Halo announced for Windows and Macintosh
I still have a copy of the Halo video from its announcement
at the 1999 Macworld Expo, and I remember the awe it inspired and the dread
that fell over the Macintosh gaming community when Microsoft absorbed its developer
and made rumblings about it being Xbox-only. Bungie promised an eventual
Mac release, but who knew how much Microsoft was calling the shots?
Well, we have a partial answer. Halo will be
out for the Mac, but not until 2003. To make it more ironic, the game which
was first shown running on a Macintosh and was developed by one of the few
major game design companies to emerge from the Macintosh community will need
to be ported by a third party. Presumably, Bungie halted development for non-Xbox
platforms after their purchase and now they don’t have time to port it
The question is, will anyone still care by 2003?
The trouble with telecom
By happy coincidence, I recently ran across a bunch of telecom-related articles.
(That’s short for “telecommunications”, the insider name for the phone industry.)
First, we have an interview with Robert McChesney, who
argues that the deregulation of the telecom industry was poorly executed, leading
to the current consolidation of utilities into mostly unregulated monopolies, which
puts us in a worse position than back when AT&T dominated everything.
Meanwhile, a group disappointed with currently-available “broadband” offerings
is discussing ways to provide
Ethernet over the “first mile”, the part
of the communications network which connects to your home or place of business.
(I put “broadband” in quotes because it’s being used incorrectly to mean
“high information rate”.) The fact is, even a T1 is only supports one eight the
rate of a 10Base-T Ethernet connection (ie, the
slow kind of Ethernet). In theory, this would allow high-throughput
network access over current phone lines, but even if the technical issues work
out it seems unlikely that the phone companies would implement it.
Lastly, we have an excellent argument for creating an Internet utility,
complete with lots of background regarding previous network utilities (such as roads,
water, electricity, mail, and phones), a description of what
IP networks are and how they can be used,
and what service the IP utility
would offer (connectivity). Not too surprisingly, the proposed system is pretty
much the same as the ideas I’ve had about how the perfect
ISP—it’s far too useful an idea
for no one else to have thought of it.
Rather than repeat the background and arguments, I’ll just describe it from a
user’s perspective. For non-mobile access (to your house or business), you would
purchase service from a local access provider. (This could be delivered over
copper, coax, fiber, or wireless access; it’s all the same to
.) This would get you the right to
communicate with any node on the Internet via their gateway, as well as getting
you a set of IP addresses for your
own network. (We’ll assume IPv6
here, as it provides sufficient addressing for everyone who has ever lived and
their imaginary friends.) Access providers might charge some tiny fee per byte sent,
or they might have a series of flat rates that differ based on who gets priority when
the system is congested.
Current Internet services are provided over
IPv4, so gateways
would be necessary for accessing the “legacy” Internet. As more users get
service providers will begin offering their services over the newer protocol.
What sort of services would be available?
- E-mail. Today, most people get e-mail service from the same company
that sells them Internet access, but there’s no technical reason for that. In the future,
people will either run their own mail servers or purchase service from third parties or both.
- The Web. The web is already independent of access providers,
but the wide availability of “always-on” connectivity will enable anyone to run
a web server should they desire. Web hosting services would still exist to serve
groups large enough to require more support than they can provide themselves but
small enough not to have an in-house technical staff.
- Instant Messaging. IM
is currently in the “multiple, non-interoperable providers” phase, but eventually
Jabber or APEX or some other open standard will dominate. Users will run
their own IM server or purchase service
from a third party and be able to communicate with anyone, much in the way e-mail
works. (Hopefully with better security and more resistance to spam.)
- Television/Radio. Current broadcast media are used for two
purposes. Live broadcasts can be accomplished over the Internet by using
streaming protocols, and taped broadcasts can be handled by basic file transfer.
The dominance of the TV networks over
entertainment programming will be broken; production companies will sell their
programming directly to consumers. Internet radio will consume analog radio.
- Telephony. This can actually be considered an application
of Instant Messaging. Here’s a scenario: If I want to call you, I would send an
IM with a short message and the information
you would need to set up voice communication to me. You would
get the message, check who I was and what I wrote, and either ignore it, reject it,
or reply with the information I would need to set up the voice communication. At that
point, we would be able to set up two-way voice communication. Services such as voice
mail, call forwarding, three- or multi-way calling, and interoperability with the legacy
phone network can be provided by third parties. Call waiting and caller ID are part
of the basic system, and phone numbers are superceded by
- Other Stuff. Who knows what Internet services will be available
in the future? After all, no one saw the Web coming. Stuff I haven’t mentioned,
such as Usenet, will still be around as well.
Wireless access adds a few wrinkles, but these can be worked out. In fact,
cellular phones would likely be more useful in this world, although
their user interface would need some changes once phone numbers become obsolete.
Imagine having the same “number” for your home phone and your cell phone, or
imagine your cell phone being able to act as your work phone and your home phone
depending on context. Phone numbers are associated with phones, but
IM handles are associated with
people. Instead of getting in touch with Joe’s phone, you get in touch with
Joe, wherever he is—or lets you know he is.
The beauty of IP is that anyone
can provide these services (with some limits; obviously you can’t sell video
programming without first having some video). That’s why the access providers
need to provide common carriage and no bundled services, much as the old
phone networks did. Will we ever see something like this? Maybe. I’m glossing
over a lot of details here, and the system I’ve described is not compatible with
current regulations regarding emergency calls (ie, 911),
but these can be worked out. I’m hoping we get to see something like this eventually.