For the Week of December 13, 2004
A lot of magazines will come out in the next few weeks and proclaim 2004 "The Year of the Blog."
They're wrong. It was the Year of Wireless.
2004 saw the beginnings of a new age, one in which one-hand and even no-hand devices take over from the two hands and a lap metaphor that characterized my earlier life.
I saw this at the CTIA show in May. Mobile phones are going to enter the computing mainstream. Mobile networks are going to be capable of handling broadband.
And in this new world the U.S. is no longer dominant, just one player among many.
The largest carriers are NTT, Vodafone, and (probably) one of the Chinese players. The largest phone makers are Nokia and Samsung, with Motorola slipped to third and no other U.S. company even in the game.
Even the software world is slipping away, with Symbian the leading phone operating system, and Windows being hard-pressed by Linux.
One casualty in this race to one-handed devices is the two-handed PDA interface, which was born in the USA. Windows Mobile overtook Palm but it was a pyrrhic victory. The market is dying, as the PDA's functions go inside the phone.
The year also saw the first inklings of what an Always-On world will look like, with manufacturers turning out clothes with heart rate sensors and cellular links embedded in them. My own view of Always-On has always included the cheap, ubiquitous broadband found in your WiFi network, but a heart rate shirt really doesn't require much bandwidth, and with dual mode (WiFi-cellular) chip sets coming on-stream next year it really doesn't matter.
The coming of Wi-Max will, despite all the efforts of the Bells, finally break their monopoly. With Wi-Max, any company can, for a very minimal cost, reach a competitive fiber. Without a municipally-owned backbone this will be a bit more raucous, but that's America's problem. These technologies are all being introduced around the world at the same time.
And that's the real turning point. America has dominated every stage of computing up until now. IBM controlled the 1960s, and Microsoft came to dominance in the 1980s. The 1990s were a Golden Age of American technology, with nearly every major Internet company headquartered here.
No more. Wireless and open source have changed the name of the game. Pandora is out of its box. The U.S. can't even rely on its huge home market anymore - the Chinese mobile market is much larger than ours. And it's more competitive, more innovative, more dynamic. In fact, we're becoming a Third World country in many ways, far more rapidly than anyone could have foreseen.
Given the nature of our current political leadership this is not altogether a bad thing. Since they won't take responsibility for our falling competitiveness that responsibility must be thrust upon them, by the world market.
Americans will be shocked, in a few years, to see how fast and far their economy has fallen. But more than our military situation changed in 2001. The Hyperpower is now dead, with military might dependent on economic power it's just a matter of time before we're back in our box, permanently.
Economic power in the Age of Wireless no longer is based on finance, or physical resources. It's based on talent. Hong Kong citizens do not yet realize the extent to which they overthrew China, not the other way around.
Most of these trends are hidden from the view of people in this country, but they're plain as day to those in other countries. I have been privileged in the last few years, thanks to this newsletter and my Mooreslore blog, to get to know many of these people. They're good folk. They will be good stewards of the values the American Century gave them.
And when Americans finally get it into their heads to compete, to accept what has changed and adapt, the resulting economic war will carry us all to great heights of glory. There are never losers when the competition is over who can innovate, and grow, and prosper the most. Everyone wins, except those who refuse to enter the game.
This is the lesson Latin America learned to its shame in the 20th century, a lesson we're going to have to face up to, as economic players in the great game in this century. I remain hopeful that future generations will not sing, "Don't Cry for Me, California." But if they do my descendents will find other places in which to live, and work, and grow.
Look ma, no wires.
In response to popular demand (that the newsletter continue) I'm launching a new format for a-clue.com, beginning this week. You'll get the same content, I just won't work as hard recoding it.
Each issue will feature both my weekly column, "This Week's Clue," as well as links to my Takes on the News in my Mooreslore blog (for those who don't follow it). Clued-in and Clueless also remain, but are based on the blog content. Hope you like it.
In partnership with ZDNet, I'm now helping to produce a special blog on Open Source .
I work as a freelance writer in Atlanta, and am on the development team for EgoScout , a new kind of marketplace for cellular data services.
My last book, "The Blankenhorn Effect" won the Computer/Internet category in the 2003 Independent Publisher (IPPY) awards .
Write me for a PDF copy of my latest novel, "Baptists are for Dunking."
On my Mooreslore blog I've begun a new novel, "The Chinese Century." It's a story told in real-time, with real characters, but entirely fictional, dealing with the consequences of the falling dollar.
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Takes on the News
Clued-in is Blink, a new blog capability that lets writers link to stories of interest without having to write extensively.
Clueless is Pennsylvania , which granted Verizon a private, permanent monopoly on broadband in the state, condemning the state's children to Third World status.
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