Thursday, February 28, 2002

The Cyber Scene in San Francisco WIRELESS ~ by Renee Bakos

Don't use the telephone. People are never ready to answer it. Use poetry. -Jack Kerouac-

The dog days of the recession are over, and an expansion is "already well under way." So says Alan Greenspan this week. Wall Street was "unimpressed." The Dow fell 49 points and the NADAQ slipped nine.

As I watched the cyber scene at Wireless 2002, an industry that took a serious dive south in 2001 with some of the largest layoffs in the tech sector, it hit me that ole' Al should see the economy from this angle. I imagined Al Greenspan as he stared at the NYSE boards, sputtering, "Well, the numbers say you shouldn't be there in the gutter."

Nevertheless, Wireless 2002, hosted by The Economist, tried to solve the enigma of connecting technology with profits, with a program posse of global corporate leaders who have successfully implemented mobile Internet strategies, including:

Eric McHenry (vice president, Wireless, Agilent Technologies)
Edward F Baer (CIO, Atlanta Journal Constitution)
Orson Swindle (commissioner, Federal Trade Commission)
John Callen (vice president, Fidelity Investments)
Tom Magill (vice president, McKesson Corporation)
Bill Werner (vice president, Motorola)
Masaki Yoshikawa (president, Pacific Division NTT DoCoMo USA, Inc.)
Rich Wong (senior vice president of marketing, Openwave)
Jacob Christfort (CTO, Oracle Mobile Division)
Jeff Belk (senior vice president of marketing, Qualcomm)
Jay Highley (vice president, business marketing, Sprint PCS)
Joe Manget (vice president, The Boston Consulting Group)

With a full roster of wireless VP's, one might expect to hear a few technically evolved strategies for making money off the basic cell phone--at the least, an innovation for a clear cell phone connection broader than a five-mile radius here in Silicon Valley.

While I waited to hear these latest wireless wonders, I counted forty-two light bulbs per chandelier at the Pan Pacific Hotel. With two chandeliers per room, at four rooms per floor, the average janitor would need to screw in, approximately, 3360 light bulbs to keep his job. You know where this is going...Just how many wireless VPs does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Nobody knows. The opportunity to change the light bulb can be realized today, with current limited bandwidth, but there are a few solution providers with potential to make a new light bulb, but it may take upwards of five years for them to get it done, and no one device has optimal battery life or storage...YET.

That, in a nutshell, is the wireless world. It offers no solid predictions or new strategy to connect the dots. It is a default answer, a shrug, consisting entirely of problems of bandwidth and economics. Much like the recession Greenspan claims is over; the future for wireless relies on fuzzy math, rather than our daily reality. Wireless 2002 ended this way.

If you are now 'wired less', then San Francisco's cyber scene offers some cool ways to connect this month:

The Silicon Valley WebGuild ( hosts "Creating Successful Business Models for the 21st Century," on March 13, where Mitchell Levy, author of, will present the Value Framework for analyzing corporate success in the 21st century.

ZeroOne: The Art and Technology Network ( will host a robotic art and performance night on March 13, "The Art of Extreme Robotics." The Sony event is the inaugural session for Zero One's Discourse & Disco, a frequent series of presentations by artists and technologists combined with a lively social hour that features a panel discussion, followed by a robotics performance.

Need to find a good job in a lousy market? If you missed the latest release of "Cool Careers for Dummies," then you'll want to grab a seat at the Commonwealth Club's "Boot Camp for Job Seekers" on March 19. ( Listen to insider advice from the Who's Who of local employment experts.

The North Bay Multimedia Association and North BayCHI ( are teaming up to present an Interactionary Design Competition on Tuesday, March 19. Interactionary follows a pseudo game show format that allows teams to work on the same design problem, live on stage, while competing teams wait their turn in a soundproof room.

For the dedicated Java disciple, the Commonwealth Club ( will host "Willing To Die For Java: How Maverick Entrepreneurs Changed Technology" on March 21, featuring Mike Malone. (editor, Forbes ASAP, author, "Betting It All: The Technology Entrepreneurs")

It's a good time to be in San Francisco. Don't be fooled by your inner cynic. Besides, you don't have an excuse anymore: The recession is over.