In the News

Published December 1, 2007

Microsoft Offers Antidote to Scattered Health Info

In October, Microsoft introduced HealthVault, a free, Web-based personal health record-keeping system the company said could be the heart of an Internet-based personal health records system.

In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal that coincided with the announcement of HealthVault, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates wrote the company envisions a “comprehensive, Internet-based system that enables health care providers to automatically deliver personal health data to each patient in a form they can understand and use.”

Such a system, he wrote, would improve care, reduce costs, and help people better manage their health.

Data for a consumer’s HealthVault record will be generated by health applications from other companies. Those applications range from disease management tools such as glucose monitors, to fitness information from heart rate monitors. Most such services are not free. Physicians, hospitals, and labs would be encouraged to send data to a patient’s HealthVault.

Privacy advocates praised Microsoft’s safety features, especially because no data from HealthVault can be shared without a consumer’s explicit informed consent. Whether consumers will trust the Internet with their vital signs remains to be seen.

Future Is On-Demand

The answer to “What’s on tonight?” will soon be, “Anything you want!”

Regularly scheduled TV programming is on its way out, and video-on-demand (VOD) will dominate bandwidth in about 10 years, according to trend statements released by Motorola Inc. during the TelcoTV trade show in October.

The company cites the power of Internet Protocol (IP)-based TV in dismantling the current familiar TV programming grid. With IP making it possible for every set-top box in every house to have a unique digital address, consumers could request any program they want, whenever they want it. Meanwhile, advertisers may be able to customize their messages down to a specific household or even an individual subscriber.

Acceptance of VOD is growing fast. More than 60 percent of digital cable subscribers say they have used VOD, up from 50 percent in 2005 and just 25 percent in 2004, according to a report in TelephonyOnline. The gap between VOD movie release and DVD release times is narrowing, making VOD increasingly attractive. Local programming options also are increasing.

Source: Sarah Reedy, “TelcoTV: Motorola says goodbye to traditional TV scheduling,” TelephonyOnline, October 23, 2007:

Not a Struggling Start-Up

In October the stock price of Google, Inc. reached $700 per share.

The price is worth noting because of the media’s constant references to Google as a “search engine.” Lawmakers also tend to perceive Google as still in its entrepreneurial phase and often cite it as the type of company that needs regulatory protections such as network neutrality.

But Google is much more than that.

From its days as a start-up operating from a Stanford University dormitory, the company has become a new media advertising conglomerate. It dominates the search market, with 56.5 percent of the U.S. market, compared to 23.3 percent for Yahoo and 11.3 for Microsoft. Google’s revenues come from selling various types of advertising on search page results and other places.

Google also owns the popular YouTube Web site, has its own shopping cart software, plans to offer a consumer health care record service, and is still trying to buy DoubleClick, which provides advertising coordination and management services across new media platforms. In addition to mapping the world, the firm hopes to scan every book in print and make them available in searchable form.

Google’s claims to stand with struggling Internet entrepreneurs against big bad phone and established software companies ring hollow when measured against the firm’s market capitalization of $160 billion and growing.

NY Pols Join Intel Rival

New York congressional members and a rival chipmaker have asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate whether Intel Corp. is violating U.S. antitrust laws.

FTC so far has apparently declined to investigate Intel, which sells more than 75 percent of the microprocessors in personal computers running Microsoft Corp.’s Windows operating systems.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) asked for the probe in August. In doing so, they joined Intel competitor Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), which has insisted for years that Intel engages in illegal conduct.

In a 2005 lawsuit against Intel, AMD claimed Intel offered discounts to some computer makers contingent on those manufacturers not buying certain AMD products. Intel has denied those charges.

AMD plans to build a $3 billion semiconductor plant in upstate New York. In his letter to FTC, Schumer wrote, “If the allegations against Intel are true, the potential harm to consumers could be profound.”

An Intel spokesman says while Intel does provide volume discounts to its customers–a common industrial practice–the discounts are legal and benefit consumers.

Libraries Won’t Lend Books

As competition grows between Microsoft Corp. and Google Inc. in their quest to digitize virtually every book in existence, some major research libraries are rebuffing the companies’ requests to scan their collections, choosing instead to work with a private nonprofit organization.

The New York Times reported in October the Boston Library Consortium of 19 research and academic libraries in New England, with 34 million books with expired copyrights among them, had signed with the Open Content Alliance to scan and digitize those volumes.

The Open Content Alliance’s goal is to “build a permanent archive of multilingual digitized text and multimedia content.”

The Alliance says it’s committed to keeping the material it scans as freely available as possible. That’s in sharp contrast to Google and Microsoft. When Google or Microsoft scans a book for a library, the library must agree not to make it available to any other commercial search engine. While the two companies do not profit directly from the scanning, they can and do attach advertisements to scanned pages returned in a search.

Some libraries are working with commercial search engines as well as the Alliance in the interests of making as much of their collections available in electronic form as possible.

Source: Katie Hafner, “Libraries Shun Deals to Put Books on the Web,” The New York Times, October 22, 2007:

Sharon J. Watson ([email protected]) writes from Sugar Land, Texas.