Your report for Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2002

HERE ARE YOUR WINNING ENTREPRENEURS -- More than 60 entries, and it came down to three: the winners of the first phase of the Great Lakes Entrepreneur's Quest, revealed Tuesday night in Grand Rapids. The winner for the East region: Whitmore Lake-based Picocal, a scanning thermal probe microscope designed to detect defective integrated circuits. For the North region: Salamander Technologies, a Palm computing and high-capacity bar code system uniting responders to an emergency. For the West region, the winner was Mattawan-based ParadIMM Technologies, a new molding machine technology. First prize winners each took home $10,000, while two $5,000 runners-up were named in each region. With Phase One complete, teams may register for the Phase Two competition, which is open to both Phase One participants and new entrants. The deadline for Phase Two entries is March 13, with winners announced April 7 in Ann Arbor. The second phase competition is statewide, with a $50,000 grand prize, two runner-up awards of $25,000 each and $5,000 awards for "Best demonstrated improvement from Phase One to Phase Two," "Coach's nomination for Best Team," and "Honorable Mention for Innovation." More:

TECH GURU SAYS INCUMBENT PHONE COMPANIES IN BIG TROUBLE -- Atlanta tech consultant Neale Martin told a Southfield meeting Tuesday that consolidation of voice and data networks are around the corner -- and he doesn't know whether the big incumbent phone companies, which still direct three-quarters of their capital spending to shoring up their old copper-line switch networks, will play much of a part. "Convergence is going to happen for a lot of boring reasons," said Martin, president of Ntelec Inc., but that convergence is going to "lead to a lot of real science-fiction stuff." Incumbent phone companies, he said, "are in a world of trouble and I see no way out for them."

MARTIN CAME TO TOWN to headline a program for clients of Clarkston-based ChoiceTelecommuncations Inc. and Sprint. He told the crowd about how carriers are moving to all-Internet Protocol networks and would soon be forced to abandon other once-hot technologies. He said the telecom industry spent $1.4 trillion on new networks in this country over the past four years -- but that 95 percent of that fiber is still unlit, leading to the bandwidth glut that will spell trouble for the phone companies. On the IT side, Martin said businesses are paying huge sums of money to store terabytes of data -- but are using hardly any of it in any meaningful analysis. He said that's going to change soon. He said wireless would soon become the universal standard for short-haul transmission, with fiber used only for the long-haul. And, he said, it's time for businesses to take an integrated look at IT and telecom, two fields that are rapidly merging. He said the days of management practices like one of his clients, where a divisional president spent $9 million on two major software initiatives without even speaking to the corporate CIO, have to end.