Telecom and the Internet

The Economist writes following eBay’s acquisition of Skype: “Even before VOIP makes 100% of telephone calls in the world completely free (which may take many years), it utterly ruins the pricing models of the telecoms industry. Factors such as the distance between the callers or the duration of a call, the key determinants of cost today, are simply irrelevant with VOIP. Vonage already lets its customers choose telephone numbers in San Francisco, New York or London, no matter where they live. A Londoner calling the London number is making a local call, even if the Vonage subscriber is picking up the phone in Shanghai. As when checking e-mail on, say, Hotmail, the only thing needed is a broadband-internet connection, but it can be anywhere in the world. Sooner or later, people will discard their unwieldy phone numbers altogether and use names, just as they do with their e-mail addresses, predicts Mr Zennstrom [of Skype].”

Broadband’s Three Aspects

Andrew Seybold writes: “I see three distinct points being blended into a single discussion. The first is how we put affordable broadband into the hands of those who don’t have access to cable and DSL. Next is the Wi-Fi hotspot business. Those providing Wi-Fi as a standalone business are starving, but those using Wi-Fi hotspots as an adjunct to their business model are having some success…This brings me to the third aspect of Wi-Fi: wide-area systems that are in place or are coming online.”

Linux on Mobiles

Russell Beattie writes that the future belongs to Linux: “Symbians major problem [is]: Developer support. From the very beginning, the Symbian platform has been difficut to impossible to understand, let alone develop for. It takes experienced C++ developers tons of time to even understand the strange way that the Symbian OS works, let alone get to any level of expertise. It also requires a Windows development box and usually a not-for-free IDE to manage the code as well. Then, when developers run into problems, they must navigate a myriad of different sources for answers, including, Nokia, carrier websites, etc. On top of this, someone, somewhere forgot to tell Symbian that the User Interface Is the OS. Thinking that Series 60 is the same as UIQ or Series 90 is like saying that developing for FreeBSD is the same as developing for Linux and Mac OSX. This puts a lot more pressure on developers as they have to choose between platforms – and though most would prefer the bigger screen and power of a Sony Ericsson device running UIQ, Nokias OS is selling so many more units that theyd be foolish to develop for any thing but that. Finally, once a Symbian app is developed, the path to market is hardly paved at all right now. I dont know of many carriers that have Over The Air access to Symbian applications. I could be wrong about this, but if there are any, the numbers are really, really low. All of this bubbles up to the top, making decisions to base apps on Symbian a more expensive and risky operation for companies, and most arent willing to take that chance.”

Value of Community

Om Malik has a guest post by Rovert Young: “It wont be the corporation that locks its customers into a walled garden any more; instead, it will be the people themselves who create their own high switching costs. For instance, if you are an eBay seller, your switching cost is not so much the relationship youve created with eBay itself and the store you set up, its the reputation and trust you spent years building with fellow members of the community. Similarly, if you are a member of MySpace, its not the web-page and blog you spent time constructing, its your social network of cyber-friends youve cultivated and accumulated over time.”

TECH TALK: Internet Tea Leaves: Endgame

The next logical question is: what is the endgame? Where are we heading towards? I can think of the answer as a combination of the Memex and Mirror Worlds. The Memex is a manifestation of Vannevar Bushs idea of 1945. Mirror Worlds are what David Gelernter proposed in his book of the same name in 1991. (Another related theme is the Metaverse idea put forth by Neal Stephenson is his 1992 book Snow Crash.)

The Memex (meaning memory extender) can be thought of as a sort of forget-me-not. Today, we use Google as the window to the world of information. But search is just one way to navigate the web. Consider the analogy with a printed book. A book has 3 ways to browse it: table of contents (think of this as a directory or outline), index (the equivalent of search), or jumping to a page (typing a specific URL or finding it, quite literally, via a bookmark). On the Web, the index/search option has become the primary mechanism.

What the Memex does is make possible the option of navigation via directories. Users can create their own trails through the web of information. Others can follow these trails. For example, if my passion is science fiction, I am likely to have created a set of links and comments on books and ideas which would also be relevant to others interested in that topic. Others can include my directory and build further. This is how the Memex can get constructed through the creation of millions of directories.

Mirror Worlds are, quite literally, a replica of what we see happening around us. With a mix of user-generated content from their mobiles along with webcams and sensors, it will be possible to almost recreate the real world in the Grid. Mirror Worlds are, thus, microcosms of all that we see around us as updated as the real world that they resemble. They are accessible to us through screens on the devices we have our mobiles, computers, and perhaps, networked TVs.

From an enterprise perspective, the equivalent of the Memex-Mirror World combo is the real-time enterprise. It is a theme that has been talked about for a long time. Software along with the access devices and complements like RFIDs will go a long way in making the RTE a reality.

This, then, is what I read in the tea leaves of August. Emerging markets like India and China are where the future of the Internet lies. Googles actions only highlight the need for a Google for Emerging Markets one that has to emerge from these markets themselves. That is the next big opportunity. This New Internet is going to be significantly different from what we have seen in the past decade. The time to get started to building it out is now.

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