Want free access to Britannica Online? Then get blogging…

Britannica logoLast week, Laurence Barry pointed me to Britannica Webshare. So what’s the big deal? Well Britannica Webshare is a new initiative from Encyclopædia Britannica; an initiative that rewards bloggers with free access to the whole of the online version of that encyclopaedia.

If you regularly post to your own blog, then head to their sign up form, fill it in, wait about a week (it’s proved somewhat popular, so give them time) and they should email you back with an access code to give you a year’s free subscription to the online encyclopaedia. What happens after that year is yet to be discovered…

Microsoft to demo “world’s worst kept secret” on the 27th February

galaxy.jpgFor a while now, a couple of Microsoft researchers – Curtis Wong and Jonathan Fay – have been beavering away on a project that no one (publicly) knew about. Five days ago, Robert Scoble of Scobleize.com was shown it and blogged about how great it was, but how he wasn’t going to tell anyone what it was until after the 27th. This set of a storm of speculation and caused Wong and Fay no small amount of grief. Also Scoble let slip that the 27th was tied in with TED. The intense speculation continued, someone at Microsoft buckled, and the story got out. It’s probably a fancy new product called “WorldWide Telescope”, that uses Photosynth to allow the user to pan across the sky and zoom in on distant galaxies and the like.

This little story is a good object lesson for Scoble and us all. When you are shown something in confidence, keep your mouth shut! Saying “I know a secret and I’m not sharing” will always get more attention than just telling the secret. As another blog put it, Scoble has over-hyped this product so much, people are going to be disappointed with the reality. It now faces a struggle for survival before it’s even born. Shame really as it sounds quite a cool – if pointless – application.

With the announcement on Thursday 21st February that Microsoft have given in to EU and open source pressure and opened up their APIs and comms protocols, attention may shift from this over-hyped project. No doubt Wong and Fay will sigh a huge sigh of relief if it does.

MacBook Air: Style Over Substance or Another Winner for Apple?

It is one of the worst kept secrets in recent years: Apple were due to unveil a slimline Mac laptop at this year’s Macworld expo. And Steve Jobs dutifully did reveal it. It costs a small fortune; has a low speed CPU; has no built in DVD drive. However it is claimed to be the slimmest laptop in the history of the universe and only weighs around 3lb (less than 1.5kg).


So what does one get for $1799 (or around $2400 if you live in Britain, but it is OK, we are used to US companies ripping us off. Adobe charge double for their products here, so 33% more expensive than the USA ain’t that bad)? A 4200 RPM (ie sloooooow) 80Gb hard-disk, a 1.6GHz Core 2 Duo (the substantially cheaper, but heavier MacBook offers a 2.0GHz CPU) and a super-thin, super-light case. The Macworld site has a good summary of its specs.

Obviously the Mac fanboys are already discussing buying it. But should the ordinary person buy one? In my view, this is a step too far down the style-over-substance path by Apple and it would be a bloody stupid idea to buy one. If you want a Mac laptop, buy a MacBook Pro ($100 more for so many more features). If you want a lightweight laptop, buy an Asus Eee PC and save yourself $1300 in the USA or £1000 (around $2000) here in Britain.

Governments and IT just do not mix

el_reg.pngLast Friday, the British Government announced a joint marketing strategy with industry that is intended to promote British expertise in IT. Trade & Investment Minister Lord Digby Jones stated that the strategy “is a catalyst to stimulate discussion amongst Government and business about how we sell the UK ICT sector to the world.”

But there is a problem. A press release that accompanied the announcement carries a website that promises more information on the strategy. However Her Majesty’s Government forgot to register the domain for the site, much less put any content on it. Never fear though, the dmain is now registered … by The Register!

Read the full story here.

See the website in question (www.ictmarketingstrategy.co.uk) here.