Mobile
Commentary
2/17/2010
01:59 AM
Ed Hansberry
Ed Hansberry
Commentary
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RIM Saves Bandwidth For Future Generations

RIM is warning other phone makers to build more efficient applications to conserve bandwidth, otherwise it fears we may run out of wireless bandwidth, and then what will our children do when we've used it all up?

RIM is warning other phone makers to build more efficient applications to conserve bandwidth, otherwise it fears we may run out of wireless bandwidth, and then what will our children do when we've used it all up?Yeah, I know. Using up a resource like bandwidth isn't quite the same as using up oil, but I've been hearing we'll run out of both much sooner than we actually will. The anti-combustion engine crowd has their own agenda for striking fear into our hearts so we'll all go and buy more energy efficient vehicles, preferably electric. I am all for taking care of the planet, but in a sensible way. For the record, my daily driver gets 35mpg in the city and closer to 50-55mpg on the highway, which puts it in Prius territory, though it arguably sounds much better.

But I digress. What is RIM's motive for telling us that bandwidth is a scarce commodity? Gizmodo has a quote from RIM's CEO Mike Lazaridis that I'll reproduce here:

"Manufacturers had better start building more efficient applications and more efficient services. There is no real way to get around this."

"If we don't start conserving that bandwidth, in the next few years we are going to run into a capacity crunch. You are already experiencing the capacity crunch in the United States."

"That is pretty fundamental to a carrier as that means you can have three paying Blackberry browsing customers for every one other customer."

"That has a huge advantage for the carriers if you think about the many billions of dollars the carriers have invested over the last five years in spectrum auctions and infrastructure rollouts."

Just how much more efficiently can you build a video streaming app? I supposed you could build it horribly inefficiently, but then the user experience would be bad. If you want to download an app, image, or MP3 file, well, the file is what it is. It takes bandwidth.

I wonder if RIM is talking down user expectations so their own devices look better? Unquestionably, RIM has a lock on the corporate market. It is the email device. Not so much though when you get Excel attachments, PDF files and large images. It doesn't even browse that well and forget replacing your video-capable iPod with a Blackberry. When devices like the iPhone, Palm Pre, Android and forthcoming Windows Phone 7 are doing just that, the Blackberry looks decidedly prudish. So why not make all of that stuff sound evil, at least until your device does it too.

Palm used to do this all of the time. We were told you didn't need video, color, audio (aside from beeps and clicks), multitasking, etc. That is, until Palm added those features, one at a time, often years after everyone else had them.

RIM needn't worry about its devices causing a bandwidth capacity crunch, so they will try to scare the industry into thinking one is possible so they will scale back the capabilities of their devices, which makes the Blackberry look better by comparison in the general consumer's eyes.

Does anyone really think that wireless capacity has peaked, or shortly will, and we cannot use anymore? I can conserve the Earth's natural resources without driving a vehicle that has absolutely zero appeal to me other than the gas bill. There are smart ways to do it and still enjoy life without feeling guilty about your preference for vehicles, or the size of your house or the amount of fuel your boat or other non-essential recreational vehicle gets.

We can do the same with the current bandwidth limits without banishing smartphone users to the dark-ages of, oh, 2006 when WAP pages were still common and streaming video ran at about five frames per second. We will always want more, better, faster in the phone experience and most of the platform makers and hardware designers are doing their level best to meet that need, because if they don't their competitor will.

It is up to the carriers to provide the wireless pipes data travels through to make it all work. They will get there by innovating themselves, not by encouraging less data use. Wake up RIM. Now is not the time to be proud that for every one iPhone user there are three Blackberry users consuming the same amount of data.

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