We're living through the mother of all digital convergences. Broadband internet access is becoming ubiquitous, new high-speed wireless networks are coming online, old media are going digital, and new media are being born every day. And the software, hardware and services to support it all are astonishingly cheap.
We're entering a golden age for entrepreneurs, says James Behrens, CEO and co-founder of Orb Networks . "The big companies have not fully recognized how disruptive this is," says Behrens, whose company delivers TV through any device that can stream video. "They're all trying to put up tollgates, but the internet is open."
Orb is among thousands of startups riding this wild wave of advanced internet and mobile services. Here are 10 rapidly evolving communications technologies that offer serious entrepreneurial opportunities--and in most cases, will also help you run your business better.
- IPTV: With more than half of U.S. users accessing the internet via broadband, and broadband delivery speeds climbing, the stage is set for TV over the net. MPEG Nation is one of many new ventures helping other businesses mine this opportunity. For an $8.95 one-time fee, customers can upload a video file up to 1GB and have MPEG Nation convert it to popular streaming formats for ongoing display. The service benefits from the convergence of ever-cheaper storage, high-speed networking and the flexibility to scale those resources on a just-in-time basis, says president Scott Wolf, 23. It was spun off just last year from Digital Silo, which stores and distributes home videos on the web. Together, the two firms have already attracted more than 10,000 customers and are approaching a million-dollar annual run rate, zeroing in on profitability.
Most organizations just use MPEG Nation to display videos on their websites. But others are finding ways to make businesses in new media. For example, one company targets the Indian marketplace in the U.S. by selling subscriptions to videos of Indian performers in concert. Internet TV is rewriting the business model for media. Says Wolf, "You can sell your indie film or build your own TV channel that covers just car mechanics." What are you waiting for?
- Blogging: Blogs are a recent example of how relatively simple web technology can create a huge ripple. We've seen the blogosphere produce huge public mood swings during elections, and some firms have found them an excellent way to communicate with customers, partners and suppliers. They're great for project management and tech support, and a few of the most popular bloggers are even charging for blog access. Blogs depend heavily on....
- RSS: Share nicely, as the day-care teachers say. That's what RSS does-it lets you instantly swap links of updated information across the web. You can tap RSS readers or sites (such as personalized home pages on Google or Yahoo!) to customize your news access. RSS also lets you spread your own message-your blog or website can use it to distribute information about your company. Down the road, some firms will even sell ads along with their RSS feeds-if it can be done without annoying recipients. One new medium RSS begat is....