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One size does not fit all

Feb 17, 20033 mins
MobileNetwork SecuritySmall and Medium Business

* Forget nirvana - what are your needs?

Attendees to a recent Silicon Valley panel discussion quizzed several journalists from prominent business and trade publications about what was hot, technology-wise, for the coming year. Not surprisingly, wireless made the cut, though the panelists didn’t specify LANs, WANs, PANs and so forth in their bottom-line assessment that “wireless is big.”

The crowd at the conference, which was hosted by IBDNetwork, an organization that conducts meetings on technology topics to encourage industry deal-making, also wanted to know to what degree the journalists felt that they should be held accountable for the overhype, boom, and subsequent crash of the dot-com economy. While that’s a very big question and I’d like to share part of a response from one well-known panelist. Her comments about where the responsibility for the success of an industry lies apply equally well to all IT sectors, and perhaps the wireless market can take a cue.

Chris Shipley is executive producer of the IDG Executive Forums Demo conference, where cool new products and services debut each year. (Coincidentally, DEMO 2003 will be taking place in Scottsdale, Ariz., as you read this.)  She’s also a veteran writer and editor in the IT industry.

Shipley said – and I’m paraphrasing – that she chooses the companies that get to reveal their stuff at Demo based largely on whether their mousetrap sounds new, interesting, and useful. And Shipley indicated that suppliers must improve their ability to articulate what new value they bring to the world.

I couldn’t agree more. There is an overabundance of anemic marketing messages ricocheting around out there. And they are paralyzing some would-be buyers – no more so than in the overcrowded wireless space.

There are really no guarantees that any new product, service, vendor or technology will persevere or will be the nirvana, killer-app of the century. If there were, the whole world would be rich and your cellular phone call would never break up.

How writers like me try to help you is by reporting industry developments and packaging them in a context that (hopefully) helps you to determine whether they might be interesting and useful within your environment. But one size never fits all. The follow-up investigation is up to you.

Good news on this front: I’ve heard from some readers who have done some return on investment calculations with the list prices of new “wireless LAN switches” that I’ve reported on here and who have determined that the numbers don’t work in their favor. The fact that readers are doing this exercise is encouraging. I believe that “fat” access points will continue to thrive in some environments, while the “thin” AP/wireless LAN switch model will scale better in others.

Pin the vendors to the wall on what they can indeed deliver to you that you can’t get elsewhere, such as what technical advantages are (heightened security, performance) and the business benefits (scalability, lower cost of management), and have them prove how they deliver it. Finding that out shouldn’t be as difficult as it often is, but it’s likely part of your job description.