When we were kids, and PCs were "microcomputers," we all believed in recipes.
These days, the mobile world is trying equally hard to believe in mobile television.
So the question of thirty years ago has resurfaced: What on earth would you actually use a home computer for? enquired baffled friends, not even trying to hide their conviction that we were insane.
Well, you could keep a database of all the stuff in your fridge. And then you could ask the computer to match that against various recipes, and suggest a great meal for tonight!
Strangely, people believed us. To my knowledge, nobody on the planet does this, but it convinced people. It illustrated what you couldnt do without a computer, and could do with it.
The same goes for high-speed mobile phone networks. Yes, its very clever, but what would you actually do with one? It doesnt take very long with a calculator and a suckable pencil to realize that whatever it is, you cant afford it.
So Qualcomm is predicting that mobile TV across mobile phone networks is going to be great. It has bought Flarions Flash-OFDM wireless technology, and it has announced that no less an operator than T-Mobile is rolling out this high-speed broadband network in Slovakia.
By a terrible coincidence next door, in the Czech Republic, no less an operator than T-Mobile is about to announce a deal with Flarions arch-rival, IP Wireless.
Details, as they say, to follow. Im going to be in Prague tomorrow to see how it works and theyve promised a working device to test.
The Qualcomm connection isnt really the key factor. The company came dangerously close to buying IP Wireless anyway, instead of Flarion.
In the end, Qualcomm decided to go with its core competency: intellectual property legal expertise.
Its litigation team decided that IP Wirelesss intellectual property was indefensible, and that Flarions was "more defensible" even though, technically, it felt that IP Wireless had some advantages (its a 3G standard already!) compared with Flash-OFDM.
The one thing we can be sure about, is that this wont lead to a boom in mobile TV. For goodness sake—you can buy a mobile TV which receives free-to-air programs for trivial sums, and people dont watch it.
What chance do you have, seriously, of selling the same ridiculous material—reality TV, for goodness sake!—by the minute across a network which will go bust if they dont charge a dollar for a five minute connection?
I dont have the slightest doubt that both T-Mobile networks will operate successfully. There are lots and lots of things that you can do over high-speed wireless. Television, however, isnt the way to go.
We now have the video iPod in the market. Pretty thing... but the one missing component—the one youd be certain to see if wireless video were important, or likely to become so—is wireless. No Bluetooth, no Wi-Fi, no GSM, nothing.
Did Steve Jobs miss a trick there? Is Qualcomm onto something Steve should have twigged? Well, in a sense, I think yes.