Operator No. 9: October 1, 2001

While the airlines might be suffering staggering losses in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the same can't be said for videoconferencing developers and streaming media services.

No Can Go

While the airlines might be suffering staggering losses in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the same cant be said for videoconferencing developers and streaming media services. Sonexis, a voice and data conferencing developer, sent out a news release last week in which Chairman David Friend noted, "Companies that have traditionally viewed conferencing as a way to save money on travel budgets are now looking at it as a way to help people stay at home and still conduct business." He notes that Sonexis stock — as well as that of other conferencing technology developers such as Act Technology and Polycom — is up. Meanwhile, Cahners In-Stat Group says the amount that businesses are expected to spend on streaming media services will grow from $900 million this year to $1.4 billion in 2002.

A Time to Worry

How vulnerable is the Internet to terrorist attacks? How important has the Internet become to society? Thats what I asked Ted Nelson, the man who — pre-Web — came up with the idea for hyperlinked text. Heres what he had to say: "We have passed through some portal and are in a new world. . . . People seem to think the survival of the Internet is guaranteed. It is not. Just like the airlines last week, it could go down. Some sophisticates say they could take it down and know a hundred others who could as well. If the Internet goes down, thats when the new world will hit home to us." He signed it, "Worriedly, Ted Nelson."


The amount contributed by online users — as of the end of business EST Sept. 27 — to relief organizations in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center and Pentagon, as counted by the American Liberty Partnership.

Foreign Policy

Michael Dell may live in Austin, Texas, but his future manufacturing plans are in lands far — and not so far — away. The billionaires company, Dell Computer, recently announced it has moved production of its desktop computers that are bound for the Japanese market from its two manufacturing facilities in Penang, Malaysia, to its plant in Xiamen, China. The Xiamen plant currently ships made-to-order products to China and Hong Kong. Last week, the Austin American-Statesman reported the company may build a new plant in Monterrey, Mexico. Gov. Fernando Canales Clariond of the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon told the paper that he has been working on a "special project" with Dell to be located near Monterrey. The two moves appear to be part of Dells push to reduce costs. In Mexican factories, workers earn $12 per day to $15 per day. In Austin, where Dell recently cut more than 5,000 jobs, workers make about that much per hour. Although company officials wouldnt comment directly on the possibility of a new plant in Mexico, they insisted that if Dell does build a plant south of the border, it wont be at the expense of American jobs. Hmmm. Where have I heard that before?

"How do you use high tech to attack a fruit-based economy in the middle of nowhere? I dont think what Americans want to see right now is a computer virus in Afghanistan."

— Winn Schwartau, president of security consulting firm INTERPACT and author of several books on cyberwarfare, talking about the likelihood the U.S. might use cyberwarfare techniques against the terrorist groups suspected of orchestrating the Sept. 11 attacks. Schwartau is also credited with coining the term "Electronic Pearl Harbor."

Sun-Shine in N.Y.

Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy assured computer buyers last week that if they wanted to buy a large server platform, they had a short list from which to choose. They could buy from "an unfettered monopolist [Microsoft], a convicted monopolist [IBM] or us." The occasion was the announcement of Suns new high-end server, the Sun Fire 15K. Having summed up recent antitrust case law, McNealy then predicted a future monopoly that you perhaps have not seen coming. "Intel is waiting until everybody goes away except Dell [Computer]. Then theyll put Intel white boxes [for sale] on their Web site, and Dell will go away," he predicted, as Sun President Ed Zander visibly grimaced nearby. "Ive made crazier predictions than that that have come true," McNealy assured his listeners. Okie dokie. But lets take a moment to applaud Sun for holding its server rollout in New York, after taking Mayor Rudy Giulianis words — "If you want to help out New York, spend money here" — to heart.

Whatcha Doing?

For the week ended Sept. 24, online search service Google reports that the top five search topics among online users were the Nimda computer virus; Counter-Strike, software from Valve Software that modifies the multiplayer aspects of the Half-Life spy-based video game to more team-oriented game play; anthrax, because theres a reported shortage of the vaccine used by the U.S. military to combat the deadly bacteria; America: A Tribute to Heroes, the telethon that featured movie and music stars taking donations to benefit the families of victims of the terrorist attacks; and Miss America — Miss Oregon won. The week before, the most popular search topics were Nostradamus, CNN and the World Trade Center. Life goes on.

Red, White and Blue

For those who have been unable to buy a U.S. flag — flag makers across the country are working overtime to meet demand in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks — screen saver maker Rhode Island Soft Systems is offering a free American flag screen saver at www. screen saver.com/wwnf.htm. It shows "Old Glory waving in the breeze, while America the Beautiful plays in the background. Periodically, the phrase September 11, 2001. We will not forget is displayed across the screen," the company says. Ill have to take their word for it. Im a Macintosh user, and this flag only waves on Windows 95 or later machines.

Real-ly Good Idea

Not all conferences have been called off or postponed. RealNetworks last week went ahead with its annual developer gathering in its hometown of Seattle. To make sure fearful travelers didnt miss out on the happenings, the company offered an online version of its conference for $200. Brilliant, considering RealNetworks is a developer of streaming audio and video technology designed to enable those who are desktop-bound to view events online. Virtual attendees not only could view conference sessions live via the companys RealPlayer, they can also view sessions and keynotes on-demand for up to three months. Seems some speakers also decided to go the virtual route and participated in sessions via videoconferencing. "I was just watching a session online with someone who was remote and three people on stage. It is a kind of cool message — bring people together through all kinds of technology," a RealNetworks representative says. Its a digital world, after all.