When will we have enough new building blocks to truly create something revolutionary in terms of what telecom can enable? Today, we are seeing new capabilities, technologies, and economic models emerging that are creating some interesting telecom experiences that might just change the way we work, play, and live. Let’s consider the new building blocks, or at least the most obvious ones.
First, we now have mobile medium- to high-speed data connectivity options emerging that are cheap enough to be embedded in a wide range of form factors and devices. The Kindle from Amazon embeds CDMA data services directly into the device without the user having any direct interaction or subscription with the operator of the CDMA network. Connectivity is just a function of the device, not its primary identity.
Second, we are starting to see more of the “all-you-can-eat” model for content access. We have had Napster and other music library rental models for a while, but now we also have Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) and others offering a similar model for video libraries. Additionally, interactive gaming and MMORPGs, such as World of Warcraft, have established that 10 million people are more than willing to spend $15 a month to be entertained and have a social experience.
Third, devices are emerging that can accommodate content presentation and communications with a reasonable enough battery life to be interesting. The iPOD touch, the Kindle, the new WiMax-enabled Ultra Mobile PCs, and other devices clearly offer this combination, and they can run for more than an hour doing so.
Finally, we are also seeing Internet services from Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO), Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), and others, along with the telecom services such as voice, conferencing, presence, and video being presented as Web services with relatively open interfaces. All of this communications and content -- when linked to flexible devices over an Internet model -- gives us a fairly substantial tool kit to enhance almost any device.
So, why is this indicative of a change in telecom services?
By themselves, each of these elements is not revolutionary. However, as they start to combine in new ways, they suddenly create a new telecom tool kit that creates entirely new experiences. Consider the possibilities if you start with a device that has the capability to present rich content. Then, you enable it with mobile high-capacity connectivity (such as WiMax or LTE). And finally, you allow it to access content libraries or entertainment experiences on the Internet. You do it all at a cost that is only a few dollars more than the cost of the access to the content subscription. What could you do with such a device?
Well, you could take your World of Warcraft interface with you everywhere via a dedicated device. Or you could perhaps have a mobile video player (similar to the mobile DVD players today) that has access to the entire Netflix library anywhere you want for maybe a few dollars more than the current all-you-can-eat cost.
One could also imagine a Nintendo DS or Sony PSP that could offer interactive gaming with the entire worldwide gaming community anywhere you are, not just with the people who are within the existing short range of the current systems.
It’s not just about entertainment though. Imagine devices that would allow a cardiac patient to freely move anywhere, while at the same time enabling the physician to monitor -- in real time -- the patient’s embedded heart monitor. Imagine a new computing model, where your PC has almost no local storage, but instead is a mobile thin client with access to every piece of data you or your enterprise has -- whenever you need it, no matter where you are.
I can imagine an almost-infinite set of new and evolved services and capabilities when we combine the revolution of the new wireless broadband world of 4G, the advances in end-point technology, the business models of “all-you-can-eat” content, and the exposure of classic telecom services as Web services.
With this set of building blocks, not only can we create entirely new experiences, but we can deliver all of the experiences of today’s telecom world in spaces and environments never before possible. To me that is exciting. Seeing all the building blocks becoming available and even starting to be assembled (à la the Amazon Kindle) is a good indication that we might just have an opportunity to do something entirely new in telecom for the first time in quite a while.
— John J. Roese, Chief Technology Officer, Nortel