Archive for March, 2006

Capturing the Power: Week of 3/12/06

Sunday, March 19th, 2006

Mobility is a wonderful thing. As mobility gets built into all products and services, businesses need to learn how to both capture the power of mobility and manage the dangers introduced through mobility. Here are some examples of how the power of mobility is being applied to create competitive advantage (and make the world a better place…):

Enabling Technology: Week of 3/12/06

Saturday, March 18th, 2006

The Law of Mobility talks about value increasing with mobility. The impact of this law is being felt because the cost of adding mobility into products is falling, making it a no-brainer for mobility to be built into everything. Here are examples of technology advances enabling this to happen:

Cool New Converged Products: Week of 3/12/06

Friday, March 17th, 2006

The Ten Layer Stack

Wednesday, March 15th, 2006

The past couple of weeks, I’ve been spending more time than normal with customers. sales, and partners.  It’s reminded me of an important lesson I’d been taught about technology decision factors.

Any communications technologist worth his salt will pepper his speech with oblique references to the OSI seven layer stack.   This very helpful model was codified by the International Organization for Standardization (OSI) in the 1970s and provides a framework for understanding how communications flow between systems across different networking technologies.

The lowest layer (layer 1 or the physical layer) represents the most basic physical levels of connectivity, such as how networking signals are sent across a piece of copper wire.  The next level (layer 2 or data link layer) represents basic addressing of physical devices on a network.  The most commonly known example of a layer 2 protocol is Ethernet.  Layer 3 (the network layer) protocols deal with the basics of moving information across networks of physical connectivity.  An example layer 3 protocol is IP or the Internet Protocol.  The transport layer (layer 4) deals with network reliability.  TCP is an example of a layer 4 protocol.  And so on, up to layer 7, the application layer, which takes data transferred to and from the network and interprets that information for useful work.

Having spent twenty years in technology industries, I’m quite conversant in the seven layer stack.  However, Andrew Pierce, a friend who has spent his career helping companies actually choose and implement these technologies taught me that it’s the layers above the application layer that really matter when businesses are selecting technology solutions.

Layer 8 (the marketing layer) translates all the technical capabilities represented by layers one through seven into addressing real and perceived customer needs.  If the technology doesn’t solve a real problem, then it’s not likely to be implemented. 

Layer 9 (the finance layer) considers all of the costs of implementing the technology and balances those costs against the benefits promised by the solution.  Vendor promises, heavily discounted by potential buyers, have to outweigh the cost and trouble of trying something new, or they’ll never get approved.

The Politics Layer (layer 10) is the most difficult to measure or predict.  Who knows whom?  How much clout can be brought to bear?  And which parties gain and lose power through a technology decision often have the most significant impact of all in deciding whether a specific technology is deployed in a network.

Being successful in technology requires not only mastery of the 7-layer stack, but also those three additional layers on top!

Mobile Music

Sunday, March 12th, 2006

Some music just seems perfect for going mobile – think upbeat and untethered… From time to time, I’ll share my latest finds that make you want to pick up and go.

Here’s my first set of recommendations:

Cool New Converged Products

Saturday, March 11th, 2006

Origami: Mobility News of the Week

Saturday, March 11th, 2006

This week, Microsoft, with help from lots of partners including Intel, Samsung, Asus, Founder, TabletKiosk, Paceblade Japan, and undoubtedly many more partners to emerge, formally introduced a new class of computing device, the Ultra Mobile Personal Computer (UMPC). Microsoft had pulled all the hype stops for weeks leading up to the official announcement using the project’s code name, Origami, so the blogosphere had been abuzz with all kinds of theories about what Origami is and isn’t.

Origami is Microsoft’s contribution to the UMPC product category. In short, this is all about bringing more of the power of mobility to the PC. The UMPC is a fully functional PC (using the Tablet version of the Windows XP operating system) combined with wireless networking (initially the focus is on WiFi) in an easy to take with you form factor (about the size of a paperback book). We’ve seen products like this before, with limited adoption. This time, there are some minor, but perhaps important, usability improvements layered on top of the OS by Microsoft. Also, official support by Intel is likely to help (although competitor chipmakers might actually have better solutions…). Perhaps most important may be the huge marketing push by major companies including those named above.

I love what I see. This is a big step forward for making a “real” computer mobile. But is it enough? Just as folks don’t take their digital cameras everywhere they go, as a consumer-oriented device, how likely are folks to take this ultra-mobile PC with them everywhere they go?

Furthermore, how much better is this than a Windows Mobile device? My Sprint PPC-6700 has e-mail, a web browser, Microsoft Word, Excel, (Powerpoint for viewing only), and has lots of great games available. What more does a consumer want from an ultramobile PC? And oh yeah, with Sprint’s PowerVision mobile broadband service, I have DSL-like connection speeds everywhere I go in an increasing national footprint, no need to worry about hotspots, SSIDs, etc. Granted, the browser on my phone isn’t yet as fully functional as what’s on my PC, and my Outlook e-mail client doesn’t display formatted messages like the version on my laptop, but I’m guessing that’s just a matter of time. If Microsoft doesn’t want to solve those problems (for fear of torpedoing the UMPC concept), then someone else will.

And oh yeah, I take my PPC 6700 with me everywhere I go. And it’s priced probably about the same as UMPCs will be priced, even before the rebate you can get as a long-term loyal Sprint customer, or by signing up for a new plan.

I love this announcement most of all, because it acknowledges the power of mobility.

Introducing the Law of Mobility

Friday, March 10th, 2006

Since the beginning of creation, a huge proportion of man’s inventions have been focused on mobility.

Consider everything from the wheel to papyrus paper to the chariot to the airplane to the cellphone; humankind has always sought to be free to move. Nowhere is this more true than in America. As European settlers moved westward establishing what has become our modern civilization, they progressed from foot to horseback to covered wagon to steam train to today’s jet aircraft and automobiles.

One look inside a modern mini-van will convince you that what we truly desire is all of the comforts of home wherever we go.

Despite this early focus, I believe we are only just now entering the Age of Mobility.

As with all of history, the age of mobility is built upon the advances that have come before. The age of mobility is most clearly built on the eras of the Internet and the PC.

The PC Age is defined by Moore’s Law, which can be roughly stated one of two ways, depending on your priorities. We most often think of it in terms of computing power of a chip doubling every couple of years. However, the PC Age was really brought about by the flip-side of that truth, namely that the cost of computing power gets cut in half every couple of years. This financial reality resulted in a historical point in time when it made economic sense for businesses to move computing power out of the data center and onto the desktop, and for an average family to justify buying a computer for their home.

Similarly, the Internet Age is defined by Metcalfe’s Law, which observes that the value of any network increases exponentially with the number of users. Although the Internet had been plugging along, largely invisibly to corporate America, since 1969, there came a moment in history when the value of being part of that network outweighed all the costs of doing so. That moment caused a chain reaction where the increased value attracted more users which further increased the value attracting even more users at an accelerating pace until some level of saturation was achieved. This dramatic event occurred in 1995. At the beginning of that year, most people in business had not heard of the Internet. By the end of the year, nearly every business felt compelled to be part of the Internet. It was also during this period that the U.S. government estimated Internet traffic was doubling every 100 days, giving birth to a gazillion ill-founded business plans.

Moore’s Law hasn’t stopped – meaning that incredible computing power can be built into smaller and less-expensive devices to perform a broad range of tasks. Similarly, Metcalfe’s Law hasn’t been invalidated by the bursting of the Internet bubble – the value of being connected to the global information networks continues to increase. And it is these continuing truths that enable the age of mobility.

But what is a modern technology age without a law observing the fundamental truths that shape financial realities that will redefine our lives and our work over the coming years? Since such a law doesn’t appear to exist for the coming age, let me propose the Law of Mobility: That the value of any product increases with it’s mobility. (Where mobility is the percent of time the customer can fully use the product.)

The age of mobility is being brought on because we’ve reached that moment in time when the cost of adding mobility to any prduct (at least any information-rich or digitizable product) has fallen (thanks to Moore’s Law) to the point well below the value of adding mobility, meaning that mobility is now being built into every product.

(Originally posted at Things That Make You Go Wireless)