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Apple’s iPad: Is This the Year of the Tablet?

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010 by David Goldes

Apple made its second foray into the keyboardless computer industry yesterday with the launch of the iPad.

Is this the year of the tablet?

Is it the year of the tablet yet, dear?

Similar devices have been around since the GRiDPad was introduced in 1989, although the GRiDPad tipped the scales at slightly over 2 kg.  Apple itself began selling the Newton as a PDA in 1996 but its handwriting recognition software and short battery life hampered its success. Microsoft’s Windows-based Tablet PC has enjoyed a modicum of success but it is mostly used by professionals such as nurses and insurance adjustors who are on the go for much of their day.

In addition, early tablets lacked today’s high-speed wireless networking capabilities as well as Internet content, which today are both more than plentiful.

With the iPad, Apple hopes to leverage the iPhone’s success and create a new category of gadgets.  The iPad supports Web browsing, e-mail, videos, music (it essentially has a built-in iPod), eBooks, as well as applications designed especially for the device.  It will also support almost all of the 140,000 applications in the Apple App Store.  The iPad uses a Multi-Touch interface and a large virtual keyboard (it can also be used with a traditional keyboard). It comes with a 9.7″ LED backlit display that provides a 178° viewing angle.  The machine will be supplied with either 16, 32, or 64 GB of flash storage, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity and, on higher priced models, the ability to connect to 3G networks.

Although there was much speculation about potential partners for the 3G connectivity, Apple will continue (for now at least) to rely on AT&T’s 3G network for the iPad in the United States, despite the many complaints iPhone users have had about their AT&T 3G service.

Apple’s iPad comes at a time where there are full-functioned netbooks on the market for under $300 – and these have a real keyboard.  Granted, they lack Apple’s vaunted UI but just how many portable devices do most people really need?  Apple is betting on customers going for a superior user experience and greater Net usage [the iPad uses flash memory and that gets expensive (the 64 GB model is $699].

Where the real impact may lie is in book, newspaper, and magazine publishing. Amazon offers the Kindle, a black-and-white eBook reader, that is the leader in what is essentially a small, niche market.  Amazon has been trying to branch out with an App Store-like offering but the superior (color) interface of Apple’s iPad could put it in the lead.

Publishers are looking to Apple to create a new model that will let them advertise and monetize their content.  Taking a different path from Amazon’s, Apple is allowing book publishers set their own prices (Amazon sets Kindle pricing).  Companies such as the New York Times and game-maker Gameloft are developing iPad-specific apps.

Still many questions remain.  Will the iPad reinvent traditional media?  Will consumers want to carry yet another device (the iPad is not a phone)?   Stock analysts are bullish on Apple and the iPad.  The company’s stock rose 1.5% yesterday to $208.99 and some analysts are predicting a high of as much as $285 over the coming 12 months.

In the briefing room: Consumer Electronics Show 2010

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010 by David Goldes

The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is so large that it defies categorization and can create a unique kind of Information Overload.

What's new in Vegas for 2010?

What's new in Vegas for 2010?

Indeed, many companies schedule multiple pre-CES briefings to ensure that they reach their intended audience (including us).  To spare you from such overload, here are three notable new products that we think you should know about.

HP Notebook Projector Companion
Despite great advances in projector technology, many meetings are marred by an inability to get an important presentation on screen (or on wall, for that matter).  Most people don’t travel with their own projector; rather, many rent projectors at hotels or meeting facilities (typically at exorbitant rates).  HP has a tiny yet powerful solution that weighs only 260 g yet it can project a high-quality 60-inch-wide image up to 2.5 m away.  The image is more than good enough for most meetings and much sharper than a pico projector.

Iomega v.Clone
Iomega, now part of EMC, an information storage and management company, offers a hard drive management utility that allows you to take a snapshot of your computer’s operating system, applications, and data files with you on an Iomega drive.  This means that mobile knowledge workers can access their data from any computer (as long as they have the drive with them) and can also make setting up a new or replacement PC much less of a chore.

Lenovo Skylight
Does the world need another category of tablet or laptop?  Lenovo is betting that it does and introduced the Skylight, which might best be described as a laptop crossbred with a smartphone.

The Skylight is always on, just like a smartphone, runs a version of Linux, uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chip, but does not run conventional laptop software, instead relying on a unique user interface comprised of live Web gadgets (it comes preloaded with 18, including ones for Gmail, YouTube, and Facebook) as well as a traditional Web browser.  It connects to both Wi-Fi as well as mobile broadband (AT&T will sell the Skylight to run on its 3G network).

David M. Goldes is president and senior analyst at Basex.

Ericsson to Acquire Nortel’s GSM Unit Along with Kapsch

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009 by David Goldes

Some of the last pieces of Nortel’s business, its GSM units, will be sold in two parts for $103 million. 

nortel-ericsson-logo

Ericsson will acquire most of Nortel's GSM business

Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson will purchase the North American GSM business for $70 million and Kapsch CarrierCom of Austria will acquire most of the remaining assets, mostly in Europe and Taiwan, for $33 million.

For Ericsson, the acquisition further solidifies its footprint in North America as the agreement includes the transfer of Nortel’s relationships with mobile operators such as AT&T and T-Mobile.  In July of this year, Ericsson emerged as the winner for Nortel’s CDMA and LTE Access units, gaining key relationships with Verizon Wireless, Sprint, and Bell Canada.  Nortel’s North American GSM operations generated ca. $400 million in revenue in 2008.  That deal has the potential to double the company’s revenue in the region.

“The transaction emphasizes Ericsson’s commitment to the North American market and strengthens our position as the leading provider of telecommunications technology and services in the United States and Canada.” said Hans Vestberg, Ericsson’s incoming President and CEO.

680 Nortel employees are expected to receive offers of employment from either Ericsson or Kapsch.  GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) is the most popular wireless technology standard for mobile phones in the world.  Nortel has been one of the world’s leading suppliers of GSM networks for many years.

Earlier this week, Nortel announced that Ciena, a network infrastructure company, was the successful bidder for the company’s Optical Networking and Carrier Ethernet businesses (see item in this issue under Mergers and Acquisitions).

The sale to Ericsson and Kapsch is subject to court approvals in the U.S. and Canada, which Nortel will seek at a joint hearing on December 2, 2009, and at a later date in France, as well as certain regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions.

David M. Goldes is the president of Basex.

Nortel Liquidation Continues: Company to Sell Optical Unit to Ciena

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009 by David Goldes

Nortel is in the last phases of liquidation.

As part of the continuing saga of the Nortel liquidation, the company announced agreements covering the global sale of its Optical Networking and Carrier Ethernet businesses to Ciena, a network infrastructure company that has competed fiercely with Nortel in the past.  “We believe we are best positioned to leverage these assets, thereby creating a significant challenger to traditional network vendors,” said Gary Smith, Ciena’s CEO.

Under the supervision of bankruptcy courts in the U.S. and Canada, Nortel and its principal subsidiaries, which filed for bankruptcy in January, have entered into a “stalking horse” asset sale agreement with Ciena for its North American, Caribbean and Latin American (CALA) and Asian Optical Networking and Carrier Ethernet businesses, and an asset sale agreement with Ciena for the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) portion of its Optical Networking and Carrier Ethernet businesses for a purchase price of $390 million in cash and 10 million shares of Ciena common stock.

The agreements cover Nortel’s OME 6500, OM 5000, and CPL platforms, its 40G/100G technology, the related services business, and all patents and intellectual property that are predominantly used in these businesses.  The agreements also provide for the transfer of almost all of Nortel’s customer contracts to Ciena.

The company announced that at least 2,000 employees, more than 85 percent of the workforce of the units being sold, would be offered employment with Ciena.

As in any stalking horse sale, these agreements are far from final.  Nortel’s stalking horse agreement with Nokia-Siemens for its wireless unit ended with Ericsson as the acquirer back in July. The company’s enterprise unit was sold to Avaya, also in July.

On September 30, Nortel announced it will accept bids for its global GSM/GSM-R business.  GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) is the most popular wireless technology standard for mobile phones in the world. GSM-R is a technology that provides a secure communications system for railways operators.

David M. Goldes is president and senior analyst at Basex.

Change Afoot in the Content Management Space

Thursday, October 1st, 2009 by David Goldes

Content management systems are taking on increasing importance in organizations of all sizes.

The content management market is seeing dramatic change thanks to new open source and commercial open source entries that are making significant inroads with customers. In addition, just to make things a bit more complex, companies need to prepare to manage multiple forms of content including wikis, blogs, RSS feeds, social networks, podcasts, and video.

This in turn has significantly changed the process of selecting a content management solution, a process that was never exactly straightforward as it requires both an in-depth understanding of both the organization’s needs and what the market has to offer.

Consider that companies that spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for content management systems might do equally well with platforms that cost one-tenth that amount.

Content management is no longer a nice-to-have tool; given the critical role of content (in all of its forms) in the enterprise, CM platforms have now been accorded the status of essential IT infrastructure.  That’s why one sees names such as EMC, IBM, and Oracle in the space.

Basex estimates that the U.S. market for content management was $4.1 billion in 2008 and will reach $10 billion by 2014.  Open source content management is gaining traction in some circles and the overall open source software market is growing rapidly.

The increase in our reliance on content and the amount of content that is being created in the enterprise makes it even more critical that companies manage content effectively in order to avoid the problem of Information Overload.

To help companies navigate the space, Basex just released The Definitive Guide to Today’s Content Management Systems and Vendors, a 150-page report series.  The report series looks at 32 key content management vendors and 43 platforms and provides in-depth analysis — including market trends, drivers, and barriers — to guide decision makers in the selection process.

The good news is that companies today can find a wide range of content management systems at varying price points.  The bad news is that selecting the RIGHT platform is more critical than ever to a company’s future and most companies don’t have the resources to thoroughly investigate their options.  Managers have to understand the total cost of ownership, support options and functionality when making that decision.

The report series is being published on a subscription basis and includes an in-depth industry survey, Content Management Systems: The New Math for Selecting Your Platform, and 16 Vendor Profiles of key content management providers and their offerings.

The vendor profiles provide a comprehensive analysis of content management offerings from Autonomy, Acquia, Alfresco, Bluenog, Day Software, EMC, EpiServer CMS, FatWire, Hippo, IBM, Microsoft, MindTouch, Nuxeo, Oracle, Open Text and Xerox.

You can purchase the report at a special introductory price from the Basex Web site.

David M. Goldes is the president of Basex.

Skype is set free

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009 by David Goldes

The sale of Skype to a group of private investors presents the company with both a challenge and an opportunity.

The challenge is to transform its popularity as a platform for free voice and video calls from computers and smartphones into greater profits.

The opportunity is to return to its roots, akin to its mode in the pre-eBay days, and get into startup mode.  This should translate into greater innovation and far more flexibility as well as the ability to operate with less disclosure (as a public company, eBay’s investments in developing new technologies, for example, would be disclosed in public filings).  The company can also grant new and existing employees stock options, something that can improve retention of key employees and help bring in new ones.

Rumors of a sale have been around for a while (we speculated on this last April).  Somewhat surprisingly, the buyer didn’t turn out to be a traditional telecommunications company with a vision for the future.  Another surprise was that the sale didn’t include Skype’s founders, who own key intellectual property that is currently part of a licensing dispute.

Regardless, as an independent, Skype itself may turn out to be a next generation traditional telecommunications company – if it can find a way to leverage its current worldwide base into a profitable one.

David M. Goldes is the president of Basex.

More Notes from the Information Overload Awareness Day Inaugural Event

Thursday, August 20th, 2009 by David Goldes

Last week’s Information Overload Awareness Day Inaugural Event was a great success going by the overwhelming feedback we received from speakers and attendees.

Maggie Jackson, one of the first journalists to interview Basex on the topic of information overload, writes for the Boston Globe on the topic of work-life balance, and last year came out with a book, Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age.

Jackson discussed the erosion of attention to work, attention to information, even attention to eating and leisure activities.  If we continue to squander how we use attention, we may descend into an era where emptiness rather than fulfillment rules, where one never goes sufficiently in depth in any one area because a virtual clock is ticking guaranteeing that something will intrude three minutes hence.

Christina Randle, CEO of the Effective Edge, discussed the problem of information-induced stress.  Work days are marathons, not sprints, and information overload “zaps” our energy, causing us to complete less in the course of a day.  Thanks to information overload we are in a fog and some of the decisions we make reflect that.  We are constantly performing a juggling act that always results in a few dropped balls.  To solve this, we need to look at our own behavior and be willing to make changes.

Ed Stern from OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor) talked about Information Overload in government – and his pioneering work deploying expert systems to help people (individuals as well as government employees) sort through mountains of information including government regulations.  What Ed has been doing at OSHA may very well be one of the great – and unheralded – fights against Information Overload in government.

Mark Hurst, founder of Creative Good, spoke about the virtues of an empty inbox and the three “D’s”: Delete, Defer, and avoiD.  Computer literacy, according to Hurst is not sufficient.  Knowledge workers need to develop a far greater fluency and literacy in the use of e-mail, file management, managing images, and managing tasks.  E-mail overload, according to Hurst, is caused by “the lack of to-do management.”  Tools such as gootodo.com go a long way in reducing e-mail overload.  Hurst is an advocate of the empty or zero inbox.  While I believe this sounds great in concept, the time involved in filing and managing the inbox versus using an e-mail client with good search tools may just not be worth the effort.

Ken Sickles, Solutions Strategy Director at Dow Jones, brought his background as a knowledge worker from a large, information-intensive organization into the discussion.  One slide, “Information Overload & Me,” was telling.  For Ken and Dow Jones, the effects of Information Overload are myriad, including difficulty in making correct decisions due to a lack of accurate and timely information, a lack of expertise, difficulty in networking with colleagues, and an impact on forward thinking.  In other words, the impact of Information Overload goes to the very core of business performance.

Seth Earley, an expert on taxonomies and CEO of Earley & Associates, talked about, well, taxonomies as well as search disambiguation and faceted search.  As he pointed out, mere search is not enough.  Information needs context and that is the role of the taxonomy.
Paul Silverman, CEO of Integra Workshops talked about Zen and Information Overload.  Talking at the end of the event, he brought a Zen-like calm to the room focusing on how to create a life that helps evolve the mind and body.  His prescription: do one thing at a time and do it until it’s done.

Mike Song, author of the Hamster Revolution, talked about the relationship between meetings and Information Overload.  He pointed out that even the process of setting up a meeting wastes significant time and that most meetings fail to have clear objectives and agendas.  Addressing this issues will reduce the amount of time millions of knowledge workers waste each day in meetings that seem to come out of a Dilbert cartoon (my words, not Mike’s).

That’s all for now – I hope I haven’t overloaded you.

David M. Goldes is the president of Basex.

Notes from the Information Overload Awareness Day Inaugural Event

Thursday, August 13th, 2009 by David Goldes

Yesterday’s Information Overload Awareness Day conference no doubt pushed attendees above and beyond the bounds of overload.  As a public service here, I’ll review highlights.  If you missed the event, we plan to make some of the sessions available shortly via MP3.

Keynotes
The first keynote address, by Jonathan Spira, chief analyst here at Basex, presented an overview of the problem, including costs, problem areas, and a few things we can do about the problem right now.

A few key points:

  • The cost of Information Overload to the U.S. economy is $900 billion annually, as of 2008.
  • For an individual company, 10-20% of the cost of Information Overload should be recoverable in the first year after an organization addresses the problem in a comprehensive manner.
  • A mere 12% of the knowledge worker’s day is spent in thought or reflection.
  • We spend 15% of the day searching for things and 20% in meetings.
  • Think before clicking reply-to-all, or even sending a reply of “Great. Thanks.” acknowledging someone’s e-mail.  Although these are small, individual actions, they add up.

The second keynote was presented by Nathan Zeldes, president of the Information Overload Research Group and Intel’s former Information Overload czar.  Nathan discussed the problem from the point of view of the large organization (Intel has almost 80,000 employees).  Intel’s own research indicated that its knowledge workers are losing approximately eight hours per week due to Information Overload, a fact that led Nathan to devise and apply a number of solutions starting in 1995.

Key points:

  • It’s important to get buy-in from senior management (he provided some tips).
  • Information Overload is a subject everyone complains about but few actually undertake solutions.
  • The impact can’t be ignored: reduced mental capacity, no time to think about things, direct loss of productive time, breakdown of organizational processes, and a diminished quality of life.
  • While most activity is around personal solutions, “what the world needs are organization-wide solutions.”
  • Start with a pilot program and choose your group carefully.

Bit Literacy
Mark Hurst, founder of Creative Good, spoke about the virtues of an empty inbox and the three “D’s”: Delete, Defer, and avoiD.  Computer literacy, according to Hurst is not sufficient.  Knowledge workers need to develop a far greater fluency and literacy in the use of e-mail, file management, managing images, and managing tasks.  E-mail overload, according to Hurst, is caused by “the lack of to-do management.”  Tools such as gootodo.com go a long way in reducing e-mail overload.

Visionary Vendor Panel

The Visionary Vendor panel, a Basex tradition for almost a decade, was comprised of executives from companies with industry-leading products or services that focus on the problem of Information Overload.  The choice for inclusion was easy: we had already selected five companies to receive the 2009 Basex Excellence Awards for their work in combatting Information Overload and they were the obvious choices for the panel as well.  The Basey winners and Visionary Vendor panelists were:

  • ClearContext: For tools that control the inbox, aggregate project information, and reduce information overload;
  • Microsoft: For Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 and Outlook 2010 and for inbox features that help reduce Information Overload;
  • Nordic River: For TextFlow and its ability reduce Information Overload through a collaborative authoring environment;
  • Xerox. For multiple contributions in search and categorization as well as a continued emphasis on Information Overload; and
  • Xobni: For tools that improve inbox management and reduce information and relationship overload.

Before we completely overload you, we’ll pause here and continue next week.

David M. Goldes is the president of Basex.

ClearContext, Microsoft, Nordic River, Xerox, and Xobni win Basex Excellence Awards for Information Overload Innovations

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009 by David Goldes

Five companies who have developed products or services that address the problem of Information Overload – ClearContext, Microsoft, Nordic River, Xerox and Xobni — have won Basex Excellence Awards.

The “Baseys” were presented today at the Information Overload Awareness Day Inaugural Event, being held on the Web. This year’s awards recognized companies with industry-leading products or services that focus on the problem of Information Overload.

“These companies and offerings exemplify the types of products breaking new ground in the fight against Information Overload,” said Jonathan B. Spira, Basex’ CEO and Chief Analyst, at the awards ceremony. Executives from each company participated in the conference’s Visionary Vendor panel prior to receiving the awards.

The Basey winners were honored for a broad range of innovation:

  • ClearContext: For tools that control the inbox, aggregate project information, and reduce Information Overload;
  • Microsoft: For Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 and Outlook 2010 and for inbox features that help reduce Information Overload;
  • Nordic River: For TextFlow and its ability reduce Information Overload through a collaborative authoring environment;
  • Xerox: For multiple contributions in search and categorization as well as a continued emphasis on Information Overload; and
  • Xobni: For tools that improve inbox management and reduce information and relationship overload.

In addition, a special Basey was presented to Nathan Zeldes, president of the Information Overload Research Group and Intel’s former Information Overload czar, to honor the significant fundamental contributions he has made to research in Information Overload.

David M. Goldes is President and Senior Analyst at Basex.

Google Apps Twitter Hack Raises Red Flags on Password Security

Thursday, July 16th, 2009 by David Goldes

One might presume that technology companies do a better job with such mundane tasks as password security than the great unwashed masses.  However, time and time again, this turns out not to be correct.  Yesterday, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, posting in the company’s blog, revealed that a hacker had broken into an employee’s personal e-mail account and then gained access to that employee’s Google Apps account, which contained “notes, spreadsheets, ideas, financial details” – well, you get the picture.

Although Stone tries to emphasize that this has nothing to do with any vulnerabilities in Google Apps per se, the very fact that anyone can log into a Google Apps account from any browser if you have the correct user name and password does increase a company’s exposure.  Companies that keep their confidential information behind a corporate firewall in systems such as Lotus Notes or Microsoft SharePoint, are indeed less vulnerable simply because their systems could not be hacked with just a simple user name and password.

Multiple studies have revealed that close to half of computer users tend to use the same password over and over again – typically with the same, easy to remember, user name.  Indeed, TechCrunch, a blog that received Twitter’s confidential documents from the hacker, reported that Twitter uses the password “password” for its servers (presumably, it’s been changed by now).  The same article revealed that Twitter had also used a co-founder’s first name, Jack, as a user name for servers.

Moral of the story: use complex passwords with numbers and symbols interspersed.  Do not use words found in a dictionary.  Even better: use passphrases, i.e. concatenated words such as “thisismypassphrase123″.  Use a different user name/password combination for each account.  If one account is hacked, this will ensure that your other accounts remain safe.  Finally, do not leave passwords visibly written down.  Believe it or not,  I still see Post-It notes with passwords attached to monitors when visiting other companies.

David M. Goldes is the president of Basex.


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