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It’s Official: Value Moving to Edge

It’s official. A team of market analysts from Oppenheimer are saying [PDF] what I’ve been saying since 1997, that the apps are separating from the network, and this is driving a wave of “explosive innovation.” The team, which includes my friend Tim Horan, says:

”... the latest smartphones (Pre, Bold, iPhone) show that wireless applications can be separated from the underlying network. Indeed, apps must be provided separately to allow the explosive innovation required to grow as well as take advantage of global economies of scale. Applications and hardware are global, with future expense elasticity being driven primarily by their adoption in markets such as China and India, rather than the U.S. This could potentially cannibalize voice and text messaging with applications for which the service providers receive little revenues (e.g., instant messaging, Skype, Fring, Truphone and Nimbuzz are all VoIP applications now available wirelessly). The obvious conflict this creates between the service providers and the application/hardware providers will be the most important dynamic the industry will face.

The carriers need to face the fact that just because something is unthinkable doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen. Today mobile phones. Tomorrow cable TV.

The Oppenheimer team thinks the winners will be backhaul providers, towercos and data centers—in other words, infrastructure providers. The losers; anybody that depends on integration of infrastructure and app.

I had it right in 1997, but my timing was off. If you believe the Oppenheimer team, the time for wireless dis-integration is now.

By David Isenberg, Principal Prosultant(sm), isen.com, LLC

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The value in my network is in the middle Brett Glass  –  Jun 13, 2009 3:27 AM

As an ISP, I can state authoritatively and conclusively that the value of my network lies in the middle. Among my subscribers, the most popular features are our spam-scrubbing mail server; our Web acceleration (which makes a $30 connection run like one that would otherwise have to cost $40 or $50); our firewalling; our encrypted connections at no extra charge. There’s value all over in networks; it’s simply shortsighted to ban value added features or intelligence from any part of the network. David, it’s great to hear about value being added at the edge, but that’s no excuse for attempting to ban innovation and value added in the middle.

Brett, did you read David's last but one paragraph? Suresh Ramasubramanian  –  Jun 16, 2009 1:53 PM

> The Oppenheimer team thinks the winners will be backhaul providers, towercos
> and data centers—in other words, infrastructure providers.

That’s entirely consistent with hosted applications of the sort you describe.

Me, I dont agree with David (and as I said - I wouldnt sign his ‘its the internet stupid’ comment) but here, this report is spot on.

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