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Telco 2.0 News Review

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As comic relief from that, it was the week an Apple engineer left the prototype iPhone 4 in a bar, triggering a good old-fashioned press gold rush to get the first hands-on as the lucky finder charged members of the media to fiddle with his thingy. Behind the journalists came the Apple lawyers on a mission to retrieve the device; by the end of the week, the finders had agreed to turn the device in, like a Cold War spy being exchanged on the Glienicke Bridge, and the over-refreshed Cupertinik had been identified as one Gray Powell, although Apple MobileMe’s remote-wipe capability successfully zapped the device the night it was lost. Next time they’ll use a drone.

Wired reports that iPads account for 26% of their mobile traffic, which may tell us more about Wired readers than anything else.

Meanwhile, a rumour spread that the next version of Mac OS would implement the code-signing process from the iPhone, requiring all Mac developers to submit their applications for approval via the App Store. This has now been officially denied by means of a one-word e-mail (“Nope”) from Steve Jobs.

Apple seems to be interested in games for the iPhone/iPad; they’ve recruited a well-known Nintendo reviewer as “global editorial games manager” for the App Store. They also refused a customer more iPads; you’ve had quite enough already, sir, and we don’t want any trouble.

But the best Apple story of the week must surely be that hackers have succeeded in installing and running Android on the iPhone, admittedly only for 2G. Android is spreading fast; Dell announced no fewer than four smartphones based on it this week.

Facebook and Google are having a moment; Facebook has started providing basic information on its users to third-party Web sites, which a whole gang of Googlers considers to be a breach of privacy. Many of them have now deleted their Facebook presence and moved to Google Buzz, which is not the obvious choice if that’s your concern. What they’re angry about is the new Open Graph API, which lets other Web sites grab your preferences from Facebook; music site Pandora is apparently a big user, although they’re sticking to opt-in from their end of the tube.

Especially as it’s just been discovered that Google Street View cars are logging all the WLANs they encounter - so essentially every Wi-Fi network in the world. The idea is to improve their IP-geolocation database, stashing away the GPS coordinates for all the networks they find so that Local Search, Maps and friends will work without a GPS - or a telco - as a location source. Lawsuits seem to be on the way in Germany and perhaps elsewhere.

In an interesting sidelight on Google, clouds, and data privacy, Telco 2.0 recently noticed that Google is hiring Salesforce.com administrators and developers - and they explicitly say that it’s for their own sales operation. The best-run businesses may run SAP, as the adverts say, but we’re not sure whether to be impressed by Google’s commitment to the Web 2.0, cloud-based, software as a service vision, or astonished that having sucked up all the data they can find, they’ve injected a significant chunk of it into yet another Big Cloud.

According to TelecomTV, Google is investing heavily in speech-to-text technology.

We’ve said before that Google launches a product when other companies call their lobbyist; the latest example of this is a visualisation tool that shows which governments send it the most nastygrams. The real point is that China isn’t shown - because in China, the existence of a request for censorship is an official secret and therefore, censored.

It was a major results week; Nokia had Q1 numbers and an assortment of news. The Q1s showed profits bounding back from the recession-hit low of €55m to €488m, with 107 million gadgets shipped and an impressive boost to smartphone (“Converged Mobile Device/Multimedia Computer”) shipments, although the average selling price is down to €62 and things aren’t looking good in North America (or “Apple Continent” as it may soon be known).

Nokia EVP (and Telco 2.0 speaker) Anssi Vanjoki suggested that high-end smartphones might soon outcompete digital SLR cameras; The Register points out that this is very optimistic from the technical point of view (lens physics is difficult in a mobile device form factor), but there’s probably an argument that a lot of dSLRs are wildly overspecified for their users’ needs and a “good enough” solution might sell.

But there was bigger news at Nokia; Symbian ^3 isn’t going to be out this spring, and Symbian ^4 won’t be in the field before 2011. The follow-up to Series 60 has been sliding right for a while; this latest delay may be intentional, with a view to seeing what the upcoming new versions of iPhone OS and RIM BlackBerry OS are like, or perhaps a sign that the IT Project Zombies have arrived. In the meantime, Nokia has cut prices of its E-series, business-focused devices by 10%.

There’s a Forum Nokia lecture on how to develop for mobile devices using free software tools here, while NSN landed a major contract in China.

Last week, Nokia was meant to be buying Palm. This week, the latest rumour is Facebook, at least as a strategic partner.

Results from Verizon; net profits fell by a stomach-clenching 29%, but much of this was a one-off charge “linked to health care reform”. The actual business is in a fine balance; ARPU is up 12.3%, while access lines are being lost at a rate of 11%. Just keeping ahead of the wolves…they also announced new service bundles for FiOS, and started an probably unwise row with the security community.

In fact, VZ chose to argue with the security researchers just when they might need them as hackers demonstrated this week that they could extract the location and details of arbitrary GSM phones from the network. They signed up for a VoIP account with caller ID, hooked up an Asterisk box, and had it make many, many phone calls with spoofed phone numbers - getting the caller-ID information for the real phone from their carrier each time.

Vodafone, meanwhile, has launched an exciting new product for its business customers; Vodafone Mobile Recording basically records all your phone calls and messaging traffic and indeed everything. The idea is that financial companies faced with special disclosure requirements will be able to keep all their calls, for when the customers sue. Another market might be people who want to be watched by MI5…

Ericsson reported sales down 9% year on year; the fall is concentrated in 2G voice kit, which makes sense. Ericsson also reckons mobile data traffic has now surpassed voice in quantity.

The ITU issued its annual data-fest, with a key detail being that the price of broadband fell 42% worldwide last year, with mobile telephony prices dropping 25% and fixed voice prices dropping 20%.

Eric Klinker, BitTorrent, Inc. CEO and Telco 2.0 speaker, spoke at eComm, saying that he expected the market to regulate broadband and that the operators who want Google to pay them to reach their customers didn’t dare block them, which is almost certainly true. He further presented the new network protocol that BitTorrent showed at Telco 2.0 in Orlando, pointing out that “neutral” and “priority” traffic can co-exist like rush-hour traffic and ambulances. (A more colourful analogy might be that being non-neutral would be like putting in the special VIP lanes Moscow had in the bad old days…)

Google has confirmed that their FTTH plans include full access for competing service providers, essentially implementing structural separation or at least wholesale line rental. Benoit Felten points out that separation might be a solution to some issues about foreign ownership, and that 1Gbps to the home costs $26 a month in Hong Kong. You might be needing it soon as OTT video keeps growing.

Orange UK is outsourcing its DSL network back to the incumbent; OFCOM may be in the process of hacking the Digital Economy Bill to let the small ISPs off, which would mean that the premium you pay for a boutique ISP’s services includes all the piracy you can eat…

What if the value of telephony was migrating towards features before, after, and adjacent to the call, the price and value of the actual bearer traffic was vanishing, and operators were learning to cooperate with innovative applications developers? Wired reports that it’s already happening, and the operators are rather pleased that minutes of use over WLAN offset the loss of billable GSM minutes. This includes a cameo from Telco 2.0’s friend Disruptive Dean Bubley.

What if operators were to calm down and realise that being a happy pipe is a possibility, especially for the Internet of Things? Connected Planet reports on AT&T’s M2M efforts, and quotes AT&T execs as making the point that although most M2M work is basic connectivity, it’s mostly high-margin quality-guaranteed messaging, as opposed to lolcats and smut to your iPhone.

Alcatel-Lucent has a new mobile ads service, focused on “permission-based direct marketing”.

When social networks attack: site that lets you share details of what you’ve bought recently and how much you paid also shares the credit card details you used. Fring security fail. McAfee decides Windows is a virus and disables it. How to build a cybernuke - or not, as the Renesys blog points out.

Finally, Amazon CTO and Telco 2.0 alumni Werner Vogels is looking for interesting platforms - help him out!

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