March 11, 2005
Wall St. Journal Columnist Walt Mossberg Sees Hurdles for Wireless Communication
LOS ANGELES - Walt Mossberg, columnist for the Wall Street Journal, was the keynote speaker at the 2005 Venture Capital Roundtable held March 2, 2005. The Venture Capital Roundtable is hosted annually by the Entrepreneurs Association, UCLA Anderson’s largest student association. The round table allows members the opportunity to network with a variety of entrepreneurial professionals in an informal setting. It also affords students the opportunity to soak in words of wisdom from speakers like Mossberg, who writes three times a week for the Journal, aiming his columns at consumers – both personal and professional – which are “not under the thumb of IT department at large corporations.
From his vantage point, the personal computer is no longer the dominant digital device – “the PC’s reign is over” – as cell phones and other devices become more useful and more ubiquitous. But what’s really replacing the personal computer is a type of convergence, where one’s television and cell phone, one’s living room and one’s office and, yes, one’s personal computer and all networked together. The whole concept of being online will become antiquated as more and more everyday experiences migrate organically to the experience we now think of as being “online.” Another reason the personal computer is losing its share of the public’s attention is that, as a business, what was once a vibrant and creative atmosphere has become moribund, with Intel and Microsoft “sucking out the profits.”
The cell phone, Mossberg believes, is a product with much more potential. Holding his own Palm Treo aloft, he noted that the device is no longer just a phone, but also a computer, a digital camera, a vehicle for email with video and mp3 music capabilities. With hard disks coming to cell phones in the very near future, he jokes that “you will soon be able to store thousands of crappy photos,” but underlying the humor was the implicit fact that the device we once thought of as just phones with poor reception are fast becoming portable communication units with a variety of uses.
The greatest issue standing in the way of what could be a very profitable and interesting business are what Mossberg refers to as “the Soviet Ministries,” aka the telephone carriers, who exert control over the technology while they dominate the industry. “They prevent progress and don’t advance the technology,” Mossberg said. “They are essentially old utility companies, monopolists who failed to adopt a single standard for the technology even though it was done in every other technology.” Europe, Mossberg notes, has no such problems and new uses for “cell phones” are always being innovated. In the United States, “all new hardware goes through the Soviet Ministries and they distort and prevent innovation and profits.”
The biggest problem facing the online world is security, Mossberg says. Microsoft – which enjoys a near monopoly – offers an operating system that is fundamentally insecure. There is, he says, a group of international criminals, vandals and thieves that do everything from identity theft to the forcing of advertising on to everyone’s computer. Mossberg consider security a crisis at this point and sees no immediate solution to the issue.
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