The Offspring Of The Netbook / Smartphone Union

Filling a niche I didn’t know existed (often the way with niches), Lenovo has announced today its new Smartbook device. This gadget is a cross between a netbook and a smartphone, offering consumers a relatively low-cost alternative that combines the best traits of the smartphone in a netbook-like body, but without full PC functionality. The niche it is designed to fill is the portion of the market interested in Internet connectivity on the go with smartphone sensibility and larger screen real estate.

It is small and lightweight (1.96 pounds) with a 10.2″ screen, and joins Lenovo’s other little computers, all netbooks with conventional and touch screens. While manufacturers like Asustek question the viability of these stripped little machines, the promise of faster startup and longer battery life to a consumer interested mainly in Internet connectivity (both broadband and Wi-Fi) at low cost is a compelling sell. ATT plans to offer the $499 smartbook at a subsidized price with the purchase of a 3G data plan.

What do you think? Would you buy it for Internet browsing on the go? Or would you buy a full netbook or wait for the fabled iScribe from the Apple camp?

For me, I would prefer Lenovo’s new IdeaPad S10-3T netbook, which comes with 10.1-inch screen that supports multiple finger touch input. I already have a smartphone in my iPhone 3GS and would sooner buy a Droid before this hybrid product.

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The Next Evolution In Legal Research?

So, this morning, as I hit my shortcut to Westlaw to research coverage for legal fees incurred prior to tender to the insurer in California, my eyes fell upon a promising little bit of text on the sign-in screen: “wait till you see what’s next. Learn more.”

Well, being a curious sort, I had to hit the jump to find out what exactly was next, with the full realization that Westlaw has been long overdue for a “what’s next.”

I was greeted with this flashy little video that did no more than tease about the “next evolution in legal research.” The next evolution from West promises confidence in “dramatically improved search” that will ensure “that you haven’t missed a thing,” productivity” thanks to “better workflow tools” and an “intuitive”, “user-friendly” process that will “allign with the way you think about legal research.”

Want more? You will need to sign up with West for the launch alert, or attend Legaltech, NY on February 1-3, 2010.

Forgive my slight cynicism, but this “evolution” better skip right over australopithicus and  neanderthal stages, bronze and industrial ages, and finally bring this tired old service into the 21st Century. From my lips to West’s ears.

Making A Federal Case Over Cloud Computing

Something got Goliath’s attention. The Federal Trade Commission has gotten involved in an inquiry before the Federal Communications Commission into security and privacy issues surrounding cloud computing that may have wide-reaching ramifications for enterprise and business use of the Web and SaaS.

It all began with the realization that our national broadband access was seriously lacking. In response, several federal laws were passed to encourage broadband development and deployment. The FTC has a degree of jurisdiction over broadband deployment. In the initial inquiry, filed last June, the FCC summarized the underlying rationale as follows:

In the recently passed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009,’ the “stimulus” legislation, Congress charged the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service and the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration with making grants and loans to expand broadband deployment and for other important broadband projects. Congress provided $7.2 billion for this effort-no small sum. But even this level of funding is insufficient to support broadband deployment. With this realization, the Recovery Act charges the Commission to create a national broadband plan. By February 17, 2010, the Commission must and will deliver to Congress a national broadband plan that seeks to ensure that every American has access to broadband capability and establishes clear benchmarks for meeting that goal.

Sounds great. However, under this docket number, as well as two others, the FCC sought further comment on how to deal with disclosure of “confidential” information between “eligible entities” and broadband service providers. In part:

We also seek comment on section 106(h)(2) of the BDIA, which requires eligible entities to treat “any matter that is a trade secret, commercial or financial information, or privileged or confidential, as a record not subject to public disclosure except as otherwise mutually agreed to by the broadband service provider and the eligible entity.” In particular, we seek comment on whether that section is self effectuating or whether the Commission should take any measures to ensure eligible entities’ compliance with section 106(h)(2). If parties believe that the Commission should adopt safeguards to ensure compliance with section 106(h)(2), then we ask that they describe with specificity the nature of their proposed safeguards.

After workshops on the broader issues surrounding broadband development, including its effect on the general economy, IT and productivity, the public comments began pouring in. The cast of commenting characters is impressive, and includes some high profile corporations, including Alcatel-Lucent, NPR, QUALCOMM, Walt Disney and Microsoft. Much of the information is confidential and not viewable by the public.

Now the FTC has commenced its investigation into privacy, security concerns, identity managements systems, log-ons and authentication, mobile computing, and social networking in the context of this broader discussion. A roundtable is scheduled to be held on January 28 on these issues.

How will this resolve? Before the likes of Amazon and Rackspace, big players in the cloud computing sector, start shaking in their boots, the long-term goal should actually benefit those interested in storing in the cloud and utilizing cloud services  and tools.  Remember my post yesterday about the Internet in 2020? The recent inquiry appears to be another piece in the larger puzzle of transforming the Internet into an entirely new experience. Safety and security issues are a significant part of that process.

While it is possible that the inquiry will expose present insecurities that may affect enterprise and business use of the cloud, my sense is that those insecurities should be exposed, examined, quantified, and, hopefully, eliminated. I applaud the FCC and FTC for getting that ball rolling. Hopefully, cloud providers and businesses using their services are employing the best available tech, and thus mitigating the potential liabiltiy for security breaches in the here and now. Down the road, security and best available technology in support of the cloud should be dramatically improved as the direct result of such comments, inquiries, and investigations.

Hat tip to ReadWrite Enterprise