% fortune -ae paul murphy

Bursting iBonds

Apple's iTechnologies, starting with the iPod/iTunes combination and now moving rapidly toward licensed video distribution, is having an unexpected side effect: driving bandwidth demand up, and therefore ultimately costs down.

Dick Tracy's video watch functioned so well it let him effortlessly pick out details in a remote crime scene, but my eyes aren't up to that - in trying to watch TV on a video iPod I can't tell Geena Davis from Donald Sutherland without checking my pulse.

So now we can reasonably expect Apple to go the next step - an iTunes store for video materials in which what you buy stays on Apple's servers for something like six months so you can play them on larger screens but not store them yourself.

Today's Apple X-Serve/X-RAID is actually optimized for exactly this kind of server function where continuity of storage and continuity of throughput are about equally critical, so that end works.

The consumer end products: the video iPod, HDTV displays, and general purpose Macs are ready too.

Unfortunately the network between them isn't generally up to the job and that, therefore, is where the customer's anger and frustration will meet his checkbook or credit card.

Cable companies, long the worst offenders on broadband performance claims, will squirm and big telcos will be buying lots of "atchooweee" gear to make things happen, but the big winners and losers here will be the guys who design and sell network routing or switching gear.

Cisco will be number one in everyone's crosshairs because market dominance coupled with a long supply chain means slow adaptation -and every major network services provider out there will be under presure to enforce the quality of service provisions they promised the customer but probably can't deliver with their present gear.

Want a "take home message" out of this? Sign short term network services contracts because they're about to get a whole lot more competitive, and therefore cheaper, faster, and more reliable.

Paul Murphy wrote and published The Unix Guide to Defenestration. Murphy is a 25-year veteran of the I.T. consulting industry, specializing in Unix and Unix-related management issues.