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March 12, 2006

Google moves ahead

One of Google's latest acquisitions is the company that develops the online word processor Writely. It seems clear the Google is making another move toward a direct challenge to Microsoft Office and the idea of applications web-based rather than PC-based. Writely has some attractive features, including the ability for multiple people to collaborate on the same document simulataneously.  It can import and export MS Word documents.  If Google gives it away a la gmail, it could be a winner and a serious challenger to Word.

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March 03, 2006

Ageism in technology? Yes. For good reason? Hmmm.... maybe.

The March 2006 issue of Wired magazine has an article about Sky Dayton new venture to bring state-of-the-art mobile phone technology to the U.S. by means of a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) called Helio. Sky Dayton, you'll recall, is the guy who founded Earthlink. He's now the ripe old age of 34, quite ancient in technology terms. An MVNO is a company that sells mobile phones and service plans, but doesn't own any network infrastructure; rather an MVNO leases infrastructure and capacity from other companies that do. Examples of MVNO are Virgin Mobile and Mobile ESPN; even the bottom of the rack Seven-Eleven wireless plans are MVNO.

Dayton is annoyed that cell phone technology in the United States is a backwater. It is only necessary to look at Korea and Japan and the Scandinavian countries to find much more imaginative use of high-speed cellular technology. Helio's goal is to bring that technology to the U.S. by teaming up with SK Telecom, Korea's leading wireless carrier. They will be buying network capacity from Verizon and Sprint. They are also setting up a partnership with myspace.com.

All this was interesting in and of itself, but what struck me was the description of the marketing research that the Helio consultants have done to drill in on their core potential customers--18- 32-year-olds with money to burn. They broke down the 61 million 18-32 age group into 8 groups, five of which would not be interested in the Helio products, but 3 groups would be: the "spoil me", the "see me", the "feed me" crowd (read the article for the whole explanation.)

I have to say that I found it rather distasteful, all the while knowing that this is exactly how companies figure out how to make money. The clear implication of this planning is that persons of my generation (baby boomer) would not have interest in having a wireless phone that was able to receive video news or TV or streamed music. (I find it more than a little odd, since I probably have more disposable income than do many young professionals who still have student loans to pay off.) It is true that I am not interested in having music videos from the latest bands, nor am I interested in the offerings of myspace.com. But maybe I am interested in video newsfeeds from CNN and the offerings of gather.com, the new web site sponsored by partly by NPR for the intellectual crowd.

For tech companies there will always be an unending supply of 18-32-year-olds. But what happens when the current crop gets out of the targeted marketing demographic? Can we expect companies to abandon them, or will we start to see a broader range of services offered to a wider demographic over time? I may be antique by the measurement technology time, but it doesn't mean that I'm not interested and that I don't have money to spend.

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March 01, 2006

Lecture at KSL tomorrow--David Saltz, and it's a FUN topic besides

Tomorrow afternoon, Thursday, March 2, 2006, 1:30-3:30 PM, Kelvin Smith Library is sponsoring another of our Digital Library Lecture Series talks by David Z. Saltz, who is Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Theatre at the University of Georgia. He'll be talking about the Virtual Vaudeville project, a web site that attempts to archive aspects of live theatrical performance. The site uses 3D computer animation and motion capture technologies to recreate a rigorously researched and documented nineteenth-century vaudeville performance. Hypermedia is exploited in the extreme to deliver a richness of primary source material not usually found in web sites. The technology behind Virtual Vaudeville relies on heavily on the innovations made in computer gaming. Virtual Vaudeville was funded by NSF.

I heard David Saltz speak several years ago about Virtual Vaudeville as it was being developed, and I can recommend him as an engaging speaker, and his presentation is just plain fun (Dear God--not fun at something so severely titled as a Digital Library Lecture!) Prof. Saltz is adept at weaving the idea of using technology in the service of scholarly endeavor. This talk will provide some provocative ideas, especially to students beginning their research careers, that it is not necessary to be bound by the printed page to deliver effective scholarly content.

You don't have to RSVP--just show up in the Dampeer Room in KSL at 1:30 tomorrow. Seating is limited, however, so it's on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you can't come, the talk will eventually be available as a Freedman Center podcast.

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