Friday, June 24, 2005

Community-Authored Open Source Press Releases?

Thanks to the always insightful James Governor for pointing out that Ian Skerrett, director of marketing for the Eclipse Foundation, has posted the Foundation's three press release drafts for JavaOne at his blog. He's asking for feedback. Get out the virual red pens! He's only generated a couple of comments so far, but it's a fascinating experiment -- one guaranteed to generate buzz and speculation, as he tips his hand that a major new company will be announced next week as a new member.

It was only a matter of time before some innovative marketer applied the open source process to press releases. What's next -- open source business plans?

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Reduce Your Energy Bills with a Chip

From CHEN principal Barbara Ewen...

As oil costs escalate to $60 a barrel and energy consumption is the number one topic in the news, it was interesting to hear at Fairchild Semiconductor’s annual financial analyst meeting yesterday in Boston how very small power semiconductors can make a huge difference in lowering energy consumption.

U.S. regulations will require that new central air-conditioners and heat pumps have to be 30% more efficient starting in 2006 – the energy saved can avoid the construction of 150 power plants by 2020. There are more than 33 million refrigerators in the U.S. that are “energy hogs.” If they were replaced by energy efficient units, we would save enough energy to light every household in Los Angeles for eight years. Typical household appliances consume roughly 20% of all energy bills. So it is obvious, while Washington grapples with issues about how the U.S. will continue to supply enough oil and alternate sources for the country’s insatiable appetite, industries such as consumer appliances, TV’s and automotive are developing better products that consume much less energy.

Fairchild designs and manufactures small power components that play a key role in all of these applications to reduce, manage, and distribute power. For example, standby power – you leave your cell phone charger on even though the cell phone isn’t plugged into it, thinking that you are not consuming power – is a huge drain on energy and very costly. Fairchild’s power switches – not much bigger than a silver dollar – meet low standby power regulations and reduce the consumption of energy. And have you ever opened your clam shell cell phone and wondered how does the voice and data get transmitted across the hinge when the phone is opened? It does thanks for Fairchild components.

Fairchild Semiconductor, incorporated in 1957, is considered the founding company of Silicon Valley – the first high tech enterprise that fueled the emergence of industry giants such as Intel and AMD. After being acquired by National Semiconductor, the company was spun out as an independent entity in 1997 and has returned to a place of leadership in power semiconductors.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Handicapping the Innovation Economy -- How Long Does Overnight Success Take?

From CHEN Veep Kevin Kosh...

At the recent Massachusetts Innovation and Technology Exchange (MITX) 2005 Awards, talk of the "innovation economy" and the juxtaposition of established companies vs. young upstarts brought the following question to mind:

Is true innovation in the act of creation -- a "big bang" idea based on a current or emerging need -- or is it in persistence, adaptability and the survival of a good idea? It may be a little of both, since the chicken is born from the egg. But there's also an interesting conundrum in this question: At what point can you call it innovation, or a really good idea?

Awards were presented for products ranging from application security to SAN change management to nanotechnology. For the most part, the presenters and recipients sounded a lot like the proverbial baseball players in post-game interviews with remarks like, "It's not a sprint, it's a marathon," or, "It's a Paradigm Shift." There was a palpable excitement that any one of these folks could be the next big thing, but all understandably struck a cautiously optimistic tone for the future -- all except for the affable and enthusiastic Larry Weber, Chairman of the MITX Board.

Among notable companies, the Innovative Influencer of the Year award went to BBN Technologies. A company in the delivery room at the birth of the Internet itself, BBN is 50 years old and still innovating. They recently developed and delivered in 10 weeks an amazing mobile system for military vehicles in Iraq. Tagged "Boomerang," it uses an array of microphones and allows U.S. soldiers to detect, locate and respond directly to sniper fire within one second.

Another was CHEN PR client Kronos. Kronos has been diligently innovating for more than 25 years -- nearly double the life spans of the three other companies in the Operational Business Applications category combined. Kronos (NASDAQ:KRON) is widely regarded as the most trusted name in workforce management. That doesn't seem a stretch when you realize, as one of Massachusetts' largest and most respected technology employers, the company racked up 101 consecutive quarters of revenue growth and 72 consecutive quarters of profitability. Not to mention that 20 million people touch a Kronos product every day. Based on the rollercoaster economy of the last six years, that achievement is remarkable.

At the end of the day, innovation manifests itself in strange and mysterious ways, and I don't envy MITX organizers when they have to categorize and then select one company over another. It's a daunting task.

The MITX tagline is "What's Next?" In my humble opinion, the partial answer to that question is that it's possible we won't know for decades. However it's fun to try and guess, and there are very smart people at very young companies who deserve to be lauded for sticking their necks out. The full list of these impressive winners can be found here. Best of luck to all of them.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

We're Not in Kansas Anymore

From CHEN principal Barbara Ewen...

China’s economy is expected to surpass the U.S. economy by 2039 and the Japanese economy within 10 years. Across the Asia Pacific (APAC) region there are 3.3 billion people, a gross domestic product of $9.8 trillion – the U.S. is at over $12 trillion – and a 2004 information and communications technology spend of $633 billion. With the U.S. and European economies slowing, it is not surprising that both large and emerging companies are moving to seize the opportunities afforded in APAC.

According to the speakers at last night’s well attended CHEN PR seminar, Asia Pacific: Risk, Rewards and Best Practices, successfully building brand awareness and winning sales in the region is complex, highly diverse and fraught with potential failure. Understanding that each country in the region has its own culture, language, geography and maturity is essential to success.

Fairchild Semiconductor was one of the first semiconductor companies to identify the APAC opportunity and today has manufacturing facilities across Japan, South Korea, China, Philippines and Malaysia. Senior Director of Global Corporate Communications and Government Relations Fran Harrison shared her real time successes and “moments of sheer terror.” She stressed the importance of ensuring that the top management of the company is committed to be in the region regularly as level of titles are extremely important to success, especially in China. Marketing titles are not well regarded in China, for example. Localization is also critical as what works in Japan will not work in Korea or China and Western approaches to messaging often can lead to disaster.

Dr. Gordon Wong and Claire Walker, Founder/Media Director and PR Director respectively of Hong Kong-based Techworks Asia discussed the changing media environment, especially in China and offered their top ten tips to success. Companies with plans to do business in China must be able to discuss their business strategy, not their sales strategy, demonstrating at least a five-year commitment to the region. Commenting on the differences between Western approaches and what works in China, they highlighted how “involved” the Chinese Ministries remain, citing an example of a publication that wrote an article about a company that was not favorable. The company complained to the local Ministry and the next day the publication was shut down. Censorship is still an issue in China and all chat rooms and Internet cafes are monitored. As things change rapidly in China, it is vital that there are local company representatives who are knowledgeable and significantly titled.

The York Group helps firms build sales and distribution channels throughout APAC and Harald Horgen, President, cited key business challenges to entering China, Japan and India and highlighted key go-to-market considerations. While the opportunities abound in APAC, Harald cautioned that companies must select their initial markets carefully, be prepared to spend money, to always localize the product and the marketing and to think long term.

The seminar presentations are available at our website.

Many thanks to our law firm, Morse, Barnes-Brown & Pendleton, P.C. for hosting this event at their elegant new offices.

Good Reads:

Asia-Pacific Piracy Cost Software Cost $8B in 04: Watchdog, Wall Street Journal, May 18, 2005 (subscription required)

Better Business With China, Line56, May 20, 2005

China's Future: A Nation of Geeks? Fortune, May 19, 2005

Congress Seeks To Head Off U.S.-China 'Standards Wars', InformationWeek, May 12, 2005

eBay Eyes China for Growth, Reuters via CNET, May 16, 2005

Gartner Outlines Threats and Opportunities for the Global IT Industry In Anticipation of Continuing Sino-Japanese Tension [Press Release], Yahoo! Finance, May 26, 2005

Getting Tough with China? CNET, May 20, 2005

Indian Software, Service Exports on Rise, CNET, June 2, 2005

Japan Beefs Up Cyber Defense In Wake Of Chinese Attacks, Wall Street Journal, May 11, 2005 (subscription required)

U.S., China Clash Again Over Tech,, May 13, 2005

Sunday, June 05, 2005

The Parent Brain -- Do Kids Make Us Better Geeks?

A recent early morning walk through the Wall Street Journal led me to an article, "This is Your Brain on Motherhood," by Katherine Ellison, author of a book called The Mommy Brain: How Motherhood Makes You Smarter.

Now I rarely write here on personal topics, but this one caught my eye. As the mother of a 15-year-old, I've been a little concerned to see the recent portrayals of moms just barely clinging to reason. See a recent Newsweek, Mommy Madness, and there is apparently a new reality talk show called Moms Gone Mad. (I think I'll pass.)

Ellison's premise - such a relief - is that while we may be just a tad stressed out, parenting is keeping our brain cells tuned:

This is, in fact, what some leading brain scientists, like Michael Merzenich at the University of California, San Francisco, now believe. Becoming a parent, they say, can power up the mind with uniquely motivated learning. Having a baby is "a revolution for the brain," Dr. Merzenich says.

The human brain, we now know, creates cells throughout life, cells more likely to survive if they're used. Emotional, challenging and novel experiences provide particularly helpful use of these new neurons, and what adjectives better describe raising a child? <...>

And there are other ways that being a dedicated parent strengthens our minds. Research shows that learning and memory skills can be improved by bearing and nurturing offspring. A team of neuroscientists in Virginia found that mother lab rats, just like working mothers, demonstrably excel at time-management and efficiency, racing around mazes to find rewards and get back to the pups in record time.

(Some days I feel like that lab rat.)

An aspect that Ellison's article fails to examine is the correlation between parenting and tech savvy. Kids are inherently early adopters, and I'm convinced that having a child has helped me stay au courant. I confess that my Palm Pilot is my son's hand-me-down. (He had to upgrade to the color interface, of course.) He introduced me to instant messaging, which has proven an invaluable medium for quick queries to clients. (Of course, he's now got me blocked; having Mom on your buddy list is not cool.) He's also introduced me to the low-cost joys of text messaging - save those Verizon minutes! And would I have iTunes on my PC, if I didn't have a teen? Methinks not.

Of course, I did get to gloat that I'd used Skype before he had even downloaded it. That was a great day.

While he accepts my use of current technology, I've learned that I can't get away adopting his language. After recently trying to weave "off the heezy" into a sentence, I asked, "Whassa matter? You don't think I can pull that off?"

His reply: "You're a middle aged Mom. No, you can't pull that off."