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United States

The United States Losing "The Tech Edge?" 415

Ed Matthews writes " Yesterday's Wall Street Journal profiles the coolest gadgets that either aren't available in the USA or are slow to emerge. It questions whether the U.S.'s reliance on PCs is a ball and chain, and highlights the mistake made by the US in not adopting a single standard for wireless communication. It also refers to the cell-phone carriers as "slow-moving, bureaucratic," and "having a chokehold on innovation." The regular B section requires a paid login, but you can read Walter Mossberg's column for free." Having dealt with the US-cellular companies for the last two weeks, and been extraordinarily unhappy with one company that's sucked away fourteen off my life, I'm curious what everyone else thinks will be the emerging technology - and where it will be.
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The United States Losing "The Tech Edge?"

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  • In Europe, UMTS licenses are being "launched" at the moment.

    UMTS should deliver 2Mbps wireless.
  • by flufffy ( 192294 ) on Friday August 04, 2000 @06:06AM (#879268)
    This is appropriate timing, as the FCC has just postponed the auction of the frequencies for 3G cell phones (the streaming audio/video ones). The best frequencies for these phones -- UHF, around 700 MHZ -- the ones you can receive indoors -- are already taken up by tv. The tv interests are supposed to be kicked off these frequencies by 2006, when digital tv should be up and running, but there's no guarantee that they will leave by then, as the tv corporation lobbies in WashDC built various escape clauses into the regs. So while Japanese and European 3G frequencies are being auctioned off and the infrastructure/tech is being developed, US manufacturers have to wait five years just to see whether or not they will get the frequencies. There's a report on this on MSNBC [msnbc.com]. A different and very interesting perspective was in a business editorial in The Economist [economist.com] last week, but as the current issue has just appeared, and at the moment I can't get on to the site to see if the article was archived, no link.

    fff

  • What happens is that innovative new technologies are invented in the UK, fail miserably because the financiers couldn't tell a good idea if it was rammed up their arse sideways.

    Given the degree of taxation and regulation in the U.K., it's surprising anything innovative ever gets funded at all. The prevailing attitude seems to be, all activity not explicitly permitted is prohibited. Ok, a slight exaggeration, but when I worked for a small company trying to sell some new airline-reservation datacomm equipment over there, all we ever heard was that changing things had to be approved by such-and-such a government agency. In the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand we never got that reaction.

    The UK is dragged into the new technology kicking and screaming that the bloody Europeans are trying to take over the world.

    I recall being in England one time and heard a radio report that "the Continent has been cut off from Great Britain by intense fog." That pretty much sums up the Brit attitude (which, don't get me wrong, I find greatly amusing. The EU must love negotiating with them.).
  • Actually, those regulators are common practice,
    installed in pretty much every device. Back in the 60s, they weren't.
  • by John Jorsett ( 171560 ) on Friday August 04, 2000 @06:39AM (#879288)
    Anyone who thinks that the web was "invented" is either an idiot or someone who is massively naive.

    Clearly you haven't been keeping up. Al Gore was the father of the internet, and he's not an ... Uh, never mind.
  • by w00ly_mammoth ( 205173 ) on Friday August 04, 2000 @06:09AM (#879289)
    It's a commonly made mistake. The Internet is an evolution of various standards/protocols.

    The world wide web, OTOH, is a specific protocol specifically invented by one person.

    Read this Time magazine article [time.com] which describes this in greater detail, and explains why he made their top 20 inventors of the century list.

    "Unlike so many of the inventions that have
    moved the world, this one truly was the work
    of one man. Thomas Edison got credit for the
    light bulb, but he had dozens of people in his
    lab working on it. William Shockley may have
    fathered the transistor, but two of his
    research scientists actually built it. And if
    there ever was a thing that was made by
    committee, the Internet--with its protocols
    and packet switching--is it. But the World
    Wide Web is Berners-Lee's alone. He
    designed it. He loosed it on the world. And
    he more than anyone else has fought to keep
    it open, nonproprietary and free. "
  • by bconway ( 63464 ) on Friday August 04, 2000 @05:17AM (#879290) Homepage
    Damn man, you must be drained. That's almost one and a half cats there, for christ's sake.
  • by adubey ( 82183 ) on Friday August 04, 2000 @06:10AM (#879296)
    Ha! Even the American cellphone firm you mention isn't a proper American. It's half US (The Bell part) and half European - AirTouch is owned by Vodaphone, a British wireless company.
  • is well over 90% of the population, and cellular use is one of the highest per head in the world (just after Scandinavian countries, but ahead of Japan, I believe). This is in a country only slightly smaller than the US.

    Of course, we have somewhat unique population distribution, so the phone companies can provide coverage along the east coast and a few other centers, and that's enough to get the 90% coverage they are talking about. OTOH, it is probably only about 20-25% land coverage, which I guess would be less than in the US. Our cellular system is mostly GSM, but you can get CDMA as well.

    Has this level of phone penetarion made any difference? Socially, yes, and it has made big profits for phone service providers, but it hasn't made any difference to our technical capabilites. We have one phone manufacture. We have a few research labs (eg, Motorola), but that's about it. I'd guess our WAP take up is behide the US.

    I wouldn't worry to much about the US being behind in Cellular usage. The techincal gap is pretty small, and insignificant.

    The social change is pretty large, though. Now I expect all my friends to be available all the time, with their own number. It means, for instance, I can call one person in a two person household, and be sure of getting them, and not the other person. It means you can arrange meetings at anytime, anywhere. It's the social changes like those where the US may be behind - not techincally.

    I mean - cable modems? DSL? I can only dream!

  • Absolutely. I remember when media outlets like the NYT were raving about Minitel and wondering why the U.S. was getting left behind by France.
  • Vodaphone merged with AirTouch. Then Vodaphone set up a joint venture with Bell Atlantic - Verizone. Vodaphone gave the baby Bell a majority position, but it still has a huge chunk (something like 40%).

    Vodaphone then merged with Mannessman. Not only did they not bite the dust, BUT at one point they were worth more than Microsoft. Currently, if you include their percentage stake in Verizone, they are the world's largest wireless firm.

    All this means one thing: you're wrong-o, friend :)
  • I can't refer you to any particular statistics offhand, but it is generally well known. Previous generations simply didn't feel the need. They didn't have these pop psychogists and the like telling them how they should parent. Furthermore, whether or not people today admit it, their lives were tougher--they had less time to commit in that fashion. You certainly didn't see nearly as many parents at sports events in the past as you do today. This insistence on parents becoming involved in their kids lives is a new thing, which previous generations simply didn't feel the need for. This was certainly true for fathers. It was the rare father of my father's generation and older which were closely involved in their kids lives.

    That being said, I do feel that in truely poor communities there is little to no involvement of parents in their kids lives. While I suspect few people on slashdot are truely in the thick of this environment, and thus they're really not referring to problems there, I certainly do feel this is contributory to the many problems exibited amongst the poor. However, it'd be less than honest to pin the blame squarly on too much work/not enough free time. For one, I don't believe involvement is strictly a function of a parent's time--as much as it is an emphasis on what is important. i.e., the necessity to get good grades. Secondly the professionals with which I'm mostly familiar with work longer hours on average (a well documented fact. This is not to say that things are "fair" though)
  • inventing the web is like inventing a faucet. the pipes were already in place.

    Along with plenty of examples of protocols that had too much baggage (technical or philosophical) to be of excessive use anymore. Sometimes, making something "right" just takes looking at so many "wrongs" (ftp, gopher, etc...). The presence of the wrongs makes the right appear.

  • by Frater 219 ( 1455 ) on Friday August 04, 2000 @07:22AM (#879322) Journal
    I don't know the correct English term for it but it's known as "wet van de remmende voorsprong" in Dutch. If you are the first with a big (technological) innovation, you will be left behind in the second generation of that innovation.
    Sounds to me like what we'd call "the good being the enemy of the best" -- once you have a system that is marginally good enough, you have trouble finding reason to upgrade or improve it.
  • Articles about the "U.S. losing its edge" are continually retreaded in the media by alarmists who are looking for a story where one doesn't exist. I remember hearing over and over about how we were cooked because the Japaneese had a much better work ethic and were so focused on technology and business strategy. Us poor lazy Americans couldn't compete. That was 15 years ago. The United States is doomed to dissapoint because of the amount of wasted potential we squander every day, but the beauty of it is that what potential we do put to good use is usually strong enough to toast the competition in the long run anyway.

    Capitalism dictates that if there is a market for these cool gadgets, they will come.
  • There is no monopolies on wireless in Europe. In fact, in most country, that's the first part of the telecom industry that got freed from government monopoly. In France alone we have 3 GSM providers, and going to have a dozen wireless loop operators.
  • CDMA is also heavily patented by Qualcomm and is very unattractive to companies seeking an unencumbered, open standard for 3G wireless networks.

  • Based on my personally having seen some the items mentioned in the WSJ article for sale in the U.S., I'm suspicious that they may have exaggerated the issue. Their point about the fragmented wireless market is well taken however. On the other hand, while having a unified standard such as GSM in Europe is good for mass-production and quick adoption of wireless devices, the U.S. might benefit by a combination of intense competition among the three technologies in use here, plus the benefits of not being 'first-mover'. Europe was a little slower to adopt television than the U.S. and consequently ended up with the higher picture resolution of the PAL standard, while the U.S. got stuck with NTSC. Long-term, the U.S. might benefit by being slower off the mark. Or not (hey, I'm flexible).
  • Oh please!
    I have been here to long to hold any hope for that to be worthwhile! The digital TV revolution has already been stalled in Ireland to assist the potential of RTE to make more money (hence they crippled the ability for Sky to sell their service here). The Cable-modem possibility is still waiting in the wings with at best guess another 2 years or so to go before maybe half the people with cable would be able to avail of internet access (and nobody knows how fast or slow etc this will be). ADSL etc. may save us because it is not crippled by preceeding legaslation.....oh sh*t it is hence we don't have it yet (but the local loop should open up in the next year, though at what price).
    Considering the possibility of the terrestrial digital broadcasting you mention, do you expect it to have a decent amount of bandwidth? How do you expect it to be shared (multicast or encrypted to stop people sniffing), and what sort oif filtering do you think they will install on the backend to make sure the kiddies cant find out how to make bombs?
    We are failing to legaslate at a rapid rate and I would regard the terrestrial broadcast system as the least likely to provide any real bandwidth and serious expansion of internet presence. We have a few years to wait......and thats not talking about the SYNCHRONOUS higher speed (I'm not even talking mbits) mobile access (i.e. higher bandwidth mobile phones).
    To be honest I have NEVER heard a single Irish person dying for bandwidth mention the digital broadcasting scheme once (if you can supply some links I'll eat them :-) so personally I wonder who you are that you would even consider it? The rest of us are all just bitching that the local loop is still held by the (now private greedy shareholder feeding) Eircom and NTL have p*ssed in the wind since buying Cablelink who were p*ssing in the wind talking about cable modems to make sure they could screw whoever was buying them for the maximum amount, and hence left them without the ability to actually do anything with any urgency. If NTL had bought Cablelink for a realistic amount of money, I would suspect they would have tens of thousands of cable modems around Ireland right now and Eircom would be rolling out ADSL because the new era would have begun.
  • Hell, even your electricity sucks.

    That's actually not that far off. Numerous British groups back in the 60s found out lousy and variable our voltage systems are when half their instruments wouldn't work without voltage regulators. Robert Fripp (King Crimson) has described how the Mellotron (which works by playing an analog tape at variable speed to control pitch; effectively an analog sampler) would get disasterously out of tune due to American power fluctuations.

  • Verizon == Bell Atlantic == The sorriest excuse for a competitive company in existence. I've completely boycotted them. I no longer have phone line and just use my cell. I highly suggest others do the same.
  • If Canada is so bad why do we have Blackberrys out here first and those Sprint PCS ads from Buffalo are hyping a product that's been out a long time in Canada. Not to mention a higher availabilty of cable and DSL lines.

    Ask the original poster. I was referring to the difficulties of installing and maintaining a wireless infrastructure over vast tracts of land, vs. the relatively compact geography of the UK and Japan.

    I doubt your SprintPCS is going to do you much good in the Northwest Territories, or in vast portions of northern Qeubec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, or British Columbia.

    As for higher availability of DSL lines, do you have hard numbers to back up that allegation?

    It wouldn't surprise me if it were true, as most of Canada's population is concentrated in relatively small corners of the country, but you don't really expect anyone to take your blanket assertions without some evidence to back them up, do you?
  • "I'm curious what everyone else thinks will be the emerging technology - and where it will be."

    hmmm.

    i read the original article in yesterday's WSJ and it was typical WSJ - half of it was to pull you in (wow! Swatches that act as ski passes!) and half was actually good stuff (smart cards.) of the items mentioned i think 2 stand out:

    Smart Cards - Yeah Amex finally got one out to the public, but until i can use it in the soda machine at work, ride the L with it, and then eat dinner using it, it's not really the same. Smart Cards have been shunned by the powers that be in the US (read: banks) and the chance that they will come about in the next few years is slim and none. During job interviews at college Wells Fargo sent one of their supra-geeks to woo us. He talked about their programming depts and projects they work on and one adept student (from Europe) asked about Smart Cards. Wells representative said that they had tried it in Calf. and it failed b/c the people didn't like it. i think truth be told Wells didn't like it and wanted it dead. that's fine, but the possibilities of carrying a card that can carry hospital info or a card that has cash on it and can be transfered to person or business easily is very desirous to me. i would think that Smart Cards would/could be used in some very liberating and helpful ways, but are being ignored b/c large banks see it as difficult to implement or worse a threat to their bottom line. but outside of the US Smart Cards will continue to grow in use and importance.

    Cell Phones - this may be the single liberating force in the next few years. wanna see how liberating? goto Nokia's home town and see all the uses they have dreamed up: use it with a vending machine, buy lunch, send money to a pal, rent bikes, ride the public trams, etc. they are way ahead. i know, i know, these are small things, but they build. no one built linux without unix - consider all the things being done now as ground work. couple this with PDAs, global postioning (for maps, directions, etc.) and anything else you can - wow! cells phones have so many uses and opportunities. but yes, Europe/Asia seem far ahead on this. hopefully they will transfer something to the US if we can pull our heads out and figure out that we don't need global phones that cost $5/min (thanks motorola, but no thanks.)

    all in all, i am hopeful, but as some of the posters have (tongue and cheek) pointed out, we do better with marketing than with creation. oh, we buy a lot of stuff too!

  • Damn straight. It's not every nation that can brag about having a part in burning the white house to the ground, eh? But I won't debate history. :) A lot of the tech that telcos use in the USA gets developed and tested here in Canada, either by Aliant [aliant.ca] (The company I work for is partially owned by Aliant, so, I'm biased, of course) or Nortel [nortel.ca]. (Formerly Northern Telecom and Bell Northern Research). Companies love it here because engineers are dirt cheap compared to their southern counterparts.

    Kinda interesting the article is about the USA losing it's tech edge, though. *grin*

  • ok, why does your nokia link to mot.com, are you trying to make a funny, or what dude?
  • It's a commonly made mistake. The Internet is an evolution of various standards/protocols.

    The world wide web, OTOH, is a specific protocol specifically invented by one person.


    Well, since we all are being picky, the WWW is not a protocol. It's a collection of pages that can be accessed through that protocol. The difference is the same as between a tool and something made with this tool. Yes, HTTP was invented in Europe and it made the web possible (but, of course, hyperlinking text was an old idea by then). However, the web as we see it now certainly wasn't "invented" or "created" by one person. The web is a humongous multifaceted extraordinarily interesting mess that was created by all the web designers, and webmasters, and, yes, even "this is me and this is my dog" lusers. And, BTW since we are talking Europe vs. USA, most of them were American.

    Kaa
  • by M@cGyver ( 110145 ) on Friday August 04, 2000 @06:57AM (#879362)
    Another thing you have to ask is how many of these other countries have invested as much in the Land based telecomunications industry as the US??? Some of these places have skipped a whole generation of technology and moved right into the wireless age. How much will it cost someone in Europe or Asia to get broadband access to their home.??? (not that it's totaly available in the US yet) I bet it's a lot more expensive than the US.
  • Well, it turned out that the Japanese adopted a crappy analog standard and the US digital HDTV standard is probably going to win out in the marketplace after all.

    What US digital HDTV standard? You mean, something like DirecTV? Trivia: who designed this. Eh eh eh.

  • by jabber ( 13196 ) on Friday August 04, 2000 @06:19AM (#879364) Homepage
    I'm not getting into the political flame-war that is sure to erupt here, but...

    there are still many places in USia that don't even have electricity yet!

    Like where, the Ozarks and the Grand Canyon?? Las Vegas, fer crissakes, is in the middle of the freaking desert, and is the biggest single consumer of electric power in the world.

    Ok, look here. It may not be worthwhile to pull electric cables to every nook and cranny of the US, but I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts that there are many more residential areas in Europe than in the US that are still short on power, plumbing and pavement. But they do have Cellular coverage. Here's why.

    The wired-telephone infrastructure is so pitifully BAD in many areas of Europe, that putting in a Cell tower is much more cost effective. In the US, the post-WWII boom in the economy enabled running phone-lines to everywhere; while in Europe, whatever money was available was spent on rebuilding HOUSES.

    Hell, these same criteria are almost certain to result in the invention of the teleporter in either Asia or Africa; not because their scientists are more brilliant than the US or European ones, but simply because they do not have a good road system out that way, and so would get more bang for the buck out of the technology. Necessity is the mother of invention; not Socialism.
  • Hey, let's stop the whining and look at why we're last on the tech toy food chain:

    1. We use English(American) measurements. The entire world, every single country, is now on metric. To sell to us, they have to convert the manuals, go through QA on the new verbiage, and go through our silly tech rules.

    Answer: GO METRIC (except for perishable groceries and gas pumps, which is what people hate being converted the most).

    2. We have ridiculous legal constraints. Face it, we're sue happy. We have 70 times per capita the lawyers of most Westernized countries. We elect them to office, even, which is the height of idiocy. So, to sell to the US, you need to make sure you can't be sued for product liability and unintential usage issues that no other country has to worry about. Man, talk about wasting time and dollars. Cheaper to do it in other countries first.

    Answer: Shoot The Lawyers (not my brother or uncle, though)

    3. We insist on retesting everything ourselves, instead of taking the tests of the EU and Canada and other countries into consideration. Seriously, we're talking an extra year right there. What we need to do is allow for certain tests by trusted countries to just be accepted right off the bat and then only insist on tests that we have stronger requirements on. Like EM emissions - if it passes Northern European standards, it's automatically way better than our tests, so skip the retest!

    Answer: Dump the members of congress and the senate who resist this (hint, they're almost all Republicans).

    4. We insist on stupid standards. Look at HDTV or Wireless. The entire world is using GSM and we insist on another standard for wireless. And don't get me started on HDTV.

    Answer: Tie Pat Buchanan up with baling wire and dip him in a shark tank. No, this won't stop it, but I'd find it really amusing.

  • by Rupert ( 28001 ) on Friday August 04, 2000 @06:20AM (#879369) Homepage Journal
    This particular "best mind" flocked to the US because of the ridiculously high material standard of living available to computer programmers. No bureaucrat was telling what to do (apart from when I was on government projects - I have heard that isn't to different here).

    <flamebait>
    As much as I like it here, I often wonder about the overall sanity of a country where the shooter has a right to carry his gun, but the shootee does not have a right to hospital treatment.
    </flamebait>

    Only two years until I move back. I wonder what I'll miss most?

    --
  • Seriously, let's look at some recent high tech items:

    (1) Portable MP3 players (esp players that play MP3s directly off of CD)
    (1a) This must be PRIMARILY a "pirate device". Other legitimate uses are irrelevant.

    (2) DVD-R burners.
    (2a) Another pirate device that cannot be released to mainstream public ($10,000+ players exempt since joe movie goer won't pay that) until anti-copy methods are well established.

    (3) High speed wireless data WANs.
    (3a) Anonymous surfing, downloading of kiddie pr0n/warez? Can't allow that. Ban the tech or at least keep it slow and useless and expensive.

    (4) Satellite cell phones that let you make calls from anywhere on the planet.
    (4a) Bypass local PTT monopolies in most nations? Be untrackable by law-enforcement (other than to nearest hemisphere)? Iridium was ordered burned into ashes by TPTB.

    (5) New game systems (Dreamcast, PS2, etc.)
    (5a) More shake down testing to keep games un piratable, introduce region lockout bullshit, etc. Same with DVD players too.

    (6) Non-petroleum based cars.
    (6a) Big oil company conspiracy to keep these expensive to buy, expensive to operate, limit vehicle range, draw attention to toxicity (lead in batteries, etc.) and make sure fueling stations exist only in about 5 places in the nation.

    (7) Any small xmitter. Watch/pen sized cellphone, etc.
    (7a) This must be a "spy device". Even radio shack quit selling their 3x1.5x1.5cm wireless FM transmitter after negative publicity (sponsored by gov't, no doubt).

    (8) Any telephone tech.
    (8a) Why is LD $.10-$.20/min? Convention. Comm equipment and fiber and sats and cell towers have long since paid for thmselves. Actual per min cost is a fraction of $0.01. A "tech shortage" or "IT shortage" is an EXCUSE to do price gouging.

    The list is endless. Gov't is deathly afraid of high tech far exceeding the legislation to regulate its use. It's as simple as that.

  • Half-funny, half-troll, mostly sarcasm about the fact that the US developed cell phone systems. I wasn't aware that so many people were clueless about where the first cell phone system actually was (here in the great county of Schaumburg) or who developed it (Motorola). I guess when it got an "Informative" I felt bad for the moderator who now thinks that Nokia developed the first cell phone system.
  • Amen to this. Having done a lot of work for the military, I can attest to what happens when somebody in the upper stratosphere of the ranks decides on some 'standard'. For the most part, we spent our time either subverting them by creative labeling of what we were doing (for example, if embedded systems are exempt, suddenly everything we produced was an embedded system), or applying for waivers. Not exactly a productive use of our time. Thankfully, even the brass figured out that this wasn't going according to plan and have greatly lessened their attempts to impose standards from on high.
  • Now that's downright unfair... regardless of whether or not this post got moderated as funny, it seems to be echoing a lot of sentiments expressed overall in this discussion.

    The reason why so many of these technologies "suck" in the US is that the US paid the penalty of early adoption. When AC electricity started up (in the US), they only had technology to transfer things effectively at 110 Volts. By the time the tech came to transfer electricity at higher voltages (220, for example), enough of the US had already been tied down to 110 to make switching it a difficult proposition at best.

    With TV's originally gaining widespread use in the US under the NTSC standard, when PAL came out, too many people were watching and broadcasting in NTSC in the US to make it worthwhile to switch (viz the problems we're having making the switch over to HDTV).

    Computer Operating systems that suck. Now, there's something funny... if they suck so much, that the US is stuck using them, how come the rest of the world uses them too?

    my two cents, with a dollar loan thrown in.
  • After a while it dawned on me - we here in the US are the only people in the world who don't have name that uniquely represents ourselves.



    Over here in Germany, you are usually referred to as "US Americans", which neatly resolves the problem.

    ------------------

  • I can't see us losing the "Edge" when we haven't really had it.
  • Not to be negative.. but It seems to me that the churn rate on cellphones is huge. Poeple just don't keep their phones for years and years.
    So.. if people have single band phones now, so what... they will have n-band phones that take advantage of the current architectures available.

    I dunno about the US, I always assumed it was this way, but in Canada, tri-band phones are not uncommon.
  • The EU is far far worse. Try Germany, France....
  • I could be mistaken here.. but let me have a stab at this. 'Spread Spectrum' and 'CDMA' are not analogous. Yes, CDMA is a type of spread spectrum technology, but only one type. CDMA is basically an extension of DSSS (Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum) in which various funky things happen to a signal so it is spread across the whole band at once. What was invented back in the war was FHSS (Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum) which is where the carrier frequency is shifted around constantly so the signal jumps all over. This wa sthe first (I believe) type of spread radio ever used, and it is *very* different than CDMA/DSSS.(CDMA, for one, requires DSPs and much more digital technology not available during the great war)
  • The reason that handys are so popular and the service is so good in Europe is twofold. First, in Europe, you're only charged for the calls you make. Unlike in the U.S., you're not charged for calls that someone else makes to you. And, because of the outrageous prices of standard landline telephone calls, a hand phone's service rates are comparable to those of landline's rates, if not better. So it's an economically sound decision. Further, prepaid abounds there--unlike here. And in Europe, unlike in America, prepaid is not relegated to people with bad credit or looked down upon. You can but a phone or a card in a convenience store, there. Here, few carriers advertise them, let alone promote prepaid.

    Second, there's GSM and it was developed way before Americans really were clued in to the game. The standard prevails in Europe and has spread to the rest of the world. Why *would* you try to develop something else to compete with this monstrous cellular force? Unfortunately, Americans have realized that too late.

    A word on the wireless Internet...it's not that great at this stage. There's a joke floating around Europe that WAP stood for "Where are the phones?" At least in the U.S. (in major metro areas), we've gotten the goods as the same time that we got the service. Granted, it's gonna be big...but again, the U.S. phones use older HDML while European sites and phones use WML. Japan uses CHTML. These 3 technologies are fueling the debate right now in the industry.

    I believe that NTT Docomo owns most of the market in Japan. But one thing to note about Japan's wireless scene is that, while iMode and all those tenny little phones are the rage in Japan, they are also not compatible with anything else in the world...much like the USA's 3 different prevailing standards (analog, CDMA, TDMA...only 2-3 carriers use GSM).

    Also, in the U.S., right now, there is a lot of consolidation among carriers. We're building up so that there are only 3-4 companies w/ which to reckon, rather than the 50 or so that exist now under various names. Verizon Wireless or Sprint PCS may have crappy service, but isn't nice to be able to roam around the country without being charged? That's the advantage that GSM gives, too. However, I don't think whining about it will help--although, god knows, I have questioned that myself. I think everyone in the industry has questioned that, but it's kind of hard to change things in a space the size of the U.S. GSM World is working on transplatform compatability, which would mean everyone could roam in and out of the U.S. Let's hope it happens soon!

  • by Moderation abuser ( 184013 ) on Friday August 04, 2000 @06:23AM (#879391)

    Common misconception.

    It isn't the best technology that survives in the US. It's the best marketed technology which survives in the US.

    That's why you have:

    • phones that suck
    • TVs that suck
    • computer operating systems that suck
    • computer architectures that suck
    • video cameras/recorders that suck
    • cars that suck
    • motorcycles that suck

    Hell, even your electricity sucks. :)

    And that's just off the top of my head.

  • Wireless internet access via cellular networks isn't happening in my area. We're only just getting digital service rolled out this summer (it's only available on a trial basis now, and only in the two cities of the province).

    Europe, on the other hand, has all sorts of neat wireless toys. I wonder if the reason for this is the high tariffs on the use of local phone calls - if people are used to paying big bucks, then maybe the wireless service isn't so bad? (I'd love to have it, but I know it'll be costing a pretty penny).

    We've got competition rules here to make sure the well funded Telcos don't stomp the other company (Cantel/AT&T/Whoever owns it this month) into the ground (NBTel does all sorts of nifty new things - pioneered CallerID and other digital services in the early 90's, is a major developer on cable-over-phone tech (plug, I work doing that :), but we don't have wireless internet. And anything under 56k doesn't count (my ham radio can do 9600 :).

    Open up the airwaves and let's see some blood. If telcos won't do it, then let a third party.

  • At least that's what a new report [eu.int] of the EU says...
    "The European Commission reported on ? that European and foreign-owned firms seeking access to the US market for communication services still face considerable barriers, particularly in the satellite services and the mobile services sectors. According to the Commission "this situation is not in line with the market access policy advocated by the US, and provides a competitive advantage to the significant number of US companies that have already access to the European market in these fields." Furthermore, the Commission has also identified a number of US laws and policies on Internet and electronic commerce which could impact negatively on the business of European companies, particularly in the fields of Internet domain names and cybersquatting, encryption and patentability of software and business methods."
  • This will be very interesting in light of Bluetooth's potential and early test runs. If it takes off there will be a literal explosion of new Bluetooth filled gadgets (hardware) but with the need to properly communicate and talk to everyone else (software).

    I wonder which markets will benefit most and show most growth? I'm betting on Japan with it's fanatical focus on miniaturization and near over-teching.

    One other thing I was interested in was whether it's really just at the consumer level that we experience this wireless 'lag'. After all most of the major players in the production markets (not service markets) have large presence in the US. Something may be made for Europe or Japan but completely dropped in the US for marketing/technical/legal reasons. A decent examples is Japans audio industry: I would say from personal experience that the electronics in Japan are routinely a year or two 'ahead' of whatever crops up in America. Sony, Aiwa, Panasonic, etc. all have large market presence in America but we don't seem to get these gadgets (discman, walkman, steros, mp3 players, etc). Do the marketers think we won't buy them? I guess so.

    Anyways, I tihnk the lack of American dominance is not really a bad thing. As the world grows 'closer' through this instant communications having lopsided relationships can become less and less 'acceptable' to others.
  • by xee ( 128376 ) on Friday August 04, 2000 @05:26AM (#879404) Journal
    There's a european magazine, T3 (like the line), that focuses on IMHO, babes, cars, and toys. Apart from all the toys that are availible to them in the UK, they have a section for stuff still stuck in Japan. I think the flow is Japan -> Europe -> USA. It's a bit pricy, but well worth it.


    -------
  • One tower near me has SIX sets of cellular antennas. Most have at least four.
    You can't go 50 miles without the ROAM light coming on (and the cost doubling).

    AMPS, CDMA, TDMA, GSM and whatever else.

    This is insane! Wouldn't it be nice if the US had
    ONE, nationwide, cellular network? Flat rate no
    matter where you are?

    Oh well, I can dream, but the "free market" won't
    get us there any time soon. What a colossal screw-up.

    Ma Bell wouldn't have let this happen :-)
  • First thing: I think the whole "USia" and "USians" is stupid and you were trolling by trying to piss of people from the U.S., known as Americans

    I'd never thought about the term 'american' much until some Columbians pointed out to me at SigGraph once that they were Americans too (just like Germans are Europeans)and they resented the 'USians' (for lack of a better term) taking over their self identity.

    After a while it dawned on me - we here in the US are the only people in the world who don't have name that uniquely represents ourselves.

    Personally I knind of like the on-line equivalent 'merkins it only because of the double-entndre :-)

  • Those who read the WSJ will be amused by this, seeing a case of WSJ vs WSJ opinions. The August 2nd edition of the WSJ Europe (available to online subscribers) had an editorial with just the opposite conclusion:
    European enterprises are generally two years behind their American rivals in taking advantage of the Web, says Pradip Banerjee, a partner at Andersen Consulting and the author of a provocative new study that found a technological time lag between American and European pharmaceutical firms. And it's not just Europe's drug makers that are slow on the uptake of new technology. Across industries, European firms lag their overseas competitors in adapting to the Web, Mr. Banerjee says. "The mobile phone is an aberration," he says, "the Europeans are behind everywhere else."
    Government intervention and regulation had the advantage in European wireless telephony, enforcing a uniform wireless standard and increasing the size of the market. But regulation has not offered an advantage elsewhere. This is not just a simplistic debate of regulation vs competition. Internet access an adoption is one crucial area where Europe falls behind, especially in businesses.
    Some 42% of European research and development executives at leading drug firms think that the business benefits of the Web are "hype," compared with 3% of their American counterparts, according to the Andersen study.
    The larger picture is more complicated, and not limited to the wireless world. With adoption of future wireless standards, this advantage may well disappear.
  • For all the stuff I've heard from europeans in the US about how great GSM is, I have to say it's not all that great. I live in NY and go to school in MN and I have a SprintPCS phone that works great in both zones. However, I am in Paris now and I can say that I have never heard so many people say "hello? hello? I can't hear you" and have their conversations cut off. Sure, the sound is decent, but the service ends up sucking. Secondly, GSM isn't popular because of how good it is, it is because it is necessary. The whole plan, at least in France, is a pyramid scheme. Once you try to call someone who has a cell phone from a land line, the connection fee is 4 francs, and then you pay a huge per minute fee. So the only solution is to get your own cell phone so you don't get raped. But then the rates aren't even that good. Even with the great exchange rate, they still pay about 15 cents per minute. I am on SprintPCS and I pay 6 cents per minute for 400 mintues, and people dont' have to pay to call me. Sure, it would be great to have a global cell phone standard, but as long as it works, that's all that matters to me.
  • by Elkman ( 198705 ) on Friday August 04, 2000 @05:26AM (#879423) Homepage
    Who says the U.S. has to invent all the new technologies? We should do what we're best at: market it to a gullible public. It doesn't matter if the Finns and the Japanese can invent better cell phones, or the Swiss invented the World Wide Web. The U.S. does a better job than any other nation in convincing people that their lives will be SO much better if they get the latest technical doo-dad.

    Of course, our marketing frenzies occasionally produce antitrust violations, and we have to live with more advertising per square inch than any other industrialized nation, but who cares? It's the all-important Digital Age! Go, USA! Whoo!

    Now, where's that flag for the back of my pickup truck?

  • I'm still trying to figure out what the hell the PC has to do with cell phones? I can't imagine anyone but the dumbest columnist (Katz comes to mind) confusing wide acceptance of the PC with setting a standard for interoperability between cell phone systems. More likely than not, the lack of standard in cell phones has to do with the fact that the US is very large, and a lack of a coherent standard permits multiple vendors to compete against each other yet still turn enough of a profit to make their little island of interoperability still make economic sense.

    Suggesting that there is a lack of cell phone standards because of our "love affair" with PCs is sort of like saying that the lack of standardization between Linux window managers is because of the relatively low price of bananas at the grocery store...
  • by Dan Hayes ( 212400 ) on Friday August 04, 2000 @05:26AM (#879427)

    This shows one of the main limitations of the laissez-faire capitalism that USia endorses over the more rational policies implemented in the rest of the world. When corporations are as unfettered as they are in USia, getting them to agree on things like standards is a herculean task - each corporation is assured that it has the One True path.

    In Europe OTOH they're more used to being told what to do by more socialist governments, and the idea of a standard is more easily applicable to the way they work within regulations anyway.

    Also, you have to remember that USia is such a huge place that establishing the kind of mobile phone networks that are seen in Europe is extremely difficult - after all, there are still many places in USia that don't even have electricity yet! I'd say that was a priority over the wireless revolution.

  • by Jerf ( 17166 ) on Friday August 04, 2000 @07:55AM (#879430) Journal
    Maybe we don't need all of these fancy-schmancy gadgets because we've got an outstanding computer network and great computers that render those gadgets obsolete before they even get here.

    Why would I want a web-browsing cell-phone? I have a web-browser at work, free local phone calls for my ISP at home, cheap good computers, and I actually have a cable modem at home. The amount of time I'd actually want to use a thing with an vanishingly tiny screen to browse the web or use e-mail is quite small.

    Maybe we don't have them because neither need nor want them. Goodness knows there's nothing that special about the technology... they don't have some sooper-secret chip-making process that produces 100 GHz Pentium Pros... then I would be worried. The power of desktop computers lies with their generality.

  • I don't think we really need fingernails that blink when your phone rings, Europe *is* way ahead in wireless and smartcards. They claim it's because there's a single standard, and I think the US did screw up in not going GSM, but the main reason for both of those is the continued monopoly of the wired telcos. Landlines are phenomenally expensive in Europe, but the cell carriers have to compete and as a result are a lot cheaper and people have switched in droves. I think the same thing has driven smart cards, as with those, you don't need the phone line to call in and verify the card.
  • Regulation in the *operational use* of technology can be a bad thing.

    I agree, and never suggested it. (unless you consider imposing standards an operation use, in which case ANSI should probably be abolished)

    These are dramatic exceptions which constitute a very small fraction of inventions/year. Yes, Japan comes out w/ gadgets, and Finland is ahead in mobile. But if you consider the technological-industrial economy as a *whole*, including pharmaceuticals, heavy machinery, electrical appliances, etc., US corporations are dominant in *most* sectors of the industrial economy.

    It was my impression we were talking specifically about the computer/software industry. I have no doubt that we do pretty well in many industries.

    Microsoft is less than 5% of the software industry. I guess it makes for a convenient shooting post to prove practically any point on /.

    Again, I didn't say the *entire* software industry. I set desktop market. In which it is a monopoly (at least as far as market share).

    In any case, vigorous competition in the OS arena before MS became a monopoly was better than the *govt*
    picking a standard OS and instituting a National Commission on Operating Systems to regulate its standards
    development. Surely you agree that letting OSes fight it out is the best approach? Obviously, you can't guarantee a
    good result each time. Which is why the DOJ is there.
    My point was exactly that. Unfettered capitalism doesn't *always* lead to the best result, as some seem to religiously claim. To disprove something you don't have to prove the opposite.

    I didn't suggest pure capitalism.

    Well if you didn't directly, you at least indicated "In almost every case, what you describe as a limitation (being unfettered by govt. regulation) is the key advantage that US business has over the rest of the world.". Seems like "unfettered by govt. regulation" is pretty close to "pure capitalism".

    Sure, you need regulation on matters of environment, labor, etc., but NOT on *technical standards*. Let the companies fight it out and the best one win.

    The observation was that a laissez-faire approach has left us behind. It was just an observation.
  • They wanted to run a full credit check. They actually wanted my social security number. I'm a customer and I don't appreciate being subjected to a wireless anal probe.

    EVERY cellular service provider does this, not just BAM/Verizon. Why? Because contrary to the ubiquity of cell phones and cell phone users in this country, cell phones are still classifed as "luxury items." Nevermind the fact that Harry Newton's kid was using his cell phone to cheat on exams before I ever had one to read CNN from on the train. But, I agree, it sucks.

  • I don't know the correct English term for it but it's known as "wet van de remmende voorsprong" in Dutch. If you are the first with a big (technological) innovation, you will be left behind in the second generation of that innovation. Minitel -> Internet (or in general Videotext -> Internet) is the big example for me. Analog cell phones never made it big in the Netherlands and died out by themselves when GSM became available and now they are gone and the frequencies available again (no more listening to those phone calls on the scanner).
  • by Hard_Code ( 49548 ) on Friday August 04, 2000 @07:07AM (#879451)
    "Govts. don't have a good reputation for knowing what they're talking about when they make decisions on technology."

    Well, OUR (US) government at least doesn't.

    "This pretty much explains why Europe lags behind the US in most technologies."

    HUH? Europe and Japan are *ahead* of us because they don't have all sorts of legacy cruft. All those new whizbang gadgets, and ubiquitious connection is happening in Europe and Japan.

    "In almost every case, what you describe as a limitation (being unfettered by govt. regulation) is the key advantage that US business has over the rest of the world. This is indeed why the best minds flock to the US - so that they can do what they want in peace without some bureaucrat telling them what to do."

    No standards does not necessarily mean innovation. I mean, just take microsoft...they have the whole desktop market cornered. What great "innovation" have we seen in that sector? How about "unfettered" drug companies that abuse the patent system to patent every possible thing under the sun, and then when the patents are going to run out, trivially change their "inventions" to no practical effect, just so they are technically "different" and can get a new patent on it.

    "Pure" capitalism just replicates the "natural state" we try to avoid by government in the first place.
  • WALTER S. MOSSBERG needs to learn some history.

    Even where foreign innovators struck first, or at the same time as Americans, it was America that exploited the technology best. For instance, one of the best-known early PCs, the Sinclair, was a British invention, but it lost out because of poor marketing and follow-through.

    For every non-US story of this type there are 10 US stories of this type. I was involved in one of them at the University of Illinois, Jack Stifle's 8080-based Plato terminal, that came out with a color display and floppy disk AND modem (a 9600bps POTS modem was invented in the lab there) AND multiuser games on a 500 simultaneous user system before the Apple I was a gleam in the Woz's eye. It didn't go anywhere mainly because the head of the lab, Don Bitzer, had visions of his plasma display displacing CRT displays for the network revolution.

    France pioneered the mass online community with its Minitel terminals

    Again, it was the Plato IV system out of the University of Illinois that had the first large scale online community involving mass numbers of students as well as corporations [thinkofit.com]. Some of this sordid history of how Plato's potential got squandered is sitting around in the Slashdot archives although I don't think the public has access to them.

    In fact, liberal immigration policies and easy capital have lured brilliant engineers and entrepreneurs to the U.S. from Europe, India, Israel and elsewhere.

    As a result, nearly everything cool in consumer digital technology, whether it was hardware, software or an online innovation, showed up first in the U.S.

    Yeah, right, and Henry Ford, the Wright Brothers, Schockley, Brattain, Bardeen, Noyce... were all sons of east european immigrants who arrived penniless at Ellis Island...

    Not with a bang but a revision...

  • It should be noted that Japanese culture plays a huge role in the adoption of technology. Historically, the Japanese have shown an ability to effect large scale social change in a very short time.

    Culturally, this can be seen most clearly in the Meiji period (look it up). Technologically, the dramatic abandonment of firearms in the early Tokugawa days. The latter is rather impressive, being the only case where a nation has given up en masse a superior piece of military technology in favour of more archaic (but more well-understood and familiar) tech.

  • Wow, four buzz words that quickly... Anyway, I do see that as the direction it's going. ARS [arstechnica.org] has an article about a FLEXABLE LED-like screen that, if implemented, I believe could be the new wave of the future. Especially, implement that with some sort of satelite internet access, and there's one friggin huge world of possiblities.

    Daniel
    --
  • I have noticed that Verizon's service in the Washington, DC area has deteriorated in the last year or so.

    The other day while complaining to customer service, I asked to speak to their president. I was informed that one cannot call him, the implication was that he did not have a phone!
  • <rant>
    Try Canada.. I can't get *any* cool gadgets here. I mean we're still *years* behind the States in respects to gadgets. The UK kicks all of our ass in wireless technology/cool stuff to have. And I'm not even going to talk about Japan, that stuff makes me want to cry...
    </rant>
  • but NOT on *technical standards*. Let the companies fight it out and the best one win.


    In general I agree with you, but sometimes government imposition of a standard *is* necessary.

    Traditional television is a good example of this --- could you imagine what it would be like if each of the dozen stations in say, the San Francisco metropolitcan area, were each broadcasting using a different mechanism for data encoding? Building recievers would be a nightmare!

    The point is that on occasion the *details* of the standard are less important than *simply having a standard* and moving on. Sure, the end result is that you get tied to that standard and a better way of doing whatever the standard describes doesn't materialize --- but it also means that there are things which rely on the existence of the standard that can happen *now*, not ten years from now. Absent a standard for television encoding, as an example, television couldn't possibly have become the mass market entertainment form it is now.

    That's not to say that government always has to set the standard, either --- but sometimes if the companies can't agree, then *someone* has to set a standard, and that's one of the things governments are useful for.
  • "I think that everyone here knows that no company has a monopoly, virtual or otherwise, on either food or clothing."

    Do you know where your food *really* comes from? Do you know the policies of the global supplier of soy beans for instance? How can you as a consumer possibly make an intelligent decision on what food products you buy when they all get their raw materials from nameless faceless multibillion dollar corporation whose policies and behavior you are unaware of?

    "Even if every petrol company in the world did get together and raise their prices to the same level, it would simply spur innovation in alternative energy sources. That's exactly what happened in the 1970's OPEC oil crisis. The whole country started getting into alternative energy sources. There were ads everywhere for solar panels, wind-powered generators, etc. That's also when automakers started paying attention to fuel-efficiency."

    They've been doing it for *decades*. So where they hell are all the solar and wind generators? Where is all this "research" and "innovation" in alternative forms of energy? It's bogus. Monopolies will never "spur innovation" as long as they control government.
  • Just visited LibertyBoard and the first ad I saw was: "Boycott Anheuser-Busch for Open Debates". That should give you a clue how much vested interest big corporations have in politics, and the myth of voting with your wallet.
  • I think that everyone here knows that no company has a monopoly, virtual or otherwise, on either food or clothing.

    Clothing, yes. Food? In the US, you could make a good argument that Monsanto effectively has a monopoly on certain types of seed, and that therefore they have a monopoly (of sorts) on the food produced by those seeds.

    Or that Archer Daniels Midland *effectively* has a monopoly on the growing of certain grains.

    You could also make a case that they don't --- but it's close, either way.
  • . I am not a potsmoker, or anything remotely similar.

    Granted, this is mildly OT, but most of my social circle consists of pot smokers (including me), and most of my social circle are successful programmers --- and every one of them who have children are good parents, too.

    The fact of the matter is that, contrary to popular belief, parents have become MORE involved (especially amongst middle/upper-middle/upper class parents) in their kids lives than ever before.

    What statistics are you using for the comparison in time spent with children between today and the past? I'd be interested to see the study.

    Nevertheless, what you are saying *in and of itself* suggests a problem --- middle/upper-middle/upper class parents are involved in their children's lives ... but really poor parents generally *aren't*, and poorer people, statistically speaking, have more children.

  • Yes, the French economy is so good that hardly anything gets built without illegal/immigrant labor.

    Same's true in California; in both cases the immigration happens because it's better for the immigrant to live in the destination country, and it's cheaper to pay people who are working illegally and are more exploitable (they can't complain about working conditions, etc).

    This isn't necessarily a reflection of the tax structure of the state in question --- it will *always* be cheaper to pay immigrants from a country whose standard of living is lower, and are afraid to complain if you are mistreating them.
  • One of the reasons that GSM breaks up in crowded areas is the lack of closed and open-loop power control. In CDMA, the mobile adjusts its power output every 1.25ms (about 800 times per second), so that the Base Station receives the same power from EVERY mobile no matter how FAR away the mobile is. So if a mobile is close the the base station, it is transmitting at a much lower power than a mobile far away. Granted this isn't quite as important for a frequency-hopping scheme like GSM, however, this allows CDMA to achieve reasonable quality for everybody on the system (not just those who are close to the base station).
  • by Alien54 ( 180860 ) on Friday August 04, 2000 @05:32AM (#879483) Journal
    This really has to do, in part, with where you feel the future of technology is.

    Let's face it, even though print media was invented over 500 years ago, there are still billions of people who read print media from time to time. The glib catch phrase that it is *so* 20th century (for example) when applied to print media makes it sound that there are maybe three people left on the planet would read print media. When in fact the people on the cutting edge are not the majority by any means.

    Long ago, and far away, when I lived on another planet and worked in retail repair shop, I would often tell customers hungry for the latest gadget that "If you can buy it, it is already obsolete".

    Point being that 1) you can get into an endless treadmill trying to keep uyp with the technology and every new toy; and 2) even tho plenty of new tech toys will being coming out, the vast majority of technologies will stay around in some form for a very long time to come. Alot of folks will not change out a working solution to a problem just because of razzle by a technology spin doctor. Yes, there are problems in waiting too long, but on the other hand there are still lots of businesses who are **still** running on a paper system, never mind something as archaic as a dos boook keeping system on a 286

    So this worry about the technology edge has some truth, but it is not nearly as dire as panic would suggest.

  • A good example of a government standard is the French Minitel system. They built up a framework for consumers by putting telephone information on a terminal made available to everyone. Then they let private industry develop value-added services upon it,in cost and concept much like our 900 and 976 numbers.

    This technology was made obsolete by the Internet, but I believe the French are only just making the transition now.

    So the problem with a government-backed standard is that it avoids the vigourous competition that generates continuous improvement. That's the strength our system has; however bad Microsoft is, it's impossible to deny that they do continuously improve their products in the face of what they perceive as a competitive threat.

    The biggest strength of our system is that consumers can defy bad standards and select alternatives, whether Apple or Linux or just sticking with what they have.

    The biggest weakness is that, as you say, consumers just want to get their job done, and often don't care about how good their tools are, as long as they exist. This is the mentality that buys an e-Machines computer, say, simply because it's the cheapest available.

    I'm not sure how this could be dealt with. Better education in the nature of the alternatives is obviously part of the solution. But on the whole, the unsettling truth is that the Microsoft standard serves many people adequately, and they don't have the burning desire we have to get rid of it.

    This is where Microsoft's underhanded tactics work. If, for example, an OEM could have loaded BeOS alongside Windows without being sued by Microsoft, BeOS might well have gained strength. Microsoft knew this would be extremely bad news for them, and they behaved accordingly -- even though Be was and is a tiny, almost pathetic, competitor.

    It is my view that the reason for Microsoft's hyper-competitive nature is that inside their bunkers in Redmond, they know perfectly well they have a lousy product. They know that anything even close to competition would be horrible for them.

    So far, quite honestly, I think they've been more lucky than smart. It is Microsoft's blessing that every time they've faced competition since the birth of Windows, they've either held all the cards (secret Windows APIs, marketing advantages, anti-competitive agreements with OEMs) or confronted inferior competition that made numerous strategic errors (Lotus, WordPerfect).

    So, how to improve matters? I don't know. Obviously using competing products in your personal life is step one, and supporting alternative OS vendors is step two. I bought my version of BeOS R5 Pro last weekend not because I needed it, but because I wanted to show the company my support. If you like what Be's done, you should too. If you're a Linux fan, buy a packaged distribution or two (as I have as well). Support the nascent alternative OS industry, and maybe - just maybe - it will become big and strong enough to fight.

    I have my doubts, personally -- but really, if a world exists where you personally don't need to use Windows, is that not a major victory? I'd say we're at that point right now, and that's undoubtably a Good Thing.

    With a government-promulgated standard, guess what? Nothing but Windows would exist - and that's reason enough for me to support as free a world as we can find.

    D

    ----
  • Dynamism.com [dynamism.com] sells Japanese-only systems, loads 'em with English language versions of the software, swaps out the keyboards, ups the price quite a bit, and then sells 'em over here (complete with tech support).

    It's fun to look over the stuff, anyway. Someday I'll have one of these NEC Simplem [dynamism.com] machines...Mmm, they've got interchangable "skins" (including a beer one [dynamism.com]!).
    -----

  • by Hard_Code ( 49548 ) on Friday August 04, 2000 @07:14AM (#879495)
    "Ideally, if consumers are abused, they will take it out on the company by complaining, or just moving to another product. Then the abusing company either rights their ways or dies."

    And how exactly can a consumer complain or boycott companies which are virtual monopolies on necessities? You just can't. You have to eat, you have to have some sort of clothes, you pretty much need electricity and hot water. Also, voting with your wallet just means that the rich get a bigger vote. Boycott all you want, your vote doesn't count.

    "I don't think it's the system that is broken so much as the consumer these days. This, I feel, is one of the biggest problems in America today. People don't accept their responsibility as consumers. I think that a lot of people are just too taken in by marketing to sit down and rationally consider their choices."

    I think it's both. Corporations feed the consumers what they think they want to hear, and the consumers overloaded with pandering, just pick the ritziest presentation. Something is wrong when companies start spending considerable, if not more, money on advertisement and packaging, than actual product. If there were actually choice, then it would be the consumer's fault. But I think in many cases there is no choice, or the choices are just equally bad (so, how exactly are you going to *choose* the company with saner gasoline prices? you can't, they're all fixed the same).
  • people saying we should ditch PC's, I just have to stop and laugh. Sure there a a ton of other devices out there that can do some pretty cool stuff. What all these reporters and self-proclaimed "experts" always fail to think about, is the software. Somebody has to program the software that will control all the fun little gadgets out there, and I'm really not up to the task of programming with a stylus on a palm pilot! Sure, the average user may not need the full power of a PC, all they need to do is keep track of their meetings, or get the weather or something else simple like that. For those people, palm pilots, cell phones, and a plethora of ather devices are great, but for all of the hackers and gamers and other power users out there, a PC is pretty vital.
  • by bee ( 15753 ) on Friday August 04, 2000 @05:33AM (#879497) Homepage Journal
    The advantage that Europe and Japan have over the US is that they have greater population density, making technologies that can take advantage of it, such as wireless and public rail transportation, much more cost-effective. It's a simple matter of geography, nothing more.

    ---
  • I see this same type of argument made again and again in the wireless space. I even heard it at the Next 20 Years conference in Manhattan last night as a question to the forum. It is clearly a fear of US citizens of what would happen if we lose our technical edge and many people overseas and domestic think it's great to point it out that it may have happened at long last. It's simply not true.

    Europe has achieved some success with their unified stance of GSM, but this is not to be mistaken for technical achievement or innovation. Yes, they have more people using the Internet on cell phones than the US, but the demographics are simply not relevant for comparison. Many in Europe do not surf for an extended period of time on their PCs because they are charged by the minute for their land lines. Lo and Behold, along comes flat fee pricing for wireless phones and web surfing -- of course they are going to use their cell phones!

    There are several reasons for a slower adoption rate in the US:
    1. 1) A minute by minute charge for web surfing on a phone (yes, there are flat rate, but it *is* an additional rate many don't want to pay)

    2. 2) US citizens are more accustomed to richer content. Many other nations are viewing the Internet for the first time using their cell phone and are more willing to settle for an inferior web service over a PC because they've never been exposed to more.
      3) Competing standards with telephone companies.
    Fortunately, it is these faults that will drive the US to dominate the wireless space in the future. Because of the high premiums phone companies are making on mobile phone, they are building bigger and better networks like mad. Because of the competing standards, the US company Qualcomm has created the CDMA standard to be used for 3G (in it's CDMA2000 or W-CDMA incarnation) -- leading the world to higher bandwidth for wireless. Because of the US citizen demand for a better product and service, I sit and code applications for the Palm Vx and VII that are not only functional, but more interesting, usable, entertaining -- and more appealing to an American audience than kereoke lyrics.

    Jayson Pifer
  • The differences between US technological development and other countries stems from the philosophical/cultural differences. In the US, it is a basic cultural tenet that the strongest survive. This is born out in cell technologies, the various 'standards' are allowed start out life in an attempt to let the market and natural forces determine which process is best. In many other countries, the best is determined in a smoky room by a table full of cheese heads(ok, maybe this is an embelleshment, but the point is made). I am willing to accept frictional incompatabilities and system failures because the cost for this is still lower than the long term cost of the government setting one standard and maintaining it far beyond its useful life, eg France's Minitel. In the US, we are always moving toward a better system. Just imagine if Gates had the backing of the US gov't making Windows the US standard for computing. let the market decide. The more you scare people, the more they will pay you...
  • by freebe ( 174010 ) on Friday August 04, 2000 @05:33AM (#879510) Homepage
    The Europe is one of the best places to be if you're into alternative operating systems. Linux was a 'new thing' in the US while it was already become an established heavyweight in the Europe with the help of such Linux giants as the formidable SuSE [slackware.com].

    Not to mention that in the Europe, cell phone technology was developed first. In fact the first ever deployment of a cell phone system happened in the Britian, with the help of phone giant Nokia [mot.com].

    It's true that the US is losing it's traditional technical lead to the upstarts like Linux and Nokia.

  • by Lemmy Caution ( 8378 ) on Friday August 04, 2000 @08:14AM (#879511) Homepage
    So why does it break down? I don't think it's the system that is broken so much as the consumer these days. This, I feel, is one of the biggest problems in America today. People don't accept their responsibility as consumers. I think that a lot of people are just too taken in by marketing to sit down and rationally consider their choices.
    The completely informed, completely rational consumer with no external pressures of time or demands on attention is one of the great myths of the 'perfectly operating market.' The truth is that people can't afford the time or energy to be completely informed on all the purchases they make, especially with the current rate of consumption. We allocate our attention and our intake of information as well as we reasonably can, but we have a distinctly finite bandwidth for that process.

    Marketing and advertising also have an effect. First of all, they exploit the fact that humans operate heuristically, not algorithmicly, for decisions (for the reasons of limited bandwidth I mentioned above, and also because of the reality of how human minds are constructed.) After all, only a tiny percentage of our mind's processes are conscious and thus amenable to pure rational analysis - the process of rational analysis relies on the pre-rational, pre-conscious acts of perception by which we mentally create the 'facts' that we are analyzing.

    Obviously, if you couldn't sell cars and computers with images of sex and power, there wouldn't be a several hundred-million dollar advertising industry that thrives by doing so.

    Additionally, even for the theoretically rational consumer, there are always time limit - ultimately, our mortality, and realistically, the constraints on how much time we can go without deciding.

  • I think you have a real point here. I'm a native of Norway, but I have lots of friends and a few relatives in the US, studying in different fields, among them, technology. The US has a huge advantage in research. It seems like americans to some degree acknowledge that technology built their wealth, and that the spending in research into e.g. physics is still huge, and that it is no doubt that US research groups are leading in most fields of research, and that this benefits society. However, you shouldn't bury your head in the sand and think everything is OK, cause it is clear that you do have a problem.

    Here in Norway, we have a really hard time convicing policy-makers it is worth doing research that has a horizon before it is profitable of more than three years. The situation for research is really bad. OTOH, we have some groups that are highly influential. For example, the GSM system was greatly influenced by Norwegian Engineers, with the result that it fits perfectly to Norwegian topography and demographics. The place is so hilly we would need an antenna everywhere anyway, so the GSM system requires antennas everywhere. Also, people are conscious about using technology (not developing it), so technologies are easily accepted. There is also a certain amount of consciousness about public responsibility in building high-tech infrastructure, e.g. the minister of communication has said that a national broadband-net is as important as roads. A recent non-governmental report predicted that 35% of Norwegian homes will be connected by a link better than 10MBits/s by 2005.

    I have a friend studying at Cornell, and when he got over there, the two things that he noticed at once, was first that the cell phone net was so crappy, pretty much all over New York State, that it was totally useless. In Norway (and Finland and Sweden), everybody has a cellphone, the kids get a cellphone before they're twelve and are among the most frequent users. The second thing was that people still use cheques (you know, those things made from dead trees?). They're gone in Norway. Most banks doesn't issue them anymore, and very few shops accept them. Some shops does accept them, but only from senior citizens... It's all cards. I seldom have more than 200NOK (=~ $25) in my wallet. My bank is offering a card with no charges for making payments.

    Now, when talking to people, I get the impression that you have two problems: First, the corps are more concerned with fighting each other than making useful products and compete on that basis. Instead, they sue for the smallest thing, all the resources available for developing better products go to legal costs, or to marketing to cover up the fact that their product sucks. Like in Ithaca, were there are a bunch of companies offering cell phone networks, one should think that the competition would drive the development so that you get some services at least as good as in the Nordic countries. Not so. They all suck, but since the market is stupid, consumers are unaware that they are not given good services. RMS has a good point that capitalism does a good job in advancing development as long as the companies are actually competing, but it fails when they start attacking each other.

    The other problem is excessive, privatized beaurocracy. One friend who had been around a lot in communist countries told me that the governmental beaurocracy in those countries is nothing compared to the private beaurocracy in the US. Another friend had $250000 on an account in Norway, but he couldn't get a house because you have to have an insurance on the house, but you can't get an insurance if you haven't got a credit history in an american bank... He did meet one bank clerk who thought the whole system was stupid, but he couldn't do anything because of the fear of getting fired and/or sued... It ended with him paying in cash... Hell, that's primitive. That's just one of the stories I've heard.

  • I like Verizon. $35/mo for 200 minutes anywhere from Maine to VA (I live outside Boston and travel frequently to upstate NY). Customer service is pretty good, the regular phones are crappy though - I got a Qualcomm 820. The car charger I had broke (damn custom connectors), but Verizon said there was a lifetime warranty on them, so I exchanged it for free.
  • by w00ly_mammoth ( 205173 ) on Friday August 04, 2000 @05:36AM (#879516)
    With globalization and cheap assembly farming, having an edge in hardware doesn't do much in the long run.

    Nobody questions that the japanese have been really good at gadgets and electronics, but over the decades, the shift has been away from the hardware (which becomes a commodity) to the software, which is the key. Apps have been growing more intelligent and complex, and the software that drives them makes the difference. Both Europe and Asia have been far behind the US in software innovation. This is primarily cultural - teenage mavericks are celebrated in the US and viewed with alarm or contempt in traditional, bureaucratic societies like those of Europe or Japan.

    When the industry is new, the focus is on who makes innovative, cheap devices. For example, in the early days of the PC industry, the debate was about the IBM clones and who would win the manufacturing marketshare. However, in hindsight, making PCs is a commodity industry, like bottling coke. The key industry became the software.

    The handheld/mobile industry is very new, so people are worried about who is making the coolest gadgets, but it's what drives those gadgets that will count in the end. And for some reason, Americans are really good at software. The culture of non-conformity, lack of bureaucracy, unregulated teenage hackers running wild, spawns the most exciting stuff that comes out on the web.

    the quality control and solid manufacturing base of Europe and Asia makes it good for hardware/electronics, not software. Kinda like a repeat of the PC era.

    w/m.
  • Minitel was actually deployed in the US. Few people noticed. The French PTO installed 2400-baud Minitel dial-in ports in major US cities in the late 1980s. You could either run a Minitel emulator on a PC or buy a real Minitel terminal. Output was a green screen with blockish graphics.

    Pricing was awful; US$0.14/minute and up. "Premium" services were over a dollar a minute. A typical premium service was an online index of French businesses and their products, searchable by product.

    Basic problem: micropayments suck when you're paying them.

  • Ok... this debuted in the 60s. We've had the technology for quite some time now, but I've yet to see any marketing for...

    The Shoe Phone.

    You know what I'm talking about, the kind of a shoe that makes you do a funny dance when it rings, that has the rotary dial in the heel?

    Think of the convenience! People are always losing thier cell phones in restaurants, theaters, etc. but who loses a shoe? You could have your pager in the other shoe! The only problem I could see is accidently stepping in dog poo before you get a call, now that would be messy...

    "Please hold, I have shoe waiting... " - Maxwell Smart

    --
  • so Imagine if each state or region had its' own language ....

    sort of sound similar to what we have now....

  • And how exactly can a consumer complain or boycott companies which are virtual monopolies on necessities? You just can't. You have to eat, you have to have some sort of clothes, you pretty much need electricity and hot water.

    I think that everyone here knows that no company has a monopoly, virtual or otherwise, on either food or clothing.

    I will give you that electricity and water are monopolized in most areas, either because the government owns the utility, or because the state PSCs grant an exclusive artificial monopoly to one company.

    But I think in many cases there is no choice, or the choices are just equally bad (so, how exactly are you going to *choose* the company with saner gasoline prices? you can't, they're all fixed the same).

    Even if every petrol company in the world did get together and raise their prices to the same level, it would simply spur innovation in alternative energy sources. That's exactly what happened in the 1970's OPEC oil crisis. The whole country started getting into alternative energy sources. There were ads everywhere for solar panels, wind-powered generators, etc. That's also when automakers started paying attention to fuel-efficiency.



    --
  • Regulation in the *operational use* of technology can be a bad thing. Let me give you an example. Some yrs ago the Belgian govt. implemented a tax on computers being used in offices ( the rationale being that they stole jobs people could do, thereby increasing unemployment). Companies had to put stickers on PCs indicating they had paid this tax, and a govt. inspector went around making sure they had done so, or fined them. (This was on ZDNN).

    when a govt. regulates operational or technical aspects of a company's business, it damages its ability to compete. Therefore, regulation should only be to prevent harm (eg, slave labor, environmental damage, privacy), not to ensure progress. Big difference between preventing bad things and ensuring good things.

    Europe and Japan are *ahead* of us because they don't have all sorts of legacy cruft. All those new whizbang gadgets

    These are dramatic exceptions which constitute a very small fraction of inventions/year. Yes, Japan comes out w/ gadgets, and Finland is ahead in mobile. But if you consider the technological-industrial economy as a *whole*, including pharmaceuticals, heavy machinery, electrical appliances, etc., US corporations are dominant in *most* sectors of the industrial economy. The reason for this is that when European companies invent something new and try to market it, they have to comply with far more regulations than American companies (like those stupid French labor laws about not being able to work >40 hrs, mandatory french media content, blah blah). This hampers their ability to compete, and thus they cede ground to US companies.

    Just consider internet companies. The US promptly issued a 3 yr. ban on internet taxes to encourage silicon valley, and generally took a hands-off approach (except for senile right wing christian wackos with CDA). In contrast, French laws are being a major pain-in-the-ass for yahoo posting nazi material, Australian govt. is cracking down on internet taxation, and in general, European companies are finding it tougher to compete.

    I mean, just take microsoft...they have the whole desktop market cornered. What great "innovation" have we seen

    Microsoft is less than 5% of the software industry. I guess it makes for a convenient shooting post to prove practically any point on /. :)

    In any case, vigorous competition in the OS arena before MS became a monopoly was better than the *govt* picking a standard OS and instituting a National Commission on Operating Systems to regulate its standards development. Surely you agree that letting OSes fight it out is the best approach? Obviously, you can't guarantee a good result each time. Which is why the DOJ is there.

    "Pure" capitalism just replicates the "natural state" we try to avoid by government in the first place.

    I didn't suggest pure capitalism. People seem to be incredibly binary re. govt. regulation - either they are against it heavily, or they are for it and hate capitalism. Sure, you need regulation on matters of environment, labor, etc., but NOT on *technical standards*. Let the companies fight it out and the best one win.

    w/m

  • by stx23 ( 14942 ) on Friday August 04, 2000 @05:41AM (#879567) Homepage Journal
    An interesting [2600.com]tale over at 2600 about how Verizon have been aware of their suckiness for some time now.
  • by w00ly_mammoth ( 205173 ) on Friday August 04, 2000 @05:50AM (#879568)
    In Europe OTOH they're more used to being told what to do by more socialist governments

    Govts. don't have a good reputation for knowing what they're talking about when they make decisions on technology. This pretty much explains why Europe lags behind the US in most technologies.

    In almost every case, what you describe as a limitation (being unfettered by govt. regulation) is the key advantage that US business has over the rest of the world. This is indeed why the best minds flock to the US - so that they can do what they want in peace without some bureaucrat telling them what to do.

    Of course, there are a few exceptions when the socialist model might seem to be advantageous, but not if you look at the big picture.

    w/m
  • by slothbait ( 2922 ) on Friday August 04, 2000 @05:52AM (#879572)
    When corporations are as unfettered as they are in USia, getting them to agree on things like standards is a herculean task - each corporation is assured that it has the One True path.
    I'd really like to believe that this isn't true. But with the likes of MS running around these days, I'd have a difficult time counter-arguing.

    Ideally, if consumers are abused, they will take it out on the company by complaining, or just moving to another product. Then the abusing company either rights their ways or dies. This same reasoning can apply to standards acceptance and environmental issues. The consumers have the ultimate power (and, in fact, responsibility) in correcting corporate behavior. This is the system, and it all seems reasonable to me.

    So why does it break down? I don't think it's the system that is broken so much as the consumer these days. This, I feel, is one of the biggest problems in America today. People don't accept their responsibility as consumers. I think that a lot of people are just too taken in by marketing to sit down and rationally consider their choices. In the case of MS, I think companies have been too short sighted to realize that they'd be better off telling Gates to take a hike. Maybe then MS would shape up. Instead, companies take the short-term easier route of sticking with Windows, and MS continues to get away with murder.
    Also, you have to remember that USia is such a huge place that establishing the kind of mobile phone networks that are seen in Europe is extremely difficult...
    A very good point -- and one that I think is often ignored. There are some real disadvantages to being big. American infrastructure simply can not adjust as quickly as that of smaller nations.

    --Lenny
  • by Moderation abuser ( 184013 ) on Friday August 04, 2000 @05:45AM (#879598)
    Computer networks and cheap PCs. That's about it.

    What happens is that innovative new technologies are invented in the UK, fail miserably because the financiers couldn't tell a good idea if it was rammed up their arse sideways.

    The Japs grab the idea with both hands and run with it, make a fortune.

    Progressive European countries import idea and technology from Japan to Europe.

    The UK is dragged into the new technology kicking and screaming that the bloody Europeans are trying to take over the world.

    The UK inventor dies unknown and penniless with enormous debts which cause his family to be cast into the streets and have his house reposessed.

    Americans re-invent the technology but make it incompatible. Claim they invented it first.

  • by mrmarty ( 181603 ) on Friday August 04, 2000 @05:54AM (#879599)
    CDMA is superior to GSM. The vocoder has better voice quality-- mostly due to the mathematics involved with the convolutional encoder. AT&T has also proved that CDMA voice quality is better. GSM is a good standard no doubt about it. CDMA came later, and in my opinion is more elegant. Because the same frequency band is shared, CDMA supports things such as soft handoffs meaning less dropped calls. CDMA has a 'rake' receiver meaning that signals bouncing off walls and other object actually INCREASE the voice quality. This is not the case for GSM. There are many more reasons that justify my statements above. I urge you to study CDMA a little more.
  • by Lechter ( 205925 ) on Friday August 04, 2000 @05:55AM (#879602)

    I would tend to disagree with Walter Mossberg's column. There are certainly a lot of things available overseas that have yet to migrate to the US (I ocasionally have a friend of mine form Hong Kong bring me the latest things.) And granted that our cellular phone infrastructure is inferior and inefficient compared to Europe's. But I don't know that we are really all that far behind. To my mind, Mossberg failed to site any real examples of technologies where the US has been surpassed.

    Regarding wireless interent access I would argue that Americans have the edge, with the Palm VII, and the OmniSky adaptation for the Palm V/Vx, and with the HandSpring (assuming they ever release any non-vapourware cards...). I don't know anyone who uses their Cellphone for wireless 'Net access, and quite frankly I would much rather check my e-mail on something with a screen large enough to display more than 3 or 4 lines of text, I would be uncomfortable with the notion of buying stocks on(wireless)line if I was unable to fit more than the ticker symbol on my screen. For me it seems that the ability to access the internet with something as small as a cell phone, will be little more than an gimick until they have a much better way to present data.

    In term of 'Net appliances, we're way far behind in some irrelevant ways: I don't know if anybody remembers but I think that there was a service by which people in Japan could access news, purchace stocks (maybe), and do other simalar things using their Nintendo (remember that 8-bit thing, we had as kids?) And the French have had something similar to that for decades.

    Nonetheless Mossberg seems to have forgotten that the idea of web appliaces has been tried here. It won't play cool games but we do have things like webTV, which would look just fine next to the Cable box on the TV in your kitchen.

    The thing about PC's (why American's still love them and why I believe that they'll be around for many years to come) is their versility. People want something that they can surf the 'Net on, and keep track of their finances with, and write documents with, and play games on, and securely and privately store lots of information on (read mp3s these days). It is the great versility of the PC that makes it such a staple of technology. Compared to other web appliances it's a much more open option - we don't even think of putting a new hard-drive into a PC as "hacking" but doing that with a web appliance is a major achievement.

    In today's world I don't think that there are many of us who are on the go so much that we need to access our e-mail from anywhere and everywhere all the time. Nor does there appear to be much demand for the limited (web surfing) capabilities of current info appliances. As for the future, we'll see but for right now I would argue that the US is not behind where it counts.

  • by Smitty825 ( 114634 ) on Friday August 04, 2000 @05:45AM (#879616) Homepage Journal
    Before everybody jumps to blame the wireless providers (don't get me wrong, they are part of the problem), I think that it is important to also look at what the government has done to limit the wireless providers.

    There are 2 bandwidths open for cellular communication in the USA 800Mhz (std. cellular) & 1900MHz (PCS). These all use the CDMA [qualcomm.com] technology invented by Qualcomm, a US Compnay. Most countries in the world are slowly switching to this technology, as it is a *much* better technology for cell phone use.

    Anyway, back to the point. For the 800MHz bandwith, the FCC has divided it up into 2 channels per market (A & B...The FCC then gave the A channel & B channel to a different service provider (I believe each gets 10MHz per channel)) The 1900MHz spectrum is divided into 6 different channels. (The A,B&C channels are divided into 60MHz ranges, and the D,E&F channels are divided into 20MHz per channel)

    In Europe (and Asia), the wireless spectrums are not broken up into 2 (or more) seperate channels, which gives the providers much more bandwith to serve things other than voice. But I don't believe that their dominace is going to last much longer. Recently, the final Specifications for CDMA2000 (as opposed to CDMA One, which is used right now) have been released, and should be implemented by 2001. This was designed with the limited bandwith in mind, and will *guarentee* 384kbps internet access for your cell phone (as opposed to 14.4k/s)

    s
  • by bfree ( 113420 ) on Friday August 04, 2000 @05:46AM (#879623)
    I live in what is currently one of the most lively economies in the world, and we have one of the highest take-ups of mobile phones in the world (I think it is the highest) yet we are only starting to decide how we will allocate "third generation" mobile licensces, we are all stuck on 9600 GSM mobiles and 57600 land lines (ok ISDN is available but at IR£35/month to rent the line and then IR£0.5/hour off-peak to use 64kbits of it). We want to be the "e-commerce hub" of the world yet we have a pathetic telecoms infrastructure and would all kill to be able to get near a cable modem or ADSL or a faster mobile link. You are bitching about the lack of standards you must endure but would you rather wait another 5-10 years for a unified system that is already out of date (ISDN is only just getting a push here now that it is only IR£100 to install instead of IR£350)? You have made your bed and enjoy the rewards so stop moaning about the innevitable downside or start the political reform to become a "socialist" country.
  • by Aaron M. Renn ( 539 ) <arenn@urbanophile.com> on Friday August 04, 2000 @05:50AM (#879635) Homepage
    Remember HDTV? The US was supposedly so far behind in HDTV. The Japanese already adopted a standard, blah, blah, blah. Well, it turned out that the Japanese adopted a crappy analog standard and the US digital HDTV standard is probably going to win out in the marketplace after all.

    As for cellular, in Finland everybody has a cellphone, and this is somehow bad for this US? Who wants to access the Internet through a stupid cell phone with a numeric keypad? WAP sucks and everybody in the know, knows it. Americans will adopt wireless Internet technology in droves when it actually has something to offer them. Don't be surprised to see it turn out just like HDTV. We'll see what the third generation wireless stuff has to offer and go from there. I for one don't think we should push wireless just because some jealous Europundit told us to.

    Competing wireless standards? Sure, we got 'em. That's called the marketplace. And BTW every cell phone in the US falls back on a common analog standard to allow universal roaming if need be.
  • by exploder ( 196936 ) on Friday August 04, 2000 @06:04AM (#879667) Homepage
    The US firms should get over their fear of standards bodies and try putting long term interoperability and ease of use over short term earnings reports and shareholder satisfaction.

    The problem is that US firms cannot put anything before profit and shareholder satisfaction. It's because of they way they're structured. Their only purpose is to turn a profit for their shareholders, and if they do not, then their direcors will be replaced in favor of a group that will. Of course, customer satisfaction plays a role in the successful corporation, but only to the extent that it maximizes profit.
  • by FreeUser ( 11483 ) on Friday August 04, 2000 @06:06AM (#879672)
    The UK kicks all of our ass in wireless technology/cool stuff to have. And I'm not even going to talk about Japan, that stuff makes me want to cry...

    The UK and Japan are both much smaller geographically. The US is big, and Canada bigger still. In addition, Canada has far less people than the US, making the cost per person per square mile potentially much higher, and total geographical coverage unrealistic.

    While I agree that the US government really dropped the ball by not imposing a standard at some point and we will (and are) paying the price (imposing standards and a level playing field for competition are two very legitimate uses of government regulation -- imagine if our railroads weren't of a standard gague, our highways didn't have standardized signs, our cars didn't have safety and emission standards, etc. etc.), it is geography more than "socialism" vs. "capitalism" that is at play here.

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