SF Women 2.0 Startup Weekend Wrap-up

Last weekend, I attended SF Women 2.0 Startup Weekend. At first, I didn’t know what to expect, but I ended up having a blast. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to pitch my idea, but I decided to do it while taking a shower in the morning. No one ended up joining my team, and I think it was just wrong crowd to pitch an idea around solar industry. I ended up joining an eccentric geek, H@rlan Knighwood, and worked on his project, ForkThis.  He coined it “Massively Parallel Creative Collaboration Engine”, which sounded like a title of a Ph.D. thesis. We had four core members and two floaters, and one of the member and I came up with gentler, funnier explanation, Friendly Online Rapid Kollaboration. What he has is a really cool idea. Anyone can start an idea, and anyone else can take the idea and “fork” it. After many forks, original forker can see what the differences are (similar to diff in unix-like OS) and accept/reject them and update the original idea. The team talked about different business models, but my personal opinion was that first focus should be to make it free and get as many as users possible. A few obvious options would be charging for private collaboration (Github) or charge for packaged solution (Zimbra). Anyhow, over the weekend, I added external forking – scraping external site’s page and creating a new fork – and twitter integration – option to tweet a new fork. Harlan worked on creating javascript snippet for website owners to copy and paste to their sites and massaging format after scraping.

Overall, it was a really cool experience. About 170  people showed up and 38 people pitched their ideas. 100’s of people getting together in one place, some pitching ideas, forming instant teams, and creating product/service and basically starting a company in 54 hours!  It just can’t get any cooler than this. Startup Weekend takes a place in many other cities (not all of them simultaneously), but the turn-out in SF should top the list. There are just so many interested in starting a company.

The pitches were also quite interesting, too. Some outrageous, some out of this world, and some really useful. Those with familiar concept (web 2.0, social networking, and twitter) were able to form a team easily. On the last day was presentation and demo, and the one that looked coolest was Foodspotting. They came with something that was already in progress, and thus didn’t start from the scratch at the event. To be fair, Harlan already had working demo he came in, too. However, Foodspotting was probably the most stunning visually. All their graphics were all slick and looked very polished. Whoever there designer was, s/he was awesome. One of the judge panelists pledged $5,000 to Foodspotting in funding before he left.

My philosophy around web sites was functionality/simplicity first and looks second. Perhaps I should think differently about that?  Users are humans, and I think it’s something you can’t get away with. Humans are naturally drawn to beautiful things from building to opposite sex. Having an awesome designer is definitely an asset.

Anyhow, the whole 54-hours took me back to college years. Teams of people working on interesting stuff, friendly people willing to answer and help others – not just team members, and overall just aurora of creativity, drive and affinity. Again, I had a blast and I wish I can help host one in Korea as well.

The following is a slide of pictures I took at the Startup Weekend.

Team Members: Harlan Knight Wood, Yang Chung, Tee Chapple, Toya Thomas-Cruz, Olivier Minkowski, John Weiss

Johny and I are interviewed at 8:18 mark

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Why there are not many startups in Korea

When I set out to translate Paul Graham’s Why to Not Not Start a Startup to Korean, my former colleague who is much better in written Korean helped me. I read the article before, but re-reading it and discussing it with the former colleague made me realize that there are two very fundamental cultural differences that prevent many people, especially the young, from starting a company.

The first is very bad stigma against failure. In Korean society, they have deep seeded notion that success is measured by the path you take in life – where you went to school, where you work, what title you have, where you live, who you marry, etc. Any deviation from that is frowned upon. It doesn’t mean there isn’t anyone like that, but it’s very rare. Those who don’t follow the “right” path is considered failure and treated as such. And they wouldn’t be able to get a good job or will not be promoted high enough even if s/he has a job, because they don’t have the right credentials. Considering that, failure from a startup company is even worse. When you do, getting a job becomes extremely hard. There is an additional element of lack of venture funding. That means most startups are infused with founders’ money or loan, and if they fail, they lose literally everything.

The second is age hierarchy. Because in Confucius society (which Korea society is based on), you have to respect the elders, it’s very hard to challenge any notion from the elders. It had also seeped into corporate culture, where people are promoted mostly based on ages. Thus, people with higher titles tend to be older. And thus, it’s hard to challenge them, culturally. That totally kills or severely limits innovations.

Those two reasons alone would be enough to inhibit anyone from attempting to start  a company.

A stereotype say Asians generally study harder and score higher in test exams. That in no way means higher intelligence or smartness. What matters in a startup is not book smart, but almost start smart and being resourceful. That’s why hackers are better fit for founders of startups.

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Mobile Security

From business to everyday users

In US, BlackBerry is often referred as CrackBerry, because of its addictive nature. The best way to gauge its popularity is by witnessing most business users checking their emails or sending messages on BlackBerry phones in airports or even in business meetings. Smartphone has been the weapon of choice for business users, who use it everyday including weekends to find contact information, check schedule, and read and send emails. Those functions were essential to conduct business on-the-go and enough to pay premium for the phone and the service. In addition, since most businesses use Microsoft Exchange for contact management, calendar and email, most smartphone vendors support integration with Microsoft Exchange. While Nokia has the highest market share (~39%) in worldwide smartphone market, US market is dominated by RIM (Research-In-Motion, manufacturer of BlackBerry phones) with about 40% market share followed by not so surprisingly Apple with about 30% market share. Market shares of Microsoft and Palm smartphones have been falling since early 2006, and the same trend continues.

Thanks to Apple’s iPhone, now the flood gate has opened. Prior to iPhone, a slick, trendy version of BlackBerry called Pearl and low-price PDA-type phones called Palm Centro had gained some popularity among non-business users. Introduction of slew of Google mobile applications – Gmail, Google Maps, Calendar, Google Search, and YouTube to name a few – also helped more and more everyday users to appreciate smartphones. Another catalyst was carrier’s introduction of unlimited data plan. But the real tsunami began with Apple iPhone. According to comScore’s report in October 2008, adoption of iPhone by low-income demographics increased 48% from June to August 2008. Interestingly enough, iPhone was a smartphone targeted for consumers, but with Microsoft Exchange integration support, more and more business users are adopting iPhone as welll. The following numbers regarding iPhone are quite staggering, considering that iPhone was introduced to the market only about one year ago.

  • Best selling phone (6.89 million phones) in the US during Q3 2008 – not just in smartphone category. (Source: The NPD Group)
  • Ranked number two in worldwide smartphone market with 17.3% market share and 523% Year-over-Year growth according to a report by Canalys.
  • 300 million apps downloaded through App Store. (Source: Apple)
  • Average of 2.2 million apps downloaded per day. (Source: Apple)
  • More than 10,000 apps have been uploaded to App Store. (Source: Apple)

Table 1 – Worldwide smartphone market share

Another new entrant to the smartphone market with much anticipation was Google’s Android-based G1 smartphone. These two phones, iPhones and Android-based phones will be the center of smartphone revolution now and in the near future.

Openness wins, again

The major reason for explosive growth of iPhone could be attributed to the App Store. Yes, it looks good and multi-touch screen is revolutionizing the whole intuitive user interface movement, but the real drive is its openness. Before iPhone, most phones manufacturers guarded their phones like a walled garden. It has happened over and over before, where too many restrictions hindered true innovations. Users received whatever phone manufacturers or carriers decided to allow. But, iPhone provided a platform for developers to offer their software – for a profit if they wish – and more importantly gave users choices. Users decide what they want to download and/or buy. Developers have motivation to write good programs, better than other developer, so that their software could be purchased more and thus make more money. It’s truly a beautiful system and ingenious business model. The numbers I described above are clear evidence. If the rumor that Apple may introduce $99 version of iPhones before Christmas is true, it would be truly game-changing plan.

The whole premise behind Google’s Android-base G1 phone was also the openness. It’s even more open than iPhone since its operating system (Android) is open source and it does not have as stringent software review process as Apple. Starting December 5, Google is offering a development version of the G1 phone that is both SIM and hardware unlocked. It only costs $25 registration fee to register as a developer on Android Market, and pay $399 for the hardware. Google also plans to expand the territories that it’s available in, but initially it can be purchased in the US, UK, Germany, Japan, India, Canada, France, Taiwan, Spain, Australia, Singapore, Switzerland, Netherlands, Austria, Sweden, Finland, Poland, and Hungary. It’s a shame that most mobile-phone advanced country like Korea is not on the list. Korean mobile phone manufacturer had better wake up to the new mobile world, otherwise they may end up losing a lot of their market shares.

These two phones are shifting entire paradigm in not just smartphone market, but overall mobile phone market. As “Internet” generation grows up and adopt mobile behavior similar to that of desktop and Internet, demand for “open” mobile phones will grow stronger and stronger. It would not be too surprising that most of mobile phones in the future will follow Apple and Google’s model.

Open with care

Today’s smartphones do not deserve to be called phones. They are small computers and mobile phone capability. iPhone’s specification is better than even Playstation Portable (PSP).

Table 2 – Specifications of iPhone and PSP

And this is only the beginning. Be it mobile WiMAX or LTE, carriers will keep upgrading their networks to meet the demand and support faster bandwidth. Apple, other manufacturers of Android-based phone and incumbents will continue to push the envelope, developing better, faster, lighter and more powerful mobile devices. Does this sound familiar? Continuous improvement is no stranger to high tech world, but specifically it parallels laptops. When laptops first came out, they were much inferior to the desktops, as desktop PCs were to mini-computers much earlier. Nowadays, most laptops have become as powerful as desktops. And the day smartphones will be as powerful as laptops is just around the corner. They are not going to replace them, as we still have mainframes, mini-computers, desktops and laptops. They will all co-exist and serve specific roles.

The Internet opened the door to the world, where one can reach anywhere for instant access to any information he or she desires. Also, we have seen some who try to take advantage of the openness. In the dawn of desktops, malware then was limited to virus, and it had very limited way to distribute itself. With open network, where you can reach anyone, anyone can reach back to you. It doesn’t help to have vulnerable operating system and communication tools in the most desktops. Also, as opposed to hobby-like nature of virus writing in the beginning, financial gain is the main purpose of today’s perpetrators, and motivation to write good (?) and tenacious malware is much higher. Open network/system and free market are encouraging creative innovations not only in productivity but also in cybercrimes.

Mobile world is the next frontier (for cybercriminals)

There is a new report just published by Information Security Center of Georgia Tech, which predicts that mobile phones will be next target for botnets. It’s inevitable, as mobile phones are getting more powerful, faster Internet connection is possible and thus user behavior on mobile phone is shifting from voice communications to online communications. Previously, carriers charged users by number of SMS messages or amount of data used, but nowadays most carriers offer unlimited SMS and data plan at very attractive pricing points. The new rate plan in addition to the fact that mobile phones tend to be always on and often security is poor will make them even more attractive target for cybercriminals. The shifting user behavior makes similar “drive-by download” in mobile phones as in desktop possible. Also, another large difference between desktops and mobile phones is the sheer volume. There are estimated to be around three (3) billion mobile phones used worldwide, as opposed to about 800 million desktops. Apple and Google review the uploaded applications before publishing them to the public, but there is no guarantee that they will catch all of the malware.

With relatively low bandwidth, it’s hard to imagine mobile botnets launching massive DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks. At least not the bandwidth flooding attacks, but logical and protocol attacks are certainly possible since there are so many more mobile phones available than desktops. For example, SYN flooding is quite possible with mobile phones, since it works by sending many requests to a sever and depleting its “half-open” session table, which is able to handle only about 1024 entries. More than DDoS attacks, there is more possibility of fraud and privacy invasion. Malware on the mobile phone can access paid contents and charge to user’s mobile phone account. Since mobile phone stores phone numbers of owner’s contacts, SMS spamming or even personal data leaking is possible. In places like US and others where there is tighter integration between mobile phones and company’s internal resources, the possible damage of data leak is even greater. Also, since user’s location can be pin-pointed using GPS data, a cybercriminal can track certain users for stalking or other criminal purpose. I know certain some companies in Korea already do this, so it shouldn’t be completely inconceivable. There is already an application like FlexiSPY that is used to spy on user activity. After FlexiSPY is installed on a smartphone, it allows you to use the phone to read SMS, e-mail, and call logs from the smart phone from anywhere in the world. The Windows Mobile and Symbian versions even allow you to listen to actual phone calls being made with the smartphone and use the phone as a secret GPS tracker.

There is also no doubt that some cybercriminals will use these powerful smartphones as a tool to a cybercrime.

Seize the opportunity

So far, any serious, widespread malware has been unheard of. It’s because until just about a year ago before iPhone and Google’s Android phones, most phones operated in closed, walled-garden environment. But, as amazing success of iPhone shows, there is huge paradigm shift happening in the mobile phone market right now. I have mentioned several ways cybercriminals can benefit from compromised mobile phones, but if I can think of them, cybercriminals may already have thought of many more creative ways. It’s only a matter of time. There is a great opportunity for a security company to dominate mobile security market. There are already many anti-virus and SMS anti-spam programs are available for all popular mobile operating systems from companies like AirScanner, F-Secure Corp., McAfee Inc., Symantec Corp., SMobile Systems, Trend Micro Inc., and Sophos plc., but none of them is a clear leader yet. Many IT departments in US already have or are in the process of creating mobile security policy. Just as in desktops, they will require installation of security software (anti-virus, firewall, and/or encryption) on smartphnes and can restrict which software can be installed. So far, no major mobile security threats have been widely reported, so they are not on consumers’ radar yet. But, it will just take one outbreak for them to come to the realization. In addition to security software on smartphones, carriers or other 3rd-party vendor could also provide network-based, cloud security services by scanning all mobile data on network level.

For consumers and non-business users, they need to employ the same cautious behavior as in desktop environment. They should always be careful when downloading an application or clicking on a link. Just as in desktop, even with whatever mobile security software they have on the phone, they will not be able to catch everything. They should also create password to access the phones so that their information is relatively safe when stolen. But as in desktop, most users may choose convenience over security, which would be a great tragedy since they may become the source of a large outbreak.

In conclusion, it should come as no surprise that technology advance always comes with double-edged blade. While open smartphones promise another whole new level of productivity gain (or loss to some), they come with a quite strong warning label. But those who seize opportunity will reap great benefits.

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Now is the best time to start a company

It may sound strange, but many people have expressed the same opinion.

NOW is the best time to start a company.

I was reading an article from the latest Wired magazine, “Back to the Garage: How Economic Turmoil Breeds Innovation” which gives an example of Tom Siebel who started Siebel Systems in 1993 when economy was faltering then. He was able to hire good software engineers relatively easily and cheaply. He also got an office space quite cheaply as well. It also reminded me of a conversation I had with my friend who is a VC partner (I consider him a friend, but I am not sure if he does). He said this is best time for VC to invest in a company as well. VCs do have money from funds they had raised before the meltdown. Because of downturn, valuation of a company would be lower.

I had the same opinion during the first Internet bubble burst. Historically those companies that survive the economic downturn usually come out as the winner. During the bubble, it was very difficult to find good engineers and sometime companies hired people who could barely type. But when the bubble bursted and companies either closed or laid off many people, the pool of available engineers grew. VCs certainly still had money then. I was quite certain even then that economic downturn would be the best time to start a company.

Due to my unemployment, I frequently visit FuckedStartups.com a lot. There are certainly many layoffs going on. This was all prompted by Sequia Capital’s warning to their portfolio companies a few months ago. Where would all the laid off engineers go? I’ve been searching for a while, but no one is really hiring. Even those who are hiring are taking their sweet time interviewing many folks. However, Americans are quite ingenious. In these tough times, someone with a good idea will hook up with others in similar situation and start a company together.

It also reminds me of the notion of “Creative Destruction”. History of Silicon Valley is filled with successful companies born during the bust time following boom time.

Me? I have more pressing need to support my family, so I am going for a full-time employment. I can’t start a company when my family relies on me for financial needs. But, when my wife starts working, that would be a different story. Look out, world!

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Want and Must

Ample amount of free time gives me an ideal opportunity to read up on books (when I am not slacking off watching TV or browsing the web). However, I find myself always gravitated towards business and entrepreneurship books the most.

I am involved with a professional organization called “Bay Area K Group“, and while it mostly consists of 1st generation Koreans, there are few 1.5 generations. Most members speak Korean exclusively, so if you don’t you don’t feel fitting in. I actually had an interesting discussion with another 1.5-gen Korean American, and he said broad Korean community (including 1st gen and beyond) has been having problem uniting, because of sutble (or quite large) cultural and language differences. Language makes up huge proportion of a culture, so it is probably safe to say language-induced cultural difference.

Anyhow, one of 1.5 gen guy I met there was in exactly the same situation as I was two years ago, operating a startup by himself. He talked about his concerns, and I could totally understand because I had gone through the same before. It’s just too hard for one person to continue. That’s one of many things I had learned when I did my own stuff. He’s been doing it for two years, and I really command him for such effort. While talking, he suggested a book called “The Monk and the Riddle“. I just finished reading it – it was an easy read since it was short, and it’s another kind of book altogether (different from Founders at Work).

It gives a good overview of what VCs are typically looking for. There is no shortage of information about that, but this one stuck because it was told in a story. I could also relate to the main character – there are two main characters, a Virtual CEO and an entrepreneur, and I am talking about the entrepreneur, not the Virtual CEO. In the book, what struck me the most was about doing what you want to do instead of doing what you must do first and doing what you want to do later. The latter is how 99% of people operate. They feel that they must work, hold a steady job and support the family. After they retire, they feel like they could pursue what they want to do (Book continues on the subject and talks about how a company must have a mission other than making big bucks since the mission keeps the company going when things get tough). Another book called “4-hour Workweek” also talks about “Deferred Life Plan” where you do what you must to do so that you can pursue what you want to do later. The problem is, by the time you retire, you are either too old or too sick to enjoy what you want to do later. It’s not necessarily money, either, while there is nothing wrong with it. But, everyone says that more money brings in more worries. Make enough money to live nicely (how nicely would depend on your lifestyle), and do what you want to do.

It struck such a cord with me because another successful entrepreneur told me the same. I wrote about him before. He had founded and run successful start-ups in the past and he now lives in a property with more than one-acre land in a super-rich town called Atherton, CA. After the shutdown of previous company I was working for, he and I had a chance to talk privately before presenting our success with Korea market to a company that bought the assets and intellectual property. I was seeking some concrete idea or wisdom from him, but I didn’t get satisfactorial answer from him. Rather, he asked me why I want to start a company. I told him it was for wealth (money) and accomplishment (fame). He told me starting a company is a lousy way to make money (9 out of 10 fail) and there are different ways to seek fame (Hollywood for example). Then, he asked me what I would want to do if I had enough money. I told him I would like to make a difference in the world by setting a self-sustaining charitable organization. He said I should pursue that idea. However, I didn’t get it at the time. I think I get it now, but it still feels unreachable and undoable. Always in the back of my mind is how I could support my family. How can I support the family running a non-profit, charitable organization? Isn’t it something that social study graduates or millionaires or politician’s wives do? I still think it’s a very noble idea and I would definitely do it when I had “enough” money, but I am not sure if that’s something I would do while having to support my family. It’s just feels impossible….

But, there is also another thing I enjoy, and that is being a leader or being under the limelight. I’ve certainly enjoyed it in Korea, being a class president for three years in junior high school. I’ve also founded and ran a Anime (Japanase Animation) club at PENN. In my first job out of college, I assembled an Ultimate Frisbee team, which won the first place in recreation league in Washington D.C.

At any rate, I am about to start a job at a mobile application company, and I am quite excited about it. As I have mentioned before, I have been following mobile market and I am quite gung-ho about it. Even in downturn, I believe mobile market (in addition to gaming) will be way better than rest of the economy. I have been wanting to go into mobile market, and I am taking an opportunity to dive in head-first, as I do in many situations. I feel that this might be the place where I can get the best of “want” and “must”.

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Founders at Work – Part 1

I’ve recently picked up a book called Founders at Work. I thought I’ve heard about it when I was trying out my start-up in 2006, but it has copyright date of 2007. It is a collection of interviews of founders at various (successful) start-ups.

There are definite similarities between all these successful founders.

  1. Most of them were singles when they started companies.
  2. They all started early, mostly around college period and sometimes in high school.
  3. Because they started early, they were all inexperienced and naive. Yet, most of them got funding from VCs. That seems to contradict conventional belief that VCs bet on a jockey, not on a horse. Big difference? Working prototype. They all had products and prototype already working.
  4. Most of them had gone through some tough times during the life of the start-up.
  5. Their first idea rarely worked. Many have gone through multiple iteration of ideas to get it right.
  6. Most had good partners and co-founders that supported each other in tough times. They all persevered, and made it at the end.
  7. They all attributed a lot of their successes to luck. It’s not that they didn’t work hard and only waited for Lady Luck to smile at them. They worked really hard, and while things could have gone many different ways, some things just fell into place….by chance.

I haven’t finished the book, but I have to wonder if I had given up my company way too early. There were many additional obstacles; like having to support the family and having no committed co-founder (my partner left in less than six months). Though, I don’t regret having started a company. It was once-in-a-lifetime experience. Another thing the book said was that start-ups tend to require more than professional commitment from employees. People say you don’t get in to business with friends, but start-ups do need friends because of its high emotional requirements.

Nevertheless, it’s very interesting book. I wish I had read this book before I started my company.

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Dare to predict the future

Since the shutdown of the company I was working at previously, I have had some time to think about what I want to do. I still have the desire to start my own company, but it’s indeed getting harder and harder as I have certain family obligations. Next best thing is to join a startup, but there aren’t too many left standing in networking industry. As I have mentioned before, best case scenario would be to join a startup in web application space, but because I don’t have relevant prior experiences, it is tough. That leaves joining a well-established company in networking industry. While that’s good for supporting the family, it is bruising to my ambition and dream of starting a company of my own. However, life would not be worth living without a dream. We live one life, and I just refuse to accept that I will live the rest of my life as nobody in the sea of big corporations. Well, not exactly. My personality wouldn’t let me be nobody. I am too ambitious to be nobody in any company. Either I make a difference and become somebody or get the hell out. I think I’ve always enjoyed limelight – there is something about being a center of attention.

At any rate, I decided to examine history of technology innovations (as far back as I could remember), and see where the future innovations would happen. As people grow older, they tend to have “locked-in” view. I can feel that I already do that sometimes. But, it’s important to have open mind and views. I will let my imaginations go wild, and see where things might be headed in the future. This would be a good exercise.

I would divide Internet into two large areas: physical and logical (or Layer 1 to 4 and Layer 5 to 7 of OSI model). In physical side, you have telecommunications and data communications equipment that is responsible for delivering bits (zeroes and ones) from point A to point B. In Layer 1, most long hauls, WANs and LANs are either fiber or moving to fiber. To desktop is most likely to remain copper, and to laptop is most likely wireless (Wi-Fi variation). Long hauls use mostly SONET, the good-old, reliable SOB. DWDM stuffs much more information into single strand of fiber using different wavelengths. So, as long as you have fiber in the ground, DWDM or any other future boxes will be interested in stuffing more and more bits into the single strand of fiber. Similarly, Ethernet evolution map is pretty much intuitive, too: faster and faster. Also interesting thing is moving everything over IP. Storage used to be exclusively on fibre channel network, but with NAS and iSCSI, everything is accessible over IP without specialized network. There is even talk about implementing fibre channel over Ethernet. Actually, much more interesting things in physical side are happening in and around data centers. The need to have scalable data center is pushing for HPC environment where resources from multiple servers are pooled together. What’s happening now is like creating a humongous server with hundreds of CPUs and obscene amount of storage. With pre-partitioned storage, any number of CPUs can be instantly grouped together to perform certain jobs. For example, if there is sudden surge of demand for database processing, addition CPUs can be assigned to already existing database CPUs. It is like dynamic server virtualization. You can also imagine, with fast enough connection and fast enough storage like maybe Solid State Drives, that there could be separate “memory area network” in addition to “storage area network”. Thus you have three physically separate areas – CPU, memory and storage – being grouped dynamically on the fly and providing services to clients as needed. What provides physical connections for those three areas become quite interesting too…. Memory typically requires 50ns or less access speed, so I am not sure if current Ethernet switch can work. But, you could imagine some sort of box providing network connection to/from clients as well as between the three areas. That would be really neat… But the box needs to be as scalable as the computing resources. Also management would not be easy. There may be additional challenges I am not seeing right now, but I would believe that’s where most network, server, and storage vendors are heading.

In terms of physical side of mobile industry, it’s also pretty much predictable. Apple iPhone and Google Android are paving a new era of mobile networks. Service providers need to upgrade their equipment to deal with more and more data. Thanks to the two pioneers, mobile phones will be considered as mini-computers where consumers are free (as much as phone manufacturer lets them) to download and install applications.

Logical side is even more interesting than the physical side in both wired and wireless networks. Whether you use desktop or mobile phone, what you do with bits delivered via the network is where the true value resides. However, I must say that I am much more excited about mobile apps than desktop apps. The evolution of desktop apps seems quite predictable. For example, social networking websites could be considered as enhanced BBS. I remember when I first got my computer in high school, it came with 2400 baud modem and the only “online” activity would be through BBS. I exchanged games with others physically…using 5.25” floppy disks. You could choose which BBS to go and hang out. When I went to college, I used newsgroups and IRC as BBS. Then to Yahoo Groups, and now it’s Facebook. Truly remarkable development has been around software-as-a-service model. In most cases, big software vendors tended to target customers who leave most margins, i.e. Fortune 1000 companies. Small-to-Medium businesses usually get crippled version at discounted price, but in terms of productivity, it could be considered a lot more expensive. When you move apps to web, now you have different economies of scale, and distribution and pricing model. Just as the Internet made “Long Tail” possible, SaaS changes the whole software landscape and makes it attractive to SMBs (not that it wouldn’t be also attractive to larger companies, but they may not have compelling reason to jump).

Also, when you add mobility, you get a whole different set of software. Mobility means your location may change at any time. The obvious apps are the ones that tell you about things around you, whether you are looking for a restaurant, a friend, etc. There is also notion of instant social gaming, where you hook up with whoever is available and play a game together. Another one is instant access to information wherever you are. One app I saw lets user scan a barcode of a product and find review/rating information about it. Pretty clever. So what makes apps on mobile phone with high-speed internet connection a lot more interesting is location + instant access to information.

What could be possible? Where could things go from here? SaaS means both desktop and mobile phone could access the same application. So the SaaS should be able to accommodate information from/to both desktop and mobile phone. Will desktops become just another (immobile) terminal to apps? How about SaaS of SaaS? If apps are moving to web, and there might be a need for information exchange between two or more SaaS apps. Mashup for mobile apps. There is an idea! Another characteristic of mobile phone is it’s most likely to be with owner all the time. So, it could be use as tracking device…..could be as physical as distance travelled or expenses……or some sort of analysis based on accumulated data…..like when s/he is most likely to spend money, etc. I actually have envisioned a society without cash, since a lot of financial transactions already happen without me actually touching the money. Money gets deposited using direct deposit. I always use credit cards for purchases. I then pay for credit charges using online banking. I don’t need to touch the money, period. So, what if you add charging capability to the mobile phone? It’s already done in Asia and Europe, where you can pay for goods using your mobile phone. It’s just that mobile carriers are not credit card companies, but it should be possible perhaps through partnership. Then SaaS could keep track of most of expenses through the mobile phones and provide you with financial analysis. That could be possible.

Actually, it would be impossible to think of all the possible mobile SaaS right now….., but it gives good topic ideas. From today on, I am going to write about at least one mobile SaaS a day.

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