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


quinta-feira, junho 30, 2005

New Labour invests a lot in cloudy crystal balls - a professor of forecasting explains why.

It also highlights how forecasting has come into fashion at the same time as its claims rarely appear legitimate. How can we account for this?

The answer is that the fad for holding forth about the future has itself arrived because of increased uncertainty about what is in store. As a sense of risk and foreboding has spread through the West, so new Cassandras are hauled in to make prophecies. At the same time, the febrile atmosphere that establishes a demand for multiplying prophecies holds the prophets themselves to be somewhat suspect. Like Cassandra herself, they can be right about the future - but that doesn't mean that they will be believed.

Ironically, the obsession with the future has emerged at a time when mankind faces a profound loss of historical thinking. Generations are growing up for whom history means the music and clothes of the 1970s or the 1980s. There is also a loss of any sense of human agency - of mankind's ability to build the future. Alan Kay, the inventor of the computer interface that eventually emerged on the screens of Apple machines, famously remarked that the best way to predict the future is to invent it. In today's culture, however, most people imagine that the future is already out there, and will simply happen to them.
Today's forecasters are suffused by fatalism. But in joining environmentalists and invoking the Precautionary Principle, they like to claim the mantle of agency, portraying themselves as activists out Saving the Future from the inertia of corporations.

Many of today's forecasts are recipes, in fact, for never taking a risk, and indeed for never leaving home again. In 2005, therefore, exposing forecasters' pretensions must the starting point for comprehensive assessments of the future - and for the genuine activism that should accompany such assessments.

sp!ked-IT | Article | All eyes on the future

Philip Stephens: West blind to China’s problems

To raise such issues, I acknowledge, is to pose questions without obvious answers. Who knows whether China’s Communist party can retain a monopoly on power in the face of rising prosperity and a fast-growing middle class? Scholars of China’s politics tend to doubt that the present Hukou system of citizen registration and entitlement, which rigidly defines the rights of individuals and buttresses the country’s social hierarchies, can survive intact the flight from the land to the cities. Logic would say that urban prosperity will greatly intensify demands for political participation. And if China does intend to be a global player, censoring the internet cannot shut out indefinitely the outside world.

The signs are that the existing leadership is awake to the strains. With customary diligence, party officials have been travelling extensively to see what, if anything, might be gleaned from western political models. Only this week, the Foreign Policy Centre in London hosted a seminar for a delegation studying Tony Blair’s third way politics. There were few hints of what they would take away from the presentations given by the British prime minister’s officials. But the visitors left the impression that this was part of a much wider search.

We can be sure, though, that everything else – from its economic power to the way it shapes strategic relationships with the rest of the world – depends on China’s success or otherwise in resolving these internal contradictions. The less confident the political leadership is at home, the more aggressively nationalist it is likely to be abroad. Perhaps it can adapt the status quo; perhaps there is indeed a Chinese third way; or possibly, the leadership will give way to pressure for greater pluralism.

Social unrest, growing income disparities or unexpected economic dislocation could force its hand. What does seem obvious is that we will only begin to understand the meaning of China’s rise if we have a stab at understanding how economics is transforming the political dynamics. It is time to rewrite the China speech.

FT.com / Comment & analysis / Columnists - Philip Stephens: West blind to China’s problems

quarta-feira, junho 29, 2005

E-Bay to offer sellers self-branded sites

Internet auctioneers E-Bay have announced they are to permit their US sellers the ability to develop their own independent auction sites.

The service, Prostores, offers sellers who sign up their own URL while still employing the E-Bay sales system.

Digital Media Europe: News - E-Bay to offer sellers self-branded sites

terça-feira, junho 28, 2005

The bottom line is that illegal file-swapping is not about to disappear

Take the detail of the ruling. The Supreme Court made it clear companies such as Grokster would be held responsible if they “induced” users to infringe copyright. However, the court left open the possibility that companies could provide a product allowing users to, say, share files - as long as illegal use was not expressly promoted and the product had significant legal uses.

Meanwhile, file-swapping services could continue to make life difficult by setting up in foreign jurisdictions. The software industry is sure to continue trying to come up with new ways to make sharing easier.

The bottom line is that illegal file-swapping is not about to disappear. Also physical piracy, another huge headache for the music and film industry, will be unaffected.

Minday’s Supreme Court ruling should provide further impetus for attempts to promote legal digital download services. And finding a powerful model for legal file-sharing should be an aim. But the ruling does not mark the end of the entertainment industry’s piracy problems.

FT.com / Lex - Lex: Grokster

US - Supreme Court aids fight against web piracy

Mitch Bainwol of the Recording Industry Association of America said: “The Supreme Court has helped to power the digital future for legitimate online businesses including legal file sharing networks by holding accountable those who promote and profit from theft.”

The court tried to strike a balance between protecting copyright and allowing innovation, but the subtle ruling could create legal uncertainty for new technology companies, according to Fred von Lohmann, of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an online civil liberties group. He said it would be hard for innovators to prove in court that their intent was not unlawful. A key US Senate committee said on Monday it would review the ruling for “its impact on copyright law and innovation”.

FT.com / US - Supreme Court aids fight against web piracy

segunda-feira, junho 27, 2005

Fake Nation

Two UK university researchers found that people did not see downloading pirated material as theft.

The findings are unwelcome news for the games industry, which says it loses more than £2bn annually from piracy.

The results of the government-funded study were previewed at a games conference in London.

The report, called Fake Nation, is due to be formally presented next week by Dr Jo Bryce of the University of Central Lancashire and Dr Jason Rutter of the University of Manchester.

Most campaigns in the UK have focused on the damage being done by software or film piracy.

They have also pushed the idea that consumers are supporting organised crime when they buy a game or DVD from someone in the street.

Despite ads in the cinema, magazines and newspapers, the message is falling on deaf ears.

"Consumers have an awareness of the scale of the problem and cost, but don't take onboard industry concerns or government messages," said Dr Bryce, a senior lecturer in psychology.

The researchers found that people did not equate downloading a game with the idea of shoplifting the disc from a shop.

"People are more accepting of it, even if they didn't engage it in themselves," said Dr Bryce. "They don't see it as a great problem on a social or economic level.

"They just don't see it as theft. They just see it as inevitable, particularly as new technologies become available."
But the Fake Nation study suggests these efforts may also be misguided. The researchers found that most people did not buy counterfeit software from dodgy dealers on street corners.

Instead they bought games from people they knew in places like the office, the pub or at school.

"The purchase of counterfeit goods or illegal downloading are seen as normal leisure practices," said Dr Bryce.

"The downloading of games is a burgeoning issue, and with broadband growing, this is likely to increase and drive access to pirated games away from commercial interests into people's homes."

Despite the study's results, Michael Rawlinson, deputy head of Elspa, remained confident that attitudes towards pirated software could be changed.

"It is possible to effect a change in young people's behaviour once you explain the process of creation in bringing these products to market," he said.

But he admitted that wiping out illegal downloads would take time and money.

"The government has spent millions of pounds to change public awareness of drink-driving and smoking.

"As a society, we need to go through a similar process for creativity and intellectual property."

Around 2,400 people were questioned via the post and the web for the study between August and September last year. The researchers also held 12 focus groups.

BBC NEWS | Technology | Software piracy 'seen as normal'

File-sharing suffers major defeat

Vamos ver se a indústria de entretenimento vai aproveitar para tentar deter o progresso e ganhar tempo para acumular mais umas rendas a tentar manter modelos de negócio impossíveis


The unanimous ruling is a victory for recording companies and film studios in what is widely seen as one of the most important copyright cases in years.

The legal case against Streamcast Networks - which makes the software behind Grokster and Morpheus - began in October 2001 when 28 media companies filed their legal complaint.

The complaint alleged that Streamcast was prospering on the back of the unfettered piracy taking place on the file-sharing networks.

However, the attempts to win damages suffered a series of defeats as successive courts sided with the file-sharing networks. The judges in those lower courts cited a ruling made in 1984 over Sony's Betamax video recorder.

In that case, the Supreme Court said that the majority of people using a video recorder for legal uses outweighed any illegal use of the technology.

But in this latest ruling the judges sets aside this precedent and the lower court decisions and means the makers of a technology have to answer for what people do with it if they use it to break the law.

In the ruling Justice David Souter wrote: "The question is under what circumstances the distributor of a product capable of both lawful and unlawful use is liable for acts of copyright infringement by third parties using the product."

He added: "We hold that one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright ... is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties."
Michael McGuire, from analyst firm GartnerG2, said: "It's something of a surprise. It will be interesting to see how record labels respond. It could be argued that these peer-to-peer services were the most efficient way to deliver rich media."

The decision could also have an impact on any technology firm developing gadgets or devices that let people enjoy media on the move.

If strictly interpreted the ruling means that these hi-tech firms will have to try to predict the ways people can use these devices to pirate copyrighted media and install controls to stop this infringement.

The ruling could also prompt a re-drafting of copyright laws by the US Congress.

BBC NEWS | Technology | File-sharing suffers major defeat

Disney enters the classroom on tails of a lion and a witch

As the winter term draws to a close, millions of US schoolchildren are expected to join reading groups or tutorials about Narnia - CS Lewis's fantasy land populated with magical, talking creatures - in a media project timed to coincide with the release of the $100m-$150m film adaptation of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

In a deal sanctioned by the author's estate, the film-makers have joined forces with HarperCollins, book publishing arm of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp empire, to re-issue the books and distribute teaching aids to schools across the US.

Executives from Walden Media, the Hollywood studio producing and co-financing The Chronicles of Narnia with Walt Disney, met UK government officials last week to discuss a similar scheme in British schools.

The proposal is likely to alarm some educationalists. But Walden, the studio that also produced Holes and the recent remake of Around The World in 80 Days, argues that media and education are converging rapidly.

Cary Granat, Walden chief executive, says: "Media content is being used more and more worldwide for education, where films and recorded entertainment can reach kids in the same way as textbooks."

The publishing industry is watching the scheme with interest, aware that growth trends in the film business are outstripping more sluggish demand for books.

The value of film entertainment, in terms of spending and investment, is expected to rise at a compound annual rate of 7.1 per cent over the next five years, reaching $119bn in 2009, according to industry forecasts published last week by PwC, the audit and consulting firm.

Book publishing is expected to grow at less than half that rate, after rising just 1.5 per cent last year to $107bn.

Tie-ups between the two industries have spawned books linked to blockbuster films. Film-makers see a marketing opportunity in schools, calculating that more families and school groups will go to the box office or buy DVDs after "re-connecting" with books.

Critics fear the scheme masks a new form of viral - word-of-mouth - marketing. "The benefit to the studios seems too naked in timing the books around film premières," says one New York elementary school teacher, who declined to be named. But others welcomed the plan. Graham Jameson, head teacher at Edmund Waller primary school in London, says: "Kids reading books on the back of movies is just a social fact of life; it's all part of what is now called visual literacy."

FT.com / Companies / Media & internet - Disney enters the classroom on tails of a lion and a witch

Apenas 16% dos cursos tem aulas à noite para trabalhadores-estudantes

Apenas 16% dos cursos existentes no sistema de ensino superior tem regime nocturno para os trabalhadores-estudantes. Este é um dos principais obstáculos ao aumento da percentagem de trabalhadores a frequentar o ensino superior no país, que está no fim da tabela em número de adultos a frequentar o sistema.

Apenas 9% dos alunos do ensino superior são considerados ‘públicos adultos’, alunos que entram na faculdade depois de anos de experiência profissional e não os que ingressam após terminarem o ensino secundário na idade regulamentar. Números que ficam muito aquém dos 52% registados na Irlanda, de acordo com os resultados de um relatório europeu que será apresentado em breve.

Apenas 16% dos cursos tem aulas à noite para trabalhadores-estudantes

Espanhóis procuram emprego licenciado em Portugal

Se é espanhol e procura emprego fora do seu país, Portugal será muito provavelmente a sua primeira opção. Quem o conclui é um estudo, ontem publicado no diário “El País”, elaborado pela consultora Círculo de Progresso, que analisou cerca de 143 mil ofertas públicas de emprego, todas elas publicadas na imprensa espanhola entre Abril de 2003 e Abril de 2004.

A tabela (ver nesta página) é esclarecedora: Portugal é o país que mais solicita jovens licenciados espanhóis, atingindo já 21,01% do total. Mais, regista uma evolução positiva face aos dados anteriores, ainda que reduzida a duas décimas - uma consolidação forte, no entanto, tendo em conta que o segundo “mercado” com maior nível de requisições, o Reino Unido, desceu mais de 1,5%, ficando já a cinco pontos da oferta portuguesa - e mesmo assim acima do país na fronteira oposta, a França, já com menos de 10% registados na tabela.

Espanhóis procuram emprego em Portugal

Consumers Taking Steps To Be More Cautious Online

Due to the recent swarm of newsmaking dat-security breaches, more than 40 percent of online users are altering their online channel behavior by making fewer online purchases, according to the latest Consumer Internet Barometer survey by The Conference Board.

"Consumers have taken steps to be more cautious, which is a good thing," said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board's Consumer Research Center. "The downside is the negative impact to online retailers that may slow the growth of e-commerce."

Minimizing Online Purchasing

More than half of the online consumers surveyed said they have grown more concerned for their security during the past year. As a result, many have changed the way they use the Internet. Consumers are most wary of online financial transactions, followed by making online purchases.

Nearly 70 percent of online users have installed additional security software on their PCs, the survey found.

CRM Daily: NewsFactor Network - Customer Data - Consumers Taking Steps To Be More Cautious Online

Patent ambush'

The European Commission is trying to establish whether Rambus is guilty of setting a so-called “patent ambush” a form of competition abuse that is raising concerns on both sides of the Atlantic. It involves a company that takes part in setting an industry standard without declaring that the new standard infringes on its patents.

Once the standard is agreed, the company can then demand royalties from other groups which have no choice but to follow the industry standard.

The Commission probe against Rambus was revealed in recent company filings to the US Securities and Exchange Commission, and was confirmed by a spokesman for the EU regulator.

“The European Commission is investigating allegations of patent ambush by Rambus in the memory chip sector,” the spokesman said. According to the SEC filings, the probe was launched in 2003.

FT.com / Companies / IT - Brussels probes Rambus for ‘patent ambush'

quinta-feira, junho 23, 2005

The lobbying boom

The number of registered lobbyists in Washington has more than doubled since 2000 to more than 34,750 while the amount that lobbyists charge their new clients has increased by as much as 100 percent. Only a few other businesses have enjoyed greater prosperity in an otherwise fitful economy.

The lobbying boom has been caused by three factors, experts say: rapid growth in government, Republican control of both the White House and Congress, and wide acceptance among corporations that they need to hire professional lobbyists to secure their share of federal benefits.

"There's unlimited business out there for us," said Robert L. Livingston, a Republican former chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and now president of a thriving six-year-old lobbying firm. "Companies need lobbying help."

Lobbying firms can't hire people fast enough. Starting salaries have risen to about $300,000 a year for the best-connected aides eager to "move downtown" from Capitol Hill or the Bush administration. Once considered a distasteful post-government vocation, big-bucks lobbying is luring nearly half of all lawmakers who return to the private sector when they leave Congress, according to a forthcoming study by Public Citizen's Congress Watch.

Political historians don't see these as positive developments for democracy. "We've got a problem here," said Allan Cigler, a political scientist at the University of Kansas. "The growth of lobbying makes even worse than it is already the balance between those with resources and those without resources."

In the 1990s, lobbying was largely reactive. Corporations had to fend off proposals that would have restricted them or cost them money. But with pro-business officials running the executive and legislative branches, companies are also hiring well-placed lobbyists to go on the offensive and find ways to profit from the many tax breaks, loosened regulations and other government goodies that increasingly are available.

The Road to Riches Is Called K Street

Editorial Wiki

The plan for its editorial wiki was to explore a new form of opinion journalism, but the editors admitted it could end up as "an embarrassment".

The idea, which commentators have called "bold", was the brainchild of Michael Newman, deputy editor of the editorial page.

In Friday's edition, the paper said, in theory, a wikitorial would be "a constantly evolving collaboration among readers in a communal search for truth."

The editors planned to have the original published piece sit alongside the finished, collectively re-edited version.

Almost 1,000 people registered to take part in re-writing the paper's editorial, War and Consequences, on Friday.

Participants added internet links to various words in the editorial, while others proposed alternative views on the subject.

One split the editorial in half, which was welcomed by the editors. But they decided to end the trial early on Sunday after explicit photos were posted to the page.

Monitoring editors struggled to keep up with the influx of material that overwhelmed the site.

The unusual experiment was overseen by editors, as well as Wikipedia founder Jim Wales.

Wikis could be brought back to the website with a limited group of contributors or with a Times employee reviewing changes before they could be displayed, said the paper.

BBC NEWS | Technology | Paper's 'wikitorial' trial halted

Brazil is to agriculture what India is to business offshoring and China to manufacturing

The European Union this week proposed deep cuts in the price it guarantees its own sugar farmers. The US is due by the end of next week to announce reduced support for cotton growers. Both retreats follow actions initiated by Brazil at the World Trade Organisation.

While farm products are a small part of the picture – 10 per cent of global merchandise trade – the vast numbers of farmers among the WTO’s largely developing-country membership, combined with the highly contentious issue of rich nations’ agricultural subsidies, make Brazil a pivotal nation in the future of world trade.

Brazil is to agriculture what India is to business offshoring and China to manufacturing: a powerhouse whose size and efficiency few competitors can match. Despite facing one of the highest agricultural tariffs in the western hemisphere – an average 30 per cent is levied by the nations that import its produce – the country is the world’s largest or second largest exporter of sugar, soyabeans, orange juice, coffee, tobacco and beef and is rapidly building a strong position in products such as cotton, chicken and pork.

Brazil has the largest agricultural trade surplus in the world – $34bn or 5 per cent of national income last year, an amount that was singlehandedly responsible for putting the country’s overall net trade in surplus. For a country struggling to pay down its large debt burden, agricultural export earnings have been a godsend. Carlo Lovatelli, head of the Brazil Agribusiness Association, says: “Our aims are to consolidate Brazil as one of the world’s top agricultural exporters, expand further in areas like cotton and continue to demand access.”

There is certainly scope for expansion. On top of its 62m hectares (153m acres) of arable land, Brazil has an estimated 170m hectares more in potential – about the same as the entire US cropland currently under cultivation.

FT.com / Analysis - Brazil is yielding farms that can feed the world

segunda-feira, junho 20, 2005

The pervasive inscription revolution is only beginning

"The pervasive inscription revolution is only beginning," Smith proclaimed, the last time I asked him what's new. As long as I've known him, Smith has issued proclamations that start out enigmatic and sometimes become universal in a matter of months. By "inscription," Smith refers to behavior that leaves traces detectable by others. Physical behaviors that leave traces include footprints, fingerprints, DNA, being photographed or audio recorded and documents. Online behaviors that can leave traces include e-mail, links, logins and logouts, edits, purchasesadn downloads. Sensors that capture traces include cameras, microphones, RFID, accelerometers, motion sensors, pressure and temperature sensors and even body function monitors. Smith thinks many such sensors will either be built into phones or communicate with them.

Smith pointed me to the Web site of another Microsoft Research project, from their Cambridge, UK lab. According to the project site, "SenseCam is a badge-sized wearable camera that captures up to 2000 VGA images per day into 128Mbyte FLASH memory. In addition, sensor data such as movement, light level and temperature is recorded every second. This is similar to an aircraft Black Box accident recorder but miniaturised for the human body. It could help with memory recall, e.g. where did I leave my spectacles or keys? who did I meet last week? by doing a rewind of the days events. If a person has an accident, the events and images leading up to this will be recorded, and these could be useful to medical staff. It could also be used for automatic diary generation."
While those civil libertarians who understand the implications of ubiquitous computing fear the dissolution of privacy in an era of pin-sized webcams and "smart dust" sensors too small to see, Smith wants to use tomorrow's surveillance infrastructure to enable new forms of authorship: "We are all authors now. We all inscribe. My cocoon of technology -- laptop, phone, PDA, mouse, keyboard, TV -- are all watching me. Every time I send e-mail or get off a phone in a new city, my cell phone provider knows where I am. I leave a trace. Physical behaviors, net behaviors, sensors leave traces. In the past, it was perhaps only footprints and obvious traces. Then it was documentation as you traveled across boundaries or used credit cards, or writing a document, making a political contribution, which left traces. Then behaviors on the net -- clicking, emailing, surfing, everything leaves a trace. Inscription without volition."

Since we're going to be snooped, sensed and surveilled by sensors in the environment, why not use sensors attached to our mobile devices to augment our memories, track our health and otherwise enhance our lives? Smith says, "The state is going to be recording everything we do, why shouldn't we make our own recordings -- if only to challenge the accuracy of what others capture?"
Howard Rheingold

TheFeature :: Inscription: Surveillance Turned Inside Out

The social implications of database marketing

A couple of years ago, in an undergraduate seminar I taught called "Spam and Society," discussion veered a bit off topic. One of the students asserted confidently that airline Web sites give first-time users lower prices than returning customers. Most of the others immediately agreed. They said the motive was to suck in potential buyers; then, when they returned, the airline could quietly raise prices.

I hear this kind of claim fairly often among heavy computer users. It seems to have become an article of faith that the unseen moguls behind all sorts of Web sites are cherry-picking consumers, customizing ads, manipulating prices and changing product offers based on what they've learned about individual users without the users' knowledge.
Lighten up, you might say. Nobody's forcing anyone to buy airline tickets or anything else. But I'm disturbed by what this reflects about our general retail environment -- the evolution of what I would call a culture of suspicion. From airlines to supermarkets, from banks to Web sites, American consumers increasingly believe they are being spied on and manipulated. But they continue to trade in the marketplace because they feel powerless to do anything about it.

This is a profound change. Broadly speaking, the past 150 years saw what you might call the democratization of shopping in the United States. Beginning around the mid-1800s, department stores such as Stewart's in New York City and Wanamaker's in Philadelphia moved away from the haggling mode of selling and began to display goods and uniform prices for all to see. Part of the motive was self-interest: Given the wide variety of merchandise and the large number of employees, the store owners didn't trust their clerks to bargain well with customers. But the result was a more or less egalitarian, transparent marketplace -- one that Americans have come to take for granted. When they have to negotiate -- most notably in car dealerships -- they see it as an unusual, nerve-wracking experience.

This reliance on evenhanded, fair dealing lies at the heart of American capitalism, or at least the way we'd like to think of it. It's not always practiced, by any means, as antitrust suits and many consumer complaints attest. But it's a worthy goal, and such institutions as the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Trade Commission were established, in part, to aim for it.
The idea used to be that you, the consumer, could shop around, compare goods and prices, and make a smart choice. But now the reverse is also true: The vendor looks at its consumer base, gathers information, and decides whether you are worth pleasing, or whether it can profit from your loyalty and habits. You may try to jump from site to site to hunt for the best buy, but that's time-consuming. And there are comparative shopping sites such as Bizrate or Nextag, but these can be tough to navigate, and companies are learning quickly how to game the system.

This all might make sense for retailers. But for the rest of us, it can feel like our simple corner store is turning into a Marrakech bazaar -- except that the merchant has been reading our diary, while we're negotiating blindfolded, behind a curtain, through a translator.
In the early 20th century, "keeping up with the Joneses" was a real ideal, and it spurred consumption. But the mysteries surrounding database marketing will increasingly make us not so much competitive as wary: Are our neighbors getting a better deal not because they shopped harder or bargained smarter, but because of some database demographic we don't know about and can't fight?

Lack of knowledge breeds suspicion. A survey I directed this year for the Annenberg Public Policy Center found a startling degree of high-tech ignorance among Americans who use the Internet. Eighty percent of those interviewed knew that companies can track their activities across the Web. Yet a substantial majority believe, too, that it is illegal for merchants and charities to sell information about them, even though it's legal and goes on all the time. Sixty-four percent believe incorrectly that "a site such as Expedia or Orbitz that compares prices on different airlines must include the lowest airline prices." And only 25 percent knew that the following statement was false: "When a website has a privacy policy, it means the site will not share my information with other websites and companies." Our report calls for changing the Orwellian label "Privacy policy" to the more honest "Using your information."
We used to say, "My money's as good as anyone else's." But in the 21st century, that may no longer be true. My students can hardly remember a time before Internet cookies and frequent flying and preferred shopping. They and their kids will try to beat the system to get the best deals, all the while assuming that they don't know all the rules of the marketplace. They'll be automatically mistrustful. It's a new world out there.
Joseph Turow is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication. His book on the social implications of database marketing is to be published next year by MIT Press.

Washington Post

Digital refuseniks

Net access has become so talked about and embedded in society that it is easy to forget that half of the UK population remain digital refuseniks.
While mobile phones and, increasingly, digital TV become ubiquitous, half of UK homes do not have a PC and a third of adults have no access to the internet at home or work.

For William Dutton, director of the Oxford Internet Institute, choosing not to go online is very different to deciding what TV programme to watch.

"The net has the power to be transformative both in terms of enhancing and expanding social relationships and in providing information that you won't see elsewhere," he said.

The belief that the digital divide will somehow automatically heal itself as technology becomes more prevalent and access cheaper and more widely available is a dangerous one, he thinks.

Several surveys suggest that cost is less of a barrier than it used to be and, as early adopters take advantage of wi-fi and broadband, the divide is actually getting wider.

Mr Dutton also sees new divides appearing among those who are regular net users, between those who are merely passive consumers of the technology and those who use it to create their own content, such as blogs and podcasts.
John Fisher heads up Citizens Online, a charity which exists solely to address the issue of digital inclusion. For him, it is all about making sure people are aware of the options.

"I don't see it as a matter of choice, of people opting out. Yes, there will always be a rump of Luddites but for the vast majority they just haven't been given the choice," he said.

That choice comes down to barriers such as an innate fear of technology, horror stories in the media about viruses and online fraud, lack of confidence and skill and perhaps, most importantly, not seeing the relevance of the internet to everyday life, said Mr Fisher.
Of all the sections of society that have been singled out as being on the wrong side of the digital divide, older people are perhaps set to gain the most.

The net can keep their often dwindling social networks alive, re-ignite interest in old hobbies and, perhaps most importantly, help them to maintain a place in a society which increasingly marginalises those who do not have youth on their side.

When they do get online, older people tend to be huge net enthusiasts. It is a challenge for net providers to recognise this and readjust their youth and family-orientated marketing at this new market, said Emma Aldridge of charity Age Concern.

There is some evidence manufacturers are beginning to look to this untapped market with products such as Vodafone's recently released back-to-basics handset.

In a challenge to industry, Mr Fisher of Citizens Online called for a similarly pared down computer, with basic functionality.

"It would provide an excellent first step," he said.

BBC NEWS | Technology | Reaching out to digital refuseniks

domingo, junho 19, 2005

Yahoo purchases VoIP software firm

Yahoo has purchased internet telephony provider DialPad Communications.

The internet company is to deploy DialPads service in an expansion of its still infant voice over internet protocol offerings.

DialPad provides software that allows users to make cheap phone calls over the internet to some 200 countries.

Financial details of the acquisition were not revealed.

Digital Media Europe: News - Yahoo purchases VoIP software firm

sexta-feira, junho 17, 2005

UK critical infrastructure under massive attack

A series of e-mails containing a variety of Trojan horse programs, which are designed to steal economic and financial information and transmit it back to attackers across the internet, have been sent to a number of UK government departments since January.

The discovery has sparked a major behind-the-scenes operation by NISCC to alert more than 300 government and private sector organisations responsible for the UK’s critical infrastructure and services, to introduce countermeasures on their computer systems.

Roger Cumming, director of NISCC, said that the Trojan attacks, which have also been detected in other financial centres in Europe, the US and Australia, were extremely sophisticated and well organised. The attacks have no link to recent Trojan attacks launched against Israeli companies.

“When you start to measure this particular attack, it is clear that it is coming from something more than a couple of teenagers. The attack is clearly not targeted at stealing money. It is aimed at gathering information. It is extremely well organised and requires quite a lot of resources to execute,” he said.

In an unprecedented move, NISCC is urging businesses to upgrade their security systems now, in a concerted attempt to send a message back to the attackers that the UK is not a soft target.

UK critical infrastructure under massive attack

quarta-feira, junho 15, 2005

Software theft is bad; so is misstating the evidence


IT SOUNDS too bad to be true; but, then, it might not be true. Up to 35% of all PC software installed in 2004 was pirated, resulting in a staggering $33 billion loss to the industry, according to an annual study released this week by the Business Software Alliance (BSA), a trade association and lobby group.

Such jaw-dropping figures are regularly cited in government documents and used to justify new laws and tough penalties for pirates—this month in Britain, for example, two people convicted of piracy got lengthy prison sentences, even though they had not sought to earn money. The BSA provided its data. The judge chose to describe the effects of piracy as nothing less than “catastrophic”.

But while the losses due to software copyright violations are large and serious, the crime is certainly not as costly as the BSA portrays. The association's figures rely on sample data that may not be representative, assumptions about the average amount of software on PCs and, for some countries, guesses rather than hard data. Moreover, the figures are presented in an exaggerated way by the BSA and International Data Corporation (IDC), a research firm that conducts the study. They dubiously presume that each piece of software pirated equals a direct loss of revenue to software firms.

To derive its piracy rate, IDC estimates the average amount of software that is installed on a PC per country, using data from surveys, interviews and other studies. That figure is then reduced by the known quantity of software sold per country—a calculation in which IDC specialises. The result: a (supposed) amount of piracy per country. Multiplying that figure by the revenue from legitimate sales thus yields the retail value of the unpaid-for software. This, IDC and BSA claim, equals the amount of lost revenue.

The problem is that the economic impact of global software piracy is far harder to calculate. Some academics have shown that some piracy actually increases software sales, by introducing products to people who would not otherwise become customers. Indeed, Bill Gates chirped in the 1990s that piracy in China was useful to Microsoft, because once the nation was hooked, the software giant would eventually figure out a way to monetise the trend. (Lately Microsoft has kept quiet on this issue.)

The BSA's bold claims are surprising, given that last year the group was severely criticised for inflating its figures to suit its political aims. “Absurd on its face” and “patently obscene” is how Gary Shapiro, boss of the Consumer Electronics Association, another lobby group, describes the new ranking.


Falling CD sales can't be blamed on P2P swappers

Declining CD sales cannot be blamed on the rise of internet file-sharing networks, according to a new report into the state of the global online digital music industry.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report found a "pronounced" fall in overall global CD sales of 20 per cent between 1999 and 2003, while the number of simultaneous users on all peer-to-peer networks reached almost 10 million in October 2004.

Digital music piracy is acknowledged as a problem by the OECD but the report cites other factors - such as the rise in the number of entertainment sources - as being more likely to have had a significant impact on music sales.

"It is very difficult to establish a basis to prove a causal relationship between the size of the drop in music sales and the rise of file sharing. Sales of CDs, as well as the success of licensed online music services are likely to have been affected to some degree by a variety of other factors, for example physical piracy and CD burning, competition from other, newer entertainment products and faltering consumer spending in some markets," the report said.

And while there was a large fall in CD sales in the US, other countries, including France, Germany, Japan and the UK, actually experienced steady or growing CD sales.

The OECD questions the viability of some music download business models and warns that the music industry needs to find a balance between reducing online piracy and developing models that are attractive to consumers, as well as providing existing and new participants in the online music arena with a growing stream of revenue for the creation and legitimate distribution of original recordings.


la mayor red de Internet a gran velocidad del mundo

Más de tres millones de profesionales y estudiantes del mundo científico cuentan desde este martes con la primera red paneuropea de alta velocidad de transmisión de datos, en la que se integra la española "RedIris", para enviar grandes volúmenes de información hasta una tasa de 320 gigabytes por segundo.

El desarrollo de la red, denominada 'GÉANT2', ha costado 200 millones de euros, de los que la Comisión Europea puso 93 y el resto fue aportado por los Estados miembros.

La red tiene "capacidades ilimitadas", por lo que a la larga podrá ser "un motor de la economía", según señaló Dai Davies, representante de la empresa sin ánimo de lucro encargada de gestionarla, 'Dante', durante la presentación de 'GÉANT2'.

La red emplea fotones en lugar de electrones para transportar la información por la red europea, cuya infraestructura está integrada por más de 3.500 instituciones universitarias de 34 países del continente, entre ellos Rusia.

Se inagura 'GEANT2', la mayor red de Internet a gran velocidad del mundo - elmundo.es navegante

The political class has become convinced that the people do not know what is best for them

It is worth noting that while campaigners against the EU Constitution promoted diverse issues, they all expressed a sense of estrangement from their political institutions. Today, this response is often motivated by a sense of disengagement and a mood of anti-politics. It also frequently expresses a revolt against the values upheld by the political class and its institutions. The lower classes embrace values that are essentially focused on their nation and community, while the elites are oriented towards a cosmopolitan and globalist perspective. In France, those who voted 'No' came predominantly from the lower classes, and the most enthusiastic supporters of the 'Yes' campaign were members of the French cultural, economic and political elites.

The referendum was as much a clash of values - what in the USA is called a Culture War - as a conflict over what constitutes legitimate authority. People are bemused by the managerial and instrumental language of EU technocrats. And importantly, they believe that the EU is not of their making. By their very existence, movements such as the Dutch 'Nee' campaign draw attention to the lack of legitimacy of the focus of their opposition. It is not surprising that the emotional and political distance that separates the public from their representatives has acquired a particularly intense character around the EU.

Those who are genuinely interested in European unity need to engage with the sense of disenchantment expressed by the French and Dutch electorates. Ensuring that people feel at home in Europe is far more important than cajoling people to accept another top-down diktat from Brussels. And this means, first of all, rejecting the anti-democratic assumptions and prejudices behind the political elite's reaction to the 'No' vote.
Populist movements can be demonised or they can be regarded as a wake-up call that demands a genuine commitment to democratic engagement. That so many people adopted such strong views against the EU Constitution is no bad thing. It is certainly preferable to the scourge of voter apathy and political disengagement. And it certainly provides an opportunity for dialogue and democratic renewal. Unfortunately, the political class, which normally worries about the decline of voting in General Elections, takes the view that this phenomenon is preferable to losing a referendum over the EU Constitution. Such a technocratic response may help limit the damage, but it will not make populism go away.

One reason why the political class so dislikes populist movements is that it experiences them as a direct challenge to its values and worldview. This clash of values became evident during the recent referendums in Europe, where it was obvious that the 'No' campaigns were speaking a language that was morally and emotionally incomprehensible to the political class. The political class talked of subsidiarity, transparency, efficiency, human rights and protocols, while their opponents were discussing the problems of everyday life. By their very existence, the 'No' campaign calls into question the values of an increasingly technocratic and managerial oligarchy.

spiked-essays | Essay | From Europe to America: the populist moment has arrived

terça-feira, junho 14, 2005

Mobile-enabled politics are still far from true networked solidarity - Douglas Rushkoff

On the surface, it appears that personal networking technologies offer new modes of interaction that could foster group affiliation without the attendant loss of individuality. Being part of a smart mob feels more temporary. You can show up for one event, and not show up for another. You're only a part of the mob for the amount of time that mob exists.

Likewise, signing up for an SMS action alert doesn't put you on record as a member of some party -- it simply gives you a chance to take action after receiving an alert, if you so choose.
These temporary, provisional affiliations seem tailor-made for this generation of activists: they get to take action, but they don't have to commit themselves to a group or institution that might turn around and screw them, later.

Take U2's use of SMS at concerts this year. In the middle of playing the hit song "One," lead singer Bono launched into a speech about how his audience comes from the generation that can end poverty and AIDS. He asked them to pull out their cell phones and sign a petition via text message to a number projected on the screen behind him. In a mass spectacle that would impress Albert Speers, tens of thousands of kids "signed" the petition at every concert.

Or look at the use of SMS messages to organize Amnesty International supporters. Subscribers are informed via their cells every two weeks about whichever imprisoned dissident or journalist requires immediate support, and can then take action simply by checking "yes" and forwarding.

Does such a strategy have any advantage over an e-mail message? If for nothing other than convenience, immediacy and the fact that many people use mobile phones and not the Internet, sure. And they certainly give the non-joining generation a chance to act as if they were affiliated -- for brief moments, anyway.

But what these efforts miss is the real reason affiliations are so politically powerful in the first place: It's because they represent lasting coalitions of constituents who are willing to put mass weight and effort behind their cause. Sure, an entire population marching out into the streets, at the same moment thanks to SMS, to overthrow their dictator may be a powerful, if short-lived, demonstration of mass power. It can work on special occasions like government overthrow. Still, the increasing ubiquity and popularity of mass SMS-enabled but temporary political affiliation may actually end up bringing its demise.

These are not true bottom-up, spontaneous, grass-roots expressions of networked solidarity, nor even representations of groups willing to follow up on their stated convictions; they are simply instances of large numbers of people momentarily willing to take their orders from above. Subscribers may as well let their causes run bots on their handhelds that automatically check "yes" or dial the politician in question. Reductive and essentially passive, these methods will ultimately favor the kinds of constituencies who take their commands from above, anyway. Once church leaders begin telling their flocks to sign onto action lists, it'll make Bono look like a sideshow.

Of course, mass action directed from above is also the primary goal for most marketing efforts. So maybe all this progressive SMS activity will end up paving the way for some future innovation, after all: the emergence of opt-in SMS advertising.
TheFeature :: SMS Activism: Don't Call Us, We'll Call You

Terabyte Lifestyle

As hunger for storage grows unabated, hard drive makers are continuing to push storage capacity up, while keeping physical size down.

This week Seagate announced a slew of hard drives which it says are for people who want a "terabyte lifestyle".

Among them is the first 2.5-inch 160GB hard drive which uses what is called perpendicular recording to fit much more data for every square inch.

It also said it was producing a specially "ruggedised" drive for cars.

Its 20GB and 40GB hard drives for cars have been designed to withstand temperatures from minus 30 to plus 80 degrees centigrade, as well as vibrations.

"Right now in the consumer electronics industry people can't get enough storage," Rob Pait, Seagate's director of consumer electronics marketing, told the BBC News website.

Bigger and bigger

Cars, digital video recorders, notebook computers, portable media players, mobile telephony, and gaming are all pushing at the storage capacity door.

People also want to have storage when and where they want it as devices increasingly let them take their digital media, like video and music, out and about with them.

"The geek in us says it is all about storage, but in the marketplace it is messier than that," said Mr Pait.

"People are looking for storage to enable them to be able to record video, to store photos, to play games. We are talking about applications here."

The rapid demand for the tiny one-inch drives which fit into portable devices has surprised Seagate; the demand has been four times that which they anticipated.

But the storage industry is still at a very early stage.

Analysts predict that the number of hard drives in consumer electronics gadgets could grow from 17 million in 2003 to 55 million in 2006.

The ability for people to create their own digital entertainment, movies, pictures, and music and even podcasts, has people wanting more space to store it all too


Chinese Century ?

Firms like TCL and Lenovo, by contrast, prospered mainly because of low purchasing power and inefficiencies in the Chinese market. They offered ultra-cheap versions of desirable electronics items at a time when most Chinese could not afford the higher-quality but more expensive foreign models. And their local knowledge was a big edge in navigating China’s fragmented and opaque distribution system.

But as China’s markets liberalise and its consumers grow richer, these advantages vanish and profits shrink. Because their profit margins are so low, firms like TCL and Lenovo cannot afford the R&D capacity that has translated into enduring competitive advantages for their Japanese and Korean competitors. And because they are essentially arbitrageurs, they have not developed the manufacturing and supply-chain management efficiency that distinguishes their Taiwanese competitors.

China has plenty of dynamism, and a powerful comparative advantage in manufacturing. But its entrepreneurial companies are very immature, and very much hamstrung by government industrial policies that favour state-owned behemoths. This makes it almost impossible for private firms to consolidate domestic markets and invest in durable competitive strengths. We are still at least a few decades away from a “Chinese century”.


Forbes.com may surpass the print edition in revenue in about 18 to 20 months.

The thought occurred to me when I read a report about American Business Media’s spring conference on BtoBonline.com. It contained this gem: “Responding to an audience question about when Forbes.com will surpass the print edition in terms of revenue, Jim Spanfeller, president-CEO of Forbes.com, said: ‘Probably in about 18 to 20 months.’”

Mr. Spanfeller was referring only to ad dollars, not total revenue, and now refuses to comment on the remark, or even to confirm that he made it. Still, if it’s true—and those who know the Forbes operation say it likely is -- it’s huge. This is not an obscure techie trade, this is Forbes. An 80-year-old leading business pub, national circulation of around 900,000, global circ of 5 million-plus, that will soon be overshadowed in business terms by its online spawn.

How has it come so far in the digital realm so fast? Largely by being, in almost every regard, free, and therefore part of the open-to-all, continuous conversation that takes place via forums, blogs and links all over the Net. That is not to take anything away from Forbes.com’s editorial package, which is highly readable, responsive and totally tuned to Web viewers.

ComScore Networks’ global visitor numbers tell the story. In 2002, WSJ.com was averaging around 1 million unique visitors a month, FT.com 1.3 million, Fortune.com 1.7 million and Forbes.com, 1.7 million. Three years on and WSJ.com is averaging around 3.3 million unique visitors; FT.com, which gated much of its content in mid-2002, is around 1.8 million; Fortune.com, which allows viewers to see a little free content before shuttling them to a subs sign-up form, averages 1.3 million. And Forbes.com? It’s at about 7.8 million.

Of course there’s more to marketing than reach, but big numbers are still the big draw. Marketers are showing a voracious appetite for online inventory and eyeballs -- indeed for any alternative to broadcast TV -- and are starting to embrace the mass targetability and measurability of a Web audience. In that situation, which site would you like to own?

WSJ and FT run great sites (they sap my funds every month). But their pay-to-play models smack of defending the old business, not embracing the new. We will never know how dominant a free WSJ.com could have been, or whether WSJ parent Dow Jones would have had to shell out $528 million to buy CBS Marketwatch if it had espoused a different model. But I’ll wager Forbes is pretty happy things worked out the way they did.


2006: Mobiles will beat PCs for broadband speed

According to Simon Beresford-Wylie, Nokia's executive VP of networks, 2006 will see the arrival proper of HSDPA (high speed downlink packet access) - a software tweak that can significantly boost the speeds of 3G - enabling downlink speeds of 14Mbps on mobiles.

Such speeds would mean a serious increase - up from the 1Mbps to 2Mbps HSDPA can manage now, or the 384Kbps of the W-CDMA version of 3G.

HSUPA (high speed uplink packet access) is also due for a massive rise: up from 1.5Mbps to 7Mbps at the end of next year, according to Beresford-Wylie. Aside from the my-fat-pipe's-bigger-than-yours showboating, what will the higher numbers mean for the business traveller?

Beresford-Wylie said: "If you're downloading emails with large attachments, you need these speeds."

The Finnish giant estimates that by 2009 there will be 30 million broadband wireless users.


Microsoft's 'freedom and democracy'

According to the FT, the MSN website is blocking anti-communist phrases by sending an error message to anyone using the words, in a bid to avoid upsetting the Chinese government.

The message is reported to say: "This item contains forbidden speech. Please delete the forbidden speech from this item." The words for 'demonstration', 'democratic movement' and 'Taiwan independence' are also said to be banned.

Microsoft has dodged the question of censorship, issuing an emailed statement saying: "The content posted on member spaces is the responsibility of individuals who are required to abide by MSN's Code of Conduct which can be viewed at http://spaces.msn.com/coc.aspx. MSN abides by the laws and regulations of each country in which it operates."

Only the main part of the website is enforcing the ban and individualised MSN Spaces are not said be affected.

The drama is the latest in a spate of moves by the Chinese government to censor certain areas of the internet. Chinese officials are currently trying make people register websites with the state by July or risk being shut down.

Microsoft partnered with a state-owned company, the Shanghai Alliance Investment, last month to create the Chinese arm of MSN.


Innovative Asia

Statistics, albeit incomplete, show a rapid surge in Asia’s research and development investment and scientific output. Thomson ISI, the research analysis company, says the number of “high impact” research papers from China has risen from just 21 in 1994 to 223 in 2003 (a paper’s impact is assessed by the frequency with which it is cited by other researchers). Taking a longer view, China’s contribution to the world’s scientific journals has increased from 0.4 per cent in 1981 to 5.1 per cent (40,000 papers) in 2003.

China’s research and development spending roughly trebled between 1998 and 2003, says Georges Haour, professor of technology management at IMD, the Swiss business school. There is scope for much more growth. China still devotes only 1.2 per cent of gross domestic product to research and development, compared with 2.5-3 per cent for the most successful industrialised countries - a level that South Korea and Singapore have already reached. India’s government plans to lift the country’s research and development investment from below 1 per cent of GDP to at least 2 per cent.

Some in the west fear Asia’s growing scientific prowess as a new competitive threat. Until now, countries such as China and India have essentially been cheap, efficient processing centres and workshops, for which the intellectual input came ultimately from elsewhere. If they can use science to climb the value chain and innovate effectively, western economies will have lost their last great competitive advantage.

Asian policymakers give short shrift to such arguments. “Fears in the west about the rise of Asian science are very much exaggerated,” says R. A. Mashelkar, the Indian government’s chief scientist. “Particularly in the US, people like to keep themselves on edge with talk of a ‘threat’ but in reality there is none.”

Many western authorities with experience of Asian science agree. Lord Sainsbury, the UK science minister, says that “people who claim that China is making unbelievable progress and will soon have the biggest high-technology businesses in the world” should remember the panic in the 1980s about the rise of Japan’s high-technology industry. “We thought then that Japan had some sort of magic formula not given to the rest of us,” says Lord Sainsbury, “but the formula turned out not to exist.”

Asia’s greatest overall advantage is its huge supply of scientists and engineers, particularly in China and India, at a time when students in the west are turning away from science and engineering. Companies in the US and Europe that find it hard to recruit top-quality research staff at home can exploit Asia’s trained workforce by building research and development centres there or collaborating with Asian companies and universities.

FT.com / Analysis - Innovative Asia

quarta-feira, junho 08, 2005

$80bn Google takes top media spot

Internet search phenomenon Google has overtaken a swathe of venerable rivals to become the world's biggest media company by stock market value.

After its shares hit an all-time high on the New York markets on Tuesday, Google is now worth $80bn (£44bn).

This takes it ahead of media leviathan Time Warner, which is valued at $78bn.

The valuation comes in spite of the fact that Google's annual sales total just $3.2bn, a fraction of Time Warner's $42bn.


The Bush Economy

With all of the debate about taxes, the economy and domestic spending, it is hard to imagine anyone supporting the notion of taking money from programs like Medicaid and college-tuition assistance, increasing the tax burden of the vast majority of working Americans, sending the country into crushing debt - and giving the proceeds to people who are so fantastically rich that they don't know what to do with the money they already have. Yet that is just what is happening under the Bush administration. Forget the middle class and the upper-middle class. Even the merely wealthy are being left behind in the dust by the small slice of super-rich Americans.

In last Sunday's Times, David Cay Johnston reported that from 1980 to 2002, the latest year of available data, the share of total income earned by the top 0.1 percent of earners more than doubled, while the share earned by everyone else in the top 10 percent rose far less. The share of the bottom 90 percent declined.
Which brings us back to the super wealthy and the merely rich. The divide between rich and poor is unfortunately an old story, but income-class warfare among the top 20 percent of the scale is a newer phenomenon. One cause is that the further up the scale one goes, the more of one's income comes from investments, which under the Bush tax cuts enjoy about the lowest rates in the tax code. But many families making between $100,000 and $200,000 are not exactly on easy street. They don't face choices anywhere near as stark as those encountered further down the income ladder, but they face serious tradeoffs not experienced by the uppermost crust, particularly when hit with the triple whammy of college for the children, care for aging parents and preparing for their own retirement.

There is something deeply wrong about a system that calls into question a comfortable retirement or a top-notch education for people who have broken into the top 20 percent of income earners. It starts to seem politically explosive when you consider that in a decade, those making between $100,000 and $200,000 will pay about five to nine percentage points more of their income in federal taxes than those making more than $1 million, assuming the Bush tax cuts are made permanent.

The Bush Economy - New York Times

120,000 foreigners needed to plug India's skills gap

India faces a massive shortage of workers with European language skills over the next five years which could see the country needing to recruit up to 120,000 foreigners.

The language skills deficit is revealed in a new report by research firm Evalueserve, which calculates that no more than 40,000 Indians will have a European language specialisation other than English.

As demand for offshore services increases from continental European countries, the study claims this will leave a shortage of 120,000 workers who specialise in a non-English European language.

Many of these multilingual professionals will have to be recruited from continental Europe to work in the IT and business process outsourcing (BPO) offshore industry, for jobs involving the collection of information, working on non-English documents, voice-based services and transaction processes.


domingo, junho 05, 2005

Laptops Outsell Desktops for First Time

In a sure sign that the era of mobile computing has arrived, notebooks have for the first time outsold desktops in the United States in a calendar month, the research firm Current Analysis says.

After tracking sales from a sampling of electronics retailers, Current Analysis says notebook sales accounted for 53 percent of the total personal computer market last month, up from 46 percent during the same period last year.

San Diego-based Current Analysis does not follow worldwide personal computer sales.

Spurring demand for notebooks is their overall price drop as quality has improved, says Sam Bhavnani, senior analyst for Current Analysis. "Just a few years ago, the performance of notebooks was nowhere near where it is today," he said.

Notebook prices fell 17 percent during the past year while desktop prices dipped only 4 percent. Some of the features common in most notebooks are longer-lasting batteries, CD burners and wireless capability.

The computing crowd is increasingly requiring mobility.

Print Story: Laptops Outsell Desktops for First Time on Yahoo! News

World Environment Day 2005

The dramatic and, in some cases, damaging environmental changes sweeping planet Earth are brought into sharp focus in a new atlas launched to mark World Environment Day (WED).

Produced by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), One Planet Many People: Atlas of our Changing Environment compares and contrasts spectacular satellite images of the past few decades with contemporary ones, some of which have never been seen before.

The huge growth of greenhouses in southern Spain, the rapid rise of shrimp farming in Asia and Latin America and the emergence of a giant, shadow puppet-shaped peninsula at the mouth of the Yellow River are among a string of curious and surprising changes seen from space.

They sit beside the more conventional, but no less dramatic images of rain forest deforestation in Paraguay and Brazil, rapid oil and gas development in Wyoming, United States, forest fires across sub-Saharan Africa and the retreat of glaciers and ice in polar and mountain areas.

The atlas focuses on the large, Romanian city of Copsa Mica, which is believed to be one of the sickliest in the world.

The 1986 image shows very high level of air pollution (black). In the image of 2004, the air pollution level has substantially decreased – a positive change in the environment.

The Almeria region of southern Spain was once a typical rural agricultural area, satellite images from 1974 show.

The latest image tells a different story showing how an area of around 20,000 hectares has been transformed into a vast glass-house for producing greenhouse crops.

The development has important implications for Spanish water supplies with the government looking at technologies such as desalination plants.

The Ataturk Dam was built in Turkey on the Euphrates River in 1990. It generates 8.9 billion kilowatt hours of electricity, which is equivalent to over a fifth of the country’s anticipated needs in 2010.

Its impact on the landscape, as seen from space, is dramatic. The flooded areas appear as a large jagged mass of black.

South of the dam, around the town of Harran, the landscape has become green as a result of irrigation schemes made possible by the dam.

Press Releases June 2005 - “One Planet Many People” Atlas Launched to Mark World Environment Day 2005 - United Nations Environment Programme

Indian software, service exports on rise

Revenue from the export of software and from services sold to companies from outside India (what's known as offshore outsourcing, from the U.S. perspective), reached $17.2 billion during fiscal 2004-2005, according to the group, which is also known as Nasscom. The jump represents growth of 34.5 percent over the previous year's revenue of $12.8 billion.

Of the $17.2 billion, $5.2 billion was revenue from call centers and business process outsourcing services, it said. The remaining $12 billion was generated by software and other services.

Indian software, service exports on rise | CNET News.com

Search, alongside broadband, is a booming market at the moment.


France - 81% of net users use search engine
UK - 80%
US - 79%
Spain - 77%
Italy - 74%
Germany - 74%
Switzerland - 73%
Sweden - 64%
Source - Nielsen/NetRatings

The number of people using search engines is growing faster than the number of people coming online, according to net measurement firm Nielsen/NetRatings.

Search in Europe has grown by 11%, from 79m users in 2004 to 88m in 2005.

By comparison, the number of new net users has grown by just 4%, up from 110m to 115m over the same time period.

France tops the polls when it comes to searching, with 81% of its online population using a search engine. Britain comes second with 80% and Sweden, at 64%, comes a surprising last out of the eight countries surveyed by Nielsen/NetRatings.

In France the second most popular search engine was Voila and local language services did well in all the non-English speaking nations.

BBC NEWS | Technology | The future of search looks bright

UN Battle over Open Source Software


The government here has its eye on a UN summit on information technology, to take place in Tunisia in November.

Already, Brazilian diplomats are pushing for a final declaration that would stress the advantages of open-source software.

They have won the backing of India and are now canvassing broader support from the developing world.

"It would be wrong to portray this as a personal war against Bill Gates," cautions Mr Cerqueira Cesar.

"But I think free software will encourage Mr Gates to reinvent his business. The world of technology is opening up; there are hundreds of thousands of people working to improve free software. The old, closed model must adapt in order to survive."

Increasingly, Brazil's government ministries and state-run enterprises are abandoning Windows in favour of 'open-source' or 'free' software, like Linux.

"The number one reason for this change is economic," says Sergio Amadeu, who runs the government's National Institute for Information Technology.

He explains that, for every workstation, the government is currently paying Microsoft fees of around 1200 Brazilian reais ($500; £270).

"If you switch to open source software, you pay less in royalties to foreign companies," explains Amadeu. "And that can count for a lot in a country like Brazil, which still has a long way to develop in the IT sector."

Overall, the government reckons it could save around $120m a year by switching from Windows to open-source alternatives.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is studying a draft decree which, if approved, would make the change compulsory for federal departments.

For Mr da Silva, this is a vital development issue in a country where nine out of ten people have never used the internet.

Through tax breaks, his government is subsidising the sale of computers to low-income families. For as little as $550, paid in instalments, they can buy a basic machine which operates using open-source software.

"Open-source alternatives are a great opportunity for developing countries," says Jose Luiz de Cerqueira Cesar, head of IT at Banco do Brasil. "If computer users within a geographical region pool their expertise, they can develop software that is perfectly suited to their needs."

Mr Cerqueira Cesar is a leading light behind the newly-created "Global Organisation for Free Software," which has been set up by a broad coalition of Brazilian businesses and NGOs. More details are being released this week at an International Forum on Free Software, in the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre.

The aim of the new organisation is to encourage greater cooperation and the sharing of ideas among governments, businesses and individuals within the developing world.

On a smaller scale, that is already happening in Brazil, which has seen some ingenious attempts to span the so-called "digital divide" between the developed and developing worlds.

One successful example is the "Recycling Goal" project, which extends computer technology into the shanty-towns or "favelas" on the outskirts of Sao Paulo.

"We have 80 computers here, all donated by Brazilian businesses," says the project organiser, Dalton Martins. Around him, children and teenagers from the Sacadura Cabral favela are tapping away on brightly-painted keyboards.

Dalton explains that open-source software is an essential to the project: partly because it drastically reduces costs; and partly because it can be modified to suit local needs.

"We use Linux," he says, "which means we've been able to customise the graphics and language content. Life has a special reality here, and we need to build technology that works for the community."

Dalton adds that Windows does not offer the same level of flexibility, because its source code - the raw material of a program or operating system - is kept secret.


BBC NEWS | Business | Brazil adopts open-source software

quarta-feira, junho 01, 2005

the top of the British singles chart--the first time a ring tone has achieved such a feat

The Official UK Charts Company said Crazy Frog's "Axel F," which went on sale as a CD last week, kept Coldplay's new release "Speed Of Sound" in second place.

For all its popularity, the Crazy Frog has also aroused loathing.

Earlier this year the Advertising Standards Authority received complaints from viewers who not only objected to the frog's visible genitalia but also the frequency of the television spots.
Via's laptop chip

Television advertisements that plug the tune feature an animated frog wearing a broad smile while singing a distractingly catchy tune with froglike lyrics:
A ding ding ding ding dididing ding bing bing pscht,
Dorhrm bom bom bedom bem bom bedom bom bum ba ba bom bom,
Bouuuuum bom bom bedahm, Bom be barbedarm bedabedabedabeda
Bbrrrrrimm bbrrrrramm bbbrrrrrrrrraammmmm ddddddraammm,
Bah bah baah baah ba wheeeeeee-eeeee-eeeee!

The Crazy Frog ring tone is one of several ring tones offered by Jamster, a UK-based marketer and distributor of cell-phone services.

Crazy Frog ring tone tops UK charts | CNET News.com