The recent slowdown in the economy has spurred serious concern over the state of high-tech markets. I’ve got news for some of you. The concern began more than a year ago. President Bubba was famous for his, “It’s the economy stupid.” Well, to paraphrase – It’s the applications, stupid.
I won’t go off on a rant again about my feelings over the current state of wireless Internet connectivity. (Of course, every time I try it on my handset, I start laughing like Renfield in the 1931 movie version of Dracula) But, there it is. The reason I think we are seeing a slowdown in telecommunications is the lack of any killer applications not the economy.
In his keynote address at CTIA Wireless 2001, currently taking place in Chicago, Craig Barrett, Intel’s CEO, noted that the wireless industry must get serious about developing standards. He went on to point out that, “North America lags the rest of the world when it comes to providing innovative wireless services.” And just what would that be? “To avoid falling further behind, we must all work together to ensure it’s as easy as possible to bring scaleable, user-friendly wireless Internet services to the market.”
Barrett is dead-on. But, he suggests that handset OEMs and component manufacturers must work on developing products “based on a range of architectures.” Don’t we have that already? And then he got to the bottomline by noting; “The challenge in enabling the wireless Internet is to be able to deliver services to the customer across multiple devices.” Translation - Interoperability.
But lets not stop there. At the same CTIA, new FCC chairman Michael Powell, noted, “Personalization is the killer app.” But, “Producers and consumers are trying to find the sweet spot, and the challenge to producers is to give consumers fair notice.” Translation – Get consumers excited about a new app and then deliver.
Those of you who have read my column in RF Design may recall that before last year’s CTIA I commented on the lack of applications. My focus then, as it still is: when are we going to get away from lackluster wireless Internet connectivity? My hope was that Home RF, Bluetooth and WAP would be the springboards. While Bluetooth is starting to pickup steam, there has been little, if any, discussion of incorporating wireless Internet functionality (as in turning on the coffeepot in Denver while you’re in San Jose).
I also pointed out in the February 2001 RF Design newsletter that many OEMs and service providers are letting Europe and Asia act as the test bed for new applications. I assume the rational is if it is successful over there, it will be successful here. Well, looking at Barrett’s statement above, I would suggest the overseas applications are working.
So, why are the enhanced wireless Internet apps working in Europe and Asia? According to Barrett, both have agreed on a single standard for digital-cellular transmissions. What a concept. I thought that was what 3G was supposed to be when it was first conceived.
So, here is my recommendation to the OEMs and service providers. Realizing you have new apps on the drawing board(s), I would be prepared to have the apps readily available by this winter.
The latest forecast I’ve heard about an economic recover will be at least six-months and possibly up to a year. If the telecommunications industry, from OEMs to service providers, are to take part in a recovery this gives them a six-month window. Impossible? I’ve talked to computer wizards who tell me they have to accelerate their new apps in little as 90-days from inception. I know the same has been true in telecommunications.
There is always the fallback position that the technology is not there yet. That enabling technologies have to be developed. From a component standpoint, what else do you need? Sure power is an issue. Of course board space is at a premium. But, from what I saw at the Wireless Symposium in San Jose last February, component companies are ready to meet the challenges. What they need is for OEMs and service providers to get it together. If we have to wait it out like we are with 3G then we’ve got “issues” as my daughter, Carly, would say.
OK. I’m done ranting. Let me know what you think. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.