I’ve been feeling weirdly impressed by my telcom carriers this week. This euphoric vibe is bound to wear off, I’m sure, so let’s bask in it for a moment, shall we?
First, I started getting consistent Sprint 4G signal in midtown Manhattan on my portable wi-fi hotspot this week. Sprint has been promising this for a while, with no clear timetable, so it’s good to see it finally materialize.
As for the 4G speed, my initial impression is that it is indeed a few notches faster than Sprint 3G, though I’m not sure I’d describe it as “blazing” quite yet, as Sprint has. Will do some testing next few days to get hard numbers on upstream/downstream transfer rates.
After noticing the Sprint rollout, an even bigger surprise for me came yesterday when I borrowed my fiancee’s iPhone to go on a run through Central Park. I really wanted to catch up on the This Week in Google podcast, but forgot to load the latest episode onto the device via iTunes before I walked out the door.
What the heck, I figured, I’ll just listen via the Web browser on the go. Granted, I’d have to do this over AT&T’s much maligned 3G network. But I’d at least give it a try.
It worked flawlessly, right through the full hour-long podcast episode. Seems AT&T’s recent announcement of an upgrade to its 3G network in New York is true indeed.
Who knows, maybe all this reflects a budding arms race among the carriers in the Big Apple? Let’s hope so.
Predicably, Wired magazine has set the blogosphere abuzz with its new package led by a provactive story from Chris Anderson and Michael Wolff headlined, “The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet.”
A lot of folks will disagree , but my impression is that the piece is about as even-handed as one of these sorts of stories can be, without knee-jerk ideology favoring the walled-garden or information-wants-to-be-free crowds. Yeah, the piece has a clear point of view, but that view consists of conclusions based on observable facts.
I mean, let’s face it. Between the recent Google/Verizon deal, the explosion of mobile apps that aren’t browser-based, and a few other developments the last few years, the Web has been taking it on the chin lately. Even if you ultimately disagree with the Wired authors’ predictions for the future, it’s understandable how they arrived at them in the first place.
Of course, the story’s subject is extremely pertinent to Roscoe Labs, the news startup I’m working on with my friends Lawrence Patrick and Katrina Miles at the moment. We’re still keeping most details about the project under wraps, but we’ve been very frank that we’re taking a mobile-first approach. And, yes, that means apps, first and foremost. No doubt, all three of us love our desktop Web browsers. But given the usage patterns that Wired and others before them have cited, what else could be the rational course for us as entrepreneurs?
My one quibble with the Wired piece is that it sort of dances around the question of who will win in this bold new world, especially in the media industry. It doesn’t exactly hail the app-based Internet as a cure-all for traditional orgs’ woes, but it holds out a lot of hope. A lot. Take this passage, for example (emphasis mine):
The Web won’t take the sequestering of its commercial space easily. The defenders of the unfettered Web have their hopes set on HTML5 — the latest version of Web-building code that offers applike flexibility — as an open way to satisfy the desire for quality of service. If a standard Web browser can act like an app, offering the sort of clean interface and seamless interactivity that iPad users want, perhaps users will resist the trend to the paid, closed, and proprietary. But the business forces lining up behind closed platforms are big and getting bigger. This is seen by many as a battle for the soul of the digital frontier.
My response to that last part is, so what? No matter how serious their intentions, why should we believe that the media organizations that thoroughly botched their Web strategies will get the app-powered Internet right? Yes, apps offer a lot of structural advantages to traditional orgs. But those orgs also had big advantages 15 or 20 years ago going into the era of the Web browser. They had big audiences. They had brand recognition. They had talent. They had cash. They still lost.
Fast forward to the present day and look at a lot of the traditional orgs’ apps for iPad, iPhone, and the like. How many are grossly mispriced or crippled in terms of their features? How many really give users the aggregation they want, like Pulse or Stitcher or Flipboard do? How many lack real integration with social networks or have screwy user interfaces? Maybe these are the early missteps signaling that the traditional media will lose the next battle too.