|Volume 3: No. 03|
Hearings to confirm Jack Gibbons as head of OSTP are set for 1/26. Early confirmation would help Gibbons influence FY '94 budget requests and the selection of 77 other science- and-technology appointees. [Robert L. Park, WHAT'S NEW, 1/15.]
The Computer Systems Policy Project (CSPP), an association of 13 computer-industry CEOs, recommends that Clinton announce a National Information Infrastructure (NII) as a national technology challenge, create an NII Council under VP Gore, and create funding mechanisms for research, demonstration projects, education, and access to government information. Congress is urged to appropriate the funding, and industry is urged to invest, develop, implement, deploy, and provide further guidance. [Jenny Carter, (202) 783-8627. Ross Alan Stapleton (stapleton @bpa.arizona.edu), firstname.lastname@example.org, 1/12.] (This still sounds like bellying up to the public trough by companies that could pay their own way, but I suppose it depends on how much industry contributes, how well they can leverage R&D money, and how big a hurry Clinton and Gore are in. Networking research is likely to do the economy more good than additional space research.)
Educators are worried that high-tech companies will cut back on financial and material contributions. IBM has been giving $1M/year to MIT, but is now having financial difficulties. DEC is also laying off workers. [NYT. SJM, 1/14.] Silicon Valley's largest companies will continue their contributions ($70M/year from HP) at about 2% of after-tax profits. Corporations are responsible for about 5% of academic donations. [Tom Schmitz, ibid.]
A Swedish sporting-goods manufacturer says that Taiwanese workers are educated well enough for assembly-line jobs, but each must be supported by 4-6 others handling cost accounting, inventory control, contracting, general management, and supervisory functions. French and Swedish workers can be given flexible responsibilities, even to redesigning their own jobs to boost profits and profit sharing. (His French workers divided responsibilities according to talent, took care of cost accounting, renegotiated supplier contracts, and even brought in a consultant at their own expense. In two years they reduced support from six positions to two.) US workers do not want such responsibility, and look just like workers in Taiwan -- except much more expensive. [Bob Hughes. Mary Eisenhart, MT, 1/4, p. 189.] (Connor Formed Metal and Granite Rock are exemplary US companies with motivated, empowered workers. See Inc. magazine for others, or read Tom Peters' new "Liberation Management: Necessary Disorganization for the Nanosecond Nineties.")
("People come to work to succeed. Nobody comes to work to fail. It seems obvious. So why do so many organizations operate on the principle that if people aren't watched and supervised, they'll bungle the job?" -- General Norman Schwarzkopf. [Bernie Goldhirsh, Inc., 1/92.])
Taligent Inc. expects to deliver its first object-oriented PC/Mac operating system ("Pink") next year instead of 1995. Microsoft has a similar project code-named "Cairo." [WSJ, 1/12.]
Bill Park reports from MacWorld that applications are getting smarter. Light Source's Ofoto is a scanning/OCR program with automatic setup and simple commands to correct colors, remove moire patterns, compensate for rotations, etc. Psychic Lab showed an Interactive Brainwave Visual Analyzer that displays a real-time, 3D plot of your EEG spectrum. It hooks up to a MIDI synthesizer for biofeedback training. $995, or $645 more for a two-channel upgrade.
Fujitsu, Hitachi, and NEC have completed basic Asian-language translation software with a 75K-word lexicon. The MITI/ODA-funded project aims to translate technical documents between Japanese, Chinese, and the main languages of Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Current software strips honorifics and non-essential information before translating. [Peter Coy, BW, 1/18.] (Coy's wording implies that phrases are translated independently and then stitched together. A commercially successful European translation system works that way -- sort of a case-based approach.)
MicroTac Software (San Diego) is selling bidirectional sentence translators for Spanish and French, with German and Italian versions to be out soon. (25K units have already been shipped.) More than 100K terms are recognized, and ambiguities can be resolved interactively in the integrated text editor. (Any WordPerfect or MS Word formatting is lost.) A stand-alone verb conjugator can help with over 2K verbs. (800) 366-4170. [Nick Anis, BACC, 1/12, p. 36.]
Multimedia will grow from $5B in 1992 to $24B in 1998, peaking at 40%/year growth in 1993-95. Authoring software will do well. [Market Intelligence (Mountain View). Ian Stokell, Newsbytes. BACC, 1/12, p. 17.]
Multimedia Gulch consists of 10 square blocks of renovated warehouses along Harrison Street in San Francisco. 40 multimedia companies are there, with as many as 3K workers in the city. (One local industry group predicts 250K by 1996.) Artistic activity exists down the Peninsula as well, and Paramount Communications Inc. is setting up its publishing research facility in Palo Alto. [John Schwartz, Newsweek, 1/18, p. 42.]
In the 16 years since VCRs were introduced, VCR and camcorder sales have brought Japan $200B. CD ROM applications may be the next such opportunity, creating new business instead of robbing older technologies. Sega sold 100K of its $300 CD players in the first month. Nintendo hopes to do as well with better CD-ROM readers at lower prices, and other vendors such as Sony and 3DO are targeting adults with realistic images. 3DO (San Mateo, CA) is drawing interest with its $700-$800 "Opera" player/simulator/ cable controller. CEO William "Trip" Hawkins has $30M backing from Time-Warner, Matsushita, and others. Paramount Technology Group, LucasArts Games, and Sierra On-Line all say they will write software for Opera. [Larry Armstrong, BW, 1/11.]
3DO has created the first workstation-quality game playback machine -- including 3D object rendering with shading, transparency, and 360-degree rotation. More importantly, Trip Hawkins is cultivating a developer community that will pay license fees of less than $5 per game. Nintendo charges $10-$17 for each cartridge, and must approve every game idea. With games selling for $49.95 to $59.95, developers make no money unless sales are very high. [Tim Bajarin, BACC, 1/12, p. 30.] Trip encouraged a similar stable of developers at Electronic Arts, but squeezed them pretty hard. Perhaps he'll have more freedom this time.