Honestly, I’ve lost track of how long I’ve been writing for eWEEK. It’s been two years since I joined the team full time, but for years before that, I freelanced on and off for eWEEK. Sometimes, researching a story, I’ve pulled up an old article and been startled to see that I was the one who wrote it back in 2009 or 2010. So it’s with a bit of melancholy that I tell you today is my last day.
It’s been a good run, but the news beat is a tiring one, and I’m ready for change.
Still, even writing that, I feel how hard it will be to break some habits and turn my attention to something new. This is a fast-moving industry—far faster-moving than when I began covering it in 1999—and it’s a weird sensation to set down threads I’ve been holding and following for so long, and that I’m genuinely curious about.
So, for this, my last article for eWEEK, I’m sharing the stories I’m most intrigued by and will be most sorry to leave in the middle of the plot line, as it were. But that I will, of course, keep following from the other side of journalism.
I love an underdog story, and I never count anyone out until they’re dead and buried. I’m just too optimistic. (And look what happened to T-Mobile.) Dan Hesse, it always seemed to me, was a good man, and he did a good job for many years, but ultimately, this is a merciless industry and he had a lot stacked against him—more than he could move with the tiny roar he has in him. I can’t wait to see what Marcelo Claure—a younger, and seemingly feistier CEO, packed with confidence from numerous personal and financial successes as a young businessman—can accomplish—especially since he has the ear, and delighted backing, of Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son.
Given my love of the underdog, this should be no surprise. My excitement about BlackBerry is really for CEO John Chen, who is smart and warm and open and absolutely delightful—in many ways, the anti-CEO. I would trust John Chen with any business matter—and not just because he’s the spitting image of my husband’s uncle—and I have every confidence that he’s going to turn BlackBerry into a solid company. Not the old company, but more likely a niche player with a small but dedicated base.
I also won’t be surprised if BlackBerry, in part through QNX, winds up being one of the major winners in the Internet of things (IoT) space. The more connected our lives are, the more critical security becomes, and everyone in the industry knows that BlackBerry does security best.
Chen has also put together an A-team of executives. Every time someone jokes (and it happens often) Oh, are those guys still around? I think: Just wait.
This couldn’t be a more critical issue, or more representative of the times we’re living in, and I feel personally grateful to John Oliver for the national act of service he performed in bringing such mainstream attention to it. (“Turn on caps lock and fly, my pretties!”) The Internet is the great equalizer. We can’t let the need to please shareholders turn it into the next socio-economic divide.
(If you somehow missed Oliver’s plea to the monsters of the Internet, it’s highly recommended viewing.)
Six Tech Dramas I’ll Be Following From the Sidelines
The Copper to IP Transition
It’s a good day when you get the incredibly informed Harold Feld, senior vice president of Public Knowledge, on the phone. It was Harold who helped me understand how critical the little-discussed, little-understood and generally little-cared-about (outside of the tech media) transition-to-IP issue is. Feld, in so many words, explained it this way: Say you call Papa John’s a lot to order pizza. The phone company can’t take note of that and sell that information to Domino’s, which may like to woo you with coupons. The laws that prevent the phone company from doing that—that protect our privacy—aren’t tied to landline service, but specifically to the old copper networks that the carriers are understandably ready to transition away from.
The IP networks they want to put in place, instead, have no such laws attached to them, even though the carriers are already implementing them. The idea is that they’ll be on their best behavior, until rules are put on the books.
Plus, there’s the matter of the physical differences between copper and IP networks. The former is a disaster in storms, while the latter is far more resilient; water and cold don’t bother it. But, then, consider all those people who, post-Hurricane Sandy, and with temporary IP networks in place, complained that they couldn’t even call 911.
The matter is, in a word, complicated.
To borrow from Frost, nothing gold can stay. We’ve already begun to see Apple crest the top of the hill. That is not to say it’s headed down into the valley, but that Apple under Tim Cook will not be Apple under Steve Jobs, with all the bad and the good that implies.
The analysts say that Apple is going to blow our minds this fall, and I hope they’re right. But I’ll be most intrigued to see whether Apple can have a significant impact on the deeply broken national health care system. As I mentioned in a recent Q&A with Hewlett-Packard, I’m looking forward to technology empowering us with our own health-related information. And not just how many steps we take a day, but real records that show meaningful data over the long term, instead of that information only existing in the various file-cabinet drawers of the doctors we visited years ago.
Samsung, BlackBerry, Intel—it’s hard to think of a major mobile device maker not eyeing this market. But it’s Apple that, in my opinion, makes products that truly shift people’s habits, and on a global scale. And I think it’s clear to everyone in the industry that change is coming.
The Spectrum Incentive Auctions
The wireless carriers want spectrum, badly—I can still hear the furiousness in AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson’s voice, when during a 2012 earnings call he railed against the FCC (which wasn’t doing a good job of freeing up spectrum). Really, none of the carriers (well, maybe T-Mobile) actually needs more spectrum this minute, but they understand well the tsunami of demand that’s headed their way in a few years.
So, the FCC convinced some television broadcasters to give up some of their spectrum, and in 2015, the FCC will host an auction—the first of its kind in the world, and something we’re not likely to see repeated any time imaginable.
The carriers have their own ideas about what the rules should be, and these have split them down political party lines—Verizon and AT&T with the Republicans, and T-Mobile and Sprint with the Democrats. It’s enough drama and scheming and pleading and plotting to fill three seasons of House of Cards.
I hope that, with me, you’ll turn to eWEEK to read about how these stories play out. And, thanks for reading this far. It’s been an honor and a delight.