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Sunday, November 25, 2007

A New ePaper Revolution.

News sites have been buzzing the past couple days about Amazon’s Kindle ebook reader selling out shortly after its release.

Michael Santo at Real Tech News makes the observation that since Amazon isn’t saying exactly how many Kindle units have moved, it’s hard to say if the device is, in fact, a runaway success — it could be that the online retailer simply hedged its bets against initial skepticism and didn’t make a ton of the things.

However, the BBC says that many buyer reviews at Amazon have been positive, and the New York Times ran a love letter to Kindle earlier in the week that includes perhaps the most lucid point we’ve seen about the $400 device’s potential appeal — it comes with “free” 3G conectivity:

The Kindle goes online using Sprint’s 3G cellular data network — the same service that costs $60 a month for corporate laptop luggers. The Kindle’s price tag stings less when you realize that Amazon is going to pay your entire wireless tab.

Our own Rob Enderle suggests that the Kindle is a little behind the curve in terms of usability — it doesn’t have a reading light, for example — but its inclusion of media player support, coupled with tight integration with content services (a la the iPod), may signal a new boom in the ePaper market. Printing king HP is already planning an entry. Endrle writes:

Kindle is very close to there, and in one generation it could become an iPod-like product. Others will likely see that and work to ensure Amazon doesn’t own this market and make a push in 12 to 18 months.

E Paper

Electronic paper, also called e-paper, is a display technology designed to mimic the appearance of ordinary ink on paper. Unlike a conventional flat panel display, which uses a backlight to illuminate its pixels, electronic paper reflects light like ordinary paper and is capable of holding text and images indefinitely without drawing electricity, while allowing the image to be changed later. Unlike traditional displays, e-paper can be crumpled or bent like traditional paper. One important feature needed is that the pixels be image stable, or bistable, so that the state of each pixel can be maintained without a constant supply of power.

Booming demand for Internet services combined with insufficient infrastructure

Internet outages may occur by 2010 as capacity stalls

Booming demand for Internet services combined with insufficient infrastructure investment could leave the Web vulnerable to brown outs within three years, a study released Tuesday predicted.

Nemertes Research said Internet providers need to invest from $42 billion to $55 billion -- or 60% to 70% more than current plans call for -- to stave off interruptions to the digital economy that could happen if the Net bogs down. "The next Google, YouTube, or Amazon might not arise" if the situation isn't fixed, Nemertes said.

The problem, the group said, is that bandwidth usage is outpacing infrastructure build outs. While core fiber and switching/routing technology "will scale nicely," Internet access resources could soon be overwhelmed in three to five years, Nemertes said.

The trouble could be particularly acute in North America, the researchers said.

"Rather like osteoporosis, the underinvestment in infrastructure will painlessly and invisibly leach competitiveness out of the economy," said Nemertes.

Nemertes conceded that its study, in many ways, represents a best guess at what's happening with the Web. "The Internet is almost opaque to serious researchers, even those with the necessary technical skills, integrity and desire," said the group.

That's because commercial Internet providers closely guard information about usage and technology roadmaps. "Carriers and content providers refuse to reveal their inner workings," said Nemertes, adding that it's understandable that service providers are reluctant to reveal data that might undermine their competitiveness or compromise user privacy.

Nonetheless, "we conclude by urging content and service providers to cooperate with researchers in sharing data," said the study's authors. Nemertes also said Congress should consider tax credits to spur Internet providers to add more broadband capacity.

New technology lets players use bodies to navigate virtual worlds

Making 'Second Life' more like real life
You can always spot the novices in the virtual reality world of "Second Life": Their online characters — or avatars — stumble around awkwardly and walk into objects, as their real-world users fumble with the keyboard controls.

Now, technology from Japan could help make navigating online virtual worlds simpler by letting players use their own bodies — or even brain waves — to control their avatars.

Take the new position-tracking system developed by Tokyo University, which uses a mat printed with colorful codes and an ordinary Web camera to calculate the player's position in three dimensions.

The user turns left, and the avatar turns left. The user crouches down, and the avatar follows.

Navigating a virtual world
This technology lets you use take the actions you'd use in real life and transpose them to the virtual world," said research leader Michitaka Hirose. "It could make maneuvering much, much easier."
"Second Life," the virtual universe run by San Francisco-based Linden Lab, boasts more than 11 million registered users worldwide. People can design online characters that meet and chat with other avatars, go shopping or party.

But the online world isn't as easy as the real world to navigate — especially for beginners.

At a recent demonstration in Tokyo, researcher Katsunori Tanaka strapped a Web camera to his hip, lens down, and walked around on a large mat with specially coded patterns on it. On a large screen was the computer graphic-generated 3-D world of his avatar.

As Tanaka moved across the mat, the view on the screen shifted perspective. When he crouched down to peer under a virtual parked car, the image swerved to show what his avatar would "see" — the vehicle's underside.

The system can track movements in 3-D because as the user moves, the patterns on the mat change from the camera's perspective and the images can be processed to calculate vertical distance and tilt, Hirose said.

Tapping into brain waves
Across Tokyo at Keio University, another research team is offering a virtual experience that reaches even more deeply into the user.

The interface uses electrodes attached to the user's scalp to sense activity in the brain's sensory-motor cortex, which controls body motions, according to Ushiba. Software then translates the brain activity into signals that control the avatar.

The technology can detect what a user is thinking because when people imagine moving their right arm, the brain's left hemisphere is activated — and vice versa. When people think about moving their feet, the top part of the brain is used.

"The difficult part is to stop thinking," said research student Takashi Ono as he made his avatar stroll through a virtual Tokyo neighborhood in "Second Life."

"I want to go left, so I think, 'left' — but then the avatar turns too far to the left before I can get rid of the command in my head," he said.

Both Hirose and Ushiba said they had no immediate plans to commercialize their technology, though they are applying for patents.

Hirose said he envisioned combining avatar-control systems with video game consoles.

"That would be the ultimate interactive virtual experience," Hirose said. "That's where we're heading to."

space telescopes of tomorrow

What space telescopes of tomorrow will see
Webb Space Telescope to launch in 2013.
Giant-sized telescopes such as Hubble, Spitzer and Chandra offer unprecedented views of the cosmos, but astronomers are eager to put more powerful tools into orbit around the Earth.

Without the extra help, said Rachel Somerville, an astronomer at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany, it may be impossible to resolve some of the universe's greatest mysteries.

"We need better observations to make our models better," Somerville said, noting her search to understand galaxy formation and mysterious quasars. "... If you just put theorists in a room for the next 15 years with the biggest supercomputer you can find, it will never happen."

NASA expects the James Webb Space Telescope to launch in 2013, and many scientists are already pondering their future observations of tiny extrasolar planets, elusive black holes and distant galactic arms.

Somerville and other astronomers laid bare their sky-watching hopes — including telescopes beyond JWST — at the recent Astrophysics 2020 conference, sponsored by Johns Hopkins University and held at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.

Galactic details
JWST will boast a segmented mirror nearly 21 feet (6.4 meters) in diameter, which has seven times the light-collecting area of Hubble. Somerville thinks the sensitive infrared observatory will be crucial for understanding galaxy formation.

If you don't have a high enough resolution, galaxies you're trying to observe are going look like fuzzy blobs," Somerville said. "Seeing the star-filled arms of galaxies in detail, for example, can tell us how some galaxies evolved."

And the higher the resolution, the further a telescope can see back in time, as light can take millions or billions of years to reach Earth.

While Somerville said NASA's next "great observatory" will deliver unprecedented views of galactic arms, she thinks the telescope could use some help to speed along other cosmic discoveries.

Helper telescopes
"JWST has a big mirror and is very sensitive, but it has a postage-stamp sized camera sensor. You can see very, very deep into the universe, but you can only see this much at a time," she told, drawing the sensor size in the air with her hands.

"That takes a long time. If you have a smaller-diameter telescope with a lot of sensors, you can see much more of the sky at one time."

She explained that while such "wide-field" telescopes would not be as sensitive as JWST, such high-sensitivity telescopes could step in to observe interesting areas in greater detail. "It narrows your playing field and, ultimately, saves you a lot of time," Somerville said.

Saving that time should help astronomers find objects of interest faster and rapidly expand scientific knowledge.

Beyond JWST
Somerville, however, isn't the only one with big ideas. Wes Traub, an astronomer and project scientist for several proposed planet-finding NASA missions, would like to see extrasolar planets in greater detail than ever before.

Traub and his colleagues envision blocking out the blinding light of distant stars with giant occulters, or "solar shades," to observe planets around stars with future space telescopes.

"There are many, many planets to be found," Traub said. If the solar shade idea takes off, he explained, astronomers could block the intense glare of a planet's star and precisely measure light reflecting off the planet. In effect, astronomers could look for life-nurturing compounds such as water, methane and oxygen on the planet.

"If we can image a planet with just one pixel on a detector ... we could characterize its surface and search for life," he said. If NASA approves such a mission in the next decade, JWST may be the first telescope to take such measurements.

receiving a paypacket, how good a man feels.(Men motivated by 'superior wage')

Brain scans show we measure our success by others' earnings

Men motivated by 'superior wage.
On receiving a paypacket, how good a man feels depends on how much his colleague earns in comparison, scientists say.
Scans reveal that being paid more than a co-worker stimulates the "reward centre" in the male brain.

Traditional economic theory assumes the only important factor is the absolute size of the reward.

But researchers in the journal Science have shown the relative size of one's earnings play a major role.

In the study, 38 pairs of male volunteers were asked to perform the same simple task simultaneously, and promised payment for success.

Both "players" were asked to estimate the number of dots appearing on a screen. Providing the right answer earned a real financial reward between 30 (£22) and 120 (£86) euros. Each of the participants was told how their partners had performed and how much they were paid.

Brain scan'

Using magnetic resonance tomographs, the researchers examined the volunteers' blood circulation throughout the activities. High blood flow indicated that the nerve cells in the respective part of the brain were particularly active.

Neuroscientist Dr Bernd Weber explains: "One area in particular, the ventral striatum, is the region where part of what we call the 'reward system' is located. In this area, we observed an activation when the player completed his task correctly."

A wrong answer, and no payment, resulted in a reduction in blood flow to the "reward region". But the area "lit up" when volunteers earned money, and interestingly showed far more activity if a player received more than his partner.

This indicated that stimulation of the reward centre was not merely linked to individual success, but to the success of others.

While behavioural experiments have suggested relative rewards may play a role in economic motivation, economist Professor Dr Armin Falk, co-author of the paper, said: "It is the first time this hypothesis has been challenged using such an experimental approach."

The professor emphasised to BBC News, that unlike behavioural experiments, brain scans had "no cognitive filter; we were monitoring immediate brain reaction".

Superior Wage Motivates Brain
According to scientists, how good a man feels when he receives his pay packet depends on how much his colleague earns in comparison. Brain scans reveal that being paid more than a co-worker stimulates the reward centre in the male brain. Behavioural experiments have suggested that relative rewards play a role in economic motivation.

A prototype technology could make lifting weights a lighter task.

Sensor technology keeps track of your progress in the gym and puts you in touch with other gym-goers

Sensor gives weightlifters a boost

A prototype technology could make lifting weights a lighter task.

Working out with free weights is an excellent way to build strength and burn off fat.

But keeping track of the sets and reps can be tedious. It's easy to accidentally skip steps, miscount a sequence or forget your progress.

The new technique uses sensor-embedded gloves and a waistband designed to recognise what type of exercise a person is doing and how many repetitions have been completed.

The system is tied with an online community of exercisers and could lead to a new kind of digital personal trainer that gives real-time tips or warnings on form and posture.

It would also connect people with others to help achieve their goals.

"People can use this to share their progress with others. They can share their secret and how they do their exercise," says Keng-hao Chang, a graduate student of computer science at the University of California, Berkeley.

Workout gloves are fixed with wireless sensors called accelerometers, which track motion in three directions: side to side, up and down, and front and back.

The data collected is sent via a wireless connection to a computer, where custom software analyses the information to distinguish a bicep curl from a tricep curl.

Eventually the data could be sent to a mobile phone or PDA.

Another accelerometer on the belt also tracks motions in three axes to distinguish whether the exerciser is standing or lying on a bench.

That information is helpful because the motion of some exercises - for example a bench press, which works the chest, and the movement of an overhead dumbbell press, which works the shoulders - are quite similar.

Initial tests
In initial tests, the sensors were 85-95% accurate in recognising the exercise being performed. And out of 100 repetitions, the system miscounted by fewer than five.

Chang and his team think that the system could be further enhanced by attaching radio-frequency tags to the weights themselves.

That information could be picked up by the sensors to determine how much weight is being lifted. In this way, the exerciser need only focus on the workout instead of its progress.

"The application itself is very interesting," says Dr Jamie Ward, a researcher of human activity recognition at the UK's Lancaster University.

"I believe you could make a product out of it," he says. "[But] there are a number challenges to overcome first."

Challenges ahead
For example, the sensors need battery power.

"It would be nice if the devices could be powered just from the movements themselves," says Ward.

"Wristwatches can do that but they use a very small amount of power, and accelerometers use more power."

There is also the issue of privacy.

"If the environment is smart so that the objects are monitoring you, it obviously raises some privacy issues," says Ward, adding that it will be important to keep the information localised

University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers have discovered that bortezomib, a promising cancer drug

Melanoma Tumors Carry Enemy Within, Suggesting New Treatment StrategyUniversity of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers have discovered that bortezomib, a promising cancer drug, is able to strike a blow against melanoma tumor cells by revving up the action of a cancer-promoting gene.
They say the laboratory-based findings suggest a novel treatment strategy that might someday prove effective against many types of cancer: Push cancer cells into overdrive, so that they self-destruct.

The U-M scientists found that bortezomib, a drug approved by the FDA to treat advanced multiple myeloma, is able to selectively inhibit melanoma tumor cells because it causes the c-MYC oncogene to overproduce a cell-death promoter called NOXA. Their results place c-MYC and NOXA, well studied among cancer researchers, in a new light. The study appears online ahead of print in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Our data suggest a different approach to treat cancer," says Maria S. Soengas, Ph.D., the senior author of the study. Soengas is an assistant professor of dermatology at the U-M Medical School and a member of the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Many cancer treatments aim to block specific oncogenes, genes that wreak havoc with the normal signals that dictate when cells multiply and die.

The thinking is that if oncogenes are disabled, cancer cells can't proliferate uncontrollably and spread. However, scientists know that oncogenes can play dual roles: They can cause tumor cells to rapidly divide, but can also step up programmed cell death, or apoptosis.

Therefore, "an alternative treatment could be to actually exacerbate oncogene function, to promote such a dysregulation of cell cycle progression and activation of apoptotic proteins that tumor cells ultimately die," says Soengas.

Melanoma tumor cells manage to resist most cancer drugs. For more than 30 years, the prognosis for patients with advanced melanoma has not significantly improved. Soengas likens the melanoma tumor cell's defenses to a heavy suit of armor that so far has blocked researchers' attempts to penetrate it. Now it appears that the tumor cells have an enemy within.

In human melanoma cells cultured and manipulated in the laboratory, Soengas and her team have studied bortezomib and other drug candidates to understand their molecular modes of action.

Bortezomib belongs to a class of drugs called proteasome inhibitors that show promise in attacking many types of tumors. But how the drugs direct their biggest punch at tumor cells, with less effect on normal ones, has puzzled scientists -- the cell actors they target, proteasomes, are widespread and essential to normal cells.

Soengas and colleagues reported in 2005 that bortezomib appears to combat tumor growth by increasing the activity of a cell-death promoter called NOXA in tumor cells, but not in normal cells. In the new study, the U-M scientists report that the force behind this selective uptick in NOXA, and the resulting cell death, surprisingly turned out to be the oncogene c-MYC.

The discovery of the oncogene's role in bortezomib's action has implications for other cancers besides melanoma, says Mikhail Nikiforov, Ph.D., the paper's first author. The Soengas and Nikiforov groups collaborated to elucidate molecular mechanisms of c-MYC-mediated regulation of NOXA in melanoma and other tumor cell types. Nikiforov is an assistant professor of dermatology at the U-M Medical School and a member of the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The findings lay the groundwork for more studies to improve bortezomib's effectiveness in treating cancers and to reduce its toxicity in normal cells, Soengas says.

"Now we can rationally design drugs that enhance bortezomib's action and favor NOXA production," she says. "Improvements might make it possible to give lower doses of the drug for a shorter time."

These improvements to bortezomib treatment, as well as other drugs that could take advantage of the study results, will take years of testing before they can possibly help patients. Soengas and her colleagues are collaborating with other U-M scientists on several projects, including one led by Shaomeng Wang, Ph.D., associate professor of hematology/oncology and pharmacology, to design drugs that will favor the effects of NOXA.

Clinical trials to test bortezomib's effects on other types of tumors are under way at the U-M and around the country.

Citation: Nikiforov et al. 2007-08380 v2, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Dermatology Foundation and the Elsa U. Pardee Foundation.

Our moon uncommon: Astronomers

Though moons are common enough in the universe, ours is rather uncommon, according to a new study by US astronomers. The Earth’s moon, the subject of much art, myth and poetry, was formed out of a tremendous collision, a rare event seen in less than 10 percent of moon formations, reported.

The study, based on new observations by Nasa’s Spitzer Space Telescope, was undertaken by researchers at the University of Florida and appears in the latest edition of the Astrophysical Journal.

Scientists say the moon was created between 30 million and 50 million years after the sun was born, and after other rocky planets had begun to take shape. A body as big as Mars is thought to have smacked into the infant Earth, breaking off a piece of its mantle. Some of the resulting debris fell into orbit, eventually coalescing into the moon we see today.

The other moons in our solar system either formed simultaneously with their planet or were captured by the planet’s gravity. “When a moon forms from a violent collision, dust should be blasted everywhere,” said Nadya Gorlova, lead author of the study. “If there were lots of moons forming, we would have seen dust around lots of stars — but we didn’t.”

Gorlova and her colleagues looked for the dusty signs of similar smash-ups around 400 stars that are all about 30 million years old. They found only one out of the 400 stars immersed in the telltale dust. Taking into consideration the amount of time the dust should stick around, and the age range at which moon-forming collisions can occur, the scientists calculated the probability of a solar system making a moon like Earth’s to be at most five to 10 percent.

The astronomers said that the planet-building process itself winds down by 30 million years after a star is born. Like our moon, rocky planets are built up through messy collisions that spray dust all around.

T-Mobile will sell an unlocked version of Apple's popular iPhone in Germany

Mobile Bows to Pressure, Unlocks iPhone in Germany
Rival Vidafone challenges Apple's policy of an exclusive deal, as the iPhone spreads through Europe
T-Mobile will sell an unlocked version of Apple's popular iPhone in Germany while it fights a legal challenge from rival Vodafone, the company said last week.

The move comes shortly after a court granted an injunction requested by Vodafone mandating that T-Mobile either sell an unlocked version of the iPhone or withdraw the product from the market.

Vodafone contends German competition law prohibits an operator from selling a locked phone with a two-year contract. Last week, T-Mobile announced it will sell an unlocked version of the iPhone for €999 (US$1481). T-Mobile sells a locked 8GB iPhone in Germany for €399 including 19 percent value-added tax.

However, T-Mobile is appealing the injunction and will withdraw the unlocked version if the company prevails, said Klaus Czerwinski, a T-Mobile spokesman, based in Bonn. T-Mobile is also considering filing for damages against Vodafone.

"We think the law does not apply to this situation," Czerwinski said. "We are still going to court."

The unlocked version means that users can put in a SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) from another operator and subscribe to a different -- and perhaps cheaper -- service plan.

European consumers are used to getting free or heavily subsidized phones if they sign up for a long-term contract, but those handsets usually won't work on other networks. Unlocked phones command a higher price.

Apple's strategy of securing agreements with just one operator has rankled many interested in the iPhone. The iPhone's relatively high price and 18- to 24-month service contracts caused hackers to find ways to break the software locking the phone to one operator. Apple has been patching its software to nullify the hacks.

Vodafone said users who opt for the unlocked version will miss out on some of the features that are exclusive to the company's network, such as the iPhone's Visual Voicemail, which lets users select and listen to messages, Czerwinski said.

By the end of next month, Vodafone will have the only nationwide EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution) network coverage throughout Germany, Czerwinski said. EDGE enables download speeds between 70K bps (bits per second) to 135K bps.

The iPhone can use EDGE and Wi-Fi networks but lacks 3G (third-generation) capabilities. Vodafone contends its flat-rate data traffic package is the most competitive in the German market since the iPhone uses a lot of data.

Vodafone was among several operators vying to be the iPhone's sole supplier in Germany but lost out to T-Mobile. T-Mobile said it sold 15,000 iPhones when it went on sale in Germany on Nov. 9

Deutsche Telekom to sell Apple iPhone without subscription

German telecommunications operator Deutsche Telekom said Wednesday that as a result of a court ruling it would sell Apple's iPhone without forcing customers to sign up to the operator's mobile telephone service.

It was the first time that exclusive distribution conditions of the iPhone through a mobile operator have led to a court decision.

Deutsche Telekom will charge 999 euros (1,480 dollars) for the hot multimedia item, instead of the 399 euros paid when buyers take a subscription to Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile unit, a statement by the operator said.

Sal Oppenheim analyst Nicolas von Stackelberg told AFP: "The price has to be high, in the end it's a luxury product meant to be shown off."

And customers would still have to purchase the iPhone at Deutsche Telekom outlets, he noted.

A Deutsche Telekom spokesman said: "T-Mobile will challenge the decision," which meant the court in northern Hamburg, which issued a temporary injunction on Tuesday would be asked for a final ruling on whether the distribution deal is valid or not.

Meanwhile, the German telecoms operator will offer to unblock iPHones that were bought with a subscription since Tuesday, it said, adding that the new conditions would apply "until the end of the judicial procedure."

The Hamburg court granted a temporary injunction to British telecom operator Vodafone, which had challenged an exclusive distribution agreement between Apple and T-Mobile.

Apple has also signed exclusive distribution contracts in the United States with AT&T, and in Britain with O2.

In France, telecoms operator Orange is to sell iPhones starting November 29, but French legislation already requires Orange to sell the phone with or without a mobile subscription.

Programmes have circulated on the Internet that allow iPhones to be used with various telecoms operators, but Apple has threatened to fight back with updated software.

Vodafone's request for a court ruling, von Stackelberg said, "shows that it really needs it (the iPHone), after first criticizing it."

German press reports have said that T-Mobile agreed to pay Apple up to 30 percent of the operator's iPhone sales in order to seal the German distribution deal.

Peggy Whitson And Dan Tani Complete Seven Hour Spacewalk

After a seven hours spacewalk, ISS commander Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineer Dan Tani have moved the Harmony node in its new position in front of the US laboratory Destiny, NASA announced today.
The two astronauts hooked up electrical and fluid connections between the Destiny laboratory - the space station's main room - and the Harmony node.

They also moved a 136-kilogramme, 6-metre long fluid tray from its temporary location at the centre of the station's main truss to the Harmony module.

Built in Italy for the United States, Harmony is a high-tech hallway and Tinkertoy-like hub. It is a 23- by 14-foot passageway that connects the U.S. segment of the station to the European and Japanese modules, to be installed later this year and early next year, respectively.

Harmony is the first new U.S. pressurized component to be added to the station since the Quest Airlock was attached to one of Unity's six berthing ports in 2001.

The Harmony module was delivered last month by the space shuttle Discovery, but was left in a temporary parking space. The space station occupants have been busy since then moving Harmony to its permanent spot and rearranging various portals outside the station to accommodate the new arrangements.

Harmony will offer docking ports to the European Space Agency's Columbus laboratory and Japan's Kibo experiment module, to become a part of the International Space Station next year.

Columbus will be stowed aboard the Atlantis shuttle when it launches December 6, part of a dizzying schedule of shuttle flights being made in a rush to double capacity on the space station by 2010, when NASA's ageing shuttle fleet is set to retire.

The Columbus External Payload Facility (Columbus-EPF) consists of two identical L-shaped consoles attached to the starboard cone of Columbus in the zenith (top) and nadir (bottom), positions, each supporting two platforms for external payloads or payload facilities. In total, four external payloads (payload facilities) can be operated at the same time.

NASA said another spacewalk by Whitson and Tani during which they will complete the exterior hookup of Harmony is scheduled for Saturday.

Entrepreneur Sabeer Bhatia, a co-founder of Hotmail, has announced that Instant Collaboration Software Technologies

Entrepreneur Sabeer Bhatia, a co-founder of Hotmail, has announced that Instant Collaboration Software Technologies (InstaColl), a Bangalore company which he co-founded, launched Live Documents, an online service which provides similar functionality to that of Microsoft Office.

The Flash-based applications suite viewed via an Internet browser is just one of the means to use Live Documents. The product can also integrate within your existing Microsoft Office installation, adding online collaboration capabilities.

"We are just a few years away from the end of the shrink-wrapped software business. By 2010, people will not be buying software. This is a significant challenge to a proportion of Microsoft’s revenues," Bhatia said.

Apparently, Bhatia's suite is somewhere in between Microsoft's desktop-based suite and Google's online suite. "Even power-users of Microsoft Office can use our service," Bhatia said.

"From a technology and utility perspective, Live Documents offers two valuable improvements - firstly, it break's Microsoft's proprietary format lock-in and builds a bridge with other document standards such as Open Office and secondly, our solution matches features found only in the latest version of Office (Office 2007) such as macros, table styles and databar conditional formatting in Excel 2007 and live preview of changes in PowerPoint 2007. Thus, Live Documents lets consumers and businesses to derive the benefits of Office 2007 without having to upgrade," said Adarsh Kini, Chief Technology Officer at InstaColl.

However, Zoho, a similar suite, also has their own plugins for the desktop Office. Google will not wait for long before launching their own stuff. It's hard to say how this competition will turn out, but it's quite certain that the way users handle documents will soon change. In the end, the users are always better off when there are different solutions battling it out for their money.

Sabeer Bhatia, a Stanford graduate, joined Apple where he met Jack Smith. The two colleagues came up with the concept of a web-based database entitled Javasoft. Eventually, they decided to create HoTMaiL (the uppercase letters spelling out HTML - the language used to write the base of a webpage). The service was launched on July 4, 1996 and in less than six months, the website attracted over 1 million subscribers. Hotmail was sold to Microsoft in 1997 for a reported sum of $400 million.

Internet Could Max Out in 2 Years

The Internet could run out of capacity before 2010 unless backbone providers bolster the pipes, researchers warn.
Consumer and corporate use of the Internet could overload the current capacity and lead to brown-outs in two years unless backbone providers invest billions of dollars in new infrastructure, according to a study released last week.

A flood of new video and other Web content could overwhelm the Internet by 2010 unless backbone providers invest up to $137 billion in new capacity, more than double what service providers plan to invest, according to the study, by Nemertes Research Group, an independent analysis firm. In North America alone, backbone investments of $42 billion to $55 billion will be needed in the next three to five years to keep up with demand, Nemertes said.

The study is the first to "apply Moore's Law (or something very like it) to the pace of application innovation on the 'Net," the study says. "Our findings indicate that although core fiber and switching/routing resources will scale nicely to support virtually any conceivable user demand, Internet access infrastructure, specifically in North America, will likely cease to be adequate for supporting demand within the next three to five years."

The study confirms long-time concerns of the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA), an advocacy group focused on upgrading U.S. broadband networks, said Bruce Mehlman, co-chairman of the group. The group, with members including AT&T, Level 3 Communications, Corning, Americans for Tax Reform and the American Council of the Blind, has been warning people of the coming "exaflood" of video and other Web content that could clog its pipes.

The study gives "good, hard, unique data" on the IIA concerns about network capacity, Mehlman said. The Nemertes study suggests demand for Web applications such as streaming and interactive video, peer-to-peer file transfers and music downloads will accelerate, creating a demand for more capacity. Close to three-quarters of U.S. Internet users watched an average of 158 minutes of video in May and viewed more than 8.3 billion video streams, according to research from comScore, an analysis group.

Internet users will create 161 exabytes of new data this year, and this exaflood is a positive development for Internet users and businesses, IIA says. An exabyte is 1 quintillion bytes or about 1.1 billion gigabytes. One exabyte is the equivalent of about 50,000 years of DVD quality video.

Carriers and policy makers need to be aware of this demand, Mehlman added.

"Video has unleased an explosion of Internet content," Mehlman said. "We think the exaflood is generally not well understood, and its investment implications not well defined."

The responsibility for keeping up with this growing demand lies with backbone providers and national policy makers, added Mehlman, also executive director of the Technology CEO Council, a trade group, and a former assistant secretary of technology policy in the U.S. Department of Commerce.

"It takes a digital village," he said. "Certainly, infrastructure providers have plenty to do. You've seen billions in investment, and you're seeing ongoing billions more."

U.S. lawmakers can also help in several ways, he said. For example, the U.S. Congress could require that home contractors who receive government assistance for building affordable housing include broadband connections in their houses, he said. Congress could also provide tax credits to help broadband providers add more capacity, he said.

Consumers also pay high taxes for telecommunication services, averaging about 13 percent on some telecom services, similar to the tax rate on tobacco and alcohol, Mehlman said. One tax on telecom service has remained in place since the 1898 Spanish-American War, when few U.S. residents had telephones, he noted.

"We think it's a mistake to treat telecom like a luxury and tax it like a sin," he said.

Bandwidth Usage To Outpace Internet Infrastructure By 2010

A report issued by the U.S. firm Nemertes Research warned that the information superhighway could become clogged with data by 2010. The reason, Nemertes explained, is that bandwidth usage is outpacing infrastructure build outs.
That could take the form of Web pages that take longer to load and interruptions in videos that are downloaded or streamed, said Mike Jude, a senior analyst with Nemertes. "If we don't do anything, we're going to start looking like the dying days of dial-up access," he said.

Unless more than 100 billion dollars was invested in the global internet infrastructure, a level of gridlock would develop that would make it almost impossible to use rich media sites like YouTube. The effects will make life on the internet more difficult for users.

Also it will be an obstacle in the way of the technical revolution. "The next Google, YouTube, or Amazon might not arise, not because of a lack of demand, but due to an inability to fulfil that demand," the report added.

Nemertes estimated the investment needed at 137 billion globally - double the level planned. The financial investment needed to "bridge the gap" between demand and capacity in the US alone would range from 42 billion to 55 billion dollars, or 60 per cent more than planned.

The report was part-funded by the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA) which campaigns for universal broadband in the US.

"We must take the necessary steps to build out network capacity or potentially face internet gridlock that could wreak havoc on internet services," said Larry Irving, co-chairman of the IIA.

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