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The idea is to give cellular carriers their own "triple play" -- combining paid WiFi (through controlled real estate), VOIP (long distance) and cellular service on one bill.
I understand why Verisign is on to this. What I don't understand is why the carriers are getting in bed with them.
Like many protective laws, the HIPAA law covering the protection of your medical records comes with a small business exemption.
The exemption works both ways. Small businesses who fund their own plans don't have to comply. Neither do medical providers who don't computerize. As an NFIB alert on the law states, "Health-care providers -- such as doctors, nurses, on-site clinics, etc. -- are exempt from these regulations if they do not transmit electronically, but this exemption applies only to providers, not to group health plans." (Boldface is mine.)
The result of this is that small practices now have a major incentive not to computerize, and not to transmit anything electronically. Thus, they don't.
They're both brilliant. They're both A-list bloggers. They're both rich. I've known both for about two decades.
But I think Marc has a vital Clue Joi has missed, about one of the most important trends of our time, the rise of the open source business process.
Here's why I think that.
Joi has put a lot of money into SixApart, which runs Movable Type, which powers this blog. It's good stuff. But it's being left behind because it is, at heart, proprietary. It doesn't interconnect with other software. It isn't modular, scalable, and it can only be improved by the SixApart team.
In other words, it doesn't take advantage of the open source business process, and thus there are whole new worlds it hasn't been able to scale into. It's not a Community Network Service (like Drupal), and it's not a social networking system (like MySpace).
Marc, on the other hand, has just released GoingOn. It's a new engine for digital communities, like MySpace. He launched with Tony Perkins, who will use the system as the new heart of his AlwaysOn network (no relation to my wireless network application idea of the same title).
But Marc also understands that his stuff can't be the be-all and end-all. Let him explain it:
A reporter can make a good living just covering Microsoft.
This is not a good thing.
One fact that attracted me to technology journalism in the first place was its social mobility. I often write about companies I call "Clueless" and find they have disappeared practically before I can get the piece into digital print. Those that are "Clued-in" can also fall quickly, corporate management in this space being much like tightrope walking.
Intense competition makes for rapid evolution. Call this Dana's First Law of Competition. Markets in India and China are intensely competitive. You can't let your guard down for an instant. This is a very good thing.
It's not what human nature wants, of course. As people we want to relax, to enjoy our lives, to set the competition aside sometimes so we can, say, raise our families, get more education, or retire with dignity.
Both Microsoft and the government had opportunities to prevent this, to re-ignite competition. They chose not to take these opportunities.
Bill Gates had one vision for Microsoft, but the company has gone beyond it. He was wise to pass the baton to his majordomo, Steve Ballmer. Ballmer is all sales, all the time, a whirling picture of aggression. (He's also, admittedly, what we call on this blog a Truly Handsome Man (grass don't grow on a busy street) but looks ain't everything.)
Ballmer's vision isn't really about technology. It's about exploiting advantages and making money.
So at Microsoft's recent Worldwide Partner Conference in Minneapolis (Minneapolis?) we got headlines like these:
This is just one corner of the news Microsoft made last week.
A note came in today from a friend I've known even longer than my saintly wife. "How does this fit into Moore's Law?" he asked.
The link was to a story about a holographic storage system being marketed by Optware of Japan. It's called a Holographic Virtual Card (HVC) and claims to store 30 Gigabytes on $1 worth of media. (That's the Optware reader to the right, from a 2004 GearBits article promising commercialization in 2005.)
The kicker is that readers will cost $2.000 and read-write devices may cost five times more. Optware has promised standard kit by the end of next year.
All this related to what my book calls Moore's Law of Optical Storage. Instead of storing data on a fairly flat substrate, the Optware design uses all three dimensions. Think of the storage medium as a cube rather than a circle.
There's a long way to go before this threatens the CDs we're used to. Right now, however, the high price of the readers may be an advantage, making this perfect for applications like physical security.
Imagine the depth of personal knowledge that could be input on a 30 GByte substrate for an entry badge. Connect that to a variety of biometric readers so the bad guys can't hide their identities behind, say, phony fingerprints or contact lenses. Add a human guard to the mix and your entry portal could be pretty darned secure (for a time).
But the best news here may be this, the fact that there's competition in this space from Inphase Technologies, a spin-off of Bell Labs. They're looking at issues like the speed of data transfer, issues that could make holograms an alternative for the archiving of Web data.
Glenn Fleischman and I disagree so seldom, we both get confused when it happens.
Long story short I thought it would help if I described what might be a better plan for citywide WiFi. Apologies to those of you who have read this before.
The short answer is WiMax. The long version follows the break.
It is finally going to be possible to transfer MMS messages between U.S. carriers.
Yes, X.400 is finally here.
X.400, I should note, was an interoperability system for moving messages betwen X.25 networks, and for billing the costs through the carriers. It took years to negotiate, it was difficult to implement, and it was made obsolete by the Internet's basic agreement to move the bits first and settle later.
Today's mobile or cellular operators (take your pick on the name) are much like the old X.25 operators, such as GEIS and CompuServe. The networks they operate are walled gardens, very proprietary, so it takes both technology and diplomacy to get stuff over the walls.
This is not cool, once customers start taking pictures with their camera phones and (under operator urging) want to share them.
Wind River is continuing its slow march toward the computing mainstream. (The illustration, from the Wind River site, shows the engagement model the company follows with its customers in producing products. It's careful and complicated.)
It's easy for someone to criticize Wind River's strategy as an attempt to maintain proprietary control in a world of open source, but the fact is there are opportunities here for the Always On world that need to be explained, and then seized.
Fact is Wind River's VxWorks is the leading RTOS out there. RTOS stands for Real Time Operating System, folks. An RTOS is used to make a device, not a system. You find RTOS's in things like your stereo, and your TV remote. What the device can do is strictly defined, and strictly limited. Your interaction with the device is also defined and limited.
An RTOS is not a robust, scalable, modular operating system like, say, Linux. And over the last few years, Wind River has been creeping into your world. VxWorks is used in most of your common WiFi gateways. This limits what they can do. They become "point" solutions. You can't run applications directly off a gateway, only off one of the PCs it's attached to.
Now, slowly, this is changing.
Many different types of solutions go into creating an Always On world.
Ive talked here often of medical applications for Always On, where you wear a monitor (or have it implanted) that connects to the network and can alert you (or others) to dangerous changes in your physical condition, thus saving your life.
I have also talked of inventory applications for Always On, in which RFID tags or bar codes give you a ready inventory of your stuff. This lets you, for instance, find your keys, or check the fridge to see what you need for tonights dinner.
But the low-hanging fruit lies in automation applications. CABA (it stands for Continental Automated Buildings Association) is one of the trade groups involved here. They work mainly with landlords who want to save money on utilities, provide security, and keep track of whats happening in lots of space so as to minimize labor costs.
With Bluetooth viruses causing all kinds of havoc, and forcing millions to close the open ports on their phones, it seems strange to be writing about a "Bluetooth Network" connection.
But that's Wideray.
Here's the deal. Wideray customers put kiosks in the stores, and when someone comes over with a Bluetooth device they can feed whatever they want -- games, demos, product details. (It also works with Infrared or WiFi.)
I have used the system at trade shows, and its effectiveness is limited by the client device. If the device has limited power and storage, the effect of the download is minimal.
Permanent hardware encryption isn't going to happen. (The image, by the way, is from DBC of Germany, a player in this market game.)
This does not mean we should give up on encryption as protection, or on hardware for encryption. It's just that, just as Moore's Law means today's state-of-the-art PC is tomorrow's door stop, so today's RFID lock could become tomorrow's open door.
Unfortunately this has major implications for the security industry as it is today.
I love the Brits. (But I love everyone.)
As executives, Brits have developed this wonderful, pugnacious, straight-talking chip-on-the-shoulder attitude in our time. It's a kind of "oh yeah, sez you" that owes more to soccer yobs than fox hunting.
And for a journalist it's great fun.
The full story, by Spamhaus' Steve Linford (below) was distributed online today. It charges that MCI knowingly hosts Send-Safe.Com, which sells a spam virus that takes over innocent computers and turns them into spam-sending proxies. Linford tracked Send-Safe to a Russian, Ruslan Ibragimov. Linford estimates MCI earns $5 million/year from its work supporting spammers.
The theft of broadband-connected PCs by viruses, mainly Send Safe and another Russian-made program, Alexey Panov's Direct Mail Sender ("DMS"), is responsible for 90% of the spam coming into AOL and other major ISPs, Linford charged.
Here's the nut graph:
MCI Worldcom not only knows very well they are hosting the Send Safe spam operation, MCI's executives know send-safe.com uses the MCI network to sell and distribute the illegal Send Safe proxy hijacking bulk mailer, yet MCI has been providing service to send-safe.com for more than a year.
Want this made a little more explicit? Read on.
Word that mobile phone makers (and some networks) want to embed WiFi and VOIP into phones brings up a crucial point about the VOIP market, and about how technology works in general.
There are two major threads of VOIP software out there. Most, like Vonage, work along a standard. Then there's one who doesn't.
But that one is Skype.
Guess which of these two "standards" leads?
Skype. By a bunch. This puts another twist into the whole discussion of VOIP, and VOIP-cellular in general. Because there are multiple models to choose from:
I have talked about this before, but now everyone else is talking, too. So we will, again. (The picture, by the way, is of a single-chip radio from two years ago, a "mote" from Cal Berkeley. The link is very worthwhile.)
What does it mean for TI to make, and Nokia to sell, a complete cellular phone on a single chip? For one thing, it means phones can be one-chip cheap.
Right, cheap as chips.