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Archive for May, 2012

Texas school district to track kids through RFID tags

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

imageIt seems that certain schools in Texas are having trouble with their math.

No, it isn’t the kids. It’s the school administrators. They keep losing kids. And, well, state funding depends, at least to some extent, on attendance.

So Northside Independent School District in San Antonio has decided to insert a little technology into the problem. For it intends to insert RFID chips into the kids’ IDs, so that it will know precisely where little Chet is at all times.

I am grateful to the San Antonio Express-News for expressing this development, one that might cause some to pause.

The school’s logic appears to be quite simple. These darn kids keep disappearing and that’s costing them money. They need to be counted at the beginning of every sunny day. And you never know what kids are going to get up to anyway.

So, beginning with John Jay High School and Anson Jones Middle School, the district will implement its new chips.

“We want to harness the power of (the) technology to make schools safer, know where our students are all the time in a school, and increase revenues,” school district spokesman Pascual Gonzalez told the Express-News.

It does seem a shame that money is mentioned in all of this. One might have been able to understand it if this was purely a safety issue, but clearly it isn’t. Indeed, in Houston, two school districts already enjoy this technology and it has reportedly brought them hundreds of thousands of extra dollars.

The Northside district, Kens 5 News says, loses $175,000 a day because of late or absent kids.

Parents appear to be divided on the issue. One can surely understand misgivings. The school district says that tags will only work when the children are on school property.

However, after cases such as the one in Philadelphia were a school was sued for allegedly spying on a student off-campus (the school settled for around $600,000), some parents will surely be concerned that the kids will be snooped upon.

It’s not as if this sort of tagging offers absolute security. What if an ID is stolen? What if the system is hacked and someone with evil purpose can quite literally track the movements of all the kids?

At heart, though, this does seem to be more about money than safety. Education cuts are causing some schools to find new ways to find revenue. I wonder if there hadn’t been a financial incentive for the schools, would they have bothered?


Facebook prices its stock at $38 a share for IPO

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Facebook Inc. priced its shares in its initial public stock offering at $38 late Thursday, setting the stage for its historic market debut Friday.

The IPO values Facebook at $104 billion, the largest-ever for a newly public company. The $18.4 billion that Facebook is expected to raise in the IPO itself would be the second-largest in U.S. history, trailing only the $19.65 billion of Visa Inc. in 2008.

The Facebook pricing comes at a jittery moment for the stock market, which suffered a deep drop Thursday in a continuation of the weakness that has gripped share prices this month.

The Dow Jones industrial average sank 156.06 points, or 1.2%, to 12,442.49. It has fallen 6.3% from its recent peak on May 1. The technology-laden Nasdaq composite, on which Facebook will begin trading Friday, slumped 60.35 points, or 2.1%, to 2,813.69.

Facebook’s debut has dominated Silicon Valley and Wall Street in recent weeks, as the company and the financial markets geared up for the most anticipated IPO since Google Inc. in 2004. >more

IT Services – Houston, Texas

SAP Offers Mobile Device Management on Amazon’s Cloud

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

SAP’s Afaria mobile device management tool is now available on Amazon Web Services’ cloud, offered as a way to make it easier to start using the platform, SAP said at the Sapphire conference on Monday.

The availability of Afaria 7.0 server on AWS gives enterprises a fast and simple way to buy and implement an enterprise-ready mobile management platform, according to SAP.

“We have a number of customers that don’t want to deal with and implement their own device management infrastructure in-house, because they view it as non-core, and instead they want a cloud-based offering,” said Kevin Ichhpurani, senior vice president, Ecosystem and Channels at SAP.

With the cloud version of Afaria 7.0, administrators can just go to Amazon’s Marketplace, enter their passcodes and start provisioning it. >more

IT Services and Consulting

Percento Technologies Exhibits at the 2012 Texas Bankers Association Annual Conference

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

The Texas Bankers Association’s 128th Annual Convention & Exposition will be held May 9-11, 2012, at the Omni Fort Worth Hotel and Fort Worth Convention Center.  Attendees; we are located at Booth 323.  Come by and enter for a chance to win a Scotty Cameron Putter.

IT Support Services

Microsoft deal allows & to go toe-to-toe with Amazon and Apple

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

microsoftIn the last couple of years Barnes & Noble has made some big inroads into the e-book market, cutting into Amazon’s huge lead. As it stands, Amazon still has about 60 percent of the e-book pie, Barnes & Noble has around 25 percent, and Apple sits at around 15 percent, with smaller players like Sony and Kobo left to fight over the crumbs. Of course, those numbers are just estimates, and depending on who you talk to, Amazon’s share might actually be closer to 65 percent.

While a strong second place is not a bad position to be in, the problem for Barnes & Noble has been how much it cost to get there and how much it’s going to cost to pick up more market share from Amazon and Apple, which has steadily ramped up its iBooks digital reading platform and recently launched a major digital textbook initiative. Both Amazon and Apple, needless to say, have huge cash reserves to dip into for marketing, engineering, and R&D, while Barnes & Noble has appeared at times as if it’s simply battling for survival.

Enter Microsoft and its $300 million investment in what amounts to a spinoff of Barnes & Noble’s Nook digital media business, which includes e-books, textbooks, and all those digital newspapers and magazines its been selling on Nook devices. So far the new “subsidiary” of Barnes & Noble doesn’t have a name (it’s simply referred to as Newco) but you might as well call it Nooksoft (read more here about the announcement here).

Obviously, the cash injection is important because Barnes & Noble has been hemorrhaging money as it beefs up its Silicon Valley-based digital operation with expensive software engineers and hardware designers (a New York Times article noted that Barnes & Noble already has 300 employees in its Palo Alto, Calif., office). The new company also frees up additional cash for Barnes & Noble to compete with Amazon and Apple’s huge marketing machines and attract more talented engineers with potentially lucrative stock options. The other obvious benefit to the deal is it allows the bookseller to bring the Nook e-bookstore to Windows 8 devices, whether they be PCs, tablets, or smartphones, though Amazon’s Kindle app will be available for the Windows 8 platform as well.

Today’s announcement also marks the first time that Barnes & Noble has openly talked about going global, though it remains unclear when it will bring its Nook devices to overseas markets. In a conference call, CEO William Lynch said that few companies were “on more screens than Microsoft” and that the new partnership would allow Barnes & Noble to to extend the Nook digital bookstore to thousands of users in the U.S. and globally. Amazon is also making a big push into global markets and Apple, of course, is already selling millions of iPhones and iPads around the world.

Here in the U.S., in the wake of the government’s lawsuit against Apple and five of the “big six” publishers (and subsequent settlement with three of them), there’s talk of Amazon once again lower prices on e-books and selling certain titles at a loss. In the past, competitors had trouble matching Amazon’s prices, but Microsoft’s cash infusion would make it easier for Barnes & Noble to go toe-to-toe on pricing.

Ultimately, however, the biggest benefit of the deal may be a change in consumers’ psyche about Barnes & Noble. In the commodity world of e-books, branding is important, and many consumers fear that their purchases, which are stored in a “digital locker,” will vanish if a company goes out of business. When Borders went belly up, consumers were simply migrated over to Kobo because Kobo already powered Borders e-book store. But no one knows exactly what would happen if Barnes & Noble went down the tubes, and not a Nook story goes by on CNET without a commenter voicing some concern over Barnes & Noble’s longevity.

“I’ve always thought that the Nooks were a bit better designed than the Kindles,” said CNET reader tgibbs in a recent comment concerning the arrival of the Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight. “But I bought a Kindle because I’m more confident that Amazon will be still be around in the future.”

With a giant like Microsoft backstopping the Nook, consumers may now have more confidence that the Nook platform will indeed be here to stay. And that type of peace of mind is just as essential in helping Barnes & Noble gain market share than money alone.