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Comments from Frankston, Reed, and Friends

Thursday, July 31, 2003

DanB at 9:32 AM [url]:

Why we don't need QOS

I've posted an essay examining Quality of Service (QOS), comparing the properties of the Internet to an everyday example of QOS: Emergency vehicles sharing the roads with cars. See: Why We Don't Need QOS: Trains, Cars, and Internet Quality of Service.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

BobF at 4:17 PM [url]:

Kinko's vs Hot Spots

I normally print my own business cards so I can keep them current and do it my way (including a cropped picture). When I was at the Always-On conference last week I realized I left my freshly printed cards home. Good thing there's always a Kinko's nearby (just like Radio Shack). I figured I'd just go there and use a standard business card template and quickly print them up. There isn't such a template so I went to plan B and tried to use one of their computers to access my home computer and copy the file but that didn't work. I had left my laptop at the hotel so I had to create my own and, well, I did learn a lot but it took over an hour. Actually, that's still not bad.

I realize I should've brought my laptop but then I would have had to talk the staff into letting me plug it into their network. A far better solution would be for them to just go buy an 802.11 access point and place it anywhere in the store (or, at least, the customer area). But that would be too simple. That's one of the problems of the Internet -- it is mysterious and anything mysterious can't be simple. Thus the myth of mystery is perpetuated.

Now I read that they are teaming up with T-Mobile to offer a hotspot service. Kinko's already provide free access via their computers and treat it as an amenity when you're using their computers. This makes sense since there is no additional cost above the cost of the connection that store already has.

What the hotspot service perverse is that T-Mobile brings in a separate Internet connection. Not only does this create a new cost, according to the T-Mobile's web site, "This robust network is made for speed with a full T1 connection at every location." A T-1 is about 1.5mbps vs 10mbps for 802.11b and 50mbps for 802.11a and g. Instead of using a 100mbps Ethernet within the store, the customers will be slowed down to a shared 1.5mbps connection out and then a shared connection back into the store.

The Kinko's in Menlo Park is actually a comfortable place with the normal amenities including vending machines and, I presume, bathrooms. Internet access is just one more amenity. They already have an Internet connection and public access so allowing additional use is incremental. They also offer printing from the Internet which probably generates more inbound traffic than outbound.

So why do they want to make a deal with T-Mobile instead of just installing a simple access point? Perhaps they want to charge for "wireless Internet" access while giving the wired away for free? If I have a T-Mobile account do they really get a per hour charge out of the $20/month I'm paying T-Mobile? Compared with making 50� per page it can't be much. I suspect they may actually pay T-Mobile though I don't know what the arrangements are for such hotspots. It's not enough to prevent me from using my laptop instead of their PCs. Maybe they don't want me to be too comfortable and loiter? But at 11pm they are fairly attractive as a watering hole anyway and they can always ask me to move on (though I can't imagine they would do so except in extreme cases).

My assumption is that they don't really understand the Internet. They do see value in some of the ways to use the Internet such as delivering documents for printing and accessing the web while using one of the machines in the store.

The real issues have nothing to with charging and everything to do with understanding the Internet. If I do use a T-Mobile access point, how would I print on the printers in the store? Access control and accounting are indeed design considerations for the Internet Printing Protocol. The printers would also need a public presence and the user should have a modicum of trust in the privacy of the network -- more reason for encrypted IPV6. The user could still use the standard Internet-based access that Kinko's already provides for their other printing service and can expand on it for in-store users.

I applaud Kinko's efforts to embrace the Internet and want to encourage them to see it as a strategic part of the business rather than a burden to be outsourced to "experts" who have no expertise in Kinko's printing business. Unlike MacDonald's Kinko's already has an Internet connection for customers. Sharing the connection with or without wires is a modest incremental step whose real value is enhancing the core business. Making T-Mobile the gatekeeper just seems perverse.

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