futuretext: The story behind the name ..

I always wanted to do this blog .. so here goes ..

A marketing / branding person once asked me: Who did your PR and branding?

At first I thought that she was after some work from our company .. and since I had done the futuretext branding and logo myselves, I thought .. maybe she is criticising how it looks ..

But no ..

She went on to say .. It was fantastic name for a publishing company focussed on emerging technologies ..

This made me happy ofcourse ..

But should I have been happy?

The real story is far less flattering .. and here it is ..

I started with mobile messaging applications around 2000. SMS was the rage .. but MMS was emerging ..

So, originally .. I wanted to start a company based on messaging .. and beliveved .. and hold your breath for this .. ‘The future of ‘text’ is MMS’

So, that was the idea behind ‘futuretext’

Real marketing people like my good friend Russell Buckley(Now MD Europe of Admob) were wiser .. and warned that MMS was (is!) a dog .. It is never going anywhere ..

But I was convinced otherwise .. and bet my business on it so to speak!

(In fairness, I thought MMS may become a transport mechanism – like WAP .. and that’s why I thought it may always have a future)

Anyway .. the rest as they say is history ..

I entered publishing .. and futuretext was an ideal name for a publishing company by happy coincidence …

So, what does this all tell you?

a) I am no branding / marketing person

b) Sometimes you can f**k up badly .. but still get lucky

c) And the future of text is ‘futuretext’ :)

And its years before I dared to make another prediction – this one with a lot more success if I may add with some modesty .. Mobile web 2.0: AJAX for mobile devices – why mobile AJAX will replace both J2ME and XHTML as the preferred platform for mobile applications development – Part two

The anti portfolio: When VCs screw up ….

This is very inspiring .. especially for people like me who never managed to raise any money in the dot com era when everyone else seemed to be .. but yet went on to set up a web based business post dot com – enjoy .. the antiportfolio ..

The ones I liked best are

Federal Express

Incredibly, BVP passed on Federal Express seven times.


Cowan’s college friend rented her garage to Sergey and Larry for their first year. In 1999 and 2000 she tried to introduce Cowan to “these two really smart Stanford students writing a search engine”. Students? A new search engine? In the most important moment ever for Bessemer’s anti-portfolio, Cowan asked her, “How can I get out of this house without going anywhere near your garage?”

P2P may be Google’s biggest weakness and an Operator’s biggest asset


Notes: Let me say at the outset that I am a big fan of Google. This blog uses Google as an illustration in answer to the question Operators often ask; What can we do to differentiate against the Web (an euphemism for Google). Similarly, I have used Motorola’s Seamless mobility ideas since they are closest to what I am trying to illustrate on the network side. I am also reasonably familiar with the ideas of Seamless Mobility from the time I was on Motorola CTO Padmasree Warrior keynote panel at Javaone

Today I spoke at the Mobile Wimax conference in Cannes. The venue was one of the best known places in Cannes Palais des Festivals et des Congrès(location of the Cannes film festival)

I have historically had an interest in Wimax and believe in its disruptive potential. One of the themes of the conference was : ‘Operator strategies for mobile broadband’. So, I discussed the following idea in my talk

P2P may be the killer application for the mobile networks because P2P is the biggest weakness of Google(and other web based services)

To illustrate this, I used the example of ‘Seamless mobility’ from Motorola – because in it’s ultimate incarnation; Seamless mobility is a very disruptive idea if deployed by visionary Operators.

Firstly, seamless mobility, as I understand it is: A user should be able to go from one network to another without any disruption to their experience. In an IP world, intelligence will always shift to the edge of the network. Hence, to devices and services. Thus a service layer that spans different network types will be a needed in more complex scenarios.

I have been speaking of a the need for a new type of value chain in my blog Isn’t it time we put the customer at the centre of the mobile data value chain:A new value chain for the Mobile data industry

What would be needed in such a scenario from a network standpoint?

The device should be able to choose the optimal connection type from a range of connections possible. The connection /session should be managed across heterogeneous networks. Physically , that means a seamless integration between network types like Wimax and IMS/NGN.

If this scenario is realised(even partially), the next question is: How will it be used?

We can extrapolate existing business cases (for example corporate users etc ) and those are all well and good ..

However, the ubiquitous and plentiful availability of broadband connectivity may trigger a fundamental change in user behaviour and applications – the likes of which we don’t see at all currently.

Specifically, we may see true Peer to Peer applications.

To recap from wikipedia ..

A peer-to-peer (or “P2P”, or, rarely, “PtP”) computer network exploits diverse connectivity between participants in a network and the cumulative bandwidth of network participants rather than conventional centralized resources where a relatively low number of servers provide the core value to a service or application. Peer-to-peer networks are typically used for connecting nodes via largely ad hoc connections.

Sadly, operators and many in the industry don’t think in this way – if you say ‘P2P’ people think Napster ..

That’s sad because the telecoms industry has an identity crisis between content and contact .. i.e. many in telecoms forget that the industry is all about connecting people and not about playing second fiddle to the content industry (and all the baggage that comes with it – such as DRM)

A true P2P ecosystem triggered by the idea of seamless mobility and plentiful bandwidth can be very disruptive indeed …

And what has this got to do with the Web and Google?

Think server farms ..

Google is client server .. It has to be .. if it needs to store, manage and index the Web. Indexing the Web, as we know it, has to be centralised ..

Consequently, if a decentralised – P2P architecture takes off – then Google cannot match it because it is not in Google’s DNA to do so(just as the Web was never in Micosoft’s DNA) .. And furthermore .. it will be a service which people will want(Doubt that? – My Skype account shows 8,663,106 online at the moment!)

This is classic Sun Tzu ..

Unfortunately, more strategies are driven by Mickey Mouse than by Sun Tzu ..

And I mean that quite literally .. in the sense that it is driven by the content industry aka the Disney’s and the Warners of the world.

The telecoms industry sadly does not realise that it is in the communication business – and not the content business.

That should however not detract us from the vision of P2P triggered by the concept of Seamless mobility .. which, in my view, is perfectly valid and highly disruptive .. especially since it is a unique advantage which the network can foster ..

Which was the original question I was addressing: What can Operators do that is unique and different in a Web world and still add value?

Thoughts and feedback welcome ..

Image source: http://www.anticlockwise.com/farm2.jpg

Update on comments ..

Many thanks for the great feedback

I agree with Tope in the comments (and which was my point) i.e. we can’t look at the future with the ecosystem of the present. P2P is highly disruptive and no one really knows(and I dont claim to make any predictions either) how users will use all this bandwith and connectivity in a P2P mode.

I am however a BIG believer in the power of grassroots and in the belief that empowered,connected individuals can drive grassroots change(much the same optimistic view I take for Africa and mobile technology – of which I am a big advocate) i.e. the more links you can create between people, the more the emergence of an ecosystem which will be truly vibrant – and whose ultimate form we cannot see based on the views of today .. Thanks all – appretiate the feedback

Many thanks for your comments – Gillian Gibbons – teddy bear teacher ..

Many thanks for your comments on the blog Gillian Gibbons – teddy bear teacher

As a technology blog, there is always the question if one should blog about something like this ..

However, I feel strongly about the issue and felt that in a small way(and especially as a British national) and an advocate for human rights – I could help by highlighting it.

Many thanks again. kind rgds Ajit

Gillian Gibbons – teddy bear teacher ..


Like many others on blogosphere, I wish to express my disgust at the treatment of Gillian Gibbons in Sudan.

Apparantly, the Sudanese government now wants to create ‘workshops’ to orient foreigners about local cultures .. I wonder if they will include the bit about 40 lashes in those workshops ..

Android fragmentation ..

Richard Monson Haefel writes an interesting blog about Android fragmentation. The issue is accurate ofcourse and Richard has spotted it well. However, it’s not as bad as JVM fragmentation.

What is needed is a kind of ‘handset capability exchange’ – a means to exchange capabilities of handsets dynamically between two devices (or between a device and an Operator/application). This may be easily built into the OHA stack and would be able to indicate to others the exact APIs supported by the device

Leopard, spots change – Verizon ..

Verizon has opened up! What do we say? At this rate, my blog ‘OpenGardens’ will become redundant

But seriously .. Like Om Malik, I am sceptical a bit .. But .. I am also an optimist ..

This is clearly a significant move ..

However, it should be looked at in context of the broader market .. iPhone, Google, Android, 700 Mhz auction etc etc ..

The walled gardens model is truly dead and a mixture of regulatory, competitive and customer led changes are the winners here ..

In many ways, such moves should be encouraged – like I blogged about Three’s about turn ..(Three was one of the closest operators in Europe at one time and now goes to the other end of the spectrum)

The bottom line is: Operators have little choice .. The customers are driving this change and history has always dictated this change(for instance in the case of AOL)

The real question we have to ask is: Is the phone a creation device(Web 2.0/Mobile Web 2.0) or is it a consumption device? That’s the difference between OpenGardens and Walled Gardens ..

As we go into an era of creation, openness is inevitable

The first phone books ..


The first phone book contained no numbers and callers were put through by the operator.

The first person listed in that book was J.W. Alt at 14 Queen Victoria Street, East Central – a building no longer around after the remains of a Roman Temple found nearby were moved to the site and renamed Temple Court.

source: BBC

Fascinating .. we have come a long way!

Every application on Android is a Web 2.0 citizen.

My good friend Andreas has been Androiding again .. and following his last post which I also blogged about – he writes more on the significance of Google’s Android and says that Every application on Android is a Web 2.0 citizen. This is another very insigntful blog – and one I very much agree to .. Android is keeping Andreas busy .. and also me .. much more to come here!

Tony Fish rated Top 10 for science and innovation by the Observer ..

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

The observer rates Tony Fish Top 10 for science and innovation / heading for the top

The entry reads as below

Congarts Tony for this!

Tony Fish, author and founder, AMF Ventures, London Fish is involved in technology, media and telecoms industries, building hi-tech companies since 1994. He is the founder of AMF Ventures, a strategic consultancy focused on the move to 2.0. He sits as a non-executive director at Chronos Technology, Hartwood, dotnet and C2G, chairman at Dot Mobile, and partner at MashUp Events LLP, a formal gathering of professionals who meet to discuss the digital world. Mobile Web 2.0, Fish’s second book, focuses on the changing relationships between mobile, TV, web and print, and the uniqueness of mobile metadata.