Starting December 12, 2001
802.11b vs. 3G, Digital vs. film: Minolta, Fad vs. intrinsic property, Thoughts about the Segway, Weblogger dinner, MSIC wireless panel
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Wednesday, December 26, 2001
802.11b vs. 3G
Interesting article by Infoworld's Ephraim Schwartz: Wireless wrap-up: Carriers moving to 3G alternative in 2002. Apparently there are cell phone wireless carriers that are also going to do something with 802.11. "'Wi-Fi is an embarrassment to the carriers,' said one industry insider who asked not to be named. 'After spending billions of dollars to buy the 3G spectrum, and millions more to deploy the infrastructure, they end up with a service that is much slower than Wi-Fi.'" One of the investors quoted was Jon Auerbach, whom I covered below on December 12th.

Digital vs. film: Minolta
In a sign of the times, Minolta announced that it's stopping new product development of APS cameras and will focus its efforts on digital cameras. See the press release on DPReview.com.

Fad vs. intrinsic property
A frequent difficulty when looking at a technology is distinguishing between what is a permanent property of that technology and what is just a temporary aspect. Many people do not have a feel for the ever-evolving nature of technology and mistake what they see for what must be. This difficulty can have huge financial and regulatory implications that look silly in hindsight. I think that the flippant dismissal of the Segway HT is an example of that misunderstanding. I've written some comments on two other examples, browser Start Pages and cell phone ring tones. When people start assigning values of billions of dollars to such things, it's worth starting to think about how to get more rational thinking involved.

Monday, December 17, 2001
Thoughts about the Segway
There has been a lot written recently about the new Segway HT that's being publicized by developer Dean Kamen. Much of what I've read has been relatively shallow, focusing on the disappointment of the writer and explaining why it's not such a big deal. I, on the other hand, was pleasantly surprised, and while I anticipated that it would be a scooter-like device, I found more to it than I expected. This essay explores some of my feelings, including some about its social aspects and its marking of the new age of active mechanics.

Friday, December 14, 2001
Weblogger dinner
Jean-Yves Stervinou put up a page describing a dinner he attended in Paris of French webloggers. You can see the original in French, or, for us French-challenged (just ask my high school French teacher...) JY provided me this translation link (click on "froglogdiner.html"). He also paid me a nice compliment by following some of my guidelines for using photos (cropping, ALT text, etc.), and also by using the visual style from this web site (he kindly gives attribution).

I wrote to him:

I hope the people in it appreciate it (I assume they really do). I like this much better (now that I get to see it from outside) than the 640x480 next-next-next style others often use.

He replied:

I agree, but in fact I was doing the same before reading your pictures report. In fact, one has to understand that the pictures we post won't be printed. People (including myself) think "if I post a low resolution picture, people won't be able to print them". As soon as we forget the print feature, yes your format is much better and much more enjoyable to read.

His comment about print vs. screen hit me as an important observation. Web-only is fine. If people want full res, let them ask. Just a very few will. (A humbling thought to us photographers who want to believe everybody wants to hang our work on their wall.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2001
MSIC wireless panel
I attended a panel presentation of the Massachusetts Software and Internet Council yesterday. It was led by John Landry (ex-Lotus/IBM, etc., now Lead Dog Ventures), and included Carl Howe of Forrester, Jon Auerbach of Highland Capital Partners, Bob Frankston (himself), and Anthony Cirurgiao of Clarity Capital. It was called "Secrets of the Wireless Future".

Five guys up on a panel under an MSIC banner John speaking
Anthony, John, Carl, Jon, and Bob; John Landry who set up the panel
Here are some notes I managed to type into my PDA or photograph from a slide (so who knows how accurate or comprehensive they are...):

John Landry (Introduction): Slide: "Q: What is the Fastest Growing Wireless Sector? A: Bankruptcy." So have: Bargain Basement Used Wireless. Iridium's system bought for $25M vs. $5B debt, now has operating expenses down 90% with profitability in Q2 2002. Need more compelling apps, faster connections, better protocols, more memory, more processing speed. Wireless will change the way we work and play but...not right now (except maybe locally with 802.11).

Carl Howe (The Extended Internet): His laptop had problems with the projector and only showed the Forrester wallpaper from the alternate monitor output -- no slides. (So, all I have is what I typed.) The "X Internet" (their term) is based on what's already there. Their surveys show that companies are planning a 4% increase in budget for storage, 12% for bandwidth, in declining budget for IT; in general storage gets 2x better every 6 months, bandwidth 2x every 4 years. X Internet tries to make up for low bandwidth with storage and CPU. [I.e., don't just use browsers, use real, specific programs on machines.] The "Extended Internet" (as opposed to the X Internet which is to make it better for users) is to connect to more things. Cars, telephones, buildings. In 2006, >1B devices. Wireless has to be a hard-nosed business decision, so you can't pay $20/month to connect your thermostat. 55% of companies are either considering or piloting wireless ethernet. 802.11 not Bluetooth. 3G -- ROI not there for companies to deploy with it, so if you build it they may not come. Not about video on phone -- it's not the killer app. Many ROI calculations project by project will make things happen. Next big trend is synchronization protocols.

Jon Auerbach (Investments in Wireless: Perspectives of a Major VC): Wireless means you can call a person instead of a place. A cell phone (1990s) is the main new thing in everybody's pocket since the car key (1950s) and the house key (1930s) and wallet. US is in a wireless backwater, so exciting time to invest. Europe has coverage, calling party pays, 1 standard (GSM), and data enabled (SMS - great growth). US has lots of problems: poor coverage (3 separate build outs), text messaging a mess, tough to switch services, etc. 3G. Lots of standards. 802.11 so much faster than 3G. We'll need multimode devices. Economic solutions will prevail - LAN/WAN integration. 802.11 WLANs are growing rapidly. Convergence: Solutions that bridge standards and generation gaps. Economics: Must deliver immediate economic value. Innovation: Fundamental technology enhancements.

Jon listening while Bob answers a question with gestures
Jon and Bob
Bob Frankston (Counter Arguments to the Common Wisdom): Bob opened with "Wireless: Much ado about nothing", then a slide with "Wireless Biotech Security: The $100B market!" and then a big red "X" through it. Then "Shorting: The new opportunity!" Then his laptop battery came loose... He retrieved his power adapter, rebooted, and continued into the talk while it came up. He says it's important to have commoditized connectivity: No Trolls. Don't design infrastructure that goes to extra complexity just so you can charge, like a bridge with a troll collecting its fee. Peer infrastructure: Everybody participates. E-commerce is just another application. Myths: Wireless is slow and expensive - No: cell network is better and cheaper than WAP assumes and scarcity is an artifact of bad policies. There will be a billion Bluetooth phones - No: no one used current Bluetooth-like design (IR port), Bluetooth is about simulating dedicated wires and is as dead as WAP and IrDA. Spectrum is worth billions, isn't it? Yes, to society. Spectrum held hostage is essentially worthless. Wires have many advantages when feasible. If you need $1B infrastructure for one application, it will fail. That infrastructure should be a general one useful for many. What to do today? (1) Focus on scarcity - a short term window, so sell out to a telecom quick and take the money before they write it off. (2) It's just IP. Let your imagination run wild. Don't be blinded by the absence of a wire. Wires are often appropriate. Slow wireless can be very valuable. Simple uses can be cheap. Wireless extends connectivity, it is not just itself. It's about IP connectivity, not whether you use wires or not. Wireless just gives IP legs. Get beyond telcos' and cable companies' main services. Telephony and television are just trivial applications now. (Last night Bob posted the slides on his web site.)

Anthony Cirurgiao (A Dedicated Wireless Investor's Perspective): He didn't use slides. He said we must take carriers into account because they own spectrum. Usage and ownership of wireless is going up. They, Clarity Capital, don't invest in apps since you don't know in advance if it will be popular. As an example, Docomo guessed which apps would be popular in a new country and showed them in that order in the phone (top 4 need no scrolling). The most popular was dozens down: horoscopes. Data coming to wireless -- will fill in for lost voice revenue.

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