JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 33 : February 14, 2001

Business, marketing & futures commentary.
New attitudes, no platitudes.
Stay e-tuned....

  • Napster closing down??
  • MIT Tech Review : Digital Rights Management
  • Quantum Computers & the One photon Light Source
  • Schneider, Steeplechase & Think&Do Software = Entivity
  • Industrial Automation Outlook : 2001
  • eFeedback - Praising & Suing Gates, Stopping Light

Napster - can they close it down??

In the last couple of eNews issues, we had discussed Napster with a lot of feedback. On Monday 12 February '01, while many millions continued to download music feverishly, the proprietary protagonists in the music industry looked like they were winning a legal battle to close down Napster.

Click Read the Bloomberg story (Feb. 12 2001)

Click Read the UPSIDE discussion (Feb. 13 2001)

So, now what? What will happen to Napster, and the many others who are offering different blends of peer-to-peer file-sharing? Can the music merchants enforce a ban on copying via the Internet? How can they enforce it? This bring us to our topical Technology Review item for this week - Digital Rights Management.

MIT Tech review : Digital Rights Management

The Jan/Feb 2001 MIT Review Technology Trends listed their selection of the 10 most important technology trends:

Click MIT Tech Review 10

Napster is just one of the many battles that will shape the Internet during the 21st century's initial decade. The battle lines are sharply drawn. On one side are owners of intellectual property, or content: books, music, video, photographic images and more. On the other are Internet users who want content to be freely distributed. The Internet changes everything - it allows perfect reproduction of digital content and totally frictionless distribution. A few mouse clicks sends a work to millions of users, but the creators and owners of the content won't necessarily collect one dime.

ContentGuard, spun out of research at Xerox PARC, is one of the new companies that is developing content protection - Digital Rights Management (DRM) - which allows content-owners to see who is passing content to whom, allow much wider and deeper distribution than ever before.

DRM amounts to an encryption scheme with a built-in e-business cash register. Content is encoded and to get the key a user needs to do something - typically pay, but perhaps providing an e-mail address. ContentGuard uses a "multiple key" approach to content protection; anyone who received bootleg content would have to crack into it all over again. Thus, even hackers who crack into a piece of content cannot distribute it.

DRM isn't already everywhere because: a/ Content owners are in the midst of a hard rethink about both pricing and distribution. Suddenly they are wrestling with issues of how to price three listens to a song, say, or a download of a low-resolution image that cannot be forwarded to others. Different economic models for valuing content are just now being evaluated and DRM opens many possibilities. b/ No one wants to annoy the user - the complexity of the protection technology must be hidden, allowing users to buy the content they want without being put through obstacles - Annoyed users will simply go elsewhere to find what they need.

Captivating as the possibilities of DRM are, it is still in its infancy - probably a year or so away from seeing broad adoption.

Some people are still not convinced that content can be protected in the Internet era. For example, even if Napster is put out of business by the courts, the frictionless distribution of digital content among millions of Internet users will continue.

Click MIT Tech-10 review on DRM

Click Take a look at the ContentGuard website

Quantum Computers & the one-photon light-source

Quantum computers are no longer seen as weird curiosities but as the powerful future of the computer industry. The debate is shifting from whether they will ever become a reality to when they will become practical. The excitement is not due to their power, although they undoubtedly will be more powerful than today's most powerful computers. The big point is that they can solve problems and carry out simulations that are basically impossible on conventional computers.

Quantum computers rely on the tiniest objects and smallest interactions in the universe. Scientists measure the atomic spin of molecules and manipulate atoms to make these still experimental computers. Such computers may be the first quantum machines that can talk to each other, and even conceivably bring about "teleportation".

Pierre Petroff, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and material science at the University of California at Santa Barbara headed up the team that created the world's dimmest light source - a tiny, mushroom-shaped semiconductor that would spit out a single photon, or basic particle of light, on command. Applied physicists at Stanford University have produced the first device that can create a beam of light made up of a steady stream of photons. Normal light sources, even lasers, generate photons at random intervals. Finding a way to produce photons one by one at a regular interval has been a long-standing research goal. This work may someday allow the development of quantum computers that are based on light particles rather than the movement of atoms.

Click January 11 NY Times item (you might need a free sign-up)

Click Stanford Report on one-photon light source

Click IEEE - The Topsy Turvy World of Quantum Computing

Schneider, Steeplechase & Think&Do = Entivity

After recently acquiring Steeplechase, Schneider was looking to expand it's presence in e-manufacturing software. Think & Do was headed in a direction that complemented their approach. Credit must be given to Ken Spenser at Think & Do, and Alain Marbach, President of Schneider's Automation Business, for being flexible enough to consider forming a strong and independent, yet linked, combination.

Schneider decided to contribute Steeplechase Software and a minority equity position in Think&Do to create the control software offering of a new company - which will also have a collaboration and project management offering called Automation ProjectNet and will soon introduce new Asset Management products. These products, when combined, form the new and independent software company called Entivity (the name comes from ENabling ProducTIVITY).

The integration of the Steeplechase and Think&Do teams has been going on for a couple of months and is reported to be going well. They will move into a new facility at the end of March, in Ann Arbor, MI. The first Entivity Global Sales meeting took place in Las Vegas this past weekend and was reported to have gone very well. Both sales teams are seeing some real advantages -Steeplechase and Think & Do have very good control software and motion-product offerings. With the recent introduction of Studio, a Visio-based product with integrated HMI, Control and productivity analysis, Entivity has a solid foundation to move the product lines forward. Both companies are leaders in their advocacy of flowchart programming, which should force this programming language into international standards. It looks like Entivity already has quite an offering - for both OEMs and End Users.

Click Read the Steeplechase News

Click And the Think&Do news

2001: Industrial Automation Outlook

The industrial automation business is under pressure - growth and profit are elusive, most products are commodities, global competition is reducing prices and margins, innovation is scarce in an overcrowded market.

Large companies seem unable to generate organic growth, leading to mergers and acquisitions in related areas with accompanying divestiture or elimination of duplication. I have already forecasted that the industry Big-10 will reduce to the Big-5 - this is the year in which that prediction will be realized.

Who will survive? How will they thrive? In my new article (February 2001) I present my outlook for industrial automation at the start of the new millennium. This article was first published in Controls Intelligence & Plant Systems Report, February 2001. You'll find it on the JimPinto.com website.

Click 2001 : Industrial Automation Outlook


Tom Anderson IV [toma@spaceagecontrol.com] was indignant about my praise for the humanitarian Bill Gates :

    "Jim, you write some good stuff but the item on Bill Gates is a sham. Did he hire you as his publicist? Any true humanitarian does not have to publicize their efforts. They do it for their own good and the good of others. If they do it to influence public opinion, it is called "publicity" and not "humanitarianism" It is easy to feel responsible for one's wealth and what to do with it to make life better. OK, I am now off my soap box!"

JimPinto response :

    "Actually yes, Tom. The Bill & Melinda Gates foundation paid me $1,750,000.58 for my "unbiased" praise of Bill Gates. I gave $ 0.58 to my friend Bud Keyes, for his strong and unswerving support....

Perry Sink [perrys@synergetic.com] e-wrote :

    "I appreciate Bud Keyes' views on the Legal Mugging of Microsoft - and I agree that it appears on the surface that Microsoft and Gates are simply being penalized for being too successful. I'm a conservative, and I'm one to err on the side of the government leaving business alone. But I read the entire 70 page article in Wired Magazine : The Truth, The Whole Truth, And Nothing But The Truth and this piece showed the issue to be quite a bit more complex than a simple question of whether a browser can be included in an OS.

    "The real point was that Microsoft was holding a gun to PC OEM's heads and saying "Include IE or else." And the OEMs were so fearful of Microsoft that they wouldn't even testify. It is precisely situations like this for which anti-trust laws are written. Pure laissez-faire capitalism results in dead bodies just as surely as communism; it must be regulated to some extent. "

The JimPinto response :

    "Like you, I am a strong advocate for Government staying OUT of business regulation. They sued IBM (at great expense to the taxpayer, and IBM) - when IBM was already on a downslide. And now, they are threatening Microsoft when PCs and Windows are melting into the vast, connected peer-to-peer world of the Internet. It's like suing the railroads for monopolistic practices when the airplane has already arrived."

About the recent story on stopping light, Dan Greenberg [DGreenberg@mainspring.com] e-responded :

    "Now here's a question -- what does this mean in relativistic terms? If light has been slowed (or stopped), has time slowed or stopped for the information carried in the beam? Note that this is a relativistic effect, not a quantum effect. Presuming C is constant (and it's the speed of light in the MEDIUM which has gone to zero), perhaps there is no effect. If time has stopped, what does that mean for the medium (the gas holding the light)?

    "Or another line of questions: there is a well known time dilation effect in general relativity: if you accelerate, your time dilates. Thus, if you accelerated to close to the speed of light, then decelerated, turned around and returned, you would think significantly less time has passed than the people on the place you started from. How does this work for the light in the medium, which is decelerating? If I were riding that light beam, what would be my perception of time as I decelerated and then re-accelerated? Presumably, I'd think considerably less time had passed than outside observers (since I was "stopped"). Hmm.... "

On the same subject, Gene Post, [Gene.Post@GEFALBANY.GE.com] e-wrote :

    "I recently read an article on the slowing of light and then saw your coverage. Star Wars it might not be, but there is another old (20 years maybe) SciFi short story called Light of Other Days which is based on the concept of 'slow glass'. The glass slows the passage of light through it based on how thick the glass is, up to years worth. Glass farms exist that let the windows overlook landscapes for a long time and are then sold to people with no views. The story had a neat plot twist also. I wonder if this could be some sort of inspiration for this research."

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