Finding the megatrends

Staying ahead of the competition is usually the most important thing a company, including a broadband satellite enterprise, can do. Then. Now. And forever. Period. Within that parameter, staying on top of killer applications and killer trends is absolutely critical.

In Washington, D.C., a new company called Third Millennium Forums (3MF), was formed for the purpose of addressing this need, titled along the lines of “Finding the Megatrends and Killer Apps.” Comprised of a faculty of several top analysts within their respective fields, 3MF offers key companies and individuals answers to their questions in the telecommunications, media and computer sectors.

Specific areas of expertise include convergence; the wired, wireless and satellite industries; Advanced Interactive Multimedia (AIM) services; and Internet services and technologies. Specialized emphasis is on technologies such as High Definition TV (HDTV), digital TV, Internet Protocol (IP) telephony, Big and Little Low Earth Orbiting satellites (LEOs), Personal Communications Services (PCS), Local Multipoint Distribution Services (LMDS), Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Services (MMDS), cellular, Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) and streaming media.

Recent 3MF meetings have focused on providing information to a core of satellite executives, such as service providers, network operators, launch services providers, spacecraft manufacturers, end-users, financiers, lawyers and others close to these disciplines.

In this context, trends (and some key developing questions) that have repeatedly arisen are as follows:

Loosely termed, 3MF labels these trends “The Top Five Megatrends.”

Choice: Led by the revolution in video telecommunications, which itself was led by DirecTV’s foray into the efficient utilization of digital video compression, choices of video, data, audio and almost every other type of signal are the norm. This, in turn, has heightened the need for new channels of software and new versions of hardware worldwide. A couple of questions we focus on here: Is there any such thing as too much choice for today’s and tomorrow’s business and private, home-based consumer? Is more choice really necessary in order to drive more revenues?

Consolidation: Who would have ever thought one of the world’s oldest and largest media organizations, Time Warner (TW), would have become the subject of a buy out by an Internet’s concern about a fifth TW’s age, AOL? Or that DirecTV would eventually end up owning not only the logical candidate, U.S. Satellite Broadcasting, but also its fiercest rival, PrimeStar? Yet those alliances merely heighten the prospects for more — and more unusual – future consolidations. A question presented by this trend: Where’s the friction point between a business too big and one not big enough? Another key question here: When does a company cross the line where its size more impedes than helps the consumer?

Content: The Ruperts, the Johns, and the Teds of the telecom and media worlds have long recognized the value in owning content, especially when it comes to a fairly prompt return on the investment. Among many, examples include Murdoch buying the Fox Network and the L.A. Dodgers; Malone creating his special Liberty Media unit under the new AT&T umbrella; and Turner long ago making world class content the center of his broadcasting and telecom empires. A top question: What’s the next killer app in the content realm? Another important question: How do companies adequately (and properly) control their new content?

Cost: How do you price a Megatrend? Put another way, how do you tweak the cost model for a product or service that represents the next Megatrend? Do you double or triple the cost at retail and focus on the select few subscriber/purchasers, or do you seek the mass audience, and cut the margins? Or is the real answer a constantly-rotating mix of these two and innumerable variations?

Convergence: Not to be confused with Consolidation, this is the version of “getting together” that looks mostly at the issue of products, and occasionally services, that cross over into something else. Examples are so replete that one wonders when production begins on the next “Do Everything” set-top box or net appliance. What should companies be lining up to converge with today, in anticipation of minitrends that will forever alter business models?

Ultimately, bringing these Megatrends together under one roof is the challenge of just about every organization today. Bringing these five Megatrends (and many others) to the surface, and then attempting to answer the questions posed by their presentation, is the goal of 3MF and its global faculty. Key founding faculty presently include Washington, D.C.-based Internet Guru Gary Arlen; Washington, D.C.-based Satellite Expert Mickey Alpert; Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Wireless Wiz (and former U.S. Congressman) Wes Vivian; and the author.

For Satellite Communications readers wishing to see the core of these Megatrends presented, 3MF will be co-managing and conducting a General Session, entitled “Megatrends and Killer Apps,” at Phillips’ three-day Satellite 2001 event in Washington, DC, early next year.

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