It's March of 2003 so the flurry of predictions for the new year should be over. However, there is a good write-up of some trends about the IT industry and observations about the directions of Microsoft. For those who work in the Tech industry, it helps to be aware of some of the long term trends in the field which you have chosen for your career. It does talk about the commoditization of hardware and software. Additionally, with globalization, most of today's entry level work will be farmed to higher-educated, lower cost, third world countries.
On the software side, things have even become more gray. Linux and Open-Source can save you tons of money (if you know how to make it work). The Internet and web-browsers have become like the electricity or water in your house. It is increasingly becoming people's main link to information outside their homes. HTML, HTTP, sockets, NNTP, FTP, as well as other common IP based protocols are very good and useful to know. I have been on the sidelines about XML for 3 years and I think I will still stay there until something changes.
Now without further embellishments, here is the link to the article.
A lesson on economic by Shirky. We can look at the failure of ZapMail from FedEx as an example of the changes in economic structure as the internet pervades into our lives. The example of ZapMail shows us why the telecommunication industries of today had better look at their faulty business models with the advent of Wi-Fi and Voice-over-IP. I, for one, find Wi-Fi very convenient and as VoIP pervades into the consumer market, it will be a greater enabler of keeping people connected together.
Secrets, security, discovery ...
When taken in general context, these are the things that occur with information. Information is either explicitly known or it is not known. That it is not known does not necessarily mean it is not there. Let's take "gravity" as an example for our topic of discussion. Gravity is a very important basic physics concept that shapes much of our knowledge of the world today. However, before Newton coined the term, did it exist? Sure it does. It has been around probably since before the existence of our galaxy. Evidence of it is everywhere and in everything that we perceive. But is it secret? yes, no one knows about it. But how can something that is everywhere, so pervasive, be such a secret?
The answer is that no one is looking at it.
Today's science, engineering, and various knowledge disciplines are very directed. And sometimes it is in looking only in a single direction that we are blind to everything else around. The next major breakthrough in advancement for mankind is around the corner. It is everywhere and likely no one is looking at it. It's not that Newton had the only pair of eyes to see the apple fall. Eyes are very common. All mammals have it. It is that he saw with his mind's eye. Seeing with your eyes is one thing but digesting that information in your brain requires a process that is very different.
The same can pretty much be said about the topic of smoking. Smoking doesn't necessarily kill you. There is a great percentage of the population who smoke but are not necessarily dead. But "trying smoking" has a great probability of leading you to "like smoking". "Liking smoking" will lead you to "a habit of smoking". Years of the "habit of smoking" will likely lead to "getting lung cancer". "Lung cancer" has the high probability of leading the person that has it to "death".
Chain-of-events. This is another thing that your inner eyes will see readily if you allow it. I believe that in our pursuit of technological advancements, we have grossly neglected the simple advancement obtained by just "seeing". I am grossly simplifying in order to make a point but the truth is, many of today's chronic and problematic problems can be easily solved just by "seeing".
We are all just "not seeing" yet.....
I went back to Comdex for a second day. There was still a moderate crowd. There were lots of gee-wiz products especially with Microsoft's tabletPCs. However, I will bet they are quite expensive to use and too delicate to just plop around the house or in the yard. Gee-wiz products of yester-years that managed to survive that have hit the mainstream are coming down in price. For me, this would seem interesting. One product, in particular is the touch-screen. They have become affordable because I am seeing 15" listing for under $300. This is wonderful if you want to create a product that is essentially a kiosk. Living in Vegas, I see a ton of those in the casinos.
There was also voice-recognition but unfortunately the computer still doesn't know what to do with your words. File-manager browsing would be nice.... for the moment, it's just a thought fancy though. DVDs are starting to hit the mainstream because there is an entire section of DVD-writer manufacturers, DVD media suppliers, and a whole slew of DVD software makers. Springing off of the DVD craze are movie making software. Movie making is now consumer territory.
I just got back from the first day of Comdex 2002 at the Las Vegas Convention center. This is my second Comdex and getting there just reminded me of my first one I attended in 1996 when I was working for HP. As I recall, I told myself "never again..." back then. I was so overwhelmed by the crowd and fervor that it was almost the worst experience I ever had. This time, I was hoping for less of a crowd because of the state of the economy this year. In truth, the crowd was thinner than before. However, the show is still like a bazaar marketplace with everyone selling, selling, selling.
I was shooting for attending the Scott McNealy keynote speech. Arriving a little late, I felt bad coming into the filled conference room. The entire front were filled and there was a large screen projection showing McNealy for the people in the back. I wanted a closer look so I just walked to near the front and stood listening. McNealy was bashing Internet Explorer and Microsoft. Then he talked about how wonderfully open Sun was. Then he bashed IBM. Then it's back to bashing Microsoft. Everyone was lapping it up as if it were gospel. Ok, after 30 minutes I was disappointed and slowly walked out of the room. Nothing to learn here.... just more marketing for companies that have more than enough marketing already.
I wandered around the exhibit hall for a while and got more and more lost. That's ok... I figured I would pick up some toys and such since Comdex was known for those. Well, everyone is skimping this year and there were none to be had. Instead, there was advertising literature and CD ROMs everywhere. The candy trays were even skimpier than Halloween. It must be a bad year.
Out of the corner of my eye I noticed there was a Forum Discussion event happening. Curious, I decided to poke my head in for a listen. It was Kevin Mitnick talking about circumventing security. (in case you don't know, Mitnick was a famous/infamous hacker that got sent to jail for his hacking in the 80's and was barred from touching a computer) He talked on about social engineering and how all the gadgets in the world won't protect your company's data if it is leaked out by employees. He talked about his start with hacking and the subsequent brush with the FBI and the law. His talk continued on about his book and obviously he was promoting it. Surprisingly, Mitnick was quite eloquent while speaking; I didn't expect that from a hacker. The topics were engaging so I stayed for the entire talk. He mentioned that Kevin Spacey was also in town and they are collaborating on a movie about enterprise security measures. That should be interesting and is slated to come out in 2003.
A consumer really doesn't understand the convenience and value of a home network until he has one. As an adjunct to my previous posting, it seems that cable modem devices are going through an evolution of their own. This article: The Changing Face of Cable Modems provides even more reasons why having a home network is a good idea. It banks on evolving the cable modem to provide additional consumer services aside from the basic internet access point. Initially, it's also a router (layman's terms, it's a home-gateway). Wireless LAN (802.11) hotspots are available today at pretty much low cost too. Then it wants to do voice telephony (voice-over-IP) and gradually video telephony. These are realtime applications so they rely mostly on QOS (Quality of Service) underlying IP layer to be available.
The DOCSIS standard has made the standard cable modem available to the public at a relatively low cost. With so many companies jumping on the bandwagon to support the standard, of course price will be pushed lower as a result. All this is a wonderful boon to us consumers. No complaints from me or anyone else who are currently using cable modems.