When Competing News Helps ...


Everyone recognizes the benefit of steering clear of major media events when making an announcement.

It’s safe to say that January 20 is not the time to roll out a new line of laptop computers.

But there are scenarios when news relevant to your story hitting in roughly the same timeframe works to your advantage.

Take the well-crafted story by BusinessWeek‘s Steve Hamm, titled “Making Computers Based on the Human Brain.” The story kicks off with the classic BW anecdote:

When Lloyd Watts was growing up in Kingston, Ont., in the 1970s he had a knack for listening to songs by Billy Joel and Elton John and plunking out the melodies on the family piano. But he wondered, wouldn’t it be great to have a machine that could “listen” to songs and immediately transcribe them into musical notation? Watts never built the gizmo, but his decades-long quest to engineer such a machine has finally resulted in one of the first commercial technologies based on the biology of the brain.

Hamm goes on to explain that a startup venture called Audience has created a chip that’s somewhat sensory.

Here’s the rub: The story also features the Pentagon’s DARPA passing $4.9 mil IBM’s way to fund research on building intelligence into computers and Jeff Hawkins of Palm Pilot fame striving for software that takes on the characteristics of the cerebral cortex.

I’m sure Audience wasn’t thrilled at sharing the stage.

Yet, the serendipity that landed all three vignettes on Hamm’s desk at roughly the same time provided the collective heft that enabled the piece to run in the print edition.

Otherwise, the piece maybe makes the online version.

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