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Jim Harris Column   

Newspapers are suffering
October 1, 2009
For newspapers it has been death by a thousand cuts: American readership has been falling by more than 700,000 a year since 2000, according to the Newspaper Association of America (NAA), and revenue was already down when the recession came along and shot another body blow to advertising income. 

Building sustainability: How buildings can power our future

May 27, 2009
Quick, what part of your workday generates the most pollution? The commute, right? Sitting alone in your car, you pump out carbon twice a day. While cars are undoubtedly a problem, the truth is that personal vehicles account for only 21 per cent of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in Toronto, according to the Toronto City Summit Alliance. Buildings account for 54 per cent. And the damage extends beyond greenhouse gas...

TV advertising is dying and PVRs are the culprit
Mar 31, 2009
There’s a profound shift occurring in TV viewing, and the advertising industry will never be the same. In 2008, sales of high-definition TVs surpassed sales of standard-definition units for the first time, according to research firm iSuppli, and riding on those coattails are sales of personal video recorders (PVRs). And those PVRs give viewers unprecedented control over programming and the ability to skip the bits they don’t want to watch...

Always-on reality
January 26, 2009
With millions of mobile phones, digital cameras and camcorders in use in North America, we’re living in an always-on era. And with the advent of YouTube, personal video recorders and podcasts, any event that would have been broadcast once and then allowed to fade from our memory is now available on demand. This is having a profound impact on business, politics and society... 

Talking about a revolution - Apple iPhone
November 17, 2008
There is a wireless revolution occurring. It has been forced on the industry by Apple and the shift is as profound as the move from DOS to Windows. Before the Apple iPhone, wireless carriers dictated the mobile features and cellphone specs to the handset makers. But Apple turned that around: when it launched the first-gen iPhone in the U.S....

A Blockbuster no more
July 10, 2008
Once upon a time, Blockbuster dominated the video rental business. It was big and powerful and Hollywood trembled during annual negotiations with the company. Then one day in 2000, a tiny start-up company met with the Blockbuster execs. It offered to sell a majority of the company for a US$50 million investment. And the Blockbuster execs looked at the little company’s business model and decided it was deeply flawed...

Go green to create green
May 5, 2008
Environmental initiatives can drop huge savings to the bottom line, and it’s IT that will get you there. Big Blue recently launched Project Big Green, a program through which it will invest US$1 billion per year to dramatically increase its energy efficiency. IBM claims to operate the world’s largest commercial technology infrastructure, with more than eight million square feet of data centres on six continents in 2007...

Turning off can be a business turn on
March 17, 2008
Flip the power switch. Save money. Simple, right? A large North American bank operates 40,000 PCs, and powering these during the workday costs the company a great deal of money. But that’s the price of success: the bank can’t operate without its computers so it pays for the electricity that keeps them humming. However, the bank is also paying to keep those same PCs up and running all night long...

Are Canadians finally getting a mobile-data price break?
November 8, 2007
After years of paying too much, industry pressure may finally deliver decent pricing to road warriors. I want to open this column with a quick tip that will make your BlackBerry experience a little easier: create your own shorthands using the Edit AutoText feature when typing an e-mail...

Consumer backlash: Could the airlines be in trouble soon?
September 7, 2007
Flying is, by far, the worst means of travel in terms of climate change. Measure it any way you want— per passenger kilometre, per tonne kilometre, per dollar or per hour—flying is the most damaging way to move people and cargo. And it’s not just carbon dioxide emissions, as bad as they are; airplanes also inject a cocktail of hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide into the upper atmosphere...

Saving billions of dollars - for free
May 1, 2007
Why Canada should follow California’s example. Climate change is suddenly a hot issue in North America, and so it should be. But in our rush towards environmental consciousness we are missing out on simple and inexpensive ideas which, added up, will reduce our energy consumption and save us all money...

The CES Top 3
March 9, 2007
The Consumer Electronics Show is the largest gathering of its kind in the world. This year, more than 20,000 products were launched. These are the three most exciting: 1. Fastest notebook drives, 2. Real-time translation, 3. Billions fewer batteries... 

Water is the oil of the 21st Century
January 4, 2007
Two-thirds of the Earth is covered by water, but 97.5 per cent of that is undrinkable seawater. Only 2.5 per cent of the world’s water is fresh and 75 percent of that is locked up in ice caps and glaciers. Of the remaining amount, 60 per cent comes in monsoons and floods and isn’t captured, and 20 per cent is in areas too remote for human access...

VCs going clean
October 27, 2006
Venture capitalists (VCs) invested US$843 million in North American cleantech deals in Q2 2006, making it the third largest investment category, according to the Cleantech Venture Network. Q2 was the eighth consecutive quarter that investment in cleantech companies increased—and it was more than double the investment in Q2 2005. In fact, investment surged ahead of telecommunications and medical investments...

Will GM declare bankruptcy?
March 14, 2006
2005 was a very, very bad year for GM. The company lost US$8.6 billion—the second largest loss in the company’s history and the first since 1992. It announced 30,000 layoffs in November and debt rating agencies Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s respectively rateD its debt four and five levels below junk status. Over the last 10 months, each debt downgrade marked a deterioration in the company’s financial viability...

Blockbuster blindsided by perfect storm
January 9, 2006
it’s been the death of a thousand cuts for blockbuster, and while competitors have taken their bites, at the root blockbuster and other video rental stores are suffering from a lack of understanding of the customer experience. Think about it: You and your spouse drive to the video store, walk around trying to decide what to get, agree, check out with your movie, get home and settle in to watch—and find the clerk put the wrong DVD in the sleeve or...

Analyze this: Knowledge is not enough
November 10, 2005
Is knowledge enough to stay ahead of your competitors? No. For years Dell’s competitors have known about its direct strategy. Ever since Michael Dell started his company in 1984, much ink has been spilt over it: by cutting out retail, dealing directly with customers and offering higher value products at a lower price, Dell has grown relentlessly. Pretty simple, really...

The promise and danger of exponential growth
September 11, 2005
In July Kodak announced it will layoff 22,500 to 25,000 employees over the next few years. It’s a Kodak moment that all business and political leaders should watch carefully. While Kodak had been making valiant efforts recently to turn around its business by focusing on digital photography, it was too little, too late...

Bank on SUVs, get hammered by gas prices
July 12, 2005
U.S. automakers had been living by the gasguzzlers. Now they will die by them, eaten by more eco-progressive competitors. It’s been nothing but bad news recently for the oldstyle American automakers: On March 30, U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs warned oil could hit $105 a barrel in a “super-spike.” In April, Ford reported a 38 per cent fall in Q1 profits, and GM, the world’s largest automaker, lost US$1.1 billion in Q1, its worst performance in more than a decade...

When encyclopedias changed forever. Twice
May 2, 2005
For more than 200 years Encyclopaedia Britannica defined what an encyclopaedia was: it came in 32 volumes, exceeded 30,000 pages, was updated every five years, was sold door to door for us$1,599 a set, and weighed 128 pounds. That all changed in 1994, when a company that had never published encyclopaedias became the number-one vendor overnight...

March 16, 2005
The Kyoto Protocol is the most significant global climate agreement ever signed, and as such, discussions of it often begin and end with environmental benefits. Too often ignored are the vast business opportunities that Kyoto offers. The potential for revenue is huge: as a global, cutting-edge initiative, Kyoto touches research and development, industry, manufacturing, regional and national development, health care, government, and many other sectors...

Holding the world’s libraries in your hand
March 16, 2005
The recent consumer electronics show (CES) in Las Vegas was the largest ever, occupying 1.5 million square feet with 130,000 visitors and 2,400 exhibitors. And the biggest news was the smallest products: UFDs. USB Flash Drives (UFDs) are one of the fastest-growing product segments; consumers bought 60 million of these one-ounce storage devices in 2004...

Prius: a very cool way to save the planet
January 4, 2005
The Wow factor is wicked for the Toyota Prius, and Jim likes driving a far cooler car at half the cost of the $60,000-plus autos his colleagues have. Jim is one of the growing number of buyers who can afford luxury cars but have chosen to do some good for the world instead. Hybrids reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 50 per cent and smog emissions by more than 90 per cent... 

Remember floppies? No, we don’t either
November 11, 2004
Plummeting storage prices are creating new media and killing off old ones. In the process, this is threatening the core products of once-famous companies, while changing the way we work with computers, and ultimately changing the lifestyles of early adopters... 

Zen and the art of open source
September 2, 2004
Microsoft has long sat on top of the software industry, its products literally running most modern businesses. But that dominance is being threatened by the open-source software movement, a challenge other businesses and institutions could soon find themselves sharing. In general, open source refers to software created as a collaborative effort by an ad hoc group of developers, and for which the source code is made available...

The photography ecosystem turns upside down
July 13, 2004
North american sales of digital cameras in 2003 exceeded those of film cameras, and in 2004 the same will take place worldwide, according to a study by infotrends research group. Almost 53 million digital cameras will be sold worldwide in 2004, growing to 82 million in 2008. This is threatening traditional photography companies while enabling new ones...

From wireline to wireless and cellphones to converged devices
May 8, 2004
The telecom world turned upside down not that long ago: there are now more mobile phones worldwide (1.28 billion) than wireline phones (1.1 billion). And the pace of mobile sales is accelerating. More than 510 million mobiles were sold in 2003 worldwide, and sales for 2004 are expected to grow 10 per cent, according to analysts...

Envisioning a radically different future
March 9, 2004
The consumer electronics (CE) industry is clearly pulling out of the economic downturn. Miniaturization is changing the CE market, the industry and the future of competition. With the exception of TVs, which are getting bigger, CE devices are getting smaller and smaller. The most amazing example of this is the decreasing size—and increasing capacity—of micro hard drives. Imagine a hard disk the size of a quarter. These one-inch drives now have capacity up to 4.8GB, enabling makers of every type of CE device to shrink their products...

The decline of TV as you know it
January 19, 2004
Imagine you could only read your favourite book on Thursday nights between 8:00 and 8:30 and you couldn’t get up to go to the bathroom until you had finished a chapter. Sound ludicrous? Well, isn’t that how you watch television? But in the U.S. TiVo has revolutionized TV viewing. TiVo ( is the leading manufacturer of personal video recorders (PVRs), which record TV programs to a hard disk...

Legislation needed to hammer spammers
November 10, 2003
After being away for five days I come back to 1,500 plus E-mails in my inbox. Mmore than 80 per cent of these are spam and even though my spamware program will shift 1,200-plus spam to a quarantined box, I still have to review all of them before hitting delete. In my business a single E-mail can be worth $10,000, so I have to be really sure no legitimate messages are deleted... 

Blindsided by Telus
September 13, 2003
Telus is speeding past other telcos. It’s the first major provider in North America to move to an IP Internet Protocol) infrastructure, and the significance of that is profound. Here’s a simple example of why that is: I was recently staying at the historic Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City. Every time you make a call the hotel charges $1.61. Make a local call and it’s $1.61. A 1-800 call is $1.62...

Music industry digs deep into your pocket - again
July 14, 2003
Not many Canadians know it but when you back up data to a CD you’re subsidizing the music industry. A spindle of 50 blank CR-Rs costs as little as $25, about 50 cents per CD. Of that the music industry currently receives a levy of 21 cents. Back up your data or burn a photo CD to send to Grandma and you’re subsidizing the music industry...

Driving at high speed in fog
January 6, 2003
Why are companies blindsided? Why is it occurring with increasing frequency? And what are the consequences for organizations that are blindsided? Polaroid filed for bankruptcy protection on October 12, 2001. The icon of instant photography was blindsided by the rapid rise of digital photography. Kodak’s sales have slid over 20 per cent from 1996 to 2001. Traditional photography companies with long, proud histories were blindsided...

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