The News – 07/23/01
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.
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.
- Shameless Self-Promotion Department: We’ve recently re-ranked
the trends in the TrendSpot, adding a new trend: the Post-PC World.
- 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, Silicon.com.
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.
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.
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.
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 www.blogger.com.
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 www.stratvantage.com/stratlets/.
Let me know what you think. Also check out the TrendSpot for ranking of
the latest emerging trends.
to Mike’s Take