April 21, 2005

OT: Technology, History and Rhetoric [8:20 am]

I’m glad to see that I’m not the only person troubled by this new Lincoln museum: Strumming the Mystic Chords of Memory

[T]here is still something serious being undermined. The blurring of history for the sake of entertainment may not be something new. After all, the village of New Salem, about a 20-minute drive from Springfield, was where Lincoln tended store and began his political career, but the town didn’t survive. So in the 1920’s and 30’s, it was “reconstructed”; it is an invented historical village.

But the new museum, because of technological power alone, risks making invention seem like fact. It also enshrines a notion that the best way to know anything about politics and history is to understand personality, and even then only in a simplified fashion. Maybe it will lead to curiosity and further inquiry; maybe not. But it is telling that by the end of the presentation “Ghosts of the Library,” the historian ends up turning into a ghost himself, and disappears into thin air.

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DRM Patent Fights [8:12 am]

Macrovision DRM patents challenge fails

It’s not completely over yet, but it appears that Macrovision’s challenge to the core Intertrust DRM patents, is now likely to fail. The United States Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences issued a ruling last week that concluded that key InterTrust patents have priority over the Macrovision claims.

[...] Macrovision made statements this week that it believes that although the court finding was adverse, it still reckons that it owns the key DRM patents in many countries outside of the US.

Macrovision said, “This is an ongoing process with other portions of the interference action still under review by the Panel. The InterTrust interference action has no bearing on patents outside the US and our essential international DRM patent applications are proceeding to issuance in Europe and Japan, unaffected by the outcome of the US patent interference action.

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More on Cellphone DRM [8:10 am]

Phone DRM: the most expensive royalty operation ever

We think the MPEG LA and the group of consumer electronics groups that it represents, who claim essential patents for the OMA DRM system, have pulled off something of a coup.

[...] By cutting the handset charge to 65 cents, plus 25 cents as soon as that OMA DRM is used in anger, the handset charges on the same calculation would drop to $444m, plus $171m if every one of those phones as used to download one piece of protected content. That total is also more than all of the content sales made last year through mobile phones, at $615m, but at least it will give the operators a free run on the transaction charges for the rest of the year, once all handsets are upgraded to OMA DRM.

[...] But it looks like the license fees were always set with a view to a climb down and if the cellular operators accept this new “compromise” they will still have signed up for the most expensive royalty operation in the history of the planet. We think they will.

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von Hippel’s Democratic Innovation in the NYTimes [7:53 am]

Innovation Moves From the Laboratory to the Bike Trail and the Kitchen — interestingly, no discussion of the policy implications of his work. The article, rather, discusses how firms should work to capture the efforts of lead users, rather than suggesting that there may be some issues in the current constructs of property that might inhibit this kind of innovative ferment. (Consider, for example, Homegrown Star Wars, with big-screen magic intact)

WHEN most people think about where new or improved products come from, they imagine two kinds of innovators: either engineers and marketers in big companies trying to “find a need and fill it” or garage entrepreneurs hoping to strike it rich by inventing the next big thing.

But a lot of significant innovations do not come from people trying to figure out what customers may want. They come from the users themselves, who know exactly what they want but cannot get it in existing products.

[...] In order for companies to generate new ideas, Professor von Hippel urges them to pay more attention to “lead users” like these biking enthusiasts: people who stretch the limits of a technology and create their own innovative prototypes.

In a study at 3M, he and several colleagues found that product ideas from lead users generated eight times the sales of ideas generated internally - $146 million versus $18 million a year - in part because lead users were more likely to come up with ideas for entire new product lines rather than minor improvements.

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Telecom Hearings [7:19 am]

Merger Critics Seek Telecom Regulation [pdf]

Critics of consolidation in the telecommunications industry warned members of Congress that specific remedies would be necessary to ensure consumers are not harmed by a series of recently proposed mergers.

[...] The starkest example of harmful behavior is the big companies’ opposition to the creation of public wireless Internet networks around the country, Cleland said. Philadelphia, New Orleans, Los Angeles and other municipalities are teaming up with companies to build networks that would offer high-speed Internet access to their residents for as little as $15 a month — far less than the average $30 to $40 monthly cost of DSL services. The big companies are fighting those efforts by lobbying for state legislation to ban such networks, a campaign that Cleland called “patently anti-competitive.”

The hearings (not all testimony has been posted yet):

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