Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Beduoins to the Rescue

On the occasion of Starbucks annual meeting, it seems appropriate to consider the state of the wireless office. Anyone who is a Starbucks shareholder knows that the price of the company's stock has declined by 50% in the last year.

Starbuck's
ex
perience economy scene is quite pleasant, but the company must be doing a lot of things wrong. And one of them--for sure--is the creation of any sort of barrier to wi-fi access by patrons. Until recently, anyone wanting to hop on the web at Starbucks had to pay $9.99/day for the privilege to T-Mobile.

While this bar
seems to be dropping slowly (with an assist from the iPhone/ATT alliance), it is emblematic of the sorts of unnecessary transaction costs that seem to rear their ugly heads so regularly in the US economy--an economic
system which, by the way, needs to truly encourage the members of the industrious creative class who are its best bets against the devastating Depression that lurks just beyond today's headlines. It is both an oversimplification and an accurate observation to assert that the short sighted interests of the power holders of the current status quo are obstructing the work of the world's problem solvers. The absence of national (let alone international) free wi-fi is bad enough. The fact that it is not even an issue in the current presidential campaign, where it is once again supposed to be about the economy, is outrageous.

The creative class is always "fired up and ready to go." As Arnold Toynbee
Study of History argued so powerfully, over and over again, civilizations depend on the ability of a creative minority to face and master the great challenges of the day. Ours is undeniably an era of great turbulence and complexity, putting not only American civilization
on the line, but also challenging the West as a totality and potentially world as well. (One nuclear exchange can ruin your whole day.) So, to Starbucks or any other entity that is putting plaque into the circulatory system of communication by inventive, productive people Art of the Future say: Get out of the way! You're holding up progress, and we really need it!

Okay, do we all feel better now that the diatribe is over, because it is becoming easier and easier for anyone to become a 21st Century Bedouin,
who can set up shop anywhere. Nomadic people capture the imagination of everyone with a spirit of adventure. Increasingly, our tools of production allow us to have a hydroponic economics, where we don't have to be planted in a particular place to be gainfully employed. New tools are being devised daily to support a humanity with ever-greater freedom of movement.

Daniel Casciato's recent review of the emerging wi-fi ecology provides a helicopter flyover of the
state of the new nomad's art. In addition to having a device that provides easy access, e.g., a MacBook with a built in AirPort that seeks out available networks or an iPhone, knowing where to find access is obviously important. (This reflection could lead back to the diatribe against Starbucks and society in general; so lets be careful.) Unfortunately, having some clue in advance of arriving at a new destination regarding where access can be found and how much it is going to cost is a problem that R&D still seems to be working on. Each of the options we looked at is kludgey. For example, TechNewsWorld's WiFi Hotspot Locator has a somewhat cumbersome interface and may cost money and Google's WiFi net map, didn't seem to recognize any hot spots outside of New York City.

However, assuming that you're linked in, Casciato mentions a number of applications that help the new Bedouins get the job done, such as:


  • Amazon Web Services, such as Digital Chalk which gives anyone the ability to create on-line video-based training services. Over 300,000 developers use Amazon's web services to create computer based products, sometimes within minutes.

  • Portable Apps, which allows the user to carry multiple applications on a USB jump drive that can be plugged into any (Windows-based) PC and used without leaving any personal data behind: "Your computer, without the computure™." Free; no advertising. (Pretty cool, huh!)

  • Spinvox, which appears to be a British voice recognition service that enables the user to convert voice mail to several forms of text, including emails. (How many times have I had to call myself from the road with an idea or remember to go back over an audio tape to find a key note!? Grrrrr.)
  • Vonage V-Phones mean no roaming charges and can be an especially powerful application for the internationalist. (This is noted by one who recently paid something like $2.00/minute to make a call just outside of the Verizon wireless network to which he is tethered. Grrrrr again.)

  • An IquaSun solar powered bluetooth headset that, essentially, makes sure that the conversation never ends just because you're running out of juice. (I'm not sure of the whole kissing-while-getting-your-voicemail-via-a-solar-power-headset approach to marketing as per Iqua's website, but, hey, there's no accounting for taste, I suppose.)

Intuition leads some to hypothesize that existence is the experience of mass floating in time. If there is any truth to this concept, corporeality is weightless. We are not tied down. Increasingly, we occupy two realms, the bounded domain of physicality and the infinite virtual world of cyberspace. New workers, new work and new artifacts are bridging these realities.

1 comment:

Tony McCune said...

This is right on target. I'm getting more done on my iphone using Web 2.0 applications.