Switzerland’s Broadband Battle

IEEE Spectrum writes that “Switzerland is an unlikely front in the ongoing war between telephone carriers and cable providers.” It also has a discussion on Microsoft’s IPTV.

Indeed, the key weapon on which the Battle of Switzerland will turn, a software platform called Internet Protocol television, or IPTV, is already being evaluated in research labs in India, Canada, the United States, and Italy.

But only in otherwise placid Switzerland has IPTV been put into living rooms as well. Swisscom’s trial is the most serious test anywhere of a phone company’s ability to deliver video and win customers from cable. In other words, only in the land of civility are customers being told to choose between a cable provider and a telephone carrier for what is the most revenue-intensive mode of communications we have: television. Hanging in the balance is the future direction of the telecommunications industry, and that of a big chunk of the entertainment world as well.

For Microsoft Corp., the Redmond, Wash., company behind IPTV, getting a foothold in the production and distribution of digital audio and video is critical to escaping the confines of the personal computer software world it dominates. There are other ways of delivering video across the Internet than IPTV, and there’s at least one other equally adept encoding scheme, MPEG-4, but only Microsoft has written a single software suite that has everything a phone company needs to get into the television game.

Sun Grid

The New York Times writes:

It would offer remote computing resources to business customers, allowing them to purchase computer time over a network as easily as they buy electricity and water through wires and pipes.

The Sun Grid will cost clients $1 an hour for each microprocessor used and $1 a month for each gigabyte of storage. Customers will pay only for what they use when they use it, Sun said.

Grid computing is not new, but faster networks and new standards are making it easier for companies to outsource certain computing-intensive tasks to data centers owned by others and not worry about the cost of the computers or paying for electricity and other support costs.

Sun said its grid had 10,000 microprocessors in data centers in Texas, New Jersey, Virginia and Scotland, with more coming online this year. The company is working with pilot customers in the financial and oil industries, and it plans to make the service more widely available this spring.

Ross Mayfield has more.

Open-Source PBXes

InfoWorld writes:”Like other open source products, these PBXes dont necessarily cost anything to obtain. That doesnt mean, however, there arent costs involved with getting these phone systems running. Phone hardware is still required, and the expertise to turn the software into something you can use in your enterprise doesnt come cheap. Open source product support comes from the community itself, so youll need to know where to look and who to ask to get what you need.” The article evaluates solutions from Pingtel and Digium.

SAP Netweaver

InfoWorld has excerpts from an interview with SAP’s CEO Henning Kagermann:

NetWeaver is an integration platform. We have integrated many technical tools into it so that customers can integrate their legacy systems with SAP technology more easily. Our flagship product, mySAP ERP, is already running on NetWeaver, and we plan to have the entire mySAP Business Suite on the platform this year.

Behind NetWeaver is a fundamental shift in architecture, which we call enterprise service architecture, or services-oriented architecture as it is also called in the industry. The idea behind this architecture is to give people on the outside access to functions inside our technology. In this sense, NetWeaver is a kind of composition platform for them to compose services.

We could stop with NetWeaver, but if customers really want to adapt more quickly to new business models and be more innovative with their use of business software in the future, then they also need to be able build new services faster and with greater flexibility. To achieve this, we will take what is generic enough in our technology, such as components, business objects and processes like billing, and put these into an application platform. So if a company wants to develop a new add-on application, it now has access to functionalities such as CRM (customer relationship management) and SCM (supply chain management) through open interfaces.

What all this means is that we want to create reusable processes at the application level and combine these with NetWeaver. This, in a nutshell, is the idea behind our new Business Process Platform. It’s essentially an evolution of NetWeaver with the added capability to run ready-to-run processes.

TECH TALK: The Mobile Phone Platform: The One Device to Rule Them All

The mobile phone is rapidly becoming the uber-device the one device that seems to have it all and becomes even more indispensable than it is now. The mobile phones have already started functioning as more than just communications devices. Already, mobiles serve as watches and alarm clocks. Even with the limited free games that come with basic phones, they are already good for time-pass. They can also function as calculators. In unfamiliar neighbourhoods, they tell us where we are. The address book and contacts list on phones is our social interface. Without the phone, many of us would be quite lost in connecting with other people! The calendar function on the mobile phones can help us track our lives. Phones can also function as radios. For some, the mobile phone also becomes a notepad send an SMS to oneself and make it a reminder service. Owners also have tended to customise phones with their own ringtones, themes and wallpapers.

This is just for starters. Take a look at what some of the more advanced mobile phones are also doing:

  • Digital Camera: Point-and-click! Phones capture pictures and let us save them for posterity or transfer them to others and computers.
  • Audio Recorder: Mobile phones can be used to record conversations, or even small notes to oneself.
  • Video Recorder: Phones are becoming video cameras also some of the newest cellphones can record an hour or more of video.
  • Multimedia Messaging: Everything recorded can be shared with others by using MMS.
  • Email Client: The phone can be used to connect to any POP or IMAP server and allow receiving and sending email. While most phones may not have the ease-of-use that a Blackberry has with email, contacts and calendar, the fact that it is on the phone itself and there is no need for a separate device can be a big help (along with the lower total cost of ownership).
  • Web Client: Phones can also browse websites via a WAP and/or HTML browser. Most websites may not look great on the small screen, but it is still possible to connect to any website.
  • Gaming Platform: Mobile games have become big business in the past couple years, as people seek entertainment in the free time that they have on the device that they always carry with them.
  • Documents Viewer: It is increasingly possible to view documents on the cellphone in the popular MS-Office file formats.
  • Computer Adjunct: For many, the cellphone has replaced the PDA as the complement to the computer. With a remote desktop application, it also becomes possible to make the mobile phone a window on to ones computer.
  • Music Player: The next big thing in 2005 is reckoned to be the combining of music capabilities on the mobile phone. While phones can play MP3s, it will soon also be possible to have music streamed from the Internet. Motorola is expected to introduce a phone this year that marries the mobile with Apples iPod.
  • TV: In India, some operators have been promoting many TV channels on the cellphone over next-generation networks like EDGE.
  • Credit Cards: The phone can also be used to pay for purchases like a credit card. There is already a billing relationship that exists between the subscriber and the operator, and that can be used to make payments to merchants.
  • Bar-code readers: Phones will also be able to read barcodes and that can have very interesting applications in commerce.

    So, the phones of tomorrow will be remote controls for our life. They will come with bigger, better keyboards and displays even though there are practical limitations on both in terms of how big a device we will carry. Networks are becoming faster, too. And the device that was once a replacement for the fixed-line phone will occupy an even greater role in our lives. Countries like Japan and South Korea already lead the way in having multi-purpose mobile phones. China is following and India is not far behind.

    Tomorrow: Quotes

    Continue reading