February 16, 2001, 10:03 AM — Images will drive wireless applications with the coming of high-speed third-generation
networks. So says Philippe Kahn, chief executive of LightSurf Technologies Inc.,
which develops technologies and infrastructure to deliver images over wireless
networks. Famed for his reign at Borland, Kahn also heads Starfish Software Inc., now a subsidiary of Motorola
Inc. Starfish develops the TrueSync synchronization platform and is a founding
member of SyncML an industry effort to develop a single protocol for synchronization.
As Kahn sees it, image applications will rule the wireless world with the availability
of 3G networks, wireless technology due in the next two to five years that will
support high-speed multimedia data and voice and advanced global roaming. Today's
second-generation (2G) networks (CDMA, GSM, and TDMA) are digital but designed primarily
for voice. Before third-generation (3G) technology arrives, so-called 2.5-generation networks such as General Packet
Radio Service (GPRS) will add speed and data support to 2G networks as early
as late 2001.
We'll share images such as photos or maps on wireless phones and handhelds,
and use images in countless other applications involving location services,
commerce, and communications. PCWorld.com recently discussed the promise of
this technology with Kahn.
PCW: What kind of new applications will we see
with 3G networks?
Kahn: The investments to deploy 3G networks are
so massive for the carriers that they need to justify it with more than just
voice, synchronization, calendar or messaging, and looking at spreadsheets on
a handheld. Those work well enough on 2G networks. To make 3G possible in terms
of reasonable return on investment, instant messaging or imaging over wireless
PCW: Is imaging central to 3G applications?
Kahn: Yes, instant visual communications is the
key application for next-generation networks. NTT DoCoMo has already proven
this in Japan, where wireless messaging [and photo sharing] is hugely popular.
PCW: What is LightSurf doing to develop wireless
Kahn: LightSurf has been working for three and
a half years with wireless operators, infrastructure providers, handset makers,
and companies like Kodak to define the killer apps for 3G and create technology
to enable them.
PCW: What kinds of things can imaging bring to
Kahn: What's interesting is sharing a picture
of your kids with your grandparents. And there's massive amounts of business
in wireless photo-sharing.
PCW: What technology and products will enable