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Telco 2.0 News Review

Telco 2.0 Top Stories

[Ed:Telco 2.0 is signing up a strong group of ‘stimulus speakers’ for its Autumn events in Los Angeles and London. Details here]

A survey of mobile operators for The Economist says that they expect revenues from apps to pass revenues from voice by 2013. Really? If valid, that’s certainly the most radical prediction we’ve heard in a long time - you might almost consider it a marker of the existence of a bubble in apps. On the other hand, in the US, fixed-line substitution is running at 5% annually, so the prediction might not be so far off in as far as it involves voice revenues falling.

After last week’s disappointing news that the UK’s “fibre tax” is staying, there’s worse - it’s going up for everyone except Virgin Media.

Verizon Wireless is going further in their partnership with Skype - this week sees the arrival of a Skype app for featurephones based on Qualcomm’s BREW platform, which takes mobile VoIP well outside the smartphone sector. Skype-to-Skype calls will be free, international SkypeOut cheap and paid for from Skype credit, and calls to US mobile or landline numbers will follow the existing VZW rate card.

Fring, meanwhile, announced its own clone of SkypeOut.

RIM launched the new version of BlackBerry App World this week - it’s been in beta for a while, but this is rthe commercial kickoff. Key points include a wider range of pricing options (99 cents and $1.99 as well as free or $2.99), and interestingly, a new service called BlackBerry ID that lets you use your BlackBerry account information and authentication across other devices and services. There goes another operator asset.

It’s also being rumoured that RIM is considering spending up to $400m to acquire a mobile ads company and give its (impressive) in-application ads platform a scale boost. Apple’s iAds is said to be having difficulties with some advertisers.

Nokia, meanwhile, acquired a mobile analytics firm, Motally. As if they needed to do any more incredibly careful evaluation… At the same time, they’re scrubbing the Nokia brand off Comes With Music and pulling it into Ovi, because everyone knows what an Ovi is….

More obviously, the price of listing an app on Ovi Store has been cut permanently - it’s now the cheapest of the major app stores.

We mentioned that VZW’s fleet of BREW featurephones are getting Skype. On the same them, here’s a new Nokia - it’s a Series 40 gadget, but it claims to be the only one around to combine a traditional 12-button pad and a touchscreen, and more importantly it brings Nokia Messaging, Ovi Mail, 16GB of removable storage, 3G and WLAN connectivity, and API compatibility with (some) apps written for S60 5th Edition. It’s an example of the progressive up-grading of what used to be considered basic phones towards smartphone standards. (There’s a retrospective of smartphones here, although Nokia people might well object that not everything on the market in 2005 looked like a Palm Pilot.)

Developers will be pleased to know that jQuery, the popular JavaScript application framework, is available for mobile devices, and the user interface screenshots have a pleasantly clean look. If you have a recent web browser, you can do JavaScript, and if you can require jQuery, there’s a lot of things you can do on a featurephone.

Speaking of jQuery, a neat trick (beware - technical!) - need to pack your software libraries in a resource-constrained environment? Why not encode them as a highly compressed PNG graphic file? You can see what jQuery looks like as a picture here, and learn that sadly, cool as the idea may be, it’s not as good as GZip compression.

Relatedly, we’re approaching the 5 billionth end point connected to the Internet. Connect something to the Internet, of course, and you’ve immediately got some interesting problems - when DTAG talks about “Connected Car”, they probably didn’t mean letting random monkeys on the web track the movements of your car or make the warning lights on the dashboard flash in pretty patterns.

Facebook has launched its Yahoo! FireEagle/Google Latitude/Foursquare/whatever clone, Facebook Places, which lets you share your current location with them (and slurps your location from Latitude, Foursquare, Gowalla, or whatever stalkerware service you’re using besides). Actually, it also lets other people share your location with the world at large, Facebook’s advertising data-miners, etc - so you might want to read this EFF guide to how to control disclosure of location data through Facebook.

The EFF has written to Verizon in its capacity as owner of CyberTrust, asking what they make of Etisalat’s drive to get rid of encrypted BlackBerry service - after all, Etisalat is using an SSL certificate authority signed by the Verizon division.

Google TV has run into certain problems, as talks with the major US TV networks didn’t go well. It seems that they don’t like the idea of subscribers being able to see both their subscription/TV offering and the stuff they serve out on the Internet and through firms like Hulu in one place.

Here’s an interesting post mortem on Google Wave from the CEO of Canonical (the firm behind Ubuntu Linux).

In further Google news, what if the cloud wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be? So says Vijay Gill, the Google exec responsible for its vast data-centre infrastructure. More specifically, he argues that once you get past a certain level of capacity-utilisation, owning your own equipment becomes cheaper than buying in cloud services. This is the flip side of Joe Weinman’s argument about cloud computing - it’s still the peak/mean ratio that makes the difference, but in this case, we’re looking at it from the other side of the curve. Interestingly, he also says that after a certain scale is reached, managing the relationship with the cloud provider and administering the system take up as much time as traditional systems administration does….

There’s a fantastic list of Google’s failures here - who remembers Google Web Accelerator, the Opera Mini-like compression proxy that incidentally stopped you from watching Google’s YouTube videos? Not so sure about the conclusion, though. Here’s an interview with Yahoo!’s chief scientist.

Android 2.2 has voice control, which probably sounds more impressive if you don’t remember repeating your girlfriend’s name at a late 90s Samsung device trying to get it to trigger a voice call. Some people are concerned about a drift towards closedness in the Android world.

Foxconn, assembler of iProducts, has launched a campaign of rallies to “raise morale” among the workers after the well-known wave of suicides. (Check out the photo from the rally - it’s the most depressing thing you’ll see all week.) More to the point, after the wave of strikes that followed the wave of suicides, Foxconn has accepted another pay rise.

Here’s a list of 119 iPad apps for IT productivity. Vodafone’s latest mobile-WLAN hotspot has a slot for micro-SD cards - how soon will it come with a little Asterisk server that talks to their GAN interface, automatic VPN encryption, and some collaboration tools, thus making it an instant office?

Orange UK’s data network was down this week. PlayStation 3 hacked.

Brough Turner’s notes from the Community Wireless Networks summit - beware technical! but well worth reading. He also recommends Ben West’s conference blog.

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