August 25th, 2004

IM and Metcalfe’s Law


Bill Koff, VP of Leading Edge Forum from CSC, is in town doing some project with us. And he gave a 2 hour presentation on some of work and we have several interesting discussions.

One of the discussion reminded me of Metcalfe’s Law and its importances to IM. As companies started to introduce IM into their workplace, very often, in the name of ‘security’, would introduce an “enterprise IM” solution, one which is isolated from the other IM networks. Sadly, they’ve forgotten the value of IM is not in the tool but the community around the it, aka Metcalfe’s Law.

August 20th, 2004

Email, a Dying Technology


A friend once told me “A guru is one who advocates common sense…except he makes sense of it before it is common.”. It is easy to look back on hindsight and make remarks how obvious things are but foresights are often not so easy. For instance, no one doubts that Internet is here to stay but just barely 4 years ago, some people still thinks that the Internet is just passing fad.

And cutting-edge technologists normally plays the role of advocating emerging technologies. That role is a difficult one especially new technologies often do not have sustainable evidences. But a even more difficult role for technologist. is when he advocates that an established technology is going to die.

Case in point: Over the last few months, I have been saying to several people (in louder and louder voice) that I believe Email, as we know it, is going to die1. The reaction I got was the expected disbelief and horror! It is an understandable reaction since Email is the most important part of their life. I have the same feeling about Email too…about 10 years ago. Today, I see emergence of other communication tools, like IM and RSS and they are especially popular among teenagers.

Just as teenagers from the early 90s entering the workforce bringing with them the Email culture, teenagers of the late 90s is about to enter the workforce bringing with them the IM culture.

Unfortunately, such demography changes arguements often do not work with die-hard conversative. And at this point, I would borrow a phrase from Doc Searls: “When is the last time you use the fax machine?

1 Of course, I wasn’t the first one to say that Email is dying.

August 15th, 2004

Innovator’s Dilemma

» ,


The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen.

Actually, not a new book but I digged out from my closet and re-read it last week for some internal presentations. Highly recommended for someone who is interested in technology trends.

Incidently, in the course of doing research for my presentation, I also come across this article The Myth of Disruptive Technology by John Dvorak (via Orkut’s Disruptive Technologies Community).
Read the rest of this entry »

August 2nd, 2004

FCC Roundtable discussion on IP-based Services

» , , ,

FCC conducted a Global Roundtable discussion on IP-based services (basically just VoIP) 2 days ago (30th July) and the webcast is available online. (via Jeff Pulver).

Yes, I sit infront of the computer for 2 hours and listen the whole webcast and here are some of my thoughts:

1. (Obvious) Take away: Regulation certainity is important for industry to invest billions/trillions to upgrade their infrastructure.

2. Jeff took the opportunity to bash some bad policies. :-) Well done! We need someone to say outloud the most obvious especially when there are lobbies on the other side.

3. The open-access issues raised by Tom Vest is a potential future problem. At this moment, we are aware of ISPs doing it, either block or ban the services outright or muffling the packets sufficient to make the quality very poor. But it is too early to say if regulators should step in on this ‘market-failure’ because (1) the outrage isn’t very big yet and (2) the industry haven’t got a chance at self-regulation yet. Given a choice, I prefer industry self-regulation.

4. Alcatel made their usual speech Internet Protocol is good but “Wild Wild West” Internet is bad. (Yes, my jaw dropped too when I first saw their ITU-NGN slides). Here is a clue: NGN wont be a brand-new network1. IPv6 couldn’t move people to move to a new network and “Quality” & “Security” arent disruptive enough for people to build a new one. Sorry, any network that doesn’t connect to the current “Wild Wild West” isn’t going to fly.

1 This is not to say I dont think the future wont have a new network. On the controdictory, I believe we will have a new network in future, within my lifetime. But it will be some radically different offering something the current Internet couldnt provide. It is probably hard to imaging why, how and what it is going to be like right now as it is difficult to imaging Internet in the 1970s.

June 29th, 2004

802.11a may still win the Wifi war

» ,

With the rise of popularity of 802.11b, there are two promising work on higher speed Wifi: 802.11a that on 5Ghz range and 802.11g that on 2.4Ghz range. Both boast of similar speed at around 54mbps but 11g is backward compatibility with 11b whereas 11a isn’t. And as 11a runs on different spectrum, you need another chip which makes the hardware more expensive.

Sony is an early adoptor of 11a (with its Vaio a/b base station which I dont think was sold outside Japan) and on the other side is Apple Extreme with 11b/g. Because of the backward compatiblity with 11b, and cheaper cost, it is obvious (including to me then) that 11g is going to win the market. Other hardware vendors jump onto the 11g bandwagon and so we started to see the poliferation of 11g hardware.

But now, I believe the war is not over and 11a may win out afterall. The reason is simple: The greatest strength in 11g in its backward compatibility is also its greatest weakness.

Because of the backward compatible, we often use 11g devices together with 11b devices. What is not obvious (until you pushed the network) is that in such mixed enviroment, all devices are “downgrade” to operate at 11b (ie 11mbps) which negates the reason you buy 11g devices in the first place! It is like buying a sportcar that can do 180mph but you never get past 60mph because you are struck in the traffic jam. Such problem does not exists in a/b network.

So Sony might be right afterall. I forsee we will start to see a/b (or even a/g) devices coming back to the market.

April 16th, 2004

Disruptive Technologies

» ,

Technology Adoption LifecycleOne of my responsiblity at work involved identifying and monitoring disruptive technologies, especially infocomm technologies that will drastically change the economic, business and social landscape in Singapore. But what is disruptive technologies and how do you identify them?

User Expections CurveIn the classic Crossing the Chasm, Geoff Moore describe a Technology Adoption Lifecycle Curve1. The curve is loosely divided into 5 segment: Innovators, Early Adoptors, Early Majority, Late Majority and lastly Laggers.

More interesting, the area under the curve can be interpreted as the User Expections from the technology. And the more mature the technology, the higher the user expections. The laggers remains is the most difficult customers that often requiring the most resources and thus, most companies adopt the 80/20 rule.
Read the rest of this entry »

March 29th, 2004

Living on the edge…


Today is a lousy day: a demo I was doing on some new technology was a disaster. The same setup works fine before the demo but somehow, it just refused to work on the critical moment. And we have some very senior folks within the group! I feel pretty crappy…:-(

This feeling wasn’t really new to me.

Like in 1994, we tried to do a Singapore National Day broadcast using Mbone (multicast) over the Internet. It was really cool and it allows Singaporean (mostly students) overseas to watch it over the Internet! Mbone was a pain to setup and we put the whole thing together in barely 2 weeks. While we send out emails to our users not to flood the bandwidth (we only on 128kbps then) and the local TV crew in place, the video comes out pixelated and audio barely audible. It was a nightmare and we never do it. Yet looking back, this set the stage for the Internet craze1 in Singapore. If nothing else, it gots people thinking about what Internet can do.
Read the rest of this entry »

March 17th, 2004

More on Horizontal Layering…

» ,

chaos.jpgIn my previous entry, I discussed about the changes in the telecommunication industry to a world where data, IP Packets particularly, is the main revenue generator1 and Voice would become just one of the many application/service provided on top of the data world.

Now, such radical change is extremely disruptive even though it is likely to span across many years. The fixed wired industry just barely started on the transition; In Singapore, you can find a pure IP access provider like Pacific Internet2 who owns no infrastructure but carry their data over other infrastructure providers. But the mobile industry is still a happy family in their wall-garden with voice in the center.

Now imaging what happened on the fixed wired industry now been pushed onto the mobile industry. (In certain ways, it’s already started with 802.11 challenging 2.5/3G) and the havoc it will create, with mobile industry crying fouls (“I paid so much for the spectrum and spend billions on the infrastructure! You have to protect me!”) and the service providers and consumers on the other end demand open access!
Read the rest of this entry »

February 29th, 2004

Scenario Planning: English in decline

» ,

Paul Hoffman send me this paper published by David Graddol of British Council which does a scenario planning (futorology :-) and went on to discuss what to do if English is slipping in influence due to demographic and technology trends.

Scenarios are not predictions. The point of scenario planning is to help us suspend our belief. Then we can prepare for what we don’t think is going to happen – Peter Schwartz in the Art of the Long Term View


February 13th, 2004

$8,000 to become your own (voip) telco

» ,

Ted Shelton done a brief analysis of the economics of starting a VOIP telco and conclude it will take only $8,000. (Via Kevin Werbach)

I made a similar rant last year arguing that people will wonder why they dont do it themselves once they discover how cheap it is.

I also believe that IP Telephony will take the same path as Email since it has similar cost basis. ie. some will setup their own server, some will run inhouse, some will outsource and the mass will subscribe to a service, e.g. hotmail.