Trendlines: The New, the Hot, the Unexpected

When frequent fliers land on solid ground, what better accommodations to make them feel truly at home than a renovated airplane?

Yes, you heard right: Max Power Aerospace, based in Smyrna, Tenn., is retrofitting Boeing Co. 727s for use as private homes. The planes are designed to sit atop a steel column, creating a flood-free residence with a magnificent view whether on land or high above the water. The structure safely swivels to always point into the wind, thereby providing protection from hurricanes. The interior is roughly 1,200 square feet, and an average layout can accommodate three bedrooms and two baths (in addition, with the convenient "lavatory occupied" signals, owners can say goodbye to potentially embarrassing moments).

The homes' wings are equipped with handrails to create a deck on either side where owners can wheel out the drink cart for cocktails. And though the windows are small, they're evenly spaced throughout to provide liberal lighting. However, putting down all the shades for privacy might get a little tiresome.

Pricing on the planes-turned-homes is roughly US$290,000, and Max Power is in final negotiations with one customer so far.

For more information, visit www.maxpoweraero.com.

THE WEB FREEDOM NOW! What sports a red hat, a white beard and a mining tool? Just ask any Frenchman: The answer is a garden gnome. France has long had a love affair with gnomes, with an estimated 12 million plastic and terra-cotta varieties decorating lawns and flower-beds around the country. Today, the wacky little creatures are the subject of international controversy that's making its way onto the Web.

The Garden Gnome Emancipation Movement (www.menj.com), for example, is calling for a ban on all plastic gnomes, asserting that only terra-cotta gnomes have souls.

The more revolutionary Garden Gnome Liberation Front, meanwhile, is taking things a step further by "kidnapping" thousands of gnomes all over France (including about 20 from a recent exhibition in Paris) with the goal of returning them to their natural woodland habitats and freeing them from the oppression of serving as lawn decor. Related incidents have also been reported in Belgium, Britain, Canada and Germany.

For all the latest gnome-related news, visit foundus.com/jani/ gnomes/welcome.html, home of the World Wide Gnome Club. Meanwhile, better keep an eye on those pink flamingos....

THE WEB STAR POWER Are you tired of singing in the stairwell, hoping that some passerby may be a talent scout? Weary of waiting to be discovered by Vogue? Well take heart: Now there's a faster way to stardom. A new website offers hope to anyone whose brilliant career has had to take a backseat to the realities of a day job.

Iwannnabefamous.com elevates a different person to celebrity status each day by splashing his or her picture and a short bio across its homepage. To achieve overnight success, aspiring stars simply e-mail the site their most dazzling photo and explain why, exactly, they want to be famous. Once they achieve their day in the cyber-sun, the site even lets them send and receive fan mail.

Of course, fame also has a dark side. "Sometimes fame brings big fortune," the site warns potential stars, "but other times it brings headaches." Just in case, that happens Iwannabefamous.com provides links to lawyers, bodyguards and plastic surgeons.

BY THE NUMBERS NEGOTIATING TELECOM COSTS As competition rages on within the telecom industry, corporate voice and data transmission rates are declining by 20 percent or more each year. Companies need to negotiate often with carriers to get the best deals. In a study of 15 Fortune 500 companies, the Reston, Va.-based consulting group Compass America found that those with the best rates take advantage of competitive pressures by renegotiating contracts and keeping agreements simple. "Now the playing field is more even because carriers realize that clients can get information on [competitive] rates."

BEST PRACTICES FOR IT 1. Examine contracts every year. Companies that get the best rates are those that monitor their agreements closely and review and renegotiate annually. "It pays to be proactive about negotiations," Jones says. And it doesn't matter if your company isn't giant. "Some successful companies don't have hundreds of millions of minutes; they're just really good negotiators," she adds.

2. Follow the pack. If everyone else is buying frame relay services, for example, you should too. Carriers are more likely to give discounts on the popular options and will be less likely to negotiate on newer services. "If you're not getting what everyone else is, you're not in a good place to negotiate," Jones says.

3. Centralize and standardize voice and data services. Multiple network protocols can lead to a drain on network efficiency and productivity. Companies that convert all network applications to TCP/IP protocol and run a "pure" IP environment use frame relay to cut total data communication costs by 20 percent or more.

4. Award maintenance contracts selectively. Use maintenance companies that compete against product vendors. And don't extend the contracts beyond three years.

5. Centralize the process of moving, adding or changing phone equipment.This can reduce the cost of such an event from an average of $30 to as little as $5 to $8.

Suggest future topics to numbers @cio.com.

NEW PRODUCTS OUT OF THIS WORLD Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight; wish I may, wish I might dream up a new perfume tonight.

It's doubtful that Les Small, senior perfumer at Quest International, a developer and supplier of scents for the consumer products industry, actually wished upon a star to get inspiration for his company's futuristic new fragrance, but the result--called Cyba--may actually smell like one. A star, that is--or, more accurately, a meteorite.

Quest, based in Ashford, England, developed Cyba as part of an "extensive program to create the odors of the future by tracking down new scents in strange places," says Paul Austin, the company's vice president of marketing and new business development.

To capture the aroma of a meteorite, Small and his team not only smelled one themselves but also used a technique called "head space analysis," in which a glass dome is placed over the sample to collect its odor molecules. Small's team then softened the smoky, metallic elements of the meteorite's aroma with florals, citrus, amber and musk.

The otherworldly fragrance is what perfumers refer to as a "concept fragrance," designed to provide a foundation on which other designers can base their own signature fragrances. So, alas, you won't find Cyba in stores--at least not in this galaxy.

More information about Quest is available at www.questintl.com.

DATA SHARING THE SONG OF LIFE? By allowing users worldwide to share and distribute music for free via the Web, Napster has already made headlines--not to mention ruffling more than a few feathers--by challenging the music industry's traditional distribution system. Soon, similar technology may be used in a whole new way--to facilitate the sharing of genetic data by scientists involved in the Human Genome Project.

When it began in 1990, the Human Genome Project's first objective was to sequence the more than 100,000 genes in human DNA. That goal was met in June 2000. Now it's on to the next step: figuring out the interactions of the 3 billion base pairs of guanine, thymine, adenine and cytosine that make up those genes. That could take a while, especially because much of the data is scattered in the databases of scientists across the world.

Lincoln Stein, a bioinformaticist at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., has proposed a way for researchers working on the human genome to share data through the Distributed Sequence Annotation System (DAS), which would use technology similar to both Napster and Gnutella, the Nullsoft software that lets users share more than just music files.

At the heart of DAS would be a centralized reference server that would hold a detailed map of the genome; researchers could then make comparisons and annotations to that map using information maintained on their own hard drives.

"About a year ago, a lot of the data was inaccessible," Stein says. "It was in paper journals or ad hoc websites. You couldn't take it [from the websites] and easily compare it because of different formats."

DAS would provide a common format in XML, which would be searchable through add-ons Stein and his team have built onto an Apache Web Server. The result? Users worldwide would be able to view relevant data from one another's hard drives.

Stein says DAS differs from Napster in that it depends on someone manually creating links to data sources, whereas Napster goes through the entire Web. As a result, DAS "won't fill up the bandwidth the way Napster does," Stein says. "We run terabytes. Napster runs tens to hundreds of terabytes." -Joe Sullivan SECURITY CAT AND MOUSE If you have a power protector and the latest virus-scanning software, you may think you've got your home office covered. But watch out: If you have feline friends, you could still be in for a surprise.

Sometimes your computer keyboard is the quickest route from point A to point B on a cat's mission of vital if well-concealed importance. Cute as that may be, the result often isn't. Lost data, incorrect data inputs or crashed systems are just some of the hazards posed by wayward paws. To the rescue comes BitBoost Systems (www.bitboost.com), a Tucson, Ariz.-based company that offers cat detector/cat repellent software called PawSense for Windows-or NT-based PCs.

How does the software work? According to BitBoost, cats have a distinct pattern of "typing" when they walk across a keyboard. PawSense is programmed to distinguish the pattern of paws from that of human fingers. After one or two steps, PawSense will detect the presence of a furry culprit. The software then blocks all keypad input and emits a sound--such as that of a harmonica or hiss (you can also record your own)--that cats find annoying. PawSense is available from BitBoost's website for $19.99.

MARKETING WHAT'S IN A NAME? Back in January, Halfway, Ore. (population 345), was rechristened Half.com at the request of a Conshohocken, Pa.-based Internet company of the same name. The town agreed to change its handle for a year in exchange for computers and cash.

City Planner Patti Huff reports that the company donated 20 computers to the grade school, one to City Hall for community use and one to Head Start. It also set up a website for the town and hired a local webmaster, and gave $75,000 toward community revitalization as well as a donation to the Baker County Fair and Panhandle Rodeo.

But the town is still recognizable to its loyal residents. "The name change is by proclamation only, so we didn't legally change it," says Huff. "The only noticeable difference is a new sign when you drive into town. And the letterhead is a little different."

HOT TOPIC E-COMMERCE GREASING THE WHEELS By Lee Pender The World Wide Web is not always as worldwide as its name suggests, especially in the realm of global e-commerce. Sure, a customer in Iceland can go to a U.S. company's website and place an order, but will the order ever arrive? With the complex web of tariffs, trade restrictions and customs regulations that encircles the globe, the seemingly simple act of shipping an order abroad can be next to impossible. And as online exchanges continue to explode, global commerce is becoming an even more pressing problem.

But where there's a problem, there's opportunity, and two companies are out to ease the hassle of sending and receiving items worldwide. The newer of the two is myCustoms (www.mycustoms.com), a Menlo Park, Calif.-based vendor that promises to provide a streamlined process for companies looking to transact business in countries around the world.

"We're providing a service that allows any company to trade globally," says CTO Jay Shen. MyCustoms helps companies toward that end by calculating, for each transaction, requirements such as value-added taxes and duties, and then generating required forms both electronically and manually.

While myCustoms is obviously targeting small companies that do not have international business processes in place, Shen says larger businesses can also use the service to boost efficiency in shipping and receiving items internationally.

MyCustoms is not alone, however. New York City-based ClearCross (www.clearcross.com) actually beat it to the international punch. The company's ClearCross Network technology offers functionality that includes calculating shipping and duty costs, creating documents, monitoring compliance standards and tracking shipments.

ON THE MOVE Compiled by Tom Field

GILLOTTI LEAVES STARBUCKS FOR STARTUP

Deborah Gillotti, former CIO of Starbucks Coffee Co., has joined Seattle-based Internet company Viathan Corp. as its new COO.

Gillotti, who first joined Starbucks as CIO in 1997, had recently been promoted to senior vice president in charge of Starbucks' new e-commerce efforts. But the more she got involved in Internet activities, the more she got the itch to get in on the ground floor of a startup. So, on the advice of venture capitalists who were high on Viathan, Gillotti signed on to lead this new company, which focuses on developing new Web products to enable database scalability.

"It's a unique opportunity to have a fairly significant impact on a startup organization," says Gillotti, who started work at Viathan in May. "My charter is pretty much to look at the entire organization and marketplace" and direct Viathan's growth.

Founded in 1999, Viathan develops middleware and software products that enable Internet companies to easily manage the exponential growth of Internet data. Currently, the company's products are in beta testing, aimed at a fall release, but Gillotti already sees ways to employ her past experience. "I have a customer's perspective from being a CIO," she says, "and I also understand the requirements to build and grow an organization."

A former consultant, Gillotti possesses the business and communications skills necessary to get a new enterprise off the ground. The stretch for her is participating in a new product launch. "The product marketing side and product development are new to me," she says.

Prior to Starbucks, Gillotti spent more than three years at Duracell International, directing the overhaul of the battery company's supply chain management system. Before Duracell, Gillotti was an IT consultant for KPMG Peat Marwick, working for such blue-chip companies as Revlon and Gillette. She began her career as a statistical analyst for the International Monetary Fund.

PLAYER'S GUIDE Bruce Walker Internet Venture Works Walker has signed on as CTO at Internet Venture Works, a Waltham, Mass.-based startup aimed at helping other e-commerce ventures succeed. In this new position, Walker will be responsible for the company's overall architecture and IT investment decision making. Walker is a former IT veteran at Sun Microsystems.

John B. Kelly Intel

Formerly director of the Government Information Technology Agency of the state of Arizona, Kelly has resigned from that post to join Intel's government relations office in Chandler, Ariz., as government affairs manager, effective May 1.

John McCormick RCN Corp.

McCormick has been appointed vice president of strategic development in the IT department at RCN Corp., a telecommunications provider based in Princeton, N.J. Previously, McCormick was vice president of information systems at Toys "R" Us. In his new role, McCormick will be responsible for operations support system development, decision support systems and IT services. He will report to CIO Eileen Gabriel.

Thomas S. Powell BuyTrek

Formerly CTO of Realestate.com, Powell has joined BuyTrek as its new CTO. Powell will be responsible for developing and overseeing the entire IT infrastructure at BuyTrek, an Atlanta-based e-commerce startup.

ELECTRONIC PUBLISHING HOME SWEET NEWSPAPER Human beings are creatures of habit. For most of us, there's something reassuring about familiar patterns and routines--especially when we're away from home. Take the simple act of reading the morning newspaper. At home, it can be a calming and predictable way to start the day. But when you're on the road, having to navigate an unfamiliar paper can be a lot less relaxing. What to do? Today two organizations are making it easy for travelers to get their hometown newspapers--on the same day those papers are published--even while they're away from home.

NewspaperDirect is a service for hotel guests. When arriving at a participating hotel, travelers can request any one of 17 newspapers when they check in. The fee is between $2 and $4 per paper. When they wake up in the morning, an 11-by-17-inch, black-and-white, high-resolution edition of that day's morning paper--on paper--is waiting for them.

Behind the scenes, late at night, newspaper publishers send a PDF file of the next day's paper to NewspaperDirect's FTP site. From there, it is passed through the New York City-based company's network and along to print stations at individual hotels. Each copy is printed by high-speed printers, collated, stitched and personally addressed to the reader. For more information, visit www.newspaperdirect.com.

PressPoint's operation is similar. Travelers visiting New York, Washington, Chicago, San Francisco, London, Hong Kong or various cities in Brazil can choose from almost 50 out-of-town papers that PressPoint currently offers for delivery the same day the paper comes out. PressPoint, based in New York City, also sends its papers to retail outlets including newsstands, airports and cruise ships. In the United States, each paper costs $2.50 per day. For more information, visit www.presspoint.com. -Stewart Deck HOT TOPIC LEADERSHIP THIS TIME WITH FEELING By Ben Worthen The business bestseller list is littered with books offering everything from 12 Principles of Leadership to 101 Ways to Motivate Employees. But if leadership is simply a matter of mastering a few "can't miss" techniques, couldn't any cubicle-dweller cobble together enough of a smile and a sincere-sounding greeting to become an effective manager?

Leadership consultant Peter Koestenbaum, founder of Philosophy-in-Business in Santa Monica, Calif. (www.pib.net), doesn't think it's that simple. "Leadership is essentially a decision that I make to be moral and loving and understanding," he explains. "Figuring out how I can make an impact is not a technique; that is a decision." According to Koestenbaum, good leadership is the offspring of self-contemplation--something no book can deliver.

Like most intense introspection, leadership potential can be fostered, but the individual must make the final breakthrough on his or her own. And it can't be faked. To be a leader, you must "genuinely care about people," Koestenbaum says, "not because it is good for business, but because you care. People react negatively to manipulation and insincerity."

The emphasis on feelings may seem out of step with the bottom-line focus of most businesses. However, University of Chicago Graduate School of Business Professor Marvin Zonis agrees that it's time to get emotions back into the workplace. Given the relative dearth of sustainable competitive secrets, he argues, a company's greatest asset is the quality and the commitment of the people who work for it. And the most effective way to mobilize employees is by making emotional connections. "People don't do something for intellectual reasons," Zonis says. "They do it because it feels great."

INTERVIEW WHERE MBA MEANS MARTIAL BUSINESS ARTS The same instructions that helped Ralph Macchio's character stand up to Johnny in The Karate Kid might help businesspeople face different kinds of challenges. Take it from Marc Trezza, management consultant, executive coach and president and CEO of Search Net Corp., an executive coaching company based in New York City. Trezza, who began studying martial arts at age 9, sees similarities between the principles of martial arts--determination, speed, tactics, patience, strength and focus--and the keys to successful business dealings. He applies these principles in his work, helping clients understand and use them in business settings. CIO spoke with him to learn more.

Q: Why do businesspeople need these principles?

A: One of the biggest problems I see [in the business world] is that the inability to effectively handle stress causes people to make poor business decisions. The natural reaction is to fall back into a demand for rigid compliance, where complying with a manager or owner becomes more important than actually accomplishing the task. That's a very difficult flaw to recognize. So creating a balance and an ability to step back becomes important.

Q: Do you need to know karate to apply the principles to the business world?

A: I recommend that everyone learn martial arts. But you don't need to. One of the good things about martial arts is that it takes a lot of junk and boils away what's superfluous. We're taking those principles and applying them to the business world.

Q: What are some of the key martial arts principles that apply to the business world?

A: One of the key principles is fluidity--avoiding predetermined responses. The principles are all manifested in different ways in different issues. There's a point in your studies where those who do master the art just get it, and once you get it, it becomes a part of you. -Meg Mitchell HAPPY (INNOVATION) TRAILS Though Silicon Valley may hold the leading place in high-tech lore, the city of Boston is no stranger to technology, and now it's aiming to show off its successes in that arena. This past spring the Boston History Collaborative, a nonprofit government, business and tourism alliance, launched the Innovation Trail, which aims to highlight Boston's most stellar innovations.

Akin to Beantown's Freedom Trail--a self-guided walking tour that winds its way through such historic sites as the USS Constitution--the two-and-a-half-hour, bus-driven tour departs from Boston's Back Bay. From there, tour-goers head to the Pioneer Telephone Museum at City Hall Plaza, the site where Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone.

Other stops include GTE, formerly Bolt Beranek and Newman, where e-mail was invented; and Genetown, USA, the center of genome research at MIT's Whitehead Institute, Genzyme and Biogen. Robert Krim, executive director of the Boston History Collaborative, says there are about 25 potential sites to visit, and each tour can be crafted to suit the group that is taking it.

The tour is now available to groups and organizations; it will open to the public in February 2001. Tickets are $25 for adults, $18 for students and seniors, and $11 for children. Visit www.innovationtrail.com. -Tom Wailgum

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