3.00 FYI France: Ejournal and archive

by Jack Kessler, kessler@well.sf.ca.us

July 15, 2007 issue. This file presents an archive copy of the issue of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which was distributed via email on July 15, 2007.

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3.00 FYI France: Ejournal and archive

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Versions of the following have appeared online regularly, since 1992, as a feature of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which is distributed for free via email every month except August. Ejournal subscriptions may be obtained via email request to: kessler@well.sf.ca.us

Here this file is one of a number made available -- hopefully attractively, all in one place, and relevant to libraries and online digital information work in France and Europe -- as part of FYI France (sm)(tm), an online service to which anyone can subscribe for 12 months by postal mailing a check for US $45, payable to Jack Kessler, to PO Box 460668, San Francisco, California, USA 94146 (site licenses also are available): please write your email address on the front of your check. And you can pay via PayPal, on the FYI France homepage:


Please email suggestions for improvements to me at kessler@well.sf.ca.us




The iPhone and Digital Libraries


this is the first FYIFrance ejournal issue composed on an iPhone... i hope... if i can get my thumbs to work...

And as you can tell, there are a few bugs in the iPhone, still. Tough making Capital Letters if you have 50+ year-old thumbs, for one thing; also, no accents aigus so far, for another... digital de'ja vu all over again, on that last...

Apple Co.'s new iPhone device is turning the hitech and general digital world upside down:

-- significantly, they dropped the word Computer from the corporate name, this year -- now the fabled Val de Silicone firm designs and sells "consumer electronics devices & services" -- more flexible, more hip, and far more profitable, than the now-old-fashioned "computers" they sold before... the world turns...

The fundamental new marketing idea is to reverse the terms of service, between hitech producers and consumers: where the former once gave orders to the latter, the latter now dictate to the former -- no longer is it producers saying to consumers, "You will use this box, or that system, or this or that format" -- now instead it's the consumers saying to producers, "You will give me the following information which I need..."

Several principal agents have been involved in this paradigm shift:

So it's one-stop shopping, the retailer's dream... This little iPhone thing measures about 2.25 x 4.5 x .5 inches / 6x11x1 cm, a bit larger in area than a credit card, and it weighs about 6 ounces / 174 grams, and it can do all of the above and more.

What this means in digital information generally, then, is "a new boss": to hitech industries formerly organized by form -- firms selling "computers" or "routers" or "software" or "networks" or "text" or "images", or "movies", etc. -- the iPhone says form no longer matters, only function, now the customer just wants the information, and she wants it on her iPhone.

A new bottleneck then, perhaps -- "new boss, same as the old boss" -- just like the "computer", which dictated information delivery formats before it? That certainly is the hope of many Apple stockholders, nowadays: nothing better, to some investors, than owning part of a firm which has a chokehold on its market...

The folks running Apple itself, though, appear to have more foresight: the next iPhone, smaller & cheaper, already has been announced by the rumor-mill, at least -- US$300, available end of this year -- and both devices make plentiful use of competitors' products and services, offering "synchronization" involving Microsoft products, and services relying upon Google, and telephony via AT&T, and so on. The legendary synergies of Silicon Valley seem to be alive and well.

The biggest news, though, is that Apple is not alone, in providing this new one-stop-shopping approach to digital information search & retrieval & use. They may be the first, with their iPhone: it may be the "killer app", of the new phase. But other firms long in cellphones and personal digital assistants / PDAs and, yes, even "computers", have been close to this convergence-point for some time too, and now may follow Apple. Many books have been written about this Media Convergence trend: many conferences held, many websites and blogs have described it --

And all of these, producers and pundits both, are benefiting now from iPhone's masterful "Friday June 29 2007 6pm in your local timezone" sales introduction. Apple hoped to sell as many as 200,000 of the devices that first weekend: the marketing gurus now say over 500,000 in fact were sold, and perhaps as many as 700,000 -- all the retailers were out of stock by Tuesday. So Apple Co. itself is benefiting: with the very healthy profit margins they built into their very high prices, on these initial iPhones, Apple is benefiting very well indeed.

But the stock prices of competitors also have been soaring: since June, and largely attributable to the Apple iPhone "buzz", the stock price of Apple is up 10+% -- but that of Nokia too is up 8%, and Vodafone 6%, and the maker of the Blackberry PDA, Research In Motion, up 28% -- so someone, perhaps just stock market gamblers but they offer some indication, figures the Apple iPhone is part of a wider and growing trend.


If that is the case, then -- if the information paradigm truly is shifting, with iPhone, or even if this simply is a new and powerful trend -- what does all of this mean for libraries? For French libraries, but also for libraries in general -- and particularly for non-US libraries, in any places which do not yet have a lot of Apple iPhones, and even where English is not the major language medium in use...

So much already is in place. Websites have been designed, services implemented, systems and software acquired and installed: but that was for a world of "computers" -- those personalized packages of the old mainframe capacities which formerly sat on everyone's desk and in everyone's lap. If the digital information world now is shifting to handhelds, as hitech headlines proclaim -- "The revolution will be handheld", says MarketWatch, "iPhone may be niche product, but it signals dawn of new era",

-- then how much of that former information world, and investment, and vested interest, now will have to change, in a digital library as elsewhere? And where, exactly, even if we are unlikely ever to know precisely when?


So, a few design considerations:


So iPhone's biggest problem will be us thumb-challenged Boomers: many of us ages 60+, already our thumbs don't work any more -- I can barely squeeze mine over to touch my thumbs to little fingers, now, let alone teach them to type on these tiny things at anything approaching speedtype speeds, fancy new touchscreen or not...

And I'm a few years shy of Bill Clinton and his generation... and if our parents were The Greatest Generation we are The Biggest Generation, at least, and The Biggest Spenders, and so a not-unimportant demographic to the folks in Marketing... So I expect keyboard-equipped "computers", and keyboard-add-ons for handhelds, will be with us for a while longer, if only to accommodate the thumb-challenged elders in our Ageing Societies, in the US and Europe and Japan. And we even still read "books", by cracky...

But the youngsters, too, are wading in heavily on this iPhone thing: the Handheld Era is more theirs than ours, already -- and they are Global, per BusinessWeek and Time and many others the latest Youth Generation, fully digitally-equipped, is to be found now in Urumchi and Dagoucun as well as in Soho and the Ginza.

The big firms such as Nokia long have recognized this, and have been "dumping" their cellphones in remote markets, at cost and well below, for years. Friends just returned from Cambodia confirm: there may not be much to eat, currently, in southeast Asian rice paddy cultures, and there may be disease and other trauma, and little educational opportunity yet, but the kids there do have cellphones.

If those become true iPhones, then, a Grameen Bank or better could leverage such kids and economies into the 21st century very rapidly: the digital channel can bring them the information and education and commercial opportunity they need, in addition to the InfoTainment.

Once that InfoOverload II flood begins, though, I just hope the information networks will be able to handle the flow -- plus the vast increase in, and far greater complexities of, Globalized search & retrieval.

Happy summer,


Jack Kessler, kessler@well.com  






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Last update: September 15, 2007