Tuesday, July 29, 2008

E-book Sales Looking Good

I’ve become well attached to my Amazon Kindle and it looks like I’m not alone. Initially Amazon had problems getting displays from their supplier, resulting in some rather long delays between Kindle orders and deliveries. I waited about 6 weeks for mine to arrive after placing my order last January, which was a pretty typical wait back then. Delivery times have shorted significantly, it now looks like Amazon has a good supply of the displays, and the market will continue to grow for e-book readers like the Kindle.

According to an iSuppli study, e-book display shipments will increase at a 161% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the 2007-2012 period. iSuppli predicts sales will move from 150,000 units sold in 2007 to 18.3 million units in 2012. iSuppli also projects global e-book display revenue will grow from $3.5 million in 2007 to $291.2 million in 2012 indicating a CAGR revenue increase of 143%.

How’s the Kindle reader selling overall? The same iSuppli study predicts Amazon will sell 1 million units in 2008.

How is Kindle content selling? Here’s a quote from an article in the New York Times earlier this month:

According to a source at Amazon, "on a title-by-title basis, of the 130,000 titles available on Kindle and in physical form, Kindle sales now make up over 12% of sales for those titles."

The iSuppi study references key e-book markets that include education (textbooks, reading and reference material, electronic dictionaries and organizers), consumer markets (novels, magazines, guides and newspapers), professional segments (trade publications, manuals and product literature) and other areas (government documentation, military maps and religious books and material).

I see several advantages for the classroom including content search, the built in dictionary, the ability to highlight, bookmark, export pieces of content to text files and add the equivalent of margin notes. I also like the ability to move the equivalent of Word and PDF documents around electronically over Amazon Whispernet, which uses the Sprint EVDO wireless network.

ISuppli principal analyst for mobile displays Vinita Jakhanwal is quoted as follows:

It's possible that Amazon's Kindle could do for e-books what Apple's iPod did for MP3 players. Indeed, there are indications that Kindle sales in the first quarter of 2008 surpassed its total sales for the entire year of 2007.

I’m looking forward to hearing (and seeing) traditional academic publishers plans for electronic textbooks on devices like the Kindle and Sony Reader.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Rest In Peace Randy Pausch

"We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand" - Randy Pausch

Randy's family announced today that he had passed away from pancreatic cancer. I had written about the last lecture Randy gave last September at Carnegie Mellon after he had been told he only had months to live. The lecture was titled "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams" and has had millions of views on YouTube. Here's the video of the speech. If you have not seen it - it's worth a watch. If you have seen it - it's worth another watch.

In addition to the video, Randy and Jeffrey Zaslow wrote a book based on the lecture titled The Last Lecture. Amazon asked Andy some questions about the book - here's a piece of how he described it:

The book is a far more personal look at my childhood dreams and all the lessons I've learned. Putting words on paper, I've found, was a better way for me to share all the yearnings I have regarding my wife, children and other loved ones. I knew I couldn't have gone into those subjects on stage without getting emotional.

The book is even better than the lecture.

Randy's wife Jai released a statement this morning - here's a piece of it:

Randy was so happy and proud that the lecture and book inspired parents to revisit their priorities, particularly their relationships with their children. The outpouring of cards and e-mails really sustained him.

Randy will be greatly missed.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Verizon To Push Higher Bandwidth In-Home Network Equipment

An inside contact at Verizon sent along some interesting content from a Verizon corporate website post. The content describes how Verizon will start encouraging their FiOS fiber optic customers to upgrade in-home network equipment. The company will have new routers available in the third quarter of this year from Actiontec and Westell. These routers will boost in-home speeds over coaxial cable to up to 175 megabits per second (Mbps) from 75 Mbps and allow operation of multiple simultaneous Wi-Fi networks. For example, customers will be able to modify security settings on each network, allowing a Wi-Fi network for guests and visitors, one with parental controls for young users, one for computers holding secure documents, or one for teleworking only.

Here’s a list of new design features and benefits:

Higher bandwidth, offering 175 Mbps total data flow in the home.

Support for up to four Wi-Fi networks, enabling more than one Wi-Fi network to operate simultaneously. Quality of service controls to give traffic preference to critical services like voice or security devices.

Remote management of devices and services beyond the router by technicians, improving the service and support experience for customers.

Integrated dual-core processor to allow simultaneous networked data services, possibly including home security, home monitoring, network security and other applications.

Support for media sharing between home devices, such as between TVs and PCs, media servers, and other consumer electronics, using DLNA and Universal Plug and Play standards now being adopted by hardware manufacturers to support connectivity and service integration.

Enable modular expansion using a USB interface, so that shared storage servers, printers, peripherals and other devices can be added.

It makes sense to upgrade internal network devices to keep up with the fiber infrastructure.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

CostQuest Study: United States Lacks National Broadband Policy

CostQuest Associates, a national telecommunications cost consulting and software company, released results today of a 50 state survey conducted earlier this year. the survey was done to try and understand individual state policies to expand high-speed Internet availability. The survey was conducted over a six week period this past spring and involved (depending on the state) public utility commissions, legislators, governor's offices and various task forces. Overall, the survey concluded although most states have undertaken broadband initiatives, there is neither a single national model nor a consensus on best practices.

Here's some highlights from the survey report:

At least 39 of the 50 states have some form of broadband initiative in place, either through legislation or through a more informal effort to increase broadband access.

Only 10 of the 50 states have undertaken a definitive broadband mapping effort.

Only a select few have looked at the cost to deploy broadband in the currently unserved areas so as to provide information to encourage private capital as well as delineating the issue to determine if state assistance is needed in uneconomic areas.

According to Jim Stegeman, president of CostQuest Associates:

Most states are searching for ‘best practices’ and those currently developing broadband initiatives have taken an ‘a la carte’ approach, selecting elements of programs from other states. Many states are still in the planning stages, but there does not seem to be a one-size-fits all approach.

Stegeman also says:

By surveying what other states are doing, we are able to give federal policy makers a snapshot of how individual states are approaching broadband deployment with limited resources.

Take a look at the two page survey summary results linked here.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Amazon Launching "Cloud TV"

Next Thursday, Amazon.com will open a new TV show and movie store called Amazon Video on Demand. Amazon customers will be able to purchase from an initial collection of about 40,000 videos and TV show episodes, and watch over a stream. Here's an interesting New York Times piece quote on the product from Bill Carr, Amazon’s vice president for digital media:

For the first time, this is drop dead simple. Our goal is to create an immersive experience where people can’t help but get caught up in how exciting it is to simply watch a movie right from Amazon.com with a click of the button.

You may think big deal - I can do the same things in iTunes. Well.... actually iTunes requires you to download the content to your device before you can watch it. The new Amazon product is different because the customer will have the option of watching over a stream - much like a pay-per-view system from your cable provider. Here's more from the Times piece:

To make the new service more enticing, the first two minutes of all movies and TV shows will begin playing for users on Amazon.com immediately when they visit a title’s product page on the digital video store.

It will also let users buy a TV show or movie without actually downloading the video file to the PC’s hard drive. Amazon will store each customer’s selection in what it calls “Your Video Library.” Customers can then watch that show or movie whenever they return to Amazon, even if it is from a different computer or device, a solution that neatly gets around studio concerns about piracy.

Amazon has also reached an agreement with Sony to put Amazon Video on Demand on the Sony Bravia Internet Video link for high definition TV's. The Sony system currently requires a $300 external box but it is anticipated Sony will integrate this functionality into future Bravia sets.

What does all this mean? Let's look at an example - say I'm on my lunch break sitting outside on a nice day surfing the Amazon Video on demand website using my WiFi connected iPhone. Let's also say I'm a fan of the Battlestar Galactica TV show and decide I want to purchase one of the episodes. With a few clicks I've made the purchase (I'm guessing $1.99 per episode) and the video is placed in my Amazon Video Library - I can access this library from any web connected device. I can immediately start watching the episode in my iPhone web browser and later in the evening I can continue watching the episode on my home desktop computer and on my new Sony Bravia TV. I've purchased the episode so it stays in my library - I can watch it over and over again if I want.

As I continue to purchase, my entire collection content is stored online in "the cloud" and accessible from any device with a high-speed Internet connection. I like the concept and will be giving this a try next week.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Better Broadband Coverage Coming Soon?

On July 11 a broad-based alliance of companies, organizations, and associations delivered a letter to House and Senate Leaders in support of legislation to better map broadband availability and create public-private partnerships to expand broadband in the United States. The Communications Workers of America has a copy of the letter they and the 29 others signed linked here.

I’ve written frequently here about the broadband divide in our country and how lack of broadband availability and affordability is hurting us. It’s refreshing to see the private corporations (especially the providers) now applying some pressure. Here’s a few interesting quotes from the letter:

We believe Congress should adopt legislation this year that provides federal government support for state initiatives using public-private partnerships to identify gaps in broadband coverage and to develop both the supply of and demand for broadband in those areas. The ability to accelerate deployment and adoption by bringing together government, broadband providers, business, labor, farm organizations, librarians, educators, and consumer groups in public-private partnerships is greater than the ability of these diverse players standing alone.

Adopting a national policy to stimulate subscription where it is already available, and deployment where it is not, could have dramatic and far-reaching economic impacts.

The leading bills pending before Congress (S. 1492, the Broadband Data Improvement Act and H.R. 3919, the Broadband Census of America Act of 2007) would improve information-gathering about current broadband deployment and assist in targeting resources to areas in need of such services.

The letter also quotes a Connected Nation study released in February 2008 that estimates the total annual economic impact of accelerating broadband across the nation to be more than $134 billion. This same study also found that if broadband adoption were to be increased by just seven percent, it would result in an additional:

$92 billion through an additional 2.4 million jobs per year created or retained;

$662 million saved per year in reduced health care costs;

$6.4 billion per year in mileage savings from unnecessary driving;

$18 million in carbon credits associated with 3.2 billion fewer pounds of CO2 emissions per year in the United States; and

$35.2 billion in value from 3.8 billion more hours saved per year from accessing broadband at home.

Perhaps a little “green pressure” is what it will take to get this done in this country.

Here’s a list of those that signed the letter:

AT&T, Alliance for Public Technology, American Association of People with Disabilities, American Library Association, Cablevision, Charter Communications, The Children’s Partnership, Comcast, Communications Workers of America, Connected Nation, Cox Communications, EDUCAUSE, Embarq, Independent Telephone & Telecommunications Alliance, Information Technology Industry Council, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Internet Innovation Alliance, NIC, Inc., National Cable and Telecommunications Association, National Farmers Union, The National Grange, National Rural Health Association, Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunications Companies, Qwest, Time Warner Cable, U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, United States Telecom Association, Verizon, Western Telecommunications Association, Windstream


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Fairpoint Commits To DSL Rollout in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont

I've written in the past about the Verizon Northern State (Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont) sell off to Fairpoint Communications and have expressed my concerns about the lack of bandwidth in these states. An article in the Benninton (Vermont) Banner on July 12 described DSL rollout by Faipoint in Bennington County and also discussed expansion in all 14 Vermont counties. Fairpoint spokeswoman Beth Fastiggi is quoted in the piece as follows:

By 2010, we hope to have at least 80 percent of households in the state with DSL access and.... we hope to have every customer in half of our exchanges access by 2010 as well.

The piece makes it clear that initial rollout coverage will not be available to everyone. Fastiggi is further quoted:

We're doing certain areas in each town — nothing we're doing encompasses the entire town. I don't want to say we're expanding bit by bit, but we are moving neighborhood by neighborhood.

Regarding the future for Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont customers, Fastiggi is quoted:

The current expansion is all using DSL. The network we're building is capable of being upgraded. It can use the higher-speed DSL service, and can use fiber.

The Banner piece also claims Fairpoint's DSL service starts at $17.99 per month which (at the time of this writing) I have not been able to confirm. I could also not confirm downstream and upstream bandwidths.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Vision of Students Today at Kansas State University

A colleague sent along a link to a video created by Kansas State University Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology Michael Weschin and 200 of his students. Michael and his 200 students used Google Docs to collaborate on a document that summarizes some of the most important characteristics of students today - how they learn, what they need to learn, their goals, hopes, dreams, what their lives will be like, and what kinds of changes they will experience in their lifetime. Content from the document was then used to create the video:

The 4 minute and 44 second video has had over 2.5 million views since posted in October 2007.
According to Michael:

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License. So you are welcome to download it, share it, even change it, just as long as you give me some credit and you don't sell it or use it to sell anything.

It's excellent.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Seven Risks of Cloud Computing

Networld Word has a good summary of a June 2008 study done by Gartner titled “Assessing the Security Risks of Cloud Computing.” Gartner defines cloud computing as a type of computing in which “massively scalable IT-enabled capabilities are delivered ‘as a service’ to external customers using Internet technologies.

Wikipedia has a more detailed definition of cloud computing:

Cloud computing refers to computing resources being accessed which are typically owned and operated by a third-party provider on a consolidated basis in Data Center locations. Consumers of cloud computing services purchase computing capacity on-demand and are not concerned with the underlying technologies used to achieve the increase in server capability.

The most common cloud computing platforms include Amazon’s EC2 service and Google’s Google App Engine.

I've become a pretty big fan of Google Docs which is a cloud application - it's what I use to type up my blogs and lots of other content. It's convenient because I can access my documents from just about any device connected to the Internet. I also don't have to worry about backing my content up, having a computer stolen with my work on it, etc. However, I've always been a little concerned about storing anything with personal information on a server anyone can try and access from anywhere in the world. There are other concerns too - here's the Gartner list as reported by Networld World:
  1. Privileged user access. Sensitive data processed outside the enterprise brings with it an inherent level of risk, because outsourced services bypass the “physical, logical and personnel controls” IT shops exert over in-house programs.
  2. Regulatory compliance. Customers are ultimately responsible for the security and integrity of their own data, even when it is held by a service provider. Traditional service providers are subjected to external audits and security certifications.
  3. Data location. When you use the cloud, you probably won’t know exactly where your data is hosted. In fact, you might not even know what country it will be stored in.
  4. Data segregation. Data in the cloud is typically in a shared environment alongside data from other customers. Encryption is effective but isn’t a cure-all.
  5. Recovery. Even if you don’t know where your data is, a cloud provider should tell you what will happen to your data and service in case of a disaster.
  6. Investigative support. Investigating inappropriate or illegal activity may be impossible in cloud computing.
  7. Long-term viability. Ideally, your cloud computing provider will never go broke or get acquired and swallowed up by a larger company.
You can read the full Network World article titled "Gartner: Seven cloud-computing security risks" here.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Happy 20th Birthday to the Modern Internet

In 1985 the National Science Foundation (NSF) started funding supercomputer centers at five locations in the United States:

- The John von Neumann Center at Princeton University,
- The San Diego Supercomputer Center at the University of California at San

- The National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,
- The Cornell Theory Center at Cornell University,
- The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, a joint effort between Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh, and Westinghouse Electric Company

These supercomputers needed to be connected so, also in 1985, the NSF started to build out NSFNET. NSFNET was a national network that linked up the supercomputers to academic networks around the country so researchers not located on one of the supercomputer campuses could use them at no cost. The NSFNET network was built using two models:

- The Computer Science Network (CSNET) model, another NSF project started in 1980 that linked Computer Science departments across the United States;
- The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), which was desiigned and used by ARPA of the United States Department of Defense,

The original NSFNET backbone ran at 56 Kbps - that's 56 thousand bits per second!!

It didn't take long before more bandwidth was needed - requests for access and use of the supercomputers exploded along with traffic on NSFNET. On July 2, 1988 a rather significant email went out from network engineer Hans-Werner Braun to NSFNET users:

The NSFNET Backbone has reached a state where we would like to more officially let operational traffic on.

NSFNET had been upgraded to T-1 bandwidth - 1.544 Mbps per second. Here's a nice quote from an NSF press release titled The Day the World Changed:

Though its story is somewhat overlooked by history, NSFNET is generally accepted as the progenitor of the modern Internet as we know it today--a massive, global network that has made our world smaller and changed our lives in countless ways. And it all took off after that simple e-mail 20 years ago today.

2o years ago today the modern Internet was born - think it will it ever stop growing?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Dissenting Statement of FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is directed by five Commissioners appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate for 5-year terms, except when filling an unexpired term. The President designates one of the Commissioners to serve as Chairperson. Only three Commissioners may be members of the same political party and all are appointed by the President. None of them can have a financial interest in any Commission-related business.1 Current Commissioners are:

Commissioners make decisions and have to have thick skin - any time a decision is made there is going to be positive and negative feedback. Often the Commissioners stick together and defend each other but sometimes there are dissenting statements made when there is strong disagreement. In response to the June 12, 2008 FCC Fifth Section 706 Report I wrote about a couple of days ago that examines the availability of advanced telecommunications capability to all Americans, Commissioner Michael J. Copps let lose with a whopper of a dissenting statement - here it is as posted on the FCC website:

It’s no secret to most people here that I have not been leading the cheers for previous editions of our Section 706 reports. Based on a paucity of data –mostly primitive and generally-unhelpful –these reports claim progress that simply did not reflect reality. The data lacked a plausible definition of broadband, employed stunningly meaningless zip code measurements concerning its geographic distribution, ignored the prices people paid for broadband completely, and for years failed to look at what other countries were doing to get broadband deployed to their people. As I noted the last time we issued a section 706 Report, way back in September 2004:

“America’s competitors around the world are implementing comprehensive broadband plans. Countries like Japan, Korea, and Canada have left us far behind. This is unacceptable. Broadband is our central infrastructure challenge. High-capacity networks are to the Twenty-first century what roads, canals and railroads were to the Nineteenth and highways and basic telecommunications were to the Twentieth. Our economy and our future will be driven by how quickly and completely we deploy broadband.

That is why Congress charged the FCC with promoting broadband deployment for all Americans—whether they live in rural areas, inner cities or tribal lands; whether they are affluent or of limited income; whether they live with or without disabilities. Recently, we heard an announcement from the very top of our government that our goal is universal broadband access by 2007. But we are not making acceptable progress toward that goal. Yes, there are good stories in these glossy pages. Schools and libraries enjoy broadband access like never before. New technologies offer new promise. Strides are being made in some rural communities. Companies are working hard.

Still, one glaring fact stands out: the United States is ranked eleventh in the world in broadband penetration! [Note: we’ve fallen to 15th in the interim.] This Report somehow finds that this is acceptable, and that our efforts are resulting in timely deployment.”

I could continue with the rest of my 2004 statement and it would sound as eerily applicable today as these first few paragraphs do. We can write reports that conclude that Americans are receiving broadband in a reasonable and timely fashion. But the facts are always there, glaring and staring us in the face, showing us where we really stand.

I've always been a proponent of free markets and smaller government but, in this case I have to agree with Copp, we're just fooling ourselves. I don't believe we are going to fix this critical problem without strong national policy.