StratVantage Consulting, LLC — Mike’s Take on the News 07/23/01

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StratVantage Consulting, LLC — Mike’s Take on the News 07/23/01

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The News – 07/23/01

Broadband a Broad Yawn?

If you’re like me, you’ve probably heard about the coming broadband explosion until you’re sick of it. Tremendous predictions of 3G wireless networks and fiber optic capacity notwithstanding, much of the broadband revolution seems aimed at the voracious needs of large corporations. But consumers like us (face it, no matter how much you’re into business, you’re a consumer too) have had to put up with unreliable modem lines, high priced and error prone DSL connections, and cable modem service brought to you by those paragons of customer service, the local cable monopoly. Despite this, Forrester predicts that by 2005, 46.7 million U.S. households will have broadband Internet connections, up from roughly 3 million at the end of 2000. Fast access always seems to be in the future.

Well the future starts next year, when satellite broadband providers like WildBlue start offering 3Mbps bi-directional service (400Kbps upstream) to your rooftop. Using a 26" satellite dish and a small modem, the service claims it will be able to serve up to 8 computers, TVs or Internet-enabled smart devices. WildBlue service will be sold through 23,000 retailers that offer partner EchoStar’s DISH Network service. Can the six-year-old company make it work? Well, they’ve got a couple of satellite slots, FCC spectrum allocation, a contract for capacity on another satellite, and are contracting with Space Systems/Loral to build their first satellite. Founder and Chairman David Drucker helped found EchoStar. They’ve got money from Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers. However, the company’s marketing materials mention the dreaded First Mover Advantage, so that’s a strike against them.

WildBlue will have to compete with fixed wireless efforts from the likes of Sprint, whose Broadband Direct service uses a roof-mounted 13.5" diamond-shaped transceiver to deliver typical download speeds ranging from 512Kbps to 1.5Mbps, with a maximum upload speed of 256Kbps. Customers within 35 miles of a tower are eligible for the service, compared with all of North and South America served by a satellite solution. However, the fixed wireless space has already had its share of flameouts. Boston-based Broadband2Wireless went Chapter 7 just three months after launching their Airora service. The good news is Sprint Broadband Direct is available now. The bad news is the company is playing it close the vest about exactly where it’s available. You can go to their site and put in your zip code to find out, but they then remember the zip code and won’t let you try other markets without an exact address. From scrounging around I find it’s available in Arizona, the Bay Area, and Chicago as well as somewhere in Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah. Probably available everywhere by 2002.

As if that were not enough broadband options, there are companies planning on providing broadband access via airborne platforms like constantly-circling airplanes or blimps. The Halostar Network from Angel Technologies and Raytheon plans to offer a blistering 52Mbps via HALO-Proteus aircraft that will fly fixed patterns in the stratosphere (51,000 feet and higher) over major cities. The planes will fly above commercial airline traffic and adverse weather and can create a cellular pattern covering an area 50 to 75 miles in diameter. Such coverage currently requires several hundred cellular towers. The company plans on offering a measly 1 to 5Mbps service to consumers, but will up the ante “as the broadband market matures.” The company plans limited commercial service this year, which probably means a full rollout in, you guessed it, 2002.

Sky Station , led by Alexander “I’m in charge” Haig, uses an unmanned, lighter-than-air platform (AKA a blimp) which can be maneuvered on a guided path or held geostationary in the stratosphere at 68,000 feet. This platform has the advantage of eliminating pilot boredom, which is certain to be a problem for Halostar. Sky Station will offer speeds of up to 2Mbps uplink and 10Mbps downlink. And guess when Sky Station will be deployed. Yup, 2002. You gotta love the future. It’s always a year away.

Finally, it’s not at all certain that any of these technologies, other than fixed wireless, will ever deliver. Peter Jarich, an analyst at The Strategis Group, said, “I don’t know if any of these companies [offering broadband from aircraft] will ever roll out services,” says Jarich. “From just a general market standpoint, there’s not a compelling argument for it.

Well, there’s always next year.

Business 2.0

Briefly Noted

  • Shameless Self-Promotion Department: We’ve recently re-ranked the trends in the TrendSpot, adding a new trend: the Post-PC World.
    The TrendSpot
  • Stupid Email Tricks: Last issue I considered the problems inherent in employee personal use of business resources. Well, of course there’s another side to it. Sometimes digital technology can be hazardous to your job and especially your reputation. Consider the following cautionary tale on the misuse of office email: “My girlfriend, who works for a very well known FMCG [Fast Moving Consumer Goods] company, sent 12 month marketing and promotion plans to one of her accounts. The file was in Excel and sadly, included in the workbook were other worksheets which contained promotion plans for ALL of the major retailers. The fortunate recipient now has this year’s promotion plans for all of their competition, largely due to her not checking the attachment before it was sent.” This and other hilarious digital blunders are included on a section of the UK site,
  • Microsoft Won’t Imbed Java in XP: For whatever reason, Microsoft is apparently abandoning Java. I say whatever reason because it depends on whether you believe Microsoft, who claims the industry has moved on from the proprietary language in favor of XML, and Java isn’t good at writing XML services. Or do you believe those who say the consent decree resulting from Sun’s lawsuit about Microsoft’s attempted hijacking of Java limits them to version 1.4 of the Java Virtual Machine? Given the software giant’s need to woo developers to its .NET strategy, it seems unlikely that they’d risk alienating the sizable Java development community. I tend to think Microsoft shot themselves in the foot with their “embrace and extend” treatment of the popular programming language. Your mileage may vary.
  • When Is A Virus Not A Virus? Comedian Ray Owens is demanding a million dollars in reparations from Symantec and others who appropriated his intellectual property. The intellectual property in question is a joke virus warning Owens published on his site and to his 340,000 strong mailing list. Symantec printed the copyrighted joke in its entirety, violating, Owens says, the Fair Use doctrine. Owens wants his copyright attached to Symantec’s reproduction.

    At the risk of being added to the tongue in cheek suit, and in the spirit of Fair Use, here’s an excerpt from the warning:

It has been brought to my attention that there’s an insidious new computer virus which has already affected close to 30 million computers.

Even though I’m running the latest McAfee and Norton viri scans, neither have picked up this virus as it’s a mutating virus which isn’t set to go off until Friday, June 8, 2001.

As many viri are, this one is transmitted by email. I’m required by law to contact everyone that has received email from me in the last six months and warn them about this virus.

The name of the offending file? AOL.EXE, the file that launches the AOL service. The warning goes on to say that deleting the file will remove an upper memory management module and free your IQ to rise above 85. Owens received lots of email from confused users who took him seriously, much of it badly spelled and all in caps. It’s hard to believe Symantec took this warning seriously as a hoax; it was published on a joke site, for heaven’s sake. This incident is ironic (very much unlike a black fly in your chardonnay), since Symantec once sued Network Associates over 30 lines of copyrighted software code. Don’t worry. The comedian laughs last .

  • First US GPRS Phone and Service Released: If you’re in Seattle, you have the opportunity to use the first US General Packet Radio Service from ATT, featuring phones by Motorola. The phone uses ATT’s new GSM/GPRS network, so I suppose a nationwide rollout will be slow (probably around, oh, say, 2002), since ATT’s current network is TDMA-based. GSM is a variation on the TDMA standard, but I’m figuring ATT needs to make lots of changes in its equipment to support GSM and GPRS. The only nationwide GSM network today is VoiceStream. GPRS is a 2.5G transitional standard that will eventually be superseded by 3G equipment. The Motorola Timeport 7382i phone can switch between data mode and voice calls without interrupting the data session and features voice activation, Voice Note voice recorder, a WAP-enabled microbrowser, IrDA connectivity and a data port. ATT recently completed their spinoff into an independent company.

Can’t Get Enough of ME?

In the unlikely event that you want more of my opinions, I’ve started a Weblog. It’s the fashionable thing for pundits to do, and I’m doing it too. A Weblog is a datestamped collection of somewhat random thoughts and ideas assembled on a Web page. If you’d like to subject the world to your thoughts, as I do, you can create your own Weblog. You need to have a Web site that allows you FTP access, and the free software from . This allows you to right click on a Web page and append your pithy thoughts to your Weblog.

I’ve dubbed my Weblog entries “Stratlets”, and they are available at . Let me know what you think. Also check out the TrendSpot for ranking of the latest emerging trends.

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