Top 10 Trends in 10 Industries

WSJ has a special report identifying key trends. The titles give an indication:

Fashion: Plain Is Out. Vibrant Is In.
Autos: Is It a Car? A Truck? A Hybrid…?
Publishing: So Much to Read, So Few Readers
Restaurants: Speed and Variety on the Menu
Toys: It’s a Whole New Game
Movies: Sequels and Remakes
Hotels: A Better Sleep, at a Higher Price
Insurance: New Products — and Responsibilities
Hospitals: ‘We Hope You Enjoy Your Stay’
Beverages: Fewer Carbs and Cals, More Ads

The Mobile Web

Russell Beattie writes: “Of course people are going to want to access the web from their mobile phones. Why wouldn’t they? They’re not going to want to be walled off in some mobile-ghetto, but rather have the full-on, do everything I can do from my desktop on my mobile phone, access to the web….I don’t see the future as one where there are different mini-webs per device or proprietary ways of accessing content and services, but a multi-device norm which adds some pressure to the webmasters out there, but forces a shift to web standards to meet the demand of billions of data-connected handsets all sporting standard minibrowsers.”

Russell also points to the W3C’s Mobile Web Initiative.

ActiveGrid

Phil Wainewright points to ActiveGrid which is focused on Transaction Grid Computing. from their press release:

ActiveGrid represents a fundamental shift from traditional data center architectures, such as J2EE, by enabling transactional applications to be horizontally scaled across a transaction grid of low-cost computers, as contrasted to the traditional approach of scaling vertically on a small cluster of expensive multi-processor machines that must continually connect to backend systems.

… The value of transaction grids for mainstream business applications has been proven by a few forward-thinking companies like Google and Amazon whose experts have hand-crafted grids for in-house use. Until now, the benefits of grid computing have remained elusive for all but a few such companies. The ActiveGrid Grid Application Server software platform will enable corporate developers to easily create, integrate, deploy, and scale transaction grids within their own organizations …

“J2EE and .NET applications were never designed with grids in mind. Just as you would never construct a modern building on top of debris from an old building, you should not rely on the existing technology base as a foundation for developing the next generation of enterprise computing. ActiveGrid’s technology is a critical foundation for enabling applications to fully utilize the power of the transaction grid,” said Jean-Louis Gasse, general partner at Allegis Capital.

Phil adds: “Of course, calling its platform an application server is something of a marketing ploy since, as Peter has explained, an application server is the last thing you need. What ActiveGrid is really providing is a highly tuned ‘text pump’ to occupy the fabric/bus space in a transaction-intensive enterprise data center. It’s an interesting proposition, and one that highlights the immensely disruptive potential of XML standards-based services architectures. Some combination of XML web services grid/mesh/fabric/bus, once we all get through the experimentation stage and begin to agree on what works best, is going to obsolete every previous generation of integration middleware and that includes J2EE application servers.”

Cellphone TV

Technology Review writes:

Both the Qualcomm and Texas Instruments technologies make it possible to offload video delivery from new third generation cellular networks and place it on dedicated video delivery networks. Considering that a big part of the 3G hype was the technologys ability to deliver video, this development is a bit ironic, to say to least. Its true that video of a sort has recently arrived on 3G. For the last few months, Sprint PCS Vision Multimedia Services has been offering as many as 600 video clips a day to PCS subscribers who own a special Samsung phone. In October, AT&T Wireless (now part of Cingular) formally launched its own multimedia service, which is based on the same wireless broadcast network used by Sprint: Idetics MobiTV. The drawback is that at best, the frame rate is six to 10 frames per second; users with older phones see one-frame-per-second video, which is more like a slide show. Generally, 10 to 15 frames-per-second rates are considered to be the lower limits necessary to create an acceptable illusion of motion, and the Qualcomm and TI technologies promise to offer 24 to 30 frames per second–the latter being the standard used by TV broadcasts.

A number of technological trends should get streaming cellular video up into double-digit frame rates within a few years. First, new video chips from Qualcomm and others have arrived this year that support the H.264 video format, which is designed to get the most out of lower bandwidth networks. Also, 3G speeds should gradually rise in the coming years to boost frame rates and overall quality. Yet the next-generation 4G technology and handsets that could deliver 30 frames-per-second video at digital TV-quality resolutions may be 10 to 20 years away. This is why Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, and other companies decided to create parallel broadcast networks.

While cellular providers are keen on adding services to boost their bottom lines, there are only so many directions that they and their customers can afford to move at once. All the competing applicationsphotography, music, games, data accessseem to be a better fit than TV is for the mobile realm. Cell phone users may occasionally find short periods of time to watch the tubelet, but the mobile experiencestill being primarily a professional oneseems more oriented toward on-demand clips than TV channel surfing. Few people have time to watch TV while on the move, and TVs have become so ubiquitous in public spaces that one of the hottest selling gadgets of late is a rogue device that turns off nearby TVs. By 2006, the rare moments that cell phone users will be inclined to watch video will also be the times that their Wi-Fi-enabled phones will be in range of a high-bandwidth Wi-Fi access point. And they may also be able to download the videos for later viewing when theyre back in 3G territory.

In short, dont be fooled by the mobile hypecell phone users may move around a lot, but at the end of the day they still veg out at home or in a hotel room watching a nice big TV (or big laptop monitor). Which brings us back to the size question. Two-inch handheld TVs have gotten dramatically better in recent years, and the digital technology from Texas Instruments, Qualcomm, and others is likely to be even better. Yet, even if the resolution and frame rate improve, size matters in the TV illusion. At two inches, details are still difficult to make out, and its a hassle to have to sit and hold your TV in your hand. Even with a 3-inch screen (about the biggest thats feasible on a phone), people will watch it when the need arises, but its less likely theyll be hypnotized. That may be good for our souls, but not so good for the TV business.

NeuroGrid

Smart Mobs points to NeoroGrid:

The idea behind NeuroGrid is to provide a framework for finding information within a distributed environment. NeuroGrid is based on the idea of automating the process we use in human society to find out things that we want to know, or the locations of things that we need.

Imagine that you are trying to find out some information about rock-climbing. You ask your friends if they know of a rock-climbing club. Ideally you ask the ones who you think might have done rock-climbing in the past. One or two of your friends might put you in touch with people who might know, and eventually you will find a club. Of course you can search the phone directory, but the point is, in the absence of a centralized index you do a search using your wits, and the wits of your friends. You don’t (as one might imagine from routing in some P2P systems) ask all your friends and rely on them to ask each of their friends propagating your question all around the world.

NeuroGrid has wits. It uses them to try and help you find things.

TECH TALK: Tomorrow’s World: Five Dimensions

There are five dimensions along which we can explore tomorrow’s world and build the right models which can be the foundation for creating (or growing) future businesses: devices, networks, infrastructure, services and payments. There is a fascinating inter-play between these elements which promises to rewire (and unwire) the future. For entrepreneurs seeking action and opportunity, there is plenty available. For incumbents, this is no time to rest. For customers, it is options unlimited. We will begin with an overview of these five dimensions, and then consider each of them in greater detail in this series.

Devices are the delivery points for services. There are three primary devices in our lives: television sets, which deliver broadcast entertainment, phones which deliver voice communications, and computers which deliver interactive data-oriented services. India has about 100 million TVs, with more than half having access to cable. There are now about 45 million mobile phones and an equivalent number of landlines. There are about 12 million computers. While mobile phones are growing at 2 million a month, the computer industry needs about six months to sell an equivalent number. A large proliferation of cybercafes across India has ensured an Internet user base of about 25 million users.

The future of devices is inextricably tied to that of networks. Both the TV industry and the telecom industry has perfected the art of delivering services to zero-management devices over networks. This is what the computer industry has not done in the past two decades. The cost and complexity of the user device and the inherent challenges of delivering new services has stunted growth. In a way, the personal computer industry is an aberration in a half-century old industry which has largely thrived on centralised computing. It is time to now learn from others and go back to the roots for the computer industry if they are to tap the next 90% of the market in India. The time has come to use the air to build high-speed wireless broadband networks to create a pervasive and ubiquitous always-on envelope of connectivity.

The server-side infrastructure will be a critical component of tomorrow’s world. As we will see later in the series, what is needed is a virtualisation layer which makes a large number of commodity computers appear as a single large computer. This infrastructure needs to provide the platform for computing, storage and user provisioning. This centralised grid will be the foundation to build the commPuting utility.

The fourth dimension is perhaps the most critical of them all the services. Users do not care about hardware or software what they care about is the set of aggregate services and how these services make a difference to their lives. It is the services which will determine the success of this architecture. Be it education or entertainment, auctions or gaming, the services offered will create the value for the rest of the ecosystem. At the same time, service providers have to think how they will architect their offerings in the new connected world of tomorrow.

The final dimension is that of payments. Telephone companies and cable companies have perfected the art of collecting money on a subscription basis every month. This contrasts with the computing industry which wants a large upfront investment from its users. The mobile phone companies have gone one-step better with the use of pre-paid cards to eliminate credit-related issues. Payments and a revenue sharing infrastructure between the infrastructure and service providers will be a critical component of tomorrow’s world.

Tomorrow: The Road Ahead

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