Where's the Mobility?

I mentioned the other day that I thought Silicon Valley would eventually come to dominate the mobile services space. I still believe that, but it doesn't look like the established leaders have gotten the idea yet - it's obviously going to be left up to small startups to lead the way in this area, which is fine. Netscape wasn't an HP project after all.

I first noticed that the leaders of Silicon Valley are *still* behind the times when I saw the line up for O'Reilly's Web 2.0 conference. Not a single member of telecom industry there and only one session that talks about telecom - and its focus is VoIP. Are you kidding me? Anyone who doesn't realize by now that the Web 2.0 is going to be dominated by mobile devices must be living on, well, here in the U.S. Not that Yahoo and Google aren't going to play a role, but there are going to be *billions* of mobile devices on the web very soon now and that's going to change things fundamentally. The Web 2.0 is going to be dominated by XHTML-MP - why isn't this the number one topic of a conference like this?

You'd think that maybe that conference was just an aberration, but I just got a link to SuperNova 2004 in June. A decent lineup of speakers - the so-called "thought leaders" - yet again there's only one mention of "wireless" and it's about WiFi and WiMax. It's almost criminal. I mean, these conferences are *expensive* and supposed to be about exploring where we are and where we are going when it comes to technology in our homes and businesses, yet the most profound piece of technology to come into our lives for the past century is being completely ignored.

There *is* a session at Always On's Innovation Summit, thank god, with reps from Qualcomm and Motorola no less. But again, the session is called "Wireless War: What Technologies Will Win?" and I'm sure instead of focusing on the incredible changes that mobile data services are going to bring into the lives of the 2 billion people who will own cellphones around the world in the next few years, it's going to be about how WiFi and WiMax are actually threat to 3G technologies. No really. No, no really. No really. Ugh.

Does Silicon Valley have blinders on? Did they get a technology-lobotomy? These entire conferences could be filled with *nothing* but analysis of mobile tech - their impact, their influence, the opportunities and more. What are these organizers doing? Do they not read? Do they not travel outside of the country ever?

This reminds me of my brief encounter with Ann Winblad and Walt Mossberg at the DEMO conference in June. Somehow I ended up in a little chat-circle with them at the cocktail party the evening before the conference. The topic switched to blogging (and how the conference seemed to have a bit too much of it) and Walt just shook his head. It's just another form of Journalism, he said, period. My jaw dropped and I tried to explain what will happen when a billion mobile devices come online and how converged multimedia devices and location affect publishing from the mobile user, but he didn't want anything to do with it. He had his definition of what a blog was and that was it, done. End of conversation. Ann seemed opened to the idea of weblogs as an evolving platform, but also seemed convinced by Walt's determination and obvious domination of the concept.

Yeah, well, Walt's a fucking idiot. (I've been waiting a while to say that). As must be these guys who are running these conferences. They're the same sorts of people - claiming to have a bead on what's happening, but really, a step or two behind what's going on. I hadn't realized how much of a clue someone like Chris Shipley has until now.

Maybe they tried to get more of the mobile guys to talk, but they are just too busy building the next technological revolution to screw around with these sorts of conferences? I'm thinking that must be the case.

You know what the mobile industry needs in the U.S.? An evangelist. We need a Mobile Guy Kawasaki. There's no point-person right now for this stuff. The GUI had Jobs, the web had Andreeson, blogs have Winer. We need someone to explain to the masses the difference between what "wireless" means and what true "mobility" is. We need someone to repeat ad-nauseum the incredible societal changes that will take place in an always-connected world. We need someone to thump the drum until it becomes common wisdom and we wonder how we ever thought differently in the first place.

I bitched about Jeff Hawkins the other day, but you know what? He's a brilliant guy, I elect him. I was comparing him to the others in the mobile space, but you know what? Now that I see what the other Silicon Valley leaders are talking about, he's *way, way* ahead of them. I'm sorry I said otherwise.

Anyways, this brings me to my final thought: Let's do this ourselves. Are you in the Bay Area? Are you working on the next generation mobile services and devices? Let's get together. Let's have a meeting of some sort and talk about the topics that are supposed to be on these conference agendas. Let's talk about how mobile data services are coming to the U.S. and quickly and what we're going to do to take advantage of that. I'm not talking a "mobile geek's dinner" I'm talking some Saturday we all get together in one of our offices, order a few boxes of pizza and share some thoughts, look for synergies and basically brainstorm on the revolution. I know of a couple journalists who might be interested in this sort of thing as well. (Om? Andrew?)

Maybe we can do this in a room and sell tickets to the established Valley guys. They have to promise to sit quietly in the corner and not use the word "wireless" in any way, and they have to leave any device they have with a keyboard back at the office. ;-)

Comment/Email if you're interested.


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