The Future of the Internet

I’ve had many thoughts and discussions about the internet and its enormous untapped potential. It’s been a little over 10 years since the internet boom began. Yet, the internet has just begun to impact and influence our lives. No one can predict with any accuracy the future of this technology, but I hope one day, people will read this article and say that I got it right.

The internet is still extremely PC centric. PCs have evolved substantially in the last 10 years in order to accommodate the new demands of internet applications. PCs have more memory and hard drive space to accommodate sound and video which has now become ubiquitous. More importantly, broadband velocities have been following Moore’s Law. Cable is being replaced by fiber as the fastest and most reliable broadband options, opening up even more potential.

So that’s the good news, but there is a key evolution that will take place. The internet will begin to address non PC devices, as it continues to add information and productivity into our lives.

One transition is already happening. The cell phone. Personally, I find my cell phone more of an annoyance than a productivity tool, but I know that I am definitely in the minority. Cell phones are in its infancy of internet adoption. In the longer run, the actual phone calls will occur over VOIP and all of the cell towers will be internet towers of which voice is just one of its function.

That said, the cell phone is limited from an internet perspective. LCD clarity is also on Moore’s law, and the number of pixels per inch continues to grow. My latest portable has a 12″ 1280 X 800 screen. It is very nice and clear, but it is difficult to imagine a 1024 X 768 3″ screen on a cell phone. Therefore the cell phone will not play a primary role in the evolution of the internet.

But there’s another development that is begging to happen. The television. The TV and internet have yet to intersect. In fact, it is infuriating to move content from one medium to another. Even today, if I make an HD movie, there is no straight forward way to play it on my HD TV. Yes, I could pluck down $2000 for an HD PC, and another $1000 for a HD DVD player, but it should not be this difficult nor expensive.

The reality is the TV is begging for the internet to arrive. Imagine a world where we can download any movie any time. Pay for it, and you are watching instantly. The hold up is the content providers. It scares the crap out of them to provide content over the internet. Although this hesitance has delayed the adoption of the internet on the television, it cannot stop it it. Once this happens, PC sales will go DOWN. The reason is that many of the things that people do on the internet, they will now be able to do with their television Get the weather, sports scores, and stock prices. It is easy to imagine a day, when you are watching your favorite TV show, and there is a customized ticker with your personalized latest news on the bottom.

The key to the success of this category is the user interface. A television does not have a keyboard, and the keyboard will never be a main stream feature for a television. Therefore, the mouse and keyboard paradigm must be adapted to a TV remote control. There will be some innovative small company that finally figures this out. This will enable a PC to finally get integrated into the television.

At this point, the amount of incremental cost to add a PC is small. First, remove all optical devices. Next, the processor does not need to be a power house since the television will not be doing much computing. Use the latest flash technology for storage, and pronto you are done. Over time, it should not cost more than $25-50 to put a PC into a television.

Once this happens, a special breed of internet sites will begin to spring up made specifically for TVs.

The other dimension is the cars. Much of the same type of thinking will apply, but the screen real estate will be much smaller than a 1080i television. I do believe that in the next 2 years, it should be possible to make a 1024 x 768 5 inch screen, which is roughly the same size as a GPS. But of course, it does so much more. This device will replace streaming FM radio with streaming internet. It will replace the GPS, and of course, customized news, stock quotes, and traffic all on your car. It will bring the GPS to a whole new level.

I grew up in the PC business, but the PC business spawned a new business called the internet. And now the internet will spawn some new and beautiful businesses for the television and the car PC. I can’t wait.