Saturday, October 27, 2007

Terrorists use Google Earth

The al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades fires rockets into Israeli cities. In this video, al-Aqsa's commander in Gaza shows how he uses Google Earth to search for targets inside of Israel. He states "We obtain the details from Google Earth and we check them against our maps of the city centre and sensitive areas."

Do you think any Internet applications or information should be banned? If so, can they be as a practical matter?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

An early WiMAX deployment

We have talked about mobile and portable connectivity. The two choices today in the US are WiFi hotspots and third generation cellular service, but WiMAX service is just beginning and may become competitive.

Clearwire just led off with early WiMAX deployment in their 44 local markets. With their PC card in a laptop, one will have portable (not mobile) connectivity for $59.99 a month for speeds of up to 1.5 megabits per second down and 256 kilobits up. (Mobile WiMAX will be available when the standard is soldified).

How do those speeds compare to what you have at home today? Who might be interested in this service?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Internet is the platform -- a Cringley quote

We have talked about the evolution of application development platforms from the batch operating systems of the 1950s to the Internet today. (See this note and this chapter). Does this quote from a column by Robert Cringley ring true?

The importance of all our digital stuff along with our fear of losing it will shift us more and more toward central backup and storage. And once you have your life sitting on some company's server, are you going to move it on a whim? No, and that means there will be a LOT of money to be made providing these services. Storage and automated backup and probably some form of netboot with a fresh OS image every time is the future of computing whether we're talking about desktops or notebooks or mobile phones.
What are the pros and cons of keeping your digital material on the Internet? If you get a fresh OS image every time you reboot, is it likely to come from Microsoft?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Politcal pressure yields a tiny step toward an open wireless network

Apple has opened the iPhone to third party developers, but a problem remains. The iPhone is restricted to the AT&T network in the US and O2 in Great Britain. Cell phone manufacturers and network operators offer bundles in which the phone price is reduced in return for a long contract and high monthly bills.

This sort of bundling restricts the marketplace and consumer choice, but it is not inevitable. Some nations, for example, Singapore and France, require manufacturers to offer open versions of their phones.

We are starting to see some political reaction to the heavy handed lobbying of the cell companies in the US. In the face of threatened legislation, Verizon and AT&T have loosened some restrictions in their cell phone contracts. That is a small step in the right direction -- toward open, competitive, end-to-end Internet connectivity over wireless networks.

How would the Internet and market be changed if, for example, Dell PCs could only connect to the Internet through one ISP and Hewlett Packard PCs through another ISP?

A step toward an open wireless network: Apple opens the iPhone

When Apple released the iPhone, Steve Jobs claimed third party applications might damage the phone and even the AT&T network, so they were blocked. Apple has reversed that decision, and will now provide a software development kit in support of third party developers.

This is a step forward. The iPhone hardware and touch screen user interface are new to the marketplace and well designed. Consumers will benefit and our expectation levels will rise. Historically, Apple third party developers are enthusiastic and innovative, and Apple will learn from them.

Like the PC, the iPhone now seems to be a smart platform on the edge of the Internet. As we have seen, Internet applications, content, hardware, and even helpful users are all at the edge of the network. This has facilitated explosive growth, innovation and investment since everyone is free to participate.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Crescent Heights -- the future of television?

Proctor and Gamble, which makes Tide laundry soap and pioneered radio and television soap operas, has an Internet soap opera called Crescent Heights. The three minute episodes are designed to be seen on a mobile device or a computer, and there are no commercials. The Tide logo appears at the end of an episode and, as you see in this screen shot, the characters use it for their wash. The key advertising value is in a set of forums where members can discuss the characters, the story, and household topics like stain removal and washing. The discussion site mentions Tide products and has a Tide logo.

You can read more on Crescent Heights and the business proposition here.

In this case, the Internet lets the advertiser produce and distribute their own content rather than sponsoring a show produced by someone else and distributed by a cable or broadcast network. Would this cut cost? Is this a rough, early glimpse at the future of television?

As mobile and home connectivity improve, how will a program like Crescent Heights improve? Would you be willing to watch a football game sponsored by Budweiser on the Internet? Do you think people would be more likely to purchase Tide soap after watching Crescent Heights and looking at the online forums?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The value of Internet services

Every post on this blog is a testimony to the leveraging of Internet services. I am able to create the posts in a few minutes using the Blogger editor, and creating and configuring the blog took only a few hours. Furthermore, the footer of each post has a link to a text-to-speech service at Talkr.com which can read the post aloud. Again, creating this composite application or "mashup" took only a short time.

Writing a program to create a blog with text and optional speech would have been impossible when I first started out as an assembly language programmer. A few years ago, it might have taken years to create a site with the features of this blog -- designing and creating Web pages, writing server-side code, acquiring and integrating a text-to-speech package, etc. Today it takes a few hours. As levels of abstraction rise, infrastructure improves, and the Internet "ecosystem" proliferates, programmer productivity will increase still faster.

Public and private infrastructure has clear value. The US Interstate Highway System is a valuable asset that increases economic productivity. Equipment, buildings, and other assets owned by organizations also make them more productive. We have also spoken of the value of open source contributions, the gross contributed product, to the world economy.

What is the value of an Internet service? What is the value and economic contribution of, say, Google Maps? Is there a line on the Google balance sheet that states a value for Google Maps? What is the value to the world economy of all the Web sites that leverage Google Maps?

Individual firms could begin to answer such questions today -- how do they show Internet services on their books? How much revenue do those services generate? We will have to leave the task of estimating their value at the national or global level to future economists.