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After reading today's news about Jeanette Horan joining Microvision's Board of Directors, I did a quick google to learn what I could about her background. Apart from being exceedingly impressed that the leader of the IBM information management software team (Tokman mentioned in the press release that IBM does $15B in software sales annually) would join Microvision's Board, I was struck by this abstract from a presentation Ms. Horan gave last year:

Shattering the Past: A New Era in Technology

If we look back only a few years ago we think, 'wow, how inefficient we were - we used phones that were connected to walls, we sent notes through the mail, we couldn't choose what song to listen to... that's crazy...' Our past has been shattered by where we are now. That's about to happen again, only faster - as we enter a new era in technology - one that is driven by networks everywhere, open standards, and new business designs. IBM calls this "On Demand Business."

In my work life, I'm an IT professional, with a specific focus in the field of Business Intelligence. My company has recently made a very significant investment in IBM DB2 software to power an enterprise data warehouse that will deliver strategic insight about operational performance, create new marketing opportunities and enable powerful personalization capabilities for our company's products. I understand the power of IBM database software first hand and its value to customers.

I also understand that Ms. Horan is absolutely right that we are about to enter a new era in technology. I believe this new era will be enabled by the transformation of what we now think of as "location-based services" into "augmented reality (AR) services". IBM calls this next phase of the internet "On Demand Business" but no matter what you call it, it boils down to pervasive internet software and services that know where you are and what you're trying to accomplish, and can tie it to information about objects around you, as well as communicate with back office systems like enterprise resource planning and sales force automation applications. These types of services are necessarily reliant on the kind of enterprise-caliber database software that is sold only by IBM, Oracle and Microsoft.

IT professionals don't bat an eyelash at expressions like 'geospatial metadata layer', which I have used a lot in the course of writing MVIS Blog to describe where the internet is heading, and what this transformation into AR services that I described is going to look and feel like. It feels intuitive to us to consider the power of the addition of the dimensions of locations, objects and users to the regular internet as we know it, which is a collection of static URLs that you visit, click around on and then navigate off of, hopefully to return again soon.

This is what the whole 'metaverse' and 3D Web concepts are about. Creating a persistent information environment that you travel inside of out in the real world, just like a character in a video game. Information in video games about your status and what you're trying to achieve is usually accomplished via a head-up display. I believe that in order to participate in the coming metaverse or 3D web, people will need to wear head-up display mobility eyewear. Just as a character in a video game receives their objectives and status through a transparent information overlay, so too will regular folks just out to buy the groceries.

Microvision's greatest opportunity is also the space where their competitive advantage is the most acute. Only Microvision's light-scanning technology platform can create mobility eyewear that provide a totally see-through information overlay that has no backlight, and no dangling object obscuring your vision. Just light rapidly scanning across your field of view to create digital images that only you can see. Truly personal computing. And the information content that is delivered through the mobility eyewear I'm describing will be powered from precisely the software that Ms. Horan is responsible for developing at IBM.

Which brings us back to Ms. Horan. The leader of the IBM database software team has chosen to align herself with Microvision. I have always thought that there's a whole world of money to be made selling software applications, value-added services (and maybe even operating systems) that utilize the unique feature sets and capabilities of Microvision displays. I am not sure if this move is intended to position the company to move aggressively into application software design (a move I would wholeheartedly encourage) but if you consider the real nature of the hardware/software relationship, you can see that hardware only exists as a platform to run the applications and service software that delivers benefit to customers.

Take a look at the success Apple has had with the iPod. It is the perfect marriage of hardware and software. The device is really plug-and-play. The iPod firmware is robust, and its integration with the PC through iTunes is seamless. You get everything you need to enjoy a huge library of music through this integrated package of hardware and software.

I don't know if the company's strategy over the long term is to create finished goods products such as the Nomad and Flic, or if the company's goal is to be strictly a developer of visualization subsystems like the IPM, to be embedded in OEM products. But I do know that either way, you can have the greatest hardware in the world, but if there's no killer application for it, nobody will need to buy it. Application software will always drive hardware adoption.

I don't understand the stock market, but I think I have an idea what's happening at Microvision. Tokman is positioning the company, not only for sustainable, long-term growth, but to eventually become a global technology juggernaut -- by bringing on board the best and brightest talent from across the technology industry. Ms. Horan and Marc Onetto are recognized worldwide as leaders in their fields. They are not going to align themselves with Microvision unless they see the same truly extraordinary market opportunities that Tokman sees, that readers of this site see, and that I see too.


At June 20, 2006 at 10:43 PM Ben said...

Gildertech readers -- welcome to MVIS Blog! Can anyone drop me a line and let me know what all this entry is linked to over there?



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