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David Sims : First Coffee
David Sims
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First Coffee


By David Sims

The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music is Al Stewart’s rare 1995 album, Between The Wars. First CoffeeSM purchased his copy of this CD a few years ago for $29.95, and notes it’s up to $89.99 on now:

Regular readers of this space know that First CoffeeSM is endlessly amused by these studies “forecasting” broadband connections over the next ten years, VoIP usage in six years, Wi-Fi penetration in three years or whatever, all down to the tenth of a percentage point.

This morning
Datamonitor’s announcing the availability of The Definitive Guide to the IVR Marketplace: North America and EMEA,” which “finds” that spending on traditional IVR licenses will dip from $277 million to $179 million in North America and EMEA by 2009 even as spending on open-standards IVR licenses will grow from $166 million to $332 million.

“‘Traditional’ touchtone interactive voice response used by businesses over the past two decades for the purposes of phone-based routing and self-service functionality, is firmly in its twilight years,” Datamonitor concludes, confidently predicting that revenues from proprietary touchtone IVR in North America and EMEA will decrease by more than 35% through 2009.

Where will this smart money go? To open-standard IVR platforms such as Voice-XML and SALT which make better use of web infrastructure, improve functionality and can graduate to speech technology.

Traditional IVR is based on proprietary languages. As such, maintenance, upgrades and back-end data integration is expensive, complex and causes vendor lock-in. No doubt Datamonitor’s on the money when they say the emergence of open standards will improve the functionality and availability of higher quality phone-based applications in the market.

Datamonitor predicts fairly aggressive growth, forecasting the North American and EMEA businesses spending in open-standards IVR platforms to double in the next five years to over $330 million and the average annual spending on speech-enabled IVR in the US and EMEA markets to increase by 13.4% during that time.

Point-four, now, not 13.5%. Sheesh.

The U.S. Justice Department is dropping its antitrust investigation of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co., the largest telecommunications company in the country, as well as investigations of several other Philippine telecommunications firms.

U.S. justice authorities were probing Philippine telecommunications firms for alleged unfair competitive practices when in February 2003 they increased to a similar rate the fee they charged for handling calls originating from U.S. telephone companies.

No action will be taken against the firms.

3 Hong Kong has launched what it’s billing as “the world’s first 3G user-self-enabled video conference service.” It’s designed to allow up to four 3’s customers to participate in a video conference anytime and from different parts of the world.

The product combines 3G UMTS video conference tools, Radvision’s Scopia video services platform and WiseSpot’s WiseVSAA video service application architecture.

3 Hong Kong explains rather redundantly that the new tool is an “easy-to-use video conferencing service completely self-enabled by the 3G user” without the need for pre-booked, operator-assisted service.

First CoffeeSM remembers when cell phone technology went mainstream it was embraced by Eastern European countries as a way of leapfrogging the whole tiresome put-in-a-national-telephone-wiring-infrastructure-that-actually-works phase and cutting straight to wireless. It appears that the Voice over Internet Protocol could do the same thing for Africa and other underdeveloped parts of the world.

What makes wireless technologies attractive to Africa is the continent’s lack of fixed infrastructure, according to Paul Budde, the managing director of BuddeComm, an Australia-based telecommunication business consultancy company which tracks the African communications sector.

In the Philippines the government-owned Telecommunications Office is acting to use VoIP to provide telecom to unserved areas in the countryside. One step towards progress was to reclassify VoIP from a voice service to a value-added service, which any company can offer. Naturally this has squared ISPs off against traditional telcos, which quite reasonably fear ISPs offering commercial VoIP services.

“Algeria, Kenya, Mali and Mauritius have within the last year enacted telecommunication regulations that allow for the deployment of both VoIP and Wi-Fi,” according to Michael Malakata. In many countries special laws are needed to get commercial VoIP around heavily-regulated national telecommunications providers.

Kenya has just made VoIP legal, and South Africa wants to use it to attract the sort of call center business India’s profited from. Algeria’s approved licenses allowing ISPs VoIP and Wi-Fi for international calls.

The World Wide Web Consortium has started a Mobile Web Initiative designed to improve the quality of the web experience for mobile devices.

At the WWW2005 conference in Chiba, Japan, web inventor and W3C director Tim Berners-Lee said mobile access to the web has been “a second-class experience” for far too long: “MWI recognizes the mobile device as a first-class participant, and will produce materials to help developers make the mobile web experience worthwhile.”

The Mobile Web Initiative’s participants will initially focus on two areas: best practices and mobile device descriptions. The best practices group will develop authoring guidelines, checklists, and best practices to help content providers develop web content that works well on mobile devices.

The Device Description Working Group will address the development of improved device description solutions, a database of descriptions that can be used by content authors to adapt their content to a particular device.

Preliminary results, in the form of standards recommendations, are slated to be available in late 2005. So far, W3C has raised about $640,000 for three years to fund the initiative.

Those who suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia are going to have a rough day today. They’re in good company, however, as fear of Friday the 13th is probably the most widespread superstition in the United States.

With real-world effects: Few hospitals, high-rise buildings or hotels have a 13th floor. Airports rarely have a Gate 13. A British study found that fewer people drive on Friday the 13th than on Friday the 6th, yet hospitals report more accidents.

And Donald Dossey, founder of the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina cites estimates that $800 or $900 million is lost in business because people won’t fly or pursue other normal routines on Friday the 13th.

The origins of the superstition are lost in the mists of time – it’s not some ancient Christian/Catholic thing, a study done in 1894 found that the Islamic Turks so disliked the number 13 they practically never used it if they could at all help it, and ancient Hindus and the Norse believed it was unlucky for 13 people to gather.

First CoffeeSM finds a credible theory in the fact that ancient Egyptians considered the quest for spiritual fullness to occur in 12 steps in this life and the 13th was the eternal afterlife. So 13 came to mean death, in a good way, since you were transformed into spiritual glory, but after the nice connotations perished with their culture the death imagery remained with the number 13.

Couple that with the fact that there were 13 people at the Last Supper and Jesus Christ was crucified on a Friday – the day of the week for executions in pagan Rome – and you have a practically shrink-wrapped superstition for Western culture. Readers of The Da Vinci Code know that the Knights Templar were effectively destroyed on Friday the 13th, October 1307.

What’s strange is that the number 13 has long been considered unlucky, Friday’s been considered unlucky, yet there is no evidence that people before the 20th century considered Friday the 13th a particularly unlucky day. It’s a purely modern superstition which nobody can explain. Which, of course, is how a good superstition ought to be.

First Coffee© would like to remind the world at large, preferably with a substantial fine, that it’s “espresso,” not “expresso.

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