More on Email’s Future

Salon features comments by four Internet pioneers — Dave Farber, Dave Crocker, Brad Templeton and Jakob Nielsen — on what to do with email. Some comments:

Farber: Authentication of addresses would help an awful lot. A lot of the spam is forged, and we’ve know for 30 years that e-mail has this problem, and nobody seems to want to invest in fixing it. You need to encourage and maybe fund technology that lets a user authenticate that mail comes from who they chose it to come from — personal “whitelisting.” Some of the spam filters do that — anybody in your address book bypasses your spam filters.

Crocker: My personal favorite for proactive approaches to spam is to increase the accountability. That’s not the same as authentication. It says, if I need to find the author of the message, there is a path to them. It does not automatically require that they sign the message but provides a reliable way to link a message back to the originator.

Nielsen: I think basically e-mail does not work anymore, which means that we have to tear it apart. The combination of spam and viruses makes e-mail a polluted, dirty, unsafe environment…[In the future], I think that it would have to be a system that has built-in security and authentication that you can always track down. You know where it’s coming from, and it’s always encrypted and always secure.

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TV’s Tipping Point

[via Kevin Werbach] PaidContent has a speech made by Ashley Highfield, Director of BBC New Media & Technology. It is fascinating for the insights it gives into what is happening around television. Some excerpts, focusing on the four key changes happening in the broadcast industry:

Firstly, consumers are taking control of their media consumption, choosing not just the ‘what’ they watch but also the when, how and where they watch it. Now most people here probably know that TiVo and personal video recorders dramatically failed to rock anyone’s world when they originally launched in the UK. Consumers just couldn’t see the benefits for their 10 a month subscription. But in homes with Personal video recorders (or PVRs), around 70 percent of viewing is time-shifted: PVRs will mean we are able to finally break free of the 50 year long tyranny of the TV schedule.

The second trend our research showed was that the audience increasingly wants to join in and get closer to their media…Traditionally we have always thought that TV was about lying back relaxing and at best, half hearted interaction. In fact, recent trials again in Hull proved otherwise — audiences want a lot more than this. They want to create their own content either from scratch, or perhaps using tools and support that a broadcaster can provide. In a fragmenting society, media becomes a substitute for community.

The third trend is about consuming more media simultaneously — which is fast becoming the norm. Younger people are watching less TV — this is a fact. But not only are people watching less TV, they are also less focused on the programmes and ads they do actually watch. Amongst the under 34s, viewing now falls into two distinct camps: high attention and appreciation for a few (and I mean very few) programmes, and much larger scale ambient or even apathetic viewing for the rest of the time the telly is on.

And finally, the last trend — sharing. Broadband, which is growing exponentially in the UK (up 200 percent year on year to around 2.5 million subscribers now) will make downloading of decent video quality worthwhile, easy and cheap via the net. Downloading and sharing this video is the final piece of the jigsaw and will create a killer combination that I believe could undermine the existing models of pay-TV.

The killer combination is broadband together with digital TV and PVRs, plus the ability to share this video in the same peer-to-peer model with which music files are exchanged on the net. Broadband will provide the rich on-demand content; digital TV through Freeview will make 40 channels and interactive services available to the masses for free; PVRs will provide the means to break from the tyranny of the TV schedule; and sharing will enable file swapping of personal as well as broadcast content. It really doesn’t matter if this solution is built into a PC as with the Microsoft’s Media Centre, Sony’s new PlayStation or a set top box. It all basically adds up to the same solution: a box and a screen — offering unparalled video, TV, interactive and games content. What I’m certain of, is that this killer combination will be in half of all UK homes, in one form or another, by the end of this decade.

Sony’s PSX

CNN reports on Sony’s all-in-one game console and entertainment system, which it plans to retail in Japan for USD 719.

The PSX would feature a satellite TV tuner, DVD recorder, hard disk drive (HDD) recorder and PlayStation 2 (PS2) game player. A version with a 160-gigabyte HDD will be able to record up to 204 hours of television.

Sony plans to market the PSX as a consumer electronics product and aims to pitch the box as a do-everything entertainment console for games, music and movies.

Sony needs to big hit to revive its sagging fortunes. Many others are now crossing the barriers into the consumer electronics and entertainment segment – notably, Nokia and Dell.

Fewest Rules Foster Strongest Economies

WSJ reports on a World Bank survey, which not suprisingly, finds “that the least amount of business regulation fosters the strongest economies.”

The bank, in cooperation with academics, management-consulting firms and law firms, measured the costs of five basic business-development functions in 130 nations. Titled “Doing Business,” the report analyzes how regulation and legal systems affect companies’ ability to register with the government, obtain credit, hire and fire workers, enforce contracts and work through bankruptcy courts.

The least regulated and most efficient economies are concentrated among countries with well-established common-law traditions, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the U.S. On par with the best performers are Singapore and Hong Kong.

Joining the leaders are Denmark, Norway and Sweden, social democracies that recently streamlined business regulation.

Legal systems that help companies to collect debts are the single most important factor in attracting business, said the World Bank Group’s Simeon Djankov, co-author of the study.

The report uses its comparisons to advance the thesis that heavier regulation is usually associated with more inefficiency in public institutions, causing longer delays and higher cost. The consequence often is more unemployment and corruption, and less productivity and investment.

The most onerous systems cause businesses to avoid registering altogether, creating underground economies.

The comments on China and India:

Among recent success stories, China has successfully overhauled much of its economic system in the past few years to attract foreign investment — and U.S. manufacturing jobs. Mr. Djankov said China has undertaken “tremendous reforms in the areas of enforcing regulations, resolving commercial disputes and making it easier to start businesses.”

In contrast, India, which has been attracting high-end U.S. technology jobs, has business regulations that are enforced unevenly in the country’s various states and provinces.

“India has the worst bankruptcy system. It takes about 10 years to go through the process,” Mr. Djankov said.

Will India’s politicians, ministers and bureaucrats learn? It is so much easier to do the right thing (remove regulations), and yet…

Smartphones and VoIP opportunity

Jeremy Allaire writes about the impact of the arrival of Wi-Fi chipsets in mobile phones:

The two big opportunities that stem from this are:

1. VoIP/SIP stacks get put into smartphones, enabling IP-based bridging and roaming into and out of the mobile networks, also enabling coverage even in the basement of the pentagon.

2. More interestingly, I think, is that your smartphone can use 10MB (realy 4MB) of data, instead of the extremely limited 30Kbps on most GPRS connections, or even the 400Kbps on pseudo-3G.

Lots at stake for mobile carriers, potentially having a huge positive impact on their cost structure for both voice and data services, and better service options for consumers.

TECH TALK: SMEs and Technology: Recent Developments (Part 2)

Continuing with some of the technology announcements related to recent small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs):

Long an underserved technology market in the past, SMBs (small and midsize businesses) are now seen as important revenue streams for major IT vendors. With the SMB market worth some $300 billion and growing at a significantly faster pace than Fortune 1000s, there are significant revenues to be garnered. In response the big vendors, including IBM, Microsoft, and Sun Microsystems, are retooling enterprise hardware and software offerings to meet SMB needs delivering low-cost platforms with simple, automated features that bring ease of use and low maintenance requirements. [InfoWorld, August 15]

In an effort to expand its services for small and medium-size businesses, Yahoo is introducing a Web site building tool that will be offered free to the company’s Web hosting customers. Yahoo SiteBuilder is just the latest effort by the Sunnyvale, Calif., company to woo smaller business users, which represent a cash cow for the Internet giant. Yahoo already offers business e-mail, domain registration, Web hosting, and e-commerce and marketing services for the sector. Additionally, the company announced last week that it was snapping up commercial search provider Overture to expand its paid listing services. The combination of these offerings are aimed at creating a one-stop shop for small and medium-sized business users to take care of their online needs, said Rich Riley, vice president and general manager of Yahoo’s Small Business group Yahoo reported earlier that its second-quarter revenue jumped 42 percent, partly thanks to the fee-based services it offers to small business users. [InfoWorld, July 21]

France is a good example of the potential for the software giants – there are around 2.9 million companies with less than 500 people in the country – but also the pitfalls. One indication of the potential is a segment like the accounting profession, where more than half of French SMBs have software providers whose share of the market is less than 1%, typically small companies themselves lacking the resources and domestic, let alone international, reach to give them a competitive edge. [Wall Street Journal, July 2]

IBM expanded its efforts to court medium-size businesses–that is, companies with between 100 and 1,000 employees–with its WebSphere software and Global Services offerings, which it generally reserves for larger businesses. Through its Express product development and marketing campaign, Big Blue will deliver a suite of applications, services and hardware designed, priced or packaged specifically for midsize businesses. [News.com, June 25]

In an effort to bolster a stronger level of specificity for its SMB (small to midsize business) clientele, SAP unveiled a quintet of new mySAP All-in-One products this week geared directly toward industry-centric areas. Bringing the total amount of mySAP All-in-One software solutions to 20, Gary Fromer, vice president of SMB at Waldorf, Germany-based SAP, said that he expects that amount to double by the end of 2003. We have the opportunity to really use this, mostly outside of manufacturing, said Fromer. You will see us going into industries SAP maybe never has penetrated before. Fromer said smaller-size customers are in need of a best practices helping hand, due to lacking the deep pockets of larger companies and unable to afford the dollars or time to install and create a software system to supplant evolving market needs. [InfoWorld, March 6]

These are an indication of the increasing focus. Yet, most of the products and services being launched by the It companies are still too expensive for the SMEs in the emerging companies, which is where the next set of opportunities lie.

Tomorrow: Characteristics

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