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总有一种声音,让人想起从前,总有一份记忆,徘徊在心的边缘,总有一种守侯,即使脚步渐行渐远。 流水涓涓,仿佛从不曾离去,在我们生命的故事中,细数着流年……

THE WORLD IS FLAT (Two-10)  

2011-05-10 13:50:36|  分类: 【在线阅读】 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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       Flattener #10

The Steroids

Digital, Mobile, Personal, and Virtual

But this iPaq's real distinction is its wirelessness. It's the first palmtop that can connect to the Internet and other gadgets in four wireless ways. For distances up to 30 inches, the iPaq can beam information, like your electronic business card, to another palmtop using an infrared transmitter. For distances up to 30 feet, it has built-in Bluetooth circuitry . . .

For distances up to 150 feet, it has a Wi-Fi antenna. And for transmissions around the entire planet, the iPaq has one other trick up its sleeve: it's also a cell phone.

If your office can't reach you on this, then you must be on the International Space Station.

-From a New York Times article about HP's new PocketPC, July 29, 2004

I am on the bullet train speeding southwest from Tokyo to Mishima. The view is spectacular: fishing villages on my left and a snow-dusted Mt. Fuji on my right. My colleague Jim Brooke, the Tokyo bureau chief for The New York Times, is sitting across the aisle and paying no attention to the view. He is engrossed in his computer. So am I, actually, but he's online through a wireless connection, and I'm just typing away on a column on my unconnected laptop. Ever since we took a cab together the other day in downtown Tokyo and Jim whipped out his wireless-enabled laptop in the backseat and e-mailed me something through Yahoo!, I have been exclaiming at the amazing degree of wireless penetration and connectivity in Japan. Save for a few remote islands and mountain villages, if you have a wireless card in your computer, or any Japanese cell phone, you can get online anywhere-from deep inside the subway stations to the bullet trains speeding through the countryside. Jim knows I am slightly obsessed with the fact that Japan, not to mention most of the rest of the world, has so much better wireless connectivity than America. Anyway, Jim likes to rub it in.

"See, Tom, I am online right now," he says, as the Japanese countryside whizzes by.

 "A friend of mine who's the Times's stringer in Alma Ata just had a baby and I am congratulating him. He had a baby girl last night." Jim keeps giving me updates. "Now I'm reading the frontings!" -a summary ofthe day's New York Times headlines. Finally, I ask Jim, who is fluent in Japanese, to ask the train conductor to come over. He ambles by. I ask Jim to ask the conductor how fast we are going. They rattle back and forth in Japanese for a few seconds before Jim translates: "240 kilometers per hour." I shake my head. We are on a bullet train going 240 km per hour-that's 150 mph-and my colleague is answering e-mail from Kazakhstan, and I can't drive from my home in suburban Washington to downtown DC without my cell phone service being interrupted at least twice. The day before, I was in Tokyo waiting for an appointment with Jim's colleague Todd Zaun, and he was preoccupied with his Japanese cell phone, which easily connects to the Internet from anywhere. "I am a surfer," Todd explained, as he used his thumb to manipulate the keypad. "For $3 a month I subscribe to this [Japanese] site that tells me each morning how high the waves are at the beaches near my house. I check it out, and I decide where the best place to surf is that day." (The more I thought about this, the more I wanted to run for president on a one-issue ticket: "I promise, if elected, that within four years America will have as good a cell phone coverage as Ghana, and in eight years as good as Japan-provided that the Japanese sign a standstill agreement and won't innovate for eight years so we can catch up." My campaign bumper sticker will be very simple: "Can You Hear Me Now?") I know that America will catch up sooner or later with the rest of the world in wireless technology. It's already happening. But this section about the tenth flattener is not just about wireless. It is about what I call "the steroids." I call certain new technologies the steroids because they are amplifying and turbocharging all the other flatteners. They are taking all the forms of collaboration highlighted in this section- outsourcing, offshoring, open-sourcing, supply-chaining, insourcing, and in-forming-and making it possible to do each and every one of them in a way that is "digital, mobile, virtual, and personal," as former HP CEO Carly Fiorina put it in her speeches, thereby enhancing each one and making the world flatter by the day.

By "digital," Fiorina means that thanks to the PC-Windows-Netscape-work flow revolutions, all analog content and processes- everything from photography to entertainment to communication to word processing to architectural design to the management of my home lawn sprinkler system-are being digitized and therefore can be shaped, manipulated, and transmitted over computers, the Internet, satellites, or fiber-optic cable. By "virtual," she means that the process of shaping, manipulating, and transmitting this digitized content can be done at very high speeds, with total ease, so that you never have to think about it-thanks to all the underlying digital pipes, protocols, and standards that have now been installed. By "mobile," she means that thanks to wireless technology, all this can be done from anywhere, with anyone, through any device, and can be taken anywhere. And by "personal," she means that it can be done by you, just for you, on your own device.

What does the flat world look like when you take all these new forms of collaboration and turbo charge them in this way? Let me give just one example. Bill Brody, the president of Johns Hopkins, told me this story in the summer of 2004: "I am sitting in a medical meeting in Vail and the [doctor] giving a lecture quotes a study from Johns Hopkins University. And the guy speaking is touting a new approach to treating prostate cancer that went against the grain of the current surgical method. It was a minimally invasive approach to prostate cancer. So he quotes a study by Dr. Patrick Walsh, who had developed the state-of-the-art standard of care for prostate surgery.

This guy who is speaking proposes an alternate method-which was controversial-but he quotes from Walsh's Hopkins study in a way that supported his approach. When he said that, I said to myself, That doesn't sound like Dr. Walsh's study.' So I had a PDA [personal digital assistant], and I immediately went online [wirelessly] and got into the Johns Hopkins portal and into Medline and did a search right while I was sitting there. Up come all the Walsh abstracts. I toggled on one and read it, and it was not at all what the guy was saying it was. So I raised my hand during the Q and A and read two lines from the abstract, and the guy just turned beet red."

The digitization and storage of all the Johns Hopkins faculty research in recent years made it possible for Brody to search it instantly and virtually without giving it a second thought. The advances in wireless technology made it possible for him to do that search from anywhere with any device. And his handheld personal computer enabled him to do that search personally-by himself, just for himself.

What are the steroids that made all this possible?

One simple way to think about computing, at any scale, is that it is comprised of three things: computational capability, storage capability, and input/output capability-the speed by which information is drawn in and out of the computer/storage complexes. And all of these have been steadily increasing since the days of the first bulky mainframes. This mutually reinforcing progress constitutes a significant steroid. As a result of it, year after year we have been able to digitize, shape, crunch, and transmit more words, music, data, and entertainment than ever before.

For instance, MIPS stands for "millions of instructions per second," and it is one measure of the computational capability of a computer's microchips. In 1971, the Intel 4004 microprocessor produced .06 MIPS, or 60,000 instructions per second. Today's Intel Pentium 4 Extreme Edition has a theoretical maximum of 10.8 billion instructions per second. In 1971, the Intel 4004 microprocessor contained 2,300 transistors.

Today's Itanium 2 packs 410 million transistors. Meanwhile, inputting and outputting data have leaped ahead at a staggering rate. At the speeds that disk drives operated back in the early days of 286 and 386 chips, it would have taken about a minute to download a single photo from my latest digital camera. Today I can do that in less than a second on a USB 2.0 disk drive and a Pentium processor. The amount of stuff you can now store to input and output "is off the charts, thanks to the steady advances in storage devices," said Craig Mundie, Microsoft's chief technology officer.

"Storage is growing exponentially, and this is really as much a factor in the revolution as anything else." It's what is allowing all forms of content to become digital and to some extent portable. It is also becoming cheap enough that you can put massive amounts on even the personal devices people carry around with them. Five years ago, no one would have believed that you would be able to sell iPods with 40 gigabytes ofstorage, capable of holding thousands of songs, for prices that teenagers could afford. Now it's seen as ho-hum. And when it comes to moving all these bits around, the computing world has been turbocharged. Advances in fiber optics will soon allow a single fiber to carry 1 terabit per second. With 48 fibers in a cable, that's 48 terabits per second. Henry Schacht, the former CEO of Lucent, which specialized in this technology, pointed out that with that much capacity, you could "transmit all the printed material in the world in minutes in a single cable. This means unlimited transmitting capacity at zero incremental cost." Even though the speeds that Schacht was talking about apply only to the backbone of the fiber network, and not that last mile into your house and into your computer, we are still talking about a quantum leap forward.

In The Lexus and the Olive Tree, I wrote about a 1999 Qwest commercial showing a businessman, tired and dusty, checking in to a roadside motel inthe middle of nowhere.

He asks the bored-looking desk clerk whether they have room service and other amenities. She says yes. Then he asks her whether entertainment is available on his room television, and the clerk answers in a what-do-you-think-you-idiot monotone, "All rooms have every movie ever made in every language, anytime, day or night." I wrote about that back then as an example of what happens when you get connected to the Internet. Today it is an example of how much you can now get disconnected from the Internet, because in the next few years, as storage continues to advance and become more and more miniaturized, you will be able to buy enough storage to carry many of those movies around in your pocket.

Then add another hardware steroid to the mix: file sharing. It started with Napster paving the way for two of us to share songs stored on each other's computers. "At its peak," according to Howstuffworks.com, "Napster was perhaps the most popular Website ever created. In less than a year, it went from zero to 60 million visitors per month. Then it was shut down by a court order because of copyright violations, and wouldn't re-launch until 2003 as a legal music-download site. The original Napster became so popular so quickly because it offered a unique product-free music that you could obtain nearly effortlessly from a gigantic database." That database was actually a file-sharing architecture by which Napster facilitated a connection between my computer and yours so that we could swap music files. The original Napster is dead, but file-sharing technologyis still around and is getting more sophisticated every day, greatly enhancing collaboration.

Finally, add one last hardware steroid that brings these technology breakthroughs together for consumers: the steady breakthrough in multipurpose devices-ever smaller and more powerful laptops, cell phones, you could practically feel the breath of the other parties to the videocon-ference, when in fact half of us were in Santa Barbara and half were five hundred miles away.

Because DreamWorks is doing film and animation work all over the world, it felt that it had to have a videoconferencing solution where its creative people could really communicate all their thoughts, facial expressions, feelings, ire, enthusiasm, and raised eyebrows. HP's chief strategy and technology officer, Shane Robison, told me that HP plans to have these videoconferencing suites for sale by 2005 at a cost of roughly $250,000 each. That is nothing compared to the airline tickets and wear and tear on executives having to travel regularly to London or Tokyo for face-to-face meetings. Companies could easily make one of these suites pay for itself in a year.

This level of videoconferencing, once it proliferates, will make remote development, outsourcing, and off-shoring that much easier and more efficient. And now the icing on the cake, the iibersteroid that makes it all mobile: wireless.

Wireless is what will allow you take everything that has been digitized, made virtual and personal, and do it from anywhere.

"The natural state of communications is wireless," argued Alan Cohen, the senior vice president at Airespace. It started with voice, because people wanted to be able to make a phone call anytime, from anyplace, to anywhere. That is why for many people the cell phone is the most importantphone they own. By the early twenty-first century, people began to develop that same expectation and with it the desire for data communication-the ability to access the Internet, e-mail, or any business files anytime, anywhere, using a cell phone, PalmPilot, or some other personal device. (And now a third element is entering the picture, creating more demand for wireless technology and enhancing the flattening of the earth: machines talking to machines wirelessly, such as Wal-Mart's RFIDchips, little wireless devices that automatically transmit information to suppliers' computers, allowing them to track inventory.)

In the early days of computing (Globalization 2.0), you worked in the office. There was a big mainframe computer, and you literally had to walk over and get the people running the mainframe to extract or input information for you. It was like an oracle. Then, thanks to the PC and the Internet, e-mail, the laptop, the browser, and the client server, I could access from my own screen all sorts of data and information being stored on the network. In this era you were delinked from the office and could work at home, at the beach house, or in a hotel. Now we are in Globalization 3.0, where, thanks to digitization, miniaturization, virtualization, personalization, and wireless, I can be processing, collecting, or transmitting voice or data from anywhere to anywhere-as an individual or as a machine.

"Your desk goes with you everywhere you are now," said Cohen. And the more people have the ability to push and pull information from anywhere to anywhere faster, the more barriers to competition and communication disappear. All of a sudden, my business has phenomenal distribution. I don't care whether you are in Bangalore or Bangor, I can get to you and you can get to me. More and more, people now want and expect wireless mobility to be there, just like electricity. We are rapidly moving into the age of the "mobile me," said Padmasree Warrior, the chief technology officer of Motorola. If consumers are paying for any form of content, whether it is information, entertainment, data, games, or stock quotes, they increasingly want to be able to access it anytime, anywhere.

Right now consumers are caught in a maze of wireless technology offerings and standards that are still not totally interoperable. As we all know, some wireless technology works in one neighborhood, state, or country and not in another.

The "mobile me" revolution will be complete when you can move seamlessly around the town, the country, or the world with whatever device you want. The technology is getting there. When this is fully diffused, the "mobile me" will have its full flattening effect, by freeing people to truly be able to work and communicate from anywhere to anywhere with anything.

I got a taste of what is coming by spending a morning at the Tokyo headquarters of NTT DoCoMo, the Japanese cellular giant that is at the cutting edge of this process and far ahead of America in offering total interoperability inside Japan. DoCoMo is an abbreviation for Do Communications Over the Mobile Network; it also means "anywhere" in Japanese. My day at DoCoMo's headquarters started with a tour conducted by a robot, which bowed in perfect Japanese fashion and then gave me a spin around DoCoMo's showroom, which now features handheld video cell phones so you can see the person you are speaking with.

"Young people are using our mobile phones today as two-way videophones," explained Tamon Mitsuishi, senior VP of the Ubiquitous Business Department at DoCoMo. "Everyone takes out their phones, they start dialing each other and have visual conversations.

Of course there are some people who prefer not to see each other's faces." Thanks to DoCoMo technology, if you don't want to show your face you can substitute a cartoon character for yourself and manipulate the keyboard so that it not only will speak for you but also will get angry for you and get happy for you. "So this is a mobile phone, and video camera, but it has also evolved to the extent that it has functions similar to a PC," he added. "You need to move your buttons quickly [with your thumb].

We call ourselves 'the thumb people.' Young girls in high school can now move their thumbs faster than they can type on a PC." By the way, I asked, what does the "Ubiquitous Department" do? "Now that we have seen the spread of the Internet around the world," answered Mitsuishi, "what we believe we have to offer is the next step. Internet communication until today has been mostly between individuals-e-mail and other information. But what we are already starting to see is communication between individuals and machines and between machines. We are moving into that kind of phenomenon, because people want to lead a richer lifestyle, and businesses want more efficient practices ... So young people in their business life use PCs in the offices, but in their private time they base their lifestyles on a mobile phone. There is now a growing movement to allow payment by mobile phone. [With] a smart card you will be able to make payments in virtual shops and smart shops. So next to the cash register there will be a reader of the card, and you just scan your phone and it becomes your credit card too . . .

"We believe that the mobile phone will become the essential contrailer of a person's life," added Mitsuishi, oblivious of the double meaning of the English word "control." "For example, in the medical field it will be your authentication system and you can examine your medical records, and to make payments you will have to hold a mobile phone. You will not be able to lead a life without a mobile phone, and it will control things at home too. We believe that we need to expand the range of machines that can be controlled by mobile phone."

There is plenty to worry about in this future, from kids being lured by online sexual predators through their cell phones, to employees spending too much time playing mindless phone games, to people using their phone cameras for all sorts of illicit activities. Some Japanese were going into bookstores, pulling down cookbooks, and taking pictures of the recipes and then walking out. Fortunately, camera phones are now being enabled to make a noise when they shoot a picture, so that a store owner, or the person standing next to you in the locker room, will know if he is on Candid Camera. Because your Internet-enabled camera phone is not just a camera; it is also a copy machine, with worldwide distribution potential.

DoCoMo is now working with other Japanese companies on an arrangement by which you may be walking down the street and see a poster of a concert by Madonna in Tokyo.

The poster will have a bar code and you can buy your tickets by just scanning the bar code. Another poster might be for a new Madonna CD. Just scan the bar code with your cell phone and it will give you a sample of the songs. If you like them, scan it again and you can buy the whole album and have it home-delivered. No wonder my New York Times colleague in Japan, Todd Zaun, who is married to a Japanese woman, remarked to me that there is so much information the Japanese can now access from their Internet-enabled wireless phones that "when I am with my Japanese relatives and someone has a question, the first thing they do is reach for the phone."

I'm exhausted just writing about all this. But it is hard to exaggerate how much this tenth flattener-the steroids-is going to amplify and further empower all the other forms of collaboration. These steroids should make open-source innovation that much more open, because they will enable more individuals to collaborate with one another in more ways and from more places than ever before. They will enhance outsourcing, because they will make it so much easier for a single department of any company to collaborate with another company. They will enhance supply-chaining, because headquarters will be able to be connected in real time with every individual employee stocking the shelves, every individual package, and every Chinese factory manufacturing the stuff inside them. They will enhance insourcing-having a company like UPS come deep inside a retailer and manage its whole supply chain, using drivers who can interact with its warehouses, and with every customer, carrying his own PDA. And most obviously, they will enhance informing-the ability to manage your own knowledge supply chain.

Sir John Rose, the chief executive of Rolls-Royce, gave me a wonderful example of how wireless and other steroids are enhancing Rolls-Royce's ability to do work flow and other new forms of collaboration with its customers. Let's say you are British Airways and you are flying a Boeing 777 across the Atlantic. Somewhere over Greenland, one of your Rolls-Royce engines gets hit with lightning. The passengers and pilots might be worried, but there is no need. Rolls-Royce is on the case. That Rolls-Royce engine is connected by transponder to a satellite and is beaming data about its condition and performance, at all times, down into a computer in Rolls-Royce's operations room. That is true of many Rolls-Royce airplane engines in operation.

Thanks to the artificial intelligence in the Rolls-Royce computer, based on complex algorithms, it can track anomalies in its engines while in operation. The artificial intelligence in the Rolls-Royce computer knows that this engine was probably hit by lightning, and feeds out a report to a Rolls-Royce engineer.

"With the real-time data we receive via satellites, we can identify an 'event' and our engineers can make remote diagnoses," said Rose. "Under normal circumstances, after an engine gets hit by lightning you would have to land the plane, call in an engineer, do a visual inspection, and make a decision about how much damage might have been done and whether the plane has to be delayed in order to do a repair.

"But remember, these airlines do not have much turnaround time. If this plane is delayed, you throw off the crews, you drop out of your position to fly back home. It gets very costly. We can monitor and analyze engine performance automatically in real time, with our engineers making decisions about exactly what is needed by the time the plane has landed. And if we can determine by all the information we have about the engine that no intervention or even inspection is needed, the airplane can return on schedule, and that saves our customers time and money."

Engines talking to computers, talking to people, talking backto the engines, followed by people talking to people-all done from anywhere to anywhere. That is what happens when all the flatteners start to get tur-bocharged by all the steroids.

Can you hear me now?

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