Infrequently Noted

Alex Russell on browsers, standards, and the process of progress.

Sat keynote/opening

So I'm waiting for the beginning of today's opening keynote by Brenda Laurel. So far I've gotten into an argument with cellular industry reps and government regulators, and had lunch with a wireless industry columnist. It's been a good start to the conference.

Basically, I asked the question "so why are you colluding to keep your development and app deployment platforms closed? Can't you just make money transiting data?" Seems the cell industry guys have this funny notion that if they "open up" their networks to multi-billion dollar companies to provide another outlet for recycled "content", then they've effected a sea-change in the way business is done. What I think really got my goat was all of the bogus discussion about how competitive the market for cellular services is, yet when pressured about what minor steps the carriers can take right now to open up new markets on existing networks, there's an automatic "oh, that's 5 years away" response. I say that's bogus (and I think I offended them by saying so somewhat frankly). The tools are there NOW. MIDP 2.0 is being deployed ubiquitously, most new devices have some sort of HTTP-capable client, IP stacks, and many have processors fast enough to do crypto and/or media of some form. The ONLY thing missing from this equation that would allow independent (read: open source) app developers to start exploiting this platform is a willingness on the part of the carriers to get the hell out of the way of the impending network effects.

Given their reactions to my points today, I don't think I'll be writing very many J2ME apps for distribution any time soon, which is a shame, because as the carriers keep trying to point out, these phones can do some really neat stuff. They just want to be the censors, not just the toll takers.