Friday, August 31, 2007

2007 WSA Grand Jury Croatia (2)

It is hard to formulate the excitement and expectations of the Grand Jury exercise. But I think that my friend Waheed has hit the right tune in his welcome message as former host.

Dear friends

I still remember the amazing experience of Dubai 2003, when we were introduced to the WSA and its incredible team. I am still amazed with the positive energy created by the network of experts from around the world who met for the first time, but nevertheless worked as one, volunteering their time and creative power, determined to select the best eContent products in the world.

I never thought then that I will be able to host those marvellous experts along with the WSA team in my country Bahrain in 2005 … but who said dreams can't come true! Organizing WSA Grand Jury sessions in Bahrain had a great impact on our ICT sector. Moreover, it gave us a chance to pass the experience of international collaboration to a wonderful team of young Bahrainies, who still talk about their involvement in this experience and proudly list it in their CVs.

I am so happy to see that this experience is now passing to a dear country like Croatia. I am sure that its impact will not be forgotten even years from now. I look forward to meeting all of you – my old and my new friends – sure that we will again enjoy our time as jurors, working together, fighting (positively) and learning about Croatian ICT community and ICT professionals.

I wish to offer my respect and regards to the champions of this year's Grand Jury session - the Central State Administrative Office for eCroatia, and to WSA mastermind – prof. Bruck and his team. Also, a great big thanks to my dear friend Kresimir for taking the initiative to ensure that after Bahrain, this year's WSA Grand Jury takes place in Croatia, on the magical islands of Brijuni, and finally another big thanks to Natalija who is working on bring us all to Brijuni and leave safely, I am sure that we are driving her crazy.

Last but not least, thank you, WSA Grand Jurors for taking the time out of your busy schedules to once again work together for our joint vision of Information Society.

See you in Brijuni.

BTW Look up the official WSA Grand Jury Croatia 2007 on and the daily photographs.

Blog Posting Number: 854

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

2007 WSA Grand Jury Croatia (1)

Yesterday, I reported on El Hema, the e-cultural project between the Western and Arabic worlds. It is a subtle bridge for my next mini-series, which will deal with people from many cultures. Presently I am packing my suitcase to join tomorrow the 35 member international Grand Jury of the World Summit Award (WSA) in Croatia. I am already enjoying the company.

This will be the third edition of the WSA Grand Jury. The World Summit Award was created in 2002/2003 in preparation of the UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) to be held in Geneva in 2003 and Tunis in 2005, the World Summit Award was organised as a global initiative to select and promote the world’s best e-Content. The organisation behind it, the International Center for New Media (ICNM) in Salzburg (Austria) had already organised the Europrix, the European content competition for five years. In less than one year the WSA competition was set up.

The first edition the Grand Jury was held in Dubai in 2003. The 35 member strong Grand Jury was there the host of the United Emirates. It was a fabulous experience between people from so many countries and cultures. They had to get used to the situation in Dubai, to each other and to each other’s habits. The jurors were sentenced to each other for a week. But they enjoyed it. Yet it was hard work. For the first edition we had online and offline entries from 136 countries; every country could sent in maximally eight entries. Judging all the entries was a hard task; yet the Dubai hosts had organised some social events and late at night after the hard work, we could go to the beach near the hotel and go for a swim. The Grand Jury deliberations created a network between the jurors and some jurors became friends for life.

The second edition of the WSA Grand Jury was held in Bahrain in 2005. I have reported on the second edition in this blog. The members of the Grand Jury were there the guests of the Kingdom of Bahrain. Organiser of this Grand Jury was Waheed Al-Balushi. He was one of jurors of the first edition in Dubai and had taken upon him the mission to land the second edition. He was helped selling Bahrain to his own people as Bahrain won some awards, among others for e-Commerce. Also in Bahrain the Grand Jury members had a hard task as the number of participating countries had increased from 136 to 168. But also here the hosts created social events such as a visit to the newly built Grand Prix Formula 1 racing circuit.

The latest edition of the WSA Grand Jury will be held on the magical island of Bruijni in Croatia. It is a nature preserve. The State secretary of the Central State Office for e-Croatia, Miroslav Kovacic is the host, while Kresimir Lugaric (see photograph), the director of the Internet Institute, is the organiser. Kresimir will be a third time juror like Waheed. Besides hosting the Grand Jury, the hosting country has taken the opportunity in order to organise the e-Content Summit, which will bring together top thinkers and practitioners in the area of technology and innovation.

BTW. There is an official WSA blog on

And ther are daily new photographs taken by Stanislav Miller.

Blog Posting Number: 853

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

El Hema: an e-culture event

It all started out with a project to produce new Arabic fonts for the computer. But it grew into a hilarious exercise in multi cultural integration.

The Amsterdam new media developer Mediamatic got involved in the project Typographical Matchmaking, a project of the Khatt Foundation. In a co-operation of Arabic designers and Dutch typographers, five new Arabic fonts were designed. But the project did not stop there as the project was intended to show how graphical design and typography contributes to the Arabic youth culture. In a linked symposium designers and researchers from the Middle East, US and Europe would shed their vision on the new forms of visual expression and cross cultural designs with presentations on the printing of Arabic books, relationship between typography and dance and expressive calligraphy.

It would have been a nice project and symposium by itself. And undoubtedly the fonts will make their way into Arabic publications. But then a brainwave crossed the creative minds at Mediamatic. Talking about cross cultures is rather academic; so let us translate this Arabic culture to the Dutch culture by using the fonts on a real Dutch icon. And like every country the Dutch have several icons: clogs, tulips, artists like Rembrandt and van Gogh and soccer players like Cruijff and Van Basten; some will also add hash. But what is really Dutch is the Hema, a discount retail chain, famous for its smoked sausage, underwear and other items.

Dutch and Arabic logos (not the final design)

Mediamatic started to develop an Arabic house style for the Hema and to produce some items. When the Hema board heard of the project, they were not very happy. They were in the middle of the sale of the company to a British investor and thought that it would influence the negotiations. But after a few talks the Hema board understood the intention and did not object any longer. In fact they became cooperative.

The definitive logo

Last weekend, during a cultural festival in Amsterdam, the Arabic Hema, baptised into El Hema, was open for business. A complete product line had been designed with products the Dutch Hema is famous for. Instead of the juicy Hema smoked sausage there was Halel sausage. In textile there were shawls, T-shirts and slips with Arabic texts, and bed covers with Arabic poems. For children there were Jibril and Jamilah products. And a really Dutch product was on sale: chocolate letters of Arabic fonts; during the celebration of feast of Saint Nicolas in the Netherlands on December 5, children are given the initial letter of their first name in chocolate. By Sunday night the El Hema had sold out, even after limiting sales to two items per person.

What started as a serious project turned into an impressive e-Culture event.

Blog Posting Number: 852

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

P2P not suited for distributing broadcast video

Recently UK ISPs complained to the BBC that it put the entire logistic and financial burden on the ISPs with regard to the distribution of video. BBC has introduced its own software iPlayer with a plug-in for the users. The BBC software uses partly peer-2-peer technology. BBC saves on hosting and data costs, but the ISPs get higher costs. Also in the Netherlands problems are showing up between broadcasters and ISPs; with the live streams of the French cycle event Tour de France many ISPs was forced to its limits. Tonie van Ringelenstein, a Dutch freelance journalist, writing amongst others for Emerce, made a tour around the experts and discovered that a new cooperation between providers and broadcasters is upcoming.

Some time ago there was already talk of using the new P2P software Tribler for distributing broadcast material. A trial of the Dutch public broadcast companies and two universities to relay the content of the popular broadcast site Missed the program, has not started yet due to legal complications.

Now a new initiative comes from providers active in the internet exchange Ams-IX. Providers, public broadcast companies and the commercial TV company RTL Netherlands are talking to each other in order to reach an open protocol, so that the video distribution through internet will become cheaper and more reliable. The first tests are planned for this autumn. In this system the most popular content items of the broadcast companies will be put on the servers of the providers automatically; the providers will be able to distribute them through their own network. It saves data traffic for the ISPs and will put less strain on the servers of the broadcasters.

Presently there is already some experience with the system as the public broadcast companies use it amongst themselves. A subgroup of the AMS-IX video working party consisting of public broadcast companies, RTL, XS4all and Solcon works on the protocol. It will be an open protocol for all video content providers, providing them with an automatic caching of the most interesting video content. In this way the content is brought as close to the user as possible. Popular videos are counted by the ISP and as soon as a maximum is reached the content file will be automatically cached for further distribution.

The situation in the Netherlands is favourable for the cooperation between the providers and the broadcast companies given the success of AMS-IX, the on-demand video sites of the Public broadcast companies and RTL and the high amount of broadband connections in the Netherlands. Besides there is much video content on hand in the Netherlands and the demand is great.

The activities take place within a trial. The business side of business models, financial clearance among the parties and legal complications will be ignored during the trial. Basis for the trial is to transport content to the end-user in a proper way, efficiently and cheaply.

Blog Posting Number: 851

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Mecom’s scorching policy on Europe

The British media investor Mecom is following a scorching policy in building a European newspaper and online empire. Having just published a prospectus for acquiring the Dutch newspaper company Royal Wegener, Peter Skulimma, member of the board charged with strategy, is on his next mission: the German market.

Mecom is expanding its newspaper and online business on the European continent. The company owns newspaper operations in Denmark, Norway and Poland. With Wegener the company will have the majority of the regional newspaper market in the Netherlands. And the company has already regional newspapers in Hamburg and Berlin. But the company wants more of the German market.

The Dutch newspaper market is a curious market with a dominance of national newspapers and rather strict regulations on cross-media ownership. But the German market situation is even worse, as can be seen from the typology of the German newspaper market. There are many regional newspapers and hardly any national newspapers, except for three titles: Bild, Süddeutsche Zeiting and der Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. This development is due to the legal framework which finds its origins in the legislation after the Second World War.

But Mecom wants to change the landscape of the German newspapers. It has already two newspaper operations in Germany and recently bought Netzeitung. But Mecom wants more. The company has been talking to the managers of the mostly family-owned companies. It has also started to throw up ideas like a Sunday paper for its Berlin newspaper, which would cost Mecom more than a seven digit figure to start up. In an interview with Reuters Peter Skulimma indicated in what direction he is thinking by dropping a few names, for example of the Sächsische Zeitung and the Süddeutsche Zeiting. So far Mecom has only companies in the Northern part of Germany. So a Southern or a national newspaper would be welcome to reach more nation wide coverage.

Establishing a stronghold in Germany would give Mecom the chance to connect the newspaper companies in the other countries from Norway to Denmark and Germany, from Poland to Germany and from the Netherlands to Germany. It would also open up the road for a sweep into Austria and Switzerland. From there Mecom either could go South to France, Italy or Spain. But it has also the opportunity to go East to Central and East Europe as well as the Balkan; this could be a likely option, given the experience with its Polish subsidiary

UPDATE 24 August 2007: A prospectus has been issued by Mecom in connection with the offer of up to 488,997,935 new ordinary Mecom shares of 0.6085888 pence each in connection with the proposed acquisition of the Dutch publishing group Koninklijke Wegener n.v. In the last month Mecom has expanded its sharehold in Wegener up to almost 30 percent. A note for a recommended public offer has been published.

UPDATE 28 August 2007: Mecom has published its official offer for Wegener shares and put then on 17,70 euro. This brings the total for the company on 800 million euro. The offer is the same as the offer of last June. Mecom already has 30,3 percent of the shares of Wegener.

Blog Posting Number: 850

Tags: newspaper:

Sunday, August 26, 2007

No love lost on mobile live tv in Holland

No less than 62 pct of the Dutch households are familiar with facility of watching live tv on mobiles. But only 6 pct of the mobile users are willing to use it. That is the result of Ernst & Young Mediabarometer, a quarterly survey about developments of the media- and entertainment market among 2000 respondents.

1 of the 5 respondents which have a mobile phone, has a UMTS/3G device and is able to view live television streams through internet. Of this group, however, almost half of the group (47 pct) does watch video scenes on the mobile occasionally. Especially they download or stream amateur movies, as can be seen on YouTube, and humour movies are popular. On average those people spend 15 minutes per session; non 3G users estimate that they will watch video on their mobile phone for 20 minutes. Of the group of mobile callers who do not have a 3G telephone, half indicate that they will view videos about news and sports on the mobile. However the picture of these wannahaves, does not stroke with the habits of present 3G users, as only 6 pct of the users will view live streams from television.

Of course one should be critical about this survey. The survey claims have 400 respondents with a 3G mobile and using this occasionally for 15 minutes for video. This number of users is very high and one can wonder whether this number is representative for the mobile population. Perhaps the panel existed of early adaptors.

This survey is no good news for broadcast companies, which think that they may have found a new outlet. On the other hand the broadcast companies should not be surprised. Standardisation was still in process. Early user research in 2005 by the Finnish mobile company Elisa, was not very encouraging. During this research the company found that television broadcasts were mainly viewed during the late night. The fact that live television programs have a fixed time programming time might be part of the problem. Of course, the costs might also pose a problem.

In Finland the mobile and broadcast companies still expect a lot of mobile television. There is a Finnish Mobile TV community, founded by Forum Virium Helsinki and some of the key players in the sector. The goal is to promote the creation of innovative and interactive content for mobile TV in cooperation with Finnish and international service developers. The two-year Finnish Mobile TV project was launched in November 2005. It was inspired by an extensive user pilot, launched with the goal of collecting information on the experiences of end users. The findings indicated that the users want more varied content for their mobile TV and are prepared to pay for the services. During 2006 the Finnish Mobile TV project supported service developers by providing DVB-H network capacity, and also started an active developer forum with opportunities to network. During 2007 the project will again focus on the end users of mobile TV, especially regarding consumer feedback on interactive services. Current participants in the project include: Digita, Elisa, City of Helsinki, IBM, MTV3, Nokia, SWelcom, TeliaSonera, Destia, TietoEnator, Veikkaus, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, WM-Data, YIT and the Finnish Broadcasting Company, YLE. In addition to Forum Virium Helsinki, project funding is provided by the participating companies, while some individual projects also receive funding from public sources. The piloting activities in 2007 are partly funded by Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation.

Addition: August 27, 2007: I just read the blog Reiter's Mobile TV Report. It had a comment on mobile tv, taken from the British Ofcom Report: The 330–page Office of Communications’ (Ofcom) “Communications Market Report” (available in three sections plus summaries) didn’t devote much space to mobile TV, but the space it did devote indicated mobile TV is way, way down on cellular users’ consciousness and use.
Only ten percent of cellular users surveyed for the report were even aware their phone could play mobile TV. That’s the lowest percentage of awareness for the 13 features in the survey. But that’s a high percentage compared to those who actually watched any mobile TV — two percent.

Just notice that 62 percent of the Dutch people are aware of live tv on a mobile telephone. In the UK only 10 percent are aware of the facility.

Blog Posting Number 849


Saturday, August 25, 2007

Content and communications (2)

Many of the content oriented websites copied the press release of OPA, stating that content was on the way up. They had no comment on the research. Techdirt, however, started off a discussion on contents and communications.

Yesterday I pointed out that the stats of OPA are slanted (Techhdirt also does). It counts Personals/Dating in the content category. Besides it ignores pornography as well as edu and .gov domains. But any categorisation will be a problem. Jupiter Research has tried the categories: General news and archives, Audio/video entertainment, Adult entertainment, Financial and business news, Other content (e.g. horoscope, sports, health, kids), Digital music, Online games. This categorisation does cover the content activities on the web better.

But the problem remains and it is incubated in the conception of internet. Internet in the forst place is a communication service. It is not a carrier like paper, radio or television. But it is a multi-aspect service: content, communication. commerce and searching. The problem is most poignantly with YouTube. Are the videos content or are they communication? Or is the question wrong? A movie can be presented in order to tell a story. But the movie can also contain a message. And social networks contain content about the participants, but the main intention is to communicate with others. The social networks may be aiming at social contacts, dates or professional contacts.

Perhaps the whole discussion about contents and communications is not proper. The discussion should perhaps move from content to e-content. Content has to be delivered by some kind of medium. Traditionally it has been delivered by the human body and later on by teachnology in print products such as newspapers, magazines and books. For radio, television and movie technological devices have to be used for the production and reception. E-Content in the broad sense can be understood as electronic content, online such as internet and offline such as CD-ROM and DVD. I rather use for this phenomenon the term digital content. E-content in the strict sense needs a qualitative differentiation.

In the book E-Content in Europe E-Content is defined as: "E-Content is digital information delivered over network-based electronic devices, i.e. symbols that can be utilised and interpreted by human actors during communication processes, which allow them to share visions and influence each other’s knowledge, attitudes or behaviour. E-Content allows for user involvement and may change dynamically according to the user’s behaviour".
It is a subcategory both of digital and electronic content, marked by the involvement of a network, which leads to a constant renewal of content (contrary to the fixed set of content stored on a carrier such as a CD-ROM, or the content broad-cast via TV and Radio). This constant renewal of content in tie with its dynamic change allows for a qualitative difference, thus making it E-Content.

Using the present definition, OPA could sharpen the content category to e-content and see it as digital information, delivered over networked-based electronic devices with user involvement. Digital content with user involvement is different from e-communication. The difference does not lie in the network-based devices such as e-mail, messengers or Skype. But e-content must have a base in storytelling and e-communication in the mutual contact.

Blog Posting Number: 848


Friday, August 24, 2007

Content or Communication (1)

On August 13, 2007 the Online Publishers Association (OPA) published a press release about their 4 years running research into the use of internet, known as the Internet Activity Index (IAI). The study is looking into the activities: Content, Communication, Commerce and Searching (CCCs). The conclusion in the press-release was in the headline: Web users now spend half their time visiting content, far outpacing time spent with search, communications and commerce. This message must have been music to the ears of the OPA members, who are internet publishers and traditional publishers turned to cross-media publishers. But I would start wondering about this conclusion, despite the fact that the study is now running for its fourth year.

Let us have a look at the definition or better description of the mission of the Internet Activity Index (IAI): IAI provides a new way of looking at consumer engagement online, dividing Internet usage into four distinct activities: content, communications, commerce and search, defined as follows:
- Content - Web sites and Internet applications that are designed primarily to provide news, information and entertainment. Examples of those included in this segment are,, Windows Media Player and MapQuest.
- Communications - Web sites and Internet applications that are designed to facilitate the exchange of thoughts, messages, or information directly between individuals or groups of individuals. Examples of those included in this segment are Yahoo! Mail, AOL Instant Messenger and MSN Groups.
- Commerce - Web sites and Internet applications that are designed for shopping online. Examples of those included in this segment are Amazon, eBay, and
- Search - Web sites and Internet applications that scan the Web to provide prioritized results based on specific criteria from user-generated requests. Examples of those included in this segment are Google Search, MSN Search and Yahoo! Search.

IAI was started in 2003 with a monthly measuring of the various activities. In those four years internet has changed fast in the activities and in the way of distribution (fixed line and mobile). For example: content on internet started mainly as text information. However, the mono mode information changed after 2003 rather speedily to multimedia content, rendering text, graphics, audio and video and combinations of these types. Music (download and streaming) and from 2006 onwards video (download and streaming) started to succeed text as independent music and video services, but also as part of existing text services. Also distribution has changed as mobile portals have become almost a separate track on the internet.

The categorisation of the content activity has not changed over the years: Personals/Dating, Business/Investment, Entertainment/Lifestyle, Research, Community-made directories, Personal Growth, General News, Games, Credit Help, Greeting Cards, Sports; excluded from the content category are .gov and .edu Web sites, as well as pornographic domains (this must be American Puritanism; a competing research organisation nicely categorises this phenomenon as adult entertainment). Besides the exclusions, you can wonder about audio and video entertainment such as iTunes and YouTube. But what about community generated news and citizens’ journalism? As it stands IAI is not a real content index, but an index for the traditional publishers turned cross-media publishers (but not fully).

But there is more. Is YouTube now content or communication? Read more about it tomorrow.

Blog Posting Number: 847


Thursday, August 23, 2007

DVD Forum anniversary party rudely disturbed

This month the DVD Forum celebrates its 10th anniversary. And the members of this international organization that defines formats for DVD products and technologies, took care of the fire crackers: Paramount will exclusively use the HD-DVD format for releasing its movies for one year.

The Forum is a collaboration between the consumer electronics, IT and entertainment industries and was founded in August 1997. It assumed and extended the work of the DVD Consortium, the ten-company organization that initially developed the DVD format. When it started its work in developing the DVD format and promoting its widespread dissemination, the DVD Forum counted 86 members. Today, it has about 220 member companies, drawn from all over the world.

The launch of DVD was one of the most successful consumer product launches in history. An immediate hit with consumers around the world, DVD brought new and exciting capabilities to home entertainment, computing and gaming, and created an immense global market: 2006 demand for DVD players and recorders stood at over 110 million units, and reached about 290 million units for DVD drives. In the same year, 1.7 billion DVD movie discs were shipped in the North America, while shipments of recordable discs climbed to 5.1 billion discs globally.

In an anniversary message, it reads: This extraordinary success rests on the concerted efforts and long-term support of the DVD Forum. The Forum assured the versatility and wide-ranging applicability of DVD by defining key specifications that met diverse needs, including those for DVD-ROM, DVD-Video, DVD-R, DVD-RAM, DVD-Audio, DVD-RW, and DVD-Video Recording(5). The Forum continues to define the future for DVD, and is now promoting development of HD DVD, the next generation DVD format -- based on blue laser -- and working on the development of an integrated networking environment -- extending DVD formats to adapt to the expanding online world.

But the anniversary party has been rudely disturbed by the fire crackers of Paramount movie studios and its subsidiary Dreamworks. Paramount has chosen to release movies in the HD-DVD format only for one year. The company hopes to force a format dominance on the market. Paramount follows the lead of Universal Pictures which had exclusively chosen for HD-DVD as its only release format. According to The Wall Street Journal, Paramount will get money and promotion assistance for one year in lieu for the format exclusivity. (from what company will it get money? Microsoft?).

This fight has always been immanent since the two DVD format parties of HD-DVD and Blu-Ray could not agree. They nicely went ahead, but both knew that the fight was going to be on the commercial battlefield: the consumer will decide. Dreamworks indicated that it chose for the HD-DVD format not for the financial support the studios get for it, but because the HD-DVD player costs less than 300 dollar. The cheapest Blu-Ray player costs 449 dollars.

Is that argument valid? I do not think so. Mr Katzenberg of Dreamworks should know his classics and remember that the video tape fight in 1980 was won by the company which had the most content, regardless the genre. Can Universal and Paramount offer the consumer so much content in only HD-DVD format, that Blu-Ray will wither? Forget it. For the DVD is not only a movie format, but also a game format. Sony uses Blu-Ray for its Playstation and Microsoft’s Xbox plays HD-DVD.

The battle field is larger than the movie industry and Universal Pictures and Paramount will not o dictate the format. The HD-DVD camp with Masushita, Microsoft, Universal and Paramount will battle the Blu-Ray camp of Philips/Sony, Walt Disney and News Corp. Which company will have the largest offer of entertainment products; that is the question.

Paramount will review its stance after a year. By then the company will find itself in isolation and will have lost a lot of money by not selling its movies to the Blu-Ray community or it will have gained a dominance in the movie world, but not in the gaming world, which has other buying rules. In both cases the consumer will loose.

Blog Posting Number: 846


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Picnic goes social green

PICNIC ’07 has announced the Picnic Green Challenge. The competition is dotted with a 0,5 million euro; money from the National Zipcode Lottery. The Green Challenge is another branch of the social dimension of the PICNIC ’07 conference and exhibition in Amsterdam, from September 25-29, 2007.

Last year Picnic was held for the first time. Funded by the ministry of Economic Affairs and the municipality of Amsterdam, Ms Marleen Stikker managing director of De Waag Society in Amsterdam and Bas Verhart, managing director of Media Republic set up a program with the stress on social creativity. The conference and exhibition uses internet itself as a social network for last year’s and this year’s participants. They can put their profile on the website, complete with photograph.

This year a new social dimension has been added: the Picnic Green Challenge. The competition should show new media solutions for the environment. People from the creative industry have a task in selling green products and solutions. The creative producers can add the lifestyle factor. In an article in the Dutch financial FD of yesterday he mentioned examples like Organic, Food for You, an organic food shop and Bugaboo, a manufacturer of children’s buggies and of course the coffee chain Starbucks.

I remember a green challenge which was among the nominations of the 2004 edition of the Eurorpix Top Talent Award, a competition for young talent, students and producers under 30 years. A student from Staffordshire University, Christina Handford developed the Green Scheme, an incentive scheme for a recycling project. The jury report reads: The Green Scheme uses interactive TV to offer the public a crucial requirement: motivation. The Green Scheme allows the citizen to view how many points he/she have received from recycling tins, cans, bottles etc. The participants can use the points to reduce their tax bill, or donate them to local schools to buy sports equipment. It makes recycling a clear and transparent duty. The Green Scheme emphasises how recycling is both efficient and cost-effective for the individual, while also being beneficial for the community at large. The Green Scheme localises the efforts to reduce pollution and save resources. This would make the public feel that they have the individual responsibility and tools to recycle, rather than thinking recycling can be postponed for now, or be done by someone else. The Green Scheme facilitates the civic duty to protect the environment and serve the local community, surprisingly by sitting in front of a television set. The Green Scheme should be amongst the entries for the Green Challenge and a large city should pick up the idea.

For those who have still such a fabulous idea on their desk, they should hurry. There are only 8 days left. Chairman of the jury will be Richard Branson. And prize money will be 500.000 euro. With a jury support by amongst Richard Branson, but also other enterprise dons and half a million euro, an idea should be able to be put in practice.

Blog Posting Number: 844

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Forget the Northern Wing, Holland one playing field

Yesterday the new Dutch cabinet minister for Education, Culture and Science, Mr Ronald Plasterk was present at a meeting of iMMovator in Hilversum, the Dutch broadcast city. iMMovator (in full iMMovator Cross Media Network) is a network organisation, which aims at the strengthening of the cross media sector stimulating innovation and economic yield. The organisation describes the cross media sector as sector in which there is an increasing integration of radio, television, internet, mobile and events. On the photograph the forum: see photograph: Mr Plasterk to the right; Mr Huub Deitmers next to him; Mr Kees van Kooten next to Mr Deitmers; Professor Paul Rutten second from the left. For more photographs and a Dutch language report and RSS feed, go tto the site of iMMovator.

The minister had come inform himself, not to deliver a speech. Most likely he saved the speech for the Broadcast Conference on September 6, 2007. Three subjects were on the list: investments, entrepreneurship and stimulating the cross media sector.

Behind the table were also two media investors, Mr Huub Deitmers and Mr Kees van Kooten. Mr Huub Deitmers, together with theatre and musical entrepreneur Joop van der Ende, runs an investment fund of 150 million euro, part of which has been invested in some 10 start ups; their latest investment is in the Spill Group, one of the global leaders in casual game traffic generation, based in The Netherlands and operating 24 game portals in 17 countries worldwide. He made clear that the fund only invests in new media companies with an international potential. Mr Kees van Kooten a former DJ, is also investing in local companies; he stimulates what is kicking, but looks first at the entrepreneur and then to his plans. In the Netherlands there are not many investment companies for new media; many companies look first for government grants and then go in search for venture capital. Asked whether the minister was an entrepreneur, he told that he had been a life-science researcher and had been the lead in some 10 patents. But he had never set up a company.

Through a spoken column of serial entrepreneur Mr Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten, the attention of the minister was drawn to the fact that Dutch education makes employees of pupils and not entrepreneurs. The Dutch school system is focussed on delivering as many as possible students with a diploma and not top students. In business schools many managers are educated, but they seek employment with Shell and AKZO and hardly become entrepreneurs. Besides the students can not present themselves; they do not understand that life is one extended pitch.

On the subjects of investment and entrepreneurship the minister listened. But on the subject of the cross media sector he got into a discussion. Professor Paul Rutten presented the Northern Wing phenomenon. This geographical corridor (see illustration) from Haarlem, Zaandam, Amsterdam, Almere, Hilversum, Amersfoort and Utrecht, generates more jobs in ICT and the creative industries than any other region in the Netherlands. The Northern Wing offers in fact 35 percent of all the jobs in the cross media sector, a combination of ICT and the creative industry. But the minister did not swallow this argument. “When you look at the fact that one third of the Dutch population lives in this region, it is not surprising, that one third of the jobs can be found there.” Many people active in the cross media sector must have sighted with relief as Amsterdam and Hilversum have always been favoured above the other regions. Minister Plasterk referred to his visit to the Eindhoven region and the Design Academy; the students there are rescued from traditional ideas in order to start their creative career in the region. Mr Deitmers supported Plasterk’s vision and pleaded not to focus on the region; the Netherlands should be one playing field.

Blog Posting Number: 844

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Monday, August 20, 2007

TI ISP Alice ready to seduce the Dutch consumer

After Italy, Germany and France, Telecom Italia is set to conquer 15 per cent of the Dutch consumer market with its ISP service Alice. With a sharp offer, combining internet and telecom, Alice has to seduce dissatisfied consumers. The service will be run by Bbned, a subsidiary of Telecom Italia.

Bbned is not new on the Dutch market. The company has so far worked in the business sector of the market and has built up a good reputation. It has been successful in selling DSL solutions and in acquiring various glass fibre projects in the Netherlands such as the Amsterdam Cityring and the Rotterdam Port Authority.

But now Bbned will also run the consumer ISP service Alice, a service already introduced in Italy, Germany and France. Bbned can rely for its internet services on its experience in the business sector and the recently acquired ISP InterNLnet, which will give second line assistance to the help desk. For the telecom services Alice will make use of the services of the Telecom Italia subsidiaries Pilmo en Talk4free.

Alice will compete with the other ISPs with very sharp tariffs and conditions. In fact Alice will have to win over the dissatisfied consumers of KPN, Tele2 and the cable companies; they are accused of being expensive, inflexible, unreasonable in agreements, incompetent as far as help desks go and providing a lousy service. A survey by TNS NIPO on behalf of Orange Broadband showed that the majority of the respondents had the feeling that they paid too much for internet (53 pct) and telephony (69 pct).

In the internet package the speed is remarkable. Alice offers one speed up to 20Mbps and does not have other speeds, usually lower speeds as the other ISPs do. In the package is also a free telecom service to all fixed line subscribers included. All this for 30 euro a month. Given the speed of internet access this is really sharp as for example KPN and UPC ask almost double for this speed in combination with a telephone service.

The offer is simple. Administratively, the user does not have a fixed time contract with Bbned; the user can change monthly. The user will pay one month ahead. Besides the standard package a foreign telecom package is available at 20 euro for limitless worldwide calling, except for some countries where there is a limit of 500 minutes. A modem, installed by a user, is delivered at 10 euro and an installation engineer is available for 70 euro.

Will Alice make it in the Netherlands?. I personally think so. The absence of a fixed time agreement, the speed of the internet connection and the monthly fee will be the USPs. Dissatisfaction will do the rest. Of course the offer will be a challenge for the incumbent telcom KPN, as it dominates the broadband market through various brands like XS4ALL, Tiscali and the Net, but is unwilling to increase the speed or lower the tariff. Also the cable companies will get a problem as they have a differentiation of speeds and tariffs. For a speed of 8Mbps a user will pay almost 50 euros; originally this tariff was for 9Mbps but UPC decreased the speed from 9 to 8 Mbps without informing the users by e-mail or snail mail.

Cable companies have even more the problem of triple play. If one of the media is not working properly, user will threaten the cable company to discontinue the subscription for television, telephone and internet. I spoke to a UPC subscriber last week, who had problems with the quality of the analogue transmission of the television stations. A discussion with the help desk did not do him much good. He was advised to get some other cable fixtures, this while his present fixtures were replaced by a UPC licensed engineer last December. Reason for the change of fixtures would be the digital ether broadcast Digitenne in Almere. But this transmission tower was already in operation when the UPC licensed engineer replaced the fixtures last December. Absolute incompetence at the UPC help desk. This type of missers is a market chance for Alice. Of course Alice does not have a triple play as it lacks a television package, but even with the initial costs of Alice and a subscription to Digitenne the user will save money in less than half year.

Alice light the fire!

Blog Posting Number: 843

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Dutch Trial CC soon to start

The Dutch music collecting association BUMA/STEMRA will offer composers and text writers the opportunity to offer their work under creative commons licenses, giving them more flexibility in the management of their rights. A trial with Creative Commons will soon start.

The trial of Creative Commons Nederland and Buma/Stemra has been in the works for more than one-and-a half year now. But even after the announcement there are details on the opportunities offered by the trial.

A number of BUMA/STEMRA members have wished more flexibility in managing their own rights. Now composers and text writers transfer the management to BUMA/STEMRA and can not do anything when they want to make a deal to have their music on a particular site. With the licensing system of Creative Commons, they can allow remixing or free promotion.

BUMA/STEMRA recognizes that this trial is going to be important for them as an organization and for collecting associations in general. So far they have been very strict in applying rule for the management of rights. In fact collecting societies have been accused of running a monopoly.

Bands and music lovers protested last May against the inflexible licensing system of BUMA/STEMRA. Some one thousand people signed a petition on The initiative takers demanded from BUMA/STEMRA that they would get more freedom in the distribution of their material.

BUMA/STEMRA was not impressed by the petition as it already had a solution for music makers, who want to put their own music on their own site. Also groups like web casters have been able to license music online since May 2007.

BUMA/STEMRA will unveil their plans for the new, flexible rights management on August 23, 2007.

Blog Posting Number: 842

gs: copyright, creative commons

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Dutch TV station Tien, aka Talpa, exit

While Philips was celebrating its 25th anniversary of the Compact Disc, the Dutch television station Tien (in English Ten), a.k.a. Talpa, of John de Mol had its own exit party. After two years and four days the Dutch television station of John de Mol stopped. The spoils will be picked up by RTL Netherlands which has started RTL8 as an outlet for some shows now. RTL8 will aim as women as a segment. RTL also acquired the 32 million euro flag ship of the premier soccer league in the Netherlands.

You can ask the question what went wrong and go into a lot of nifty details. More interesting is the question whether Tien had an effect on the Dutch broadcasting world, which is a world of ‘more of the same’. When SBS has a skating show, RTL will have a variation on the theme. When RTL has Idols, SBS will have Who wanna be a popstar. So two years ago John de Mol promised to shake up the broadcasting world with new formats. And he tried. The news did not just have anchor persons, but they had a group of VIPs around the table, discussing the news of the day. This format was given up fast and Tien returned to the anchormen. Also soccer was going to be presented differently. People did not like it and at seven o’clock on Sunday night, when there should have been a prime time audience of 2,5 million viewers only 1,5 million soccer tifosi showed up. But John de Mol tried to bring new programs and he did. So the originator of the reality show Big Brother thought up the Golden Cage, where reality and fiction are intermingled; the winner keeps the mansion which is inhabited during the show and has a chance on the jack pot of 1 million euro. A change in advertising format had been promised by Tien; the station would work together with the advertiser. In this discipline things changed. And Tien used internet better than the public broadcast station

When Tien was announced as Talpa, the public as well as the commercial television and radio stations got a fright. They were sure going to loose audience shares to such a star studded station. The public stations went through a painful rescheduling and horizontal scheduling, while the commercial ones started to buy new formats. But after a year it was all over for Tien; yet Tien had shaken up the public and commercial stations. Now RTL is the wise guy on the block, having the soccer premier league and the start programs of Tien.

What is John de Mol going to do? He will not sit back and view the world. In fact he is moving his attention from the Dutch broadcast world to the world scene with Endemol. This company was acquired from Telefónica for 2.63 billion euro in May by a three-way consortium comprising Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset, the company co-founder John de Mol through his Cyrte Investments vehicle, and Goldman Sachs. John de Mol will be involved in the operations of the company. One of his first actions was to remove the Telefónica chairman Elías Rodriguez-Viña Cancio as fast as he could, undoing the parachuting of a Spanish CEO in 2002. Instead he put in his veteran governor Aat Schouwenaars. Having put his man in place, John de Mol will have to start looking for money coffers, as the take-over is falling victim to the global credit crunch. The syndication by the banks Goldman Sachs, ABN Amro, Barclays Capital, Credit Suisse, Lehman and Merrill Lynch has been postponed as debt investors refused to take part in high-risk buyouts. The consortium has also almost all of the remaining 25 per cent of shares; the owners of the remaining shares which total less than 1 percent of the shares. Endemol will soon leave the Dutch stock exchange.

Blog Posting Number: 842


Friday, August 17, 2007

Compact disc: happy 25th anniversary

It is anniversary day for the Compact Disc in general and the audio compact disc especially. As the reworked press release of Philips says:

Exactly 25 years ago tomorrow, on August 17, 1982, Royal Philips Electronics manufactured the world's first compact disc at a Philips factory in Langenhagen, just outside of Hanover, Germany. The invention of the CD ushered in a technological revolution in the music industry as CDs ­ with their superior sound quality and scratch free durability ­ marked the beginning of the shift from analogue to digital music technology. The CD became a catalyst for further innovation in digital entertainment, helping pave the way for the launch of DVD and the current introduction of Blu-ray optical media.

The Philips factory in Germany, where the world's first CD was pressed, belonged to Polygram ­ the recording company, which Philips owned at the time. The first CD to be manufactured at the plant was 'The Visitors' by ABBA. By the time CDs were introduced on the market in November 1982, a catalogue of around 150 titles ­ mainly classical music ­ had been produced. The first CDs and CD players ­ including Philips' CD100 ­ were introduced in Japan in November, followed by a US and European market introduction in March of 1983.

CD audio introduction by Mr Joop Sinjou (c Sinjou)

Philips and Sony partnered to develop CD ­ collaboration based on open innovation helped position CD as standard for the music industry As early as 1979, Philips and Sony set up a joint task force of engineers to design the new digital audio disc. this open innovation was a new approach ­ and it paid off, as Piet Kramer, a member of the developing team, said.Many decisions were made in the year to follow ­ such as the disc diameter. The original target storage capacity for a CD was one hour of audio content, and a disc diameter of 115 mm was sufficient for this, however both parties extended the capacity to 74 minutes to accommodate a complete performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony. In June 1980, the new standard was proposed by Philips and Sony as the 'Red Book' containing all the technical specification for all CD and CD-Rom standards.

When the music industry sales of CDs started to take off, more than 1000 different titles were on the market in 1985. In that year, one of the most famous bands in the world, Dire Straits, adopted the CD. The infamous album 'Brothers in Arms', as one of the first fully digital recording (DDD) to be brought to market, went on to become the top selling CD at the time, and the third greatest selling CD of the decade. The joint collaboration with Philips entailed Philips and Dire Straits jointly promoting the sound quality of the CD to consumers, making 'Brothers in Arms' the first album to sell over one million copies in this new format, marking the success of the CD as the emerging format of choice for music quality.

'The Compact Disc has played a pivotal role in the shift from analogue music to digital, not least for the DVD as well in music, though moreover in helping lay the foundation for even new technologies such as Blu-ray quality today.

The Compact Disc, is the forefather of today's extensive family of optical discs for a wide range of applications such as CD-Rom, CD-R and CD-RW, DVD, DVD R, DVD RW and Blu-ray. Philips estimates that over the past 25 years, since the first CD was pressed at the Philips factory near Hanover, Germany, over 200 billion CDs have been sold worldwide. Even though a single CD is only 1.2 mm thick, if all CDs ever produced were piled up, the stack of CDs would circle the earth six times. The compact disc, as well as the DVD disc, remain a very popular music/ video carrier, because of their digital quality, portability, and resilience to damage.

(BTW I still remember that in August 1983 I was sitting in the garden of my friends Herman and Ria and Herman and Herman had made up his mind to buy an audio CD player. And he did so; he was a very early adapter. Later on we had discussions on rot damage of CDs after 10 years; did not hear any discussions like that lately).

Blog Posting Number: 841


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sports as a content category

Infostrada Sports, the Dutch sports intelligence provider has sold its mobile service Sportsplaza to Sports1, the sports service of the cable operator UPC. Infostrada Sports will concentrate on the business market, but will keep serving Sportsplaza with data.

With the sale of the mobile service Sportsplaza and its integration in the Dutch consumer service Sports1 a consolidation in the Dutch language consumer sports market has come about. Sportsplaza started more than seven years ago, when KPN asked Infostrada to start a mobile sports portal for the iMode service. Since 2005 Sportsplaza has the rights to the Dutch premier league and is able to produce video clip of goals within a few minutes. The mobile service bought also the rights to sporting events like the Tour de France, Wimbledon, the Dakar Rally and Roland Garros.

Sportsplaza grew to a service with 50.000 subscribers in the Netherlands, who pay two euro every month, while in Belgium there are 40.000 subscribers. It has also special services for soccer clubs like PSV, Ajax and Feijenoord. The service has months that it counts more than 5 million pageviews.

The transfer of Sportsplaza to Sports1, a subsidiary of Chello Media, part of Liberty Global, the mother company of UPC, will bring together consumer sports services regardless of the medium, thus building out its multimedia strategy. Sports1 now serves the digital cable channel of UPC and third parties, internet and the mobile platform. Earlier in the year Sports1 acquired the web company SportOne.

Sport1 has also an interactive television portal for the digital television service of UPC, providing subscribers with score, statistics, play schedules, news and games; it also offers a way to select eight concurrent games from a mosaic and windows in a window. Recently Sports1 bought the rights to the British Football Association Premier League.

Infostrada Sports will concentrate again on sports intelligence as a business to business service for journalists and for companies. The company covers 60 games and deliver direct feeds in various formats during games but also off-line. The company has also Media Services which provide editorial assistance to sports journalists, but also to event organisers. The company with the HQ based in Nieuwegein (The Netherlands, has 100 employees, spread over offices in the United Kingdom, Australia, Austria and Denmark. The company is presently looking for offices in other countries. It is likely that Infostrada Sports will use the sales revenues for expansion in foreign countries and in content.

It is clear that the sports business is maturing and the consumer services become a commodity which is being served by a b2b service. Sports intelligence has become a business, having grown from a documentation department of a newspaper into a specialist content business. Sports have become a content category with a b2b track as well as a consumer track.

Blog Posting Number: 840

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Grazing housing sites under conditions; what about Google

An interesting test case for copyright and database right has come to Dutch court. The largest Dutch housing site Funda requested a temporary injunction of a new housing site

Funda, a site set up by the association of real estate agents, had to fight yet another provider who grazed the Funda site with robots and copied material without permission. In an earlier case Funda lost, but with Funda was more successful.

The housing sites have been at each others’ throat for some years now. Funda has a site, to which 40.000 real estate agents deliver their housing offers. Other sites say that there are more offers in the market and start a competition, which site has the most;see the example of the site, claiming 18 pct more offers. By claiming that the public has a right to search all offers on the market, they copy Funda’s offers completely or partially with the complete text and photograph, and collect other offers. Whenever they get a court case, they always claim that Funda is a monopolist. But the court threw this monopoly claim out as there are more sites active on the housing market.

Funda and a supporting organisation of real estate agents have faithfully fought all new competitors, arguing amongst others illegal copying and deeplinking. With the case versus copyright and database right was on the roll again.

The real estate agents, whose association has a 78 per cent majority share in Funda, pay for putting up their housing advertisements. copied these, using a spider grazing the Funda site, but without permission of the respective real estate agent. The court stipulated that would have to ask permission from every single real estate agent. But the court went further this time and limited the number of symbols to be copied to 155 as well as the format of the images to maximally 194x145 pixels.

The court did not make clear whether infringed copyright in a limited sense, i.c. originality. But it made clear that it concerns here the protection of other documents, which is part of the national Database law, based on the former European database directive.
The case against was to get a temporary injunction. The judge ordered to redress the database in 48 hours. Besides the judge advised to keep some money ready in case they would loose the bottom procedure.

Google News
The case is interesting as the judge put three conditions to grazing sites: permission of the original owner of the information, not just the aggregators; a limitation to copying of 155 symbols of text; a limitation to an image of 194x145 pixels. Immediately the association with the case of Google News in Europe comes up. Google News grazes sites, copies a limited number of symbols text and produces small pictures. Will this judgement offer Google News a road to continuing its services in the European countries? Presently Google News copies a limited number of symbols text and produces a thumbnail. But so far Google News does not (actively) ask permission from the newspaper owners, who could of course ask money in return.

Blog Posting Number: 839

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Flash: To Blog Or Not To Blog

Just view and listen to the musical tribute to the blogger by my compatriot Maurits Fondse.

2,5 million NL domains

Last week Wednesday the counter of the Dutch domain registrar SIDN stood at 2,5 million domain names with the suffix .nl. Presently the Netherlands rank fifth in the country code league, after the EU which registered more than n domain names since April of this year.

The Dutch domains have been growing steadily since 1996, when SIDN was founded by Boudewijn Nederkoorn (MD of SURFnet), Ted Lindgreen (MD of NLnet) en Piet Beertema (Centre for Mathematics and informatics). Piet Beertema was the godfarther of the .nl suffix and the first Dutch registrar since 1986, when the came into existence as a country domain name (ccTLD). When SIDN started to structure the rules for application better in 2003 there has been a continuous growth in .nl names. In 2003 the milestone of 1 million domain names was reached; three years later in August 2006 2 million Dutch domain names had been registered.

The Netherlands ranks fifth in the list of country codes. SIDN offered the following list of countries
1. Germany (.de): 11.159.466 domain names
2. China (.cn): 6.149.851 domain names
3. UK ( 6.126.785 domain names
4. Europe (.eu): 2.514.525, domain names
5. Netherlands (.nl): 2.000.000 domain names
6. Argentina (.ar): 1.343.715) domain names
7. Italy (.it): 1.325.188) domain names
8. USA (.us): 1.3 million domain names
9. Brasil (.br): 1.134.533) domain names
10. Switzerland (.ch) 975.357) domain names

The suffix .eu has passed the Dutch in less than half a year, since the EU register was opened in April 2007. Despite this competition the Dutch registrations have realised a growth of 25 pct. Also the abolishment of private name domains did not stabilise the figures. Since 2003 it was possible for private persons to register their name for a domain. Not much use was made of this; besides it gave problems with frequent names in Dutch like Jansen, Janssen, Janssens. In 2007 SIDN decided not to give out those names any longer to private persons and offered to those who possessed such a domain name money to have the name scrapped.

Blog Posting Number: 838


Monday, August 13, 2007

Internet changes lives of Dutch

Since the introduction of consumer internet in 1994, life of the Dutch has changed dramatically. Internet has been integrated in the daily activities as is clear from the top three activities: searching internet, internet banking and reading news. Advantages of online are speediness, comfort and timeshift. However, the consumer sees also that internet hurts the cosiness of offline activities. Those are the results of the representative report Online or Offline, a research assignment into the digitisation of Dutch society by the Postbank, the largest consumer bank of the Netherlands.

The report has some aspects of the Pew Internet & American Life project, but in the Online or Offline report many subjects are brought together.

Banking. More than 91 pct of the respondents bank online. Internet banking is popular as it offers a survey of transfers and expenses; is immediate and can be used anywhere at any time.

News source. Internet is used by the Dutch in order to find information and news. No less than 52 pct. Consults newspapers on internet rather than in print. New sites are characterised as timely, free and usually easy to read. Print newspapers are still popular as they function for relaxation and figure in the daily routine. Two third of the respondents up to forty years consider internet as a source of news; for people over fifty years only one third consider internet as a source of news. Men read the news sites during their work; fewer women do this.

Meet your date. Respondents indicate that they rather meet people in reality (84 pct.) than virtually (16 pct.). Women indicate that they rather meet their date for the first time on internet.

Booking trips. More than 60 pct of the respondents have booked a trip through internet. The easiness and the price comparison are indicated as the advantages. Internet has changed the travel sector once and for all.
Online shopping. People still go shopping. But shopping online is on the increase. People experience this as easy, fast, comparable, overseeable and not bound by time.

Picture postcard. The majority of respondents (62 pct.) still like to receive an old fashioned picture postcard rather than an e-card. Yet people up to thirty years of age will rather send an e-card, as they consider this more personal and with more impact.

Differences in internet use. It looks like older people underuse the internet opportunities. However this does not mean that they are less active on internet. Older people make their choice of online or offline more consciously.

Blog Number Posting: 838


Sunday, August 12, 2007

Eccky goes West

The Netherlands has been a testing ground for Eccky, the online game to raise a baby together with someone else or by yourself. Presently there are 750.000 Dutch users. Now the game is almost ready to cross the ocean to the States.

An Eccky baby grows in sex days from a lovely baby to a 18 year old. Every Eccky has his/her own character. The player will have to make Eccky happy. For this you need to go shopping, gaming, msn and many more things. In July a new Dutch version of Eccky went online. This immediately generated a true Eccky-boom. On an average day there are about 7000 to 8000 Ecckyies alive. Currently however there are more than 13.000 Ecckies living. Most of these Ecckies have been created in the new single player mode.

As sponsors are essential to the game in the Netherlands a pet food manufacturer recently organised a Kitten Class. During these energetic workshops future kitten owners received practical advice on how to raise their young cat. During the campaign period gamers could win a virtual kitten for their Ecckies in the Eccky world and chat with this kitten via Windows Live Messenger. Between April 1st and June 1st 2007 35.000 virtual kittens were born and more than 60.000 gamers played the special Kitten Class Quiz. At this moment more than 12.000 people have a virtual kitten in their Windows Live Messenger buddy list. Eccky generated more than 50.000 unique visits to the Kitten Class website. Because of this success Whiskas has decided to activate more campaigns through Eccky.

Eccky started in 2004 as a project of the Media Republic company. The success of this venture in the last two years has paved the way for Eccky to become a separate company and expand its ambition. Starting out as an innovative game concept Eccky's goal now is to become a worldwide entertainment brand for tweens and teens, featuring not only the game itself but many more innovative projects to entertain and interact with young people.

All Eccky's innovations are designed and built in-house by a multi-disciplinary team consisting of people from all over the world. The company currently employs people ranging from Flash developers and technical engineers to concept developers and designers. The Eccky team's greatest focus thus far has been the development of the Eccky game. Using technology and creativity, the aim for the future is to build the Eccky business and extend the portfolio of the Eccky brand. Keeping an eye on the global market, Eccky's current focus is to expand its global presence. An English-language version of the Eccky game will be released in 2007. Behind-the-scenes work has already begun to release Eccky in many more language versions.

For the big crossing the technology and content are ready, but not the business model. In the Netherlands the game is sponsored. For the launch in the US there are still details to be hammered out with partners; besides Media Republic like to get the users to pay there.

Blog Posting Number: 837

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Retro gadgets

The mini-series My museum of content-related artefacts was mentioned on the Dutch language website Bright. Tonie van Ringelenstein wrote a bullet under the title Dutch weblog museum with retro gadgets. Nice title, I must say as I never thought of the term retro gadget, but thought more in terms of vintage devices for professional usage. However the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum, mentioned in the mini-series were more for private use.

But challenged by the word retro gadget, I found another favourite in my museum: Speak & Spell, probably the first e-lrearning device. My copy was manufactured in Italy and bears the serial number RCI 3183. It was a popular electronic toy for children consisting of a speech synthesizer (TMS5110) and a keyboard. The device is powered by four C batteries, or 6 VDC input (on right side of unit). It has a built-in speaker on face, a fluorescent display.and a membrane keyboard. It marked the first time the human vocal tract had been electronically duplicated on a single chip of silicon.

According to Wikipedia the Speak & Spell was created by Paul Breedlove, an engineer with Texas Instruments during the late 1970s. Speak & Spell was the first of a three-part talking educational toy series that also included Speak & Read and Speak & Math. The Speak & Spell was sold, with regional variations, in the United States, Canada, and in Europe. It was introduced at the summer Consumer Electronics Show in June 1978.

The Speak & Spell learning aid functioned much like a parent preparing a student for a spelling quiz. It would say the word, allow the pressing of keys labeled with the alphabet to spell out the word, then report on the result of the effort.

We bought the gadget for our daughter just before we moved to London in 1983. The 8 year old girl did not know a word in English and had to have a crash course. Day after day we heard the synthetic voice of the gadget approving or disapproving the result of keying. It was (or better it is as the device still works) a boring voice, but the method was effective.

Blog Posting Number: 836


Friday, August 10, 2007

First multimedia show on earth: Poème Electronique (1958)

When I was writing about the preservation of digital heritage yesterday, I made the supposition, that large companies like Philips would take care of their industrial legacy. Usually large multinationals have their own company museum and they can easily retrieve prototypes of machines. So also with Philips, I thought. But then I was reminded of the Expo, which was held in Brussels in 1958. Everyone knows the Atomium, the daring aluminium sphere construction, which formed the entrance to the exhibition grounds. Not many people know about the daring pavilion and the first large-scale “multi-media” presentation of Philips.

In 1958 the Philips Company was represented at the World Exhibition Expo with its own pavilion; the pavilion was to show the strong points of Philips: lightning, acoustics, electronics and automation. The idea originated with Louis Kalff, an engineer who at the time was Philips’ director of arts. Under the umbrella of Le Corbusier’s concept for Poème électronique, a Gesamtkunstwerk was created, uniting the architecture by Iannis Xenakis and music by Edgard Varèse to Le Corbusier’s colours and images. The floor plan of the pavilion resembled the shape of a stomach, with a surface of 1,000m2 (40 x 25m), and a height of 22 meters. The construction technology used was innovative as a geometric construction of pipes and concrete slabs were used.

The interior was empty and dark. To facilitate performance all technological features were concealed. At each showing the pavilion could hold approximately 500 standing visitors, who experienced a shocking multi-media performance lasting 480 seconds. The visitors saw a slide show all around them and heard electronic music from 400 speakers.

The visitors experienced the Poème électronique, a history of mankind in 8 minutes show with light and sound effects. The show should have been a poem, blending images and sounds into a total experience. But during the long preparations Edgar Varèse got into conflict with the Philips sound engineers. The harmony aimed for at never came about. So when the show was played it visitors left the pavilion baffled. The multi slide show can these days been seen (not experienced) at YouTube (do not mind the Dutch text).

The pavilion was blown up. Officially as it was only intended for the exhibition. The project cost the Philips Company approximately three million Euros. After this the project went into oblivion, except for a piece of the architecture, which decorated the entrance to the Lightning factories for years. But in 1984 the Technical University of Eindhoven picked up again on the geometric architecture. And also the content was discovered again.

Since 2000 there is an initiative to reconstruct the Philips pavilion in Eindhoven (see drawing), creating a figurehead for both contemporary research and education in the field of images and sound. The pavilion would symbolically connect the ambitions of new Brainport Eindhoven to the research climate at the former Philips Laboratory NatLab. Plans are there to reconstruct the pavilion and in the meantime a reconstruction of the content and the performance has been made. In 2005 the Poème électronique could be experienced at the IST Conference in the Hague (the 400 speakers had been reduced to a few surround speakers).

Blog Posting Number: 835