A great picture of the West Pier in flames. It gives you an idea of quite how badly damaged it has been.
Clay has written a piece on the differences between permanet – the idea of permanent, impervious connectivity – and nearlynet, the ad hoc, semi-permanent networks characterised by 802.11b. It’s well worth a read, but I think there are a couple of points that Clay is mistaken about.
First of all, the lesson of in-air phones isn’t that permanet is less powerful than nearlynet: It’s that being able to receive a call is more important than being able to make one. Like the Rabbit system in the UK, the big turn-off was that you had a phone that no one could contact you on, which significantly reduces its usefulness. The most powerful feature of a mobile phone is that people can get hold of you, not that you can call anyone at any time.
This is the key difference between airphones and Iridium, Clay’s second example of permanet. Quite correctly, Clay claims Iridium as an example of permanets, and that it failed because of the fact that people simply didn’t need phones that would work anywhere enough to pay the high prices that the huge investment costs demanded. It’s worth remembering, though, that Iridium is actually alive and well, and serving the niches that do need phone service anywhere – governments, NGOs, and the like. Those satellites haven’t gone away: the cost of putting them up there has just been written off in order to turn Iridium into a niche service.
Clay isn’t wrong about 3G, though – I have yet to see an application that would persuade me to buy a 3G phone, and I’m an ideal early adopter. But I don’t think the comparison with airphones holds water.