Mike Liebhold

Institute for the Future

Myths and Promises of an Open Mobile Web
17 minutes, 7.8mb, recorded 2007-03-01
Mike Liebhold

As a point of departure, Mike Liebhold cites a concept that was first posited decades ago by one of the founders of the Institute for the Future, Paul Baran: in technology-driven infrastructures there is a natural evolution from centralization to decentralization. When it comes to the development and expansion of mobile services, however, this trend has reached a choke point.

Network operators have invested millions into reliable networks. In order to recover their costs, they have developed a strategy of offering enhanced services developed by and limited to their own in-house resources. But there is a fundamental flaw in this strategy. This "walled garden" approach to enhanced services ignores the many entrepreneurs and creative people who are eager to develop new services on wireless networks. The social trend of users at the edge of the network wanting to create their own experiences is ignored. The end result is that the growth of the mobile web is stifled.

As a way out of this dilemma, Liebhold proposes what he calls a cooperative ecosystem in which the network operators get their return on investment by serving as a platform for creative services, resulting in a real mobile web. Making this shift will require a lot of work and research, but there are real world examples Liebhold cites that demonstrate how this approach can be successful.

Mike Liebhold is currently a senior researcher for the Institute for the Future, IFTF, initially focusing on the implications and technologies of a geospatial web as a platform for pervasive and contextual computing. Most recently, Liebhold has been investigating the long-term futures of high-performance computing and broadband networks. Previously, Liebhold was a visiting researcher at Intel Labs, working on a pattern language for ubiquitious computing based on semantic web frameworks.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, as a Senior Scientist at Apple's Advanced Technology Labs, Liebhold lead broadband applications research and was responsible for many research partnerships with MIT, AT&T Bell Labs, Nynex, SBC, Cable Labs, and most of the Hollywood studios. He served as principal technology policy advisor for Apple Chairman John Sculley, and drafted principal recommendations on the Internet which were later incorporated directly in the Clinton-Gore Technology legislation. Liebhold served or lead many national task forces including as chair of the key industry task force on the National Information Infrastructure, and has testified twice before the U.S. congress as part of his leadership of a key FCC digital television advisory group.

Liebhold served for three years as chief technology officer for Times Mirror publishing, lauching dozens of very early .com web sites. Following Times Mirror, he worked for two years as a senior consulting architect at Netscape, and in the late 1990s, worked on startups building large scale international public IT services and IP networks for rural regions in the US, China, India, Europe, and Latin America. Liebhold was a principal contributor to novel and effective software-based QoS technique, allowing network operators to dynamically change performance of individual subscribers' IP services, and was a principal investigator for a National Science Foundation project to bring Internet2 broadband IP networks to seventy rural low income communities in the US.


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