Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Prudent Businesses Prepare for Podcasts

EMPOWERING A MOBILE WORKFORCE

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Aug. 30, 2005
Podcasting is nothing new, but the consumer rage will pay off for business by keeping mobile workforces in the loop, perhaps via direct downloads to smartphones.
Also in this Issue
Strategies for Protecting Laptop Data
IT Departments Need Better Tools
Gas Price Increase Spurs Interest In Telecommuting
 
Top Insights

Dave's iPAQ: Technologies and applications that start in the consumer sector often move to business; ways are constantly found to move services from one sector to another. These trends are in play with podcasting, with signs that companies may use podcasting for internal and external communications. Podcasts are usually downloaded to PCs, then transferred to an iPod or other mobile media device. In a move that is likely to make podcasts a more feasible tool for remote and traveling workers, Melodeo is enabling podcasts to be found, downloaded and played on a mobile phone.
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ADDITIONAL READING:
Processor: Wireless technologies are seen as one of the main vehicles to cut the costs of networking, according to this short feature. The first bit of advice is to go "wireless all the way." The author points out that wireless is inherently cheaper than wired connectivity. The caveat is that wireless may not be quite as cheap as it seems. There are invaluable add-on functions, the author says, which may change the budget-saving home run into a mere double or triple. Preplanning also is key: for example, place access points near power sources. The piece is followed by an action plan, which suggests getting the entire company involved, developing effective metrics, setting realistic goals, making a commitment and following through.
 
ADDITIONAL READING:
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CIO Today: The problem facing IT departments is simple: The increasing popularity of laptops means that more valuable information is being carried around outside the protections of the network. This story looks at some of the challenges and remedies for the serious issue of lost and stolen laptops. One problem is that users who need encryption most tend to use it least. Another issue is that Window XP's Encryption File System isn't effective. This is bad news simply because people who use it may assume they are protected. The author suggests more comprehensive solutions. For instance, full disk encryption — because it is automatic and doesn't rely on the user — is a prudent approach. Seagate recently introduced hardware-level encryption. IBM and Dell like the technology, but it may not take off until another vendor begins offering it. The author says biometrics is more of a password organizer than a security device and that smart cards are a prudent way to extend security.
 
ADDITIONAL READING:
Telephony Online: This story, which reports on Yankee Group research, discusses an issue that could have significant impact on telecommuters and home workers in the near- and mid-term future. Yankee says that residential gateways capable of connecting multiple computers in homes gradually will subsume standalone digital subscriber line (DSL) connections. These gateways, which will incorporate a DSL modem and router, are on pace to dominate the category by 2009. This will create turbulence in the current standalone-DSL market in the interim. The story on the report makes no mention of what, if any, impact on cable modems or WiMax this will have. The downside for the industry is that only one gateway device will be needed by a small business or home. Yankee's suggestion is that service providers go with vendors whose gateways can accommodate multiple applications and can be upgraded via software downloads. The leading North American vendors of residential gateways are Siemens, Westell and 2Wire.

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Wi-Fi Planet: This story takes a look at the all-important issue of power amplifiers. PAs control the power reaching a mobile device, and so have a big impact on range and performance. It's a complex business. For one thing, two different materials are used for PAs that serve 802.11b and g on one hand and 802.11a on the other. The story reports on research done by Strategy Analytics on the emergence of module PAs, or circuits that can work with chip sets from a variety of vendors. Until now, chip vendors made unique PAs for their devices. The story says that successful PA companies will adapt the units they currently supply to cell phone manufacturers for Wi-Fi companies, including those that will offer voice over Wi-Fi (VoWiFi) handsets. Currently, there are three dominant Wi-Fi chipmakers, but 58 vendors in total. Strategy Analytics expects only 20 to survive the next five years. Intense jockeying will test each vendors' financial stability and technical acumen.

Reuters: This story throws some cold water on the hot topic of broadband over power line. BPL could radically expand the ability of workers to telecommute and work from the road because it would piggyback IP traffic on ubiquitous power lines. BPL is vying with WiMAX and all-fiber networks as third competitors to DSL and cable modems. The challenges to BPL, this story says, continue despite the fact that the technology is showing signs of stabilizing. One issue is that power companies don't have the experience to operate successfully in a highly competitive marketplace such as broadband. This sober analysis flies in the face of several pro-BPL announcements this summer. Goldman Sachs and Google invested in BPL developer Current Communications, IBM is working with Houston-based CenterPoint Energy on a trial, and Sempra Energy launched a year-long test in San Diego.

RedNova: The IT departments must keep abreast of all issues — even those outside their control — that may affect the cellular networks the workforce depends on. This story says there is growing controversy surrounding the placement of cell phone towers in densely populated areas. The explosion of cell phone use means an explosion in the number of towers — there were 18,000 in 1994; more than 175,000 dot the landscape today. One problem is that residents think the towers are eyesores. The greater concern, however, is that many people are not completely assured that radio waves don't cause cancer. So far, the cell phone companies have won most of the legal fights involving towers because no conclusive evidence exists that waves transmitted at the level allowed by the FCC are harmful. That legal landscape could change, however, if a link between cancer and towers is established.

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3 QUESTIONS:
IT Departments Need Better Tools

With Ben Martindale, the CEO of Plethora Technology.

Question: In the overview, what is the biggest obstacle to efficient and secure remote access in the field today?
Martindale: The biggest issue in the marketplace is that IT groups typically don't have the resources and adequate tools available to set up a remote access architecture that allows them to protect information and to deliver it to business users. I think in general the technical products in the marketplace have not evolved nearly as rapidly as either the demand or the threats that have to be overcome in order to provide remote access successfully. I think the problem certainly is getting worse in terms of number and type of threats that are out there today on the Internet. At the end of the day [IT professionals] still have some residual doubt that they have an architecture in place that can deliver information and protect it simultaneously. The result is that organizations tend to come down on the side of security as opposed to availability. Information gets [blocked] as a result and business users don't get what they need.

Question: What is the answer?
Martindale: I think the simple answer is better technology and better tools. Tools IT organizations wrestle with today are 10 if not 20 years old. If you talk to people in the marketplace, there seems to be rough equivalency between remote access and the words "virtual private network." There is an astonishing number of people we come across that believe that "If you have a VPN, what else do they need?" First off, VPNs were developed 15 or more years ago. In general, the technology did not contemplate the Internet today — as well as Internet threats. And there has been little core foundation level innovation in the marketplace. There's been evolution, refinement and improvement on SSL [secure socket layer] VPNs. They certainly came into the market rapidly and began to push aside IPSec [IP Security] VPNs, an even older technology. The real question is how much can you improve SSL itself. Is there inherent weakness? Can it be overcome, or do we need a fresh approach to the idea of network security for remote access? What we have done is to start over from the foundation level of computing to develop a freestanding application that provides all necessary technology to provide remote access securely.

Question: Who sees the situation more clearly: the working IT people or the executives who sign the checks?
Martindale: We see rapidly increasing demand among the consumer-side constituency, the people who write the checks. Psychologically, people are not willing to recognize a problem exists unless they perceive that there is a solution to the problem. Because IT people believe they are stuck with technology that is before them today, their tendency is to believe they have the best solution available and there is not an unmet problem. I believe that the people who write checks for IT and who require remote access are ahead of the IT shops in their understanding of their needs.

 
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By the Numbers

20 percent
Annual cell phone shipment growth in western Europe between the ends of the second quarters of 2004 and 2005. About 37.6 million units shipped in 2005's Q2.
Source: IDC

200 Mbps
Theoretical throughput possible using the new HomePlug AV protocol. Real-world data rates are likely to top out at 70 to 100 Mbps, according to an Intellon executive.
Source: PCWorld.com

2 percent
London laptop users who use 3G for remote connectivity, according to a Tatara Systems survey. Fourteen percent used BlackBerrys, 10 percent used other PDAs, and 75 percent used Wi-Fi.

Breaking Headlines

Sprint: Sprint, which completed its merger with Nextel in mid-August, has introduced the Sprint Precision Locator. The application is designed to enable managers to more easily manage field forces. The system can access interactive maps with full panning and zooming to locate workers or workgroups, set schedules and see the location of mobile devices at specific times to ensure that required tasks are being completed. The service also can place customized landmarks, such as offices and warehouses, on the map and create travel histories to determine where efficiencies can be gained. The system has a text messaging function that can reach individuals or groups.

Newsfactor Network: AMD is adding two processors to the Turion 64 family, which is aimed at Intel's popular Centrino products. The MT-40 and MT-37 offer 64-bit computing to thinner and lighter notebooks, the story says. They already have been adopted by VoodooPC, a company that makes machines aimed at gamers. An AMD executive says the chips run on lower power and include the "sleep state" status the company added in the spring. The story has some interesting analysis: It says that AMD is a bit late to the mobile party and differs from Intel by promoting the chips. Intel, the piece says, focuses on the Centrino brand, which goes beyond the chips themselves.

National Post: Intel and Research in Motion (RIM), owners of the BlackBerry wireless e-mail device, are expected to reach a deal under which RIM technology will be included in Intel's next-generation chips. The deal was rumored to be imminent at the Intel Developer's Forum last week. The news was taken to be a good step for RIM, which conceivably could get a royalty from every Centrino device sold. From Intel's perspective, the technology could increase Centrino battery power three-fold and reduce bandwidth consumption and heat generation significantly.

Emerging Trends

Computerworld: This piece says that the increase in gasoline prices — which shows no sign of abating — is leading to a heightened interest in telecommuting. Telework technology is so evolved that an influx of users wouldn't require significant new spending or otherwise inconvenient operations. The story cites Web collaboration tools as a key enabler of remote workers that can be implemented in short order. Another key enabler is broadband, which is available to ever-larger chunks of the populace. Indeed, the story says that the biggest challenges to telecommuting are cultural, not technological. The story looks at General Electric's GE Energy division in Atlanta. The company has cut workstation requirement by 50 systems, each of which costs the company about $15,000 annually in real estate and related costs.

Laptop Magazine: The introduction to this "laptop decathlon" makes the point that most reviews, at Laptop and elsewhere, don't focus on durability. This extensive review set out to make up for that shortcoming. The engineers looked at 10 laptops: the Acer TravelMate 8100, the Apple 15-inch PowerBook G4, the Averatec 3360 EH1, the Dell Latitude D610, the Fujitsu Lifebook S7010, the Gateway M210XL, the HP Compaq nc6230, the Lenovo ThinkPad T43, the Sony VGN-S360 and the Toshiba Tecra M3-S331. These devices were tested for speed, endurance, design/ergonomics, features and software, graphics/multimedia, wireless, durability, security, value, and customer service/warranty. The winner — after piling up lots of points in the performance categories — was the Acer TravelMate 8100, with a score of 70. Other results are included.

BargainPDA.com: It makes sense to pay attention to what the government is doing simply because much of the research done at this level eventually wends its way into business and consumer devices. This story says that "it's safe to assume" the secure PDA phone that General Dynamics is creating for the U.S. government will be the most expensive PDA ever made. Whether or not that turns out to be the case, it clearly will be a pricey widget. An unspecified number of devices are being developed under an $18 million contract with the National Security Agency. The PDA will provide voice and e-mail connectivity, Web access and document viewing. It will have a modular architecture that will enable use of a variety of protocols, including the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) and Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA). The device will be delivered during the second quarter of 2007.

IT Business Edge: Empowering a Mobile Workforce
Issue 35, Vol. 3
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About the Editor

Since late 2001 Carl Weinschenk has been a freelance information technology and telecommunications writer. His work has appeared online and in print at mobilepipeline, America's Network and a variety of other publications and sites. He is a contributing editor to Communications Technology magazine. Previously, Weinschenk held staff editing and writing positions at InternetWeek, tele.com, Cable World and Cable Marketing magazines. You can reach him at mobile@itbusiness
edge.com
.