Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Announcement Posting Number 1250

Today I celebrate the posting of number 1250 to the Buziaulane blog. It is a milestone as I have mailed a posting to the blog on 1250 consecutive days, almost 3 years and a quarter. It has become an obsessive routine. And after a talk with a good friend and business partner I have decided to kick the habit. Not by going cold turkey, but by slowing down the pace to an occasional posting, perhaps once or twice a week. The newly gained free time will be used amongst others to finish my book on the Pre-internet period of new media in the Netherlands and some other assignments. So it is not a goodbye, but do return regularly to Buziaulane.

BPN 1250 Games seniors play

It is another milestone today. I have posted 1250 posting on 1250 consecutive days, which is roughly 3,25 years. One of the shortlist subjects has been game and seniors. Recently I found a Dutch (language) report on the subject written by Yvonne Woldberg, a student at the Utrecht University. She asked herself: how do seniors experience digital games and how does this match the way the game industry approaches them. She supposed that there was a dichotomy between gaming seniors and the game industry.

In order to get insight in this thesis she did desk research and interviews with three marketing employees in the gaming industry. To get an impression of the seniors, she held seven interviews with gamin young seniors and a web survey among 400+ gaming seniors on Seniorweb. She approached the game experience from the concept of game wisdom and refers to knowledge, skills and mentality; characteristics for the relationship between games, gamers and game industry.

The relationship between the gaming senior and the gaming industry is a love-hate relationship. The gaming industry has a negative imago about gaming seniors and the gaming seniors play their game but do not consider themselves to be real gamers, as gaming is something for young people. This imago is strengthened by the fact that gaming seniors mainly play casual games. But the casual game does not make the senior in a casual gamer by definition, as many seniors play the games in the hardcore way; many times, for long and with devotion. So this is a problem for the industry attempting to establish segmentation. Besides, making the games more accessible would help to break down the dichotomy between casual and hardcore.

The author offers two conclusions to the research. Terms like game, gamer and game industry should be defined broader. More attention should be paid to casual games as they have the potency to transform the negative imago of force and addiction into a game culture in which people of both sexes, of all ages and with gaming habits and preferences find their place. This recommendation is already being practiced by Nintendo in their advertisements for Wii and their Brain games. But also Zylom, a casual games company, has already games for senior women and attracts them with advertisements directed to the target group. Gaming should become a social activity which is accessible for everyone and which delivers pleasure.
Using the concept of game wisdom the author pleads also to start another approach to the research in game experience by recognising the influence of broader (social) contexts. With more quantitative and qualitative research in knowledge, skills and mentality of gamers over against games, gamers and game culture a better exchange between producer and consumer should achieved.

The study is worth while a read, but is sadly enough in the Dutch language. It also used the typical concept of media wisdom; a concept fashionable in The Netherlands since the Dutch government established a centre for media wisdom. I have already loathed the term media wisdom and indicated that I rather prefer media literacy (in line with computer literacy; can you imagine the term computer wisdom!) or media versatility. I – as a senior - personally would prefer the term game literacy, for in order to reach the stage of game wisdom, you need game education.

For more Buziaulane postings on games and senior:
Games for seniors -- The Interview
Watch out: the seniors are coming
Watch out for the silver tsunami
Looking back and forwards (2)
Games for seniors needed

Blog Posting: 1250

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Monday, October 13, 2008

BPN 1249 Happy Anniversary to the Dubai EE

It was the Brazilian Eminent Expert Marcello Sant’Iago (see photograph), who reminded me of the fifth anniversary of the World Summit Award Grand Jury event in Dubai in September 2003. It looks like such a long time ago, certainly if you consider that in the meantime three Grand Jury events have taken place and the next one is on the schedule for next year. The Dubai Grand Jury event was great for more than one reason.

The Dubai Grand Jury event was the first coming out of the World Summit Award (WSA). All effort so far had been in the light of setting up an organisation to support a global multimedia competition. In 2003 the first UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) was going to be held in Geneva (Switzerland). The WSA had been conceived as a support event to the UN Summit showing what the Information Society was already up to. The competition had been set up on the Olympic Games principle that every country could participate and 136 countries did in the first edition.

Unique was the first band of 35 jurors. They had been selected on the basis of written profiles (no photographs attached to the CVs) by the provisional board. Funny enough the final selection did not differ much from the selections by the individual board members’ selection. They came from all over the globe and did not know each other. But many a friendship was closed and is still in effect. The Grand Jury members selected 5 entries per category (8 categories in total). The selection of 2003 winners still can be seen on the WSA site. They were brought to the exhibition in Geneva.

Dubai offered hospitality to the first WSA Grand Jury. And Emirate people were fabulous hosts. They had prepared a quiet space for jury members to check on the entries as well as a hall for deliberations under the direction of the initiator and process manager Peter Bruck. It was hard work for the jury members to get through all the entries and judge them fairly. But they did . And the hosts had prepared a social program, lifting on other events in Dubai such as the Gulf Information Technology exhibition and the opening of the Knowledge Management Village. Also at the other evenings they had organised open-air buffets and the last evening on a dohw (see photograph).

Five years on, the World Summit Award still exists, despite the fact that the WSIS had only two editions. But the WSA continues up to 2015, when the UN will look back at the results of the WSIS. The WSA has had three editions in the meantime. The Grand Juries were in Dubai (2003), Bahrain (2005) and Croatia (2007). The Gala events were in Geneva (2003), Tunis (2005) and Venice (2007). The next WSA edition is slated for next year with the Grand Jury in Venezuela and the Gala in Monterrey (Mexico).

Dubai was also my first acquaintance with the Middle East. I have been back several times to the Middle East now and especially Bahrain. In the meantime many Grand Jury members have stayed in contact with each other. And this week a number of Grand Jury/Board members congregate in New Dehli (India) for the Gala of the Mathan Award, the best Indian multimedia products and services.

Happy Anniversary to the Dubai EE.

Blog Posting Number: 1249

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

BPN 1248 Dutch media and entertainment no double digit growth

Just before the great financial crisis Price Waterhouse and Coopers (PwC) published itsnnual outlook on the media and entertainment industry in The Netherlands.

The entertainment and media industry in the Netherlands expanded by 4.4 percent in 2006, up from the 3.1 percent rise in 2005 and the fastest increase during the past five years. End-user spending, which comprised 76 percent of the total market in 2006, rose by 4.0 percent, up from the 3.4 percent rise in 2005. Advertising increased by 5.6 percent, its largest gain during the past five years and well above the 2.1 percent growth in 2005. The rebound in the economy in the Netherlands in 2006 contributed to the jump in advertising.

Fueling the improvement was a reversal in filmed entertainment, which rose by 3.5 percent in 2006 after falling by 11.1 percent in 2005. Although recorded music declined by 6.1 percent, that drop was a 10.4 percentage point improvement compared with the 16.5 percent decrease in 2005. Double-digit increases in video games and sports also contributed to faster growth in 2006. Sports benefited from spending associated with the FIFA World Cup and Winter Olympics and video games were bolstered by the introduction of new console platforms.

Video games and sports were the fastest-growing segments in 2006 with increases of 17.1 percent and 11.6 percent, respectively, and the only segments to generate double-digit growth. The Internet, which was the fastest-growing segment in 2005 at 15.6 percent, rose by 7.7 percent in 2006, falling to third place. Slower growth in broadband access spending and a faster decline in dial-up accounted for the drop to single-digit growth for the Internet, its first single-digit advance since 2000.

Television was the next-fastest-growing segment with a 7.2 percent advance, fueled principally by double-digit growth in subscription spending that offset a decrease in the government contribution to public broadcasters. Out-of-home advertising at 5.0 percent was the only other segment to grow by five percent or more. Digital billboards and digital networks contributed to the increase in out-of-home growth in 2006.

Recorded music, theme parks and newspaper publishing were the only segments to record declines in 2006. Physical sales of recorded music fell by 9.2 percent, offsetting a 200 percent increase in digital sales from a tiny base. Falling admissions at De Efteling and Walibi World accounted for the 0.4 percent decline in theme park revenues, while a drop in newspaper circulation spending offset a rebound in newspaper advertising leading to a 1.1 percent dip in the newspaper market. That drop, however, was substantially less than the 2.1 percent decrease in 2005.

The entertainment and media (E&M) market as a whole in 2006 benefited from a noticeably stronger economy. We expect economic growth to remain relatively healthy during the next five years, which should support continued E&M expansion. We expect overall growth to average 4.6 percent compounded annually during the next five years, comparable to the increase in 2006. Spending in 2011 will total an estimated € 14.8 billion, up from € 11.9 billion in 2006.



PwC: We do not expect any segment to average double-digit growth during the next five years. Video games, which rose at a 26.9 percent compound annual rate during the past five years, will drop to an 8.0 percent compound annual increase during the next five years, but it will remain the fastest-growing segment. New video game platforms and growth in online and wireless gaming will drive spending. We expect television to be the secondfastest-growing segment with a projected 6.8 percent compound annual increase. A surging video-on-demand and the effect of government contributions to public broadcasters will propel television, although growth will be less than the 7.9 percent compound annual increase during the past three years as subscription spending growth moderates. Continued double-digit growth in online advertising will support the Internet market at a 6.3 percent annual rate.

Out-of-home advertising will build on the momentum generated in 2006 and buoyed by increasing penetration of digital technologies will expand at a 6.0 percent compound annual rate. Our 5.6 percent compound annual growth for recorded music represents a dramatic turnaround following five years of decline. We project recorded music to begin to increase in 2008 as the expanding digital music sector begins to become large enough to offset continued declines in physical music.

PcW project sports to expand at a 5.4 percent compound annual rate, led by expanding television rights fees and continued growth in sponsorship gate revenues. Theme parks will grow at a 3.8 percent compound annual rate, as new rides, hotels, and new parks boost admissions. Steady box office growth and increasing sell-through spending will offset a drop in the home video rental market, leading to a projected 3.2 percent rate compound growth for filmed entertainment. PcW expect radio to expand at a 2.4 percent rate compounded annually, helped by a rise in government contributions to public broadcasters. Magazines will lead the publishing segments with a 2.8 percent compound annual increase, while book publishing and newspaper publishing will grow by 1.9 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively. We do not project any segment to decline during the next five years. During the past five years, three segments recorded music, newspaper and magazine publishing declined.


Blog Posting Number: 1248

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

BPN 1247 Oh no not again such a banking week

It has been a strange week with all those financial fluctuations: the stocks going down, banks being unable to provide their customers with their savings and banks being nationalised. None of it I had seen on this scale, certainly not in The Netherlands.

In The Netherlands we believe that we have a reliable banking system. Of course there have been some calamities, but in general you get what you ask for. But in the past weeks some strange things happened. The government nationalised the Dutch part of the Fortis Bank, from origin a Belgian bank. Fortis, or better Fortwas, had formed a consortium with the British Royal Bank of Scotland and the Spanish Bank Santander in order to buy the Dutch bank ABN-Amro, the national banking pride (not to me as I found The Bank too arrogant).

The problems developed over a period of a short time and of course the communication with the customers and the market was piecemeal. This yielded more than one forum on internet. There was even a forum pro Fortis and critical more negative forums and columns. After the acquisition of the Dutch parts of Fortis and The Bank ABN-Amro the sentiment has died down and shareholders arm themselves for court cases against Fortis or what is left of it

And just when everyone thought that the financial crisis would die down and the stocks would go up, another disaster announced itself in The Netherlands: the Icesave disaster. Icesave was the international internet bank of the Iceland bank Landsbanki. Subsidiaries in Great Britain and The Netherlands had been set up to pick up savings against a very high rate of 5,5 percent, the highest in the Dutch market and I believe, 5,6 percent in the UK market. In the Netherlands Icesave attracted 120.000 clients who put in 1,6 billion euro. However the bank got in liquidity problems and people smelled it. In droves they came to rescue up their savings. But of course there were also people who believed that this would not go wrong. Besides the Iceland government guaranteed the first 20.000 euro and the Dutch bank was the guarantor of the rest, first up for the next 20.000 euro and since this week for the next 80.000 euro. It soon became clear that Iceland could not guarantee anything. With 300.000 inhabitants, the national ministry did not have that much cash. So it nationalised all the banks. Did Fortis communicate piecemeal, Landesbanki did not communicate at all, except for a note on its internet site of Icesave, the transparent bank (!).

Again here the same effect as with Fortis, forums popped up all over internet. The most popular became Icelost. But a real fast action came from Business News Radio. This station is part of a cross media company with an internet site, the financial daily Het Financieele Dagblad and conferences. It is a very eager station, which smartly uses all the cross media facilities. So when Icesave stopped operations and was unable to provide money to its customers, the station started a crowdsourcing action. Under the motto Crises, the radio journalists called up the victims to mail their stories to the radio station. The station was flooded. Within an hour the journalist had a full inventory of all the questions of their listeners and the sad stories. They had enough content for the rest of the day. Stories were cited and analysed and victims interviewed. It was a smart move to combine two fast media: e-mail and radio.

Blog Posting Number: 1246

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Friday, October 10, 2008

BPN 1246 AlmereGrid: a cityGrid for unused computer time

The most famous example of a grid is SETI@HOME. Consumers donate computer time to a project that uses Internet-connected computers in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). I have had never the urge to participate in a project attempting to discover extraterrestrial life. But recently I was surprised to find city grid computing in my home town, Almere. AlmereGrid is operational since September 2006 after two years of preparation (The excuse for missing this news item is, that we were moving offices at that time).

AlmereGrid is a city grid aiming to solve more complex problems. The city is working on an urban fibre network for its almost 200.000 inhabitants, a number that will double in the next ten years. AlmereGrid allows citizens, companies and other organisations to donate otherwise unused computing time to science. By donating computing time for instance to medical research, these projects can be speeded up. AlmereGrid makes it easy for everyone to participate, even for computer non-literate by providing software.

The Almere-based initiative is a special project in four regards. First the heterogeneity of the Grid is remarkable. From the central AlmereGrid Exchange, communication will be initiated with all possible operating systems on which the connected processors are running. Secondly, the citizens and companies located within the Almere Fibre project will be involved. AlmereGrid will be implemented in a tight social structure which will connect the pioneers in the test-bed area. The third special project feature is strongly related with this fact. The fibre network is connecting the computers with a fixed speed of 100Mbit/s. This can be guaranteed since the SARA subsidiary in Almere and the service provider UNET are taking part as Technology Providers in AlmereGrid. The fourth feature consists in the technical but especially human enforcement of leading technology companies, which are collaborating to deploy the project. AlmereGrid is partner in the EU EDGeS project (EU Grant Agreement 211727).

AlmerGrid has performed already projects in the medical field, computing project and for consumers a building project. The medical project was for the Rotterdam Erasmus University. It concerned a finger bone growth project, requiring calculation power to track the growth in finger bones. Another project was done for the Antwerp University. The project dubbed Java Port AlmereGrid MetaScheduler was the final assignment for a Bachelor Informatics. It concerned a study and implementation of a so-called metascheduler, which was able to distribute the workload over various Grids. Some programs of this project will be used by AlmereGrid.

But AlmereGrid is not only oriented to scientific projects. As Almere is a fast growing city, doubling in inhabitant numbers over the next ten years. More than 70.000 houses have to be built. A number of them will be designed and/or built by the inhabitants themselves. In order to support those inhabitants the program Virtual Building Coach is being developed for them to design their own house in virtual reality on AlmereGrid. A number of relevant databases, including legislative ones, will be available on the AlmereGrid.

Another project is BEinGRID, a back-up facility for Small and Middle sized Enterprises (SMEs). AlmereGrid facilitates online back-up. The back-ups will be divided in parts and distributed over various machines. The files are encrypted and safe for disaster, fire and theft. The safety technology is base in the Random Reader of the Rabobank.

Blog Posting Number: 1246

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

BPN 1245 Dutch cyber crime Code of Conduct in effect

The Minister for Foreign Trade Heemskerk kicked off the 'Notice-and-Take-Down' Code of Conduct in The Hague today. The Code sets out how internet companies are to handle reports about illegal websites. Under the terms of the Code of Conduct, illegal websites hosted from the Netherlands will eventually be removed. Substantial progress fighting spam, spyware and malware has been made over the past years. The new code will help to tackle other illegal activities on the internet, including handling stolen goods, discrimination or phishing.

The code of Conduct is based on good practices from businesses, governments and other parties involved in fighting cybercrime. The Code has been drawn up under the patronage of the National Infrastructure Cybercrime (Ministry of Economic Affairs) by market parties including KPN, XS4ALL, ISPConnect, Dutch Hosting Provider Association, NLKabel, Ziggo, UPC, CAIW, Zeelandnet and domain register SIDN. Ministries, the police and investigation services and organisations including Marktplaats/eBay and the copyright police BREIN collaborated in setting up the code. Affiliated businesses - 85% of all access providers and several hosting providers - hereby send a clear signal that the internet is not to be used for illegal practices.

Those responsible for placing illegal content on the internet are often difficult to trace. As reports about illegal Dutch sites are rarely acted upon, these sites often remain online. The Code sets out the agreements between participants and their specific roles in dealing with reports they receive. In principle, internet users can report any illegal content they come across to those responsible for placing the content on the net. If this is not possible or if they don't know who to approach, users can report their find to the next party down the chain. This may be the manager of a discussion forum, the company that hosts the relevant website, the service provider or, as a last resort, the police. These other parties in the chain will make every effort to get the information off line. The new Code will become effective today.

The Code will be followed up later this year with more measures to fight cybercrime. For instance, a ban on sending spam to companies will be introduced from early next year.

Blog Posting Number: 1245

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

BPN 1244 A banker's view of the Dutch creative industry

In these days of financial troubles, it is hard to read a financial report without any suspicion. But recently the Dutch cooperative Rabobank published statistics on the Dutch creative industry in its series of industrial sector reports under the title Figure and Trends. The financial figures report (sorry: in Dutch) is an addition to the Dutch 2008 Cross Media Monitor, which was put together by iMMovator in collaboration with TNO and the Rabobank.

The creative industry is a container term for a sector consisting of arts and cultural heritage, media and entertainment and creative business services. Within the subsector art and cultural heritage economic motives are subordinate to artistic motives. The activities are often sponsored by governments or semi-government institutes, not leaving the activity to the market mechanism of demand and supply. The subsector media and entertainment industry with the music industry, broadcasting, print and movie industry is very market driven and generates turn over from products and services for the consumer market. Major exception is the public broadcast system. The subsector creative business services operates on the business market, delivering products and services adding symbolic value to the products and services of their clients. In the creative business services sector operate architecture companies, consultancies, design and communication bureaus.

The Rabobank produced a financial analysis of the creative industry between 2004 and 2006. The data come from the Rabo Figures & Trends database. The database contains balance sheets of bank customers up to 2006. The statistics reflect the average company in the subsector. The figures of the art sector are base don a smaller amount of data than the other subsectors and are only indicative.

On a national level the creative industry created in 234.000 jobs in 2007. The creative business services are the largest subsector, followed by media and entertainment with 30 percent and arts and cultural heritage with 19 percent. The creative industry and ICT were the main boosters of employment with 10 percent between 1996-2007. Both sectors grew faster than the national economy and realised both in this period 4 percent turn-over growth over against an average national growth of the total economy of 2,2 percent. The creative industry as well as ICT are heavily concentrated in the Northern Wing.

The financial highlights are:
- The average company in the creative industry as well as in the subsectors have developed positively developed in the years 2004-2006. The average company in the creative industry sector realised turn-over of 689.000 euro in 2006.
- The average turn-over of a company in the creative business services was 801.000 euro, in the media- and entertainment industry 593.000 euro and in arts and cultural heritage 557.000 euro.
- The absolute profit as well as the profit percentage was raised in the period of 2004-2006: the creative business services with 6,9 percent, media and entertainment with 4% and arts and cultural heritage with 2 percent.
- Almost half of the companies in the creative industries with a turn-over smaller than 250.000 euro makes a profit after deducting the management fee.
- An average company in this sector owes 33 percent of the capital, while it also has 36 percent of foreign capital on the balance sheet. The short term foreign money is on average 20 percent.

The figures offer some ideas about the financial side of the business in the creative industry. However it would also be interesting to know what the share is of the digital creative industry, as I suspect that this is the main boost behind the growth up to 2007. Of course we will have to wait for the new figures and see in 2009, what the present financial crisis has brought on.

Blog Posting Number: 1244

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

BPN 1243 e-Book distribution in Europe

With the arrival of competition in the e-reader field in worldwide and especially in Europe, the issue of e-book distribution should be addressed. For the US and UK market there are already a number of e-book outlets. And Sony has even fine-tuned its US online e-book shop and is benefitting from the sales of its e-readers and of the sale of e-books (which boils down to the iPod model). But what about the continental European market for e-books. Let us look further in two years.

I purposely address the European continent as the UK benefits from the language similarity with the USA. But the European continent is a fragmented market due to the many languages. Of course, if there are any e-books in a particular language, it usually will be sold in the region where the languages are spoken. Four main language areas are German, French and Spanish and Italian. So German e-books have as a footprint: Germany, Switzerland and Austria; French e-books have France as sales market in Europe with a Francophone market in Africa, America and Asia (in countries like Vietnam). The Spanish language has Spain as beneficiary market with a large market in South America. And Italian e-books have Italy as sales area. All the other European languages including the Eastern European languages are usually restricted to the region and perhaps some small extra territories.

So for Germany, France and Spain there are real opportunities in the European regions or elsewhere. But for the smaller language areas it will be hard to establish a portfolio of e-books and set up a distribution system. A good example is the book loving country The Netherlands. The portfolio of Dutch books is not great. The last count was over 337 e-books and there was an estimate that by the end of the year there would be 500 e-books. So far the country has several download outlets, usually feeding on the same database ebooks.nl with 85.000 e-books. Besides the Dutch national pride, the iLiad, there are other e-readers available such as Cybook, Hanlin and Jetbook, while next year the Sony e-reader PRS-505 will be available. So the sale of e-books is picking up speed and something is brewing in the distribution channels.

The Netherlands has had a very good physical infrastructure for books. The network of specialised bookshops has a logistic service for delivering books in 24 hours, provided by the central book warehouse, called in Dutch Centraal Boekhuis. Presently the Centraal Boekhuis still delivers printed copies, but the management is thinking about the challenge of e-books. Accoriding to PCW Entertainment and Media Outlook 2008, the turn-over of e-books will grow from last year's 9 million euro to 25 million euro in 2009. This perspective should be interesting enough for Centraal Boekhuis to set up a central e-book database and download service. It could be the management says, but this will only materialise in one or two years. The management can also buy the present ebook.nl distribution service as well as an e-book production service. Whatever choice they make, they (that is: the publishers) will have to invest in a at least a download service.

Of course you might hope that the Dutch download service will have an international link, so that you can buy English books, but also books in languages like German, French and Spanish, as many Dutch people have at least a third language, besides Dutch and English. Not too many French people will buy a Dutch language book, but more and more Germans are speaking and reading Dutch. So far Amazon has three subsidiaries in Europe, which can deliver the service. But for the smaller countries there is no proper infrastructure. Either Amazon will jump into that marketing opportunity or a European network of national download services will cover that need.

Blog Posting Number: 1243

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Monday, October 06, 2008

BPN 1242 E-readers gearing up for Christmas sales

It is clear that the e-reader market is moving. After the demonstration of the Plastic Logic 10,2 inch screen and the introduction of the 10,2 digital e-reader of iRex Technologies (which received a mixed reception; see USA Today’s review) opening up the business sector, the fight over the consumer market will bring a hot Christmas sale. Sony will introduce a new version of the e-reader, the PRS-700, in the USA next month at a price of 400 US dollar. This might be the trigger for Amazon to release its new version of Kindle.

PRS-700
The PRS-700 is the successor to the PRS-505. The reader looks much like the older reader. It has roughly the same dimensions, weighs 10 ounces and is equipped with the E Ink digital paper screen.
The PRS-700 can hold up to 350 books with built-in, internal memory, but eager readers can expand that amount by using a removable memory stick. (These days you can hold more books on a stick of 16 GB than the library of the Paris Sorbonne University in 1750 possessed).
The PRS-700 has quite some differences with the PRS-505 and other digital paper products: touch screen, virtual keyboard, six font sizes and LED lights. Contrary to the PRS-505 the new version has a touch screen. The display gives readers the option to work with a stylus and flip pages with their finger. The user can call up a virtual keyboard that allows users to search for terms, highlight words and make annotations (marginalia). Personally I think that the virtual keyboard, which I know from the iLiad, is a nuisance. And for anyone who needs bigger print to make it easier to read, the PSR-700 has six font sizes to choose from.
A principal difference with all other digital paper readers is the built-in front light in the PRS-700. So far the advertised advantage of digital paper was that the user can read the screen in bright sunlight. But now LED lights have been mounted in e-reader to assist in bright light situations, ensuring that the users will not have a problem seeing the text while the sun is shining brightly. This is one explanation. I read also another explanation for the LED lights, namely that the lights are there to ease the strain on the eyes of the users. Personally I am wondering about this front light feature; so far I have used paper digital in bright situation without having strained eyes.

Kindle2
There has been a rumour in the market that a second version of the Kindle is being expected. Speculation about the presentation determined a launch before the Christmas sale or at the launch of a T-Mobile electronic newspaper in Germany. The Boy Genius Report has gotten hold of some photos of a device that appears to be the Kindle 2. From the photographs it looks like Amazon has tried to address some of the criticisms of the Kindle, which it got after the first presentation almost a year ago. Most of this criticism was on the design of the Kindle and off-white colour. The inside man of Boy Genius Report says that “the device is basically the same size as the older model, but is thinner and has "a slightly heavier feel, and it feels much sturdier." The keyboard has been redesigned. The new model uses the same cellular Sprint EV-DO network for downloads. But: no word on the launching date and the price.

Blog Posting Number: 1242

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Sunday, October 05, 2008

BPN 1241 Google jubilee: a confession

This year Google celebrates its first decade of operation. In just a few years Google was able to send search engines into oblivion. Who does still use Altavista, for example? Over the years Google has become an institution with an idealistic objective of making all the information in the world accessible electronically. And this not only means already digitised information, but also printed information such as books.



As part of the celebration Google has put up the internet index, not of the starting year 1998, but of 2001, when the first annual internet index was technically possible. This index shows a snapshot of internet in the new century. It also delivers an opportunity to compare the Google index of 2001 with the present index in the search engine. And the search company collaborates for the 20001 project with Internet Archive, which preserves old internet pages.

Of course I did some search and hit work. I looked for the name of my company in 2001 and 2008 and of course for my own name. The name of my company yielded some interesting results. Electronic Media Reporting (between quotes) delivered in 2001 a simple 245 links. The interesting part I that there were no links to my company, but al US links to the method of reporting with electronic media. In 2008 there were 3920 references, with only four references to the method of electronic reporting on the front page and more than 8 references to my company. In fact the first the first reference is to my company, which shows the improved localisation of the search engine. Of course I did also a search for my own name. This yielded in 2001 already 1820 references and had grown to 3110 links in 2008. For me the Google index of 2001 still showed the rise of internet and the global city theme, as my name is mentioned in the OJR Features: 50 international names to know (in journalism).

The jubilee also reminds me of a goof-up. By 1999, Google was ready to spread the wings over Europe. At that time I was working for the Dutch language newsletter Telecombrief . So on a day a press release came in and told about the launch of the Dutch language version of the search engine; at that time the major Dutch language search engine was Ilse., which now has shrivelled. I remember responding to the press release, which came from a Belgian PR bureau, which released the press releases rather in Flemish than in Dutch. Besides my remarks about their antiquated words, I told them that we, journalists, had heard all that stuff of being the best one before and that search engines still were stupid machines as they yielded more irrelevant stuff than relevant links. I told them also that Google still used the stupid search method of Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) and that searching had not moved forward since 1972. Looking back I am still convinced that my comments about the information overload and Boolean operators still stand, but I must grant that Google in the meantime grew to giant proportions.

I wonder where Google will be in the next ten years. Will they still exist? Will the company have made improvements on their search engine? In the meantime Google is the best we have at the moment.

Blog Posting Number: 1241

Tags: search engine

Saturday, October 04, 2008

BPN 1240 Colour e-paper with moving images

When iRex Technologies recently launched the 10,2 inch screen, the usual objections to an e-reader were heard again: the screen is only for black and white representation and there is no video possible. In response to these objections, I noted in my posting that a colour screen was not far off, but that video was on the horizon by 2012. Colour will be around by 2009, according to Russ Wilcox, the chief executive of E-Ink. But video will take more time and the question is whether E-Ink paper can do the trick.

I personally believe that b/w screen are good enough for many books and newspapers. But that is the same conservative opinion as I had before colour was introduced for newspapers like USA Today. Besides whenever you have colour and video, you can still call up b/w publications.

The Guardian published this week an interesting article on the next generation of digital paper, which can handle colour and moving images. The British Technology Strategy Board has granted 15 million euro to a group of scientists in Cambridge. They will develop the next generation e-paper on the principle of electrowetting. This process electricity to manipulate a thin layer of liquid so that it changes colour; the individual cells change fast enough to run video. Electrowetting uses far less power than a traditional liquid crystal display (LCD). The technology offers bright vivid colours, video speed, exceptional viewability, even in bright sunlight, and substantial power savings compared with other technologies. We are set to play a key role in the portable and mobile applications markets by enabling new advances such as TV on mobile.

The team of scientists has been working on electrowetting at Philips Research Labs in Eindhoven for some 10 years and was spun off from Philips two years ago under the name of Liquavista. The company was created to commercialise the market opportunities of electrowetting displays, a technology that can be used in applications such as MP3 players, watches, cameras, mobile phones, DVD players and automotive applications. (This was also the objective of companies like iRex Technologies and Polymer Vision). The scientific team will be headed by Liquavista's chief scientific officer Rob Hayes and chief technology officer Johan Feenstra. The company plans to announce its first range of products at an electronics fair in Hong Kong this month. The project will also be supported by the US technology company Plastic Logic, which unveiled also a 10,2 inch screen last month.

Blog Posting Number: 1240

Tags: , ,

Friday, October 03, 2008

BPN 1239 Who gets EU cash?

Yesterday the EU launched the "Financial Transparency system" website and search engine. This database allows free access to details of who receives EU funds managed directly by the Commission and its executive agencies. It provides a consolidated view of the previous financial year and contains approximately 28.000 entries on Commission-run programmes in policy areas like research, education and culture, energy and transport and certain aspects of aid to third countries. The present website is a start of a larger project and now only contains data on project grants in 2007.

I had a look at the database and searched for some companies I knew where involved in European projects. And I found them easily with the amount of money they received. Although a project key is provided, there is no project name or acronym given; so you will have to copy the key and look further in the Europa database for the project name or acronym. On the other hand one sees the amounts of money, even to two decimals behind the comma. Whenever you search on a country like The Netherlands, you see 1565 entries, while the amounts descend from 22 million euro for a project of a foreign students exchange to two eurocents. There is also mention of natural persons, but they are not named due to privacy rules.

The Financial Transparency System website (FTS), launched in a test phase, focuses on the beneficiaries of budget lines managed directly by the Commission and the executive agencies set up to manage certain EU programmes and other forms of operational support. The data can be accessed through a web-based search engine providing various search criteria such as the country of the beneficiary, the Commission department which gave the grant or contract, the relevant budget line or the amount.

The information is extracted from the Commission's accounts for the previous year and provides the financial amounts committed in the budget for these activities. The first available year is 2007. In 2009, the beneficiaries of 2008 will be published and in 2010, the system will be enhanced to also include the procurement contracts from the Commission for its day-to-day administration.

The European Transparency Initiative, (ETI) was launched by the Commission in 2005. One of its three main objectives was to increase the level of information made available to the public on beneficiaries of EU funds. It started with information on funds managed centrally by the Commission and it is now completed with information on funds managed jointly with Member States such as the Common Agricultural Policy or Regional Development. Thanks to ETI, Member States agreed to extend the obligation to publish the names of beneficiaries to all EU funded policies as of the financial year 2007.

All websites concerning the publication of EU funds - for the moment these relate to Regional aid, including the structural funds, agricultural payments for rural development and the Commission's centrally managed funds - can be accessed through the main Commission portal.

Blog Posting Number: 1239

Tags: ,

Thursday, October 02, 2008

BPN 1238 Open Source and eGovernment

Last year the Dutch government agreed to move to Open Source. And hardly had they agreed on the decisison, then the signing for maintenance contract of Microsoft software came up. The vice-minister said I do not know anything about software, so we will sign the contract. And the computing entrepreneur, turned deputy department secretary, thought it wiser to sign the contract as the computer personnel and the infrastructure were not ready for the switch yet.

But now it looks like there is some movement into the direction of Open Source and Open Standards. The government has appointed an ambassador for the promotion of Open Source in government and semi-government (provinces and municipalities). And even a government institution , the Netherlands Patent Office (NPO), has changed to Open Source.

The new ambassador, Erik Gerritsen, will have to push the civil servants to move over to Open Standards and Open Source software. He is in fact the promoter of the 2007 action plan Nederland Open in Verbinding (The Netherlands Open in Connection). Part of the plan is to make an inventory of the status quo in government. The results of this inventory will be published in November. Personally I expect that it will show that the Dutch government is Microsoft country. The new ambassador in the meantime promotes the action plan and collects examples of success to show that a change over to Open Standards and Open Software is possible. He will also be a consultant to departments and accompany organisation in changing over.

Presently he has the Dutch Patent Office as an example of an institution changing over to Open Standards and Open Software. It is in fact the first government institute which changes over. The website of the NPO is constructed under Open Source software, while the NPO uses Joomla as open source content management system. The next step will be the implementation of Open Source software in the office environment, including desktop computers) and the customer relation software. This should be implemented by 2009.

There is also some movement from the municipalities. They work together in the development of their websites in the project TYPO3gem (http://www.typo3gem.nl/ ). The members of the project decide about the functionalities needed for e-Government and produce the specifications. They bundle their financial means to get the system implemented and will run a common helpdesk.

Blog Posting Number: 1238

Tags: ,

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

BPN 1237 Dag DAG, Bye BYE

When the Dutch free newspaper DAG was introduced on May 8, 2008, I noted the ambiguous title. Dag in Dutch means Hello, but also goodbye. After last Monday’s announcement by the PCM Board, today's printed edition of DAG will be the last one, as the masthead of the frontpage says: LAATSTE DAG (Last day). Only the digital channels will be maintained. After the disappearance of DAG, there will be three national free newspapers left on the Dutch market: Metro, Spits and De Pers.

DAG has been on the market for one and a half years. It was the last one to come on the market. And it was the first new product in the post-Apax era. So it was a product to show that the newspaper holding PCM was able to put a product in the market with the help of the telecom company KPN. The free newspaper was pushed by the former PCM CEO. He started talks with Mr Boekhoorn, who was starting up the free newspaper De Pers, but in the usual PCM style these talks ended in Oh yes, Oh no; thus no. But by May 8, 2008 PCM was ready to launch DAG. Did it make any impression? Not really. It was a rag and a bloody shame for a newspaper company.

The newspaper had used the slogan of a crossmedia newspaper. But in practice this meant: a printed edition with a lot of photographs and a digital extensions on internet and mobile. No surprise. Although the first edition was hopeful, the lay-out of the free newspaper turned out to be abominable: more than 50 percent of the space was dedicated to photographs and the headline were all highlighted, as if bold letter could not grab the attention. Also the level of the articles was suited more for a highschool paper. But by the beginning of the year some real newspaper doctors came in. They started to borrow articles from the sister publication De Volkskrant and they cleaned up the design. It was a real step forwards. But crossmedia remained just a slogan and was not filled in by other concepts like day-parting.

As a medium DAG had troubles to bind advertisers to its publication. For a national newspaper company, this is surprising. Of course the printed edition was not exactly an advertisement in itself. Besides the printed edition had to compete with three other free newspapers, which were mainly distributed at railway station and public transport points. The management of DAG made a smart move when it got into a distribution deal with a supermarket chain. However, the addition of this was not enough to attract advertisers. According to the press release, PCM and KPN eventually believed that it was impossible to make DAG profitable in the future.

PCM and KPN have announced that DAG will cease its printed edition. KPN will step out as shareholder. But PCM has announced that it will continue with its digital channels. That means that the DAG management will have to select the whizkids from the 50 people staff. They will run the internet sites and the mobile service. They have already one customer: KPN. The digital team will deliver content to KPN Vandaag, as KPN had abolished the editorial staff of its Planet Internet service. The team will also deliver content for KPN’s mobile service and feed content to the producers of KPN’s narrowcasting services. Of course the team will have to get more clients; otherwise the PCM Board will end the exercise and say Dag DAG.

Blog Posting Number: 1237

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September 2008 Monthly stats blog Buziaulane

Blog: Buziaulane is a daily blog in English
Period: 1-9-2008 till 30-9-2008

Stats
Pageviews: 1499 (August 1382)
Visits: 1180 (August 1119)
Unique Visitors: 1124 (August 1078)
Countries: 71 (August 67)










Pageviews from the following countries
Rank/country/percentage
1. Netherlands (29,49%)
2. USA (19,75%)
3. UK (9,87%)
4. Spain (3,80%)
5. India (3,40%)
6. Germany (2,74%)
7. France (2,67%)
8. Canada (2,54%)
9. Rest (2,20%)
10. Belgium (1,80%)
11. Finland (1,40%)
12. Australia (1,13%)
13. Jamaica (1,13%)
14. Singapore (1,07%)
15. Portugal (0,87%)

Most visited pages
1. other (55,17%)
2. http://buziaulane.blogspot.com/ (15,08%)
3. ...logspot.com/2006/01/at-last-portable-electronic-newspaper.html (2,34%)
4. http://buziaulane.blogspot.com/2007/04/dutch-game-industry.html (1,47%)
5. ...buziaulane.blogspot.com/2006/07/serious-games-for-seniors.html (1,40%)
6. ...pot.com/2005/08/25-years-online-in-netherlands-compact_10.html (1,20%)
7. ...blogspot.com/2007/04/participative-web-and-user-generated.html (1,00%)
8. http://www.buziaulane.blogspot.com/ (3,77%)
9. ...e.blogspot.com/2006/12/iliad-and-de-tijd-enewspaper-close.html (0,73%)

Links
Pagerank: 4
Indexed: 3690 (August 3760)
Yahoo links: 4476 (August 4635)

Stats generated by Onestat , ClustrMaps and Directshop

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

BPN 1236 EC moves to Web 3.0

While half of the European Union still has not stomached Web 2.0, the European Commission (EC) starts thinking about Web 3.0. In fact it wants to take the lead in the next generation of Internet, which the EC calls the Internet of Things (IoT), and now starts a consultation.

The European Commission has outlined the main steps that Europe has to take to respond to the next wave of the Information Revolution that will intensify in the coming years due to trends such as social networking, the decisive shift to on-line business services, nomadic services based on GPS and mobile TV and the growth of smart tags. The EC has written a working paper in preparation and this report shows that Europe is well placed to exploit these trends because of its policies to support open and pro-competitive telecom networks as well as privacy and security. A public consultation has been launched today by the Commission on the policy and private sector responses to these opportunities. The Commission report also unveils a new Broadband Performance Index (BPI) that compares national performance on key measures such as broadband speed, price, competition and coverage. Sweden and the Netherlands top this European broadband league, which complements the more traditional broadband penetration index used so far by telecoms regulators.

Web 3.0 means seamless 'anytime, anywhere' business, entertainment and social networking over fast reliable and secure networks. It means the end of the divide between mobile and fixed lines. It signals a tenfold quantum leap in the scale of the digital universe by 2015. Europe has the know-how and the network capacity to lead this transformation.

European Internet users are increasingly accessing faster and better value Internet: half of them had access to broadband at more than 2 megabits per second (MBps) at the end of 2007, a speed which is twice as fast as one year ago and supports TV over the Internet. Broadband covers 70% of rural population of the 27 EU Member States, closing the gap with total coverage (93%). In the last year, broadband rural coverage in the EU-25 has risen 8 percentage points.

This means that a new generation of Internet use is already on its way, and the potential for Europe's economy is clear. While a quarter of Europeans used web 2.0 sites in 2007, business applications of social networking are on their way. Internet based enterprise software is also expected to grow by 15% from 2006-2011 worldwide.

New technology applications will need ubiquitous Internet coverage. The Internet of Things means that wireless interaction between machines, vehicles, appliances, sensors and many other devices will take place using the Internet. It already makes electronic travel cards possible, and will allow mobile devices to exchange information to pay for things or get information from billboards. It is predicted that such technology will be in more than one billion phones by 2015.

These will be major opportunities for EU businesses as long as there is enough investment in high-speed broadband access and support for innovation and research. The Commission Communication adopted today said that the EU should stimulate investment in next generation broadband access, for example strengthening the involvement of local authorities who may facilitate the access to ducts (or digging of new ones) for faster broadband fibre cables during civil works, keep the Internet open to competition, prevent unfair restrictions in consumers' choice, safeguard consumer confidence in using the Internet and fund research in the Internet of the future.

The Communication is accompanied by a new Broadband Performance Index (BPI) that compares competition, coverage, speed and quality of Internet access across Europe (see Annex). It shows that the EU is already well placed to exploit these broadband opportunities, thanks to an open and competitive environment for investments. The index ranks EU countries' achievements in high speed Internet by the main factors affecting the development of faster broadband to highlight priorities for improvement.

The index shows that Sweden and the Netherlands are clear leaders in the EU, thanks to a competition-friendly environment and skilled citizens and businesses that can use advanced services. On the other hand, poor competition may hold back investment in advanced technologies and result in high prices. Social factors such as the lack of digital skills, limited PC penetration and a poor spending in ICT also appear to be important barriers to further developments.

It is interesting to see that the EC calls the new internet the Internet of Things, following the RFID line of internet. I might hope that by the time Web 3.0 comes around, it is a People’s Web.

Blog Posting Number: 1236

Tags: Web 3.0

Monday, September 29, 2008

Update PCM and KPN stop paper edition of DAG

The last edition of the paper edition of the free Dutch language newspaper DAG will be published on October 1, 2008 (the first one was published on May 8, 2007; see illustration). The managements of the joint venture, PCM Publishers and KPN, have decided to stop the paper edition. PCM will continue the DAG and concentrate on the digital channels. KPN will buy the DAG content from PCM for KPN Vandag, its mobile service and its narrowcasting services.

BPN 1235 ICT in education

ICT has penetrated in education in several countries. But in most cases it only means that there are computer labs in the schools where people can work on to prepare their assignments. But experiments with portable ICT in education are scarce.
The Ostrea Lyceum in Goes (The Netherlands) has selected the laptop to research the effects of digital education for pupils and teachers. Especially the use of laptops for home assignments is a topic of the research. The experiment should indicate whether the pupils deliver better quality assignments.

In the trial 55 first years will start with digital learning. A year long they will use a mini laptop to be taught, make assignments digitally and deliver this in a digital learning environment. Also the tests will be done digitally. In the classroom the smartboard, an interactive school board, will be used, while the pupil scan also chat with their teacher.

This way of learning should motivate the pupils to learn better. Whether this is so will be researched by the University of Twente. The method and the results of the two classes will be compared to two classes which will work in the traditional way with books.

Not yet all books will be digitally available as not all books have been digitized. Annotations and home work are done on the computer. In this way the results can be compared with the test class. In the experiment teachers have been invited who are not computer savvy. In this way the researchers will know what the average teacher experiences. The school will be supported by ICT specialists of Knowledge Net and Surfnet. It is expected that the Dutch high schools will be digital in five years time.

Pupils are not allowed to be diverted by chat programmes and online games. Downloading music and photographs is allowed. A fine of 125 euro will be imposed on downloading games.

This project is one of the projects in the program to have all teaching material digitally available within five years. Schools recently started a large ICT project together with ICT companies, the ministry of education and publishing companies. Computers will not replace the teachers, but improve their position as teachers can compose their own lessons. The Dutch Education Council favours ICT in the class room, so that teachers will have digital material available for their lessons copyright-free.

e-reader in the class
Pupils at Caritas College in Ballyfermot will get closer to the paperless age as they will start using the e-reader iLiad. The publisher Gill & Macmillan launched a pilot scheme that will take some weight off the shoulders of the first-year pupils.

St Brendan’s class, a group of 18 first year students at the all-girl school will say goodbye to heavy schoolbags this year. They will become the first class of students worldwide to replace their academic load with the iLiad, an electronic book device.

The main difference for the girls will be a dramatic reduction in the weight of their schoolbags as they replace more than six kilograms (almost 13 and a half pounds) of textbooks, workbooks, an English dictionary and a novel with this 400 gram (less then a pound) e-book. The students will be able to make notes and even doodle on the pages as in a regular textbook and then decide whether they wish to erase or save their notes. In addition, each iLiad reader is pre-loaded with 50 classic novels in the public domain which will be available free of charge to each student.

Blog Post Number: 1235

Tags: ,

Sunday, September 28, 2008

BPN 1234 Sony e-reader to be introduced in The Netherlands (again)

Sony has announced that it will introduce its reader PRS 505 with its digital paper screen in 2009 in The Netherlands.

The reader became available in the USA in 2006 and was introduced in the UK in September 2008 by Waterstone and has been introduced by the FNAC bookshop in France. The introduction will not go unnoticed a Sony representative said.

First reactions to the announcement are not hopeful, saying that the introduction is too little, too late and that Sony has already been overtaken left and right. The Netherlands is of course a difficult country for e-readers. First of all there is a certain nationalistic feeling with the iLiad e-reader and recently the Digital E-reader1000 by iRex Technologies, a spin-off from Philips. But the iLiad wifi version and book version are more expensive than the Sony PRS505 (299,00 euro in France). Besides other e-readers like Cybooks and Hanlins have already creamed off the initial market of interested e-reader users.

On the other hand, the introduction will be a memorable one, as it will be 15 years ago in 2009 that Sony introduced an e-reader for the first time in The Netherlands in March 1994 with a large newspaper ad. The Sony EB e-reader was introduced after thorough preparations. An Netherlands Electronic Book Committee had been set up, consisting of publishers and system integrators as well as the Sony marketing department. The EB version had an e-reader with a black and white screen; it had a mini-disc as book. It was not exactly a device to put in your pocket given the dimensions (17x10x4 cm) and its weight (450 grams). A few books were prepared for the launch such as a hotel guide and a dictionary. The introduction bundle consisted of the e-reader and two e-books at a price of 1250 Dutch guilders (roughly 550 euro). The introduction failed and by 1995 the whole project was over, despite the lighter and smaller e-readers. The conclusion was that the e-reader was too heavy, the black/white screen too heavy on the eyes and the bundle too expensive. Of course, there were still too many e-sniffers around. What still is left is harvest of 15 titles had been produced over the period, mostly reference works like hotel guides. dictionaries, spelling books and a proverb book.









Title (Publisher)
Winkler Prins Gezondheidsvademecum (Bonaventura)
PBNA Polytechnisch Marketing Zakboekje (Bonaventura)
Hotels en Restaurants in Nederland (Elektroson)
Elektronisch Handwoordenboek Engels (Van Dale Lexicografie)
Verschueren Groot Woordenboek/Het Juiste Woord (Standaard Uitgeverij)
Het Groene Boekje (Sdu)
Source: Electronic Media Reporting, 1996

Blog Posting Number: 1234

Tags: ,

Saturday, September 27, 2008

BPN 1233 Social Networking important for economy and society

Yesterday Viviane Reding, Commissioner for Information Society and Media, gave a speech on Social Networking at the Safer Internet Forum in Luxembourg. Commissioner Reding underlined the importance of self-regulation and met with representatives of the social networking companies Myspace and Dailymotion.

What is the importance of social networking sites in Europe?
In the past year, the use of social networks has grown 35% in Europe. 56% of the European online population visited social networking sites last year and the number of regular users is forecast to rise from today's 41.7 million to 107.4 million in the next four years. In 2007 9.6 million British belonged to the country's social networking community, with 8.9 million and France and 8.6 million in Germany.
In Europe users spend 3 hours per month on average on social networking sites according to comscore.com. The UK registered the highest usage in 2007 with an average of 5.8 user hours spent on such sites. This was a significantly heavier usage level than in France, which averaged 2 hours per month, or Germany, with 3.1 hours and Spain and Italy with 1.8 hours.
In parallel with well known companies based in the US like Facebook, Youtube and Myspace, European companies are doing very well in this sector. Finland-based Habbo Hotel claims 80 million registrations. Badoo and Faceparty from the UK have a combined membership of about 15 million users; Belgian-based Netlog has 17 million while the French based Skyrock 18 million and Dailymotion 11 million.
Other European sites include Hyves in the Netherlands, StudiVZ and SchuelerVZ.de in Germany, Aha.bg in Bulgaria, Arto.dk in Denmark, E puls and Grono in Poland, Szene1.at in Austria, Studenti media group in Italy, and Tuenti in Spain.

Why is the Commission now addressing social networking sites?
Because of the open nature of social networking sites and the fact that they offer cultural diversity and enhanced interactivity, they can serve several different audiences with minimum financial effort and bring about new economic opportunities for the European industry. Customer service, advertising, mobile phone industry, human resources, entertainment are only a few sectors that have been changed by the raise of the social networking sites.
Social networking sites also turn people into active users of new technologies and empower them to make active choices about their environment by offering the opportunity to create new creative content.
The most obvious change brought about by the social networking sites is probably the influence on the way people manage their social contacts. Whether it is maintaining and enhancing existing relations or making new friends online, social networking sites play an increasingly important role in the way people keep in touch and organise their social life.
Social networking sides also have started to raise new issues with regard to data privacy and protection of minors.

Why are social networking sites on the agenda of the Safer Internet Forum?
To stimulate the debate on Social networking and children, the Commission organised this Safer Internet Forum. The Safer Internet Forum gathers around 300 participants from NGOs, industry, and public authorities, coming from Europe, the US, Brazil or Australia.
In parallel, the Commission launched a public consultation on social networking and child safety. The results of the public consultation have been published online.
The European Commission is encouraging self-regulation with regard to social networking. For this purpose the Commission has convened a Social Networking Task Force, which held two meetings in 2008 with 17 operators of social networking sites used by under-18s (e.g. MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, Bebo, Hyves, StudiVZ, and Skyrock), a number of researchers and child welfare organisations. The objective is to agree on voluntary guidelines for use of social networking sites by children, to be adopted voluntarily by the European industry. The Commission acts as a facilitator for bringing together industry players and other stakeholders interested in child safety online. In doing so its builds on its experience from the successful initiative with the mobile phone industry, which resulted in the European Framework for Safer Mobile Use by Younger Teenagers and Children (IP/07/139).
Last February, the European Commission proposed a new Safer Internet programme to enhance the safety of children in the online environment (IP/08/310). The 2009-2013 programme takes into account new developments such as mobile content and social networking sites.

What are the business possibilities of social networking?
Social networking sites can be beneficial to public and professional institutions and to society as a whole. Given the popularity of social networking services among professionals, the young and the retired for sharing holiday photos, stories and news, keeping in touch, and organising their social and working life, it is clear that social networking sites offer potential for European industry, by increasing productivity through better customer relations and internal communications or as a business in itself.
Technology firms are taking the lead by using social networking to improve customer services and client involvement in company's product innovation and development services. Other companies are opening specific networking sites for their own employees, giving them the possibility to operate as a community no matter where they are. This gives employees the chance to feel involved in company decisions which could help engage them and increase productivity.
Social networking websites are also a means for smaller companies to take advantage of the internet at lower cost. 40% of small and medium enterprises do not have websites because running a website can be costly. These are cheaper, less demanding but efficient way for them to attract customers and promote their business across borders.
While social networking offers great contributions to productivity and growth, it is also directly creating jobs in Europe. For example, since its foundation in 2000, Finnish social networking company and a European Champion in this field, Sulake Corporation has expanded from its headquarters in Helsinki to 14 other offices around the world. It employs over 300 people globally and the company is in the top 25 of the most valuable digital start ups in the world. Furthermore, international social networking companies like Facebook and MySpace are now opening offices in Europe, employing local staff to reflect the culture of a particular country.

What risks are involved in the increased use of Social Networking Sites? Are they safe for young people?
The social networking phenomenon was most rapidly and immediately adopted by young people, and this trend is continuing. The age of internet users in Europe has actually decreased in the past few years. 9-10 year old children now connect several times a week; 12-14 year olds generally use the Internet daily, often for one to three hours. One of their main activities is communication through chats, instant messaging and social networking sites.
The risks they face in passing an increasing proportion of social time online include grooming (where adults can pass for young people with the intent of abusing children), accidentally finding inappropriate content, abuse of personal or private information or cyber-bullying. According to a Danish study, 31.5% of the 12 to 18 year old users participating in the study said that they have had bad experiences on the Internet. 70.1% of these were caused by messages from strangers.

What can be done to minimise the risks?
There are many existing measures to protect young internet surfers like screening and parental control. Some social networking sites also provide user safety tools and information. Many of them have in place systems for reporting unwanted content and inappropriate or illegal behaviour, like cyberbullying and grooming. A report is usually followed by written warnings to the offending users, suspension or cancellation of accounts. When lawfully required by the police, sites have a policy for the disclosure of communications data and content in line with the national law. In addition, most social networking sites use a combination of technical and human moderation with personnel who receive appropriate training to manage different types of situations.
However, it is also important to empower digital natives – who have grown up with and are more confident in using network technologies – though age verification systems and industry self-regulation.
Following the successful initiative of 2007 with the support of the Commission, when mobile operators signed the European Framework for Safer Mobile use by Young Teenagers and Children, the Commission is discussing a set of guidelines for ensuring the online safety of young people and children with social networking sites. They will be unveiled at the next Safer Internet Day, February 10, 2009, along with a pan-European INSAFE network campaign to raise awareness of the potential risks children and young people can meet online.


Blog Posting Number: 1233

Tags: ,

Friday, September 26, 2008

BPN 1232 Watch where you are going: EU cities differ sharply in internet performance

It is interesting to read that research findings like London is the best city to internet and in Milan, Madrid and Dublin you may struggle with gaming (come to Amsterdam!). It points to a kind of digital divide.

The findings are part of the report European City Internet Performance Index by the British research bureau Epitiro, which calls itself The Broadband Communications Authority. The bureau have monitored top internet service providers (ISP) since 2003 for the purpose of providing industry bodies with actual customer experience data of broadband service. The bureau started to expand its coverage by monitoring city, sub-urban and rural broadband performance, in both wired and wireless (3G) formats, across all Member States of the European Union. The question is of course why urban areas were selected for testing. But in short this boils down to the point that urban areas are the fountainheads of countries, with most activity going there. Besides, the performance of broadband benefits the social and economic structure of a country.

This is a report which offers the results of broadband performance in the major European cities Amsterdam, Dublin, Lisbon, London, Paris, Madrid, Milan and Zurich. It is a preliminary report, which will be replaced by the beginning of 2009 with a report showing the results of more cities. Most likely cities like Stockholm, Oslo, Helsinki, Copenhagen, Berlin, hopefully Munich and Vienna will be included. It is a pity that in this preliminary report the results of Stockholm are not taken in. In the broadband world Stockholm has been a city which started early with broadband and would provide a good measuring stick. But we will have to wait till January 2009.

The researchers wanted to gain insight into the likely performance levels of popular uses such as web surfing, VoIP, internet gaming and streaming video were the drivers behind the technical aspects measured. They had their own technical method for this, using a network of satellite devices that simulate typical residential computers by connecting to the internet and executing a series of test routines. Every 30 minutes the satellite devices connect to broadband providers and measure HTTP Download, DNS Resolution Time, Ping Time and Packet Loss whilst connecting to popular local and international web sites.

The dataset was based on over 2 million tests from July 2008 to September 2008 and the testing process remains active. This was during the holiday season, when the use of internet in the European cities is lower. Of course it might have given the researchers a secure start-up, but I like to see the results after the holiday period.

Still the key findings are remarkable:
• London has the best average internet service amongst the cities tested and also the fastest individual ISP;
• Amsterdam and Zurich also offer above average internet service;
• Dublin and Milan broadband service levels were the lowest of the European cities tested;
• Multinational ISPs that trade under the same brand name in different countries vary in performance as much as 44%.

The report concludes that there is a significant ‘digital divide’ amongst European cities in terms of broadband performance. Whilst all cities and ISPs can handle basic web browsing and email, the demands of VoIP and streaming media may not be reliably met by ISPs in some cities tested.

Blog Posting Number: 1232

Tags:

Thursday, September 25, 2008

BPN 1231 A tricky proposal by MEPs

The European Parliament has voted in favour of new legislation offering ISPs the opportunity to close off internet access as punishment for illegal downloading. Under the new rules providers can be obliged to terminate the connection of users who have downloaded music, games or video three times illegally. The measure, however, is not mandatory.

The new package of telecom measures offers EU member states the possibility to let ISPs punish their users; however, the measure is not mandatory. The measures have been accepted in the telecom package on the instigation of French members of the European Parliament, who are of the opinion that illegal downloading will harm the creative industry. ( A simular measure has been proposed by the French minister of Culture a few months ago). The usual argument of musicians missing revenues was brought up again. The EU-countries still have to agree with the telecom package. This will go back to the EU Parliament for a second reading.

The measure of disconnecting a user means that the ISP can start checking the content being downloaded manually or by filter. Theoretically (and in practice it already has been signalled) it is possible for a provider to check whether a user is downloading large copyrighted material, causing the network to sow down. However, some member of the EU Parliament (MEPs) find it unacceptable that ISP are promoted to police functions by making them responsible for the content of internet. Copyright should not take precedence over privacy.

The package of measures is supposed to improve the rights of the digital consumer. One of the measures concerns itself with the duration of the subscription to maximally two year. This should prevent subscribers from long and expensive subscriptions. Another measure obliges the ISP to offer parents software to guard their children from adult sites and chatrooms. Besides the internet users will be better informed about their rights and warned when there is interference with their internet use, causing privacy problems. The users would also be able to claim damages from the ISP for non-performance.

There were also non controversial measures like the statement that internet should be there for everyone, that tariffs and bills should be more transparent and that there should be a better protection of the data traffic, not only of public sites, but also of social sites.

Blog Posting Number: 1231

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

BPN 1230 EC consultation on next generation broadband

Now that the fibre broadband projects, with speeds of 100Mb are introduced in several European countries, The European Commission is launching a consultation on the regulatory principles to be applied by EU Member States to Next Generation Access broadband networks (NGA). The EC is doing this at a time , when the first commercialisation of next generation broadband projects is taking place. In the Netherlands for example there are many commercial fibre optic projects in progress or even operational. The Netherlands is in the forefront after many a study for large municipalities were delivered with the message that high speed access to internet was needed for its knowledge industry and economy. If needed the municipalities should take the lead. This caused some problems for some non-profit bodies and commercial companies in setting up projects. With a ruling by the EC on the Amsterdam broadband project, basic rules were established. Non-profit companies like municipalities are allowed to stimulate broadband projects, but are not allowed to invest commercially.

NGA optical fibre-based networks enable bitrates several times higher than those currently available on traditional copper wire networks. NGAs are required to deliver high-definition content (such as high definition television) and interactive applications. The objective of a common regulatory framework for NGA is to foster a consistent treatment of operators in the EU and thereby ensure the necessary regulatory predictability to invest. The Commission is consulting on the basis of a draft Recommendation, addressed to the regulators in the 27 EU Member States and suggesting definitions for harmonized categories of regulated services, access conditions, rates of return and appropriate risk premiums. The public consultation will be open until 14th November 2008. The Commission will then finalise the Recommendation in the light of comments received and formally adopt it in 2009.

The deployment of NGA is indispensable to deliver new broadband services to European consumers. While a number of operators, both incumbents and alternative operators, have launched large-scale rollouts of new broadband infrastructure in a number of Member States, Europe appears to be still lagging behind other economies, notably the United States and Japan.

The basic principle of the Commission's draft Recommendation is that national regulatory authorities should provide access to the networks of dominant operators at the lowest possible level. In particular, they should mandate access to the ducts of the dominant operators allowing competitors to roll out their own fibre. However NGAs should also impose further physical access obligations (access to unlit fibre) beyond access to ducts where ducts are not available or the population density is too low for a sustainable business model. Access to active elements such as "bitstream" shall be maintained provided lower level remedies do not sufficiently address distortions of competition.

The draft Recommendation provides also a common approach to ensure non-discriminatory access, as well as a methodology for calculating a proper rate of return, including a risk premium. The Commission believes that for NGA, rates of return should be derived in the light of the risks associated with this kind of investment, bearing in mind that the nominal pre-tax weighted average cost of capital for fixed and mobile operators has been roughly 8 to 12% in recent years.

In the meantime the Finnish government has approved a proposal to provide all homes and businesses with internet access at 100 Mbps by 2015. The decision is based on proposals from a broadband study conducted by Harri Pursiainen, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Transport and Communications. The project aims to have a distance of no more than 2 km from each user to the nearest fibre-optic or cable network.

Blog Posting Number: 1230

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