• Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint

Way Out

While some aspects of wireless networking may already seem like science fiction, the truly new ways of thinking or working must be imagined before they can become reality. We won't subject you to the products of our fervid imaginations, but we do want to introduce a few ideas that are just starting to see the light of day. Should these ideas come to fruition, they could transform some, if not all, of what we discussed in this book. But rest easy—most of these changes won't happen for several years, if not longer.

We Wuz Wrong

So how likely are we to be right in this section? We've been in the predicting business for a long time, and like everyone else, we've been right and we've been wrong. Although most professional prognosticators don't reveal their past errors, we prefer to stand by our mistakes, and try to avoid George Santayana's adage: those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.

Glenn once believed:

  • Zip drives had no future. How could the slow, noisy, error-prone 100 MB Iomega Zip drives hope to compete with the reliable 45 MB SyQuest drives, which used fast, sturdy, hard disk platters for removable storage? Oops. Iomega could barely arrange the financing to make the drives it was selling because of the huge demand—the price of success. Within a few years after the introduction of Zip drives, SyQuest Technology was in bankruptcy, and Zip ruled the day. Perhaps Glenn was just ahead of his time: the combination of CD-ROM and DVD burners, high-capacity CompactFlash memory cards, and high-speed Internet connections has caused the removable storage market to decline. We're not even sure where our Zip drives are any more.

  • DSL and cable-modem service would come slowly and expensively. In 1997, Glenn predicted in Adobe Magazine that because of the back-end cost for supplying customers with bandwidth, high-speed DSL and cable modem service would roll out only gradually in limited areas. He thought it would have lots of problems and would be priced too high. Of course, he was wrong about deployment: about 15 percent of U.S. households now have DSL or cable-modem broadband access. But he was right about back-end cost: of three major national DSL companies, two shut down and the third squeaked through bankruptcy. Most U.S. telephone and cable companies are in dire straits due to alleged fraud or huge revenue shortfalls. So there.

In Glenn's favor, he also believed:

  • The Web would be big. Glenn was coding HTML in May of 1994, and co-founded one of the first Web development companies the next month, with clients live by October of that year.

  • The Sony eMarker would fail. The eMarker was a thoroughly silly USB device. Here's how it worked. You were supposed to carry it around with you at all times, and when you heard a song you liked on the radio, you clicked a button on the eMarker. All it did was record the time you clicked the button, but when you synchronized the device with your computer, it could tell you the names of the songs that were playing at that time in your area. Aside from the almost complete pointlessness of the product, it worked only with Top-40 radio stations...no college, classical, or public radio stations were included. Glenn wrote about it in a newspaper holiday guide before the eMarker debuted, with the bon mot, “Obsolescence? Guaranteed!”

Adam once thought:

  • Alternative input methods would dethrone the keyboard. Whether it was a chording keyboard, handwriting recognition, or speech recognition, Adam had thought initially that it would be the death of the traditional keyboard. But none of these other input methods have ever made much headway. In retrospect, it makes sense. Chording keyboards require new hardware and complete retraining, and almost no one types as fast as on a traditional keyboard. Handwriting recognition suffers accuracy problems, is always slower than keyboarding (even on the tiny keyboards used by Blackberry and Treo communicators), and requires an easily lost stylus. And speech recognition? Heck, if other people can't even always understand what we say, how can we expect a computer to understand us?

  • Cell phones were pointless toys for yuppies. For years, Adam couldn't understand why people would carry cell phones everywhere. Only after visiting friends in Australia where cell phones are used by a much greater percentage of the population (due to a “caller pays” approach that translates into free incoming calls) did he realize that when you combine a cell phone with good local coverage, reasonable rates, and enough friends who also use one, you end up with a totally new and useful method of communicating. The turning point came when his friends used their cell phones to arrange a group dinner for 11 people in less than 90 seconds.

In Adam's favor, he also thought:

  • The Internet would change the lives of millions. In September of 1993, Adam's Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh was published, making it the fifth book ever to cover the Internet. He ended up authoring (and co-authoring) four editions of the Mac version and three of the Windows version over the next three years, selling some 600,000 copies. It was translated into Japanese, French, German, Chinese, and Czech, and to judge from the thousands of email messages Adam received during the years the book was current, it changed the lives of many of its readers.

  • The Cue: Cat was a stupid idea. Several years ago, Adam received in the mail a bar code scanner shaped roughly like a cat. Intrigued by this freebie from a major magazine, Adam looked into it. The idea was that as you read a magazine, you would see an ad that interested you. You would then run your Cue: Cat over a bar code in the ad and your Web browser would automatically load the company's Web page. The sheer lack of understanding of the real world on the part of the company that developed this product and sent it to hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting consumers was astonishing. Even given the erroneous assumption that people are interested in a sufficient number of advertisements that they'd go to the effort of using a Cue:Cat to scan a bar code instead of just typing a short URL, how many people read magazines while sitting in front of a computer? Talk about a waste of millions of dollars of venture capital.



Not a subscriber?

Start A Free Trial

  • Creative Edge
  • Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint