As this column has progressed over the last few months, we have developed a grand plan to create a revolutionary product - the wireless Java PDA.
The initial columns have discussed that new semiconductor technology will enable this Java PDA to process digital data, but how do we get this digital data in and out? Who will provide the data "pipes"? What will the data pipes be? Who will send the data? How? Will content be controlled? Will it be censored? In the new digital age, these questions are unimportant. The "market" will come through with all the pipes you will need.
Our future Java PDA will send and receive information via several methods. The choice of pipes will be based on cost, reliability and availability. Maybe RF modems will be better than low Earth orbit satellites. Maybe not. Maybe we will use one method to send, one to receive.
By the time our Java PDA is a reality, the companies that currently make a living carrying information will be in absolute chaos. Satellite -based delivery of data will be competing with land-based RF delivery, which will be competing with cellular phone infrastructure delivery, which will be competing against the remnants of the phone companies and the cableTV industry.
Installed data communication technology will be competing against new data communications technology. As an example, AT&T recently announced they will create a wireless phone system to compete for local phone service, using new radio frequency (RF) technology to bypass the copper wire infrastructure closely guarded and controlled by the local phone companies.
Older, traditionally non-data, technology will be updated and expanded into new markets. For example, new High Definition TV (HDTV) signals will have the option of carrying data channels in addition to audio/video.
The value of the HDTV franchises may be not in television but in Internet transmission. Those discussions should keep the FCC and the broadcast industry at each other's throats.
Outside the US, the national Telecom monopolies will be changing from full-employment machines into companies competitive in a global market. And everywhere, prices will fall as the competition heats up. In our new digital world, bits are bits. Delivery of the bits will be via the cheapest and/or most reliable means available, period.
Needless to say, the battles will be on political grounds as well as technological and economic grounds.
Regulators will try to regulate. Censors will try to censor, but the genie is out of the bottle. Just as the global bond market can preempt any Central Bank, information delivery will preempt any government action. Try as they may, the Iranian government can't stop teenagers from watching MTV in Teheran because they can't stop invisible satellites from delivering invisible digital data to nearly invisible 18-inch dish antennas hidden in the trees and rooftops.
The point is: As a Java programmer, don't worry about how the data gets to your applet. Just worry about what can be done with the data. After all, bits are bits. And think globally, as bits have no boundaries.
For in depth discussions on the subject of data pipes, I highly recommend the following reading:
George Gilder has written extensively on the coming digital age in the Forbes ASAP quarterly magazine supplement. An archive of his articles is at http://www.forbes.com/asap/gilder/asapindex.html
The most revolutionary new information delivery system may be coming at us from two of the smartest businessmen of our generation, Bill Gates and Craig McCaw, via their Teledesic satellite project. Read all about the future at http://www.teledesic.com.
Randy Cook currently manages Business Development for Vsis, a start up focused on high-value silicon solutions for Java, PDAs and 3D. Vsis is funded by Mitsubishi. Randy has worked in development, product marketing and sales management of computer, digital video and interactive TV products. He holds a BSEET from Cal Poly - San Luis Obispo. Randy is married and spends his non-marketing life raising two sons, and tweaking stereo