JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 19 : October 4, 2000


  • Time for a webcam
  • Read an eBook
  • Telecosm - George Gilders new book
  • Funpad while you wait
  • Roxboro - staying public after all
  • eFeedback - Automation in decline

Reach out and SEE someone!

You know, yesterday I bought a small digital camera which looks like a pen - for $80.00. I can whip it out and take a picture anytime - makes me feel like Jimmy Bond. To see the pictures, I connect it to my PC via the USB port. And, when connected, it serves as a "webcam" - to show live pictures on the web.

Predictions are for webcam sales to jump from 3.5 million units in '99 to 35 million units in 2004. That dramatic increase is for good reason - webcams continue to get cheaper and better. Today, you can pick one up for less than $100.

With broadband rolling out across the country and webcams cheaper than ever, now might be the right time for you to buy one. They provide a means of greater interaction with friends and family; instead of telling mom about your new home, give her an online tour. Grandpa wants to see the baby? Hold the little tyke up to the PC.

Take a look at the best webcams on the market and check out the downloads that let you capture video and post them online.

Click Look at PC Magazine webcams Editor's Choice

Click Take a look at the Pen-cam Trio I bought the other day

Read an eBook

I used to take a good book with me on my long trips to Europe. But, I couldn't take more than one or two, and after I'd finished, I used to lug it back home (cheap-skate). These days, I've been reading more and more e-books while I travel. It takes some getting used to, but I can even curl up with one in bed. You can find everything from the latest mystery thriller to technology books and academic tomes.

Thinkaboutit - a publisher prepares a copy of a book, using a press to print on paper cut from a tree, binds it in book-format, stores it in a warehouse and then sends it to a bookstore for you to buy and keep till you get to read it. Why not simply send it to you electronically in a few seconds, to read in a format of your choice?

The popularity of e-books clearly is growing, but it remains to be seen just how viable the medium is. Writer Stephen King recently released a book online and publishing house Simon & Schuster, which has been an early adopter of electronic publishing, just last week announced its first full season of original e-books, to be published soon.

Amazon.com has selected Microsoft Reader™ software as the preferred format for its planned e-book store. You can purchase and download e-book titles directly and read them in this format. The reader includes ClearType™ display technology that improves font resolution on LCD screens for users of desktop or laptop PCs. Competitors include Glassbook, Gemstar's Rocket eBook and Softbook, among others. BarnesandNoble.com already has an e-book store online and offers readers their choice of a variety of formats.

The Microsoft Reader offers the pleasure of reading enhanced by electronic reading software with ClearType technology, which is supposed to provide an enjoyable on-screen reading experience.

Click Download Microsoft Reader

Click Microsoft Reader eBook titles

Click Free software to read eBooks on your Palm or Windows CE PDA

Click The Rocket eBook - and some available titles

Telecosm - Gilder's new book

Gilder's telecosm This long-awaited, new (Sept. 2000) book is a bible of the new age of communications. To seek the key to the future, look to communication power, or bandwidth, which is exploding; its abundance is the most important fact of our time. One of the great technological visionaries of this age, Gilder's track record of futurist predictions is one of the best.

The book starts like this:

    "The computer age is over.

    After a cataclysmic global run of thirty years, it has given birth to the age of the telecosm - the world enabled and defined by new communications technology. Chips and software will continue to make great contributions to our lives, but the action is elsewhere. To seek the key to great wealth and to understand the bewildering ways that high tech is restructuring our lives, look not to chip speed but to communication power, or bandwidth. Bandwidth is exploding, and its abundance is the most important social and economic fact of our time. "

Equal parts science story, business history, social analysis and prediction, this book makes sense of the titanic changes underway. It is difficult to read - but read it!

Look at Telecosm Look at George Gilder's Telecosm

Funpad - while you wait

While you wait for a table in the restaurant, you can have a computer with an 8-inch color, touch-sensitive LCD screen, a Pentium CPU, Windows, 128 Mbytes of memory, 1 gigabyte of disk storage and stereo audio, with wireless networking. It will display the seating arrangements available, so that you can make an immediate selection or choose to wait; it will show you the menu and take your order; you can check your email and the latest stock market gyrations; and if there is still time, you can entertain yourself with a video-game or play backgammon.....

Too expensive for the restaurant? Not really - the cost is subsidized by on-screen advertising - and of course it makes the restaurant more efficient. Apparently, restaurants like TGI Friday's and Denny’s are already testing out the concept.

Click Take a look at FunPad

Roxboro - Staying Public

I had previously reported (eNews, July 3, 2000) that Roxboro, the UK Company, was "going private". The company was working with Schroder, a venture-capital firm, to fund an exit from what seemed to be a relatively poor valuation in the stock market.

Read the original Roxboro going private story Roxboro website

Now, with higher profits, news comes that Roxboro has pulled out of talks with the VCs and has made a decision to remain public. When the buy-out talks were first revealed in June, Roxboro's shares were trading at 267 1/2p. Yesterday they fell 14 1/2p to 296 1/2p. Not a big difference, and one wonders how strong that price is, given the present fragile market conditions.

There continues to be pressure on companies in unfashionable sectors such as construction, property and engineering to find ways of boosting their share price and increasing shareholder value. Boards of almost any company in the automation business have had discussions about a buy-out. But for some companies good news - or bad - can mean that a buy-out/buy-in is no longer appropriate. If business improves, it is more viable for a company to remain public, and if it worsens, an alternative means of rescue must be found.

Harry Tee, CEO of Roxboro commented:

    "Venture capitalists are not interested in the value of the company now, but in what they can extract in three years' time. They want deals that will provide an internal rate of return of 30 per cent plus a safety margin in the price. We were not under performing and we felt we would have been selling out cheaply."

Harry sent me this hot- link to the Roxboro website, with the comment: "Sometimes a business is doing too well to take private."

Roxboro website Link to the Roxboro website, with their latest news

Click Take a look at the Financial Times story (Sep 20, 2000)


There was a lotttt of discussion on the Automation List, about my article :
Q&A session - Automation in Decline

Click Review Automation in Decline

Click Check The Automation List, see discussion transcripts & sign-up

Michel A. Levesque, Directeur Bureau Montreal, AIA Inc. mlevesque@aia.qc.ca commented:

    "Perhaps the global market is not declining - maybe just the major market (North America) but not worldwide. If the entire industry is on the decline, then why are we not out looking for other jobs?"

Jim Pinto response: Ah! But, many in the industry are laid off and looking for new jobs. Take a look around you. The consolidations among the majors are causing a lot of divestitures and cutbacks. This reminds me of a joke-truism:

    When someone else is laid off, it's a Recession.
    When you are laid off, it a Depression".

John Coppini jcoppini@applicom-int.com suggested:

    "The industry is overcrowded; there are too many manufacturers. Just look at any of the instrumentation and control magazines - dozens and dozens of boring ads hawking the same, tired equipment. You only need so many sensors, controllers, PLCs, HMIs, etc., etc., etc."

Jim Pinto comments: Whew! Isn't that the truth! They advertise commodities, with a variety of flavors. Perhaps this is why the magazines do NOT talk about Automation in decline. They don't wish to scare off their advertisers.

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