I'm on the Stanford University

by francine Hardaway on July 14, 2004

I’m on the Stanford University wireless network, sitting in a conference called the Second AlwaysOn Innovation Summit. I’m attending in person on a “blogger’s pass,” but you can watch a web cast in real time, so you’re probably at an advantage. You didn’t have to pay for a plane ticket :-) Fortunately, it’s cooler up here than in Phoenix, so it’s not a total loss.

The speaker is some guy from IBM talking about middleware, and about how the software market has changed. The guy from IBM is saying, as though it were news, that the customer is now in charge and the universe is no longer vendor centric. How hilarious. In Silicon Valley, it is slowly dawning on people that the big companies can’t drive growth anymore unless they acquire the smaller ones, and that the new universe is “eat or be eaten.” Welcome to the real world. IBM is now trying to understand its customer for the first time and has decided that because it must own the customer (because it’s big) it has to control the final “delivery of its value proposition.” Partnering turns out not to provide enough assurances that IBM can deliver on its value proposition, so the company will probably buy anything that’s a gap in its service offering. That’s why IBM bought Rational, Candle, Trigo, etc. This guy is wasting my time.

The wireless panel, headed by Bill Gurley, seems to be better. It’s titled “Who’s Winning the Wireless War?”, and Michael Powell, head of the FCC, has said that the consumer is winning. The FCC is freeing spectrum, and the best technology will win. It’s amazing that it appears the government is the big innovator.

In Wi-Fi, it’s an arms race, because the spectrum is unlicensed. The best technology will get the best reception, and win the arms race.

What’s the disruptive technology? It’s not Wi-Max or Wi-Fi or cellular. It’s mobility. The consumer doesn’t really care how he gets it.

What’s mobility? How do you economically build out the network that makes mobility possible?
Heterogeneous networks will be the key; the networks have to be interoperable, because we will have wireless cameras as security devices and wearable wireless, as well as cell phones and PCs.

How do you get into the personalization of the user experience and still create a business model that pays for it? The average consumer has to pay $200-300 in wireless services today; the guy who wins will be the one who consolidates all the potential wireless devices into one service that the consumer can afford. But who is going to build the next gen network after 3G? Most of the companies that built out the cellular networks went broke doing it.

Another “new” technology is radio: cognitive radio, software radio, smart atennas. The FCC has changed our thinking about the scarcity of spectrum; it has put in place the leasing of licensed spectrum to mix licenses and unlicensed spectrum applications.

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