Time-shifting is another word for on-demand. Russell Beattie writes: “Everything from your music, to your television shows, to your presence itself will all be where you are at your demand. Services like Orb, Avvenu, Sling, TiVo To Go and others will provide amazing time-shifting services either through syncing or streaming and transform how people think of their content. The mobile phone is at the core of this transformation because of its versatility. Those phones that are more versatile and open will be the most to benefit from this movement. On the other hand, one-trick devices like iPods or phones that are over-targeted at a specific market segment will fade from memory pretty quickly as they become less applicable to how people want to use their personal media.”
Online “micropayments” for items costing between $0.99 and $5 are becoming more common, with research firm Gartner projecting that micro-commerce could be a $60 billion market by 2015.
“It’s all about expanding the revenue potential of digital content,” says FIND/SVP analyst Sab Singh. “There are existing subscription and higher cost pay-per-use models, but we haven’t seen much a la carte until recently.” New technologies have made smaller transactions more cost effective for content providers and vendors, and as more and more content originates in digital formats, conversion costs are lower too. And, says Singh, “The $0.99 music download is an important part of this market.” Mainstream press coverage has boosted consumer awareness: 14 million Americans purchased digital content under $2 in the past year.
Slashdot points to an article by George Ou: “As the commoditization and open sourcing of operating systems and applications continue to disrupt the software companies, telephony vendors have so far enjoyed a relative calm in the closed and proprietary phone systems market with substantial profit margins. That could now all be turned on its head with the proliferation of open source VoIP and PBX software. There are now a handful of these open source telephony platforms such as OpenPBX and Pingtel, but one of the most interesting is Asterisk, which even has its own communication protocol IAX in place of SIP for unified signaling and data transport.”
43 Folders outlines the features wanted. Among them:
IMAP-like syncing – For me, the Hegelian truth between the OS vs. Web OS rhubarb is thats its both and neither. Personally, I want my important information stored on a secure server, but I want the data and its structure seamlessly sync-able to applications on the web, via wireless devices, and yeah, in my most important desktop apps. Why is there not IMAP for my address book and task outlines? Why the heck isnt there a standard calendar format that lets me collaborate with colleagues and use whatever program I want? Why do I have to learn CVS to have smart versioning on plain text? I dont know either. (insert image of Merlin angrily kicking his slippers at the television) Syndicated everything via secure http – Flickr does a fantastic job of letting you pluck out just the stream of information that youre looking for (threads I’ve commented on and the Dr. Phil graffiti group are two favorites). I want the same from a productivity app. For example, I want to flag an email with a special tag and then have it generate an expirable Atom/RSS feed to follow the thread and alert me of updates (oooo…maybe via Growl, too?). And I want it secure. That means no passwords in the URL, and no way for Bloglines searchers to accidentally run across my stuff. (Oh, man, is that ever a bomb waiting to explode). Smart groups and ad hoc collections – The upcoming Tiger release of Mail.app brings iTunes-like smart folders to your mail, and thats so great. But I also want a Gmail-like tagging system that lets me create multiple non-destructive groupings without multiple copies or resorting to complex hacks. I want all my stuff to reside in a big pile, and then I want smart help to script it, organize it, and associate it however I like.
Business 2.0 writes:
Take two recent seismic shifts in the computer market: IBM’s (IBM) sale of its PC business to China’s Lenovo and Hewlett-Packard’s (HPQ) announcement that it would pursue profits over market share in selling PCs. Sure, Dell’s (DELL) unstoppable growth is a factor in both cases, but they also speak to smart business determinations that the days of desktop PCs gushing cash are coming to an end.
To survive, PC makers will keep cutting costs. But how much lower can they go? Sure, they can squeeze suppliers and redesign plastic casings until both are as thin as tissue paper. At some point, however, they’ll have to start discarding entire subsystems. First to go will be the optical drive. Flash memory will be a cheaper and more flexible medium for any data you want to store or transfer locally. Next goes the hard drive: Network storage will be abundant, and the bandwidth to move vast amounts of data will be cheaper than ever. Then PCs will lose the CPU, replacing it with a cheap processor that just shuttles data between the network and the screen, with all the computing taking place in distant server farms. (Sun (SUNW) already offers a stripped-down terminal like this, the Sun Ray, but given the company’s lack of experience in selling PCs, I doubt that it will be the dominant supplier of such machines when they become the primary computing platform.)
To be sure, there will still be some personal computers around. Engineers and creative professionals may still require high-powered workstations, and road warriors will still likely tote laptops, though they may shrink so much as to be indistinguishable from cell phones. (Tellingly, in the fourth quarter of 2004, laptops outsold desktops for the first time.) And dirt-cheap desktops will sell overseas for some time. But the vast majority of knowledge workers won’t need computing power on their desktop. Everything they need will be on the Net.
So, back to Mikes post and the contention that Microsoft should fear bandwidth. In fact, the availability of plentiful bandwidth is a great opportunity for Microsoft should it be willing to think (a little) out of the box. We will consider the implications for Microsoft in two markets the first 700 million users of computers that exist today, and the next billion users that are likely to adopt computing in the next 5-7 years.
Microsoft has little to worry about the existing users. They value complete control of their data and applications, and they are willing and able to pay for it. As bandwidth becomes better, Microsoft can, in theory, sell them remote management services on the desktop. There would be competition but then Microsoft already controls the desktop and so is better positioned than others. The biggest threat that Microsoft faces here is from Apple and Google both for different reasons.
Apple offers Unix-in-a-box. It has layered on top a friendlier and likeable interface (something the Unix/Linux community should have done a long time ago). For consumers, Apple also offers freedom from viruses and spyware at least for now. And now with the Mac Mini it also a much more affordable price. The iPod halo effect may help Apple get Windows switchers. I dont think a mass exodus is likely any time soon, but if the users frustrations with their Windows desktop continue, Apple is likely to be the biggest beneficiary. Microsoft has little to worry about in the enterprise market. More than Windows, the lock-in comes from Office and the applications ecosystem and that isnt likely to change anytime soon.
Google has taken a different approach though it has one thing in common with Apple a friendly interface that people like. Googles approach is to offer an increasing array of services for users on a centralised platform. While search is the most visible part of the Google eStore, there is much more to it. Google is slowly aggregating the components to offer all the utilities that people need for managing their digital life from a server platform mail, personal publishing, group communications, desktop search which integrates seamlessly with Internet search, image library, and more. Microsoft can match many of these offerings without too much difficulty on its MSN service and it does have an advantage via its Hotmail and Messenger services. So, this game is one which is still in its early days. Microsoft is as well positioned as Google to benefit from bandwidth.
In emerging markets, the battle for the next billion users is just about beginning. Here, Microsoft has no real advantage unless it is willing to think differently in making Windows as the base for a utility built around centralised computing platform. The technology exists. It is a matter of vision and will. It is the classic Innovators Dilemma that Clay Christensen has documented so well. The winners in emerging markets will be those companies which focus on small pieces loosely joined. What is needed is an aggregation of technologies and services that exist and delivering a whole solution to users for a small monthly fee. A dollar a month a user for Windows may seem like small change, but taken over a billion users, it has the potential to be as big as Microsofts other businesses in a few years time.