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Apple has released iTunes 5.0.1, which it says fixes problems found on iTunes 5.0.
I was frankly surprised at the number and vehemence of responses to my earlier item about iTunes 5.0 The reason? Reports on the problems have gotten very little traction in the mainstream press.
George W. Bush must envy Steve Jobs in some ways. Kanye West, who famously dissed the President during a Katrina fund-raiser, actually sang at the Apple iTunes 5.0 announcement, and didn't go off-message either. This story is being carried mainly in the blogosphere, where there are currently 176 posts under iTunes 5.0 problem (although not all are on-point).
Instead, Jobs and Apple continue to be hailed as heroes in the mainstream press:
Americans are finally following the rest of the world toward the controlled interface of the cellular phone.
This has profound implications. Mobile carriers are not Internet Service Providers. They control where you go and what you do on their networks. They act as gatekeepers, and take a proprietary attitude toward every bit transmitted.
The difference between the Internet and a mobile network is like the difference between a downtown city center and a shopping mall. There is nothing inherently wrong with a shopping mall, but it is controlled by the mall owner, and everything which happens there must be aimed at making the mall owner (and his tenants) money, all assumptions of liberty to the contrary.
In other words, cellular turns the Internet into a shopping mall, neutering it, and making it solely a means toward a commercial end.
Thus, is has been difficult for mobile (Americans call it cellular) to gain the kind of reach and use that we find even in Africa. But that is changing:
NOTE: There is an update to this article. Please go here to view it.
Users are reporting that not only doesn't the software work, but they can't back out of it, and can't load older versions, once the upgrade button is pressed. Some complete computer failures have been reported.
Lauren Weinstein, co-founder of People For Internet Responsibility, reported on this to Dave Farber's Interesting-People list today:
I've personally now seen two systems that have fallen into this black
hole -- no working iTunes, no working QuickTime, and attempts to
install older versions (even just of QuickTime) fail miserably, even
after complex (and in some cases dangerous) attempts at cleaning out
the leftover muck. It's really a mess -- reminds me of early DOS
Hopefully this is a short-term problem.
Richard Wingard has figured out a way to fund cutting-edge technology with angel investors, and hold them in their investments for nearly 7 years. (The picture is courtesy the University of New Hampshire alumni association.)
Wingard runs Euclid Discoveries, which is working on an object-based video compression technology he says will deliver 10 times the performance of MPEG-4, enough to "turn your iPod into a DVD player."
And he's done it all with angel investors, who are best-known for backing only early-stage customers. Wingard has rejected the entreaties of venture capital firms, saying their time frames for pay-outs are too short. Yet he has succeeded in getting angels who will wait as much as 7 years for a private auction of his technology, and a distribution.
Want to know how he did it?
Over at ZDNet, Steve Gillmor (left) has a wonderful commentary that got me thinking about a financial disease, one to which corporations like Microsoft are addicted and by which users like us are burdened.
I call it Upgrade-itis.
Back in 1985, you would have spent big money to get an Intel 386 chip, with over 100 Megabytes of storage, and a local network that ran as fast as 1 megabits per second.
I know I didn't have one. The closest I saw to one that year was an entrepreneur 10 miles north of me who had a Digital Equipment PDP-8 minicomputer in his office.
Yet that is just what you see in the picture to the right:
While using the Web to track Hurricane Katrina (get out of New Orleans and Biloxi while you still can) I found the high-ranking site for another Katrina, Katrina Leskanich.
Don't remember her? How about her band Katrina and the Waves? Still nothing? OK, how about this:
Now I'm Walking On Sunshine (whoa oh)
I'm Walking On Sunshine (whoa oh)
I'm Walking On Sunshine (whoa oh)
And Don't it Feel Good (Hey) (All right now) And Don't it Feel Good (Hey)
If you're of a certain age (anywhere from 35 to about 45) that should send you running screaming from the room. The band made a living off that for years, but by the mid-1990s even the Germans were tired of them.
So Katrina, who was an American Army Brat but has been in England since 1976, went back to the drawing board. She actually had some success, even winning the Eurovision Song Contest for England in 1997, but she wanted back in the pop game.
So how do you make a comeback in 2005?
Every decade of computing technology can be summarized fairly simply. (That's an Apple ad to the right.)
The 2000s are the decade of wireless.
It's now clear that wireless technology defines this decade. Mobile phones are opening up Africa as never before. WiFi is making networking truly ubiquitous.
Walk or drive down any street, practically anywhere in the world, and you will find people obsessed by the use of wireless. Behaviors that in previous decades were shocking -- walking around chatting animatedly to the air for instance -- are now commonplace.
What's amazing, as we pass the halfway point, is how far this evolution has to go, and how easy it is to see where it can go:
Who do we have to thank for this?
NOTE: Many of the claims made in the item below have been questioned by Russell Shaw. See the full story here.
It's ironic, but my first invitation to use Google Talk came from Pakistan. From Karachi, actually.
Specifically it was from a long-time online friend named Tariq Mustafa (known as Tee Emm), who works in the high-tech sector there.
I am really excited on this Google IM thing (and so would be tens of millions of users very soon). I think I was ahead of you just because of the time-zone difference. Anyway, here is the summary I wanted to share with you of the excitement.
Why the excitement? IM has been around for ages.
The excitement is because this isn't really IM. Or it's not just IM. It's VOIP, integrated from the start with IM.
What this does is absolutely kill international long distance in a way Skype only dreamt of. I'm actually a naive user, but I was able to download, and load, a VOIP client (with IM) in less than a minute.
So can anyone else, anywhere else.
More from Tariq after the break.
Where Bill Gates bests Steve Jobs, and always has, is in his willingness to build ecosystems.
Windows is an ecosystem. Microsoft is the biggest fish in that ecosystem. Since 1995, Windows has been eating the other fish in that ecosystem, but fish do that. It's still an ecosystem.
Apple has never been comfortable with living in an ecosystem. Apple builds products, not ecosystems. There were never any second-source Macintosh hardware producers with Jobs in charge, and they were all killed off when he returned.
You will never see Steve Jobs, or any of his lieutenants, jumping around a stage yelling "developers, developers, developers, developers." It's not going to happen.
But if it did, if Jobs ever learned to share, imagine the threat he'd be then?
Here's an example of how he can.
Verizon has begun selling one of the dumbest machines I've ever seen, a "DSL modem," (their term), wireless router and cordless phone combination dubbed Verizon One.
Essentially this ties together the obsolete telephone network with the Internet Verizon is actually selling and tells customers it's the same thing. It pushes fancy PBX capabilities on residential customers who don't need them. (Just to make things a little better, it locks them into its cellular service, too.)
The FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) can be easily seen in the phrase "DSL modem." DSL is a digital service. It doesn't need modulation or demodulation to trick an analog line into taking a digital connection, which is what a modem does. It is an oxymoron.
What's ironic is I happen to know Verizon was talking to Netopia two years ago about a massive contract for DSL gateways that would have been far superior to this piece of nonsense. (Here's a 2001 press release, delivered in the early days of the relationship.) I have one of these gateways in my house now, a review unit. What would have made them powerful was a promised co-branded service providing full security to home users, saving them as much as $200/year on "security suites" from various software vendors. (There are currently no Netopia press releases, going back to 2002, referencing Verizon.)
More on what a truly clued-in person feels after the break.
A number of items have come across my desk today advertising cool mobile stuff, but failing to offer anything resembling a business model.
Here is one of them -- Navizon.
It's advertised as a "peer to peer location service" combining "WiFi, cellular and GPS." But what exactly are you supposed to do with it? Where are the applications that will get Navizon's money out, let alone a profit? No clue.
Two really stupid predications crossed my desk this morning. (The image is by Katie Guenther. From the University of Vermont.)
While a straight look at technology and the desires of consumers could lead you to these conclusions, they're dumber than dirt.
Let's start with the first one.
Even if people start leaving their laptops at home, laptop sales are not threatened by mobile phones, because laptops are replacing desktops. It's basic ergonomics. Where does your lap go when you stand up? If you're standing, or walking, you can't use a laptop, you have to use some sort of handheld device. As PDA functionality moves into phones, as the two markets merge, then, yes, phones become the handheld of choice. But that doesn't mean they replace laptops. It means they replace PDAs.
Now for the second prediction.
Hewlett-Packard is apparently ending its relationship with Apple.
When I last wrote about the company I called this relationship a key to new CEO Mark Hurd's future. Apparently this was just a re-sale agreement, and H-P's channels were pushing out only 5% of the iPods being sold. (My mistake.)
So they're dropping it. And they're blaming Carly Fiorina. (Of course.)
But I believe Apple remains the key to any possible H-P comeback. (Here's why.)
Adam Penenberg channels
IDC IDG head Pat Kenealy (left, by Jay Sandred) on another of those occasional "you're going to have to pay for Web content someday" pieces we see every so often.
Well, he's right. But he's also wrong.
He's right because there's already some Web content people do pay for. Dow Jones loses reach and influence, but does make money selling online subscriptions. Lexis-Nexis and Dialog haven't gone free with the dawn of the Web. Last time I checked iTunes was selling songs online, at a profit.
He's wrong because he insists that "micro-payment technology" will stimulate the growth of pay-for-play content. We've been hearing that one for 10 years now, and it's as wrong now as it was in 1995.
There's already a micro-payment program in place. A very successful one.
Since Mark Hurd left NCR to run the mess Carly Fiorina made of Hewlett-Packard in March, he has been fighting to turn the old boat around. The company turned in solid numbers in May, he hired away Dell's CIO, Randy Mott, and now he has the credibility with his board needed to prune the deadwood.
H-P has a lot of deadwood.
In buying Compaq, her signature move, Fiorina took on a lot of old, tired, even worthless brands, like DEC and Tandem. Compaq's latter-day strategy had been to buy these outfits for their book of business, and Fiorinia's deal was the apotheosis of this old-line industrial strategy. She insisted at the time there would only be a few survivors of the PC wars, and buying Compaq was the only way to make sure H-P would be one of them.
She was wrong. What works in steel does not work in tech. A book of business is worthless, because computers are short-term capital goods. It's not what you did for me, or even what you did for me lately, but what you're going to do for me tomorrow that counts.
But enough about the past.
As regular readers here know, there is no Moore's Law of Training.
Training, learning, adaptation -- call it what you will -- must happen at its own pace. This is why the productivity boom arising from the 1990s IT spending boom didn't become apparent until this decade.
But there is a way to accelerate Moore's Law of Training (which doesn't exist) -- publicity. If a good idea, an obvious use of existing technology, is heavily publicized, it can spread very, very quickly, and provide real benefits.
ICE is just such an idea.
Hear me out.
J.K. Rowling conceived her entire series on a train. It would be seven books, matching the years spent at an English boarding school such as Eton.
Book Six was released tonight. Rowling herself appeared at Edinburgh Castle at midnight, behind a puff of smoke, to read some of it to some of her fans.
The series was conceived, however, on a train, as a growing-up story. The first book would be an 11-year old's tale told from the point of view of the 11-year old. The final book would be an entrance into adulthood, a mature book.
No one could hit that kind of timetable. It's amazing to me that the 6th book went on sale just 7 years after the first one arrived.
My daughter is a big Harry Potter fan. Harry taught her to read, despite mild dyslexia. First my wife read it to her, along with the second and third books. Then she read them herself, several times. She has grown up on Harry but she will still be grown before Harry will. So will the actors who have been portraying the title character and his friends. It's very likely the actors will have to be replaced before the seventh movie can be produced.
But there's even more to it than that.
Remember that, as Arthur C. Clarke said, "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
It's this that's the key to understanding what's really going on in the Harry Potter series.
The blogosphere's quick reaction to the London strikes was driven in large part by the mass market in camera phones and video phones.
Within minutes of the bombs going off pictures and short videos began appearing online. In many the smoke from the blasts was clearly visible. Cameras worked even where phone functionality was absent, and images could be sent as soon as connections returned.
A second notable fact was the willingness, especially at the BBC, to get this footage up quickly. One amateur picture, of a double-decker bus with its top end ripped off, was the site's feature picture for most of the day. (That's the picture, above, from the BBC Web site.)
NOTE: That's the royal crown magnolia from mytho-fleurs.com. Like it? It's yours.
A long evening spent reading Lasica's book brought the title to me: King of Irony.
Remember, this is a book. Thus it is subject both to a book's business model and its rights regime.
Want a copy? $25.95 plus tax and (if you buy it online) shipping get it for you. Or wait for it to appear at your local library. Or borrow one from a friend, free. Or wait some months for it to appear in a discount bin, or a remainder lot, or a garage sale. The price you pay is a function is a function of the time you're willing to wait for it.
What can you do with this book? I typed an excerpt today by hand. The length of the excerpt, again, is a function of time, and the cost of my time to produce it, unless I want to string it out a page or two. In that case, technology might be deployed -- a scanner -- plus a few minutes with the scanner's OCR software, some cutting-and-pasting, and voila!
Want to steal some more? Production costs are going to get you. A Xerography process may give you a bound book for just a few dollars, if your order is small. An offset process costs less per book, but the order in that case must be bigger. I guarantee the printer will want to know you're a Wiley fella (or lady) before they take the order.
And we haven't even cracked the cover yet. Easy to see where Lasica's crown comes from.
Given the direction of antitrust law recently I was surprised to see the recent suits by AMD and (more recently) Broadcom. They left me scratching my head.
But there is an answer to my quandary.
Antitrust has become a process. It's not a goal, but a weapon in the business war.
The idea that Qualcomm has a monopoly in the mobile phone industry is laughable. It may abuse what position it has, charging chip makers like Broadcom the equivalent of an "intellectual property tax" in areas which use CDMA (and its variants). But GSM is the major world standard. It would be like calling the Apple Macintosh a monopoly.
The Broadcom antitrust suit comes right after it filed a patent suit against Qualcomm, accusing it of violating Broadcom patents regarding delivery of content to mobile phones.
The first shot didn't open up the Qualcomm ship, maybe the second will. All lawyers on deck!
T-Mobile has become the first cellular operator to offer full Internet service on its mobile phones.
The service will be sold under the name Web'n'walk, with Google.Com as the designated home page. (Yeah, I know, in the real Internet world you could change the default to, say, http://www.corante.com/mooreslore. But one step at a time.) New devices, with larger screens, will also be sold as part of the campaign.
The decision is critical, because up until now all cellular providers have offered only their own "walled gardens," sometimes using a small i (for Internet, customers think) on their phones, but in fact offering only a tiny fraction of the Internet connectivity customers are used to.
But as phones move to offering true broadband speeds, and some users use cellular broadband on their PCs because of its better coverage, this is finally breaking down.
It will be interesting to see how, and when, T-Mobile starts advertising this feature, and what Verizon and Cingular will say (or do) in response. T-Mobile, while owned by Germany's formerly state-owned phone company, is the smallest of four major operators in the U.S.
Former RIAA president Hilary Rosen finally gets it about copyright.
This volume needs to be embraced and managed becasue it cannot be vanquished. And a tone must be set that allows future innovation to stimulate negotiation and not just confrontation.
Her column at the Huffington Post (she apparently chose not to take feedback on it) is filled with honesty about both the tech and copyright industries, honesty she never admitted to (in my memory) while shilling for the RIAA.
But is it possible that this honesty is what finally caused her to leave? (Or did her life, and its imperatives for action, take precedence?)
That would be a shame, because the fact is, as she writes, that the answers here must lie in the market, not the law courts. For every step the copyright industries take in court, technologists take two steps away from them. This will continue until the copyright industries really engage consumers with offerings that are worth what they charge, and which aren't burdened with DRMs that restrict fair use.
Due to low salaries and high turnover, journalism continues to face the problem of reporters seeing failed trends repeated, not spotting them, and repeating the same failed cliches of earlier years, mainly due to orgnaizational inertia.
First, from the Financial Times, a piece on Internet sites being bought by media companies, "falling prey" to them being the operative cliche. On the whole these are market losers cashing out. The buyers aren't getting much, and the story doesn't examine the track records of the sellers. There's a story here, but not the one written.
Second, we have the BBC with the idea that consumer demands drive tech developments. If the iPod were possible 20 years ago does anyone deny we would buy it?
Most PC users have been conditioned, over time, into conserving disk space. This is true even though most of us have tons more disk space than we really need.
We're not used to thinking in terms of conservation of memory, taking programs out of memory that aren't doing us good and, in fact, may be doing us harm. (Yes, you Mac users can go to sleep now.)
I was in for a surprise. Two surprises, actually.
More after the break.
The 1990s were all about the Internet. (The picture is from a great site called i-Learnt, for teachers interested in technology.)
This decade is all about gadgets.
Digital cameras, musical phones, PSPs, iPods -- these are the things that define our time. While they can be connected to networks their functions are mainly those of clients.
In some ways it's a "back to the future" time for technology. We haven't had such a client-driven decade since the 1970s, when it was all about the PC.
In some ways this was inevitable. The major network trend is wireless, so we need a new class of unwired clients.
But in some ways this was not inevitable. If we had more robust local connectivities than the present 1.5 Mbps downloads (that's the normal local speed limit) we would have many more opportunities to create networked applications.
Not only is Apple switching its chip supply contract from IBM to Intel, but it is moving to Intel processors in the bargain.
In making the announcement this morning, Steve Jobs said he didn't see how he could continue making great products beyond next year "based on the Power roadmap."
Right after his speech he had a cagey interview with CNBC's Ron Insana. "Its not as dramatic as youre characterizing it," he insisted.
"This is going to be a gradual transition. Hopefully a year from today well have Intel-based Macs in the market. Its going to be a two-year transition.
"As we look into the future, where we want to go is different (from IBM's product roadmap). A year or two in the future Intels processor roadmap aligns with where we want to go.
"I think this will get us where we want to be a year or two down the road." Jobs refused repeated requests by Insana to explain what he meant by that. (Jobs is also shaving even more closely than this picture shows. He's down to tiny stubble around a a still-brownish moustache. Hey, Steve, I'm 50 too.)
What I think he means, simply, is video.
Beyond this, most of what I wrote last week holds. This deal is not material to Intel, which continues to face loss of major market share to AMD among Windows and Linux users.
But there are also vital lessons here for followers of Moores Law, lessons I need to impart.
Assuming Apple does switch to Intel chips tomorrow, as News.Com reports, the value of Intel stock will likely rise.
That would be a mistake.
Intel is making a big investment here to gain a very small amount of market share. Meanwhile it's losing far more market share to AMD in what used to be called the Windows world.
WinTel has been broken. That should be the real headline here.
Microsoft is perfectly happy to have AMD supply chips for Windows machines. People are very happy to buy them. And right now AMD has a price-performance advantage there.
This move toward Apple will, if anything, accelerate that shift. Intel should be spending all its time addressing its loss of share in the Windows world, and in the Linux world, instead of wasting energy with a tetchy, demanding Apple, an outfit that even IBM couldn't please.
One more point.
One of my continuing themes is the World of Always On, with wireless networking as a platform, running applications that use data from your daily life.
But before we get there we all have to become network managers. In today's issue I consider that question.
I'm a network manager. (MG-Soft of Slovenia makes products for network managers. That's their mascot, Mr. Monet, at left.)
It's not that I want to be. I'm a homeowner. My kids have PCs. My wife and I have PCs. Some years ago a friend ran wires among the rooms so everyone could share my DSL line.
There are now millions of us network managers. Recently I sat on my porch, opened my laptop, and learned that three of my five immediate neighbors now have WiFi networking in their homes. The signals were faint, but my copy of Windows found them all as soon as I booted-up. And the nearest of the three was totally unsecured. If I had larceny in my heart I could have entered my neighbor's network, used their bandwidth, even prowled around in their PCs looking for porn, passwords or blackmail material. (Fortunately for them, I'm a very nice person.)
The other two neighbors had nets which, like mine, are protected by long identifiers, input once, which validate valid PCs. One even had encryption on their system (very nice). The neighbors on the unprotected net insisted later they had the same system I do, but I suspect they haven't taken time to activate the security features.
The point is that wireless networks make many of us network managers, and Always On applications will make most of us network managers. We're not qualified for the work. We may never be qualified. Those who do become qualified become that way as I did recently, in extremis.
Good news (at least in the short term) for file hoarders.
Given that both sides in the Copyright Wars know about language and framing, I'm urging use of this new term for the heavy hobbyist users on peer to peer networks.
I think the word hoarding says more about the motives of the users, and the way toward ending the practice, than anything else. Thanks in part to the industry's rhetoric, and in part to its actions, many lovers of music and other files are afraid they will lose access to the culture they crave. Thus they demand to have physical copies of its artifacts, and grab all they can. It's classic hoarding behavior.
But time is the limit here, not space. You can only listen to one song at a time, watch one movie at a time. It doesn't matter how big your collection is, the only way to get enjoyment out of it is to play the files.
Many hoarders today already "own" more files than they can play in their remaining lifetimes. When you get your arms around this concept, you begin to see how self-defeating hoarding is.
So how can hoarding be stopped?
Despite his ponytail and his sometimes counter-cultural language, despite being what I like to call a Truly Handsome Man (it's a brighter term for bald, people) Ted Waitt was always a follower, not a leader. (The picture is from a 2002 profile in the Sioux Falls, South Dakota Argus-Leader.)
Waitt was Gimbel's to Michael Dell's Macy's. He wanted to be Pepsi to Dell's Coke.
But computing lacks the stability of the retailing or the soda business. So when Waitt announced his resignation today (at 42 it wouldn't sound right to call it a retirement) it wasn't big news.
Waitt and Gateway did well in the 1990s, following Dell into mass customization. He made his big mistake when he tried to out-think Dell, opening a chain of retail stores that caused $2.4 billion in losses, according to The New York Times.
But I personally think the mistake was more basic than that.
Some time in the next month the copyright world may (or may not) reel from the Supreme Court's decision in the Grokster case.
The facts on their face are as favorable as the plaintiffs can make them. Grokster is all about making money for itself off the property of others. Its business model is to sell ads, including adware (sometimes a polite word for spyware and malware). It hoses both sides of every transaction. And the software really does little more than a good FTP server (with an automated database) would.
The vast majority of Grokster's use is driven by hoarding. People fear losing access to the music they love (or might love). So they load up, until they have gigs-and-gigs of it they have to haul around. (Thanks to Moore's Law of storage this gets lighter and less expensive over time, but it still has to be kept.)
The hoarding in turn is driven by the industry's threats. Threats of rising prices. Threats of lawsuits. Threats of copy-protected CDs.
The market solution to the facts is already in the pipeline. Many have proposed the idea of taxing people for unlimited access to the industry's wares and in fact schemes like Yahoo's Music Unlimited work just that way. Pay the "tax" (which starts at $5/month but could go up subject to negotiations with the industry) and download all you want. No need to hoard. Stop paying and all your files magically disappear. (The genie is found in Microsoft's DRM.)
More on the jump.
Why is it that politicians have done a better job on the Internet than publishers?
It has to do with a concept I call Pitch Credibility.
Journalists understand the concept of credibility. It's the trust readers place in us. If there is a journalism profession, it's based on this idea of credibility. I took a huge hit to my own credibility when I screwed-up an item on Ev Williams. I went through hell on that not to regain my credibility, but to minimize the losses, and in hope the damage would not spread to innocent Corante authors.
But just as editorial work must have credibility, so must advertising. That is the innovation the Internet makes necessary.
Moveon.org understood this right away. It knew that if it suggested you give to Candidate X, then Candidate X better fit the desires of the Moveon audience, or the endorsement would damage Moveon. Because it had pitch credibility with its audience, Moveon was able to gain honest information (a mailing list) from its members, and even financial support, based solely on its promise to deliver.
While Moveon failed in these last two cycles as a political force (ask Presidents Gore, Dean and Kerry) it has succeeded in creating a business model that everyone else on the Internet needs to pay attention to.
So if Roger Simon, for instance, is to succeed in his efforts to unite the right-wing blogosphere and extract money from its members, he must retain pitch credibility. He better not let anyone like me in because I'd damage it. And he better use that credibility only to solicit for products, services and people the audience will surely endorse.
Perhaps you can see now why this idea is easier for a politician to understand than a businessman. Politicians are attached to what they're selling in ways businessmen aren't.
Belief is at the heart of pitch credibility.
How can we take advantage of this in the business realm?
Click to find out.
I have not written much about Voice Over IP in this space because I'm not an expert in it. (Yes, I hear you say, this never stopped you before.)
Actually I didn't think I had anything original to add to the conversation. I still don't. But I want to point you to someone who does.
That someone is Tom Evslin (left). Evslin recently completed a wonderful series on the economics, politics, past and future of VOIP, on his blog, which I heartily recommend to anyone interested in this area.
Evslin calls this year a "flipping point" driven bythe mass distribution of VOIP software. It's not really free although, once you have your set-up, each call carries no incremental cost. The market battle between Skype and Vonage are driven by Metcalfe's Law, control of end points. Evslin offers the best explanation I've yet seen of Skype and its business model, which is rapidly evolving into an alternative phone network.
I have one suggestion.
The best way to understand the future is to look into how chips are changing.
Two transitions are transforming Moore's Law. The original article, in 1964, described only the density of circuits on silicon substrate.
The rule implied that chips could get better-and-better, faster-and-faster. Doubling bigger numbers means bigger incremental changes in the same time. Over the years chemists and electrical engineers learned to apply this exponential improvement concept to fiber cables, to magnetic storage, to optical storage, even to radios, so that 802.11n radios will transmit data at over 100 Mbps -- twice what earlier 802.11g models could deliver, but still 50 Mbps more.
The transitions have to do with what we mean by better.
The success of Google has been based on the fact that technology drives its train. Technical success is the most-sought value.
This is becoming a problem.
In many of the new businesses Google has launched, technical values (while important) are not going to be the sole drivers of success. In blogging, in RSS, in Google News, in Google Desktop, in Google Local, and in other areas, other skills are required.
Business skills. Marketing schools. Journalism skills. Political skills. Artistic skills.
Leonardo DaVinci (celebrated above) could not get a job at Google today. In a well-rounded company, his genius would find a place.
The need for these various skills will only increase with time. Google must find a way to recruit these skills, and to reward these skills, without giving the people with these skills control of the company.
This will not be easy.
Evidence is increasing of a backlash against mobile phones and the behavior of those who over-use them. (The image comes from a page on celliquette from Indianchild.com.)
What is the meaning of all this?
Last month Intel's mobility chief Sean Maloney was in the hunt to head H-P, a job that eventually went to Mark Hurd of NCR. (Watch out. Dana is about to criticize a fellow Truly Handsome Man.)
But how well is Maloney doing his current job?
Intel's role in the development of Always On is crucial, and its strategy today seems muddled. It's not just its support for two different WiMax standards, and its delay in delivering fixed backhaul silicon while it prepares truly mobile solutions.
I'm more concerned with Maloney's failure to articulate a near-and-medium-term wireless platform story, one that tells vendors what they should sell today that will be useful tomorrow.
Intel seems more interested in desktops and today's applications than it is in the wireless networking platform and tomorrow's applications.
Incoming CEO Paul Otellini says Intel is going to sell a platforms story, not a pure technology story. Platforms are things you build on.
In a nice commentary about how Wired is now Tired, David P. Reed (left) got me thinking about what today's key economic good might be.
The answer is attention. The world is entering an attention economy.
In many ways this is not news. What's news is how we're bifurcating our attention -- splitting it into parts -- and how media must now compete for slices of it. (Would this item get more hits if I called it The ADD Economy?)
It's a worldwide phenomenom because cellular or mobile service is worldwide. Mobile service competes well in the Attention Economy. Watch people chat on their phones while driving. (It's like elephants tap-dancing -- what's amazing is they do it.)
More after the break.
I've seen the TV ads and maybe you have, too. "Get a free ringtone. Simply text (whatever) and get (name of hit song) as a ringtone!"
Well, it's a scam. It's not free. In fact, writes Stephen Lawson for The Industry Standard, it's a lot more costly than a regular ringtone. This is because you get multiple texts in reply, with directions for the download, and these texts cost money -- $1.99 plus call charges each. It's an easy case to make, it's simple consumer fraud, it's aimed at teenagers. A state attorney general who wants to make a name for himself (or herself) can have a field day with this.
Want to know the best part?
Here's an interesting juxtaposition of headlines. (The lovely idiot is from UC Berkeley.)
Hitachi Eyes 1 Terabyte Drives, writes MacWorld, noting new technology the Japanese company says lets it put 4.5 Gigabytes of data on a single centimeter of hard drive.
I'm like, don't the first people read the second paper?
Moore's Law of Storage is rocketing along right now even faster than Moore's other "laws" (as described in The Blankenhorn Effect). Magnetic storage is eliminating the cost of physically maintaining content, any content, with profound implications for everyone.
Neither effort is serious, in terms of 2005 serious. Both are attempts to place markers on the future and gain agreements with the content industries they think will mark the future.
And this is just what's wrong with them.
You don't open up a new market by focusing on the seller side of the transaction.
You open up a new market by focusing on the buyer side.
I bought a new laptop yesterday.
And to my surprise I violated my Iron Law.
Dana's Iron Law of Laptops holds that an ounce on the desk is a pound in my hands.
My favorite laptop of all time was a 2-pound Sinclair ZX-81. It had a tiny screen (nearly non-existent) but it had a pliant membrane keyboard that let me write and send stories from a beach. I haven't seen anything so light, rugged and useful since.
Instead, laptops have been desktop analogs. When desktop power increased, so did that of laptops, and they became no lighter in the process. Even today most laptops on the market weigh 7-8 pounds.
So why did I get one?
The cost of making something good is directly proportional to the complexity of the tools needed to create it. (The picture is from Freeadvice.com.)
This blog item is quite good. The tools needed to create words are very cheap. Even if the tools were more expensive, as they were when I began writing, my cost to create this text would not go up much. And the likelihood of its being of high quality would be just as high.
If I read this on the radio it would not be as good. The tools needed to create a Podcast require knowledge of radio or music production values. Even if Podcasts were as cheap to make as blog items, the proportion of good ones would be smaller than they are for blog items.
Writing in his personal blog, Carmack said he was intrigued when his wife got him a new phone with a color screen.
His post about the project is an excellent primer not only on the inside of game design, but the creative process at work.
Thanks to Joystiq for pointing it out.
I have made few comments about the so-called conspiracy against the Apple iPhone.
The story was that Motorola was ready to release a cellular phone that was also an iPod device, but it couldn't find any carriers for it.
What's more interesting to me is the tug of war now taking place among entrepreneurs between these two technologies.
And, surprisingly, cellular is losing.
The reason has to do with business models and open standards. (Thus the picture above of standard pawns, available from the good people at Rolcogames.)
The Grokster case is irrelevant. The studios have already lost.
The court cannot make file transfers illegal. There are too many ways to transfer them. They can be transferred in e-mail attachments. They can be transferred through Instant Messaging. They can be transferred via MMS.
File transfers are basic to networking. Without the ability to transfer files we're down to typing.
Here's a compromise that rings true to me.
In all the arguments over copyright and patents the interests of the middle class creator are constantly invoked, then discarded.
The fact is that, while most western countries are middle class, the structure of their creative classes is pre-Marxist. That is there are a few writers, artists, musicians and actors who get rich from it, and a lot who get virtually nothing.
Unless you have business acumen, or constant success in your field, you're very likely to end up poor. And without a big hit, you're nearly certain to end up relatively poor from your work in the content industries.
At the same time, those who manage the industry, whether or not they have any talent, nearly all wind up rich.
Thus there's a difference between what we find in society as a whole and the content society.
A Santa Clark court has ordered Toshiba to pay Lexar $465 million essentially for violating a non disclosure agreement (NDA).
Some accuse me of not caring about copyright or patent rights. This is neither. It's a trade secrets case. But this is a righteous bust.
The individual responsible for all this, according to the court, was Toshiba employee Hideo Ito. Ito joined the board of Lexar, then a raw start-up, in 1997, and leaked its trade secrets for flash memory not only to his employers but also to SanDisk, the leader in the flash memory field.
Why is this a righteous bust? Because small outfits like Lexar have to align with big outfits like Toshiba in order to take on large rivals like SanDisk. It's the only way they can reach the market. If that confidence is not secured then small companies never have a chance.
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.
The Gibson Safety Dance, named for sci-fi author William Gibson, involves companies changing their software simply to keep other programs from accessing it.
It's increasingly common. We've seen it in Instant Messaging, we saw it recently with Microsoft Office, and now we're seeing it with Apple's iTunes.
Jan Johansen, the Norwegian programmer who wrote DeCSS so he could play DVDs under Linux, has entered the fray with a program that breaks the iTunes DRM so Linux users can buy them from the Apple store. Apple's response has been to change the software and keep this from happening.
Technology moves in waves. What's passe in one place may be very cool in another. This is how you can cross the digital divide.
Here's an example. At the same time NTT DoCoMo is closing down its Personal Handyphone System, moving customers to more advanced forms of mobile telephony, it's growing like topsy in China, and Atheros is rolling out a new PHS chip.
How does this work?
One of the biggest problems we face in cellular data is the lack of MMS interoperability.
If I'm on Cingular, and you're on Verizon, and our friend is with U.S. Cellular, in other words, we can easily exchange short text messages. But exchanging, say, photos or music is nearly impossible.
Video clips, sold like ringtones. The mobile Web is TV, just as last year's mobile Web was radio. (The picture is from the story linked-to in this paragraph, at PocketPCMag.com.)
I think this is wrong-headed thinking.
That's not to say video won't have a place. It will, especially where desktop Internet penetration is low. Within a few years, I suspect, we'll see a "mobile BitTorrent", because the kind of video that will be in highest demand will be that which is most likely to be suppressed, and not shown on TV.
But video still isn't the Killer App for the next wave. Video is going to remain a niche.
What is the Next Big Thing? Glad you asked.
Look, there he is on the cover of People. ROKR-Roker, get it? Since much of Roker the host has in fact disappeared recently, thanks to surgery that made his stomach the size of a chicken egg, the irony is even richer. There are laughs a-plenty. Tears are literally rolling down some journalists' faces. (Not.)
Anyway, the real story here is much more important and much, much nastier.
There is a move afoot among the world's mobile (or cellular) carriers to keep absolute control over all the money to be made with cellular (or mobile) broadband. It's not just the users they seek to control, and not just the phones.
If you download a bit, even megabits, the mobile (cellular) carriers figure they should look at what you're accessing, decide whether you should get it at all, and take a cut of the revenue as well. (A pre-operation Roker-sized cut.)
This is not Internet service they're offering. These are private networks.
Reporting on the judge's decision in the Apple lawsuit against three Web sites has been about as bad as it gets. (Celebrate the stupidity with this lovely vase of a wormy apple, from the Seekers Glass Gallery.)
Let me tackle, as an example, the outlet with the best reputation, the BBC. Apple makes blogs reveal sources is the headline.
While the company won the initial court ruling, the fight is far from won. And the decision wasn't germane to bloggers, as the actual story made clear. "Judge Kleinberg said the question of whether the bloggers were journalists or not did not apply because laws governing the right to keep trade secrets confidential covered journalists, too."
Trade secrecy, in other words, gets more protection than national security.
More after the break.
Of all the American entrepreneurs you read about a decade ago, which do you think is doing the best today?
Which one, do you think, is kicking back, living the life, doing what he wants, and bringing in tons of money on something that's relevant to 2005?
The answer: Thomas Dolby Robertson. He blinded them all with mobility.
As Thomas Dolby (his oeuvre is at ArtistDirect, along with this picture), Robertson had a brief vogue on the pop charts in the early 1980s. He even had a pop hit, She Blinded Me With Science.
Then, a decade ago, he morphed into an entrepreneur, doing stuff at the intersection of virtual reality and gaming. The media left him behind and left him alone. (I met him at a few trade shows during the dot-boom. He should have been a pathetic figure. He wasn't.)
It seems Robertson has a talent rare among entrepreneurs, the ability to make lemonade out of lemons. He explained what happened to the Onion AV Club. It was a piece of blinding entrepreneurial insight.
Cynthia Webb (left) is sporting a collection of recent U.S. media reports claiming a "renaissance" in America's consumer electronic market share.
There are more American labels around. Apple. Motorola. Microsoft. The U.S. companies are good at seeing the opportunity and writing software that works.
Our balance of payments is not helped by it.
As Cynthia notes (deep in the article), these boxes are being made in China. (Actually most of them are being made in Taiwan.) Some of the software conceptualizing is being done here, as is the marketing (although I suspect some of that software work was off-loaded to India).
Those failing, flailing Japanese outfits she mentions, meanwhile, are still doing everything in Japan. Or they're doing "too much" in Japan. Except for Sony and Nintendo Japanese companies were never good at anticipating demand. Mitsubishi, Canon, C. Itoh, Ricoh, et al -- they were manufacturing houses. They were China before China was cool.
But the Japanese are getting wise. American Howard Stringer is Sony's new CEO. He knows the game. Expect most Sony stuff soon to come with a "Made in China" label.
What's the real story?
Remember a week or so ago when I wrote about how someone had cracked their iPod's DRM to stick Linux in there?
Well, Novell has released a version of Linux that loves that environment.
Silicon.Com reports that SuSE Linux Professional 9.3 (SUSE is now owned by Novell) includes automatic recognition and support for the Apple iPod.
The logjam over the next optical storage standard may be about to break, as Apple has joined the Blu-ray Group.
The announcement at Germany's CeBit today means that HD-DVD, the rival technology, has lost yet-more momentum. Dell and H-P are already on the Blu-ray side.
This news is bigger than it sounds. Read on.
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.
I don't always agree with Nicolas Negroponte (right), but he made a point in Korea recently that really makes sense.
This is true for hardware, for software, and for services. Future hardware designs must make it easy to connect, hands-free. Software must have intuitive user interfaces, as simple as speech. Services need to be spur-of-the-moment.
A lot of the mobile services I see today violate these principles big-time. They're based on Web interfaces, and thus have a limited time horizon. The key is to get inside the phone, so you're bought as soon as the customer thinks of buying.
Failure to define a single standard for Ultrawideband is killing the technology. So say the experts.
This could be the week that tells the tale on that, as the FCC weighs in.
First, Rupert Goodwins of ZDNet reports that one-half of the UWB conflict, the WiMedia Alliance and the Multiband OFDM Alliance (MBOA), agreed to merge. An Intel executive, Stephen Wood, heads WiMedia.
Sounds cool, but there's still a rival out there, Direct Sequance-Ultrawideband, pushed by the UWB Forum. The latter group has demonstrated things like home networks, while the former has pushed a Firewire replacement over a distance of 2 meters. (The illustration to the left is from Intel.)
So this is more than just a technical argument. The WiMedia folks see the technology as a Bluetooth replacement. The UWB Forum is aiming at the heart of local networking.
But let's put it more simply
Ive seen it and seen it. A big company works its butt off to prove a market, and some little guy comes along claiming patent rights.
Here we go again. This time the victim is Apple Computer. A guy named Peter Chung, backed by a lawyer named Joseph Zito, claims Apples DRM infringes on their patent for limited sharing of files . They want 12% of everything Apple has made from iTunes.
Even the tone of their press release is, in my opinion, abusive.
Everyone knows that iTunes allows a user to play purchased music tracks to up to 5 computers, without repaying the money, under the condition that the computers are registered. The computer registration involves a process of identity verification in which a user is required to key in into the computer the correct Apple ID and password he used to purchase the song.
This is certainly a patentable technology. If iTunes does not patent it, there must be a very good reason for them not to do so- someone else has patented this.
The whole case points to what should be a major reform in the patent laws.
What would such reform consist of?
Jan Johansen became infamous because he wanted a Linux-based DVD player. Nils Schneider merely wanted the iPod to be all it could be.
In order to get a Linux DVD player, Johansen hacked the standard DVD encryption scheme with a program called DeCSS. The result was one of the biggest legal hassles of our time.
Schneider, 17, has now managed to get Linux working on his iPod by hacking its Digital Rights Management (DRM) system , according to New Scientist magazine.
Johansen's program, of course, had a lawful purpose, the creation of a Linux DVD player. But in order to do that he broke the copyright act. Schneider's program also has a lawful purpose, namely to run Linux on the iPod. But to do that he got through the iPod's DRM system, which in theory could let the iPod run any file at all.
But it's how Schneider did it I found most intriguing.
Taiwan has the greatest OEMs in the world. They can take your design and turn it around faster than anyone.
But Taiwan is not known for its equipment designs. Taiwan doesn't dominate the brand market.
That may be about to change with the Universal.
High Tech Computer of Taiwan has sold versions of it to most major European cellular outfits. The Windows Mobile device features a QWERTY keyboard which can fold into the device, making it a touchscreen PDA. It also has two cameras (one still, one video), Bluetooth and WiFi standard.
Sony released its Walkman phone yesterday.
It is what it is, a phone with a half-gigabyte of storage in it, enough room for about 500 songs.
Those songs are subject to Sony's DRM, just as iPod songs are subject to Apple's. Both now face the wrath of France because their DRM schemes are incompatible. Unfortunately for France, another unit of the government had previously ruled the link between its proprietary format and its iTunes store is OK so this is going nowhere.
And the Walkman phone is going nowhere in the market.
Haptics recreates touch and texture artificially. If your kid has a "force-feedback" joystick on their computer game console, they're getting a taste of haptics. Northwestern, USC and MIT are among the universities doing research in the field. (The image is from USC.)
It's vital that something like haptics comes to mobiles because, in a hands-free environment, you can't depend on just sight and sound. Bringing other senses, like touch (or smell) into the mix allows for communication to happen invisibly.
It's also vital for haptics to come to mobiles because this is a huge (in terms of installed base) platform. If the coding and messaging can be delivered in this space, we're talking about billions of users. And we're talking about a universal language.
The best is the technical brief, from a host of distinguished computer scientists including Dave Farber of Carnegie-Mellon (and the Interesting People list).
The short version. If a law against software is strong enough to do good it will do harm. And if it's weak enough not to do harm it can't possibly do any good. Thus the Sony vs. Betamax "test," that technology is legal if it can be used for legal purposes, should be upheld.
A few details after the break:
I still get a newspaper. I read books and magazines. I listen to the radio. So, probably, do you.
But all these technologies (and industries) have been "killed" several times by great new technologies. They are all supposed to be dead, thanks to various features of the Web, right now.
Today Dennis Dunleavy offers a great discussion of all this.
Fact is journalists have a bad habit of buying industry hype about "killing" older systems, and in doing that they're buying what George Lakoff would call a "political frame."
Words have power, and by saying that old technologies are about to be "killed" by new ones, we tend to give the sponsors of the new the power to do just that. By doing this before the market has a chance to decide where the new one will fit into its lifestyle, we do everyone a disservice.
Billions of dollars have been lost over the years, and millions of jobs have disappeared prematurely, because companies, and markets, bought into these false frames.
Podcasting is the trend of 2005.
It's driven by simple facts.
The result is millions of units and millions of hours waiting to be used by someone.
What else is the result?
The last time Paris Hilton featured on this beat, she was leading to the rise of BitTorrent, and crying crocodile tears over the interest we had in a sex tape she made with a (presumably ex-) boyfriend.
That's because Paris Hilton is totally innocent this time. As with other Sidekick II users, her data was synced to a T-Mobile Web site, and it was T-Mobile that got hacked.
Now her calendar, phone list, and photos taken with her cameraphone are being spread all over everywhere.
This is very bad for T-Mobile, which is still advertising the Sidekick II as a way to have a private box to store connections to your rich-and-famous friends. (Snoop Dogg is the ad's star, although Paris does appear.) Those ads are still running, but what kind of impact are they making now, as the story of this hack (and how it happened) gains more prominence?
There's another implication.
The 3GSM Conference in Cannes featured a lot of flash, a lot of optimism, even some good writing.
But Cannes is a place of fantasy, a willing suspension of disbelief. It even has Las Vegas beat in this regard. Hey, the French thought the Maginot Line would hold. Some of them no doubt think smoking is good for you. When a diet of red wine and goose fat leaves you without heart disease you'll believe anything.
What drives the optimism is what is happening in the developing world. Beyond the desktops of the Internet, mobile phones represent everything positive about the future. They're telephony and computing in one hand-held package. They have driven technological change in Africa as nothing before has, and they're just getting warmed up.
Still, if mobility wants to succeed in the developed world -- and the 3G explosion is all about Western markets -- it does have to compete. And most carriers are not yet willing to.
Obstinacy, over-expansion, and hubris killed the National Hockey League, killed it deader than Maurice Richard. They can kill 3G too.
A few years ago I speculated publicly about Sony buying Apple. (That's Sony chairman Nobuyuki Idei at right, from his biography on the Sony.Com site.)
It was a popular thought back then.
Sony blazed new trails among Japanese manufacturers, preferring proprietary control of its technologies, emphasizing design and its brand name, acquiring American firms and integrating them. In the 1990s, on the other hand, Apple was a troubled PC maker with a small market share.
This was before two things happened. Apple's genius returned to his throne, and Sony's faded from the scene.
Sony Founder Akio Morita, who passed away in 1999, was a legendary entrepreneur, a visionary, a genius. In Tokyo, Elvis has indeed left the building.
Still, in the first year after Morita's death, Sony could have done the deal easily. And the spirit of a man equal to Morita in vision, Steve Jobs, would be working for Japan Inc.
The Copyright Police keep coming up against stubborn facts, some of their own making, that throw their arguments into the dumper.
First is a joint study by Harvard and University of North Carolina researchers indicating "Downloads have an effect on sales which is statistically
indistinguishable from zero." Felix Oberholzer (Harvard) and Koleman Strumpf (UNC) matched a set of downloads to record sales in coming to this conclusion. "Even in the most pessimistic specification, five thousand downloads are needed to displace a single album sale," they write.
The second piece of news comes from the industry itself.
It is, simply, the launch of Napster's "rental" service. For $15/month, you can download all you want. It all disappears when you stop paying, but the industry approved this business model, which estimates the actual value of unlimited downloads at $180/year. Spread that over 10 years, give Napster 15%, and you get an actual industry-estimated "loss" from unlimited downloading of $1,500. Not much.
This will make for some fun when I speak this weekend at the University of Virginia's VJOLT Symposium.
If I were a rich man I'd want some of these new Oakley Bluetooth sunglasses.
Of course, I'd need the prescription version. And I really like photograys. And have you got that in a bifocal model?
As you can see there is a way to go before Motorola's Cannes fashion statement turns into a really big market. Yes, there are cool-types who will grab on to this, so they can walk down the street gabbing away, like well-dressed homeless. But how many are there? And are all these fashionistas going to be satisfied with just these Oakley wrap-arounds?
A better solution, to my mind, would mount this user interface on the frame, with the electronics hidden in one of those cool eyeglass retainers 49er coach George Seifert used to wear? (That's George, left and above, and you may be able to make out his retainers. From the Seifertsite on Earthlink.)
Microsoft may have as little as a year to take command of the mobile phone platform, or the opportunity will be lost. (Image from Petrified Truth.)
At the 3GSM conference in Cannes, France, they gave it their best shot.
The mobile broadband business is at what Gandalf called "the pause before the plunge." Enough equipment has been deployed so broadband can be advertised. The time has come to define the experience and see if any money can be made from it.
In a New Yorker profile of chef Mario Batali (left) there's a wonderful scene of Mario rooting around a waste pail, looking for what the author-turned-prep chef has tossed away.
Our job is to sell food for more than we paid for it, Mario lectures him. You're throwing money away.
Apple Computer is the greatest exponent today of what I call Batali's Clue. Your job, as the maker of products, is to get more for your creation than the cost of the electronic "food" that goes into it.
It's a vital Clue because components in the Moore's Law age spoil like dead fish on a wharf.
Here's an example plucked from today's headlines. (Well, the ad pages.)
It's nice when someone in the "major media" gets the Always On vision, no matter how they get there.
The vision is simple. It's a wireless Internet platform. You get there by combining robust scalable PC applications with Internet connectivity and WiFi.
The BBC's Ian Hardy gets it, but he approaches it backwards, from the media side.
However you get there is fine with me.
Mobile carriers are trying to make an impossible transition.
They want to move from a data world where every bit is precious, and where every file is controlled, into a broadband world where phones have PC functions. And they want to do it without changing their business models.
It can't happen. The industry's dirty little secret prevents it.
That secret is that most cellular minutes today are wasted. Perhaps as many as 80% of the minutes customers are allocated in their contracts each month aren't used. And this has been the source of immense profits. (The illustration, in time for Valentine's Day weekend, is a Korean product for women that also enables the creation of twin secrets.)
Modern cellular marketing is all built around contracts, with a fixed monthly charge for a fixed number of minutes over a fixed term. To get contracts incentives are offered, including free phones.
But look at what happens. Marketing convinces people to pay high prices for plans with high limits. Cingular's "rollover" plan costs a mininum of $40/month, which comes out to about $45 with taxes and other fees. Advertising convinces people they need high limits to deal with "ugly over-age charges." But it's difficult to measure your usage in the middle of the month, and the vast majority of customers don't come close to their limits.
When the contract term expires, usually in a year, customers can theoretically leave that carrier for another one, taking their phone number with them, and even get a new set of incentives, like a new, more advanced phone. But most are as ignorant of their contract expirations as they are of the status of their minute bucket. (Quick: what's your contract expiration date?)
Carrier profitability thus depends on ignorance, customers with old phones who don't take out new contracts and don't use their gear. And in that environment, who needs broadband? Where is the market for PC functionality?
Exactly. It doesn't exist.
Yesterday, I wrote about how the PDA was rapidly being transformed into the smart phone, so the rumors of the PDA's demise are somewhat exaggerated.
I actually wrote that while looking at a post from Palm Addict about a possible new Palm design. Sammy McLaughlin was virtually hanging about the Patent Office (he's in Manchester, England but the Internet lets you do that) and found an application , from PalmOne, for a device that looks like a "candy bar" phone but flips open to become a PDA.
There is more here than just a new design.
We have read for the last year about the death of the PDA, and it's true the stand-alone version (one without a phone) is fast disappearing.
As Tom's Hardware notes, PDA sales have fallen to a five-year low. I have one, but it was free.
As David Linsalata, the IDC analyst who delivered the report noted, ""Consumers don't see the need to invest $600 in a handheld device if a smart phone can do the same basic tasks."
But isn't this "death of the PDA" business simply a matter of semantics? Isn't this merely the creation of analysts who put technology in boxes, when everyone knows the first thing people do when they get technology is take it out of the box?
Maybe. Here's the headline on a recent story published in Ireland on the subject. "Smartphone and PDA sales go skyward."
Erin go wha?
Music companies are now pitching online music as a choice between "buy" and "rent."
That's one way of looking at it.
Here's another, a choice between lies and blackmail. (As with the vinyl album at right, built to fail over time if you played it repeatedly.)
To all those wishing to bury Moore's Law. There are more tricks left in it than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
We all know about "dual-core" chips. Intel has switched development here, AMD has them in droves. They're basically multiple chips drawn on the same piece of silicon, taking advantage of parallel processing on-the-chip. Great stuff. Makes chips faster, makes processing faster, and keeps Moore's Law going.
Now IBM (with Sony) is rolling out what it calls Cell technology . This extends the dual core philosophy, a single chip that passes instructions to as many as eight processors at once. (Think of it as an editor chip in the "slot" of a computerized editing desk.) IBM says it can handle up to 10 instructions at one time.
All the speculation surrounding the Cell involves where it might go, and what it might do. (They're putting it first into Sony's Playstation 3, but it's listed as a PowerPC advance.)
But that's now what you should be thinking about.
Nicholas Negroponte is getting all sorts of attention for his plan to sell Linux PCs to the developing world at $100/each. (The picture is from the EnGadget story.)
Negroponte might respond he's bringing poor people the full world of the World Wide Web with his cheap box, but if it's the Web you want you need connectivity, not just a box, and getting to fiber in Niger is a little more difficult than getting to it from, say, Atlanta. (Or Abidjan for that matter.)
But there is one more big problem with this "great futurist's" vision.
It's practically here already.
Has Microsoft, and its ecosystem, built planned obsolescence into PCs so as to force upgrades?
I know this is tinfoil hat territory, but hear me out. (The tinfoil hat on the left is being modeled by Elizabeth Kramer of Pleasantville, NY, daughter of the blogger Kathlyn Kramer.)
In theory the MTBF (Mean Time Before Failure) of all PC hardware extends not years but decades. There is no theoretical reason for an old machine to stop working, and refuse repair.
Yet that's just what is happening here.
It started a year ago. My 6 year old Windows 98 machine started acting up, refusing to boot, and Scandisk just wouldn't complete. A big part of the problem, I concluded, was the Norton security system I had installed.
But PCs were cheap so I changed it out. I got me a new Windows XP set-up for about half the price I'd paid for the original box back in 1998, and felt like I'd gotten off cheap.
If the last several months proves anything, it is that there are many ways to grow in the cellular business. (Birthdaycraftsandsupplies.com offers a fine selection of Pinatas. Ask them to bring back the dollar sign one to the right. Don't you agree it looks cool?)
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:
In the U.S., the only excuse for regulating TV content is based on spectrum scarcity. Spectrum is scarce, it's licensed, and because of that there is a public interest test, which the agency sometimes uses to crack down on content.
Absent the excuse of spectrum scarcity, the only grounds for regulating TV content are based on the First Amendment. (The Hayes Office, which kept movies chaste for decades, was private regulation, not public.) This is not an absolute. Any conservative will tell you "obscenity is not protected," citing chapter and verse, calling in Ashcroft's Dogs of War.
The point is this is not the case outside the U.S. In England, for instance, TV content is regulated because, well, it's powerful. Thus dangerous. And so Oftel, the U.K's new "super-regulator," is sniffing around regulating the Internet.
Fortunately some there have a Clue.
Does your cell phone help you pick up attractive women? (Or men?)
Well, it might if you subscribed to Dodgeball, a social service for mobiles whose founders, Dennis Crowley and Alex Rainert, talked to our own Russell Shaw (right) recently.
The idea is that you and your friends subscribe to Dodgeball, then text your location to one another at night, so you can get together. (And if they have friends with them, and those friends are attractive, voila!)
Absolut Vodka sponsored a "nightlife channel" on the service last year, like a traditional media buy, so Dodgeball members could associate the brand as a "friend." (Beats having an AA sponsor, I guess.) Now they're looking to make more money from things like Premium SMS and applications.
I recently wrote in high praise of Motorola for the MS1000, calling them The Kings of Always On.
The following does not detract from that call. Motorola has come closer to building an Always On platform (as I envision one) than anyone else.
But there are still a few things they could easily add:
Along with all their other implications, the mass adoption of mobile phones represents the first step in the single-chip era.
If you look inside the guts of your phone you are unlikely to find a big honking circuit board. (The circuit board illustration is from Sciencetechnologyresources.com.) Instead you will find one, two or three single chips performing major functions in an integrated way.
This is happening across-the-board in technology. We've gone from circuit boards in the 1980s to modules in the 1990s, to single chips. Just as early IBM PC add-in board producers created "multi-function cards" to assure a price worthy of retail distribution 20 years ago, so chip makers today put multiple functions on many chips, creating entire systems no bigger than a finger-nail.
Motorola has launched a very Clued-in strategy to push Always-On applications.
The idea is that you sync the phone to your home using a verison of the old Palm cradle, then control home automation applications remotely using the phone.
This is clever in many different ways:
For the last year I've been harping here on the subject of Always On.
The idea is that you have a wireless network based on a scalable, robust operating system that can power real, extensible applications for home automation, security, medical monitoring, home inventory, and more.
As I wrote I often came back to Motorola and its CEO, Ed Zander. They would be the perfect outfit to do this, I wrote.
Little did I know (until now) but they did. A year ago.
It's called the MS1000.
The product was introduced at last year's CES, and re-introduced at various vertical market shows during the year. It's based on Linux, responds to OSGi standards, and creates an 802.11g network on which applications can then be built.
At this year's CES show, Motorola is pushing a home security solution based on the device, with 10 new peripherals like cameras and motion sensors that can be easily set-up with the network in place, along with a service offering called ShellGenie.
Previously the company bought Premise, which has been involved in IP-based home control since 1999, and pushed a version of the same thing called the Media Station for moving entertainment around the home.
What should Motorola do now? Well, the platform is pretty dependent on having a home PC. The MS1000 could use space for slots so needed programs could be added as program modules. They need to look at medical and home inventory markets, not just entertainment and security.
But they've made an excellent start. And from here on out everyone else is playing catch-up.
Oh, and one more thing...
Andrew Orlowski overstates the case a little. Storage is not the new chips.
But the humble hard drive, the spinning aluminum platter called a "Winchester" by some of us old-timers, now dominates the storage scene. And the father of that technology was Al Shugart.
This era is Shugart's Revenge. (Buy his new book here.)
This is something of a surprise to some futurists. After all, optical storage is really cool. Imagine getting a half-gig, or several gig, or dozens of gig on the same CD form factor, and usually backward-compatible at that?
What was unexpected with hard drives was that they would become hardened and mobile. We were used to thinking of them as being fairly unwieldy and fragile, hidden away on our desktops, requiring that we treat our laptops like human newborns.
But they did become sturdy, and tiny, and thus mobile. Now they can go anywhere you go. And in the case of some products, like the iPod, they literally define the category (although you can also make an iPod with flash memory).
There's one other point to make about this golden age of storage.
At CES mobile phones (cellular to you and me) are no longer certain what they want to be.
Are they cameras? Are they PDAs? Are they going to be expandable? Will they be for games, for instant messaging, for fashion, what?
Normally, after a show like CES, the market would make those decisions. Some products would sell well, others would sell poorly, and next year we'd see copycats of the former, then scratch our heads trying to remember the latter.
Not in this case.
In a great little piece about Kodak's coming WiFi camera, the EasyShare One, Glenn Fleischman delivers a Clue about T-Mobile's coming strategy.
That's what I would do in his shoes.
If you haven't heard, Apple Computer Corp. gave DePlume's little site the best diploma a journalist could get the other day -- a lawsuit. Rival journalists put up a headline that Apple was "running out of patience with rumour mill web sites."
But if these are just rumors, if there is no truth to them, why the legal paper? Hmmmm? Who needs to file papers to squelch lies? (And we'll know the truth one way or another in a week or two anyway.)
So what's Apple up to? According to ThinkSecret:
When UTStarcom announced it had a "WiFi Phone" (right) no one noticed.
Now that Vonage says it's putting its name on the thing, the carrier world is up in arms.
As usual the press is being plain silly. This is not a threat to mobile carriers because WiFi, as yet, offers no real mobility. And that's just not likely to happen because most WiFi connections are not networked.
The enormous popularity of the iPod, and its dominant share of the market (some say as high as 95%) has created a new family fun game for reporters this Winter, which I call "Get Steven."
The idea is to find someone, somewhere, who can threaten the iPod's market dominance, then spin a story around it.
Most reporters do the easy story, interviewing all known competitors and repeating their claims.
Others, like Hiawatha Bray (right, from Dan Bricklin), know what their editors really want -- a local guy who claims he can take down the giant.
And that's what Bray delivered, in today's Boston Globe. (This is why he gets a fat paycheck and I'm just a blogger.)
Bray found a little outfit in suburban Andover, Massachusetts called Chaoticom. Chaoticom is OEM'ing technology for putting music functionality into new mobile phones, the kind with hard drives in them.
Good story. And since in the Chaoticom universe the music delivery is under the control of the carrier, there's some momentum.
Here's why it won't work.
There is a lot of wailing-and-gnashing-of-teeth going on about ESPN entering the mobile phone business, through an agreement with Sprint.
It's not that big a deal. Sprint made these co-branding deals, called MVNO in the biz, a big part of its strategy. Virgin, Carphone Warehouse and 7-Eleven are signed-up, and Wal-Mart is reportedly taking a look.
What do you need to become a Big Time Mobile Phone Brand?
The bandwagon on behalf of "Mobile TV" is coming down your street, just in time for the holidays.
If you're a kid it's pretty exciting. But I've seen this parade before, many times. I can enjoy your pleasure, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to join "Santa" later at our favorite bar for a few pops and expect he'll make me pick up the tab.
The big truth is that it's now pretty trivial to put a TV tuner into a mobile phone. Yes, the days of Dick Tracy's wristwatch TV are really here. (Image from USA Today.)
Of course you remember what Tracy used the technology for? To see his boss while he was talking to him. I did the same thing at the 1964 World's Fair, where AT&T had a videophone demonstration. It was no big deal then, and it's no big deal now.
Entrepreneurs like Blake Krikorian of Sling Media, who is profiled in the Business Week story above, think you'll use the capability to watch their streams. Most people watch brief snippets of TV anyway, not whole shows, he says. No time. So offer them such streams for the moments where they're standing in line at the Airport, or waiting for a meeting to start, and they will pay through the nose for them.
Maybe. But maybe not.
A new survey from the UK shows the home LAN market retains high potential, even if you're still doing the same old things. (The picture is from this year's production of A Christmas Carol in East Brunswick, NJ.)
The MORI survey showed 90% of home PC owners were getting into arguments over who would use the PC, and when. The kids nearly all say they're doing homework (90% of them), but 43% of users admit they're playing games. (Hey, games can be educational.)
The survey struck me because, at the Blankenhorn house, everyone has their own PC and the TV spent much of Thanksgiving turned off.
We all have our own obsessions. I write, my wife works, my daughter reads and my son plays historical games. It's a far more productive use of our down-time than would be any shared experience before the "boob tube."
For those not enjoying our online novel, The Chinese Century, here's a piece of non-fiction that may leave you even more upset. (That's a 1963 Time Magazine cover, by the way, of which prints are available for purchase.)
It's an interview with Ronald Chweng, chairman of Acer Technology Ventures. Acer is based in Taiwan which China calls a renegade province, and the U.S. once called the Republic of China. Chweng's charge is to find U.S. investments. He says there are plenty, but that the focus may be changing.
It may be moving East.
Take a real close look at this AP photo and see if you can spot the problem with the new version of Windows Mobile, Microsoft's mobile phone software.
Reviewer Bruce Meyerson missed it, so if you have problems I understand.
I understand if you give up because it not only skipped past Meyerson, but it apparently skipped past everyone involved in the design and manufacture of this phone. Otherwise it likely would never have seen the light of day.
Still don't have it? OK, click below for the answer.
A new trend has emerged, thanks to Hollywood.
Hardware you already purchased is having its performance degraded, remotely, through "software updates."
Specifically I'm talking here of the iPod and TiVo. Both companies have shipped, or announced plans to ship, "patches" that actually reduce performance, that take away features you already bought, and that you might be using and enjoying.
All this is being done in the name of "fighting piracy" but I wonder whether Hollywood hasn't just jumped the shark on DRM.
If you're to take Always-On applications into the world with you, they have to be fashionable. They have to look smart. It would be very nice if they were machine washable.
Now they are.
What would you use this stuff for?
With all the hoop-de-doo over mobile phones being bad for you, it makes sense that a wireless headset, connected to your phone or (maybe even) your iPod, would make sense.
Hey, kids! You can get this cool wallpaper of the Hollywood sign for your PC right here. We now return you to your regularly-scheduled tech blog.
Texas Instruments has a new chip, code-name Hollywood, that will deliver real TV to mobile phones.
The chip doesn't just process TV images using mobile phone frequencies. It actually connects you to TV signals, over-the-air, including digital TV standards. It includes a tuner, OFDM demodulator and channel decoder processor.
It's great. But in a way it's a stunt.
Nokia's Preminet is a direct lift from Brew's business model. It solves a lot of problems, but leaves some intact.
The idea is to simplify how developers get their products certified, marketed, and paid for. All good. But there's one big problem that isn't addressed.
Here are some of the questions you might ask if you're a mobile phone user:
I'm thrilled to welcome our first major advertiser to Mooreslore -- Orb Networks.
Orb is a unique product that combines the best in Web, software, and mobile technology. You download the program, index all devices linked to your PC, and then get a Web client through which you can reach it all quickly and easily.
All sorts of devices can be indexed by Orb, including cameras and a DVR. You can then access the browser from any of those devices.
Everything together, instantly. Give Orb a try. It's free for two months. Let me know how much you like it.
In a previous life I did some work for Intel's mobile and wireless folks. One thing I learned is they were inherited from Motorola and are based in Chandler, Arizona, rather than in San Jose.
They're pretty easy to scam.
Rather than insisting on the Intel way, which is to define a robust, modular scalable standard that can handle multiple generations of product, these guys follow their competitors' rules. They essentially beg manufacturers to take their products, then trumpet the announcement like it's a big deal when, in fact, it's not. Just beause the maker of a mobile product decides they'll try your stuff doesn't mean they're committing to it -- they commit to what sells.
What are the true facts?
Speaking of Microsoft, the Redmond company has a new keyboard and mice set-up out which replaces the clumsy problem of creating passwords with something simpler -- your fingerprint.
For the first time, we have biometrics for the masses.
Here's the deal. To the left of the keyboard is a fingerprint reader. It lights up when you successfully have your left index finger scanned by it. (Never mind that, since it's to the left of the keyboard, this ought to be your left pinkie.)
The power of Windows lies in your ability to create and market profitable applications using it.
Yes, there's a limit. Once Microsoft decides it wants your market, your cost of defending the market will likely exceed any incremental sales from that effort.
But Linux lacks Windows' ability to make software profitable. And that is why Windows, not Linux, will lead the next evolution in cellular equipment.
The New York Times has reviewed the new Danger cell phone, under the name of T-Mobile, the cellular operator that will offer it this fall. (The illustration comes from the Times' story.)
The new device carries the name Sidekick II, and the Times likes it.
I don't. Here's why.
Michael Eisner would you please go now?
Disney has announced it is entering the PC market. (The illustration is from the Times' story.)
There are so many things wrong with this, on so many levels. I hardly know where to begin.
Over at The Feature Mike Masnick has a little piece asking whether mobile phones are a black hole for the chip industry. (This drawing passes for Mike's picture over at The Feature.)
On the surface the charge is silly. Chip makers make chips, phones use chips. Phones are quickly replaced, which means the industry sells more chips. If by "black hole" you mean something that sucks up all the industry's capacity, that's not necessarily a bad thing.
But there is danger here, and it's based on the nature of the phones now being produced.
I'm sorry. I can't get excited over a device whose big "improvement" (shown) is a keyboard I can't type on.
I can't get excited about a device that still doesn't take voice files and translate them to ASCII for you.
I can't get excited about a device that's still living in the pen-and-mouse past.
I can't get excited about a line of products that are functionally incompatible when you want to upgrade.
I can't get excited about blinking lights to indicate connection status. That was cool in 1975.
I can't get excited about an 802.11b client being treated like it's too cool for school. It's not.
I can't get excited about having to compromise every feature just so it can fit together.
And I can't get excited about the top-of-the-line American PDA having to run a Korean chip.
(Did I tell you I'm not excited?)
It's like having a relative with a long painful disease and finally seeing the end come. You still mourn.
The company that now owns the show is spinning like mad, claiming this is just a postponement, that they could obviously run a profitable show this year. Some idiots are printing the spin. (The picture is from Softbank in Japan.)
But this is the end.
Last month, on this blog, I asked "Who Killed the PDA?"
I was hammered for it. But I wasn't wrong. (PDA image is from nec.com.tw)
Proof came today when Sony announced it was "suspending" production of its Palm-based PDA, the Clie.
The PDA is dead. So what comes next?
I took the kids to see Shrek 2 today.
Good movie. Thumbs up and all that. Fun for the whole family. (The image is from Cinepop in Brazil.)
The Dreamworks picture is breaking all sorts of box office records. And the use of technology is astounding. I actually recognized Jennifer Saunders (as the Fairy Godmother) before she spoke -- computer animation has gotten that good.
But the theater where we saw it was practically empty. Now, this was a matinee, and the movie was playing on six of the theater's 18 screens. But the place was empty.
This got my spidey-sense tingling. (Sorry, wrong movie.) Let's just say it made me think.
My lovely bride and I went PDA shopping last week and made an amazing discovery.
The PDA is dead. (PDA image is from nec.com.tw
I say this with some confidence having looked not just at what BestBuy had to offer (which was not much) but at how little attention the store was paying to what it did have. Neither Palm nor Windows versions of the form factor were moving, and the chain had obviously given up.
Rajesh Jain, who's "on the scene" as they say in Mumbai (what's 500 miles from a distance of 8,000, right) has his own views on the matter, which he shared with me:
Because it's simpler, Palm's operating system had a big advantage when chips were simpler.
But that same advantage becomes a disadvantage when chips get more complex.
So Palm is fighting for relevance. (At right is the Palm 71, taken from Palm's sale Web site.)
One way it's doing this is by offering two versions of the OS -- one for connectivity, one use on the client. Skip the code words (Garnet for the client, Cobalt for communications) and you get one OS for the processing-heavy PDA, one for the communication-heavy cell phone.
Another way to stay in the game is with some powerful friends. Palm's most powerful friend remains Sony, which makes the Clie version of the Palm. Sony understands retailing, it understands price points, and it's rolling out three new Palms, only two of which have the Wi-Fi and MP3 capabilities computer geeks long for. But that's OK, because the $200 device will be a $100 device by Christmas, and people like my wife (who doesn't need communications capability and doesn't plan on listening to music on her PDA) will finally get a color screen.
The third way toward relevance is by finding more partners. Nvidia is filling that niche. The graphics chipmaker will be able to make the next generation of Palms more graphics-friendly. Only by getting to the chip level (Intel, ATI, M-Systems, Motorola, Samsung Semiconductor and Texas Instruments already license from PalmSource) can Palm get into new devices.
By having multiple partners, in multiple niches, and multiple versions, Palm hopes to have enough friends to withstand the continuing Microsoft onslaught. Now if they can just connect the Palm OS firmly to Linux...