Category Archives: dead media

What’s In My Backpack

A snapshot in time of my current glass pancake stack.

One iPad 1st gen, one iPhone 4th gen for iOs demos and prototyping. One Android tablet (Nexus 7) and phone (HTC One X) for demos and prototyping. One old Samsung Infuse Android work phone I hadn’t got rid of yet. Now I’m using the HTC. One primary work PC. One personal Macbook Air. One personal LTE iPad also functions as personal hotspot. Assorted cables, chargers, dongles, NFC tags, and assorted doohickeys. Car keys. Pen and goddamn paper. Cause you know what? Brilliant as the rest of the device is, 5 years after Apple’s iPhone killed the mobile stylus dead, writing & drawing notes with your fingers on glass like digital cavemen still sucks.

This post inspired by Steve Wozniack, who I had the rather unexpected pleasure of meeting the other day at a rock show, and his incredible backpack.

And by how wonderfully quaint and archaic these now-shiny things will look if I can remember to come back to this post in 10 years or more.

Wish I had a shot of my backpack of 2002, full of palm pilots or pocket pcs, some brick of a nokia phone, and maybe an mp3 diskman.

But Woz had it figured out. When I met him he showed me his nixie watch. Made of awesome cathod tubes technology from the 1950s. Long live #deadmedia

Kodak update: when all else fails, sue the iceberg

A lovely visualization by Design language that’s been making rounds connects a couple dots from recent posts on this blog. Somewhat randomly, I had been musing both about how Kodak had the foresight to invent a “consumer” digital camera 35 frickin’ years ago and yet how did the whole camera industry completely miss the boat (or iceberg as it were) on mobile technology?

I like this visualization because I’m not surprised to see the company with the least actual presence in mobile with some of the most outbound lawsuits*. It also shows that Kodak must have seen mobile coming, they’ve got the patents.

On my last post Scott Smith commented

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met with a client who said, “well, we developed that back in 19xx, but we didn’t have the demand to do anything with it…”. Which means R&D ends up inventing random futures in various formulations at a 1000:1 ratio, then shelving them until an unknown window opens.

A lot of big innovation shifts don’t actually sneak up on us. My suggestion was that the necessary conditions and tipping points may be the only hard or even random part. It’s nearly as easy to be too early as it is to be too late with a new invention. Shifts (like the digital camera example) are often very well anticipated by any designer or engineer immersed in the field.

But what do you do as a firm if your best foresight poses fundamental existential business risk to your entire firm? Forget consumer demand, you’re also not going to see a lot of right-thinking managerial demand to productize those insights. What to do if you are Kodak in the sunset of the 20th century, when 90% of your business is making money from consumables that have no place in an inevitably digital future? Quite often, the very reason a disruption is so successful is because it democratizes a product or media by sucking a lot of money out of the system and/or transferring significant economic surpluses from producers to consumers. This kind of creative destruction is what drives growth and efficiency at the macro-economic level but it’s often catastrophic at the firm level for incumbents.

In the last decade Kodak’s stock price as methodically tumbled, the shares losing more than 95% of their value since their peak in the mid 90s. Kodak still comes out with new products and digital cameras. These business lines may well be fine and profitable, but they are also just a weak echo of the firms former dominance in photography.

So I guess my question for all the foresight gurus out there is this. What do you do when the best scenario you can see for your clients is a Kobayashi Maru?

We can see what Kodak did. A classic strategy, we’ve seen it all across the media industry as a great many incumbents try desperately to stuff the internet back in the tube(s): If you can’t turn the ship, sue the iceberg.

*Not to mention Nokia, another collapsing incumbent but that’s another story

Dead media watch: the web is dead

Somewhere on a dusty shelf or storage box, I have this old issue of Wire Volume One two containing the strident prediction: “Tired: lynx, Wired: Mosaic”. Lynx is/was a text-only terminal app used for navigating a relatively obscure hypertext protocol, fancifully called the World Wide Web. NCSA Mosaic, was the first popular graphical web browser, which very soon became a little app you old-timers may recall called “Netscape”. The rest, they are now saying, is history.

If you’ve followed this blog for years, you know I love to track dead media. I’ve followed the death of print, of video stores of bloggin and many more. Wired themselves have even quoted me on the subject. Well the good folks at wired (ironically the magazine that most embodied the birth of the web) have really done it this time. This time, they’ve declared the whole web a dead medium.

You’ve spent the day on the Internet — but not on the Web. And you are not alone.

This is not a trivial distinction. Over the past few years, one of the most important shifts in the digital world has been the move from the wide-open Web to semiclosed platforms that use the Internet for transport but not the browser for display. It’s driven primarily by the rise of the iPhone model of mobile computing, and it’s a world Google can’t crawl, one where HTML doesn’t rule. And it’s the world that consumers are increasingly choosing, not because they’re rejecting the idea of the Web but because these dedicated platforms often just work better or fit better into their lives (the screen comes to them, they don’t have to go to the screen). The fact that it’s easier for companies to make money on these platforms only cements the trend. Producers and consumers agree: The Web is not the culmination of the digital revolution.

The venerable Marshall McLuhan teaches us that all media has a natural lifespan. This is because new media inevitably makes room for itself by obsolescing, replacing or just crowding out old media. While some may last much longer than others, all media eventually die. For better or worse, the indomitable human spirit is just too good at creating new things. As the pace of innovation has so quickened in recent decades and centuries, the average useful lifespan for even our most clever creations, seems to get shorter and shorter. For those of us fascinated by dead media, the graphic above provides a beautiful visualization of how new media propagate like wave functions. The grow, they crest and eventually break. Each media seem to expand and taper off to their own idiosyncratic schedule. At least until new media inevitably cascade over top. The pixels don’t lie.

Sorry kids, clearly the web is dead. Long live the web.

LINK: The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet []

UPDATE: TVO’s Jesse Brown posted a hilarious video rebuttal “Wired is Dead“. Of course, Jesse should know better. Even if only half-true, the other half of the fun of declaring anything dead, is purely for the trolling. Good job Wired.

Fax machines, and PDFs, kicking off the deadmedia watch for 2010


The fax machine was obsolete 15 years ago. When someone says “fax it to me,” I always feel like I’m being punk’d. A fax machine is nothing more than a printer, scanner and an obsolete analog mode that work together to waste time, money, paper and electricity. Documents that are faxed usually start out in digital format. So, to send a digital document digitally, it must be converted into a paper format. You insert the document, and the fax machine scans it back into a digital format. It then uses an analog modem from 1993 to convert the digital image into sounds!

LINK: Mike Elgan: 10 obsolete technologies to kill in 2010 – Make the world a better place. Just say no to dumb tech.

When an old media that fade away, sometimes we miss it’s old flavours, it’s eccentricities. Sometimes we don’t. I’m not going to miss fax machines. Frustrating, stupid machines from day one I’d argue. And if there’s (slightly) newer media that fax machines most remind me of it’s gotta be PDF. Damn PDFs are annoying. Take a perfectly good digital document, convert it into a clumsy, uneditable, super-slow to render and a painful to read on a digital screen format just so it can look like a printed page. PDFs are a great way to take all the disadvantages of a printed page (like arbitrary page sizes and header and footer margins between every page of content), almost none of the advantages (like the adequate visible resolution for reading the damn thing) and perpetuating them forever in the digital age. Worst of all, you can’t even take a PDF out back and cathartically beat it down office-space style in the back alley if it’s really getting you down.

Damn you adobe.

photocredits: “analog_chainsaw” on flickr

Dead Media Watch #297 – Hyphens


About 16,000 words have succumbed to pressures of the Internet age and lost their hyphens in a new edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.

No one has time for the poor hyphen anymore. It seems to be going the way of the semi-colon semicolon into the club of beleaguered punctuations. OTOH perhaps it’s high time some of these over-prevaricating compound word-sandwiches got off the fence and decided for once and for all if they were to be one word or two. But boy, 16,000 is a lot to drive off a cliff all at once. The poor little bastards probably never even saw it coming.

It occurs to me that Head-Smashed-in Buffalo Jump is probably Canada’s most hyphenated place. Though it is true they no longer drive great herds off the cliffs anymore. Another dead media. The buffalo are all gone now.

Link: Thousands of hyphens perish as English marches on

In reality, SXSW Interactive 2009 was a long drunken wake for the death of print


[Last of my notes from SXSW, these on the recurring theme of death of many media, but one we may particularly miss, the death of books and long form fiction]

The econoclipse has totally hastened the demise by digital soil erosion of the already shaky foundations of almost every old-media business model. And what’s crazy is how much the geeks lament this **even as they
are the very ones killing them*. It’s like OH WOE to old media STAB STAB STAB why are you dying? STAB STAB I’m so angry with you STAB STAB STAB for not having more foresight, and for selfishly dying and stuff.


“It seems a shame,” the Walrus said,
“To play them such a trick,
After we’ve brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!”
The Carpenter said nothing but
“The butter’s spread too thick!”

Bruce Sterling’s keynote was an absolutely spot-on Irish wake for books and fiction, complete with drinking and chips on stage.

“Look,” said Sterling, pulling out a stack of copies of his most recent novel, The Caryatids, and placing it on the lectern. “These are what we used to call books. I know that you’re sort of unused to seeing them. Let me explain to you how these devices work because I’m not sure a Web 2.0 crowd follows the structure anymore.

If there is a ray of light, the answer became more clear as to what publishers, and authors have to do to thrive. According to Bruce, and echoed by Chris Anderson and Guy Kawasaki’s conversation, it’s about being (to borrow from Hugh) a personal micro-brand not about being someone tied to just one medium “the book”.

This is generally a lot easier for authors than for publishers to get their head around. Though authors could benefit from the tools and representation to help them do that. Of course this model also works better for non-fiction, or authors who are talented at speaking or at blogging or consulting or punditry, or at being charismatic enough or having enough of a following to be paid to show up anywhere like at events, or to lend their recognition/respect/authorial-aura to other projects like Margaret Atwood might in Canada etc.

But the rub, how do you align the interests of the publisher with all of these other ways that the author will actually use to feed themselves?

It’s also clear this whole transition won’t work well for a lot of writers. “Writing+charisma” is a whole other bag of tricks than just being a “writer”. In the worst case, this would be like the transition from silent film to talkies. Talkies wiped out all but a handful of the previous stars. Movie stars still existed (if fact more of them) but for the most part they were stars at a different bag of tricks.

There’s another problem, how micro can your brand be to make a living. The very literary writers who may create works only loved or admired by much smaller peer group, or those writers who are good/great but only so long as you don’t let them be seen out of the house.

Of course we as a society could just fund some of these dead media directly. Thank goodness for charity and government grants (and the CBC).

We do it already, in all sectors of society. If there’s no easy way to charge people for incremental usage of some “public good” like streetlights or paved sidewalks but everyone somewhat agrees that it would nonetheless be nice to have these things in society, then you fund it with tax dollars.

The implication here, for literature, maybe for journalism, is that it we rethink it as “high art” as in those forms of media that no one actually expects to be an economical sort of industry or otherwise supported by the market. like ballet. Maybe we are in this world already?

What does that make General Motors then? are we now considering the making of GM cars a nationally protected art form?

link: Future May Be Brighter, but It’s Apocalypse Now

link: Bruce Sterling’s SXSW keynote partial transcript (It seems, sadly, there is no audio version or full transcript on any of the internet)

How the mobile web and “augmented reality” changes retail forever


At South by southwest interactive this week (SXSW) a huge theme was “augmented reality” the idea of, Amazon-app style, pointing your phone at any product to get more information -or a better price- online. We’re getting to a world where holding a mobile device means all of the potential knowledge and intelligence of the cloud is now in your hand as well, everywhere you go. “The web” is no longer separate place or channel we go to visit at home through our computers. The web and the real world are rapidly converging. It’s now just up to us to design the apps, and interactions to make that useful.

What was clear is that brands have a long way to go yet to figure out what to do with or what retailing models will work in this new “augmented” reality. Consumers may beat the brands at the game using their devices and information advantage to arbitrage themselves consistently better deals.

To compete as a retailer, someone mentioned the idea that physical stores just become “really expensive websites” that help brands build relationship with consumers seamlessly across both physical and virtual channels.

This is a problem for retailing models like malls, which typically take a slice of retailer sales. Now the interests of retail merchants and their landlords may be mis-aligned as a consumer may go to the apple store just to see and touch the product, make use of the genius bar, but then spend their money on apple through the internet channel, or post-sale through itunes etc.

It’s another problem of misaligned interests for merchants if physical retailers are franchises that don’t have piece of the revenues from online sales.

Apple (no surprise) is a good example of a merchant that will do well do well in the hybrid cross-channel retailing environment.

Some other merchants that compete just on product and price without specific competitive advantages are going to get killed.

The long slow death of Media

Internet usage isn’t killing TV; in fact, TV watching has hit record levels in the US. So why aren’t broadcasters rolling in fat autumn piles of cash?

“An audience member was confused about how viewership could be up but ad revenue could be significantly reduced; top network execs patiently explained that just having eyeballs wasn’t much good in a major economic downturn.”

And by “TV” you could substitute… newspapers, magazines, print media, radio, social network page views, fiction, stock photography, analyst reports, movies, music, journalism in general. Did I miss any?

Boy it’s a tough millennium for anyone to be in the content creation business.

Like all new media shifts the beginning of time, digial media, you has a flavor. And by flavor I mean side effects both good, bad and unintended.

It’s not new news that we are moving to an attention scarcity economy. These days we are all consuming more media than ever. Nonetheless, attention is a fixed commodity and fundamentally puts a limit on how much content we can meaningfully demand in a given day. But supply of new media has exploded and there is just isn’t enough attention – which is linked to revenue potential – to go around. Sadly, the falling cost of media production and distribution has not been enough to offset. If anything falling costs, and web2.0 make things worse by flooding the media market with a lot of “cheap” content. Not in all cases is this “cheap” content a perfect substitute for what came before.

It’s time for us all to start thinking of new models in a post digital world.

In the meantime, there is some good news dear content creators and media titans.

At least you are not in the car making business.

link: Americans hugely addicted to TV, but money doesn’t follow

photo credit: Jose_armas

Dead Media Watch: Polaroid film

So you may have seen the news that Polaroid is discontinuing Polaroid film. For all it’s greatness, that little 2.5 inch screen on the back of your digicam, has killed that old analog analogue. It’s a known law of media that all new new media must replace an old. But every new media is never a perfect replacement, some particular character or ‘flavour’ of the old medium is always lost. This is why we have nostalgia, and how we use old flavours to trigger old memories and emotions.

This is also why dead media are a rich vein for the exploration of new media, for there is another rule that says: Any new media must retrieve an archetype (or flavour) of a dead (or more than one) dead media.

Just the other day, someone took a great polaroid of Michele and I, dancing (ok slightly goofy/maniacally) at a friend’s party. A perfect frozen moment now gracing the fridge. I’ll post the picture here when I get a chance. Just as soon as I can snap a photo of if with my digicam.

In the meantime, remember the polaroid kids, remember to stock up, and Shake it, Shake it like a polaroid picture.

Has Facebook killed blogging?

Have you noticed the blogosphere growing quiet? The pros and the a-listers and the corporate blogs are still at it as strong as ever. But tumbleweeds blow through the empty feed folders of personal friends. Flickr too is fading away. Maybe it’s just summer and we’re all outdoors, as we should be, instead.

But I think it’s Facebook, first twitter, but now much more powerfully Facebook is sucking all that personal stuff, all that social presence and ambient intimacy behaviour and desires (usecases for you techies) out of the blogosphere and in to it’s fearsomely purpose-designed boxy blue and white world.

There’s a flavourshift in the blogosphere. The olde flavour of blogging is leaving us.

When you think of it, (personal) blogs never really caught on anyway.

Compare this one data point, my blogroll: 21 my FB Friendlist: 249

Blogs as dead media. At least as we once (hardly) knew ye.

Blogs are for pros, facebook is for friends

blogs dead. long live blogs.

The Flavour of Cities – My deck from OpenCities

UPDATE: oh and my speaker notes are here on the slideshare page which might explain things a *little* more clearly.

A great commentary by Edward on the discussion that followed (thanks!):

“At the final session, insulated by a Creemore, it was interesting to think of as flavour as taste: in the look and feel and design and form and method and means of how we, for example create/make architecture. In other words do we permit taste to be acknowledged by sampling flavours and then understanding preferences based on this sampling? Is this an exercise in nostalgia or form of connoisseurship? We mourn the passing of a time-stamped culture and its intrinsic forms of expression its aesthetic? We contrast this with what might seem the harshness of the new. I like the new. You admire craft. Is there craft in contemporary design? Is contemporary architecture the triumph of pure design—conceptual as opposed to crafted? Even if we wanted to recreate or recapture neo-classical architecture would we not end up with kitsch? Something so artificial that it would be at once Disney. The time-sense, the aura of the object (the neo-classical bank building for example), it is irreplaceable ‘having-been’ or being ‘of the past’ cannot be replicated. And how do we assess what is going to be understood as valuable, beautiful and fabulous? Everyone I know under 15 in Toronto thinks the new Royal Ontario Museum Crystal is fabulous and when told some ‘grown-ups’ have divided opinions about it they are incredulous. What kinds of architecture tend to work and continue working? Perhaps buildings designed to listen to people and anticipate function (it was suggested that people refer to: How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They’re Built: by Stewart Brand) will last and be enjoyed: understood over time as beautiful.”

And this response from Kelly Seagram

Tip O’ the day. If presenting at a conference, ensure a wonderful turnout and a warm reception by simply announcing you’ll be kicking off your session by handing out a free beer to each participant. OpenSauce, because sometimes it should mean free as in beer.

OpenCities was a great event, you can find lots moar notes here.

And yes, that is a vintage glass plate photograph of Zepplin over Jerusalem that I’ve added to the cover. Flavour and dead media egads.

Because media has a flavour

2 Walls in New York

These are two exterior walls. They serve (roughly) the same physical purpose. They live across the street. 52nd street if I remember.

B) is the north side of the brand new redesign of the the NYC MoMA
A) is just another building of another century facing it across the street. Right across the street.

They have a different flavour. In general, all media have a flavour.

By it’s flavour I mean the medium’s idiosyncrasies, it’s accidental memes of little common details, you might call it it’s character. How often do we choose a medium based on it’s flavour? how often do flavours choose us?

Does the character of our age choose our mediums, or do our mediums determine the character of our age?

This is a teaser of sorts. I’ve been thinking about these questions a lot lately. I have a few answers, I believe, the start of which (at least as it may pertain to cities, and open cities) that I plan to bring to OpenCities this Saturday. I hope that you might join me in the conversation there. I guess I should book a slot.

Is it just me or is Outlook archiving dumb?

Is it just me or is Outlook’s (and Exchange’s) insistence on “archiving” items and restricting the size of your inbox just stupid and something that must irritate and/or baffle millions of users?

‘Would you like to archive old items now?” no, I would not!

How is an average user supposed to even know what that means? what’s an archive? where does it go? can I get it back? why are you taking away my inbox? In an age where gmail (or hotmail) can give me 2.8GB inbox for free and gigabytes cost pennies, what’s wrong with corporate email?

Voip (finally?) Getting Interesting

According to this piece at the inq Intel has a crack at computer telephony by way of the WSJ, Intel (of all people) is looking to finally deliver on the promise of voip.

Voip for a long time has followed the all too common path of disruptive path of not really disrupting anything at all. The voip story for a long time has been all about copying exactly what the old technology did with a new technology at a lower price – rather that trying to radically re-think what’s possible with the new media outside of the old constraints.

Out of the blue, here’s Intels remedy for reimagining voip:

Intel is working on ideas that will give broader access to online meetings with TiVo-style playback, instant captioning of conversations and translation into multiple languages.

It also wants to make improvements to the quality of calls and improve security and reliability. By 2008, Grobman expects to add an isolated layer of software called a “collaboration virtual appliance.” Once installed, the crash of a PC’s main operating system wouldn’t interrupt a VOIP call or conference.

Other tools could include identification of the the current speaker during a conference call, or to mute a participant who is generating background noise. Grobman said that he would like to see automatic transcription or translation of conferences. more

I just though this interesting in the context of my last post on Enterprise Search. Of anyone, you would think the MS Office/Sharepoint crew should be thinking hard about indexing audio and the future of voip… etc.

Intel is, of course, behind any new idea that means we all need faster chips (multiple streams of transcoded, transcribed, translated and voice conversations (all neatly tagged and auto-indexed) done realtime on every desktop sure would do the trick).

What do you think is the real killer app for digital voice in the workplace?

(and I know what your are going to say, that Nortel had this all figured out in 1993 and cisco and nortel probably even ran dueling tv commercials on the idea in the dotcon days, but what became of that right?)

Most interesting flickr photostream, 941 years on.

I bet it would have racked up lot of views and favourites since the twelfth century. If only they were counting. Check this youtube video for a wonderful animation of the Bayeux Tapestry. It strikes me how it reads just like the personal photostream of young William and his once fateful/adventurous summer trip to the south of England. It’s interesting to consider what parts they found most memorable – the making of the preparations, candid party shots from the big dinner the night before (heh, I’m not the only one who taking gratuitous food pictures), the time they blew up that old house etc.

I like these reminders of how all new media retrieves some archetypes of old dead media that came before.

Aside: remember that this is very much the Normand side of the story. Harold’s photostream would of course shown a whole other story had he lived to be the own writing/weaving history. (poor Harold assailed by Norway and the Normans that same year)

Dead Media doesn’t really die. It’s just pining for the fjords.

Blogs, Dead.

Mark Evans pulled a few threads together for me [Has the Blogosphere stalled] citing statistics that show blog growth leveling off. Mark thinks as “factor could be the explosive growth of MySpace and Facebook, which provide people with the ability to write and share their thoughts without setting up a traditional blog.” Ironically, Mark writes for a professional blog startup.

Absolutely. With every new media you have to consider, what does it obsolesce? If you think about, facebook and Social presence, it has to be killing blogging, especially the sort of casual/social bogs just read among friends. Facebook just does that so much better.

Scobble says twitter makes him a better blogger. (what do you think that means?) (I can’t remember o

At SXSW, Bruce Sterling (wonderfully)foretold the death of blogs. On his blog (heh), he explains a little further [SXSW Rant, death of “blogs,” etc etc] ‘there won’t be blogs around in ten years. There will be post-blog stuff. Megatons of crucial, important stuff. Just not “blogs.”‘

Amen, I’m ready for my post-blog. Blogs you remember, grew up a long time ago. At any rate, by the standard of internet time [which is like dog time but divided by 49]. First came the chronological structure, then comments, permalinks, trackbacks, innumerable sidebarwidgets and etc. were all crufted-on over time. And the blogs all work pretty well and a huge step forward vs the 90s web. But… as teh blogs are getting on, their finally starting to look a little… crufty.

Facebook and social presence apps/environments are incrementally* sapping attention from the bloggoshpere. Facebook is a walled garden, and twitter/jaiku are far from ready for primetime but these and the likes of b5 (I’ll call them post-blog too), and more and more interesting things you can do with rss, are agglomerating on the horizon.

“blogs that really interest me are not people blogging their web activities, they’re clearly platforms for developing something. They’re not simply: look at this, look at this, I saw this, I saw this… which is sort of like watching you get beaten to death by crutons” -Sterling

Blogs will evolve and specialize into whatever it is they are best at. In the meantime, other newer media will consume from the margins all those things that were probably not best on a blog to begin with (“when all you have is a laser – everything looks laserable).

Forget your personal or corporate blog strategy. Have you started to imagine your post-blog strategy?

*Longtime readers will know that in my own special way, what I like to lump in the general category of “Dead Media!” other, more reasonable (rational/boring), people might otherwise describe as “a subtle shifting in social emphasis”. But, for me, provocative definitions of “dead” and “media” always encouraged.

Open Data more than Open Source Debates is What Matters Now

There’s a battle for openess going on these days, but it’s not the same as the old open source debate. The ability/openess to modify software is just not that important to most people. Statistically speaking, almost nobody modifies their software (though the few that do can sometimes create enormous value for everyone else – that much is still true).

What I worry about is the battle for open connectivity. The media and telecoms landscape is shifting and the connection providers are the new gatekeepers.

to quote Warren Buffet recently:

“Simply put, if cable and satellite broadcasting, as well as the internet, had come along first, newspapers as we know them probably would never have existed. “

And just considering the internet, you could say the same for the telephone, radio, tv and the cell phone.

*All* of these media are just abstractions of bits traveling on a line.

Given a good enough general-purpose internet data connection, there’s really *no* reason your local cable co should be offering you TV channels or your local telco phone services — rather than the cableco or telco of timbuktu. — or any startup that pops up next week that does just a slightly/hugely better job of it. *cough* skype *cough* joost or Asterix the (heh) open-software telephone switch.

No reason, except an accidental happenstance of history. Oh and the fact that they gave you some hardware like a handset or cablebox with a few simple buttons and a remote control to make your life easier. Oh, well, and the fact that the local cable/tel-co invested -at great fixed expense- built out and maintain a last-mile connection right to your door. They even reinvest upgrade this network (from time to time). And these things matter*.

The debate of the future is how do we encourage investment in connections and bandwidth to the last mile — without selling out to those same providers, the permission to lock us in to the proprietary media services for which we needed the connection in the first place.

It’s the lack of competition and the co-ownership of the physical connection and the services upon it are a problem (not to mention ownership of legacy/cash-cow voice and cable businesses). There needs to be balance between encouraging both investment and access to data in canada.

But the marketplace in this country hasn’t found it yet.

Case in point: Rogers Inc. a major carrier in Canada just started rolling out a highspeed HSDPA wireless network (cool!). With their new “Vision Plan” you get a fancy subsidized phone (nice) can do amazing things like access any number of Rogers Video Services (or one of 50 Rogers-selected YouTube clips), or Rogers Music Services or Rogers Email Services, in fact they’ve built out a whole new little internet. And there’s no charge when browsing the Rogers Internet to purchase any Rogers games, media or service. As for the rest of the Internet, posted rates still as high as 414/min**, but they do generously offer 10MB of completely free Open Data access in the basic plan.

At (the advertised) HSDPA speeds, that’s in the range of 1 min/month. (very bad)

have fun with that.

*(Other metaservices Account servicing, support and billing are neither here nor there – it’s probably been done out of India already — thanks of course to cheap wholesale VOIP data rates.)

**Theoretical HSDPA speeds up to 1.8 Mbs
1.8Mbs = 230.4 KB/s
at $0.03/ KB This is $30 / Megabyte = $6.91 / second or $414/minute (how can this be possible?). On the open internet, better just use that data connection for *very* small WAP pages. For rich media, there’s no way you can use this connection for anything but Rogers Rich Media content.

Warning the product and rate descriptions on the Rogers site are a mess, and specially for the new products. And the pages don’t display properly in Firefox. sigh.