Here. The awards are in their tenth year.
HBS Working Knowledgehas a Q&A with professor Pai-Ling Yin to discuss what drives technology adoption, and do browser upstarts such as Firefox stand a chance.
Q: What are the chances for browsers like Firefox and Camino for the Mac to become mainstream products?
A: Firefox and Camino claim only a small market share, and those users are on the tech-savvy end of the user spectrum. In particular for Mac-centric browsers, we still live in a PC-dominated world. Until IT managers in large enterprises are willing to support these browsers, they will not hit the mainstream in any major fashion.
Why won’t an IT manager support these versions? The biggest headache with these browsers is that the majority of Web sites are optimized on IE. Try going to some of the major commercial airline sites, or to the Web sites of older and smaller companies. If you use Firefox, sometimes you will find missing menus, missing pictures, links that don’t work, etc. Even Netscape doesn’t work with all of our Harvard Business School applications.
But its Webmasters who are the real barrier to a late-to-the-game second mover in the browser market. Because different browsers require slightly different code to be viewable, it is costly for Webmasters to write for different types of browsers. They will tend to pick the browser that is most used by the majority of end-users. Thus, the source of network effects in this market is indirect. While end-users don’t know which browser other users are using, the developers of the content that make the browser so useful do care that everyone is using a similar browser.
XYZ Computing writes: “While is hard not to appreciate the PDA’s ability to change with the times, it appears that its heady days of mobile dominance are coming to an abrupt end. A number of factors are competing in the mobile products field right now, all of which are vying for the same buyers. The most formidable competition to the PDA is the smartphone, but there is also pressure from small laptops, the upcoming UMPC, increasingly capable cell phones, and a few other takers, like portable media players.”
A technology overview of wireless mesh networks is provided by Wikipedia:
Wireless mesh networking is mesh networking implemented over a Wireless LAN.
This type of Internet infrastructure is decentralized, relatively inexpensive, and very reliable and resilient, as each node need only transmit as far as the next node. Nodes act as repeaters to transmit data from nearby nodes to peers that are too far away to reach, resulting in a network that can span large distances, especially over rough or difficult terrain. Mesh networks are also extremely reliable, as each node is connected to several other nodes. If one node drops out of the network, due to hardware failure or any other reason, its neighbours simply find another route. Extra capacity can be installed by simply adding more nodes. Mesh networks may involve either fixed or mobile devices. The solutions are as diverse as communications in difficult environments such as emergency situations, tunnels and oil rigs to battlefield surveillance and high speed mobile video applications on board public transport or real time racing car telemetry. The best mobile networks are those such as Motorola’s which provide a seamless handover between the mobile device and the fixed infrastructure points.
The principle is similar to the way packets travel around the wired Internet data will hop from one device to another until it reaches a given destination. Dynamic routing capabilities included in each device allow this to happen. To implement such dynamic routing capabilities, each device needs to communicate its routing information to every device it connects with, “almost in real time”. Each device then determines what to do with the data it receives either pass it on to the next device or keep it.
An article in Business Communications Review (January 2006) discussed the pros and cons of wireless mesh networks (WMNs). David Axner wrote: “A WMN is easier to install and is less expensive than wired networks, since it uses radio signals instead of cable to connect nodes. Resiliency is a key atrribute of WMNs…Mesh networks also have their down side. WMNs can suffer from bandwidth degradation, radio interference, and per-hop latency as networks grow. The BCR articles also discusses various technologies from companies like BelAir, Firetide, PacketHop, MeshDynamics, Motorola, Nortel, SkyPilot, Strix and Tropos. [Google and Earthlink are planning to deploy Tropos’ technology for San Francisco.]
MuniWireless is an excellent for additional information.
A useful resource is the book Wireless Networking in the Developing World .
Tomorrow: The India Opportunity