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I took the kids to see Shrek 2 today.
Good movie. Thumbs up and all that. Fun for the whole family. (The image is from Cinepop in Brazil.)
The Dreamworks picture is breaking all sorts of box office records. And the use of technology is astounding. I actually recognized Jennifer Saunders (as the Fairy Godmother) before she spoke -- computer animation has gotten that good.
But the theater where we saw it was practically empty. Now, this was a matinee, and the movie was playing on six of the theater's 18 screens. But the place was empty.
This got my spidey-sense tingling. (Sorry, wrong movie.) Let's just say it made me think.
I have wondered for months why motes, sensor networks, Zigbee, and nanotechnology don't draw more press coverage. Some of these markets are worth billions, right now. And they are going to revolutionize the world. Always-On will come.
Then, this morning, Howard Lovy explained it all to me.
That's not derision you hear from me today. It's admiration. Because what he writes is right on point, and important.
A Malaysian paper, The Star, has a derisive story about Intel that makes a good review on what I like about them.
While describing its "mote" sensor network as old, a quick read reveals that, even if it is old, it's still real, real cool:
Every industry will follow the money. Its events will be held where its markets are, or where its developers are. And the markets always have an opportunity to lure developers to them, through those events.
Thus, next month represents a great opportunity for Detroit in the history of Always-On. (This lovely photo of downtown Detroit, a view few people today associate with that great city, is from American-Products Publishing, which is based in Oregon.)
The Zigbee Alliance meeting in Seattle recently showed just how far this technology is from the computing mainstream.
A very small company called Ember was basically able to "take over."
Ember raised itself to "promoter" status within the alliance, which now has 70 members. Ember sponsored the Seattle meeting. Ember delivered the main address.
Then, the next week, Ember made the big news, having its implementation chosen as the test bed for Zigbee compliance.
The music industry came very close to offloading the costs of enforcing its view of copyright onto you, the taxpayer.
Credit for their failure (so far) must go to a Republican, Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota.
I've learned from cartoons of two big lies we tell our children. (That's Yugioh, a Japanese cartoon character my kids like, from RedJupiter.com.)
We tell them that evil people know they're evil, that they stand for evil, and that they have evil intent. We give them lines like "Bwa-ha-ha-ha!"
Second, we tell them that the battle of good and evil can be solved, that the story can be ended, that we can be happy ever after. We're going to end this, the hero will say, "once and for all."
Not only hasn't the CAN-SPAM act canned spam, it has resulted in an explosion of the stuff across the pond. (The image was cached by Google, but originally published in China.)
Some 70% of all e-mail is now spam, and it's going to be 80% in just a few months. Porn is no longer the big problem. Now it's drugs and finance scams.
Solving the problem is going to be increasingly difficult, however, because the U.S. continues to insist on legalizing "spam-that-is-not-spam."
You may remember how, during CTIA, I harped on how the cellular industry was rapidly entering the computing mainstream and the industry didn't have a Clue about it? (The image is from a cellular re-seller, but look at the whole page to see how far from next year's reality these people are.)
Here is more evidence. Toshiba's stand at a monitor trade show in Seattle this week will feature new cellular phone displays that can take input as well as output in very high resolution.
Given The New York Times' poor record with stories like the Iraq story (which they have acknowledged) maybe I shouldn't be upset over a single snarky headline. (Although one good snark deserves another -- I found this illustration at the Long Hair Care Group.)
I will also stipulate that journalist Steve Lohr isn't responsible for this: R.I.P.: The Counterculture Aura of Linux. And the rest of the story is fairly responsible.
But since thousands of top executives won't get past the headline, and are bound to conclude from this that Linux is about 35-year old hippie stereotypes, it burns me up nonetheless.
Buried deep in a story about Dell's printer strategy is a unique take that deserves applause.
I'll now hand it to The Register:
The 1700 toner cartridges are cheaper too, costing $89 for up to 6,000 pages apparently a 35% cost-per-page saving, if compared to other companies' cartridges.
The dirty secret of the printer business is it's a razor blade business. The dirty secret of Lexmark is its move to use copyright laws to prevent others from selling ink to its customers. Ink is practically free (when compared with the price of the cartridges they come in).
Dell is going to make a huge profit at those ink prices, absolutely massive. But if other companies (like Lexmark) decide to challenge it, this could be the start of a price war consumers will get real benefit from.
But there have been two follow-on stories that help explain it. (The image of the Comcast logo is from CNN.)
Until it returns, please use my alternate e-mail address.
We all want to believe that at least some crooks are capable of rehabilitation.
But as I've said before here, that's not the way we think when the accused are corporations, or even corporate officers.
In those cases it seems to be rehabilation first, then punishment.
Last week I mentioned several examples -- MCI and Putnam, Citigroup and Janus. Pay the fine, go to bankruptcy, maybe you don't have to admit to anything at all.
Here's a more egregious example -- Richard Strong of Strong Capital.
The biggest mistake Microsoft has made over the last decade is to confuse media with computing. (The illustration, by the way, is part of a satire.)
It's an easy mistake to make. Computing is now central to the production and distribution of all media. This is a big source of end-user and corporate computing demand.
There was great rejoicing in Redmond last week, I'm certain, when Comcast announced it would use Microsoft's DVR software.
So what could be wrong? Plenty.
My late father was no saint.
But consider the record.
Frederick H. Blankenhorn (1920-1999) had an 8th grade education yet raised four children in suburban plenitude. Among us we have seven college degrees, four marriages, no divorces, no felonies, and our kids are all doing all right. How many Hiltons or Kennedys or even Bushes could say the same?
My Dad had an unerring ear for what was coming. He got out of TV repair just before computers made it obsolete. He built a water garden and a mulch pit in the 1960s when such things were unheard of. He was into heat pumps in the 1950s, and our homes always appreciated in value.
But in the end it will do them no good.
SBC is taking this strike to reduce its labor costs. It thinks that will save it.
But the problem at SBC isn't labor costs. It's that the value of its installed plant, its capital, is depreciating in line with Moore's Law, while much of it was bought on 30-year assumptions.
The impact of Moore's Law accelerates with time. It doesn't decelerate.
Labor costs can only decline arithmetically, in other words, while the impact of what's happening is growing geometrically -- downward.
Now I'm going to write about something I know nothing about, Indian politics.
I have written twice here about India's election. The result was an upset, and personally I give former prime minister Vajpayee all the praise in the world for running a fair election and accepting the results. (Kudos also go to former Spanish Prime Minister Aznar in this regard, and to any other leader who allows the verdict of the people to be heard, and to stand.)
But back to Mrs. Gandhi.
Sprinter Kelli White admits she used performance enhancing drugs and, despite a lack of "drug test" evidence, has accepted punishment. She won't run in 2004.
For this she's being condemned from here to Sydney and back. (In fact, the picture is from the Sydney Morning Herald.)
I can feel her pain.
To which I respond, big deal. (The image is from here.)
What happens when one of your favorite companies is bought by one of your least-favorite companies? (The image of a Symantec balloon is from a Brazilian blog.)
Well, you hope they overpaid, for starters. And in the case of Symantec's purchase of Brightmail, it's mission accomplished.
I've said this many times, but I'll say it again.
Better identity would be a great boon to the technology industries. (Image from Region-Zero.Com.)
But we're not going to get there by making it mandatory, as the UK is trying to do. A poll there, where the government is trying to mandate identity cards over the next few years, shows 28% ready to demonstrate against the scheme, and 6% ready to go to prison rather than comply.
Yet better, more reliable identity is absolutely necessary to reduce crime, including terrorism.
So what do we do?
Google is trying to reclaim the high ground in add-in software through redefinition.
But whatever its own motives, others are using the same concept in far more sinister ways. They push pop-up ads that block others' sites. They steal data on your Internet usage and sell it. Or they hide what malware inside their packages.
All this infects the credibility of every software vendor, including Google.
But can Google really turn things around?
This, to me, is very good news indeed.
The fact is 802.11, like blogging, has no viable business model. Just offering access for a fee is not going to work. To be useful access has to do something, it has to provide a real service.
Coffee shops offer this access, for the price of a cup (and maybe a roll on the side). But there are many, many other ways to get value from that access. You can create services, within a shop, which use that access for useful work. (I'm not going to tell you what those things are because I haven't totally figured them out myself.)
Nick Denton ran a game on freelance writer Greg Lindsay recently, resulting in a big Business 2.0 story that made him out to be clever, when he was just trying to be honest. (Denton image from Microcontent News.)
Honestly, no one has really figured out how to profit from blogging. Not Nick Denton. Not his so-called arch-rival, Jason Calacanis. Certainly not Corante's Hylton Joliffe. Oh, and by the way certainly, certainly not yours truly.
So let me repeat the key Clue one more time, because it's at the heart of the preconceptions Lindsay brought to his story.
Time for some good news.
The race for the XPrize is coming down to the wire.
To win the $10 million, however, a contestant must reach a height of 62.5 miles, in a craft capable of carrying three people, and do it again within two weeks of the first launch.
But wait...the clock is ticking.
The TV financial news today is filled with ads for outfits that, to my way of thinking, should not be sucking financial oxygen.
There's MCI and Putnam Investments. There are Citigroup and Janus Funds. Tyco is still around (it's making money I hear). Even Enron has yet to be totally liquidated.
What happens when you or I commit a crime is we are tried and convicted. This is very hard to do when the crime is done with a pen, behind the corporate shield. The states' batting average is low. What usually happens, instead, is that the company pays a fine -- sometimes a massive fine -- but usually without admitting wrongdoing. The cover-up, in other words, winds up being sanctioned by the court.
Add to that the complete failure of corporate governance in catching these crooks before the vaults are looted, and you have what I call Dracula Inc., corporate immortality, and immortal immorality. (Somehow, Bela Lugosi will always be Dracula to me, and obviously, to the folks at Shillpages too.)
I think it's time to stick a stake through some corporate hearts.
AT&T's sale of its AT&T Wireless division to Cingular for $41 billion should count as the best scam of the century -- so far.
What Cingular thought it was buying was the AT&T name, exclusive rights to frequencies and an end to competition keeping prices down.
But Sprint has thrown a monkey wrench into its plan, simply by wholesaling the capacity of its PCS network. Thus, AT&T won't be out of the market when the sale closes (although its current customers will be confused, converted into Cingular accounts). Virgin and Qwest are also wholesaling Sprint's capacity under their names.
This story, however, could become far more important. (The logo above is from one of Sprint's fine PR counsel.)
Way back in high school, nearly 35 years ago now, I lost my first newspaper job. (The illustration is from a Buddhist temple. Cute, huh? Keep reading for enlightenment.)
Well it wasn't a job, actually. I was canned from the school newspaper, along with the rest of the staff, after some editorials appeared against the Vietnam War.
Most of the "old" staff did what you expect. They went to their parents and got the money to distribute their own paper, one that was just as slick as the regular paper.
I took a different route. I went to the market. I sold ads. I kept my costs down and generally broke even. Kept it up for nearly three years.
The lesson stuck with me. Begging isn't a business model.
I associate this lesson with conservatism, but in our time it's often ignored. Young conservatives have an easy time getting money -- from parents, from foundations, and from publishers more interested in propaganda than truth.
Anyone else is left to beg.
Here's a note to the beggars. Get off your knees.
Service here may be sporadic for a time.
Some spammer is mailbombing me. (The image is from the University of Alaska, thankfully from an April Fool's column in the student newspaper. This note, unfortunately, is no joke.)
It began a few days ago, hundreds of identical spams, some loan scam. Then yesterday came literally thousands more, from a "Theodore Jensen," the same scam. And today, along with the Jensens came thousands more, with a "from" address of "home rate," at fastemailer.com.
Worse, my daughter is being bombed as well. It's a different "from" address, and a different "offer" (insurance this time). But it's a mailbombing, no doubt. Hundreds and hundreds of identical e-mails, and calls from my Web host to increase my storage (for more money), which they bail on when I tell them why my box is so full.
One more thing. You may be unable to respond to these posts for a time. Someone else is "comment spamming," going deep into the stack of posts, leaving "attaboy" comments with long strings of X-rated links. The way Movable Type works these are hard to get rid of. There are solutions about, however, and I hope Corante avails itself of them soon.
Gordon Moore's 1964 prediction was based on the idea that we could shrink the size of components indefinitely. (Oh, and yes the title of this is a pun.)
If you limit your look at Moore to that one point, last week's announcement by Intel that it will change the way it looks at chips is, indeed, Gordon Moore's Last Sigh. (What, you haven't bought the book yet? What's wrong with you?) That method for increasing chip speeds is, henceforth, inoperative. (Picture of Gordon Moore from CNN.)
But Moore's Law is going to keep on keeping on. Moore's article cited a method for making chips faster, but Moore's Law itself was really a challenge to the industry, to keep those improvements going. Here's how the challenge will be met:
My Indian readers may be in a panic today over the sudden collapse of their stock market, so for their benefit, let me offer a little history lesson.
America's stock markets crashed periodically throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. These were known as "panics" and were given by year. The Panic of 1837, the Panic of 1893, the Panic of 1907. Enormous quantities of capital were wiped-out, and government intervention was demanded.
The intervention came, but stock collapses didn't stop taking the economy with them until decisive action was taken.
That action was the 1934 creation of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Well, it wasn't just the SEC's creation, but the ascension of its first chairman, Joseph P. Kennedy.
Yeah, as in father-of-Kennedy. That Kennedy. Ever wonder how the old bird got his dough? He was a stock market swindler, one of the best in the 1920s. Knew all the tricks. Used them, too. The story is he got out before the crash because he heard the shoe shine boys talking about their own stock picks, and recognized the market had grown frothy.
A quick glance toward the comments at the right will show you a disturbing trend.
Increasing numbers of you are going anonymous, creating "stunt double" identities you hide behind.
I can understand the reasoning. I'm being mailbombed right now by a spammer who obviously found my e-mail address in some public place. And it's not just spam and e-mail. Credit card outfits are now offering "stunt double" numbers, which you use once then throw away, to limit identity theft. (This is actress Nicki Aycox' stunt double, from Creature-Corners.)
The court jester may be the most misunderestimated figure in the medieval pantheon. (You can look like this for just $225 from Fashionsintime.)
It’s said his role was to sit at the King’s shoulder and remind him of his mortality. The role is played today entirely for laughs. But the jester was also the first free press. For his japes to hit home they had to bite. They had to tell the truth, and skirt that dangerous line between truth-telling and sedition. Laughter got the medicine down.
The role was vital, because Kings who didn’t hear the other side, or who refused to listen, could become deluded. They would over-reach and fall, hard, losing not just their own lives but those of their families and all their worldly goods. “The play’s the thing, wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King.” Without a conscience, a King was just a tyrant and had no legitimacy.
Whenever anyone suggests that the quality of writing doesn't matter so much as the truth of what you're saying, I point them to Kurt Vonnegut. (The image is from an iText primer at Sourceforge.)
Vonnegut, now 81, is one of the great writers of our time and, thank goodness, he's still got it. As with Picasso, Lennon and the other great artists, he can throw off brilliance easily, casually, almost without thinking. It's awesome.
Every day we get from him is something I treasure. So is every word. As with everything he has ever written, his message for our time is frightening, apocalyptic, and compelling:
Rep. Rick Boucher of Virginia (pictured from his own Web site) worked on the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. He was clued-in to both sides, and saw the result as a compromise, between the need to protect copyright and the equal need to protect fair use.
The industry violated the agreement. The industry pushed judges and public opinion toward rejecting the very idea of fair use, equating even legitimate back-ups with "piracy."
So Boucher is trying to redress the balance. It's an uphill climb.
I don't claim to be a seer. But sometimes, thanks to my history degree, I guess right.
My own view remains what it was on Monday. Computers are having the same effect machines had a century ago. They save on labor costs, raising productivity. But that means there are fewer jobs. And a demand comes from all workers, especially those left out of the prosperity, for equity.
In many countries this gave rise to socialism, even communism. In our country it gave rise to the Progressives, the Populists, and (after a complete systemic collapse) the New Deal.
There are great lessons in this result for America.
There's a huge market boom coming in cellular data. (Image from the Bell System Memorial.)
This is because the use of nVidia graphics technology, combined with 3G networks, are rapidly bringing cell phones into the computing mainstream.
But greed is causing the industry, most especially Verizon, to miss the boom.
Until recently I had no idea Microsoft made hardware (other than mice and keyboards), let alone that they were in the Wi-Fi business. (Image from GeekTimes.)
While I think the company did the right thing by killing the unit they're missing a Key Clue that would let them make a ton of money in this space.
Are you listening, Redmond?
I'm a big Guy Kewney fan. He knows what he's talking about, and he writes really, really well. (The picture is from his old eWeek column.)
His latest discovery is snarfing. Specifically he's talking about "bluesnarfing," abusing bad Bluetooth stacks to get inside peoples' cell phones.
As Guy notes, this is a problem with a few Bluetooth stacks. Easy to fix with updating, or by using something better. But Guy, naturally, has found an ignorant someone shouting about this as though the sky is falling. And, to make it more fun, it's an authority figure, this time the wondrously-named Sir Archy Kirkwood, president of the House of Commons Commission.
My sainted bride is working at home today, but I have a secret about her. (The genius is to the left in this picture, the hack writer to the right.)
She's brilliant. Really. Not only can she program in COBOL, Assembler, and anything else you want to throw at her, she can explain what she's doing, and what her programs are doing, in clear, concise English. She understands not just how her programs work, but how they can work better. (She types fast, too.)
This makes her, in terms of the software business, a quintessential American. That's the conclusion of a recent MIT research report on software development, which indicates that America still holds its lead in this area. (Warning. That's a big honking PDF file in the last link.)
(We'll now pause while some in the crowd thump chests and shout U.S.A.! at one another very loudly.)
My "campaign" (actually a cry in the dark) to get Ev Williams a golden Google parachute caught the attention of Marc Canter, whose note on the subject lent me unexpected support. (Marc photo courtesy of the great Fred Davis.)
First let's be clear. Marc opposes my idea. "Give It Time" is his headline.
But a few paragraphs below that, he offers what I think is ample evidence that EvHead's (that's his nickname, EvHead) time should be up:
Within a few years there will be more "things" (intelligent devices) on the Internet than people.
This is not a bad thing. In fact it is a very good thing. (The illustration is from a Forbes article on RFID, reprinted at Mindfully.Org.)
Here's one example. Philips is developing a Zigbee-based garment that can monitor your physical condition, diagnose problems, and alert you or a doctor if something goes wrong.
The law, under Betamax, is you have a right to tape copyrighted material for your own use.
But that result was never fully accepted by the movie industry, which continues to proceed as though the decision did not exist.
I don't like John F. Kerry. But I will vote for him.
I feel, now, that I must. To do otherwise is to endorse the horrors of Abu Ghraib. (The picture is from a site whose opinion here differs from mine, called Enter Stage Right. Consider it a form of equal time.)
I'm hearing a lot of rationalizations for those horrors, and the rationalizations, if anything, disgust me more than the horrors. The conduct was by "only a few." (No, it was systemic.) Our troops have performed heroically and selflessly. (Accepted, but this makes those sacrifices worthless.) The Geneva Convention doesn't apply to "terrorists." (The victims here were not proven terrorists.) What about Fallujah? (It happened many months later.) What about 9/11? (Iraq had nothing to do with it.)
You can't just fight fire with fire. You need water.
In over 20 years as a freelance journalist I've always had the same policy. No one pays me until they are satisfied.
Could computerization be pushing the world's democracies leftward? (Image from the BBC.)
Exhibit A is India. Despite American paranoia over outsourcing, the fact is jobs are still very hard to come by there.
As The New York Times reported last week, India's economy is growing like gangbusters but the prosperity hasn't been trickling down quickly enough to rural villages, which are becoming as economically bankrupt as North Dakota farming communities, and for the same reasons.
My lovely bride and I went PDA shopping last week and made an amazing discovery.
The PDA is dead. (PDA image is from nec.com.tw
I say this with some confidence having looked not just at what BestBuy had to offer (which was not much) but at how little attention the store was paying to what it did have. Neither Palm nor Windows versions of the form factor were moving, and the chain had obviously given up.
LA Times editor John Carroll made a very important speech at the University of Oregon recently.
But since it fell against his industry's fear and the Administration's power, it made no sound.
Carroll spoke against the propaganda of Fox News and other lying liars, and for the tenets of journalism that now seem so quaint, the idea of balance, of giving both sides an equal say, and of looking for truth.
That journalism is obsolete, and Carroll mourned it.
But as I've said many times here, that journalism was short-lived. Men who saw it rise have lived to see if fall.
Its aim is to keep blogging simple. You can blog via e-mail. There are new templates and profile pages.
But if you have blogged before, as I have, you will still find that other tools are still much better. Movable Type is better. Radio is better. Scoop is much, much better.
And that's why I say that Blogger founder, and now Google officer, Ev Williams must go.
There has always been a basic incompatibility between democracy and computing. (The illustration of our basic thesis is from OpenP2P.Com.)
It's that computing is a binary system. It's on-or-off. When you get enough light bulbs you can model anything. You can make it appear that you've got a fully analog system. But it's still binary.
The binary choice in Internet governance is between anarchy and absolutism.
Here's anarchy. A new set of file-trading protocols are coming out that further frustrate the RIAA through the use of encryption, anonymity, and the use of multiple IP addresses to further mask identity.
Here's absolutism. It's about a plan by big business and big government to "lock down" the Net, eliminating anonymity and giving the copyright industries absolute control over everything that is produced, seen, and passed along a digital pathway.
Personally, I'm in neither camp. I doubt many people really are in either camp. The so-called absolutists say they just want to enable the enforcement of existing laws. The so-called anarchists say they want to enable the enforcement of existing rights. See, both sides are, at heart, quite reasonable.
The soap opera known as SCO vs. Linux is about to reach its climax. (SCO also stands for Soap Creek Outfitters, makers of fine bath products.)
The ending, however, will be quiet, hidden, and seem anti-climactic.
The Register reports that BayStar Capital, which was Microsoft's "beard" in putting SCO Group up to this legal mess, is quietly buying up others' interest in SCO and preparing a takeover.
The result of the takeover, I predict, is that the legal war will quietly go away.
Intel's decision to turn away from straight-ahead development of its Pentium IV and Xeon lines, in favor of putting all its eggs in low-power chips, is a big, big deal.
For starters it's another illustration of Moore's Second Law, which holds that as chips get more complex they get more expensive to make. Even Intel can't do it all any more. (Buy the image as your wallpaper here.)
But the choice Intel has made has yet to be properly analyzed. When it is, the decision will be seen to be, In My Humble Opinion (IMHO), very, very wise.
In one minute they changed the nature of the debate, from one between brutality and rationality to one between anarchy and order.
Millions of Americans, seeing and hearing these idiots, began rationalizing everything that happened at Abu Ghraib, in the same way that the Chicago Sun-Times cartoonist Jack Higgins rationalized it. They stopped listening to the evidence, hearing only anger, hatred, and their own fear.
For many, many Americans, the 9/11 attacks had the effect that the 1933 Reichstag fire had on Germans a few generations ago. They made any evil rational, as self-defense.
Evil never has evil intent. Evil is only done in the name of what the evil-doer considers a higher good. Thus it has always been, thus it is.
The fools who interrupted the Rumsfeld hearing did evil, great evil, in the same way as those they sought to interrupt.
I can't say any more than that.
I'm a little suspicious of this Slashdot piece on gas plasma antennae.
In theory, it sounds nifty, and not just for security. If you have an antenna that can fix the field in which it operates precisely, then you can build 802.11 home networks whose range doesn't extend off the porch, that don't go into the next yard.
However, as one Anonymous Coward wrote at Slashdot, "Oh wait. I see. It's a press release from a startup company. Never mind." Exactly.
Zigbee's present is in industry, not medicine.
Just last month Ember signed an exclusive deal to represent the Zigbee technologies of Cambridge Consultants Ltd., in the UK. The Cambridge site has a page on medical applications. But Ember's products, specifially the EM2420 radio chip and Embernet networking software, are mainly focused on industrial automation, defense, building automation and utilities.
There's always talk of politicians or pundits contradicting themselves. But what most people don't know is that companies do this all the time.
Take the case of Philips, and the technology called Zigbee.
Zigbee is a standard for low bit-rate, very low-power transmissions that could happen in the 802.11 frequency space. Such "sensor networks" would be a key component in the World of Always-On. (The illustration of the Zigbee Alliance logo is from Figure8Wireless, a Zigbee proponent.)
Philips is an original member of the Zigbee Alliance, which gets together in Seattle later this month.
What's their stand? Turns out it depends on who you talk to.
Microsoft will try to legalize spam-that-is-not-spam through an agreement with IronPort to support its marketer shake-down technology. (The picture comes from Noticiasdot, a nifty Spanish-language computing publication, and proof that spam, not love, is the universal language.)
The result? Microsoft will let spam-that-is-not-spam (marketing messages from marketers who claim they honor opt-outs and have real stuff to sell) through its filters, into the inboxes of MSN and Hotmail users. The spammers will pay a bond and sign a contract, and Microsoft will collect the bond if they fail.
But what are the marketers really buying?
Having finished my work on residential gateways, I am more convinced than ever there is a huge opportunity here for someone. (Illustration from Parc.com.)
It won't be the phone company. Consumers don't trust the telcos and there is no law requiring that the ISP serving a gateway must be the one providing your local access service.
It may not be a router company either. There are big problems with present wireless LANs. Their reach is spotty, and boosting their signal only means the neighbors can get on your network.
The big opportunity lies in the middle. The big unmet need is for security.
The cheap answer is Seattle.
Members of the Zigbee Alliance will be in Seattle May 17-21 for their annual meeting (with a press event May 19 at the Hotel Monaco), where they hope to address limitations in the standard with a new effort. (The picture, by the way, is the cover from a 2001 market research report on Zigbee by Mareca Hatler and Michael Ritter.)
As Atmel's Zigbee page makes clear the present version of the standard, dubbed 802.15.4 by the IEEE, calls for devices that can shoot data from 1-75 meters and run for 100-1,000 days.
It sounds like a lot, but with last year's chip technology, it wasn't good enough to cause a big market splash. Philips appears to have backed away from Zigbee entirely, moving participation from its semiconductor group to its lighting group.
The answer, it seems, is a new, improved standard, 802.15.4a.
What made the Internet work was the fact that it was a royalty-free, open standard. You could build on it, but there was no admission price for using it, so everyone did. (Illustration from the Daily Telegraph.)
But since the emergence of the Internet, in the mid-1990s, we've had the copyright wars and the rush to patent everything in sight. This trend is going to slow western companies going forward, and give the future (in my view) to Asian companies that innovate first and call the lawyers only after the market is won.
You can see this trend in action around Zigbee.
That's because it sits at the "sweet spot" of Always-On, where radios and cheap chips can create revolutions.
As a PDF overview of the standard makes clear, Zigbee is designed as a low power, low bandwidth, low range radio standard. Doesn't sound like much, until you realize what this enables.
It means you can have single-chip radio computers that transmit data when necessary, and run for years. The single-chip could be a medical monitor, or it could be an enviromental monitor. Combine this with the price-performance breakthroughs we're seeing in biochips and we have the Always-On revolution.
While in Seattle recently on business, I drew an interesting challenge from a friend. (The image is linked from VNUnet.com.)
We were talking about residential gateways. His premise was that phone companies will force these on people, that folks won't be allowed to resist carrier control of their Internet service. "Can you refuse them?" he asked.
Well yes, I can. Even if a carrier tries to give me a gateway as the price of getting their service, I don't have to use it as they intend. Whether the Internet remains a dumb pipe, or where the intelligence to control it will be found, is still up to me, I said.
This week, Microsoft is testing that proposition, by forcing a new view of copyright on users through its Janus technology.
Warren Buffett, "the sage of Omaha," always has a lot to teach at his annual meeting, no matter your politics.
This year, Buffett was joined by a co-star, 77 year-old, Los Angeles-based Berkshire-Hathaway vice chairman Charlie Munger. Many felt Munger stole the show. (Personally, I always look to the straight man -- he's usually the better gag-writer.)
But no matter. Warren Buffett was never about star power, but about investing discipline. And he's still got it. Following are some highlights from this year's Buffettfest:
Science is not to be believed. (That's Bill Nye the science guy.)
Science is about proof, and more important, it's about use. The best answers are those that result in new questions, new experiments, new discoveries, new inventions.
Science is filled with ambiguity. We don't know what we don't know. And science can "change its mind." It has many times, in our lifetime, and it will continue to do that.
But while science is not to be believed, those who don't believe in science, those societies that don't value it, nurture it, and embrace it, are doomed.
Science doesn't care about Jesus, or Jefferson. So when you read that the U.S. is losing its lead in science, be very, very afraid.
John Doerr left the Rice University campus about three months before I arrived there, in 1973. So to see him written up by The New York Times as "the old prospector" is a bit painful. (That's Doerr, second from left next to Robin Williams, with Google founders Brin and Page to his right, from the Times article.)
The Times used the headline because Doerr's firm, Kleiner Perkins, stands to make a tidy fortune from the Google IPO. The article also makes clear that Doerr has backed some losers over the years. It doesn't detail how bad he was hurting during the Internet bust. But such is the nature of venture capital.
Normally I would ignore the hype. But this IPO offers important issues, chief among them the power of Wall Street to control the financial markets.
While the markets are located around Wall Street, brokers should not be controlling them. Yet they have controlled them, for over a century, manipulating prices through "analyst reports" with clear conflicts of interest.
And in this case, the conflict is manifest, because it's in the analysts' interest that this IPO fail.
As previously mentioned I have been engaged in a study of residential gateways.
These are products that combine a DSL modem, a wireless router, and software so ISPs can customize their services and consumers can build home networks.
The early foot in this business went to 2Wire, a relatively small California company that practically defined the space with their HomePortal gateway. (This image of their HomePortal, by the way, comes from GCN. The 2Wire site itself relies heavily on Flash, which makes images hard to link.)
The folks at 2Wire have been fairly quiet lately, although most observers believe they still hold the confidence of SBC, their biggest ISP customer. If SBC stays committed to the company, 2Wire could even become profitable and go public.
But they're not resting on their laurels. In fact they're about to launch the industry's biggest challenge to date.
Many complaints have been issued over the Jack Kelley scandal at USA Today. (Image from Doingbiz.com.)
The complaint was that the scandal drew only a small portion of that which came over The New York Times when black reporter Jayson Blair was revealed to have made up sources. Blair is black, Kelley white.
That may be. But the fact is that the Times did finally dump editor Howell Raines, and added ombudsman (excuse me, public editor) Daniel Okrent to the masthead.
The fact is also that USA Today has gone much further. Not only did several top editors quit, but the new editor is Kenneth Paulsen, who formerly ran the First Amendment Center, a staunch defender of writers' rights and editors' responsibilities.
Attrition.Org shows how to deal with pushy lawyers, in this case those from Chick-fil-A, the excellent chicken sandwich restaurant whose ad campaign features cows urging you to "eat mor chickn."
Gateway was always a follower, not a leader. It followed Dell into custom manufacturing, but while Dell moved into computers-as-capital-goods (selling servers and business systems), Gateway followed home computing down the consumer electronics rathole. (The illustration is courtesy CertifiedInstructors, a training school.
Its differentiator became its stores, which morphed into consumer electronics palaces, but they lacked the buying power of Best Buy and the cost control of Wal-Mart -- they never had a chance.