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It’s Just Convergence

I read articles like this and this and it makes me crazy that I am not doing more with what I know about telecom and the internet. I have worked on the very opposite side of where you are right now, way past this web page and the ISP you subscribe to, through all the routers and networks, the data centers – all the way back to the engineers who develop and drive the web as you see it happening. Nearly every Tuesday for the past eight years, I’ve sat on calls with a former Lucent engineer-turned-start-up-CEO-turned-acquired-CEO and learned about what was next for the IP and telecom networks, and more importantly, how it’s all going to work.

So, when I see headlines about Joost being bundled in the televisions of the future or that mobile carriers are fearful of VoIP, I’m not surprised. It’s sort of like looking at your watch as you see the train arriving on time to the station. Rupert Murdoch talking about media zipping over the device of choice, all the entertainment companies moving into the industry, even the DRM issues – all predictable when looking at the evolution taking place at the internet’s back-end. View it from there and you can actually kind of gauge what will happen with some accuracy. I’ve been doing it since I started my first internet business.

Internet video is an example. It could be seen coming a good six months before it actually hit. Not because of YouTube’s popularity, but because of broadband speeds getting faster, compression technology getting better and networks converging together were creating the right climate for it to happen. Just like predicting a storm over Toronto, it’s almost as clear and can be as on track.

And, it’s actually very easy to understand. Traditional telephone, television, radio, mobile/cell phones and the internet were at one time all individual pipelines feeding the world its communications. These things are all converging into a single channel, the IP network, and it’s in turn shaking up more than a half dozen old, established industries. This is because it’s widening and leveling the fields that they play in. It’s the natural progression of disruption.

Entertainment, media, internet and advertising are all in a tailspin of change from it, because it’s not just breaking down the old strongholds and control in those industries, but because it’s also throwing them together as competitors in a single sandbox. Proven, fixed and very tightly managed processes that have controlled industries for decades are being broken down, to where the average Joe can now create a company to compete and win against a media giant, or become celebrity famous without ever speaking to an agent or publicist.

The same goes on and on (and on) for dozens of other things. Expect to see more Joost-like companies come into the works. See cell phones as personal media devices, video content becoming more like your television shows, and advertisers finding new creative ways to reach everybody. Your mobile phone and house phone will be universal. Nothing is going to be single device dependent. Don’t give up all of your control to the users – the future isn’t going to be about creating what you want to watch but where and when. And, definitely get familiar with the long tail because as MySpace and YouTube gobble the masses, it’s going to be a freeding frenzy within the niches.

When things go down at the carrier level, it’s rarely seemed to be a question of “if” but “when”, and at the end of the day, that’s what’s driving everything else that’s happening. Watch the web from here and I think you’ll get a real glimpse of what’s next. After all, smart enterpreneurs look for the wave coming in and paddle to it, not try to jump in after it breaks.

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