Pipes connecting our computers (and mobile phones) to the network have been growing fatter and fatter. Affordable Broadband is the buzzword even in countries like India. What always-on, broadband does is fundamentally change our expectations of content in three ways: the network is always-available and so we turn to it for even the most trivial of queries, the content offering can be beyond text and combine the rich media elements, and it allows consumers to also become producers of content.
In the developed markets, the talk of IP-TV is the talk as phone companies seek to muscle into the territory traditionally dominated by the cable companies. Consider what SBC wants to do in the US (as elaborated in the Wall Street Journal): SBC wants to fulfill an age-old dream of offering a bundle of consumer services through one high-speed pipe, something that some cable companies are already doing. To catch up, SBC plans to bundle its TV offering with phone, wireless and Internet services in a package that could end up costing about $100 a month. Competing with cable and satellite television, SBC wants to offer viewers the chance to watch TV on demand, rather than at scheduled times, as well as hundreds of channels, many geared to niche audiences.
As TV becomes digital, it becomes searchable. The likes of Blinkx, Yahoo and Google have launched video search (even though they are quite rudimentary). Another dimension in which broadband will make a difference is the interface that we use to interact with the results of the search broadband will make it possible to have rich, interactive, video-game-like environments.
The Internet was for long the domain of the English-speaking developed markets. No longer. Even as content in other languages has grown, we are now seeing millions in countries like China and India get online. (The Internet user base in China is estimated to be 80 million, while that in India is put at over 30 million.) English is no longer the first language of the Internet as the non-English-speaking world goes online. This internationalisation of the Internet also brings up a couple of other interesting challenges and opportunities.
The first deals with the language issue and the availability of content. Ramesh Jain explains: A serious problem in most of the emerging world that does not speak English and is not exposed to computers as we are is that most, almost all, information is not in the cyberspace and is not likely to get there due to language and resource hurdles. People living in developed countries, particularly countries like USA where I live, assume that every thing important happens in cyberspace. We will have to go beyond that misconceptionIt will be interesting to think of innovative ways to combine computer network, phone network, and human network to perform searches in real world.
The second challenge deals with the suitability of the keyboard itself as the right medium of interaction. Once again, Ramesh Jain: I find it exciting to think that I could browse Internet using voice and get voice or pictorial responses rather than having to read things on a small screen and struggle to type in using a limited keyboard. In fact, a major attraction of advances in phones to me is the possibility of no keyboards. Keyboard is the biggest hurdle in advancement of Internet technology for utilization by people living in all parts of world.
Tomorrow: Web and Information Models