Desktop In Your Pocket

Kevin Laws writesd how desktop search companies will allow people to use mobile device as a window into your desktop world.

The latest fad in the consumer world is finally giving us a glimpse into the future. Google released the Google Desktop Search utility, which indexes your personal files and emails. It then allows you to search them using the familiar Google interface. It’s cute, but the really powerful tool is called X1 (from the prolific folks at Idealab). It indexes all emails, even the old archived ones from three years ago, and has a variety of features that put Google to shame (of course, there’s a lot to be said for free – X1 is $75).

This is finally a window into your desktop that could fit on a 2″ by 2″ screen. I wouldn’t need to carry my desktop files around with me. I should be able to do a very simple text search on my Treo that will tell me precisely what file I’m looking for on my desktop. I could then download the file, work with it, and put it back. I could even find cousin Selma’s email from three years ago.

The additional technology necessary to support this feature is trivial. All X1 or Google would need to do is open up a secure interface as a web server. Any device with a web browser – your laptop, your Treo, your cell phone – could log in and find the necessary file, email, or information.

Your entire virtual world could be available to you in seconds through device that fits in your pocket. Will the desktop search companies realize this potential?

Om Malik adds: “[Silicon Valley] doesnt get wireless and mobility. They want to reinvent the desktop sans wires. Wrong approach, right idea, and wasted dollars. US is cursed by wintel which explains why more people outside of US buy Symbian smart phones and prefer them over Treo or Pocket PC phones.”

I think that what is needed on mobile phones is a thin client equivalent – like VNC. This delivers a small-screen version of the desktop from the server ot the client device. No syncing, no replication. Assumes – and we are getting there – ubiquitous presence of networks.

Ideal Media Company

Mark Glaser writes on the media company he would like to work for:

* A news outlet that creates new content, aggregates the best outside content, and makes sense of everything, presenting it in a clear, simple format for the consumption of everyone.

* A company founded on the values of serving the public and allowing the public to serve journalism by participating in all discussions of mission and direction.

* A company that answers directly to its readers and consumers and doesn’t talk down to them from editorial ivory towers.

* A group of like-minded people who are willing to start from scratch and build a new way of doing smart, groundbreaking citizen journalism. Not too amateur, not too professional but something in between.

* A company that is flexible and knowledgeable, with people who “get it” and understand how they can tap the latest technology to improve the craft of journalism — and help it survive. These new journalists would blend the research done online via search and databases, the production process of a content management system, the community involvement of bulletin boards and wikis, and the delivery mechanisms of RSS, blogs and mobile platforms. Rather than teach old dogs new tricks, employ techno-literate people from inception. The “everyone gets it” company.

* A company where people realize that the Web audience is potentially global and therefore work together to create stories and packages that cross national and cultural boundaries.

* A place where news will be a conversation and not a one-way lecture. Where the readers will also report, edit, fact-check and photograph the world around them.

WiMax Hype, 802.11 Reality

Wi-Fi Networking News blogs a commentary by Robert Berger, who writes that WiMax and 802.16 may be eclipsed by near-term 802.11 development:

At this point in time, WiMax/802.16 is another Zero Billion Dollar industry. There are no WiMax Products today. There will be some WiMax products within the next 3 – 6 months, but they will be first generation and far from the promises that the WiMax forum has been promising. Wi-Fi/802.11 chipsets are already up the learning curve by several generations. Wi-Fi chipsets are already shipping in the high 10s of millions / year.

IMHO, 802.11 is recapitulating the evolution of Ethernet into the Wireless realms.

Wi-Fi is currently considered useful only for the home and some enterprise applications and a toy for outdoor Municipal Networks.

But Ethernet out evolved and kept delivering just enough functionality, at much lower cost than the too sophisticated QoS laden and expensive heavyweights.

Wi-Fi/802.11 has taken on the mantle of Ethernets Manifest Destiny (it uses almost exactly the same packet frame as Ethernet) and brings it into the wireless realms. There are many more companies, universities and hackers pushing the boundaries of what 802.11 can do and the volume is growing at an accelerating pace.

Today 802.11 is at a similar phase of evolution as early Ethernet was when there were only a shared contention medium via hubs and bridges. Ethernet really took off when switches became available and allowed the contention realm to be broken up to support parallel data flows. And that is what we can expect in the next stage of 802.11 evolution. This is what is needed to make mesh wireless networks viable with 802.11. There are already several companies developing mesh (though only a few are doing it in a way that will scale). There is also an 802.11s working group developing a standard for wireless mesh. And mesh is what will allow 802.11 to eventually cover municipal areas.

In conclusion, Wi-Fi will out evolve and deliver connectivity at costs dramatically lower than WiMax. WiMax / 802.16 is just starting on its path to evolution, has a much smaller base of innovators and chipset growth volume. Wi-Fi is already far along on its core learning curve, has an easy order of magnitude larger base of innovators / investors and chipset growth volume. WiMax hype will sputter out to reality of a niche backhaul and rural marketplace, Wi-Fi/802.11 will evolve and grow into many more realms and dominate the Local Area Network (LAN) / Neighborhood Area Network (NAN) / Metro Area Network (MAN).

Inspired by Warren Buffett

Paul Allen is reading “The Warren Buffett Way: Investment Strategies of the World’s Greatest Investor.” He writes about some of his learnings:

  • Insurance companies make most of their profits from their investments, not from writing policies. The most important role in an insurance company is Chief Investment Officer. Buffett has been really big in insurance for decades–now I know why. Investing the cash flow well creates large fortunes.

  • Buffett says, “I am a better investor because I am a businessman, and a better businessman because I am an investor.” He doesn’t play the stock market or focus undue attention on macro economics and government reports to time his purchases. He buys stocks with intrisic value with the long term in mind. He said the nine most important words ever written about investing are from his mentor Benjamin Graham: “Investing is most intelligent when it is most businesslike.” When you invest in a company, you own part of a real company, not just paper for trading. Therefore, know everything about the business when you invest in it, as if you were the CEO.

  • Invest only within your circle of competence. What this means to me is that while Buffett avoids high-tech stocks, that is all that I know. My holdings would be entirely different from Buffett’s. But my expertise in internet marketing and online business models will inform my decisions, so I can have a “margin of safety” and know that a company’s value is greater than it’s current stock price (based on an informed model showing net present value of future earnings) before making any purchase decisions.

  • Paying by Cellphone

    WSJ writes:

    The concept of paying by phone finally is taking shape in the U.S., following success abroad. In parts of Europe and Asia, consumers can buy a soda from a vending machine, pay for lunch in their office cafeteria and pay to play videogames at an arcade through their cellphone. They dial a number listed on the machine or in the cafeteria, then send a text message to that number using the phone keypad. The cost of the soda, game or other item is added to the customer’s cellphone bill.

    One advantage over other newer payment options such as smart cards or electronic key-chain fobs: Consumers don’t need to add something to their wallets or purses. “They carry a phone with them anyway, so that was convenient from their perspective,” says Simon Pugh, vice president of infrastructure and standards at MasterCard, who is also president of the Mobile Payment Forum, an industry organization.

    TECH TALK: Tomorrow’s World: Infrastructure

    Tomorrows world of server-centric computing will need a backend infrastructure which can provide the platform for computing, communications, storage and services. This commPuting grid is what will enable the utility-like future. While in the developed markets, grid computing is taken to mean the aggregation and use of resources from across the network, I use it to refer to a centralised platform more along the lines of a power grid. I envision data centres having large clusters of commodity hardware providing all the services that users need over broadband networks.

    Three secular trends provide support for the creation of the centralised grid. First, increasingly cheaper processing and storage hardware. Moore’s law in action. Second, greater availability of inexpensive open-source software. The quality and range of open-source software compares favorably to commercial software. And finally, the rapid deployment of broadband networks and the convergence of computing and communications.

    In fact, if we look back at the past fifty years of computing, centralised computing via mainframes and minis has dominated for more than half that period. Many of the worlds mission-critical applications still use centralised computing. In fact, the personal computing era can be thought of as a deviant created at a time when networks did not exist. Once networks are present, computing can go back to its roots.

    And in a sense, it is already doing so. The growth of the Internet over the past decade is hastening this trend, most recently exemplified by the services being launched by Google on its gigantic distributed computing platform which the outside world sees as a single, large computer. The likes of Yahoo, Amazon, eBay and Salesforce are also allies in a world that is slowly shifting away from the thick desktop to web-centric services. What all these companies have in common is a massive, scaleable grid, built for the most part with commodity hardware and open-source software.

    Much of our personal world is already distributed across databases on the network. From mail (Google) to files (Yahoo), from search history (A9) to purchasing history (Amazon), from reputation (eBay) to subscriptions (Bloglines), from blog (TypePad) to photos (Flickr), we are already part of a world built on computing grids.

    As the wide area networks become faster, the line blurring the desktop to the webtop will disappear. Our desktop too will become part of the grid. We will have come a full circle. Computing will have finally become a utility just like electricity and water. It will be something we take for granted. It will become invisible and yet make our world visible to us whenever we want and wherever we are.

    Next Week: Tomorrows World (continued)

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