Small Business is Big Business

Microsoft is bidding adieu to its bCentral site of small business services and resurrecting it as the Microsoft Small Business Center Website. A transition is underway now, leading up to official closure of bCentral in early summer and complete migration of services and content over to the Small Business Center.

The move is an ambitious undertaking and part of Microsoft’s ambitious $2 billion investment in the small- and medium-business market. My report, “Investing $2 Billion on 45 Million: Microsoft Sales Assault Targets SMBs,” explores where the broader investment makes sense or comes up short.

Sometimes, subtle changes are significant. The new small-biz Web property will be hosted on a domain; right now services come from Jupiter Research surveys show that SMBs increasingly want to buy technology direct from the vendor rather than go through resellers or other third parties. The trend is more pronounced among the smallest SMBs. An operation coming off takes advantage of Microsoft’s brand equity and offers a more direct-like relationship. [Microsoft Monitor: Bye Bye bCentral, Hello SBC]

HandMark Launches Express Wireless Info Service

A potentially interesting service if you are finding that AvantGo, Hand/RSS or Plucker are not cutting it for you. Have to give it a shot and see how it compares…

HandMark touts Express as a much faster and easier method for searching with the micro-browsers found on wireless PDAs and smartphones. HandMark Express is a direct Internet client application that works via a subscription, as opposed to a web browser based service. It provides automatic and on demand updates to news, market data, weather, sports scores, maps and directions, directory lookups, movie times and ticket purchases.

Express is available for $6.99 per month and at retail with a prepaid one-year subscription for $69.90 USD. []

Wireless, Cable Leading To Death Of Long Distance

Seems kinda obvious to me given unlimited fixed price wireless and wireline services. With VOIP rising strong, we’ll see even more “data” adoption as people really start dropping traditional POTS.

A new study shows that traditional landline long distance services are being supplanted by wireless services and other new technologies.

About 50 percent of the respondents in a survey released Tuesday by the Yankee Group said that some of their landline voice calls have been replaced by wireless. Overall, the respondents said that 43 percent of their long distance calls are now via wireless networks.

“As the lines between wireline and wireless product definitions blur, an undeniable connection can be traced between mobility’s expanding product scope and a decline in wireline usage,” Yankee Group senior analyst Katie Griffin said in a statement.

She also noted that wireline technology is under threat from other technologies as well. Combined, these factors will have a dramatic effect on the telecommunications sector.

“The expanding availability of cable telephony offerings is introducing alternatives to consumers,” she said. “By far, the most vulnerable area is the long-distance market. These trends have precipitated the death of distance and eventually will result in the death of the minute as the measure of the market.” [Mobile Pipeline]

Apple Rumor… March 23

“Moving pictures. Moving sound. Moving the industry. Please join Apple for a special presentation at NAB 2004 to see the latest Apple technology.” Probably just be something to do with Quicktime or the popularity of the Mac for video editing. But we like to think it has something to do with plans to introduce a video iPod. []

Wi-Fi SD Card with 256 MB

Don’t hold your breath for this… there have been drivers in development for a very long time…

Unfortunately, SanDisk doesn’t expect the necessary driver to allow Palm OS models to use this card to be available for many months.

SanDisk’s Wi-Fi SDIO card with 256 MB of memory will have a suggested retail price of about $150.Brighthand

Sony Ericsson S700 Gallery (CeBIT ’04)

As part of our ongoing CeBIT ’04 coverage, we wanted to show you just what the new Sony Ericsson looks like. Unlike the mock-up we saw in New York, we had a good long play with a working prototype S700 at the CeBIT show, and we have plenty of photos for your enjoyment. [Mobile Burn] | The 10 Secrets of a Master Networker

This is a great read… extremely motivating!

Keith Ferrazzi enters your life like a circus coming to town — the two ringing cell phones, the two PalmPilots, the multiple conversations in which he seems to be listening and talking simultaneously. The way he walks and looks, all tanned and fit, with the styled hair and custom suit and black Prada shoes. The deals that are hanging in the air, the favors being extended or secured, the sideshows, the laughter, the juggling. That irresistible balloon of energy. []

What Browser do you use?

I find myself between Safari (90%) and Firefox (10%) when I browse… I like Firefox and think it renders beautifully, does a great job with tabs and passwords (though keychain support would be great like in Camino) but I miss a few small details that work for me in Safari – all keyboard related.

I can’t get between tabs without the mouse or search google and I absolutely miss the keyboard shortcuts to initiate bookmarks in the bookmark bar. These seem minor I am sure, but to me they make a huge difference. I can’t move as quickly as I like without them.

One final missing piece is the ability to keep new windows cleanly locked to the upper left of my screen…

I guess that probably explains the balance of my usage. I bet it would be the other way if I could get better keyboard access.

BW: Plug and Play TV

This will be interesting to watch… I’d say the average TV lasts for about 10 years, but in the last 5 years we’ve had 2 types of regular cable boxes and then the addition of an integrated DVR box… soon another will come when HDTV PVR is ready. I don’t know whether consumers will be happy with a TV less capable just because it can do some tricks without a box. Kinda like it is now… actually. In some cable systems you don’t need a box to decode, but you don’t have a DVR or MOD. The box adds value – not just premium channel decoding.

Over the next six months, Sharp, Pioneer (PIO ), and Motorola (MOT ) will introduce cable-ready TVs. And such sets will account for 500,000 of the 7 million or so flat-panel TVs that will be sold in the U.S. this year, up from nearly zero in 2003, estimates Michelle Abraham, an analyst with tech consultancy Cahners In-Stat in Scottsdale, Ariz.

TIME TO ADJUST.  Cable companies like this just fine. They can imagine sending new subscribers an activation card in the mail, which of course is preferable to buying millions of set-top boxes and hiring people to install them. Plus, they won’t have to deal with the 30% of customers who never return their boxes after dropping cable service, says Vamsi Sistla, an analyst with ABI Research in Oyster Bay, N.Y.

For makers of set-top boxes, however, the story is different. Motorola Broadband, Scientific-Atlanta (SFA ), Pioneer, and Pace Micro Technology will have to adjust their strategies or wither. [BW Online]

Encrypt or not to encrypt…

Funny I was just emailing about this very topic… I think I should get better acquainted with PGP again… easy enough to use with Mail as I recall with a plugin.

Personal encryption hasn’t taken off, experts say, because consumers don’t think it’s worth the trouble. “The real need for privacy hasn’t been demonstrated yet for consumer-to-consumer [e-mail],” says Jonathan Penn, a senior industry analyst at Giga Information Group.

Many free e-mail programs are targeting consumers, including 1on1mail, LokMail, and ZixMail. But the industry’s longtime darling has been Pretty Good Privacy, which nearly landed creator Phil Zimmermann in jail for violating export regulations. PGP, which Zimmermann sold to Network Associates in 1997, now boasts about 7 million users. Most of them, however, are “die-hard Phil fans and encryption gurus,” says Allison Taylor, PGP director of product marketing for Network Associates.

“Most people don’t care about encrypting their e-mail,” says Bruce Schneier, author of Applied Cryptography and CTO at Counterpane Internet Security. “You lock your front door now because you care. Your grandparents didn’t.” []

Shrook 2 is out

Shrook 2.0 is out is out and looks like a very slick update from where 1.0 was. I did not use it much after an initial test run, but this looks like a very interesting reader. The display supports an enhanced wide view and seems to render text in a very clean manner – much differently than NetNewsWire, though I can’t tell if that is just the font or what. I like it though…

I also like the web rendering within. There are certain sites that only offer abstracts that you can now read right from within Shrook which is a nice touch.

You can also sync your account through the Shrook service which is nice for people using 2 macs or if you are away from your computer but online via a browser interface. I’d love to see that make it’s way to wireless devices as well.

No posting capabilities… just reading and not free. It works for 30 days and imports all your groups from NNW perfectly if you want to give it a try before paying $19.95.

Later… After about an hour of usage I have to say I really like Shrook 2 with some minor exceptions. The speed is killer. I’ve got a few hundred feeds in NetNewsWire and it starts to feel heavy when you are trying to just cruise around. Shrook really jumps nicely when you are moving through a large list. Again – the text display is excellent…. very clean and easy to read. The negatives… two things really. First, It is driving me a bit nutty that you can’t get a consistent sort on feeds. Sometimes a site is listed chronologically and sometimes in the reverse. Since I have not used Shrook with my subscription file, it is pulling some old stuff and trying to recall what order someone posted in is not high on my list of priorities, yet you have to think about it often. The other detail is that when Shrook updates sites shift around and re-order on you to get to the top, listing as new. This is bad. I’d much rather see more unread in the folder for now and when I return to that group, have them reordered. Still kicking the tires… liking what I see for the most part though.


I am trying out this new RSS enhancement service called FeedBurner.

It’s going to allow me to do a couple things i’ve wanted to do. [A VC: FeedBurner]

Looks interesting and can handle the tweaking of your RSS for a variety of situations, like linking to amazon or converting your feed into other formats (atom perhaps). Not sure I’ll use it knowing that I have an amazon plug-in here and MT already creates an atom feed.

I did like the looks of the mobile feed reader they offer, but was amazed that it supports the Sony Ericsson P900 first – that’s got to be a first… apparently Palm support is coming so we’ll have to wait and see on that one.

Amazing and ridiculous ban on airline…

And if you want to de-stress after a tough working trip by listening to your new digital music player (eg, iPod), sorry: the Irish national airline has banned them. Again, it is out on its own on this one. The news will dismay long-haul passengers as the devices are popular in helping to while away airborne hours.

A spokesman for Aer Lingus said that the anti-iPod measure was the result of advice from a “steering group” of engineers in the airline. However, she could not provide further information as to what danger MP3 players posed to aircraft safety. [A Computers In Business survey of major airlines flying from Dublin shows that Aer Lingus is the sole carrier with the anti-iPod rule.] “We do tend to be on the conservative side in relation to personal electronic devices,” said the spokesman. [Sunday Business Post]

The Archos AV500 personal video player

Archos has been showing off its next-generation personal video player, the AV500, which besides having a 40GB hard drive and being able to play audio and video files (WMV9 as well as MPEG4 and DivX), will be able to double as a PDA. And if that doesn’t already sound too good to be true, they’re also saying that if you want go wireless with it the AV500 will support WiFi and Bluetooth. Should be out around the end of the year. [Engadget]

Spam Filtering on Pair Networks

So with the move to Pair comes a nice installation of SpamAssassin which is great as I was not really up the challenge of installation in previous hosting environments.

My goal with filtering spam was to create a separate box just to collect the spam and check it when I got the chance. My usual method through Spam Intercepter allowed for this as I would just head to my account on the site and empty the trash as well as check to make sure nothing was caught in cache limbo waiting for my approval or rejection.

Now, I have created a separate account just for spam and all messages that come through any of the other boxes I have set up – across domains even – get instantly sent to that box. I created a simple account in Mail to pull just those messages so it’s quite easy to see what’s been flagged and delete them.

Setting this up was not that obvious, but after an email with support it’s easy to do. Here are the instructions for anyone else looking to do the same

Log into the Account Control Center:
Click E-Mail Management.
Under Mailboxes, click Create New Mailbox.
Enter the configuration information that you would like to use for the new
mailbox, and click Add Mailbox at the bottom of the page.

Once that is done, then you will want to edit the configuration of the
mailbox(es) which are receiving the junk emails so that they know to
forward those messages to your newly created junk mailbox. In the settings
for each mailbox is the following field:

Junk E-Mail Filtering:

In the “Save junk e-mail to a file:” text box, you will enter the


Replacing USERNAME and DOMAIN.COM with the domain on which the mailbox resides.

This solves two issues/needs I have for mail. The first is that by checking my primary account I get the benefits of spam filtering at all times, across devices even which is great when you are using a palm or phone and don’t want to use valuable bandwidth for checking spam. The other is something I was not really that concerned with but happy to gain which is control of my mail all within my domain. Spam Intercepter, which is an excellent system, does force mail to loop outside before coming back to your inbox. Hardly terrible… but nice to have it all in one place.

The verdict is still out on this system – I know I’ve changed how I do things often – but so far this is a great way to do mail.

On changing Hosts…

Moving a site is not something people generally like to do. It involved making sure you have a good backup and some luck on the switch over of DNS, which in my case so far this week has been a bit flaky – well slow perhaps.

Just when I thought everything was over and in place I learn that some ISPs are actually caching DNS entries so they are much slower and in those cases actually delivering a 403 not found error as I’ve already deleted the old pages and databases. Oh well – soon enough I hope.

I thought I’d comment on my experience so fellow bloggers and active Googlers might gain from my pain. I’ve got an account with 1and1 and found the initial service to be great, the control panel to be great and speed of site to be great. The issue was that no matter how hard I tried – and I tried man – there was no way to get the MySQL database to allow my MT site to read and write without error. I really hammered Six Apart initially when I began this process and while service was a bit tricky, Ben was really helpful in advising me of what to try. 1and1 just does not seem to support MT, though another site of mine which is a private family site runs just fine. The only think I can think of is that the database is much larger and causing some issues on rebuild. I can’t actually make the db smaller and expect it to continue to grow as I post more and expand what I want to do with my site.

After a great deal of effort I decided to move to Pair. So far (I realize it is only days) they have been great. MT installed without issue, I was able to rebuild and post generally without issue and find that after making some changes to the MT.cfg file courtesy of Adriaan at Neoteny/Kung-Foo all is in fact excellent. I was running into some strange errors in both NetNewsWire and Ecto when posting which have now been resolved…

Thank you everyone for your support!

Record Stores: We’re Fine, Thanks

The recording industry may protest, but some owners of independent music stores say file trading is good for business. Katie Dean reports from the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas. [Wired News]

Take Hoodlums Music, located on the Arizona State University campus, which opened during the heyday of Napster. One might think Net-savvy students would ignore the shop in favor of free downloads.

“It’s a myth,” said Steve Wiley, co-owner of the store. “We see them wanting to buy music.”

High prices, rather than file sharing, are what usually stop a kid from buying a CD, Wiley said.