Federal government embraces cloud computing

This is an encouraging story.

On Tuesday, Vivek Kundra, the federal chief information officer, unveiled Apps.Gov, a Web site where federal agencies will able to buy so-called cloud computing applications and services that have been approved by the government to replace more costly and cumbersome computing services at their own locations.

The push to promote cloud computing is part of the Obama administration’s effort to modernize the government’s information technology systems and to help reduce the $75 billion annual budget for federal I.T. in the process.

The apps storefront, which is run by the General Services Administration, includes an array of business applications, productivity software, services like storage and Web hosting and social applications. In a speech at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, Mr. Kundra said that the cloud offerings could be cheaper and more energy-efficient and allow the federal government to benefit from the same technological advances that most consumers enjoy.

Wow. Is it possible that we finally have an administration that embraces technology and the Internet? Can you imagine how much money our government wastes on inefficient systems and hardware?

Assuming they can manage the security issues, this could be a huge benefit for the government, making it more efficient, more effective, and cheaper as well.

The e-book boom is coming!

paidContent.org has this very interesting story.

Need more proof that we’re witnessing the beginning of the e-book boom? It appears that the Kindle version of The Lost Symbol, the latest thriller from The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown, is out-selling the hardcover version on Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN). Kindle Nation Daily first noticed first noticed the trend by analyzing the category sales rankings on Amazon; the $9.99 Kindle version of the book is currently more popular than the hardcover version, which is retailing for $16.17.

Everything is changing VERY quickly. As more and more people get comfortable getting all their news and reading material on devices instead of paper, we’ll see an acceleration of the trend.

Publishers of magazines and newspapers need to pay attention here. Instead of wasting time wondering how to charge for online content, start thinking about ways to offer PREMIUM DELIVERY options that one can charge for.

I love to read the New York Times online or on my Blackberry, and that should be free. It’s news, and the Times wants to be a leader there, and you can’t maintain leadership if you hide behind a pay wall. On the other hand, I’d pay a small subscription fee to have the Times or may favorite magazines sent to my Kindle in an organized, readable format. This way I can read it at my leisure, regardless of whether I have an Internet connection.

Gist.com launch

This one sounds interesting.

The “limited beta” has become a right of passage for budding Web companies. In the case of Seattle-based Gist.com, an e-mail in-box management service, it’s a business strategy.

Gist launched on Tuesday, concluding an almost two-year period of controlled growth. During that time, thousands of potential users signed up for an invitation and dutifully filled out a survey for potential users. In exchange for the mere chance to be invited to test the service, chief executive T.A. McCann got from users behavioral data, feature ideas and marketing leads–all for free.

The relationship management service scours some 60,000 news sources, 20 million blogs and 600,000 Twitter handles and matches up the information they find to a contact list generated from a user’s e-mail correspondence. The result is that Gist is an advanced Web communication tool that helps you keep tabs on the people and companies that matter most. Some of the company’s success, however, comes from one the Web’s most primitive of communication tools: online forms.

We’ll see how this does, but there’s a clear need for this service, as we all struggle to manage all sorts of online accounts. Anything that can centralize one’s networking strategy is worth trying.

On demand printing

Google brings out-of-print books to the masses.

Google will make some 2 million out-of-copyright books that it has digitally scanned available for on-demand printing in a deal announced Thursday. The deal with On Demand Books, a private New York-based company, lets consumers print a book in about 10 minutes, and any title will cost around $8.

The books are part of a 10 million title corpus of texts that Google has scanned from libraries in the U.S. and Europe. The books were published before 1923, and therefore do not fall under the copyright dispute that pits Google against interests in technology, publishing and the public sector that oppose the company’s plans to allow access to the full corpus.

Many have not been pleased with some of Google’s recent tactics, but this is a good thing for everyone. Anything that expands access to books and information is a good thing.

Facebook domination continues

Facebook has announced that it is now cash-flow positive, and than it recently reached the 300 million member threshold. That’s a pretty stunning number.

Again, the free service model is a winner on the web.

Skype founders sue eBay

Here’s a strange story.

The founders of Skype are escalating their legal battle with eBay.

Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, who became billionaires after selling Skype to eBay in 2005, filed a copyright lawsuit on Wednesday against Skype in the United States District Court of Northern California. The suit comes a little more than two weeks after eBay announced it would sell most of Skype for $1.9 billion to a consortium of investors led by the private equity firm Silver Lake Partners.

In the court filing, Joltid, a company owned by the Skype founders, claims that eBay violated copyright law by altering and sharing the peer-to-peer source code behind the free Internet calling service. The Skype founders maintained ownership of that source code after selling Skype to eBay in 2005, and licensed it to eBay.

Joltid seeks an injunction and statutory damages, which it says could total more than $75 million a day. The lawsuit also names as defendants Silver Lake Partners and its partners in the buyout, Index Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

Perhaps I’m missing something, but eBay spent $1.9 billion $2.6 billion to acquire Skype, yet somehow structured a deal that permitted the founders to retain the copyright to the source code?!?! This sounds absurd.

UPDATE: BusinessWeek is reporting that the lawsuit might complicate eBay’s proposed sale of Skype. Dumbasses!

Steven Van Zandt plans social media site for musicians

Little Steven gets in the social media act.

Steven Van Zandt, an actor and musician known for his turns on “The Sopranos” and Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, is launching a music-themed social-networking site that he said will serve as a hub for insider information and advice directly from bands.

The site, Fuzztopia (currently in beta), is expected to launch in three to six months, Mr. Van Zandt said, and he is looking for funding in the low eight figures to get “from the present tense to the future.”

Given his passion for rock music and all of his connections, this idea seems plausible. MySpace currently dominates the playing field in music, but there should be room for another player.

Smart ads from NBC

I’m seeing some great banner ads from NBC promoting the new Jay Leno Show. The purple banners have a digital clock counting down the hours, minutes and seconds till the next episode that evening. The time element is something I thought we’d see much sooner in the online ad world. It’s very easy to program these things, and you can target the ads based on time zones to avoid any confusion.

Imagine using this concept for breakfast, lunch and dinner. McDonalds can run ads early in the morning featuring its breakfast menu, perhaps even a coupon, and then for lunch they can begin running ads at 11 AM featuring a juicy burger.

Bars can do Happy Hour countdowns starting on Friday afternoons.

The possibilities are endless. Hopefully this will become a trend and shift even more ad dollars to the Internet.

Intuit buys Mint.com

Mint.com offers free online tools to manage your money, and it’s been a huge success. Intuit decided to pull the trigger and buy it.

Intuit is buying Mint.com for $170 million in cash, in a deal that gives it control of a startup that had disrupted its dominance in personal money management software with a free online alternative. Intuit, which sells Quicken, and Mint had been in a tight race in the online personal finance market, with both companies claiming more than one million active users of their online products. Last fall, Intuit dropped the $2.99 a month subscription fee that it was charging for Quicken Online, partly in order to better compete with Mint. Intuit says it will now offer both services separately, although it says Mint will be the “primary online personal finance management service” it will offer to consumers.

Both sites make money by referring users to financial services like credit cards and credit counseling services. I guess the free service model still works!

The Internet of Things

ReadWriteWeb has an interesting featuring covering the top 5 web trends of 2009. Their latest entry covers the Internet of Things.

The Internet of Things is a network of Internet-enabled objects, together with web services that interact with these objects. Underlying the Internet of Things are technologies such as RFID (radio frequency identification), sensors, and smartphones.

The Internet fridge is probably the most oft-quoted example of what the Internet of Things will enable. Imagine a refrigerator that monitors the food inside it and notifies you when you’re low on milk. It also perhaps monitors all of the best food websites, gathering recipes for your dinners and adding the ingredients automatically to your shopping list. This fridge knows what kinds of foods you like to eat, based on the ratings you have given to your dinners. Indeed the fridge helps you take care of your health, because it knows which foods are good for you.

The potential impact on a new, all-digital lifestyle is quite staggering. The fridge example is a good one, but it opens up so many possibilities.

Imagine how we can monitor aging people in the future. Many seniors currently have little choice but to live in a nursing home. Assisted living is becoming much more common, but with tools like this family members, and health care providers, could more easily monitor loved ones. Home security and personal security is another huge opportunity.

On the other hand, this will raise serious privacy issues as well. In the future, will everything, and everyone, be monitored all the time?

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