This week, Stephen Ibaraki, has an
exclusive interview with the entrepreneurial visionary, James Behrens.
James Behrens: Renowned Entrepreneur, Visionary and CEO of Orb
Behrens is a serial entrepreneur working
with his sixth start-up company - three of which are now public companies and
the other two were acquired by other technology companies. Prior to Orb
Networks, Behrens held the following positions: chief executive officer at
Snaketech, president of SIS Microelectronics and executive vice president of
engineering at Applied Medical. He also held senior management roles at Cadence
Design Systems for nine years and executive positions with technology companies
for the last 15 years in management, sales management, engineering, and
marketing. Behrens holds two U.S. patents and a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Science from
Colorado State Univ., Fort Collins, CO.
Q: Jim, with your long history of
entrepreneurial and senior management success, we are particularly fortunate
you found time for this interview. Thank you for sharing your considerable
expertise and deep experiences with our audience.
A: It is my pleasure. Thank you for the opportunity.
Q: The concept of Web 2.0: collaborative-interactive-dynamic
internet woven communities--is creating buzz worldwide. Blogs are the
foundation of this new medium. These three questions revolve around Blogs and
Q1: How would you define Web 2.0 and its various components?
A1: Much is being written about Web 2.0 so I won’t attempt to define
something that I am sure someone else will say better.
In my view, one aspect that is very exciting about the next generation of
the Web is that key barriers are being broken down; as more end users have high
speed connections and multiple access points for using the Web – anywhere from
any device -- the sky’s the limit.
Where do you see this heading in 2006, and into 2008? Can you provide a
scenario of the environment for a user and a blogger?
A2: Over the next three years, the Internet will become increasingly
accessible due to WiFi hotspots, 3G networks and possibly WiMax. But the
question is not, “How many devices can I stuff network access onto?” Rather,
it’s “What devices will get added value from network access?” And there is no
question that corporations, start-ups and open source developers alike will
find ways to use this pervasive network access to create compelling applications
for users and bloggers.
This pervasive network access, however, raises the issue of content
ownership in a much broader sense than the DRM issues we currently debate. I’m
not trying to minimize DRM issues, but consider who or what “owns” your cell
phone’s contact book, your archived e-mails or your blog software. For example,
the popularity of WordPress stems not just from its excellent feature set, but
because as an open source project, users own their content on a technical level
– not their application service provider. As more complicated network-based
services get deployed, users will eventually have to deal with issues of
lock-in and substitution costs, and even today that is always a challenge.
I do think the focus will be on communities. These communities aren’t
created just by bloggers. They are created by anyone who shares photos, home
videos, or any self-generated content.
Q3: Which technologies do you find particularly compelling?
A3: Any technology that is so smart, so advanced that it does not force
the user to be completely tech-savvy to use it. Take the iPod, for example.
When it was launched, it was new technology but simple to use. With Orb, we are
striving for the same user experience – for the true benefit of the next
generation web to take hold, we need to make it easier for users of all types
to embrace new technologies into their everyday lives.
Q: Can you tell us about Orb and the value
and benefits the company can bring to our audience?
A: Orb is exciting because it’s the kind of
thing that anyone can try – whether you are a more advanced technology user and
you have the latest smart phone, or a more novice user who’s up on broadband
for the first time and anxious to know how to tap into the full power of your
PC and the internet.
We offer today a free service for
accessing your digital media from your home computer through a simple Web
interface. With a small download and a few clicks, you can stream live TV,
music/video/photos to any web connected device - your laptop at work, your PDAs
or even your cell phone. And those photos and home videos on your PC? Securely
share them with others using Orb. No uploads, no sending huge files via email.
Q: Where do you see the company evolving
into the future and how will it integrate with Web 2.0?
A: We will continue to use our patented technology to give users more
freedom and control over how they interact with their own digital media – and
anything that can be connected to or accessed with a PC. For example, we have
free add-ons for the more advanced users who want to program their TiVo box
using their cell phone (it’s called DVR Everywhere). We are about to roll out a
free voice mail for Skype users so you can pick up your Skype voice mails from
anywhere in the world (no need to log onto your PC anymore).
Q: Please make three predictions for the
future involving the internet, their implications, and how business executives
can best prepare?
A: 1) Digital rights management issues will be resolved and we certainly hope Orb
will play a role. The days of Napster are long gone. Shares of the pie will be split
– the legal specifics will be worked out, and as they are it will free up a
whole new world in how users can enjoy their personal digital media – and
companies who own the rights to that media (TV, music, movies, etc.) will
continue to figure out how to make money.
it comes to digital media, users will increasingly be in charge. Any service,
product or device that fails to accommodate open standards and interoperability
will be dead on arrival. Imagine the
adoption trajectory of the iPod had it not supported the MP3 file format. The
bottom line is that content owners will figure out that licensing their content
in flexible and user-friendly ways will drive adoption and therefore revenues.
day we’ll take this for granted – the Internet will be everywhere, running on
everything, providing access to everything from an obscure video clip of your
favorite garage band to live video of your dog in the backyard. Will the
internet become the platform for the world? Maybe not yet, but we are certainly
moving toward that point.
Q: Choose any topics of your choosing and
still lag the rest of the world in cellular. Though we are finally closing the technology
gap with some excellent 3G networks, some social hurdles still exist. More
Americans drive to work, which makes people less likely to use mobile devices. Some
people also don’t want to be seen as a “nerd,” so they might not embrace
technology too publicly. Still, opportunities exist.
over IP makes multi-billion dollar telecoms nervous, but in the end it will be
just another opportunity for growth. A useful reference is how the oil industry
is one of the leading investors into alternative energy research. When hydrogen
fuel cells are powering our cars, there is no question that the Chevrons and
Shells of the world will be servicing those systems. What consumers expect out
of utilities such as energy or telephony is a reliable, consistent experience. Telecoms
can certainly deliver that kind of user experience over VoIP and can then
supplement it with other useful services.
TiVo introduced time-shifting, an enormously popular concept. But now, Orb is
helping to introduce “place-shifting” – since as technology improves there is
really no reason why consumers cannot have what they want, when they want it
and where they want it – particularly if it’s something for which they have
Q: Jim, thank you for sharing your
substantial insights with our audience based upon your extensive background.
A: You are most welcome.