Learning to Play Nice

Interactive industry trends

SXSW Interactive Panels

Industry Trends and New Directions Track

March 10-12

Ah, the new media boom. Fast money! Business plan? Schmizness plan! IPO fever! Dot.com explosions! Gourmet coffee! Power! Condos! Money!

And then it was over.

At least the gourmet coffee is still around.

Still, many who survived or observed the boom and bust see blue skies ahead, and recommend a more open -- and sober -- approach to new media initiatives. That's not to say there isn't room for creativity. In fact, the industry is on the brink of several important innovations -- if all the players can cooperate.

Security, standards, and looking to Open Source to provide services across platforms or devices were recurring issues in the Industry Trends panels.

For an environment built on the spirit of the open frontier, the idea of locking down access to information seems antithetical. However, the proliferation of worms and viruses has affected everyone from the home computer user to large government institutions.

"How many of you have been hacked in the last year?" asked Mellie Price of Monsterbit. "How many know they've been hacked?"

Though her question was directed to IT professionals who manage organizational systems, security and privacy issues are of concern to anyone who does any business online. Being proactive in understanding how your computer works with other computers online, and having a prevention, detection, and response plan is the best defense.

For new trends or third-generation developments, panelists looked to Europe and Japan, where wireless technology has provided some of the most exciting telephony. Short Messaging Services (SMS) and I-Mode are hot products abroad, providing all the bells and whistles only half-heartedly delivered in the U.S. (WAP, anyone?).

I-Mode in particular (described as the AOL of Japan and a product of Japanese conglomerate DoCoMo) appears to have pulled it all together. Instead of developing the PDA, DoCoMo turned to the cell phone, turning it into a "must carry" accessory like the wallet. With strong applications, high-quality graphics and color screens, ease of use, and affordable prices, I-Mode provides consumers with cell phones that surf the Web, efficiently send and receive information, and most importantly, provide secure wireless transactions. Some phones feature cameras to capture images to e-mail friends. Except for the cost of the device itself, services are cheap by U.S. standards, because customers are charged by volume of content retrieval instead of airtime. It's a multimedia device, available 24/7.

So, why not here? In the U.S., several companies provide similar wireless services, but with different infrastructures, making it virtually impossible for customers to communicate with each other to the extent they do in foreign markets. Until U.S. companies can agree on standards for browsers, gateway servers and the devices themselves, wireless will not take off in the U.S., according to the panelists. The same is true for other high-tech devices like interactive televisions, which continue to be "on the brink."

The desire is there; now it's time for software and content providers to sit down and play nice.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

SXSW Interactive Panels, Industry Trends and New Directions, dot-com trends, dot-com industry, Open Source, Mellie Price, Monsterbit, online security, IT, Short Messaging Services, SMS, I-Mode, WAP, I-Mode, DoCoMo

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