Tuesday, June 05, 2001

WOW! Trends in Technology

Windows on the World was where PriceWaterhouseCoopers whisked in over 300 techno-professionals to attend their "New Media Summit - The Next Phase..." on June 5th. PriceWaterhouseCoopers partner Tom Hyland served up a well-rounded overview to get the day going, which was followed by Primedia's Chief Internet Officer Scott Kurnit's sharp perspective on the industry, where its been, where its going and Primedia's objectives. One of his initial comments was that if we didn't have the two year exuberance that skewed perspectives, the market and businesses, by all practical measures the Internet is quite healthy. As others have said before him, now is not the time to retrench, it's the time to get out there and make a difference.

Focusing a bit on how Primedia uses technology, we learned that Scott promotes the idea of those handy Blackberry's-email is sent more speedily than web-based email and you better "use it or be left behind." He is a big advocate of laptops. "When I walk into a company and see desktops, I see 'loser.'" It may seem like Scott's work ethic of working from home, on weekends or during non-work hours is a bit harsh, but he didn't get to where he is by slacking off either. Coming from a media company POV, Scott was also confident about New York's leading role as compared to San Francisco for media companies. His drill sergeant perspective came out again when he said "if you don't get bigger, you get left behind."

Discussing Primedia and its evolution since the merger, Scott revealed during a Q&A that you have to give up a little bit of what you have when merging with another company, and that you have to get your people used to the idea as well. Their About.com advertising model has been supplemented by Primedia's subscription model and they will soon be charging for specialty newsletters. "As you delved into specialized areas (hot rodding, photography, canoeing), people will pay for this content and even pay attention to the ads. Ads are half the reason people buy magazines and online advertising will improve eventually.

With only one technical glitch-not Scott's fault-of some Musak starting up during his speech, Scott offered insight into his thoughts on how About.com grew and succeeded, about Primedia's objectives and how technology is helping businesses become more efficient. And he did it all in his usual forceful and witty style.

** Getting more technical and specific, PriceWaterhouseCoopers Strategic Technology Services director Eric Berg went through highlights on their 900+ page book "Technology Forecast: 2001-2003." In just over half-an-hour we learned the advantages and advances of mobile technology and wireless. The success of this platform will continue due to its ability to help people stay connected, serve up information or entertainment and remain relatively inexpensive in terms of adoption. The mobile Internet, a result of trends in enabling technology that's been underway for some time now, will be a blend of conventional carrier networks and wireless LANS. With the ubiquitous and success of mobile computing devices, improvements in wireless data technology and success of early applications (NTTDoCoMo in Japan and SMS messenging in Europe), this platform is only at the beginning of its life-changing aspects. Some of the unique characteristics of this killer application are its immediate access to communication and information-our devices are typically always on and the ability to take advantage of "niche time"-while in mass transit, waiting for an employee and of course, while in a boring meeting. The fact that these handhelds are always with you, can push information you want and offer personalization are more selling points. GPS and ability to track down someone, or block someone from finding you are all compelling new developments.

Exploring newer developments Eric brought up other future apps for wireless devices: location-based services where you could find your nearest Post Office, or Italian restaurant for four in half-an-hour within one mile of you or having "buddy lists" that would alert you when a friend was nearby. Of course, you could also set up an "anti-buddy" list so if there was someone around you didn't want to see, it would alert you to them as well. Eric rounded out the discussion with information and comparison between the 2.5 generation and 3rd generation of the Internet.

This discussion on next generations of the Internet continued right after in the "New Media Technology Panel" with Eric, Unplugged Games founder and president Eric Goldberg, Speedus.com EVP John Kallassey, Zebus Group Jay Johnon and i3Mobile chairman and chief strategist. Forbes pubisher Rich Karlgaard moderated the intelligent and mostly subdued panelists.

The day's schedule included a panel discussion on achieving profitability and an invterview by PWC Global Kevin Carton with Zagat founders and co-chairs Nina and Tim Zagat. Forbes.com editor Matthew Schifrin showcased the "Best of the Web" followed by a "R/Evolution of Internet Advertising" panel. Bertelsmann ecommerce Group president and CEO Andreas Schmidt spoke before Tom Hyland wrapped up the day with take-away points.