The Changing of the Guard

Changing-of-the-Guard

 

IBM, Cisco, Intel, Microsoft, Dell, HP, and other large legacy hardware and software companies have something in common these days. A declining revenue stream. Big time.

IBM_logo     cisco      intel_logo

Its not just one or two companies, its most of the big ones. And the results will ultimately effect employees as each quarter passes and they are forced to reckon with Wall Street earnings and reports. The stock market takes no prisoners.

Online newcomers with ‘disruptive’ business models and software are flourishing. Box, Dropbox, Workday, Amazon, Salesforce, Facebook, LinkedIn, all have reported record quarters. Even Apple despite its recently declining stock price is still growing. Just about anything that has to do with mobile phones and tablets has the ‘Midas touch’.  Google Inc. said last Thursday that its revenue grew 31% in the first quarter, while profit rose 16%.

IBM last Thursday reported its revenue dropped.

Software giant Microsoft Corp., once known for rapid sales of PC software, reported that the business that includes its Windows operating system turned in essentially zero growth

Intel Corp., which has struggled to get its chips into mobile devices reported a first-quarter profit drop of 25% on revenue that declined 2.5%.

Oracle Corp., reported a 1% drop in its revenue in its most-recent quarter.

The disparities are the result of technology shifts—the rise of mobile devices and slowing growth in personal computers, conventional software replaced with online versions and cloud outsourcing by corporations. Companies want to rent software and computer systems. The deals are smaller and take less time to implement. Companies want to get out of the construction business—building and rolling out expensive software and hardware systems.

Web-based technology makes it easier for consumers and corporate employees to try new things and makes it harder for older technology suppliers to keep rolling out huge hardware and software deals month in and month out. Hardware, chips and hard drives get faster, smaller and cheaper now every 3-6 months making large purchases by corporations old before the equipment barely gets installed.

Workday Inc which was founded in 2005 and went public in October, reported that revenue for its fourth quarter ended in February rose 89%

Box Inc., founded in 2005 that lets customers store their data online and tap into it from mobile phones and PCs., revenue grew more than 150% in 2012 and it expects another doubling again this year.

“Their biggest challenge is they live in a world of legacy business models,” said Ed Anderson, an analyst with technology research firm Gartner Inc.

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Algorithms and Sensors – web 3.0 services abound

Its been a while since my last post – I’ve been consumed at my work ( which I have been really enjoying) . However, I felt compelled today to write a bit about algorithms and sensors, which are creating some GREAT services now and even better in the near future. We are watching web 3.0 ‘blossom’ right now. Here is what I mean.

Ever since I’ve gotten my hands on Apple’s new iPhone 4Gs and Siri, my mind has never been the same. Not that Siri is the end all and be all. It has its drawbacks and in fairness, Apple has always and still does call it a ‘beta’.

But the mere presence and interaction I’ve had with Siri signaled something new to me on the internet was really happening – and in a very subtle but meaningful way.

Siri is learning – yes, she really does learn. “Artificial Intelligence” – no one seems to think that the machines are actually intelligent, but they can certainly do a lot of things that used to be hard for computers. Clearly Siri is an ‘AI’ that is programmed to adapt in certain ways and modify its behavior according to how I or what I would request of Siri. Fascinating really.

The real thing to keep your eye on here is that sensors plus big data algorithms are leading us from today’s world where content considered king to one where content is simply one component of a service. Content is becoming secondary and the service and platform primary. There never used to be 13 different ways to rent’ the same movie before. Content is becoming commoditized.   When Siri was first introduced, its creators called it a “do engine.” that is, rather than retrieving a web page (media) that you consume to make a decision, it just does things for you. “Find me a restaurant near here.” “Make me a reservation.” Media will become part of a database back end rather than a media front end.

Some examples of sensory algorithms that in effect build a network-mediated global mind are (this is really us, just augmented):

–          Mobile cell devices -we are augmented with cellphone cameras (electronic sensors again), the ability of events to become a shared experience is has become vastly increased and more so now with social media connects.

–          Smart Parking Meters – In the city of San Francisco, you’re seeing something similar, where all the parking meters are equipped with sensors, and pricing varies by time of day, and ultimately by demand. In effect an “algorithmic regulation” – they regulate in the same way our body regulates itself, autonomically and unconsciously.

–          Predictive AdWords -Google’s Adwords were always more effective than competitors because Google was better at learning from human input – instead of selling ads to the highest bidder as competitors such as Yahoo did, they used machine learning algorithms to predict which ads were more likely to be clicked on. They might choose an advertiser who only wanted to pay half as much if their ad was 3 times as likely to be clicked. Google was the first to harness the collective intelligence of their users to improve ad results. Just like the social media platforms we use to disseminate events and other digerati it’s important to understand just how much this is man-machine symbiosis.

–          Large connected networks – it could be Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or G+, but any one of them connects to most of us somewhere at some point. The massive sharing of data and thoughts, the crowd-sourcing of opinion and the collective conclusions we draw are all kept and logged, improved upon and progressively mature and evolve. Here and on these massive giants, nothing stays the same for very long. The mere platforms themselves have spawned other interconnected platforms like Zynga.

The Internet as a whole is a mirror image of us  – a thriving interconnected network. It improves with knowledge and data and learns 24/7. It’s the community that creates content. Its about how you engage people and who you engage, not the number of followers.  It’s about the collective impact we make together. The Internet is an architecture of participation, interconnected, open source and open protocols. It really is our global brain. Look at the ‘picture’ of the network. It is no coincidence that it looks the way it does.

the internet

Google also thinks about this. Their key business model depends on the success of others – driving traffic to their sites, and producing ad results. Google only does well if their partners do well.

Contrast this with how the dwindling and toxic financial firms, who once positioned themselves as the enabler of the economy, creating liquidity and trading on behalf of clients, began to trade against them, and increasingly created products – from the mortgage backed loans that brought down the global economy to even more reprehensible trading practices that have driven up the cost of food for starving millions and was directly responsible for not only our economic collapse, but the ripple effects that are being felt worldwide. This is capitalism gone wrong. Occupy Wall Street’s fundamentals are not incorrect.

In the end, a company is most successful when it makes all of its stakeholders successful, not just its shareholders – a good example of this is Apple.

Which brings me back to algorithms and sensors. Soon, Apple will release an API for Siri. Many businesses’ that can use it will use it and the revolution will progress in earnest. As Siri learns what I do the most on my mobile device, she will also begin to learn my doctor’s and dentist’s name, the nearest hospital to me and map, my grocery list and cost and what I’ve run out of in my house, the type of movies I watch and music I listen to and where to find the content. In short, Siri will make my life a little more convenient and predictive. It will combine my habits with my surfing activities on the Internet and will suggest based on location where to buy items that interest me conveniently and cost-effectively based on my location.

'Things to Come' 1936

Just think of the services that will come…H.G. Wells would have had a blast.

Is Google + deflating Facebook’s IPO ?

First there was usenet, arpanet, listserve and BBS’s, AOL, Prodigy, CompuServe, theGlobe, Tripod, Classmates, Homepage, then Homestead, GeoCities, Friendster, Sixdegrees, mySpace, Bebo, Orkut, Facebook and now we have Google +.  All of these services at one point or the other were the AlphaDog of their time. Each of them for some period of internet time shared the limelight as THE ‘hot’ spot site to be seen and heard on.  I had a block in GeoCities, used many a BBS (I dreamed in green and black back then), had a HomePage not a Homestead (disclaimer: I worked at HomePage.com) threw the most ridiculous backgrounds on my mySpace page with all of the ugliest stuff I could find on the planet, used Friendster, never did try a few other the others ( Sixdegrees, Bebo or Orkut). And of course have had a Facebook page since the ‘edu’ days when I tried to get in by using my old ‘edu’ email address from the University of Wisconsin (but that didn’t work for one reason or another I can’t recall).  I’m not including Twitter in this post as I don’t consider it to be a place where you have a page that you call and fashion as your own – rather it’s a fire hose of information to share.

What’s interesting to note here is that nearly all of these early services back then lacked 2 major components unlike today – the addition of the mobile phone coupled with leveraging the GPS in phones to create a location-based user experience.  This component has allowed all of us to extend our online personas to outside of our homes and desks where our main computer is.  And, because of this, the use of  these services and the traffic they generate like Facebook wouldn’t be possible.  It has been said that over 100 million people access Facebook using a mobile phone every month (http://on.fb.me/rmoDN1).  And that is just today.  And about 300 million access Facebook on a computer monthly (http://tcrn.ch/owiarn).

 

Its been just about 1 month since Google + opened their doors to a select group of people. Invites now are beginning to trickle out, and it seems that Google + has over 10 million users thus far. That’s not bad. At that rate and when the general admission doors open up, 100-200 million users should be easily possible. By years end, I think we will see just those kind of numbers. And perhaps in 2 years, double that, say 400 million or more. Flash forward to the end of this year and the impending Facebook IPO. Now if you are on the Facebook IPO train, you’ve got to look hard over your shoulder and realize that it might be very possible that a few people who now use Facebook will begin to use Google + as more and more friends try the service.  It’s not like this hasn’t happened before. Precedent has been set already.  Look what’s happening to mySpace now? People who use and who have used all of these services are like minnows or lemmings – they all flock together and this happens quite quickly.  There is no ‘loyalty’ I ever had to Classmates, AOL, mySpace  and other sites I used like these.  And today, given the proliferation of mobile phones and the ease at which we can access these sites along with the ‘notifications’ that come along with the mobile web apps we get, interacting and trying out any new service like Google+ is easier than ever before.  So that’s what get me to think that the bankers on Wall Street are all smoking crack! Is Facebook really worth $ 100 billion dollars given the fact that Google + will more than likely have half the user base Facebook now has in a short 2 years? Does that mean that Google + just added $ 50 billion to the bottom line of Google?  Perhaps Facebook valuations might stick to the wall a whole lot better had Google + not just launched, but given the history of these sites and the rapid following and user base Google + has already, the only ones that will make money from the FaceBook IPO will be the underwriters and Zuck.  And if you haven’t tried Google + yet, run and get an invite from someone you know – it a breath of fresh air.

Top 100 Brands in the World Chart

A very nice chart by Millward Brown Optimor, the BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands ranking analyzes the world’s leading brands and the economic and competitive dynamics that influence value fluctuations. A very nice comprehensive annual ranking of brand value, and focuses on consumer-facing brands, rather than corporate brands. The chart, called the top 100 chart can be located on this page.

Although I believe that Facebook has a place on this list – I did a post a while back making a case for them. I believe it is still the case. And I also believe that Twitter isn’t too far behind all of this either.

“You Probably Just Used the Biggest Brand in the World and Didn’t Even Know it…and it is NOT Google.” Posted Jan. 4th, 2011 here.

Amazon’s New Cloud Drive – an ‘almost’ step in the right direction.

While the announcement today from Amazon is a step in the right direction for all of us, in the sense that cloud computing is really the future, Amazon has made the same mis-step that other companies have made in a competitive environment by limiting and making certain music and movie file incompatible in its Cloud Drive (CD). Specifically, files not supported include Digital Rights Managed (DRM) files, ordinary files of over 100MB in size, ringtones, podcasts, audio books, and other non-music audio files. Unsupported file formats are .wma, .m4p, .wav, .ac3, .ogg, .ape and .flac.

READ: Apple music files and files that you could store on Google Docs.

So, it reminds me of the movie studios film rights ‘war’ of the nineties, when HBO and Showtime out bid one another and each ‘exclusively’ bought film pay rights for certain studios. The losers were the consumers (of course not in the mind of the pay services or studios). The consumers were forced to buy TWO pay services in order to get most of Hollywood’s prime films. Disney, Paramount and Tri-Star went to Showtime, Paramount, Fox, and Universal, and Warner Bros. Flash forward to today, none of this matters anymore.

Now, even though Amazon’s announcement today (http://bit.ly/hdbkTL) is very progressive and good for consumers, it alienates iTunes users. Ypu can’t store any music you bought from iTunes on Amazon and even if you didn’t buy it at Amazon, you can’t use your media player (iPod, iPhone or any Apple product) to stream that music back. I really hope that Google’s upcoming music locker will not prevent me from streaming and storing files I’ve purchase from either Amazon or Apple. I don’t want to have divide up and be forced to remember which files I bought from who in order to stream and enjoy my music.

Redefining Our Idea of a “Program”

Google recently added the Chrome Web Store with the release of the newest version of its Chrome browser. With this release, the Chrome Web Store is available throughout the U.S., so it is now available direction from the New Tab page.

What’s significant about this and the four videos about the Web Store embedded at the bottom of Google’s announcement? It’s an attempt of a kind we’ll likely see more and more of in the near future, as Google, Apple, and others try to redefine the idea of a “program” in peoples’ minds.

“When the Web started, Websites were simple. […] The Web, in essence, was about reading,” explains the first of four videos. “Doing was reserved for programs you installed in your computer.”

The video, which was released with the Chrome Web Store last December, goes on to explain the evolution of websites, saying that “websites offer features that are pretty much like those found in applications installed from a CD.” The next video is an introduction to the Web Store, with the subsequent two videos adding up to pretty graphics to show off what’s possible inside your browser these days.

Google doesn’t usually make much of a production of releasing new versions of Chrome. They are, after all, on version 9. It took Internet Explorer 16 years to get through 9 versions, and really, the 9th one is still in Beta. (Chrome, by comparison, has  gone through 9 versions since 2008.) So why now? Again, the Web Store is something Google will push harder and harder in an effort to redirect our definition of “program”. It’s the next big step on our way to using Chrome OS and existing entirely in the cloud.  Thx. RWW!

 

 

Chrome OS NotebookUser thoughts and first observations – by Happily stuck in a cloud

Chrome OS NotebookUser thoughts and first observations – by Happily stuck in a cloud.
(written entirely on the chrome using googledocs)

So never did I dream that after submitting a request to google to become a beta user for their new ChromeOS Notebooks that I’d be accepted. I’m not even sure of what the reasons were that I mentioned to them ( and I do remember them asking for some) that I wrote down. Yes, I have over the years managed to amass a good deal of apps that I use from Google. But so what, I’m sure I’m not alone on the planet – others probably use more. But nonetheless, here I sit with a brand new notepad on my lap writing my 1st impressions about this machine and its OS. I have read some of the reviews on this laptop – some written using a ‘prototype’ – (http://techcrunch.com/2010/12/12/cr-48-chrome-notebook-review/) (http://searchengineland.com/first-day-review-the-google-chrome-os-cr-48-notebook-58322 – or http://www.engadget.com/2010/12/09/google-cr-48-chrome-laptop-preview/ some of the parts of these reviews I agree with, some I don’t.  Google has a place where you can apply and on the notebook itself, it has a feedback button which I will be using.

I am MAC an PC proficient, have been under and in a few Apache OS servers (and even less so for Linux servers) and I don’t sling code seriously, just dabble in html5 and now starting ruby as I understand Mac is or will be releasing a ruby for Mac platform and perhaps one day I’ll be able to write my own apps for the iPad in ruby ( but that’s far off for now).  Back to my Chome OS thoughts.

When this lap arrived in a box ( see my previous posts to see the cover) I thought someone sent us a housewarming gift. We moved our family from Los Angeles (and L.A. is  literally falling apart) to the white warm watered sandy beaches of the gulf coast near Clearwater Beach Fl. If someone from Gooooogle is reading this – A BIG ‘thank you!’ many times over.

So, the biggest changes I have noticed thus far from the traditional lap is:
1. Verizon was incredibly smart to partner and offer 3G wireless access (100mg for free a month); Verizon will be reaping the reward – no one uses 100mgs a month of data unless you are an ant.
2. Cloud computing works and will take the masses some getting used to; but its where EVERYTHING is going.
3. This laptop is on of the lightest and coolest (temperature as well as hipness factor)I have ever encountered;
4. Apple was a heavy influence and its ‘app’ store concept a key part of how this OS works;
5. Its a bit disconcerting NOT being able to view my files and docs by browsing a file structure a la windows; but I’m almost used to it.
6. Using this requires a change of habit and thinking and that will be tough for some, but its refreshing (at least for me).
7. It ‘feels’ nice – like my black rubber iPhone protective casing. Easy to grasp and hold. Plus, Google gave me ‘stickers’ !! (I feel like a kid again).
8. EVERYTHING is done using a browser and you can’t minimize it to look at a blank or customized screen ( that’s right, you ‘skin’ the browser instead of place a ‘desktop’ image on your laptop screen.
9. The instructions were written by the same guy who wrote some other Google instructions – with a sense of humor, thank f’ing god!
10. Screen, resolution and powering up once closed up- is great.

So, let look at he above points.

1- First, Verizon – who  approached who is not important – Google or vice versa. Nonetheless, Verizon will capture a lot of new revenue from new COS (ChromeOS) owners. If you can’t find a hot spot, activate this service and you’re connected. Depending on your activities, you’ll pay for your usage. Hence, a nice new rev. source for Verizon Wireless.  Unless of course Google buys all the white space spectrum and wires the major cities for free with 4G, but that’s another post for another time.

2-.Cloud computing – if you have not figured it out by now, hard drives that spin and even SSDS drives (unless they are used to start the computers OS) are ancient history. Between Microsoft’s 25 gigs of free space at Skydrive, Google Docs, Dropbox and many others, you have plenty of choices where to store your precious word, excel, power points, pictures, videos, music files, etc, etc. forever. Use LastPass as a password reminder (browser based AND works with chrome) so you don’t need to remember each of your storage lockers as you want to get in and the rest is pretty easy. Once you store it in a cloud, you can basically drop kick your laptop or desktop (going by way of the Model-T as well) and not care. Buy a new one, and install Lastpass again and access your files. Nothing lost. Ever. Microsoft and Google are NOT going anywhere. Not closing their doors in the near future or at least as long as I’ll be on the planet.

3.- It’s light – I have not weighed it, but its VERY light. Lighter than anything I own and I’m a nut for light and portability. No one wants to lug a big heavy PC anywhere outside the home.  And yes, it is cool temperature wise. Especially the bottom of the computer. I’m sure if you have ever taken your laptop into your bed with you, you know what I am talking about.  Typically, all laptops have a small fan that cools the processors and hard drive. Not so here.

4.- You don’t download .exe’s or programs. That’s ancient history too – Apple was the influence here. Google made an chrome ‘App’ store. They prepared popular applications without drivers so they could be chromized and made installable on the laptop. I wish they made a bluetooth app so my wireless bluetooth mouse worked, but I’m sure they are working on it. In the meantime, there must be hundreds of programs turned apps that you can grab. Just like iTunes, you download the app. Thanks Apple!

5.- Not being able to view my LOCAL files was at first a bit disturbing. But I had to remember that since I began using PC’s and Mac’s, that’s what you did. There was no ‘cloud’ computing. So, at first, you need to think a bit different and realize that ultimately this is in your best interest.

6. – Change of habit. No more ‘save as’ locally. Use Google Docs which = word, excel, PPT, etc., save them to the native Google doc acct. or save them to dropbox, etc. It all works except saving them to ‘my documents’ or your ‘c’ drive. Its different, but not that much different. Besides, the PC still does all the work saving it whether its local or remote – what do you care? Your habits and thinking just changes.

7.- the outside of this feels great. It is an easy grip and feel similar to my iPhone outer case cover. Rubber-like and not slippery. Better to me than a sleek plastic feel most laptops have.

8.- When it boots up for the first time, its a chrome browser you operate in, nothing else. When you click for a new tab, it brings up a new tab BUT that tab also brings up the chrome store. The chrome store is where you grab whatever apps you want to operate within the laps environment. So, just like the iPad, you’d grab apps of a similar nature.  Homage to Apple, doing this was easy enough and not unlike something have not done before. Nice and it was as easy to install these, if not easier as I wasn’t asked for a password or verification each time I requested an app like I am at the iTunes store. Although, to be fair, I have not bought any apps yet and this will more than likely prompt those screens.

9.- So, some of the ‘good humor’ part.

Safety Notices
(This is the usual yada yada…just more fun).

“This product contains sensitive components. Do not drop, disassemble, open, crush, bend, bake, deform, puncture, blend (guess we’ll never know if it will blend), shred, incinerate, paint, bring to the moon, or insert foreign objects into the device. Do not spill liquids, rocks of any size, or food on the device. Do not expose the device to water, moisture or rap music.

This product contains small parts, which may present a choking hazard to small children, as well as men who have not emotionally matured.  Keep the device away from small children, regardless of how much they want to bang on the keyboard.

This product does not contain any user-serviceable parts. Repairs should only be made by an authorized technician. Note that the authorized technicians do not necessarily include your neighborhood 15 year old brainiac that you call anytime you get an antivirus pop-up on your computer. Do not do anything silly with the battery. We already said not to bake the device but apparently we had to repeat ourselves.”

10. – The screen is 1280X 800 resolution with a 12.1 inch size viewable space. Better than most. Once turned on and if you close the screen and then open it, it takes about 2 seconds to come back. Far quicker than a PC or Mac. And 2 seconds is not an exaggeration. This is an Atom chip powered laptop, and its pretty quick but the chip COULD be updated to a newer version Intel chipset now being used in the 64bit laps. But I’m not complaining. I did own a 9 inch laptop which was way too small and then a 10 inch, which again was too small. The 12 inch seems perfect however, I’d bet that a new AirMac at 12+ would give this a run for its money.

Next up – switching over to using it more than full time.

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You Probably Just Used the Biggest Brand in the World and Didn’t Even Know it…and it is NOT Google.

In the beginning of 2008 ( February 23, 2008 to be exact) I posted a story about the biggest brands in the world : http://bit.ly/fGlZK0 . I was prompted to write the story by something I had read from Umair Haque, the Director of Havas’ Media lab about the subject. Today, I decided to take another look and I was a bit surprised by what I found. I did a bit of research to look up what some of the larger agencies views were on big brands.  Interbrand, (http://www.interbrand.com) probably one of the best and most well known firms (been around since 1974) had their own list of the top 100 http://bit.ly/hG1we0 .  Notably, Coca-Cola, IBM, Microsoft, Google and GE rounded out the top 5 most notable and best global brands. Interbrands methodology for determining this ranking is as follows: financial performance, role of brand ( or the demand for a service or brand) and brand strength (again somewhat based on financial ‘future’ earnings of that brand).

In 2008, I noted ‘When I think about any particular brand, what I believe I’m getting no matter what kind of material object I buy is an expectation of or a standard of quality. For instance, if I buy Nike sneakers, I know what I can expect or if I purchase a Coach wallet, I expect the wallet to last at least 2-3 years (or longer than most every other wallet) because its a Coach wallet. Coach leather is a brand I have come to know and the quality of their products are far superior to other manufacturers (at least that’s what I think). Its an expectation I have or a benefit I expect from a product or service. I know in advance what to expect. So, for years, we’d see advertising on TV or in magazines, on billboards or in newspapers about those brands. Not necessarily advertising the actual products, but big, full page ads proclaiming GE as the company that thinks about your future, etc. Big ads, big dollars and it reached most of us through the media mentioned above. It was and still is expensive, but it worked, that is until now. Think about this one – the biggest brand in the world has never spent a nickel to advertise itself. That brand is Google. Why? It doesn’t have to. But why and how did Google manage to become the top or if not the top, one of the top brands on the planet? Through the internet and its commonality of use and discussion among us. A huge, online community emerged that had something in common – they ‘googled’. Google has never spent any money on advertising itself.”

 

However, I think the one brand that has at the moment even done the one-up on Google, is facebook. facebook has built one of the worlds most best known brands without spending a dime on advertising on TV, newspapers, etc. Think about it…its really quite amazing.  WE did it for them. With over 500 million users, 25% of all pages views on the entire web, and the most recent round of funding announced yesterday – the social-networking giant raised $500 million through deals with investor Goldman Sachs and Digital Sky Technologies, a Russian investment firm that has already invested about $500 million in facebook, giving facebook a $50 billion dollar valuation. To put this in perspective, The $50 billion is more than twice as much as the market’s valuation of Yahoo. It’s also worth more than eBay, but still less than Amazon.com — not to mention Google, which now stands at nearly $200 billion. BUT, somehow facebook almost seems more pervasive on a daily basis than does Google. And, most interesting it does NOT show-up anywhere on Interbrands list. My guess is that since its private, no one can really determine is true revenues and hence take a stab at accurately placing a true market valuation of the company (although the SEC may get closer than anyone once they start looking into the trading of the ‘private’ stock – http://nyti.ms/hIpz2c ). Nevertheless, its 2011 and I think facebook has overtaken Google as one of the biggest brands in the world as it marches towards the 1 billion member mark. And that may come very soon.

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Look Ma, No Wires: Browsing at the Speed of Sound

Imagine opening your laptop or your hand-held anywhere you happen to be and instantly showing five full bars of muscular Wi-Fi service? Nirvana.

There would be no need to find a Starbucks, or a McDonalds, or any other place with a Wi-Fi hotspot. You’d be in a Wi-Fi hot-zone.

Current Wi-Fi technology is designed for very short-range use such as in your home, office or at the local coffee shop. Signals at the lower-end of the “white space” spectrum, or 700 megahertz, can travel long distances, muscle their way through walls and create a much larger Wi-Fi-type hot spot. It’s like bringing Wi-Fi over an entire community or city. You can skip the expensive cabling and go wireless.

A proposed Order implementing open access to the vacant TV channels in every media market nationwide will be voted on at the Federal Communication Commission’s September 23 Open Meeting. It will address the next step in its plans for unlicensed use of the TV whitespace (the portions of the TV band that are not used in a particular location to carry TV signals). It has been called ‘wi-fi on steroids’.

The regulatory move, generally supported by all five commissioners, could help alleviate pressure on mobile networks that have frustrated some smartphone users who deal with dropped calls and slow Web connections. Think AT & T in NYC.

Ironically, it was the switch from analog to digital signals by television that freed up the extra “white space.”

“TV white spaces“– the radio spectrum vacated when analog television broadcasting ceased last year operates at lower frequencies and higher power than Wi-Fi, so the signals reach much wider areas than your typical wireless Internet router.
  New devices would be capable of transmitting the Wi-Fi signal over a potential range of several miles, rather than just hundreds of feet, would not be interrupted by walls and other obstructions, and would be as fast as today’s broadband and DSL connections.

Some benefits will provide dynamic management of the air interface, adaptations for vehicular use, computing mesh operation, inter-working with cellular systems, and peer-to-peer link establishment.

Calling the communications technology “super WiFi,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said that private carriers are increasingly relying on WiFi hot spots in urban areas to pick up data traffic where their own networks are overburdened.

Genachowski’s proposal would reserve two television channels in each local market for wireless microphones. This is not sitting well with some high-tech companies that argue that priority for wireless microphones subtracts from precious airwaves that could be used for a new wave of mobile broadband devices and uses.

And the new the move faces some opposition from broadcasters, Broadway performers and ministers. Huh? What did you say?? Those critics, who have filed suit against the FCC to prevent the release of white spaces, say users of that spectrum could interfere with television channels and would throw off wireless microphones that operate on those frequencies. News and sports broadcasters, church ministers and singer Dolly Parton have argued to the FCC that they need some spectrum reserved for their wireless microphones. (Dolly, say it ain’t so?)

Operators are likely to experiment with different pricing models as they try to better manage the use of their networks. And some are doing that already with AT&T — often criticized for struggling to keep up with the demands of iPhone users — were one of the first to do away with an unlimited data plan.

“Bandwidth as an end-user service is hard to sell; it’s hard to monetize,” said Wim Sweldens, president of Alcatel-Lucent‘s wireless division. “If you go to a person and say, ‘I’ll sell you a megabyte of mobile bandwidth, how much are you willing to pay?’ nobody can answer that.”

Instead, if users are asked to buy a book or game or sporting experience on their mobile phone or an app for the iPhone or android, they understand the value, he said.

Google, Microsoft and Dell have long lobbied to use white spaces. They want to use the waves to connect entire universities to the Web with wireless links that use fewer bay stations.  And my hunch is that Google would love to have use of this for when they release the Chrome OS licensed to many builders of a portable tablet, due up shortly to compete with the iPad.

Dell envisions that white spaces will spawn innovations for the home. Consumers could rely on refrigerators that automatically signal the home tablet computer when food is running low, and place an order with the neighborhood grocery. Microsoft hopes to connect more of its devices to information stored on its clusters of data centers – known as cloud computing – to allow access from anywhere to applications such as its Office suite of software.

Currently,  we have over 1 billion WiFi chips in every laptop in circulation, chipmakers need to develop chips that are compatible with the spectrum qualities. Then, device makers have to update their iPhones and Kindles to allow users to switch to white-space networks.

I simply want faster wireless speeds anywhere I go. I am tired of being ‘tethered’ to a broadband cable. I say, let it happen.

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