Saturday, March 13, 2010

Our Evolving Connected World

This week, the holy grail of an “All connected world” for ‘any content, any time’ seems closer with few announcements, respectively from Silicon Valley and Washington.

On Tuesday, Cisco released its new router – ‘CRS-3’ that the company is touting as the gateway to a new era of Internet capable of streaming of digital copies of all the movies ever made in about four minute or facilitating a video call with every person in China at the same time.

In terms of numbers, the new system could enable routing of whopping 322 terabits per second. Of course routers don’t deliver data to consumers, wireless networks, DSL lines and cables do. None the less, this does appear a big leap towards managing the broadband traffic for future years, assuming pipes exists to stream the content to consumer’s PCs, netbooks or smartphones.
That’s where the second announcement of the week comes in to play.

This Friday, several news channels including New York Times ( reported that FCC is proposing an ambitious 10-year plan to reconstruct the nation’s media infrastructure by establishing high-speed Internet as the country’s dominant communication network.

As is the case, US lags behind several nations especially several Scandinavian countries and South Korea, with respect to availability of broadband pipe to its citizen. As the NY Times reported, about a third of Americans have no access to high-speed Internet service, cannot afford it or choose not to have it. FCC’s plan includes an initiative called “100 Squared”, i.e., equipping 100 million households with broad-band access at 100 megabits per second by the end of this decade. The average subscriber now reportedly receives speeds only up to 3 or 4 MBPS.

The plan is indeed consistent with the view that broadband Internet is becoming the common medium, gradually displacing the telephone and broadcast television industries. Reason enough for network and TV operators to be less enthusiastic about the plan.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

iPhone on wheels?

High tech community and silicon valley have often derided the car industry as archaic and slow in adopting technology. Remember the famous quote (perhaps incorrectly attributed to Bill Gates) that "If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25 cars that get 1,000 to the gallon"?

Calling automotive manufatureres "conservative" when it comes to new technology is not totally without justification. However, recent events around the massive Toyota recalls may just remind us that there's more that rides on cars than just another electronic device. If my iPhone or netbook malfunctions, it surely is an inconvenience. But when the electronics in my car malfunctions, fatality may very well be part of the equation, as demonstarted by several cases of 'runaway' Toyotas. And several other car manufacturers have had their own share of hard consequences of breach of reliability. And so history has taught the industry to be more careful and conservative.

So when my high tech friends fret and wonder why the car can not just become an iPhone on wheels, we may just ask ourselves if the media will be as forgiving if the iPhone on wheels suddenly malfunctions.

Of course, that's not and should not be an excuse to decelerate the integration of our digital lives in to cars. But that just highlights the challenge faced by car industry.