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AOL Unwraps Its New Portal
We were briefed by AOL last week and spent two hours talking about all the new initiatives. By the end of the meeting, my brain was about to break. But there’s a great deal to discuss and a tremendous amount that they’re doing.
The two themes that I took away from the meeting were content and integration. AOL has a powerful collection of brands (e.g., AIM, Moviefone, MapQuest) and a huge user base (second only to Yahoo! and with longer sessions). The new portal will better integrate and cross-pollinate those features and services where appropriate. Local is also a big piece of the picture, with the “Around Your Town” and “Find It Center” modules/boxes containing local and directional information.
Even as AOL is “managing subscriber churn” according to Jim Riesenbach, AOL’s SVP of Search & Directional Media, its new portal seeks to leverage broadband adoption with wide-ranging video and audio content (some of it produced exclusively for the portal) that would otherwise be frustratingly inaccessible to dial-up users.
Early reaction among marketers to the new strategy appears to be positive. Indeed, AOL has content assets that are hard to match. The new site should create a great deal of high-value ad inventory (esp. rich media) for brand marketers who don’t have lots of good options today. There aren’t many sites out there that have the reach of AOL.
There’s a perception that AOL has faltered over the past couple years and is not as “hip” as Google or Yahoo! Some accordingly wonder whether the AOL brand can thus regain lost luster (especially among the “MySpace Generation”).
Yet I believe that if the company can deliver something in practice that is as compelling as it looked in PowerPoint, AOL will succeed.
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Within minutes of learning of an oil refinery fire on the West Coast, a salesperson from Equilon Enterprises LLC in Houston can turn to his company’s corporate portal, find out which customers are affected, and make sure he sells them the gas they need at current market prices. Five months ago that salesperson would have had to make a bunch of telephone calls and cruise various Internet sites to find that information.
AT A GLANCE: Equilon Enterprises LLC
The company: Houston-based Equilon Enterprises handles pipeline operations and gasoline distributions to all Texaco and Shell retail stations in the western United States. The company has 500 employees.
The problem: Need to increase the bottom line by bringing together disjointed technology and making information more Internet-centric.
The solution: Develop a corporate knowledge management portal that integrates all Equilon information into one central location on the desktop.
The technology: The portal runs on Windows NT servers from Compaq Computer Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. servers that run UNIX and Oracle 8i database.
But since Equilon, a joint venture of Shell Oil Co. and Texaco Inc., launched its corporate portal in June 2000, its salesforce and some account managers and pipeline schedulers now have access to much of the company’s internal data from one Web-enabled starting point. The portal integrates Equilon’s customer relationship management (CRM) system, suite of office software, and collaboration and document management tools, along with selected content, onto a single screen.
“It’s not so much that the information hasn’t been available, it’s the timeliness that the portal brings to us,” says Robert Stephens, an Equilon business information manager who helped implement the portal before leaving in September 2000 for another job. “We can get that information in real-time and make decisions quicker based on the information. It’s getting the right information to the right people at the right time.”
Equilon is among the growing number of firms launching corporate portals to help employees gather, manage, share, and utilize information that in the past had been stored in disparate databases throughout the company. These knowledge management portals not only bring the information to the employees’ fingertips through a corporate intranet site, or in some cases the Internet, but also help them interact with it, mine the data, and share information between one application and another.
Carl Frappaolo, executive vice president and cofounder of Delphi Group in Boston
The Evolving State of Corporate Portals
Dephi Group, which specializes in knowledge management research, estimates the corporate portal market by 2001 will grow to $740 million, from $178 million in 1999. By the beginning of next year, Delphi estimates nearly 90% of large organizations will be developing portals, with 80% in production mode. Similarly, Gartner Group Inc. of Stamford, Conn., estimates that by 2003, 50% of Fortune 1000 companies will have a knowledge management system in place. Both firms say there is a growing trend toward achieving knowledge management solutions through a portal interface.
“Knowledge management is a business process, not a technology,” says Jim Jacobs, Gartner Group knowledge management research director. “Portals are valuable technology that can assist with the business process.”
The idea is not just to gather information, but to present it so employees can interact with it and contribute back so others can learn from it, too. Software vendors began offering portal tools two years ago. Now more than 100 vendors have emerged, offering everything from niche tools to full, out-of-the-box solutions. However, there are no true leaders in this diversified space.
Lotus Development Corp. and Microsoft Corp. in October 2000 picked up the pace by announcing new knowledge management portal tools. Lotus’ K-station will work with collaborative tools such as Sametime, QuickPlace, and Domino to give users a single point of access to information. Microsoft announced a server application, code-named Tahoe, which will combine with its Digital Dashboard tools that are available for businesses that want to build their own portals.
Because there are so many portal vendors and the companies are so new, Gartner Group estimates there will be a shakeout in the industry by the middle of next year. “This is going to be a best-of-breed market,” says Jacobs. “We do not see a single vendor like Lotus dominating this space.”
While Delphi estimates the majority of large companies will be developing portals by next year, the types of portals will vary. A true knowledge management portal is one that brings together various data and technology systems from within a company and makes it easier for workers to gather and share information through a corporate intranet and online. The portal will allow workers to extract data that otherwise is hidden inside systems and oftentimes only available to the information technology staff.
“Knowledge resides between applications, not in applications itself,” says Delphi’s Frappaolo. “For example, give me a list of customers who have goals we’re not going to meet this week. When you start asking these complex questions, you don’t have a single place to answer the questions.”
Improving the Bottom Line
Companies are using knowledge management portals for different parts of their business. Office furniture manufacturer Herman Miller Inc. in 1995 embarked on a quest to use technology to improve its bottom line by reducing manufacturing lead time and increasing reliability for its customers. At the time, the Zeeland, Mich., company dealt with suppliers mainly by telephone and fax. An attempt to go through a third-party electronic data interchange had largely failed. So Herman Miller looked at portal software to bring all of its supply-chain data onto a single screen and make it accessible over the Internet to its suppliers.
Lessons Learned about Corporate Portals
1. Figure out what business problem you’re trying to solve, then go after a knowledge management solution that addresses that problem.
2. Check out portal providers carefully. There are more than 100, and the market is new. Many won’t be here two or three years from now.
3. Implement your knowledge management solution slowly to make sure it addresses the needs of users and to test how employees will use it.
4. A true knowledge management portal includes the ability to gather and feed data back into it, not just the ability of users to extract data. Make sure the system is able to accept and integrate new data back in.
After looking at different options through consultant Deloitte & Touche, Herman Miller chose to work with TopTier Software Inc., which offered a portal tool that allowed officials to integrate the company’s Baan enterprise resource planning (ERP) package with its browser. The portal includes payment information, invoices, demand, delivery, and quality control information about items ordered from Herman Miller. News and other Web information have also been integrated into the portal.
Brunsting says timely shipments to customers have improved because of the immediate cross communication between the suppliers and Herman Miller. “Five years ago we were averaging 75% [on-time shipments]; today we are consistently hitting 95% and above. We see the portal helping as one of the key enablers of getting that last 5%,” he says.
Delphi Group’s Frappaolo points to some Delphi clients that have implemented knowledge management portals to improve their businesses. AT&T uses its knowledge management portal for its international salesforce, reducing the time necessary to close deals. Scientists at Lawrence Livermore Labs in California use their portal to organize and access scientific information. And J.D. Edwards & Co. built a knowledge garden, which it uses to organize and disseminate business process and product information.
“[J.D. Edwards] achieved 1,080% return on investment in their ability to respond to complex [request for proposals] in a shorter period of time because the information was readily available,” Frappaolo says.
Insurance Companies Put Portals to Work
While some companies like Equilon and Herman Miller are well into their portal implementations, others like St. Paul Reinsurance, are just beginning. A member of insurance provider St. Paul Companies Inc., it is one of the first firms to beta test Lotus’s portal solution. By the end of the year the firm expects to begin rolling out its corporate portal, which will integrate corporate information, department information, and individual information into a series of screens. St. Paul Reinsurance uses Windows NT servers running on Compaq hardware.
“The vision is to provide collaboration capabilities and to allow people to organize their content and be able to control it in terms of how it gets authored, edited, approved, and published to the portal,” says Andrew Cole, senior vice president and chief information officer at St. Paul Reinsurance.
The portal will bring together Lotus Notes, Domino, chúng tôi Raven Enterprise Server, Microsoft Office applications, and anything from the Internet or St. Paul’s intranet. “If we have a merger and acquisition and are doing due diligence, people all over the world can meet in a knowledge window and feed in information,” says Cole. “It will be a repository of content on a given issue that lots of people can easily see. The knowledge worker doesn’t have to figure out where the content is located, or what format it is in, or what version it is. They just open up the knowledge window for that topic and there is the latest and greatest information at their fingertips.”
Equilon, meanwhile, by the end of the year expects to have more than 500 employees using the company’s portal. It integrates the firm’s CRM system from Siebel Systems Inc., collaboration software from OpenText Corp., and Microsoft’s suite of office products, including Outlook and Office. The system runs on Windows NT servers from Compaq Computer Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. servers that run UNIX and Oracle 8i database. By April 1, 2001, the portal will serve 2,500 employees and include Equilon’s SAP applications and the company’s geographical information system from Environmental Systems Research Institute Inc.
learn from it, too.“
Choosing the Best Portal Product
While no portal vendor has emerged as the leader, Gartner Group points to several that have promising software and vision (see “Portal Options” below). Among them are Corechange Inc., Datachannel Inc., Hummingbird Ltd., InfoImage Inc., Plumtree Software Inc., Sequoia Software Corp., SilverStream Software, Sybase Inc., TopTier Software, and Viador Inc. Companies offering niche products include Autonomy Inc., Brio Technology Inc., Epicentric Inc., Hyperwave Information Management Inc., Intraspect Software Inc., KnowledgeTrack Corp., Oracle Corp., Sagemaker Inc., and Verity Inc.
James Kobielus, collaboration and messaging analyst with The Burton Group in Midvale, Utah, says companies should look to their groupware vendors for knowledge management tools. “[Ask] how you can take that information and leverage it further, provide the information on your users, and give them the tools, applications, and data they need for knowledge management.”
Gartner’s Jacobs recommends that IT managers look at their business strategy and their current technology first. “The goal of the IT manager is not to implement exciting new technology, it’s to support the business process of your organization,” he says. “Be aware of the impact of technologies and the utility for them. Don’t wait for the magic bullet of technology to come along or look at the existing products as an automatic solution to their problems. There’s no easy answer, no quick fix.”
Plumtree Software Inc./Plumtree Corporate Portal 4.0, San Francisco
Lotus Development Corp./IBM Corp./K-Station, Boston
InfoImage Inc./Freedom, Phoenix
Viador Inc./e-Portal Framework, Mountain View, Calif.
Hummingbird Ltd./Enterprise Portal Suite, Toronto, Ontario
Sequoia Software Corp./XPS, Columbia, Md.
Sybase Inc. /Enterprise Portal, Emeryville, Calif.
TopTier Software/eBusiness Integration Portal, San Jose, Calif.
Logitech unveiled its new flagship Harmony 1000 remote
“The Harmony 1000 remote delivers affordable luxury — it simplifies control of today’s complicated home-entertainment systems at a fraction of the price of traditional custom-installed remotes, and it’s luxurious in its sophisticated design, which adds an element of prestige to any living room,” said Bryan McLeod, vice president of Logitech’s remote control products. “The Harmony 1000 remote is the interface that people crave for their home-entertainment system — it’s sleek, it’s easy to use with its one-touch activity based control, and it comes without a prohibitive price.”
The Harmony 1000 remote’s touch-sensitive screen makes the renowned Harmony activity control even easier by displaying the important controls when they are immediately relevant. And unlike some of today’s high-end universal remotes, the Harmony 1000 remote controls any device with an infrared receiver — including VCRs, digital video recorders, high-definition televisions, and many household appliances. Using radio frequency (RF) technology, the Harmony 1000 remote can also control multi-room entertainment systems and high-end components hidden behind closed doors, when used in combination with the optional Logitech(R) Harmony(R) Wireless Extender (sold separately). Meanwhile, its stunning brushed-chrome and piano-black finish makes the Harmony 1000 remote an aesthetic complement to today’s most sophisticated living rooms.
The Evolution of One-Touch Activity Control
When people first pick up the sleek, rectangular remote, the 3.5-inch color screen displays icons associated with entertainment activities — such as Watch TV, Watch a Movie, Listen to Music, or Play Games. One touch of any of these icons can put an entire home-entertainment system in the proper state for enjoyment of the activity.
After an activity is selected, the remote’s screen reveals the controls needed specifically for the activity — unlike the many universal remotes with dozens of infrequently used fixed buttons that are often more confusing than useful. For example, when watching TV using a digital video recorder (DVR), people will see on screen the standard skip forward, skip back, record and pause buttons necessary to controlling a DVR. But when they are listening to CDs, they will see the track controls they need to navigate their music. The Harmony 1000 remote has only nine fixed buttons — such as volume up and down, channel up and down, and a directional navigation pad — basic controls used for most activities, which are located on the right-hand side of the remote. With built-in rechargeable batteries, the remote also comes with a convenient and stylish charging stand, eliminating the need to replace batteries and providing a base so that everyone knows where to find the remote. A full charge offers approximately one week of power, depending upon how heavy the use.
Logitech Smart State Technology
The Harmony 1000 remote delivers powerful activity-based control by using patented Smart State Technology(R), which allows a remote to track the operations of the various components it controls. With the technology, Harmony remote users can effortlessly switch between watching home theater and listening to music by selecting a single activity button.
Easy Online Setup
Logitech has redesigned its online interface to make the Harmony Internet setup easier than ever. With an intuitive setup wizard to walk them through the process, people start setup by entering their components’ model numbers. That information is automatically matched to the characteristics, discrete codes and infrared commands of the more than 175,000 devices from more than 5,000 manufacturers contained in Logitech’s online database — the world’s largest audio/visual control database.
The wizard then helps people define the various entertainment activities and identify the entertainment components used for each activity.
Pricing and Availability
The Harmony(R) 1000 remote is expected to be available in both the U.S. and Europe later this fall for a suggested retail price of $499.99 in the U.S. The Logitech Harmony Wireless Extender will be available at the same time for $149.99 in the U.S. and Europe.
Google Cloud is seeking to add personnel to its blockchain team. Read more in this article.
Google Cloud is creating a team tasked with developing services for enterprise clients seeking to leverage blockchain technology. Google Cloud is seeking to add personnel to its blockchain team. In an email, Google Cloud VP Amit Zavery said that the company’s cloud platform aims to become the first choice for developers working in Web3. He called Web3 a “market that is already demonstrating tremendous potential” and said that customers are requesting greater support for Web3 and cryptocurrency. Zavery clarified in a statement to CNBC that the division is “not trying to be part of [the] cryptocurrency wave directly.” Instead, it is providing companies with access to blockchain technology. In other words, the division will provide blockchain-as-a-service to enterprise users, giving those users the ability to navigate blockchain data or run blockchain nodes. The services will be similar to those offered by big tech companies such as Alibaba, Amazon, and, formerly, Microsoft—the latter of which ended its Azure blockchain services last year. Reports from CNBC also indicate that former Citigroup executive James Tromans, who joined Google in 2023, will lead the blockchain team and report to Zavery. Web3 is the decentralized version of the internet where cryptocurrencies are the main source of transactions. The creation of Web 3.0 poses a challenge to the current model of the internet wholly controlled by giants like Amazon, Google, and Meta Platforms.Backend services
Google Cloud aims to provide backend services to the developers who are working to build the ‘next generation of the internet.’ It seems that the firm has plans to go knee-deep in the world of digital assets as Cryptonary witnessed the partnership of the tech giant with Bakkt aimed to launch digital assets to consumers.More Trending Stories
Google Cloud is creating a team tasked with developing services for enterprise clients seeking to leverage blockchain technology. Google Cloud is seeking to add personnel to its blockchain team. In an email, Google Cloud VP Amit Zavery said that the company’s cloud platform aims to become the first choice for developers working in Web3. He called Web3 a “market that is already demonstrating tremendous potential” and said that customers are requesting greater support for Web3 and cryptocurrency. Zavery clarified in a statement to CNBC that the division is “not trying to be part of [the] cryptocurrency wave directly.” Instead, it is providing companies with access to blockchain technology. In other words, the division will provide blockchain-as-a-service to enterprise users, giving those users the ability to navigate blockchain data or run blockchain nodes. The services will be similar to those offered by big tech companies such as Alibaba, Amazon, and, formerly, Microsoft—the latter of which ended its Azure blockchain services last year. Reports from CNBC also indicate that former Citigroup executive James Tromans, who joined Google in 2023, will lead the blockchain team and report to Zavery. Web3 is the decentralized version of the internet where cryptocurrencies are the main source of transactions. The creation of Web 3.0 poses a challenge to the current model of the internet wholly controlled by giants like Amazon, Google, and Meta Platforms.Google Cloud aims to provide backend services to the developers who are working to build the ‘next generation of the internet.’ It seems that the firm has plans to go knee-deep in the world of digital assets as Cryptonary witnessed the partnership of the tech giant with Bakkt aimed to launch digital assets to consumers.
Internet business software maker PeopleSoft looked to inject some new life into its sales with the release of new homeland security products and an international mid-market sales program.
The Pleasanton, Calif.-based firm Monday took the wraps off its PeopleSoft PASS (Patriot Act SEVIS Solution). The software lets colleges and universities comply with the U.S. Justice Department’s new Internet-based Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. Starting this January, schools are required to collect information on foreign students and report it to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.
“Approximately 10 percent of our enrolled students are foreign nationals,” said Dr. Paul W. Barrows, vice chancellor of Student Affairs at University of Wisconsin, Madison. “Reporting to the INS under the terms of SEVIS would be an extremely time-consuming and expensive task if we were only able to use the INS’s web interface. With PeopleSoft PASS, we will be able to link all student status information and related databases.”
In addition, PeopleSoft’s new Guardian solution, based on its human resource platform, is designed to help governments hire, track and provide online education.
On the home front, PeopleSoft unveiled its Project Portfolio Management and ESA Warehouse, two new solutions in its Enterprise Service Automation (ESA) suite. With Project Portfolio Management, organizations can evaluate, monitor and compare information on new and existing projects. ESA Warehouse consolidates data from multiple sources for accurate reporting, analysis and insight into operating costs.
The company also announced the expansion of its mid-market offering, PeopleSoft Accelerated Solutions. The solutions will be available in France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
The fixed-price solutions include PeopleSoft’s pure Internet applications, technical and end-user training and implementation services. The Accelerated Solutions have been localized for the language, currency and regulatory requirements of each country.
Meantime, PeopleSoft’s new Supplier Rating System will let customers create a consistent, repeatable methodology for business managers and executives to manage and measure supplier performance. With the new software, PeopleSoft said organizations will be able to capture data from across the enterprise and choose from more than eighty key performance indicators to set parameters, weight criteria and create supplier scorecards to measure performance in areas such as product quality, invoice accuracy, delivery reliability and price.
PeopleSoft also announced an expanded relationship with IBM Corp. to offer customers pre-configured eServer infrastructure solutions that include the highly scalable DB2 database software, and a eServer xSeries or pSeries.
IBM Global Services and its network of business partners will deliver fixed-scope, fixed-price implementation services for PeopleSoft applications. The first solution to be delivered will be PeopleSoft Accelerated CRM for the financial services, discrete manufacturing and wholesale
“Creating cost-effective, low risk, integrated solutions is the key to success for mid-market organizations around the world,” said Barry Wilderman, senior vice president and service director, Application Delivery Strategies, Meta Group, Inc. “Alliances like PeopleSoft’s mid-market initiative with IBM helps reduce risk since IBM can simultaneously play the roles of hardware, database and systems integration vendors.”
The new tools and contracts are designed to help gain market share against PeopleSoft rivals Oracle and Siebel Systems .
With the economy in the tank and other major firms planning massive cutbacks, rumors have been swirling for several weeks that Microsoft plans big layoffs of its own to be announced on or about Jan. 15.
How big? As much as 10 to 17 percent of the company’s employees, if you believe the buzz.
If true, the cuts would be the first “official” layoffs in Microsoft’s history — blunting a point that the company has always pointed to as a matter of pride.
Despite one Web site’s claims that the layoffs are now “fact,” however, no one seems to be able to substantiate the rumors. That may make for a lot of Microsoft employees lying awake at night after tonight’s champagne wears off.
Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) officials were mum on the rumors.
Yet this week, blog site Fudzilla proclaimed that the rumors are true.
“The rumor that Microsoft was set to lay off people on January 15th, 2009 is no longer a rumor but a fact,” a Fudzilla post said on Dec. 30. “Staff at Microsoft have been informed that the company is readying major layoffs to its worldwide operations and it’s not a small cut, either,” the post continued.
One problem is that, at this point, there is no way to verify whether layoffs will be announced or not. Neither does anyone seem to have any support so far for the rumors that cuts at Microsoft could range between 10 percent and 17 percent of the software titan’s titanic work force, which currently is slightly more than 91,000 people worldwide, according to Microsoft’s site. Fudzilla said there will be as many as 15,000 pink slips handed out, but didn’t quote anyone — not even anonymously — providing any verification.
And, if staff had been informed on a companywide basis as the blog suggests, securities laws would typically require Microsoft to publicly disclose that information within 24 hours as a material fact that could affect the company’s stock price.
For that reason, Rob Enderle, an industry analyst with the Enderle Group, doubts that layoffs have been communicated to employees en masse — at least, not yet.
Layoffs “wouldn’t surprise me,” Enderle told chúng tôi “But I haven’t heard anything about it.”Good timing?
To some observers, the week of Jan. 15 might seem like a good time to announce layoffs. The date falls between next week’s Consumer Electronics Show, where CEO Steve Ballmer is expected to announce the beginning of the Windows 7 public beta, and Microsoft’s quarterly earnings call with analysts on Jan. 22.
The worldwide economic slowdown — and its effect on customer spending — has IT vendors scrambling. While some are persevering and sussing out new areas of business, others are bearing the full brunt of the downturn.
“Around the time of the earnings [call] is when you want to make an announcement like that,” Enderle told chúng tôi He added that Microsoft would not be smart to reveal worker cuts before the Windows 7 public beta starts, because that would take some of the shine off the pending replacement for Windows Vista.
Two former senior Microsoft development managers, who are still well plugged-in at the firm, said they had not heard anything from inside the company that might point to massive layoffs, but could not rule it out either.
They both suggested, though, that Microsoft is likely to not call whatever it does a “layoff.”
Instead, such an announcement might be couched in euphemisms framing the story as the year-end period when Microsoft managers traditionally evaluate their employees for raises and retention, as well as plan what have become nearly annual company reorganizations.
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