October 2000 [1]

Real World
Web-wide World
Wired World
Wireless World
Hard World
Soft World
ATA (All the Acronyms)

Real World

  • In an attempt to promote the electronic book market, the Frankfurt Book Fair is offering a $100,000 prize for original and converted e-books. Established authors like Ed McBain are in the running. The e-book awards are online at http://www.iebaf.org [note: the page at this link is now updated to reflect the current book fair]
  • More money than you know what to do with? In need of an intense emotional relationship but unwilling to interact with living objects? Then the ERS-210, Sony's new robot pet, may be for you. Unlike the first generation AIBO, the ERS-210 is in the form of a lion cub, and is programmed to recognise words and show more emotion. It is reported to cost £1000 and be in the shops by Christmas.

Web-Wide World

  • With the silly money thrown over the last couple of years at dotcom start-ups, it's not surprising that many are falling by the wayside. Strangely enough, the old fashioned idea that a company needs to turn a profit is turning out to be true. The latest dotcom to request liquidation is Boxman, an online CD retailer, and venture capitalists in New York are warning that more are to follow. On a more positive note, we may witness the return of one of the most highly publicised failures, Boo.com, after Fashionmall.com recently bought up its URL and trademark.

Wired World

  • Speed-hungry surfers are all waiting for broadband access, promising data rates in the hundreds of megahertz. One route to broadband lies through the telephone network, and requires upgrading the 'local loop' - the last mile or so between you and your exchange. BT is allegedly dragging its feet over LLU [local loop unbundling], which allows other telecom companies to install this technology. Recently ntl has suggested that it may not wait for BT to open up the exchanges. Instead it is looking at the options of using cable or wireless networks, or extending its LANs [local area networks]. For a national map of broadband access, and background to the debate, look at http://news.zdnet.co.uk/0,,t293,00.html [requires Flash plugin]

Wireless World

  • [Focus]

    The major developing market in the networked world is the wireless market, in which Europe is well ahead of the US.
    As e-mail was the first killer application for the wired Internet, so SMS [short message system] has been the killer application for the mobile phone network (one report states that in August 9 billion SMS messages were sent worldwide.). And as HTML [hypertext markup language] 'web' content was the second killer application for the wired Internet, so WML [wireless markup language] web content - sent via WAP [wireless application protocol] - is expected to be the second killer application for mobile phones and other portable devices.

    Initially WAP was not well received, and there was talk that it might lose out to 'I-mode' (the network standard produced by the company DoCoMo , which is big in Japan). Currently, however, commentators are much more optimistic about the prospects of WAP.

    One of the problems that struck WAP was of user disillusionment. Various adverts, such as for BT Cellnet, portray WAP as 'the Internet on your phone', whereas the truth is that mobile phones will only ever carry a fraction of the rich content of the Internet. However it is now recognised that the riches offered by the wireless market don't depend upon providing a rich multimedia product. More important will be features like 'location awareness', where content can be tailored relative to one's geographical position.

    The killer WAP applications will need more bandwidth than is currently available, however. The present European mobile network is GSM [global system for mobile communication], which can handle data rates at around 10 Kilobytes/second (standard modems can hit 56 K/s). But the coming standard - GPRS [general packet switched radio service]- will theoretically allow data rates of over 100K/s.

    GPRS - a so-called '2-and-a-half generation network' -will start appearing from 2002. As well as being faster than the current GSM network, it will provide an 'always-on' service. That means, to use the network one won't first have to to ring to make a connection.

    Projected to arrive several years after GPRS is UMTS [univeral mobile telecommunications service] - the so-called 3rd-generation network. The auction for UMTS frequencies raised over 20 billion pounds for the exchequer. The connection speeds possible with UMTS will allow services like streaming video.

    The products using all this speed may not look like the mobile phones of today, however. Although in the short term sales of WAP enabled phones are predicted to take off, in the longer term it is expected that the predominant portables will look more like PDAs [personal data organisers] than mobile phones.

Hard World

  • The escalator in chip speeds recently passed the 1 Gigahertz barrier, with September seeing the release of AMD's 'Thunderbird 1Gz' and Intel's 'Coppermine 1Gz'. Whilst the Intel chip came out marginally better in benchmark tests, the cheaper Thunderbird was generally taken to be better value. Subsequently AMD have brought out Thunderbird 1.1Gz, which Intel has tried to pip with their Coppermine 1.13Gz. Unfortunately, it seems that Intel rushed this out too quickly, and have had to recall the chip after faults were discovered.

Soft World

  • Wouldn't it be great if you leased all your software and downloaded it on need from a remote server? This kind of idea keeps arising in different forms, and for various reasons is never particularly successful. The latest version is the ASP [Application Service Provider] model, which is currently being pressed hard by Citrix (www.citrix.com). But at its recent user forum Citrix agreed that the model has been 'overhyped', and that they are now seeking to move away from pure ASP.

ATA (All the Acronyms)

  • ASP - application service provider (also: activeX server pages)

    GPRS - general packet switched radio service

    GSM - global system for mobile communication

    HTML - hypertext markup language

    LAN - local area network

    LLU - local loop unbundling

    PDA - personal data assistant

    SMS - short message service

    UMTS - universal mobile telecommunications service

    WML - wireless markup language

    WAP - wireless application protocol

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