There are five dimensions along which we can explore tomorrow’s world and build the right models which can be the foundation for creating (or growing) future businesses: devices, networks, infrastructure, services and payments. There is a fascinating inter-play between these elements which promises to rewire (and unwire) the future. For entrepreneurs seeking action and opportunity, there is plenty available. For incumbents, this is no time to rest. For customers, it is options unlimited. We will begin with an overview of these five dimensions, and then consider each of them in greater detail in this series.
Devices are the delivery points for services. There are three primary devices in our lives: television sets, which deliver broadcast entertainment, phones which deliver voice communications, and computers which deliver interactive data-oriented services. India has about 100 million TVs, with more than half having access to cable. There are now about 45 million mobile phones and an equivalent number of landlines. There are about 12 million computers. While mobile phones are growing at 2 million a month, the computer industry needs about six months to sell an equivalent number. A large proliferation of cybercafes across India has ensured an Internet user base of about 25 million users.
The future of devices is inextricably tied to that of networks. Both the TV industry and the telecom industry has perfected the art of delivering services to zero-management devices over networks. This is what the computer industry has not done in the past two decades. The cost and complexity of the user device and the inherent challenges of delivering new services has stunted growth. In a way, the personal computer industry is an aberration in a half-century old industry which has largely thrived on centralised computing. It is time to now learn from others and go back to the roots for the computer industry if they are to tap the next 90% of the market in India. The time has come to use the air to build high-speed wireless broadband networks to create a pervasive and ubiquitous always-on envelope of connectivity.
The server-side infrastructure will be a critical component of tomorrow’s world. As we will see later in the series, what is needed is a virtualisation layer which makes a large number of commodity computers appear as a single large computer. This infrastructure needs to provide the platform for computing, storage and user provisioning. This centralised grid will be the foundation to build the commPuting utility.
The fourth dimension is perhaps the most critical of them all the services. Users do not care about hardware or software what they care about is the set of aggregate services and how these services make a difference to their lives. It is the services which will determine the success of this architecture. Be it education or entertainment, auctions or gaming, the services offered will create the value for the rest of the ecosystem. At the same time, service providers have to think how they will architect their offerings in the new connected world of tomorrow.
The final dimension is that of payments. Telephone companies and cable companies have perfected the art of collecting money on a subscription basis every month. This contrasts with the computing industry which wants a large upfront investment from its users. The mobile phone companies have gone one-step better with the use of pre-paid cards to eliminate credit-related issues. Payments and a revenue sharing infrastructure between the infrastructure and service providers will be a critical component of tomorrow’s world.
Tomorrow: The Road Ahead
TECH TALK Tomorrow’s World+T