Posted by: David Croslin | January 19, 2009

Monetizing the Millennials

 

I was a hippie. I guess that I still am one, deep down. I am proud to admit it. I had hair down to the middle of my back, listened to some very weird music and sat around talking about ‘the guru’ and ‘peace’ and ‘the war’. Sadly, at least to my teenage mind, the sexual revolution had already been overthrown.

 

CDs didn’t exist. We had 8 track tapes. DVDs, even VCRs, didn’t exist. We had TVs and movie theatres. Cell phones didn’t exist. We used the house phone. Calculators were brand new and cost a weeks pay. We used a slide ruler in engineering class. Computers were massive machines the size of a house. We wrote our notes on paper and typed our reports on typewriters.

 

I saw my friends every day. I talked to them; I could physically touch them. My friends that had moved away could have been on another planet. Using the phone was an expensive privilege. Long distance calls would cost an hours pay for every minute you talked. We wrote letters. On paper. With envelopes and stamps. Long distance relationships rarely, if ever, survived.

 

As I grew older, both in years and experience, the world grew with me. It expanded. It accelerated. Technology continued to explode.

 

I was one of the first people in the world to connect from home. It was in 1977. I paid $120 a month. That’s like $2000 a month now. ATT called it a ‘dedicated data line’. It was fast. A screaming 300 baud dial up line. That is about 30 characters per second. Characters. One more time, characters. I could work from home.

 

My first PC had 128K bytes. Not Gig. Not Meg. K bytes. It had a floppy drive. Small hard disk drives didn’t exist yet. A 10Meg drive weighed 120 pounds and was the size of a one drawer filing cabinet. Lights would dim when you accessed a file.

 

The world wide web was born without any content. It just connected you. It wasn’t the Internet yet. It was expensive to hook up to the web. It was slow. We did email. A lot of email. But only to business people. Consumers played games on their computers. Phone calls were a little cheaper because of satellites. We had to talk slow. VCRs were for recording TV and not much else.

 

The Internet allowed us to do more than email. But not a lot more. We still wrote letters on paper. We still printed everything. We still talked slow on the phone.

 

The bubble came. The new economy. Companies didn’t need to have a business plan or a product. They just needed customers. Internet users. Billions were made. The bubble popped. Phone calls were still expensive.

Cell phones were big and clunky. They were called ‘portable phones’, not cell phones. They cost a lot. We used pagers. We ran for a pay phone when beeped. We used quarters.

 

And then something amazing happened. 16 Gigabytes in a memory stick. Digital cameras with a quality like the Hubble Space Telescope. Cell phones with hundreds of features. Ipods the size of a quarter. Touch screens. Huge TVs 1” thick. Computers for $2K that could outcompute all the computers in existence in 1978.

 

A magic year. 1978. Millennials are people born after 1978.

 

The Millennials are the first inherently mobile, digital natives. They grew up with technology so powerful, that it can do whatever is needed. Machines so fast, they can do any job. Devices so small, they can go anywhere. Digital content so pure that you want to pick it up and feel it. The Internet connected the Millennials. The websites tied them together in social groups. The phone companies worried. The phone companies changed their names to service providers, thinking that would help.

 

A Millennial’s best friend is most likely someone they have never met (at least physically), who lives in another place (another planet?) and is a young (old?) man (woman?) who is just like them. They don’t talk, they text. They are immersed in technology. Immersed in communications. Immersed in content. In response, service providers offered free long distance.

 

This is just the tip of the ever-changing Millennial communication iceberg.  The Millennials are so different from previous generations that they don’t fit the old communications model at all. Charging for minutes won’t work.. Charging for sessions won’t work. Charging for messages won’t work. Charging for services won’t work. How do you make money?

 

Service providers have become commoditized. Transport is a commodity. Services are a commodity. Talking, viewing, downloading are all commodities. Device features are a commodity.

 

Service providers must create a flexible, high performance network environment that can support consumer and market evolution measured in weeks instead of years. Networks must provide full convergence. Not just of devices or services, but of lifestyles.

 

Convergence of lifestyle information, lifestyle content, and lifestyle activities can never be a commodity.

 

I like Millennials.

 

Let’s make money.

 

David Croslin

CTO GigaSpeed International, Inc.

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