Earlier today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) released its annual list of top patentees, and IBM led the way for U.S. patents for the thirteenth consecutive year.
The 2005 tally? 2,941 new IBM patents.
Also of interest was an initiative that IBM announced it was undertaking with the USPTO, Open Source Development Labs (OSDL), members of the open source software community, and academia in order to help improve U.S. patent quality moving forward. This initiative will not only help speed the process, but also accelerate innovation in the U.S.
Bob Sutor, IBM's Vice President of Standards and Open Source for IBM, blogs about the announcement on his site here.[Read More]
Todd "Turbo" Watson -- IBM Corporation
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The news out of CES last week was largely unremarkable, but one particular device caught my eye, if only because I've long been a proponent of its basic capability.
Sony has essentially reinvented the concept of a product produced several years ago by a company called NuvoMeida, with its RocketBook "e-reading" device. I received one of the early RocketBooks circa 1999 as a (requested) Christmas present. And at an Internet advertising boondoggle somewhere near Lake Tahoe, I even had the opportunity to hear the inventor expound about how his invention was going to change reading as we knew it.
While the original RocketBook e-book was bulky, it certainly performed as advertised, and through a proprietary service allowed the user to purchase books via the Internet -- a great service for those cold and rainy winter days when venturing down to Barnes and Noble seemed like a bad idea. As with so many Internet boom ventures, though, the RocketBook bounced from one owner to another, and eventually was allowed to die a slow death under Gemstar's ownership.
Will We Still Have Cartoons???
Fear not, loyal e-bibliophiles. The Sony Reader is slated to save your papyrus-free day...but alas for now, is available only in Japan. Estimated to cost between $300 and $400 (according to Gizmodo), the Sony Reader will natively support PDF files and convert .doc files on the fly. Also, like the RocketBooks, Sony's Connect service will hang out a shingle to sell eBooks direct via the Net.
But as Gizmodo points out, the real thriller here is integrated RSS support, including images. Remember the e-inked USA Today from "Minority Report?" We could be on our way here, folks. Forget that rolled up wet blob in your front yard -- you know, the one without the plastic cover that the newspaper delivery kid forgot to put on? No, a device like the Reader with full-on RSS support could make the customized e-newspaper a reality, delivered to your e-book, overnight, everyday, updated all day...fresh news on the go, complete with pretty pictures (I'm sure rich media wouldn be far behind).
Yes, it might put a few of those newspaper delivery kids out of work (of whom I once was one), but what the heck, they're probably the ones already programming the RSS feeds that bring the e-newspaper to your virtual doorstep in the first place.[Read More]
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All eyes are on Vegas...well, the geeky eyes, anyhow, as the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas kicks into full gear.
But first, a moment of revelatory celebration...as Austin's University of Texas Longhorns steal a hat trick from the Trojans, we light up Austin's UT Tower in radiant orange, and Vince Young undeniably proves his Heisman mettle in Pasadena...wait, let me wallow in victory for just a moment more...okay, much better, now back to bidness.
While much of the CES talk seems to be the odds on how soon it will be before Google becomes its own nation-state, miss not the Microsofties who came out swinging with their new partners from MTV (and even accompanied Bill Gates onstage by...Justin Timberlake!) The announcement? Windows Media Player 11 and Microsoft's answer to the iTunes digital music juggernaut, "URGE."
While I'm not one to disparage Microsoft's often effective marketing prowess, the logical question is whether or not the "urge" will be strong enough to drive nanonuts like myself from their iPods (Meaning, that's gonna have to be an awfully strong urge...perhaps the target market are the iPodless everywhere?)
Irony of ironies, I used to burn my CDs using the WMA standard, because it seemed to save on file size and the Media Player made it easy enough. But the more CDs I burned, the more I realized I was being herded into Microsoft's proprietary corral and the stronger the URGE I had to bolt for the greener pastures of MP3's open standards.
Bill Gates v. Steve Jobs, coming soon to a celebrity digital music deathmatch arena near you.[Read More]
Uh, could somebody tell me where my desk is? My blog? My job? Sorry, what is it that I do for a living again?
My profuse apologies, but I'm having a terribly difficult time getting back into the swing of full-time employment after a scandalously terrific holiday, part of it spending some quality time with the family, and the other doing some more swimming with the fishes in Cozumel (an island which, by the way, seems to have rebounded from its own hurricane [Wilma] with a lightning fast response from its government and populace and, an island which is very much back in business).
Therefore, I've made no significant New Year's resolutions this year, neither personally nor professionally. That would simply be setting me up for failure, both personally and professionally.
However, there are plenty of prognosticators projecting our info tech future, and I thought it might be interesting to kick off the year by listening to what some of the professional soothsayers have to say.
The Crystal Tech Ball
MSN's Squawk Mark Stahlman predicts a big boost in corporate spending on IT, calling it a "trifecta." One, large companies dramatically increase their IT spend to drive top line growth; two, SMBs will begin to move into Vista (Microsoft's new OS); and three, consumers will continue to pour money into new PCs and high-def everything. Most interestingly, Stahlman notes that new accounting requirements from Sarbanes-Oxley are kicking in, elevating the status of CIOs and allowing them to use some of those piggy bank savings to spend on new tech.
Forbes' Daniel Lyons asserts that open source software will continue to "change the rules of the information technology game," and force vendors like IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle to "develop new strategies for coping with open source upstarts like Jboss, Linux, and MySQL." At the same time, he believes that big corporate users will "drive down their costs by displacing expensive programs with open source alternatives."
Next, according to the 2005/2006 Harvey Nash USA CIO Market Survey (sponsored by Harvey Nash Group PLC and Pricewaterhouse Coopers), a quarter of the CIOS and IT executives polled are reporting an increase in IT budgets of between 10 and 20 percent, while 13 percent expect budgets to rise by more than 20%. Their net on the situation: The recession-delimited IT spend has led to pent-up demand for operational improvements. This newfound budget is also expected to lead to increased IT hiring, and because the 70% CIO job satisfaction rating suggests they're happy in their jobs, they're ready to get some serious business-enabling tech work done.
The most interesting tidbit I clawed out of the Harvey Nash survey was this: The CIO role is becoming more strategic, with more IT leaders playing a more active role in developing the new business opportunities that tech can facilitate.
Put all this together, and it suggests that 2006 could prove to be a banner year for the strategic use of IT: More cap-x investment from more involved CIOs implementing more open source providing better value and a more effective IT spend leading to more efficient business operations that provide mo better business results![Read More]
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I've written in this space before about the personal benefits of time-shifting (i.e., digital video recorders, podcasting, etc.) And while I'm not in the sweet spot of most advertisers these days (I'm just this side of 40), having been a card-carrying member of the "digerati" since long before the Internet was cool, I have generally behaved like a younger consumer of media.
That is to say, I've long been an early adopter of new technologies, devices, and means by which to consume media. I bought my first PalmPilot (actually, it was IBM's re-licensed version, the WorkPad) in 1996. I became a subscriber of online news and information via AvantGo almost from the getgo (The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, etc.). I used it for reading the news then, and I continue to use it for that purpose today. I don't subscribe to newspapers, and I rarely buy them off the newstand.
I got an e-book device (remember RocketBook?) back in 1999. That upstart e-reading company was long ago bought by Gemstar, and these days, I buy digital books and read them on my Tungsten Palm C.
When I got my first time-shifting device for television, an early ReplayTV device in 1999, I actually didn't watch much TV at the time. I was too busy travelling, working, or going out to industry functions in the evening. But that changed very quickly. With ReplayTV, I could watch what I want, when I wanted, without regard to a network TV schedule. I soon became a TV junkie, recording all kinds of shows that interested me and then watching them at my leisure.
Fast Forwarding to the Future's Past
I maintain that time-shifting continues to be a profound evolution of how media will be consumed moving forward. In a few more years, for kids who have grown up with time-shifting as part of their daily routine, the idea of watching a program at a specified time (save perhaps for time-dependent event TV such as sports programming) will seem as outdated as having rabbit ears sitting on top of your TV to get a better signal.
Despite the angst that time-shifting that caused most of the major media companies (What are we going to do when we find out all those people are skipping the commercials???), I was glad to see Nielsen Media Research announce today that they would begin measuring the viewing of digital video recorders starting next week.
Apparently in a response to those clients who do want to begin to learn how DVR use affects viewing, the Hollywood Reporter today ran a story announcing that Nielsen will start to offer three ratings per program and network: Live, Live/Same Day (same-day playback via DVRs), and Live+7 Day Ratings (live along with time-shifting up to 168 hours after airing).
To Follow the Money, Follow the Remote Control
While it's not yet evident how this information will impact the economics of the media landscape -- the article suggests it will create conflict, with the networks wanting higher rates for those programs with higher viewing, and advertisers challenging those ratings because they're still not certain if those ads are being skipped or not -- I think it's certain to rock the network model boat (judging from early negative reactions and threats of litigation, it already has). That's not necessarily a bad thing, and I think the learnings such data will bring about will more than balance out the interim economical disruption that the revealing of this information is likely to cause.
Google has already proven that in the digital realm, advertising is all about connecting the media exposure and the transaction, as well as all the data and metadata that surround that transaction, and the commercial broadcast industry is clearly going to have to find a middle way as they make this transition into the digital age.
But if Google's online success is any indication, then it's my belief that the opportunity for data-driven television is even more enormous. From ratings to direct e-commerce to participatory television, the wider pipes, bigger screens and asynchronous capabilities presented by digital cable, HDTVs and DVRs create a much more fertile pasture for TV to jump over their time-constricted chasm.
And never mind the benefits to the consumer. Just imagine being a kid and having the opportunity to interact with Big Bird or Bert and Ernie? Or using your TV to hold a real-time video-conference with grandma so that she can see how much the twins have grown? Or having Amazon-like "one-click" ordering off the TV set? It's only a matter of time, but over the longer time horizon, such opportunities will require more precise measurement and data and understanding.
Is this all a disruption or, as was with my case in my early adoption of the DVR, an enhancement? Here's my own research report: I refuse to watch TV anymore without a DVR (except for sports).
No, this Nielsen Media Research announcement won't serve as a panacea, but it's certainly a step in the right direction.
Now, if I could only find my remote.[Read More]
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First off, let me just say that to New Yorkers in New York dealing with the transit strike tonight, my sympathies are with you.
I lived and worked in NYC for several years on two different occasions. In my first stint during college, I was an infamous New York City bicycle messenger, so getting around Manhattan was not a problem. I jumped curbs, flew down 5th Avenue dodging buses and leaping tall buildings with a single bound (not to mention taxis, and, most challenging of all, other human beings). And, the best part, I lived to tell about it.
Later, when I was living and working there as a professional in the late 90s and early 00s, I ditched the bike and car in favor of the bus and subway. I became a master at public transportation. I knew the NYC bus and train routes inside and out, and for those I didn't know, I could usually figure out with a glance at the map.
I cannot even imagine life there during a transit strike, although for many of us at IBM (including several with whom I chatted today), telecommuting has created a virtual bridge that can make such events go almost unnoticeable these days. I first wrote about the benefits of telecommuting both for companies and for employees way back in 1993 for one of our software magazines. This was pre-Internet, pre-VPN, pre-pretty-much-every-technology that would make telecommuting more of a reality.
Flash forward to 2005, and the technology should be the least of your worries. Telecommuting is becoming much more pervasive, with an estimated 4+ million telecommuters working in the US alone.
Increasingly, work is something you do, not a place you go. I visited my own office at IBM Austin last week -- mainly, to check my mail and see if my office was still there. I hadn't been there in nearly 6 weeks! People looked at me like "who the heck is that guy?"
Most of the people on the team with whom I work every day these days are scattered all over the planet. On any given day, I work with people from: San Diego, Washington, D.C., Charlotte, Boston, New York City, London, Paris, Tokyo, Sydney, and all points in between. It's honestly more important for me to know my colleagues' location for the purpose of time zone shifting than it is to ever find their office.
Now, with the NYC transit strike, I realize there are great benefits to being away from the big city, and also to being able to work from mi casa. I get more hours of the workday for working (which means IBM gets more hours out of me). I'm able to exercise and not have to worry about where I'm going to take a shower. Our Lotus Sametime instant messaging software allows us to stay a pulse away from one another. And oh, did I mention that IBM is the land of the 60-minute conference call?
People ask me if I miss being in an office. In some ways, yes, but I also don't have the distractions and/or interruptions that could really put a damper on a solid run at getting some real and productive work done. And instant messaging is its own interruption (which is why I've been using it more strategically of late, turning it off completely when I really need to get some deliverables done). But there's still plenty opportunity for meeting, chatting, and conversing with colleagues...it's just done over the phone versus in a room.
For knowledge work, I can't imagine why more companies aren't considering it. At the end of the day (or quarter), it really comes down to trust. Do you trust your employees or not? I can honestly say that IBM does trust us, arming us with reliable VPN software and ThinkPads that allow us to work anywhere there's a phone line. In turn, IBM is benefitting tremendously with the increase in productivity, reduced real estate costs, and much happier employees.
Moving forward, especially after this NYC transit strike, I suspect that many organizations large and small are going to take a second look at telecommuting.
They should. Whether due to lost productivity (estimated at $400M a day in NYC!), or the increased fuel surcharges for business travel, or just the increase in human stress from sitting in traffic or being paranoid about Avian flu, there are plenty of reasons to consider enabling employees to work from anywhere, particularly knowledge workers.
I should know. My office this week is my parent's kitchen table, where I'm working away as the news murmurs on in the background about all the lost productivity due to the NYC transit strike.[Read More]
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Late last week, IBM, in partnership with The Economist Intelligence Unit, released the results of the IBM Chief Finance Officers Study, which I would like to report on here. But first, some background about the study.
It was conducted via online survey with 889 CFOs and senior finance professionals across the communications, distribution, financial, industrial and public sectors in 72 countries, and included interviews with 267 CFOs based in Asia Pacific, Europe, North America, and Latin America. Organizations in the study ranged in size from less than $1 billion to over $10 billion in annual revenue, and more than half had annual revenues of $5 billion or more. Nearly half of the respondents had enterprise-wide/global responsibility, with the balance evenly divided between regional, country, and business unit responsibility.
So, in summary, we spoke to expert bean counters who eat, live and breathe in this flat-earth globalized economy of ours. Now, for the drum roll as we learn what they had to say.
You Can't Manage What You Can't Effectively Measure
First headline: Only a third of respondents rate themselves as "highly effective" in supporting the CEO's efforts to grow the company. Doh!
Second headline: Although profitable growth is at the top of the CEO's agenda and is what counts most with shareholders and financial analysts, CFOs are struggling to deliver predictive insight out of the colossal amount of data they collect.
Did I say "Doh!" yet?
Now, before we get to more bad news, let's talk about some of the good news that came out of the survey. The study also correlated a financial benefit that may be linked to the effective analysis of financial information to drive growth actvities. Analysis of publicly available financial data from nearly 300 of the study respondents reveals companies with highly effective delivery of performance, risk and growth information have increased revenue growth and are driving more value creation compared to their industry peers with less effective insight delivery.
So what did the respondents say that they did well? For starters, they indicated they're very good at reporting historical financial results and meeting compliance requirements. But despite the fact that 69 percent of them state that "providing insight to grow the company" was a top 3 in terms of aspects of their role, only 13 percent rated themselves as "highly effective" in this or other key areas relevant to performance insight.
In short, they were management challenged when it came to being unable to unlock and find those "hidden gems of information" that could help them uncover future business opportunities and foresee trends or costly problems ahead of time. This "performance gap" is directly linked to fragmented business processes and time consuming transactional activities, which prevent efficient information integration and analysis of the business.
But don't take my word for it. Listen to what some of the participants said (the names have been changed to protect both the innocent and the guilty):
"Our number one challenge is to improve the integration and sharing of critical business information between businesses, operations, and technical divisions." -- Finance Operations Executive, Large North American Bank
"We need to break down barriers to sharing key data across and between the other major departments." CFO, Large North American Governmental Agency
In short, what we heard many of them say was: "Mr. CEO, tear down these walls!"
Why Can't We All Just Get Along...Or At Least Get a Better View Into Our Business???"
If you feel lost and alone in your inability to connect all the dots, don't be. Almost 40 percent of companies indicated in the study that they still have separate manual processes and controls to collect compliance data that deliver backward looking "after the fact" reaction to risk events and growth opportunities.
As a result of fragmented systems, 70 percent said they have not yet implemented process and data standards, pursued process simplification, reduced the number of disparate platforms, rationalized budget and forecasting tools, or reduced the number of ERP systems enterprise-wide.
And the struggle was not just limited to the systems. Nearly two-thirds of the respondents indicated that finding and developing people with the appropriate finance and business skills to drive growth also a challenge (Hey, I've got my MBA. Hire me, hire me!)
And finally, and probably most depressingly, over half of the respondents indicated that they struggle to deliver analytics to plan, forecast, and measure business opportunities for profitable revenue growth.
But know this...and I'm only going to say it this once...help is on the way.
Brother, Can You Spare a Real-Time Performance Dashboard?
Here at Big Blue, we believe in actionable intelligence. So as a predicate to the study, our Business Consulting Services (The "Other" IBM, if you have good advertising recall from their TV spots) group suggested a general direction that CFOs and other financial and/or reporting specialists can take to get their businesses closer to the target of those areas previously listed that help them bring more value to their organizations:
1) Enable insight standardize, simplify, then optimize. Financial executives must take the lead in standardizing, simplifying and establishing common processes that rationalize the myriad of finance technologies and tools used today to improve the integration of informationand delivery of insight. Information must also be turned from a passive, closed state into an active "service" that can be leveraged by the organization.
2) Enhance insight -- Financial executives need to consider business intelligence strategies such as performance dashboards to enable financial information to be used to help drive innovation. In mature markets where business model innovation is required to drive growth in new ways against a tide of nimble market entrants, predictive analysis and information is critical to create breakthrough business designs. A dashboard environment, fed by real time data sources, facilitates proactive decision-making and idea sharing by allowing representatives across the company to see the same up to date financial information as the chief executive officer -- in real time. This enables the collaborative, fact-based decision making that is needed to enhance business performance.
I'm NOT a CFO, nor do I play one on TV. But as someone who does have to help regularly report back to our own management on the returns we're getting from our Web site, I would absolutely agree with the direction our friends in BCS are recommending.
Moving forward, being able to obtain and monitor a real-time pulse of the performance of global organizations is going to distinguish the winners from the losers -- markets are moving too quickly, transactions are increasingly constant, and the movers are increasingly going to know what their current position is at any given moment, and, more importantly, also be able to better forecast where it needs to be at X interval.
And the shakers...well, they're going to just...shake.[Read More]
I got really sick this week, which can only be a sign that I have a vacation coming up soon.
I always get sick either near or on vacation...there's not nearly enough stress involved in vacations, except for the planning of them, and when I'm either near or on an actual vacation my body goes into what I call "Destress Autoimmune Defense Syndrome."
As I start my vacation and the stress slowly begins to seep out of my body, it's as though I transform into "The Boy in the Plastic Bubble" and my body is immediately exposed to all sorts of various and sundry illnesses.
If that starts to happen, I try to find something stressful to do to try and shock my body out of vacation mode and back into high stress work mode, even if only for a few minutes. For example, I'll open my laptop and try to get connected to the Internet to get my work email on a really slow POTS connection -- that can really get the stress juices flowing. Or calling into my work voicemail to listen to all the messages piling up or, even better, finding out that the mailbox is full. That also generally gets my stress level back up to a healthy altitude.
Anyhow, my point in bringing all this up was this: As I layed around on my couch feeling all sick and sorry for myself, it occurred to me that I needed a robot.
I don't have a pet. They require a lot of maintenance, particularly where I live, and even with the company they provide, they generally can't run to the fridge for more Gatorade when you're not feeling well.
So it occurred to me that a robot might be just the thing.
One, they don't need a lot of emotional support (well, any really). You can yell at them all you want, or tell them to pick up the laundry, or turn the channel on the remote...you're not going to hurt their feelings, and they have no vested interest in the outcome -- they'll do whatever.
Two, they have a code of conduct, which is entirely appropriate in this post-Sarbanes Oxley compliance world:
Second Law of Robotics: "A robot must obey orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law" [First Law of Robotics: "A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm"]) How many companions come with a set of laws ruling their behavior?
Third, robots are cool. Take Asimo, the next-generation robot from Honda Corporation I read about recently. Asimo is still in his infancy (he's five, actually), but is already learning how to take on simple office work, greet visitors, and fetch refreshments:
"Asimo, more Gatorade, I'm dyin' of thirst on the couch here!"
According to the report, Asimo can also push a cart weighing up to 22 pounds, and can grip and carry a tray of drinks and place it safely on the table:
"Asimo, more Greygoose martinis...Shaken, not stirred!"
But here's the best part: Asimo can now receive remotely sent commands from her master (Me!) via a wireless integrated circuit tag. It's always nice to have a robot to share in the complex unpleasantries sometimes required by social engineering:
"Asimo, go down to the lobby and tell the nice salesperson that I've had a heart attack due to not having gotten enough stress while on vacation, and that I'll get back with them just as soon as I get out of this plastic bubble!"[Read More]
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Today, we announced a very cool program designed to help prompt more collaborative innovation and partnering with the venture capital community. The announcement included a new licensing program with the VC community designed to help startups accelerate the development of innovative solutions.
Here's the gist of it: Our new IBM Ventures in Collaboration program will give VC firms in our partner network and their portfolio companies the opportunity to access a broad range of IBM intellectual property more than 40,000 patents to help drive new innovation. It will also promote the opportunity to partner with the IBM inventor community to access the technology behind the patents.
The program will consist of two types of cross licensing agreements, one specifically designed for early-staged startups generating less than $10 million in revenue, the other designed for later-stage, venture-backed companies with greater revenues. This will help minimize the bureaucracy and accommodate the need to move fast in start-up land. Also, we're going to administer the programs through the companies' investing VCs, as they're closest to the end customer (the startups) who will benefit most from the program.
This announcement follows short on the heels of several other innovation-related announcements we've made over the past 18 months. Previously, we also pledged 500 software patents to the software community, as well as granted open IP access to specific standards bodies and formalized a non-assertion pledge for the Linux kernel.
You can learn more at the IBM Venture Capital Group Website.
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I have this eccentricity I was reminded of when I saw a news story yesterday on CNET about software piracy.
My eccentricity is this: I like to get paid for my work.
I know, that trait probably characterizes me as a staunch capitalist pig, but I'm simply not going to make any apologies for it.
When I was a kid, I often worked for free. I volunteered at a local community theatre...I put in endless hours there, never got a dime, and was happy to do it.
But as a grown-up, what with all the hullaballoo about pensions disappearing faster than you can say "401K," with Social Security dwindling and jobs shifting from one country to another like so many pieces on a virtual chessboard, I've decided that that's it: I gotta get paid!
The good news is is that currently, I am. But when I saw the story talking about about all those pirates sailing around out there across the the vast ocean of business software, I started getting jumpy.
"Shiver me Timbers," I yelled to myself in my best Johnny Depp-fop Captain Jack Sparrow imitation, "if somebody doesn't do somethin' fast, me mateys, we're gonna have a software mutiny on our hands...Arggghh!"
Publish, Pillage and Plunder
The piracy story I read cited a study that suggested that -- and I paraphrase -- software piracy is "rampant, is hampering growth, and is increasingly performed by organized groups regarded as legitimate businesses in some countries." Of course, what one coins a legitimate business these days is highly subject to interpretation. Back in 2000, Enron had climbed the pirate ship's mast and plundered its way to position # 7 on the Fortune 500 list, just above IBM. Turned out there was a lot of fake gold in them thar hulls.
So, this study I mentioned -- issued by the Business Software Alliance -- covered 70 countries accounting for 99 percent of the world's IT spending. It indicated that even now, in 2005, 35 percent of the world's software is pirated, and that a worldwide reduction by even 10-25% points could generate 2.4 million jobs and $400B in economic growth.
Putting that into perspective through my nifty pirate-hunting telescope, according to the CNET story a 35 percent piracy rate is more than 20 times higher than the percentage retail stores lose through shoplifting!
I was never much of a shoplifter myself, but I suspect that if shoplifters at Wal-Mart were getting away with 35% of the merchandise, the National Guard would be called in to patrol the toy section and make sure no Blackbeard dolls were hitching rides out of the store in Jolly Roger backpacks.
So, the next time any of ya's has an urge to pillage any software, remember that it's bad both for the GDP...and my variable pay.
Let me just state it up front: I'm not a Blackberry user. And that's probably a good thing. I'm technoaddicted to enough devices already (my nano, my wi-fi Palm Tungsten C, my Motorola Razr...shall I go on?), and they don't call the Blackberry the "Crackberry" for nothin'. I can just imagine the physical rehabilitation I probably would have already undergone were I to have acquired a Blackberry when I first became familiar with them several years ago.
With the caveat that I'm not a Crackberry addict, however, I want my readers to know that I am extremely sympathetic to your plight and that I stand with you in thumb-numbing solidarity. The mere notion that, without warning, someone could just flip a switch and turn off your your Blackberry, forcing you to cease-and-desist all wireless email communications with your family, friends, your bond trader...well, the idea strikes me as absolutely absurd.
What century do they think we're living in? And all over a little patent dispute?? (Okay, maybe it's not so little, but hey, could all the patent attorneys pause long enough to acknowledge we've got some serious on-the-fly communicating to do here, people!).
While I will not get into the details of said dispute between NTP and Research in Motion (hereafter known as "RIM"), lest I find myself becoming entirely too familiar with my own legal community here at IBM, I will suggest that turning out the Blackberry lights is not necessarily going to be a very good thing for the American or global economy.
The Day the Thumbs Stopped Clicking
The brilliance behind the early marketing of the Blackberry was RIM's targeted focus on putting their device in the hands of Wall Street executives and CIOs, two key areas where early adoption could easily be justified, and, if successful, where word was sure to spread. And it did, like viral wildfire.
In the process, it has become part of our business, cultural, and historical lore. Twelve-step groups have had to be formed to help senior level executives deal with their Crackberry addictions. Shut it down, and I fear we may someday be talking about "Blackberry Monday" just as we do the beginning of the Great Depression or October 19, 1987.
I can see the headlines now:
"The Day the Thumbs Stopped Clicking"
"Wall Streeters Endure Wall of Silence, Market Crash, in Blackberry Crush"
"Traders Thumb Their Thumbs at RIM Patent Dispute: Bring Back Our Berry!"
Can We Use Smoke Signals?
I've already begun formulating my own Blackberry blackout hedge play, which reads like a Basic programming routine: If Blackberry goes dark, sell X shares of Y stock at (Stop-Loss) price.
But forget the stock market for a moment. What about the first responders? If the 9/11 Commission can't get the major broadcasters to give up radio frequency for cops and firefighters to communicate with one another, and their Blackberries are about to get sent back to the intellectual property dispute farm, how are they supposed to communicate with one another in case of emergency??
In some early Native American cultures, three puffs of smoke (or three fires in a row) signified DANGER, TROUBLE, or a CALL FOR HELP.
Puff. Puff. Puff.
Turbo's nano Comes Back to Life After Remarkable Coffee Spill Resuscitation, Life (and Music) Goes On
I was pulling into my local friendly Office Depot in search of some cartridges for my Epson printer last Saturday. My beloved Apple nano iPod was in the seat next to me, cranking out some tunes while plugged into my car stereo system. Life was good.
Then, in an ill-fated instant, I watched my nano's life flash (memory and all) before my very eyes. My coffee cup flew out of its cupholder, almost as if in slow motion, and a wave of Folder's Columbian blend brew (sweetened by some rich Irish Creme creme) folded down into the car seat in a highly-caffeinated tsunami.
The score: Folger's Coffee 1, Apple nano iPod 0
I slammed the car in park and immediately reached down on the car seat to rescue my nano from the Java sea, but it was to no avail...little nano had already become a tune-filled submersible, swimming in a sea of new underwater songs. Or, as the case ended up, not.
Think, I reminded myself. What to do, what to do...Okay, lift nano from coffee sea and shake diligently to try and get the java liquid out. Which I did, before walking sullenly into the Office Depot to get the printer cartridges.
Back at the ranch, I put the nano on my kitchen counter and figured it had to be dried out, at minimum, before I dared turn it back on. Hey, I didn't study electrical engineering at university, but that much seemed obvious.
Later that day, a good friend arrived in Austin and stopped by. I remorsefully explained the situation, and he told me to bathe the nano in some tap or, preferably, some distilled water...then give it a good drying. This is the same guy who told me to put my underwater soaked cell phone of many moons ago into the oven at 120 degrees for about 20 minutes.
Sure, that was a cell phone, I thought. But my nano??? I'm not putting my little nano in the oven!
By this time, all that appeared on the nano screen was some sort of test routine menu, so I figured I had nothing to lose.
The next day, I took a bowl, filled it with Austin's finest tap water, and hesitantly dropped it into the bowl, giving my nano about a 10 minute bath.
That was Sunday. This is Friday.
Yesterday, I plugged the Turbo nano into the charger yesterday and figured I would give it a nice long charge.
I unplugged it today...hit the power button......the color menu appeared -- the nano had resuscitated itself from its coffee-induced coma!
Sheryl Crow now wails in my earbuds, and me, I'm just sitting back in admiration, wondering how the engineers at Apple had planned for such coffee contingencies.
nano, you rock.....again.[Read More]
Last night in San Francisco, Yahoo introduced two new RSS products, integrating an RSS reader directly into the Yahoo Mail Beta and expanding their Alerts to include RSS feeds. You can read about the announcement on TechCrunch.
Yahoo has "gotten" RSS for some time, having introduced one of the first easy-to-integrate browser-based RSS feed readers (and certainly, one of the first that I used). Recently, Microsoft introduced its own RSS-on-the-glass play via Live beta site, which provided for some very cool drag-and-drop portal building capabilities using RSS feeds. I also recently got a sneek peak of the RSS capabilities in the Windows Vista preview, which seemed to make RSS even more idiot proof.
I have a meeting later today with my Web architecture team to discuss how we can ramp up our own RSS implementation, and it has become very clear very quickly in my early explorations that good RSS is as much a cultural and usability transformation as it is an architectural one.
What I think we're seeing with RSS is the transformation of the click-to-find Web experience that dominated in Web One-Point-Oh, where the "hunting and gathering" experience defined how people used the Web. You need something, you go out and find it, either navigating through search engines or laboriously traversing a series of links on a single site or across sites.
RSS is the Domino's Pizza Delivery model, where people can subscribe specifically to the information they seek using RSS and have it delivered to them at their convenience (some call it the "TiVo" of the Internet...I think that doesn't do credence to the real power of RSS, but if it'll help the cause, so be it). While RSS can provide for a more passive Web consuming experience, it can also be more empowering, as it provides for an intelligence that didn't quite exist in Web 1.0
For example, suppose I want to monitor the mentions of a particular competitor -- to be nice, I'll call them the "Idget Widget Corporation" -- but don't have time to go out and constantly surf the Web to keep up with them. Using Technorati Watchlists or keyword monitoring in my own RSS reader, FeedDemon, I'm able to keep a 50K foot view on any number of specific topics, letting the technology do the work by gathering the most appropriate bits out of the ether (in this case, mentions of "Idget Widget" mentioned anywhere on sites that are RSS-enabled), then presenting it to me in a summary, easy-to-consume fashion.
Extrapolate this idea to any variety of things you might need to monitor -- discount deals on Buy.Com...lowered airfares on Travelocity...bids on eBay -- and you can start to better understand why the RSS hype.
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The Wall Street Journal's Jason Fry recently penned an article about the various types of technology consumers.
You can read the full story here, but on this American Thanksgiving holiday a day when the newspaper is chock filled with shoppers sending us all off to the best deals at Best Buy, Circuit City, and a whole smorgasbord of other electronics specialty stores I thought it would be a good time to reflect on technology consumerism.
To summarize Fry's piece, he observes there are five primary types of tech consumers: Elite Tinker, Cutting-Edge Explorer, Faithful Mainstreamer, Bugs-Out-Please Latecomer, and the Disaster Magnet.
Use your imagination as to which one I am.
I was the first in my cubicle farm to buy a Handspring Treo (it quickly ended up making a nice addition in my junked technology closet). I had a wi-fi-enabled Palm Tungsten C well before there were ample hot spots in Austin to effectively use it. And I'll be the first to admit, I'm usually the first to buy any new piece of technology, especially if it's breaking new ground. So yes, I fit into the "Cutting-Edge Explorer" category.
Fry writes that the Cutting Edge Explorer "blows through cellphones like Kleenex" and "spends so much time on help-desk that you're upon the latest Bangalore gossip." Guilty as charged. In fact, I was speaking to one of my new colleagues in Bangalore for well over an hour the other day, trying to troubleshoot my VPN client problems so I could try and get to my work email. This as I'm supposed to be on vacation! Can you say "Loser?" Are you holding an "L" to your forehead so that I get the full impact of the universally accepted sign of "Loserdom"?
My most recent cell phone purchase was a Motorola Razr...I didn't buy it only because it was cool...I dropped my Samsung model while floating in a raft down the Guadalupe River over the summer (Did I think it was somehow waterproof??), and stupid me, I forgot to buy the replacement policy.
That's okay, I thought, as I watched my Samsung burble down into the near clear water (Do they make an underwater-capable cell phones yet??). This will give me a perfect opportunity to go phone shopping!
When it came to the Razr, I just couldn't help myself. It looked way cool, like something straight out of "Star Trek," the price was right, and hey, all the characters on "Alias" have one.
So, I just wanted to give thanks on this Thanksgiving holiday for the opportunity I've been given to be a techno-junkie. The turkey's been eaten, the Best Buy circulars are in full abundance, and the credit card is burning a hole in my pocket. Hello, my name's Todd, and I'm a technoholic.
Now, can you tell me if you have wi-fi in here?[Read More]
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If you're looking for an online "e-tail" bargain while doing your holiday shopping this year, you might want to keep your eyes peeled on the PC during business hours. According to data released this week from Coremetrics, a Web analytics provider, it seems that employees are both buying and browsing from their personal desktop shopping malls.
In a recent e-shopping study retail Web sites apparently received 40 percent more visits and 53 percent more purchasing visits on weekdays than they did on weekend days in September. A majority of those weekday visits and purchases occurred during daytime hours.
Shop 'Til You Drop (Or Can't Stop)
Coremetrics maintains the LIVEmark Index -- an ongoing benchmark for e-business performance to provide comparison data for site-wide performance indicators across more than 175 leading retail brands (including apparel, specialty retail, general merchandise, office and electronics, and numerous other categories) to help index participants better understand their business performance relative to peers and competitors. This information helps companies allocate marketing spend, anticipate threats and e-retailing trends, and make more strategic decisions about site, marketing, and merchandising efforts.
For this particular view into the LIVEmark Index, traffic data was collected during the month of September, 2005. It revealed that 62% of weekday visits to participating sites occurred during daytime hours, between 8:00 AM and 6:00 PM Central Standard Time (CST) in the U.S. Contrast that with the 26% of weekday visits which occurred in the evenings between 6:00 PM and midnight CST, and you can easily conclude there's a whole lot of shopping goin' on at the office.
What Happened to Good Old-Fashioned Office Romance?
Well, it seems that the traditional office romance has been jilted by e-visits to Nordstrom's and Wal-Mart Online.
So, you might ask, what in the world, Mr. Turbo, might I do with such information? You mean, aside from firing your entire workforce for shopping on the company dime?
As a former lead for IBM's interactive advertising efforts, I can tell you the answer is, for starters you need to be considering whether or not your advertising agency or media buyer can help you buy what are called "day-parts," the time slices of a day that were traditionally "bought" by agencies for different types of radio or TV programming -- depending on who the audience is or what they were doing.
For example, radio stations issue dayparts for rush hour, where traffic reports are critical. On TV, prime-time news broadcasts dominate the early evening day part. Saturday and Sunday afternoons are day-parted for sports broadcasts. Why shouldn't the same go for Internet advertising and marketing?
If the Coremetrics LIVEmark Index can provide ongoing evidence that Web site visits occurring during daytime hours on weekdays are 15% more likely to result in a purchase than visits during the evening (which the month of September suggested), then mid-day (read: lunchtime) day-parted ad space on the Internet just got itself a premium.
Meanwhile, be aware when you click on that banner ad during your lunchtime e-shopping excursion. It's not just your boss who's watching.[Read More]
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CNET has been running a special report entitled "Taking Back the Web." The latest dispatch in the 5-part series focuses on mapping "mashups," Web-based applications that are essentially hybrid tools which combine applications like Google Maps with applications such as Craig's List real estate listings (see HousingMaps.Com as a good example.)
While these tools are in their infancy, they're leading the charge to a new wave of innovation in Web 2.0 apps, and providing what I would term "geospatial context" to help find everything from apartments to the best priced gas station in your area. These new apps are, in turn, providing new opportunities for contextual and geo-targeted advertising, a segment of the local advertising market expected to grow to $3.4 billion U.S. by 2009, according to a forecast from The Kelsey Group.[Read More]
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I can't remember the last time I went to a bank. I'm not sure if banks in general think that's a good thing or a bad thing, but I just wanted to put that out there.
I'm not opposed to banks in general. I think they're kind of cool, especially those old ones I used to see growing up in north Texas, the ones that had the really big vaults with the huge crank spinwheels that you had to turn to open the vault door, and that were intended to keep out the likes of Bonnie and Clyde.
The rumor went that Bonnie and Clyde visited the small town I grew up in. I'm not sure exactly what it is they were doing there, although one would have to presume they were there to rob a bank. In an ironic twist of fate, the two people who played Bonnie and Clyde in the movie, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, apparently showed up in my hometown several years later as well...not to rob the bank, but to attend the movie premiere of the movie in which they were playing Bonnie and Clyde. Something strangely harmonically convergent about that.
I say all this because it reminds me of what banks used to be. They were very serious places (at least in Texas) where you kept all your money, and a place you had to actually go to get your money out. But like I said, I haven't been to one in years. My bank is a now a server located somewhere...well, I'm not sure where it's located. But I know I can't visit it, nor would I want to.
While all my friends and colleagues cooed about how dangerous Internet banking was, and how my money could be at risk, I threw all caution to the wind and put all my money online. It was kind of weird, because I couldn't really touch my money, and I couldn't go anywhere to access it, save for an ATM, because my Internet bank had no physical branches. It was just me, a Web site, and the ATM machine. Fortunately, far as I know, my Web site bank has never been held up.
I know my now deceased grandfather would have thought this whole idea very strange. He couldn't have related to the concept that his money could be somewhere in a virtual bank. I think he would have had a hard enough time with the concept of a real bank, of somebody else holding on to his money. But for it to exist in the ether...he'd probably rather chance it with Bonnie and Clyde.
Here's the thing about real banks that you don't get with virtual banks: The smell of the money. You might get a little whiff of it at an ATM, but at a Texas bank in the early 1970s, you could actually smell the money. There was also the wondrous sight of womens' bouffant hair-dos from bank tellers who smiled at you as you looked up at the counter and they asked you if you wanted a lollipop. Or better yet, the drive-through banks where you got to watch your money fly through the ground and pop out, all Jetsons-like, in one of those pneumatic tubes. I always wanted to shrink myself and ride in one of those tubes.
So here's the cool part about working at IBM: We have people who are helping reinvent banks as we know them. An article recently appeared in CMO Magazine entitled "Experience Preferred." In it, the author talks about how IBM and our experiential marketing partner, John Ryan, are using IBM technologies to create experiences and environments to help get people bank into banks (everyone, that is, except for Bonnie and Clyde.)
You can also get a sense of where banking is going by listening to our recent podcast entitled "The Future of Banking." In it, I discovered that many people often speed up when they walk past their bank branches...they apparently have a mental association with banks not unlike that of a visit to the dentist.
Me, I have a pretty positive impression of banks...except that one time in NYC when the ATM ripped me off, giving me $80 instead of the $100 I had asked for.
Where were Bonnie and Clyde then???[Read More]
The news broke today in the Wall Street Journal that Abby Kohnstamm, IBM's senior vice president of marketing -- in essence, if not title, IBM's "chief marketing officer" -- is leaving Big Blue after a 12-year reign.
If you've worked in the marketing discipline at IBM anytime over the past decade, or even in marketing in the technology industry at large, you know that Abby's name has become virtually synonymous with the dramatic impact in marketing that occurred at IBM under her watch.
It's no secret that, historically, IBM has been a very sales-focused culture, with marketing often an afterthought. But as the Big Blue ship teetered on the abyss in 1991-93, and after Lou Gerstner took the helm, Abby and her collective team -- along with our friends at Ogilvy and Mather Worldwide -- worked virtually around the clock to breath new life into the IBM brand as they helped redefine what we stood for as a company, one committed to helping our customers bring new value to their businesses around the globe, to articulate the key role the Internet would play in that transformation, and even to leverage that new medium as a key channel for delivering our e-business message where our audience lived and breathed.
From those early "Solutions to a Small Planet" commercials (the ones with the nuns and contemplative Frenchmen walking along the Seine?) to the recent "Help Desk" campaign, the ground-breaking advertising that Abby's global marketing team produced was an external reflection of the vast, hard fought organizational work going on behind the scenes to build and refine a professional marketing discipline inside IBM.
For those of us who have practiced in that discipline -- from market intelligence to interactive marketing (my own specialty) -- the instruction and experience that this transformation produced helped formulate not only a career path, but also a great deal of pride among its practitioners. We watched the emergence and evolution of both discipline and message -- ones which would reshape the consciousness of the company inside and out, something any effective marketing effort should aspire to accomplish.
So, Abby, we thank you for all your hard work, persistence, and leadership, and we wish you the very best in your new endeavors. You leave behind a legacy of marketing excellence that any successor would be hard pressed to follow.
More importantly, you leave behind the tools and expertise future marketers at IBM will need for marketing to a much smaller planet than the one you found when you first arrived.[Read More]
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This story appeared from the Associated Press this morning: Europe apparently has a digital divide. According to the article, the EU stats agency Eurostat gathered data from across the 25-nation EU bloc and found that there was a gap in Internet and computer usage between those over and under 50 years of age.
The study suggests the divide is more due to an educational gap than a cultural one: 85% of school or university students aged 16 to 24 use the Internet, while only 13% of people aged 55 to 74 did. And only 25% of those who had not completed high school used the Internet. That figure rose to 52% for those with a secondary school diploma, and to 77% for college or university graduates.
Internet use was highest in the Nordic countries (Denmark 76%), Finland (70%), Sweden (82%)...while the lowest rates were in Greece (20%). You know, the place where they hang out on the beaches of Santorini, kick back and drink Ouzo all day. Who needs the Internet when you have Ouzo???
Of course, you could take the Luddite contrarian view from Wired writer Tony Long, in which case less technology means more sanity, and we should all head out to Walden Pond for a little healthy binge of technowithdrawal.
I'm hip to that program...but, uh...is it okay if I bring along my Motorola Razr, just in case?[Read More]
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As disenfranchised youth run rioting in the streets of Paris, CNET reported on some other interesting news emerging out of France: That the Direction Generale des Impots, the French tax authority, plans to deploy the open-source office productivity application OpenOffice.Org on over 80,000 of its PCs.
Mon dieu! The move is expected to save the French government, which is also investigating a subsequent migration to Linux desktops, some 29.3M Euros (~$34.5M).
No wonder Microsoft announced a new Web software strategy in memos leaked to several major media earlier this week. In the memo penned by former Lotus Notes guru Ray Ozzie, he outlines, among other things, his vision for advertising-supported software.
Coming to a banner near you: Windows Office Live for the Web, Brought to You by Calvin Klein -- Between love and madness lies Obsession [with Google]
Finally, speaking of obsession, our very own Irving Wladawsky-Berger made his own announcement about what one journalist called our new "blog-spotting" software. It's officially-sanctioned IBM name is "Public Image Monitoring Solution" (our naming team at Big Blue is certifiably not the most creative outfit on the planet). The software allows companies to monitor and analyze blogs, wikis, news feeds, newsgroups, and other community-generated content in real-time.
As soon as I get my personally-signed CD copy from Irving, I plan to monitor the inactivity transpiring in my own blog in near real-time.[Read More]