It’s one of those days of a buffet of items that missed the cut during the week. There’s a theme though, which is the evolution of broadband and Internet.
Microsoft announced it’s going to buy Yammer, a company who specializes in creating a kind of social workplace, a collaborative framework based not on evolved voice notions but on social networking. The move is almost surely a follow-on to their Skype acquisition because a social framework for collaboration still requires something that can integrate actual communications among workers into a model for collaboration. You can see the picture here; teams are hosted on a Yammer structure and exchange views through posts, and then jump off into collaboration pairwise or in real-time groups, via Skype. SharePoint apps can integrate with this picture to create a direct linkage to applications and work processes.
I think this is probably worth a shot for Microsoft, but I also think it may be a bit of a tip of the iceberg, meaning that Microsoft likely has things in mind a bit broader than the pure Yammer model. Any human activity can be socialized. The social-network model says “Integrate your life into this online process”, and the business/collaborative model says “use this model to support cooperative activity”. That’s only a small step from “build this cooperative framework into your online activity”. Microsoft could easily build social contexts around key online activities like listening, TV, etc. That might be better in the long run than letting Facebook live your life.
On the consumer side of broadband and online service, we have a lot of news about the government’s influence. Government, of course, cares about election more than about us and thus is likely to take the position that has the most glitz and gets the most votes rather than what’s logical. However, it can do stuff, sometimes unintended, and there are a couple of initiatives that have that maybe-good-maybe-not characteristic.
The “Ignite” program creates a kind of industry partnership to promote 1 Gbps broadband, and it’s backed by operators and vendors, but in my view none of this backing is really meaningful. The ostensive motivation here is to “help the US catch up” with countries like Korea. The problem is that absent redrawing US geography that’s not very likely. Korea does well with broadband because its population and geography combine to make it highly efficient to serve people. Where density of opportunity is low, as in the US, the cost of deployment is higher than the market will bear.
Where do we see FTTH in the US? Answer, in Verizon’s territory. Why? Because Verizon has the highest demand density of any US operator, a demand density that approaches that of some of those high-broadband-speed countries. So here’s my contribution to your effort, Igniters; have everyone move to the northeast. Otherwise, you’re politicking.
Another government issue is the DoJ review of Comcast’s practices with streaming. OTT players are now complaining about TV Everywhere because it gives an advantage to the guy who built the network that delivers the content. Well, if the Internet is open, it should be open to all the options for payment and settlement, but the VC community doesn’t fund carriers it funds OTTs, so guess who ex-VC FCC Chairman Genachowski supports here? And if providers can’t pay for QoS they probably can’t pay for traffic, which means that streaming video of any form will end up being paid for by the imposition of usage pricing. Furthermore, all this exploitation of capacity by OTTs is a proximate cause for underperformance of infrastructure investment, which is why global operator capex is under pressure. Which flies in the face of goals to pursue 1G Internet. Government sure gets technology!