Sunday, November 13, 2005

Wall St. Journal's Mossberg says "Mobile Phone Most Important"

You can't help but know who Walter Mossberg is if you've got any tech pedigree whatsoever.  Even my Mom has probably read the words of Mr. Mossberg.  His Wall Street Journal Personal Technology column has appeared every Thursday since 1991 and he's been a part of the technology scene almost as long as there's been a technology scene.
As talented a speaker as he is a writer, I was eagerly anticipating Walter's lunch time Key Note at the Venture Wire Consumer Technology Ventures conference.  Speaking to a capacity fact the biggest crowd I saw assembled during the entire conference, Mr. Mossberg made my day when he echoed a number of things I've just recently predicted including the fact that mobile devices will far exceed the PC in importance for most people, that security is something that must be addressed before the enterprise will be able to successfully accommodate mobile devices and that the ultimate incarnation of the ideal mobile device is something that still hasn't been realized and which might end up being quite surprising when it finally is.
Among the other comments that I felt were important to be reiterated, Mossberg's views on the role of the carriers was interesting and could be crucial to consumers though it probably didn't make any representatives of Verizon, Cingular, or Sprint terribly happy as he feels that these companies have spent quite a lot of money to build out their network infrastructure and that they do deserve a return on their investment, but that's it.
He continued by saying that he didn't think it was right or reasonable for the carriers to exert control of the devices that use these networks.  He feels that unless this changes it could stifle innovation and put the brakes on progress.
Another trend Mossberg identified is this he means all wireless, but particularly WiFi and how much range and speed has improved.  He also spoke about the deployment of Verizon's National Broadband Network, claiming that he has been online with this network, that it is 3 times as fast as the European 3G and that it is available essentially nationwide.  (I haven't been a Verizon subscriber in a few years and never with their EVDO product, so if someone has some comments on this statement I would love to hear them and so, I'm sure, would all the readers of this blog.
I think it is worth mentioning as we begin to see more and more kinds of content migrate to the mobile device that Walter made some very strong statements about copyright laws in this country.  He feels that they have the potential to negatively influence advancement of technology and he believes that they need to be changed.  While he agrees that some form of protection must be in place, his view; that copyright laws only protect the publisher were certainly popular with the audience though I am sure that others in positions of power might not agree with this opinion.
Personally, I think we are going to see huge challenges mounted in this space over the next decade or so.  Every time a technology is deployed to limit the consumer's ability to use, share, morph or duplicate content, before the standard can even begin to become entrenched, some brilliant geek smashes the encryption and publishes the hack on the Internet. 
It was exactly for this reason that Sony is in the news right now.  For those of you that have somehow missed the news, Sony's new DRM for CD's installed a rootkit, which is essentially a covert program installed in such a way that it is invisible to the end user and can't even be viewed via the registry editor. 
Mark Russinovich of Sysinternals (an amazing FREEWARE program that you really ought to try) has written on this extensively.  The point being that it is this sort of draconian behavior that can have incredibly negative consequences for both the consumer and the company that DRM and Copy Right need some serious revisions.
All in all Walter Mossberg's keynote was entertaining and informative and I considered myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to hear his thoughts on the future of consumer technology.
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