and it's something than makes me go hmmm. If someone could make every
radiolan object contain an actual HTTP server, and we brought down the
price point to $10 a chip, we'd have web-aware device that could be
embedded into Palm Pilots etcetera. There are many potential uses for
such a small, lightweight browser with high bandwidth. And don't rule
out synergy with MIT Media Lab guru Michael Hawley's wearable device
research in the personal information architecture group. Can small,
inexpensive, wearable, true lifestreams be that far off? As a hopeless
self-chronicler, I hope not.
I've been looking at a bunch of other recent startups along these lines,
but two stick out in my head.
InfoGear spun out of National Semiconductor in February 1996, and
their initial product looks promising: a full-featured phone that
connects users to the Internet through a touch-screen interface and
includes email capabilities. They're looking for vertical market
specialization, such as a pocket-sized custom stock market ticker
updated in real time.
This company makes Web server software that runs in an embedded
device's microcontroller or microprocessor using less than 1K of
Both of these companies seem to be inching toward the Holy Grail of
portable, cheap browser-plus-email-within-a-cellphone. Something I'd
like to see happen sooner rather than later.
I guess I'm discovering (again) that it's easy to make money in the
computer business (case point: Without a scrap of computer talent to his
name, country-hopping PRT group CEO Doug Mellinger is raking in huge
profits leasing out programmers to companies desperate to outsource) and
in the communications business (case point: James Crowe, who sold MFS
Communications to WorldCom for $14b and is now starting up Level 3
Communications which is doing nothing more than building a the first
nationwide fiber-optics network based entirely on IP instead of switched
telephone). It's even easy to develop cool technology for a decent
price (case point: only $25/month for SkyTel's Skyword Plus, which
includes a personal 800 number, guaranteed message delivery to anywhere
in the U.S. of up to 600 10-character messages per month, instant email,
and protection against garbled messages using 24/7 phone operators).
What's hard is having a vision for something radical and new, and
driving the world to receive your vision. I can appreciate that.
Congratulations, by the way, to the FoRKer who was quoted this week in
the New York Times. You know who you are, I know who you are, so why
spoil it by telling everyone else who you are?
I'm thinking about applying to intern at Microsoft this summer. I have
no idea what I'd do there, but I'm thinking about applying nonetheless.
After reading his comments about Microsoft in the February 1998 issue of
the Red Herring ["Is Microsoft Bad? No. Is it a monopoly? Yes. And
you should like it that way... Monopolies happen naturally in technology
because people want standards."], I have decided that Microsoft CTO
Nathan Myhrvold is my hero-of-the-month. Check out this quote from him
on why dominance is ephemeral:
> Isn't Novell an example of a company that rested on its laurels and
> didn't innovate? They owned networking so fucking thoroughly it's
> unbelievable. But they blew it. Or take WordPerfect. WordPerfect
> owned word processing. They blew it, too.
He's right. Microsoft haters miss the fact that it's a continual
struggle for anyone (Microsoft included) to stay on top. That nothing
is a given, even for presently dominant players. Microsoft's decision
to license the OS to IBM for its new "home computer" 17 years ago may
have been the most foresightful decision in the history of
U.S. business. But it doesn't put them in an unstoppable position.
Nothing lasts forever. Every day is a new battle.
So now I'll get back to writing this fellowship application. Warren
Buffett plans to retire "about five to ten years after I die", and so do
If the price of automobiles had dropped as quickly as that of personal
computers, the average car would cost $2 and go 600 miles on a
thimblefull of gas.
-- Microsoft COO Bob Herbold, November 1997
Scott McNealy and Larry Ellison are motivated not by their concern for
their customers, but by their desire to be the new dictator.
-- Jesse Berst and Annette Hamilton, Red Herring, February 1998