Sramana: This question of broadband is obviously an open question. I think it remains to be seen how that will play out. Where else do you see in the broad space of collaboration – we have touched on it from different perspectives – where do you see opportunities for entrepreneurship?
Frank: That’s a good question. Today, we have grown up with technology that keeps a lot of information locally. And I am talking specifically of the “personal computer,” whether it’s a Mac or a Windows device or Linux device; it doesn’t matter. They were built from the ground up to be standalone devices to which the network was added later. They are intended to work with locally stored data as well as with network-based data, which introduces a set of management issues and of controlling the data and managing it, managing configuration, and so on.
On the other hand, you have smart devices that were created thinking about the network first and then adding data to them. A lot of that data is actually not on the device; it’s in the network. I think there are opportunities to help the migration of data from devices, because devices for better or worse are becoming disposable. Really, the point you want to get to is to be able to use the new device with as little transition as possible, with no conversion of data. The data is just there in the data center, in the clouds somewhere. As long as I can get to it, and as long as it’s secure, I really don’t care where it is managed, backed up, protected, all that wonderful stuff. But I should be able to get to all my data from any device. I think you are going to see opportunities to make that much more seamless and easy to do over time. I think there are opportunities to improve that experience.
Sramana: So, let me make sure I have got this. You are talking about variations on what Apple is doing with MobileMe, and there are a bunch of other services that are helping all media to be mobile and ideas like that, like this product called Unify. You are talking about that concept but on a broader scale?
Frank: On a broader scale, yes. Having my media be remote, that’s kind of interesting, but I don’t really want to have to solve [any problems] for that media, for documents, for financial information. I want all of that to be appropriately managed and off my device, and I want it to be secure. I want to be able to migrate from service to service. I don’t want to have to re-identify myself. How many times have you been online and you have to enter your address again?
Sramana: You forget the passwords and it’s a nightmare, yes. But that problem has been around for a long time, and it hasn’t been solved.
Frank: We have had some interesting attempts at it, but it just hasn’t happened yet. It is going to be interesting to see if somebody can crack that. But I do think you are going to have some opportunities in and around the management of data – getting it off devices, securing things, making it more convenient to use the technology to basically float over different devices. I can pick up my smartphone; I can go to my tablet; I can go to my PC and my existence stays the same, and I don’t have to do anything to configure the device to me.
If you go back to the telephone, it doesn’t matter which phone you use. You can still talk to people, and you are still you and you don’t have to load up a bunch of configuration or data. You just make a phone call. You want all your experiences with the technology to be very easy and very simple. It’s just that the technology has gotten richer and the capabilities have gotten richer, but it comes with overhead of configuration and data and so on. The promise of the cloud should be to make that a lot easier.
Sramana: Yes, we’ve come a long way with the whole Apple, iPhone, and iPad movement. We have got into App Store and all that. We have come a long way, but we are still a long way from anything that doesn’t have requirements for configuration. I think that, at least in terms of the direction we are going at the moment, especially to these rich client and app environments, it requires configuration.
Frank: Well, exactly, and within a given ecosystem, it’s more convenient. But I think many people do not live within one ecosystem, or they live in one ecosystem with their friends and another with their colleagues. It needs to be easier.