AT&T was good at seeing the future, not at executing on it…

A few weeks back at the Alcatel Lucent analyst event, author Douglas Coupland treated us to a post-dinner speech on visions of the future. It was an interesting moment, but the highlight for me was these video adverts that he showed from AT&T back in 1993.

What's really interesting to me is that if you project back, it took a fair bit of vision to actually anticipate some of these changes, and if you look closely, every single one of them came true. What's even more interesting to me is that AT&T (or more generally telcos) have virtually no stake in any of those. I've compiled a table to look at who is the key player for each of these. 

Attroles
What's fascinating to me is that the common view of why telcos are not part of these ecosystems is that they didn't have the vision, others (google, skype, etc.) were more visionary, etc. That's clearly not the case: if AT&T was bold enough in 1993 to advertised for services they could clearly see were being worked on in Bell Labs at the time, it's because they felt they would be services they could deliver. 

So why couldn't they? My guess is because of vertical integration. These services, for the most part, needed an open network to access a broad market, and that's the one thing that the internet brought to us not because of telcos role but despite telcos resistence and reluctance. This (to me) is a great way to drive home the point that the incumbent's push (through ITU) to end openness in the name of control (and perceived revenue) is not only misguided, it's suicidal. For the companies themselves, and for our modern societies. I'll write more about that later this week, but I thought these ads were a great illustration of that. 

In conclusion, one could say: "And the company that'll bring it to you? Not a telco…"