Archive for May, 2007

Enabling Technology: Week of 5/20/07

Friday, May 25th, 2007

The Law of Mobility talks about value increasing with mobility. The impact of this law is being felt because the barriers to building mobility in are being obliterated week after week. Here are examples of technology advances enabling this to happen:

Full list here.

Telecom 2.0

Thursday, May 24th, 2007

This week I participated in a panel discussion at JP Morgan’s annual technology conference. My panel was part of Light Reading’s “Telecom 2.0: The Collision of Content and Communications” with the specific topic of “What’s Hot in Mobile Broadband.”

Patrick Donegan kicked off the session with a broad discussion on trends in the mobile broadband space. The centerpiece of his talk was an impressive graph of which mobile broadband technologies were carrying the most traffic today and how that would change over time. His surprising conclusion was that more than 50% of such traffic today is carried by WiFi and that over the coming years WiFi will continue to be the dominant technology in the space.

I won’t argue with Patrick’s inclusion of WiFi in his “mobile” broadband analysis. He only included WiFi use outside the home or office, so it’s consistent with the “make anyplace a workplace” concept that Sprint uses for mobility.

I do, however, question whether WiFi will continue to be the predominate choice for mobile broadband in the future.

What does WiFi have going for it?

Well, for starters, it’s available lots of places. Hotels, coffee shops, airport terminals, etc. WiFi service is relatively affordable. In some places, it’s free. In other places it might cost a couple of bucks an hour or maybe $10 for a full day. But I think the biggest driver is that WiFi is now built into virtually all laptops (and many other mobile devices) on the market today.

But I’m not sure these are sustainable advantages.

By my best guess, public WiFi services cover about 10-20 million POPs in the US. (This is the standard coverage metric for the wireless industry – meaning that about 10-20 million of the US population are covered by public WiFi.) Even with the most aggressive public WiFi buildout plans (ignoring the challenges), this likely won’t reach 100 million POPs over the next several years.

In contrast, Sprint’s EV-DO Rev A network covers nearly 200M POPs today and is continuing to grow. This technology provides performance around 1Mbps, which is probably equivalent to what you’d expect from public WiFi. Service plans typically cost $40-60 per month, so depending on your WiFi usage, monthly spending could be roughly the same. And often an EV-DO card is available for free when you sign up for a plan. (I’m describing Sprint’s capabilities because I know them best, but Verizon and AT&T have similar capabilities and price plans, and although their footprints aren’t as big as Sprint’s, they’re much bigger than the public WiFi coverage.)

In fact, for my work laptop, I’ve taken to only using EV-DO. Even when I’m at home, I’ve found that my VPN performance over EV-DO is better than what I could get over my home WiFi network. On this recent trip, I didn’t bother trying to figure out whether the hotel had free WiFi and how to configure it. I didn’t bother to use the “WiFi access code” printed on the back of my conference name badge to try to use the free WiFi at the event. And best of all, on my brief layover in Milwaukee on the way home, I didn’t need to leave the plane to go into the terminal to access the airport’s WiFi – I had a great EV-DO signal sitting on the plane at the gate and was able to fire off several important e-mails while I waited for my trip to continue.

But – the huge advantage WiFi still has is that, thanks to Intel, the technology is built into virtually every laptop.

Which brings me to WiMax… As a major proponent of WiMax, the expectation is that Intel will similarly drive the technology into laptops in the coming years. WiMax likely will have more aggressive pricing plans than EV-DO. And Sprint has announced that in the first year of availability (next year), coverage will go from 0 to around 100M POPs. And, oh yeah, WiMax likely will deliver faster performance than public WiFi.

Technology built in. Likely coverage almost anywhere I go (and even while riding in a cab at 60MPH). Aggressive pricing. Better performance. Tell me again – why will WiFi continue to carry most of the mobile broadband traffic?

Of course, what I’m really excited about is how all of the above factors are foundational to redefining how we interact with the world. Welcome to the revolution! I guess the Telecom 2.0 label really does fit!

Indicators: Week of 5/20/07

Thursday, May 24th, 2007

More and more, the world around us reflects the growing assumption of the law of mobility. Each week we will track indicators of Mobility’s growing importance in our businesses, our lives, and our society:

Full list here.

Capturing the Power: Week of 5/20/07

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

Bonus: Cameraphone inventor ponders the impact

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:

Complete list here

The Laws

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007

The first chapter in the upcoming The Power of Mobility book is called “Technology Sets the Stage.” 

The chapter starts with this observation: “Time and time again, new technologies have been introduced and broadly adopted, resulting in dramatic impacts on society and the nature of business.”

It then goes on to review a history of technology – six different inventions over the centuries that have led up to the current Age of Mobility. 

For each invention, I try to answer two questions:

  1. Why was the technology adopted so quickly?
  2. Why did the technology have such a big impact on society and business?

For each of the inventions covered, I link a fundamental “law” to the invention to answer those questions.  See if you can guess the inventions that go with these laws:

Bacon’s Law: Knowledge is power.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics: (over-simplified) Heat flows from hot places to cold places.

Benjamin Franklin: Time is money.

Moore’s Law: Every couple of years, chip density doubles while costs are cut in half.

Metcalfe’s Law: The value of any network increases exponentially with the number of participants in the network.

The Law of Mobility: The value of any product or service increases with its mobility.

Okay – the last three are gimmes, but can you guess the first three?

Managing the Danger: Week of 5/20/07

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007

Bonus: Forrester outlines best practices in managing and security mobile devices.

In order to be winners in the new mobile era, businesses will not only need to capture the power of mobility, but also manage the danger. Highlighted below are recent examples of the danger of mobility and how some firms are beginning to manage it:

The complete list is here.

Converged Products: Week of 5/20/07

Monday, May 21st, 2007

The most convenient way that mobility is getting built into products is through the convergence into the cellphone of capabilities that previously existed as standalone products. That way, those products are now with you and available for your use whenever you need them wherever you go.

Complete list here.

Padmasree on Mobile Software

Saturday, May 19th, 2007

Padmasree Warrior’s Bits at the Edge blog has been relatively quiet for the past couple of months. She made up for it with a couple of interesting posts this week – with the one on Mobile Software particularly catching my attention.

Any post that starts out “The next decade is about the Mobile Revolution” has got to have something good to say!

Here are some of Padmasree’s key points, but I recommend you read her whole article:

  • “One of the big challenges while dealing with mobility is – How do we deliver a compelling user experience when each device is a platform, each network is a platform and each spatial domain (home, work, car, etc.) is a platform?”
  • “The industry approach to mobile software and applications is causing ‘Platform Disturbia’.”
  • “First, there is fragmentation. We have multiple devices with different UI’s, different form-factors, different operating systems and different flavors of Java.”
  • “The second issue is feature overload.”
  • “The third challenge is to avoid monolithic programming. By simply extending the PC approach onto the mobile device, we get a sub-optimized user experience.”
  • “Today, with mobility, we have the need for the ultimate context sensitive device.”
  • “We want the device to anticipate the information we need and figure out the quickest way to get it.”
  • “Clearly as applications go mobile developers have to think differently – Is the app itself a service that exists somewhere in the network cloud? or something you should architect right into the device?”
  • “The mobile world is a huge and divergent ecosystem where innovation needs all of us to be both visionary and pragmatic – so that we can move to Platform Utopia!”

Good stuff!

Enabling Technology: Week of 5/13/07

Friday, May 18th, 2007

The Law of Mobility talks about value increasing with mobility. The impact of this law is being felt because the barriers to building mobility in are being obliterated week after week. Here are examples of technology advances enabling this to happen:

Full list here.

Indicators: Week of 5/13/07

Thursday, May 17th, 2007

More and more, the world around us reflects the growing assumption of the law of mobility. Each week we will track indicators of Mobility’s growing importance in our businesses, our lives, and our society:

Full list here.