domains has been published.

SIDN will work closely with the registrars concerned to decide how the de-registered numeric domain names should be put back on general release. As soon as a method has been worked out, SIDN will inform the registrar community.

Blog Posting Number: 1086

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

BPN 1085 Happy 3rd anniversary Buziaulane

Today we are celebrating the third anniversary of the blog Buziaulane in Belgium. We have taken a break along the Belgian beach, a fine place to rest and eat; happily Belgians understand more of food than the Dutch.

Buziaulane was started on Labour Day 2005 and will now go into its fourth year, daily registering events in the content and media business on the one hand and events on business trips. The blog has become a resource for content issues and electronic book developments as well as competition information on the Europrix and the World Summit Award. The blog is covering news from The Netherlands, my home country, but also from the rest of Europe, amongst others announcements and discussion from the European Commission, but is also looking at news from the US and where possible other parts of the world. In the three years we have reported on the World Summit Jury in Bahrain and Croatia as well as on the Europrix from the Austrian cities of Salzburg, Vienna and Graz.

I have looked back on the last year and have been thinking about the social networks as a big trend. The consumer social networks like Facebook, MySpace, Second Life, the professional networks as LinkedIn and Plaxo, the national networks like Hyves and the mobile networks like Twitter and all the intertwinings. In fact I received this week an invitation to join Second Brain (jee, what a creativity!). I have been lurking at most of these social networks and wondering where people save time to go on the networks: must be from free time or from watching television. And I must say that there are some nice aspects to the social networks. I have never had so many electronic anniversary cards than this year. I did not understand what triggered the senders, but understood later that I had filled out my date of birth on Facebook. I am happy with the social networks? For the basic intention of mapping a friends or professional network, it works, until you fall victim to a network fleecer, who rack up numbers of friends from others. I do not believe in numbers; you can have only a few real friends and more acquaintances. But what irritates me most in the social networks are the minute by minute announcements by some people. They still spare you from telling when they go to the toilet and the nature of their toilet session. I think this fad is over for me. But these social networks have hardly a straight forward manner to eliminate your entry in one go. Even a second entry as I had on Facebook could not be deleted. Also for the network the numbers count, so that they can ask more money for their advertisers and eventually can dictate more money when they will be acquired. No, I dump the social networks.

1288 days ago I was in Beijing, standing in front of the official count down board.

















When I look forward, there are some exciting trips coming up. I have been invited to Bahrain again the chair the jury of an e-Government competition. Not everything is fixed, but it will still be this month. I have an invitation to go to Ghana in August in the framework of a road show of the World Summit Awards and I really look forward to that trip. After South Africa that will be the second trip to Africa. In the autumn Finland will be on the agenda as well as Graz (Austria). By the beginning of next year we will have the World Summit 2009 Grand Jury and Gala, respectively in Venezuela (most likely) and Mexico. I am really looking forward to these events.

By July I hope that one of the edited books High Performance Multimedia will be published, at last. It is still a left over of the ACTeN project which ran from 2002 till 2004. By that same time I should have my manuscript ready of my book on the history of digital media in The Netherlands. And there is more in the planning.

But it will be also a year of sports excitement. The European soccer championships will be held in Austria and Switzerland. I am eager to see how much influence internet will have on the series. And it is still 99 days to go to the Olympic Games. I still remember that I was there. I am not sure how many days ago that was. I will have to look up the photograph of my visit to Beijing.

All in all, the new blog year promises to be a full year of events, items and issues and I will be happy to report on them.

Blog Number Posting: 1085

Tags: blog

Monthly stats blog Buziaulane

Blog: Buziaulane is a daily blog in English
Period: 1-4-2008 till 30-4-2008

Stats
Pageviews: 1435 (March: 1607 pages)
Visits: 1168 (February 1248 visits)
Unique Visitors: 1045 (February 1123 visitors)
Countries: 75 (February 77 countries)

Top 10 postings
Rank/URL/Percentage of Pageviews
1. other: 45,1%
2. http://buziaulane.blogspot.com/: 15,82%
3. http://www.buziaulane.blogspot.com/: 3,00%
4. http://buziaulane.blogspot.com/2006_08_03_archive.html: 2,58%
5. ...buziaulane.blogspot.com/2006/07/serious-games-for-seniors.html: 1,46%
6. ...e.blogspot.com/2006/12/iliad-and-de-tijd-enewspaper-close.html: 1,25%
7. http://buziaulane.blogspot.com/2007/04/dutch-game-industry.html: 1,18%
8. http://buziaulane.blogspot.com/2006/03/new-p2p-software.html: 0,84%
9. http://buziaulane.blogspot.com/2005/10/skype-and-webcam-era.html: 0,77%
10. rest: 2,37%









Pageviews from the following countries
Rank/country/percentage
1. Netherlands (28,36%)
2. USA (24,32%)
3. UK (9,20%)
4. Germany (3,34%)
5. France (2,58%)
6. Canada (2,58%)
7. Italy (2,58%)
8. Belgium (2,44%)
9. Spain (1,74%)
10. Rest (1,18%)
11. Austria (1,11%)
12. India (1,11%)
13. Australia (1,05%)
14. Ireland (0,91%)
15. China (0,84%)

Rankings
Google Ranking: 4 (March: 4)
Indexed: 3110 (March: 2750)
Yahoo Inlinks: 4321 (March: 4790)

Stats generated by Onestat and ClustrMaps

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

BPN 1084 First right of sale to e-songs and e-books

Songs bought in the MSN Music Shop, which stopped in 2006, when Microsoft launched the Zune Marketplace, will be unusable. The servers handing out licenses will be taken out of action on August 31, 2008. Legally bought songs, will become unplayable neither are they to be played out on Mircosoft’s music player Zune. So, legally bought songs become unusable by a decision of the provider, who also stops the songs from being played on its music machine.

Many buyers will put the question whether Microsoft just can do that. Microsoft used the argument that the songs under PlayForSure was a small group. A rather one-sided decision, as people have paid money to buy the songs and will have to shell out again. Besides the service aspect and respect for customers, it appears that the buyer has no right to th song at all, except the right to buy it over and over agin when the provider changes servers, DRM software or equipment. So the user has a right to a license and not to the song.

The same question plays in the electronic book field. When you have bought an electronic book from Amazon or from Sony, is that book yours and are you allowed to sell the book. Four students from Columbia Law School's Science and Technology Law Review are challenging the legal issues surrounding the purchase of e-books for devices like the Amazon Kindle and the Sony Reader.

The contentious characteristic of both products is that they bar users from sharing their e-books with other users. Kindle offers a non-exclusive right to keep a permanent copy...solely for your personal, non-commercial use." Users may not sell, rent, lease, distribute, broadcast, sublicense or otherwise assign any rights to...any third party. The Sony Reader has similar, restrictive clauses in its license, but does allow users to copy e-books to several other Readers as long as they are registered to the same account.

For dead-tree book buyers this discussion is strange as they can sell the physical book by putting it on eBay and selling it at any price. This is called the first sale doctrine. Under the US Copyright Act, the first sale doctrine allows the owner of a particular copy of a work to sell, lease or rent that copy to anyone they want at any price they choose. These rights only apply, however, to the particular copy that was purchased; any unauthorized reproduction or copying of that work constitutes copyright infringement.

When it comes to digital works, however, two complications arise: first, consumers might only hold a license to the content, rather than all of the rights that come from a sale of a physical book. It is neither most likely that a user can sell a particular copy as there are many more formats available.

Kindle and the Sony Reader are following this licensing trend and creating restrictive licenses that users must agree to upon using the product. If these agreements are found to be enforceable licenses by a court, they could serve as the legal authority to limit users from selling or otherwise transferring the e-books they download.

While the restrictions on e-books may initially seem inconsistent with the rights granted for hard-copy books, these differences are the consequence of new digital products outgrowing traditional copyright doctrines. Such issues are currently being examined by legal scholars and industry insiders, but only time will tell whether this degree of control over digital media is acceptable to society.

Blog Posting Number: 1084

Tags: e-books, e-reader, right of first sale

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

BPN 1083 The effect of Kindle

On the Monday before Thanksgiving last year Amazon.com launched the Kindle. I had heard before that time that Amazon.com had not selected the iLiad manufactured by iRex Technologies and wondered why. The launch made it clear that Amazon.com was after another type of e-Reader; one with a keyboard and a Digital Rights Management system. DRM can be delivered on the iLiad but it is not standard.
So Amazon.com surprised everyone with its own model, the Kindle. It is neat, but it is curious in shape. Of course the main feature is digital paper, which dumbfounds everyone who is used to LCD screens. Yes you can read a book on digital paper on the beach in the sun. As far as this Sony nor the iLiad are real competitors, although I hear people still raving about REB 1200.

Did Kindle have any effect on the e-book market? Amazon.com just did not launch an e-book reader. In fact it launched a full business plan. The e-reader could be used for books. But it could do more in comparison to the Sony –trader. It could also wirelessly download newspapers, magazines and blogs. And the service did not get stuck at that point. The offer of books, newspapers, magazines and blogs was priced competitively; although pricing free blogs is still an absolute sin to me.

Yet the Kindle had all the hallmarks for the iPod/iTunes effect. When Apple introduced the iPod, music downlods had a bad image; most of the downloads were illegal and unpaid for. When Apple introduced the iPod and added later iTunes, it offered a complete service to its customers, breaking the mould of illegal downloading. People were willing to pay a reasonable price for a song, which they could download and use. Problem of course is the iTunes fixed format, which makes it hard to play it out on another platform. But all in all, iPod in combination with iTunes helped the music industry tremendously.

But what has been the Kindle effect on the e-book market? Did it bring about a revolution or just a small tidal gulf? As said, Amazon.com had a nice business proposition with a wireless device as the bleeding edge of technology, a good and fair proposal for books, newspapers, magazines and a less fair proposal for blogs. And the assortment of books and respectable newspapers as well as the reasonable prices made the offer attractive enough.

At the announcement Amazon.com told that Kindle had made already a deep impression. I picked up the figure of 10.000 units sold in the first days. Others report at least 2.000 Kindles. I guess it were more units than that. This also brought along the rise of e-books. And not only Amazon.com profited from it, but also Sony, which has been longer active in the market. Sony is even thought to have doubled or even tripled the sales of e-books.

But measuring the iPod/iTune effect with Kindle, Kindle has only made an impression in the US and has stimulated the sales of e-books, even to the point that Penguin starts to get on the bandwagon of e-books. But Kindle has not made any impression in Europe yet. Will Amazon link up with Penguin in the UK by September 2008?

But even so, then Kindle and Penguin would cover the US and UK market, but not the European continental market. Selling hardware is not the problem, but selling a bundle because of the language fragmentation in Europe. The US and Japanese manufacturers see this as a problem as it requires books in many languages. It requires negotiations with publishers per language base. US and Japanese consumer electronics manufacturers see this hardly a challenge. By not introducing the Kindle with an multi-lingual offer of e-books will put a brake on the distribution of e-books on the European continent. All in all, Kindle has lost its momentum for Europe for the time being and offers a commercial window for its wireless digital paper competitor iLiad and indirect digital paper competitors as Cybook and the likes.

Blog Posting Number: 1083

Tags: e-book, e-reader, iPod

Monday, April 28, 2008

BPN 1082 Commodore sinks further in the marshes

To some people it might be a surprise to hear that the veteran home PC brand Commodore is still around. One or two generations have grown up with the Commodore home PCs. It was a great experience. But after a few bankruptcies the brand Commodore goes downhill.

We moved as a family from the Netherlands to the UK in 1983 and lived in London. In 1984 I bought a Commodore 64 for the family. It was intended as an entertainment machine in the widest sense. Of course educational software packages were also used. We were used to PCs for professional usage since 1980, which were self-contained and floppy disc readers built-in. The Commodore 64 was a home computer with the computing part under the keyboard; it used the TV screen as a monitor. Software could be loaded from a floppy-disc drive or from a cassette player. We bought a lot of games and educational material for the Commodore 64 and still have the machine and the software in our little museum.

Eventually Commodore went bust. It had rested on its laurels, made the wrong choices and had not innovated in time. By 1994, the company went bankrupt, after that it had made a last attempt to introduce its version of the multimedia CD-ROM under the name CDTV, a competitor of Philips CD-i. CDTV and CD-I were both ignored by the market in favour of the multimedia PC CD-ROM. CDTV was ditched and the remains of Commodore, mainly the trademarks were acquired by the German computer shop chain Escom for 14 million US dollars in 1995; Escom went bust in 1996. In 1997 the Dutch company Tulip became the owner of the brand, but was too busy to do something with the brand. In 2004 it sold the trademark rights of Commodore International BV to music shop Yeahronimo for 24 million euro.

From 2005 to 2007 Commodore International BV applied itself to the development of media equipment for plying out music and movies. In 2007 Commodore was ready to launch its top product, the Gravel. But the equipment did neither sell well as it soon became known that there were problems with the equipment; the batteries emptied too fast and the music and movies were nor receivable by the equipment. The Commodore experience was not felt at all. Presently Commodore offers Golden Testsamples, but they still have to be tested by the buyers.

But the Golden Testsamples will hardly yield profits. Having spent 30 million euro for product development, the product might be finally ready and hopefully play without a hitch, in the meantime the price for media players has gone done so drastically that it will be difficult to make any profit at all.

Besides technical trouble the financial situation of the holding company does not look bright either. It has debts of over 36 million euro. The main claim comes from the Dutch computer manufacturer Tulip, which still wants to see 20 million euro.

On top of all this trouble one of the subsidiaries of Commodore International was declared bankrupt two weeks ago, but this ruling is being protested. Yet, the prospects for Commodore do not look healthy and whether the Commodore experience will be around again, will be most doubtful.

Blog Posting Number: 1082

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

BPN 1081 Modern life is medieval

I am presently reading the book Darkmans, which was shortlisted for THE Man BOOKER PRIZE 2007. It is a fat book of 838 pages and the story and setting is very British and hilarious. I wished I had bought the e-book version of this book as it hard to read the book in bed.
The author Nicola Barker is extraordinary in her observations. I was very surprised to find in the book a comparison between the end of the Middle Ages and the present time. On page 395, she mentions the monumental cultural work of Dutch humanist John Huizinga, The Waning of the Middle Ages. The book celebrates a culture in decline – the end of the historical period of the Middle Ages

One of the persons in the book argues that modern life is medieval and she supports her position: If you ask any expert in the field what the single most notable social characteristic of medieval life was they’d probably say the bells. It might sound strange now, but bells pretty much defined the age. They tolled for every occasion – the start of curfew, the end of curfew, the arrival of a dignitary, the prospect of danger. Quiet was an anomaly. Life was a clamour. And now, after several hundred years of relative social calm and tranquillity, we’ve developed the mobile phone which also chimes – and must be allowed to chime – at every available opportunity. But instead of bringing social unity, instead of connecting us more intimately to our social peers and neighbours, it actively divides us, it isolates us, it encourages an atmosphere of merciless self-inviolvement parading in the guise of spurious conviviality…

And she has more gems. In medieval life the higher echelons of society celebrates levels of cupidity – of excess; their huge feasts, their crazy processions, their ornate costumes – that were by any historical standard almost obscene. Here, today, in the deep inside the belly of the decadent West, we cheerfully do the same. We define our power and our status – just as they did – through meaningless and gratuitous acts of consumption. The phrase all you kids like to use, I believe, is bling.

And how about their obsession with Courtly Love? …The tournaments, the jousts, the chivalrous knights and all those buizarre and convoluted rituals of etiquette – those faux-historical games of form, which weren’t actually historical at all; the cult of King Arthur, for example? All neatly echoed in our present-day passion for, say, Star Wars, or The Matrix… The Lord of the Rings. Harry bloody Potter. All invented mythologies. WE inhabit these worlds as if they are real. We respond to them intellectually although they aren’t remotely intelligent. We encourage our children to play computer games which seek to simulate life, to mirror it, because we’re too afraid to let them step outside their own front doors. We allow them to fight violent, artificial wars on screen, while we carefully remove ourselves – and them – physically, from the consequences of actual conflict, with our long-range warheads and our missiles…

And the person finishes her tirade: It’s a perfect medieval mind-set, don’t you see? To experience something so intensely but as strange kind of denial. I mean it’s tragic, almost laughable that our greatest invention – the computer – a device intended to set us free to live lives unconstrained by mindless details – has actually ended up binding us more thoroughly to life’s minutiae by filling the world with reams of useless – often –unreliable – information, with this endless, this empty, this almost unstoppable babble…

Oh I love this ranting.

Blog Posting Number: 1981

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

BPN 1080 Texting and writing

The Pew Internet and American Life Project has touched again on an interesting subject: the state of writing among teens. It is seldom that people receive a handwritten letter from me anymore. Recently I saw a letter I wrote in 1968. I still wrote by hand and it could be read by a third party, but the typing machine had taken over the official letter writing (no PC did not exist at that time, stupid). In the eighties the PC overtook my writing and these days I only take notes by shorthand and even this is changing with the writing program on the e-book. What does the cyber generation from after 1988 do; do they write or use the PC. In the school situation it must be even more complicated. Whenever you give them an assignment to write about a subject, they most likely copy the Wikipedia empty and start editing, so that the teacher will not recognised the copy work. But doing an assignment by longhand must be out of fashion, I guess, in The Netherlands and certainly in the US.

So the Pew Internet & American Life Project and the National Commission on Writing organised a national phone survey of 700 youth, ages 12-17 years, and their parents in mid-November; it has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points. The report also contains findings from eight focus groups in four U.S. cities conducted in the summer of 2007.

Pew discovered an interesting paradox: while teens are heavily embedded in a tech-rich world and craft a significant amount of electronic text, they see a fundamental distinction between their electronic social communications and the more formal writing they do for school or for personal reasons.
- 87 pct of youth ages 12-17 engage at least occasionally in some form of electronic personal communication, which includes text messaging, sending email or instant messages, or posting comments on social networking sites.
- 60 pct of teens do not think of these electronic texts as "writing."

Teens are utilitarian in their approach to technology and writing, using both computers and longhand depending on circumstances. Their use of computers for school and personal writing is often tied to the convenience of being able to edit easily. And while they do not think their use of computers or their text-based communications with friends influences their formal writing, many do admit that the informal styles that characterize their e-communications do occasionally bleed into their schoolwork.

- 57 pct of teens say they revise and edit more when they write using a computer.
- 63 pct of teens say using computers to write makes no difference in the quality of the writing they produce.
- 73 pct of teens say their personal electronic Communications (email, IM, text messaging) have no impact on the writing they do for school, and 77 pct said they have no impact on the writing they do for themselves.
- 64 pct of teens admit that they incorporate, often accidentally, at least some informal writing styles used in personal electronic communication into their writing for school. (Some 25 pct have used emoticons in their school writing; 50 pct have used informal punctuation and grammar; 38 pct have used text shortcuts such as "LOL" meaning "laugh out loud.")

In the Netherlands we see a paradigm shift from the official civilised Netherlands’ language to shortlands, shortening of the writing of the Dutch language, incorporating speech. It has become MSN and texting language. Shorthand was used in the past in telegram (when did you send for the last time), headlines, diary and advertisements. Of course it is to save space, money and time. But for children 12 to 17 years it is also part of their cool identity and showing off of their Multi-linguistic skills...

All of this matters more than ever because teenagers and their parents uniformly believe that good writing is a bedrock for future success. Eight in ten parents believe that good writing skills are more important now than they were 20 years ago, and 86 pct of teens believe that good writing ability is an important component of guaranteeing success later in life.

I look very sceptical at these last figures. It looks more political correct than the importance of writing in later life. And I can not believe that good writing skills (hopefully is meant good handwriting) are more important than 20 years ago. I see this as a projection of parents through a rear mirror, as most of those parents write on computers today.

The results on writing are interesting, but I would be more interested (and most likely more worried) about the results of a survey on reading. Do children between 12 and 17 years still read newspapers, books and magazines? Perhaps it is not just reading and writing habits that should be surveyed, but their full daily patterns should be recorded in time and in content. I wonder how the study on teen appeal by Christina Handford at Staffordshire University is coming along.

Blog Posting Number: 1080

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