Even a chimp can write code

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Hundredth Monkey Gets the "Video on Cell Phones" Idea

This post isn't an attempt at taking the simian tradition of this blog to the next level. So, bear with me as I explain my point.

The Hundredth Monkey Phenomenon is attributed to Lyall Watson, who wrote about a sudden spontaneous and mysterious leap of consciousness achieved when an allegedly "critical mass" point is reached. Although the arguments presented seem rather dubious to me, Watson talks about observing this phenomenon in the Japanese macaques of Koshima. In his words,
In the autumn of that year an unspecified number of monkeys on Koshima were washing sweet potatoes in the sea. . . Let us say, for argument's sake, that the number was ninety-nine and that at eleven o'clock on a Tuesday morning, one further convert was added to the fold in the usual way. But the addition of the hundredth monkey apparently carried the number across some sort of threshold, pushing it through a kind of critical mass, because by that evening almost everyone was doing it. Not only that, but the habit seems to have jumped natural barriers and to have appeared spontaneously, like glycerine crystals in sealed laboratory jars, in colonies on other islands and on the mainland in a troop at Takasakiyama.

In short, when a certain critical mass was reached, suddenly the idea seemed obvious and gained currency.

Last week, the Hundredth Monkey in the American business world got a hang of this whole "video on cell phones" idea. Suddenly, it seems like the obvious playground for media titans and upstarts alike. Rupert Murdoch's News Corp announced it was getting into the business of custom ringtones, games and assorted doodads for your phone. And as if to reinforce the public lack of respect for the fourth estate, CBS announced a subscription service for mobile phones where you can get CBS News for 99 cents a month and "Entertainment Tonight" for $3.99 a month. And for those of us that prefer to see Death Cab For Cutie and Jon Stewart on our 4" cell phone screens than on our 29" idiot boxes, Viacom has announced that clips of MTV, VH1, CMT and Comedy Central shows will be available on our phones.

Amid all the beatitude, last week also saw the calming influence of statistics revealed by a survey of a thousand people between 21 and 65 by RBC Capital Markets. 71% of those surveyed said they weren't eager to buy the new fangled wireless services. And 76% said they were not interested in watching TV shows on their cell phones.

Still, even 24% of 200 million cellphone subscribers is a pretty large audience. I for one am with the majority on this one. I use my cell phone for 3 purposes: making calls, receiving calls and storing numbers so I don't have to remember them. But I'm keeping an open mind on this one. When that killer app is here, who knows, maybe I'll be the Hundredth Monkey among the consumers.


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