Changing World

I spoke with Bill Raduchel a few days ago. It was great seeing him. I met him when I first came to Sun in 1996. He was Sun’s Chief Strategy Officer before he left to join AOL as their CTO. He’s one of those people who knows the world’s most esoteric facts, and most esoteric people. A human Google. He should write a book or two.

All that aside, he’s leading a company called Ruckus Networks – you can go read their web site to figure out what they do. They exemplify one of my basic rules of business: convenience is more powerful than any other competitive weapon. Against all foes, even piracy. (Ruckus also helps universities avoid litigation, but that’s nowhere near as interesting as the purchasing habits of 19 year olds.)

What was interesting about our discussion – which was echoed by some friends packing their kids off to school this weekend – was their data showing college students now arriving at school with two things, dominantly. First, a cell phone. Second, a laptop. In that order. Stereo? Nope. TV? No. Did you bring a phone to school? I’m embarassed to identify the model I used. Or stereo. Everyone had them. No more.

What do college kids do with their laptops? Shoot at each other. Play movies. Listen to music. Write papers. Chat. TV? Stereo? Why bother. They’re focused – just like the rest of us – on interactive communications and entertainment. Things have changed. Ask a college kid which they’d be less likely to give up: their mobile or their laptop. Interesting.

The killer app when I was in school was word processing. No doubt three years ago it was a browser. Or file sharing. Now it’s IM – and it’s not the app that matters nearly as much as the network, and whether your friends are on it.

What a different world than when I attended school. And what a different world it’s going to be when you can hook that handset to a projector, with a pervasive high speed network (where high speed translates to high definition bi-directional video).

In the US alone, three million people a year graduate college. Globally, a vast multiple of that. And all those graduates take their lifestyle preferences into mainstream society. And moreover, they take them to work. PC’s (and Macs) took off when people like me took them to our first jobs.

Which hits on another rule of mine: in the technology world, volume wins.

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