Tech In Hiding
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Sunday, June 15, 2008
Google and Microsoft must unite to fight the ISPs
Today, I was perusing the web and wound up, as usual, on Digg. One of the top dugg stories was about American ISPs throttling internet access. You can read the full article here. In it, Brian Stelter of the New York Times lists several examples of services that would be most hurt. Smaller web-based services that consume a lot of bandwidth would shut down shortly after such a service would be introduced. Among these would be popular internet video sites such as Revision3, Viddler, and DailyMotion, which as of this writing are not owned by multibillion dollar companies such as the ever popular YouTube and Revision3 competitor CNET TV (soon to be owned by CBS).But this plan will eventually bring down the behemoths of the web, most notably Google and Microsoft.
Google
Google, with its vast financial savings would be fine at the start, with the ability to suffer losses longer than the smaller companies. But these smaller companies depend on Google's AdSense programs to generate revenue. Google also makes money with AdSense, and it seems feasible that its primary revenue source will quickly dry up. Google's search engine likely won't take a hit, since it is low bandwidth, but as with every company, lost revenue equals cutbacks in both staff and services. High maintenance Google offerings would quickly be shuttered, probably beginning with services such as Google Maps, Google Docs, and Google Reader, as those likely do not create any revenue due to the lack of ads on the services. It is also possible, however, that Google could evolve and put ads on those services, but without their ad revenue, they would not be the same Google that the web community has come to know and love.
Microsoft
Microsoft, however, needs to be concerned the most. They are now in three major playing fields- portable media with the Zune, games with the XBOX consoles, and operating systems with Windows. The Zune is finally catching on, and Microsoft has finally begun a full-scale assault with ads promoting both the Zune and Zune Marketplace. While Marketplace isn't the scale of Apple's competing iTunes (Apple, you best be concerned too), those video and music files are enormous. Using a Mininova torrent for reference, the average Daily Show (about twenty one minutes) is 215 MB. I frequently download the free "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" show, which is twice the length of a Daily Show episode. In addition to Countdown, I also have NBC Nightly News in the podcast section. Downloading only these two shows for an average of 23 days a month comes out to about 17 GB a month. This is only for two shows. The Marketplace is also very prominent on the XBOX 360. The 360 Marketplace is very similar to its Zune counterpart, but the files are much bigger. It has, along with TV shows, feature-length films. Feature length films on Mininova are about 700MB each. The recently posted Battlefield: Bad Company demo alone was 1.2 GB. With bandwidth caps, consumers will not download movies, instead opting to go rent the DVD at Blockbuster, which is really a reversal of technological progress.
Going past the Marketplace, the big purpose for the 360 is online gaming. The Wii's online is sparse, and the PS3s has yet to come to shape, but it is widely considered that the 360 is the best multiplayer console. Of course, to have multiplayer, the 360 depends on the Internet to connect to servers. The amount of bandwidth used varies (hosting or not, game playing, game mode, opponents, etc.), but it can range from 10MB per hour to 260MB per hour. PER HOUR! Using a conservative figure of two hours per day for twenty four days a month, that's another 13 GB. Now, only downloading two podcasts and playing my XBOX, I am near the first level of the proposed cap: 30GB.
Current operating systems are still installed from CDs and are stored exclusively on the users hard drive. It's inevitable that Microsoft's OS will become dependent on the web for nearly everything. But just looking at today, Windows Update ( as well as the update tools on Linux and OSX) uses quite a bit of bandwidth. SP1 to Vista, for example, is 420MB. This does not count the other updates to the OS that are already released. Overall, these are small, but when users are being crunched for bandwidth, they may end up using Linux, which will allow them to purchase more bandwidth. It is critical for Microsoft to fight against bandwidth caps.

Google and Microsoft are two companies that are bitterly fighting against each other. But they both rely on the internet to fund their core businesses. Divided, they hardly stand a chance against AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner, and Verizon. But together, they can stand up to them. They must. Although the web survived the stifling of AOL in the 90s, it will not survive another.

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