Of course, some of you attentive folks in the audience might be able to
puzzle out the link from Jason to the victim of Bob's column the week after
on Teledesic :-)
June 9, 1997
Pollinate lets you rent the software you need for just the right amount of
Jason Bluming is founder, CEO, president, and half the employees of
Pollinate Inc. Bluming wants us to rent software through the Internet using
his online license-management system. What's most interesting about
Pollinate is how Bluming discusses licensing "granularity." Instead of
buying a huge office-software suite for all the clunky personal computers
in your company, why not have individual employees rent the word processor
when they need it? Why should you pay for an unused spelling checker? Why
not download a word processor for the evening, with or without fax, into
your hotel room's network computer?
When first run, "Pollinated" software creates a "signature" for your
computer. That copy will run only after it checks for an enabling "token"
with your computer's Pollinate license manager.
An initial license token might come with shareware, and tokens might
download periodically thereafter, with or without notice, from a license
server at which you've arranged payment.
Tokens enable specified software to run for specified people on specified
computers for specified periods of time. Today, the granularity of these
specifications is small -- the grains are big. If Pollination catches on,
the granularity will increase -- the grains will shrink.
When the Internet finally gets micromoney systems, we'll rent tiny bits of
software for seconds at a time. Imagine renting a French spelling checker
for one document once.
Software license management is a big, new idea, much like network
computers and collaborative filtering. In coming decades, it will have
major, positive effects on how we develop, distribute, and use software.
And we'll rent not just software but also all bits, including videos.
OK, true -- there are no new ideas. Renting software has been tried, and
so far very little software gets rented. In fact, the Software Publishers
Association (http://www.spa.org) has been suing software distributors --
Crazy Irving, for example -- that have tried to rent software the way
videos are rented, or tried to let customers try before they buy, or tried
to sell software and buy it back when their customers are done with it.
But, hey, videos are now routinely rented by the billions of dollars; why
not software? Of course, videos are typically run once and returned (late).
If you want to watch a movie over and over, or avoid the trouble of
returning the cassette, a video can be bought, just as software is bought.
On the other hand, software isn't popped into a computer and run the way a
video is run in a VCR. On today's Wintel clunkers, you can watch the entire
"Star Wars" trilogy in the time it takes to get a new program installed.
And that doesn't count time spent rebooting Windows. But that's today's
monolithic software on old-fashioned personal computers, not tomorrow's
component software on sleek, new network computers.
If performance isn't a big issue to you, there are plans to let you rent,
for example, Microsoft Office. Office will be licensed to run on multiuser
Windows NT servers to which Citrix WinFrame clients -- Windows terminals --
will connect at, say, $1 per hour. That's server-side rental. (See
Pollinate, however, will offer a toolkit to client-application developers
interested in software license management. Meanwhile, Pollinate offers a
"wrapper" to take existing client software and manage its online licensing
from a Pollinate server. In the long term, Pollinate aims to get its
license manager built into client operating systems.
Whether or not Pollinate's system is any good, software license management
is inevitable. What's less clear is when licensable bits will be
downloadable on demand over the Internet or in bulk by optical disk.
Running a small, downloaded applet might trigger your computer's
local-license manager to go back over the Internet to retrieve tokens. Or
large libraries of Pollinated software might arrive at your computer by
Federal Express to be granularly licensed online.
From past experience with e-postage, I'm guessing that granular software
rental will drive a good many of you bananas. Vent by sending me free
e-mail, while you still can.
Pollinate is looking for partners. Send free e-mail, while you still can,
to firstname.lastname@example.org, or pay by the minute by calling Bluming at (617)
[Separated at birth? Pray tell, Dan ...]
June 16, 1997
Internet-in-the-sky due from Teledesic during the next millennium
Dave Twyver and I stood naked in the snow under bright stars against a
black sky. It was 10 p.m., some 20 years ago, 30 meters out on a frozen
lake near Helsinki, Finland. Twyver, from Northern Telecom (Nortel) in
Ottawa, and I, from Xerox in Palo Alto, Calif., stared down at a square,
black hole freshly cut through a meter of ice. Our Finnish host, with a
torch in one hand and a broom in the other, broke the new ice, which had
frozen in the hole while we had been drinking in the sauna.
Breathing visibly, our host explained Nordic customs to a dozen of us
huddled steaming in the torchlight, each a national representative to the
International Federation for Information Processing (http://www.ifip.or.at)
technical committee on data communication. One of our working groups, WG
6.1, would spin off during the 1980s to become the Internet Engineering
Task Force. WG 6.4 would spin off to become Ethernet's IEEE Project 802.3.
Back at the frozen lake, as our Finn faded to his finale, I saw that
Twyver and a Russian, obviously KGB, had quietly moved between me and the
now-open ice hole. A little drunk and very proud to be a red-blooded
American capitalist of Norwegian descent, I impulsively brushed past
Twyver, dropped my towel, and jumped in.
Had I waited for the Finn to finish, I would have heard that you're not
actually supposed to jump into ice holes. Instead, I found myself trapped
in total darkness under the ice. Frantically reaching up to feel around, I
found the hole. Had I not, most of you would today still be using 3270s on
Gasping in the icy water, I made a second near-fatal mistake. Ignoring
outstretched hands, I clambered out of the hole, ran up the long dock,
slammed the door behind me, and nearly bled to death alone in the sauna, my
shins shredded by the jagged ice.
After Helsinki, my jumping from Xerox to start 3Com was easy. Twyver, on
the other hand, lingered at Nortel, eventually heading its wireless group,
with 16,000 people and $2 billion in revenues.
Last September, 20 years later, Craig McCaw and Bill Gates convinced
Twyver to jump. He finally left Nortel to become CEO of Teledesic
(http://www.teledesic.com), which has 75 people and zero revenues.
Teledesic is an Internet-in-the-sky start-up in Kirkland, Wash., that uses
some of the Pentagon's more promising "Star Wars" technologies.
In March, the Federal Communications Commission licensed Teledesic's
constellation of low-earth-orbiting communication satellites. Twyver is now
planning to launch 24 pole-orbiting satellite rings, 15 degrees apart, 12
satellites each, about 800 miles up.
As they pass overhead, Teledesic's satellites will communicate using
500-MHz radios with fixed terminals scattered among 50-mile-diameter 64Mbps
cells. Each satellite will exchange bits with its eight nearest neighbors,
using 2.4Gbps lasers. They'll switch 3 terabits per second total, out of
which Twyver plans to sell 100Gbps.
Teledesic will be a worldwide switching fabric. It will map IP addresses
into latitudes and longitudes. IP packets will be carried in flows of
fixed-length Teledesic packets -- an IPv6 control packet should fit in just
one Teledesic packet. On average, packets will travel worldwide through
five satellite hops in 75 milliseconds.
In April of this year, Boeing became Teledesic's $9 billion prime
contractor and $100 million equity partner, keeping Teledesic something of
an all-Seattle operation.
Teledesic's satellites will not fall randomly out of the sky onto your
house, Twyver says. After about 10 years, each will fire retro rockets to
de-orbit, disintegrating during re-entry.
Starting in 2002, Teledesic will offer 2Mbps Internet access through
terminals that are projected to cost $1,000. Sadly, Twyver plans to offer
this access not in competition with the world's telecommunications
monopolies but through them.
Of course, Teledesic's worldwide access might naturally encourage these
glacial monopolies to compete aggressively with one another, but only after
hell freezes over.
Maybe you've heard the news reports recently about the frozen comets that
crash into Earth's atmosphere every few seconds. Those reports started me
wondering: Does Teledesic's constellation stand more than a snowball's
chance in hell? I wouldn't bet against McCaw and Gates. And if Twyver can't
pull Teledesic off, nobody can.
--- Rohit Khare /// MCI Internet Architecture (BOS) /// email@example.com Voice+Pager: (617) 960-5131 VNet: 370-5131 Fax: (617) 960-1009