Tendências emergentes, factos e dados reveladores da evolução dos media, cultura, economia e sociedade. Impacto social, económico e cultural da tecnologia.


sábado, abril 30, 2005

China's corporate cost advantage is a myth

China's costs of labour and land are low and its currency is regarded as undervalued and competitive. Yet Chinese companies are making relatively little money and the domestic stock market is at a six-year low. The reason lies in the country's high - and rising - costs of doing business. If the government does not urgently address this issue, the country will not only fail to develop a services industry but will also miss out on the foreign investment its under-employed labour force needs.

In the past decade, three types of costs - operational, regulatory and external - have been suffocating business in China. Even its numerous special economic zones have been affected, in spite of their lower taxes and less onerous regulations

FT.com / Comment - China's corporate cost advantage is a myth

quinta-feira, abril 28, 2005

2004 Internet Ad Rev Surpasses Dotcom Boom Levels

U.S. Internet advertising surged 33 percent in 2004 to a record $9.6 billion, surpassing levels seen during the early Web boom, and will grow at a similar rate in 2005, according to data released on Thursday.

The figures bolster reports from individual advertisers who say they are moving more of their marketing budgets online as consumers devote more time to the Internet and fewer hours to television and other media.

The data also underscores breakaway earnings results for major Internet media companies and search engines like Yahoo Inc.(Nasdaq:YHOO - news) and Google Inc.(Nasdaq:GOOG - news) , as well as the digital divisions of traditional media companies like the New York Times Co (NYSE:NYT - news).

"Interactive advertising has clearly become a mainstream medium and one that can no longer be ignored," said Greg Stuart, president of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).
2004 Internet Ad Rev Surpasses Dotcom Boom Levels - Yahoo! News

quarta-feira, abril 27, 2005

Open Wallets for Open-Source Software

Venture capitalists are again embracing open-source technology companies. JBoss, which offers a layer of software for controlling Web applications, was one of 20 such businesses that raised $149 million in venture money in 2004, according to estimates by the research firm VentureOne. At least three open-source start-ups raised $20 million last month alone.

But given some spectacular open-source failures in the late 1990's, a natural question may be whether some of these venture capitalists have perhaps lost their minds.

In 1999 and 2000, according to VentureOne, venture capitalists invested $714 million in 71 open-source companies. Most of those projects collapsed.

Turbolinux, which raised $95 million based on the idea of selling a premium version of Linux, the open-source operating system, was one prominent failure (remnants of the company are still doing business in Asia). Linuxcare, a consulting company backed by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, among other venture firms, was another. It burned through at least $80 million.

"We all learned a lot of hard lessons," said Peter Fenton, a partner at Accel, which invested in two open-source start-ups in the late 90's.

A big difference between then and now is the increased adoption of open-source software by corporate users. Another is the relative success of Red Hat, an open-source start-up that went public in 1999 and makes money by selling enhancements and maintenance services to corporations using Linux.

The New York Times > Technology > Open Wallets for Open-Source Software

Museum Visionary

But Mr. Krens, 58, whose reputation as a motorcycle-mad, globe-trotting visionary unconcerned about costs has made him the talk of the art world, doesn't seem much changed since that three-hour meeting in January. Asked where his priorities are now - home or abroad - he said, "Both."

The key to his business plan is hiring big-name architects to design buildings that will become tourist destinations in themselves, like the Guggenheim's Frank Lloyd Wright building on Fifth Avenue or its Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain. And though the museum's new leaders express caution about the budget, they share Mr. Krens's vision.

At a cocktail party last week at the Four Seasons restaurant to celebrate the museum's new chairman, William L. Mack, a real estate developer, and its first female president, Jennifer Stockman, Ms. Stockman talked of "bringing art and culture to cities around the world."

"We are at a pivotal juncture to make a great institution even greater," Ms. Stockman said.

Mr. Mack, the founder of Apollo Real Estate Advisers and chairman of the Mack-Cali Realty Corporation, a real estate investment trust, stressed that he had created a more active board whose priorities were "budgetary responsibility, building the endowment and promoting education."

Still, he emphasized that the Guggenheim was and always would be an international presence: "It is an international museum whose home is in New York."
Slowly, the museum has been making its way back, partly through the success of its satellites, which also include a Guggenheim in Berlin.

Mr. Krens said he was constantly approached by cities wanting to share in the so-called Bilbao effect. Besides Guadalajara - to be designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel, the Mexican architect Enrique Norten or Asymptote Architects in SoHo - and Singapore, other outposts under consideration include one in Rio de Janeiro, also designed by Mr. Nouvel; a Hong Kong museum that would be part of a larger development designed by Lord Norman Foster; and a collaboration with the Hermitage in St. Petersburg on an extension of the Hermitage with a Guggenheim component.

There are financial advantages to opening Guggenheims around the world. Cities that approach the Guggenheim about building a museum can expect to spend $150 million to $200 million, including land and construction, Anthony Calnek, a Guggenheim spokesman, said. The cost depends on the location of the museum and its size and complexity. The host city or country would also be expected to set aside funds every year to buy art; Bilbao, for example, spends $10 million annually on acquisitions and must subsidize operating deficits and pay a licensing fee. The Guggenheim Foundation also works with partners in buying and commissioning art. In Berlin, Deutsche Bank has commissioned works by artists like James Rosenquist, Jeff Koons and Gerhard Richter, which the bank owns 50-50 with the Guggenheim. Museum officials say that they hope that the Guggenheim Bilbao will buy back Deutsche Bank's share.

The New York Times > Arts > Art & Design > A Museum Visionary Envisions More

Mobile Phones, Ritual Interaction and Social Capital

Ling's close observations of some of the first users of the SMS medium -- Norwegian teenagers -- quickly uncovered uses of texting that can only be described as ritualistic. Ling began to wonder about what kind of social norms and values SMS rituals support and ask whether these rituals create or dissipate social capital.

Ling points to Malinowski's observations of gift rituals in the Trobriand Islands early in the twentieth century: a complex series of ritualized exchanges kept shell necklaces and armbands moving in circles around an atoll. The interactions and mutual obligations engendered by the ritual in the participants was the real value, the social capital, generated by the ritual -- not the material exchange value of the necklaces and the armbands. Ling suspects that the social utility of teenage gifting of SMS messages, which many save in their phones or in special scrapbooks, serves a similar function, and the ritualized goodnight message is a token of reciprocity that is valued for the mutual attention it mobilizes.

Ling zeroed in on the way mediated encounters might change the ways social networks interacted. Ling and other researchers for the European Union's multi-country, multi-disciplinary e-living project showed that "mobile telephony use has a relatively strong co-variance with informal social interaction. That is, the more one engaged in an active leisure life of informal social activities such as café visits, theater, etc, the more one used SMS and voice mobile telephony... This seems to point to a strengthening of at least the local social group (read: social capital) and, if indeed ritual interactions are amenable to mediated interaction, I can assert that the various interactions between the involved individuals play on, maintain and perhaps engender ritual. The broader issue here is the degree to which this type of ritual social interaction gets played out in the broader scheme of things."

Roving youth cliques who stay in touch throughout their waking hours via voice calls, SMS messages and photostreams are weaving tightly knit social networks. The problem, "in the broader scheme of things," might be the importance of the weaker and wider social ties Granovetter wrote about, which require connections between networks. While the personal and always-on nature of mobile media makes it easier for smaller groups to strengthen their social ties, that local strengthening comes at the cost of at energy and time that must be subtracted from more global weak-tie interactions.

TheFeature :: Mobile Phones, Ritual Interaction and Social Capital

Is Rupert Murdoch right to predict the end of newspapers as we now know them?

The speech—astonishing not so much for what it said as for who said it—may go down in history as the day that the stodgy newspaper business officially woke up to the new realities of the internet age. Talking at times more like a pony-tailed, new-age technophile than a septuagenarian old-media god-like figure, Mr Murdoch said that news “providers” such as his own organisation had better get web-savvy, stop lecturing their audiences, “become places for conversation” and “destinations” where “bloggers” and “podcasters” congregate to “engage our reporters and editors in more extended discussions.” He also criticised editors and reporters who often “think their readers are stupid”.

Mr Murdoch's argument begins with the fact that newspapers worldwide have been—and seem destined to keep on—losing readers, and with them advertising revenue. In 1995-2003, says the World Association of Newspapers, circulation fell by 5% in America, 3% in Europe and 2% in Japan. In the 1960s, four out of five Americans read a paper every day; today only half do so. Philip Meyer, author of “The Vanishing Newspaper: Saving Journalism in the Information Age” (University of Missouri Press), says that if the trend continues, the last newspaper reader will recycle his final paper copy in April 2040.
But it remains uncertain what mix of advertising revenue, tips and subscriptions will fund the news providers of the future, and how large a role today's providers will have. What is clear is that the control of news—what constitutes it, how to prioritise it and what is fact—is shifting subtly from being the sole purview of the news provider to the audience itself. Newspapers, Mr Murdoch implies, must learn to understand their role as providers of news independent of the old medium of distribution, the paper.

Economist.com | Articles by Subject | The future of journalism

terça-feira, abril 26, 2005

The real reason why it doesn't matter who you vote for

There is a far bigger issue underlying the lack of electoral choice. It is the absence on all sides of any idea of humanity's history-making potential. Politicians and commentators now seem to be cut off from the past, yet fearful of the future. They are locked in the present, endlessly going over the managerial minutiae of how to meet immediate targets for spending or healthcare or something else. There is little sign of grand visions of how the Good Society should look - and no ideas as to how such a society might be brought into existence.

The belief in people having the capacity to come together and change the big things was once a principle on the left. But the right also had a sense of destiny and a belief that history was worth fighting for. Politics was centred on the figure of the active human subject. Now it views us more as passive objects to whom things happen.

There are no longer any political parties or movements with roots in society, that could give people a sense of greater things being possible. This is often seen as a shift from the collective to the individual. But it is more than that. The decline of the old collective institutions has not been matched by the rise of any robust self-assured individualism. Instead, the typical citizen of our age is seen as an overwhelmingly vulnerable individual, insecure and in need of ever-greater protection from all manner of supposed threats, a victim waiting to happen.

This assumption of our vulnerability runs right through the policies of every major party standing in the 2005 election. It is clear in all the various strands of their politics of fear, from the self-terrorising view of terrorism, through the doom-mongering about man-made global warming, to the assumption that feeble humanity is now at the mercy of microscopic 'super-bugs' such as MRSA. So long as this demoralised view of the human condition prevails, politics can have little deeper meaning.

spiked-politics | Column | The real reason why it doesn't matter who you vote for

the United States has fallen far behind Japan and other Asian states in deploying broadband and the latest mobile-phone technology....

AMERICA may have been the birthplace of the internet, but it has now fallen behind its Asian rivals in the race to upgrade to high-speed broadband connections, with potentially devastating economic consequences. That is the bold claim made by Thomas Bleha, a former United States Foreign Service officer, in a much-discussed article in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs. In 2001-04, Mr Bleha notes, America fell from fourth to 13th place in global rankings of broadband internet usage. While George Bush focused on tax cuts and the war on terror, America's internet leadership was stolen by Japan and South Korea, where governments vigorously promoted the roll-out of very high-speed broadband connections—up to 40 megabits per second, compared with 1.5mbps or less in America. And America is even further behind in wireless broadband services on mobile phones. “These countries' progress will have serious economic implications,” Mr Bleha writes. “Japan and its neighbours have positioned themselves to be the first states to reap the benefits of the broadband era: economic growth, increased productivity, technological innovation and an improved quality of life.”
Ultimately, Mr Bleha is a classic American techno-alarmist. In the 1980s, Cassandras worried about America's car industry; in the 1990s, the concern shifted to electronics. Sometimes, as with cars, the alarm is justified; in other cases the threat is overstated. In this case, Mr Bleha is criticising American policy before it has had time to produce results. Still, Mr Bleha is emerging as the technology industry's unlikely Luther, posing the right questions at a sensitive time. “I've stated my case,” he says. “We'll have to see whether it is overstated or not.”

Prophet of American technodoom - From The Economist print edition

Summary: Once a leader in Internet innovation, the United States has fallen far behind Japan and other Asian states in deploying broadband and the latest mobile-phone technology. This lag will cost it dearly. By outdoing the United States, Japan and its neighbors are positioning themselves to be the first states to reap the benefits of the broadband era: economic growth, increased productivity, and a better quality of life.

Thomas Bleha, the recipient of an Abe Fellowship, is completing a book on the race for Internet leadership. Previously, he was a Foreign Service officer in Japan for eight years.

Foreign Affairs - Down to the Wire - Thomas Bleha

quinta-feira, abril 21, 2005

The advance of open-access publishing ?

FOR around a decade, a group of campaigners has been arguing that the public should not have to pay to read the results of the scientific research which it has, through its taxes, financed. Feelings about the issue are particularly high when it comes to government-funded medical research. Patients' rights groups argue vociferously that it is ethically wrong to charge for access to the latest medical discoveries.

Needless to say, most existing publishers of such information, who make a good business out of selling it to what is more or less a captive academic audience, are not too keen on the idea of “open access”—ie, publication free to anyone. But open access seems to be on its way. On February 3rd America's National Institutes of Health (NIH), the world's biggest sponsor of medical research, announced that from May it will expect the research work which it has helped to finance to be made available online, to all comers, and free, within a year of that research having been published in a journal. The NIH also plans to make it easy for researchers to do its bidding by spending $2m-4m a year supporting an electronic archive into which these papers can be deposited. This will be managed by America's National Library of Medicine.

Economist.com | Scientific publishing

Democratizing Innovation

While most of us are happy to use products off the shelf, a minority wants customised equipment to push the boundaries of their hobby or profession. Such "lead users" sometimes go to custom manufacturers to get exactly what they want. More often they tinker with commercially available products. Smart manufacturers take notice.

So what, you might think. Are not Prof von Hippel's lead users just a reincarnation of the "prosumers" - pro-active consumers - identified 20 years ago by Philip Kotler, a marketing professor at Kellogg School of Management? Is it not common sense for companies to stay close to their most demanding customers?

Yes, but Democratizing Innovation goes further than Kotler ever did, arguing that "users are the first to develop many, and perhaps most, new industrial and commercial products". This being so, competitive advantage might be expected to flow to manufacturers who systematically harvest this crop of ideas.

For example, 3M, the industrial products group, has had programmes in place since 1996 to harness ideas generated by lead users. After crunching the numbers, von Hippel found that "lead-user-developed product concepts" at 3M were likely to be more novel, enjoy higher market share, have greater potential to develop into an entire product line and be more strategically important.

Mass-producing products developed by lead users is only one possible approach. Alternatives include selling toolkits with which customers can build their own creations, or developing products that complement user innovations.
These examples turn on its head the traditional division of labour between producer and consumer. Manufacturers are supposed to develop and produce goods. Customers are supposed to consume. Democratizing Innovation shows that the flow of ideas and expertise is more complex. Value is often "co-created" by producer and consumer.

Perhaps wisely, Prof von Hippel chooses not to delve into the literature of co-creation. This allows him to keep the book short (at 200 pages) and palatably sweet. Readers who find their interest piqued might also take a look at CK Prahalad and Venkat Ramaswamy's The Future of Competition (2004), which tackles co-creation of value head-on.

Other useful complements include Experimentation Matters, by Stefan Thomke, Harvard Business School professor and sometime von Hippel collaborator; and Open Innovation, by Henry Chesbrough, now at the University of California at Berkeley. The common theme is that innovation and value creation are more complex than we like to think.

This has profound implications not only for corporate management but also for public policy. If the goal of policy is to increase social welfare by encouraging innovation - and if user-generated innovation really is more successful than other types - then rules and regulations should encourage this activity. At issue here is patent law, legal constraints on product modification and tax breaks for research and development. Why should manufacturers get all the incentives when users do such valuable work?

FT.com / Home UK - Mere mortals and the genesis of great ideas

terça-feira, abril 19, 2005

"This is the dawn of man and nothing has really happened yet."

Most of the companies making games for mobile phones have got it wrong, says Trip Hawkins, founder of games behemoth Electronic Arts.

Now turning his attention to titles for handsets, his current venture is called Digital Chocolate and, he says, has a very different approach to mobiles.

"A lot of people have the wrong reference point about what has happened before," he said.

Mr Hawkins said mobile phones had unique features yet to be exploited.

"Some see a mobile as a tiny TV, others want to put a PC in there and, to the game industry, it's a gimpy Gameboy," he said.

Game firms should be trying to exploit the new opportunities that phones offer rather than try to do the same old things, he says.

Mobile gamers are less interested in better and better graphics and more in the social side of the experience, he said.
"We are all accustomed to tremendous social intimacy but a lot of that been lost over last couple of hundred years.

"Now people have a tremendous need to re-establish they social links and rebuild that intimacy that was lost.

"A mobile phone is a better way to do that, because its always with you and means you do not have to define your social life as the time you are sitting in front of your computer."

The future then for Mr Hawkins are games and programs that let people connect, on their own terms, with anyone and everyone else.

BBC NEWS | Technology | Mobile games to 'go interactive'

segunda-feira, abril 18, 2005

Escalada no roubo de informação pessoal e a necessidade de controlo dessa informação

But for a single innovative law in California, the nation's consumers might not even be hearing some of the more outrageous news about mass heists of supposedly secure computer information from reputedly trustworthy sources: LexisNexis gently announces about 32,000 suspected thefts of identity data, which soon balloon to 310,000. ChoicePoint, a data broker and credit reporting agency with access to 19 billion records, lets 145,000 consumers know their personal data may have been stolen.

These are among hundreds of thousands of warnings to vulnerable Americans surfacing mainly because California has a law requiring that consumers be notified when their personal data are pilfered. There is no such federal law, even though identity theft produces $50 billion a year in personal and business losses. As California's consumers play the canary in the data mines, consumer and law enforcement organizations are putting pressure on loosely regulated data brokers to let the rest of us in on their failures. But this is hardly the way to safeguard the American consumer.

Recent Senate hearings show that no one really knows how deeply hackers and in-house thieves are tapping into our personal records. There was the purloining of Ford Motor Credit reports on 30,000 consumers so street thieves could empty bank accounts and run up purchases. Computer backup tapes were lost at the Bank of America with the Social Security numbers and other vital data of 1.2 million federal workers.

Worthy proposals, starting with upfront, nationwide notification of security breaches, are being offered by senators from some of the most victimized states: Dianne Feinstein of California, Bill Nelson of Florida and Charles Schumer of New York. The nation also needs tight regulation of the security and business practices of data brokers and credit agencies, and a ban on the easy access and sale of Social Security numbers without individual consent. Consumers, not data dealers, deserve controlling interest in their vital information.

Indifferent lawmakers cannot say they have not been warned.

The New York Times > Opinion > Editorial: Identity Thieves' Secret Weapon

Patentes para o Software - Em Portugal está tudo a dormir ?

MADRID.- El colectivo docente —alumnos, profesores y personal universitarios— han sido convocados a una manifestación contra la aprobación de las patentes de 'software', que se celebrará el miércoles 27 de abril de 2005 entre las 12:00 y 12:30 horas del medio día en la entrada principal de cada una de las facultades vinculadas con el mundo del 'software'.

Esta convocatoria desea que todos los centros universitarios relacionados con el 'software' muestren su descontento con la aprobación europea de las patentes de 'software', a falta de una segunda lectura en el Parlamento Europeo.

Durante cada concentración, un representante de cada centro movilizado hará una lectura pública de las demandas y opiniones de los convocantes y convocados, cuyos puntos principales son:

* Defensa de la protección legal de las obras intelectuales y a la legítima remuneración de sus autores.

* Respaldo a la armonización europea de las leyes de protección intelectual para la creación de 'software'.

* Apoyo al 'copyright' como medio de protección de las obras de 'software' según la normativa vigente, directiva 91/250/EEC del 14 mayo del 1991, y acorde a la Convención Europea de Patentes celebrada en Munich en 1973 donde se indica expresamente que el 'software' no es materia patentable.

* Apoyo a la libertad universal de innovación en informática.

* Apoyo a las decisiones tomadas por el Parlamento Europeo representante electo, democrático y legítimo del pueblo europeo.

* Rechazo a cualquier forma de patentabilidad del 'software'.

* Oposición a cualquier forma de patentabilidad de los algoritmos y las materias matemáticas.

* Desacuerdo con cualquier forma de patentabilidad de métodos de negocio.

* Rechazo a cualquier forma de patentabilidad de las funcionalidades de los programas informáticos.

* Oposición a las actuales prácticas de la Oficina de Patentes Europea y otras oficinas de patentes nacionales europeas que están concediendo, contra la legalidad vigente, patentes de software, algoritmos, funcionalidades y métodos de negocio.

El Mundo

domingo, abril 17, 2005

Extreme Textiles

Extreme Textiles: Designing for High Performance

On view April 8–October 30, 2005

Extreme Textiles explores the extraordinary innovations occurring in "technical textiles," and shows how they are revolutionizing the fields of architecture, apparel, medicine, transportation, aerospace, and the environment.

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum

quinta-feira, abril 14, 2005

China operates the most extensive, technologically sophisticated and broad-reaching system of Internet filtering in the world

The Chinese government is succeeding in broadly censoring what its citizens can read on the Internet, surprising many experts and denting U.S. government hopes that online access would be a quick catalyst for democratic political reform.

Internet users in the world's most populous country are routinely blocked from sites featuring information on subjects such as Taiwanese independence, the Falun Gong movement, the Dalai Lama and the Tiananmen Square uprising in 1989, according to a study to be released today by a consortium of researchers from Harvard University, the University of Toronto and Cambridge University in England.
Researchers said they worry that China's censorship system could become a model for other countries looking to keep the lid on Internet use.

China's success at censorship is even more remarkable to researchers because the country is promoting economic growth using technology. An estimated 100 million Chinese use the Internet, nearly half of whom who have high-speed connections.

"The Chinese are successfully developing a market economy at the same time they are continuing to accomplish control over the Internet and the media," said C. Richard D'Amato, chairman of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, which monitors and promotes economic progress in China.

D'Amato said the jury "is not only out, it's way out" on whether the Internet is playing the democratizing role the United States had hoped.

The study also undermines the popular notion that the Internet is an organism that is difficult to tame.


Creative Archive Licence

Free internet access to thousands of clips from public service radio and TV programmes is a step closer after the launch of the Creative Archive Licence.
The BBC, Channel 4, the British Film Institute (BFI) and The Open University (OU) launched the scheme on Wednesday.
It is the first stage of the Creative Archive initiative announced by former BBC director general Greg Dyke in 2003.
Under the plans, the public will be able to "own" a copy of the clips and use them for their own creations.


quarta-feira, abril 13, 2005


"New technologies, from on-demand programming to TiVo offshoots to flat screens to HDTV, are radically changing the benign concept of traditional television. Viewers are now gaining control over the mass medium, creating interactive communities and installing custom-made home media networks. As entire industries are redefined, how are networks, content providers and advertisers adjusting their strategies?"

CNET News.com

terça-feira, abril 12, 2005

The commodities boom

Never has there been a commodities boom like it. Not only oil but also copper and iron ore are fetching record prices, while aluminium and zinc have in the past few weeks hit their highest levels for many years. Copper has more than doubled in value in the past two years and recent long-term iron ore contracts agreed by Japanese steelmakers have been at prices nearly three-quarters higher than last year.

The gains have not been limited to metals and minerals: coffee, at five-year highs, and raw sugar are both at least 50 per cent up on last year. This is the first time that there has been such a strong synchronised rise across so many different commodities.

The increases have driven up the shares of global energy and mining stocks and boosted the economies of commodity-rich countries. But inflation is also starting to rise and there are increasing fears that high commodity prices are going to squeeze corporate profits and global economic growth.

Is this just a normal commodities cycle of boom followed by bust - or are there structural reasons for believing it will continue for longer than normal? The International Monetary Fund warned last week of a "permanent oil shock" that will result in sustained high oil prices over the next two decades. Citigroup has talked of a "super-cycle", characterised by an extended period of high demand for raw materials, and Goldman Sachs suggests oil prices, currently about $57 a barrel, may exceed $100 in what it terms a "super-spike".

The price of oil has almost doubled in the past two years and is nearly 30 per cent higher so far this year. But as Michael Lewis, head of commodities research at Deutsche Bank, points out, oil price surges in the early 1970s and in 1979-80 were not accompanied by a broader climb in commodity prices.

Stock and bond markets, which usually fall when commodities are rising, have remained relatively resilient so far. But the equity market rally has stalled in recent weeks - partly because of record oil prices - and long-term bond yields have risen on increased inflation concerns. One reason that market sentiment has in general been relaxed, however, is that many analysts continue to expect the commodity price rises to be temporary. Another is that developed-world economies are less dependent on oil than they were 25 years ago.

Despite rising oil prices, world economic growth is estimated to have hit 5 per cent last year, according to the IMF - the fastest rate since 1976, while oil prices were at their highest levels in real terms since the mid-1980s. "Nobody knows where oil prices start to hurt economic growth," says one executive with a large US hedge fund. "Last year, people thought it was over $40, then they started to think it was $50. We have passed those two levels and we are still seeing strong demand for oil, so right now the question is, 'How high does the price go before it starts destroying demand?'."

Even though oil demand has risen by more than 50 per cent over the past 30 years, its share of global gross domestic product has fallen. That reflects advances in technology, the increased dependence of western countries on services rather than manufacturing, and efficiency and productivity gains. This is one reason why economists believe the global economy is not heading towards imminent recession.

But the world could still be approaching a period of slower growth. Can the Japanese economy, which imports nearly all its oil, maintain its recovery with crude prices at these levels? The higher price has already led to forecasts for European growth this year being cut. It has also helped drive up the US trade deficit - the world's largest consumer of oil spent about $175bn on importing energy related products last year, about one-third of the entire US trade deficit and up by a third on the previous year.

In any case, the threat to the global economy remains potent, not least through inflation, as factory costs rise and manufacturers are pressed into passing on higher costs to consumers. Financial markets would be more nervous if any significant commodities reached new highs in real terms. Yet those prices would have to rise far higher if they were to consume a similar share of consumer spending as in 1980, when oil prices spiked to a level that - adjusting for inflation - would have been about $80 a barrel. Goldman Sachs said last month that oil would have to reach more than $135 before it took the same 6 per cent share of US personal disposable income as then


Lean consumption ?

The answer to all these problems, they say, is lean consumption. An excellent idea, you may think. Rather than buying all these defective products and services, we should try to do without them. How much do we actually need, after all? We managed perfectly well before personal computers, personal digital assistants and the rest came along. It is far friendlier to the environment and easier on the wallet to do without.

But that is not what the writers mean by lean consumption. Their idea is an extension of lean production, as practised, pre-eminently, by Toyota, the Japanese car manufacturer. If that jogs the memory, it is because Mr Womack and Mr Jones were, with Daniel Roos, the authors of a celebrated book, published in 1990, called The Machine that Changed the World, which was all about lean production.
Mr Womack and Mr Jones argue that the same principles can be applied to solve consumers' problems today.

How would it work? Take helplines, for example. At present, they serve the same function as the western car companies' reworking areas: they try to solve problems after they have occurred. They do not do it very well either. Helpline workers are rewarded for their "efficiency", in other words how many callers they deal with - which is why they are so eager to move on to the next one. Helplines should do more than help people with problems, the writers say.

The helpline staff should use the calls to identify common problems, which can then be solved - the equivalent of the stopping of the Toyota line.

There is a big opportunity, too, for companies that can manage consumers' lives. Companies such as Toyota rely on a smaller number of suppliers than their competitors, using those that understand their needs best.

"This same concept can be applied to the process of consumption," the writers say. "For example, why can't a single provider solve your computation and communication problems by evaluating your specific needs and then determining the best equipment, software and services? The provider could then obtain, install, maintain, upgrade and replace the required items for a standard fee, with no unpaid work or hassle for you. And why can't another solution provider put the vehicles in your driveway, then maintain, repair and dispose of them as appropriate, for a simple usage fee, without consuming any of your time or attention?"

They stress that they are not talking about "concierge services", which are "actually a step backward into a world where the well-to-do hire staff to cure their consumption headaches, which are caused by broken processes". The integrators they are advocating could improve the processes, eliminating problems and lowering the cost of lean consumption. Let us hope it happens soon. Now for that dreaded call to my broadband provider.


quinta-feira, abril 07, 2005

Reith talks focus on technology

Technology and its importance to the future is the subject of this year's BBC Reith Lectures.
Each year the broadcaster invites a prominent figure to deliver a series of radio lectures on matters of contemporary interest.

This year, Lord Alec Broers, president of the Royal Academy of Engineering discusses how technology is shaping and influencing lives around the globe.

"Technology will determine the future of the human race," he says.

"We should recognise this and give it the profile and status that it deserves," he says.


Offshoring's second wave

Companies in the business of making car parts, communications gear, industrial machinery and medicine may soon join their compatriots in the electronics and apparel industries in tapping cheap overseas factory labor, according to a new McKinsey report.
The consulting company predicts that a new wave of offshore outsourcing is coming, and it's aimed straight at "skill-intensive" industries such as these. India and China stand to gain many of these jobs, the report said.
"Some industries will feel substantial pressure for the first time, and competition will lead many U.S. manufacturers to source products from these countries or even move plants abroad," McKinsey reports.

CNET News.com

A Supremacia do Silicon Valley na Economia do Conhecimento


Before the bubble burst, people around the world would ask me what accounted for the valley’s dominance. I tended to list five factors.
First, and most important, the place had a culture of risk. Failure was common, and considered a good thing, and a step on a ladder toward something better, if one failed in the right way - that is, not stupidly. In many other places, especially Europe, failure has been a career killer.
Second, the place is rolling in money with a serious proportion of the world’s venture capital invested from there.
Third, there’s an enormous pool of human capital, and of specialist service businesses that can help budding entrepreneurs get up to speed in a hurry. You can build a company off the shelf with a few phone calls.
Fourth, great research universities, such as Stanford and the University of California-Berkeley, have been instrumental in creating that people pool. Moreover, they’ve institutionally created strong ties to the business community. The entrepreneurial culture exists, for good and ill, inside the universities.
Finally, the weather is great. If you can afford a house, the valley is a great place to live.
But those advantages are shrinking, in part because communications and collaboration technologies have shrunk the world.
And we are also seeing something unprecedented: the emergence of a well-educated, hard-working pool of talent, which will include hundreds of millions of people in China, India and other nations.
Many speak English fluently, and are willing to work for a fraction of what Americans expect. This is a praiseworthy trend in a big-picture sense. Raising the standard of living in developing nations helps the global economy and, in theory, will reduce internal political tensions (though exacerbate them in other ways).
Business leaders understand what is happening. I remember when Craig Barrett, the chief executive of Intel, stopped by the San Jose Mercury News, Silicon Valley’s daily newspaper, in early 2004.
He brought a warning: that the new world had brought with it a reality the valley in particular, and America in general, were not close to being ready to handle, citing the shifts in the global labour pool.
I asked him if this meant a generation of lowered expectations for Americans, and he replied that he didn’t see any way around it.
America’s political leaders are disturbingly oblivious to the shift. They would rather increase the nation’s unsustainable twin deficits, budgetary and trade, than boost a serious national commitment to the things that might make a difference in the long term, such as investments in basic research, infrastructure and education.
America still has a lead in entrepreneurial risk-taking, the single most important characteristic of a high-tech economy. But the world is catching up. This is not to suggest that Europe and Asia regard failure (at least the right kind) as a necessary badge in a business career, but it is no longer seen as the worst thing that can happen to an individual.
As entrepreneurship spreads, other nations may actually come to have an advantage in key respects. For example, America’s insane healthcare system can lock employees, especially older ones, to their current employers offering benefits that taxpayers cover in other industrialised nations.
Do not misunderstand. Silicon Valley is not going to shrivel up and die. There are too many people doing too much good work for that to happen. But it is not a tragedy to see the valley’s absolute power muted a bit. Overall, this is good for the world.


FT.com / Home UK - Dan Gillmor: Not the very worst thing to have happened

terça-feira, abril 05, 2005

Fabuloso - Hackers Add Web, Chat to PSP Video Game Player

The $249 PSP handheld video game player went on sale in the United States on March 24, and it took very little time before techies added the kinds of functions to the PSP that Sony did not include -- and may never have intended. One man needed only 24 hours to get a working client for Internet Relay Chat, or IRC, an older messaging platform.
Hacking new video game hardware is old hat -- rare is the console that does not get its own version of the Linux operating system from enterprising developers. But the gaming and hacking communities embraced the PSP with speed rarely seen in the console world -- a nod, perhaps, to its portability.

Yahoo! News

Comunidade de programadores cresce á volta do Skype

Since the company began licensing or giving away its proprietary source code late last year, an estimated 1,000 programmers have jumped on the bandwagon, creating dozens of free and commercial products for the service. Developers get the source code by promising to either give their products away for free or provide Skype a share of the profits.
"Skype prioritized freely offering the (source code) to expand the potential of Skype and inspire great developers worldwide," Skype spokeswoman Kelly Larabee said. "We will extend and formalize our software developer programs with time."
Building a viable developer community is considered a key step in the evolution of software dynasties. A few years ago, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer drilled the concept into the heads of Microsoft employees, bounding up and down onstage at a company event bellowing, "Developers! Developers! Developers! Developers! Developers!" The now-famous scene became the butt of jokes when the tirade made the rounds in an online video, but the truth behind the message has never been disputed.
Skype's developer program has seen some limited success so far. In the vanguard are relative unknown companies such as VOIPail, Connectotel and Meinskype, offering free Skype voice mail, SMS and ring tones, respectively.

Skype dreams for developers CNET News.com

Busca para Telemóveis

As mobile phones become more capable, people are using them to store an increasingly wider variety and greater quantity of data. This raises a new problem for designers of handset user interfaces: how do you let owners find what they're looking for in a coherent and friendly manner?

Historically, mobile phone interfaces have been menu- or icon-driven: users select from a number of choices displayed on-screen and repeat until they find what they're after. While the phone was primarily a device for person-to-person communication this worked well. An address book, message inbox and call log are clearly linked strongly to one another and happen to map to everyday, real-world artefacts.

But analogies with the real world start to break down when your handset starts storing your photos, video clips, media you've purchased, payment details, account history, WAP sites, books and notes. Some of this information is well-structured and understood (such as call histories), while it's very difficult to perceive structure within others -- for example, handsets can't currently tell you which of your contacts is pictured in any given photo. The situation will become even worse when handsets deliberately start blurring the distinction between data held locally and that accessed across the network. It'll be all too easy to confuse end-users.

TheFeature :: Advanced Handsets Need Advanced UIs

Interfaces de Voz para Televisões

At least two companies, the OneVideo Technology Corporation and Agile TV, are developing speech-recognition products that will let viewers change channels with voice prompts like "search" and "find." The Comcast Corporation, the country's largest cable provider, and other companies are testing the systems that have the potential to do for television what the Clapper did for the lamp.

Though a voice-activated channel changer is not a new idea, the current incarnation has been prompted as much by advertising as by convenience. The device would make it easier for consumers to order a movie, a pizza or a car dealer's brochure, eliminating the need to dial toll-free numbers or to scroll through menus on the television.

The New York Times

Internet, cell phones call Krakow's youth to streets for tribute to pope

More than 150,000 young people marched through the streets of Krakow in an impromptu tribute, organised with the aid of modern technology, to Pope John Paul II.

Yahoo! News

segunda-feira, abril 04, 2005

Podcasts com rápida taxa de adopção

Twenty-nine percent of U.S. adults who own MP3 players like Apple Computer Inc.'s (Nasdaq:AAPL - news) iPod say they have downloaded podcast programs from the Internet, the Pew Internet and American Life Project found.
That means more than 6 million people are listening to a form of communication that emerged only last year, according to the nonprofit group.
Podcasters create radio-like programs of commentary, music or humor, which are saved in MP3 audio format and posted online. Listeners are automatically notified when a new podcast is available.


Anúncio da morte do papa veio por email

Despite those arcane traditions, first official word that John Paul had died came in e-mails sent by the Vatican press office to accredited journalists.
That marked a stark departure from the centuries-old traditions of one of the world's most enduring institutions, the Roman Catholic Church.

Yahoo! News - E-Mails Usurp Arcane Signs of Pope's Death

Programação televisiva feita para a Internet está de volta ?

The giant Internet portal isn't talking about its plans for content. But analysts suggest a profound shift may be at work, with Yahoo using its enormous reach to force Hollywood studios, among other video creators, to produce programming with the Internet in mind.
Yahoo can offer up a worldwide audience of more than 300 million — a number that some analysts say could reach 1 billion by the end of the decade.
"Those are numbers that are sufficient to make the likes of Rupert Murdoch salivate and turn green with envy," said David Garrity, an Internet and media analyst with Caris & Co., referring to the man whose News Corp. owns the Fox network and other media outlets.

Yahoo! News

domingo, abril 03, 2005

Standing on the shoulders of giants

Maybe that's because it has never been easier to create potent technology hybrids that mix-and-match hardware components, use a bit of borrowed software code, and require only a few thousand dollars of investment.

From simple Web sites that allow users to share photos or become their own radio broadcasters to do-it-yourself interactive televisions that are being put together to play any sort of TV, photos or Web content for a few hundred dollars, the new breed of inventors aren't counting on a big IPO.

By taking advantage of low-cost computers, freely shared software and high-speed Web connections, the next wave of innovations may not come from any venture-capital funded skunkworks or big business research lab.

Yahoo! News

sábado, abril 02, 2005

UK food manufacturers are to launch a scheme to put miniscule radio frequency ID tags in edible produce.

The chips, when eaten, are so small as to pose no health hazard to shoppers but should enable supermarkets to track food through the supply chain.
More interesting perhaps is what happens after the food is eaten.
The RFID chips will enable regional water boards to track sewage through the system with the ability to identify blockages – where a glut of chips builds up – and also identify trends and patterns to create more effective waste management strategies.
The company behind the system, Trak IT-Tech, claims it may even give rise to metered billing for sewerage with water boards able to identify the source of waste down to the household of origin.