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Of Device Convergence, XML, PDF and OS X
by Mike Banks Valentine

How often have you attended internet shows recently where the
major sponsor booth is absolutely swimming in interested new
customers? Most recent internet trade conferences have been
sparsely attended and major sponsors have suffered severely
limited interest in their new offerings in both hardware and
software. Seybold San Francisco 2001 bucked that trend last
week as both major sponsors (Apple and Adobe) easily filled
presentation after presentation through their four days of
presence on the trade show floor at the Moscone Center.

This was one week after terrorist attacks decimated the travel
industry. While not matching previous show attendance, this
show attracted enthusiastic crowds wandering through two massive
halls. Keynote addresses were noticeably below expected turnout
with far less than half of the available seats filled. Except
the keynote opened by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, which attracted a
nearly full house to hear of improvements in speed and
useability to the OS X operating system. Jobs had planned to
be in Paris and appear "live via satellite" to this show from
Europe, but made a surprise appearance in San Francisco due to
the cancellation of the show in France.

The products of Apple and Adobe attract a very different
following and market segment - publishing, design and creative
professionals. The Apple installation included demonstrations
of the new OS X operating system upgrade. Each time I entered
the showroom floor over 3 days of attendance I witnessed over-
flow crowds filling the demonstration area. Apple hardware
displays offered everything from iMacs to Mac OS X Server
equipped G4 supersystems. These also were swamped with show
attendees seeking demonstrations and asking questions of the
sales reps.

In July I attended the eBusiness Expo held at the San Jose
Convention Center and watched IBM sales reps wander back and
forth around their monstrous installation on the trade show
floor talking with each other because there were no attendees
to pitch to. Same at the GE Global Exchange booth, and the
Siebel Systems booth. (See coverage at the following address)

Seybold followed the trend of "convergence" seen throughout
the internet industry over the last year. Device convergence
in endless discussion as we juggle our Palm Pilots and cell
phones and pagers and RIM Blackberries and notebook computers.

The answer seems to be NOT in device convergence but web hosted
software that invisibly serves up appropriate content to any
device you choose to use. Vendors each touted the ability of
their software products to seamlessly talk with short messaging
service (SMS) devices or full screen mobile web tablets. 

Each offers to present your hardware with whatever it needs to
communicate with you. It doesn't matter which you prefer to use,
wireless web enabled phones or proprietary Microsoft PDA's. The
universal goal appears to be delivering content without regard
to how it will be viewed. Clearly there are limits to this
approach, such as delivering images to Palm Pilots, but the clear
trend is even stretching toward that end. 

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The dominant theme at Seybold seemed to be Digital Rights 
Management (DRM) in which everyone struggles with how to rein
in the threat posed by easily broken encryption schemes.
But how do you make information available to multiple devices
while at the same time attempting to keep information under
lock and key? Ah, now the fun starts. Software engineers will
no doubt be working overtime on this issue as publishing goes
through one of the most profound changes in, oh, three or four

While we are struggling with making information available to
everyone on all devices, publishing companies and copyright 
holders work overtime to limit distribution - or at the very 
least, limit FREE distribution of "owned" information. 

One of the best attended show sessions was that on ebooks
and epublishing where competing vendors discussed the merit
of "Open e-Book" (OeB) standards  and extensible markup 
language (XML) as a starting point to delivering content to
multiple devices in multiple formats -- PDF, HTML and many
proprietary hardware variants.

Several hundred sessions were offered in an extensive five
day line-up to review current trends in design and production
of both online and print publishing production. These two very
different and often incompatible areas are looking for ways to
merge and compliment each other.

As newspaper publishers all seek to move their print content
online, they realize that customers expect more current and 
up-to-date information on the web. These newspapers are used to
the 24 hour news cycle, but now their readers seek instant
updates to breaking news stories online. One of the most
interesting sessions offered at Seybold this year was abruptly
arranged following last week's terrorist attacks - to address
how the web handled breaking news coverage.

Panelists included representatives from CBS Marketwatch & USA
Today online versions beside two popular weblogs discussing
differences in web coverage between major media conglomerates
and "amateur" web journalists. Once again, publishing David
versus Goliath.

There was no concensus reached on one being better than the
other, but universal agreement that the resulting information
flow was much richer and more widely available to the public
because of the web. This show rated an A+ at a very difficult
time for the economy and web business. I'd also say that I'm
grateful that Seybold Seminars elected bravely to hold it so
soon after the attacks that cancelled so many other events.

Mike Valentine does Search Engine Placement for the Small

WebSite101 "Reading List" Weekly Netrepreneur Tip Sheet
Weekly Ezine emphasizing small business on the Internet

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July 16, 2001