Archive for August, 2008

Is 2008 the new 1998?

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

I’m scheduled to speak at Mobilize.  Originally the event was structured as a mix of talks and panels and Surj had picked for me a topic along the lines of the title of this post.  Recently, the event has been restructured to be almost entirely panels, so you can expect to see me in a couple of very interesting conversations on the 18th.

But… I’d started collecting my thoughts for what a talk on 2008 vs. 1998 might look like, and instead of throwing it all away, I thought I’d share some of those thoughts here…

If you go back and take a look at what was happening in 1998, you’ll find that there were some pretty interesting IPOs that year.  Of the class of 1998, eBay probably stands out as a prominent survivor, but other initial offerings that year include Broadcast.com, GeoCities, and Inktomi.  Not bad companies, but clearly from a different era than today – what we could probably categorize as “Web 1.0 companies.”

But, the really exciting thing that was happening in 1998 wasn’t inside the browser, it was inside the walls of our homes. 

In December 1997, Covad launched DSL in San Francisco.  By the end of 1998, they were also operating in Los Angeles, Boston, and New York.  Northpoint launched in the Bay area in March 1998.  By the end of the year, in addition to Covad’s 4 cities, they were also in Chicago, San Diego, and Washington, D.C.  Rhythms NetConnections got started a month after Northpoint in San Diego, but they moved fast, operating in 11 markets by year end.

The cable companies were already out there – @Home was operating in 59 markets by the end of 1998 with a whopping 331,000 subscribers.

Where were the telcos?  Still trying to convince everyone that ISDN was what they needed for broadband.  In fact, @Home’s 1998 annual report included this risk: “The regional Bell operating companies (‘RBOCs’) and other local exchange carriers have also entered this field and are providing price competitive services. Many of these competitors are offering (or may soon offer) technologies that will compete with some or all of the Company’s high-speed data service offerings. Such technologies include Integrated Services Digital Network (‘ISDN’) and Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (‘ADSL’).”

Wow.  Doesn’t that sound like ancient history?

And yet, today it sounds like ancient history because @Home, Covad, Northpoint, and Rhythms Netconnections succeeded in revolutionizing the Internet by introducing always-on broadband connections with non-scary pricing and non-scary implementation.  (They may not have succeeded on other dimensions, but that’s another story.)

Could any of the following be possible today without easy-for-everyone always-on broadband?

  • YouTube
  • Google Maps
  • Flickr
  • Second Life
  • World of Warcraft
  • Facebook/MySpace/Orkut/Cyworld etc.
  • Twitter
  • the list could go on…

The point is that 1998 was a critical turning point for how we interact with our world through the Internet because of the investments being made in key enablers.

And, I believe that 2008 is the same type of critical turning point for how we interact with our world through mobile devices.

There are already some really cool mobile capabilities out there, but I think of them as the equivalent of narrowband applications:

The applications that are possible are constrained by some combination of bandwidth, usability, coverage, pricing, or policies.  And the exciting thing is that, in 2008, these barriers are starting to come down.

Being very provincial for the moment, consider the revolutionary changes introduced just by my own employer, Sprint, in 2008:

As standalone events, these changes are up and down the “excitement scale”, but taken as a whole, they represent change as revolutionary as the broadband Internet revolution. Mobility promises to unleash innovation that leverages the unique personal, context-aware, always-with-you nature of mobility to create compelling value well beyond the Internet as we know it today. 

Where will these advances take us?  No one really knows, but I believe that, while today we see mobility as a poor (limited in bandwidth and form factor) extension of our desktop, in the not so distant future we will see our desktops as a poor (limited contextual relevance) extension of our mobile experience.

What do you see coming?

Capturing the Power: August 27, 2008 Edition

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

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:

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Now playing: Relient K – For The Band

Enabling Technology: August 27, 2008 Edition

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

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:

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Now playing: Micah Dalton – Your Name Is…

Converged Products: August 21, 2008 Edition

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

Bonus: FierceMobileContent announces the winners of the Top Mobile Applications Awards 2008

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.

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Now playing: Matthew Perryman Jones – Echoes Of Eden

Managing the Danger: August 18, 2008 Edition

Monday, August 18th, 2008

Bonus: Purushottam Darshankar  describes the “Evolving security needs for Enterprise Mobility

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:

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Now playing: Bebo Norman – Long Way Home

A Different Kind of Mobile “Middleware”

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

I’m just off the phone from a conversation with Mike McGuire.  Mike reached out to me because:

  1. We share a last name.
  2. He works with Sprint.
  3. He just read about me in the Virginia Tech Alumni magazine, making it clear that we’re both Hokies.
  4. He’d read my book around the time it came out.

I asked Mike what he does.  He described his company, Manage Mobility, as “middleware” between big companies.  He does a lot of work with very big corporations that are customers of Sprint, which is a very big corporation.  Since Sprint has our way of doing business, and these other companies have their ways of doing business, Managed Mobility serves as a business solutions provider to make everything go smoothly.  Managed Mobility duplicates some of what Sprint has, including a 1-800 number for customers to call for service and a warehouse for staging handsets before they get shipped to the customer’s employees, but these duplicate resources enable Managed Mobility to translate between how the two big companies each want process and information to flow.  It also allows Managed Mobility to provide a more personalized touch, configuring devices appropriately for each client.

I enjoy hearing about the smaller companies that really make the industry work.  At Sprint, we have great people and great products, but working with folks like Mike helps us to translate our strengths into a great experience for our customers (both the corporate buyers and the end users).

I asked Mike what kind of projects were most exciting right now.  He pointed to Vettro and their “Miss Utility” application (which I think may now be formally renamed to Vettro 360 for Damage Prevention).  This application is using the power of mobility to redefine the entire “One Call” or “Call Before You Dig” industry – faster response, lower costs, and fewer (life threatening) errors – what’s not to like about that!

 Thanks for the time today Mike, and for helping make Sprint a success!

Converged Products: August 12, 2008 Edition

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

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.

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Now playing: Matthew Perryman Jones – Waiting On The Light To Change

Indicators: August 12, 2008 Edition

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

More and more, the world around us reflects the growing assumption of the law of mobility. Here are a few indicators of Mobility’s growing importance in our businesses, our lives, and our society:

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Now playing: Kate York – I Will Wait

Enabling Technology: August 7, 2008 Edition

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

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:

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Now playing: Katie Herzig – Shovel

Capturing the Power: August 7, 2008 Edition

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

Bonus: Research finds linkage between mobility and business success

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:

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Now playing: Michael Card – Walk With Me, Lord