Archive for January, 2010


January 26th, 2010

ThinkTech and others (Hawaii Venture Capital Association, Pacific New Media, Anthology Marketing Group, TechHui, Society of Professional Journalists, Public Relations Society of America, OLELO Community Television and Enterprise Honolulu) are putting a program together on how the transformation of news is transforming our society - in a challenge, the ultimate sea change.

You’ve seen plenty in the media about the decline of the newspapers and the consolidation of TV news and all manner of things demonstrating how weak readership and advertising are and how the conventional media are failing and trying desperately to find new business models. It’s not a happy story.

What is the role of news in a free society? How important is it to the maintenance of our Republic? Can we afford to give news and knowledge of public affairs up in favor of sports and entertainment? Probably not, and it’s risky to try. A free society must be informed to be sustainable, and Hawaii is no exception.

So we’re setting this ambitious program up as a half-day breakfast through lunch program on Thursday, March 18th at the Plaza Club, on the 20th floor right after its current remodeling and the installation of some $40,000 of new high-tech AV equipment there. We want to attract a large and curious crowd, and do it right.

The content is exciting because, like it or not, we’ve been struggling with this problem for some time. It’s eating us and no clear answer has yet appeared. Even today, there was an article online reporting that Newsday in New York, after deciding to charge $5 a week for its new online news service, was only able to garner 35 subscribers over a six month period. That’s an unmitigated disaster.

We need to know what’s happening in and around the news business, from the reporting to the advertising, and why. We need to know where people are getting news from these days, and why they’re leaving conventional media. These changes undoubtedly reflect more profound undercurrents we don't fully appreciate.

More important, we need to know what technology is being developed on the Internet as to attract the two sides of the equation - the news and the public - and why. The web is 15 years old and it now has tools and technology that are capable of gathering, organizing and delivering news as never before.

What psychology, what motivations, what factors make people want news in their daily lives? News brings us together, it empowers us to analyze and relate to the world around us and know where we belong in that world. It’s the daily input that stimulates us and enables us to better perform in our lives and show worth to our friends. To lose this gift would be a great loss to all of us.

Hawaii has lots of journalists and media professionals, and we can learn a lot from our local luminaries. But to extend our knowledge into a global context, which we need to do, we need to rub shoulders with thought leaders from other places. That’s why we’ve decided to bring some speakers in for this program.

We want to know how the transformation of news is transforming our society, so we’re starting with a wakeup keynote by a noted constitutional scholar, Avi Soifer, Dean of the William S. Richardson School of Law, who can raise our awareness about the role of news in a free society and in our way of life.

Then we’ll have three animated panels. The first is called the Transformation of the News, which will help us understand the decline and consolidation of conventional media, the economic and professional challenges, changes and prognostications of what is likely to happen in the next several months. This is a discussion by people who have been watching the decline of the media.

The second is called the Transformation of the Delivery System, which will help us understand the emergence of news websites and streams on the Internet and mobile platforms, and the current explosion of YouTube, iPhone and social networking. This is a discussion by people who have been watching the growth of new and amazing dissemination technologies.

It goes further. The third panel will deal with Challenges, Limitations and Business Models to help us understand the need for editors and gatekeepers and the risks without them, rating systems and credibility, how to avoid a free-for-all, and the troubles of disinformation, misinformation and manipulation of the news. This is a discussion by people who have seen the difficulties we will have to face before we can find the truth.

After lunch, the program will go on to conclude with a keynote dealing with the role some of these new tech structures, namely the Peer News organization Pierre Omidyar is creating in Hawaii, will play in the larger transformation.

I’m not completely ready to give you our lineup. It will be finalized shortly and will be quite impressive. It will include publishers, editors, journalists and columnists from the local news, magazines and TV news organizations, local PR people, local Internet and mobile platform programmers, and a media lawyer to boot.

As if that wasn’t enough, we’re bringing in at least one notable thought leader to participate in each of our three panels. Without getting specific, we have a famous American blogger from China, a tech columnist from Newsweek and another from TechCrunch. They’re all world class and worth coming miles to see, and we expect that putting them together with our local luminaries will really ignite some new ideas!

Got you curious? The flyer will be circulated next week, and will identify all the visiting thought leaders and local luminaries by name. If you want a special copy, email me at NewsMorphosis is at the intersection of what we used to know and what we need to know, individually and as a community, all made possible through the miracle of modern technology. Be there.

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January 19th, 2010

What energy, and I do mean that in a double entendre, we had at Crucible 2010.

On Tuesday January 19th, the Plaza Club was awash in tech and government players and well-wishers for the Crucible 2010 program. Something more than 120 people showed up and the 21st floor of Pioneer Plaza swelled with enthusiasm. Things were made a bit more complicated by the fact that the Club is presently under construction, but that didn’t get in the way - the new digs somehow enhanced the network energy.

The program, if you’ve read my earlier blogs, was intended as a forum for the tech coalition established around Senator Carol Fukunaga and Representatives Angus McKelvey and Gene Ward, to present its subgroup recommendations for new tech initiatives and bills to be introduced in the 2010 session.

The coalition has been working on this, with the support of Fukunaga, McKelvey and Ward since the program we did last October called Rebuilding in 2010, a reference to the work the tech industry will have to do to recover from the unpleasant and regrettable demise of Act 221 in the 2009 session.

We had stirring remarks from HVCA president bill Spencer, from new HSTC president Keiki-Pua Dancil, from Fukunaga, McKelvey and Ward, and then from a lineup of luminaries who presented reports on behalf of the five subgroups. They were great, and their proposals were thoughtful and well received. And tailored for the times - they did not call for any significant expenditure of funds in the 2010 session.

Now it remains for the industry to do some adding and tweaking, as discussed that evening, and then have those bills introduced for consideration in this session. Everyone seemed comfortable that the legislature would recognize that the most important thing is to build the economy to produce greater jobs and revenue, and that that’s the best way to raise money to deal with our state’s budgetary crisis.

Most people in the room rightly saw Tuesday’s event as a new starting point, the first day in a new chapter for the tech industry in Hawaii. It’s no longer about act 221. Rather, it’s a new time where the industry can come together, build consensus among itself and its supporters in the legislature, and design initiatives that will take the sting out of what happened and get on with building the industry.

The crowd was rich in its interaction and sometimes insistent in its questions, skillfully moderated by Bob Toyofuku. The program was marked by good presentations, good process, good networking, and good initiatives. It represented more than just affirmation of the subgroup recommendations, it seemed to reflect a new level of collaboration and a new level of political will for the tech industry.

To close, we had closing commentary from Bill Spencer on what we learned, mainly, all about the development of political will in a time when political will is an essential ingredient for any initiative. And we heard from Sharon Miyashiro, our “mystery guest” from the closely related Energy Policy Forum.

The program ended with at least five “talking tables” manned by the subgroup speakers, in a sea of libation and bonding. The networking was furious and memorable, and went on for quite a while. The gemutlicheit was palpable, thanks in large part to our sponsors Hawaii Venture Capital Association, ThinkTech Hawaii, Hawaii Business Magazine, Oceanit, Commercial Data Systems, Kolohala Venture Fund, Robert Toyofuku, McCorriston Miller Mukai MacKinnon and Cardax Pharmaceuticals. Anyone who wasn’t there missed a special event and a special experience.

Here are the top-rated bills among those proposed by the five subgroups, with their respective coalition priorities:

1 General Financing (Priority 1) - Based on Utah 'fund of funds' legislation; now looks more like a 'hybrid-SPIF' bill.

2 Enabling Environment (Priority 1) - Relating to Procurement; 5% price preference for local high-tech goods & services; requires use of local resellers in WSCA procurements and use of 'ulimited use licenses' in state contracts.

3 Enabling Environment (Priority 2) - Concurrent resolution requesting DAGS evaluation of federal process for procurement notice, 41 USC 416.

4 Enabling Environment (Priority 3) - Removes cap of 25 charter schools allowed in state or gives preference to new charter school applications focusing on STEM.

5 Research & Development (Priority 1 and 3) - Relating to High Technology; Extends Act 221 for research activities from 2010 to 2011 and creates High Technology Research & Development Task Force to draft future legislation.

6 Renewable Energy (Priority 2) - Relating to Taxation; Amends 235-12.5 to expand credit for renewable energy projects installed on commercial properties.

7 Renewable Energy (HSTC Permitting Priority 1) - Relating to State Enterprise Zones; Expands eligible business activity in State enterprise zones to include development or production of various types of renewable energy.

8 Renewable Energy (Priority 1) - Relating to Renewable Energy; Allows more types of renewable energy projects in State's conservation districts.

9 Renewable Energy (HSTC Permitting Priority 3) - Relating to Renewable Energy Projects; Requires permit application fulfilling minimum requirements to be accepted for processing w/in 10 working days of permit application date.

10 Renewable Energy Permitting (HSTC Permitting Priority 2) - Relating to Renewable Energy; Exempts RE facility from subdivision requirements deemed to be approved if not disapproved within 90-day time period.

11 Creative Media (Priority 1) - Relating to Creative Media; Establishes task force to develop future legislation.

12 Creative Media - Relating to Economic Development; Renames Hawaii TV/Film Development Special Fund to Hawaii Film Office Special Fund - support for Hawaii Film Office.

You can check up on these bills as the session goes forward on, and The event is over, but the Crucible will continue and a new chapter has just begun. We need to advance these initiatives as an industry collaborative, and for that our work is only starting. So don’t be surprised if you get a call from the coalition asking for your testimony on them.

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New e-Readers Promise New Access to News

January 13th, 2010

Amazon announced Kindle in 2007, and since then e-Book buyers have rebuilt their reading around Kindle, Sony’s Reader and Barnes & Noble's Nook. E-Reader sales doubled in 2009, and are expected to double again this year.

First generation e-Readers had black and white text. Second generation had graphics and connectivity. Now, third generation e-Readers have color screens, interactive graphics and magazine style layouts. They’re getting easier to read.

Beyond that, "Skiff" and other post-Kindle e-Readers are expanding their reach to include multiple sources of news. They will change the way we get our news, and any change in that could change the way we think.

Check these three out:


Skiff, working with Marvell, announced its e-Reader and Reader Development Kit at CES last week. The RDK has software for Skiff’s e-Reading service and lets you download newspapers, magazines, books and blogs wirelessly.

The Skiff supports multi-function smartphones, tablets, netbooks and other display and wireless technologies. Content publishers can sell advertising alongside their content. This makes e-Reading into a mainstream media delivered on the web by a device that looks and acts like a newspaper.

The Skiff is state-of-the-art with an 11.5 inch stainless foil display. It’s easy to hold, use and carry, and it’s flexible and sturdy. It has high resolution and a touch screen. You can turn pages with the swipe of a finger. The battery works for a week. It’ll run on 3G Sprint and supports Wi-Fi connectivity.

Newspaper and magazine articles will appear on the Skiff with high-resolution graphics. Skiff is negotiating with unnamed partners for content. Like other e-Reader, Skiff is developing a color screen model. It will go on sale later this year in Sprint locations and on its website. The price is not yet announced.


The Plastic Logic Que was also introduced at CES. It’s also lightweight, and directed toward the business user. It’s the size of a yellow pad and has a shatterproof plastic touch screen that makes it lighter than glass e-Readers.

Users can download books through the Que store or from content partners such as USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes and The Atlantic. Apps will let you send email and attachments to your Que for reading on the road.

It’s not the paperless office, but it is the paperless briefcase. Plastic Logic says a 4GB model will be Wi-Fi and store 35,000 documents and the 8GB model will store 75,000 documents. The Que will go on sale in April at $649 and $799.


EnTourage eDGe has a folding design with an e-Reader on the left side and a netbook on the right. They’re calling it a Dual Book. It's not two devices, but one device with two synchronized screens.

If you want to look up a word, you highlight it and the definition appears in a Google search field on the netbook side, running on Google's Android OS. Wi-Fi offers reading, web surfing, email and video with a virtual keyboard.

EnTourage will launch the eDGe with an e-Book inventory of textbooks, trade books and public domain titles. It has a microphone and camera to let you record lectures and presentations. It weighs three pounds and will cost $490.


The most revolutionary e-Reader announced at CES is not hardware at all, but a software application called Blio, built by futurist Ray Kurzweil. It transforms any laptop, netbook or smartphone into an advanced e-Reader.

Blio uses the original PDF files from content publishers to preserve the format of the books and magazines, including layout, lettering, color and graphics. It also supports video and web links.

How cool is this? As you highlight words on the page, a computer voice reads them for you. Blio could be a great tool for people with reading disabilities. It also translates to and from English.

Blio will be available as a free download next month, and we should all try it. Then, through a partnership with book distributor Baker & Taylor, it will be launched with an online store carrying over a million titles.

You won't be able to get your hands on any of these e-Readers for at least a month, but they will offer new possibilities for distribution of content. They were not designed to save the news industry, but it could end up that way.

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Two Tech Groups Meet with Legislators

January 5th, 2010

It just so happens that in the next two weeks, before the opening of the 2010 session, there are two important programs which will allow tech industry representatives to present their initiatives and legislative requests to cognizant members of the legislature.

One is the Energy Policy Forum presentation from 10:00 a.m. to noon on January 8th at the Auditorium in the Capitol Building, and the other is the ThinkTech-HVCA Crucible 2010 program from 4:00 to 6:30 p.m. on January 19th at the Plaza Club downtown.

The notable thing is that industry, which was somewhat fragmented last year, is back again and together, in prepared programs with organized presentations, to inform and request action by the legislature on their initiatives. It all seems to signify a new and better time for industry, and a new energy (no pun) that will hopefully move us forward.

Are these to programs redundant? You’ll only know if you attend both, but as you can see from the agenda listings shown below the Energy Policy Briefing is focused on and limited to energy issues, while Crucible 2010 covers a wider range of tech activities.

We surely hope these programs go well, and that they are well received and acted upon by the legislature. We think programs of this nature are essential to develop and maintain a productive relationship among industry, the administration and the legislature, and that they should be a continuing part of the pre-opening proceedings this and every session.


This faced-paced event, “Energy Fuels our Hawai‘i Economy,” organized by the Energy Policy Forum, will focus on key industry needs for the 2010 session. As before, Sharon Miyashiro of the Forum is the primary organizer, with lots of support from her friends.

After my welcoming remarks, Representative Hermina Morita, Chair of the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee (EEP) will provide her opening remarks. Ted Peck of DBEDT will report on Recent Developments in Clean Energy, all to be followed by updates from three of Hawaii's Energy Pacesetters (TBA).

The second part of the program will involve presentation of the initiatives recommended by the Energy Policy Forum and its representatives. Carl Freedman will discuss “Sustaining Energy Leadership,” Darren Kimura will discuss “Maximizing Energy Efficiency,” and Kelly King and Mark Duda will discuss “Advancing Energy Incentives.” The closing remarks will be presented by Senator Mike Gabbard, Chair of the Senate Energy and Environment Committee (ENE).

After Q&A, the third part of the program will involve continued discussion with energy experts in the top growth sectors on the 4th Floor Concourse in the Capitol. Attendees will be able to visit with these experts and learn how they are bringing their projects to reality, creating jobs and building a clean energy future for our state.

These experts include Kelly King on Biofuel; Rick McQuain on Biomass; John Ishikawa on Concentrating Solar Power; Duane Ashimine on Energy Efficiency; Brian Goldstein on Electrical Vehicle; Michael Kaleikini on Geothermal; Ray Starling on Hydro Power; Reb Bellinger on Ocean Energy; Sharon Ishikawa on the Smart Grid; Rick Reed on Solar Hot Water; Mark Duda on Solar Photovoltaic; Carlito Caliboso; Ted Peck and Dean Nishina on Public Leadership; Lance Tanaka on Transportation Fuels; and Noe Kalipi on Wind.

What a group! These energy sectors represent an estimated $1.3 billion in Hawai‘i project revenue over the next five years. And you can ask them any question. What a great way to get educated and excited about energy. Just come to the Capitol Auditorium at 10:00 a.m. this Friday, January 8th.


This is a ThinkTech-HVCA program designed to hammer out Tech Initiatives for the 2010 session, especially financing in the wake of Act 221. It involves a broad based group of tech industry and government participants organized with the encouragement and support of Senator Carol Fukunaga and Representative Angus McKelvey. It is different in that regard from previous programs of this nature. In fact, industry and various government officials have collaborated on these issues since September 2009.

After my welcoming remarks, Bill Spencer of HVCA will report on “The State of Tech: Jobs and So Much More” and Keiki-Pua Dancil, the new CEO of the Hawaii Science and Technology Council will address the group on “Hawaii’s Future in Technology.”

Senator Fukunaga and Representative McKelvey, after having worked hard to bring the industry together and elicit view from the industry and government, will report on the status of efforts by the “Tech Coalition Workgroup” that has been meeting at the Capitol.

Then down to specific recommendations by an all-star cast. David Watumull and Karl Fooks will present initiatives on General Financing; Mark Gilbert and Yuka Nagashima will present on Enabling Environment; John Chock and Ian Kitajima will present initiatives on the R&D Credit; Darren Kimura and Ted Peck will present on Renewable Technology; and Ric Galindez and Nancy Grekin will present on Creative Media.

Bill Spencer and I will then wrap up with present closing remarks. This program is important in view of the vacuum left by the contentions we experienced in the 2009 session, but also because of the fiscal difficulties widely anticipated in the 2010 session.

Cheers to Carol Fukunaga and Angus McKelvey for their support of the industry and thanks to the various members of the coalition for their diligence in carving out new initiatives, and kudos to the presenters for their skill and courage in presenting them.

It’s not clear exactly what the presenters will be recommending or what bills they will suggest to the legislators who attend, what kind of Q&A will be elicited, or for that matter what kind of response or drama those legislators will provide for the program.

We can only hope that these initiatives will be appealing, the attendees will be receptive, and that this program will gain some meaningful traction for the session to follow.

After the presentations, there will be Libation and Bonding providing a major network opportunity. You can reserve a place by calling HVCA at 262-7329 or ThinkTech at 524-0544, or email Bill Spencer at or me at

If you want to know what‘s going on in tech and energy these days, or if you want to prepare for what is expected to be an interesting session, sign up for both programs. After all, what other discussions could be more important to the future of our state?

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