This, the first of our regional blogs, is authored by the technology and financial journalist Dominic Basulto. Dominic is a New York native, has been a senior editor at Corante since day one and has written for a number of online and offline media companies. Send tips or story ideas to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
About this weblog
Here we'll report daily on the latest tech and business developments in New York City. Impossible we concede: comprehensive coverage of the city's every story. What we hope you'll find: tips, tidbits and perspectives you won't find elsewhere. As well as unique insights, original interviews and more that should be of interest to New York's vibrant community of technologists and those who track, invest in and report on them.
"IBM is at it again. The IT giant is offering yet another batch of technology to the open-source world in hope of propagating widespread text search and analytics. IBM said it will make its Unstructured Information Management Architecture (UIMA) framework freely available to help make unstructured data more easily searchable--and findable."
According to one IBM engineer, the company's contribution of UIMA to the open source community will "open up tremendous opportunities for companies in the business intelligence arena as well as in the search space."
NYU has installed a new IBM supercomputer, giving it the fastest supercomputer in New York City. All the more remarkable, since the supercomputer (using IBM's blade technology) only occupies a total space of 30 square feet. While the supercomputer is the baddest boy on the block in NYC, it ranks as the 117th fastest supercomputer in the world.
The computing power will help out the university's Center for Atmosphere-Ocean Science, which is developing sophisticated models to study the behavior of the Earths atmosphere and oceans. As well, the new supercomputer will be part of a collaborative effort between the Center for Comparative Functional Genomics and the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences on genomics and bioinformatics.
Everybody knows that IBM researchers are some of the best in the business. According to the New York Times, Yahoo is now attempting to tap into IBM's talent pipeline, especially the highly sought-after scientists who pioneered an advanced search-engine technology (codename: Clever) at IBM's Silicon Valley R&D facility. The race among search engine companies for the best and the brightest is underway:
"With the defection of a prominent computer scientist, Kai-Fu Lee, from Microsoft to Google last week, the Yahoo recruiting is part of a rush of interest among search engine firms in acquiring research talent that will provide an edge in developing a new generation of search technology."
Here's a prediction: mainstream media publications will scrap their plans for yet another "the best managers in the world are found at GE" for an article claiming that "the best researchers in the world are found at IBM."
The July/August issue of Consulting Magazine has an interview with IBM's Bill Pulleyblank, leader of the team which developed Blue Gene - the worlds fastest computer. Pulleyblank offers a behind-the-scenes look at the company's Center for Business Optimization, which combines researchers and mathematicians with front-line business consultants.
The New York Daily News makes this sound more exciting than it really is: shopping from your sofa with a TV remote control. According to a spokesperson for the Electronic Retailing Association, "Interactive television is exploding. There's virtually no end in sight to the possibilities of improving the consumer's shopping experience."
Excuse me, "improving the consumer's shopping experience"? You mean, selling lots of products to brain-dead couch potatoes willing to make impulse buys as they flip through hundreds of cable channels?
One of the leaders in the trend toward interactive shopping via the TV, not surprisingly, is home shopping giant HSN, which has already lined up a number of brand name merchants like Wolfgang Puck, Nicole Miller and singer Patti Labelle. Other companies involved in the push to separate you from your dollars include QVC and Shop NBC.
In the New York Post, Christopher Byron breaks down a global stock swindle involving a shadowy financier from India who's wanted by Interpol but may be "wandering around New Jersey even as we speak." As Byron explains, "the swindle that began on the Calcutta Stock Exchange in the autumn of 2000 as a pump-and-dump scheme, spread like an oil slick until it had swallowed a New Jersey-based software company that Dalmia controlled called Allserve Systems."
Byron descends into the dark world of offshore IT outsourcing, investigating a series of phony deals and gray market transactions, only to find that ripples from the stock swindle "now lap at the unlikely feet of two of the American media's best-known business figures: The chairman of the Warner Music Group Corp., Edgar Bronfman Jr., and Philip Geier Jr., the retired CEO of the Interpublic Cos., the global advertising company." (Memo to self: never sit on the board of a company that you've never heard of)
If you tune into Byron regularly, you'll find that he does a great job of turning over rocks, sleuthing around shell companies, and digging through obfuscating financial filings. As this example shows, the paper trail often winds up in some fairly unlikely places.
IBM's IT services unit, which now accounts for half of the company's worldwide annual revenue and more than half of the company's global workforce, has grown so big and so unwieldy that the company is splitting the unit into two separate pieces: a unit that will focus on high-end business consulting and another that will focus on the more mundane task of running corporate data centers.
There are a number of other factors at play, as well. Not the least is that a 30-year IBM veteran who was running the IT services unit recently jumped ship for more lucrative career possibilities at a leading private equity firm. In addition, IBM is moving to protect its turf from low-cost Indian outsourcing companies like Wipro Technologies, Infosys and Tata Consultancy Services.
Information Week notes that IBM is preparing a new set of blogging tools for commercial launch next month. According to one analyst who had been formerly skeptical of IBM's dedication to blogging, the release of Weblog Preview is "a big step for IBM as well as for blogging and RSS delivery of collaborative content in general... While blogging may be viewed by the public as a hobbyist's plaything, it is serious for business productivity and IBM - like Apple, Yahoo, Google and Microsoft - is on the bandwagon..."
In his weekly e-commerce report, Bob Tedeschi reports on the ways that online retailers are using blogs to boost sales. Tedeschi says it's all aboard for the blogging bandwagon: "Online merchants are starting to test Web logs... in hopes of giving their stores more personality and giving customers a reason to return even when they're not in the mood to buy."
Among the companies mentioned in the piece: Bluefly.com, eHobbies and Ice.com. What's interesting is that some of these companies are actively promoting the blogs in their correspondence with customers and even hiding coupon codes in their blogs to give people an incentive to visit. These online retailers are obviously hoping that a huge blog audience will translate into additional sales, or at least, additional buzz around certain products.
IBM opened yet another software development center in India and announced plans to hire 1,000 programmers in the new center by the end of the year. That's on top of the 23,000 other employees that IBM has at its four other software development centers in India. For some reason, that just seems like a big number. 25,000 people. Combine it with IBM's decision to sell off its ThinkPad business to Chinese PC maker Lenovo, and that's the future: cheap, high-skilled labor in India and cheap, high-quality products from China.
Billy Martin's, the boutique Western wear retailer with stores on the Upper East Side and in East Hampton and plenty of celebrity clients, has launched a new e-commerce marketing program with the help of Strategic Growth Ventures. According to the terms of the deal, a subsidiary of Strategic Growth Ventures will provide design, hosting and e-commerce marketing services for Billy Martin's using its proprietary Net Launch Program.
"To help hospitals and health systems better understand the impact to their physician and consumer relationships, and navigate the challenges faced in this digital age, Manhattan Research announces the launch of a new advisory service titled The Future of Digital Medicine: The Role of "E" in Hospitals and Health Systems."
According to the company's press release, the online seminars will look at consumer and physician Internet utilization trends; email, communication, and connectivity by consumers and physicians; and PDA, EMR and mobile health applications.
The New York Daily News takes a futuristic look at RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology for retail consumers. In one scenario, small computer tags would be embedded right into clothing and other store items. Consumers would then scan the products that they want to buy, and the items would be automatically billed to your debit or credit card. It sounds kinda cool, but as the article points out, there are a number of privacy issues to resolve before RFID technology really takes off.
Hugh Macleod of Gaping Void explains why corporate blogging works. The key, says Macleod, is creating a "porous membrane" that enables people within the company having "internal conversations" to relate better with customers outside of the company having "external conversations." Blogs, quite simply, "poke holes in the membrane," thereby enabling ideas to move freely between internal conversations and external conversations.
OK, OK... it makes a lot more sense once you've seen the diagram and read Hugh's 15-point summary.
Good Blog has an excellent summary of the goings-on at the BDI "Blogging Goes Mainstream" event last week in midtown. According to the participants at the 1/2-day event, blogs represent many different things to many different people: conversation "amplifiers," "a new form of decision-making," a "form of persuasion," a way to create loyalty and influence, a way to connect to the customer, and a crisis-management tool. Or all of the above. (Hat tip: Micro Persuasion)
CIO Magazine profiles Verizon's chief information officer, Shaygan Kheradpir, in a nice feature called "Sleepless in Manhattan." So what's an average day like for Kheradpir? He works 10 or 12 hours a day, takes a break, and then goes back online for three or four hours every night. Oh, and don't forget about the conference calls that happen around midnight, the e-mails sent out at times during the night when most people are catching up on their REM sleep, and the morning phone calls that take place literally "first thing" in the morning.
IBM has made its patented data-management mining and analysis technologies available to analyze data collected from in-car electronic components. According to the Journal News, it's a move that will enable automobile manufacturers to more readily analyze and collect huge reams of vehicle diagnostics data. The goal is to make it easier to detect problems with electrical or electronic systems that result in automobile breakdowns. An IBM researcher who helped develop the technology explains:
"With an approach like this, data can be preserved and used to develop automated analysis routines to help all mechanics correctly diagnose the same type of problem as well as to provide an early warning system to identify major issues affecting many vehicles."
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) just signed a deal to develop a state-of-the-art building automation system (BAS) to "protect its priceless art collection from environmental damage by maintaining perfect environmental conditions." The new monitoring and control system will link all the mechanical and electrical equipment within the museum and enable facility managers to have a dashboard view of all the building's systems. That means that all the security, heating, venting and air-conditioning, lighting control, and fire detection/suppression systems at MoMA will now be able to talk to each other in real-time.
So what's the perfect environment for a Picasso? According to MoMA, it's 72 degrees Fahrenheit and 50% humidity.
A special for St. Patrick's Day: Accenture's Guide to Strategic Outsourcing in Ireland. The PDF document offers an on-the-ground account of "the exciting possibilities that outsourcing offers, not only for cost reduction but also for real and sustained increases in customer satisfaction, productivity and profitability." While much of the talk about outsourcing involves India and other Asian nations, the value of the outsourcing market in Ireland is close to $234 million annually.
U.S. firms are already taking notice. In February, for example, IBM acquired Irish financial services outsourcing firm Equitant, which offers back-office financial services for several high-profile clients, such as Microsoft, Cisco and HP.
IBM is taking the wraps off its newest on-demand supercomputing facility, which will showcase the power of its Blue Gene supercomputers (the world's fastest). By making access to Blue Gene more available to researchers and corporations, IBM hopes to stoke demand for the super computer itself.
So who needs this kind of ultra-fast, ultra-powerful computing power? According to experts, "the system is well suited for applications in the life sciences, such as genome research, the petroleum industry, for seismic analysis and reservoir modeling, and automotive and aerospace manufacturing for computer-aided engineering." Oh, and Wall Street firms might also be willing to tap into the number-crunching possibilities.
We suddenly have more confidence in the MTA. The subway tracks may still be a mess and future fare increases may still be on the way, but at least all the back-end IT applications are in good hands after IBM signed a five-year, $65 million IT services contract with the MTA. Under the terms of the agreement, IBM will manage a data center that handles MTA's fare-collection system. In addition, IBM will manage the systems running other key back-end applications, including the database that tracks parts for subways, buses, and other equipment, as well as the applications that oversee crew schedules, procurement, contracts, and other tasks. IBM will also establish a disaster-recovery site at a company facility outside New York City.
Fed up with employees using too much bandwidth during working hours on non-business-related tasks, more and more firms are experimenting with high-tech devices that measure how much bandwidth each employee uses and what Web sites they visit, says the New York Post. It's all part of a plan to cut down on extra costs and improve office productivity: "With these monitoring systems, companies can quantify just how much of the fiber-optic cables' space the employee was using then ask them to pay for it..." Bills sent to employees surfing dubious or illegal Web sites would also include a "please explain memo."
Not surprisingly, this brutish Big Brother abuse of employer-employee trust is not going over so well with cubicle dwellers. According to one analyst interviewed for the piece, "The bandwidth used by employees doing non-business related work is so small and the cost so tiny, companies, by charging employees, would be doing more harm than good..."
Just scroll down the blog entry to "David Marshak's Remarks" and press play on the AudioBlog.com logo. There, you'll find a brief audio clip in which David takes a high-level look at real-time collaboration over the past 20 years and presents his thoughts on the convergence of real-time and contextual collaboration. "Presence changes everything," he says. "The Internet without presence is like having voice mail without having the telephone system."
The New York Daily News has a preview of the upcoming National Retail Federation trade show at the Javits Center, where participants will "unveil a host of new gadgets that could give future shopping a whole different look." Two examples: a "shopping cart assistant" that mounts on a shopping cart and reminds customers about items they should be buying and a "portable shopping system" that scans items as they are added to a shopping cart, enabling consumers to keep track of the tab.
The New York Times takes a look at the trade-offs facing any Internet-savvy business traveler -- on one hand, it's nice to travel with as many gadgets and gizmos as possible; on the other hand, too many of these gadgets can overload bags and make transportation a tight squeeze. It's a choice between power and weight, says Susan Stellin. The article includes some nice tips on what to bring -- like Wi-Fi signal indicators, cable locks for the laptop, and thumb-sized flash drives.
The AP reports that more bosses than ever before (even those in low-tech industries) are using GPS technologies to track workers and vehicles. The goal is simple: improve productivity and customer service while optimizing labor costs. Workers may complain about privacy issues, but managers maintain that GPS is all about "managing the business" and not "tracking people."
The head of a waste disposal company that does business in Connecticut and New York explains why it's worth the trouble to install GPS technology inside his fleet of garbage trucks: "If you're not out there baby-sitting them, you don't know how long it takes to do the route. The guy could be driving around the world, he could be at his girlfriend's house. Now there's literally no place for them to hide."
On December 29, Cognizant Technology Solutions (based in Teaneck, New Jersey) will be added to the Nasdaq-100 index. As the company's president and CEO pointed out, the company is "the only IT services firm on the list and... the first and only offshore firm to be included in the Nasdaq-100." The announcement actually seems to have made more of a stir in India than in the New York metropolitan area. The story has already been picked up by the Economic Times and Rediff.com.
Internet News has the latest scoop on IBM's plans for the RFID market. After setting up a new software division in late September, the company has moved aggressively on a $250 million bet on the future success of the RFID market. The key, says IBM, is focusing on moving power to the edges of the RFID process flow: "What we've tried to do was really move some of the computing power as far to the edge of the network as possible, so we've enabled the RFID readers into technology-enabled smart readers -- readers that can do more than just read a tag."
At an IT supply chain conference in New York, Todd Thompson, the VP of Information Technology at Jet Blue Airways, indicated that the company plans to allocate 75% of its IT spend to new projects -- mostly as a result of the company having so few legacy IT systems to maintain. (The company launched in 2000) While other airlines are cutting costs and hunkering down, Jet Blue has the luxury of improving its already well-regarded airline service: "Thompson explained that he's focused on investments that improve the customer experience, concentrating on self-service technology, such as airport kiosks and providing better information to flight crews for more efficiency."
Virginia-based Acumen Solutions, a management and technology consulting firm, will open a New York office in order to leverage its domain expertise in the media, communications and financial services verticals. Of interest to potential job seekers: the company was named one of "Washington's 50 Great Places to Work" by Washingtonian magazine.
International investors attracted by favorable foreign exchange rates and record-low interest rates are tapping into the power of the Internet in order to scoop up New York real estate bargains. The city has always attracted deep-pocketed investors from Europe and Asia but "what is new is the ability to use the Internet to connect international real estate investors with local brokers through websites such as CityRealty.com... With Internet based services like CityRealty.com, foreign investors can obtain detailed market and property information (including photos and floorplans) and discuss their real estate investment plans with experienced market specialists before they set foot on a plane."
According to CityRealty.com, overseas buyers now comprise 15% of the total clientele, up from 5% just several months ago.
Outsource Partners International, recently ranked as the 2nd-fastest-growing private company in the Los Angeles area, is opening a new office at 477 Madison Avenue on December 1. The business process outsourcing company, which specializes in finance- and accounting-related functions (e.g. payroll, accounts receivable, financial reporting), also raked in another $4 million in VC financing in November. As OPI explains, it's all part of a well-documented trend in which companies "insource" all core functions like strategic planning and marketing and "outsource" everything else to lower-cost providers.
Corante contributors such as Michael Tietelbaum, a demographer at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, will take a closer look at these issues in Outsourcing, a recently launched industry insider blog.