As someone who really enjoys the Nokia N810 and whom had the good fortune to trial a WiMax equipped model at the kick off of XOOM last fall in Baltimore I can only relish the rebirth of the amazing Linux based gem of a device.
My view is simply this. I chose to fly Virgin America this week out of Los Angeles vs. American Airlines out of San Diego for the WiFi. Getting work done on a five hour flight vs. getting off the plane during a compacted, holiday weekend led off week makes the drive to LAX worth it. What's more Virgin's All WiFi fleet vs. the Russian Roulette approach of American, United and Delta out of LAX regarding WiFi makes it a better choice out of the gate. That plus the ability to pick my seat, something American reserves only for the higher rated Frequent Fliers.
Yes, when it comes to air travel I'm picky. And when it comes to in flight WiFi, it helps me decide which airlines to pick.
Wired has a story about wireless Internet access, calling the questions as to why we have so little of it. It's timely, especially in light of the nations (and likely the worlds) looming data network access crush wirelessly until fatter pipe access becomes more ubiquitous.
Let's start with some history.
The mobile operators didn't really embrace WiFi at all as they wanted to sell mobile data services. Now they are scrambling to catch up with WiFi as a means to offload the need for their users to stay connected. The telcos who did attempt to offer WiFi either made access so expensive that no one embraced it offered up the pricing model theory of offer it so only a few can use it. Muni-Wireless failed because the technology model was so flawed that even if your city had it, it wouldn't work because the systems were designed to work "outside" and no higher than two stories up and could hardly penetrate the windows. The cable guys, who had the most capacity, biggest opportunity are only waking up to the potential of what it means, with Cablevision leading the charge in metro New York by creating a cloud that is just for their customers.
Some time back Muniwireless maven Esme Vos suggested the solution to local wireless access was dining establishments and coffee shops. She felt that local governments simply had to mandate that these retailers offer WiFi like they're required to have public restrooms for patrons.
Even earlier I felt the MSOs (multiple system operators) were the answer in consort with local municipalities where they were franchised and wanted to see new franchise agreements put the pressure on the cable operators to "light up" more fiber and more bandwidth in public places like schools, libraries and public assembly locations like parks and plazas, while offering low cost access to merchants who would allow them to have access.
But there was one other reason why we less wireless Internet access than we need. Lack of competition. The near extinction of the CLEC in telephony and the limitation as to the number of mobile operators in each country has pretty much chased away anyone from wanting to be a player in the game due to the sheer fear that they won't be able to survive. Once we get a more competitive mindset again, then maybe we'll see more wireless access.
Imagine in the past you’ve been a product manager at Nokia, Microsoft, RIM, Motorola, Samsung, Palm, Siemens, Sony Ericsson or at SUN overseeing Java for mobile or at Qualcomm watching over Brew. For years your bosses have been asking you how do we make more money off of all these applications we have developers developing. And you never had the answer.
Then out of nowhere comes Apple. They introduce this cool phone that activates via itunes. About a year later they introduce a cool way to get more apps. The App Store and it works with itunes.
You see, no consumer technology company thinks things end to end better than Apple. and for developers of cool apps, the App Store is their Wal*Mart. Only easier.
I draw this comparison because to get a consumer product into Wal*Mart isn’t easy. You have to do a lot of “selling in” and back it all up with merchandising and promotional support, often times being asked to deliver a lot of advertising to boost awareness that the product is available at Wal*Mart. You may even have to pay things like slotting, but I’m not sure if Wal*Mart does that these days.
What Apple effectively did for software developers is deliver to them the equal of Wal*Mart in one fell swoop by effectively providing them a retail store front, marketing, promotion and most of all, a customer base.
That’s end to end product marketing at its finest.
The person quoted, Charlie Able, was one of the many people who did so much for me in my youth when I was working my way in sports marketing with the Philadelphia Flyers. I recall the moment in question and Charlie saying something to me about "Bob Ford needs to talk to the coach" and then dispatching the "coach" up to the press box. The "coach" was Kelsey Grammer of Cheers and Frasier fame.
Now 21 years after the event it's great to see that memories aren't just mine of that event.
Thanks for the memories, Charlie. You always were and will be one of the great guys who had the chance to "play" at the Spectrum off the court/ice/stage like so many others of us.