Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas

Every year I look out for the Xmas e-mails and electronic cards. This year brought me all kind s of best wishes. A newsletter of the Instructors' Network was pimped up with Santa's hat (Thanks Robert Wierbizski).

Marcelo Sant'Iago, my Latin American friend, sent me the following story:
Some time ago a man punished his 5-year-old daughter for wasting a roll of expensive gold wrapping paper. Money was tight and he became even more upset when the child pasted the gold paper so as to decorate a box to put under the Christmas tree.

Nevertheless, the little girl brought the gift box to her father the next morning and said, "This is for you, Daddy." The father was embarrassed by his earlier over reaction, but his anger flared again. When he found the box was empty.
He spoke to her in a harsh manner, "Don't you know, young lady, when you give someone a present there's supposed to be something inside the package?" The little girl looked up at him with tears in her eyes and said, "Oh,Daddy, it's not empty. I blew kisses into it until it was full."

The father was crushed. He fell on his knees and put his arms around this little girl, and he begged her to forgive him for his unnecessary anger. An accident took the life of the child only a short time later and it is told that the father kept that gold box by his bed for all the years of his life. And whenever he was discouraged or faced difficult problems he would open the box and take out an imaginary kiss and remember the love of the child who had put it there.

In a very real sense, each of us as human beings have been given a golden box filled with unconditional love and kisses from our children,family and friends. There is no more precious possession anyone could hold.

Isn't that very touching. And there were many cards, some of them I put in a collage below.

For those who read Dutch, they should have a look at the site of the Mediawerkplaats. You get an invitation to pick your own avatar: Bush, Merkel and some Dutch VIPs. With my education in theology I took of course Pope Benedict XVI. You can add a favourite saying to it and send it in. You can click on the arrows and you will find my name with the message: I think I am happy with the many e-mails I get. It means that I have friends and enemies, who think about me!

(I will be off till December 31, 2005)

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Social impact games

In several blogs I have given my opinion about games. But the gaming industry is not a monolithic entity. There are console games and mobile games, single and multiplayer games, but also arcade games and serious games. On Wednesday the Dutch financial newspaper FD published an article with the heading: the Netherlands champion in serious games.

The article is interesting as it draws attention to established companies developing serious games such as Ra.NJ, V-step and IJsfontein. Ra.JN has produced Pool Paradise, which was a winner in the category of E-learning of the IJsfontein has also been nominated and a winner in the In the article Media Republic is also mentioned; they recently sold their commercial games arm to Sony, but still produce serious games. V-step developed a game to train firemen for disasters in the Amsterdam Arena soccer- and entertainment stadium. Also new companies are mentioned like OntdekNet, which has developed computer characters to take children through a learning track.

En passant, the article mentions that the Dutch creative industry comprises 220.000 employees. I wonder about this statement. Is this figure covering the digital creative industry, the former multimedia industry or new media sector. If this is the figure of the entire creative industry, the interviewee Mr Jurriaan van Rijswijk should look for better figures.

The article also mentions that the Dutch games market is good for 700 million euro. Spokespeople in the article estimate that social impact gaming is larger than entertainment games.

Developing serious games is cheaper than developing entertainment games. Prices range from 10.000 to 100.000 euro. As such there is more of a chance that Dutch companies can specialise in this sector.

In the meantime the Taskforce Innovation in the Utrecht region has taken up serious/social impact gaming as an innovation cluster. Utrecht University and the Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Utrecht (HKU) have started the Centre for Advanced Gaming and Simulation. At the HKU you can specialise in Game Design & Development. In this module a decision game for the Dutch railways was developed by students; their product was nominated for the

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Friday, December 23, 2005

Dutch banks are moving (slowly)

Dutch banks are moving, slowly. Internet banking has been introduced for PCs. Mobile banking has been introduced, but has not yet caught on. Next item on the list is Internet banking for TV. With the cable operator rolling out 2 million settop boxes, The Dutch Rabobank makes TV banking a reality.

TV banking is not new. Microsoft knows everything about it as it did experiment with TV banking in Portugal in the project TVCabo from 2001. Before this project left the laboratory phase, TV banking was tried out and the user reactions surveyed. This user survey was very interesting as it proved that people were doing their money business in front of a television.

I hardly can imagine that a family is going to sit on the couch and is going through the statements and payments. Of course educationally it might be interesting; on the other hand you would not like to show your kids the red figures.

Interesting is the development of the Rabobank of CommunityTV. This is a local TV platform for the bank, but also for an insurance company and other companies. Rabobank will use this platform for video communication between the user and the bank. Users can request video contact with one of the consultants of the bank by webcam or teleportation, a new kind of video conferencing (teleportation is being trialled by the other Dutch bank ABN AMRO).

I have been e-banking for a long time. In fact it has been almost 20 years that I stood in a queu in order to pick up some money. Soon I will be able to talk to the bankmanager. That will be a shock for him: people will not come to him, but he will have to link up with them.

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Market entry digital paper funded

This week the Dutch financial daily FD publishes an article on a management buy-out from a Philips spin-off dealing with digital paper. It is funny to see that paper speaks of an investment in electronic newspapers, while the article deals with electronic newspapers, e-books and e-manuals. A kind of professional deformation, I guess.

Philips has developed digital paper on the basis of E-Ink technology. It has started up a production factory for digital paper, named Polymer Vision. Another spin-off I-Rex Technologies is the application company. The company develops applications for the business market; the company names hospitals, education and publishers. (Funny again, as Philips is focussing on medical applications the spin-off is looking that way also). It has developed the I-Rex Reader, a reading tablet. But you can also make annotations on it. I-Rex has developed a system, which automatically change the information in pages; so there is no scrolling, but turning leaves.

Now ABN AMRO Capital and Main Capital are investing in the company I-Rex Technologies. The companies believe in the development of digital paper, especially as carrier of technical documentation. Yes here is the example again: manuals for Boeing as a replacement for the kilometre long row of manuals (I have used this example in 1986 for the use of CD-ROM!). Philips is not a shareholder, but does receive a royalty.

I-Rex has in the meantime a few thousand readers in the market for pilot projects. Close to the Netherlands the Belgian business newspaper De Tijd, a pioneer in new media, experiments with the distribution of news. Further away the Chinese are interested in the readers as the Chinese language is complex and the writing is time-consuming. The sale of the reader will start in April 2006; it will cost a couple of hundred euro.


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Big internet powerline project

The Texas-based utility TXU Electric Delivery, US sixth large electric transmission and distribution company and a subsidiary of TXU Corp., and CURRENT Communications Group, LLC have announced an agreement to transform TXU’s power distribution network into the nation’s first broadband-enabled ‘smart’ electric grid.

The CURRENT Broadband Power Line network will offer to Texas consumers broadband and wireless services, including the triple play of voice, television and high speed access delivered across the existing electric infrastructure into outlets in the home or business. Additional value-added services are planned, including service bundles that integrate both wired and wireless communications services. CURRENT will provide BPL network equipment and will also design, build, and operate the network, providing broadband services to 2 million consumers and businesses on both a retail and wholesale basis.

This project is one of the largest power internet projects in the world. In Germany power internet is distributed by in German cities like Mainz and Mannheim. In the Netherlands the Dutch electricity company NUON has performed a trial with 500 households but has stopped the development. Power Internet has also been trialled in the UK. The latest announcement came last August from Belgium, where the company Telenet will install powerline internet.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

UK Universities on ScienceDirect database

The UK Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and Elsevier, part of the Reed Elsevier Group, have announced the conclusion of a new agreement as part of NESLi2, the national electronic journals initiative for the higher education and research communities in the United Kingdom.

The new two-year agreement, which begins in January 2006, provides the framework under which the UK's universities and research communities will have electronic access to Elsevier's scientific, technical and medical journals through the ScienceDirect database. The journals include many of the most highly ranked and important journals in their respective fields.

The agreement is based on the NESLi2 Licence for Journals which ensures a consistent approach to access and use of these journals to allow teachers, learners and researchers to use them to their fullest potential in support of their activities.

It is interesting to see that see that Elsevier has digitised all their journals and mounted them in the ScienceDirect database. As the journals are digital now, a single university can negotiate the terms of a contract, but negotiations by a national institution are even better. It will boil down to a bulk price and definitely not to ppa (pay per article) price.


Monday, December 19, 2005

Beijing Multimedia Conference has started

Today the Multimedia Entertainment China Conference starts in Beijing. The conference will feature global industry visionaries, including Dr Michael B. Johnson who runs the moving pictures group at Pixar and Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the MIT Media Lab, among others. My Finnish friend Irina Blomqvist is one of the delegates. The Conference has been organised by CIMC Ltd and the Beijing Multimedia Industry Association (BMIA).

CIMC Ltd is a company based in Bejing and run by Mr Eldon Hylton (right) and his personal assistant Li Wang (left). When I was in Beijing in October 2004 she showed me around the forbidden city and the historical square of Heavenly Peace, where these days kites are being sold. The conference will be webcasted I am told on the Sohu website.

At the conference Nicolas Negroponte will speak on his baby, the 100 dollar laptop, which is being produced for the One laptop per Child campaign. In the past week the manufacturer of the 100 dollar computer has been named. It will be the Taiwanese manufacturer Quanta. So far Quanta was known for manufacturing parts for computer assemblers like Dell and Hewlett Packard. Quanta will be able to influence the design of the 100 dollar computer.

The first 5 to 15 million computers will be forwarded to China, Brazil, India, Argentina, Egypt, Nigeria and Thailand. They will be bought by the government or government agencies. Their colour will be frog green; the colour is selected in such a way that the computer always can be recognised as a computer belonging to the One Laptop per Child campaign and will not be stolen for commercial sale.

(When I was surfing for more information on this campaign I noticed that Alan Kay is on the board of the OLpC, the godfather of the laptops as he created the Dynabook, which defined the basics of the laptop and tablet computer, and is also considered by some as the architect of the modern windowing graphical user interface (GUI). In August 1972 he wrote the article A Personal computer for children of all ages.)


Sunday, December 18, 2005

Pimping up shopping windows

This week a reference to a window display showed up in a Dutch blog. The clothing chain C&A has a special shopping window at the Berliner Kurfürstendamm these days. It is an interesting marketing ploy. C&A co-operates with the German paper Bild, which normally present a girl on the first page. Now the Page1 Girl (Seite*1 Girl) is a scantily clad lady appearing in a film showing the Dessous underwear clothing line. But additionally a webcam is registering the reactions of the on-lookers and webcasting the reactions.

Personally I still like better the Interactive Window Display, first realised for Levi stores in London, Berlin, Paris, Barcelona and Lisbon by the Dane Lars Christiansen. Imagine, you are walking by a shopping window and suddenly someone is waving to you from a screen. You stop, start interacting with this person and talk to him via your mobile. The person, however, is not real but a video projection which shows a model in real size of the viewer. Hundreds of video sequences are used to make the model appear alive. If a viewer passes a movement sensor, a video sequence is played getting the viewers’ attention by using voice sound, gestures or signs. The virtual model is answering and asking viewers what they would like to get. The options may be: press 1 for music, press 2 for clothes or similar ones.

The Interactive Window Display was nominated in the category Cross media of the EUROPRIX Top talent Award in 2003. Lars now runs his own company TV Animation in Copenhagen.

If you want to see the movie of the interactive window display go to the Europrix site, select the category cross media, hit Interactive Window Display and play the video.


Saturday, December 17, 2005

Golden oldies

Some 43 days ago, I wrote about the music download service of the music department of the Rotterdam public library. All 3 million members of the Dutch public libraries were invited to start downloading more than 35.000 music pieces (songs and albums) for free on They can listen to classical music and jazz with Windows Media Audio. The collection has been expanded with the labels ECM, Pentatone and Dox. The rights have been coordinated by BUMA/STEMRA the collecting body and the national Library body. A DRM company has taken care of the technology. The music distributors see the downloads as teasers for the sale.

Now some statistics have been published. In less than one and a half month 100.000 music pieces were downloaded. Roughly 3.000 people use the service. I was curious to see the segments in the user population. The majority of the downloaders are library members of 60 years and older. Golden oldies for the oldies.


Friday, December 16, 2005

Spaink wins from Scientology Church

Today the Dutch High Court has upheld a lower court's ruling in favour of the Dutch writer Karin Spaink and ISPs and against the Scientology Church: freedom of speech prevails above copyright. In other words, infringement of copyright can not be used in order to block freedom of speech. The High Court did not expound on the lower court ruling and avoided an closer examination of principles. This ruling ends a 10 years old legal battle.

The case concerns the writings of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. Parts of the writings, published and unpublished fragments, have been put online by Karin Spaink in order to expose Scientology. The church body claims the copyright to the writings and has taken the position that Spaink and the ISPs have infringed the copyright and acted illegally. The Church is famous for persecuting everyone publishing official and unofficial material of and about their founder. As in every church, the disciples like to polish up the image of their founder. Disagreeable documents – in the case of Hubbard there are a few - are preferably kept under lock. But some became public in the Fisherman affidavit when the Scientology Church pursued a strayed disciple.

In a district court there was a ruling in 1999 deciding that Spaink had not infringed on the copyright of Scientology. In consequence the ISPs only act illegally when they know about the infringement by their users.

In a higher court the judge decided that Spaink infringed on the copyright of Scientology, but that freedom of speech justified this breach. So the claims against Spaink and the ISPs were not awarded.

Both parties did not agree with this judgement and went before the Dutch High Court. In his conclusion of March 18, 2005 the Solicitor General advised the High Court to reject the objections of the Scientology Church. Just before the official ruling the Scientology Church withdrew the case. Spaink and the ISPs protested this move as a clear ruling about freedom of speech above infringement of copyright. The Dutch High Court was advised not to abandon the case and rule on the case.

(There will be a victory party by the ISP defendant XS4ALL on 28 December 2005 at the Final Victory Festival)


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Telcos will and should not dominate content

My Dutch-Australian friend Paul Budde is driving home a point: “Telcos are arrogant on content industry", he says. "The telcos talk like they can dictate what happens with content in the triple play networks (fixed lines and mobile networks).

One of the reasons why the mobile content industry is hardly able to exploit its potential can be blamed on the primitive business model of the telcos with regard to the content providers. The content providers are being forced to relinquish almost 50 per cent of their revenues for the use of the mobile network; it should be less than 10 per cent).

The concept of broadband portals, where telecom companies want to monopolise certain content in exclusive models, is one of the examples of their dismissive and despicable attitude towards the more successful business models, which have been in use by the content providers for many a decennium (radio, TV, press, games, music, video etc.) The same disapproving attitude they convey towards clients who want to use access to content without paying twice (once for access and one more time for content).

Eventually the telcos will have to limit themselves to the distribution of services and naturally to the activities regarding the networks they use to do so.

Some observations:
- IPTV will be delivered by internet service providers and not by telcos;
- Tele-presence will be the application of the future;
- Triple play is an access product;
- Triple play means access to all kind of content and services;
- Content providers will fight back;
- The industry still does not deliver proper services to clients;
- Will internet service providers acquire telcos?”

Paul takes on a lot of content questions. But his basic observation that telcos are arrogant in having clients pay twice for content, is an interesting, but not a new situation. During the Stone Age days of online, light-years before the World Wide Web, the information providers - content providers these days - were forced to be happy with a small percentage. The host – ISP these days – took the lion’s share from revenues. Especially syndicators built up a comfortable margin in this way.

I still remember that the Dutch financial daily Het Financieele Dagblad started its database service and sold it directly to Dutch clients and through syndicators to foreign users. The revenues from the syndicators were minimal. Till a new manager made his way, stopped the agreements and demanded a higher percentage. And he got it. Eventually he ended up with more than 80 per cent. And this is the way it should be.

Of course there have also been other business models. The French minitel system demanded only administration costs from the content providers. So did the Dutch videotext service Viditel (5 per cent). And presently the i-mode service demands a small percentage: the Japanese service asks for 9 per cent, while the European i-mode services demand 14 per cent. These per centages leave a substantial part of the revenues for the information provider and make him more eager to explore more services.

It is clear that the content providers should be more demanding on telcos and rather hold back on offering their services if not properly rewarded. Telcos should start to valuate content properly.


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Telcos and content

In my mail I found an observation of Fred Kappetijn, one of the directors of content provider Mobillion, on the role of content in telecoms

"When discussing the roles of the different players in the field of electronic media in general, and the new TV services in particular, I think it is important to make a distinction between the roles of:

- the content owner (intellectual property right holder)
- the content producer (Hollywood, sports clubs, news media, etc)
- the content organiser/packager (TV stations, ISPs)
- the content distributor (telecom).

It is very clear that the telecom operators want to extend their business by playing the role of content organiser. They realise they have to organise, package, market and sell the television type of content to be sure that they will have a nice return on investment in the broadband networks.

I don''t see telecom operators moving into the role of content owner or content producer. It has been several years since telcos in Europe, the USA and Australia wanted to buy media companies. I don''t expect a similar strategy at the moment.

Publishing and broadcasting are totally different businesses from running telecommunication networks. Different periods for return on investments and different business cultures (rational technology people versus emotional content people) make it almost impossible to merge or to conduct both activities properly. The failed merger of AOL and Time Warner is a good and dramatic example of this wisdom".



Tuesday, December 13, 2005

World Broadband Market Grows with almost 10 per cent

According to the latest edition of the World Broadband report from Telecompaper, the number of broadband subscribers in the third quarter soared to over 187.8 million with more than 15.6 million new subscribers since the second quarter of 2005.

* Asia-Pacific region, with more than 71 million subscribers is still the largest broadband market South Korea has the higher penetration per 100 inhabitants with 24.50, but others are closing in. The Netherlands comes second with a penetration of 23.50, followed by Denmark with 22.23 percent.
* There are seven countries with more than 50 percent penetration per household, including Hong Kong, South Korea, Israel, Taiwan, Netherlands, Singapore and Denmark
* Europe added 5.48 million broadband subscribers, almost the same as added in the Asia-Pacific region (5.55 million) 187.8 million broadband subscribers at the end of Q3 2005

In terms of net subscriber gain at the end of third quarter of 2005, the number of broadband subscribers soared to over 187.8 million with more than 15.6 million new subscribers since the second quarter of 2005. Asia-Pacific, with 5.55 million, followed by Europe, has been the biggest regions in terms of nominal subscriber gain followed by the Americas and Middle East- Africa. At the same time the region has registered the lowest relative quarterly gain compared to the other regions. Europe, with 5.48 million net gains or 10.5 percent quarterly growth, is the second largest broadband market in the world. Europe is followed by the Americas with 4.39 million net gain and 8.44 percent quarterly growth.

Countries included in our research are as follows:
Europe: Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, Ukraine;
Middle East - Africa: Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Syria, Tunisia, UAE;
Asia-Pacific: Australia, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand;
the Americas: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, United States, Venezuela.



Monday, December 12, 2005

Reading Matter

Last week there was again news about digital paper. At the 12th International Display Workshop the company Plastic Logic announced that it has developed the world's largest flexible organic active matrix display. The display consists of a flexible, high resolution, printed active-matrix backplane driving an electronic paper frontplane from US-based E Ink Corporation.

The displays are 10" diagonal SVGA (600 by 800) with 100ppi resolution and 4 levels of greyscale. The thickness of the display when laminated with E Ink Imaging Film™ is less than 0.4mm. The backplane substrate is made from low temperature PET supplied by DuPont Teijin Films which is more flexible and easier to handle than alternatives such as thin glass or steel foil.E Ink Imaging Film is an electrophoretic display material that looks like printed ink-on-paper and has been designed for use in paper-like electronic displays. Like paper, the material can be flexed and rolled. The film only consumes battery power while the image is updated.The displays were fabricated using Plastic Logic's new 350mm by 350mm Prototype Line and its proprietary printed electronics process that is scalable for large area, high volume and low cost. Plastic Logic will partner with manufacturers to bring the process to mass production.

Platic Logic's digital paper is also based on E-Ink technology. The announcement shows that the screens are getting larger, up to 10” diagonally. So far the screen size in production with Philips has been much smaller, but good enough for the Sony Librié screen of 15 cm diagonally.

Looking at the photograph of Plastic Logic the digital paper is still showing a page in black/white, as the press release says in four grey scales. In the meantime E-Ink has already produced a coloured screen in their laboratory.

Digital paper on the basis of other technologies have been produced by Fujitsu and Siemens.

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Sunday, December 11, 2005

Dutch bits

In the past week a lot of things happened in the Dutch telecom, publishing and broadcasting sectors.

Government sells shares in KPN
Dutch government has sold 8 per cent of shares in KPN. Government still has 8 per cent, but will sell these before the end of the year. It gave up its golden share and veto right by which it could control decisions. The sale immediately sparked speculations about acquisition by equity companies or telecom companies as Telefonica or T-Mobile.

KPN acquires Nozema
The incumbent telecommunication KPN is allowed to buy Nozema for 75 million euro. Nozema was the infrastructure company for broadcasting. It possesses masts and controls the airwaves, but it was really interesting for KPN because of its digital broadcast company Digitenne. The sale has been opposed by some parties in the parliament and by the cable companies. KPN plays on all infrastructures except cable. The company recently started its own IPTV.

KPN introduces VoIP quietly
KPN has started VoIP, but has not announced it publicly. Subscribers to the telephone net, which is managed by KPN, can make a postcode check and take out a subscription. KPN has already competition from Tiscali and Wanadoo.

TV in Dutch train
The Dutch railway company, the RTL broadcast company and the telco KPN introduce NStv, laptop-tv in the train. Owners of a laptop will have to buy a card and a subscription. KPN will also deliver ADSL in the trains in the future.

Guerrilla to Sony
The Dutch game producer Guerrilla has been sold to Sony. The Dutch company with 95 employees, famous for its PSP game Killzone, was part of Media Republic and has been founded by Lost Boys. The company will stay in the Netherlands.

Media Republic not to Talpa
Media Republic was talking to the Dutch commercial broadcast company Talpa for a complete acquisition by Talpa. The talks have been cancelled after the sale of Guerrilla. The company works for Vodafone and Telfort and hopes to go international, amongst other with Eckky, a buddy in MSN. After the sale of Guerilla, Media Republic works with 45 employees.

VNU’s blues
It looks like my former employer VNU, which made the switch from publishing company to an information company, might be broken up in 2006. After abandoning the merger with IMS Health, two consortia of private equity companies are interested in buying VNU and breaking it up in a publishing part and an information division.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

A Dutch Harry Potter

On December 7, 2005 the Dutch langauge movie De Griezelbus (The Horror Bus) had its first showing in The Netherlands. It is our own local version of Harry Potter. The Horror Bus is the title of a highly successful series of books for youngsters, written by Paul van Loon. The Horror Bus has become a real cross media project. The books have been transformed into a musical, which got a lot of publicity. Religious groups demanded the performance to be cancelled as the theme was occult, without taste and immoral. The same objections made by some religious groups against Harry Potter books and movies. Now there is a movie, produced by the Hilversum-based BosBros. And a game is under development with the Amsterdam-based multimedia company IJsfontein.

This cross media policy is becoming common. Earlier two cross media projects were undertaken. A famous children book Puk van de Petteflet (Puk and his Tow Truck) by Annie M.G. Schmidt was turned into a movie and accompanied by a CD-ROM, also produced by IJsfontein. (It was a category winner in the 2005 edition of the

IJsfontein is often a part of the cross media project team. The company produced SketchStudio as part of the Klokhuis television program. Youngsters can use Sketch Studio to produce their own multimedia show. Before SketchStudio went online in November 2004, the website of the television show had 30.000 unique visitors a month. After the launch the visitors’ figures climbed to 95.000 registered visits. These visitors produced 400.000 sketches. The kids select a piece of scenery, from jungle to kitchen, and play with requisites like cakes, furniture. They direct persons, let them walk, dance, fall in love, quarrel and can give them voices. When the sketches are ready, they can be sent to the site.

Friday, December 09, 2005

RIP Anneloes Jenneskens

Anneloes (in white) during the pre-selection round of the

Today I found out that Anneloes Jenneskens has passed away on November 25, 2005. Anneloes was a member of the jury of the 2005 edition of the The organisation and the jury knew that she was ill at the time of the public jury. Before that she had partaken in the pre-selection of the nominees. She was critical, but would present her judgement with humour. On the day of the public jury and the awards ceremony she was ill and we missed her and her humour.
Anneloes leaves a partner and son behind.

The foundation likes to thank Anneloes for her input.

EU: 30 mln euro for AV search engines

Through my Finnish friend Cai, I got some preliminary information of a EU call for proposals. It looks like the call will be published on December 20, 2005. As far as I can see, this call is rather unexpected. I have not seen any mention of it yet, nor has any information about it been published. But the information comes from a good source.

Programme : IST
Budget : 140 million euro
Publication date: 20.12.2005
Closing date : 25.4.2006

Area and instruments
- Advanced Robotics, 37M€, STREP, CA, SSA
- Ambient Assisted Living AAL for Ageing Society, 40 M€, IP, STREP, CA, SSA
- Search Engines for Audio-Visual Content, 30 M€, IP, STREP, CA
- Accompanying actions in support of participation in Community ICT Research, 3 M€, CA, SSA
- International Co-operation on Digital TV Broadcasting and Interactive Applications, Target Latin America, 5 M€, STREP, CA, SSA
- International Co-operation on Digital TV Broadcasting / Mobile Convergence, Target China, 5 M€, STREP, CA, SSA
- International Co-operation on GRID Technologies, Target China, 5 M€, STREP, CA, SSA
- International Co-operation for eGovernment and eParticipation, Target Western Balkans, 5 M€, STREP CA, SSA
- Early warning systems for geo-physical hazards, Target Mediterranean countries, Indonesia, Thailand, India,Sri-Lanka, Japan, USA, Canada, New Zealand, 5 M€, STREP, CA, SSA
- International Co-operation Coordination Actions or Specific Support Actions, 5 M€, STREP, CA, SSA

This is the URL of the IST programme; but as said, you will not find this prelimenary information there:

The call is an interesting one with regards to two points. There is asearch engine for audio-visual content stimulation of no less than 30 million euro. Is this a hidden attack on the Googles and Yahoos of this world? Secondly there is money for an early warning system for tsunamis.

Keep an eye on the IST site and you might have found yourself a Xmas job with writing a proposal.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

iMMovator Café (2): Northern Wing

Preceding the iMMovator Cross Media Network Café discussion on making money with cross media, a former colleague of mine at TNO, spoke. Paul Rutten is presently professor at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, lector at the Junior college INHolland in Diemen and consultant creative industry at TNO in Delft. He dealt with a subject I looked into some years ago: the distribution of creative companies, in my case multimedia companies. I got onto this subject in 1997 during a multimedia workshop with Peter Leisink, now professor at the School of Governance of the Utrecht University, and Allan Scott, who wrote in that year the paper Patterns of Employment in Southern California’s Multimedia and Digital Effects Industry. In 2004 Allan Scott wrote the book On Hollywood: The Place, The Industry.

In 1999/2000 I got a chance to see how the multimedia companies in the Netherlands were distributed regionally, when I was involved in a survey of GOC with Peter Leisink and Jos Teunen (GOC), which was published as Multimedia: De Pioniersfase voorbij (Multimedia: Beyond the Pioneers’ Phase). We had the statistics translated into maps. From the mapping it was clear that there is a corridor from Haarlem, Amsterdam, Hilversum and Utrecht. I called it at that time the Amsterdam Multimedia Corridor (see map).

Paul Rutten took a closer look at what he called the Northern Wing, which appeared to correspond to the Amsterdam Multimedia Corridor. Northern Wing sounds less sexy than the Amsterdam Multimedia Corridor, but it indicates that there is also a Southern Wing. He took more distance by looking at the creative industry as linked with ict. (I personally think that the term digital creative industry fits better).

With INHolland he is looking into the opportunities for innovation in this area. Eventually this research should be translated into policy for the provinces and cities in the area. He produced some statistics:
- 34 per cent of all jobs are in the creative industry and ICT;
- 77 per cent of these jobs are the 10 largest Dutch cities;
- 32 per cent of these jobs are located in Amsterdam.
The growth in jobs in the creative industry and ICT in the Northern Wing is remarkable. In ICT there is an annual growth of jobs of 2,4 per cent for the whole country, but 3,8 per cent in the Northern Wing. Also a growth of jobs up to 3,8 per cent in the creative industry can be found the Nothern wing over against 3,5 for the whole country. Amsterdam was the fastest growing city in terms of jobs in the creative industry and ICT. Haarlemmermeer, the city around Schiphol Airport, is also a fast grower; this is probably due to the HQ of the magazine publisher Sanoma. Zaandam does hardly grow as far as the creative industry and ICT are concerened.

He also ranked the cities in the Northern Wing:
1. Amsterdam
2. Utrecht
3. Hilversum
4. Amersfoort
5. Haarlemmermeer
6. Haarlem
7. Almere
8. Nieuwegein
9. Amstelveen
10. Zaanstad

In this list Amsterdam, Utrecht and Hilversum are also the real content cities.

The maps are part of the report Multimedia: De Pioniersfase Voorbij (Multimedia: Beyond The Pioneers'Phase) written by Dr Peter Leisink, Drs Jos Teunen en Jak Boumans BA, MDiv. and published by GOC. The adaptations are based on the data by Paul Rutten.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

iMMovator Café (1): Making Money with Cross Media

The hall was packed with some 350 people last night. They had come for the Cross Media Café of the iMMovator Cross Media Network, an incubator or accelerator network in Hilversum, the broadcast city of the Netherlands. They all had been attracted by the title of the discussion: Making money with Cross Media. (Old hands know in the meantime that this type of title states an ideal to strive after, but that it does not reflect the state of art of business reality).

For the discussion three panellists had been invited: one from the print world, the newspaper De Telegraaf, and two from commercial broadcasting companies, RTL Netherlands and Endemol. No representative from the public broadcast stations was behind the table.

Michiel van der Meer, manager of the online classified section of the daily newspaper De Telegraaf, was fast in putting down the realities in the Netherlands by saying that, the Dutch company bought by eBay for some 300 million euro, had a turn-over of 12 million euro annually. The print section of the classified ads was still good for 30 million euro annually. In other words, the time window for the newspaper to get into internet and start competing with newcomers in the classified market is still open. De, the online companion of the print edition of De Telegraaf, the largest distributed daily in The Netherlands, was beyond a break-even point after nine years of operation. Fifteen months ago the Speurders section had been brought online. So far 3 million euro had been poured into the setting up of online classified ad exercise and it had only delivered 1 million in return in 2005. So far Speurders had aimed at market share and the section had gained 20 per cent. To make the site more attractive De Telegraaf was experimenting with video, not only for the newspaper site but also for the classified ad section.

The two representatives from the commercial broadcast stations were also charging away. Peter op de Beek, director RTL the Netherlands interactive, indicated that to him Teletext/Ceefax was the best cross media application in terms of turn-over and market range. RTL the Netherlands is active in moving from television programming to cross media. RTL has in the Netherlands now 230 sites, but it is clear that it is making more money with SMS/texting. It has bought a 50 per cent share in a SMS company and can keep control over the traffic. In program formats like Idols much material is used on internet and never shown on television. But the money is made with voting in rounds. With some envy he indicated that MTV was at present the most cross media broadcast company, earning 50 per cent from ads and 50 per cent from cross media activities such as internet, SMS, but also events.

Dick de Graaf, commercial director of Endemol, made it very clear that next year a lot of cross media activity will take place and that the commercial broadcast companies have two to three years to get their business models right. By that time the commercial broadcast companies will get 30 per cent out of cross media in their total turn-over. He agreed that for the time being SMS/texting was a money maker. The recent TV program Domino Day had generated no less than 1,2 million textmessages times 0,80 eurocents. But he expected a lot from 3G television. Presently 3G is a negligible factor. Although the fact that the mobile company Vodafone is putting a lot of effort in mobile television, there are only 7 to 8000 UMTS subscribers in the Netherlands at present. He hoped the number of subscribers would go up in two to three years. It is clear that he is putting his hope on 3G and less on internet, but he will need some millions of subscribers to make it an interesting business case. I am afraid that De Graaf is rather optimistic about 3G.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

No market failures in Dutch broadband market

Yesterday the Dutch central planning bureau CPB published a long-awaited study on broadband. According to the CPB the Netherlands scores well in comparison to other countries. The penetration is one of the highest in the world. Investments in innovation have led to ever higher download speeds for consumers against ever lower costs . This is possible due to the fierce competition between ADSL and cable providers.

As broadband telecommunication is seen as a source of productivity gains, the European Union and other regions are encouraging the deployment of a secure broadband infrastructure. In the Netherlands, there is some concern whether the supply of broadband capacity will meet the strongly increasing demand. This report analyses the broadband market and asks whether a specific role of government is necessary. The main conclusions are that presently, given current broadband policy, no considerable market failures exist. Firms have adequate incentives to invest in broadband, partly induced by specific regulation of access to the local copper loop.
Hence, there is no need for changes in current broadband policy. Market failures in terms of knowledge spillovers are taken care of by other policies. As the broadband markets are very dynamic, unforeseen developments may emerge such as the appearance of new dominant techniques and market players. The best strategy for the government, in particular the competition authority, is to continuously monitor these markets, making timely intervention easier when needed.

The CPB notes that there is no proof of market failure, which necessitates government interference. The present policy of of the Dutch government offer enough incentives for market players in order to invest in broadband. The CPB warns for the negative effects of a more active government influence such as subsidies. Implicitly there is a reference to the glass policy which the Dutch government and municipalities (Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam) are striving after. CPB indicates that government and municipalities might make the wrong technology, which the market does not like.

The report notes that there is no serious geographical digital divide in the Netherlands. Most households have access to either DSL or cable. To some extent, a social digital divide occurs and this finding is linked to labour market issues. Elderly people and low-income groups have relatively less Internet connections. In the course of time, this digital divide will diminish as next generations will be more and more experienced computer users.

The 130-pages study with great stats is in the English language with a Dutch summary and can be downloaded as a PDF.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Before Internet

For one of my projects I had to search Internet last night. I had to find information about the period before internet, between the sixties and 1990. Usually people will tell you that you have to search for ARPAnet, Roy Tomlinson, (the inventor of the @ sign in e-mail), Vince Cerf and Tim Berners Lee.

Not many people are aware that from the late sixties till the nineties there was online business, better known as information retrieval. In 1965 Roger Summit at Lockheed and Carlos Cuadra at SDC lead teams developing software enabling online database systems Dialog and ORBIT. By 1970 Carlos Cuadra at SDC developed the ELHILL software, to support experimental online database MEDLINE, the first dial up service in 1971. This was followed by Roger Summit in 1972 who made Dialog a commercially available online service with the educational database ERIC as its first offering.

These activities led to commercial operations in the US with names as Mead Data Central (MDC; later Lexis Nexis), Dialog, SDC and BRS. These services have large databases available for retrieval. These databases were classified as primary information sources, secondary information sources and numerical databases. The primary information sources were databases containing the full text of laws and news items. Secondary information sources consisted of so-called abstract databases, containing summaries of scientific and technical articles. The numerical databases contained series of figures relevant to the stock exchanges.

In the seventies Europe followed with some of these services. The European space organisation offered the service ESA-IRS. In Switzerland Data Star was set up as a commercial service. In France the government ran Questel.

The services were also referred to as ASCII service. ASCII was an abbreviation of American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII), the International Alphabet Nr. 5, which contained 128 characters such as capital and small characters, numbers and diacritical signs such as a hyphen. Late this character set was expanded to 256 characters and is known as the Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code (EBCDIC). ASCII was a reference to the presentation protocol. It meant that you saw on your screen characters in capital and small, numbers and diacritical signs like hyphens. The text started on top of the screen with a line of maximally 80 characters. The next line pushed the first line below until it reached the bottom of the screen.

Despite all the market experience, these information retrieval services had a hard time when internet came around. Internet was for many of these services a disruptive technology. Lexis Nexis became part of Reed Elsevier and it took Reed Elsevier some time before it geared up for internet. Dialog eventually ended up as part of the information services of the Canadian publisher Thomson. But a BRS just went down as online service, but transformed its experience with databases in a new information service Ovid, which was bought by Kluwer.

Carlos Cuadra was a quite prolific figure in the information retrieval world. He was the boss (CEO these days) of SDC, but he also founded Cuadra Associates, which developed the information management software Cuadra Star and produced for years a directory of databases and information retrieval services.

Last night I found Online Before The Internet. It is a nice series of 9 in-depth interviews with the pioneers of the information retrieval industry Carlos Cuadra, Roger Summit and Jan Egeland.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

EUROPRIX Top Talent Award nominees published

Cruising around my bookmarks yesterday, I noticed that the EUROPRIX Top Talent Award (TTA) nominations have been published. After days of hot sizzling debates, the TTA Jury of 20 experts have nominated 22 projects out of 411 eligible entries. Also 20 projects have received a Seal of Quality. At the TTA Festival from March 1-4, 2006, the winners will be announced.

The awards ceremony in 2004: the Dutch winner Anya Shapira receives her award for the Interactive Projection System

The nominees will have their work showcased around Europe. There will be a catalogue with descriptions and screenshots of the projects. Also a DVD will be produced and of course the EUROPRIX Top Talent website will contain information on the projects. The nominees will be invited to Vienna in March 2006 to present their projects at the Top Talent Festival. This is a great happening for the students, young professionals and multimedia instructors. It all culminates in the TTA Gala when the winners will be announced and 11,000 euro in prize money will be awarded. This year the EUROPRIX TTA Festival is part of the events in the framework of Austria’s European presidency.

The EUROPRIX TTA is a multimedia competition for students and young professional up to 30 years. The competition has been held for the 7th time since 1998, when it was part of the EUROPRIX AWARD as a students’ award, organised by the Austrian ministry of Economic Affairs and the European Commission. From 2002 the competition continued as an independent competition for students and young professionals up to 30 years of age. The Europe wide competition is still sponsored by the Austrian ministry of Economic Affairs.

I am quite envious of the interest that the Austrian government takes in the multimedia and content industry, not only in their own country, but also in Europe and the world. They have their own award, the Statspreise, and they shell out money to organise the EUROPRIX TTA as a European competition. In 2003 and 2005 they supported also the World Summit Award. They also stimulate their own industry and have a industry guide, a register of multimedia companies with their names and addresses as well as their specialties. In 1998, 1999 and 2000 The European Commission showed also such an interest, but this withered away as money was destined for million euro devouring Intergrated Projects. These projects do not take in starters and small enterprises as multimedia companies usually are. EU Commissioner Viviane Reding should organise such a Europe wide competition and festival through her Media programme.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

MP3/iPOD levy postponed

In the past week there was excitement about a levy on MP3 in the Netherlands. The collecting society Foundation Home Copy (Stichting Thuiskopie) had decided to put a levy on the MP3 or iPODs. It would make the MP3 player in the Netherlands some 10 or more euros more expensive. The collecting society wants to destine the levy revenues to music artists, after deducting administrative costs of 5 per cent.

A storm of protest developed. The Software/hardware association ICT~Office was against it. Consumer organisations protested against the levy as unfair, as a levy for downloading is already paid and a MP3 levy would be paid as an extra. Besides, people in the Netherlands would drive across the border to Germany or Belgium to buy a MP3 player or iPOD without levy. Political parties requested action of the minister of Justice; and as Germany or Belgium is maximally two hours from any point in the Netherlands, the amount of ten euro or more is easily saved. As the collecting society is not a governmental department, the minister can only influence the collection society’s board of directors. The minister indicated that he would talk to the society’s board of directors and talk with his colleagues in other European countries, so that a levy can be charged Europewise. Problem diffused for more than a year.

Part of the problem lies with the collecting societies. The Netherlands is populated with collecting societies. Most (in)famous is Stemra/BUMA for music, but there are also collecting societies to charge people and/or companies for playing a radio at work, for distributing video programs, for making copies on copying machines, for using articles in students’ readers. Use the word mechanical or database reproduction and a collecting society will present itself.

These individual collecting societies are incorporated as foundations and find their legal base in the national copyright act. The argumentation of the proposed levy is that illegal copies of songs can be made with this equipment. The levy is comparable with the levy on blank CD-ROMs and DVDs.

The collecting societies distribute the revenues to publishers and artists. This distribution is dubious. Magazine publishers receive repartition money for articles copied. Magazine publishers, which are members of the foundation, are obliged to divide this repartition money between the publishing company and the author. Only a few publishing companies transfer the repartition money; most companies keep the money using the excuse that they incorporate the money in their author's fee. When a publishing company is not a member of the collecting society, the author can apply for repartition money, but will have to go through a lot of red tape. Also in the music sector the repartition money is split between the music publisher, the distribution company and the artist. Unless you are an established artist, you will receive some money.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Timesharing the cuddles

Sometimes you get excited by a news item. Yesterday my attention was drawn to an article which has been published in the Singapore’s StraitTimes. The article was on the virtual cuddle. Yes, you are in the States and your loved one is tucked away in a small village in Holland and you can touch each other, virtually.

In reality, the article only projects the future possibility to transmit cuddles through internet. Presently researchers at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore are looking into transmissions of touching pets. A farmer who has gone to town can contact his farm and touch his pet chicken. The chicken has a coat with sensors, which can transfer the stroking.

This area of research is not new. You might remember the famous, magic bionic glove of years ago, which could move a piece on a chess board. This was a nice feat. But in the meantime research has moved on. Smart textile has become a serious development. When I was in Finland at Nokia’s research lab in Hermia near Tampere (Finland) a few weeks ago, a researcher told us that Nokia is working on textile with sensors, which can transmit signals such as the heart beat.

This type of research is often indicated as submersible experience. It is however still one-way traffic for the time being. The farmer can transmit the stroking to the chicken; the chicken, however, cannot pick in the farmers hand at the same time. It is like text chatting by MSN, but no video chatting yet. It is timesharing the cuddles. So it is not another product yet for the adult industry.

(In order to read the article in the newspaper you have to register with the online version of the newspaper. The article is also made available as a PDF by the university. The photograph is copied from the newspaper article.)

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Dutch broadband market to pass 4 mln mark in 2005

In the first nine months of 2005, the Dutch Broadband market grew by 21 percent, or 677.000 connections to 3.84 million broadband connections of which 59.4 percent were ADSL and 40.6 percent were cable. Quarterly growth picked up slightly to 5.6 percent, up from 5.4 percent during the second quarter. During the first nine months in 2004 the market added 945.000 new connection. Broadband penetration per Dutch household increased to 54.2 percent at the end of September 2005, up 13.4 percent compared to the penetration rate at the end of 2004 (44.8 percent). Penetration per 100 inhabitants increased to 23.5 percent at the end of Q3, 33.3 percent up from 17.6 percent last year, and 1.2 percent more than in Q2.

According to telecom analist Kamiel Albrecht the number of connections is set to pass the four million mile-stone before the end of this year. "Based on the current developments we estimate that the Dutch broadband market will grow its customer base by at least 5 percent to more than 4 million broadband connections at the end of 2005, representing a penetration rate of 57 percent".

Planet Internet is first ISP with more than 500,000 broadband customers

Planet Internet has become the first broadband ISP with more than 500,000 customers, ending Q3 with a total of 505,000. @home has passed Wanadoo to become the second largest broadband ISP with 496,000. KPN's hold on the Dutch ADSL market has increased to a market share of almost 60 percent due to acquisitions of Cistron, Freeler, and 60,000 Tiscali subscribers and the growth of Het Net and Direct ADSL. The total number of ADSL customers using a KPN ISP amounted to 1.305 million at the end of Q3 2005.

Casema, Direct ADSL, Het Net outperform against market growth

Three broadband ISPs continue to grow much faster than the market since they were introduced on the market. Two of them are KPN ISPs: Het Net and Direct ADSL and the third one is cable network operator Casema. Het Net is growing with at least 15 percent per quarter since Q4 2004 and has become the fifth largest broadband ISP in the Netherlands with 364,000. Direct ADSL reports a total of 162,000 on 30 September 2005. The no frills ISP's customer base grew with an average quarterly growth of more than 50 percent since its launch in Q2 2004. Casema reported 148,000 customers at the end