Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Late night fiber update

Well, all I can say after day one of this conference is that, albeit on a smaller scale, there is a sense of buzz around the fiber issue which I can only liken to the emerging buzz around VoIP 2 - 3 years ago. There are 700 or so of us here in a freezing Vienna, and the sessions are punctuated by rampant networking and exchanges of contact details. The afternoon sessions were interesting. My after-lunch slot, moderated by the seemingly omnipresent and inexhaustible Vladimir Prodanovic, also included Stephen Petheram, Content Marketing Manager, EMEA, for Microsoft (who spoke at length about the need to incorporate social/interactive elements into IPTV), and Michael Westphal, who did a very impressive demonstration of his Shift TV. My presentation was about decentralized media, online gaming, and how "gaming" could co-opt and absorb other forms of media consumption/production to create a variety of new markets and media forms.

Once again, as is often the case with these industry conferences full of decision-makers and strategy/development people, I was somewhat shocked at the lack of familiarity with things which I take for granted, or assume to be common knowledge in an industry which has underperformed as savagely as telecom. Out of a breakout audience of around 100, only three claimed to be consumers of online gaming, maybe 1/5 claimed to be familiar with P2P software (as users), and my example of a Fark PhotoShop contest (which I assumed was a fairly well-known example of the re-mix/modify ethos), claimed only one person who was familiar with the site. I don't say this as criticism of the people involved, but rather to illustrate the point I made at the beginning of my presentation - that I (and a lot of investors I speak with) am not convinced that decision-makers in the industry actually grasp what is happening with "consumers," despite seemingly endless coverage of the "Long Tail" phenomenon.

Lastly, I attended a breakout session on the "Digital Divide" issue, which included presenters from CDC, the EU DG Infosoc, and the OECD. I was most intrigued by the presentation from Taylor Reynolds of the OECD, who included "bit caps" as a factor in the creation of a Digital Divide of a different kind. In other words (my interpretation), just having a broadband connection is not enough to ensure equality of access, when some subscribers are saddled with crippling bandwidth caps (the most extreme case cited was Versatel Belgium at 500MB per month!) and costly bandwidth top-up charges.

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