September 10, 2007

Losing The Race? [9:56 pm]

A look at Japan’s high speed internet advantage: Japan’s Warp-Speed Ride to Internet Futurepdf (an article I missed from last month)

Americans invented the Internet, but the Japanese are running away with it.

Broadband service here is eight to 30 times as fast as in the United States — and considerably cheaper. Japan has the world’s fastest Internet connections, delivering more data at a lower cost than anywhere else, recent studies show.

Accelerating broadband speed in this country — as well as in South Korea and much of Europe — is pushing open doors to Internet innovation that are likely to remain closed for years to come in much of the United States.

[...] “The experience of the last seven years shows that sometimes you need a strong federal regulatory framework to ensure that competition happens in a way that is constructive,” said Vinton G. Cerf, a vice president at Google.

Japan’s lead in speed is worrisome because it will shift Internet innovation away from the United States, warns Cerf, who is widely credited with helping to invent some of the Internet’s basic architecture. “Once you have very high speeds, I guarantee that people will figure out things to do with it that they haven’t done before,” he said.

As a champion of Japanese-style competition through regulation, Cerf supports “net neutrality” legislation now pending in Congress. It would mandate that phone and cable companies treat all online traffic equally, without imposing higher tolls for certain content.

Didn’t convince the DOJ, though

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When All Communication Is Political [9:48 pm]

Policing speech gets even more out of hand — examples from the Chinese experience: For China’s Censors, Electronic Offenders Are the New Frontierpdf

More than a quarter-century after Deng Xiaoping launched the country on a course of drastic reforms, the party at all levels has clung to rigid censorship over information and art — including folk songs in a dialect only the locals understand.

But party censors are now turning to China’s booming Internet and cellphone networks with particular vigor. Given the easy access to technologies such as text messaging, censors have found it difficult to keep a grip on information.

It hasn’t been for lack of trying. The Public Security Ministry, which monitors the Internet under guidance from the Central Propaganda Department, has recruited an estimated 30,000 people to snoop on electronic communications. The ministry recently introduced two cartoon characters — a male and female in police uniforms — that it said would pop up on computer screens occasionally to remind people that their activity is being tracked.

Traditionally, the censors’ main concern has been keeping political expression in check. [...] But because transmitting information of all kinds through the Internet and cellphone messages is relatively easy, the party’s censorship bureaucrats also have been fighting new battles.

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“Dogs In A Manger”: def. - TV Broadcasters [5:34 pm]

Broadcasters launch ads against devicepdf

Television broadcasters on Monday launched an advertising campaign to fight a technology industry proposal to transmit high-speed Internet service over unused airwaves.

[...] The ad blitz is aimed against an initiative by a high-technology coalition that seeks federal regulatory approval for a prototype device that could transmit high-speed Internet, or broadband, service over unlicensed and unused TV spectrum, also known as “white spaces.”

The technology coalition — which includes Microsoft Corp., Google Inc., Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Intel Corp., EarthLink Inc. and Philips Electronics North America Corp., a division of Netherlands-based Royal Philips Electronics NV — said the devices could make Internet service more accessible and affordable, especially in rural areas and also spur innovation.

[...] “While our friends at Intel, Google and Microsoft may find system errors, computer glitches and dropped calls tolerable, broadcasters do not,” said NAB Chairman Alan Frank, president of Post-Newsweek Stations, in a statement.

See also sanctimony

Later, from the LATimes, Broadcasters lobby against tech firms’ use of vacant TV channelspdf

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Whose Culture Will Reshape Whose? [8:24 am]

A push from Hollywood: Rewriting Hollywood’s Rules

Kevin Morris had just negotiated a landmark deal that set Hollywood buzzing, giving the creators of “South Park,” Matt Stone and Trey Parker, a precedent-setting 50 percent stake in the cartoon’s success on the Web and other emerging media.

[...] “It’s great that those guys all meet and talk and ride bikes,” Mr. Morris said, “but I’m not sure the exchange of ideas is happening at a more functional level.” He hopes to get people who think things up for a living to start asking questions — like why there is still no Hollywood soap opera, variety show or drama on the Web.

“Everybody says that content is king, but they’re not acting like it,” Mr. Morris said. “On the tech side, they don’t have any cultural understanding of the tradition of paying for talent. They’re enamored of user-generated stuff because they think ‘Entourage’ is real — that they’re going to get ripped off.”

He continued: “The media companies, meanwhile, are so big, they have no spirit of entrepreneurialism and they’re obsessed with being tough. Nobody wants to be the guy that overpaid. It creates a risk-averse culture, just at a time when we need risks.”

Related: Warner Shifts Web Course, Shouldering Video Costs

The shift underlines a growing realization among the big Hollywood studios: Web entertainment is evolving so quickly that they must take on more financial risk to keep up.

So far, Warner and most other traditional studios have tried to lock down a comfortable, low-risk business model before venturing too far online. That approach has slowed them down, delivering a competitive edge to scrappier, upstart production companies.

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Reed Elsevier Upsetting Its Traditional Business Model [8:22 am]

A Medical Publisher’s Unusual Prescription: Online Ads

[...] Reed Elsevier, which publishes more than 400 medical and scientific journals, is trying an experiment that stands this model on its head. Over the weekend it introduced a Web portal, www.OncologySTAT.com, that gives doctors free access to the latest articles from 100 of its own pricey medical journals and that plans to sell advertisements against the content.

The new site asks oncologists to register their personal information. In exchange, it gives them immediate access to the latest cancer-related articles from Elsevier journals like The Lancet and Surgical Oncology. Prices for journals can run from hundreds to thousands of dollars a year.

Elsevier hopes to sign up 150,000 professional users within the next 12 months and to attract advertising and sponsorships, especially from pharmaceutical companies with cancer drugs to sell. The publisher also hopes to cash in on the site’s list of registered professionals, which it can sell to advertisers.

Mainstream publishers have wrestled for years with the question of how to charge for online content in a way that neither alienates potential readers nor cannibalizes their print properties. So far, few definitive answers have emerged. Reed Elsevier, which is based in London, is taking a risk that its readers will drop their paid subscriptions and switch allegiance to the new Web site, which will offer searches and full texts of the same content from the moment of publication.

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Dispatches From The DVD Format Frontlines [7:38 am]

A high-definition fight scene in slow motionpdf

Raging in the backrooms of Hollywood this summer has been a battle that will play out in the aisles of Wal-Mart and Target.

Until recently, it had appeared that the two camps vying to set the standard for next-generation DVDs would settle the score this holiday season.

But last-ditch maneuvering in recent weeks has all but assured that the format war will extend well beyond December, keeping many home-movie buffs from laying their money down until a winner is declared.

It’s no wonder that neither rival — Asian consumer electronics giants Sony Corp. or Toshiba Corp. — can bear to give in. Licensing fees on equipment that could be worth $10 billion or more over time are up for grabs

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Facebook As A Development Platform [7:35 am]

A software industry @ Facebookpdf

Welcome to the emerging Facebook economy.

Software developers have built more than 3,000 programs to run on the social networking site in the last three months. The uses range from the practical, such as buying music or scouting vacation spots, to the quirky, including sending virtual gifts or biting your friends to turn them into zombies.

About 80% of Facebook’s 40 million users have added at least one feature to their profiles. The most successful applications claim millions of users.

“Facebook is God’s gift to developers,” said Lee Lorenzen, founder of Altura Ventures, a Monterey, Calif., investment firm that started betting exclusively on companies creating Facebook programs in July. “Never has the path from a good idea to millions of users been shorter.”

The Facebook free-for-all began in May, when the Palo Alto company invited hundreds of software developers to build their own features for the social-networking site and pocket the proceeds. The new strategy triggered a digital land rush, with 80,000 developers signing up.

They all wanted a shot at the desirably youthful demographic of Facebook users, many of whom spend hours a day on the site.

Now entrepreneurs looking to start companies or expand existing ones are building businesses on Facebook the way they used to build businesses on the Web, but they are doing it faster and cheaper — and with a built-in audience that provides instant feedback.

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