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My Epiphany Mashup

September 18, 2007 - 1 Comment

In the past 15 years, I’ve had two business epiphanies. postbubble-bubbleboom.jpg While living in Toronto in the early 90s, I had the idea for a phone-based service that could provide answers to questions of any kind for a fee. This was pre-Web so telephone seemed to be the most efficient way. I was going to call it 1-800-ANSWERS. In my mind the questions could range from”Who was the 15th president of the United States?” to “Was April 7, 1263 a Wednesday?” to “What was the name of my second grade teacher?” In our current Web world of Google,, and TellMe, it’s clear there’s an insatiable need for answers, and information. This was my first epiphany. My second epiphany occurred shortly after joining Cisco in 1999. After being exposed to the then-explosive growth of the Internet, and after carefully querying my own Internet behaviors and preferences, I had a daydream of the future”connected life.” It was this: we (mankind) will not be satisfied until we can watch a live sports program in high definition on an oversized wristwatch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. In today’s terms, we want ubiquitous, powerful, quad-play. I still believe it is where we are collectively marching.The mashup of these two epiphanies equals a mandate similar to this: at my fingertips, on any of my screens, I want any and all information available to me and I want it fast – anywhere, anytime – for free or for a reasonable price. That is good news for Cisco. And it’s good news for consumers because smart companies are trying to satisfy our needs. What I did not contemplate those many years ago was what humanity would want to do once we had such information and such ubiquity. For me it was limited to sporting events, movies and perhaps phone calls. I hadn’t thought through basics like email. So, now we’re in 2007. We have just enough bandwidth and ubiquity so we can experiment in this new environment. And, oh, are we experimenting! Blogs, wikis, RSS subscriptions, YouTube, SecondLife, discussion forums, etc. For me the strategic questions for Web 2.0 for TODAY are:- What is a fad and what makes them slow down? – What current trends are lasting and will they continue to grow? – What is the next trend or experiment? To stimulate dialogue, here are a few of the Web 2.0 mega trends I see. Social Networking: Watching and listening to my son play “World of Warcraft“, I believe that socializing is at the top of his list. Other than email, the social aspect of the Web means nothing to me. I don’t chat on the Web. I don’t play games. Candidly, I go to the Web to get away from people. How about you? – Gaming: Many people want to compete, with or without money. There is often a social aspect but that is separate from the gaming itself. – News and Sports: In my view, this fundamental staple will always be needed. – Wikis, blogs and the ability to democratize and share: This is my bet for the single most compelling driver of Web 2.0. I believe that the “1+1=3” effect will continue to astound us. – Video: No-brainer. We like video. We even seem to like poor-quality user-generated content (UGC). Overall video will stay and grow although I hope UGC will lose its prime spot on stage. – The Long Tail: The ability of the Web to economically enable niche hobbies and communities is a good thing and will grow. We live in exciting times! Cory Ellsworth, Senior Director, Cisco SystemsWorldwide Service Provider Operations

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  1. Cory and Carlos mentioned an over-sized wrist watch"" as the display for content. It seems nowadays that the mobile phone (including Treo, Blackberry) is the front runner in the race to be the personal communications device, displaying text, video... all sorts of media. A big challenge is still screen size. TV producers, like the one for the CSI syndicate, are considering simplifying CSI images for viewing on tiny screens. We are already tailoring material for RSS and pod-casts. Here's another idea for displaying complex rich media.Back in the '90s, I was searching for new product/feature ideas for a company that made multimedia processors (the graphics and audio engines that drive game consoles). A company proposed that they can implement a feature where a semi-transparent image is projected from the frame of a pair of glasses onto the wearer's retina. The wearer (alone) will see a virtual screen that's as big as you want, and also be able to see behind the screen so they don't bump into things while they're moving. This work was funded by research for fighter pilots' heads-up displays.If virtual keyboards and mic(rophone)s and speakers were integrated, then the communications can be two-way.Then the social challenge will be telling apart 'mobile, connected people' from schizophrenics with weak vision who are experiencing auditory and/or visual hallucinations! :)"