No Problem

By Guy Kewney  |  Posted 2004-06-16 Print this article Print

In fact, the organizer of the conference had asked university officials if they could provide wireless access. Theyd said "no problem!" and promised to get back, but of course, they hadnt. The BOFH concerned had a network to run. If you visited IBM, and after drinking too much tea and coffee and root beer you asked where the toilet facilities were, would you accept, "Oh dear, if only wed known!" Or if you paid a facility visit to Texas Instruments, would you be impressed by, "Our washrooms are on a not-for-profit basis"?
Would you swallow, "It puts an unacceptable workload on our cleaning staff" from the HR team at AT&T? No, and it wouldnt dream of offering such excuses, either. Now, its bad enough to get this from the next company you visit. If youre the guest of a large corporation, these days you expect to get access to the Internet while youre there; and if they forget to arrange it, they are dreadfully embarrassed. But this is a group that is looking at the future of communications. This is the cream of our research team, a collaborative effort between Cambridge and MIT—sponsored by £100 million of the U.K. chancellors tax collection—to find out what the problems are. And a bright bunch, indeed, make no mistake. Click here to read about a new software-based wireless security product that aims to bring high-end enterprise security to small businesses. I would like to repeat all of the presentations they gave; they were interesting. Subjects such as "Can individual universities do world-class work without collaboration?" and "Would the best place to store crucial Internet data not be on individual PCs?" I think they were interesting, anyway, but then I would because by and large, they repeated subjects that Ive raised here on these pages, and in other columns for papers such as IT Week in the U.K. In other words, they were the sort of thing any smart-ass journalist could come up with faced with a deadline and a need for paying another lunch check. Now, Im not going to say that these people need to see a good anthropologist—though they clearly do!—nor that they have their heads in the clouds—which I would never dare to suggest, even if I thought it. Nor am I going to say that they arent going to do good work in studying telepathy and teleportation and all of the other amazing projects theyre talking about undertaking successfully in a decade or two. But I am going to say, if you are looking at the horizon, perhaps it is forgivable to trip over a small stone at your feet. But if provision of Internet facilities to a modern audience is really just a small stone to you, are you sure youre looking at the real horizon? The future of communications is actually the point I started out with here: advertising. The future of comms is the future of advertising. If youre studying bits and fibre and modulation schemes and mesh configurations, great!—but thats all known stuff. Where the mystery comes in is how it all gets financed, where the revenue streams come from, how sponsorship and promotion can be leveraged. Thats not just a stone at your feet. Thats the jungle in front of you. And the horizon you see? I suspect its actually a billboard advertising Hawaii holidays. Check out the columns in Guy Kewneys opinion archive.
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